The Pawn that turned Queen, part 1.
What is true for ordinary folk is not necessarily true for those who are not. When you add magic and fate to that, normal goes right out of the window. New life was created when two sperm cells entered one egg cell, the unlikely hybrid beat the odds and remained viable. Both sperm cells having a little Black ancestry did not hurt either, as their cells traditionally have a habit of being a bit more unstable and malleable than most.
The baby was born a hybrid, with two sets of genes. Twin sets in fact, one a boy and one a girl, united in one body. Since magic operates mostly on belief and Will, the baby was what it wanted to be, whenever it wanted to be. As baby's are wont to do, they test and try to learn. This baby learned fast, amazingly fast. In practice this meant that she was a girl when expected to be a girl and a boy when expected to be a boy. Lily was the first to notice and was one of the few who could coax her to be a girl, as most people expected a boy because that news was spread.
The parents noticed, as did two other men, the godfather who later learned the truth and the traitor who did not. There were three reasons people did not notice. The first and most obvious reason was their isolation due to the headmasters' warning of a prophecy. The second reason was because of expectations and the baby's unwitting cleverness to adhere to them. Thirdly was wilful ignorance. If the colour of its eyes or hair was off, a second look proved their suspicion false, so they wrote it off as a trick of the light or even a slight Metamorphing ability. It was in the blood after all, however distant. Besides, babies usually showed some ability to change until they grew up to be more constant and stable. Peter Pettigrew was in the latter category and never thought of it again.
The parents kept it quiet, notifying only the godfather and the goblins whose healers figured out the truth. They had plans to tell the godmother, but those plans never came to fruition because she was hiding herself. Other plans did of course pan out, as that is the nature of the game. Contingencies upon contingencies to keep the kid safe failed because of one man, a man who seemed to be above the law, untouchable. The man made the baby into a hero, a symbol, even as he tore his future apart systematically. All according to the plans of Albus Dumbledore. But then again, plans fail all the time, so why not this time too?
Traditionally, the pieces on the board live and die by the hand that guides them, and while Dumbledore's gambit was masterful in its desperation, it failed to consider the nature of the game. This was wizard's chess you see, where the pieces have minds of their own. When and if the player fails to take those into account, they might make their own plans. Though Albus did not know it, the Potter's had become aware of the game, albeit peripherally, and were trying to make their own plans. The results of which Albus would not see for many, many years. His pawn would spring free, and when reaching the end of the board, it would turn into a queen instead. That is what happens when you do not inform the pieces of the rules. After all, what pawn wishes to be a pawn?
2. Spotting strings
Harry Potter was an ill-fitting puzzle, and he knew it, though he only had precious few of the pieces. Scarred on the inside as he was on the outside, he felt incomplete, incorrect and he did not know how to fix it. This did not stop him from trying. Either by hiding his flaws or by trying to discover his missing pieces, he tried. Not that it helped, but he felt better for trying regardless. It was like bandaging a continuously bleeding wound; he already had one of those, why not another?
For a few months now, he had concluded that he was a piece on a board. He was reasonably sure whose board it was too, though he did not yet know the rules of the game. What he did know for certain, was that he did not want to be a piece, not now and not ever. Best he could figure, he had to use his Slytherin side to upend the board somehow. Easier said than done, he was after all, just a piece on a board. One who had just discovered the strings attached to his very self.
Harry knew his side's player was Dumbledore, while the last few years had shown him that they were playing Voldemort. That was the easy part, just as it was easy to see the obvious players on the dark side, the Death-Eaters, and wannabes. The light side was trickier though.
Ron was clearly a pawn on the light side. In hindsight, Harry was quite sure he was strategically planted as his friend. Molly screaming the platform number on her umpteenth trip there was a dead giveaway and frankly not the only one. It was just the most obvious and earliest sign of them all. No, Harry had no illusions concerning Ron, he had seen plenty of what kind of friend he was behind his back. Ron was a friend only to his face, and only a fair-weather one at that.
Just as clearly, Hermione was not a planted pawn, originally at least. Ron had tried awfully hard to stop him from becoming her friend after all. But the how and why of their friendship did not matter as much as what side she was on now. Considering her actions with the Firebolt broom, Harry just could not be sure of her loyalties when it involved authority figures. She was too likely to trust an adult authority figure with his secrets and since most of those people were Dumbledore's, he was inclined to keep his secrets from her. She was of the light side, but not on his side. Betrayal for 'Harry's own good' was still betrayal after all.
What Ron and Hermione were forgetting, was that he had access to the Marauders map and a cloak of invisibility. It did not start out that way, but when he saw Ron and Hermione in the Headmaster's office, he started paying more attention. Since then, he had learned things he would rather not have known. Harry knew of their duplicity, their betrayal.
Harry had long since figured out he had been fucked over the second his parents had died, and Sirius had handed him over to one Rubeus Hagrid with orders from Albus Dumbledore. Left with magic hating muggles, uninformed of anything and everything he should have been. Dumbledore was wholly responsible for most of the bad things in Harry's life after his parents had died, and he still had the gall to act like a kind grandfather.
If Harry had one burning wish, it would be to live free of the game. Free to do whatever he wanted. Now, he could only continue playing as he had no idea of how to go about leaving the game. Everything he had done up until that point had been reactionary, his actions guided by external influences. In other words, he had been a piece on a board.
'Pretty strange thoughts to be having whilst breaking out a madman turned Godfather on a Hippogriff', a bone-weary Harry thought to himself. Dumbledore had once again sent two kids to do his work, for which he had undoubtedly set the stage somewhat. As Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, it was his job to get Sirius a fair trial, but why should that matter? The elderly man lived to disappoint him it seemed. Dumbledore had said that his hands were bound, that he could not do anything… Patently untrue, as the minister himself was breaking a few laws trying to murder Sirius without a trial. Dumbledore had to know that; else he was not what he was purported to be.
'But that is my life, this year's adventure actually seems the least strange of the bunch. Possession - twice even - or a 60-foot snake would win over this year's mystery-novel-like-plot any day.' Harry thought. 'The strings attached to Dumbledore have never been clearer, how I've been able to ignore them until now I'll never know.'
On the tower whilst saying goodbye to Sirius, Hermione tried to give them a moment by turning her back, a sentiment much appreciated by both men. Hermione was not a bad person; it was just too bad Harry could not fully trust her.
Now here was another person who would either already recognised his strings or would soon, with a little bit of Harry's help if necessary. Sirius Black, his brand-new godfather. He was not shiny, he was not on a horse, it was a hippogriff, but he was there and possibly - even probably - on his side. It was time to start playing the game himself.
Harry grabbed the man's shoulder and pulled him close. "Sirius, I'm in serious need of advice and we do not have the time right now. Do you know of a way to communicate that does not involve owls and cannot be traced?"
A hesitant smirk turned into a full-blown grin, transforming the harried looking man into what he should have been. "I've got just the thing, it's perfect! Just wait for my owl." The grin left his face slowly, bringing back the 'escaped convict living on rat-meat' impression he had going. "I'm sorry you know, truly I am. But we will find a way, you'll live with me if it's the last thing I do." And with that, he tapped Buckbeak on the side and flew away, never once looking back. It was a fitting attitude for an escapee and one that Harry could appreciate.
As they made their way to the infirmary, Harry knew he had to make a few choices, but those could wait until he left Hogwarts. He needed to know more, he needed to know his options. Would you trade your life for something different? That all depended on the life one led and the different options one had. This was not a simple choice because he was unaware of both options. On the one hand, he knew he was unsatisfied with option A, so why not gamble and take option B?
Every new year came with new threats, new disappointments, new betrayals. In other words, Harry was tempted. Not much was needed to push him over the edge. Should he find himself a better option, he already knew he would grab it with both hands and never let it go.
3. Changing the Pieces
His friends were quibbling, had been since they sat down really. Luckily or unluckily, depending on your perspective, Harry was long used to it. It was nothing new, which is why he was able to block it out for the most part. He was thinking, digging through his memories for something that would help. Unable to think of anything, Harry was nonetheless resolved to grab any opportunity he could spot.
Two hours into the trip back to London, Harry was shaken from his thoughts when a tiny owl managed to fly through the gap of the window of the moving train. The petite owl had a letter attached to his feet that was wider than the creature itself; this delivery was no mean feat. In fact, a Hollywood stuntman would have had trouble doing the same. The train was at its top speed and they did not have a tailwind either.
Shocked despite his previous encounters with the ridiculous, Harry took a full half minute to centre himself before he plucked the tiny owl from the air. Attached was a small rolled up note with a paw print and a short message saying, 'you know the words', which indeed he did.
Just like the Marauders map, it activated at his voice, showing the message, which was equally short and to the point.
'Item attached. Tap to unshrink, call my name in private to talk. Tell Ron the owl is his, I owe him a pet.'
As told, he found a shrunk mirror in the tiny scroll which he covertly put in his fist. Both of his co-inhabitants were paying close attention, Ron far more blatantly than Hermione, who was reading a book.
Giving Ron the owl and telling him that it was his gave Harry the distraction to put the mirror in his pocket. Hermione had already started in on Ron in the next useless argument. Ready to distance himself from his 'friends', Harry told them he was going for a walk and left the cabin. They could gossip over his brooding nature for all he cared. It was quite the cover when he thought about it. He was quite the brooder after all, and he had just 'lost' his newfound godfather.
Looking for an empty cabin was not all that easy, but just as he found one, he found her as well. Luna Lovegood occupied the cabin opposite the empty one and she was alone, reading a Quibbler magazine. Deciding to be true to his private promise, he knocked on her door and asked to join her, she accepted him with a small smile.
If there was one person who saw him for what he was, it was Luna Lovegood, for which he felt equal parts glad and afraid. Luna Lovegood was every bit as unlikely a witch as he was a wizard, and both recognized that in the other. They had easily accepted each other as they were, which was a new experience for both parties. Harry had feelings for her, but he did not know what it all meant. It was a tangled mess of feelings, and he had no way of unravelling it. He was never given the tools for that job and he knew it.
Nevertheless, Harry was a creature of principle and a Gryffindor besides. That meant something to him, he had made it mean something.
Whatever Harry would turn out to be when he completed his puzzle, he knew it was not cowardly in nature, so he figured he would seek her out to find out what feeling of the two would win out. Would it lead to fear or happiness? He would find out soon.
Her usually vacant expression was not what he was seeing now as he looked her in the eyes. Ever since she had started attending Hogwarts, she would find him in a corridor or classroom alone. Often telling him things about himself he did not show to others, ever. In whatever oblique way, she saw him for what he was. She did not just talk about him and his life either, telling him the painful truth about herself, in truly dichotomous ways.
Seeing her mother die in front of her came out in the most direct way he had ever heard anyone talk about deceased loved ones. "Yes, I saw her die in an explosion, that made me sad." Not like that obviously, but it came close.
In direct opposition to that direct manner, Luna told him through metaphors that she was being bullied and that her father was slightly off his rocker. That she was the adult in the house in all the ways except for bringing home the bread. She cleaned and cooked when she was home. He could emphasize with that at least, he hoped her father appreciated his daughter, unlike the Dursleys did him.
She was an enigma, in the German typewriter kind of way. She took loose, unconnected dots and turned them into his life story, the real one, not the established fantasy everyone believed in. The other side of the coin was that most of what she told him first had to be decoded. As far as he could tell, she had never once lied to him. What is more, she just seemed to accept what she saw of him. Harry Potter was intrigued, her life was just as messed up as his was and they both seemed to recognize that in each other.
Luna did not lie to him, which meant he would not lie to her either. Their relationship was honest that way, equal in a way he had never managed with anyone else.
He thought she could be his friend, she thought he could be hers. Only Luna understood that they already were.
Luna, being Luna, probably felt no awkwardness at all being stared at for a solid minute, as Harry went through his thoughts on her. He finally opened his mouth. "So, Luna, do I have any Wrackspurts left?"
The corner of her mouth turning up the slightest bit, her eyes roved, taking in everything she could see about him. "You have a few, but they all seem to be focused on me, which is quite ordinary really. You have a lot fewer than most regarding me. As for others, they seem to have left for greener pastures. Have you seen a few Blibbering Humdingers perhaps? There's a Blimpie on your shoulders."
It had taken some doing but Harry had long since figured out a few of her most often used metaphors and what he had not readily figured out she had told him when he had asked her. Wrackspurts indicated either confusion when temporary or misconceptions when permanent, while Blibbering Humdingers were fake friends and a Blimpie meant sadness.
As informed as he could possibly be, he was able to answer readily. "Yes Luna, I have, which explains the Blimpie I guess. Maybe Nargles are not so bad, after all. I'd rather they steal my Wrackspurts than having to keep Blibbering Humdingers around." Nargles were thieves he knew by now.
Luna stood up and sat next to him instead, putting an arm around his waist. This shook him for a second before he asked himself why that was so. His response was something ingrained, something trained. Recognizing it as a leftover from the Dursleys, he tried to think his way out of that trap. Luna waited patiently. She was the best of them all, just damaged like him. In her own way, she never lied and always cared. Luna was a good friend to have. Harry felt stupid to have feared her touch and allowed himself to sink into her embrace.
He put his own arm around her shoulder. "Luna, do you think we could be friends? I'd really like that you see." There, he had put his fears to bed. Either he had just acquired a new friend or not, that was that.
True to form, Luna surprised him by taking his face, turning it her way, and kissing him full on the lips. He was surprised, sure, but not as surprised as he should have been. She would have her reasons. Harry had only been noticing girls for a short time yet, and as such, had only started thinking about kissing girls recently. It seemed Luna was ahead of him.
Luckily, she was still kissing him when he got back to himself. Snapping out of his surprise, Harry started to respond to the kiss. Inexperienced though they were, both thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Harry had never felt more alive and rather redundantly decided he liked it. All thoughts fled from his head as he just enjoyed the closeness, the oneness that he had only felt with her as she knew him best.
'And isn't that sad,' his cynical side said. 'No, it's amazing, is what it is!' The rest of him argued, he had to stay positive after all. Who cared if he was steadily growing away from Ron and Hermione if he had Luna? It was the struggle of a lifetime; cynicism and negativity had been his default mode at the Dursley house. Now though, happiness came easy.
All too quickly it stopped, though in reality a few minutes had gone by. Luna just gazed in his eyes, their lips swollen, waiting for him to speak. Unlike previous times, Harry was content to wait, just enjoying the feeling of the moment because he was content, more content than he ever remembered feeling.
Still, he was the first to speak, "Luna, this may be a stupid question, but do you want to be my girlfriend?" Still looking in her eyes he saw the first glimpse of uncertainty he had ever seen from her as she answered with a question. "Only if you want to be my boyfriend, Harry."
Wrapping his head around that statement, he winced a little.
So maybe he had asked the wrong question, he admitted to himself. He tried again.
"Luna, may I have the honour of being your boyfriend?" Seeing her break into a wide smile he knew he had it right this time.
"Of course, Harry." She agreed with a grin. "Now kiss your girlfriend." She told him, right before kissing him again. Before all thought fled his head once more, Harry had one last thought. 'Never again will I have trouble with the Patronus charm.'
After they were done kissing – not that he was ever going to be done kissing – they talked much more candidly, especially on Harry's end, to which Luna responded by almost entirely dropping the metaphors. Which was the greatest sign of trust he could imagine from her and made their conversation much easier for Harry.
It seemed like minutes instead of hours before they arrived, and Harry had to go back to get his trunk. "I'll send Hedwig over as much as I can, alright?" Luna just nodded happily. She did not have an owl of her own, never having needed one before.
One last heartfelt kiss and they parted ways, both feeling elated and disappointed at once. In Harry's case, that elation turned to resolve, as he met his imminent future head on.
'This summer is going to be different!' He decided with resolve as he watched his fat uncle lumber towards him angrily, with his bristling moustache and wagging chins. Harry had just had a taste of a better way, a better life. Giving that up was not in the cards.
His relatives had to be handled somehow, but he did not have to think of solutions to problems alone anymore, perhaps Luna or even Sirius had an idea. Just being able to trust people like that made happiness bubble up inside him once more.
4. Privet Drive
Back at number 4, Privet Drive, Harry, and his relatives immediately fell into their well-established pattern. They chewed him out whilst he did all the housework, not so different after all. Below the surface of it, much had changed, however. After a few days, they saw less and less of Harry and still they ran out of jobs for him to complete.
There was one big difference right from the start. This year, every night he would send a letter to Luna before talking the night away with Sirius in the mirror. He had told his godfather everything he was thinking about his life and so-called friends. It was a bigger risk than he was prepared to take honestly, but he had no choice. He needed help and he could not ask for it otherwise.
Sirius' response was everything he could have hoped for and more. After hearing about the life, he had lived and the adventures he had had, the first thing Sirius had told him was to not trust Dumbledore. The second, was to call Dobby because he thought the little guy was keeping something from him. Harry called for Dobby immediately. That small decision changed the whole situation beyond recognition.
Turns out he was in fact hiding something. Dobby had halfway bonded with him immediately after being given clothes in his second year. A quick explanation made Harry offer to complete the bond, the little guy had leapt at his offer. This turned out to be a good thing for Harry and Dobby both, improving his life at number 4 by leaps and bounds. Dobby also got healthier, going from an unfinished bond to a finished bond gave him much more magic to work with and it showed. Dobby had grown a full inch, looked less bony and started to talk better. This was of major benefit to Harry, who could really use the help of an elf at his relative's house. Dobby, having too much time on his hands, offered to help Sirius with his home. Sirius accepted, but he was first going to have to talk to Kreacher, his own House elf.
His godfather also gave him more welcome news. While he could not use wand-based magic, there were other things he could do, which was everything else really. Just nothing he had been taught at Hogwarts yet. This triggered in Harry something that should have been awakened the second he had entered the wizarding world, his thirst for knowledge. That thirst had first been beaten out of him at the Dursleys, which left him in a state of apathy that was later reinforced by his friends' jealousy and Snape's grading. Harry had been an inquisitive child, smart even, maybe it was time to get back to that.
He just lamented the fact that he could not use his wand like students that lived with adult witches and wizards could according to Sirius. Whether Ron knew or not no longer mattered to Harry, probably not. He would not be informing him in any case. Informing Hermione was just a bad idea all around, he could already imagine the written rant.
Having used just about everything for pranks, Sirius was quite knowledgeable in the arts. He gave Harry a primer on Runes and Arithmancy, then he started telling him all he could do with it right now. None of that practice for three years before practical use, Sirius would walk him through the process step by step so that nothing could or would go wrong.
The notice-me-not ward and the muggle repelling ward sounded enormously beneficial to Harry. These wards were quite simple to learn, he only needed to carve two sets of three runes into the door and pump them full of magic daily.
The runes were not that hard when someone was literally telling you what stroke to do, when and in what direction. He also did not need a spell to charge them according to his godfather. That made it possible without triggering the Trace. But just to be safe, Harry wanted to do this without even a wand. Having nothing better to do, Harry had just taken it as a challenge when Sirius informed him it was quite possible, simply hard to learn which is why many magicals never did.
He was understandably irritated when it worked quite easily. Not only was working with Runes quite easy when only reproducing established patterns but charging them could be done without the ministry knowing. It was even possible without a wand! The carving could be done with anything. Of course, Hogwarts did not teach Ancient Runes students to do this before their fifth year. 'Why oh why would that be?' Harry thought sarcastically. 'If only I'd known sooner, my life here would have been so much easier.' He had not even been informed what the Runes course really involved, instead, McGonagall had just told him that was one of the hardest courses. Way to motivate! As far as McGonagall cared, Head of House duties were clearly a distant third after Transfiguration teacher and Deputy Headmistress.
Wandless charging of runes was in fact possible but hard to do, according to Sirius and the books. It was the most basic of wandless magic. But people who could use that were supposed to be a rare breed. He just needed to find his magic, draw it out and then pump it through his finger. The drawing it out portion was what a wand did for you, basically.
Harry was told by Sirius to search for his magic through meditation, which was lucky, since he had unwittingly been doing that for years in the solitude of his cupboard. That had always calmed him in the past. He succeeded on his third try because of it, greatly surprising Sirius in the process.
With the ward up, every time the Dursleys wanted him for something and approached his door, they would forget why they were there in the first place, which was mightily convenient and had the potential to be rather funny. Using it for the first time he put too much magic in the ward. This had the hilarious side-effect that the Dursleys could not get upstairs to go to sleep. They had to get past Harry's door first, which was the first door after the stairs.
After laughing over the situation, Harry started to panic, he did not know how to stop the ward. Sirius laughed his ass off through the mirror after hearing that, so much so that Harry's panic only increased due to the noise he generated.
This led to him also learning a silencing ward, which made Harry's life even more pleasant. He only needed to leave his room to go to the toilet anymore, as food was brought up by Dobby. The housework was also done by Dobby to the bafflement of the Dursleys as they almost never saw their nephew anymore. To Harry's immense surprise and reluctant gratitude, Vernon took to the trade-off so long as the freakishness remained out of sight. The man had never shown so much practicality before.
He did join them on occasion, mostly for the effect it had on them. Dudley had come home wider than he had been tall, with the school nurse's stern recommendation to go on a diet. Even the Dursleys could not ignore his bulk anymore and so the new regime had started. Dudley's face when Harry did not complain about the food - as if a single slice of bread and cheese would be normal and perfectly acceptable for a growing boy - was almost enough to sustain him. It was not, but he had Dobby.
First, he completed all his homework, which he managed in about a week doing an assignment every day. With so much time on his hands he breezed right through it. What had Ron been spending his summers on then? He always had to catch up in school.
Seeing how much time he had left, Harry decided to re-read all his books in peace, which he found to be an altogether more pleasant affair without Hermione or Ron around to distract him. A book a day was more than possible, so that did not take all that long either. Using a made-up system, he managed to cram dozens of spells with incantations and wand movements into his memory. There were about ten regular wand movements, and each spell had only two on average. An incantation with two numbers behind it was therefore easily memorised. He did this for every spell he wanted to know and remember, planning to keep that up his whole life. Basically, a cheat sheet, or a ridiculously summarized grimoire. That was something to think about later.
In his correspondence with Luna, they had set up to meet in 2 weeks' time to do some shopping in Diagon Alley, where Harry would wear a hat as an attempt at disguise. Luna's next letter told him exactly how much she did not think that would work, not on her anyway, and that she would bring something better.
Next thing on the list was learning to become an Animagus, which Sirius told him he could teach him via the mirror. The marauders had done it via potion because they did not have the patience to do it via mediation. Since Harry was quite adept at it, he decided to go that route, he was not in a hurry anyway. Sirius approved of his decision heartily, as the connection to your other form was supposed to be greater without taking a shortcut like that potion.
Harry felt excited doing something his father and godfather had done before him, even if his road was a bit different.
Time passed quickly and Harry amused himself by putting some runes on the bottom of the fridge. He thought it was the least he could do for Dudley's diet. Charging them nightly prevented both Dursley men from their nightly cheat meals, making it all the better for Harry when they were all fed nothing but a piece of grapefruit at breakfast. Dobby really earned his lifelong appreciation for all the extra meals he brought for Harry to eat.
Harry went back to sleep happy when he had been woken up from frustrated Dudley's screams at 2 am.
5. Looking through the Mirror Glass
He was leaving. His relatives probably would not even miss him as he was told to stay upstairs because Vernon's sister Marge was going to be there for the week. This was something Harry could quite easily get behind, not having to see or listen to the dreadful woman. Perhaps she would make Dudley feed and walk her rotten dog in his absence. See if he liked it.
Just to get his jollies, he had pumped the runes full of magic before he left, so the Dursleys could not get down the stairs until noon at least. 'Apart from Petunia, the rest will probably not even notice, lazy gits.'
The Knight's Bus once again turned out to be a disaster on wheels, except for the fact that it did not crash. Harry had yet to find a better way to travel than a broom and decided that he would invent a broom that could travel unseen by muggles, removing its biggest drawback. The idea amused him long enough to last him the trip.
Putting on his cap, scar hidden under his hair, he set foot in the Leaky Cauldron. It was just as shabby looking as before, only quieter. 'Must be the early hour,' Harry thought.
"Hi, Tom. My name's Jim, would it be possible for me to rent a room for a week?"
Tom glanced over and continued 'cleaning' his glasses with his dirty rag. "Sure kid, I've got a room for you. It'll cost you two galleons, up front, can you pay that?"
'No questions asked and definitely not recognised. Luna, eat your heart out.' Harry grinned, pulling out two galleons from his money bag. "Here you are."
"Right. Here is your key kid, it is the second door on the right. Don't wreck the place or it'll cost you." Tom handed him the key, looking at him with a hint of suspicion.
'Damn, he really doesn't recognise me.' Harry mused. "Don't worry sir, I'll be good."
Alone in his room at the Cauldron he started that night's meditation. Harry quickly found the necessary peace and calmed his mind. Almost immediately he felt himself slipping into the grey haze he recognizes from earlier trips. He admitted to himself at least that he had become rather addicted to these glimpses. Images of the ordinary that were somehow inexplicably tantalizing. 'How can something so ordinary be so mysterious?'
Today he would finally figure it out.
As always, Harry just went along for the ride, dreaming of doing random stuff, without trying to interpret any of it. It starts with things he does often, like picking up a book and reading. The differences from his normal life are always subtle but they are there, nevertheless. Catching sight of his scar-free hands or seeing long dark-red hair out of the corners of his eyes are just two examples. Stuff that should not be odd but is regardless. Because his hands are not without blemish, his hair is not that long and red and there is no forgetting the now familiar pressure on his chest.
This time, the dream shakes him to his core. What he sees should not only be impossible, but it is familiar, heartbreakingly familiar. It breaks something in his mind, shattering something that had been holding him back for years. He could physically and painfully feel it break.
Never was he able to influence these glimpses but today turns out to be the exception. As he looks upon his mirror image, he is shocked to see it reflect his exact feelings. The gasp is appropriate but does not fully convey the shock this image elicits. Though shock is still easily the most recognizable and the most overwhelming feeling of the moment.
This he did not expect, or did he? As if a block in his mind is broken, he finally recognizes the second feeling of the moment, recognition, he knows this reflection. It is a part of him after all, denial is no longer possible. A lot is different, but there is one constant, his mother's eyes looking back at him like always. Or is it? Even that is different. The eyes are brown instead of green, only the shape is still the same.
The reflection shifts to reflect a new feeling, resignation. Though it quickly shifts again as he asks himself why this should be a bad thing. That knee-jerk reaction to anything unexpected swiftly gets suppressed to give rise to a new feeling of hope, of new beginnings. Not fully comprehending all the emotions he is experiencing, he does recognize the next easily, acceptance. After all, Harry Potter is nothing if not a pro at accepting the facts.
Heh, yeah… Right. Who was he kidding?
Emotions still boiling, he looks upon his new reflection and sees something that has been missing. That hope that trust in new beginnings and possibility of moving on to greener pastures.
Fully entranced by this vision and the accompanying feelings that are coursing through his body, he screams of fright in response to a loud shriek coming from behind.
"What!?" He says, a couple octaves higher than normal. Which he would normally attribute to shock but realizes that is not true now.
'Busted.' Harry slowly turns around to see his doom. 'Biggest new secret ever and I blow it in the first minute.'
"I've seen humans do a lot of things to change their looks over the years but never that." The magical mirror on the wall next to his bed tells him, faint amusement filtering through nearing the end of that sentence.
Relieved, Harry sighs deeply, tension leaving his poor body, some of it at least. His scar was still pounding, 'did it hurt before now?'
"Gods above, you scared the hell out of me." Succumbing to the ridiculousness of the situation he adds, "Keep this to yourself, will you?"
The talking mirror giggled. "That you're a girl now. Sure honey. You look nice by the way, much better than when you were a boy." It tells him, having seen the lack of scars on this new body. 'Am I a girl now?' Harry asks himself strangely giddy. 'Man, all these emotions are doing a number on me, is this because of the change or because of the shock? Guess that's a question for later.'
Then it hits him, her, whatever. The scar is hurting badly now, worse compared to just a few seconds before, the pain still growing. 'Is Voldemort here? He can't be!'
"I need to change back, and right quickly too. Now how the fuck do I do that?!" Harry asks of the world in general, not really expecting an answer.
Looking in the mirror, scar still pounding, another strange thought floats through his mind, 'how the hell does my scar hurt when there is no scar in this form?!'
"Don't ask me, I'm just a mirror." The mirror answered both questions unwittingly. "But I could help you cover this up, I've seen a lot of stuff over the years."
Pound, pound, pound, the scar seemed fit to burst, Harry really started panicking now. He could do nothing but curl up on the bed like he did when he was little and scared stiff in his cupboard, waiting for the bruises to stop pounding and fearing it will not. That fear courses through his body alongside the pain, a familiar combination.
Pound, pound, pound…
A rippling, full body shudder and it was gone, just as suddenly as it had come.
When he had calmed down, he looked down at his hands and recognized the difference easily, he was a boy again. The change had been more obvious when turning the second time around. It felt weird, alien. It felt disturbingly like he was only wearing a meatsuit. To his great relief, the feeling passed rather quickly. He was Harry, still Harry, just Harry.
'This is wrong!' Harry thought, 'I shouldn't be surprised though, this is me I'm thinking about.'
"Well mirror, you're a lifesaver, but it looks like it's not necessary at the moment." Harry dropped on the bed, he was exhausted, and his heart was still pumping furiously. 'Guess sleep is still a way away.'
Just before he managed to fall asleep, he had a thought. 'This… this could be my escape.' Before he could ponder that further, exhaustion took him.
6. Friend and Confidante
The next morning at 10 o'clock, Luna entered via floo, right on time. Spotting Harry coming at her, she turned just in time to catch him hugging her hard. He whispered in her ear, "Luna, before we go shopping, I need to tell you something. Will you come up with me for a bit?"
She nodded against his shoulder, recognizing his uncharacteristic seriousness. He looked exhausted. Also, this was the first time he had initiated anything physical, and she did not think he had changed that much, so this must be something else.
As they went up, Harry looked around. Nobody seemed to care one way or the other, meaning he probably had not been recognized yet. Luna did not see how that was possible, that silly cap hid only his scar after all.
Harry just plunged down on his bed and started talking, Luna took that as an invitation to sit down opposite him, legs folded underneath her body.
"What do you mean it looked familiar?" Luna asked him after his story, holding his hand in hers.
"I meant that I recognized my female face." Harry said sadly. These were not happy memories he was dredging up. Luna had already moved closer to cuddle with him, physically lending her support. Which was something Harry was still very much unaccustomed to but starting to welcome.
"How?" she prodded simply. Apparently though, it was not a simple question. 'Such a simple question has no right being so hard to answer.'
She saw him struggling and knew the exact moment he decided to trust her with everything, he stilled. It was obvious the stress had not left him completely but some of it was surely gone. His voice was flat and lifeless when he finally did speak up.
"Have I ever told you about how my aunt cut away all my hair and it grew right back?"
Clearly nonplussed by his return question - Harry told her that her first year - she just nodded her answer and waited for him to speak.
"Back then, I was still incredibly young, though my relatives disagreed. They had decided I was old enough to start cooking breakfast for the whole family." His eyes started to become moist, tears threatening to spill. "I believe I had just reached four years old."
Voice cracking, he continued his tale. "Being so young, I still tried so ridiculously hard to get them to like me, to be a part of the family. Also, while growing up, magical happenings were becoming more frequent around me. Raised as I was, I had no real notions about boundaries like other kids do when they grow up. When playing with girls at school, I was a girl. When playing with boys, well, you get it. How nobody noticed I do not know, but they didn't."
"You must understand; I was always a boy at number 4. That was a fact of life; besides, 'boy' was my name for as long as I could remember. Back then, I had just found out my name was Harry, because I had started to go to preschool. Still, I had heard Uncle Vernon say that women belonged in the kitchen often enough to take that as a fact. So, when aunt Petunia was going to show me how to cook breakfast, I showed up as a girl, ready to help my family. They did not take that well."
'Understatement.' Luna knew. "They didn't accept you?"
He paused, looking up at her for the first time since beginning his story to see a look of pure horror on her face. "They have never accepted me."
He almost stopped at that, never having been comfortable holding someone's full attention, especially in highly emotional situations such as this. But he needed to get this off his chest badly, so he nodded bravely and continued.
"The whole neighbourhood must have heard her scream; it was so loud. Scared the living daylights out of me, I tell you. Vernon came in and upon seeing me he hit me, hard."
"I woke up in the cupboard, though how much later I couldn't say. Tiny, uneven tufts of short hair of various lengths were all that remained of my once beautiful head of long red hair. It's become darker since then, as you've heard tonight." He chuckled mirthlessly, there was nothing funny in his story, but his trembling body seemed to need the temporary escape. Laughing is better than crying anyhow.
"First time they opened the cupboard; I was still a girl. A single scream and a single kick and the light went away again, for a time anyway. It must have been a week before I'd learned what they wanted of me and had become a boy again, hair fully intact and untameable."
"When I finally came out of the cupboard, I had almost starved, with deep bruises, blue, purple, yellow too. I never changed back into a girl again, but the damage was already done. That was the day I graduated from Boy to Freak." Voice hoarse, Harry took a moment to just breathe, eyes closed.
"For some reason, I had forgotten about all that context, except for the pain. Two days ago, I had no idea that I was not solely male. It felt like something broke inside me, not only then but yesterday as well."
He welcomed Luna's arms encircling him, she had him wrapped up safe. This safety served to calm his shaking body only slightly, though he did get the strength to continue his story.
"The chores got harder, as did the punishments; they even encouraged my nephew and later his friends to hurt me. Though not explicitly, never explicitly. Just turning a blind eye to any violence directed at me and harsh punishments for me doing the opposite was enough to ensure the boys learned to hate me, to enjoy tormenting me."
"I never thought about my ability again, even forgot I had it somehow. I think my relatives forgot too. What I did know and remember, was that I did not want to attract any more punishment. I doubt Dudley even remembers why it started, why he started. I sure didn't."
"Maybe I unconsciously repressed those memories, and it wasn't until the Animagus meditation that they were brought back to the surface. It felt as if some blockage in my mind was destroyed if I am really being honest. Strangest feeling that, hurt something fierce too." A sharply sucked breath interrupted Harry, "maybe you know something I don't?"
Looking at Luna, she just nodded for him to continue, so he did. 'If it's important, I'm sure she'll bring it up later.' Harry thought. Luna had yet to move a muscle, though he felt her crying silently.
"As I used to be able to change forms at will, my mind must have separated the forms, so that I could not do it anymore, to protect myself, at least a part of me. That is probably also why that form has no scars, no blemishes; it's hardly ever been used."
"Oh Harry!" Luna sobbed into his shoulder, drenching him. "You should never be ashamed of yourself; you are the most beautiful person I know inside, regardless of what you look like on the outside." Luna told him. "And I love you."
They stayed that way for a while. Harry himself did not even have the energy to cry anymore. When Luna was done crying, she told him seriously. "We need to get you checked for memory charms." He did not know why she wanted that, but he would go along with it, if only because she wanted to. 'What would I do without this girl? Wait, what did she say just now? No, before that.'
My eyes widened when I recalled her words, but there was no hesitation. "I love you too Luna." Which prompted another round of sobbing? Sharing the pain and crying freely, both things he had not done in as far as he could remember. Perhaps that was a good thing. 'Yes,' he convinced himself. 'I feel a bit better.'
Something good had come from this, which made him remember his thoughts of last night. Perhaps he should not be looking at this as a problem, but as a solution. That sort of thinking had been of major help in the past. Positive thinking, finding ways to use things to his advantage. Now though, he could not see it as anything but bad. Later, he would think about it later.
7. Experimentation and Acceptation
That evening, after their shopping, they had retreated to the room in the Leaky Cauldron again. "Anapneo" Luna incanted, which was the Animagus reversal spell he saw last year, with one counterclockwise twist and point. A blue light left her wand and hit Harry, turning him red and painfully forcing him back into male form. The pain was less than what the scar did to him in female form, so he did not mind. He could handle pain.
Though he knew how the Trace worked now, he still did not doubt that he would trigger it even if he were to use his wand in the crowded Diagon Alley street, that was just his luck and another of his strings. He was Harry Potter after all, it would not surprise him if the magic tracking him was more elaborate than that on others. Luna had no such doubts holding her back and she successfully argued that he needed to know. Harry gave up as he knew she was right, which is why they were still experimenting.
They had not yet arrived at any conclusion except that it was his Animagus form, the scar pain was still a mystery, but they had found the spell as a precaution. Harry would not try changing without it.
"Well, you're definitely an Animagus, and that's your form I guess." Luna grinned.
"We don't know, do we? I mean, it could be the other way around." Luna shared her wisdom, putting on her thinking face. "Mmmm." She mused, quickly doing the spell again, eliciting a surprised gasp.
Unexpectedly, Harry again glowed red and was forced back to female form. "Bloody Hell! What does that even mean?"
Another blue spell and he was a boy again.
"Your animal is your other form right, you're both and that's natural. Both states are you and you are both states. And wouldn't that mean that …." As she rambled on, Harry calmed right down. She had a way of putting him back on firmer ground. He would just have to weather the storm as it were. They would be sure to figure it out, together. If not, there was always Sirius, though he would rather not yet tell him that he was a girl too.
Something was holding him back from that, but Harry did not know what. That made it irrational, but Harry did not care.
Focusing back on her lecture he heard her ask. "What if, when you're not sure what your natural state is, your magic is not sure either?" Her expression changed to one of sympathy.
"Harry, do you even know? I mean… Are you a boy or are you a girl?"
"Do I have to pick?" Harry asked her. "I mean, doesn't the fact that I can pick what to be from moment to moment mean that I don't have to pick, that I'm both?" He was not sure what she was implying but he knew he did not like it.
"You don't have to, Harry; it doesn't matter to me at all." Luna tried to reassure him by hugging him again.
She tried to console him. "Maybe this is possible with all animagi, we should ask your Padfoot." It was a sound theory, and rather simple to ask.
Somehow, he doubted it. There was nothing normal about Harry Potter. It was one of the rules of the universe.
"Yeah, that should be it." Harry said slowly, a little too slowly he admitted to himself. 'What am I afraid of? And why? He's my godfather and he love me, right?'
It was an irrational fear. Harry knew it and still felt it. There was nothing strange about that.
"So, you're saying that you're still attracted to me in my other form?" He changed subjects.
Luna's lip curved at his unsubtle redirect. "I assure you Harry, I am." She grabbed him firmly, pushing him down on the bed. "Anapneo, there, now I get to give you another first kiss."
Harry's doubts quickly lost their edge as she proceeded to snog his brains out until they had to quit before his brain exploded. Goddamn scar!
8. Doubts and Reassurances
Back at number 4, Harry could not really focus on his new books, his mind was on his female Animagus form and the accompanying scar-ache. It was not that the books were boring, au contraire. Since he had not gotten his booklist from school yet, he had bought everything that he found interesting and two others that Luna had recommended he read. His trunk had needed expansion, but Luna easily steered him in the direction of a shop that provided this service, something he had never heard or thought of before.
The problem was that he did not yet wish to tell his godfather about his new secret, and he hated that and what it stood for. Honestly, he could not imagine Sirius having a bad reaction, the man would surely tease him about it, but nothing bad. After so many talks at night, he knew that at least. The reason that he had not told him yet was more personal, he himself had not yet accepted the side of himself he now knew existed.
The block in his memories had been bad, as its removal had caused a veritable flood of memories and feelings to rush back and he had not been prepared for that. The part that had been sealed off for whatever reason was still integrating with the rest of him, this was the root of the problem.
What he was afraid of was not his dual identity as both boy and girl, he was afraid of how it would change him. Truly, he was still a boy in his puberty, as his mind had already thought about the obvious advantages of being able to change into a girl. He did not think he would suddenly start fancying boys, oh no, that part was not what scared him. What scared him was the emotions he was feeling.
Harry had never really been in touch with his emotions, sure he felt them at times, there was no escaping that, but most times they did not factor into his daily goings on. Now though, that boy's state-of-being was shattered to all hell. His mind just churned, every thought bringing new feelings. If this was what girls had to deal with all day every day, no wonder they were so different. Had he just been suppressing half of his emotions or was this a girl thing?
In one of his more lucid moments, he had sent a letter to Luna to which she had replied shortly. Though she admitted that she did not think she was the best representative for the female mind, she told him that this was probably temporary, but that he should not fight it. Instead, he should try to follow the flow and understand it. They were his emotions, she had reasoned, how alien could they be?
Pretty damn alien! That is how he felt at first, but Luna was never wrong, and she was the expert on feelings out of the two of them, so he had persevered. Turned out she was right, it did settle down eventually, he was still more in touch with his emotions than before but that might be a good thing.
He did not think his previous state of mind was all that healthy to begin with, as it had come from being an unappreciated semi-slave.
That is another thing, normally he would push those feely thoughts out of his mind as soon as he had them, no matter the feelings. Now he would analyse them, and he did not like the results all that much.
It was like he had lived with blinders on, worse even, blinders he had put on himself. Now at least, they were slowly coming off. It was this new-found insight that eventually persuaded him to tell his godfather everything. Reading the newest letter from Luna only strengthened that resolve.
I asked my dad how to deal with memory overload, to sort through the stuff before it overwhelmed me. Do not worry, he did not even blink at such a request, merely pointed me in the right direction. So here it is, you need to learn the art of Occlumency! It is for sorting everything that is inside your head, even defences against invasion! Apparently most Pure Bloods are trained in this from a young age; you should ask Sirius about it. Anyway, I went back to Diagon to buy a book on it, which turned out to be devilishly hard to find and I could only buy them because I am of Pure Blood, such a silly notion. I got one for you and one for me, so we can read it at the same time. Yours is attached, tap to unshrink. After reading chapter 1, I knew this could help not only you, but me as well. I do not know if you know but I have always had too many thoughts running through my head which only serves to irritate me, and when I am irritated, I always try to needle people with my creatures.
Hope you are doing well.
He unshrunk the book and put it aside for later, he doubted he would get to read it today, not after the talk he was about to have with his godfather. Taking the mirror in his hand he softly called "Padfoot", within a minute his godfather's image appeared before him with a "Hiya Harry! How are you doing?"
'Well, now or never', Harry thought to himself while saying aloud: "Sirius, I've been keeping something from you, and I'd like to come clean. Are you up for keeping one more secret?"
Sirius promised immediately, after which Harry started talking. He was not ashamed to admit to Luna later that tears were involved, on both sides, and that he immediately felt better afterwards. Apparently, his parents had already told him back when. Sirius even had some experience with this, since his niece was a Metamorph who was essentially also listed as 'other.'
His godfather had reacted exactly how he needed him to, with support and much needed advice, and he loved him for it. Sirius had not even needed proof, as Harry would not change without someone there to change him back if he failed to do so himself.
This was a huge step for Harry, and he did not know it, but it was for Sirius as well. He finally had an adult he felt he could trust, whereas Sirius had someone to care for, to take responsibility for, even from afar. Both felt like something that had been missing had been returned to them, and they would do everything they could to keep it that way. Harry quite liked his new situation; he had a girlfriend and godfather he could trust in. Only a few weeks ago, he had neither of those. Things were looking better than ever.
Harry's question about the Anapneo spell came up and Sirius told him that it did not in fact change him into his dog form. But he also said that it was meant to turn someone back into human form, not animal form. Since Harry was human in both forms, he was probably an exception.
As for the other advice, Sirius did in fact know something of Occlumency, enough to give him some tips. Other than that, he advised Harry to go to the goblins or St Mungo's for a consultation with a healer, who would probably be able to help him. He repeatedly assured him that he would love him no matter what, godson or goddaughter; he would always be on his godchild's side.
This most of all, had assured Harry that he was right to confide in him.
9. Occlumency and Indelible Dreams
The next two weeks, he devoted himself fully to studying. The art of Occlumency in particular. Luna had been right, which had become clear after reading the first chapters of the book. Not only would this bring order to his chaotic mind, but it would also help him remember better and help protect his mind. All three of those effects could save his life someday. If not, they would surely make it easier.
He had promised to seek out professional advice about his scar, but he had not really reached a conclusion as to whom he would ask. The few times he had asked about the scar, most people said it was one of a kind, and possible treatments would therefore be undocumented. This had not helped him much, except to make him want to think it over more.
So far, he had found three possible options. One, the goblins, who employed master curse-breakers and would have a different perspective than regular healers would have. Two, regular healers at St. Mungo's, if anything, they could do a full body check-up as he had never had one before. And lastly option three, Minerva McGonagall, who as a transfiguration teacher had another perspective entirely, most suited to know the ins and outs of the Animagus transformation. The last one got ruled out immediately though, since Harry knew it would immediately be told to Pomfrey and Dumbledore.
The second option seemed the best to him, so Harry had decided to arrange a visit after the Quidditch World Tournament scheduled in a few weeks, for which he was invited to attend with the Weasley family. The goblins were his back-up option and truthfully, he did not want to have to resort to asking his Gryffindor Head of House. She had so far proven uninclined to help her students, Harry, to the point of being useless.
He continued to exchange letters with Luna daily, learning much more about her in the process. Whatever he thought about her before, she was turning out to be so much more. He eagerly wrote letters, longer by far than the usual, and he could hardly await Hedwig's return as she always brought a reply with her.
The few people he corresponded with would never have recognized these letters as his. Everything about them, from the length to his writing style had been radically changed.
Luna did not know how much she meant to him; she had given him something he had never had. She understood him, did her best to know him, really know him. This was something he was not quite used to. True, Hermione had tried asking him about his home life a few times, but she had always been more interested in other things. Luna asked him about his hopes, his dreams, about what he liked and disliked, who he looked up to and everything else. It was wonderful and exactly what he had always been missing.
He once naively thought he had found that in Ron and the Weasleys, but Ron was all about Ron and he did not belong in the Weasley clan. Even when he visited, he had noted a clear separation, he was just a guest in their home.
That had always been a mystery to him. Sure, he knew he wanted a family, to find love and to belong. But why though? What was it about those things that he missed and for that matter, how could he miss something he had never had?
Finally, he understood, it was all abstract. Words on a page, on the screen, or in stories told. He ached because he was not complete and those words like family and belonging were associations. All those things he associated with those feelings he was feeling now, when he thought about Luna and occasionally Sirius, but differently.
High on these new feelings and feeling completely at ease, he started sorting his mind. Surprisingly, he had gotten quite far already, according to the book this stage could take up to a few months, and yet he felt he was half done already, perhaps something to do with the memory block he had broken through, a question for the healer perhaps. For now, he would just take the good with the bad and make the best of what he could do before he would have to head for the Burrow, he was not really looking forward to that to be honest.
Suddenly in his meditation, he felt a connection open to his mind. 'How can that be, I am alone?!' He was locked in his room with a closed window, so there was nobody to have eye-contact with like the book said was necessary for an attack. It felt different too, not at all like the book said, instead it was like an opening to another mind. Curious despite himself, he allowed himself to peek.
Immediately, he was elsewhere, or at least he seemed to be. Voices could be heard, but nothing seen. Suddenly light flooded his sight. The scene in front of him getting sharper in a second; it was like he had opened his eyes. No, he had not, but someone else clearly had.
A knock on the door and a soft voice said enter. A dirty, pudgy man entered the door, it was Wormtail! The shock nearly sent Harry back, but he managed to stay. "What news do you bring, my faithful servant?" The voice asked him. It sounded strange, like an adult but not quite.
"Master, I brought you a woman. She has news from England that might help our cause."
Wormtail told the voice, whom he called his master. 'Was that strange voice Voldemort?' Harry thought to himself. 'Now that I think about it, why is Wormtail so freakishly tall?'
"You did well my servant, bring her to me." Wormtail bowed and went to obey his master. He was back in a minute with a ditzy looking blonde who reminded Harry of a fitter and older Lavender for some disturbing reason.
"Ah, a pleasure, Miss…" The voice of Voldemort tried, but she did not respond, did not even seem to notice really. "Sorry master, I've had to Confundo her repeatedly to get her to join us here. This here is Bertha Jorkins, from the Ministry."
"No matter, we'll just have to jolt her awake then, won't we Wormtail?" He pointed a disturbingly baby-like hand holding a huge wand at the woman. "Crucio!" A sickly red spell shot out and hit her, to which the woman started screaming bloody murder. This shook Harry hard enough that he got catapulted back into his own mind.
"Never doing that again!" He promised himself in shock. 'Not getting to sleep anytime soon either, that's for sure.'
He lied down on his bed and tried to centre himself to regain some semblance of calm after that horrid experience. 'What was that last spell, it sounded dreadful. No do not think of that, empty your mind. That's it.' When he finally succeeded in calming his mind he promptly passed out, not to wake before Dobby came in with breakfast. His foray into the dark lord's mind not forgotten, but etched in his memory, ready to be recalled at a moment's notice.
10. Luna Lovegood
Luna sat at the table after cleaning up after her and her dad when Hedwig flew in. This had become the highlight of her days recently; she could not believe how lucky she was. For two years now, ever since she had started Hogwarts, her hopes of gaining friends had been all over the place.
First year, that hope got burned to cinders in the first month. Not only did nobody seem interested in becoming her friend, but they also actively avoided her. Even her lifelong neighbour had seemingly forgotten all about her, not that Ginny had been doing any better on that front.
The only person who did not seem to mind talking to her had surprisingly been Harry Potter. The same Harry Potter that Ginny had wanted her whole life, who was nothing at all like the stories said. No seriously, he was the exact opposite, though very few seemed to notice indeed.
She tried talking to him sometimes but was quickly disabused of that course of action as people seemed to notice. And people who noticed her always turned their attention to her, never in a good way either. That is why Luna only talked to him when he was alone, which was quite often, mostly at night. Having only one person to talk to, Luna quickly learned Harry's schedule by heart, and swiftly found out about his haunts, his likes, and his dislikes. Everything to lengthen their talks; she so liked their talks. He never called her names or dismissed her opinions either.
Second year, avoidance by her peers had quickly become something to be cherished, a few older girls in her own house had started bullying her. It would not have been that bad if they had not gotten everyone else to join in on the fun too. Harry-time really became her only solace, Ginny occasionally spent some time with her, but it felt like it was an obligation more than anything. She liked studying, she really did, she was a Ravenclaw for a reason. But there was something missing, something that did not seem to be missing when she was with Harry.
That year he had started to figure out what she meant with her animals, and even asked her what he could not figure out for himself. She told him about them, just like she would for any other that would go through the effort to ask. Except he did not disregard her words like everyone before him had done so callously.
Then he had started to use them himself, incorporating them in their conversations. First, she had tolerated this game from him but as time went on, she had really started to enjoy their banter. He was not replacing anything, there was room in her heart for more she decided.
Did she really see animals? No, she did not. It was a reminder of happier days, days where her mother was alive. Pandora Lovegood had invented animals and created from them a game to play with her daughter. It was a game training her to be observant of other people. And now she played the game with Harry.
Luna had learned to love that game because that meant spending time with her mother, who had been an unspeakable and who had often been at work or working at a project at home. Pandora had been into code-breaking and other intellectual pursuits, where Xenophilius had been into exotic magical animals. That game was a combination of both. Playing that game stood for all the good times, the times of feeling secure and those of feeling loved. At 13 years old even if she felt much older, she was not yet ready to give that up.
If she was being honest, and she usually was, her mother had not really been there for her. Most of the time she had to rely on her father. Xenophilius had always been a great father, the best really, and Luna loved him to bits. But then Pandora had died, Xeno had cracked and had never recovered. This had caused Luna to grow up extremely fast, as is too often the case in such circumstances.
The latest developments with Harry's gender issues really did not bother Luna as such, only in however Harry took it in the first place. She could already see how this would help him even if he could not himself. As for sexual attraction, Luna was looking for love first and foremost, whatever shape or package it came in was secondary at best. She happened to think Harry was pretty in both forms. Now she only needed him to see that.
Now Harry was still awfully close to cracking, much more than she had thought only a month ago. The things that happened to her boyfriend were enough to make a grown man cry, which was exactly the problem. She would have to help him past his fears before he could grow beyond them. If not for that, he would break and shatter and leave her alone again.
'Never mind those silly gloomy thoughts, this is not the time. Harry sent you a letter and is waiting for your reply.' Harry did not know what he really meant to her; he was fast becoming her world. In a particularly sappy mood, she had compared herself to her namesake and found it fitting. She was a satellite in Harry's orbit, and she was happy about it, because she never felt quite so alone anymore.
Harry was strong enough to pull though this on his own, but he did not have to, she would help him.
11. Arthur's Referral
Harry looked back on his Privet Drive stay part of the summer and was happy. He had managed to do whatever he wanted, without being bothered by the Dursleys. What is more, they could not complain about it as all his usual chores had been taken care of by Dobby, his most relentless ally. Putting away all his books he felt proud as well, he had read all the books Luna and he had gotten on their first trip to Diagon, as well as a good part of the books assigned for this year. Luckily, the book list from this year had not changed significantly from that of last year. He had asked a few upper years what their assigned books were during their school years just for the chance to read ahead. Hermione would be proud if he ever decided to tell her that is.
Now it was time for him to leave. Originally, Mr. Weasley would arrange for him to be picked up, but Harry really did not want to chance a meeting between wizards and the Dursleys. This was why he had sent a letter ahead explaining that he would get there on his own. Knowing of the Knight bus from his last year, he would rather chance that perilous mode of transport over scaring the Dursleys. The bus really was not that bad. Sure, it was a death-trap on wheels, but if it got you to where you needed to be in under half an hour then what was a little excitement?
He arrived with a bang, as was the usual in the wizarding world in Harry's admittedly rather limited experience. After nearly dying in a soul crushing hug that had very quickly lost its appeal in Harry's book, he fled the room to find Arthur, hopefully he would get that done before one of the others found him. Luckily, Arthur was where he spent most of his time on the weekend, in his shed. "Hello, Mister Weasley," he greeted his host.
"Hiya Harry, thought I heard you come in. Anything I can do for you? Ron is in the orchard." He said, smiling up at Harry. "Well yes, as a matter of fact. I have a request for you. I have to run an errand, but I need some directions."
"Well then, out with it. If I can help you, I am sure I would, whatever it is." Arthur told him with one raised eyebrow.
"Well sir, I've been having trouble with my body... Pain I mean! Not whatever it is you're thinking of." He added, seeing Arthur's embarrassed grimace. "And, I would like to see a healer, but you see, I've never been to Saint Mungo's and I wouldn't know what to do when I got there. So, I would like some directions or even a referral if you know someone trustworthy. It's a delicate matter you see, and I really don't want it getting out."
"Aah, right then, not what I was expecting really. I know someone you can go to yes, but I insist on escorting you, and it better be after the World Cup as I will need to send her a letter explaining the need for secrecy. Though that should not be a problem, most healers take their oaths seriously Harry, otherwise they lose their magic."
"Thank you, sir, I very much appreciate it. When you write to her, can you add that I would like her to check me over fully, and to check my scar. You see that thing has always bothered me, yet nobody has ever checked that out, which is frankly stupid." Harry told him, getting a little more heated near the end.
Arthur could see his point and nodded his assent. "Don't worry son, you'll like her, she's the best."
"Again, thank you sir. I better go find Ron now, have fun with your project." He inclined his head before leaving.
12. Vanishing Illusions
Ron being Ron, did not even ask him how his summer went. He just said his usual "Hey mate," before going on and on about how excited he was about the World cup. Before, Harry would have hated this part of his friend, now he was glad for it. The persons he would share his life with were not there, but he could still talk to them daily via Hedwig or the mirror. Ron was just filler, and he played his role well in the next few days.
Travelling via portkey was something that Harry never wanted to do more often than necessary, but the next sight made it worth it. Rows upon rows of clearly magical tents leading to a huge shiny stadium. Seriously, it shined in the morning sun. He was peripherally aware of the muggle owner being obliviated and feeling some resentment over it, but he could not change that now, so he forgot about it in favour of drinking in his surroundings.
Walking toward the tents, his remaining good mood quickly evaporated. On display for all to see was the stupidity of the wizarding world. And how magnificent it was... Not ten out of a hundred magicals had dressed like muggles as was supposed to be a rule enforced by the ministry of magic. Bug-eyed muggles walked around freely. The idiots had not even completely booked the field it seemed, though Arthur had said the stadium had been warded for the occasion.
Magic was thrown around like it was going out of style, he even spotted a few magical beings. Two wizards even had house-elves serving them in broad daylight. He knew they had the ability and inclination to work unseen, but they did not do that here for some reason, most likely that meant they were ordered to.
Harry did not like what that implied and asked Arthur who they were. Turned out they were Purebloods with seats on the Wizengamot. Shaking his head, Harry asked himself why he was even surprised. He would not be surprised to hear that these were Death-Eaters that were acquitted on the imperius defence, so why be surprised at this?
Looking at Hermione who had joined them just this morning, he knew the answer and sighed. It seemed Hermione was not the only one who held persons in authority to higher standards. Shouldn't he know better by now? It appeared not.
Harry briefly debated pointing this out to Hermione. No, she would just rationalize it away. Besides, her blind spot existed mostly because of her hero, the light lord Dumbledore, and his posse of teachers. Harry was not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole, he had learned how to choose his battles.
Setting up the tent was not fun. What could have taken all but a second, took over an hour since Arthur wanted to do it muggle-style. Harry honestly liked the man but sometimes he went too far. When Harry saw how they were supposed to feed themselves, he left to go for a walk. It seemed Arthur had wanted to do campfire cooking, muggle style. Harry knew he would eventually have to step in - like he had ever gone camping with the Dursleys - and he did not feel like it, so he made his excuses.
"I'm going to go for a walk, see the sights." He told Arthur.
The twins perked up, "we'll join this fellow, won't we George?" Fred nodded, recognising the danger signs. "Of course, we will Fred. We'll be back for dinner."
Arthur hesitated at first but nodded when the twins did their part. "Be safe kids, not all wizards here are good people." Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were arguing over tent poles, and had luckily not heard us.
When the tent was out of sight, Fred and George turned to Harry at the exact same time. "Harrykins, do you mind if we go off on ourselves? We're planning to stake some bets, and that works better without a tag-along." That suited Harry simply fine, which he gladly let them know, and set out on his own as he had planned all along. "Good luck with your bets gentlemen."
Walking through the tents, he quickly noticed where the British separated from the foreigners, it was rather obvious after all. The divide was also the main pathway it seemed. Fans for the Irish team on the one side and fans for the Bulgarians on the other.
Though the separation seemed not to be wholly due to the competition, it was rather hard to believe that only the British seemed to support the Irish while the rest of the world supported Bulgaria. 'Probably something to do with prejudice or British arrogance,' Harry thought idly.
Seeking for something different, Harry went to the other side if it were. All sorts of languages were being spoken; it was the World Cup after all. Harry did not even mind not understanding a thing, it was all so new and different. Being merely capable of hedging a few guesses as to which language was being spoken, Harry just focused mostly on the visual aspects, which caused him to notice quite a bit.
Chief among his observations, was that on this side of the divide, people spoke multiple languages. Most people used English as a common language if they were unable to use the others' tongues. What is more, boundaries were practically non-existent here; countries mingled freely, he even saw a group of kids playing together whilst not being capable of any meaningful communication. Laughter and pointing were universal, so they got along great. 'I wish I'd grew up trusting like that.'
This was the exact opposite of what he saw on the British side. His side, he thought ruefully. There, most people only knew one language, and that shoddily at best (there were no formal English lessons for most magicals without a primary school to go to). Also, mingling with foreigners trying to cross the barriers between them, was probably something to be viewed with distrust. He could easily imagine Malfoy's sneer on the subject.
'Luna would definitely agree with me, which is funny,' Harry thought to himself whimsically. 'For someone who always speaks the truth, she trusts nobody. She is practically auditioning people by talking to them in a different way. I'm just lucky I passed her test.' That last thought brought a smile to his face.
Almost back in 'British territory', Harry spotted a family of blonds, the girls among them extremely beautiful. The mother was practising English with her eldest, who was probably a few years older than him. "Ah, I wish I had a native to talk to mama, ça ne marche pas," she told her mother sadly.
'Well, if that isn't the best opening, I'm ever going to get.' He thought to himself, 'You can't let this pass Harry, are you a Gryffindor or not?' Walking over to the pair he said, "hi, I couldn't help but overhear you say that last English part and would love to help you with that. Would you want to talk to me for a bit perhaps?"
The older girl looked at her mother with a despairing look, to which she answered. "Chéri, vous avez demandé à quelqu'un de converser avec." The mother looked at him and smirked. "Peut-être qu'il ne sera pas affecté, on ne sait jamais." After delivering that last enigmatic statement she nodded to Harry and walked to a nearby chair, seemingly content to wait and see what would happen next.
The girl turned to him and said, "very well, I'm Fleur Delacour, who are you?"
"I'm Harry." What proceeded was a nice and light conversation, something that seemed to surprise the hell out of Fleur, though he could not imagine why she was surprised. After that strange happenstance, she happily focused on their talk.
The mother laughed silently but seemed happy with our simple discussion. Madam Delacour gave them some fruit to enjoy and sometimes added to the conversation.
Walking away more than an hour later, having learned a few French words and sentences, and teaching her a few new English words, both were happy with their conversation. She did seem a bit baffled - again why? - with the fact that he told her he had a girlfriend for about two months now but that settled a bit after he told her he was only fourteen years old.
Fleur also told him she would see him later, but he really did not think that would happen. With how big the stadium was and the amount of people about, the odds of meeting her again were laughable. Anyway, it was time to head back, they might be missing him.
13. Quidditch and Hooligans
The Final of the World Cup had shown him how different professional quidditch was compared to the competition at Hogwarts, though he still thought he could get to that level with a good enough broom and lots of practise.
Veelas and the reactions they got intrigued Harry, and he wondered why he did not feel like making a fool of himself like all the other men. He had felt something, but that had disappeared very quickly. 'Did that mean he really wasn't a man?'
What happened afterwards had frightened him terribly. Not because of the situation itself, though that made him fear for his life shortly too. No, what had frightened him were the implications of what he had seen.
These were not the most dangerous Death Eaters, but that really was not the point. The point was that they apparently felt confident enough in their cause to join in their criminal merrymaking at a supposedly highly secured event, without any sort of repercussions.
'Highly secured indeed.' The cavalry had taken more than ten full minutes to respond, despite being already present. The rampaging group of masked hooligans had literally started at one end of the field and crossed it. As such, the would-be defenders had no excuse whatsoever. The black robed wizards had popped away when the Aurors got there, even though there was supposed to be an anti-apparition ward, and they sounded happy enough to let them get away. Harry did not understand that in the slightest.
After finally arriving at the scene of the crime - yes, firing the Dark Mark was apparently a criminal offense - they mistook the most improbable and innocent bystanders as the culprits, a group of kids. Their leader had later even proclaimed it to have been his own House-elf - despite everyone telling him he was wrong; elves did not use wands after all - and had summarily fired her. 'Poor Winky'.
No, Harry was not the least bit impressed with Magical Britain after the events at the World Cup.
Luckily, he would soon be going back to Hogwarts and be able to see Luna again. It was incredible how much he had missed her. Though it was not hard to miss her when at the Weasleys, the thought of her was the one thing that calmed him when talking to Hermione or the Weasleys. To be fair, he quite enjoyed talking to Bill, Charlie, or the twins, but he rarely saw them.
14. Saint Mungo's
In a few short minutes, Arthur would take him to St. Mungo's to see a Healer for a complete check-up. Keeping his emotions in check with his rapidly improving Occlumency, he calmly waited for the man to come down the stairs. A few weeks ago, this kind of mental control would have been all but impossible. Now it came to him quite easily. 'Needs must.' Harry was quite motivated to learn that skill.
"Ah, Harry. Ready to go?" Arthur asked him, quite unnecessarily in his opinion. "Of course, Mister Weasley." He told him respectfully. Arthur frowned at him, "how about calling me Arthur? Mister Weasley is quite a mouthful after all."
"Right, Arthur!" Harry told him enthusiastically, he agreed wholeheartedly that just the first name would be much more convenient.
"Now put your cloak over your head, you don't want to be recognized after all." As Harry did so, Arthur put a spell on him. Lifting a lone eyebrow in response, Arthur said, "It's just a weak Notice-Me-Not spell, this should help you to stay unnoticed." If not, his trusty cap should do the trick like it had at Diagon Alley and at the World Cup after all.
Preparations done, they set out. Flooing into the hospital went without a hitch, something that Harry greatly appreciated. Walking through the reception area, Arthur passed the welcome desk to walk straight on. Harry just followed, trusting the man knew where to go.
Arriving at a door at the second-floor, Arthur knocked. They were invited in by an aged female voice. When they were inside with the door shut behind them, Harry lifted the cowl off his head and turned to face the healer. She was an old witch, but not quite McGonagall old. Beautiful, but a faded beauty. Harry was sure she was a looker some 50 years ago though. Shaking her hand, he told her he was thankful she agreed to see him on such notice.
"I admit I'm very curious, Mister Potter. Why the subterfuge?" She asked him immediately, he liked her directness.
"You will find out if you can assure me of your discretion, Healer …"
"Smythe, Mister Potter. Though you need not worry about discretion. As Arthur has probably told you, we Healers take an oath to keep the secrets of our patients, provided they are nothing illegal. Are your secrets illegal, Mister Potter?"
"No, they are not." He said, looking her straight in the eyes. "And Arthur did tell me, but I am a bit leery of trusting willy nilly. As you have already made the vow, would you be willing to make the oath again Healer Smythe? Just to assuage my worries I assure you."
She gave him a searching look and then promptly pointed at the wall whereupon he found the oath written and signed in blood. Arthur had told him how that worked, as he had asked what would keep people from breaking their oaths. Shaking his head, Harry declined to mention that the blood oath could have been written with anyone's blood and hung on the wall. He did not think Healer Smythe would appreciate that.
Randomly vowing or swearing on their magic could be binding, but only when the intent was there. This was something you could not be sure of, not without making another binding oath or the use of Veritaserum, which was a controlled substance. So there really was no way for him to be sure but to take her word for it.
"I trust you're satisfied, Mister Potter. I don't really like my integrity being questioned."
"Yes, I'm satisfied, thank you Healer." He bowed rather deeply to her, to show her that he was serious. Turning to Arthur he said "Arthur, would you mind leaving the room, it's not that I don't trust you, but this is about to become a rather private issue." Startled, Arthur told him that was fine and after looking back once to tell him he would be in the cafeteria, left the room.
"Now I'm really intrigued. So, what's this about Mister Potter?".
"I need you to do the most comprehensive check-up you can do on me, ending in my scar. But start with my magic and body in general. Can you do that? I'm sure you'll soon understand the need for secrecy."
Nodding once, she had him lie on a table and proceeded to wave her wand about. The first few waves had his clothing disappear from his body to appear on a nearby chair, this startled Harry and he looked at the Healer, who smirked at him, her expression telling him he had asked for this. When she lowered her gaze, he could hear her gasp out of pure shock.
Harry's body was not a pretty picture and the reason why he always showered first in the mornings at Hogwarts and last after quidditch practice. Nobody had really seen him naked before, not even Poppy Pomfrey, who had seen the most of all, though still only a part of him. The bulk of his scarring went unnoticed. The Matron of the infirmary had asked him about his scars once, but he would not tell her anything of use, so she had stopped asking.
"What torture have you been through!? Most of these look fairly old too, who are your guardians, young man?" She demanded in a harsh tone, ending only slightly louder than a whisper.
He'd kind of anticipated this reaction though, so he knew what he wanted to say.
"They're muggles and I was put there by Dumbledore. There is nothing to be done about that though, he even continues to send me back there knowingly. But remember your vow please. I just need help getting better. Besides, the worst is over now, I only have to go back two months a year anyway."
She looked at him incredulously, swallowed, and continued waving her wand at him. Muttering all the while about that muttering old fool and stubborn children.
"Your magic reads as unstable. If I did not know better, I would say you just had some bindings on your magic removed. Have you cast something incredibly draining lately? Something that was more powerful than it should be maybe?"
"Yes, I think I know what you mean. I cast a Patronus that chased away about a hundred dementors a little over two months before. After I woke up, Madam Pomfrey said I was magically exhausted. When that passed, my magic felt much freer and stronger." He had also felt something similar after turning into a female, but he did not want to tell her that, even with the oath.
"I'd question your sanity if I didn't already believe you. That's quite unbelievable." She waved her wand some more. "Yes, definite signs of bindings being snapped. Those are supposed to be removed after you turn seven you know. To leave them on is barbaric. I better remove their remains which should help your magic stabilize more quickly."
After two minutes of wand waving, she stopped, waved her wand at his clothes, and started writing.
The clothes floated over at him. Taking the cue, he started dressing himself and waiting patiently. She scratched furiously away at the parchment, only stopping after five more minutes. Then she looked at him with a determined expression.
"There's a lot wrong with you and not everything can be fixed, but there are things we can do. I'm writing out a potions regime for you to take for a month or two, this should reset your internal organs to what they should have been." She poked him in his chest. "This means that your hunger should return as well, I'm sure you still understand that feeling, yes?"
When she waited for a response, Harry understood what she was saying. His 'upbringing' had messed with his body in ways that had been impossible not to notice after all, his eating behavior had not operated on hunger for a long time now.
Eating normal portions hurt him as well, normal as compared to Hermione that was, he was not mad enough to consider what Ron ate as being normal. His body was not functioning properly, he had known that much at least.
"Yes, I understand." She gave him another look as if to gauge his honesty and continued. "You will always be smaller than you should have been, but we Can and Will make you healthy again, count on that. Also, these scars can be erased, the ones not caused by magic at least. Do you like those glasses? Have any enchantments on them or some sentiment attached?"
Looking at her incredulously he told her, "no, no of course not." Before the previous statement caught up to him. "You can fix the scars?"
"The mundane ones, yes. Then we will fix your eyes too, you are just old enough for the potion. Though you might want to keep wearing glasses regardless. Your father did. He had his pair enchanted after using the potion."
"I'll think about it." Harry told her seriously, that would bear thinking about.
Fixing her eyes on his forehead for the first time since his appointment, she fixed him with a stare. "I'm assuming no Healer looked at that thing before, Mister Potter." She sighed. "After all, Dumbledore, who is probably your magical guardian by the way, doesn't seem to be helping you any. It is sad, like many, I had expected better of him. There is no way he would forget at any rate. It's highly probable he cast those bindings themselves if you say you grew up with muggles."
"I've a magical guardian?!" Harry said in surprise. "What does that even mean?"
Seemingly deciding on the spot, the healer told him to wait a second and started writing on a piece of paper. Giving it to him she said, "read those books, they should make everything clear for you. They should be in the Hogwarts library but if for some reason they are not, which I suspect, do not ask the librarian. Instead, mail Flourish and Blotts for them. I've a suspicion Dumbledore is keeping you in the dark for a reason, and I am sure you will not like that reason at all. Since I cannot tell anyone about what I have learned here, you will have to help yourself. I implore you to do so, Mister Potter. It might just prove to be just as important as getting your health where it should have been."
"Now, since I'm sure you're as curious to see what's in that scar as me, let's check that out next." She promptly started waving her wand at his forehead and saying a few incantations. Aside from producing a bit of light, Harry had no clue as to what they told her.
Silently asking her to hurry up already, almost bursting with curiosity, he saw her step back with a puzzled frown. "The verdict?" He dared ask.
"It isn't that easy, I'm afraid. My scans show that there is a serious deposit of black magic in your scar, that continues into your brain. This means that I cannot just cut it away like the muggles would. Nor do I have a clue as to how to counter the magic, as it does not react like a curse would. Though it does seem to be living off your magic, it's pretty much contained."
"This isn't just dark magic, it's black magic, which has been banned in the UK for hundreds of years. Not even the killing curse should leave this residue, which leads me to assume this is something else. Your story does not check out Mister Potter."
Harry did not know how to react to that, sink into despair because he had the blackest of magic in his skull or laugh at her last remark.
"My story? I was one years old, Healer Smythe. My story as you call it, is pure fiction. Nobody was even there to witness it. It is probably all based on assumptions, hearsay, and pure stupidity. There seems to be a lot of that going around in the UK. Besides, isn't the killing curse famous for killing without leaving a mark?"
That put a smile on her face at last. "Well, you may very well be right about that. I think I have done all I can for you. Take this receipt and sign it, then I'll give you the potions and instructions and you can be on your way." Handing him the receipt she got a glimmer in her eye. "And if you would not be averse to it, when you find out the truth of the matter, I would like to learn it, maybe I could even help you more. I'd suggest Gringotts' curse breakers for a second opinion. Perhaps ritualists would be able to help, but those are not found in Britain anymore, since rituals have been outlawed for the most part."
Harry signed the receipt. "When I find out, I'll tell you." He would remember as there was no reason not to accept the help. With her oath he would not mind sharing some more secrets either. He did not think the blood was from someone else.
"You're welcome back anytime, Mister Potter. If all your visits prove this interesting, they should help alleviate my boredom." She sounded genuine, and much unlike Pomfrey.
"Right. See you next time then and thank you for everything." He gave her another deep bow, put his cowl over his head and walked away with the potion case shrunk in his pocket. He soon found Arthur who told him he would keep this a secret as well, as he had never heard of a magical check-up taking this long.
Arthur did not mind another quick visit to the eye doctor. Harry got another pair of glasses that were almost the same except they had plain glass in them. If he wanted them enchanted, he would have to go to an enchanter. When he asked why they did not do that here, the man replied simply, "I am an eye healer, not an enchanter laddie. Different skills entirely."
Ah well, maybe next year.
15. Catching the Train
Two days later it was time to leave for school, he was waiting for the Weasleys to finish packing at the last minute as per usual. After the check-up, he had started with the potion regime and had already found he could eat more. He even felt a few pangs of hunger, and as the instructions with the potions said, had eaten as much as he could. Only after the potion regime was done, was he to eat normally again.
Mrs. Weasley had been pleased about that and decided belatedly that his check-up had been a good thing. Even though everybody had asked him about his visit to the hospital, he just brushed it off as a regular visit and Arthur had not discredited his statement. For some reason, his plate seemed to hold a lot more food too. He had even seen Ron look at him funny as some piece of chicken had miraculously appeared on his plate just as Ron was reaching to grab it. He just shrugged with a look that screamed 'what can you do?' Personally, he suspected Dobby, but it could have been Molly too.
As they finally boarded the train just a minute before departure, they quickly found a cabin and stowed their luggage. Harry told Ron and Hermione about changing his electives, which were not what they were expecting, at all. Ron was not happy about it. Hermione was taking most of them and Ron the two that were supposedly the easiest, Care of Magical Creatures and Divination. Harry had deviated from his friends. Instead of taking too much, too little or courses Harry did not think were useful, Harry had switched to the two most useful in the long run. Since he was a year too late however, he had needed to play some catch-up. But he was highly motivated and had gotten far this summer.
Ancient Runes and Arithmancy he had decided upon after careful deliberation with advice from both Luna and Sirius. Not only were they useful, but the highest paying jobs also required them. Dropping Divination was a no-brainer, but dropping Care was a hard decision to make, because he did not know how Hagrid would take it.
Apparently, his new courses were also supposed to be the hardest. Considering one was based on math, which Harry was particularly good with, and the other was basically learning languages, Harry did not anticipate many troubles.
Not only was he better academically than he had really shown in the past, but he was also practicing Occlumency now. That skill would greatly help with memorization. Also, Luna had apparently been learning runes from her mother, because she liked the runic puzzles in the Quibbler, so she would be able to help if needed.
Ron had decried him as being crazy and Hermione had been proud of him, which led to the two arguing again. Not wanting to be in the middle of a row, or involved really, Harry kept quiet.
Two hours of Ron and Hermione on the train Harry decided he had had enough. He eagerly left to find Luna. Finally spotting her in an otherwise empty cabin, he quickly knocked and got in. She lowered the blinds and enthusiastically greeted him with a passionate kiss. How he had missed her.
"Hi Luna," he greeted her, face still only inches away from hers. "Hi Harry." She guided him to the bench and sat on his lap, back against the far wall, hugging him sideways. They talked like that for hours, interspersed with kissing and the occasional snog.
Hours later, quick though they had passed for the pair, they arrived. Malfoy had not even come by for his yearly insults. If Harry knew it was as easy as shutting the blinds, he would have done that sooner. He had never really expected Malfoy to respect others' privacy like that.
Unbeknownst to Harry, Dobby had charmed the door shut and put a Notice-Me-Not ward on the cabin, anticipating his master's needs. He had also been ensuring Harry took his potions and ate enough. His master, while the bestest master in the whole wide world, was sick and had been sick for a long time. Dobby had heard this himself from the Healer whilst staying close in St. Mungo's to protect his master. This impressed the elf, making him respect his master even more. Getting him better would surely make him even betterer if that were at all possible.