Chapter 1: Seeing is Believing
WE LIVE, WE LOVE, WE LIE, by suchsweetaddiction
Is this a place that I call home
To find what I’ve become
Walk along the path unknown
We live, we love, we lie.
Deep in the dark I don’t need the light
There’s a ghost inside me
It all belongs to the other side
We live, we love, we lie.
The Spectre – Alan Walker
‘’I thought I knew the world. I thought I knew myself. I thought I knew my dearest friend. But I knew nothing at all.’’ – Estrella de Madrigal
Chapter I – Seeing is believing
Harry Potter walked quickly and silently towards the Hogwarts Express, glaring at everyone who dared to look his way. He was in no mood to talk to anyone.
Since the fiasco at the Department of Mysteries three days ago, the whole school – and the entire Wizarding World for that matter – finally believed that the Boy-Who-Lived actually had been telling the truth about the return of Lord Voldemort for the last school year.
Conveniently, everyone chose to forget that until a few days ago, Harry Potter was considered an attention seeker brat and a liar. And now, after the shocking and terrifying news in the front page of The Daily Prophet, which freshly labelled him as The Chosen One, everyone expected Harry to be their saviour all over again.
Harry snorted, utterly disgusted.
The magical people were so fickle and pathetic, really. They preferred to blindly believe until the last crucial moment that everything was well in their world and there was nothing to worry about. That is, until they received such a rude wake-up call to reality, that was impossible de deny any longer, no matter how hard they tried.
In Harry’s opinion, they brought the meaning of denial to a whole new level. They believed everything that rag that passed for a newspaper printed. They remembered him of sheep, always following their shepherd without question. And Harry was supposed to save them for the big bad wolf who threatened to upset their rose-coloured life of ignorance and mindless stupidity.
Shaking his head as though he was shooing this thoughts away, Harry stepped inside the train and set about searching for an empty compartment, thanking Merlin that he was one of the first students to arrive at Hogsmeade Station.
There was at least another hour until the train was secluded to depart. He had much to think about and wanted to be alone for the longest time possible. Not that he expected to make any real advance in the mess that was his mind, though.
Ever since the moment he had stormed out of Dumbledore’s office the other night, Harry felt a niggling in the back of his mind that bothered him. He couldn’t really put his finger on it, but it was like something important that he had forgotten, and try as he might he simply couldn’t understand what that was about. And if that wasn’t enough already, his moods swings and his thoughts had been so confusing that he was feeling frustrated with himself beyond reason.
One moment, all Harry wanted, was to cry and grieve for the death of Sirius Black, his godfather and the only person he had ever truly considered as family (his muggle relatives definitely didn’t count). He blamed himself for what happened that night. Despite the fact that it had been Bellatrix Lestrange who had cast the curse that made him fall through the Veil, it was Harry’s fault that Sirius was there fighting. If only he had learned to Occlude his mind, his godfather would be still alive.
But, in the next moment, all he could think about was that he was royally pissed – mostly, at Albus Dumbledore. The old man’s only excuse for the tragic situation was that he had wished to shelter the boy from the outer world, to guard his innocence just a little longer, for he knew what would be expected of Harry once he was told of his destiny.
Harry wanted to scoff derisively at the mention of his innocence and enjoying his childhood. Surely, Dumbledore was mocking him when he said that.
Ever since Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, the great and almighty Headmaster knew that his precious Boy-Who-Lived was not happy with his muggle family, thought Harry with no little amount of sarcasm. After the entire debacle with the Philosopher’s Stone at the end of that school year, the boy had told Dumbledore that his relatives were far from caring and often down right abusive towards him. Hell, he had even showed him some of the scars that he had acquired over the years, all of them from his uncle and cousin’s violent actions.
But no, the only answer the boy had gotten from his ashamed revelation was: ‘surely, it is not that bad, Harry. If you put in some effort, you will see that is all just a slight misunderstanding between you and your family. I am certain that all will work out in the end’. Then Harry was sent on his merry way with a twinkling-eyed smile and a wish of ‘happy holydays, dear boy’.
And every year after that, his pleas were always treated in the same careless fashion.
Though after third year, Harry had given up. Finally, he came to the conclusion that Dumbledore simply didn’t care or couldn’t be bothered if one of his students had to suffer a little bit at home. Or like the final time that Harry had decided to try, he was reproachfully told that ‘Harry, you cannot keep trying to gain attention from others by defaming your relatives. You are old enough to know that your attitude is unbecoming and it’s not right to behave this way. I am sure you are exaggerating and you will be not excused the next time you try to talk about your family like this’.
It was at that exact moment (and during forth year just strengthened that conviction), that Harry started to lose faith that someone in Hogwarts, or anywhere, really cared what happened to him. All anyone would see when looking at Harry Potter was what they wanted to see. He was first the Boy-Who-Lived, the Saviour of the Wizarding World, the Gryffindor Golden Boy, lately an attention-seeking brat and liar, the Ministry Scape Goat and, last but not least, the Chosen One, when rumours about a prophecy were printed on The Daily Prophet.
If only the Headmaster had told him of the Prophecy years ago and not hide everything that concerned Harry, they would not be in this situation right now. With all his apparently misplaced concerns that Harry was too young and wanting him to enjoy just a little longer his childhood without the weight of Voldemort on his shoulders, the Headmaster ended making his life a lot worse than it already was.
But the teenager should be used to that by now, right? It was not like it was the first time that someone hid something important from him.
For Harry’s own good, of course! (Please, note the sarcasm.)
After all, he was just some little normal boy who had never dealt with death-threatening situations or, Merlin forbid, with the Dark Lord Voldemort himself. So no, Harry didn’t need to know anything of what really transpired in the outer world of the all-knowing adults. They always knew better, after all.
This train of thought led him to last summer.
He still hadn’t forgiven completely his friends for leaving him rotting in his personal hell for the great part of the summer holydays without any news of what was happening concerning Voldemort’s presumed plans, not even the tiniest bit of information about anything else for that matter.
Personally, the excuse that Dumbledore had forbidden them of sending Harry letters in order to protect him against the Death Eaters was not enough for him. Honestly, it was not like the three friends always did what they were told. How many rules were broken by them each and every school year? For all her great intelligence, Hermione never thought in calling him by using the telephone. Harry was sure that there were not Death Eaters listening in the Dursley’s phone calls.
Just the mere idea made him laugh – it was so absurd!
But the real question was: did Hermione not really think about that or she simply did not care enough to bother even trying?
When Harry had finally been allowed to be free from the not-so-tender mercies of his relatives, not forgetting the whole situation with Dementors (he avoided thinking with all his might what had happened to him after his uncle had seen the state Dudley had entered the house that night, as it was far from pretty and pleasant), the threat of expulsion and the farce of a trial where he was questioned like a seasoned Death Eater, he had confronted his best friends about their silence during the last weeks and he was not happy with the answers he got. Hermione dismissed his rant and simply told him quite matter-of-factly that ‘Headmaster Dumbledore knows best, Harry. It was just a few weeks, and it was for your own protection, no need to be moody about that’. And Ron’s excuse was no better. Moaning something about Harry being lucky not being forced to clean the Headquarters all day ever since stepping foot in Grimmauld Place by his mother.
Well, Harry certainly would have preferred cleaning the huge, grimy house all summer long than being used as a punch bag and a house-elf by his family any day, but chose not saying it out loud. He knew from past experience that his comments would not change a thing and he just gave up on the conversation. Not that it meant that Harry was appeased by any means, but he knew when he wasn’t going anywhere and might as well just quit while he was ahead if only to avoid another headache.
And then all the following school year was an utterly nightmare.
Honestly, the teenager thought that after all that happened with the Triwizard Tournament debacle, it was not possible to have a year worse than that.
But, Merlin, was he wrong.
Between that bitch Umbridge with her sickly-sweet taunts and awful blood quill, Snape with the disastrous Occlumency lessons, Voldemort with nightly nightmares and the DA with all the secrecy and stress of teaching dozens of students defensive spells, Harry was not sure how he had been capable of even functioning coherently and surviving without a major break-down. And then, just to prove to him that all that simply wasn’t still enough, he had to fall prey to Voldemort’s mind trap into going to the Ministry of Magic to save his godfather from certain torture and death.
So, Harry felt that he had more than enough reasons to be in no mood to be around whomever.
He had rarely talked with his friends after he had visited them in the Hospital Wing. His head felt like a bad brewed potion waiting to explode any second, with all thoughts and feelings jumbled, racing around his mind. He had taken to spend the last few days of term around the Black Lake, mostly hidden from view with only the Giant Squid as occasional company. For the major part of the day, he was left alone and he was thankful for that.
Only Luna had found him during the afternoons. The first time, he was all for sending her away, but Luna being Luna, just sat there on the ground next to him, passed him a little basket and simply said ‘Eat!’ in an unusual no-nonsense tone. She said nothing else after that, respecting his desire for quiet solitude. The two remained there until dinner time, in a comfortable silence with the boy taking a few occasional bites of the snack taken from the basket.
The following days passed in the same fashion, both teenagers seemingly content lost within their own thoughts.
And now here Harry was, moody and resigned to once again go back to Privet Drive for another dose of his own personal hell on earth.
Not for the first time, he wondered what would happen if he had enough audacity to just take his trunk (this year, he had finally wised up and bought a new trunk with feather-light and self-resizing charms that he could shrink and enlarge at will with just a password and a tap of his finger. Harry thought it was genius, that way he could keep it hidden from his relatives without a need to use magic) and disappear without contacting anyone for the summer. Surely, Dumbledore and his Order would be in panic to find his precious weapon, he thought chuckling darkly in his head.
‘’Hi, Harry!’’, called someone, bringing the boy back from his musings. He looked up and saw Luna at the door of the compartment, with a serious expression on her face. ‘’Can I talk to you for a moment?’’
Harry was quickly alert, Luna rarely looked serious.
‘’Sure. Did something happen?’’
Luna stepped inside without answering and closed the door. When she was seated next to him, she grabbed both his hands in hers and looked him straight in the eyes.
‘’Do you trust me?’’
‘’What?’’, asked Harry confused. He was starting to get worried.
Luna took in a deep breath as if she was gaining courage and slowly let it out, never wavering her gaze from her friend.
‘’You will need to see something important, but I’m worried that you’ll do something that you’ll regret,‘’ she explained, squeezing his hands. ‘’It will not be pleasant.’’
Harry was more confused than ever.
‘’What are you talking about? I don’t understand, Luna.’’
‘’You know when sometimes I just know things without anyone telling me?’’ she asked instead, not changing expression.
‘’Yeah. For a while, I thought you were some sort of Seer or something like that,’’ confessed Harry, frowning. He was starting to get a really bad feeling about this.
Luna smiled for a second before turning serious again.
‘’Well, you are not far from the truth, Harry. I’ll explain better later but just know that I consider you one of my best friends and I would never do something to harm you.’’
‘’Thanks, Luna,’’ said Harry smiling briefly. Despite his growing bewilderment, he knew the blonde girl was telling the truth. ‘’But you are worrying me. Just tell me what you need me to do.’’
‘’I know that something will happen that you absolutely need to know about, otherwise you will suffer greatly when finally the truth will be discovered. I dreamed about it and could tell you, but honestly I doubt you would believe me. Sorry, but it’s really something that you need to see to believe and even then I think that will be hard.’’
Harry was speechless for a moment. He didn’t doubt the girl’s words; as he had just said, he had suspected that his blonde friend had some kind of clairvoyant skills. He was just having a hard time accepting that there could be something concerning him that he could react like that. But, a voice in his head was quick to counter, since when anything that happens to Harry Potter could not be considered shocking or at least abnormal by someone else’s standards?
‘’Alright, Luna, I believe you. What do you need me to do?’’, he asked, squaring his shoulders after taking a deep breath.
Luna nodded to herself and stood up.
‘’Do you have your Invisibility Cloak with you? Can you put it on?’’
Harry didn’t understand anything anymore, but he trusted his friend, so he re-sized his trunk, hissed his password in parseltongue to open it and took his cloak out. Obediently, he put it on, after placing his shrunk trunk back in his pocket.
‘’I’m going to hide underneath your cloak too and cast a silencing spell on us so nobody will hear us. Then we need to go quickly to an empty compartment at the end of the train. And then I’m going to cast Petrificus Totalus on you. You need to hear what the people who are going to sit there have to say.’’
‘’What? Why?’’, demanded the black haired wizard, surprised.
‘’Harry, you need to understand that what you are going to hear in there is beyond shocking. I’m not exaggerating. The next hours will be life changing for you. So we must stay completely invisible and silent, at all costs. I’m sure that once you begin to hear some of things in there, you will not react well. You will be furious and you will not be listening to reason until is too late.’’
The boy opened his mouth and a second later closed it when no sound came out. Luna was right. If this revelation was as bad as she put it, he was sure that he would act like a reckless Gryffindor and throw caution to the window, consequences be damned. It was practically his Modus Operandi.
‘’Ok, but let me say that you are not reassuring me, Luna. I’m almost afraid of what I’ll find out,’’ agreed Harry at last. He was not happy with this situation, but conceded that she was right in wanting to take precautions.
‘’I know, Harry. If I could, I’d make it easier for you. But I think you are going to thank me in the end,’’ she said with a sad smile, hugging him for a moment.
Luna casted a Tempus showing that it was twenty minutes till eleven.
‘’Ok, we need to move on. Remember what I said. I’ll explain all I can later when we are alone again.’’
With that, Luna stepped underneath the Invisibility Cloak and casted a silencing charm around them. They left their compartment quickly and silently after that and walked towards the end of the train. Luna stopped suddenly and after a second or two, they entered another empty compartment and moved towards the farthest corner of the room.
‘’Harry, we need to sit on the floor, there in the corner. Like that, we occupy less space and hopefully we’ll be completely out of the way,’’ explained Luna with a nudge to Harry’s side.
The boy complied and then all that they could do was waiting.
‘’Ok, remember that I’m on your side and I care a lot about you,’’ she said suddenly and the next moment casted the spell on Harry.
Right after that, the door opened and Hermione, Ron and Ginny stepped in the compartment, each one with their own school trunk in tow.
Even if Harry had been able to move at that moment, he was sure that he wouldn’t, he was that shocked. Sure, from Luna’s cryptic words, he had expected to listen in some revealing conversation between fellow students, but he had imagined that would be Malfoy or other Slytherins talking about Voldemort or Death Eaters’ plans. It had never occurred to him that Luna was preparing him to witness something that he definitely wouldn’t like between his best friends.
He felt Luna laying one arm around his shoulders and squeeze gently as though grounding him.
‘’Finally!’’, Ron huffed, gracelessly launching himself into a seat, after putting his trunk in the racks above. ‘’I tell you, if I had to stay another day here, I would turn crazy.’’
‘’Yeah, I am glad too. My subtle advances on Harry were all for naught all year and since the Ministry he’s been avoiding us like the plague,’’ agreed his sister, clearly not happy at all, as she took a seat as well, though she was much more refined about it. ‘’I’m beyond frustrated. Honestly, I don’t understand what his problem is. It’s not like he and Sirius were that close to begin with. And it is Harry’s fault that Sirius died anyway, so why was he furious with Dumbledore?’’
‘’He probably just wanted to blame someone else for his own blunders, as usual,’’ Hermione remarked offhandedly in a haughty tone. ‘’Anyway, the Headmaster said it was actually a good thing that Sirius died, he was putting stupid ideas in Harry’s head and he was starting to get suspicious of the Headmaster. Harry can’t even dream what we are doing. To him, we are his best friends with his best interest at heart.’’
‘’Yeah, right, apart from the little detail that he’s paying us since first year without even knowing about it. I think we should demand a raise, though. This Boy-Who-Live business is getting more dangerous than I expected and we deserve to receive more money for risking our lives for him.’’
‘’You’re right. Next time, we should talk with Professor Dumbledore about that. By the way, Ginny, did the headmaster already file your marriage contract?’’
‘’He said that he was going to visit the Burrow this week with the papers for mum to sign. She’s going to teach me how to brew that love potion that you found in the Restricted Section. I can’t wait to be Mrs. Potter,’’ sighed Ginny dreamily. ‘’Imagine all the money and fame that I will have.’’
‘’Don’t forget it’s not just yours, Gin. It’s for all of us too,’’ protested his brother with greed and jealousy. ‘’I’m tired of being poor when Potter has all that money and doesn’t even care. And now with the Black fortune he will be insanely rich.’’
‘’Don’t mention that in front of him, Ronald. Harry doesn’t know that Sirius has named him his heir in his will and we must keep him in the dark for as long as we can,’’ warned Hermione sternly. ‘’We can’t have him think that now that he’s the Black Heir and future Lord he can do as he pleases. He must continue at the Dursley’s under the thumb of his uncle, meek and submissive and completely ignorant of our plans.’’
‘’Relax, ‘Mione, I’m not stupid,’’ said Ron, rolling his eyes. ‘’Anyway, we will only see him next school year, remember? Dumbledore said he was letting Potter stay at the muggles’ all summer. He’s in for a long holyday,’’ added the boy, snickering darkly. ‘’His relatives already know that Sirius is dead, and now Potter doesn’t have a thing that will protect him from their wrath. Next September, he will be so relieved to see us and return to Hogwarts again that he won’t even have a bad thought about his best friends and the great headmaster in his head.’’
‘’Be that as it may, Ronald, we need to be careful. We still have the journey until King’s Cross to get over with,’’ pointed out Hermione, all business. ‘’By the way, where is Harry?’’
‘’I saw him leave the common room early this morning; he didn’t even noticed me when he passed me by. He should already be here somewhere,’’ Ginny informed them, shrugging.
‘’I think we should go find him. After all, we are his best friends and we won’t see each other until next school year,’’ decided Hermione with a smirk. ‘’We need to reassure him that we will be writing him if the good headmaster will allow us. All for his own protection, of course!’’
All of them laughed at that and stood up.
‘’Yeah, his rant last summer was amusing,’’ agreed Ron still chuckling, ‘’like Dumbledore has no other forms of contact apart from owl post that we can use.’’
Ginny opened the door and peeked outside.
‘’I’ll go search for him in the rest of the compartments at the end of the train and you’ll go to the front,’’ decided Ginny, stepping outside. ‘’And when of us find him, we return here.’’
‘’Alright. Our shift to patrol the train is not until after lunchtime,’’ agreed Hermione, mentally checking her Prefect seclude. ‘’Come on, Ron.’’
All three friends left the room and closed the door behind them, parting in opposite ways to search for the missing Boy-Who-Lived.
Harry’s mind was blank; he was so utterly shocked that he felt numb. He didn’t even notice Luna casting locking and silencing charms at the door before removing the Cloak from around the both of them. He just reacted minutely when the girl ended the body-binding curse she had previously put on him by letting his head fall against the wall and blinking slowly.
‘’Harry?’’, called Luna, her tone worried. She shifted until she was directly in front of her friend and took his hands in hers once again. ‘’Are you alright?’’
‘’How...? What…?’’, the boy started, only to become silent again. He couldn’t utter a single sentence right now. He could finally understand what she meant when she had said that he had to see it to believe it.
He felt torn in different directions all at once. He wanted to get up, pull out his wand, go after the three Gryffindors and curse them into oblivion, rather painfully. He wanted to leave the train right now, march up to the castle and shout and accuse the old man with a few choice words and, if at all possible, curse him agonizingly too into oblivion and beyond. He wanted to curl up right there on the floor and cry his misery, grief and betrayal away. He wanted to disappear right now to somewhere faraway and simply forget that he had ever heard of the magical world and let them all to Voldemort’s murderous plans. But what he really wished that he could do right now was to take his revenge on everyone that had let him down, whether with false kindness and support or hurtful accusations and lies.
‘’Luna, what should I do?’’, Harry asked, at last, at the end of his rope, his eyes showing the loss and despair he was feeling inside.
The girl regarded him with an unusual thoughtful and concerned face, squeezed his hands and asked in a very serious voice. ‘’What you do feel like doing? Tell me,’’ she demanded when he made to let go of her strong grip. ‘’Whatever it is, I’ll help you. Remember, I said that I’ll be on your side, no matter what.’’
‘’I…’’, Harry wavered, as he studied, at the moment, his only friend. Her expression was open, sincere and understanding. ‘’I want to make them all pay,’’ he finally confessed, his voice growing hard as he spoke and gained confidence in his words. ‘’I don’t want to be the naïve and pathetic Boy-Who-Lived anymore.’’
Chapter 2: Living a Lie
‘’His life in general had been a neatly wrapped package of lies.’’ – Elizabeth Brundage, ‘Somebody Else’s Daughter’
Chapter II – Living a lie
‘’Alright,’’ Luna simply consented with her usual smile, surprising the boy. ‘’I had a feeling that your answer would be something like that and made some plans to that end.’’
‘’Plans?’’, the Gryffindor simply asked, still shocked with her calm attitude.
‘’Yes. I talked with Dobby before leaving the castle and he assured me that he could take you anywhere you needed to go. As a matter of fact, I asked him if it was possible to take you directly to Gringotts and he confirmed it.’’
Harry didn’t say anything, he just nodded slowly at her, as he was rather stunned (in a positive way) at her practicability and decisiveness. She took it as a sign to continue explaining.
‘’You’ll go to the bank and talk with the goblins about your vaults. If you are the Black Heir, you can demand emancipation,’’ she said matter-of-factly. Harry froze at that and silently questioned her with his eyes. ‘’When a wizard or witch is the last heir to two or more pureblood families, they can claim their inheritance early, at the age of fifteen actually. This law was created a long time ago as a measure to prevent the extinction of the pureblood families. If the heir can take the mantle of the family early on, he or she may marry early as well and have offspring or they can appoint someone else as their own heir if they wish so. That last part depends of each family’s bylaws, though. There are different requirements that needed to be met so an outsider can even be considered a suitable heir in the first place.
‘’Anyway, this means that if you accept the Potter and Black Lordships, you’ll be automatically free from the Dursley’s and Dumbledore’s clutches. There is nothing that anyone can do to prevent or revoke them, and that is, I guess, one of the reasons that you were not told of Sirius’ Will. Though you should have received a letter summoning you to the Will Reading, anyway.’’
She stopped for a second, thoughtfully. Harry mused idly that the Sorting Hat had been right in putting her in Ravenclaw; the girl was a fountain of knowledge, though she didn’t rub you in the face with it all the time, contrary to a certain Gryffindor girl.
‘’Have you ever received mail from Gringotts?’’
Harry didn’t even have to think about it, he could count in the fingers of both his hands the number of people he had ever received letters from: Hogwarts, Hagrid, Sirius, Hermione, Ron, the other Weasley’s (mainly Mrs. Weasley), Dumbledore and the Ministry. And that was just pitiful, he reckoned sullenly.
‘’No, I never received a single letter from them,’’ he answered, already suspecting of what his friend was going to say to that, and he didn’t like it at all.
‘’Well then, you shall tell the goblins that your correspondence has been intercepted by Dumbledore,’’ Luna merely stated, not seeming surprised. ‘’Here is what we are going to do. We are going to call Dobby and he will take you to Gringotts, after he delivers a letter to my father.’’
‘’Your father?’’, Harry simply asked, not understanding what Mr. Lovegood had to do with this.
‘’Of course. Do you think I’ll just abandon you to the goblins after this shocking news, silly? I’ll go with you and help you in any way I can, even if just to keep you company. I just need to tell daddy that we need to make a little detour before we go home. You’ll pop directly out of here with Dobby but I need to leave the train like everyone else so as not to raise any suspicions,’’ she explained patiently.
Luna was right, of course, Harry thought, as he watched her stand up, and he did the same. She called for Dobby and, as soon as the creature popped in, the house-elf almost threw himself at the ‘great Harry Potter, sir’ in boisterous happiness, before Luna skilfully distracted him from his exuberant antics. Whatever Harry decided to do to free himself, he couldn’t implicate Luna in his actions. After all he learned, Harry was certain that they wouldn’t care if they had to use her to get him back in their clutches.
‘’If we are lucky enough, they’ll suspect that I’ve been kidnapped by Death Eaters and we’ll gain some time to do what we need without anyone the wiser,’’ Harry said thoughtfully, before beaming at his only friend for the first time and momentarily forgetting his troubles. ‘’Brilliant, Luna! I have never doubted that you were an excellent Ravenclaw. This moment only serves to confirm my beliefs.’’
‘’Flattering will get you everywhere, Harry,’’ the girl teased, happy that her friend was feeling better. Then she turned serious again. ‘’Do you want to go right now to the bank or you prefer that I accompany you right from the start?’’
Harry hesitated. He was all for going to Gringotts and just be done with it, but he feared that there were still more unpleasant news to come and it would be nice to have Luna at his side for support. With everything that he now knew, he would be having a hard time trusting anyone and starting second guessing everything that had happened up until now.
‘’If it’s no trouble, I’d like you to go into the bank with me,’’ he finally decided a little shyly. He hated feeling weak (and that was exactly how he was feeling at the moment), as he was so used to do everything alone that he felt somewhat awkward asking for help.
‘’Sure,’’ Luna just responded in usual dreamy manner, smiling at him.
‘’Is Dobby taking Harry Potter, sir, away now?’’, the house-elf asked eagerly, after popping back in, returning from delivering the letter to Mr. Lovegood, looking at the Boy-Who-Lived with his typical unadulterated adoration.
‘’There are still several hours before we reach London, so I’ll stay for now,’’ Harry answered fondly. Dobby was another that he could at all times count on. Even if his methods sometimes were not the best, the little elf always meant well. ‘’I’ve decided that I’ll stay with Luna for now and when we are almost at King’s Cross Station, I’ll call you to take me away and we’ll both wait for Luna and his father before going to Gringotts.’’
Dobby frowned at that.
‘’And if the bad people do something to Harry Potter, sir, before he can escape?’’, the elf fretfully asked, grasping at his long ears in anxiety.
‘’I’ll be under my Invisibility Cloak the whole time,’’ Harry assured him, bending down and grasping said Cloak that had been previously discarded on the ground.
‘’And he’ll stay with me the entire time, right?’’, Luna said kindly, as the boy nodded. ‘’Don’t worry, Dobby. Everything will be okay.’’
After other reassuring words from Harry and the promise that he’d call the elf if he was in any danger, Dobby finally calmed down and popped out.
‘’If anyone asks after me, you’ll say that you haven’t seen me yet today, okay? I don’t want anyone suspecting of you and put you in danger,’’ Harry said before donning the Cloak and casting a silence spell to muffle his steps and the swish of the Cloak as he moved.
Luna merely smiled at him and donned her dreamy mask before opening the door and peeking outside. Up until now, Harry still wasn’t sure if that side of her was only a façade or if she really was that way sometimes. Not that he really cared, as his friend, he loved her either way.
After judging the hall free of roaming students, both of them left the compartment and walked towards the front of the train until they found another free room. As they sat down and made themselves comfortable for the long journey, Harry let his mind wander. Not to think about what had just transpired, but about his five years at Hogwarts. He tried to look at them from another point of view, someone more mature and not with the eyes full of wonder from a lonely and miserable child yearning for friendship and for someone to simply care about him.
Now that he really reflected about it, the ordeals that had happened to him every end of school year seemed just a little too convenient to be entirely bad luck or mere coincidence. Although he was fairly certain that it was sheer dumb luck that he hadn’t died, or had been permanently injured in some manner in any of those instances.
In the Philosopher’s Stone’s case, it was suspiciously evident that Dumbledore wished for the stone to be found. Why make such flashy and easy defences when he could have heavily warded it in his quarters? Harry wasn’t any expert in wards, far from it actually, but surely existed some powerful spells out there to protect an object from being found by undesirable parties. Something akin to the Fidelius Charm, perhaps? If that complex charm was able to protect and hide living beings from being discovered, Harry was sure there had to something similar that worked on objects.
But what the highly skilled and powerful Headmaster had chosen instead had been a handful of very simple and flimsy protections.
An alohomora, really? This was a charm that a first year learned in their first trimester at Hogwarts. It should be considered a miracle that nobody had been severely maimed or killed by Fluffy, Hagrid’s Cerberus, all through that year. There were no more protections whatsoever between a simply locked door and a massive killer beast. And the other Professors’ trials were no better. All of them were possible of being accomplished by three resilient first years.
It seemed, to Harry at least, that only Snape had really tried to make something rather difficult to pass through (because logic didn’t seem something regularly employed in the Wizarding World), with the exception of the Mirror of Erised. For that Quirrel had needed Harry, but…
Harry straightened up suddenly as his mind screeched to a violent halt as his suspicions came together to make a picture that made his veins freeze in horrific realization.
From the beginning, Harry was meant to go in search of the Stone. All those defences were actually meant for him and not for Voldemort. Dumbledore had wished to test him in that dangerous game of his. The old wizard had wanted to know if his precious Golden Boy was up to the challenges that awaited him in the future. The seemingly random clues dropped throughout that year had been explicitly to increase Harry’s curiosity about what was hidden in the forbidden third floor’s corridor.
With that heart-stopping discovery, all the tribulations that had happened after that flashed quickly through his mind, making him physically sick with all the gathered implications. He didn’t know exactly what the headmaster wanted for him, but a happy and safe life surely was not. Harry was merely a chess piece in a giant chess board with Dumbledore and Voldemort as the opposite players, and ready to be sacrificed if the old man could progress in his game of playing with human lives.
Pulling out his wand, he swiftly warded the door of the compartment with locking and silencing spells and immediately called for Dobby, all the time fighting against the urge to get reacquainted with his breakfast.
Luna looked up worried, immediately dismissing The Quibbler edition of that month she had been reading, as Dobby appeared ready to take Harry away.
‘’Can you, please, retrieve a Calming Draught and a Stomach Soother from somewhere, Dobby?’’, the distressed wizard asked faintly, his face beyond pale and his breathing uneven.
The little elf popped silently away without a word, knowing that there was no danger at the moment.
‘’Harry, breath slowly and put your head between your knees,’’ Luna said, worried, taking charge of her friend.
Harry did as he was told and eventually felt a little better. He heard Dobby return and felt Luna put a glass vial in his hand.
‘’Stomach Soother,’’ she simply informed him as he gulped the contents down before she exchanged it for another one, ‘’Calming Draught,’’ and he did the same again.
He felt the potions start working right away: his stomach and his breathing calmed down. He felt Luna rub comforting circles with her hand on his back and he just laid there like that for a minute. When he finally lifted his head, he noticed that the elf was still with them and thanked him for his quick actions and reassured both that he was alright now.
‘’What happened?’’, Luna asked worriedly and patiently, after Dobby popped out again, without letting go of him.
‘’I…’’, he stopped and took a deep breath. ‘’I just realized that my life has been manipulated from the beginning, Luna. Dumbledore… he has been testing me ever since I came to Hogwarts. Everything dangerous that has happened to me, one way or other, has been influenced by him. All these years, all this time, everything has been a lie, Luna.’’ Harry fought hard not to cry as the full meaning of his own words sank into his mind, even with the Calming Draught working to the fullest. ‘’My relatives hate me, the headmaster plays with my life and others’ as if we are disposable pawns, my friends only tolerate me because they are get paid,’’ he laughed hysterically, not feeling any amusement. ‘’Hell, even my future wife has been chosen already without my knowledge. And I am still expected to save all their sorry arses from Voldemort dutifully and without complain. Tell me, Luna, what has ever been true in my life?’’, he asked in despair, feeling all his life shattering in pieces inside his head, and feeling too weak to do anything about it at the moment.
‘’I am true, Harry. I’ll always be here for you,’’ the girl assured him, looking him in the eyes, as tears streamed down her face, her expression miserable. ‘’You always can count on that. And I am sure that you’ll eventually find support and companionship in the most unlikely places.’’
Harry chuckled weakly at that, Luna was already making him feel better, even if she continued to spout cryptic words.
‘’Is that another of those things that you simply know?’’
‘’Yeah, you could say that,’’ she laughed lightly as well, hugging him without really thinking about it. ‘’You know, ever since I met you, I thought of you as an older brother. You always indulged me with my weirdest comments and never dismissed me or called me loony. For that you will always have my gratitude and my support.’’
Harry blushed, unused to compliments and not knowing what really respond to something like that. He just hugged her closer and let the action and the silence around them do all the necessary talking.
‘’Thanks,’’ he said, sometime later as they disentangled themselves. ‘’I really needed that.’’
‘’Don’t mention it,’’ Luna merely replied, as if Harry hadn’t had a mental breakdown in front of her just a few minutes ago. ‘’Do you want to read The Quibbler? There’s this article about the Flying Serpents sighted in China that I think you’ll like,’’ she offered him the magazine that she had been reading before. Her features had returned to her dreamy-like countenance.
‘’Sure,’’ the black haired boy accepted without hesitation, taking her behaviour in stride.
He was reaching for the magazine when there was a disturbance right outside the door. Luna grasped the Cloak forgotten on the ground and threw it silently at Harry, as he casted the usual spells around himself and sat still in the far most corner of the compartment. Luna took off the spells warding the door, before seating next to Harry, seemingly immersed in The Quibbler once more.
One instant later, the door was rudely opened without a single knock. Ron and Hermione stood there for some time in silence, as if suspicious that something was going on. In his corner, Harry was trying valiantly to stay put and not do something that, while satisfying at the time, he would surely regret it later.
‘’Yes?’’, Luna asked at last in her typical dreamy manner, shifting her attention from her reading to the two Gryffindors, when she saw that the couple of intruders were in no hurry to break the silence. ‘’Can I help you with something?’’
‘’Have you seen Harry?’’, Hermione demanded, visibly fighting to be gracious and not starting another of her rantings about how the magazine that Xenophilius Lovegood ran was nothing more than a load of worthless crap, though not expressed in those exact words. ‘’We’ve been searching for him around the train but we can’t find him.’’
‘’I haven’t seen him today at all, but I found a whole nest of Blibbering Humdingers in my way out of the castle this morning,’’ she told them thoughtfully, never losing her dreamy persona. ‘’It’s very possible that there will be an invasion of them this summer. Perhaps, I should send a letter to the Headmaster warning him about it. I’ve actually never seen such a big infestation but my dad says that they are far from pleasant and troublesome to get rid of. What if they’ll have to close the school down later on to take care of them?’’
Hermione and Ron looked at her as if she had spouted something utterly ridiculous and they didn’t know whether they should laugh at that or just ignore it all together (not an uncommon occurrence where Luna was concerned). After some awkward silence, the two fifth years Prefects decided on the latter option and moved on as if Luna had merely answered in the negative to their inquiry.
‘’Well, if you see him, please tell him that we are looking for him and that we want to say our good-byes before leaving the train,’’ Ron said, remarkably polite. It seemed that Hermione’s lessons in manners were finally bearing fruit after long gruelling years; that, or he was too gobsmacked to act his usual insensitive, rude self towards the Ravenclaw blonde witch. At his side, Hermione seemed to be still unresponsive after Luna’s latest eccentric, verbal attack.
‘’Sure,’’ the peculiar girl consented easily, disregarding their behaviour in the same fashion that they tried to ignore hers. She turned her attention once more towards her article and proceeded to act as if they had already left the room. Harry couldn’t really decide if that was her natural behaviour or if his single friend was a closeted genius Slytherin.
When they finally left, Luna swiftly spelled the door again and proceeded to have a very good laugh at the Gryffindors. Harry just looked on, utterly stunned. He had never seen her laugh that way and with this latest behaviour, the boy confirmed his suspicions that Luna really knew what she was doing when she spouted all those odd things. At seeing her friend’s face, the girl laughed some more until she was red in the face and tears dropped from her eyes.
‘’I take back what I said, you are not a perfect Ravenclaw, no, you are a Slytherin to the core,’’ Harry stated in something close to awe when he final found his voice, though he still felt somewhat dazed from this incredible outcome. ‘’All this time, you were messing with everyone and nobody ever was the wiser. Wow! Talk about acting talent!’’
Luna regarded him silently, biting her lip; her full laugh already only a memory.
‘’Are you mad?’’
‘’Mad? No, why should I?’’, Harry asked confused at her sudden question and attitude change.
‘’I lied to everyone and… well, after you found out that you have been lied to practically all your life…’’, she trailed off, worriedly.
‘’Oh,’’ the boy simply said, as understanding downed on him. ‘’That’s different, Luna. I am royally pissed at a lot of people right now because they lied to me about important things that concern my own life. What you’ve been doing is hiding your true self from people and you haven’t hurt anyone by behaving that way. In fact, I can bet that is precisely the contrary. Don’t think that I forgot how some people in your own House have been bullying you,’’ he assured her in a stern voice, somewhat being a little callous to be kind. ‘’I don’t really mind at all,’’ he added more gently when he saw that the girl wasn’t totally convinced. Then he remembered something and with a mischievous air confessed. ‘’Did you know that I was supposed to go to Slytherin?’’
Luna looked at him in surprise, having not expecting that.
‘’Oh yes, can you imagine the reactions of everyone if they find out?’’, he wondered. ‘’ Weasley and Granger’s –’’ he refused to call them by their first names anymore, since he no longer considered them his friends, ‘’– faces at that news? Or better yet, Snape’s? I reckon that he’d have an aneurism right there,’’ he added sadistically as Luna laughed at the imaginary situations that his words invoked. ‘’So you see, I am a snake in lion’s fur and you are a snake in eagle’s feathers. We are perfect for each other, just like… family’’, he finished that sentence with a soft voice and a thoughtful smile.
‘’Yeah, just like family,’’ she agreed wholeheartedly, beaming at him.
After that, the remainder of their journey passed smoothly and uneventfully, each one of them lost in their own thoughts. When they noticed the changing scenery outside their window, they decided it was time for Harry to take his leave.
Thankfully, Hedwig had been told the last evening to return to her beloved owner after a couple days enjoying her last days of freedom. Harry hadn’t been sure what would happen this summer at the Dursley’s – would he be able to freely roam around Privet Drive like last year or would he be locked up in his bedroom just like in the summer after his first year? Not knowing and not wishing to make his precious owl suffer more than strictly necessary, he had pondered for a while if he should ask Ron or Hermione to take care of Hedwig for the holidays’ duration. In the end, though, he decided against it, not wanting to be completely alone in the hell on earth that was number four, Privet Drive.
Harry admitted to himself that he was being selfish, but he couldn’t help it. He was fairly sure that he wouldn’t be able to stand another summer all alone if he hadn’t at least his feathered companion during those long, boring and terrible months, just after he had lost his remaining family member.
It didn’t matter that Harry currently didn’t have any plans on ever returning to the Dursley’s. As she had showed previously, Hedwig was a very smart owl and she would find her owner regardless of his location. Therefore, the young wizard wasn’t minimally worried that his precious pet would be unable to return to him.
Hedwig was awesome like that.
At last, Harry informed Luna that he’d be waiting for her and her father just outside of Gringotts, but out of the way of the passers-by and that he’d approached them when they got there later. With a quick hug and a reassuring smile, Luna sent him on his way with Dobby.