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Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. I'm just borrowing them for my and (I hope) my readers' amusement only and have no intention of trying to make money off of them in any way, shape or form.

Warnings: AU elements in the Harry Potter section. This is a prequel for a WIP Harry Potter fic that may never see daylight.
Fandom: Harry Potter/Sandman/xxxHOLIC
Rating: G

Author: The RCK
Last updated: 23 January 2009

Written for Rhaella in Fandom Stocking 2008.

Thanks to Ceara and Retsuko for beta reading. You helped me stop second guessing myself.


Luna takes refugee in dreams. They're kinder than the waking world even when they're cruel, and she can wander where she wishes. No locked doors here.

Of course, one presents itself immediately. Luna allows herself a laugh. Then she knocks. "Locked door, locked door, let me come in!" She laughs again, wondering if there will be a little pig on the other side. There could be. This is a dream, after all, so anything is possible.

The door hesitates. If it were a waking world door, she'd think no one was going to answer. Because this is a dream, she knows that the door is still making up its mind.

"You know you want to," she tells it. "Opening is your job. If you weren't going to open, you'd be a wall." She frowns for a second, waiting to see if the door will decide that it really should be a wall. She puts a hand on it. "You're here for me, so you should open for me. I want to know where you go."

"Not all paths are paths you might wish to walk."

Luna turns to look. She spins so rapidly it's like moving through frozen air. She blinks. "You don't belong here." Except he does. "This is my dream." She can't quite see his features. It's not an absence of features but an abundance, a rotation, a flicker of there and not and of this and that and several others. She can tell that he's tall and that his hair spikes off in different directions as if it's reaching for a dozen different things at once. She's not sure that it doesn't move as it shifts colors and textures and lengths.

"It is yours." His response is calmer than she expects. "That doesn't mean I can't pass through. There are paths through all dreams."

"For you." She's certain of that and doesn't bother to question the certainty. She looks back at the door. "It doesn't like you, I think."

The door quivers and seems to warp.

Luna taps her cheek. "Oh, I know! It's trying to do what I want and what you want, and it can't." She does her best to meet his eyes. "Be nice. This is my dream, and I want to go through."

"If you go through, you will not come back unchanged." He sounds sad.

"Change isn't always bad." Luna puts her hand on the door again. "It can be, even when what's before is bad, but sometimes the risk is worth taking."

"Are things that bad for you?" His features fix themselves for a moment, and he looks rather like Professor Flitwick but much too tall.

"Not yet, but they well be." She tries the knob. Still locked. "I don't want to wait that long. I can't move my body, but I can move my mind."

"Ah. That would explain it." He puts his hand on the door too. "You looked for the door. You didn't simply happen upon it."

Luna doesn't remember looking, but she smiles and nods. "Even nightmares are a refuge of sorts."

"Do you have many nightmares?" He sounds curious.

She shakes her head. "Not so much any more. I think I frighten them. I can do so much worse." She gives him her vaguest look. There's no need to reveal all her secrets, not yet.

He tilts his head to one side as if he's reconsidering her. "Are you auditioning or is it simply that you wish to be left alone?"

She shivers just a little. His words seem to have more weight than they should. "Alone isn't my ambition, but it is better than bad company." She considers turning away from him, leaving, but that would mean leaving the door, too, and she doesn't want to do that. His very presence tells her that the door matters. She spins on one foot. "The Dark Lord doesn't bother with my dreams. I don't think he bothers with anyone's dreams."

"Not even his own?"

"I don't think he has any now." Luna thinks about that after she's said it. "He's not precisely alive any more, you see. He's not dead, but he's not really alive either. He wants to be. No. He wants us to think that he's better than alive. He wants us to want to be like him and to fail." She reaches for a song to sing and can't find one. Instead, she squares her shoulders and meets the stranger's eyes again. "I refuse. I still can do that. For now."

"And he calls himself 'Dark Lord'?" There's a sneer in the stranger's words.

"No, he just makes us call him that. He calls himself Lord Voldemort." Speaking the name takes some effort, even here. He doesn't touch my dreams. "It's an anagram for his real name, I've heard." She shrugs. "His name doesn't matter to me." Her attention sharpens. "Does it matter to you?" Can you use it? "There's a prophecy and a Chosen One, but it's taking a long, long time."

"Or you wouldn't ask a stranger in a dream." He nods. "I can see that." He knocks on the door. "Open," he says, and it does. "I can't help directly, not this time. The lady through here can, but there will be a price. Make sure you find it balanced as it's likely to be high, and you will pay it. Changing your mind won't be an option."

Luna's eyes widen. "An opportunity...." She drops him a curtsey before she starts through the expanding portal. "I thank you."

"My realm will hold you, Luna Lovegood. That is my gift to you, and you may not give it away for it does not belong to you."

She curtseys again. "No one will ever believe me, you know. They don't when the impossible is possible."

He gives a short, sharp laugh. "You don't want to be believed, do you?"

She stops, half in and half out of the doorway. "Some times. Not always. I wouldn't know half what I know if I were believed, and the parts that are believed help. It's enough." Then she leaves him behind.

Her feet touch a wooden floor. The walls of a corridor fold in around her. She doesn't bother looking back at the door. Its job is done. It won't be there any longer. She walks forward.

Two girls bow to her as one. "Welcome. The mistress is expecting you." They turn and lead her deeper into the place she's found.

The mistress is a woman with long, flowing black hair that reminds Luna of water, of a river with depths that can swallow nations. Somehow, this woman scares her more than either the stranger walking her dreams or the Dark Lord.

The woman has a cigarette in a long holder. She raises it to her lips. She says nothing.

Luna hesitates. She knows this is her last chance to flee. "The man on the other side of the door, in my dream, said you could help if I paid the price."

The woman nods and rises to her feet. "I'm Yuuko." She takes one of Luna's hands and draws her over to a heavily cushion sofa. "I sell...whatever you need."

Luna allows herself to be drawn. "I don't know what I need," she admits. I could refuse to pay. She'd let me go. And knowing that I could have bought a solution would be the price I'd pay for leaving.

"Do you know what you want?"

"I know a lot of things I want." Luna pushes herself backward, burrowing into the cushions which seem infinitely deep. "I'm not sure which of them I need. It has to be the right wish, doesn't it?"

"I'll sell you what you ask for." Yuuko leans back, away from Luna.

"Is there a price for asking the price?" Luna doesn't want to start swimming without testing the waters.

Yuuko laughs. "For asking, no. Not exactly. For the moment, you're paying me in amusement. That's enough. A price tag is of little value."

Luna considers that. "I don't think that's true. Many people don't know their own prices, and I'd like to. Besides, knowing someone else's price would be--" She waved a hand to indicate vague benefits. "It's much easier to deal with a person when you know what matters. I don't know what matters for you."

Yuuko lifts a bottle and drinks from it. She doesn't offer any to Luna, which is a relief as Luna doesn't think she can trust it. "What matters for me...doesn't matter. That's not part of the job."

"Ah." Luna nods as if she understands. She knows that she doesn't, quite, but she thinks she will, eventually. "How much will it cost me to ask what I ought to ask you for, for the best outcome for the people I love?"

Yuuko considers that. Luna can almost see the question as an object that Yuuko holds in one hand and turns over and around. Finally, Yuuko says, "Who do you love?"

Luna twists her hair. "Daddy. Draco. Neville. Harry." She tries to think of anyone else. "Mostly, it's not love. It's...not not love, but--" She waves a hand in a circle off to one side of her head. "And I think Daddy's dead. I don't know, but I think he is."

Yuuko starts petting a cat that wasn't there before.

Luna blinks. "I think I love a lot of people-- in theory. They're lovable, but I don't know them or they don't know me or.... Well. It goes like that. I'd like to love more people."

Yuuko hands Luna the cat. "She needs grooming. Take care of it. I'll have to think." Yuuko's fingers brush Luna's forehead. "The price for the wish you end up needing will probably be high."

"Higher than what I'll pay anyway?" Luna can't help thinking of Draco's broken mind, of his fragmented presence.

"Possibly." Yuuko takes the bottle with her as she leaves the room. "I'd offer you tea, but you're not entirely here." She smiles. "The benefit for you is that you're outside time. Our bargain will start when it must not when you are. Unfortunately, you pay for that. My cook is excellent."

Luna allows herself a smile in return. She lets her eyes go vague as she strokes the cat's fur. "And what have you paid," she asks the cat, "to earn a grooming?"

Yuuko stops for the merest fraction of a second, stops utterly. Luna might miss it if her life hadn't so often depended on noticing such things. Then Yuuko laughs. Her voice reverberates through the walls. Luna can feel it in the floor and the air. "The cat," Yuuko says at last, "has rid my secondary store room of...mice."

"Ah." Luna nods. She looks down at the cat and starts teasing apart matted fur. "I bet you broke something. Otherwise, we'd have a brush. Of course, I suppose you should be grateful I'm here enough to touch you." She nods. "Or maybe you're a ghost, too, and were hunting ghost mice."

A set of grooming brushes appear beside Luna a few seconds after Yuuko leaves the room. Luna studies them carefully before picking one up.

The cat sprawls across her lap. The cat butts its head against her hand.

"Yes. I'm not forgetting you. I'm just wondering if you were sharing the sake and if that might mean you're not a ghost." She starts brushing carefully. "Do the same rules apply to cats as to Lunas? I'm not sure they should. We're quite different creatures after all, and it wouldn't be fair." She allows herself a sigh. "Not that 'fair' ever seems to matter when it's not a weapon." She starts humming and loses herself in the task and the pleasure of touching a happy, living creature.

After a while, Yuuko comes back. She stands in the doorway, watching Luna and the cat.

Luna notices, of course, but she waits for Yuuko to speak. It seems the wisest course.

When Luna finally lays down the brush and pulls the cat close to her body, Yuuko says, "I think you will not notice the price, not most of it. The price to know the right wish will hurt more." She pushes her hair back. "For the right wish, I require your ability to take Draco's burden, while he still lives, without his permission. For you to be Seer, he must consent or he must die."

Luna tightens her grip on the cat, releasing her when she protests and watching her leap stalk away. Robbed of anything else to grasp, her hands tighten on each other. "He would prefer that." She looks away from Yuuko without really seeing anything else. "It's wisest, anyway. I could not keep the Dark Lord from my mind nearly so well as he does." Professor Snape and Draco have taught her a little when they're certain no one will overhear, but she relies on the Dark Lord's contempt for what he refers to as her inane thoughts.

Yuuko smiles, and, even without looking, Luna can see sharp edges and hidden dangers. "You will not remember that it was possible, that you knew how to take" The hesitation before the word tells Luna clearly that Yuuko knows the power for the curse it is. "You will simply never have had the power."

Luna bows her head. She considers speaking to call that ignorance the kindness that it is, but she suspects that labeling it kindness will make it vanish. Yuuko cannot, she thinks, afford compassion when it's called such.

Yuuko strolls into the room and takes her seat again. "Do you need time to consider?"

Luna shakes her head then lifts her chin. She clears her throat. "There's nothing to consider. I chose the door in spite of warnings. The line goes through here, and going sideways won't lead anywhere else."

"Done then?"

Luna stares at Yuuko for a few seconds before realizing that something like this needs a formal agreement. "Do I need to spit on my hand or to sign in blood?"

"Your word will be sufficient." Yuuko's smile seems genuine this time.

"You have it then. I cede the ability to take the Sight from Draco, while he's alive, without his express consent, in exchange for the answer to my question." Luna would swear she feels the change.

Yuuko nods. She looks at her cigarette. "The answer to your question is hard. Your father is gone. He's happy enough as such things go which is as well as we cannot change that part. Time will be part of the cost. It's been months, but it will be years. The rest of the price.... You were warned that you would emerge changed."

"I was." Luna doesn't allow her hands to twitch.

"You will see it to the end." Yuuko doesn't sound exactly sad, more resigned. "You will no longer be quite human. Your children--" She raises a shoulder in something approximating a shrug. "That will depend on how carefully you choose the father...or fathers."

"I care about the wish as much as--" More than. "--the price." Luna isn't sure how much time she has left before someone wakes her, and she suspects that she will not find this place again. It's a door that opens only once.

"There's more to the price." Yuuko's tone carries a weight of warning.

"I know." And Luna does. "I do See things sometimes. Sort of." She sets her jaw and meets Yuuko's eyes without flinching.

"You must wish for Voldemort to remain blind to things he must not see in your mind, in Draco's mind, in Severus' mind, in the mind of anyone who guesses."

"Done," Luna says instantly. "I will pay. You have my word."

"Yes." Yuuko sighs.

Luna stands. She bows to Yuuko. "It will be worth the price. You have my word on that." Then she darts across the room to plant a kiss on Yuuko's cheek. Yuuko's flesh is cool under Luna's lips, tasting of smoke and alcohol and eternity. Knowing that she's done, Luna searches for the door back into her dreams.

Yuuko's fingers don't touch her cheek until after she's certain Luna's gone. She looks at them for a moment. "And how do I pay for that?"

A deep chuckle comes from the shadows. "She surprised me, too." The Lord of Dreams steps out then takes the seat Luna recently vacated.

"I don't recall inviting you in." There's no heat in the protest. She knows he needs no invitation. He can always find her door.

He crosses his legs. "I think she won't regret the price. I also think--" He studies her face. "The price you asked is something that might have happened anyway."

"Now it is certain. It will also happen sooner. The decision point comes so late that many never reach it."

"After she entered your door, I looked at her world. If she stays human, she will die before the war ends."

Yuuko looks into the smoke curling from her cigarette. "The war won't end until she ends it. She can't afford to die."

He laughs. "Your heart is too soft for this business."

The smile she gives him is deliberately false. "All things have a price. All things."

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