Finding a Place to Call Home
Moon: Hello, I'm back in the name of alternate pairings and new stories! Welcome to Finding a Place to Call Home, my second HarryxAstoria fic if you count Trouble (which was my first and possibly only harem). I've modified several parts of the story to keep from hitting cliches and common happenstances to make a more original story. I hope you like it! I do not own Harry Potter.
Chapter 1: Wild Child
"All the lies and pain you put me through, and now I know its not me its you." -Skillet, It's not Me its You
Harry wondered what prompted him to snap at Astoria Greengrass.
His last few weeks – ever since his name had come out of the Goblet of Fire – had been stressful and extremely unhappy. Walking out of yet another summer with the Dursleys, he had at least been hoping to keep up with his studies and stay out of the spotlight for his fourth year at Hogwarts. For once, there had been no warnings of impending doom, or threats to his person before he reached the school, which fooled him into thinking that nothing would go wrong this year.
He was looking forward to just sitting back and learning new things. Even Quidditch being cancelled didn't dampen his mood, despite how much he enjoyed the sport. Because he was so certain that, for once, nothing bad was going to happen to him. He was away from the Dursleys and with his best friends. Even classes with Severus Snape didn't threaten to ruin his year.
Of course, then he had gone to the Quidditch World Cup. And Death Eaters had attacked. Harry was beginning, at this point, to wonder if he was jinxed. Voldemort was supposed to be gone, he had beaten him twice. Now his followers were attacking an actual settlement, and for some reason no response teams had met them. Either way, the dark mark was in the sky and Harry was almost blamed for it. Like he was blamed for all kinds of stupid things.
He got to Hogwarts, and with the buzz of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the arrival of two other schools, Harry could almost forget about the disastrous end of the World Cup. For once, the other students and teachers would be watching someone else to incredible things.
Coming up to Halloween, Harry had begun to get nervous. He had a lot of bad associations with this day, the day his parents were murdered and he was consigned to life with the Dursleys, a short, bitter life with no friends and no safety, even when he got to a school where he should have been safe. The people there – they would have been friendly, and they usually were. Until something happened.
Like when McGonagall docked him and Ron over 100 points trying to save Hagrid from getting into serious trouble. Or when he was accused of being the Heir of Slytherin. And now.
Now, someone had put his name into a Tournament.
A Tri-Wizard Tournament, the winner getting eternal glory. Good grief. And they had Ron believing it this time, too. Hermione hadn't said she believed it, but she hadn't said anything, which was as good as the same thing.
Hufflepuff had been most vocal in their outrage, because clearly he was just there to upstage them now that they finally had a high-profile house member. God knows that no one would ever put Harry's name in without his permission. That had never happened. It wasn't like he had been in life-threatening situations before that no one could be bothered to protect him from.
What would Harry want with eternal glory? He was already the bloody brat-who-defeated Voldemort, that was more then enough for one person. Especially since it had earned him an assassination attempt when he was eleven.
He had enough of eternal glory; he despised it at this point. He would rather be Harry nobody then Harry Potter, boy-who-lived-to-have-a-target-painted-on-his-back.
Finally, after one particularly nasty taunt from Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot – those buttons that said Potter Stinks – Harry was fed up. He decided to isolate himself.
He didn't join the classes for meals; he ate in the kitchen with the help of Dobby. He stayed invisible in the hallway. He sat at the back of the class, never talking to anyone.
The task with the dragon had almost killed him. Some people seemed to be resentful that it hadn't. Ron and Hermione had tried to talk to him afterwards, but he had deftly dodged them. Just thinking about them hurt.
He barely slept at all these days, just going outside and staring at the sky or hiding away in the library, reading books. Trying to numb the pain and loneliness. Wondering if there would ever be a place where he would be accepted, and not having to constantly look over his shoulder for the next wannabe dark lord supporter who wanted him dead in the name of blood purity.
Harry gave a bitter chuckle one dark night. Hadn't Vernon told him? Just before Vernon had sent him to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, he had told Harry that the wizards wouldn't want him either. Harry hadn't listened to him.
Now, obviously, he should have.
Harry hated it when Vernon was right about something.
It would be worth having never heard of magic, he thought, if it meant an end to this pain.
The very next day, as if someone had overheard his wish, Harry ended up meeting someone. Someone different.
Harry was reading in a corner when he heard footsteps approaching. His eyes flicked up just over the rim of the Potions textbook he had been reading to pass the time. If Snape hadn't been such a cruel teacher, he probably would have enjoyed the subject.
The green trim of her robe identified her as a Slytherin, and he couldn't repress a groan. Great. She was probably one of Malfoy's fangirls, or Pansy's group of followers who lashed out with cruel words and curses for the chance to be her friend. And he'd had been so certain that the Slytherins wouldn't come into this part of the library.
"Oh, please don't sigh like that." The Slytherin said, sounding a little hurt. Her voice was nicer and gentler then he'd been expecting. "I'm not a bully."
Harry blinked, and looked up at the girl's face.
She was young, perhaps a year younger then Harry himself. And she was beautiful. Her skin was light, and her face had an aristocratic carve to it characteristic of a pureblood. She had high cheekbones and bright green eyes. Her hair was wild and blonde, very meticulously pulled together by two long braids going down her back. The school robes made it a bit difficult to tell, but she was well-built for a girl her age. There were a pair of sparkling ruby earrings dangling from her ears.
"I can't remember the last time I had a conversation with someone who wasn't." Harry responded after a few minutes. His voice was scratchy, because he hadn't been using it very often over the past few weeks.
The girl looked sympathetically at him. Harry wondered if he was imagining things – that this girl was just a figment of his mind, trying to stave off his loneliness. "I was wondering where you were disappearing to – I mean, I used to see you all the time in the halls, but now, it's like your a ghost."
"It's not worth being anything else," Harry said.
He hadn't meant for the words to be so bitter, but he could taste it on the words as soon as they left his mouth. In front of him, the girl's green eyes became sad, through there was a warmth in them Harry never would have associated with a Slytherin. Or a pureblood, for that matter. Of all the pureblood girls he had seen – Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor – they all had a frigid, controlled coldness to their eyes. He found it profoundly unsettling.
"I'm sorry to hear that." She said, and she actually sounded like she meant it. Not like Hermione these days, who's sympathy had some contempt dripping off it. The girl looked around the pile of books. "Do you mind if I stay here for a little? I thought you might be getting lonely."
Now Harry was really taken aback; no one had asked about his wellbeing or his feelings ever since he was picked as the 'Fourth Contender'. No one had worried about how he might have been suffering. And he didn't even know this girl.
"Uh..." What a question. Harry was momentarily confused, he had gotten used to being alone and he wasn't sure if this was some sort of deception. But he couldn't deny that his isolation was wearing on him quite hard. After a second, he made up his mind. "Thank you."
The girl smiled and delicately picked her way through the books he had accumulated, careful not to knock anything over, and sat on the floor next to Harry. "Reading up on Potions?" She asked lightly, "I don't blame you. Professor Snape is a slave driver; I've never heard of a teacher working us so hard."
"Are you kidding? Your the class he likes," Harry said resentfully. "He's extra hard on us, and Merlin alone knows why he hates me. I'm surprised I've managed to pass his classes at all."
The girl shrugged. "My dad told me a few times that Professor Snape had been bullied really badly by the Gryffindors when he was in school here, because he always seemed so battered and messy."
Harry's eyebrows shot up. He'd never heard of Gryffindor bullies; whenever something went wrong at school here the Slytherins were always the ones who 'started' it. The Gryffindors were always the noble gryffins getting retribution on 'dark' wizards. Now he wondered if the gryffs were being allowed off the hook on a few things that the other houses wouldn't have been allowed to get away with.
"Who are you?" He asked her eventually, realizing he still didn't know who he was talking to.
"Astoria Greengrass," The girl responded, smiling at him. "Hello, Harry."
"Greengrass." Harry muttered, placing the name. He stood up abruptly. "Is that why you're talking to me?"
"Huh?" Astoria asked, looking baffled.
Harry scowled at her. "Your sister Daphne is always in with Pansy Parkinson when she's bullying people, and Pansy's hated me since first year."
Astoria's eyes widened in understanding, "No, no Harry, it's not what you think. I promise, I'm just here by myself. You can preform a supersensory charm if you don't believe me."
"Supersensory?" Harry repeated, temporarily derailed.
"You don't know it? I was taught it during summer after first year. It allows you to hear everything around you even if you can't see it. Aurors often use it to root out criminals."
"I-I never learned it." Harry said, baffled. This only served to confirm his suspicions – pure blood children got training that others didn't. And once again, the stacked nature of the society he was in reared its head.
Astoria stood up at this point, "I can show you." She offered. "It's easy."
Harry slowly raised his wand hand. This conversation wasn't going the way he had expected it too; he would have expected Pansy to have tried to hex him at this point. But Astoria seemed to genuinely be alone, and she was offering to prove it. Astoria told him the incantation, and he got it on his first try. Supersensory felt different; his hearing felt so sharp he could hear a bird flapping its wings out in the yard. But no sign of Pansy or her groupies.
Harry cancelled the charm. "Wow," He murmured.
Astoria smiled. "See?"
Harry looked back at the blonde girl. "Look, I'm sorry-"
Astoria shook her head. "It's okay. I know my big sister's been hanging around with Pansy. Dad is always telling us to network with other children of our class, to build important ties to the future pure-bloods."
Harry sat down again. He let out a frustrated growl. "High standing this, purity that! God, do they really think that's all the world has to offer?"
"But it's my family's tradition. The tradition of the country." Astoria said in confusion.
Harry scowled up at her. "Haven't you wondered if there's more to the world then a wannabe dark lord and a prejudiced, backwards society?"
He hadn't meant to shout it, but his words rang through the hallway with the force of a gong. Astoria stared at him. Her eyes seemed glassy for a second – like an inner certainty had just come crashing down. Harry took in what he had just said, and groaned.
"I mean..." He muttered, "Is bloody squabbling over whether or not your blood is pure enough to be a 'real' wizard all the magical world has to offer? Is violent powerplays between two equally manipulative old men a world-wide thing? Is being an Auror the only career you can really look forward too? Is a lifetime of avoiding the next dark lord all I have to look forward too...?"
He stared at the wall, almost forgetting Astoria was there, his heart sinking.
Was there anything else out there? To him, there was always only two choices in his life. Dumbledore and Voldemort. Blood purity or being a blood traitor. Being the boy-who-lived. Growing up to be an Auror, just like his dad.
Did he have any plans that weren't based in Britain's past? He'd come to Hogwarts because it was the school his parents had grown up in...but what did he actually know about his parents? What ties did he have to the world they had lived in? Why did he have to live his father's life out? Everyone kept telling him about how he was just like his father...
Was there any Harry inside him? Or was he just the boy who lived and the son of James Potter?
What about his mother? Did he know anything about her? All he knew – all he truly knew was that she had died for him. Why, exactly, did he have to stay where she had gone to school?
All Harry really wanted were friends and a loving place to call home. It was all he ever wanted when he finally had an escape from the Dursleys. This place wasn't loving.
So why was he staying.
There was a soft rustle as Astoria sat down next to him.
"You know?" She murmured. "That's a good question."
Harry glanced at her. "What do you mean?"
Astoria sighed. "My big sister...my big sister is like a glass doll. Sit here, sit there, find yourself a good match, anyone as long as his blood is pure. Go to dances where people will yammer on about mother's new mansion and father's new position, and come home to an empty house full of gold and jewels colder then ice.
She wrapped her arms around her legs. "Daphne wasn't always like that. She wasn't always like Pansy. But she's growing colder like she's turning into glass. She doesn't smile as much anymore."
"You mean..." Harry hesitated. He couldn't remember Daphne as ever having a smile on her face. Had she not always been like that? And if so, why would she change? "Women are like trophies in pureblood society?"
"We're instruments to the family's legacy, as Pansy's dad says." Astoria sounded like she had recited the phrase many times. "It's our honour and our duty." She sighed and leaned back against the bookshelf. "I keep telling myself that I won't be like the other girls. I'll get a career and find something I love doing. Go out and see places. My mum was like that too; she was a lot of fun. But dad's starting to put pressure on me. Find someone, anyone upstanding. Like he's thinking something bad is going to happen."
"Something bad did happen at the Quidditch World Cup," Harry said darkly. "Voldemort-" Astoria flinched when she heard the name "-'s followers attacked, they came out in the open. They wouldn't have that kind of confidence unless they thought they could get away with it." He scowled. "And I bet a lot of those purebloods he wants you to 'network' with are in his pocket."
Astoria lowered her head, staring at her knees. "My dad didn't support him," She muttered. "There aren't many options left."
"Of course you have options!" Harry exclaimed.
"I think-" Astoria raised her head slightly to look around, as though she feared what she was about to say. "-I mean, I've been hearing...that pureblood society is getting smaller. I haven't met very many families as pure as mine. There are more balls, and some older girls hardly leave their houses anymore because they're afraid of miscarrying."
"Then leave," Harry said. "Get close to a half-blood if marrying a muggleborn is such a horrifying thought."
Astoria giggled. "I think Pansy would have a stroke if you suggested that." She said. "She only has eyes for Draco. She can have him, frankly. My dad seems to think that Draco would be a safe bet for my future."
She made a face when she said this. Harry gave her an exaggerated expression of horror, though it wasn't entirely comical. He tried to imagine being married to Draco Malfoy and winced. "The horror! You poor, poor girl."
Astoria started laughing again, and for some reason her laugh made Harry's insides tingle. "I said something similar to that when he first suggested it. Daphne looked at me like I'd gone mad. She said, 'who's your other choice? A Weasley?'"
"She makes it sound like that's a bad thing," Harry said dryly. "Though if she was referring to Ron, I can see where she's coming from..." There was a pause and then they laughed again.
Astoria looked wistfully at Harry. "It's funny, I guess." She said. "There really isn't much there for the purebloods, despite how much they talk up their lives. The rooms in our mansion just feel empty."
Harry looked out the window. "I wonder if other places do it differently." He said. "I mean, other countries."
Astoria paused for a second. Then her eyes lit up. "That's it! We can run off together!"
Harry was so startled by this declaration that he simply stared at Astoria for a moment. "W-what?"
"Really, Harry!" Astoria rolled onto her knees and put a hand on his. "You don't want to compete in this tournament. I want to see the world. Neither of us want to put up with these selfish jerks talking trash about you. We can run off and go to other countries and see how the rest of the world works!"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Harry protested. "We only know each other through an hour long conversation! This is crazy!"
"I know!" Astoria said brightly. "That's why it feels so right! And no one will see it coming. There's got to be some way we can pull this off. We should access your vault!"
"Wait!" Harry exclaimed. Astoria looked like she was going to run off any second, and the sheer enormity of what she was suggesting was enough to send his mind spinning. "Won't people be watching my vault at Gringotts? I mean, it can be traced, right? And I'm still a minor."
"Oh," Astoria seemed to deflate for a second, and then suddenly she was energized again. "How about your mother?"
"I might be remembering wrong, but I think Lily Evans didn't feel comfortable leaving her only vault in Gringotts for some reason. So she set up her personal account with the Gnomes."
"Gnomes?" Harry echoed blankly.
"Yes! They operate out of...Switzerland, if I'm remembering correctly. It'll be yours now because your her only child." Astoria said, the gears in her brain clearly turning.
"How would you know about that?" Harry asked, blinking and wondering why he hadn't heard about this account before.
"She's not the only muggleborn who felt that way; I heard about it from others." Astoria explained, her eyes were shining now.
"B-But what will your father think? You, running off with me to Merlin knows where for a long period of time?" Harry protested, trying to find some way of addressing the insanity of her plan.
"Me and Daphne are his only children. And he said he would never remarry. He'll be mad for a little, but he'll take me back." Astoria sounded confident when she said this, but her eyes twitched slightly. "I want to do something before I have to be a glass doll for the rest of my life."
Harry thought about that. Those words stuck a chord in him. He had never really lived his life – life with the Durlseys really didn't count as life. And here...here he was always dodging resentful looks, bullying and attempted murder.
Why shouldn't he run off with some girl he barely knew? Sure, it might seen certifiably insane, but really, compared to other things he had done it wasn't the worse. After all, it wasn't any more insane then helping a wanted criminal escape from dementors – it was probably a little safer, actually.
Could it really be as bad as everything he's had to put up with in his life?
It would get him away from here – away from the pain of the betrayal of his friends, away from the anger and away from the near deadly tasks. He could leave it all behind and see the sights with a pretty wild girl.
Harry stood up and asked Astoria, "Where do you want to go?"
Astoria's eyes lit up. "Australia! I want to see the beaches! And the attractions!"
Harry gestured vaguely with his hands, still not quite believing he was actually agreeing to this, and said, "Alright. How exactly do I contact these gnomes?"
Harry turned over a travel pamphlet for Australia. There were magical railroads that crossed the countryside, leading to a ferry that would take them there. He and Astoria had bought their seats together – first class.
He traced the path with his finger. Seemed simple enough; they weren't likely to get lost. The problem was getting far enough outside the Hogwarts ward lines that they could use the portkey he had bought.
Getting in contact with the Gnomes was a bit of a hassle, including confirming his identity, but he'd reached them eventually. They'd connected him to Lily Evans and he'd been able to make a withdrawal. His mother had done quite well for herself, apparently, but that was likely because some of James's money had been moved there as well. There was plenty for an around the world journey.
Harry had decided they would travel by pseudonyms. The Gnomes had them listed on all travels as Harry Evans and Astoria Dursley, cousins. If he could just hide that scar, no one would be wiser. He sat up in the middle of the night, his stomach alive with nerves, as he memorized the glamour spell on the page in front of him. Then he grabbed his trunk.
It was hard, keeping the invisibility cloak over him and his trunk as he headed for the entrance. The trunk's wheels seemed much louder then usual.
Eventually he got to the front gate. For a second he thought Astoria wasn't coming, but then she scurried down the hall, trunk skidding silently behind her.
"Sorry," She whispered. "Nearly got caught by that wretched cat." She smiled at him. Her hair was out of those tight braids, falling around her face like a messy halo. Harry's heart skipped a beat.
"Shall we go?" Astoria whispered.
"Yes." He said, pushing the door open. "Let's."
What do you think? If Astoria's decision to take off with Harry seems very sudden, good - that's part of her character. She's a wild thing, willing to make sudden decisions with long-lasting ripples. She wants to get away from her future and go somewhere with Harry - someone different, someone interesting, someone her father wouldn't approve of. Harry decides to go along with it because a) he's tired of the way he's being treated and b) he feels drawn to Astoria's spur of the moment decisions.
Next chapter deals with the characters reacting to Harry's disappearance. They'll be getting their dues in good time.
Read and Review please!