What if Luna responded differently to Harry during their conversation before the leaving feast? AU set near the end of OoTP. Harry/Luna
Thoughts of Pudding by Brian 64
Chapter 6: Plan B.
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. She 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 Luna to have fallen for some boy at barely 15, yet she'd clearly done so. If he was honest with himself, he doubted he'd be prepared even if she was 115, and from talking to other fathers over a mug of butterbeer, he knew he wasn't alone in that regard.
He consoled himself that at least he would have the opportunity to get to know Harry over the summer.
He went back and reviewed her instructions to him. Numbers 1, 7 and 14 were all the same; he wasn't to ask for an interview.
Numbers 2, 3, 9, 16 and 22 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, not his own if anyone found out.
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 him red, instead of the usual green of the killing curse?
The only red spell he knew was stupefy. Was she really sending stunners at him, or was it another spell he just 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 him something like that.
Did it make a difference anyway? She 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 how did Neville know for sure?
It could as easily have been Barty, Rabastan or Rodolphus that had cursed his parents. Lord knows the ministry didn't let a little thing like guilt or innocence get in the way of throwing someone into Askaban. What they did to Sirius proved that.
But 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 an ennervate have woken him up? Was his death just an accident after all?
He was startled out of his thoughts by his uncle's yells, 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 seat belt, 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 seat belt clasp cracking against his side window as he finally threw it off him woke him 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, he moved to stand between the car and Luna, readying himself for what was likely to happen next. Stunners would be best. They were quick to cast, and he didn't have to worry about them being ennervated 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 boy, but he'd never expected to see it on the boy's face directed at himself.
"Put that away boy before someone sees you!" He hissed.
His demand was ignored. He held his stick unwaveringly pointed at him, as though it were a loaded gun. Did the boy know enough after five years at that freak school 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?
Harry's eyes flicked over to his aunt, 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, then just shrugged as though it didn't matter, but she didn't finish the statement either.
"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 said. "But I'm afraid we really have to be going now."
"We? Who is 'we'?" Vernon demanded shortly, and Harry's eyes locked back on his again.
"Oh, well Harry and me of course." Luna replied.
"What?" Harry said, speaking for the first time. He was echoed by both Petunia and Vernon.
"Oh dear, I probably should have asked you first. 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 took it with 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 the Dursleys before he'd even arrived. So what the hell was he still doing here thinking about it?"
"That sounds great Luna, thank you, and yes I would like to go with you."
Luna made an excited squealing sound, 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 just stared at what must be a polyjuiced replica of his aunt until Luna nudged him.
"Uhh, 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 bus, but when she looked over at Vernon he 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. He had completely ignored the bus that had arrived, and shortly afterwards subsequently vanished as it departed.
"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 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."
"Umm, well a blue one then."
"Right then" Stan said, "That's fifteen Sickles each." Harry handed over a Galleon and 13 Sickles, and received two tickets and two toothbrushes. "Back in a mo with your 'ot chocolates. You 'ave this one" He said leading them to one of the beds.
Harry lay 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.
"Errr, that's ok Luna" He 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?" He asked.
Luna nodded "Oh 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 out loud. "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 aspell 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?
"Oh yes" Luna replied quickly.
"Why would kids want to pretend to marry me?" Harry asked, still dazed at the idea.
"Hmmm, 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 didn't really, 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?"
He nodded again, he got it now, and really, it made a kind of sense when she put it like that.
"So...now that I'm, errr... back in the wizarding world, does that mean those games aren't being played any more?" 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 soon. 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 was laughing about.
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 mirth and laughter 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' any more, you're just our Harry."
Harry relaxed a little.
"...and Ginny and I haven't talked about marrying you ages. We're old enough to stop pretending."
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, ummm, 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?"
"Ummm, not so much, no" he replied.
"But you had to swim in the second task in the tournament didn't you?"
"Well yes, but I used Gillyweed for that."
She frowned "So you dove in without knowing how to swim, and just trusted in the Gillyweed?"
"Well, I didn't really think about it like that, but I didn't really have a choice did I? I had to go and rescue Ron."
She put her hand on his arm "It's ok 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 asking if he preferred the chicken or the fish for dinner.
"Don't you usually?" He asked, almost reflexively, 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.