Chapter 21: Training Begins
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 21: Training Begins.
Wednesday 26th June, 1996.
"So, Em; do you feel like taking a walk over to that meadow Xeno was talking about after we finish this?" Dan asked his wife, handing her the last plate to dry and then starting on the cutlery.
"Didn't you get enough… walking this afternoon?" she asked him with a sly smile. Truth be told, she liked the idea as well, but agreeing too easily would spoil the thrill of the chase for Dan.
"I like… walking with you." Dan said, grinning at her. "When was the last time we took a holiday to a lovely spot like this? No TV. No phones. No traffic…"
"Well, when was the last time we got to sit in and listen to Hermione's teachers planning lessons?" she countered.
"A good point," Dan conceded. "However, we'll have plenty of opportunities to watch the kids train, and I'm sure that afterwards we'll know what questions to ask them about why they set the lessons up a particular way. At the moment, all we'll do is get in the way of their preparation."
Emma mentally gave him a point as she finished drying off the cutlery. He'd already wiped down the bench top and was draining the sink.
"All right, we'll go for a walk; but you owe me a foot massage after we get back. I haven't broken in these new shoes yet and they're a bit tight," she said, smiling.
"Deal! But you should ask Minerva to spell your shoes for you. I'm sure she must know something that will help make them more comfortable for you."
"I'll ask her, but don't think you're going to weasel out of that foot rub, mister!" she told him, hanging up the tea towel.
"How about you put these away for me while I go and see her?" she asked, heading outside to find Hermione's teacher.
A few minutes later, the Grangers were walking hand in hand on their way to Gofars Ängar. They walked along quietly, enjoying each other's company, and when Dan finally broke the silence, it wasn't a question that Emma was expecting.
"Do you think we should start looking around for another magical school for the kids to go to?"
"What brought that up?" she asked, curious about his intentions. Perhaps he did just want to walk and talk after all.
"I've been thinking over what the others told us about the will readings today," Dan replied. "I still can't get over the fact that their headmaster deliberately let Harry's godfather rot in that prison all that time. Since he was the one that cast that secrecy charm over their house, he knew exactly who the secret keeper was."
Emma grimaced. They'd also heard how angry Harry was when he came back from Gringotts, and she could completely understand.
Dan shook his head. "I don't know, Em. If he can justify doing that, then what's to stop him doing something to Hermione if he decides it's better for Harry that she isn't so close to him? Is she going to end up petrified in the hospital wing for months again? I honestly don't know what the man is capable of, and I'm not sure I want to find out."
Emma shuddered as she remembered the horror that was Hermione's second year. First there was the time she spent as a half-cat due to some potions accident, and then the time she'd spent petrified waiting for some potion to be ready. She still wasn't sure how Hermione had managed to talk them into letting her go back for her third year.
She thought for a minute, and then turned to Dan. "I think we need to have a serious conversation with Minerva. She's going to be getting some sort of unbreakable promise from the headmaster on Friday, so we need to get see if we can get some clauses in that will protect Hermione as well."
"And if she can't get the promise from him that we want?" Dan asked, already knowing the answer.
"Then she won't be going back to Hogwarts!" Emma stated firmly, confirming her husband's suspicions. "Thanks to Minerva's questions that first night, we already know Harry would happily fund a move overseas if it would keep his friends safe."
He nodded his agreement, then raised an eyebrow. Emma knew what he was asking and nodded back. 'Yes, we'll talk to Hermione about it first, but we're going to do it anyway.'
They were her parents after all, and they were going to do whatever they could to protect her.
A few hours later, Dan and Emma were snuggled up on a conjured sofa around the small campfire, talking with Remus who had stayed up. The conversation had turned to Moody's acceptance of the kids going off on a night out with just Tonks, though Remus had picked up loud and clear the underlying concern of two parents whose daughter was off on a late night out.
"…All I'm saying is that I'm surprised Alastor let them go off without a fight, given the fuss he was making about going to the pictures the other day." Emma said, continuing the point she was trying to make.
Remus nodded. "Before the will reading he wouldn't have let them go without a fight," he confirmed.
Emma's forehead furrowed in thought. "So what changed, then? I can't see him being impressed with Harry's titles and money, so… oh, wait, it's Fawkes, isn't it? Something about Fawkes!"
Remus nodded. "I thought his eye was going to pop out of his head when he saw Fawkes come back with Harry this afternoon. Then, after Harry's little discussion just before they left tonight, I think you can safely say that Alastor is now as relaxed as he's ever going to get."
Dan shook his head. "Sorry, Remus, but I need you to spell it out for me. The camp fire's made me a bit fuzzy."
Remus unconsciously adopted the teaching persona he'd cultivated while a professor at Hogwarts, and questioned them to help them work it out for themselves. "Do you remember how Harry interacted with Fawkes before today?"
Emma's expression cleared up as the question gave her the hint she need. "I get it now. Fawkes was just a bird to him before, because Harry had no idea what he would do. But now it's like Fawkes is communicating back to him somehow, and Harry understands him."
"10 points to the Grangers. Yes, that's it exactly. But what you need to know is that the only reason Harry would be able to do that is if Fawkes chose to bond with him. Harry's clear demonstration of that bond is what has caused Alastor to back down."
"So Fawkes is bonded to Harry now? What does that mean?" Dan asked.
"I'd say probably still bonding, but that's just a guess. Not a lot is really known about phoenix bondings. This is a really good thing for Harry though, as familiars won't let anything happen to their companions if they can help it." Remus clarified.
"You mean, Fawkes can just grab him and take him away from any real danger?" Emma asked, then became annoyed as she thought about the ramifications. "Well that's just fine for Harry! But what about Hermione and Luna? If trouble strikes, then instead of having Harry there to help protect them, they'll be left watching that bird whisk him away to safety!"
Remus flinched as Emma's tone clearly accused him of allowing her daughter to be in increased danger without so much as a warning.
Remus shook his head. "I don't think you have to worry about that. Harry would step in front of a killing curse for those girls, and Fawkes would fly in front of him to take it first."
The Grangers thought about that for a minute, but they were still left with the feeling that things had become a little less safe for the girls. There wasn't time for any other questions though, as, with a flash of fire, the object of their discussion appeared with Luna and Hermione. Fawkes took off and was back a few seconds later with Tonks and Harry.
Luna walked up to Tonks and gave her a hug, saying a very sincere thank you for taking them out for such a fun night. Then she stepped over to Harry and gave him a very thorough goodnight kiss, before waving her goodnights to the others.
Somewhat dazedly, Harry muttered his own goodnights as well, and had actually taken a couple of steps before giving his head a small shake. He turned around and walked up to hug Tonks, giving her an equally sincere thank you. Then as they both let go, he grinned at her and said "You're right, cousin, what's not to love about you?"
She laughed and ruffled his already messy hair. "Go to bed. Training starts early tomorrow, remember?"
He nodded, and gave a few more goodnights before heading into the tent and his bed. Shortly afterwards, Tonks, and then Remus said their own goodnights, leaving the Grangers sitting around the fire by themselves. Hermione had taken a seat and was currently staring at the flames, deep in thought.
"Penny for them?" Emma said after a few minutes, realising that Hermione wasn't going to volunteer whatever it was that had her so preoccupied.
Hermione looked up with such a lost expression on her face that Emma moved apart from Dan to give her room to cuddle in between them if she wanted to. Hermione did.
Once they were all settled, the three of them returned to looking at the fire. Hermione's parents were content to wait for her to start talking now that she was between them.
Slowly, Hermione talked about Harry, and Emma and Dan listened with some sympathy as the story came out. They learned how she eventually realised her feelings for him, her conversations with Luna and then with Harry, and then finally, Luna's plan for getting Harry to make a real choice between the two girls.
Dan looked over Hermione's head at Emma and gave her a look that she correctly interpreted as 'all yours!'
"Well, if I understand this right, you're going to have a boyfriend tomorrow after Luna tells him her plan. How do you feel about that, love?"
"I don't know. What am I supposed to do?" she asked plaintively.
"Well, putting Luna and everything else aside, would you want him as a boyfriend?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, I would."
"So what are you worried about, then? From tomorrow you'll have just as much chance as Harry does to decide if you want to take your friendship in that direction, or leave it as it is."
"I know, mum, but what about Luna? What has she done to deserve having me try to steal her boyfriend from her?"
"She hasn't done anything wrong, sweetie. In fact, she's doing something incredibly brave for such a young girl. I have so much respect for her I can't begin to tell you. That goes for you as well. The fact that you're feeling so terrible about this shows that you respect her claim to him, so you can forget all about that silly notion that you're somehow stealing him."
Dan watched as Hermione processed what her mother told her, and then slowly nod her acceptance of the words. "You know, Hermione, you're going to have to be yourself over the next few days, and act as though Luna doesn't have any claim to him other than as a friend."
He watched as her daughter's head turned to look at him in surprise, and then answered her unspoken question. "Luna's doing this because she wants Harry to be with the girl he really wants. She's already told you her reasons for that. You need to behave as you normally would if you were Harry's girlfriend, otherwise you'll be cheating all three of you."
At his daughter's confused look he looked over at Emma to see if she could make it any clearer for her.
"Suppose you were Luna, love, and you had Harry as your boyfriend because his friend had chased him away out of a sense of misguided loyalty to you. How would you cope when you saw the occasional look on his face as he looked at his friend as though wondering what might have been? How long could that go on before you started hating both of them?" Her mother asked.
Hermione's eyes widened as though she finally understood why it was so important for Luna to do this. She really did need Harry to make a proper choice.
"This way, Luna gets to stay best friends with both you and Harry, and she still has a chance that Harry will choose her, or that you'll decide that you don't want him as a boyfriend. The only thing that can mess things up is if you push Harry away… again," her mother said.
Hermione nodded. Then something occurred to her; "But what if he decides he does want to be with Luna after all?"
"Well, what if he does? How is that any worse than things are now? At least this way you'll know as well, and can move on." Dan said.
Hermione thought about it, and eventually gave a wry smile and nodded. "You're right, daddy. It would be better to know for sure. You guys are great. I would have messed this up without you and mum."
Her parents accepted her hugs and returned them, then sent her off to bed.
After watching her walk into the tent she shared with Harry and the Lovegoods, they got up and walked off to their own room in the other tent.
Dan felt Emma's smirk even before he looked over and saw it on her face. "I noticed you didn't say anything to her about how you'll be threatening Harry tomorrow," she told him.
Dan smirked right back. "She had enough to be getting on with tonight. Besides, it's every dad's right to threaten his daughter's boyfriend."
"Uh-huh. What about boyfriends that can take on basilisks, dragons and dark lords?"
"He treats her right or he's going down!" Dan said, shrugging.
"My hero!" Emma said, laughing. "My dead hero, but still my hero."
Dan laughed along with her as they walked inside.
When Hermione entered the room she shared with Luna, she noticed the girl was already lying in her own bed. Hermione got changed into her pyjamas, and was about to climb into her own bed when she turned around and walked over to Luna's.
Kneeling down, she said softly "Luna?"
Luna opened her eyes and looked at her.
"I'll do it," Hermione said. "I'll do it properly, so that you can get a proper choice."
Luna reached over and pulled Hermione close so that she could hug her. "Thank you! Thank you, Hermione," she said.
"You're welcome, Luna, and thank you, too. I didn't really understand, but my parents explained it to me. If they hadn't I'd probably have messed this up for the three of us."
Hermione pulled back from the hug, and looked at Luna. "You know, we still have to convince Harry tomorrow. I'm not quite sure how you're going to do that."
Luna shrugged. "Neither do I yet. But I'll worry about that tomorrow. I'm really tired now and need some sleep."
"Me too." Hermione said. They looked at each other for a few seconds, and Hermione thought she saw something in Luna's expression, though it was very hard to see in the dim light. "Well, are you going to make room for me?" she asked.
She smiled as Luna quickly moved to the other side of the bed and held the covers up so that Hermione could slide in to bed.
They were cuddled up and asleep less than five minutes later.
Tonks woke early the next morning, and after dressing quickly in clothes suitable for exercise, went over to the Lovegoods' tent. Opening the door to the girl's room, she was quite surprised to learn of their sleeping arrangements.
'This is going to work out even better than I expected' she thought as she drew her wand on the sleeping girls.
Harry woke instantly as he heard Hermione's scream. Exploding out of his bed, his wand was in hand and he was halfway to the door when he heard Hermione yell out. "Tonks, how could you?"
When Harry saw the scene in the girl's room from the open door, his brain decided to lock up while his eyes dutifully recorded everything to permanent storage.
Tonks was sending a water jet over to wake up the girls… who were in the same bed… very wet…
Hermione's shrieks raised an octave as she noticed Harry in the doorway looking in. Tonks looked around, and taking pity on the girls, cancelled her Aguamenti charm and started pushing Harry out and closed the door after they'd both left.
"Nothing to see here, Harry!" she said, laughing. "Well – that's a lie, of course, but nothing you're going to see now," she said, looking him over and smirking. "Nice abs!"
"Huh?" Harry said, as the comment slowly penetrated his brain. It had slowly started rebooting after the door had closed. Harry suddenly realised he was standing there in front of Tonks, clad in only his boxers. He let out a girlish squeak before running back into his own room and slamming the door.
Tonks laughed out loud and yelled out to the teens "Be out front and dressed for exercise in five minutes, or tomorrow morning I'll be getting you up an hour earlier!"
Walking out of the tent, she headed over to the table and conjured 4 water bottles, then filled them with her wand. She looked up and grimaced as she saw who it was that was hurrying out of the tent, struggling to finish putting on a shirt.
"Oh hell, I'm really sorry, Xeno. I forgot to put up a silencing charm on your door before I woke the kids up for their training.
"Ah, right! Well, err, not to worry, not to worry. I'll just, umm…" Xeno trailed off as his barely awake brain struggled to find anything he could say to try and make things less uncomfortable for Tonks.
"You know what, it's a lovely morning, so I'll just have a stroll and see if I can find any fresh Snorkack tracks. Yes! Wonderful idea! Who knows what I might find? Hmm, yes, yes… an early start could be just the ticket!" Xeno continued muttering happily to himself as he walked off in the direction of the nearby lake.
Tonks watched him walk off with a thoughtful expression on her face, until she heard someone exit the tent and walk over to her. Tonks noted with some amusement that although Harry still had traces of his blush, he was at least able to make eye contact with her.
"All right, Harry, know anything about exercising properly? No? Well, not to worry. Basically, we need to make sure our muscles are warmed up before we start using them, and then we need to help them to relax again afterward. We also need to make sure we keep our fluids up since we'll be doing some sweating."
She threw him one of the water bottles, and grabbed one for herself and took a few mouthfuls.
"Just do a little heel-toe and running on the spot while we wait for the girls, then I'll take you all through some stretching exercises over there on the grass."
She demonstrated what she wanted him to do and was about to go inside and collect the girls at wand point when they came out. Luna gave Harry a cheerful good morning, but didn't interrupt his exercising to give him a hug or kiss. Hermione gave him a soft good morning but wouldn't meet his eyes.
They girls both caught the bottles Tonks threw to them, and took some sips at her gesture. Establishing that none of her three trainees had undertaken any formal exercising, she led them all over to a flat grassy area and conjured some large padded mats.
Over the next 20 minutes, she led them through an assortment of stretching exercises, then cycled them through various physical exercises interspersed with more stretching and running on the spot.
"Ok, what I'm going to do now is teach you how to punch, Tae Kwon Do style… First we get into the Naranhi Junbi Sogi, the Ready stance… So when I call out 'Choon Bee', this is how I want you to stand…"
Some time later, and reasonably satisfied with their first efforts, Tonks had them finish off with some more sit ups and push ups, before setting them some cooling down stretches.
She chuckled quietly to herself as she overheard the almost whispered comments amongst the teens.
"She's totally evil! I'm surprised she doesn't already have her own band of Death Eaters."
"She probably does, and they all worship the Dark Lady Nym–"
"No! don't say it. Call her 'She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!'"
She laughed aloud at the last comment, and giving herself a set of red eyes, she turned back to them to dismiss them.
"Right you three, that was a good first effort. We're going to do the same thing tomorrow morning, and over the next few weeks I'll take you through the first few Hyungs- err, Tae Kwon Do routines. Now, off to the showers, then grab some breakfast. Then afterwards you can see what Remus has for you."
Taking Luna's hand after they'd climbed to their feet, Harry missed Luna's meaningful look at Hermione. What he couldn't fail to miss though was the feeling of Hermione's hand claiming his own. When he looked at her she met his eyes as though daring him to let go of her hand. When he didn't, she smiled and gave his hand a small squeeze, which he returned.
He looked at Luna on his left, and gave her a look that clearly asked 'what's going on?' But Luna simply gave him one of her enigmatic smiles, and started walking back to the tents.
Letting the girls shower first, he sat in his room and leafed through one of the new books he'd taken out of his new library to read; 'Practical Defensive Magic and its Use Against the Dark Arts.' It didn't take him long to realise that this was the same book Sirius and Remus had bought him last Christmas, and that the slightly dog-eared original was buried somewhere in his old trunk.
Deciding he'd send the new copy off to Ginny for use with the DA, he quilled a short note to her and tied it to the book. Deciding that the trip was too far to interrupt Hedwig's own holiday, he asked Fawkes if he wouldn't mind dropping it off for him.
Harry was somewhat shocked as he suddenly relived a memory from his fourth year. It was during the period before the first task when he and Ron weren't speaking to each other, and he'd asked Hermione to pass on a message to Ron for him. She'd turned around and told him that she wasn't an owl.
"Sorry, Fawkes," Harry told the phoenix sincerely, "I guess I have been taking advantage of you lately, haven't I? It's okay, I'll get it to her another way."
Harry spent the next ten minutes caressing and talking to Fawkes, until he got the knock on his door that signalled the bathroom was free. When he had finished and returned to his room, he found the book and note missing, and a letter from Ginny was in its place.
'Thanks, Harry, This book looks excellent for the DA. Can't say much as Fawkes looks like he wants to go. Say hi to everyone for me. Stay safe, Ginny.'
Walking over to Fawkes, Harry gave him another caress. "Thank you, Fawkes. You didn't have to do that, but I appreciate it."
As he stepped out of the tent, he walked over to Luna and gave her their first kiss of the day, and then sat down next to her and served himself some muesli. Focussing on his breakfast, he didn't notice Hermione get up with her empty bowl, and timing it just right, leaned over and gave him a good morning kiss of her own before he took his next spoonful. He was hardly a kiss connoisseur with his few days experience, but even he realised that this was more than just a friendly kiss between friends.
After she pulled back, she gave him a wink and then walked off smiling into the tent to wash the dishes.
He turned to Luna only to find her smiling at him again. "Luna, you know something, don't you? Would you please tell me what is going on?"
"Of course, Harry. As soon as we've finished training with Remus, we'll go for a walk and talk about it, okay?"
Harry nodded, happy enough to wait now that he knew there was an answer coming. In the meantime, his thoughts continually probed at the question as he finished eating. He'd thought they'd sorted everything out yesterday afternoon, so had he done something last night that led Hermione on? He'd danced with both her and Tonks, of course, but Luna had told him to do that.
The feel of a hand softly running through his hair brought him out of his thoughts and he looked up to see Luna standing next to him. "Come on, Harry. Remus is waiting for us."
They walked over to the same grassy area that seemed to have become their training ground. This time they had a couple of spectators, as Dan and Emma had decided to watch how Apparition was taught.
Remus separated them so that they were five feet apart, and conjured hoops in front of each teenager. He explained the 'Three D's' in detail, and demonstrated the process a couple of times himself before setting them to practice.
It seemed that nothing was going to happen until, with a pop, Harry appeared within his hoop.
"I did it!" he yelled, and pumped a fist into the air. He looked around as everyone stared at him, though they seemed more shocked than pleased, then they all looked from him to Remus.
"Yes, well, sometimes during apparition, it's possible to leave part of yourself behind. This is called 'splinching', and it happens all too frequently…"
As Remus spoke, Harry was trying to inventory himself to try and work out what he'd lost.
"It's normally a fairly easy job to reattach the missing fingernail or leg or whatever but… Harry, how the hell did you manage to splinch your hair?"
Harry's eyes widened as he put his hands to his head. He was as bald as an egg.
He looked desperately at Remus. "Remus, please tell me that you can fix this. You can, can't you?"
Harry looked back at where he had been standing before apparating, and saw a very small pile of hair, and a quite a bit of it blowing off in the wind. In desperation, Harry drew his wand and cast. "Accio Harry's hair!"
He ended up with barely a scant handful of hair, but after looking at the expression on Remus' face, he sighed dejectedly and just let it go.
The others came over to Harry to reassure him. "Well, look on the bright side, Harry. This is probably the tidiest your head's been in years!" Dan said, smiling, while Emma smacked him over the back of his own head for his insensitivity.
The absurdity of the comment struck Harry as funny, and he couldn't help but chuckle briefly. He supposed it wouldn't really hit him until he actually saw himself in a mirror.
Remus was concerned about continuing. Usually seeing how easily the splinching was reversed was enough to get people back on track, but with Harry's splinching unresolved, their focus was going to be questionable. "Do you want to stop the lesson early and pick it up again tomorrow?" he asked.
Dan whispered something in Harry's ear.
"Make it so!" Harry said.
Emma and Hermione both burst out laughing, while Dan grinned. "Told you!" he said at Harry's confused look.
Taking pity on him, Hermione walked over to Harry and grabbed his hand. "Come on Jean Luc, Luna and I need to have a talk with you anyway. I can tell you all about Star Trek at the same time."
"So Riker's the first officer, and that's why Picard calls him 'Number One'?" Harry asked Hermione, who nodded. She'd given him a concise rundown on the Enterprise 'D' crew and plot.
"And Data's the android second officer, but his job is mostly just to look stuff up while the blind guy gets the cool job of flying the ship?" he asked, and got another nod.
"So why doesn't Picard call Data 'Number Two? Especially since he's got such a crappy job?"
Hermione didn't laugh, but her lips twitched a bit before she could calmly reply, "I don't know, Harry."
They walked quietly for a minute before Hermione asked him what it felt like to apparate.
"Well, everything goes black and it's like you're pressed really hard all over, and you feel like you can't breathe. You get this feeling like you're being squeezed through a hosepipe, and then just when you think it's over, your head gets really cold."
'Gotcha this time!' he thought, as Hermione and Luna both processed the list of feelings and then started giggling as they got to the last one.
When the laughter died down, Harry directed a meaningful look at Hermione, and then at Luna when Hermione didn't say anything.
"Harry, do you remember those conversations we had, which basically came down to you deciding which of us you'd rather be dating?" Luna asked him.
Harry nodded. He had a feeling this was going to come up again.
"Well, I don't think you can make a proper choice until you know what you're choosing between."
"Huh? Of course I know." Harry protested.
"Harry, you know your 'friend' Hermione, but you don't know whether she would be a good girlfriend, or even a great one for you. So I want you to be her boyfriend until Sunday, and then you can tell us who you would rather date."
"Luna, how can I be her boyfriend when I'm already with you?" The words were barely out of his mouth when he wanted to call them back. He knew what she'd say.
"Because I'll just be your best friend for the next few days. Oh, don't be sad, Harry. Things won't change all that much between us. We can still hug and hold hands like you've been doing with Hermione until today. And you'll have Hermione to kiss instead of me."
"Please do this for me, Harry. Do this for us, the three of us."
"I don't… it's not right, I'm already with you."
"You're very loyal, Harry. It's one of your best qualities, but let me ask you something. Why are you so worried? If you truly only want to be with me, then all that will happen is that in a few days you'll choose me and we'll be together. And we'll each have the gift of knowing that being together wasn't an accident of timing.
"But… but what about Hermione? Is it fair to play with her feelings for those days?"
"Harry Potter! How could you say something so unkind?" Luna said, scolding him. "You take that back!"
Harry was confused. "What did I say?"
Luna was incensed. "You just suggested that Hermione didn't have any hope of winning you over, so you weren't even going to try. Tell her the truth!"
Harry looked over at Hermione who was looking at him with watery eyes and one of the saddest expressions he'd ever seen on her face. He felt ashamed and looked down. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I shouldn't have said that. Luna's right, I didn't mean that. I just…"
Hermione joined in the conversation for the first time. "You just what, Harry?"
"I… I just panicked. I don't want to lose what I have with Luna, I just… I'm sorry, Hermione. I really didn't mean it. If anything… it's the opposite, and that's why I panicked." Harry said softly, almost whispering.
Since signing the emancipation papers yesterday, he'd been trying as hard as he could to act more like an adult instead of an easily embarrassed, whiny little boy. He tried to force himself to raise his eyes and look at the girls, but it seemed his shame had a greater hold on him than his resolution at the moment.
He was jolted out of his internal musings, by two hands lifting his head up, and then a warm pair of lips pressing against his own as the hands moved to the back of his head holding him in place. His own hands came up to embrace Hermione as he returned her kiss to show that he meant what he'd said. That he could easily choose her, if only he hadn't already chosen Luna.
After a time the kiss ended and they moved apart, looking at each other.
"That's much better." Luna declared, and they both looked to see her smiling at them. Harry rushed over to hug her tightly. She hugged him back for a minute before stepping back. "Come on, Harry, we don't want to make your girlfriend jealous, do we?"
She placed a finger over his lips as he was about to protest. "This is what I want, Harry. I want you to be absolutely sure that you wouldn't rather be with Hermione than me, and I'm afraid your loyalty is getting in the way of that. Why don't you try looking at it from the point of view that Hermione had you first, instead of me? All those years you spent as her friend, and all the things she's done for you. You both need to explore this!"
She let her hand drop from his face, and smiled warmly at him again. She couldn't help it; even without his hair she thought he was such a lovely person.
"We've only known each other such a short time through the DA and the last few days, Harry. I'm still going to love you as a friend if you choose Hermione as your girlfriend, and I'd never try to break you two up. So it's not like we won't be together as friends if you want us to be."
"Of course I would, Luna. That's a promise!" Harry said quickly.
Luna's eyes watered as she grabbed Harry in a tight hug, then she kissed his cheek as she let him go. "You've made me so happy, Harry. You and Hermione both. I still hope that you'll choose me, but I'm more than happy to be your friend, and you've just given me that."
She walked over to Hermione to give her a hug as well, and whispered something in her ear. As she pulled away, Hermione nodded.
"I'm going back to camp now. Didn't you say you had somewhere to go in a couple of hours for lunch?
Harry nodded, and watched as Luna walked off. Hermione's hand found his and squeezed. He looked at her.
"You know that I wouldn't try to steal you away from her, don't you, Harry?"
Harry thought about it for a minute before nodding.
Hermione sighed. "Come on, Harry, let's take a seat, and I'll explain it to you the way my parents did for me."
He was about to sit on the ground, before Hermione took out her wand and conjured a small loveseat. After he sat down, she sat beside him, facing him with her back against the armrest, one leg folded almost beneath her and her arm along the back of the seat.
She told him about the conversation she'd had with her parents the night before, and explained that it was only then that she understood how important it was to find out whether they should be the ones dating.
"So you see, Harry, you can't steal something if it's freely given."
Harry nodded, "Yeah, I get it now. It's just…" he broke off, unable to find the words for what he what he was feeling.
"You feel like you're betraying Luna?" Hermione asked softly.
"Yes, that's it! How was it so easy for you to work that out when I couldn't do it?"
She laughed. "Because you'd sooner snog Malfoy than betray anyone. It's just not in your nature."
"Oh no, that's a vision I could do without, I almost lost my dinner last night when Tonks morphed into him."
"You really like Tonks, don't you?"
Harry nodded. "Absolutely! Don't get me wrong, there have been times I've wished that you and Ron were my family, and the Weasleys as well, but… Tonks really is family, and she… wants me. As family I mean. She's like the big sister I never had. You saw how she totally went off at Dumbledore yesterday over Snape. I almost cr– I mean, it was so unexpected that she felt so strongly about me, you know?"
Hermione smiled in sympathy. "I can't imagine what it must have been like growing up without anyone to love you. It's really not so hard to understand that you'd hold on so tightly to Tonks and Luna. But they aren't the only ones that love you, Harry."
"I know, Hermione."
She looked at him for a moment. "So are we dating now, Harry?"
Harry had started to nod when a thought occurred to him. Hermione tensed up as she wondered what the problem was now.
"Hermione, would you be my girlfriend for the next few days, with the possibility that it may be a more longer term thing?"
'Jackpot!' she thought to herself as she moved onto his lap and started kissing him.