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Here's part two of the fic I've no real idea where it's going. Once again, any and all comments appreciated. Critical comments especially loved.


A painting hangs on an ivy wall
Nestled in the emerald moss
The eyes declare a truce of trust
And then it draws me far away
Where deep in the desert twilight
Sand melts in pools of the sky
When darkness lays her crimson cloak
Your lamps will call me home…


For the first time in a long while, Harry felt completely calm. No one at Pithekoussai expected great things of him. Come to think of it, they didn’t expect much at all. A few people would glance at him out of the corner of their eyes as he walked by, and maybe a few hushed whispers followed him, but they left him be.

This attitude allowed him to explore, and at the end of a month he was quite adept at finding his way about the place without asking for directions. Not that directions were often available; more often than not the people there didn’t speak English. If they spoke any English at all, it was only a handful of words. The state of solitude was pleasant, and time became only a minor annoyance.

One day Harry was wandering through one of the oldest parts of the castle. Time and nature had worn it down to a rambling ruin, and grape vines lay like a blanket over everything, holding the stones together better than any mortar could have. The heady sweet scent of ripe grapes was in the air, making him a little dizzy. Maybe that was why he was taken aback by the sight of the picture hanging on the wall of one of the old hallways.

The painting was beneath an overhang and shadowed by the vines draping around it. It shouldn’t have grabbed his attention, shouldn’t have been noticeable, but it was. The large green snake in the bottom of the painting, scales glistening as if they were real, was what alarmed him the most. It brought back memories he was fighting hard to either bury or deal with, depending on his mood. The rest of the painting became background, a mélange of trees and water and other natural type things.

Harry stared at the snake. It wasn’t a particularly violent looking snake like Nagini; there were no deadly fangs ready to strike, no coils of tail just waiting to choke the life out of someone. Voldemort’s familiar in any of its incarnations never failed to make him shiver.

A loud voice shook him out of his daze. “Boanerges!” La Matricia had nicknamed him that. She had brushed aside his fringe, saw the infamous scar, and declared him to be the Son of Thunder—Boanerges. Harry looked over to see Chiara scrambling over a tumble of moss covered stones, headed his way. Harry waved at her.

“I see you have found our painting,” she said, gasping slightly from the climb.

“It’s bloody creepy, I’ll give it that much,” he muttered.

That pulled Chiara up short. “Why is it creepy?”

Harry gave her an incredulous look. “You are just taking the piss, aren’t you?” She shook her head, obviously puzzled. “Voldemort, everything foul he’d ever done, was represented by a snake. Pardon me if a painting where the main creature is a serpent makes me just a little angry.”

Chiara just leaned against the wall, tugging at a grapevine. “You’d do best not to mention that in front of many of the people here; they’d surely be offended.”

“I’m not sure I want to know why.”

“The snake is one of the oldest representations of the Great Mother, older than this temple even. And if you even try to tell some of the people here that it is anything but a positive symbol you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable position.”

“Thrown into the volcano, hmm?” Harry grinned. Some people in the area waited with baited breath for the volcanic island to come alive again and to be buried under a flood of lava; but most knew Mont’Epomeo had been dormant for a long time, and if the witches couldn’t handle a little bit of lava, well, then they really had to brush up their skills.

“To start,” she smirked back. “Look.” She cast her eyes about, searching for something but not seeming to find it. Eventually she pulled her bracelet off of her wrist, a length of metal coiled into the detailed shape of a snake. A tap of her wand and a muttered word straightened it out; another word animated it. “The snake likes to crawl along the ground, in the dust and dirt, the true home of the Great Lady. And,” she waved the wand over the metal snake, and a thin layer peeled off of the top, falling to the ground, “the snake sheds its dead skin, revealing the brand new surface beneath. It’s just like the cycle of the seasons, growing, flourishing, dying, and then winter is peeled away like the snake skin revealing the growing Earth beneath it. Just like the Great Lady. In many tales as well the snake has also been the only consort of the Great Lady. I’m sure you can figure out why.” Chiara tapped the snake again, sending it back to bracelet form and sliding it back onto her arm.

“And this is what you, and everyone else here, believes?” Harry asked, a little skeptical. Religion was never something that had grabbed his attention. This religion sounded a little like something Luna Lovegood would espouse; while she was a lovely girl, sometimes she had some truly cracked ideas.

“Not everyone who passes through the gates is a believer in the Lady, as your presence here proves, but a good deal of us are,” Chiara said, crossing her arms over her chest. “We’re not trying to convert you; we’re not some cult full of stark raving nutters. You can believe whatever you want.”

“I just don’t understand it,” he replied honestly. There was no reason to hide his confusion. If he was on a voyage of discovery, then the first step would be admitting there were things he didn’t know and to ask as many questions as possible.

Chiara looked thoughtful for a minute, then nodded briefly. “It’s a nice day out for November; let’s go for a walk down to the beach. I’ll explain there as best as I can.” Harry just shrugged and followed her as she walked off.

The beach was at the base of a cliff, down a very long zig-zagging stairway attached to the vertical side. It wasn’t a typical beach; the shoreline was made of large rocks and small thermal pools rather than smooth sand. They ended up perching on one of these boulders, with Chiara’s feet dangling in one of the heated pools. “The religion can basically be summed up in two words: sex and death.”

“Sex and death?”

“Two constants in life since…ever, really. People have sex to make new generations, and everyone dies, but they keep coming back too in some form or another. And what better representation of that than a heavily pregnant woman, or an earth that rebirths itself every year?”

They talked for a little while longer, with Chiara trying to answer any questions that Harry had. Eventually Chiara had to go, she had a class to teach that afternoon, and with a hand ruffling his hair in farewell she left Harry by the ocean. Harry stayed there, just thinking about things. Eventually he dozed off, feeling at ease, even if none of his questions were answered.

It was nighttime, beneath a deep blanket of velvet darkness. There weren’t even stars in the sky, just a vast expanse of black. Harry felt earth beneath his bare feet, hard and unyielding. A rock was digging into his heel. Off in the distance was a little flickering light, a spot of orange and yellow licking upwards.

Harry began walking towards the little light. His feet caught and stumbled on stones, but that was all that seemed to be around him. From what little he could see it was a flat and bare plain, no trees or water or animals anywhere at all. It was silent, an almost primordial silence that seemed to be there before the existence of anything else was.

He walked for seconds or years; time really wasn’t relevant in this place. He came closer to the fire, and a figure began to take shape. It was just a bit of a blobby thing from his distance, but it seemed alive. Harry kept walking.

Soon the shape coalesced into the figure of a woman sitting on the ground with the light coming from directly in front of her. She was an older woman, not quite elderly, but not young. She reminded him of McGonagall in some vague way. The woman was wrapped in voluminous yards of fabric, concealing her body and creating a hood over her head. One pale, long finger was held to her lips, the universal symbol for silence. The lips were curved upwards slightly in an enigmatic smile. Her other hand beckoned to Harry, waving him closer and then pointing him towards the light at her feet.

The light was a small fire contained within an ancient bronze cauldron. There were designs on the outside of the cauldron, but he couldn’t make out what they were. Harry didn’t have time to dwell on the designs, because the woman’s finger was pointing him down towards the center of the fire. Harry looked.

There was something within the fire, something white. It looked almost like an egg, if eggs could glow and shimmer like satin. The edges were starting to singe though, crawling quickly towards the middle of it, turning the white to light brown, then a darker brown, until the whole thing was charcoal, a startling shadow within lively flames.

The egg like thing didn’t seem to be fully destroyed though, it was pulsing. Cracking maybe, like the egg it had looked like before, with dark flakes coming off of it. Within the egg seemed to be another fire, burning brightly, and almost…it almost looked as if something were reaching out of it, but he couldn’t quite see it, not yet…

Harry woke up before the dream was over, leaving him feeling extraordinarily frustrated. He wanted to find out what was reaching out of that cauldron, for some reason it was important, but his brain couldn’t grasp it. It was then that he realized that night had fallen heavily while he was asleep, and a chill was coming off of the water. “Oh, bugger,” he muttered. He knew where the steps were, but the only way he could find his way back to the castle was by sight, and he could barely make out his feet in front of him.

Using his hands as a guide, Harry began to crawl back over the rocks. Occasionally he slipped, limbs landing in one of the pools. It didn’t matter if the water was warm or cold, it was still bad. It left him clammy and shivering. After a few minutes, though, he spotted a little glow coming down where the thought the stairway to be. “Boanerges?” A masculine voice called out.

He knew that voice, and he also remembered he had a wand. The dream had distracted him that much that he forgot he could have used his wand and easily lit the way back. (Apparition wouldn’t have worked; the wards around the castle were vast and would have landed him even further out of his way.) “Anastasio?” Anastasio was a man a little older than he who had come to the castle with similar intentions, to escape from the world for a while and to study his theologian heart out. Anastasio could have left a long while ago, but he ended up staying on to help teach the younger children of the island magic before they went off to the big school on the mainland.

“La Matricia mentioned that you might be down here,” Anastasio said as Harry lit his wand and easily made his way across the rocks.

“I fell asleep,” he said, hopping onto the smooth bit at the base of the stairs. “Thanks for the light.”

“Anytime.”

As they made the long climb back up the stairs (it was always longer going up than it was coming down) Harry asked Anastasio something that had been niggling at him since he had woken up. “You’ve done a lot of studying about the images of people and women and whatnot, right?”

“Well, images as relating to goddesses, yes. Why do you ask?”

“Okay. Have you heard anything about the image of a mature woman, wrapped almost completely in robes with only her face visible, and holding one finger in front of her mouth as if asking for quiet?” Harry figured it couldn’t hurt to ask Anastasio; he was knowledgeable about such things and wouldn’t go blabbing it about to others.

“Hmm.” Anastasio stopped for a brief moment on a landing, thinking hard, then began to walk again. “It sounds like it could be Sige.”

“Sige?”

“Some old sects of Christianity considered her the Creatress, the Grandmother of God. She is believed to have stood at the beginning of all things and represented the state of chaos before the universe came into being. But it was also through her that the word was born, the word that created everything. Why do you ask?” Anastasio looked at him strangely.

“Nothing really, just a picture I saw in a book.” Harry didn’t feel all that inclined to share his dream right away. He wanted to hoard it to himself for a while as if it were some precious treasure. He got the feeling Anastasio didn’t quite believe him, but Anastasio was considerate enough not to push him on it.

They didn’t talk the rest of the way, just walked in companionable silence. The castle soon became visible, with a torch lighting the large rear gate, guiding them the rest of the way home. As it turned out, Chiara was there holding the large torch that was attached to a long pole, a heavy shawl wrapped around her to protect her from the night’s wind. “There’s some food waiting for you in the kitchen,” she said, “if you’d like.”

“Yeah, I reckon that would be good.”

“Here,” Anastasio walked up to Chiara and took the torch from her. “I’ll put this out, and you take him to supper.”

“Okay. Come on, I’ll show you a shortcut to the kitchen,” she grinned, taking his arm. Harry wasn’t at all bothered by the slight invasion of personal space, and followed her willingly. In two quick and hurried minutes they reached the kitchen, and a wave of her wand had his dinner plate steaming.

“Thank you,” Harry said, sitting down at a rough hewn table that was more often used for preparing food than eating off of it. Chiara sat down across from him.

“You were out there for a while. Did you find what you were looking for?”

Harry chewed a piece of bread thoughtfully. “I don’t think I was looking for anything, really. Things have a tendency of finding me though, story of my life.”

“Did anything find you then?”

“Once I figure out what it was, I’ll let you know,” he said with a half-smile. Chiara just nodded, and leaned over to steal a piece of his bread. He let her.

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Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
sopdetly
Sep. 2nd, 2004 05:09 am (UTC)
*runs in, panting* Sorry it took me so long to leave a comment, but I promised I would!

I start by admitting this: you get so many fic ideas going at once sometimes, it's hard to keep them straight when they haven't yet found their purpose and direction. So I'm often flailing around trying to figure out if this fits into this idea or that concept...just so you know ;)

Anyway, this idea is the Harry's Discovery Quest thing, right? With the mysterious dream symbolism that I am going to figure out on my own by clues you give me in the story :P I think it's got some interesting potential, and I think it'll be good as you start to flesh it out.

Personally, I'm not as drawn to Harry as a standalone character, and with no one else from canon around, you'll have to do a really excellent job of fleshing your OCs out as well as Harry to really grab my attention. But if anyone can do it, I believe you can :D I look forward to more! :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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