Chapter 12: The Other Shoe
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 12: The Other Shoe.
Monday 24th June, 1996.
As she watched her mother take Luna's hand and walk off, Hermione fell in to step beside the still-smiling Auror. "Care to share the joke, Tonks?" she asked.
Still amused at how neatly Emma had set Dan up, Tonks looked over at Hermione and wondered what she could tell her without giving it away. "It's like your mum said; she managed to prank your dad when he wasn't expecting it. That's the best laugh I've had all week."
Hermione huffed at the non-answer. "Yes, I already know that. But why would sending my dad off with Professor Lupin and Harry be such a big prank? What are they going to be doing?"
Tonks just double-tapped her nose. "Didn't your mum say she'd tell you later?"
"That's not very helpful, Tonks." Hermione said reproachfully.
Tonks grinned. "Nope, it's not, but it isn't my place to say, is it? Besides, you're a smart girl, Hermione. My guess is that if you stopped spending so much time asking about it and just started thinking about it for yourself, I reckon you'd figure it out soon enough."
At Hermione's glare, Tonks just stepped closer and bumped shoulders with Hermione to make her stumble a little. "Careful, Herms, we wouldn't want the wind to blow the wrong way and freeze that look on your face," she said with a chuckle.
Hermione let out a growl and turned to Tonks with every intention of rewarding her use of that horrid nickname by using Tonks' hated first name in return. Only to find Tonks strolling along with her hands behind her back, whistling, and with the most innocent expression on her face that she could make.
"You…you…" Hermione began, suddenly at a loss as to what she wanted to say. Tonks was too outrageous to stay cross with.
"Hmm?" Tonks asked, innocent look planted firmly, and looking over at Hermione as though for the first time.
"Nothing." Hermione said, dropping her head in defeat.
Tonks' face broke into a smile, and she started bouncing around like a prize fighter awarded a match. "I win! I win! Ha-ha!" She crowed.
"Ooh, you're impossible!" Hermione huffed, getting annoyed again.
"Oh, come on, Hermione" Tonks said, dropping her routine. "Learn to play a bit. Life's too short, you know?" She threw an arm around the younger girl's shoulder as they walked until Hermione relaxed.
Emma led the group on to the tube, and then off again a few stops later at Knightsbridge. A short walk later and they were stepping into Harrods, and to Hermione's embarrassment, they headed straight for the ladies unmentionables.
Once they reached the department, Tonks and Emma teamed up and started looking over at the various styles and discussing them amongst themselves. Hermione took their distraction as an opportunity to edge away, and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible. She noticed Luna wandering amongst the aisles, and looking around with some interest. Then she saw Luna's eyes flick towards her mother with a wistful look.
Hermione swallowed a little as she realised that Luna would never have had a chance to go shopping with her own mother like this. She doubted Luna would feel at all self-conscious about it, and would probably have treasured the experience.
Cursing herself for her own stupidity, she walked over to where Tonks and Emma were standing and, stepping close to her mum, whispered in her ear. "Mum, Luna… umm… she hasn't…" She began, not having thought about what she was going to say.
Her mother turned to her and gave her a warm smile. "I know, love, we spoke to her dad last night. This shopping trip is as much for her as for you. Why don't you bring her over so we can get this part done. We haven't got time to get everything, but I think we should get a couple of things for Harry while we're here. Lord knows, he looks like he could use them."
At Hermione's shocked stare, Emma thought back over what she'd said, and laughed. "Not from here, silly… unless you think Harry would like a nice frilly bra and knickers set?"
Emma laughed at her daughter's expression for a moment, before clarifying. "I meant that we should get him a couple of shirts and maybe a pair of jeans for him to be getting on with until we can bring him out shopping properly. Now, go get Luna."
Emma watched Hermione walk quickly over to Luna and say a few words to her. Then she saw a radiant smile appear on Luna's face as she looked over at her, before grabbing Hermione's hand and walking quickly over to where she stood with Tonks.
Harry sat in his chair, staring at the chessboard, desperately hoping for either the forgotten game to recommence, or for Voldemort to show up and put him out of his misery.
It turned out that half of what he thought he knew about the facts of life was almost completely inaccurate, and since most of it came from Fred & George, he decided that payback was definitely going to occur. Oh yes, roast carrots were going on the menu, right alongside grilled werewolf.
Harry was relieved to learn that most of the inaccuracies revolved around what Remus called 'Advanced Biology'. It turned out he did actually have a fairly good grasp of the basics – or most of them anyway – despite what he'd told Remus earlier when he was trying to set him up.
It was half-way through Remus's discussion about the various methods of encouraging the Bartholin's gland to 'do what it does best' that Mad-Eye and Xenophilius showed up.
Remus waited for the two new arrivals to take their seats with their pints, and then asked Harry to recap what he'd learnt so far.
He looked at Remus in horror. "Nothing short of an Imperius is going to get me to do any such thing!" he hissed. "And don't bother even trying, as I can resist them!"
Remus smirked and relented for the moment. "Alright, Harry, we'll just review at the end then. Now, where were we? Oh yes, so as I was saying, you'll generally find most girls will like it if you…"
Harry leaned his elbows on the table and put his head in his hands as he listened. Remus would have to die slowly – maybe a spit roast instead of grilling? It went without saying that he'd have to get Mad-Eye to teach him the obliviate spell, so he could cast it on everyone, including himself.
"Oh, hey, the girls are arriving," Remus said happily, startling Harry. "Looks like they're just in time for the review then!" Remus said, smirking at Harry.
Harry's eyes narrowed. "You want a war, Moony? Right, you just got one! Leave them out of it!" he demanded icily.
Remus laughed. "That's the spirit, Harry! Took you long enough. Alright my young apprentice Marauder, as a professional courtesy we'll leave them out of it… this time."
Relieved, Harry tried to compose himself so he didn't look like a black-haired beetroot when the girls walked in. He thought he'd just about got it when Remus added in a last comment.
"So, Harry, what do you think of your chances of not imagining them naked after that discussion then?" Remus asked, nodding in the direction of front door as Luna, Hermione, Tonks and Emma walked in.
Dan nearly choked on his beer at that last remark. He knew full well that Emma would have been finding her husband most attentive today, but at Remus' words a pleasant memory of his wife came to mind. He turned to Harry intending to send a warning glare his way, but instead watched as the boy's face took on a horrified expression before turning bright red. He then got up and all but ran in the direction of the men's room.
Dan watched as Remus laughed aloud at the success of his last quip, and suddenly Dan couldn't see the humour in it any more. Harry had done a pretty good job of getting through what was obviously a hideously embarrassing situation for him, but now Remus had made him unable to even face his friends.
"Proud of yourself, are you?" he asked Remus, who gave him a surprised look at Dan's angry tone.
Dan got up from the table, and headed in the direction Harry had gone. On the way, Emma intercepted him. "Problem?" She asked.
"I think so. Remus took it too far and Harry's hiding in embarrassment. I'm going to see if I can talk him round. Why don't you take the girls over and get a table for lunch?" Dan suggested.
Emma nodded. "Okay, but you realise they're going to ask what's wrong with Harry. What shall I tell them?"
Dan thought for a moment. "Tell them that Harry had too much to drink and he's feeling sick. If he comes out looking awkward or ashamed, then they'll just assume it's from overdoing the alcohol."
Emma kissed him. "You're a good man, Dan Granger."
He smiled at her and walked off to find Harry. As he entered the men's room, he found it empty, though the door to one of the toilet cubicles was closed. He knocked on the door.
"Why don't you piss off, Remus." Harry's voice said, but there was far more sorrow in the tone than anger.
"Try again." Dan said.
"Sorry, Mr Granger" Harry said, in the same depressed tone.
"It's Dan, remember? Are you going to open the door?
"It's not locked."
Dan pushed the door open and found Harry sitting on the toilet seat, elbows on knees and head in hands. Harry looked up as the door bumped the wall softly.
"Hey, Harry." Dan said, using the greeting as an attempt to start a conversation.
"Hey." Harry replied.
"I think Remus crossed the line at the end there," Dan said. "And just so we're clear, it was supposed to be just you and him in that discussion. Most of the older males you know have teenage daughters, so he got the job".
Harry nodded. "Thanks Mr Gr… Dan."
"So why don't you splash some water on your face to freshen up a bit, and we'll go out and have some lunch, okay?"
Harry was about to reply when the door opened and Remus came in, followed by Xenophilius.
"Oh bloody Hell!" Harry exclaimed. "What is it now? Gonna hex my clothes pink or something? Go right ahead! It doesn't matter to me since there's no way I'm leaving this room."
"Harry, I'm sorry. I got a little carried away, and the truth of it is, I just… well… It was like I was back with James. It didn't really occur to me that I'd really stuffed up until Xeno pointed it out. I'm sorry." Remus said.
Harry wanted to be 'adult' about the whole thing and just accept the apology, but he just couldn't do it. He wanted to be out there with his friends, but there was no way he could even look at them now, let alone talk with them.
"A little too late to realise that don't you think?" Harry asked coldly.
Remus nodded. "Yes it is. I'm sorry, Harry."
Harry exploded and started ranting. "You're sorry? Great! Well, everything's just fine again then, 'cause being sorry fixes everything right up, doesn't it? I'll just go out there and try to ignore the fact that my friends are seriously attractive young ladies, right? I should just pretend that the conversation we just had never even took place, hmm? I mean, since I obviously have so much experience dealing with girls, it should be dead easy, yeah?"
Remus cursed himself for not realising earlier that this was Harry he had been dealing with, not James. The young man in front of him clearly had little or no experience with girls, and didn't have the self-confidence to shrug off the teasing as James would have. Those damn Muggles!
"I'm truly sorry, Harry," he said again. "I should've thought things through, but as I said, I got carried away."
"That doesn't help! Why don't you just bugger off and leave me alone!" Harry replied.
"I can't do that, Harry." Remus said calmly.
Dan could see that neither of the two were going to resolve anything at the moment and decided to intervene. "Come on, Harry, let's go and get some lunch. Some food will do us all some good. They do a great beef and Guinness pie here, or so I've been told anyway."
Harry looked at him with an expression that was all too obviously meant to say; 'are you completely barking mad?'
Dan smiled, "Relax, Harry, I've got your alibi already worked out. How's this sound? You started feeling sick after drinking your beer, and came in here to 'drive the porcelain bus' as they say. But it isn't really your fault you were feeling drunk, because it turns out that Remus had charmed your beer to be extra potent as a prank. Of course, Remus now feels guilty about you having to 'call God on the big white phone', so he's cast a sobering charm on you."
Dan looked around at the others. "Well, does that sound plausible?" He asked.
Remus chuckled. "Actually, it does at that," he said, turning to Harry. "Harry?"
Harry nodded, but didn't say anything.
A few minutes and a sink full of cold water later, the men exited the men's room, after extracting a promise from Harry that he would follow very shortly afterwards. The running water combined with his earlier drinks had stimulated a need in Harry to finally use the facilities for their original purpose.
When Harry approached the table, he wasn't altogether surprised to find a free seat between Luna and Hermione, who both smiled sympathetically at him as he approached. He guessed the cover story had been shared in his absence.
Once he'd taken his seat, Luna reached for his hand, but he moved it away. He felt unclean from the directions his imagination had taken during the conversation this afternoon, and needed some time to sort things out. He flinched as he imagined he could feel a wave of sadness radiate from Luna from his action.
He couldn't look at anyone so he focussed on the menu in front of him.
"Harry, I'd like to talk with you. Would you come with me, please?" Luna asked him quietly, before getting up from her seat.
Not knowing how to get out of the talk without being completely rude, he got up to follow her. She led him off to a more private section of the pub where they sat down.
"Harry, did I do something wrong?" she asked him.
Harry shook his head.
"Well then, do you think you did something wrong?" she asked.
Harry nodded, still not able to make eye contact with her.
Luna studied him for a minute, and then another minute. Harry started to feel uncomfortable under her stare.
"Do you think you've done something that would make me not want to be your friend if I knew about it?" she asked eventually.
Harry looked up briefly, startled at her perception, before looking down again. He gave her a small nod.
"Hmm, I don't think you would have had enough time to actually do anything wrong while you had two men looking after you, so is the problem to do with something you have been thinking?" she asked.
Harry nodded again, getting worried at how close she was getting to his dirty secret.
"Was it something you thought about me, or about someone else?" she asked.
Harry was horrified. He didn't want to lie, but if he answered truthfully, she'd know he was a sick pervert. His thoughts ran in circles as he tried to think of a way out.
She thought about the possible reasons for his pause, and tried again. "So, should I rephrase that question to; was it something you thought about me as well as thinking about someone else?" She asked.
Harry couldn't breathe. He closed his eyes and wished he knew how to apparate, so he could escape Luna's all-too-accurate questioning. He didn't realise that in his highly emotional state, if he had concentrated on just being somewhere else instead of focussing on the process, then his magic would have obliged with a spontaneous apparition, just as it had when he was a child.
He was startled to hear Luna's light, joyful laughter, and opened his eyes to see what had happened. She was looking at him warmly.
"Oh, Harry, what are we going to do with you? I've never met anyone that attracts wrackspurts the way you can all by yourself," she said.
"What's a wrackspurt?" he asked, grasping for anything that changed the conversation topic.
"Well, they're invisible, and they make your thoughts go all fuzzy. I sometimes wonder if you might be a nesting ground for them," she said, still smiling at him.
Harry was more than happy to talk about wrackspurts, or nargles, or anything else by this point, so he nodded. "You're probably right," he said. "So how do I get rid of them?"
Luna just looked at him, smiling, and Harry's own small smile slipped as he started to realise that Luna wasn't going to let him off that easily.
"Harry, you like to think of yourself as just a normal boy, don't you?" she asked after a minute.
Harry nodded uncertainly, not sure where Luna was taking the conversation now.
"Well then, why are you feeling so embarrassed about having the same sort of thoughts any normal teenage boy would have, under the circumstances?" she asked, tilting her head a little as though trying to puzzle out the answer for him, despite having asked the question.
Harry could only gape at her. "How did you…?"
"I have good hearing, so I heard some of the conversation last night. I know what Mr Lupin planned to talk with you about today."
Luna waited for Harry to look up at her before continuing. "I'm very glad to be one of the girls you were thinking about, Harry. That's quite a compliment."
Harry had a 'deer caught in the headlights' expression on his face.
"Would it help if I told you that I had the same sort of thoughts about you?" she asked.
"What?" he blurted out, then flinched as he realised how loud he'd said it.
"Harry, it is quite normal to have those thoughts about people you're attracted to," she explained.
"You… you're attracted to me?" he asked, disbelievingly.
"Oh yes. You're a very nice person on the inside, and on the outside. Ginny will be ever so jealous when we're married."
"Married?" Harry squeaked.
"Well you did ask me to marry you on the Knight Bus, Harry. I was a little surprised that you didn't want to kiss me a bit first before asking though. When will I get my ring?"
Harry tried to think back to the conversation he'd had the previous day. "Bu-bu-but…" He stammered out.
"Gotcha!" Luna said with a wink.
Harry stared at her in disbelief for a moment, then all of the emotions he'd been feeling that afternoon just overwhelmed him and he started to chuckle, and then laugh outright at her prank. Luna giggled along with him as his laughter helped relieve a lot of the tension that had been building.
"Thanks, Luna, I really needed that," he said gratefully once his laughter passed.
"You're welcome, Harry. Laughter is good for getting rid of wrackspurts after all," she replied softly. She was still smiling at him, but there was an expression on her face he couldn't easily place. Instead of her usual calmness, she seemed… nervous, or… vulnerable perhaps?
In a flash of inspiration he thought back to her recent admission and suddenly realised what her expression meant.
'Here goes nothing' he thought. "I, umm… I know I haven't been as good a friend to you as I could have been at school last year. But these last couple of days have been really good, and, umm… I'd like to get to get to know you a lot better as I'm… attracted-to-you-too," he said, finishing in something of a rush.
Luna squealed happily and launched herself at him in a tight hug, settling herself on his lap. After a minute she loosened her grip so that she could pull her head back from his shoulder and look right into his eyes. "Ask me," she said softly.
Harry gulped, as he realised what she wanted him to ask – but then again, wasn't that what he wanted as well? "Luna, would you please be my girlfriend?" he asked, just as softly.
Luna's eyes grew misty as she replied "Yes, Harry, I would very much like to be your girlfriend."
Harry let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and grinned. "Thank you," he said, relieved, then a thought occurred to him. "Umm, Luna, I don't really have any experience being a boyfriend. So if I do or say something that I shouldn't, would you please tell me?"
She looked at him oddly. "I don't think you'll have any problems with that, Harry, but yes, I'll let you know when you've said or done something you shouldn't."
She waited patiently for a minute, as though expecting something, and as the pause dragged out, Harry started to wonder if there was something else he was supposed to do.
"Harry, look up. What do you see?"
Harry complied and looked up. He just saw the ceiling of the pub and some lighting, and told her so.
"Harry, what don't you see?" she asked, and then at his confused look, answered her own question. "There's no mistletoe."
Harry thought about that for a moment, and then his expression brightened as he figured it out. "No Nargles!" he said happily, and watched as she gave him a shy smile and a nod.
"Luna, may I kiss you?" He asked.
She looked at him with an expression he hadn't seen on her face before. "Yes, Harry, I would like that," she replied.
Harry suddenly felt nervous. He was about to have his first real kiss since Cho had kissed him last year, and this time he intended to participate in it.
He leaned forward, tilting his head slightly as he did so. Then, closing his eyes, he pressed his lips to hers gently. They were warm and soft, and the kiss was sweet and innocent. He leaned back after a moment, and opened his eyes to look at her face. He watched as she opened her own eyes, and smiled, before he leaned in again. This time he used a little more pressure and motion, which he was pleased to find that she matched.
They broke apart after a couple of minutes and looked at each other again. "That was very nice for a first kiss." Luna said. "I'm going to like being your girlfriend."
Harry was about to agree when his stomach rumbled, informing his owner and anyone within range that it had waited quite long enough for lunch.
Luna laughed at the look on Harry's face, and waved off his apologies. "Come on, Harry, we should be getting back to the others."
She stood up and reached for his hand, which he extended. He was surprised when she took it but didn't head back straight away.
"Harry, I'd rather not announce anything about us to everyone just yet. There are some people we should speak to a little more privately first. Is that okay with you?"
He nodded, somewhat relieved as he had no idea how to really announce something like that anyway.
They walked back to the table and sat down. At the enquiring looks from the others at the table, Luna responded. "I had to help Harry with his wrackspurt infestation. They're gone now."
Xenophilius smiled and nodded. "Good work, Luna. I could see they'd gotten a real hold on him."
Tonks laughed and gave Harry a wink from her seat opposite him. "I hope the treatment wasn't too hard on you."
Harry managed to maintain his composure, but didn't want to push his luck by replying, so just gave a small shrug, and started attacking his lunch. Someone had obviously ordered for him as there was some sort of meat pie and chips in front of him.
It wasn't until he'd nearly finished his lunch that he realised someone was missing. Swallowing his current mouthful, he asked the group generally. "Where is Professor McGonagall?"
Minerva had flooed to the Leaky Cauldron that morning along with Alastor and Xenophilius, and sat with them as they took a quiet table. Alastor leaned forward and touched his wand to her temple, and Minerva felt some of her memories fade.
"I'll be happier when we don't have to keep doing this, Minerva," he grumped, "but I am glad that you're treating this seriously."
"It will have to do until I can learn Occlumency along with the children," she replied.
Moody continued his grumbling. "Are you sure you don't want me to come along with you when you see Snape. I don't trust the man."
Minerva thought about it. "I would tend to agree with you, but Albus does trust him completely, and we are just going to be discussing school matters. I can't see why I would need another wand for that."
Moody scowled. "Well you be bloody careful anyway. Constant…"
"Vigilance. Yes, I know," she said, joining him in his favourite catch-cry. "I shall see you later for lunch."
As the two men got up and walked out towards Diagon Alley, Minerva got up and went to the floo.
Throwing a handful of floo powder in, she knelt down and called out "Spinner's End."
If Severus Snape was surprised to hear her call out his name, or see his colleague's head in his fire, he didn't let it change his expression.
"Minerva McGonagall. What a pleasant surprise," he said silkily.
"May I come through, Severus? I have some school matters to discuss with you that can't wait until the new term."
"By all means, Minerva, as long as the conversation does not stray from that topic," he said.
Pulling her head back, she watched as the green flames died, and repeated the process of making a connection to Spinner's End before stepping through into the man's kitchen.
He led the way into his tiny sitting room, and gestured for her to take a seat on the threadbare sofa. "Can I offer you any refreshments?" he asked her politely.
'Constant vigilance' she reminded herself. "Not presently, thank you, Severus."
He inclined his head in acknowledgement, and then settled himself in the armchair opposite her. "So, what can I do for you?" he asked.
"Severus, I will speak plainly. I am dissatisfied with the way Potions is being taught at Hogwarts, and there are several things that I would like to see changed in the new term.
"I see," he replied, his tone giving no hint of his opinion of the matter.
"I have detailed my concerns in this parchment, and have listed the changes that I wish to see occur as well," she continued, taking an envelope from her robes, and handing it to him.
He took the envelope from her, and simply placed it on the rickety table between them.
"You are welcome to read it now if you wish," she said. "I could then answer any questions you may have."
He looked at her steadily. "I will read it later. Was there anything else?"
Minerva frowned. "Severus, the concerns I have are quite serious. I thought you might prefer to read through them at your own pace; however I can discuss them with you now if you prefer."
"That will not be necessary. I am sure you have provided sufficient… detail. So if there is nothing else…?" he asked, standing up to end the conversation.
Minerva continued to frown at the man's apparent dismissal of her concerns. "Severus, you should be aware that I have already discussed this with Albus. He has already agreed with the changes I require. Are you quite sure you do not wish to discuss this now?"
He regarded her without changing expression. "I will be sure to let you know if I require any…clarification."
She stood and regarded the man. "Very well. If you cannot reach me, then you may leave a message with Albus. Good day, Severus."
She walked back into the kitchen ahead of him, about to throw in some floo powder when she saw the flash of a spell heading towards her out of the corner of her eye.
And then there was only blackness.