Chapter 78 - Coming Home
The persistent lack of landmarks or anything to orient himself in space and time kept Harry in a state of distress. He kept looking and listening, but now he did not even have the ravens for company. It would have been so easy to give up, to let the blackness just overtake him, and cease to be. But every time despair surged, or panic threatened to overwhelm him, Harry's Gryffindor nature pushed back. His giving up would mean that Voldemort would win. And that something terrible would happen to his friends and his family. Severus- there were so many things he still wanted to say to and do with his bondmate! He redoubled his efforts and pushed on.
With a great start, Harry realized that he was listening to voices. He'd approached other sounds, and some that sounded like voices before, but he'd become wary of a trap and retreated in great distress several times. But something about these voices was almost familiar. These bore some investigation! He listened intently. No, those were not his ravens. That made him wary again, because they were the only remnant of his old world that had been with him since he projected his mind and soul into the ley lines, into the earth. Harry slowly proceeded in the direction of the voices, trying not to attract attention to himself, but getting close enough to understand what was being said. Harry nearly backed away in a panic when he realized that the voices were speaking Parseltongue. This could be a trap – it could even be Voldemort himself looking to lure Harry to a place where he would have no resources or weapons or defenses with which to fight him. After some terrible fright, Harry was finally able to make out some of the words being spoken. He was sure he'd heard phrasing like this before – odd choices of words. There were references to nestlings, a king and shadows – these must be Black Wyrms!
On reflection, Harry was sure the Wyrms had arrived and departed from the battle at the Well of Despair ON the ground, not IN it, but he had clearly been too preoccupied with the capstone to have seen their approach. Now that he thought on it, they were gone from sight very quickly when they headed away after he spoke to them. They had been friendly enough once he'd spoken to them before, so Harry made a decision. He would speak to them now.
"Hello, dragons of the Winter Lands! We spoke by the Well of Despair, when the shadows were sent back and the well resealed. Can you hear me?"
In an instant, Harry was aware of two massive Black Wyrms by his side. He could see their shapes, although they appeared to be images of Black Wyrms and not the solid creatures he'd met in the Winter Lands. One said to the other "It's the young king – the one who drove away the shadows!" To Harry, he said "We have never encountered any from your nest in the Earth Tunnels before, and yet today, we have twice felt massive surges in the Tunnels. We never felt anything like this before, even our elders were shocked. The first was a crushing wave of darkness and it was followed by an equally strong wave of light. We came into the Tunnels to find out what happened."
Harry realized that he now knew how Voldemort blasted out whatever spell he'd used to put everyone to sleep. How interesting that it did not seem to impact every magical creature, if the Wyrms were not affected.
"Did you fall asleep when the first wave passed through?"
"No, we just felt a wave of very dark, black energy."
"A very evil nest of wizards is trying to kill most of us who live on the land. I do not know what that first wave was, but it was harming the ones in my nest, so I sent out the second wave to save the ones I could. I think I pushed too far into the earth, and now I cannot find my way back."
The Wyrms conferred softly between themselves, and then turned to address Harry. "We remember your service to us in driving the shadows into the well. We will help you find your way home."
For the first time since he pushed out his magic in a desperate attempt to save those targeted by Voldemort's spell, Harry felt hope.
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Severus had run to the fireplace in the rear of the infirmary and firecalled to the Headmaster's office. Albus Dumbledore was poring through the few Slytherin notebooks that Harry had translated from Parseltongue in an effort to find some solution to this terrible situation. His defeated posture suggested that the search for answers was not going well. He looked sharply at the face in the firebox.
"Albus – I have Harry's Heart Stone! It contains his magical signature, and might be all we need to help him find his way home!"
With a quick intake of breath, something like hope flickered across the old wizard's face. "Of course, my boy! What a wonderful idea!" He returned the books to a cabinet and hastily closed and warded it, and was stepping through the floo into the infirmary moments later. By then, Severus had collected Madam Pomfrey and the three of them joined Sirius Black at Harry's bedside.
Severus offered the Heart Stone for inspection. "This is the strongest Heart Stone I've ever seen produced by a student at Hogwarts." Very carefully, Madam Pomfrey unbuttoned the shirt of Harry's pajamas and opened it to bare his chest. "Severus, I recommend that you hold his Heart Stone against his heart. He might recognize your magical signature, too."
With a nervous look on his face, Severus palmed the Heart Stone and gently but firmly pressed it against Harry's breast. He closed his eyes as if in prayer. He was beseeching every deity and wizard for their help, but he was also directing the full force of his own magic through that hand and into Harry. Even without a matured bond, they had spent great amounts of time together, so maybe Harry would recognize him.
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The Black Wyrms proved to be interesting company. They were very pleased that Harry had regarded them as dragons. Apparently, they were aware that some wizards did not recognize them as kin of the flying dragons and it was a sore point amongst Wyrms. While they lived on the land, they knew earth magic intimately. Their own magic was actually drawn from the earth, a convenient arrangement given their anatomies. The Wyrms were not themselves capable of directing magic into the earth, and they were quite amazed that a little thing like Harry had generated that second pulse all by himself.
Most important to Harry, they knew all about ley lines. Their magic allowed them to travel the lines, transforming their massive bodies into pulses of magic that could slip into the network of energy fields across the earth, and move across vast distances in almost no time. It was a truly remarkable gift, Harry thought, largely wasted on the Wyrms, who seemed to be very content on their mountain in the Winter Lands. He took advantage of this opportunity to learn more about Wyrms and these ley lines.
"Very few from our nest like to enter the Earth Tunnels. We like the warmth of the sun on our skins, and are not comfortable in the shade. All Wyrms can do this on instinct, though. We are born knowing how to enter the Earth Tunnels."
Harry asked about those Earth Tunnels.
"The Earth Tunnels each go along a particular straight path, but they cross in many places. When you are in the Tunnels, you can go along one Tunnel, or move from it to others. You can get wherever you want to go through the Tunnels, if you are attuned to their patterns."
Harry noticed that he himself had no sensation of movement as he spoke to the Wyrms, and was surprised when they confirmed that the trio was indeed moving. Harry also could not imagine how anyone could determine where they were in terms of the surface from beneath the ground. "All the things on the surface of the earth have an impact on the Tunnels. We can see our mountain clearly from here, based on the pressure it places on the Tunnels. The signatures of some of the magical creatures on the land also leave imprints. Right now, we are looking for a place with concentrated magic, likely your nest. We think we see something up ahead, and when we are nearer, we think you will see it, too."
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The group keeping vigil at Harry's bedside grew by one, when Hermione Granger arrived, searching for Professor Snape of all people. Having organized the rescue efforts and welcomed her parents to Hogwarts, she was now in the midst of reviewing her notes on the history of spells about which he had asked her, and she wanted to discuss some of the things she had recorded. She had several large books and rolls of parchment in her arms, which she quickly set aside so she could stand with the others. Taking in the scene of Professor Snape in an attitude of total concentration, with his palm over Harry's heart and seeing a golden chain pooling about Harry's chest, she guessed that some token – probably Harry's remarkable Heart Stone – was being used to try to help her friend find his way home. She was reminded of her conversation with Harry, when he admitted that he could feel other's magic. If he could, and he was roaming the earth looking for them, the presence of so many of the wizards and witches well known to and much loved by Harry could not help but guide him here. She decided to say as much to the group.
"Harry once told me that he can see and recognize the magics of others. I assume, Professor Snape, that you have something of Harry's there that will call to him with his own magical signature. But your touch will help. I'm sure he knows the magical signatures of every one of us in this room, and once he gets close, he'll know he's home. He'll know we are all here for him."
No one responded to Hermione's statement, but the tension seemed to ease a bit from all. Everyone wanted so desperately to believe that Harry was alright, and that he'd find his way home, and her vote of confidence in that belief calmed their nerves.
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Harry was growing anxious again that he could still not detect any of the magic towards which the Black Wyrms assured him they were traveling. To distract himself from focusing on what he could not see, he kept the conversation going. "I expect that my nest will be going to war against the nest that sent that dark wave of magic. It might have already begun – I don't know how long I've been here. Do dragons know war?"
"Yes, young king, we know war. Not for many seasons, far before any of us in the nest today were hatched, but we all know of it. Time in the Earth Tunnels is surprising – do not be surprised if you discover that not nearly as much earth time has passed than you think when you return from the Tunnels."
"Do you think the dragons would stand with my nest against the evil nest in a war? I would be deeply honored to have you as allies. Would you consider that?"
The dragons seemed pleased to have been asked, for they responded quickly that they would be honored to present the suggestion to the elders.
As Harry contemplated the prospect of an alliance with Black Wyrms, one of them directed his attention to a spot that might be impossibly far away, or right at hand, but Harry was stunned to realize that he could actually see it. "There, that is your nest. You are home now, young king. I can see a pulse of magic there that is yours, and I recognize the pulses of at least two others who were with you at the Winter Lands. Follow the pulse home, back to your surface form. We will never be far – if you have need of us, project a message into the Earth Tunnels, and we will hear you."
As he began to move toward the pulse, Harry thanked his guides. "I could never have found my way home without your help. Thank you for saving me! Please consider if you and the Wyrms would be willing to stand as my allies against the evil nest." With that, Harry pressed forward toward the magic, getting more and more excited as he drew nearer, recognizing not only his own magic, but Severus' pressed close with it. This was not a trap, it was home! As he drew nearer still, he was aware that he and Severus were surrounded by at least some of his family – he was sure that he felt Sirius, Professor Dumbledore and Hermione standing there, as well. Home!
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Madam Pomfrey had just checked the glove on Harry's hand to be sure that it continued to filter his blood properly. She'd noticed that Harry had seemed calmer over the last hour or so, at least his adrenaline levels had remained in an acceptable range. She was just thinking that this was a good sign when those levels suddenly spiked again, and she noticed a sharp up-tick in his levels of respiration and circulation. She was just about to ask the others to step aside while she addressed this new set of symptoms when she, and almost immediately, the others, realized that Harry's eyes were open, and most wonderfully, most amazingly, he was obviously looking out at them. His gaze had settled on Severus, whose eyes had opened at the same agitation that had caught Madam Pomfrey's attention. Severus took it in all at once – Harry was back! Harry himself was shocked by the depth of emotion so clearly visible on his bondmate's face, and especially in his eyes. Harry thought back on their plans to start their relationship at the beginning, and his own heart leapt with the hope that it had real promise, that Severus did have feelings for him.
For his part, Severus knew that he would never forget the look on Harry's face when he opened his eyes, and that he would be eternally pleased that the first smile from Harry upon his awakening was for him and not the mongrel godfather. For the first time, Severus felt he had come to stand in a place of some importance in Harry's life, and he noted with some amazement that it mattered to him as much as it did.
Harry was exhausted from his journey or whatever that was. He had no energy for talking yet, but he managed a weak smile for all those at his bedside before his eyes closed again for some rest.
Madam Pomfrey was furiously running her scans and spoke for them all: "Thank Merlin, the brain waves, the magical signatures, everything – he's back in there now! Oh, my goodness!"
Albus put a firm hand on Severus' shoulder and gave it a squeeze as the younger man slumped over Harry, his head now resting on the hand that still held the Heart Stone over Harry's chest. "Well done, Severus, well done indeed! You helped Harry find his way home. Thank you." Moving over to a slightly shell-shocked Madam Pomfrey, Albus repeated his thanks for her diligent care. Stopping at an uncommonly subdued Sirius Black, Albus just patted his arm and suggested that he share the wonderful news with Remus Lupin.
Finally, Albus took in Hermione Granger. Her relief at her friend's recovery was clear on her face, but it was also clear that she realized there was still much to be done. She'd come here with books and parchments – the battle was only just starting, and she was preparing for what was to come.
"Miss Granger, emotions have run high here, and I think some will need a bit of time to rest and collect themselves. I'd like to see what you have there, and have you take a look at some of the books Harry translated for us. We need to plan what we will do next. A missed night of sleep for you or me is something we can deal with, I'm sure we can get some Pepper-Up potion from Madam Pomfrey. But time is of the essence, as you seem to have realized."
An exciting new challenge was just what Hermione needed. She reached out to touch Harry's face, and then squeezed Professor Snape's shoulder with a soft word of thanks, and then she was ready to take the battle forward.