Title: Ex Astris Gloria
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter universe. Wish they were mine so I could do increasingly nonsensical things to them and watch my bank account get steadily larger, but sadly not mine. BioWare owns Mass Effect, its sequels, its characters, its worlds, and all related concepts. And Disney and Pixar own their lovely ladies. Not mine, don't sue, et cetera and so forth.
Summary: When the true nature of the Veil of Death is finally discovered, Harry and Luna embark on a journey unlike anything they could have possibly imagined.
Joe's Note: By now, people should really know better than to go 'if you think you can do better, do it'. Because I just take that as a challenge, and challenges are meant to be accepted. To clear some of the foul air floating around the recent chapters of his fic, I am one of people - if not THE person - who tore apart a half-dozen major holes in Lightning among the Stars by Leonineus. He was then dumb enough to post screenshots of our private conversations to a fiction group we were both a member of, at which point I degraded him further for being a whiny bitch about it and then others tossed in their two cents. He threw up his hands and told me to do better if I could before taking his lengthy sulk. So I am.
Dedications & Thanks: To Nicholas, Alexander, Howard, MJ, Daniel, Christopher, Jason, Chris, George, Koby, Judedeath, Ken, Thyatira, William, Wil, Thomas, Jack, Pat, Chris, Mitch, and Jess for sponsoring me on , and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing. Additional thanks go to the incomparable LogicalPremise for his amazing set of references covering many untouched facets of the Mass Effect universe, as well as listening to me ramble about ideas for the future of this story.
Oh, the difference that a decade could make.
That was the thought running through Harry Potter's mind as he deftly navigated the almost labyrinthine halls of the Department of Mysteries, making his way toward the Death Chamber. As a fifth year, he'd stumbled upon the chamber - and the veil within - while sneaking into the Ministry with his friends. Nowadays, he was an Unspeakable and being well paid to come in each day and prod at the thing. Well, prod it in between helping his peers untangle any number of other mysterious magical items that had turned up during post-war raids of Voldemort's safe houses.
Oh, the difference that a decade could make.
A decade ago, he'd been coming off his recently failed relationship with Cho Chang and wondering why girls had to be so contrary and downright confusing. These days, he… still couldn't make heads or tails of how the female mind worked, if he was honest with himself. That probably had something to do with why he'd been married - and divorced - twice in a decade. The first time had been to Ginny Weasley, and it had been an unmitigated disaster. While superficially similar enough, they turned out to have very different ideas of where a relationship should go - namely, the fact that he was hoping to settle down and raise a child or three while she considering buying a crup together to be too serious of a commitment - as well as differing opinions on a number of small things that added up after awhile. Taking Ron and Hermione's advice about how 'opposites attract', on the other hand, had led to his marriage to Daphne Greengrass. The less said about those three years of his life, the better.
He'd lost a sizable portion of his wealth in that particular split, but it didn't really bother Harry. It was all blood money as far as he was concerned, dumped in his lap after good men and women died to protect him from his childish mistakes and Dumbledore's machinations. He still had enough to live on if he chose to leave the Ministry, he still had Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, and he still had his health and magic. That was good enough for him.
And while Harry still didn't understand how the female mind worked? That didn't really seem to matter when it came to his current relationship, because he was pretty sure that nobody knew how his newest fiancée's mind worked. Including her father, who was strangely amenable to the idea of his daughter dating the man who had gotten the family home blown up during the war. The fact that they - and Hermione - worked together in the Department of Mysteries meant that Harry didn't have to hide anything from her, and his long hours at work were spent with her. Between that and the bloody spectacular sex, Harry had high hopes that the third time would be the charm.
Now if only they could figure out what the damnable Veil of Death was actually meant for…
When Harry finally entered the Death Chamber, exactly thirty seconds before his shift was due to start just as he had every day for the last six years, Hermione was already seated beside the Veil, waving her wand at the stone arch while simultaneously dictating to a charmed quill that scribbled away on a nearby notepad. Harry allowed himself a moment to marvel at her multitasking capabilities before descending to the center of the pit, making sure to circle around and come at her from where she could see him out of the corner of her eye rather than risk spooking her. "So, two questions. One: what's so fascinating this morning? And two: is that the same shirt that you were wearing yesterday?"
"Yes, fine, you caught me. I've been here all night. But it's for a good reason." Looking up from her work, Hermione met Harry's gaze with sparkling - albeit bloodshot - eyes. "I think I've finally cracked the secret of the veil. Or at least cracked the secret of the secret of the veil." Considering that if she was right, Hermione would have accomplished in a matter of years what entire teams couldn't do over the course of their natural lives? She definitely had Harry's attention. "Just out of curiosity, I used a bog standard miner's charm on the arch. I thought maybe we'd find out there was something inside it; that it was a giant wand or something along those lines. But while I was wrong, it brought my attention back to something that we've ignored because we were told they're useless."
Harry leaned in as Hermione turned back to the arch, tapping the tip of her wand against a series of lines that had been carefully carved into the stone. "Runes. Elder Futhark at that. And it's not that they're useless, at least according to Croaker, but there's no use in trying to translate them because the stone is so weathered that you can't get a clean reading of the runes to work from."
Nodding rapidly, Hermione let out an uncharacteristic giggle - which let Harry know exactly how sleep deprived his friend was - before hopping up out of her chair and grabbing Harry by the wrist. She dragged him across the front of the arch, tapping her wand against another set of runes, and then circled around to the back of that side of the arch and did it a third time. "None of the runes are pristine, so no one set is usable for translation. But… but! They're all the same. So it's just a matter of writing down all the runes and overlapping them to create one complete copy. Or rather, it was. I've already moved on to the translation stage. Which is slow going, since long dead North Germanic dialects are hardly my area of expertise."
"Hermione? Admitting that something isn't her area of expertise?" Harry looked back over his shoulder and smiled as he watched his fiancée descend the steps that lined the perimeter of the Death Chamber. Luna Lovegood offered him a wink even as Hermione let out a huff of exasperation, the blonde gently scratching her nails down the back of the crumple-horned snorkack she had cradled against her chest. "I do believe this is one of the signs of the apocalypse. Somewhere between Ronald managing to chew with his mouth closed and Molly Weasley not sound condescending when she talks to you."
Rolling her eyes, Hermione released her grip on Harry and made her way back over to where her notepad and quill were waiting… and then muttered something distinctly uncomplimentary under her breath as she scratched out several lines. "I do not need that going into the official archives, thank you very much. And while I may not know everything, I did manage to help you find that snorkack." Luna opened her mouth to argue, only to be cut off by Hermione. "Ah ah ah. You wouldn't have found it without me and you know it. So shush."
Luna pouted as she snuggled up against Harry's side, raising the snorkack into the air so she could look it in all four eyes. "Don't you listen to her, Wednesday. I managed to breed you all by myself… from the two snorkacks she helped me find. But still! You're all mine! Aren't you? Aren't you?" The snorkack regarded her impassively for a few seconds, nose twitching, and then turned so it could sink its teeth into her right thumb. "Ouch! Why you little-"
Doing his best not to laugh at his fiancée's misfortune - mainly because he had absolutely no desire to end up banished to his very uncomfortable couch for a night or three - Harry turned his attention back to Hermione and her frenetic scribbling. "So I'm guessing 'how does it work?' won't be answered for a while, but do we at least know 'what is it?'. The Ministry has used it to execute people in the past, but I can't belief that was its original purpose. There are so many ways to kill someone that are easier and faster. Why waste the time and energy it took to construct this?"
"Because if it wasn't damaged - or if they'd had Unbreakable Charms back when this was made - it wouldn't kill people. It would teleport them. Through all four dimensions." Waving her wand, Hermione summoned a lump of clay from a nearby cart and pressed it into place against a damaged portion of the arch before transfiguring it to match the stone. With that accomplished, she began carving a set of runes into the unblemished stone, eyes darting back and forth between her notes and her work. "Like I said, I still don't have a decent translation for the writings but I definitely recognize 'space' and 'time' and 'move'. It's a bloody Viking TARDIS is what it is."
Harry exchanged a bemused smile with Luna at the comparison before turning his attention back to the arch. "So then it's bigger on the inside?" Hermione turned away from what she was doing and shot him a mystified look, making Harry sigh. "I have seen Doctor Who, you know. Obviously, or otherwise I'd be needing to ask what a TARDIS is. And so what I want to know is… is there a chance that there's some kind of storage pocket on the other side? Like multi-compartment trunks or your purse. If you undo whatever damage has been done, is Sirius going to be in there? Are there going to be a bunch of really confused Vikings in there? Or is the thing more akin to… say, the stargate than a TARDIS?"
"How do you know about the stargate?"
"The same way that I know about Doctor Who: we've got Sky over at Grimmauld Place now, and Luna and I like to watch some of the sci-fi programming on Sky 1. Stargate SG-1 is a particular favorite of Luna's; I'm a bit more fond of Atlantis myself. Can we focus on the question, though?"
Hermione shook her head before turning back to consult her notes. "I honestly don't know. I haven't seen anything in the runes that would indicate a storage function, though, so my hypothesis would be that it's closer to the stargate. The tribe's seiðkona would likely use her own magic to activate the Veil and set a destination, and then the warriors would pass through. It would certainly explain their historical dominance; how do you beat a people who can send reinforcements to five seconds before the battle started?"
Well wasn't that just neat? And if she fixed it, it meant that Harry could send either himself or trusted others to save… nobody. Because the smallest action could cause unforeseen repercussions, and what would happen to the timeline if something they did via the arch got Hermione killed before she could repair it and send people back? Best not to muck with such things, Harry realized. Which was why Time Turners had so many restrictions on them. And… a loud burping noise pulled Harry from his thoughts, and he took a step back as all the runes on the arch flared to life simultaneously. A second later, the tattered black curtain in the middle of the arch started to flutter a bit faster in an invisible breeze. "Hermione? What did you do?"
"I don't know, all I did was…" Trailing off, Hermione's expression became one of horror. "Even you wouldn't be able to push enough magic into the Veil to activate it from a fully inert state. And mixing your own magic into something empowered by others could be catastrophic. Okay, new hypothesis: there was a controlling artifact that allowed a tribe's seiðkona to direct the Veil. Which we don't have. So now that I've fixed the runes, it's turned on and there's no 'pause' button for us to press. Oh dear. What do we do?"
Harry let out a sigh as he drew the Elder Wand and waved it in front of himself, creating a barrier that nullified the slowly growing suction that was already tugging at his clothes. "Get out of here, Hermione. We're going to need you to figure this whole thing out, and you can't if you get pulled through with us." Hermione's eyes lit up in indignation, but Harry slashed his free hand through the air to cut her off. "No! This thing is slowly throttling up to full power; I could feel a difference even in those few seconds before I cast my barrier. So leave us here. Both of us. I can hold a barrier longer than anyone else here and you know it. And if I go through… well, I don't think you'll want to be here if Luna's here and I'm gone. So we'll stay and do what we can. Go tell Croaker. See if there are more pieces to this somewhere. See if there are old records. Pull a Hermione. Make the impossible possible. That's your job. Just like this is ours."
After staring at him for a few seconds, Hermione nodded and dashed forward, pulling him into a tight hug. "I will. I'll fix this, Harry, I swear. Good luck." Despite their occasional collaborations, she wasn't nearly as close to the blonde and so Hermione settled for giving Luna a solemn nod before turning and hurrying her way across the pit and then up the steps to safety.
As soon as she was gone, Harry turned and fired off a series of locking charms at the door before adding a few reinforcing charms to make sure the muggleborn didn't simply blow it off the hinges in an attempt to get back in. After all, while Hermione was a very smart young woman, she was also about to lose a good friend. The last thing he needed was her breaking down and doing something incredibly noble and stupid. That was his job, thank you very much. Once he was sure that he and Luna wouldn't be interrupted, Harry finally slashed his wand and canceled the shield that was holding the growing effects of the now-active arch at bay. "I still can't believe that the only person I know with any real talent for divination cheated his way through four years of the class."
Luna offered a grin and a shrug as she pulled a shrunken baby carrier out of her bag and enlarged it, passing Wednesday off to Harry long enough to slide her arms through the straps and then secure things behind her back. Taking the snorkack back, she pressed a kiss to the top of Wednesday's head before securing her familiar in place against her chest. "Maybe Ronald could See that Professor Trelawney would accept his work and so that's why he did it? And you can't deny that it's right handy. If it wasn't for him, we would have been caught completely off-guard by this."
"I wasn't complaining. Just think it's funny." Harry patted at his pockets, checking to make sure everything was there. Shrunken trunk full of clothes and personal belongings, check. Shrunken trunk full of potions, ingredients, old wands, books, and assorted magical knickknacks, check. Two shrunken trunks full of money, check. One snorkack, secured for transit. Time to get the show on the road. "Do you think he's right about where we're going to end up? On a whole other planet, some time in the future?"
Striding forward confidently, Luna shot a very familiar and very wicked little grin back over her shoulder at Harry. "If we do, I hope there are green-skinned space babes. Or blue ones. I do so like the color blue." Stopping a few inches away from the rapidly fluttering curtain, the blonde spun in place, blew Harry a kiss, and then fell backward through the Veil.
Harry tilted his head back and stared up at the ceiling. "Merlin save me from adorable hypersexual blondes." Taking a deep breath, he dashed forward and plowed through the Veil, boldly going where no man had - voluntarily - gone before.