To quote one of my recent reviews, 26-MONTH HIATUS YO. No such thing as a dead story, just one that hasn't yet been fully put to paper.
"Damn it, Potter! I said clear your mind, not twist it into a knot! Would you at least attempt to control your incompetence for one night?"
Harry just glared at the professor on the other side of the desk while rubbing his temples. Another Monday, another migraine. At least Snape seemed to be suffering as much as he was. He caught the Professor's eye, and had to fight the sudden urge to smile. He'd been putting up with headaches like this since first year. Snape's legilimency-induced headaches seemed to be an entirely new phenomenon for him. He was willing to see who cracked first.
"Bah! Get out of my sight."
Harry absconded with a decade of Dursley disappearing practice behind him before Snape changed his mind. He was free! And earlier than usual, too. Free for, well... two days. And it would probably take that long for this headache to disappear on it's own.
With a sigh, he started the long trek back to Gryffindor tower. Trudging from the dank basements to the soaring towers... he was sure there was a metaphor in there somewhere.
Damn that brat. The Headmaster wanted him to teach the boy Occlumency, and the Dark Lord wanted him to lay the boy's mind open for him. Both could be done - indeed, both were being done in one fell swoop. But that blasted Potterspawn had either invented a new form of Occlumency or had lost what could charitably be called his mind.
Oh, sure, he could claim to the Dark Lord that he had broken Potter's mind deliberately, and probably be rewarded for it, and since Dumbledore was avoiding the brat like the plague he could just say that the lessons were going as planned. But trying to steer his mind through Potter's fragmented thought processes was giving him one utter bastard of a headache. And he couldn't shake the feeling that some part of the brat knew this and was deliberately taking the twistiest route possible.
Harry paused on the fourth floor, glancing at his long-dead watch out of sheer habit. He had gotten out of Occlumency early enough that the library would still be open for a while yet. He had been meaning to find some more books to help him teach DA. That, and Hermione had been giving him oddly thoughtful looks since Saturday - the practicing Quidditch team had seen him and Luna blast past, and Ron had passed the story on to her - so maybe it wouldn't hurt to kill some time down here instead of heading back to the tower.
After all, the last couple of times she had something like that expression on her face, he had ended up teaching an illegal class and being interviewed by Rita Skeeter. Not that those were necessarily bad, but his schedule was getting rather cramped as it was.
His mind made up, he turned away from the next staircase and headed along the corridor.
"So, after watching me outfly a Hungarian Horntail - only just mind you, I've still got the scar on my shoulder - this Orla girl gave you the money to buy a soft-toy version of it from Hogsmeade for her?"
"And she called it Harry."
"And it's a she."
"Well, the dragon you outflew was a she."
"Of course. And she sleeps with it."
"Fairly sure she does."
"And we're supposed to be the mental ones?"
Luna just grinned in response to that, while the cuddly Horntail doll sprawled on her hair continued to eye him in a mildly unnerving manner. She had taken over a sizeable portion of one of the library's tables with a dizzying array of maps, open tomes and even an unrolled scroll. She had seemed surprised to see him, but had waved him over, clearing a spot on the table for him. His first question after greetings had been fairly predictable.
"Did you just finish a lesson with Snape? You seem less wound up than I would have thought."
"He ended it early. Seems I'm starting to give him a headache every bit as bad as the one he's been giving me. Makes it so much easier to cope with the headaches, knowing he's got one just as bad. Oh, and I remembered to keep my distance from his hair."
Luna beamed at him.
Harry gestured to the array of reading material scattered across the table. "So, what's the story behind all this?
"A bit of research. Then the Troll King got into the picture of the Dragon Tyrant, and they rolled into the maps while they were fighting. I lost track of them somewhere around Leeds." She eyed Northern England again before shrugging. "They'll find their way back after the Library closes, and they looked like they were having fun."
"Mm. Do you think Professor Flitwick would let me go to Jotunheimen in Norway instead of Hogsmeade next month?
"Probably not, unfortunately."
Luna nibbled her lip thoughtfully, running her eyes over one of the larger maps. "What about the central Pyrenees?"
"I don't think he'd go for that, either."
"No, I suppose not." She sighed. "I was trying to sort out a surprise for a friend. But it looks like it would take until after the holidays to do it right."
Harry ran an eye over the tomes spread across the table, trying to work out the surprise. /Territorial Claims of Magical Europe/, /Low Necklines in Low Heat, a Guide to Everyday Temperature Control/, /Sword and Wand: The Art of Combat for Gentleman Wizards/, /Subterranean Magical Ecosystems/...
"Well, why do you need something this big? You're good at surprising people. Shouldn't need to go through a lot of preparations for it. Besides, it would distract them from whatever the reason for the surprise is."
Luna considered his words, tilting her head to one side. "I suppose you're right. It wouldn't do to upstage the surprise. It would be better to keep it simple... in fact," her voice rose in sudden determination, "I think I'll do it now."
"Great!" smiled Harry, enjoying her enthusiasm. "Who's being surprised?"
Author's Note: If this cliffhanger doesn't shake my warm-and-fuzzy reputation, nothing will.