Chapter 2: The Leaving Feast
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 2: The Leaving Feast.
Saturday 22nd June, 1996.
Harry noticed that the closer they got to the Great Hall and the leaving feast, the slower Luna seemed to walk, until she eventually came to a halt near the entrance.
"Thank you for walking with me, Harry," she said brightly as she turned to face him. "I do hope they still have some treacle tart left for you."
She released his hand with a last little squeeze and left him to enter the Great Hall, heading for the Ravenclaw table.
Harry watched her take a seat near one end, and then immediately start selecting various desserts, including a small slice of treacle tart. He hoped she liked it, and then wondered idly why it mattered to him.
He walked absently over to his usual seat at the Gryffindor table next to Ron, and spooned some tapioca pudding into a bowl. Then, remembering what Luna had said during their recent conversation, he drizzled a tiny amount of honey over it, as well as a spoonful of cream.
Harry studied the pudding suspiciously. What was tapioca anyway? He'd always steered clear of it because it looked like fish eggs in a white blancmange.
"Err, mate…" Ron began, before realising he didn't know what he wanted to say.
"What is tapioca anyway?" Harry asked, instinctively looking across the table at Hermione.
"It's like sago, Harry," she replied.
He looked at her and waited for her to continue. Surely she wasn't going to stop there? He had no idea what sago was either.
"Sorry, Harry, that's all I've got," she said, a little embarrassed.
Harry found her admission a little amusing. "That's okay, Hermione. I'm just surprised to find there's something you don't know," he said, grinning at her. "It's kind of refreshing in a way. Besides," he teased, "it's not really a life skill or something that's going to come up in our NEWTs, now, is it?"
Hermione shot a look at Ron, as though she wasn't quite sure how to react and was looking for some help.
"What's wrong, Hermione?" Harry asked.
"It's just… well, an hour ago you were so despondent; you didn't even want to come down with us to the feast. Yet now… now it's like you're back to normal, except… Harry, you never eat tapioca. You don't even add anything to ice cream when you have it, but…" She gestured to his bowl and he looked down at it, almost as though noticing his dessert for the first time.
"We're just worried about you, Harry," she continued, softly. "We know it hasn't been easy for you after… well, after the Ministry."
Ron simply nodded his agreement with Hermione's words. "Yeah, mate, you know you can talk to us anytime, right?" he added.
Harry swallowed despite his throat feeling like it had suddenly tightened up. He hadn't thought about Sirius at all since he'd run into Luna, and now those feelings of loss were starting to return at Hermione's mention of the Ministry.
Waves of guilt for leading his friends into Voldemort's trap rose up and started to overwhelm him again. They all could have died so easily. He thought the image of that purple curse hitting Hermione was going to stay with him for the rest of his life, and, just like Sirius falling through the veil, the image of Hermione falling to Dolohov's silent curse had haunted his dreams every night so far.
The images returned to him again, unwanted. There was Neville, trying his hardest to cast spell after spell with a broken nose, Ginny trying to walk with a broken ankle and then Ron struggling while the tentacles from that brain-thing wrapped around him. Then Harry's breath caught as his mind replayed the image of Luna flying through the air and hitting a desk, before sliding across it and onto the floor, unmoving… so still… as still as death…
"Harry?" Hermione asked softly, interrupting his thoughts. Her hand was touching his where it shook while gripping a spoon. As his gaze lifted to hers, she saw the desolate look he'd had the last few days had returned to his eyes. Her grip tightened on his hand as she struggled desperately to think of how to bring her friend back from his thoughts.
"Oh, I see you're going to try the tapioca, Harry. There wasn't any left on our table, so do you mind if I share some of yours?"
Hermione looked over to see Luna standing next to where Harry was seated, her left hand on his right shoulder as she looked down at the table.
Taking his lack of reply as assent, she squeezed in next to him and pulled his bowl closer to herself. "May I?" she asked, gesturing towards his spoon.
Hermione released Harry's hand as he handed the spoon to Luna, a small smile starting to play across his face.
Luna took a spoonful of pudding and ate it happily, then looked at Harry. "Yummy!" she exclaimed brightly. "So why haven't you tried it yet?"
When Harry didn't reply straight away, she scooped up another spoonful and held it out towards him. His smile widened, but he didn't make any move towards it.
"Come on, Harry, open wide. It's not like I'm trying to feed you Polyjuice Potion."
"Polyjuice isn't that bad, really," he replied, thinking of the batch Hermione had brewed, and automatically trying to protect her feelings. It wasn't her fault it had tasted like raw sewage; that's just how it turned out with Goyle's hair in it.
Hermione just raised an eyebrow at him.
"Well, alright then... Yeah, Polyjuice tastes really awful," Harry said, grinning at her.
He took the mouthful of pudding Luna had patiently held for him, and thought about the taste as he swallowed. It was quite bland in his opinion. He could taste vanilla and a hint of the honey he'd added, but the tapioca itself didn't seem to have any real flavour. As a pudding, it was okay, but he doubted he'd choose it again. He wondered why it appealed to Luna. There was so much he didn't know about her.
"My mummy used to make this for me when I was feeling sad," Luna said, as though reading his thoughts, "and it always made me feel better. Anyway, I've got some things to do now, so I'd better go."
She stood up and waved her farewells to the Gryffindors around her before walking off. Harry wondered what she could possibly have to do the night before leaving, then remembered the notice she'd put up on the board. "Wait up, Luna!" he called, starting to get to his feet.
Luna stopped and turned back towards him.
"Harry, what is it?" Hermione asked.
He leaned across the table while still standing, and noted Ron had leaned forward to listen in as well. Keeping his voice down, he quickly told them what he knew and also suspected about Luna's missing possessions.
"That's just not right!" Ron blurted out, a little louder than he should have. At their looks, he quickly lowered his voice before he spoke again. "We're going to help look as well, aren't we?"
"Well, of course we are," Hermione said with a huff, as though that were the most ridiculous question she'd heard.
Harry thought for a minute. "You two go with Luna and get started then. I think I need to have a word with Padma and see if I can find out what is going on in that tower of theirs. I'll use the map to find you afterwards."
He watched his best friends get up and lead Luna out of the hall, then started scanning the Ravenclaw table, looking for their fifth year girl's prefect. Not having any luck spotting her, he glanced up and down the Gryffindor table for her sister, but it looked like she'd already left – no doubt for some last minute gossiping.
Turning back to the Ravenclaw table, he tried to find Anthony Goldstein, the only other Ravenclaw prefect he knew of. Harry doubted he'd be able to help, but he could at least get Padma for him if needed.
"Uh, Anthony, can I have a word in private, please?" he asked, after finding him at the table.
Anthony excused himself from his friends and followed the Gryffindor out of the hall and into the corridor, where they had a little privacy. "What's up?" the prefect asked.
"What do you know about Luna's stuff going missing?" Harry asked without any preamble.
Anthony frowned. "I don't have much to do with Luna… Why would her stuff be missing?"
"Why indeed?" Harry muttered softly to himself, before leading Anthony over to a notice board. Sure enough, Luna had placed one of her flyers on it, and he pointed it out to Anthony.
Anthony appeared to be puzzling out what this meant as he read, and from what Harry could tell from his expression, he wasn't any happier with the conclusion he'd reached than Harry was.
"I didn't know anything about this, Harry, or I'd have done something about it. We don't usually have much to do other than patrols in Ravenclaw, as we're a fairly boring bunch, and don't get into a lot of trouble…Well, not usually, anyway. If Luna had said anything, it would probably have been to Pad', so let's go talk to her."
Anthony led him up to the Ravenclaw tower entrance, and answered a riddle in order to let them in. Harry gaped at the large windows draped in blue and bronze silk, and glanced over at the white statue in a niche across from him.
Anthony indicated the nearest chair. "Best if you wait here while I get her. I'll only be a minute."
He took off up a staircase near a statue of Rowena Ravenclaw, or at least, that's who Harry assumed it was.
"What are you doing in here?" a voice demanded harshly a minute later.
He looked over at the speaker, and then tried not to stare at her forehead. The word 'sneak' was still very visible, and at Marietta's angry glare, he realised, ironically, that with his glance to her forehead he'd done exactly what he wished others wouldn't do to him.
"I'm waiting for Anthony to come back. He's gone to get Padma," Harry replied as calmly as he could.
She looked confused. "What would you need to speak to Padma about? Parvati's here with her sister, if that's what you wanted to know."
"No, I need to speak to her about a friend of mine in Ravenclaw."
"Cho is not your friend, so you stay away from her!" Marietta shouted angrily.
"It's nothing to do with Cho," Harry replied evenly, still trying to stay calm, but quickly losing that battle.
"Oh, really? Who then?" Marietta asked with disbelief and contempt dripping from her tone.
Harry had just about had enough of her. It was her fault Umbridge had found the DA, and that had resulted in the toad taking over Hogwarts. Maybe if the DA sessions had continued, his friends would have learnt more and not been hurt as much, and Sirius...
"It's none-of-your-bloody-business, that's who!" Harry yelled back at her as he stood, all restraint gone now. He watched in satisfaction as she stepped back in alarm at his obvious anger.
Padma arrived and stepped between them, facing Harry. She looked back over her shoulder at Marietta. "I've got it now, Edgecombe, you can go back about your business," she said coldly before turning back to Harry. She gestured to his chair and took a seat next to him as he sat down again.
"Harry, Anthony told me what you talked about, and I'm sorry, but I haven't heard anything about this until now. She never came to me about it."
Harry thought she sounded a little upset, and guessed that she probably felt responsible, since she was a prefect.
"It's alright, Padma, but is there anything you can do about it now? I think if I found out who's been hiding Luna's stuff, I'm liable to start hexing first and asking questions later."
At his statement, Marietta let out a quiet gasp and turned pale. It clearly wasn't quiet enough though as Harry looked up at her suspiciously.
He noticed she had started backing slowly away. "It was you!" he growled, reaching the obvious conclusion. He rose to his feet again, his eyes fixed on her with a cold hard glare.
"Incarcerous!" Padma's spell hit Marietta, and she fell to the carpet, wrapped tightly in ropes.
"Harry, let me, please," Padma said, again standing between him and Marietta. Placing a hand on his chest, she gently pushed him back into the chair he'd just risen from, and then turned back to Marietta.
"I want to know where Luna's possessions are, and then I want to know who else was involved. I do not want to hear any denials or excuses, or else…"
Marietta couldn't stop herself from asking, "Or else what?"
Padma gave her a humourless smile. "Or else I'll kick everyone else out of the tower and leave you with Harry. I think he might prefer to be the one asking anyway."
Padma reached for some parchment and a quill as Marietta started talking.