An Oasis in Darkness
Harry woke to the sounds of distant waves crashing against the cliffs, a soft breeze drifting in through the small half-open window on the far wall of the cottage's sitting room. He groped blindly along the tabletop next to him for his glasses, bumping Ron's elbow (who was sleeping on the floor against the base of the sofa) in the process. Ron stirred slightly, but did not wake.
Harry lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. It was not yet dawn; the room was in semi-darkness, a few lingering flames in the fireplace providing the only light. Other than the soft wind and the rhythmic crashing of the distant waves, there wasn't a sound to be heard in the place. The kitchen was silent – Fleur hadn't yet risen.
Harry slowly pulled himself up, groggy still, being careful not to bump Ron again. The previous evening's planning with Griphook had been particularly taxing; the goblin seemed to take a perverse delight in having Harry acquiesce to his every wish, no matter how seemingly trivial. More than once, Harry had been forced to intervene when Ron threatened to tell the Goblin off, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that everyone's nerves were becoming frayed. He wasn't looking forward to another day of arguments and haggling.
He slowly made his way to the kitchen, stepping gingerly over the sleeping forms of Ron and Dean. He rummaged through the fridge, picking out a few slices of cheese and a pineapple-flavoured yogurt. He'd just closed the door when he saw her.
He moved close to the window over the sink to get a better look. There was no doubt, even in the faint pre-dawn light – Luna was already up. She was sitting on the edge of the cliff, gazing out over the sea. Harry stood there for several moments; he'd barely had a chance to speak to her in the weeks since arriving, being practically chained to Griphook for the past several days.
He wondered how she was handling her father's imprisonment. Outwardly, she seemed as happy as ever, but Harry was well aware of the deep closeness between Luna and her father. He found himself envying her: though she'd lost her mother in tragic circumstances, she was always looking to the future with unbounded optimism – it was little wonder she'd coped so well during her captivity in the Malfoy's dungeon.
He watched as Luna held her arm out, a tiny bird fluttering down to land upon her hand. She seemed to be conversing with it, and Harry smiled as he wondered just what Luna might be recounting to a little bird with no understanding of human tongues. Of course, knowing Luna, he wouldn't have been surprised if she was conversant in bird-ese.
He went back to the sitting room and yanked his coat from the chair. Donning his shoes, he quietly exited the small whitewashed cottage and slowly made his way along the worn trail towards the cliff face, the short wild grass and crashing waves conspiring to mask his approach. He paused once he got to within a broomstick's length of Luna, not wanting to startle her at the cliff's edge. He was about to clear his throat to announce his presence when –
"Happy morning, Harry."
She hadn't turned around. Harry looked at her back, flummoxed.
"Okay," he said as ambled up next to her, "you're going to have to tell me how you do that."
She looked at him with those oddly misty eyes. "You frightened my little friend away," she said matter-of-factly.
"Oh," said Harry, noting that the little bird was nowhere to be seen. "Sorry about that – but how'd you know it was me?"
"It felt like you," she said simply and smiled, before turning her gaze back to the sea.
He frowned. Luna had seen right through his polyjuice potion back at Bill and Fleur's wedding, too –
He sat down and swung his legs out over the cliff's edge: though he was quite comfortable being on a broom hundreds of feet in the air, the sight of the sheer cliff extending into the pounding waves far below his feet gave him a momentary sense of vertigo. Luna, on the other hand, was lazily swinging her feet to and fro, apparently unconcerned with the potentially precipitous drop. Harry noticed a tiny basket of half-eaten gooseberries next to her.
"You're up early," he remarked. "Everything all right?"
She looked at him again. "Why yes, why do you ask?"
"Well, you've been up a while, it looks like," said Harry.
"Yes," she said, nodding. She turned once more to the sea, the sun starting to paint the distant sky a striking hue of gold and lilac. "I like this time of day, just before the dawn..."
Harry looked out at the scene before them: he could hardly blame her. The few clouds in the slowly brightening sky were reflecting colours as vivid as an impressionist's palette, and the mists being kicked up by the exploding waves far below were just starting to sparkle with rainbow-coloured hues as the first tendrils of sunlight started to leak over the horizon. It was almost enough to make him forget the darkness that was engulfing the wizarding world.
"Now this is the way to start a day," he said more to himself than anything.
Luna nodded dreamily, her eyes fixed on an imaginary point in the distance.
They stayed there, gazing at the unfolding spectacle before them in silence, until Harry remembered his breakfast. "Um...care for some cheese?" he offered. "I dunno what kind it is, I nicked it from the fridge – or some yogurt? It's pineapple I think..."
Luna looked at him and smiled. "Thank you, Harry, but I've already eaten...but if you like, I have some – oh – "
Harry followed Luna's gaze down to the small patch of grass between them – a small red squirrel was nervously filling up its cheeks with Luna's remaining gooseberries.
They looked at each other.
"It's pinching your berries," whispered Harry. Luna smiled and nodded.
They watched it struggle to fit the last of the gooseberries into its cheeks – and with that, it bolted off to a nearby Alder tree before disappearing from view into the thick green foliage.
"Pretty brazen, wasn't he?" remarked Harry.
"I think it was sweet," said Luna. "It might've had a family to feed, or maybe the faeries sent it to fetch for them..."
"Why wouldn't they just come and get it themselves?"
Luna looked at him. "They don't know you very well," she said, perfectly serious. "They get rather shy around strange wizards..."
"Well, to them, yes," replied Luna. She regarded him thoughtfully. "As I understand it, you're terrible with Runes."
"Er, yeah, I was never really..."
Harry was just about to ask Luna how she knew all this when she turned and looked out towards the horizon. "He's awakening," she whispered softly.
For a moment Harry thought she was referring to Ron or Dean back in the sleepy cottage, but as the first early morning rays struck her face he realized she was referring to the Sun, slowly rising over the horizon in the distance.
He gave the distant spectacle only a fleeting glance, however, as he found himself gazing at Luna: her pale features were bathed in a soft golden hue, and as the wind carried in from the sea it lifted her long blonde mane to flutter languidly behind her slender neck, exposing her ears to the cool morning breeze. He was immediately reminded of the picture of Luna's mum he'd seen on her nightstand.
"I, um – "
Luna turned and fixed her large, silvery eyes on him. He found himself wondering how to explain he'd been cavorting around her bedroom.
Luna inclined her head slightly. "Are you all right?"
There was nothing for it.
"Luna, I was in, um...your room."
Luna's serene expression did not waver. "Well, it's not really my room," she said. "Hermione sleeps there too, and besides it belongs to Bill and Fleur, doesn't it?"
"No," corrected Harry, "I mean your room, back at your home..."
"Oh, yes, Hermione told me you had."
Harry blinked. "She did?"
Luna nodded. "She said half my bed is hanging through the floor."
"I'm really sorry about that," said Harry earnestly.
"Oh, it's all right," said Luna. "It's nothing a few Reparo spells won't mend. Daddy and I are quite well-versed in them."
In that instant, Harry thought he saw a glimpse of sadness in Luna's eyes. Not for her bed, or even her home, he knew –
"We'll get him out of there," assured Harry, a mental image of a distraught and despairing Xenophilius Lovegood sitting in a dark Azkaban cell forming in his mind. "The instant this is over, Luna. I promise."
Luna smiled. "I know," she said softly. "He's quite resilient, Daddy is."
Almost as much as his daughter, Harry thought to himself, his heart filling with compassion. Xenophilius' lamentations at losing Luna had burned themselves into his mind.
"Of course, there are hardly any Dementors left at Azkaban," continued Luna in a more conversational tone, "I heard most of them have been scattered throughout the country looking for you."
Harry smiled. "So it's good I'm here, then."
Luna nodded. "I'd say so."
Harry's smile broadened as Luna looked back out over the sea, her feet kicking back and forth as faint traces of mist were borne windward up from the pounding waves to tickle their noses. Luna sighed.
"I saw your Mum," said Harry, recalling the photograph. "When I was looking around – not that I was snooping, mind you, I just happened to see her picture. She was really beautiful."
Luna nodded, her misty eyes still fixed on the distant spectacle. "Yes," she said softly. "She was..."
Harry bit his lip. The image of Luna and her mother hugging had struck him as heartbreaking as it had been beautiful.
"You do look a lot alike, by the way," added Harry. "It wasn't hard to see the family – "
Luna had turned to him with a look of surprise.
" – resemblance..."
She smiled brightly at Harry, and for a moment Harry found himself wishing he had a sunflower to tuck into her hair.
"Why thank you, Harry," she chimed airily. "That's very sweet of you to say – I think you're quite pretty too..."
He blinked several times as Luna turned her gaze back to the increasingly spectacular sunrise unfolding in the distance. The sensation of vertigo he'd experienced when sitting down had inexplicably returned for an instant, even though he'd kept his gaze locked on Luna the whole time. He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"It's a shame we're not in Norway," Luna was saying, "In the fjords you can sometimes catch glimpses of Hopperwinged Norks when the sun is low in the sky...it's the only time they can be seen by humans, when they're flying about in the mists and the sun's hitting them just so – but there hasn't been a sighting on this side of the North Sea in ages..."
"I wish we were in Norway too," lamented Harry. Of course, there was no escaping his current situation, but the thought of scouring Norwegian fjords for some of Luna's mythical creatures held an odd appeal. But then, his future looked starkly limited at the moment. "Maybe one day..."
"That would be nice," said Luna dreamily. Then, out of the blue: "Have you figured a way into Gringotts yet?"
Harry nearly dropped his glasses over the cliff's edge, catching them at the last instant, He hastily re-donned them. "How – Luna, did Hermione tell you anything?"
Luna looked at him, seemingly unperturbed by Harry's reaction. "No," she replied simply. "But you've been spending an awful lot of time with that Griphook fellow, so I gathered..."
Harry was at a loss for words. "You...you figured that out?"
"Yes," she said innocently. "You've obviously been going out of your way to keep him happy, and Fleur mentioned he used to work at Gringotts, so it wasn't very difficult to put the pieces together..."
Harry was aghast. Had anyone else managed to figure out what was going on?
"Luna," he said slowly, "have you told anyone else about this?"
She shook her head. "You seemed intent on keeping it a secret."
Harry sighed and relaxed a little. "Can you keep it to yourself, please?" he asked. "Not even to Ron and Hermione – I don't want anyone to know you know."
"All right," said Luna.
In fact, he trusted Luna implicitly: but with Voldemort having access to Snape's supply of Veritaserum –
Of greater concern was the ease with which she'd figured out what was going on. Luna was uncannily perceptive, it was true, but if someone else had managed to connect the dots...
"They don't know," said Luna to his unasked question.
Harry blinked. "Eh? Who doesn't know?"
"Bill and Fleur," said Luna. "I overheard them talking the other night, they don't know what you're up to."
"Oh...well that's good then," replied Harry, relieved. "I, um...can't tell you why we're breaking into Gringotts though...no offense."
"None taken," said Luna. "Secrecy is paramount, yes?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, it is."
He took a bite of cheese as Luna returned her gaze to the glittering sea.
Oh, blast it, he thought to himself after a while. This girl had risked life and limb at his side for the last two years...
He took a deep breath. "We're going to get a cup that used to belong to Helga Hufflepuff...it's in the Lestrange's vault," he said in a low voice.
Luna turned and looked at him quizzically. "You just told me – "
"I know," said Harry, unsure even now why he'd decided to reveal his plan to Luna. "That's why I'm in a bit of a bind...Griphook wants Gryffindor's Sword as payment, but we need it...the one at the school's a fake, by the way..."
"Yeah...I heard about you guys getting caught...sorry about that."
"Oh, it was all right," said Luna brightly. "We were assigned detention with Hagrid, it was quite enjoyable, actually. Am I to be your Secret-Keeper, then?"
Harry chewed it over for a moment. "Yeah, I s'pose so," he said. If there was someone he would trust with his very life, it was certainly the blonde-haired Ravenclaw. "But I'm not sure how to – "
"I think we should consummate this," breezed Luna, her eyes wide with excitement. "I will need your hands, though."
Harry held his hands out uncertainly. Was Luna capable of casting a Fidelius Charm? But wouldn't he be the one to do that?
Harry was startled as Luna clasped her hands around his and leaned forward suddenly, their noses brushing slightly in an Eskimo kiss. "Secrets to Heart, Flesh to Dust," she whispered in a barely audible voice. "Your Words to Mine Entrust..."
Harry barely heard the words. He was entirely more aware of was Luna's almost mesmerizing proximity, the sight of her luminous eyes so close to his, the flicking of wind-carried blonde threads against his cheeks –
"There," said Luna as she drew back, nibbling at a slice of cheese.
It took Harry a moment to realize Luna's impromptu ritual had already ended. "What was – where'd you get – hey that's my cheese!"
Luna nodded and took another nibble. "It's quite good – thank you Harry!"
"Wha – but..."
"It's Gruyere I think, yes?"
"I...I'm not sure – Luna, what was that exactly? A Fidelius Charm?"
Luna shook her head. "Entirely better," she said seriously. "It was a promise."
Harry looked at her. It was entirely illogical, to be sure, but a promise from Luna seemed somehow – unbreakable. After all, he'd seen a Fidelius Charm backfire on him once before...
"Well," said Harry, "I'll take that any day."
Luna smiled as her gaze shifted up over Harry's head. "They'll be getting up soon," she said, indicating a fresh puff of smoke from the cottage's chimney – someone had just replenished the fireplace. "I promised Fleur I'd help her with breakfast...I'd best go see..."
Harry's shoulder's sagged slightly – he'd truly missed Luna, strange theories notwithstanding. He'd been looking forward to some quiet time with his odd friend.
Luna evidently noticed his downheartedness as she drew up into a kneeling position.
"We can come back later, if you like?" she suggested encouragingly, "I had the most interesting conversation with Phineas Nigellus while in Professor Snape's office – he's not very keen on Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, as it turns out – did you know he was related to your Godfather?"
Harry looked at her. "Yeah, I did," he said, his spirits buoyed by the mention of Sirius. "He wasn't exactly all that keen on Sirius, either...but yeah, I'd love to hear it."
They got up and began to slowly amble their way back to the cottage.
A thought occurred to Harry. "By the way," he said mischievously, looking at Luna out of the corner of his eye, "have you asked Griphook what he thinks of that article your father ran about Fudge's Goblin Pies a while back?"
Luna shook her head. "I haven't," she said. "He doesn't like me very much, you see, and you did want to keep him happy, so..."
"What?" interjected Harry, surprised. "He told you that?"
Luna looked over at him, an odd twinkle in her silvery eyes. "Not so much," she said mysteriously. "But Goblins don't react very well to me, I've noticed...it was even worse with Mum..."
"Really," said Harry, mystified.
"Mm-hmm," affirmed Luna serenely as they climbed the steps to the cottage's back porch.
"Well, it's their loss," said Harry firmly as he held the door open for Luna.
Luna beamed at Harry as she skipped past.
Harry stood there holding the door for a moment, recalling something Hermione had told him once about Goblins, and...something about them not getting along with...certain...
He frowned slightly. He couldn't quite remember what it was. Well, he couldn't imagine Goblins being on very friendly terms with anyone, frankly.
He watched as Luna disappeared into the kitchen. He turned and took one last look at the glorious sunrise before following, in a decidedly lighter mood than he'd been in days.