Chapter 3: The Plan
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 3: The Plan.
Saturday 22nd June, 1996.
Luna was halfway to the Great Hall doors when she heard Harry's voice call out from behind her; 'Wait up, Luna!'
She turned around to see what he wanted, then watched as he stood up and leant over to talk briefly with his friends. She guessed that he was probably telling them about her missing possessions. Before long, Ron and Hermione got up and approached her.
"Come on, Luna," Ron said. "Harry's going to catch up with us in a bit."
"Oh, alright then," she replied serenely, following them out of the hall.
"Where should we start looking, Luna?" Hermione asked as they walked. Out of habit, Hermione had been leading them towards the library.
"Anywhere, really," Luna replied. "There isn't any sort of pattern to it."
"Pattern? Then… this has happened before?" Hermione asked, somewhat shocked.
"Oh, yes. People have been taking and hiding my things since my first year." She leaned in a little closer to Hermione and spoke conspiratorially. "I think they must think I'm a little odd, you know – because some of them call me 'Loony'."
Hermione could scarcely believe the matter-of-fact way Luna had accepted her housemates' cruelty – and this had been going on for four years? She impulsively grabbed Luna in a tight hug. What could Luna possibly have done to deserve that mistreatment? The injustice of it made her furious.
She released Luna and turned to Ron. "Right, Ron, I want you to check the Quidditch pitch and changing rooms. You know the area better than either of us would. Then I want you to check the classrooms on the first floor. I'll meet you back here in an hour." Her tone did not invite debate.
"Err, sure, Hermione. One question, though; what am I looking for?"
Luna walked over to a nearby notice board, removed her note, and handed it to Ron.
Ron's eyes widened as he scanned the list. "Blimey, all that…"
Hermione moved so that she could read the list over Ron's shoulder; she didn't say anything, but her look got even more determined – if that was possible.
"This is really very nice of you," Luna said, "but I'm sure everything will all turn up. It always has before. Well, mostly anyway."
Hermione thought about what Luna said for a moment, and then nodded. "Yes, I suppose your things would be returned eventually wouldn't they? If they stayed missing then you would almost be forced to report it, and that would result in an investigation that I doubt the perpetrators would want started."
Something occurred to her. "But if you aren't going to search for your things, and obviously you don't have your things to pack, what was it that you were going to do when you left the table?" Hermione asked.
Luna tilted her head to the side a little as she looked at her, and Hermione got the distinct impression that Luna was deciding something… Or perhaps she was waiting for Hermione to work it out for herself?
Hermione turned her full focus to the problem. No one had said anything rude to her, not even Ron, who could usually be counted on to say something inappropriate. Perhaps Luna had been embarrassed to be at the Gryffindor table? But no, that surely couldn't be it, since she'd come over herself, and taken a seat without even waiting for an invitation.
Hermione began pacing as she continued to ponder the problem. She said she'd come over for the pudding, but then why would she leave after only one spoonful? Hermione wondered. So if it wasn't the pudding, then why did she come over?
Well, whatever the reason, Hermione was grateful, as her arrival and interruption had managed to distract Harry from… Oh, Merlin, how could I have been so blind?
"You brought him around earlier as well, didn't you?" Hermione guessed.
"I was a little put out with you two at first, you know," Luna replied.
Hermione blushed a little in shame at her admonition. Ron just looked back and forth between them with a look of confusion.
"I'm... we're sorry, Luna," Hermione said contritely.
"What? We are? What are we sorry about?" Ron asked Hermione, even more confused.
"Honestly, Ron! Think about it. When Harry left us earlier tonight, he was depressed. He showed up feeling a lot better. He sits with us for barely five minutes, and then he's depressed again. It's clearly our fault, since we practically forced him to start thinking about Sirius."
Hermione had started to pace again during her explanation, and it was obvious she was becoming more annoyed.
"But all we did was tell him we were worried, and that he could talk to us!" Ron argued. "How was that wrong?"
"It wasn't wrong… as such," Hermione agreed. "But we just didn't think it through. We should have known what Harry's reaction would be. We were idiots!"
"Yes, you were," Luna agreed happily.
"You don't have to sound so pleased about it," Ron said, somewhat belligerently.
"Why ever not?" Luna replied, with a curious tone. "It saves so much time if you already know what the problem is, and since you both love Harry, you aren't going to do it again now that you know," she stated as though it were obvious.
"Wha- what do you mean? I don't… I mean... that's not…" Ron stammered.
"Oh, Ron, she's right. Harry's like family to us. Your mother has all but adopted him, and he's as good as a brother to me. You love your family, don't you?" Having said that, Hermione ignored Ron and turned back to Luna.
She took a breath, and then another, as though trying to delay what she was going to say next. "Luna, you seem to have given his feelings a lot more thought than we have. Do you have any suggestions for how we can help Harry?"
"You think of Harry as family. Who would Harry think of as family now that his godfather is gone?" Luna prompted.
Hermione paled as she thought about it. Harry had never considered the Dursleys to be 'family' – they were just relatives that didn't want him. So with Sirius gone, he'd feel alone again…
"He doesn't think he has anyone left, does he?" Hermione said softly.
"No! That's rubbish!" Ron exclaimed. "He's got us! And you said yourself that Mum's all but adopted him! He's got us!" Ron insisted angrily to Hermione.
Hermione placed a hand on Ron's arm to try and calm him down. "I know, Ron, but you know what Harry is like – he won't think of it the same way."
Ron looked ready to argue again, but stopped himself and looked thoughtful.
Hermione glanced over at Luna, and she could see from her expression that something unpleasant must have occurred to her. "Luna, what is it?"
"We're going home tomorrow," she said sadly.
"How do you suppose Harry will be spending his summer?" Luna almost whispered.
Hermione gasped. Those damnable relatives of his would torture him mercilessly.
"We've got to talk to the headmaster. He can't possibly stay there!" she cried, and stormed off towards Dumbledore's office, too preoccupied to notice Ron and Luna following her. The headmaster would have to see that he couldn't stay with the Dursleys this summer. He needed to be with people that cared about him, that could help him through this. Surely the headmaster would understand?
When she reached the gargoyle, Hermione realised she had a problem. She had no idea what the password was. "Please, I must speak to the headmaster. It's about Harry, and it's very important." The gargoyle remained unmoved by her plea.
"Now what do we do?" Ron asked
Hermione barely hesitated. "We'll go and see Professor McGonagall," she said, already moving towards her Head of House's room, muttering to herself. "What's wrong with me tonight? I should have gone to see her first…"
"Miss Granger, Mr Weasley, Miss Lovegood. What can I do for you this evening?"
"Please, Professor, we need to see the headmaster about Harry," Hermione said, biting her lip.
Professor McGonagall frowned. "I'm afraid that's not going to be possible, Miss Granger. He's been called to the Ministry."
"He has? What has–?"
"Miss Granger," McGonagall interrupted, "I'm sure you must already know I could hardly discuss Ministry matters with a student, even if I did know the details of why he has been summoned. Now, what is so important that you wanted to bring it to the headmaster before even raising it with your Head of House?"
Hermione felt her cheeks redden in embarrassment. "I'm so sorry, Professor; I've really not been thinking straight. It's just that we were talking about Harry, and we realised that he's going to be going home tomorrow to those horrible relatives of his. And he just can't be sent there!"
"Miss Granger–" McGonagall began.
"Professor, you must know what they're like. You've seen how he looks when he arrives at school each year."
"You know what he's just gone through. He needs to be with his friends! He needs to be with people that–"
Hermione flinched and stopped speaking immediately at the professor's raised voice. She couldn't remember ever hearing it directed at her before.
"Hermione, take a seat please," McGonagall said in a softer tone, but one that expected obedience. "You two as well," she said to Ron and Luna.
Professor McGonagall moved over to the tea service and poured three cups for her guests, then handed them around before taking up the cup she'd been drinking from earlier.
"I shall infer from Mr Potter's absence that he does not know of your… mission?" she asked, having waited for Hermione to start drinking before saying anything.
"No, Professor, he doesn't," Hermione replied quickly between sips of her tea.
"Miss Granger, I am not unsympathetic to your request, and to be perfectly candid with you, I would tend to agree with your reasons. Though you may not share that admission with anyone," she said, making eye contact with each of them. "However…"
Hermione deflated. "You're going to let him go back there, aren't you?" she said sadly, anticipating what her professor was going to say.
Professor McGonagall looked uncomfortable. "Despite what you or I might think, the headmaster has always been most insistent that Mr Potter returns to Number Four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging each year. There are protections there that keep him safe."
Luna smiled brightly. "Thank you very much for the tea, and the conversation, Professor. We hope you have a lovely summer! Come along, Hermione, Ron."
She got up and almost pushed the other two out of the room in her haste to leave.
Hermione was despondent. "I've failed him," she said, unshed tears in her eyes.
Luna gave her a hug. "Of course you haven't – you got just what I needed!"
"I di– did?" Hermione said, not quite believing her.
"Yes, you did," Luna said firmly. "Now we need to talk about what we're going to do. After all 'if you fail to plan, you plan to fail'," she finished in a sing-song voice.
"His address!" Hermione blurted out. "The professor mentioned Harry's address, and you didn't know it before!"
Luna smiled. "Yes, she did. Now what do you suppose would happen if the headmaster learned that Harry didn't arrive at Privet Drive, or perhaps left there soon after arriving?"
"He'd send him back there," Ron said, without hesitation. "Oh, bugger! The first place they'd look for him would be the Burrow."
"And my house would be second," Hermione said. She looked over at Luna. "I suppose when Professor McGonagall tells the headmaster about our visit this evening, your house would be the third place they'd look."
"Oh, I expect so," Luna agreed. "But I won't be there as Daddy and I are going to Sweden to search for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks."
"What the bloody hell are Crumble-Horn Snorelax?" Ron asked.
"Ron, language!" Hermione chided before turning to Luna with a speculative look on her face. "I suppose it would be hard to get in contact with you if you were out looking for those things?"
"Well, yes, we have to put up wards so that the Snorkacks can't detect us, otherwise we'd never be able to find them," Luna replied.
"So it's like a camping holiday then? Quite relaxing…?" Hermione asked.
"It's very relaxing," Luna agreed. "We have a lovely wizard's tent and everything we could ever need."
"So if someone wanted to join you on your trip?"
"Oh, there is plenty of room, and we still have all of Mum's things. She used to camp with us as well."
At Hermione's pointed look, Luna shook her head. "Another time, Hermione."
Hermione nodded. "Alright, so plan A is for Harry to leave with you straight from the station, but if that falls through, you'll pick him up from Privet Drive?"
"What if we need to contact him?" Hermione asked
Luna's thought for a moment and then her face lost her smile. "You should send a message to him via Gringotts. Once we get to Sweden, I'll get Daddy to go into the local branch and let them know how to contact us… and Harry."
"Why would Gringotts want to– Oh… I see."
Ron sighed. "Hermione…"
"Sirius' will, Ron. Harry was his godson, so he'll probably be the main beneficiary. Gringotts will want Harry to attend the will reading," Hermione explained.
"Oh," Ron said, lost for words. In a flash of insight, he guessed that Harry wasn't going to take that news very well at all.
While they were thinking about that, Harry came jogging up. He folded up the Marauders' Map and put it in a pocket. "Hey, guys!" He turned to Luna and said, smiling, "Guess what, Luna?"
"You've seen a Blibbering Humdinger?" Luna squealed happily, nearly bouncing on her feet.
Harry laughed. "Nope, no Humdingers, and no Nerfherders either, for that matter."
"Nerfherders?" Hermione asked, looking at Luna with a raised eyebrow.
"Hmm, well, it couldn't be Nargles, because there's no–"
Harry interrupted what he was sure would be an endless list of imaginatively named creatures. "We've got all your stuff back! Padma's taken the culprits off to Professor Flitwick, so it won't be happening ever again!" he said, beaming at her, happy that his friend wouldn't have to go through that again.
Luna stood gaping at him for a moment, then with tears welling in her eyes; she rushed forwards and gave him a Molly-worthy hug.
"Air… Luna… need to… breathe," Harry gasped out.
She loosened her grip a little and whispered, "Thank you so much, Harry," in his ear. She hugged him tightly for a little while longer, and then kissed his cheek before releasing him, her eyes glistening.
"Thank you," she said to him. "And thank you both as well. Apart from Ginny, I've never had friends before. It's wonderful."
Predictably, Hermione grabbed Luna in a hug while telling her that of course they were her friends. Then, slightly less predictably, Hermione grabbed Harry in a hug. "You are a wonderful friend, you know. Thank you for what you did for Luna." Harry gave her a squeeze back in acknowledgement.
Ron smiled. "What, no hugs for me?" he asked, pouting outrageously after Hermione let Harry go.
The girls smiled and both gave him a hug together. Ron smirked at Harry with an arm around each of them.
Harry laughed. "Alright, Gilderoy, time to let 'em go. We really need to get back to our common rooms now – it's almost curfew. Come on, Luna, we'll walk you back to your tower."
When they reached the door to Ravenclaw tower, Luna gave them all another hug, and Harry got another kiss on his cheek as well. "I really do thank you, Harry. You don't know what you've done for me," she said to him.
"We'll see you tomorrow morning at breakfast, Luna!" Hermione said, waving her goodnight.
She turned to Harry. "And you, Mister Potter, have a story to tell us while we walk back."
He grinned at her. "Did you know the Ravenclaw common room has these huge windows with blue and bronze hangings? Oh, and these huge bookcases as well!"
Hermione gasped, and started turning to head back and try to get Luna to give her a tour. Harry nodded at Ron. Each grabbed one of her arms, and started walking her back towards Gryffindor tower.
"Right, so anyway, I couldn't find Padma, or Parvati, so I grabbed Anthony to see if he could help…"