Chapter Thirty-Three: Within The Serpent's Grasp
Sunday, 30th April 2000.
Neville quietly watched the feed as several vulta wound their way through the ancient hallways of Exodium. He and Harry had gone back and incorporated a potentia into the main reactor room, to ensure power remained steady, but the council had decided to explore remotely for the time being.
They had no way of knowing as yet just when Exodium had been embedded into Uluru. It was possible that there might be traces of the plague aboard. So the vulta once more got to prove their worth, and Neville was proud of how useful the little devices had ended up being.
He heard a click from one feed and watched as the vulta clunked against the physical door control, opening the way to the next section of the massive ship. They had still been unable to find a way to wirelessly connect to Exodium itself from Aether, so it was fortunate that the older Alteran technology used large push buttons.
Another advantage of using the vulta was their many sensors meant they did not need a light source. They created a three-dimensional view of the room, much like a camera, but it was made up of all of the combined sensor data coming back into the little ball as it flew around. Neville was watching feeds that could have been lit by the noonday sun and not have seen such crisp, pristine detail.
He leaned forward, watching this same feed before taking remote control of the vulta itself. This room seemed to be a storage closet, but it must have been sealed differently from the one he and Harry had beamed into. The shelves in here were not coated merely in dust, but held actual trinkets and books. All appearing to be intact from this angle.
"Cool," Neville muttered to himself as he entered the scanner runtime into the vulta, setting it to take detailed scans of the books without actually touching them. It would carefully run a sliver of beam energy up and down each page, detecting the variation in the paper and ink in order to digitally store that information, much the same way Merlin had been doing with their own physical library for months now. Who knew what kind of knowledge or tales were held on those delicate pages? Information that might have been lost to the civilization millions of years ago. Or never shared to begin with, he thought, as the vulta began scanning what appeared to be a personal journal or notebook.
"Having fun?" Luna asked softly, and Neville jumped slightly in surprise.
"Yeah. It's amazing." He replied, turning his focus away from the storage room and over the other devices exploring the ship. "It's almost cobbled together at this point."
"Really?" Luna asked, leaning butt-first against the console, watching the feed over her shoulder for a moment before turning back to Neville. "How so?"
"Well, the main reactor wasn't where we expected to find it. That was a cargo hold that looked like it used to hold something else, which we think was the old powerplant. Vulta Six found the hyperdrive engine about two hours ago, and it too seems to have been added during the voyage from Origin. They seem to have started with a specific design architecture, but the longer they flew, the more new parts and designs were fitted and altered. It's very hodge-podge these days."
"Merlin did mention something about them developing the hyperdrive while en route. They had some other method of covering longer stellar distances before that, but it was way less efficient. That's why it took them generations to make the trip."
"That would track with what I'm seeing. It's also pretty damn massive. Uluru is much bigger, but Exodium is still roughly 600 metres in diameter. I still have absolutely no idea how they managed to get it inside the rock."
"Or why they chose to leave it here. Earth was not their first or even their fifth settlement." Luna noted, watching the displays as she rubbed her temple softly.
"Or when. Something wrong?" Neville added, turning away from the feed as he noticed her movement.
"Hmmm, no." She replied, giving him a soft smile. "Just a small headache. It happens when I try to split my attention too many ways."
"What else are you doing?" He asked, curiously.
"I'm always doing something else. I love these things." Luna said, indicating the small device Hermione had made attached to her skin above the temporal bone. "Currently, I'm double-checking the items we're collecting from that shipwreck, making some minor alterations to the design of the fourth and sixth towers of Aedis, reading a pair of construction and architecture lectures Merlin found, and running the memory hardening program."
"All at once?" Neville said, clearly impressed. "I barely have enough attention span to focus on one job at a time. No wonder you went to Ravenclaw."
Luna poked her tongue out at him playfully.
"How much time do you spend running that program? I only do it when I'm sleeping." Neville said, leaning forwards again and sending some specific commands to vulta that had paused upon locating items of interest, which for now was anything that didn't match the standard design architecture.
"I'm always running it," Luna replied simply and Neville looked at her in disbelief.
"Are you nuts? That can't be good for you."
Neville considered the strain he felt after running a full focused session of that program. Hermione had increased the intensity of it four times since she'd originally designed it. Luna simply shrugged and continued watching the feeds.
"No wonder you have a headache." He smirked, shaking his head slightly at his mad friend.
Tuesday, 2nd May 2000.
Hermione stretched as she looked over the tablet displaying an inventory of the items now collected in the lab. Merlin had disintegrated anything they had deemed overly hazardous, but anything found to be less than that classification, while still too dangerous to leave out in the wild, was brought here.
She and Luna had been going through the list bit by bit throughout the day, only stopping for meals, hoping to finish classifying these items before they moved to Verda. At which point they would either be stored in a vault or moved to the labs there for proper study.
The others were spread all over, some visiting family, some simply taking the chance to have a day to themselves. Neville was still researching Exodium. Harry had told her he planned on hiding out on Verda as it was as far as it was currently possible for him to be from the masses once more celebrating the defeat of Voldemort, though this time it was with the blessing of the Weasleys now that he'd made up with them as a whole.
It was quite late in the evening by the time they came to the last two items on this particular list. They seemed to be a matching pair and Luna gave her a curious smirk as she lifted one of the two up. It was relatively substantial in size compared to most of the standard artefacts they had recovered. While still small, it did require both hands to properly lift it.
"These are incredible. See the intricacy of the design work." Luna asked, holding the jar in the bright light diffusing through the walls.
The pale ceramic surface looked almost immaculate. As though it hadn't been found buried in some tomb after thousands of years, dug up and shoved on a ship that then sank off the coast decades earlier. The engravings seemed to be millimetre-perfect in carving and the colours still popped against the pale surface as though they had only recently been painted.
The only difference between the two were the stoppers. Each was shaped as a head, the one on Hermione's tall and thin with a slim pointed beard and large ornate hat of some kind. And the figure bore definite male traits when compared to the one Luna was holding. It had a more feminine face, framed with precisely shaped hair. In place of Hermione's hat, this one bore a large sun disk upon her head and large earrings on both ears.
"The Egyptians were masters of many long-lost crafts. Though, if Merlin is right, these ones may not have been made by 'human' hands. Are you still detecting an energy pattern?" Hermione asked the ever-present intelligence.
"There is definitely something under the ceramic of both jars. The signature being emitted appears to be much like that of a naquadah power cell. Though what such a tiny item would need a power source for I have been unable to ascertain. The scans keep coming back scrambled for some reason I have as yet been unable to bypass." Merlin replied, not even bothering to manifest in the room with them.
"Let's find out," Luna said. She waved her wand twice, casting bobblehead charms over the two of them, as she set the jar on the desk and yanked the sealed lid away from the body. "Can you see what's in it no…"
"Luna! Be careful, we've no idea…" Hermione froze mid-sentence as a thin greyish worm shot out of the jar with a high-pitched screech and into Luna's slightly open mouth through the bubble as if it weren't even there.
Her friend gave a strangled scream of surprise before her eyes rolled back in her head and her body went limp. Hermione instantly dropped her own jar on the table and reached towards Luna as the girl fell almost straight downwards. The lithe girl was surprisingly heavy when she wasn't conscious and Hermione nearly tumbled to the floor as she slowed Luna's body to a stop.
"Crap. Merlin! Get help." Hermione yelled as the open jar slipped from Luna's now limp fingers and some clear fluid began to ooze out of it onto the floor. "I really hope that wasn't what I think it was."
Hermione gently laid Luna onto the floor, righting the jar before she pulled her wand and began casting detection spells over her friend's still form. Luna's eyes were still open, but they had not returned to their normal position and she could see them twitching slightly in their sockets.
"Damn." She said as the results of the scans confirmed that Luna had slipped into some sort of coma. Her brain was active, but somehow all control of her body was absent. "Merlin? Where the hell is everyone?"
"The others are coming," Merlin replied, appearing nearby as a hologram. "What can I do?"
Hermione considered for a moment before she stood again. "Beam those things into a containment room. And send us to the medical wing. I need to scan Luna right away. Have Carson and Aurora meet me there."
Merlin nodded and both women, and the two canopic jars, vanished from the room. As soon as she reappeared in the medical wing, Hermione set to work, strapping Luna to the bed first before moving to prepare the scanner that she'd used on Cyla only a few days prior. As she was shifting the bar into position, Carson and Aurora arrived at the door.
"What's going on? Merlin wasn't very specific." Carson asked as he stepped forwards and watched Hermione activate the device.
"We opened one of those canopic jars from the shipwreck. Something inside one of them is now inside Luna. And I think that it is a goa'uld symbiote." Hermione replied, glancing at the two for a moment worriedly before she returned her full attention to the screen, awaiting the results of the scan.
Aurora pulled her wand and stepped into the corner, ensuring she had a clear line of sight of Luna's still body. Hermione knew that the others had been briefed on the Goa'uld so that they would know what exactly they would be signing on to if they joined.
The screen beeped and Hermione felt her blood run cold as it displayed the result of the scan. Luna's head was on the screen, the underlying tissues visible, and wrapped around the top portion of her spinal cord was the thin worm-like creature that Hermione had seen. And it had already extended several long tendrils up into Luna's brain.
"My god," Carson said, watching the image as well. "Can we get it out of her?"
"From a practical standpoint? Absolutely. The beam would be sufficiently accurate enough. Realistically? We've no idea what beaming it out of her head would do to Luna now that it's connected like that." Hermione replied, trying to think of a better way to deal with it.
They'd had enough trouble trying to help Parvati exorcise Anubis from Padma, and he had only been an energy being. There was no actual physical risk associated with that attempt, so far as she could tell.
"I think we need to call the Asgard for this. We don't know enough about Goa'uld physiology yet. Maybe they will know how to proceed."
"Go. I'll keep watch for now. But send the others if you see them." Aurora said, keeping her wand trained. "We'll need to keep a guard, just in case."
Hermione nodded as she rushed from the room. A message was not going to cut it today, she thought as she headed for the conscensa. She would make this request in person.
Idun looked at the still blonde curiously. The scan definitely showed that she was blended with a goa'uld symbiote, and yet, she remained completely inactive.
Her eyes flicked to the stone in her hand, noting the results of the two brain wave patterns within the still girl. Though her eye was drawn away as the anxious brunette came into view again. She had torn through Othalla, looking for aid. Taking almost an hour to find her way to the lab in which Idun had been working. And she had refused to take no for an answer and had almost dragged Idun through the Gata.
"My scans are complete," Idun explained, and the humans all turned to face her. "She is asleep."
"What?' Hermione asked.
"The Asgard have studied human physiology for some time now. We have a great deal of data showing the various patterns of your neurological activity. What I am seeing is commensurate with a standard sleep pattern. Particularly, the section of sleep your people call Rapid Eye Movement."
"She's dreaming?" Harry asked, seated next to the bed.
"It would appear so. However, the symbiote seems oddly inactive. From what we understand, normally in a blending, the symbiote becomes very active as it suppresses the human consciousness. None of these results matches what I would expect."
"In what way?" The new member with the thick accent asked, and Idun turned to address him directly.
She pulled another stone from her satchel and laid it on the bed, running her fingers over the stone and a hologram appeared showing two graphs. "The left is the normal brain activity for the host, the right the symbiote. As you can see, the host normally is completely awake during the process, but unable to exert any control on their body. The symbiote, however, shows an incredible amount of activity as they master the impulses required to control the body. This usually only takes them a few moments, but the activity does not fully decrease for some time. Usually about a week."
"And yet, this is what I am reading now." Idun tapped the stone again and the graphs changed. "As I stated, Luna is asleep, and the symbiote is mostly dormant. It is definitely doing something, but I cannot ascertain what."
"Can we get it out of her?" Padma asked firmly.
Idun considered their options for a moment. "While we have an extensive history with the goa'uld, we have never had cause to remove one from a host in this manner. Thor's Hammer on Cimmeria could achieve this. It would kill the symbiote outright, allowing the host to go free. However, it is not something one can be forced into. The symbiote would need to choose to die. And Luna would need to be awake in order to walk into the Hammer."
"There is nothing you can do?" Natalie asked, looking down at the sleeping girl with a look of grave concern.
"I did not say that. It is possible that we could refine a beam to be accurate enough to remove only the biological mass of the symbiote. But I have no idea what such an action would do to the mind of the host. Even more so in this unusual case."
"So, we what? Just leave it in there?" Richard asked.
"Until either the symbiote or the host awakens, it is impossible to know what is truly going on. All my scans indicate that the symbiote should be taking full control of your friend. And yet, she sleeps. Perhaps the Tok'ra could provide you with more information. Unfortunately, we do not interact with them. They seem to view us with suspicion and refuse to disclose their locations to us."
"What is a Tok'ra?"
"They are a group of symbiotes apparently opposed to the power of the System Lords. They operate via subterfuge, making them hard to discern from the typical ranks of the goa'uld unless you catch them in the act."
The others looked amongst themselves for a moment. "Perhaps the SGC might have some information," Harry suggested.
"That is possible. Our records indicate a member of SG-1 was once host to a Tok'ra symbiote. And her father has since become one himself."
"Really? By choice?" Padma asked aghast.
"I have not had the opportunity to question him on the matter, but it would appear so."
This revelation appeared to stun the group for some time. Idun took the silence to run another series of scans over Luna's body, noting that there was no substantial change from the ones she had taken previously. Whatever was going on in the child's mind was beyond her ability to discern.
"I am afraid that there is little more I can do here," Idun said, getting the other's attention.
"You can't just leave her like this," Hermione begged. The human eyes pleading.
"I will provide to you all of our records on the goa'uld. And what little we know of the Tok'ra. But… her condition is so far from the usual. As I suggested, we could attempt extraction via force. But doing so might potentially kill the host through mental shock."
"Can you provide us with a record of their language?" Richard asked, moving to Hermione and embracing the girl as she broke out in tears.
"Their language? I believe such would be possible. You wish to converse with the symbiote?"
"Not only that. We had another run-in with them, but we were unable to translate. If Luna is relegated to a host, we may need to speak to the symbiote itself." Richard explained.
"Very well. I shall provide a detailed breakdown of their language as well. Though, if Luna has been taken as a host, the symbiote will have access to all of her knowledge. Including any languages in which she is fluent. Conversation should not be an issue."
"Thank you, Idun. We're sorry for calling you in like this, but…" Harry said politely, still looking forlorn.
"I understand. I have been part of the team taking care of Famrir's body. We have learned a little more about how the process of blending works thanks to that, but we still do not understand the exact processes by which it occurs. Perhaps your own monitoring can further the understanding for both our people. And a defence against such invasion can be devised."
"We'll share anything we learn," Natalie said quietly.
Idun nodded at the group. "Very well. I shall provide what information I can to Merlin and take my leave. I wish you all good luck."
Idun turned and moved towards the exit to the room. As she passed, the familiar dark-skinned girl seemed to want to say something, but her sister took her hand and pulled her over to the bed. She felt sorry for the group. As much as the council wished to maintain their distance, she had come to care for them somewhat. She understood what Thor saw in them and hoped that this event would not destroy their morale as it almost had their own so many millennia ago.
With a glance back, she walked down the corridor, grabbing another set of stones out of her pouch and preparing to transmit the requested data to their systems. Perhaps their resolve would prove stronger than it currently seemed.
Wednesday, 3rd May 2000.
Luna yawned as she opened her eyes, blinking at the harsh lighting above her. It was mildly disorienting and she waved her hand at the control panel on the wall, dimming the lights considerably.
"Luna?" A voice to her right sounded, and she turned her head to see Harry watching her carefully, though his eyes occasionally flicked to a screen by the bed.
"Hello, Harry." She said cheerily, noting the bindings holding her to the bed but not making any attempt to remove them.
"Two questions. How are you feeling? And what is your name?" He asked, not approaching any closer.
"I feel fine. It was quite a nice rest. As for the one inside me, she's been too busy screaming at me to tell me anything really useful just yet. Not that I would understand her if she had, given she is screaming in goa'uld. I really need to learn that one already."
"The one inside you?" Neville asked from her other side and Luna smiled at the pair.
"Yes. The symbiote. She's not exactly the nicest individual I've ever encountered."
"Well, at least that confirms what the Asgard told us. You've been taken as a host." Padma groaned from the doorway.
"In a manner," Luna replied, glancing at the other girl. "She definitely wants to use me as a host. I can feel her trying even now."
"What do you mean 'wants to'? Idun said that you've been asleep this entire time." Harry said, finally stepping closer.
"I missed her? Poo. I like Idun. But she's right, I was. It made it easier to watch what she was doing." Luna replied simply.
"Watch?" Padma asked.
"I think it's kind of similar to what Harry said you described," Luna said and she noticed Harry reacting to what she assumed was Padma's glare.
"What? Do you think I came up with all of those suggestions myself? We're a team." Harry defended.
Luna smiled at the pair. "She's stuck in a sort of empty room in my mind. I think it's made of the same materials as Aether. She's amorphous at times, sometimes a big scaly humanoid beast. And then at others, she looks like an Ancient Egyptian queen. All the drapery and trimmings. Big sun disk headwear like the jar. Jewellery everywhere. Certainly seems to have the attitude to match. But I can't understand anything she is saying so far."
"You want us to believe that you have a goa'uld symbiote trapped in a room in your head?" Padma asked, obviously keeping her distance making it hard for Luna to look at her.
"Is it really so hard to believe? You kept Anubis at bay for a few hours while we made arrangements to free you." Luna replied, not understanding why Padma was being so confrontational.
Harry looked at the screen for a moment again before he spoke. "The Asgard have finally shared a lot more information on the goa'uld. Including their habit of pretending to be the host in order to trick those close to the body." Harry explained.
Luna considered that for a moment. "That would make a lot of sense. A clever ruse. And I suppose that if that were true, there is nothing I can say that could possibly convince any of you that I am me and not them pretending to be me. But what if I truly think that I am me, while I'm actually being controlled by her pretending to be me? Or what if…"
Harry stepped over and placed a hand on her arm, drawing her attention.
"I'm prepared to believe you, for the moment. What do you want us to do to help?"
Luna smiled up at him, considering the question. "For the moment? Nothing. Keep me restrained, just in case she does take control."
"You don't want it out of you right now?" Padma asked, finally stepping close enough for Luna to easily see her.
"So far, all she is doing is making a racket, and I think she is threatening me with harm. I learned how to deal with bullies a long time ago. And I have been doing the training suite Hermione devised practically non-stop since we got the…" She moved to indicate the small device behind her ear before the reality of her restraints got in the way. "Right, the… Did Hermione ever actually give them a name?"
Harry laughed at the question and Luna looked up at him, awaiting his answer. "Not that she told me. I'll ask her for you. But for the moment, we have removed yours."
"Really?" Luna asked, rolling her head a few times. "Huh, I'd gotten so used to it, I hadn't even noticed it was missing. I guess that's to stop her from having easy access to information in the database, or access to the systems. Wise."
"The more she speaks, the more convinced I am," Neville said cheekily from the corner.
Luna poked her tongue out at the roof, not bothering to turn to face her friend.
"Look, it's not like I need to be free to go off and do anything for the moment. I say, keep me tied up in here, under watch, just in case. But I would ask you to let daddy know what happened and that I'm ok. I'm going to rest again and see if I can't get something out of her. If she proves nothing but a nuisance, we remove her and be done with it. We know that the Tollan have removed a symbiote from a host before without killing either one."
Harry looked at her blankly for a moment before his face fell. "How the hell did we forget that?" He asked, looking at the others who just shrugged.
"Once we contacted the Asgard, we sort of left the thinking in their hands I guess," Neville said. "And Idun suggested the Tok'ra, not the Tollan. Plus we only ever knew of it peripherally through the SGC reports on Klorel."
"Regardless," Luna said, drawing their attention back to her, "if I can get through to her… this could be an interesting experience."
Harry chuckled again and he smiled down at her. "Only you, Luna, could find being possessed by an alien hell-bent on dominating your mind and body as an interesting experience."
"I say you'll change your mind pretty quickly if you really let her in," Padma said darkly.
"I suppose that we will see. There is one other thing you can do for me though." Luna said, drawing a curious look from Harry and Padma. "I would love some pudding. I'm starving."
Harry smiled again and tapped a command into his remote. The action reminded Luna of her own and she realized it too had been removed. She laid back quietly until she heard something integrating nearby and she glanced to the side to see a small meal with several puddings behind it steaming on the side table.
She gave Harry a cheeky grin as he picked up the nearest bowl and a spoon. "Are you going to feed me, Harry?" She said with a suggestive waggle of her eyebrows. Teasing Harry was a lot more fun now he was dating Hermione, even if she had no intention of pursuing either one romantically.
"Stop it would you? And yes." He replied, tapping a command into the wall panel that caused the bed to shift her body into a more vertical position, more suited to eating.
Luna quickly ate the meal, occasionally causing Harry to blush with inappropriate comments as she did so. She could clearly see Padma by the door now, and that the girl had both her wand and one of the brightly coloured training weapons on hand. A glance at Neville in the corner showed him to be armed with both as well, though his wand was on the table next to his seat, and his gun was holstered.
"Mmmmm," Luna moaned happily as Harry fed her the last spoonful of her dinner. She was quite full now but she had always loved pudding too much to stop simply because her stomach was complaining. "Thank you, Harry. That was delicious."
Harry couldn't help but smirk at her as he shook his head, sending the used plates away with a command.
"Good idea keeping me under guard. How often does it change?" Luna asked absently as she settled back into the mattress once more.
Harry gave her a knowing look as he set the bed back into a horizontal position. "You know we aren't going to tell you that, Luna."
"Sorry. Just making small talk while I prepare to drift back off." She said, trying to shrug despite the restraints.
"You really meant it when you said rest?" Neville asked.
"As I said, it's the best way to watch her. Plus it's kind of fun seeing what the inside of my mind looks like." Luna replied, settling comfortably. "Night everyone."
She closed her eyes and felt her breathing steady as she fell back once more, falling into her own mind as she had when the creature had first burrowed its way inside of her body. The shock her body had experienced had nearly allowed it the time it needed to take control, but thankfully Luna had a very chaotic thought pattern.
It had kept the invasive mind off balance just long enough for the hours of training to kick in and isolate the intelligence. Now Luna fell quietly back into the corner of the bland grey room to see the figure bashing against one of the tremendously dense walls. Just as she had done for hours now.
The figure looked almost normal now, wearing much more modern clothing that looked oddly familiar to Luna, in fact, it seemed to be what Padma was wearing a moment ago. Seeming to sense her presence, the figure turned and charged at Luna once more only to bounce off whatever invisible shield her mind was conjuring around her projected presence.
"Still trying that one?" Luna asked, almost bored at the performance.
"Release me human!" The figure panted angrily, splayed out on the floor of the room, her eyes glowing fiercely as she spoke. The voice was the same deep and oddly reverberating sound as before with one exception.
"You can speak English now? Were you ferreting about in my memories while I was gone?"
"I wish. Whatever this prison is keeps me from your mind. But some information slipped inside in your absence." The figure said with an awful grin.
"Slipped inside?" Luna said curiously. Wondering how such an event might occur. She cast her eyes over the room and noticed a strange window on one wall that had not been there before she woke. Perhaps it was how her own mind had released her from her slumber in here.
There did not seem to be any way to open it from the inside, but Luna realized that had been where the figure had been attacking when she had arrived back.
"Ah, you think you found a way out?" She said to the figure as it picked itself back up.
The figure scowled at her and returned to the corner once again hammering on the surface with her fists and Luna noted the difference in sound from when she had been attacking the far thicker wall. She was unconcerned as the window also appeared to be made of a very thick material as well. And she could somehow sense there was no risk here.
Luna sighed at the figure's stubbornness and conjured a chair with a wave of her hand, taking a seat and watching as she had told the others she would. The whole experience so far had been fascinating, and she was quite content to simply observe for the time being. Neville had been right when he pointed out her placement in Ravenclaw. Luna Lovegood was an intensely curious person.
The figure stopped beating the wall and took a step back, going completely still as her form changed back to the Ancient Egyptian queen. This time, however, there was a strange golden glimmer on her arm. Luna looked closer and realized it was like the device that Klorel had used.
She glanced over her shoulder at Luna, a wide smirk on her face before she raised her arm and unleashed a blast of some kind against the wall. Most of the energy simply bounced off, knocking the figure onto her arse once again, but Luna noticed the window had cracked. It appeared the symbiote may have found an actual weakness in whatever this defence was.
And yet, Luna found she was not worried. She noticed the space outside the window did not look hospitable in the slightest. A violent sandstorm was churning out there, and she wondered what might happen if the figure were to step out into it.
It picked itself up off the floor once more and turned to face her. "Foolish human. You truly thought you could contain the mighty Isis?"
Luna gave a surprised look at the name as she recalled reading about the figure in the original goa'uld histories that Thor had given them so long ago. And she realized what was in the second jar.
Her attention was drawn back to the room as another wave of energy came at her this time, battering against her mental shield. It did no damage, and Luna was not even knocked backwards. Isis immediately spun and fired again and again at the window until the two heard the sound of the thick glass shattering.
Isis smirked evilly as she stepped to the opening and stuck her naked right hand through, proving she had a way out. Before she screamed in pain and pulled her now ragged arm back through the window.
"What is this?" Isis screamed at Luna, nursing her arm which was bleeding from practically everywhere. Whatever it was that Luna's mind had conjured outside that window was clearly dangerous.
Luna simply watched the figure quietly and gave a shrug. "People have always told me the way I think makes their head hurt."
Isis glared at her before she screamed in agony and anger once again. She tried to attack Luna once more, but Luna just waved her hand and the device on Isis's good arm vanished.
"Look. If you calm down, maybe we can talk. But if you want to keep behaving like a child…"
"Release me this instant!"
"No," Luna replied simply, conjuring a second chair opposite her, watching the pacing figure as she nursed her injured arm, the bleeding slowly and eventually stopping.
Isis glared at her before she screamed an intense and deep agonising screech. She rushed forwards and lobbed the chair at Luna only for it to vanish before it could hit her. A moment later, it reappeared where Luna had originally conjured it. Luna took a quiet breath and just watched, waiting for Isis to run out of steam as she raged across the room. She had the feeling that she could wait all day if she had to. She was, after all, very well-fed right now, and she patted her belly happily.
Friday, 5th May 2000.
Harry sat quietly, staring out the enormous window at the vast white expanse of snow stretching away into the distance as it sloped smoothly away from Aether and down the mountainside. If only his mind would be as peaceful as the view, he could finally relax.
"Harry," Hermione said softly, sitting in the gel bag beside him nursing an enormous book on her lap. "Stop thinking so loudly and talk to me."
Harry gave a soft sigh and turned to face her, noticing she was staring directly at him.
"About two hours. It's been very distracting. You give these normally adorable little sighs and shift around a lot. On a gel bag that makes a surprising amount of noise, especially in a quiet room like a library. I suppose I should just be thankful we didn't go with normal bean bags."
"Sorry. I'm just worried."
"I had figured that much out for myself. I've known you long enough to practically sense when you're upset about something. Is it Luna?" Hermione asked, marking her place in the book.
Harry just nodded.
"I'm worried too, but so far she seems to be handling it all well. And with Idun's help, we can use the brain waves to know that we are talking solely to Luna so far."
"I know that. I'm actually almost more worried about the fact it happened on Tuesday. Halloween has finally seemed to stop kicking me in the plums every year, I don't need another day to pick up the slack."
"The slack?" Hermione asked, now finally looking confused as though she wasn't following his train of thought for once.
"Tuesday was the second of May. The two-year anniversary."
Hermione slid the book to the floor and crossed the small space to his bag, slipping loudly onto it with him and forcing Harry to shuffle a bit over. She wrapped her arms around his neck and looked into his eyes.
"I think that you've proven your desire to steer clear of the magical world on such days. So why don't we make a thing of it? A little holiday each year, just the two of us. Somewhere nice and quiet where we can let the worries of the universe fade away for the day"
Harry gave her a smile that he knew was forced. "That sounds amazing…"
"But, I wasn't even on Earth when it happened. I was on Tenebris setting up the outpost there for the long-term study of its ecosystem. I don't think fate cares where I am."
Hermione looked deeply into his eyes before she spoke, and Harry could see she was deadly serious about this. "Harry. You know how I feel about divination."
"This isn't divination. It's experience. Fate has it out for me. Besides, we both know that prophecies are a very real thing."
"So what? Just because some batty old hag made a few correct guesses…"
"I was there for one of them, Hermione. And it came true exactly as she said it would."
"Hindsight allows a skewed kind of clarity, Harry. Muggles have been making predictions about behaviour based on star signs for centuries, possibly even millennia. People who believe in such things tend to use the knowledge they have after the fact to assign 'truth' to the vaguery of the original horoscope, pointing at parts of it and deciding they came true for them, exactly as 'predicted'. And sure, we've been part of real true prophecy. But we've also been in the Hall of Prophecies. You saw how many are in there. How many of those do you really think have come true?"
Harry leant back and considered the question.
"Looking at history, just because a prophecy is made does not mean it must come to pass. I truly believe that the existence of prophecy does not lessen my free will in the slightest. I think that most prophecies can only ever come true when acted upon. And that it is the actions of those who hear it striving to achieve or avoid its words that make them happen. In fact, I think it was the very hearing of the prophecy that made it come to be. Voldemort and then Dumbledore both became so convinced of its truth that they played God."
Harry looked back at her surprised.
"You know it's true. Voldemort threw everything he had at trying to prevent it or to make sure the outcome was in his favour. And seeing how deeply Voldemort believed it, Dumbledore spent decades manipulating you and others into the positions he assumed to be the most beneficial to skew the outcome away from Voldemort's favour. He may have come to care for you throughout, but he still put you through impossible trials. All that time at the Dursleys, a place you hated, made you and your only other living family resent one another even more than you already did. And the stuff we went through at Hogwarts…"
Hermione paused and Harry could see she was letting out a head of steam that had built up over a long time. "He was a good man at the end of the day, but having met the Merlin that people so often compared him to, they were a lot alike. And not in entirely good ways."
Harry gave a chuckle and Hermione looked back into his eyes. "I had the same thought just before we tested the Sangraal on Anubis. The absolute belief that their cause was so vital that they broke any and all rules in order to see it happen. Never quite fully open and honest with those who they needed to help them achieve their goals. And a willingness to manipulate others into achieving their desired ends instead of asking for help. The similarities were more than just physical."
"Exactly. Fate didn't make that prophecy come true, two old men did."
"Ok, what about the other one? That Wormtail would escape and bring back Voldemort."
"Just an extension of the first. By that point, Dumbledore had made it inevitable that Voldemort would return. He'd set the board for that very purpose. Keeping Snape at Hogwarts despite how much he obviously hated it there. His treatment of you. And luring a psychopath into a school with the promise of immortality…"
Harry sighed again. She was right, Dumbledore had engineered things so completely that people continued to somehow follow his planned destiny even after his death. Did he just know everyone so completely that he could predict those actions? Or had he simply made it so that no other outcome could really come to pass?
"Point is, fate does not control us, Harry. It might occasionally leave traps for us in the form of prophecy, but it does not make us act on them. After what I have seen and done, I cannot believe otherwise. Those we follow believed so wholeheartedly in free will that it forms the basis for their highest law. One that continues now in their lives on another plane of existence. We control our own fate."
"So you're saying don't worry that May second will become another Halloween for me."
"I'm saying don't waste your life worrying about it. Either something bad will happen, or it won't. Worrying about it will not change a thing."
Harry nodded, considering her words. He felt her rest her forehead against his own and he closed his eyes. He couldn't help but get lost in the smell of her. It helped relax him even more than her words.
"If Luna needs our help, we'll be there. But honestly, if any human being could confuse a goa'uld symbiote into submission, it's our Luna." Hermione said softly, not bothering to pull away.
Harry smiled at the truth of that statement. "You're right. I'll try to worry less."
"Besides. Halloween hasn't always been completely awful. It was thanks to Halloween that we first became friends. When we made the DA. The first night that Sirius was in your dorm room, looking out for you in his own spectacularly misguided way. Things could have ended with Pettigrew that night if Ron hadn't woken up and scared Sirius away."
Harry opened his eyes and looked into her bright brown ones. He couldn't believe how much he loved this woman, or how he'd been so dense as to not notice that fact for so long. "I love you."
"I love you too, Harry." She said, pressing a kiss to his cheek, their foreheads still touching.
"I suppose you can go back to your reading now," Harry said, feeling a little breathless at her proximity.
"I could," Hermione replied, a glint in her eyes. "Or, I could do this."
She pulled back just enough to kiss him firmly, and Harry felt all his worries vanish as the pair slid deeper into the gel bag and focused only on the feel of the other person in their arms and where their fingers danced across each other's skin.