Chapter 6: Plan B
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian64.
Chapter 6: Plan B.
Sunday 23rd June, 1996.
Xenophilius Lovegood sat in his office at the Quibbler and tried to digest the stream of consciousness masquerading as a letter that his daughter had sent him this morning from Hogwarts.
He rubbed his forehead and tried to focus on the essential points. She had made some 'truly wonderful new friends', which included Harry Potter. Harry was going to be joining them on their Snorkack hunt because his relatives were 'not very nice people at all'. And she was going to bring him home tonight.
Apparently, Harry was going through some unspecified emotional trauma at the moment and couldn't possibly stay with 'those people' in his current state. Luna made a point of saying she wasn't sure that they deserved to have him stay with them ever again.
He sighed. He wasn't ready for his barely fifteen-year-old daughter to have fallen for some boy, yet she'd clearly done so. If he was honest with himself, he doubted he'd be prepared even when she was a hundred and fifteen, and from talking to other fathers over a mug of butterbeer at the local, he knew he wasn't alone in that regard.
Xenophilius consoled himself with the thought that at least he would have the opportunity to get to know Harry over the summer, and see if he was worthy of her.
He went back and reviewed Luna's instructions to him. Numbers one, seven and fourteen were all the same; he wasn't to ask for an interview.
Numbers two, three, nine, sixteen and twenty-two were all the same as well; he wasn't to tell anyone about Harry Potter visiting, staying or holidaying with them under pain of death.
It was strange, but Luna seemed to imply that it would be Harry's death, and not his own (at her hands) if anyone found out. How odd!
Harry didn't pay any attention to the trip back to Privet Drive. With little else to occupy his mind, his thoughts had drifted back to that night, and the veil that had stolen Sirius from him. Well, the veil and Bellatrix Lestrange that is.
He'd spent most of the time replaying the battle over and over in his mind, trying to make sense out of something that just didn't add up. Why were the spells she was casting at his godfather red, instead of the usual green of the killing curse?
The only red spell he knew was Stupefy. Was she really sending stunners at Sirius, or was she using another spell he didn't know about. Remus could probably tell him, as he must have seen it as well, but he didn't know how he was going to ask Remus something like that.
Did it make a difference anyway? Bellatrix was the crazy psycho that had gone with Barty Jr and the Lestrange brothers to torture Neville's parents. Neville had told him that. But then, how did Neville know for sure what had happened when he was just a toddler himself at the time?
It could as easily have been Barty, Rabastan or Rodolphus that had cursed the Longbottoms. Lord knows the ministry didn't let a little thing like guilt or innocence get in the way of throwing someone into Azkaban. What they did to Sirius proved that.
But she had cast the Cruciatus on Neville at the Ministry, and she was definitely the one that had killed Sirius. The spell hit him, and he'd fallen through the veil. But if the veil wasn't there, would a Rennervate have woken Sirius? Was his death just an accident after all?
Harry was startled out of his thoughts by his uncle's shouting as the car jerked to a rough halt.
"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS SHE DOING HERE? I WON'T HAVE IT! I DON'T CARE WHAT THOSE RUDDY FREAKS SAID, BOY, THIS IS THE LAST STRAW, AND THERE IS NO WAY SHE IS STAYING HERE!"
Harry looked up to see Vernon fumbling with his seatbelt, trying to get loose from it. As he looked out the windscreen, he could see Luna sitting on her trunk near the front door, and he blinked. The unreality of her being there confused him, and he just stared, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. Why would Luna be there with her trunk?
The sound of Vernon's seatbelt clasp cracking against his side window as he finally threw it off him woke Harry up to the inherent danger Luna faced. Reaching forward, he slammed his hand down on Vernon's door lock to delay him, then undid his own seat belt and quickly got out of the car.
Drawing his wand, Harry moved to stand between the car and Luna, readying himself for what was likely to happen next. He decided stunners would be best. They were quick to cast, and he didn't have to worry about those he stunned being Rennervated as had happened at the ministry.
Struggling out of the car, Vernon started storming toward the freaks when he noticed something. The boy was standing there with his thing pointed straight at him, and there was a look on his face that he'd never seen there before. In the mirror – oh, yes, that look was very familiar when he thought about the freak – but he'd never expected to see it on the boy's face.
"Put that away, boy, before someone sees you!" Vernon hissed.
His demand was ignored. The boy held his stick unwaveringly pointed at him, as though it were a loaded gun. Did he know enough after five years at that freak school of his to use it against someone?
He looked for any trace of bluff in the boy's glare, but couldn't find any. There wasn't a trace of the fear that should be there either, and Vernon began to wonder if he was actually in any danger.
It was Petunia that eventually broke the deadlock.
"Ha–Harry? Are–Aren't you going to introduce us to y–your friend?" she said, stammering from her fear
Harry's eyes flicked briefly over to his aunt as she started speaking, before returning to stare unblinkingly at Vernon again. Finally cowed at the thought of what the boy might do to Petunia or Dudley, Vernon dropped his gaze and unclenched his fists, before putting his hands in his pockets.
Luna hopped up from her trunk and stepped up next to Harry. "I'm Luna, I'm Harry's…" She paused, and tilted her head slightly as though trying to decide how to describe herself, and then just shrugged as though it didn't matter.
"Well, we're p–pleased to meet you, Luna," Petunia replied, before looking over at her husband. "Aren't we, Vernon?"
"Yes," he grunted shortly.
"Well, do y–you think we can all go inside and have a cup of tea, Harry?" Petunia asked.
"Oh, that does sound nice," Luna replied, "but I'm afraid we really should be going now."
"We? Who is 'we'?" Vernon demanded loudly and Harry's eyes locked back on his again. The wand that had been pointed down at the ground once Vernon had pocketed his hands earlier now tracked him again.
"Oh, well, Harry and me of course," Luna replied.
"What?" Harry exclaimed, speaking for the first time. He was echoed by both Petunia and Vernon.
"Oh, dear, I probably should have asked you first, shouldn't I? Harry, would you like to spend the summer with me and Daddy in Sweden while we look for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?"
"A snork axe?" Vernon muttered to himself.
Petunia, seeing an opportunity, clutched it quickly in both hands. "Oh, that sounds lovely, Harry, and much more interesting than your usual summers here. You should go, of course."
Harry couldn't see himself agreeing with the Dursleys over the colour of grass, but he was being given a chance to leave them before he'd really even arrived. So why exactly hadn't he already agreed to go?
"That sounds great, Luna. Thank you, and, yes, I would like to go with you."
Luna made an excited squealing sound and then bounced back to her trunk and dragged it with her back to Harry, where she grabbed his left hand and started pulling him towards the road.
Petunia hurried out of their way, walking around the back of the car to stand next to Vernon.
"Don't forget your trunk, Harry!" Luna reminded him. Vernon went to open the driver's door so that he could pop the release, only to find that Dudley had locked all the doors.
Since his car keys were still in the ignition, he banged on the window until Dudley eventually unlocked the door so he could reach inside. A minute later, Harry and his trunk were reunited and ready to go.
"Bye, Harry, I hope you have a good summer."
Harry turned around and just stared at what must have been a Polyjuiced replica of his aunt until Luna nudged him.
"Uh, yes, Aunt Petunia, thank you. You too..." he said, before looking over at Luna as though checking to see if he'd done it right.
She smiled at him, and then waved goodbye to the Dursleys, before facing the road and extending her own wand.
Petunia shrieked at the sight of the Knight Bus, as if all her fears had just come true. Vernon on the other hand ignored it completely and seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to the garden.
"Have you sprayed the roses, Pet? It looks as though they might need it," he commented, studying the flowers intently as the Knight Bus vanished from Little Whinging.
"Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded…" Stan began, but Harry ignored his speech and looked around. Absolutely nothing seemed to have changed since he'd last caught the bus three years ago.
"We're going to Ottery St. Catchpole, Stan, and we'll have two hot chocolates please," Luna said, before turning to Harry. "Would you like a toothbrush as well? I've been collecting them each year when I ride the bus, but I've never had a chance to get two in one year before. I think I'll get an emerald green one this time."
"Err, well, a blue one then."
"Right then," Stan said, "that's fifteen Sickles each." Harry handed over a Galleon and thirteen Sickles, and received two tickets and two toothbrushes. "Back in a mo' with your 'ot chocolates. You 'ave this one," Stan said leading them to one of the beds.
Harry laid back quickly, knowing what to expect once Stan had stowed the trunks under the bed.
"Take 'er away, Ern," Stan said, and Harry braced himself.
With a BANG, the Knight Bus took off, and suddenly Luna was thrown hard against him from the explosive burst of speed. Harry grabbed at her in reflex to help steady her.
"Thank you, Harry," she said, seemingly unconcerned at being sprawled on top of him on a bed with his arms around her.
"Uh, that's okay, Luna," Harry said as he let his arms go and they moved apart in order to sit up. A minute later, Stan arrived with their drinks.
"So, you live in Ottery St. Catchpole?" Harry asked.
Luna nodded. "Yes, just over the hill from Ginny actually. We used to play together as children sometimes."
"That must have been nice, growing up with friends," Harry mused aloud. "So what sort of games did you and Ginny play?"
"Oh, I suspect the same as most other children do. We'd run around a lot and sometimes chase each other or the Gernumblis, and sometimes we'd go swimming. We also liked to take it in turns to dress up and pretend to marry you."
Harry had just taken a mouthful of hot chocolate, and it sprayed out of his mouth and all over Stan just as he was bringing over their hot water bottles.
"'Choo do that for?" he asked, bringing out his wand and casting a spell to clean himself up, before walking off muttering to himself. "Woss 'is problem then?"
"…M–M–Marry me?" Harry asked confused. What sort of game was this he wondered?
"Oh, yes," Luna replied quickly.
"Why would kids want to pretend to marry me?" Harry asked, still dazed at the idea.
"Hmm, well, I don't know that many boys played it, but you know that most girls tend to imagine themselves as princesses, waiting for their prince to come and take them away on a white horse, don't you?"
He hadn't really thought much about what little girls imagined, but he understood the general concept and nodded.
"Well, after you defeated Tom the first time, you became every girl's real life hero. You had slain the evil wizard and disappeared. It was all very heroic and you were our prince, you see?"
Harry nodded again; he got it now, and really, it did make a kind of sense when she put it like that.
"So… now that I'm, you know… back in the wizarding world, does that mean those games aren't being played anymore?" he asked hopefully.
Luna looked at him in disbelief for barely a second before she burst into loud laughter that showed little signs of stopping. She clutched her sides and rolled around as though in pain, and Harry couldn't help but laugh along while having no idea what she found so funny.
She calmed down after a while and sat up, working on regaining her composure. She turned to face Harry again, and opened her mouth as though about to answer him, but instead started to snigger and giggle. Eventually she gave up all pretence of control and let loose the laughter she'd been trying to hold back.
It was a long time before she was able to speak again, and her mirth and laughter still weren't far away.
"Oh, Harry, do you honestly think after all you've done since you've been back that little girls would be playing it less? Besides, they could only imagine how handsome you'd be before, and now there are plenty of pictures of you for them to dream about when they pretend to marry the Boy-Who-Lived."
He looked at her in horror.
Luna reached over and patted his shoulder with a broad smile. "Don't worry, Harry, your friends don't see you as the 'Boy-Who-Lived' anymore; you're just our Harry."
Harry relaxed a little.
"…And Ginny and I haven't talked about marrying you in ages. We're old enough to stop pretending now."
Harry relaxed even more, not that he expected that were still playing the game at their age, but it was good to hear it confirmed.
"So, umm, you can swim, then? Harry asked, hoping desperately that this topic wasn't going to turn around and bite him like the last one did.
"Oh, yes, Ginny and I used to swim all the time in their waterhole when we were younger. What about you, Harry?"
"Well, not so much, no," he replied.
"But you had to swim in the second task in the tournament, didn't you?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, but I used Gillyweed for that."
She frowned. "So you dove in without knowing how to swim, and just trusted in the Gillyweed?"
Harry shrugged. "Well, I didn't really have a choice, did I? I had to go and rescue Ron."
Luna put her hand on his arm. "Don't worry, Harry, I'll teach you to swim if you like!" she said brightly.
Harry smiled back. "That'd be great, thanks, Luna."
"I suppose you'll want me to wear a bathing suit when I do?" she asked, as though already expecting an affirmative answer.
"Don't you usually?" he replied, almost reflexively, and then groaned as he realised the likely answer from the way she'd asked the question.
"Oh, no, I much prefer to swim naked."
Harry tried desperately not to imagine Luna gliding naked through the water, while the rest of his mind and body was becoming quite enthused with the idea of imagining exactly that.
"Sweden!" he blurted out, hoping to find a safe subject. "What do you know about Sweden?"
"Well, July is the height of summer there, of course, and a lot of people go canoeing or kayaking, and the water in the lakes and archipelagos warms up enough to–"
"Ottery St. Catchpole. We're 'ere," Stan's voice rung out.
"Thank you, Stan, thank you very much," Harry said gratefully.
Albus Dumbledore looked at one of his little silver devices and frowned. Harry's presence at Privet Drive should have started the wards charging again, but this showed that they were continuing to drain.
Something was very wrong, and he needed to find out what it was immediately.