I own nothing but the plot contained herein. No copyright infringement is implied and no money is to be made. Shouts go out to whoever originated Dan and Emma as Hermione's parents and Odd as Luna's father.
Harry stood there watching Ginny walk away. The last couple of days seemed to all run together in his beleaguered mind. From Dumbledore's death at the hands of Professor Snape to his funeral today, there was little room for anything else. But his last conversation with the fiery redhead had stuck a chord that resonated hollowly. "She's a fan girl" Harry thought to himself. He searched his feelings and the only thing there was relief that he hadn't let it go any farther. There were things he must do, and she would only distract him.
"It happened in all of the great novels", he thought to himself. The tragic hero, and the death of his loved ones. His continuing sacrifices so that others may live normally. He shook his head and thought about what Dumbledore said was his unknown power. "Love… right."
He slowly made his way up the path from the lake to Hogwarts proper, and while everyone else was ensuring that they were packed and preparing to depart on the train, he was planning.
One place was chiming like the bells of Notre Dame in his head and that ws the Room of Requirement. He stood up and quietly made his way out of the common room and soon found himself in the passageway of the room. "I need a place to study. I need a place to study. I need a place to study." And the door appeared as it always had.
Opening the door, he looked upon a quiet study, with a warm fire and a cup of tea sitting on a handy end table. He shut the door behind him and required that it not open without his permission. As it closed, he noticed all of the detail work that goes into making something look comfortable. There were bookcases that lined two of the four walls, and upon them sat row upon row of books. Glancing at the titles, he saw that most were instructional in nature, but with a smattering of theoretical topics.
"Dobby" he called barely above a whisper. With a loud pop, the house elf appeared.
"Yous call Dobby Harry Potter sir?" The house elf had appeared much as he always had, wearing his tea towel, mismatched socks and several of Hermione's hats stacked precariously upon his head, help up only be his floppy, bat-like ears.
"Yes Dobby. If I ask you to bring food and water here would you be able to help me?" asked Harry.
"Dobby does not mean to question Harry Potter sir, but is he not going home with his Wheasy's and Miney?"
"No Dobby. I have things I must do and going back to Number 4 would only delay them. I must defeat Voldemort Dobby, and for that I must train. It will take me many years before I will be able to do that, and I for one must find a way to protect the innocents that he will attack while I am away."
"Youse are the greatest wizard in the world master... sorry... friend Harry. Harry must just call Dobby and Dobby will hear. No matter wheres he is, Dobby will always help is friend Harry."
"Thank You Dobby." Dobby took his dismissal for what it was and popped away.
Harry leaned back into his chair and stared into the fire. It gave off very little heat, but instead gave him something to concentrate on while pondering. He gave a little smirk and said "Hogwarts, I need to talk to you".
A young, attractive blond witch appeared before him and looked him over with a gaze that could quell most people. "Why have you called me Harry?"
"I have bothered you, Milady, because I need your help. Tell me, do you know of my burden?"
"I do. I know all about you Harry, and for that reason alone am I willing to listen to your request."
"I need to train, and I have to protect the students and everyone else while I am away. Can you help me?" She looked pensieve for a moment and then gave a shudder. "I can help you but it will not be easy. You will have to pay for the protection of your friends."
"Not just my friends, milady. The innocent. If I can help one muggle or muggleborn, then I have accomplished something. Money is of no consequence." Answered Harry, with as much courage as he could muster in Hogwarts' solemn presence.
"I spoke not of money, Harry. There are many ways to pay, money is only the most shallow of them. Tell me, how much are you willing to suffer for their protection?"
"Whatever is necessary, milady." He resolutely answered.
"Whatever is a very open word, Harry. If I tell you of a light ritual that will protect whom you desire, would you consider blindly or think before jumping in. The days of Gryffindor's charge forward must end. I can only tell you it will be very worth it, but even the Cruciatas curse will pale by the end of ritual. Think on this and I will return when you ask."
As she faded from view, Harry sat there looking much older than his 16 years. "I should be worrying about whether my girlfriend his going to join the pudding club, not the protection of thousands." He lapsed into silence again, and after several minutes spoke once more to the fire. "What is one man's suffering compared to the protection of a people."
Harry wished for a glass of firewhiskey, and a tumbler appeared next to his hand. He sat there for many hours, just watching the fire burn and sipping on his drink. He seemed frozen in time, almost to the point that if he blinked, a watcher would have started in fright. "Milady, it is time." He spoke with authority and more than a little trepidation.
She appeared as before, and looked steadily into his eyes. "You have reached your decision?"
"Yes, milady. I chose the ritual" he answered.
"Very well. Follow the directions given to you, and the room will do the rest. The suffering must be real, for the protection to be effective. It pains my heart to see this performed, for it is a very barbaric ritual, but its nobleness greatly outweighs its brutality. Make no mistake about this, for it is very brutal. But it makes my magic sing that one would put so many before himself. It is your self sacrifice that makes the magic powerful."
"What is this ritual, Milady? Surely as something as powerful as this could not be forsaken." spoke Harry.
" It is called the Sundance Ritual, and it is very powerful, but only practiced by the Plains Indians of the Americas. It's use has dwindled over the years, as most do not concern themselves with it. I ask you one last time, is this your desire?"
"Yes, milady" he answered without hesitation.
"Very well", she answered. And she slowly faded away along with the study and the room.
Harry looked around to find himself standing on a vast open plains, and to the heat beating down upon his face and shoulders. The air smelled of grass and horses, and he could hear the sounds of a large gathering of people. The muted conversations, the whinnying of the horses, the dogs barking and the lonely cry of a hawk circling above them.
He started when he realized that the only thing he wore was a loin cloth made of leather, and that he was surrounded by Native Americans. He was approached by an older man, the staff he was leaning heavily upon, was covered with many feathers and beads, and what suspiciously looked like hair.
"Will you give of yourself in the Sundance young warrior?" He asked, staring at Harry with the intensity of the hawk circling above them.
"I will" spoke Harry. He glanced around and actually looked at the people he would be spending the next couple of days with. They were clad in mostly the brown leather clothes that he had noticed before, but with many different beads and embellishments upon them. They were every bit as proud of their clothes as anyone in Diagon Alley. And he realized that his inattention had caused this oversight. These people were just as proud and intelligent as any, and he should not assume based on preconceived notions.
"Then the Great Spirit will watch over your people. Follow me." He turned and quickly walked to a small home, which appeared to be made from skins of some sort and long poles, fastened into the shape of a dome. He got down on his hands and knees and crawled through the small opening and was breathless and the heat and humidity inside stole his breath.
"This will cleanse your spirit before the ritual, for only the pure are fit for sacrifice." spoke the weathered old man.
"What may I call you teacher?" asked Harry.
He smiled with wisdom and softly spoke "Teacher is fine. While you are here you will fast and drink only water that I will bring to you. If you are fortunate you will be given a vision by the Great Spirit, and he will tell you many things, if you are smart enough to listen. Sometimes he comes a bear, so do not be frightened. Sometimes it is the fox or the crow, other times it is someone long returned to the Great Spirit. You must listen and learn what he teaches, for these are never given lightly. Now come. Sit, breathe deep and listen to your spirit, and see what it teaches you."
Harry crawled over beside the fire and found the heat to be quite real. Just as he was about to take a deep breathe, the Teacher thew some herbs onto the flames, and white smoke billowed up directly in front of Harry. His vision grew distorted and he slipped into his self, and left all thoughts of Hogwarts, Dumbledore and England far away.
He know not how long he sat there, but unconsciously realized that Teacher had brought him water several times, and that he was beating his back with a leather strap, and he could feel the sweat covering his body. He was wondering why he was beating his back with the strap, but realized that it only served to sharpen his focus.
He stiffened and the leather strap halted, and he looked around as if someone was calling his name. "Mum?... Dad?... Sirius?"
Luna was setting on her bed rocking back forth and crying quietly.
"Luna dear, what ails you so?" Her father asked. She looked into her father's eyes without the dazed and airy look she often adopted at Hogwarts.
"He's going to suffer father. He is going to be in such pain. And he is going to do it for us."
"Us?" he asked. "Whatever do you mean dearest?"
"For us. Everyone. England. He is preparing himself for the task, and he has to ensure that we will be protected while he is gone."
Odd looked down at his beautiful young girl, and quietly held her while she sobbed. He had gotten used to his daughters comments and knowledge over the years, and felt sorry that he was one of the few that saw her as a person, and not some "Looney" as the others at her school called her. He rubbed her back and tried to comfort the sobbing girl.
Ron had been worrying about his best mate ever since the train had left Hogsmead and Harry was no where to be found. After a lot of ranting and screaming, about how unfair it was that Harry had left them, he sat down and quietly reflected on his friends life. He went up to his room upon arriving at the burrow and shut the door, while Ginny walked around as if the world was her oyster. "Harry will return for me, and then I will be Mrs. Harry Potter and everyone will be jealous of me for once."
Hermione had realized when Harry wasn't on the train that he would not return for them. She sighed quietly and a small tear ran down her cheek as she contemplated what it meant to be the Boy-who-lived, instead of being just Harry. How everyone in the wizarding world sang his praises one minute then stoned his effigy at the first chance. She wondered if it was worth it, trying to be the Boy-Who-Lived. She half wondered if he would return. She was pretty sure that she was not strong enough to bear his lot. It was then the the epiphany hit her. Harry had no intention of surviving his next meeting with Voldemort. She started sobbing uncontrollably and was found by her parents, Dan and Emma a short while later, who tried to console their sole concern in life, and failed miserably.
Neville was never taken seriously by anyone but Harry. Harry had stood by him when everyone ridiculed him and believed in him while everyone else laughed. Now it was his turn to stand by Harry. He had fought the Death Eaters at the attack on Hogwarts and realized that he was not strong enough. Not yet. "I am weak. But I am growing stronger. I am ignorant but I am learning. I will not fail him again." He had been home for only a few days, but the dedication shown was nothing if not awe inspiring. He had taken to moving the large bags of dragon dung from one side of his lawn to the other. Once this was done he moved it back. He had spent several hours everyday like this, stopping only to study in his families large library. "I won't fail you again Harry."
Harry looked up and his small family of lost one were sitting across the fire from him. "Hello son" his mother spoke.
"MUM!!!!" he yelled excitedly.
"Wait Harry, we were sent here for a reason. I would like nothing better than to hug you and tell you how much we missed you, how much we enjoyed watching you become the wizard you are, but we haven't much time. You are to make your way to America where you are to search for a man named Crying Coyote. You will have to convince him to teach you. But you will learn much. It will be worth it, in the end."
"I have never been more proud in my entire life, Harry" spoke his dad solemnly. "Now, when this is done go find a nice young witch and raise lots of little Potters. Live well and never forget to laugh."
"I never blamed you pronglet, it was my fault and mine alone that I died that night in the ministry. You are blameless. Oh, Cedric also holds you blameless and would like to thank you for returning his body. He understood the risk you took to return him to his parents." Sirius answered, with a seriousness he had never seen before on the old marauder.
And then they were gone. He slumped over and was startled when Teacher was sitting beside of him. "Come, it is time." He lead Harry out the small opening and over to a large assembly where many people were gathered in a large chanting crowd.
Upon entering the crowd, Harry noticed that a large, willowy pole had been buried into the ground and upon it was tied several straps of leather, with bone piece at the ends. He looked at the old Indian beside him and Teacher spoke.
"You must pierce your chest with the bone and then think of whom you want to protect. This is powerful magic and as such should not be undertaken lightly. To achieve the protection you desire you must pull the bone tethers through the skin. It is through this suffer that the protection is gained. You can give as little or as much as you wish, only you can decide what is enough."
Harry looked into his face and said with as much determination as he could muster, " Start the ritual and do not stop until I say."
The screaming had been going on for several days. Harry had Teacher pierce his chest over thirty times each day and the sun had beat down with no remorse. He asked the room to make it as hot and as unbearable as possible. "My pain is nothing. How many other will die if I cannot take a little suffering. I must protect them." The mantra had ran itself through his mind so many times that Harry was unsure if he was repeating it or his mind had decided to take him out of the equation and just repeat it for him.
The crowd that had surrounded him on the first day was still there, beating drums and chanting softly to a rhythm that only they knew. Harry heard a hawks cry pierce the night, and contemplated his thoughts on the proceedings before him. "Milady was right." he thought. "Crucio has nothing on this."
He had thought that he had seen her on several occasions, dressed as one of the Native American's, but was not sure due to the pain of the ritual. But she always had a very sad yet hopeful look upon her face.
Then the final strap tore from his chest.
Luna woke up screaming, her chest heaving in great sobs. The pain was unbearable and she cried out for the burdens placed upon the young man. Her father sprinted into her room, shocked to see blood oozing down her chest in several places. As he stared at his suffering child, she gasped one word. "Harry".
Hermione woke with a start and wailed as if her side had been pierced with a spear. She was startled to see blood come off with her hand, and was even more shocked to realize that their was no wound. "Oh, Harry, what have you done?" she asked, as her parents bolted into her room.
Ron awoke with a hiss, grabbing the right side of his chest, and cried out in fright when it came away bloody. He raised his shirt to find no wound and the only person he could think of was Harry and what he must be going through.
Neville awoke with a burning pain shooting across his left breast muscle, directly over his heart. The pain was intense, and his hand bloody. He knew their was no wound, and could only thank Harry that he was allowed to bare some of his pain.
As the last strap tore from his sweat covered and disfigured body, Harry slumped down upon his knees. "No more" he gasped, "no more." The crowd had grown quiet and they looked upon the warrior with nothing less than pride and respect in their eyes.
Teacher came up to him and and spoke reverently, "You honor us by your sacrifice, young warrior. The Great Spirit is pleased with your dedication to your people and will protect them as he would protect his own tribes. Now rest. You will be taken care of."
Unknown to Harry, the room returned to its state previously held, and Hogwarts looked upon its champion. "Rest, young warrior. Dobby, come to me."
"Youse called for Dobby, Mistress?" asked Dobby, twisting his hat as he looked at the tortured form of his friend.
"See to his wounds, but use no magic. They must heal on their natural way or his suffering will have been for naught."
"Yes, Mistress." spoke Dobby quietly.
Harry came to several days later to a wonderful collection of scars adorning his chest. Although not healed by any means, he understood that they were well on their way, and looked around for his healer. "Dobby, is that you?" asked Harry.
"Yes Harry Potter sir, it is Dobby. Harry Potter sir has honored Dobby by allowing him to help Harry Potter sir while he was ill."
"Did it work Dobby?" questioned Harry solemnly.
"Yes" answered Hogwarts, "it did. You have accomplished a great thing Harry. And it will last for several years. Your sacrifice was that great. Many people are aware that something happened, but very few have any inkling as to what it actually was. You should contact your friends, and let them into your secrets. Someone will have to lead while you are away. And you must heal. The wounds must heal naturally, or the magic will lose its effectiveness."
"I understand" he whispered, and asked Dobby for a quill and some parchment.
Lord Voldemort was in pain. The pain that was gripping his chest was staggering, and he had yet to be able to breath normally. He could only wonder what had happen and what the Boy-Who-Lived had to do with it. His hold upon the boy's mind had slipped and he could no longer feel the connection to him as he had before.
"You will pay Potter. As I live, I will look into your eyes when you realize that I have taken everything from you, and will laugh as the light fades from them." he vowed, hacking in pain.
Harry left to a sunny and warm June afternoon. His friends had all received their letters and he had placed several tasks before them. He told them of how he would check in time to time, and offer help when possible. He had knelt by Dumbledore's tomb and contemplated his course. He had packed the things that Albus had left to him in his will, and would review the contents of the pensieve at the first opportunity. He stood resolutely and like a defeated general, he muttered, "I will return. And then we shall see who will go on the next great adventure."