Even in the desolate wilderness, stars can still shine - Aoi Jiyuu Shiroi Nozomi
When Harry collapsed on his bed, fully clothed, he wanted nothing more than to sleep. The potion Dumbledore had brought was just waiting to be used. Harry didn’t even bother to get undressed. He just downed the potion and pulled the covers up round him, closed his eyes, and waited for sleep to come, trying not to think about that afternoon.
Despite the potion, that night was the worst.
“I’VE HAD IT UP TO HERE WITH YOU!”
Harry jerked awake and rolled over, coming face-to-face with his furious uncle, who looked ready to explode. He scrambled upright and cold dread seized him as he saw his bedcovers.
Vernon made a grab at Harry, but he dodged and fell out of bed, hurrying to his feet and ducking as his uncle advanced, smelling of drink and looking out of his mind. Harry’s brain froze – all he could think to do was run. Vernon seized the bedside lamp and Harry threw himself on the floor, covering his face with his arms as heard the china shatter.
Vernon started towards him again, but tripped and sprawled. Harry seized his chance – vaulting over the bed, he darted out the door and past his aunt and cousin, and ran for it.
*Run. Quick. He’s gonna kill me.*
The front door had been left unlocked. Uttering a quick prayer of thanks to all the gods he’d learned about at Muggle primary school, Harry pulled it open and sprinted down the road.
The words churned round Harry’s head, leaving no room for logical thought. He turned this way and that, just wanting to put as much distance between him and his crazy uncle as possible.
Harry had no idea where he was heading. Finally he tripped on a tree root and fell, knocking his glasses off. He felt about and put them on, looking around.
He’d completely left Little Whinging. In fact, Harry had no idea how far he’d gone, or the faintest idea where he was. As he got slowly to his feet, he could just make out that he was in some kind of wood. Trees surrounded him, and the noises of the wind moving through them set him on edge.
Harry bent over, trying to get rid of a stitch in his side, and attempted to gather his thoughts. There was no way he could go back to the Dursleys now. He was completely stranded, and didn’t know what to do.
A car revved in the distance. Harry straightened up. It was getting nearer. He strained his eyes, and saw a pair of headlights coming from where he’d just run from. As they got nearer, Harry realized they were heading right for him. He took to his feet again and ran.
The trees ended; at the edge was another road. Harry turned left and started to run along the side, but the car was getting nearer. Looking back over his shoulder, the car rounded the corner. It was the Dursleys’ car.
Harry, his eyes on the car and not on the road, stumbled again. He flung out his arms to cushion his fall and landed heavily on his left one. The car was too near. He tried to get to his feet, but pain shot unexpectedly up from his elbow and it gave out. Harry braced himself for the car to hit him.
There was complete silence. Harry lay absolutely still for several minutes, before slowly raising his head.
The car was nowhere to be seen.
Harry got to his feet shakily and looked all round him.
*I can’t have just imagined it.*
Harry moved across the road in case another car came, and felt for his wand, hoping to cast some light. He felt in his pockets, but it wasn’t there.
Maybe he’d dropped it while he was running? Harry looked round, his eyes now getting used to the darkness, but he couldn’t see it.
*I left it on my bedside table. That’s why it’s not here.*
Harry groaned and sank to the ground. Pain shot up his arm again. He felt it gingerly. It hurt, but he didn’t think it was broken.
*What am I going to do?*
Harry felt completely lost. He didn’t know where the hell he was, he had no wand, it was late at night and he was dressed in a thin t-shirt, he was stranded –
Something stirred in his memory. Where had he heard someone say that?
*Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor…*
Harry fumbled in his pocket and nearly cried with relief at finding a fistful of money. He climbed awkwardly up and hesitated before flinging out his right arm.
“Welcome to the Knight – oh, ‘ello, ‘Arry! Or is it Neville this evenin’?”
“It’s Neville,” Harry said tiredly, but he couldn’t help but smile at a friendly face. Stan hadn’t changed a lot since Harry had last seen him – he looked as pimply as ever.
Stan surveyed him closely. “Are you in trouble again?”
“You could say that. How much are tickets again?”
“Depends where you wanna go. Where you headin’?”
“I don’t know.” Harry thought hard. Grimmauld Place was out of the question. As much as he loved the Weasleys, he couldn’t just turn up. For one thing, he didn’t fancy them knowing why he had fled from Privet Drive, for another, anywhere he went where there were Order members meant being sent back to the Dursleys.
“How far away do you go from here?”
Stan looked surprised at the question. “Are you doin’ a runner or somefink?”
“Yeah, that’s right. I’ll give you a tip if you don’t tell anyone. How far can you take me?”
Stan stared at him for a moment, then said, “Anywhere Britain or Europe – well, ‘slong as it’s connected. We can go through the Channel Tunnel, see.”
Harry was surprised Stan was offering to take him as far as Europe. He considered the matter, but there wasn’t a lot to consider. He was completely defenceless, going back to the Dursleys for his wand was out of the question, and he couldn’t ask anyone to do it for him. Voldemort was in Britain, so it made sense that, as long as Harry was wandless for, he should be as far away as possible.
Stan grinned. “Anywhere in France?”
“Anywhere… well, within reason. Away from Beauxbatons and anywhere there might be giants,” Harry half-joked.
“Right, France it is. That’ll be one Galleon and three Sickles, and a nice tip for secrecy.”
Harry dug in his pockets and pulled out his money. A couple of coins escaped and started rolling in all directions.
“Oh ‘eck. Look, jus’ get on board, an’ I’ll pick these up.”
Harry ascended the stairs and collapsed on the nearest bed. Stan appeared a moment later.
“No luggage?” he enquired as Harry handed him two Galleons.
“Ah, travelling light. I see. Take ‘er away, Ern.”
As promised, the Knight Bus dropped Harry off just outside a Muggle town.
“You won’t tell anyone, right?” Harry asked Stan.
Stan mimed zipping his mouth shut. “Sauvage dragons wouldn't trouver le de moi."
"Means wild dragons wouldn’t get it from me. You gonna stay ‘ere, you need to be up on your lingo, Neville.”
Harry had been a member of the French Club at his primary school for a year, but he was only allowed to attend because Dudley went to the Computer Club at the same time. Harry had learnt a few phrases, which was why he’d chosen France, rather than somewhere further abroad.
As Harry had left the bus, the sun was coming up. Harry walked further into the town, wandering around and looking at the closed shops. It wasn’t till the sun was up properly and he started to see people on the streets, than he realized what he’d just done.
*You idiot, Harry!*
Being stranded with no money, food or wand was bad enough. Think being stranded with no food, no money, no wand, and in a foreign country.
Harry thought he’d rather take Voldemort.
Funnily enough, he hadn’t started panicking yet. Despite his worries, he was enjoying the walk and the warm sun, and the town was certainly not a bad one. Harry wandered round the streets, taking in the sights, enjoying free samples of the food and drink in the market.
But as the day wore on, Harry realized he needed a plan of action. Maybe if he could find out where the French wizarding bank was – there had to be one, after all – maybe he could send a message to Gringotts to get his money transferred, or something.
Earlier Harry had been both surprised and relieved to find some Muggle money mixed with his wizard coins. He remembered going down the shop for some milk for Aunt Petunia, and was grateful she had forgotten to take the change from him.
Harry was dog-tired and his feet were aching – he needed somewhere to go to try and clear his muddled mind. He spotted a café on the corner and headed straight for it.
The inside was small, but bright and cheery. Harry looked around. There were a few round tables squashed in, covered in red-and-white check tablecloths. The place seemed fairly popular – a crowd of Japanese tourists sat jabbering away happily in one corner and an American couple were perusing the menus. A small knot of men were immersed in serious conversation as far away from the counter as possible. None of them looked too happy about being in a public place, and kept shooting furtive looks around the café. One spotted Harry and stared. Harry moved quickly away from them. He supposed he must look a sight, but the group made him feel uneasy.
“Puis-je vous aider?"*
Harry jumped and tore his eyes away from the occupants of the table.
“S-sorry,” he stammered, “I don’t speak French.”
Finally, the last day before closing. Heather Louise was in a good mood as she wiped down the café tables, humming to herself. Customers were giving her odd looks, particularly the usual quiet group of men in the corner. For some reason they got on her nerves – they had been in and out of the café for nearly a fortnight, but never ordered anything. Today though, even they could not dampen her spirits.
At the end of the day, the café owners would be taking a holiday and the place would close for a week. Heather Louise had not had a break from work in a long time, and was looking forward to her time off. She planned to have a relaxing time, maybe visit her nephew or catch up on paperwork if it got too desperate, without having to worry about shifts. She wanted a bit of quiet time to herself, and nothing would stop that.
She was replacing the clean cutlery at the counter when a boy walked in. He looked about ten years younger than her, and had a bit of a lost expression on his face. He was around her height, with messy dark hair and glasses, and dressed in a baggy t-shirt and ripped jeans. Heather Louise watched as he veered away from the group in the corner, watching them warily.
*I can relate to that.*
She left the cutlery and approached him. On closer inspection, he looked pale as if he was ill, and his eyes had dark shadows under them. His clothes looked worse when she was nearer. His trainers looked like they could do with a wash – or a good chuck in the dustbin, which would be easier and more effective.
“Puis-je vous aider?” she asked kindly. The dark-haired boy jumped and turned to look at her. His eyes were startling green, reminding Heather Louise of her grandmother Amena’s.
He stammered that he didn’t speak French. Heather Louise smiled.
“No problem. I'm English. You are too, aren’t you?”
He looked relieved and nodded.
“Can I get you anything? Cup of tea, piece of cake…?”
“Er, a coffee, please… black.”
Harry sat down in a chair as the waitress moved towards the kitchen, and pulled out what Muggle money he had. A sudden thought struck him.
Heather Louise kept an eye on the teenager as she fetched a coffee pot. He looked deep in thought and was turning some coins over in his hand, staring at them. She noticed he seemed to be almost cradling his left arm, as if he’d hurt it.
He looked up as she approached again.
“I’m sorry, I only just realized – I’ve only got English money -”
“Oh, don’t worry, we can get it changed easily… how come you’ve only got English money? Didn’t you change it when you came over?” Heather Louise asked curiously.
The boy at the table suddenly looked very uncomfortable, and she changed the subject.
“No, I don’t think there’ll be a problem paying in pounds. I’ll have a word with the manager, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
He smiled. “Thanks.”
She watched him carefully from behind the counter as he sipped his coffee. He looked tired and stressed, and kept rubbing his eyes. She observed the tatty clothes and wondered.
Harry sat with his back to the group, who keep shooting him glances. The coffee, while pleasant, did nothing to help him clear his thoughts. Panic was finally beginning to settle in, and Harry realized he hadn’t a clue where to go. The most natural thing to do would be to locate the nearest magical location, but without a wand, an owl, and no knowledge of French geography, Harry didn’t know where to start.
It was growing late, and the customers were drifting out. It seemed the café would shut soon. It was only him and the group behind him left when he decided what to do, and stood up and counted out coins, with the intention of finding some place to sit until it got dark, and trying to summon the French version of the Knight Bus, and hope they spoke English. It was a feeble plan, but Harry didn’t have anything better.
Things didn’t turn out like that.
Harry started to leave at the same time as the men behind him. He stood back to let them past, but they seemed to be scrambling to get out fast, and in the kafuffle, Harry got knocked over.
“Covillaud!” the tallest man snapped, and turned to Harry, holding out his hand. “I am so sorry… here, let me -”
“Thanks,” Harry said breathlessly, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet, and massaging his chest where he’d hit it.
The man who had helped him up was staring at him – or, rather, at something on him. Harry looked down, surprised. He had completely forgotten the chain Dumbledore had given him – it had come out in the scramble, and was now hanging out of his shirt in full view. Harry noticed it was glowing purple, and stowed it quickly out of sight.
“Covillaud, apologize,” the tallest man growled at the one who had knocked Harry over. The one he addressed glared at the former, but uttered a few words in French which Harry took as an apology.
“Don’t mention it.”
It was just the three of them in the doorway now. As the smaller man hurried out of the café, he knocked into Harry again, this time causing his bad arm to hit the door. Harry let out a small cry of pain which, this time, neither of the men seemed to notice as they left.
“Are you alright?”
Harry turned. It was the waitress who had served him. He nodded, even though his arm was still hurting.
“Are you sure? Here, let me look at that.”
Harry reluctantly showed her his bruised arm.
“Ouch. That doesn’t look very nice. I’d see someone about that if I were you.”
“Er, right… I will, thanks.”
She continued to stare at him intently. Harry was starting to feel rather uncomfortable. He felt like he was in a teacher’s office after being caught doing something against the rules – and he’d had plenty of experience to compare to.
“You’re homeless, right?”
The question took him completely by surprise.
“A runaway, then. Whatever you call it. I’ve had enough experience to recognize one.”
“N-no, I’m not, really,” Harry stammered, yet he could tell she knew he was lying.
“What’s your name?” she pressed.
“Harry,” he said automatically, then mentally kicked himself.
“Right. Harry. I’m not stupid. You get a lot of homeless people and runaway teens in cafes these days. I’ve been in the business long enough. Not so much round here, but I used to work in London.”
That explained her English accent. Harry didn’t know what to do. Should he run for it? But his legs seemed glued to the floor, and she seemed to read his thoughts, because she shut the door and stood in between them.
“Look Harry, I’m not going to beat about the bush. Where are you from?”
Harry gave up the internal battle.
“I surmised as much. Anywhere in particular?”
The woman sighed. “Well, that narrows it down.”
“I…” Harry started, unable to think of anything to add.
“How long have you been away for?”
“Since last night. I came through the Channel Tunnel,” Harry mumbled.
*Harry you idiot. You really know how to be discreet, don’t you? Now you’ve gone and got yourself in a nice mess with the Muggles.*
Although the woman looked stern, her eyes were soft and full of pity. Harry found a lump arise in his throat and didn’t know why.
“Okay, first things first. You look dead on your feet. I think you could do with a good sleep, something to eat… and, no offence, but a wash might do you a bit of good too.”
Harry simply stared. She sighed.
“Look Harry, I just want to help, alright? Please don’t make it difficult for yourself.”
“You’re going to call the police, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know. Just come with me. I’ll help you get sorted out, alright?”
Their eyes met and Harry saw that she really did want to help. He sighed.
She wouldn’t let him go, after all. He figured playing along and looking for a chance to escape might be the best option.
There was also a part of him that told him he’d been stupid, that he needed to find help. The part of him that seemed to speak in Hermione’s voice.
“Where are we going?” he asked as she locked up the café.
“My home. It’s not far.”
Following a complete stranger whose name he did not even know home may seem a stupid thing to do, but Harry was too confused and tired to care much. The house was just on the edge of town. She let them both in and sat them both down in her living-room.
“Right Harry, we’re going to play a little game. I am going to tell you something about myself, and you have to copy me.”
“Yes – for example, I say my name, and you say yours. Alright?”
Harry took a deep breath and nodded.
“Good. Let’s start with the basics. My name is Heather Louise Thrapp. Yours?”
“Harry… Evans,” he said, catching himself. He hadn’t promised to stay honest, after all.
“Okay. I live at number twenty – vignt -Verte Chemin, Ile d’Aix. Your turn.”
Harry dropped his gaze and mumbled, “Four, Privet Drive…”
“Little Whinging, Surrey.”
Heather Louise seemed to let out a sigh of relief.
“Okay. I live on my own.”
“My aunt and uncle. And my cousin.”
“Sixteen,” Harry said, then added, “Nearly.”
“My parents are dead,” Heather Louise said quietly. Harry looked up at her sharply.
“So are mine.”
There was a long pause.
“Harry, why did you run away?”
Harry stared. He didn’t know what to say.
“It’s okay. I understand if you don’t want to tell me. But sometimes it helps to talk through these things.”
Harry looked down at the floor and Heather Louise stood up.
“Harry, I think we can leave it there for now. Do you want a shower? Food?”
Heather Louise promised to get out some clean clothes for Harry (her nephew was a couple of years younger, but apparently around the same size) and she let him use the bathroom.
Harry emerged from the shower twenty minutes later, towelling dry his wet hair. “Heather Louise?”
She was in the kitchen, holding Harry’s phone. “I charged this up for you, Harry. I believe someone wants to speak with you.”
Harry switched the mobile on, and immediately the kitchen filled with the sound of the ringing, making them both jump. Harry switched it off again. Heather Louise sighed.
“Okay, Harry. Let’s try again…”
“Right Harry, I’ll make you a deal. You can decide whether to answer your phone or not.”
Harry looked at her. “What if I don’t?”
“Then I’m afraid I’m going to have to call the police.”
The phone lay innocently on the table. Harry swallowed and thought hard.
*Right. If I answer that, it’ll be Dumbledore or someone on the other end. Not good.*
*But if Heather Louise calls the police, not only will it make a big mess with the wizardry stuff, they’ll make me go back to the Dursleys, or stick me in a Muggle orphanage, or something similar.*
*But Dumbledore’ll make me go back to the Dursleys too. Him and his damn Plan.*
*If I get the police involved, so will the Ministry. Dumbledore’ll probably get into trouble…*
*Is that a bad thing?* said a sly little voice in Harry’s head. Harry clapped his hands over his ears to shut it out.
*If I told him what the Dursleys were doing… no, that won’t work. He’s ignored my requests for four years, why would he take notice now?*
*Okay, think big. Voldemort’s out there somewhere. I haven’t got a wand. If he finds me now, I’m in trouble. If the police get involved, sooner or later he’ll find out I’m missing.*
*But he’ll find out quicker from the Ministry, if they know.*
*The Order can protect me if they know where I am.*
*Er, what else? Oh, yeah. I can’t speak French.*
Harry groaned. Weighing up the options was not the best way to clear his head.
*Alright, Harry. Decision time. Better the devil you know, I suppose.*
Harry shakily leaned forwards, picked up the mobile and switched it on. He jumped as the ringing sounded loudly through the room.
He looked up at Heather Louise, who nodded encouragingly. Harry pressed the answer key and held the phone to his ear.
For a few seconds there was only silence at the other end. Maybe whoever was there hadn’t realized it had stopped ringing. Harry lost his nerve and was about to press the end call button when a voice said, “Hello?” nearly making him drop the phone.
“Harry?” The voice at the other end sounded panicked. “Are you alright? Where are you? Are you safe? Please, tell me you’re safe!”
Harry squirmed with guilt at Dumbledore’s words.
“Oh, thank Merlin. We’ve all been so worried! Harry, where have you been?”
“Would you believe me if I said I was in France?”
There was a pause, and Dumbledore said, “No, probably not.”
Harry blinked a few times. He was sure the prickling feeling was just tiredness.
“Harry, are you really in France? Oh Merlin, it wasn’t a Portkey, was it?”
“No, I took the Kn – the bus.”
Harry wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Dumbledore evidently picked up on the correction.
“Is there a Muggle at your end?”
“Right. I’ll ask questions, you answer yes or no, Harry. Okay?”
Harry nodded, then remembered Dumbledore couldn’t see him. “Yes.”
“Right. Where are you, exactly? Do you need someone to come and get you? Wait, have you got your wand? Money?”
“Ile d’Aix, yes, no, a bit.”
There was silence as Dumbledore worked out the answer.
“You haven’t got your wand? You left it at the Dursleys?”
“I was kind of panicking.”
“Oh, Merlin. Harry, what happened? Why did you just run off like that?”
Dumbledore sounded almost tearful. Harry sniffed and rubbed his eyes. “I just… I couldn’t stay there anymore.”
Harry let out a small sob and wiped his face.
“Harry, do you want me to go?” Heather Louise asked quietly. Harry closed his eyes and nodded.
Yes, definitely tearful. Harry’s own eyes were streaming and he gave up on the attempt to stop them.
“What’s going to happen to me now?”
“I don’t know, Harry. But I promise that you won’t go back to the Dursleys unless we have no other alternative – and if we don’t I swear you will not be alone.”
Harry swallowed hard.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Right, back to the pressing issue. Do you have somewhere to stay?”
Harry thought. “Yes.”
“Good. Do you have the address?”
Harry peered out the window and told Dumbledore the road, the town and Heather Louise’s name.
“And it’s number twenty.”
There was a pause. Harry could hear the scratching of a quill the other end.
“Right. Harry, it will probably be a day or so, before you can be collected.”
“Can’t you just… you know…”
“Unfortunately not. To Apparate, you’ll need a clear visual image of your destination, Harry. It’s the same with creating Portkeys, so it’ll have to be the Muggle way – then there’s the problem of actually locating the address. It could take a while. Harry, keep the – um…”
“Thank you, Harry. Keep the phone on all the time.”
Harry tried to reply, but the words seemed to get lost on the way.
“Stay where you are, Harry, I’m on my way. Keep in touch.”
There was a click and the line went dead.
*means "Can I help you?"
Write a Review Chameleon I: Emeralds and Green Light: Le Sauvage!