Chapter two, yo. Shout-out to Vasheh's kitteh.
Every Occlumency lesson Harry took seemed to push his mind ever-so-slightly further out of shape. He was currently slouched in an armchair in front of the fire, staring up at the roof, Ron and Hermione sitting on the lounge next to him.
"Really, guys, I'm fine. It's just a headache. It'll go away eventually."
Hermione shook her head. "You've been like this since last night. That's hardly normal, Harry."
"She's right, mate. Every time you have an... extra lesson with that git Snape, it takes longer for the headache to go away."
Harry grimaced. "You've got a point. It definitely feels like I've got four extra lessons worth beating into my head."
Hermione and Ron shared a worried look. Ron spoke up first. "Er, Harry? You've had six of 'em."
Harry tilted his head to look at Ron, his mind firing up. "Well... I suppose it only feels like four." He pushed himself out of his chair and headed towards the bedrooms, the beginnings of an idea forming in his mind. "I'm going to go for a walk. Clear my head." He shot Ron an apologetic look. "Ron, have you done any of that Divination homework we got yesterday?"
Harry escaped up the dormitory stairs as Hermione rounded on Ron, Divination textbooks seemingly materialising in her hands. He'd make it up to his friend later, somehow. A few moments later he was back down the stairs, across the common room and away.
Well, maybe not quite away. Five minutes later he was still outside the portrait hole, squinting at the tiny moving dots on the Marauder's Map (which was not doing his head much good), the Fat Lady looking on curiously. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to find a needle with small print in a very large haystack. I don't suppose you have a magnifying glass on you?" He looked up at the painting, now containing one rather amused Common Room guardian. "Oh, right. Never mind, then."
A minute later, he had located the tiny dot labelled Luna Lovegood just at the outskirts of the Forest, and was on his way.
After Harry made the long trek from the top of Gryffindor Tower to the forest, he found Luna frowning up at a rather tall tree. "Hi, Luna. What's wrong?"
Luna's frown turned into a slight smile, but she didn't shift her gaze. "There was a bowtruckle nest here before, but now I can't find it. I was trying to teach them tricks." She turned to look at him. "Maybe they migrated. I'll leave these here and see if they come back."
And with that she produced a small glass container from her pocket and emptied it at the base of the tree. A small torrent of woodlice poured out, all of them rolled up. Luna squatted down and watched as a few of the bolder ones unrolled and scrambled up the tree.
The two of them stayed there for a minute, Luna silently watching the progress of the bugs with Harry looking on, bemused but semi-interested, from over her shoulder. As the last woodlouse uncurled and fled (with an encouraging prod from Luna's wand) Luna stood, twirled, and headed towards the lake with a smiling Harry in tow.
Five minutes later found the two of them lying side-by-side on a slight crest overlooking the lake, looking up at the sky. Luna was describing Snorcacks using the clouds - the head of that one over there, with a body sort of a mix between that one and that one, and a foot kind of shaped like that. The mental image being constructed had only a passing resemblance to anything normally found in nature, but Harry was enjoying himself nonetheless.
Sometime after, Luna had trailed off, unable to locate in the sky anything sufficiently resembling a crumpled horn. Harry had spotted a cloud shaped somewhat like the radishes Luna used as earrings, and was idly pondering her choices in jewellery, when she suddenly spoke up. "Ever wonder what it would be like to be a cloud?"
Harry meditated on this. He had, on occassion, imagined what it would be like to be at around the same altitude of a cloud, if only for the view. But putting himself in the mind of the cloud itself? That was a new one. "Er, no, not really."
"Try it. It's fun."
So he did. With Luna's voice in the background, giving him her perspective of life as a cloud, he looked up at and attempted to tap into the mind of the radish-earring-shaped cloud as it scudded its way across the sky.
"Imagine flying over the country, all the fields little patches, all of the forests like patches of grass, and the cities like those model towns you can buy in muggle toy stores. Some of those are incredibly detailed, you know." Harry had closed his eyes and was watching the mental images invoked. "The cloud, yes. Just floating along, pushed by the wind, not having to worry about where you're going or when you'll get there. And you look down, and there's this tiny little castle next to a puddle." And Harry actually could see Hogwarts from above, there was the Astronomy Tower, there was Gryffindor Tower, and he was positive that that window right there was that of his dorm room. "And on a hill, there's two people in robes lying down, looking up at you..." He could see the two of them now, Harry with his eyes closed, Luna somehow looking directly at him as a cloud. "And you imagine what it would be like if you were one of them."
Guh. He scrunched his eyes shut as his mind seemingly spun on its axis. He was Harry imagining himself as the cloud imagining himself as Harry...
He risked opening one eye a crack. It seemed he was back at ground level. He gave the cloud a wary glance, before turning his head to look at Luna. She had rolled her head to the side and was watching him with a mysterious little half-smile. Something in her eye gave Harry the impression that she knew exactly what he had just experienced.
"Fun, isn't it?"
Of course it wasn't... well... maybe it was, just a bit. It was like the first time he had tried a Wronski Feint, years ago. It was scary as hell and he almost threw up at the end, but a few minutes later he was eager to try it again.
He smiled back at her and nodded wordlessly before glancing down. At some point the two of them had linked hands. Harry hadn't even noticed.
The two were on their way back to the top floor. Luna had linked her arm with Harry, at least partly because his mind still felt like all the thoughts were being routed through a point quite some distance above his head. The net result was a noticable delay between thought and deed.
"What are you doing tomorrow at Hogsmeade, Harry?" Luna asked out of the blue.
"Tomorrow? Er... you mean Saturday?"
"Oh. Well... I think I've got a date with Cho."
Luna turned to look at him, her eyes filled with curiousity. "You think?"
"Well, I thought I was talking to her about the next DA meeting, and then somehow I had rejected her, and I ended up agreeing to take her on a date to Hogsmeade. It was a bit strange, to be honest."
"Ah," intoned Luna, nodding thoughtfully. "I thought a Wrackspurt had got her, but it can't be that, I checked her trunk. She hasn't been quite right since the end of last year."
"She lost one champion, so she probably thinks she needs a new one. But she misses Cedric, not a champion." Luna's eyes had become strangely focussed on Harry's own. "Be careful, Harry. She has too many emotions building up, and they'll have to be released soon, no matter how. Make sure you aren't in the way."
"I will," he agreed, before smiling. "Besides, she's DA. We look out for each other, don't we?"
Luna smiled at this as her eyes refocussed on her own private world again. "Yes, we do."
Pomona Sprout watched from the greenhouse window as two figures walked past, highlighted in the setting sun. They were walking so close they were practically wearing each other's cloaks. She'd say they were leaning on each other if she didn't know better. And you didn't have to be a herbologist to see the grass stuck to their backs.
Well, well. First they were back more than an hour past curfew from Hogsmeade after they had lost track of time nargling... she wasn't completely sure what exactly constituted a nargle, but she could probably hazard a guess or two. And now they had been out on the grounds together until sundown getting their backs all grassy.
Pomona chuckled to herself as she returned to potting the Tentacula cuttings. Minerva and Filius were going to love this little bit of gossip.