Title: Company in Solitude
Author: Tonya (tigerlily1998hotmail.com)
Disclaimer: No own. No sue. Just borrowing from the much more talented JK Rowling.
Summary: Harry seeks solitude and finds the opposite.
A/N: Written for a challenge requesting Hermione/Ron bickering and H/L bonding.
Hermione strolled into the Gryffindor common room, her bag swung over her shoulder and a white paper in her hands. Ron and Harry sat on the floor in the middle of a chess match, and she paid them no mind as she passed. They both gave her a curious glance as she walked straight to the announcement board and tagged her sheet of paper up. She smoothed the paper and then gave a tiny determined nod before strolling back to them, taking a seat on the couch.
Harry and Ron shared a look across the chess board.
"What's that?" Ron asked, his curiosity getting the best of him as he nodded towards the bulletin board.
Hermione opened her bag, pulling out knitting material as she answered. "I've decided to try and get the first years interested in house-elf rights since all the older students are so cynical about the topic."
Ron groaned loudly, and Harry frowned, shaking his head and preparing for the pointless argument between the two that was about to follow.
"Again?" Ron asked. "I thought you would have given up by now."
"Given up?" she replied, the disgust evident in her voice.
"Hermione, they like what they do. They don't want our help."
"That's because they've been brainwashed into believing that," she stated matter-a-factly as she pulled more dark green knitting material from her bag, preparing to knit what Harry could only imagine would be more of those misshapen hats for the house-elves. "And as members of S.P.E.W., we should all care and want to change that."
Ron sighed loudly, and even as Harry found himself intently studying the chess board, he knew that what was about to come was inevitable. The tie-breaker vote. He never enjoyed being the tie breaker vote between the two of them, and he hated it even more when it involved pointless issues that they seemed to bicker about on a daily basis.
And at the moment, house-elves and their so-called rights were not something he wanted to discuss. Especially considering what had happened in the past year. If Harry had had his way, the moment he had found out that that miserable house elf Kreacher had sent Sirius right to his death, the creature would have met the same fate.
And at his own hands.
Harry's insides knotted upon themselves as he felt two pairs of eyes drilling into him.
He looked up only when the silence finally became suffocating. He raised an annoyed eyebrow at the expectant looks on his friends' faces. "What?" He continued before they could properly answer, "I guess you're waiting for my opinion on this."
Ron and Hermione shared an anxious glance, realizing that they had somehow unknowingly lit one of Harry's short fuses.
"Harry," Hermione finally said, "you don't--"
"No, you guys want to know my stand, right?" he asked, cutting her off. "Dobby's nice to me, but he initially almost had me killed by a rogue bludger. Winky thinks we ruined her life and probably wishes she'd never met us. And Kreacher?" He paused, his voice filling with quiet rage just thinking about that elf. "Kreacher is the reason Sirius isn't here, and if it had been up to me, that filthy elf would have been dead a long time ago. So, you'll have to forgive me if I don't really give a damn either way about the plight of the house-elves."
With that, he stood, and he could feel Ron and Hermione's eyes following his every movement.
Ron was the first to try and speak. "Harry, mate, we didn't mean to--"
"No, it's fine," he lied in that automatic way to which he had grown accustomed. He shook his head, slipping his hands into the pockets of his slacks. He turned and started away, only stopping when Hermione called to him.
"Harry?" she asked cautiously from her seat.
"I'm fine," he replied as he turned to her, knowing exactly what was going to be the next question to pass her lips. "I'm just gonna go for a while."
"But it's getting late, and if Filch catches you out after hours, you'll be in trouble for sure," she said, taking the voice of his conscience much like she always did.
"He's been looking for a reason to keep you off the Hogsmeade list since the first day we got back," Ron agreed with a frown.
Harry returned the frown with a shrug of his shoulders. "I won't give him a reason." He turned and walked out of the common room before they could say anything more.
Harry walked up the stairs of the Astronomy Tower, hoping that maybe just sitting by himself for a bit would help clear his mind.
As he finally made his way to the top, he found himself surprised to see someone else already there. The figure sat on one of the lower ledges of the tower, the telescope that normally occupied the space removed so that they could have the entire ledge to themselves. As he walked closer, he noticed the waist length dirty blonde hair, but it wasn't until he noted the wand tucked behind the girl's left ear that he recognized her.
Harry debated just turning back around and leaving without saying a word, finding some other peaceful place on the grounds to be alone with his thoughts, but just as he turned to make his discrete exit, he heard her voice.
Harry turned to see her watching him from over her shoulder. He frowned slightly, clearing his throat. "Oh, hey Luna."
She gave him a soft smile before returning her gaze out over the grounds.
He hesitated for a moment, still debating the idea of just walking away. He watched her for a moment as she leaned a bit in her seat, watching something he couldn't see, and humming "Weasley is Our King" serenely under her breath. Harry shifted on his feet, his urge to get away being slowly pushed aside by his curiosity as to what would have Luna of all people up here seeking solitude.
He finally sighed quietly and stepped up to her. "What are you doing up here?"
"Homework," she replied, swinging her legs casually.
"Homework?" he asked, confused.
Without even taking her eyes off the sky, she motioned with a hand towards the ground near his feet. Sure enough, next to her schoolbag sat a textbook with a piece of parchment sticking out of it.
"You do your homework up here?"
She nodded. "Much more peaceful. There's no one to hide my quill or ink up here."
Harry frowned, remembering their conversation from last year. No one deserved to be picked on so much and so consistently, especially someone like Luna who Harry had to admit could be alarmingly odd at times but had yet to say a foul word about anyone or anything.
"You should really tell Professor Flitwick," he said. Harry hoped that as the head of the Ravenclaw house, maybe he could put a stop to it.
Luna shrugged and replied in her vague tone, "It's fine. It always comes back in the end."
Harry's frown only deepened. "But they shouldn't do that to you."
Luna looked at him, that same wispy smile on her face. "They don't do anything to me, Harry. They take my things and hide them, but they're just things. I can always get another quill or more ink."
Harry simply stared, amazed that she could take such abuse and see some positive aspect to it.
"And how was your summer?" she asked, shifting conversational gears with ease.
Harry blinked. "Um, well… it was…."
He almost said okay. Which was what he had been telling people ever since he had returned to Hogwarts. Much like "I'm fine" when asked how he was doing, "it was okay" had become his automatic answer to questions regarding his summer.
His summer had been everything but okay. The Dursleys had been on their best behavior since before Harry could remember, in fear of who or what would show up on their doorstep if they even looked at Harry in the wrong manner. Yet even as his aunt and uncle were willing--albeit grudgingly--to give him free reign of the house, Harry had spent most of the summer hiding out in his room trying to avoid any and all contact. He hadn't been in the mood to be in the company of anyone, not even his two best friends. He had still been haunted by his last few days at Hogwarts. Haunted by Sirius' death and his role in it. Haunted by the prophecy that required him to be either murderer or victim.
He had spent the previous week at the Burrow with the Weasleys and Hermione, and on his first day there, he had hoped it would help alleviate the dark cloud that had seemed to hover over him all summer. But in the end, it had only put him in an even fouler mood.
He had expected Mr. and Mrs. Weasley-- and Mrs. Weasley in particular-- to fawn over him because as parents that seemed like the most logical role for them to take, knowing what Harry had been through and seeing it with their own eyes. But he had at least expected Ron and Hermione not to treat him like some porcelain figure that had to be handled with care, especially Hermione. She had been the one to drag him out of his funk the previous year when he had been angry at the world and had locked himself up with Buckbeak over Christmas. He had at least expected her to say something to him, but she hadn't. She, much like Ron, had taken to discussing what they felt were neutral topics around him--Quidditch (which he was allowed to play again), OWL results (which somehow he had managed to pass in order to continue Auror studies), and random headings from The Daily Prophet (which still annoyingly referred to him as the Boy Who Lived).
One night after dinner, as he had made his way upstairs to the room he and Ron shared, he had heard Hermione whisper to Ron, "I just don't know how to act normal around him."
He hadn't wanted them to act normal, to act like last year hadn't happened. He had just wanted them to act like they always had, to be his friends.
For Harry, there had not been a single part of his summer that had been in any way okay.
He looked up from his sneakers to see Luna watching him expectantly, her silver eyes studying him like they had a tendency to do.
"It…sucked," he finally said with a nod.
For the first time in three months, he was telling the truth. He could have lied, could have kept up the charade, but then he remembered that Luna much like himself knew what it was like to lose someone close. She could understand where he was coming from, and if anyone would see through his everything-is-fine charade, it would be her.
She gave a gentle nod, turning her gaze back towards the skyline. "It feels different when you finally stop lying to yourself," she said conversationally.
"Yeah," he finally admitted after a moment. "It does." He paused, shoving his hands into his slacks again. "How was yours? Your summer?"
She smiled softly at him. "Pleasant, thank you. Daddy and I went to Sweden."
Harry faintly remembered her mentioning that at the end of the last term as he and his friends had loitered in the hospital wing.
"Right," he nodded cautiously. "Looking for Horned-Back--" He stammered as he realized he wasn't quite sure what they had been in search of.
"Crumple-Horned Snorkacks," she corrected.
"Yeah, those." He paused as she continued to watch him. "So… how did that go?"
"Very well," she said.
She leaned forward in her seat a bit to glance down over the tower edge again. Harry watched her, resisting the urge to reach out and grab a hold of her to keep her from leaning too far. Just as he felt she was leaning too far for his own comfort and made a move to grab her arm, she sat back in her seat again.
"We didn't see any," she continued on, Harry quickly taking back his hand before she could notice, "but we found tracks and Daddy took photographs to run with his article in the next edition."
"That's…" Harry searched for the appropriate word. "…nice."
Luna looked back at him and scooted over slightly on her seat. "Would you like to sit?"
Harry debated for a moment before finally taking a cautious seat next to her, his legs dangling over the side of the tower. He glanced down to see just how high up they were, and then, just as quickly, made note not to look down again. He could do heights on a broom, but here, there was nothing to stop him from hitting the ground with one wrong move.
He cleared his throat, trying not to look in Luna's direction as he could feel her eyes on him again.
"I know why I'm here," she finally said, her legs swinging casually again. "Why are you?"
"Um…." Harry shifted in his seat, Luna glancing at him as he did so.
"You're still avoiding your friends." She nodded and turned her eyes back towards the sky, the bright blue of the day beginning to fade into oranges and purples.
Harry opened his mouth, and then closed it, stunned by her apparent perception.
"I'm not avoiding my friends," he said, once he found his voice again.
Luna didn't say anything or even look in his direction, and for a moment, he wondered if she had even heard him. But then she spoke.
"You remind me of a Dremgrath."
Harry raised an eyebrow again, not sure he had heard her right. "A what?"
"Dremgrath," she said, gazing at him. "They live in woodland areas. Very beautiful creatures. Daddy ran an article on them a few years ago."
Harry stifled a chuckle. "And why do I remind you of a… Dremgrath?"
Luna adjusted her wand a bit and stared back into the night. "They're normally very social animals. But when they get angered, they withdrawal from the pack. A defense mechanism, I suppose." She paused and turned to him with a tilt of her head. "I must show you the article sometime. It's very interesting. It also has one of the few documented pictures of them in their natural habitat." She nodded. "Very beautiful creatures."
Harry frowned, letting what she had said sink in. "I'm not withdrawing."
Luna simply nodded and turned her eyes away from him again.
"I'm not," he repeated, more to convince himself than her. He finally sighed when she didn't say anything in agreement or argument. "I just--" He clenched his fists at his sides, all the anger that he had suppressed during the past few weeks finding its way to the surface. "I'm just tired of them treating me differently now. Most of the time they're just tiptoeing around me. I just-- I want to go back to how it was."
Harry stopped himself, not meaning to say as much as he had. Luna silently stared at him, and he wondered why the hell he was even telling her all these things.
"Death is frightening," she finally said, her legs swinging freely again. "Especially for those who don't know or understand it."
"I don't understand it."
"You understand it more than you think," she said vaguely. "More than you want to, which is why they don't know what to say around you. When my Mum died, Daddy avoided me for a few days."
Harry listened to her, amazed that she seemed to have no emotional response to what she had just said. Losing both parents was bad enough, but Harry couldn't imagine losing one parent--seeing their death with his very own eyes nonetheless--and then having the remaining parent avoid him at the time he'd need them most.
She nodded. "Mm-hmm." She drifted off to her own world for a second as she turned her eyes back towards the grounds. When she turned to Harry again, some of the dreaminess that he had become accustomed to had disappeared from her eyes. "He was afraid he would say the wrong thing."
"When he finally talked to you, what did he say?"
Luna smiled a bit. "He didn't say anything. He just brought me this." Harry watched as she ran her fingers over her necklace. "Mum had kept all her butterbeer caps from all the dates they had been on before they married."
"Oh," Harry smiled. Well that at least explained the necklace. "I don't think a necklace will help me and my friends."
"Well of course not. A necklace would look strange on you, Harry," she replied seriously.
Harry simply smiled at the disconcerted expression she gave him.
"But as I was saying," she continued, the airy tone returned. "Daddy approached me because he was the one doing the avoiding."
"So you think I should be the one to approach Ron and Hermione about this?"
"Have you ever tracked a Furswift before?"
Harry blinked, wondering if he had missed a key part of their conversation. "Um, no I can't say I have."
"They're very skittish creatures," she stated conversationally. "You try to catch them, and they scamper away. But if you're lucky enough to catch one and are able to talk to them, they calm down. They stop trying to escape. They apparently find the human voice very soothing." She nodded. "I've only been lucky enough to catch one. I wanted to keep it as a pet, but Daddy said I couldn't. Apparently they become very hostile when kept in captivity."
Harry couldn't help but smile. Even with her off-the-wall stories of creatures he had never even heard of, she somehow made sense. She was right.
"I think I get it now," he said with a nod.
Luna smiled and turned her eyes back to the sky. Harry followed her lead, staring up at the stars even though he couldn't recognize any of the constellations. He found himself wondering how he had even passed Astronomy with an "Acceptable" the previous year.
As if reading his mind, Luna broke the silence. She leaned close to him, her finger pointed across him at a section of bright stars. "Do you see that?"
They were stars. How could he miss them?
He glanced at her, a curious eyebrow raised. "Yeah."
"No, do you really see it?"
Harry stared intently at the stars, squinting his eyes and tilting his head a bit, hoping to see whatever it was she saw. He heard her giggle at him and felt a warm hand on his chin. She straightened his head, and her hand remained on his chin, trying to make him focus his attention.
"You weren't a very good Astronomy student, were you?"
Harry laughed quietly. "I didn't excel at it, no."
Her hand finally left his chin, and when he turned to look at her, they nearly bumped noses. As he found himself staring into her silver eyes, he didn't realize just how close to him she had leaned.
"It's Sirius," she said, apparently unaware of the closeness.
"What?" Harry asked, drawn out of her eyes.
Luna gently grabbed his face again and turned it back towards the stars she had been pointing at. "That one there." She released his chin and pointed towards the star that shined the brightest out of the bunch. "That's Sirius, the Dog Star."
"Oh," he replied quietly, a little crestfallen. He didn't know what he had expected when he had heard the name uttered.
"It can be your necklace."
Harry turned to her again, and this time, she was no longer as close to his shoulder. "I'm lost," he said truthfully.
"Your necklace," she stated more slowly as if the confusion was a hearing problem on his part. "When you want to feel close to your godfather."
Harry stared at the star for a moment, a warm sensation at the pit of his stomach as the star twinkled at him. With a thankful smile, he turned back to her, not sure what to say anymore. "Luna--"
Luna smiled and carefully removed herself from the ledge before he could finish his thought. Harry watched her with a bewildered look. She couldn't leave now….
"I better head back," she said dreamily. She gathered her book and slipped it into her bag. "The girls hide my blankets when I come back late."
Harry fought back the urge to tell her to go to Professor Flitwick again. She really didn't deserve such treatment. He only sighed as he carefully turned on the ledge until his legs dangled more safely over the solid concrete of the tower floor.
She gave him a curious look as if she didn't quite know what she had done that deserved thanks. "You're welcome." She adjusted her wand. "I'll bring you that article on Dremgraths."
He smiled, chuckling quietly. "Cool. I'd like to see that."
She returned the smile. "Night, Harry."
With that, she turned and flounced away, Harry watching with an amused look.
He had come here tonight to be alone, to wallow in his own anger. He had been fine with that, but now, as it seemed some of the weight of the past few months had finally been lifted, he was quite glad he had run into Luna tonight.
And somewhere in the back of his mind, he found himself debating coming up here to do his own homework from now on.