Thoughts of Pudding 2012

Chapter 14: Välkommen till Sverige

Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.

Chapter 14: Välkommen till Sverige.

Monday 24th June, 1996.

On a shelf in Albus Dumbledore's office, a small silver device started spinning and wailing an alert. The only living occupant of the room was startled from his snooze, and looked over at the device with annoyance.

Fawkes let out a frustrated trill at being woken up, and the still-regrowing phoenix became more and more restless as the irritating wailing continued to fill the room, giving no indication that it would ever stop.

On hearing the alarm, the occupants of the many portraits around the room walked out of their frames, presumably to find and alert Albus, or perhaps simply to escape the noise.

Phineas Nigellus Black returned shortly after checking Grimmauld Place, and watched the phoenix. It seemed that if Dumbledore wanted a seriously good ear biting, he was certainly going the about it the right way. "Give him one for me too, Fawkes," Phineas called out, still unhappy with the headmaster over his involvement in Sirius' death.

~o~

Albus Dumbledore was not someone that easily changed his mind about things he knew to be right. He'd spent a good many hours thinking through what Minerva had told him the previous evening, and decided that, from a certain point of view, she had a very good point.

The question was though; did he subscribe to that point of view?

He was forced to conclude that there simply wasn't enough information in a single conversation with one person, no matter how much he respected their opinion, for him to make a real decision on the matter.

In the meantime of course, Harry was at risk, and that was more important than anything else. The wizarding world was at stake, and he shuddered at the thought that any death eater that saw Harry could easily whisk him off to Voldemort before anyone was the wiser.

Surely a few days with the Dursleys while alternative arrangements were made would be acceptable? Harry was understandably upset at the loss of Sirius, but the boy had proven time and time again that he would do what was right, not what was easy.

If he could only explain to Harry that he just needed a few days, he was sure he would understand.

He reached the door he'd been walking towards and knocked.

"Who's there?" said a nervous voice he recognized as Mrs Weasley's. "Declare yourself!"

"It is I, Albus Dumbledore," he replied.

The door opened, revealing a frazzled looking Molly Weasley, wearing a faded apron. Molly's reaction to stress was often to cook.

"Has there been any word on Harry?" she asked him, inviting him inside.

"Yes, Molly, there has, and before you ask, I believe that he is fine, or at least he was last evening. Perhaps we could sit and talk about it with your family over a cup of your wonderful tea?"

Molly appeared a little flustered. "Most of them are at work, Albus. Arthur and Percy are at the Ministry of course, Bill's at Gringotts, and Charlie's still in Romania. The twins are at their new shop, and I hardly ever see them now. Ron and Ginny are out the back on their brooms, so I'll put the kettle on and call them in."

She started walking off to the kitchen before she turned around again. "You're sure he's all right?

Albus smiled at her in reassurance. "I'm certain that he was fine when I left my office."

Molly gave a wan smile and turned back to her task, leaving Albus to find his own seat at the table.

A little while later she returned with her slightly flushed children. Albus noted that Ron and Ginny's windswept hair gave evidence that they had been flying only a few minutes earlier. Of course, the fact that they were each carrying broomsticks helped support the conclusion as well.

"Hello, sir." "Good afternoon, Professor Dumbledore," they said in greeting, somewhat nervously. Their headmaster wasn't so frequent a visitor that they were comfortable in his presence.

Molly brought the tea over, and they were all soon seated at the table with cups in hand.

Molly had barely sat down before the anxiety over Harry that Albus had instilled yesterday evening spilled over. "What can you tell us about Harry, Albus? You said he hadn't arrived at the Dursleys' last night, so where is he now? Why isn't he here with you at least?"

Albus took a small sip of his tea as he considered the questions and looked around the table as he did so. Ginny was looking directly at him, and using passive Legilimency he was able to sense concern from her. Quite understandable under the circumstances, Dumbledore thought.

He saw that Ron was looking down at his teacup with a very faint smile. Was the boy glad Harry was missing? Surely this wasn't a resurgence of the jealousy that he'd had for Harry over the Tri-Wizard tournament.

Dumbledore thought about how to respond to Molly's questions, and began to speak. "As I mentioned when I arrived Molly, I believe Harry is presently fine, though he is not at the Dursleys'."

Ginny snorted, and then reddened when everyone turned to her.

"Well, I'm not surprised he's fine if he's not there. He hates it at the Dursleys, and they're horrible to him!" she said venomously.

Albus peered at her over his half-moon spectacles. "Is there something you wish to share with us, Miss Weasley? Has he said anything to you, perhaps?" Albus asked.

Ginny blushed even more at the scrutiny. "No, he hasn't said anything. But it's obvious to anyone that knows him," she said.

"Be that as it may, there are powerful wards in place that keep him safe there. Wards that need him to be living there each summer, I'm afraid to say" Albus said, rebuking her with his tone.

"Afraid… why Albus?" Molly asked.

"If he cannot be found soon and returned to Privet Drive to recharge the wards, then they will fail permanently." Albus replied.

Ron looked up briefly at that statement, before looking back down at his cup. Albus got a very fleeting impression of guilt, but it was gone before he could examine it. It certainly bore watching, as Albus got the distinct impression that Ron knew something.

"Well what word do you have Albus? You said there was some news when you arrived." Molly said.

Albus thought for a moment on how to break the news, and even considered asking the children to leave first, before deciding that their reactions might prove to be valuable. Especially if Ron was in some way involved as he now suspected.

"I had a visit from Minerva after visiting you last night. I had sent her, and some others, to Privet Drive earlier to look for Harry. When she eventually reported back, I'm afraid she wasn't very happy with me. In fact, I'd have to say that she was quite vocal in her opinions about some of the decisions I have made."

Albus thought he ought to clarify his views on Minerva's opinions, as he didn't want to risk a rift developing between Minerva and Molly. "I cannot say that she was wrong in her views, though of course, I might disagree with them." Albus said the last with a small chuckle before continuing.

"In any case, Minerva knew where Harry was, and stated her intention to keep him safe… from me," he concluded, and then looked around at the others to see their reactions.

Surprise was very much evident on both of the children's faces, but Molly was staring openly at him. Her emotions were seemingly warring with each other, with confusion eventually winning out.

"But… how could she? Why would… Was she Imperiused?" she asked.

"No, Molly, she wasn't under the Imperius or any other compulsion that I could detect." Albus said.

"Then why…?" Molly asked, trailing off.

Molly's thoughts were in chaos. She'd known both Albus and Minerva since she was a Hogwarts student, and she thought she knew both of them quite well. It sounded as though Minerva had plucked Harry away from the Dursleys' house and given Albus a piece of her mind, but what could have provoked that?

Ginny's earlier statement came back to mind and Molly thought about how Harry usually arrived at her home each summer. Suddenly all of the little clues seemed to fall into place and Minerva's actions didn't seem quite so hard to understand.

Albus watched as Molly's eyes narrowed, and he sighed. He had been afraid of this. Most people simply weren't able to take the larger view needed when it came to fighting a war. But it was still better that she heard the true story from him now, than for her to receive it second or third-hand from others later.

Molly's tone, when she spoke, confirmed his suspicion that she too was now coming to distrust him.

"Who were the others you mentioned Albus? Did they go along with whatever she's done as well?" Molly asked.

"I sent Alastor, Remus and Nymphadora to Privet Drive after Minerva to help her. I haven't heard from any of them since, though from what she said last night, Alastor at least has been helping her. None of them were at their houses this morning when I checked. Since Minerva mentioned having spoken to Miss Granger yesterday, I apparated over to her house before coming here. All of the Grangers have gone as well."

Ron looked up again at his last few words, and Albus picked up another emotion from him; betrayal.

Albus decided that he was justified in using Legilimency on Ron, since it was evident that he knew something. He picked up only a few thoughts before Ron looked down again. 'Why would Hermione have gone as well? That wasn't part of the plan.'

Albus focussed his attention on Ron in the hope of picking up more information. "Mister Weasley, you are a close friend to both Harry and Miss Granger. Have they said anything that might suggest where they might have gone together?" He asked, hoping to prompt a reaction with his slight emphasis on the last word.

He got more than he wanted as a storm of thoughts raced around Ron's head at his question.

'Harry-and-Hermione-together! No-no-no-no-NO! Why-why-WHY-did-he-always-have-to-have-EVERYTHING? Money-fame-Firebolt-now-Hermione-too! Why-didn't-they-tell-me-about-them… about-the-change-of-plans? Because? Because? Because-they-didn't-want-me-to-know! Stupid-stupid-stupid! Maybe-it-wasn't-really-Luna's-plan-after-all…'

"Mister Weasley?" Albus asked him again, trying to keep the elation from his voice. Luna was involved somehow. He wanted to leave now so he could check the Lovegoods' house for Harry.

"No, they didn't say anything to me." Ron said, slumping in misery.

"Well then, I think I'd best be off in further search of Harry. I do hope you will let me know if you hear from him. I'm not expecting to hear from Minerva again until Friday evening, but I will let you know if I hear any news of Harry. Good day to you all."

Molly frowned as she watched him rise from the table and leave. She had more questions to ask, but didn't want to delay him if he was searching for her boy.

A short time later Dumbledore apparated to the Lovegoods' house, and knocked on their door.

~o~

Vanir looked up from his desk as he heard the light chime of the wards announcing an incoming portkey. He watched as a group of 10 people appeared, all holding on to an enlarged golden chain.

He smiled as most of them tumbled to the ground after trying, and failing, to keep a black haired teen upright. 'Ah, fler turister' (Ah, more tourists) he thought to himself as he walked up to the reception counter to join his assistant.

~o~

"Hey, loverboy, don't you think you should buy me a drink first?" Tonks asked, winking at the furiously blushing Harry who had managed to fall on top of her.

"Oh God, Tonks, I'm sorry! I've been getting better at Portkey landings but–"

Remus interrupted the apology. "No, Harry, the correct response is; 'So, Tonks, do you want to go for a drink later then?'

At Harry's glare, Remus stopped chuckling and raised his hands slightly in an 'alright, I'll leave it alone' gesture.

They were both distracted by Luna's laughter, and like everyone else, they looked over at her. "Go…for… a…drink…later…" she said, whenever she could catch her breath between laughs.

"Well, Harry, are you planning on getting up anytime soon, or should I make myself more comfortable?" Tonks asked, amused and waggling her eyebrows.

As Tonks started speaking, Harry realised where he still was and let out an unmanly squeak of embarrassment. With so many other bodies sitting and standing around them, he couldn't work out how to get off her without making things any worse. Fortunately Dan recognised the problem and gave him a helping hand up.

Once everyone had regained their feet, and in Harry's case, his composure, Xenophilius led the way to a counter marked 'Inkommande – Arrivals'. The others took in the scene around them, as they followed a few paces behind.

They were in the foyer of an ultra-modern looking building with a large sign proclaiming it to be the 'Svenska Magidepartementet, Utrikesterminalen – Swedish Department of Magic, International Terminal'. Underneath it was another sign; 'Välkommen till Sverige – Welcome to Sweden'. Harry was extremely glad the signs were in both Swedish and English, and began to hope that this was common throughout Sweden.

In addition to the counter they were heading towards, there was another a few feet away marked 'Avgående – Departures', which was currently unattended. A little further away, other counters were marked 'Inrikes Ärenden – Internal Affairs', 'Utrikes Ärenden – External Affairs', 'Näringsliv - Commerce', and 'Svenska Magiska Ordningsmakten – Magical Law Enforcement'. Doors led off to unknown rooms, and on one wall was a faded sign; 'Spotta ej på golfve – не плюйте на полу – don't spit on the floor'.

As Xenophilius approached the two men at the counter, he started muttering loudly to himself. "Oh dear… hmm, Goeiedag, Namasté, Ka farsken, e det du? No, that's not it…"

Luna walked up beside him as her father continued his muttering. "…Zdravstvuite, Guten Tag, Konnichi wa…"

Luna smiled at the older man bearing a nametag.

"Hallå där, Vanir!" (Hi there, Vanir) she greeted him happily.

"Goddag, unga dam. Se där, välutbildad dessutom." (Good day young lady, What do you know, well-educated to boot.) he replied, smiling warmly at her before turning to Xenophilius and interrupting his recital. "Do you have your papers and Portkey, sir?"

"…Asalaam aleikum– What? Papers? Oh yes, of course, of course. Here we are."

He handed over a parchment and the charm bracelet that had been their Portkey.

Vanir tapped his wand to the parchment, and then to a clipboard he'd picked up from the counter. He looked around briefly at the group, before looking back at the clipboard, nodding to himself and then repeating the process with the Portkey bracelet.

"This all seems to be in order. Your return date is unspecified, but you will need to check back here if you stay longer than three months. This parchment will serve as your visa until then." He was about to hand back the parchment and Portkey when his assistant interrupted him and whispered in his ear.

Vanir turned to Remus. "You are a lycanthrope, sir?" he asked, preparing himself for possible trouble.

Remus nodded uncomfortably.

Vanir kept an eye on the other tourists for their reactions. This didn't seem to surprise any of them so he relaxed.

"I'm sorry, sir, but there are a couple of requirements for you to follow if you wish to remain here, and others if you remain here during a full moon. If you would follow Sören please."

Vanir noticed the concerned reactions of the group, and tried to reassure them. "There will be no harm to him, I promise you, only a minor inconvenience for your friend that all lycanthropes in our country must comply with."

Remus nodded, and turned to the group. He smiled as he saw that Harry's hand was on his wand ready to defend him despite the boy's current animosity towards him. "I'm sure it'll be fine," he said, and followed the other official through a door marked 'Avdelningen för magiska varelser – Division for Magical Beings'.

Vanir turned to the group and opened a conversation with them. "He will be back with you very soon. So, do you know where you will be staying?" he asked, directing the question at Xenophilius.

"Yes, yes… we will be camping at the lake near Näshulta. We are looking forward to hiking in the forest."

"Ah, Näshultasjön! Very nice area. Very good choice." Vanir said. He reached behind the counter for a small brochure that looked muggle-printed, and handed it to Xenophilius. "This is just a few guidelines for camping. Most of this is common sense for people that have respect for the environment."

Xenophilius nodded and took the brochure, leafing though it quickly.

Vanir thought about what he wanted, and then held his wand to a seemingly blank parchment. A few moments later he removed his wand and scanned the now full parchment before handing it over to Xenophilius.

"Here is a map and some directions to reach your destination. As you can see, we are here in Linköping. You can take the shuttle train to Katrineholm, which is a 42 minute journey. From there you can take a bus ride on line 214 to the bus stop at Hökärr. From there you can be driven to Fagernäs in Näshulta."

Xenophilius took the parchment with gratitude. "Thank you, Vanir. That is very helpful of you. Very helpful."

Vanir waved off the thanks. "It is nothing," he said, before thinking of something and smiling. "Still, if you should run into Janne Krake, you might say 'goddag' for me."

Hermione stepped forward and addressed Vanir. "Excuse me, sir, but where would we find Gringotts branches here?" she asked.

"There are a number to choose from." Vanir replied. "The main ones are in Stockholm, Östersund, and here in Linköping. I'd recommend Stockholm, simply because the bank is right in the Västerlånggatan; one of our more famous magical shopping districts."

Vanir rummaged around behind his counter and pulled out a parchment. He scanned it briefly to check it was what he was looking for, and then rolled it up into a scroll. "This lists most of the main services you are likely to need, including the Gringotts locations. Would you like me to make it into a Portkey to their Stockholm office?"

"Yes, please." Hermione said, nodding eagerly.

Vanir concentrated a moment before tapping the scroll with his wand and murmuring 'Göra Läge'." The scroll glowed blue, and Hermione's eyes widened briefly as she pondered the possible tactical advantages of casting spells in a language your enemies didn't know and couldn't prepare for.

Vanir handed her the scroll. "There you are, miss. Simply tap the scroll with your wand and say 'Gringotts', and this will serve as a one way Portkey for anyone holding it.

She took the scroll with thanks, and stepped back before unrolling it and becoming lost in the information contained within it.

Vanir turned back to Xenophilius. "If there is nothing else, then you are welcome to leave when your friend returns. He should be back any– ah, there he is now." Vanir said, looking in the direction of the door Remus and his colleague had entered earlier, and seeing both men returning.

The group watched as Remus headed over to re-join them. He appeared to be generally happy, and it was hard not to notice he was now wearing a silvery new earring.

Moody stomped up to him as he arrived. "You do know that thing is a Portkey, don't you?" He asked.

Remus nodded. "Yes, and a couple of other things besides. It's designed to portkey me to the 'Anywere' sanctuary for the full moon automatically."

"Want me to disable it?" Moody asked softly, to avoid being overheard by the staff.

Remus shook his head. "I'm not sure you could do that without setting off any alarms, and it will probably activate if you tried. Best just leave it alone. Besides, I'm very curious about the sanctuary, it sounds… quite humane actually," he said, thoughtfully, before looking around to see everyone focussed on him.

He raised an eyebrow in some amusement at their attention. "Is it really so surprising that I want to know more? Britain's treatment of werewolves is something I've experienced first-hand for most of my life. It never occurred to me to wonder whether other countries might have a more… civilised approach."

Minerva approached him from his side and put a hand on his shoulder. She'd known him since his arrival at Hogwarts as a first year student, and knew his life had been difficult. "I think I understand, Remus. It's just a surprise to me – well, to all of us I suspect."

Remus nodded, and then looked around at the group. "So, are we done here?"

There was general agreement that they were ready to go, and they said their farewells to Vanir and Sören as they left.

"Varför måste dom snygga brudarna vara britter?" (Why do all the pretty birds have to be British?) Sören asked Vanir as he watched the group leave. Vanir cuffed him on the back of his head just as the blonde girl looked over her shoulder and gave them a knowing smile. She gave them another little wave before turning back and attaching herself to the teenaged boy's left arm.

"Det ska fan och vara gift." (It's a shame I'm married) Vanir muttered to himself, as he watched them walk off.

~o~

Kingsley Shacklebolt wasn't usually one to complain about his assignments, yet as he walked down Parliament Street from the Westminster station, he wondered whether being posted as secretary to the Muggle Prime Minister might be undervaluing his skills just a little.

As he turned the corner into Downing Street, he had good reason to change his mind. A swarm of police were taping off the area, and his eyes were drawn to the body lying on the side of the street.

'It can't be.' He thought, and started moving towards the figure automatically, drawing the attention of three nearby Bobbies who moved towards him. He pulled his identification from his pocket and held it up, still staring at the dead woman.

One of the policemen put his hand on his chest to physically stop him from moving closer. "That's close enough, sir. Move along please unless you know anything that can help us?" The constable said, not overly impressed. The ID showed the man to be the PM's secretary, so he had reason to be in the area, but that was it.

'Oh, Emmy, what happened?' Kingsley wondered as he turned away and walked on to Number 10. It would be hours before his shift ended and he would have an opportunity to discuss this with Albus and the rest of the Order.

That afternoon though, the news came through the PM's office that the Brockdale Bridge had been attacked and destroyed somehow. Kingsley decided it was more important to work back so that he could stay close and protect his charge, than to report the death of Emmeline Vance.

~o~

Back in the headmaster's office, Phineas was becoming very concerned for Fawkes.

That ridiculous device had continued to wail loudly, and over time the phoenix had gone from distress to actual trembling. His sorrowful trills were becoming less frequent now.

'Damn it, Dumbledore! Where are you?' he raged in frustration. There was nothing he could do but keep checking in at Grimmauld Place periodically, and bully the other portraits to keep checking their other frames as well.

'He better get here soon!'

~o~

Albus Dumbledore was getting frustrated. The Lovegoods' house was as empty as the others he'd visited, and he had run out of leads to follow up. There was still no sign of the Order members he'd sent to Surrey either, and he hoped that they were all safe.

It never even occurred to him that Minerva's claim that Harry was beyond his reach might have been based on more than just words intended to deter him from looking.

'Perhaps Hagrid has heard from Harry?' he wondered, matching thought to deed as he apparated to the edge of the forbidden forest. It was the closest spot to Hagrid's hut that he could reach.

A short walk and a long conversation over cup of tea later, Albus was walking from the hut back to his office. Hagrid hadn't even heard that Harry was missing from the Little Whinging, and it had taken more time that he wanted to spare to settle the man down – a lot more time.

Taking a shortcut from the main entrance to his office, he was startled to see someone else in the almost empty school.

"Ah, Severus I'm surprised to see you here. I thought you would be enjoying your holidays."

Albus looked at the expression on the potion master's face and was concerned. "Is there a problem, Severus?" He asked.

"Yes, headmaster, there is!" Snape snarled angrily.

Albus sighed. He got the impression that this was likely to take a while as well.

~o~

Harry looked out across the lake. There was enough light in the land of the midnight sun that he could see the forest extending on the other bank, and he felt an urge to explore it. Near where he was standing was an old wreck of a rowboat that he was sure a Reparo charm or two should be able to fix in the morning, and wondered if he would get the chance.

"Erecto."

Harry turned at the sound of the spell in time to see one of the two wizard tents they'd brought along assemble itself, then stake itself to the ground. Xenophilius put away his wand, and went inside.

A minute later, a similar, though substantially newer-looking tent was staked down alongside it, and Moody was stalking around the campsite casting spells. "Salvia Hexia… Protego Totalum… Repello Muggletum… Muffliato."

"Alastor, what about 'Cave Inimicum'?" Minerva asked.

"I was just about to cast it." Moody grumped, before casting the spell.

"Of course you were." Minerva agreed, smiling. She caught Harry's eye and, to his surprise, winked at him to share the joke.

Harry entered the Lovegoods' tent and was once again amazed at what magic could accomplish. What looked like a small two man tent on the outside was a three bedroom apartment, with bathroom, kitchen and living area. True, it would be a little crowded if the other six adults were going to join them, but it had more than enough space for himself, Xenophilius, and the two girls. Hermione's parents and the four Order members would share rooms in the other tent.

Hearing the girls' voices from behind one of the closed doors, and seeing Xenophilius moving around the other bedroom, Harry opened the third door and went into what was going to be his room for the next few days. Or was it weeks?

He realised that he had no idea how long they were actually going to be in Sweden. He assumed they would be back at Hogwarts in September, but then remembered that even that wasn't certain from what McGonagall had said after her meeting with the headmaster.

He pondered this as he pulled his trunk out of his pocket and restored it to normal size with a wand tap. He pulled the clothes out of it and started putting them away in the small wardrobe and drawers. There was even a small desk and chair he could use to study at, though since he had just finished his OWLs at the end of last year, he didn't have any summer homework to complete.

He chuckled as he wondered if Hermione had realised that yet. She'd be horrified! He made a note to think of some problems that she could work on solving if it looked like she was getting restless.

Come to think of it, he actually did have some schoolwork to do. McGonagall had asked him to write a paper on post owls that she could submit to her friend on the examinations board.

He tried to work out whether he was more awake than tired, and decided he could make a start on it at least. He pulled out some parchment, ink and a quill and placed them on the small desk, then turned back to his trunk. He sat on his bed as he dug through it trying to find his Care of Magical Creatures textbooks to see if they would be any help.

The Monster Book of Monsters didn't have anything on the subject, and neither did Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Harry shook his head in amazement at the blindness of wizards. One of the most common and useful magical creatures in the wizarding world was so overlooked, that it didn't even rate a mention.

Thinking for a moment, he looked up 'House-Elf'. 'Hippogriff… Horklump… Imp….' Nope, just as he expected, there was nothing on the subject. He checked a few more entries just in case, but didn't find anything he was looking for, and flicked back to the Hippogriff entry. Typical! Hermione would rant for hours if she realised this.

"All right, who are you and what have you done with Harry Potter?"

'Speak of the devil...' He looked up as he heard Hermione's voice, and saw both Hermione and Luna in his bedroom doorway. They had both changed ready for bed, and he was still not used to seeing them in their nightwear. Although it was a sight he was quite willing to become accustomed to, he admitted to himself.

"I just thought I'd do some work on that paper on post owls Professor McGonagall asked me for." Harry said.

Hermione moved into the room and looked down at the book he was reading, then looked at Harry with some amusement. "Harry, you don't really expect to find post owls listed under 'H' do you?"

He smiled along with her. "Nope, there was nothing under either 'O' or 'P', so I thought I'd look up another magical creature that wizards might have overlooked." Harry said, then counted backwards to himself; '3…2…1…'

Hermione grabbed at the book in his hands. "Give me that!" She demanded shortly. She flicked through the pages looking for the entry that should be there, but wasn't, and then started looking closer to the beginning of the book.

"You won't find them listed under 'Elf' either." Harry said, knowing exactly what had sparked Hermione's ire.

"Ooh, I can't believe it!" She started, and Harry took the book from her hands and decided to try and head her off before Mount Granger erupted.

"Hey, this is a good thing Hermione, really! This means you can write the definitive book on House-Elves and there'll be no competition for sales. I'll write one on Post Owls, and Luna will write one on Crumple Horned Snorkacks, since neither of those are listed either. We're all going to make an absolute killing!"

Hermione stared at him for a moment trying to decide whether he was joking or not, and when she saw his lips twitch she pushed him back on his bed with an "Oh, you… I almost thought you were serious for a minute."

"Nope, I'm Harry," he replied with a grin, without really thinking about it.

Hermione's eyes widened, and her smile froze, and Harry realised what he'd said. He sat up on the edge of the bed again, and Hermione sat down beside him. Luna moved over to the bed and sat on his other side.

"Are you okay?" Hermione asked cautiously, putting an arm around his back and her hand squeezing his shoulder.

Harry thought about it. "You know what? Yeah, I think I am. I mean, it still hurts, but not like it used to."

Hermione hugged him. "I'm so glad, Harry."

She felt Harry tense up at the hug and pulled back to see him looking at Luna, who didn't appear concerned. It didn't take the smartest witch of her generation long to work out what was going on.

"Oh, honestly, Harry. I'm one of your best friends and your girlfriend knows it. You don't have to get so worried every time I give you a hug." Hermione scolded him.

Harry looked at Hermione and then looked over at Luna who smiled and nodded her agreement.

"Umm, okay." Harry said. "So… how did you know? We only worked it out ourselves this afternoon."

Hermione smiled at him. "Oh, Harry, I knew before you did!" she said, winking at his look of amazement.

"Alright, I give up," Harry said with a light-hearted chuckle. "There's no way I can compete with the two smartest witches in Hogwarts."

Luna looked surprised. "I didn't know you'd checked my grades, Harry? How did you know I was ahead in my year?"

Harry looked stunned. "I didn't," he said, before recovering the amusement he'd had before. "But then again, you agreed to be my girlfriend, so that proves you're smart!" he said, striking a pose.

The two girls burst out laughing, and Harry's smile fell until he realised that that they were laughing with him, and then he started laughing too.

Hermione recovered first. "Well, Harry, I must say I didn't expect that. You've been so… on edge lately, that it's really good to hear you joking around." She turned to Luna and beamed at the blonde girl. "You keep up the good work, Luna. Our Harry here deserves to be happy."

Hermione gave Harry a kiss on the cheek and got up and went over to Luna and gave her a hug. "I'm off to bed. I'll see you in the morning," she said to Harry, and then she walked out the door and closed it behind her.

"I really do like her a lot, Harry" Luna said to him.

"Me too," Harry said. "She's been my closest friend since a couple of months after I started Hogwarts."

"Friends are very important, and close friends are like family. You know that she loves you, don't you, Harry?" Luna asked.

Harry hadn't started to get used to the way Luna said exactly what she thought, but resolved to try and do the same since he was now her boyfriend. "I think I do, Luna" he said.

Luna nodded. "Well, she does." Luna pondered the thought for a moment before adding, "Probably more than I do actually, but that's because she's known you longer. Why didn't you ever ask her to be your girlfriend?" She asked.

Harry was a little surprised at the question, and began to worry that this was some kind of 'girlfriend test' before realising that Luna would never do something like that. "I don't really know. I suppose it's because I never thought about her in that way."

Luna frowned. "Why not? Don't you think she's pretty enough?"

Harry looked a little offended at the idea. "Huh? Of course she is. That's not it. I suppose that I had her in a little box in my head marked 'friend', and never considered her for any other role."

"Or maybe there was another reason?" Luna prompted.

"Maybe... maybe I just thought that I didn't want to risk the friendship we had. Or maybe I just got the idea that Ron had already seen her as a potential girlfriend after the Yule ball in our fourth year, and I didn't want to poach. It really doesn't matter, as I'm perfectly happy with you." Harry said.

"That's sweet of you to say, Harry. I'm just glad we cleared out those wrackspurts today. They really were giving you the stupidest ideas! We'll have to make sure they don't come back, because I wouldn't want you to decide to stop being my boyfriend if Ron ever said he wanted me."

"I wouldn't do that, Luna" Harry said, somewhat surprised at her comment.

"But you just said you would let him have Hermione because you thought he wanted her." She cocked her head to the side inquisitively. "So what is the difference?"

"Well, you are my girlfriend now, Hermione wasn't." Harry clarified.

"Oh, so if we hadn't had that conversation this afternoon, and instead Ron had told you yesterday he was interested in me, you wouldn't have asked me to be your girlfriend?"

"Err, I don't know." Harry said, looking down at his lap. The troubling thing was that he did know and decided to be honest about it. "You're right, Luna, I probably wouldn't have asked. It would have felt like betraying Ron."

"Why, Harry? Why should Ron have the first chance to court a girl like me or Hermione?"

Harry fiddled with a loose thread on his shirt while he thought about how to reply. "I guess… I guess I just felt like, you know, he deserved it… and I didn't. I thought that, well, maybe if I let him get the first chance at any girl we both liked then maybe he wouldn't feel like life always handed him cast-offs and hand-me-downs."

Luna frowned at his reply, and Harry blanched at her expression; he really didn't like seeing her frown and this was the second time in the last few minutes. "That… is very silly, Harry," she intoned severely. "And very wrong. I thought Ron was your friend?"

"Huh?"

"Well, you just said that you don't think he has a chance of competing with you for a girl's affections," Luna answered. "I don't think that was very nice of you."

"But I didn't mean it like that, I just… I guess…" he sighed, and resolved to try and think things through more next time. "You're right. I was being silly, wasn't I?" He asked her.

Luna smiled. "Yes, you were."

She leaned in and gave him a tender kiss. They lost themselves in the kiss for a few minutes before Luna pulled back.

"I do love you, Harry, but I want you to think about what we've talked about tonight. I want you to be with me because you want to be with me, not because you've settled for me because you didn't get the girl you really wanted."

She gave him another kiss before she said goodnight and left Harry alone with his thoughts.

~o~

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