Harry participates in the Solstice ceremony, with consequences not only to himself.
It was late in the afternoon when they reached the campground. Mr. Lovegood had put up the tent, but had done no other set up. He un-shrank his backpack and pulled out a bag which he handed to Luna. She started removing camp equipment and handing it to Harry. After he unfolded some chairs and a collapsible table, she handed him a sleeping bag. He put it in the tent and was surprised to see that it wasn't a wizarding tent like the one Mr. Weasley used when they were at the World Cup.
"It's a muggle tent!" Harry exclaimed.
"Yes. Mum told me that they had a three bedroom tent when they first got married, but she didn't like it." Luna handed Harry an inflatable mattress and pump. He went into the tent, figured out how to attach the pump to the bed, and started pumping. Luna came in with another and did the same thing.
"She loved the outdoors and the three bedroom felt too much like being separated from nature. And if you're too separated from nature you become susceptible to nologies, so they got this muggle tent. The wind blows through it and if we don't cast waterproofing charms the rain does too. It can be drafty, but we've never come down with a case of nologies!"
Luna pulled another bed and sleeping bag from the magically enhanced bag of camping equipment. Harry looked at it as Luna handed it to him.
"How long have you been planning on me coming camping with you?"
"Since the train."
"Then why the extra bed and sleeping bag?"
"That was my mother's. Since the bag can hold it, we just never stored it any place else."
"Harry, you worry too much."
"You would too if you had a Dark Lord after you."
"Yes, we'll have to talk about that later."
Harry grunted. The one thing he didn't want to talk about was Voldemort. He mentally kicked himself as he realized he was the one who brought it up.
They built a fire, had dinner, cleaned up, and relaxed and meditated. They suggested he use the fire for his meditation, so he stared into it while trying to clear his mind. He was pretty tired, so for a while he really did have a clear mind. Eventually he realized that thoughts were invading the blankness and he did he best to push them away. Later still, he recognized that he was dreaming. He cursed softly as Luna woke him up. He hadn't intended to fall asleep.
He looked around -- the sun was very near the horizon.
"Now what happens?" Harry asked.
"Usually, we'd get undressed, face the sun, and sing. But we can skip the undressing part," Mr. Lovegood said, taking off his shirt.
"That's OK, Daddy. We don't have to skip it. If Harry doesn't feel comfortable, he can keep his clothes on." She, too, was unbuttoning her blouse.
Harry thought Mr. Lovegood looked puzzled for a moment. "This has nothing to do with Harry's comfort," he said to his daughter, removing a boot.
"Then you can keep your clothes on, too, if that makes you comfortable." Luna had taken off her shirt and was standing in a bra which she must have put on at some point since Mr. Lovegood came back.
"I'm not comfortable with you naked in front of your boyfriend," Mr. Lovegood said as he dropped his pants. Harry's eyes automatically went to him, standing there in nothing but boxers with bunnies on them. They must have been wizarding clothes, because the bunnies were hopping around. Harry inwardly groaned. As if Dumbledore's floating cloud and twinkling stars robes weren't bad enough. Why would wizards have animated underwear? It momentarily drove Luna's image from his mind.
"We're not boyfriend and girlfriend," Harry protested, closing his eyes.
Mr. Lovegood stared at him for a moment and said, "Sure you're not," sarcastically.
"Really. . . ." Harry began, before Luna stopped him with a "Hush, me thinks thou dost protest too much."
He felt her put a finger over his mouth to stop any other objection. He opened his eyes, but she was behind him.
"Just remove your shirt, Harry. And don't worry, Daddy, I won't take anything else off."
Mr. Lovegood had selected this site on a mountain because it was on a bluff overlooking a broad valley that stretched before them. They had an unobstructed view to the north. They lined up facing that way, Luna between Harry and her father.
Luna whispered to him, "Don't stare at the sun, Harry. It's bad for the eyes. Keep them closed for now. I'll let you know when the time is right to open them."
Mr. Lovegood and Luna started chanting, but Harry couldn't make out the words. He practiced his meditation techniques, letting thoughts wash over him like waves over a rock -- there and gone, but not staying. He was afraid the chanting would hypnotize him. It too flowed over him, leaving him -- he wasn't sure. It was like it was energizing him, but not with nervous energy. He couldn't quite describe it, but he felt it; then he put his meditation back to work, and let the confusion slide away, and it left nothing but the sing-song sounds. Luna had a nice voice. He smiled briefly, and let that thought also slide away.
"Now, Harry," Luna whispered. He opened his eyes, and saw the sun at the horizon. He glanced at Luna and did a double take. She had removed most of her clothes, and stood wearing just some small white panties and her bra. Mr. Lovegood was still in his boxers exposing his rather large belly and chest to the sun. Harry had the passing thought that the look that Mr. Lovegood gave to Luna meant that he wasn't expecting her to be in that state of undress.
Both had their hands up and were continuing the chanting and Harry, still in a meditative state let two thoughts flow over him. The first was that Luna looked very beautiful. The second was a passing thought about his lack of reaction to Luna's state of undress. He turned his attention back to the north and the sun seemed to flair. Like a spear of intense pain, the sun's light lanced into his mind.
- - -
Voldemort was sitting in the throne room, plotting. He had spent over a week in bed after the events in the Ministry of Magic atrium. Every time he thought of the word "escape" he drove it from his mind. Bellatrix had been tending him, despite her own injuries. He wished he had one of his male followers at his side, but he didn't want them to see him like this. Bellatrix, no matter how good a witch she was, how vicious, and downright cruel, was still only a witch. Despite her Dark Mark, he couldn't draw power from her. It was a limitation of the modifications he had made to the Love Mark.
He felt nauseous again remembering the emotions that had driven him from Potter's mind and laid him out. That was four times he had encountered the brat, and the little turd was still alive. And the brat had destroyed the prophecy. That left only Dumbledore with knowledge of its full contents.
But enough! He had spent a year plotting to get it, and failed. He could learn from his mistakes! Was he not Lord Voldemort the Immortal? If the prophesy wasn't available, it wasn't available. It wasn't worth worrying about; any more than the fact that the rod of Merlin wasn't available. He had other priorities.
But which were more important? Should he gather more followers and increase his power? Or should he unleash a reign of terror on the world of wizarding Britain? Kill Dumbledore? Kill Potter? Take over the government? Search for other ways to increase his power?
Power was good, but of what purpose if he didn't use it? Potter was the prophecy child, but still a child. Potter had beaten him by luck and surprise every time. His cursed mother was the one who defeated him when the snot was a baby. It was that same magic that had killed Quirrell. He had removed that threat with the use of Potter's blood in the resurrection ritual. He cursed again as he thought about how he had foolishly dueled the bastard before he had regained his strength and let him get away. And finally, by possessing Potter rather than just sending him visions, he had exposed himself to Potter's counter attack.
He was wracked with another bout of nausea at the memory. Damn that boy! Once he was a little better he'd start destroying the child. How long could he keep his sanity if he was woken by nightmares multiple times a night? Voldemort chuckled. He decided to start this very night. Say goodbye to a good nights sleep, Potter! It was a bonus that he could slowly destroy Potter that way and still continue with whatever other plans he had.
But which of the other goals should he pursue now? He smiled, which was never a good sign.
"Yes master," she answered immediately.
"You will inform your nephew Draco that he is to kill Dumbledore or I will destroy the entire family of Malfoy. They have failed me too often. This is their last chance."
Bellatrix might have been insane, but she still cared about her sister and, by extension, her son, even though she didn't like him or his father. Snooty, arrogant, upper class twits who wouldn't know how to show a girl a good time even if she gave them detailed instructions on how to use the torture equipment.
"Yes, my lord. I will inform him."
"Good. That will leave us free to carry out my other plan."
"And what plan would that be, my lord?"
But whatever plans he had, whether he was going to tell her or not were forgotten as he started screaming in pain.
Harry slowly woke up. His head still hurt but not as much. Luna was sitting next to him, putting a cool cloth on his forehead. He noticed she was in a sheer nightie and the outline of her figure could be seen right through it. However, as they were in the tent, and she was between him and the brightest tent wall, her front was in shadow. He body had a reaction as he looked at her outline and remembered the lack of one during the ritual.
"Uugg," he said. Nice one, Potter, he chided himself. Now get your mind out of the gutter and try again. He accepted a drink of water from Luna and croaked out, "What happened?"
"We don't know. We think it was the power of the ceremony, but we're not sure. It's never happened to us. My theory is that you're so pure that the sight of my mostly naked body and the resultant impure thoughts struck you unconscious. Was that it?"
"No, I don't think so. I'm not that pure."
"Good. The other theory is the ceremony did something to effect you. Mum said that it's a type of magic that witches and wizards haven't paid attention to for a long time, not since the great exodus. But she insisted that it was effective, if subtle. For example, she warned that I would probably be very fertile for the next few months. It's the life aspect of the season, you see. Not as bad as it will be in Autumn, but she still thought to warn me."
Harry wasn't sure how to respond to that so he kept quiet.
"Mum and Daddy did the ceremony on Cape Anne in the Antarctic one December and I was born ten months later."
"She said it didn't catch her first cycle."
"Yes. You know, her first month?"
"They only did it once a month?"
Luna looked at Harry's confused expression.
"Did you miss the sex class in your fourth year?"
"Nobody ever told me about a sex class. When was this?"
"I think it's traditional to have it at the end of winter. However, I heard the girls talking and I think it was just after the announcement of the Yule Ball for your class. Which may be why they only allowed fourth years and above to go: they had the class."
Harry's mind was spinning out of control. A sex class? Being waited on by a beautiful girl in her almost see through clothes? And who taught it? he wondered.
He groaned. A residue of the pain he had earlier pulsed through his head.
"Your scar does the strangest things, Harry."
"Just then, it got very red, but now it's faded. And when you first fell down, it was bleeding, but after that it glowed white. And the blood -- it was very blackish. Do you normally bleed that color?"
"Not normally. Not ever, as far as I know."
"Oh,well, that's good, I think. Getting it out of your system can't be bad. The cloth I was using to soak up the blood? It dissolved after a little while. I don't think that's good, but for the life of me, I can't think of why it would do that."
"I don't know."
"You are a mystery, Harry Potter. Go to sleep, now. It's still hours before it's really morning, and we're going shopping in Stockholm." She put away the pan with the water, and pushed another air mattress against his. Then she climbed into the bed and moved close to Harry. He started to panic when he realized he wasn't wearing anything except his boxers. Er--Dudley's old boxers held tight with a safety pin.
"Luna? What are you doing?"
"You're lying on my sleeping bag, and you have your bag over you like a blanket. So rather than make you get up, and zip up your bag, and make you get in it, I thought I'd just use it as a blanket like you are. But you better stay close to me, or parts of us will be out from under it and get cold. Mum used to say that you could catch the floo from being cold, but I've never been able to do it without floo powder, and I think she took the secret with her."
It was a bit chilly, he thought, as he spooned with Luna. She pulled his arm around her and held it to her stomach. He had an involuntary reaction, but Luna didn't say anything about it. She just adjusted her hips so he was nestled between her lower cheeks. There were at least two layers of cloth between them, but still. . . .
"Oh, yes," Luna added, sleepily. "Since you missed the class, we have to fill you in about witches and wizards, too. And Harry?"
He was about to protest his lack of ignorance, but decided to just answer. "Yes, Luna?"
"I'm sorry I shocked you with the state of my undress during the ceremony. We've only ever done it with family, and I thought, despite what my father said, that I would do it the way we always have. But when I got that far, I got too embarrassed to continue. So I do apologize if I embarrassed you. I've never embarrassed myself, before."
"No harm done, Luna. You look beautiful."
"Thank you. 'Night, Harry."
"Good night, Luna," Harry said. He could not remember ever being more comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. And he wasn't falling asleep.
He decided to try meditating. He couldn't adjust his body, but he could control his breathing, and he brought the image of the campfire to his mind. Soon he was in his meditative state. His erection went away, and he felt sleep coming.
As he fell asleep, he remembered: the pain, falling down, and a vision. In it he was on a great plain with mountains far off in the distance. The ground was white marble. Standing before him was the sun -- a great yellow sphere of fire that dwarfed everything, even the distant mountains. He found he could look at it without difficulty. He knew the sun was looking back at him, though it had no facial features. Hardly any features at all, except for some yellow flames almost lost in the yellow brightness. He realized that the sun wasn't looking at his eyes, but at his forehead. Great! Even the sun stares at my scar! Harry thought.
Then he perceived that the sun was looking behind Harry. Harry turned to see what was back there, and saw a black line on the ground. It was thin, but very noticeable in the white brightness of the plain. The line disappeared into the distance, but the other end came right to his feet, bunched up around them. He couldn't see where it went, so he grabbed it and pulled it to find the end. It had wrapped around him, and was connected with his scar. He pulled, but it didn't release, and it hurt like hell. He held the line in both hands and turned back to the sun.
"Can you do something about this?" he asked. The sun . . . nodded? It reached out with something that wasn't a hand -- more like a bit of brightness -- and touched the line. It turned white where the sun touched, and the white spread in both directions. He didn't feel anything different when the line attached to his scar turned white. He watched the black turn to white over an infinite distance, and even after he lost sight of it, he knew it was still changing. Far, far away, at the other end of the line, Harry faintly heard a yell of pain.
The vision replayed in his mind, and he thought about Luna's words. An ancient ritual. What was the "great exodus?" Power. Subtle but effective. How? Where had Luna gone camping the first time? He fell asleep.
Voldemort was having his own dream or vision. He was pinned to a gigantic table that ran for miles in each direction. He knew that with dream knowledge. And something invisible was torturing him. And above, in a clear blue sky, the sun seemed to look down on his suffering with all the dispassion that he had when he used the Cruciatus curse. And the pain went on and on.
Helena Edgecombe woke in pain. It wasn't the Dark Mark, it was an over-all pain. She had once had a fever and this was something like it. She was weak and achy. She raced to the bathroom and lost the contents of her stomach. She hoped it wasn't serious. Since taking the Dark Mark she knew she would be in some danger until Lord Voldemort took over the country. What she hadn't considered was that she couldn't go to St. Mungos. She couldn't let them find out about the Dark Mark.
Bellatrix experienced something similar. She couldn't go to bed, though, as she had to keep waiting on the screaming Dark Lord. Sometimes he got a coherent sentence out, but not often. She tried some pain potions, but they didn't seem to help. At one point she got so weak and tired that she fell unconscious to the floor. She thought about eating, but that just made her nauseous.
Severus Snape also woke in pain. It was, of course, worse for him. Due to the modifications the Dark Lord had made to the Love Mark, and the rites that were performed when a new Death Eater was inducted, what was happening was much more painful for the wizard Death Eaters than for the witches. Not that Snape knew that. All he knew was that he was weak and it felt like he was being stabbed by knives all over his body.
Harry regained consciousness as the birds gave their morning symphony. He was nestled against a warm body, and felt more at peace than he had for . . . . He couldn't think of a time when he had felt more at peace. He didn't open his eyes, and relaxed against the body next to him. He was soon asleep again.