A/N: This will be a few chapters long, detailing Harry's foray into a foreign planet. And maybe, just maybe, he'll find love on the way.
Few people ever experience total alienation, the experience of being flung into a metaphorical ocean without even knowing what water is.
Harry was the kind of man that experienced rare things, so of course he had been through the above situation. It happened quite by accident, as many of his experiences did. He was at the 10th birthday party of Ron and Hermione's eldest, Rose. She was a funny kid, always making droll comments that made her sound twice her age.
Harry hadn't known what to buy her, as she wasn't the kind of girl that liked toys or clothes and she actually had a policy about not purchasing books when they lived right across the street from a perfectly good library. So he took a day off from work (a joke of a desk job at some Muggle financial firm that paid for shit but gave him two months paid vacation every year) to wander the entirety of London in search of a gift for the girl who disliked gifts.
He couldn't even buy her sweets, because she disapproved of them and fed them all to Hugo.
There were a number of shops that sold hodge-podge trinkets and little scarves and other nonsense. He visited about twenty of these before stumbling across one wedged between twin rivaling bakeries. It was on the shabby side, and someone had spray-painted phallic graffiti all over the door. He wouldn't have gone inside at all if the door hadn't opened just as he was passing by. Something that smelt delicious wafted through the door behind the young boy that exited, clutching an old board game to his chest.
Shrugging, he took the steps up to the door and then eased inside. It was a very narrow door, meant for people less well-fed by Mrs. Weasley.
He made it inside, not that there was much of a difference in narrowness. There were shelves on the walls and tables jutting forward in front of them. The gap between them was just barely wide enough for him to sidle through sideways. He eyed the merchandise as he wriggled through. It was dim here, lit only by the thin sunlight from the grimy front windows and some flickering light bulbs screwed directly into the copper ceiling.
There were some old photographs, tied together with lace, that he considered thoughtfully before a cursory flip-through revealed a woman with two heads and a boy with his stomach so distended with retained urine that he looked like he'd swallowed a globe. Rose would love them, but Hermione wouldn't be pleased.
He didn't know how much time he spent looking at cracked snow globes with Paris cityscapes inside, or bits of amber containing insects, or globes with extra countries. But finally his elbow brushed against a stack of magazines and they slid to one side with a whisper-crackle of old paper, revealing a box. At first it looked like just a jewelry box, simple enough, but as Harry squinted at it he began to see dozens of little lines and indents. Curious now, he picked it up and moved to hold it under one of the light bulbs. It was a puzzle box, painted with tiny squares that confused the eye and concealed or revealed the pressure pieces. He smiled. Rose loved puzzles.
Calling and then shouting for the proprietor eventually dragged the woman from the back room. She was middle-aged and the remnants of what must have been a beautiful face were painted garishly in colors of red, yellow, and purple. She smiled at him when he told her who the box was for.
"I'm sure she'll love it. Kids these days need something more stimulating than those damn video games."
He nodded, personally disliking their violence or pointlessness. He had enough of both of those things in his life, though the random requests for his presence on Auror missions had been steadily decreasing the past two years.
Walking home, he frowned as he thought about that. He was pretty sure it wasn't because they thought he was losing his touch. The mission before last he'd broken one of the department's records, a record he had set when he was twenty years old. He nodded to his neighbor, Miss Bonnie Badlook, and unlocked his front door.
Inside, he puttered around doing some simple chores before settling down in his study to relax for the night. He could see the bag containing the puzzle in the corner of his eye.
Compelled by something, he took it out and turned it over and over in his hands. He pushed on one of the rectangles and it disappeared into the center. Two pieces popped out, one on the back and one on top.
He pushed them back in, and the original piece he'd pressed popped back into position. He tinkered with a little longer, always careful to return it to its original shape. Rose was going to love it.
Rose did indeed love it, and fiddled with it for the rest of the party as she talked to her relatives and joked with her friends, most of whom were just as fascinated as she was. Except for Ruben, of course, but Ruben thought everything was stupid so he didn't count.
Harry visited Ron and Hermione about three times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. They didn't visit him. His house was small and crammed full of work stuff and his collection of jade curiosities. It was Neville's fault, the jade. He let slip one lunch date that he was working with Luna on the history of jade as a channel for magic. It'd been used for wands in Asia for thousands of years, apparently, before the secrets to preparing the jade had been lost in some battle or other. From the stories, which could be exaggerated but perhaps were not, jade was far superior to wood as a channel for magic.
Ever since then, Harry couldn't stay away from the stone. He found that his little spurts of accidental magic, which built up throughout the day at his Muggle job, sparked and danced amongst the jade. Once one of the pieces, a yellowed statuette of a young girl with a basket of flowers, glowed from inside for a brilliant moment before exploding in a shower of real flowers.
Every time he visited, he asked Rose how the puzzle was going. Every time she would shrug and say that she hadn't solved it yet, but showed him her progress. The inner pieces of the puzzle had some sort of color code, and bits of stone and gems were embedded very deep inside. Harry wondered if the junk shop lady knew what she sold him.
As she made progress, anticipation about what was in the central compartment, as they now knew there was a storage area in the center, built to a fever pitch.
And then one day she solved it. Harry was arguing with Ron about whether or not kilts were emasculating in modern culture when it happened. There was a pop, then a sliding sound as she pushed the last piece home, and finally a chirp like a sparrow in springtime. They went silent and turned to look at Rose.
With the puzzle cupped in her palms, she stared down in wonder at something only she could see. They crowded around her and saw that the central compartment contained a round stone. It was perfectly spherical, and a bright green color that Harry recognized as jade.
"Whoa…" Ron breathed, making his daughter giggle.
A pattern of veins done in gold and some black metal Harry couldn't identify wrapped the sphere, making it look almost like an egg. Rose took it out, weighing it in her small hand. With her fingers closed tight, slivers of green peeped from between her fingers.
"It's really heavy."
She handed it to her father, and he weighed it as well. It felt heavier than it should have. He passed it to Harry.
Just before his fingers closed around it, Harry had a moment of doubt. A spark caught when his fingertip was a hair away from its surface. His eyes widened, and his lips parted to say something, anything…
It was dropped into his expectant hand and he howled as it lit up brightly from inside. A small sun had been hatched inside somehow. Harry felt numb suddenly, and light-headed. He swayed in place; eyes squeezed shut against the light. Ron was saying something, prying at his fingers. The jade seemed to pulse like a living thing in his hand.
Something went whoosh, and Harry's knees buckled. Before they could slam into the carpet, he vanished in a flash of still-brighter light.
End chapter 1