Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Summer of Contracts

Dark Marriage

by Meteoricshipyards 22 reviews

Harry sees more than he wants and lays plans for the rest of the summer.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Drama - Characters: Harry,Luna - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2008-04-14 - Updated: 2008-04-14 - 6236 words - Complete

Disclaimer: I really should come up with some borning way to say that the Potterverse belongs to J.K. Rowling and others, and I'm just borrowing it without monitary compensation for fun without proffit, and use that each chapter instead of coming up with something new. But that would be boring. Not that this isn't, but at least I don't think I've used this phrasing before. Thanks to my two excellent beta readers, Swordchucks and Evan Mayerle, who help me avoid some dumb mistakes.

Chapter 11
Dark Mariage

Harry dreamed of his battleship again. He made his way to the door in the hull and found that the corridor had changed. It was no longer white. The walls had dulled, and there were streaks of dark mud all over the place. No, not mud. Something worse than mud -- some unknown slime that exuded a feeling of evil. Harry made his way through the corridor, noticing the increasing corruption of the once pristine walls and floor. Eventually, the entire floor was covered in the muck. He reached the far door. Opening it, he saw that there was no longer a demarcation between the swamp beyond and the mire on the floor. Beyond the swamp Harry saw a dim, stone room. A figure appeared, and bent to kiss the hem of the robes Voldemort wore. Again, the world made that strange, unnatural change of perspective, so that the Death Eater's image stayed in the image that Harry watched. He felt a tingling in his feet, which were in the black mud-like stuff.

The Death Eater straightened up, and so did the angle of view.

"My lord calls, and I come. How may I serve you?"

"Bellatrix, we have a spy among us."

"How is that possible, master? No one can lie to you!"

"Apparently, someone can. How else did the Order know? They set up a trap for my Death Eaters, using the muggles and the mudblood as bait. If we attack now, we will find the house empty and the Order watching. I will not fight for no gain. No, we must have another plan."

"I will not fail you, Master."

"No, you won't. Not again, you won't. Here is what you will do. Collect a group of a dozen Death Eaters and begin a series of attacks on the muggles. Hit them randomly, not more than once every three days, never in the same area and never the same number of days since the last time. I want death and destruction, but not massive amounts. Let the muggles wonder what is going on. Tell your group, at the end of the attack, where they will meet for the next time. And finally, meet at ten thirty on September first. Go to Platform Nine and Three Quarters and kill some adult wizards. Tell no one, even your people, what you are doing until you apparate there. Therefore, no one knows but you, no one will tell the aurors except you. . . ."

"Master, I never would!"

"Then no one will be prepared to stop you. Go. Carry out my plan."

"Yes master."

"Is your nephew ready?"

"As ready as he will ever be."

"Send him in."

"Yes, my lord."

She disappeared. The image moved as Voldemort walked around it, setting up candles on a pentagon. With a wave of his wand they lit and floated above his head. He moved behind the throne and opened a box with a golden key. He carefully removed items, one at a time, and placed them at the points of the pentagon. First a golden cup and Harry saw a badger in bas-relief on it. Next was an intricately carved wand, with the squared handle presenting feather-like impressions on each face. That was followed by a round, golden locket with a golden snake in the shape of an S on it. Finally he brought forth a sword from the box. Harry couldn't see the name engraved on the sword, but he knew it from its ruby encrusted hilt. The Sword of Gryffindor went to the fourth point of the pentagon. Harry's feet were starting to sting. He shifted in the mud, trying to ease the pain, but it didn't work.

The image angle changed, and Harry saw Voldemort position his feet on the fifth vertex. The pentagon was large -- each side maybe a meter and a half to two meters. Voldemort waved a hand and the lights went out except for the candles.

He looked up, and called, "Enter."

Draco Malfoy entered the room, his aunt next to him, whispering final instructions. He was not dressed as a Death Eater, but in a white robe. He entered the pentagon symbol carefully, staying away from the objects and avoiding the line painted or drawn on the stone floor. He reached the center of the symbol and stopped.

Voldemort said, "Is there any who know of a reason why this young man can not become my Death Eater?" The image Harry was watching shifted to Bellatrix, the only other person in the room, as far as Harry was able to determine. Bellatrix was dressed in the black robes of a Death Eater, but had neither the hood up, nor the white mask on. She looked stoically ahead, neither at Voldemort nor Draco, nor did she say anything. The image moved back to Draco. Harry couldn't avoid thinking that the dramatic statement would have more impact if Voldemort hadn't had such a high voice.

"Very well, if there are no objections, state your vow."

Draco appeared to be concentrating on getting the wording right, "I, Draco Malfoy, do swear to serve, honor, and obey the Dark Lord Voldemort, through sickness and health, defeat and victory, punishment and reward. I promise to never reveal his secrets, and hold his will and desires above my own, until death and beyond."

"Approach." Draco did so. Voldemort waved his wand and the white robes that Draco wore were torn off his body, leaving him wearing nothing. As people do in situations like this, Harry noticed that Draco had standard equipment.

"Kneel." Draco obeyed, and held out his right arm. Voldemort grabbed his wrist and touched his wand to his forearm.

"Mors Mordere," Voldemort whispered and then Draco began to scream. He writhed in pain, but his arm stayed steady, held in Voldemort's grip. While Draco cried out and twisted, Harry saw what happened on his arm. First Voldemort used his wand somehow to inscribe a set of runes in his flesh. Harry had seen these before -- they were listed in Riddle's diary. He tried to memorize their placement. Then the tattoo of skull with the snake coming out of its mouth appeared over them, hiding them. Once it was all there, his arm was released, and he fell in a heap on the stone floor.

Voldemort seemed content to watch, as Draco slowly came back to himself, and rose to his feet.

"Come, my new Death Eater." Voldemort walked away from the pentagon and approached a table. There were a few things on it -- a mask, and some black cloth that Harry assumed would be Draco's Death Eater robes. The naked teenager approached the table and stood there. Voldemort pointed at the items on the table.

"These are yours as you are mine." Draco started to reach for them, but Voldemort reached behind Draco's neck, and pushed his head and upper body onto the table. "Not yet. There is one more thing. We must consummate our new relationship." Voldemort moved behind the boy, and opened his own robes. Harry couldn't look away, but did start backing away as Draco began to scream again. Once he was well back in the tunnel, he turned and ran. Harry noticed that his feet were in pain now. The pain lessened as he left the black mud behind. He reached the battleship, slammed the iron door closed, and sat up with a yell.

"What is wrong, my stallion?" Laurel asked.

Harry grabbed his wand in the dim light, and conjured a bucket. He then lost his dinner in it.


In going over the dream with the Lovegoods, it seemed he kept thinking of more details. Much of it didn't make sense. He kept writing down what he remembered. The parchment was very messy, because some of the details he kept filling in he tried to fit with where they belonged in the vision's sequence,

"The plan to attack the train, I understand; even avoiding the children, I understand -- nothing like turning people away from you like attacking children. The Dark Mark, again, I understand. It's part of his immortality. But the pentagon? And the objects? What's with that? And why rape Draco?"

"The pentagon is part of the wizards' marriage ceremony," Odd explained. "Usually it's people at the corners, though. The groom, the bride's head of house or father, the groom's head of house -- those two representing the joining of the families -- the minister, representing the people, and the rings at the final corner -- being metal, they represent the permanence of the union, and give the magic something stronger than just flesh to bind to. Any spell cast on a person will eventually fade, so the rings sustain it. But all together, it represents the parts of the marriage, the two families, the community, and permanence."

"Where's the bride?" Luna asked.

"Right in the middle of the pentagon."

"Like Draco. And the Mark gets around the fading by tattooing the runes into the person," Harry pointed out.

"But tattoos fade over time. And while they don't go away, as they fade, so does the magic inherent in them, unless you have another, non-flesh object to attach it to. It sounds like Riddle," he still couldn't say Voldemort, "is using four objects."

Harry thought of something, "Wait a minute -- a marriage is until death, but a ring survives that. Does the ring cause the marriage to extend beyond the death of one of the couple?"

Odd shook his head. "No, the vow usually says something about being married until the death of one of the partners. The usual phrase is "until death do we part," but other variations are fine. So the answer is no, the ring doesn't keep the marriage going forever."

"Are you planning to murder your wives already, Lord Potter-Blackbeard?" Luna asked.

"No, but it's best to be prepared," he avoided her attempt to hit him. "But Voldemort bound Draco to death and beyond. Even if I kill all the Death Eaters, Voldemort is still connected to them in some way by those objects. I wonder how? They're not Horcruxes. What does that make them?"

Odd thought for a moment, "They're some sort of anchor. However, remember what he's done -- he's connected himself with the life of his Death Eaters. If they all die, he's connected to their ghosts, but that doesn't give him any further protection from death."

"The guy's a Lockhart. He's a braggart and a fool."

Luna and her father looked at him. Odd pointed out, "We are still talking about the most feared Dark Lord England has produced in centuries, right?"

"I'm not saying he isn't dangerous, but he's so deluded he's fooling himself. He does all these rituals that only have a chance of success in the best of cases, and makes modifications to them, which probably lowers his odds even more. Then he convinces himself that he is so brilliant that his modifications have no doubt made all the rituals succeed, without any evidence that even one worked. He sets up the Dark Mark to feed him life, and uses these objects to keep the spell strong, but if he lost the items it wouldn't change the mark -- he'd just be getting less "life" from people as the spell aged. The objects aren't an integral part of the ritual."

Luna threw some cold water on his theory by pointing out, "As far as we know."

Harry conceded, "As far as we know."


Harry appeared in the clearing near the stone door. The area was deserted, which wasn't a surprise considering the usual purpose for the clearing. If it was possible for part of the Forbidden Forest to have a worse reputation, this would be the spot. He opened the door and went inside. His ladder had disappeared, but he conjured another. Climbing down, he approached the carcass and examined the monstrous jaws. A few more conjurations, and he had a contraption of pipes that he could use to hold the snake's head steady while forcing the mouth open.

Harry shuddered, looking at the huge, needle sharp teeth that filled the mouth. He added some metal plates that covered the teeth to the mechanism. Donning his dragon hide gloves and grasping a glass vial, he held it below the remaining fang. He was about to reach into the mouth, and stopped. One more conjuration created a bent metal object with a large head. A few more changes to the support structure, and the vial was held beneath the fang without him needing to risk his arms. He needed two hands to position his metal tool on the upper, inside part of the animal's mouth, and used it to apply pressure. Some almost-clear liquid dribbled into the vial. It wasn't much, but after three years, Harry knew he was lucky to get anything. The vial was a special one in that it had a glass cover that screwed in. It was designed to carry very corrosive liquids. He was about to leave the Chamber, and thought of something.

"Dobby," he called. There was a pop and the house elf appeared.

"Oh, Harry Potter sir! Yous has remembered Dobby! Dobby is so honored! Dobby is so happy!" The excited house elf hugged Harry's legs.

"Hi Dobby. I was just wondering if you could come down here."

"Dobby can come any place that Harry Potter is. Dobby is Harry Potter's . . . " he looked shocked and covered his mouth with his hands.

"Let's get away from the stink, Dobby," Harry said, pretending to not notice what Dobby was saying.

They walked to the bottom of the pipe that led into the room.

"So, Dobby, would you like to work for me? I don't have much work yet, but I'm hoping to have more in the near future. I want to set up a household someplace, and will need help."

"YES! Dobby will work for the great Harry Potter sir! Dobby will not take days off, and will not take pay, and . . . ."

Harry stepped on the stairs, and they started to move. Dobby followed. Harry interrupted him.

"Dobby, I thought you were a free elf?"

Dobby suddenly stopped talking and looked down.

"Dobby not a free elf, Harry Potter sir. Dobby is really Harry Potter's elf already."

"I thought so. How did you become my elf?"

"When Harry Potter sir tricked Luscious to free Dobby, Dobby had to join his magic with some witch or wizard, or Dobby would become like poor Winky. She joined her magic with the son of her old master, and when he was eaten by the demons she went crazy. She died last year. She never found a witch or wizard willing to share their magic with her."

"Wait a minute -- How is Kreacher doing it? His mistress died about ten years ago?"

"Kreacher has attached himself to the wards of the house. As long as the house is there, Kreacher has magic to live by. The magical spirit of the house is an insane painting. Kreacher is insane because of that."

"And when Sirius was there?"

"Kreacher had to obey the family that owned the house, but the house didn't want to be owned by Sirius. It wanted to be owned by another Black."

"So the elves working here at Hogwarts get their magic from the castle's wards?"

"Yes, Harry Potter sir. Because Harry Potter sir has not bound Dobby he could have joined the castle elves, but Dobby is free elf."

"But now that I know about you using my magic, are you still free?"

Dobby looked down again, as the moving stairs spiraled up the pipe. "Dobby is free, but Harry Potter can bind Dobby because he is using Harry Potter's magic."

"Do you like being free, Dobby?"

"Dobby is very happy being free. Dobby is very sorry he is stealing Harry Potter's magic. Dobby will punish himself. . . ."

"No, Dobby will not punish himself! Dobby, you are my friend. I give you permission to use my magic. I haven't noticed any weakness because you do."

"Usually only wizards who own lots of house elves feel any drain, and they usually don't know why."

They arrived at Myrtle's loo.

"Dobby, I'd like you to keep working here for the time being, as I don't have anyplace for you to live. Once I get a place, I'll call you."

He got another hug around his knees.

"Harry Potter sir is the bestest wizard in the whole world! Dobby is so happy!"

"We'll talk more another time. I have to talk to Myrtle now. Later, Dobby."

Dobby left with a pop.

Myrtle was floating nearby.

"Harry," she floated close him.

"Hi. What happened to you? You didn't come all the way with me."

"You were worried about me?"

"Not so much worried, as concerned. I knew you would be safe, but I didn't want you to feel as if I didn't want you with me."

"Oh, Harry, you do care!"

"I just don't see why you should be moping around the bathroom. But I take it there's some barrier to you going down to the Chamber?"

"I've never felt anything like it before. It was like a wall that I could feel!"

"Yes, well, I won't try to take you down there with me again." Harry pulled out the Marauders map that he brought with him. He saw that Dumbledore and McGonagall were in their offices, Snape in his potions classroom, and Trelawney was in her tower. Filch was in one of the classrooms on the third floor. And the professor he wanted to speak with was in his room.

"Myrtle, I have to go speak with a professor. I don't know if I'll be back before school starts. I'll see you then."

"Thank you for checking up on me, Harry. No one has ever done that before."

"You're welcome, Myrtle."

Harry kept the map handy, and made his way to the ground floor classroom where his target was.

He knocked and entered. Firenze the Centaur stood in the middle of what looked like a clearing in the woods.

"Harry Potter. What brings you to my faux forest?"

"Hello, Professor. I need your advice."

"The stars do not give advice, Harry Potter. They tell us what is happening and what will happen. They do not advise."

"That's not the kind of advice I was looking for. I wanted to talk to you about your people."

Firenze's face, which had a friendly expression on it, seemed to harden. "What do you want with my people?"

"I don't think I want anything, but it turns out that I rescued the Unnamed One from the basilisk. She said that I am responsible for her now, and I need help to care for her."

"I cannot care for her. I am an outcast, and now live in this false forest."

"Why aren't you living in the real forest? It is, after all, holiday, and there is no school. You don't have to live here."

"I cannot go in the forest. My old herd will kill me on sight. Sometimes I wonder if that wouldn't be better. . . ."

"Why would they do that? What did you do to them?"

"I challenged our stallion for the leadership of the herd. For that I was banished. I could then try to join another herd, but Albus Dumbledore came along at that time and offered me this position. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was in no mood to go begging for another herd to allow me to join. Yet, in the end, I am as alone as I was in the forest, and now have no hope, for I allowed a human to dictate my actions. I am nothing but an animal who allows humans to feed me in return for my work. And even that is worthless, for none of my students have learned the correspondences and types of the planetary alignments. I have brought shame to my people, and deserve to live my life in a fake forest."

"I'm sorry. I'd like to help you, if I could. . . ."

"You have a good heart, Harry Potter. But Albus Dumbledore has one, too, and that has not stopped his attempt to help me from making my life worse than it was."

Harry nodded. "He did the same to me. When school starts, will you let Laurel live here with you until I can find some place else she can live? She doesn't like sleeping alone, and once I'm back in school I won't be able to sleep with her."

"It would be nice to have a companion for the nights. Are you sure you trust her with me? I am not part of her herd."

"You won't hurt her, will you?"

"I would not."

"Then I have no objection."

"But she might. She is not of your kind, Harry Potter. She will not live with one not in her herd."

"Oh." Harry felt disappointed. He had thought that he had come up with a solution to his Centaur problem, but now he had nothing.

Firenze lowered his body to the forest-like floor, and put his head down.

"Harry Potter, will you accept this outcast into your herd."

Harry was stunned, to say the least. He had come, hoping that he might be able to get Laurel another home, but now he was going to end up with yet another Centaur?

"Uh, will you then fight me for the leadership of the herd?"

"No. I know that a Centaur's strength is nothing against a wizard's magic."

"I will accept you to the Potter herd, Firenze."

The Centaur rose to his impressive height.

"Thank you, my stallion."

Harry looked around the room. If one knew what to look for, he could tell where the room ended, and the images of the forest on the walls began. It was a large room, but it was still a room.

"I'm staying with a friend, but I think we can put you up, too, if you want to come."

"It would please me to be elsewhere."

Harry smiled, and said, "Then let us go. I still have more errands to run."

They were outside the gates when Harry noticed the headmaster running down the long road from the front of Hogwarts.

"Wonder what he wants?" Harry murmured, and disapparated.


Harry and Firenze walked from the woods into the warded property of the Lovegoods. Harry introduced the new member of his extended family to Luna and Laurel. While doing that, Odd floo-ed in.

"Harry, I failed you. I was unable to get to see Scrimgeour. I tried several ways -- interview about the war, interview about non-human policy, inviting him to lunch. Nothing worked."

"We'll be fine, Odd. We'll see him another way. While I was out I thought of something, now I have even more errands to run. I need to see Susan."

"Why?" Luna asked. Harry thought he detected -- something? -- different in her voice.

"I thought we might be able to use her Aunt's house as a meeting place. I'd need to get it re-warded. And she would be perfect to talk with Scrimgeour. I'll be back as soon as I can. Oh, yes, one more thing, DOBBY!"

POP the house elf showed up.

"Hi, Dobby."

"Harry Potter, sir! How can Dobby help you?"

"The Professor will be living here for the rest of the summer. Would it be possible for his meals from Hogwarts to be delivered here without Dumbledore knowing? And can extra be provided for Laurel, too? Laurel, Professor, this is Dobby. Dobby, Laurel and Professor Firenze. They're part of my family now."

Dobby bowed to the Centaurs, who bowed back. Once again, Harry was amazed at the flexibility of the human/horse joining point of the mythical beings and the fact that Laurel was again naked. He used his meditation/occlumency skills to ignore the fact that gravity didn't do anything to her has she rose up from the bow. Must be a Centaur thing, he thought. He noticed Odd was stupefied by the sight and bumped him to get his mind working again.

"Please, just call me by my name, Firenze. I am not instructing anyone, here, and do not wish a title I am not fulfilling."

Harry suddenly thought of something. "Would you be willing to teach, or at least supervise while I teach some friends?"

"I will do whatever the herd requires."

"Great! I've got to try and get things organized. Luna? I'll let you know as soon as I can the where and when."

"Yes, Harry."

Harry fire-called the Abbots and got permission to come over. He spun away from the tower in a flash of green fire.

He picked himself off the floor with a muttered curse.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this, Susan? He sounds rather crude," Hannah asked.

"He'll watch his language, all right. I won't put up with that from my children or my husband. They'll speak politely, or I'll wash their mouths out with soap," Susan replied.

"And hello to you both," Harry said, as he rubbed his knee that had taken the majority of his weight as he fell out of the fireplace.

"Hello, Harry. Do you want some tea?"

"No, thank. . . . Actually, yes, please."

They sat at the table while Hannah prepared the tea. Harry explained his plan to Susan.

"I'm not sure I can go back to my Aunt's house, Harry. I . . . I just don't know if I can do it."

"I won't ask you to do anything you can't. How about we go together and check it out."

"Yes, please."

After tea, where Harry explained some of his plans to the two of them, he floo-ed with Susan to her Aunt's house. It was the first time he had floo-ed with someone else. Susan explained that he couldn't floo there alone, because he wasn't keyed in, either temporarily or permanently; they would have to go together, since it wouldn't keep her out. She tossed the floo powder into the fire, held Harry's hand as they entered the fireplace, which magically expanded to hold them both, and hugged him.

The hug took him by surprise, but he quickly put his arms around her in reply. Susan gave the address, and they spun away.

Harry thought that the hug almost made the uncomfortable, magical method of travel worth it. Almost.

As they arrived, he found himself being ejected from the floo, as usual. However, he had to twist so as to not land on Susan. As they hit the floor, Susan cursed.

"Where is that soap? I think someone needs to have their mouth washed out."

"But that hurt!"

"I'm sorry! What hurt?"

"Having your belt buckle dig into my stomach. I'll be all right. Let's get off the floor."

They were in the sitting room. There were holes in the interior walls, and broken furniture all over the place. The dining room was even worse. The door between it and the corridor was not a door, but looked like an explosion blew it out. The interior walls of the room had numerous wholes, as did the ceiling. Something blew up in here.

The exterior walls and windows had been repaired by the aurors, making sure that the place wouldn't draw undue muggle attention. They looked over the extensive grounds, and thought with a Notice-Me-Not ward, and anti-muggle ward, it would work for what they wanted to do.

Susan keyed Harry into the floo, and left to try to talk to Minister Scrimgeour. Harry called Dobby, who was delighted with the job of cleaning up the house.

Harry was able to hire goblins by fire-call to put up wards around the property. He watched as they got to work. He called Luna and let her know how things were going, and suddenly had nothing to do but wait.

He walked to the kitchen and as soon as he was out of the sitting room he heard a number of popping noises behind him. He spun, drawing his wand, but stopped at the frightened faces of a dozen house elves.

"Harry Potter, sir! They is just bored at Hogwarts and offered to help. Dobby did not think Harry Potter would object."

"No, I don't object. I just wasn't expecting someone to appear behind me who wasn't an enemy. Were you waiting for me to leave the room?"

"Oh yes, Harry Potter sir! House elves try to do all the work without being seen."

"Fine, but maybe you had better warn me next time. I don't want to hurt your friends accidentally. And thank you all for your help," he said to the house elves, who had already repaired the furniture, covered it with cloths, and were repairing holes in the walls. As he passed the dining room, he was surprised to see it was already fixed. The furniture there was too damaged to repair, so the room was mostly empty. The kitchen, which had looked ransacked, was sparkling clean.

It was over an hour later that Susan returned. She gave him a big smile when she saw him on the couch in the newly repaired room. She almost jumped on him as she sat next to him. Harry was a little surprised as she leaned her head on his chest and snuggled close.

"He agreed! He'll send someone to check on the wards without telling them what we'll be doing, and if they check out, we have the ministry's permission. Having a Hogwarts professor was a bonus, not a selling point, but he was happy to hear that."

"Did you tell him which Hogwarts professor will be watching?"

"Of course not," she said with a smile.

"When will they check the wards?"

"Tonight. You did contact the goblins, right?"

"Oh, yes. They're working on it now."

"Oh. How can you pay for it? You don't have permission to get at the Bones account."

"I paid for it out of the Black family funds. I figured it was appropriate. And if we don't execute the contract, it's just a gift from me to you."

"Oh." She sat up. "Are you thinking you won't go through with the contract?"

"I'm not thinking of it at all. We have a war to win, and until we do, just being near me is makes you a target."

"Oh, so this really is just a convenience for you," she said in a sad voice.

Uh, oh, Harry thought. He knew he had said the wrong thing.

"Susan, I don't even know you. As this year goes by, I hope we become friends and that it turns into something more. It's only been a day since we agreed to the contract, and we haven't even signed it. Don't take what I'm saying as meaning that I don't want to be with you. When and if we get married, I want to do it in a world without Voldemort. With my friends' help I hope to be able to do that."

"That's less than two years. Do you really think you can defeat him in that time? Will you be ready to fight him by then?"

"I hope so. Shall we go check on the goblins?"

She stood up, and held out a hand to help him up, which Harry thought was curious. After he got up, she didn't let go of his hand, and moved in and kissed his cheek.

"I believe you can do it, Harry." She put her arm around him, and he almost automatically did the same to her, and they walked out of the house.


Harry returned to the Lovegood's tower that evening and collapsed on the couch. Firenze was leaning on the furry rock and Laurel was leaning on him. Luna came and sat next to him and leaned on him. He put his arm around her and thought it was strange, because just a short time ago he had had his arm around Susan as they walked through the house, her telling stories of growing up there.

"Susan's house will work fine. She'll keep living with the Abbots, and I'll move in, and we'll set up something for Firenze and Laurel, although by tradition the mares of the herd are kept from outsiders, so she will be hidden."

"I am not a mare!" Laurel said.

"Right. Sorry. Same goes for the fillies. I'm still getting used to the terminology," he told her.

"I was thinking of having Susan ask Mr. Weasley -- he's done some magical construction on his house. He might be able to help with setting up Firenze's and Laurel's place at the Bone's estate. Although I'd like to see how that's done, so I can do some house customization once I have my own place."

"What kind of place are you going to have?" Luna asked.

Harry and Luna talked about possibilities, but Harry was very vague, because he felt his future was too vague to worry about some of these details.

After Odd had gone to bed, and Firenze and Laurel appeared to be sleeping, Luna changed the subject.

"Harry, that dream you had last night? Have you ever considered trying to go through the tunnel while you were awake?"

"It doesn't really exist. It's just an image, you know."

"Well, your battleship is just a symbolic representation of your defenses. That tunnel is a symbolic representation of the link between you and Voldemort. He sent you visions last year. Perhaps you can use it, too."

"How do I do that?"

"Occlumency." She sat up and faced him on the couch. "Relax, and go back to your defenses. See your defenses. Your battleship is the most powerful machine you've ever seen and it's there to defend your mind. Do you see your ship, Harry?"

Harry had almost instantly entered his meditative state and stood on deck, the huge triple guns of one of the turrets above him, staring out to sea. "Yes," he said, barely forming the word as he exhaled.

"Go into you ship. Find the door in the hull. Are you looking?"

Harry entered the ship and descended a number of narrow staircases. He knew where it was. It was as if it was calling him, he made his way to it. He opened the door, and looked at the mess.

"I'm there," he breathed.

"Go in."

"It's dirty. The light is going out. The mud from Voldemort's mind is much farther into the connection. I'm at his door. I'm opening it. He's alone. The room is empty. He's thinking. I can see his thoughts. It's all about death and rape. Blood and fear. The train platform. Hogsmeade. Diagon Alley. He's going to attack all of them. At the same time. He's got two groups for each attack, and the leaders of each group doesn't know about the others. He's going to attack the ministry after school starts. On Halloween. He's marking new people almost every night. Lots of Slytherins. After the ministry, he's going to attack Hogwarts using the Slytherins inside to open the way. And then he has plans for Europe and Asia and the New World, and eventually Australia and Africa. He's planning to take over the whole wizarding world then kill all the muggles."

Harry, in his -- or Voldemort's -- mind quickly left and returned to himself.

"Ug, he's doing Goyle tonight. He was imagining him nude. Why does he have to do that?"

"It's all about control, Harry, and a perversion of love." She lay against his chest again. "Rape is only a little about sex, it's about "taking" someone in the fullest extent of the word. Marriage is about giving. You give yourself to your spouse and they give themselves back. It's an exchange.

"What Voldemort is doing is taking their wills, their bodies , and -- from what you've told me about the dark mark -- even their life and magic. It's all theft, or worse, consumption on his part, not exchange. He's using them up, and will leave nothing of them in the end."

Harry shuddered. "It seems that death would be preferable to that."

"Defeating him and putting a stop to it is even more preferable," she replied, settling on his chest even more.

"Yes, I have to figure this out."

"Soon. And we'll have to warn everyone."

"But not right away. Voldemort doesn't know I can use the link between us. He thinks he has a spy in his organization. We know he has spies in the Order and the Ministry. If he finds out they learned his secrets he will change them, and more people will die. I've got to find a way to overcome him."

"We will."
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