Author: Luckner

T– English – Angst/Romance

Disclaimer: The characters and their world are the property of J.K. Rowling, various publishers and Warner Bros. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: This is a stand alone story, but it does share some ideas and locations employed in Harry Potter and the Sword of Astragal. I'm still working on the sequel toSword of Astragal.

She first came to him when he was just nine years old; a frightened, unhappy child desperately in need of a friend. She came just after he had cried himself to sleep, which was the only refuge the little boy had from the daily abuse. His Uncle, Vernon Dursley, had given the child a particularly savage beating, and his face was badly bruised and swollen. The older man had struck the young boy repeatedly, but one blow sent Harry reeling across the room into the wall, and then down onto the floor in a heap. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was his cousin standing in the doorway laughing.

When consciousness finally returned he found himself lying in the dark, his limbs twisted uncomfortably beneath him. Reaching out, the boy felt walls close on all sides, and he realized that he was in the small cupboard under the stairs that had been the only home that he had ever known. His Uncle had dumped him there like an unwanted piece of rubbish, locked the door, and went to his dinner.

Tears came to Harry's eyes as he slowly and painfully untangled himself from his uncomfortable position. He realized that was exactly what he was, unwanted rubbish that his family would love to be rid of. He was of no more value than the rest of the rubbish that the Dursley family discarded daily.

He had no idea what he had done to provoke his Uncle; but then he never really understood what he had done to provoke all the other beatings either. He had been working in the yard all day and had come in for a drink of water. His uncle and cousin were sitting in the lounge watching sports on the telly. But the moment the elder Dursley saw Harry he started to shout, calling him "a worthless, lazy, good-for-nothing." And then the older man began to beat the boy, while his cousin grinned happily in the background. Harry had received the same kind of treatment almost every week of his life, but for some reason this beating was more savage than usual; it was almost as though Vernon Dursley wanted to be rid of the boy once and for all.

'Why can't he hit me harder and just finish it?' Harry thought as he straightened his legs in the confined space. It certainly seemed that his Uncle was trying, but for some reason the boy simply refused to die; although he knew that everyone would certainly be happier if he did. And maybe that was the reason they beat him; he simply wouldn't give his family the satisfaction of dying. But it was becoming harder and harder to hang onto life. It would have been so easy to let go and simply slip away into the nothingness where his parents had gone. And why should he stay? If this was to be his life, it would be better to let it end quickly.

The boy fell asleep with these thoughts still swirling about his mind, and tears still running down his cheeks. When he opened his eyes again he found himself sitting beside a sparkling stream in the middle of a green forest.

"Pretty, isn't it?" a soft voice asked.

Harry spun around in shock and surprise to face a young girl sitting on a rock next to him. She was slightly younger than he, and about a head shorter. She had long blond hair, rather pale skin, and large shimmering silver-grey eyes.

The young girl saw his shocked look and smiled at him reassuringly. "I'm sorry, did I surprise you? I've been waiting for you to come, I knew that you would," she said softly. But then her smile disappeared when she saw how bruised his face was. "They've hurt you," she said with a mixture of grief and resignation; and she gently stroked his face with soft, delicate fingers. Harry looked into the girl's bright eyes and saw a deep sadness and understanding; almost as if she herself could physically feel his pain. That realization helped lessen the hurt that he was feeling.

The young girl stood up and reached a hand down for him, and then she smiled again. There was something about her smile that forged an immediate bond of trust; which was strange because the young boy had never been able to trust anyone. And yet Harry took the girl's hand without question.

She led him along a lovely woodland path, holding his hand. Neither Harry nor the girl spoke, but somehow he felt comfortable just being in her company. Small squirrels and other woodland creatures scampered across the path in front of them, and birds flew from branch to branch overhead. He had never been to such a strange and wondrous place before, and he felt immediately at peace. Finally they arrived at a small, crystal clear pool that was surrounded by large oak trees. The branches high above them formed a lacy canopy that allowed only dappled sunlight to pass through to the small beach upon which they settled themselves.

The two children sat and talked for what seemed like hours; although later Harry couldn't remember anything that was said. The boy couldn't even remember if she had told him her name, though names really didn't seem to matter much. All he knew for sure was how good he felt while he was with her, like some great weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

After a while Harry heard a distant sound, like someone was beating on a large drum. A minute later the sound came again, but this time it was louder and nearer. For some reason the sound frightened him, bringing on a strange sense of foreboding.

The little girl looked up at him, her eyes filled with sadness. "It's time for you to go," she said in a solemn voice.

A look of sad realization crossed Harry's face. "I don't want to go."

She laid her hand gently on his arm and smiled sadly. "I know. But I'll be here, and you can return whenever you need to."

Then the sound came louder, and the boy closed his eyes tightly to hold back the tears. He didn't want to go back. But when he opened his eyes again he was in the dark, close confines of the cupboard under the stairs. His Aunt was banging loudly on the cupboard door, demanding that he get up and begin making breakfast. But all day, as he worked on the thousand and one tasks that his Aunt assigned him, the boy had a strange smile on his face. Somehow he knew that the dream was real, and that he would be going back to see his friend again.

The next time his Uncle beat him, the boy seemed almost happy about it, because he knew he would be going back to visit the strange girl in the forest.

"That boy is as mad as his parents, Petunia." Vernon Dursey told his wife in frustration. "I just gave him a good hiding, and he seemed almost pleased."

The next morning the little girl woke up safe and secure in her own bed. But it wasn't her own safety that concerned the child; she just couldn't get the memory of the strange boy out of her mind. 'No one should be treated that way,' she thought, 'especially by their own family.' Not for a single second did the little girl believe it was just a dream; she was certain that the boy was real. But that would be no surprise to anyone who knew the precocious child, for she seemed to believe in almost everything. From Father Christmas to the Nargles that infested the Christmas mistletoe, from woodland fairies to the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, the little girl accepted them all as real until someone could prove otherwise. So it was no surprise that she accepted dreams as true visions, or believed that they could connect a person with someone with whom they might share a common destiny. She felt certain that someday she would meet this unhappy boy with the tangled black hair and emerald green eyes, and when they met again she was equally certain that they would be friends.

When she went down to breakfast her Mother was cooking at the stove as usual, and her father was sitting at the table reading the morning newspaper. Her nose told her that her Mother was making up a batch of blueberry waffles; her nose and the fact that she had gathered a basket of blueberries in the woods just yesterday. But the fact that her favorite breakfast was about to be served didn't remove the frown from her face, because she was still thinking about her new friend.

Looking up from his newspaper, and seeing the unhappy expression on his daughter's face, her Father felt rather concerned himself. "Is there something wrong, Pumpkin? Did you have a bad dream last night?"

Her mother glanced over from the stove and stopped what she was doing, giving her daughter her full attention.

"I saw my friend again. He's so unhappy. His family is so mean to him; I just don't know what to do." She answered sadly.

Her Father knew all about his daughter's imaginary dream friend, and dismissed it as simply a phase that she was going through. He knew that his child was lonely and assumed that she had simply invented a friend to keep her company. It saddened him, but he consoled himself with the belief that in three years she would be going to Hogwarts School where she would make many friends. He turned back to his newspaper.

But the child's Mother was concerned, as well as interested. She had a deep connection to ancient magic, and knew that there were things in the magical world that most people could never comprehend. This boy had visited her daughter three times now, and she regarded that as highly significant.

"Tell me about your dream," the woman said gently, and she came over and sat down beside her daughter.

"His uncle hit him again, and his face was bruised. It made me so sad. How can his family be so mean?" The little girl asked, now on the verge of tears.

The woman took her daughter onto her lap and rocked her back and forth, holding her tightly. "I don't know, darling. I just don't know. Was the bruise on his face his only injury?"

"Well…" she began, thinking for a moment, "he had a little scar on his forehead, but he said it's always been there."

Suddenly her mother stopped rocking her, and both of her parents seemed to take an intense interest. "A scar, what kind of a scar was it?" Her Father asked intently.

"It looks like a little lightening bolt," the child answered, pleased that her parents were taking her seriously.

Both parents exchanged glances, but didn't say anything more until the little girl had left for muggle school.

"It's just an imaginary friend, she must have heard about Harry Potter somewhere." Her Father said with confidence. "Half of the children in the wizarding world must have Harry Potter as an imaginary friend."

But the little girl's mother wasn't nearly as certain, and after her husband left for work she went into her Grandmother's library to try to find relevant information on dream encounters. She spent most of the day in a fruitless search for information, and just as she was about to give up she caught sight of an ancient black volume high on a shelf in a dark corner of the library. Some force seemed to draw her to it, and she pulled the heavy book down and opened it. There, on a yellowed page, she found what she was looking for. The chapter was titled, "The Linking of Souls in Children."

It was a very rare occurrence, and only happened between children who were destined to be linked as adults. Could this be what her daughter was experiencing? Somehow she knew that this was the case. Some parents would be thrilled that their child was linked with someone as famous as Harry Potter, but this young mother knew that fame could be a terrible burden as well. But now she must contact Albus Dumbledore and see if the lot of her daughter's friend, whoever he was, could be improved.

After concluding his conversation with the young mother, Albus Dumbledore was more than a little troubled. First and foremost he was disturbed that young Harry Potter might have been subjected to the cruelties that the young girl had described to her mother. Professor Dumbledore had placed the child with his only surviving family members so that they might not only protect him, but also nurture him. Had he so terribly failed the child of Lily and James Potter? The old man knew that he must find out the truth, and attempt to rectify the situation.

But he also wondered about the woman's assertion that her young daughter had somehow linked souls with a boy that she had never met before. The old headmaster was almost inclined to dismiss the possibility out of hand, for the young woman was known to believe in some rather extraordinary things. But the fact remained that he had indeed heard of such cases, though they were exceptionally rare among children. The linking of souls was a well known practice among adult wizards and witches who loved one another; but that required the exchange of charmed rings as well as a spell which had to be cast. But for children who had never even met to accomplish it; well that was quite a different matter. But Albus Dumbledore had learned long years before that this young woman had unique instincts, and he would do well to heed them.

But first, before he could actually meet with the little girl, he must learn as much as possible about the subject; and for that kind of research there was no place better than the Hogwarts Library. His research disclosed that the last documented case of childhood linking of souls had occurred more than three hundred years before. But that case had some definite similarities to the two children involved in the present case. All of the children involved were lonely and without friends of their own age, they all had family connections to ancient magic, and in both cases the linking was first manifested in the form of dreams. As the Headmaster returned to his office later that afternoon he really looked forward to meeting this eight-year-old girl; and then he had a less than pleasant meeting planned with a certain muggle family of his acquaintance.

When Albus Dumbledore flooed to the small cottage early the next morning he met a happy, intelligent, rather well-adjusted child; but like her mother she possessed a degree of eccentricity. But when asked about her dream friend, the happy little girl suddenly became rather solemn and sad.

"He's very unhappy. His family treats him so badly. I try to make him feel better when he's with me, but he always has to go back."

After an exceptionally long conservation, during which the Headmaster was asked about a number of rare and mythical animals, he left the cottage fully convinced that these two children were indeed linked. His stop at Privet Drive was somewhat less successful, but he believed that his warnings would stop the worst of the physical abuse, if not the mental abuse that accompanied it. Later that evening, back in his office at Hogwarts, he pondered the hard destiny that awaited the young boy. But through all the sadness, the old man saw one small glimmer of hope. Young Harry Potter was no longer alone, now he had a friend who would someday help him through the worst of his destiny, and perhaps give him a bit of happiness as well. When the time was right he would have to make sure that the two children would meet again and spend time together; he was quite certain that they shared a common destiny.

In the days and weeks that followed, the only happiness the young boy experienced was in his dreams, when he went to visit his friend. They would walk the tree-shaded paths together, or play games in the forest, and Harry was happy. But all too soon the time would come when he would have to go back, and a sadness would creep into the boy's face.

"Why can't I just stay here with you?" He asked her once.

"We all have a destiny, and yours sends you back to your family." She answered sadly.

"The only family I want is you." He said with determination; but he knew that neither of them really had any choice in the matter. It was a dream they shared, but he knew he would always wake up at Privet Drive.

Then one night, about a year after the dreams first started, there was something different about it. He again found himself in the forest, but this time he was quite alone. He knew the forest paths quite well by that time, and followed the one that led to the pool by the waterfall. First he heard the sound of someone sobbing, and then he saw his friend sitting on a rock by the pool. Her head was lowered and her long hair covered her face like a curtain; her sobs tore at his heart.

He sat down beside her and gently placed his hand on hers. She looked up at him briefly, and then she lowered her head again and continued to cry. Harry wasn't exactly sure what he should say, so he said nothing. After a few minutes of mutual silence, he edged closer to her and put his arm around her shoulders. She laid her head on his shoulder and continued to sob.

He held her for several more minutes as her sobs slowly diminished, and then stopped all together. "What's happened?" He asked softly, not knowing what else to say.

"My Mum…she…she just died….She was testing a new spell. I just walked into the room and…and it happened." And with that admission the little girl again broke into tears.

Harry held onto his friend tightly. Was that the right thing to do? He didn't know, but it was what he needed to do. She had always comforted him in his pain, and now he wanted to do the same for her. "I'm so very sorry," he said sincerely. But he felt even that was such an inadequate thing to say. He wanted to say something that could take her pain away and make her happy again, but he just didn't have the words. So he simply sat and held her, and shared her pain.

They sat together for what seemed like hours, neither of them speaking nor needing to speak. When the time came for Harry to return to Privet Drive the little girl thanked him sincerely and kissed him lightly on the cheek. No one had ever kissed Harry before, and it felt rather strange. But as he reached up and lightly touched his cheek, he was certain that he liked it. But then he heard the familiar sound that always signaled the end of his dream.

"I'll try to come again soon," he said sincerely.

His friend stopped visiting his dreams when Harry went away to school, and he missed her. But then other friends came into his life and the memory of his dreams faded, as all dreams must fade away, until at last there was only the faintest recollection left of a girl with long blond hair who had once been his only friend.

Then one day, in the autumn of his sixth year, he was contentedly lying under a tree by the lake at Hogwarts. He was watching the giant squid as it basked lazily in the warm afternoon sun. Luna Lovegood lay at his side, her head resting on his chest. The two had been together now for three months, and it had been the happiest time of his life.

He had just finished playing the first Quidditch game of the season against a strong Ravenclaw team. At one point, a Ravenclaw Beater had hit a Blodger at him. Seeing it streaking directly towards him, Harry turned right and dived sharply. The Blodger shot by, striking him a glancing blow on the side of the face. Somehow he managed to remain in control of his broom, and a few minutes later he caught the Snitch to win the game. But as he walked off the pitch, he gingerly touched the bruise on his cheek.

But now the bruise was completely forgotten, as was everything else in the world. That was always the way when Harry and Luna were together. The rest of the world was forgotten, and it was just the two of them. But then Luna gently reached up and ever so gently ran her fingers over his bruised cheek.

It was like Harry had been struck by a bolt of lightening, as his entire dream memories came flooding back.

Harry looked at Luna in wide-eyed shock. "You're the one!" He practically shouted. "You were the girl in my dreams when I was little…You were my first friend!"

Luna smiled at him mysteriously. "I've always been your friend, Harry." And then she added, "I was wondering when you would remember." Then she snuggled in closer to his chest and closed her eyes.

Harry was still staring at the young girl in disbelief. 'We were together even then?' He asked himself. But then thinking about it he smiled and answered his own question. 'We were together even then!' Then the boy closed his eyes as well, and snuggled close to the best friend he would ever have.