Chapter One: Off the Grid

Saturday, May 1st 1999.

Harry carefully shifted aside several more large stone blocks, slowly revealing more of the plaque underneath.

"Harry Potter should be more careful." A soft concerned voice echoed through the small cavern.

"I am being careful, Dobby. That's why I'm doing this by hand. I can feel when the structure might lose integrity if I pull the wrong thing. If I used magic, the piece would come away regardless and then we'd be in real trouble."

Harry smiled over his shoulder at the tiny figure, decorated in near-identical clothing to his own. From the tiny canvas jacket and cargo pants, to the miniature steel-soled and toed hiking boots that the girls thought looked adorable. The thick caramel fabrics of the clothing were treated both with muggle substances and boosted by Luna and Hermione's spellwork, making them not only weather-resistant but damned near unscratchable as well. The few marks and knicks on them Harry had added intentionally, believing no fellow explorer would take him seriously should they see him rocking an outfit that was so perfectly untouched. Dobby had even had his outfit tailored by Luna before they left and was very proud to be helping Harry on his dig.

His smile faltered slightly as he caught sight of the empty left sleeve, and recalled the horrible night at Malfoy Manor that had cost his diminutive friend his arm to Bellatrix's cursed dagger. Had it not been for Bill's quick response and Fleur's healing hands, they may have lost Dobby to the wound altogether. It had kept the excitable elf from taking part in the remainder of the war, but now he tended to stick to Harry whenever the elf wasn't off doing his own thing.

The wizard turned back to the partially covered plaque and shifted several more rocks. He didn't tell Dobby, but the other reason he chose to do this by hand was he was still slightly disenfranchised with magic at present. After spending most of a decade fighting over the right of all people to do it without prejudice, he found himself finding comfort in doing things the 'muggle way' as Ron liked to put it. The simple tactile sensation of getting one's hands dirty soothing some of the survivor's guilt he still fought off to this day.

Harry gazed at the design he had revealed, tilting his head in hopes of making the strange glyphs make sense. They were beautiful in a way, sharp geometric lines. A set of rectangles and squares that he was sure was some form of language, but which he personally did not understand, despite having seen them at more than one of these tombs now. Nor was Dobby familiar with the design, even after all of the voracious reading he had done during his recovery. A hobby that Fleur and Hermione had encouraged in the wee elf until he was keener for discovery than even they were.

He looked lower and cleared away another piece of debris. Underneath this, however, was a text he could read. A language he'd been using a form of for most of the last ten years now, but which Hermione had also aided him in learning properly in the time since the war had finished. The inscription under the plaque was in Latin.

"Hic jacet Gawain, Eques ex Arthur, et Defensor in Regius Veritas de Terra." Harry read aloud.

"Here lies Gawain, Knight of Arthur and Defender of the Land of Royal Truth?" Dobby translated slowly, sounding far less certain of himself.

Harry smiled at the elf once more and beckoned him forward. "Yes. Take a look. There are more of those symbols as well. I wish I could find some sort of reference for them. They're fascinating."

Dobby nodded excitedly as he shuffled forward and joined Harry in the cramped space. Harry brushed away the smaller dust and debris over the plaque and tried to free some of the larger chunks that had caught between the raised edges of the symbols when a flash filled his eyes of a sword resting in a stone plinth. The area around it seemed to be deep underground but it looked different to the tight space they occupied now. Far more open and filled with a form of undulating light.

The feeling was similar to the one he'd felt in the tomb of Agravain he'd found a month prior, almost building on top of the previous feeling with more information. "Did you see that?" He asked Dobby, who looked at him excitedly.

"See what, Harry Potter?"

Harry pressed his fingers to the same space again, and once more the flash filled his mind's eye. He got a sense of direction this time, coming from far further down than where he now crouched in place.

"There, put your fingers in here, make sure they touch both symbols at the same time."

Dobby did as instructed, but there was no sign on the elf's face that he had noticed anything out of the ordinary. "No, Harry Potter. Dobby sees nothing."

"That's alright, Dobby." Harry offered, placing his hand on the elf's back softly. "It's strange though. It felt just like the vision at Agravain's tomb. I thought I was just tired then. But still… I feel like…"

Harry trailed off as he focused on the feeling in his mind. It had merged with the previous one and now he felt like he could practically reach out and touch it. His eyes drifted once more to the symbols that had spurred the feeling and his fingers met the surface once more. There was no flash this time, but the feeling inside grew stronger.

"Dobby, take my hand."

Harry extended his right arm, and the elf grasped it with his own. Focusing on the feeling in his mind, Harry let his magic well up inside and without further thought, the two vanished from the tiny tunnel they'd been crammed inside, reappearing a moment later, the crack of their arrival echoing in a much larger but dark space.

Harry immediately pulled his wand and cast. "Lumos." While he preferred to use muggle means when possible, sometimes magic still gave the better option.

The space around them slowly became visible. They were in a large cave that appeared to have been hollowed out roughly. The walls were jagged and uneven, covered in moisture that reflected the light of his spell. After a moment, a dull light became visible around a corner and Harry stepped towards it, keeping wary of possible traps.

As he rounded the stone corner, he beheld a much larger space, looking almost like the den of a large hibernating predator might do. There was a small set of stairs leading down to the floor of the larger space and at the far end was a source of light he could not see. It was mild in intensity, but he could still clearly see the entire space from its glow.

"Nox." Harry stepped down, the sound of tiny feet clapping on the stone behind him as Dobby followed.

"This is most incredible, Harry Potter." Harry smiled as he moved forward, recalling how he had given up trying to get Dobby to call him just Harry.

The two paused as Dobby's foot landed on something that emitted a different sound. Dobby paused in fear as Harry carefully knelt down and inspected the metallic surface below the elf. It appeared to be a ring of solid metal about seven metres in diameter on the inside and over a foot thick. It had several raised portions evenly spaced around its surface, but the gathered dust and grime had mostly filled in the space leaving it flush with the floor of the cavern.

"I don't think it's dangerous, Dobby. But let's pop back up the stairs together to be safe."

Dobby silently nodded, his ears flapping as he moved. He extended his right arm to Harry, who took it and gave the countdown. "Three, two, one."

As he reached the last number, Dobby popped them away and the two ducked behind the rock wall they had arrived at. When nothing happened below, Harry peeked around the corner again to find the room had not changed in the slightest.

"Phew. Not a trap then. That is a relief. Are you ok?"

"Yes, Harry Potter. We can continue."

Harry smiled at his brave friend. In the year since the Battle at Hogwarts, they had grown even closer as Harry had helped Dobby recuperate. Promising to do everything he could to bring him back to health. Turns out that all the young elf had desired was to journey with him once he had settled on getting away from it all for a while himself.

"Alright then." They once more descended the stairs and carefully skirted the ring, just in case. It took a few minutes as they repeatedly checked for traps before they made it to the far side of the room.

An elevated platform stood up a small set of stairs before them with a large waist-high plinth sticking out of the floor, apparently carved in place as the cavern was excavated. Behind it, there was a small trench dug into the floor right by the wall that was full of water. It was from this thin pool that the light was emanating.

Harry was about to speak when the air above the plinth shimmered and suddenly there was a sword hilt where before there was none. He circled the plinth as Dobby scaled the surface. Harry cast several of Hermione's new detection spells over the strange item, but no response was forthcoming. It appeared to be completely mundane, apart from the oddity of its arrival. He looked to his companion to see the elf's face scrunched up in determination, and before he could speak, Dobby reached out and grabbed the handle of the sword.

His grey-brown fingers wrapped about the leather grip of the hilt and with a groan the elf pulled, trying to lift it from its binding. When it didn't budge, the elf's shoulders sagged slightly and he huffed. "Oh, I guess Dobby shall not be king."

The elf turned to look at Harry and the pair began to laugh heartily. Harry was proud of how far Dobby had come in his year of recovery. Hermione clearly had him reading all kinds of books, fiction and non-fiction alike.

Harry moved to try his own hand only to jump aside as another shimmer filled the air behind the plinth. A man filled the space, but unlike the sword, the shimmer did not fade away leaving a solid object behind. Instead, Harry found himself staring at a figure that reminded him heavily of Albus Dumbledore. The figure wore long pale robes of unknown material and had a beard that put even his former Headmaster to shame. In his left hand, he held aloft a long staff tipped with a white sphere, a tight spiral winding back down from the adornment stopping a few inches above the figure's hand. And atop his head, he wore a pointed hat of the same material as his robes.

Harry was shocked by how stereotypically wizard the man looked, at least so far as muggle stories of such things went. After a moment, the image shifted and the man began to speak in a slightly distorted voice.

"Welcome, ye Knights of the Round Table. Men of honour and followers of the path of Righteousness. Only those with wealth of knowledge and truth of spirit shall be given access to the Underworld. The storehouse of riches of Ambrosius Aurelianus. Prove ye worthy, and all shall be revealed."

With a smile and a nod, the man shimmered once more and vanished without a trace in the air.

"Wow," Dobby called from the plinth and Harry turned to face him.

"You can say that again." He replied as he digested what the image had said. "Prove ye worthy… I wonder what kind of worth he's referring to, given he addresses the message to a bunch of knights."

"Maybe we should look down there, Harry Potter." Dobby pointed behind Harry to a pair of tunnels he had not noticed on their way in. The first was off to the right of the cavern from this viewpoint, lit by a column of dull light that seemed to come from the ceiling with no source. The second was at the top of the stairs they had arrived at, along the back wall of the formerly curved face, also now lit from within with the strange pale light.

"I guess, but let's be careful."

Dobby nodded as Harry extended his hand to aid the elf off the plinth. Dobby smiled in response and popped to the floor in front of the platform and waggled his eyebrows at the wizard.

"You spend too much time with Luna." Harry chuckled as he followed the eager elf to the closest passage.

"Miss Luna says you needs the encouragement," Dobby replied as the two carefully passed down the passage. It was carved from the stone in the same manner as the main room, but if anything, these walls were even less finished than the main chamber.

"So, she's using you to convince me to get back into things, is she? I don't have a problem using magic, Dobby. You've seen me use it. I've got my wand lit right now. I just… Magic used to fill me with joy and wonder, but after the past few years. It's just nice to put it aside for a while and remember I am still me without it, too."

"Dobby understands, Harry Potter. But Miss Luna bribes me with books if I do as she asks." He finished in a whisper as they arrived at an opening that led into a small dark chamber.

Harry gave a soft chuckle to himself. "I know, and she is just worried about me. I'll have a talk with her when we get back again."

Dobby nodded and took another step towards the room, but immediately stopped as a flare of light filled the space as small floor level lights burst into flame, filling the room with a golden light.

"Curious," Harry muttered as he too stepped closer. He cast several spells over the opening and room within. He could see another plinth in the centre of the room, but this one had something sitting on top of it that he couldn't see from this angle.

He stepped into the room, pausing as he went to ensure there were no traps, but the room seemed safe. As he came to a rest beside the plinth, the top came into clear view and he noticed several small stone rectangular tablets on its upper surface. Below them were more of the strange symbols they had not yet translated.

"Strange," Harry whispered but spun on his heel at a large grinding sound from behind him. He noted that Dobby had also stepped inside and behind the shocked elf, the opening had sealed, a large stone panel sliding into place.

"Ah, makes sense I guess. Come have a look Dobby, we'll worry about that in a minute."

The elf rushed forward and Harry conjured him a stool to stand on so that he too could see the surface of the plinth. "Any ideas?"

"No, Harry Potter. More of the symbols though."

"Yeah. Whatever this place is, I think figuring them out is going to be the key."

Dobby extended his hand towards the surface but Harry gently stopped him. "I don't think we should touch any of it until we know what this says. That door is obviously meant to keep whoever found this locked inside. Maybe this is trapped in some way too."

"Of course, Harry Potter."

"Please Dobby, I'll let you and Luna tease me about everything else. But will you please just call me Harry? Just Harry."

He looked down at the wee elf and caught the smile that he was trying to hide in return. "Oh, you cheeky! Luna?"

"Yes, Harry Potter." Dobby smiled.

"Right, she's getting a tickle torture session when we get back." Harry patted Dobby gently on the shoulder and turned away from the puzzle, facing the large stone now blocking their way back. "I guess we should try the usual method. I'll try first, see if it needs your heavy lifting. Follow me on a ten count."

"Will do." Dobby chirped as Harry closed his eyes and focused on the space outside the room. He heard Hermione's voice in his head, as he ever did when apparating, reminding him of the three Ds and with a smirk, he turned in place and felt the usual squeezing. When he opened his eyes, he saw the empty tunnel ahead and let out a breath he had been holding.

"Glad it's not enchanted against magic." He took a few steps further down the passage and turned around just in time to see Dobby pop into place behind him. The moment the elf appeared, the stone door receded into the roof once more and the lights in the room went out, leaving it once more as they had found it.

"That's a relief." Dobby smiled.

"Seems to be some form of test, but we still can't read that language to figure out what it's asking. I don't know about you, Dobby, but I think now is about the time to seek some outside help."

"Yes. Miss Grangy would be most helpful."

"Time to return to the land of the living then. Do you think you can get us back here again? The feeling in my mind is gone now."

"Dobby can return us all, Harry Potter."

"Alright then. Home it is."

With a wide smile, Dobby took his arm once more, and with a glance at the puzzle before him, Harry was whisked away from possibly the greatest find he'd made in his short tenure as an explorer.


Luna squealed loudly as she twitched on the couch, the three sets of fingers attacking her stomach sending pleasurable sensations all over her skin and the muscles underneath rebelling at the renewed assault. She had thought she once knew what it was like to have friends those years before in Hogwarts, but here now in their shared home being attacked by Harry and Dobby for her 'treachery', she understood that what she had felt before paled to how they made her feel now.

"Harry, I'm sure she has learned her lesson. Let her up." Hermione's voice sounded from the other side of the sitting room.

"No!" Luna yelped as a Dobby struck a particularly sensitive spot on her belly. "It's… fun!"

"You heard the lady Dobby. More tickles!" Harry roared as he attacked her sides, experience guiding his hands to her most ticklish places.

Several more minutes of her 'punishment' continued as Luna yelped and laughed under the attack. While she spent most of her time these days hanging about with Hermione, Harry and Dobby treated her like family whenever they were around. Something she craved since the end of the war, and her father began distancing himself from them all.

She, nor Harry, blamed him for what he had done. But the man could not look her in the eyes for the guilt in his heart. Though both he and Luna still lived in their now repaired home on paper, in practice her father was always out on some urgent expedition, and Luna barely left Hermione's company. What had begun as mutual understanding, as only they of their collective friends understood the feeling of being under Bellatrix Lestrange's unique touch for more than a brief moment, had soon turned to conversation and debate.

Now it was uncommon to see them apart as they spurred and challenged one another with every new day.

"Harry, let her up. Or I won't show you the gift she has for you."

Harry looked down at Luna quizzically and his fingers stopped, resting lightly on her shirt. "What gift?"

"Daddy sent it from Wales," Luna informed him, noticing the way his eyes flicked to Hermione with concern. "He's found an underground temple that he believes belonged to a long-dead civilization of furry elves."

"Furry elves?" Dobby questioned, sitting back on the couch beside Luna.

"From what little he can translate of the writing. It's very odd."

Hermione looked to Harry as she handed him the scroll in her hand. She smiled as he unrolled what appeared to be fabric. The stitching was immaculate and it felt like silk under his fingers but did not look at all like the common material. But it was the writing within that took his immediate interest. There were five different forms of text on it separated into columns moving across the surface.

Two of them were completely obscure to him, designs he had never seen in his life. The far left was beautiful in its style. Made of tight part circles and long tails. It looked more like art than writing. The far-right style was far more angular. Looking like a side view of a mounting bracket one might use to put up a shelf set in one of four corners for each letter, with a series of small dots added as they moved further into the text.

But the three centre forms were familiar. The left set of familiar writing was something that had him immediately look to Hermione. "Are those?"

"Runes? Yes. I've compared them in detail to my Ancient Runes notes and resource books. They're a perfect match." She smiled at Harry as he collapsed backwards and Luna snuggled next to him, tucking her head on his shoulder as he continued to look the scroll over.

The right familiar symbols were also known to him. He'd been staring at carved versions of them all day. Whatever this scroll was, it contained the language he had encountered along with a potentially translatable form of writing that Hermione knew quite well. But it was the centre writing that was the biggest surprise. A language that Harry himself knew. In the middle of all the others was Latin.

"The top seems to be an introduction to four races and their languages. A guide to visitors, if you will." Hemione explained to the stunned Harry.

Luna smiled up at his stunned visage and laughed. "I guess it makes a good gift, judging by your face."

Harry nodded slowly as he considered the writing. "This might be exactly what we needed." He looked up at the two girls with a widening grin. "We need to stock up on supplies."

Luna felt a renewed sense of joy flow through her. "We're going on a camping trip?"

"Why? What have you found now?" Hermione queried.

"This," Harry indicated the blocky symbols on the fabric scroll. "It's all over a cavern we found today."

"Do we really need to camp there?" Luna fixed Harry with a look she had practised on him many times over the last few months, and Hermione groaned when she saw it. "That's a yes then. This better not just be a ploy by you trying to avoid everyone for tomorrow."

Harry looked at her confused before Luna clued him in. "Harry, it's the first of May."

His eyes widened as he glanced between them, a new urgency in his gaze. Luna understood his desire not to be locatable the next day and she knew her hope for a camping trip to get away from the house for a few days had gone from a way to placate her, to a way to hide Harry from the masses that would be seeking out the Man-Who-Won the following morning.


Harry let out a breath he'd been holding since they'd tucked into the alleyway, the looks he had drawn as they'd left the final shop had him keener to vanish than ever. When he'd stood in this deep cavern earlier that day, it had filled him with wonder and the thrill of the unknown. Now its moist dark walls provided something else; safety. Anonymity. Security. Freedom.

Here, none of the sycophants and suck-ups could find him. None of the sorrow and loss that didn't originate in his own heart could find entrance. He had those he could not do without close to him, but was protected from all the others. Whether they wished him well, wanted him to dance for them, or harboured ill-will.

"Hmmm, it's a bit dark," Hermione mumbled.

"Give it a minute. Your eyes adjust. What do you think, Luna?" Harry questioned, turning to find the tiny girl already in action behind him. "Luna?"

"Camping!" She replied simply as she pulled the large canvas roll from her backpack and with two quick waves of her wand had the tent fixed in place and expanding from the centre of the metal ring.

"Luna, I don't know if that's the best spot for that."

"But it's where it looks the nicest. I like it there."

Hermione turned to Harry and smiled at the habits of their young friend. "She has a point, it does look nice."

Harry simply shrugged in reply and grabbed his own backpack, heading inside the now ready tent. He tossed his bag onto his bed, intending to unpack in a few minutes, keen to show the others about now the stress that had built all afternoon was gone once more.

"Don't unpack now. I want to give you the tour first." He called into the other two rooms as he stepped out of the tent once more. The fourth room remained empty as Dobby had popped away as soon as he had delivered them back to the cavern. The wee elf deciding that if Harry had the girl's help, he could take a short trip to visit some friends of his own up at the castle to mourn those lost in the battle the year before.

"Alright, impatient one," Hermione said, stepping out of her room. "Show us the lay of the land."

"Yay! Tour." Luna cooed, skipping out of her room and the tent as a whole, past the two amused figures.

Harry gestured for Hermione to exit and she did so, shaking her head. Harry knew she still found some of Luna's eccentric behaviour annoying, but all in all the two had bonded a lot over the past year. Now the elder witch found the girl more mentally stimulating than outright challenging. And she brought a light to their group that sometimes vanished otherwise, with Harry's tendency to brood when allowed.

He began by showing the pair down the tunnels, this time heading down the one at the back of the stairs by the tent, finding a second puzzle at its end. This one had a room identical in size and shape to the first, but atop its plinth were two small round pots. The left pot was silver and perched just back from more of the writing, and to its right was a golden pot and yet more writing.

"One of these tests?" Hermione queried once more.

"I think so. We'll have to work on translating these before I can be sure, but it feels like a test. With the sealing chamber and all."

"I agree," Luna added, walking around the far side of the plinth.

"Speaking of the sealed door," Hermione asked from in front of the large stone, "did you know this would happen?"

"Well, the other one closed behind me and Dobby."

"And you didn't think it worth mentioning before we entered?" She asked with a cheeky grin.

Harry shrugged again and smiled in return as he apparated back into the tunnel, two laughing girls soon following him as he apparated a second time back into the main cavern by the first plinth. The girls appeared a few moments later, he assumed having misjudged where he had disappeared to.

"Cheater," Luna said, wrapping him in a tight hug when she got close and Harry wrapped his arms about her in return. He smiled and beckoned Hermione forward, but she did not join their embrace.

As soon as she too approached the plinth the air shifted over the surface and the sword reappeared, drawing the intelligent girl's gaze. Luna pulled away and looked at it too, before grinning and leaping at the sword, trying in vain to pull it free of the large stone.

"Pooey. I want to rule the world!" She growled when it would not come free.

Hermione moved to speak, but Harry simply stared at her stunned face as he felt more than saw the second shimmer to his right and he heard the message once more. The elder girl's eyes flicked to his own full of questions as the image vanished once again into the dully lit space.

"Cool, huh," Harry said as he stepped back over towards the campsite, happy that he'd managed to surprise them both adequately for one day.

"Cool? You show me this and simply say cool? Harry, that was Merlin!"

Harry's head spun quickly and his neck rebelled as he glanced at his friend. "What do you mean?"

Hermione shook her head at the boy and disappeared into the tent, returning a moment later with a large book. She flipped it open and rifled through the pages until she found what she was searching for. When she turned the book around, Harry saw a figure on the page that looked identical to the image they had just witnessed. The clothing was exact, even the staff matched for length and design.

"Merlin…" He mumbled to himself as Luna joined them once more. "Well, I said it was something big."

"Your talent for understatement is quite pronounced, Harry." Luna smiled as she ducked into the tent herself, disappearing into her room.

"She can say that again. I mean… Merlin, Harry."

He shrugged again and grinned at her. "Are you glad you decided to come now?"

She closed the book and stepped up beside him. "Harry, I'm always glad to spend time with you. I don't need an excuse to enjoy that. But yes. I have a feeling this is going to be amazing."

"Thank you," Harry whispered to the girl as she leaned into his side, laying her head on his shoulder.

"I know, Harry. I hate the attention, too. And we both know that the Weasley's need their time alone right now. As much as they love us..."

"I don't blame them for that." He replied.

"And they don't blame you either. It's painful, losing family."

Harry wrapped an arm around her shoulders, comforting her as her mind drifted to her still missing parents. She had tried to find them in Australia, but they had moved from the place she had sent them and not left a way to be found. Yet another reason the trio that now resided in this deep dank cave had become so close. Bonding over their lost or absent parents had helped to ease the pain that they each felt over the loss.

"Thank you, anyway. It means a lot that you're here."

She looked up at him with eyes full of tears, the watery effect making the brown orbs look even larger than usual. "There is nowhere I'd rather be, Harry."