You are Harry Potter. Your friends have betrayed you. You better get your sorry behind out of there.
Chapter 3 - Palm Tree Apartments
How do you find yourself in these situations? Seriously! Maybe the curse really did kill you when you were a baby and this is somebody's twisted version of hell? So apparently, everyone has decided you are going to be happy and well adjusted this summer, even if you would rather be grieving for the loss of Sirius. Who gives a rat's ass about what Harry wants? They also decided what girl you are going to be involved with apparently after a setback or two. You slip back into the Weasley house. It's not your home anymore. It's theirs. It never was your home to begin with. It's not even the Burrow anymore. It's just another one of your prisons. You are not sure if they are your friends anymore. More and more everyone seems like your keepers. They need you to win their war for them. Maybe you really are a 'freak', some kind of side show attraction. Come one come all and see the amazing Boy Who Lived! He talks to snakes! He fights Dark Lords! Only two sickles! A little bit pissed off now, aren't you? Better throttle back on the anger there, before you cut lose with some accidental magic and get another July 1st Lockhart special. You wonder how badly you lost it the last time you realized what was going on.
So much for Dumbledore's promise not to meddle and to be straightforward with you. So much for Hermione's friendship, probably the one constant in your sad excuse for a life. You could expect something stupid like this from Ron, but Hermione! There is a saying that everything has a price. The price of her friendship was apparently Head Girl a year early, some extra lessons and a magical device to let her study even more hours out of the day. You bet Dumbledore paid for Ron's little quidditch jaunt. At least being Harry frickin Potter's best friend is finally paying dividends for him! Ginny is pretty easy to understand. Her motives are probably the most clear of all. It is so very nice that she put her thing with Dean on hold to play "Harry's snog buddy" for the summer and beyond. At least they said that they would eventually take you off these potions. Maybe you might actually like her. You should be thankful shouldn't you? If you weren't so preoccupied with trying to figure a way out of the mess, you would figure out a way to properly "thank" everyone involved. Good thing Riddle doesn't know how easy it would be to bribe all these people.
'Alright Potter', your inner voice suddenly has a Snape like tone to it. That is disturbing on so many levels. 'Quit feeling sorry for yourself and figure out what you are going to do about it.' You bet you know who mixed up these love potions. He probably had a smile on his face while he did it. Even if he didn't, you add him to your list of people to "thank" on general principle. That list is growing rather quickly isn't it?
You take a quick inventory of what you have to work with. You have your wand, your cloak, your glasses and the clothes you are wearing. Upstairs in your trunk, there's a small bag of money, but not nearly enough. Mrs. Weasley might have your vault key around here somewhere, but you wouldn't even know where to look. You've got your broom. You could fly away! No! If they are smart enough to do all this, they are smart enough to put tracking charms on your broom. They'd expect you to go for the broom. The hat wanted to put you into Slytherin. Maybe it's time to start thinking like one! They would expect you to either fly out of here or floo straight to Sirius's, well actually your house. You should floo first to Diagon Alley and then to Number Twelve. You won't be able to stay there long, but you should be able to gather some supplies and get out of there. Maybe Remus will be there. You would like to think there is someone out there you can trust. There is no way he would go along with this. Then again, you never pictured Hermione going along with this!
The girls just came back in. 'Ginny looks so pretty in this light. Damn! C'mon Potter, you can fight off the Imperius curse. Snape's little concoction can't top that. Can it?' You squash the urge to gather her in your arms and snog the living daylights out of her. It helps to stare at the clock or something else. What the hell! Go ahead and look at Hermione's heaving funbags. Why the heck not? They are treating you like an object. Turnabout is fair play. Well actually when you think about it, fair play in this case would involve would involve your cloak, Colin Creevy's camera, Hermione naked in the shower, a pair of soapy funbags, a spell that creates about a hundred duplicates of a picture, and your owl making deliveries to every male in the fifth, sixth and seventh year boy. Maybe you could caption it. 'The Head Girl is giving you detention for some good clean fun!'
"So there never was any question in your mind when it came to Harry and my brother?"
"Actually Ginny, I like them both. They both have a certain appeal, but I do know that Ron would never be capable of handling Harry and I as a couple. The other day proved that. So it's better this way. Harry needs to be controlled for his own good. He needs to enjoy himself. I'd end up turning him into a bookworm. You seem to make him more outgoing and lively. It pains me to admit it, but you're better for him." Ginny heartily agrees. 'Good thing Gin, if you didn't you might actually have to get a guy who wants to be with you without a potion!' You add silently.
Okay maybe you wouldn't send the pictures to the Slytherins. That doesn't mean you forgive her. You just don't need to give Malfoy and his trolls any wank material. That's all. Mentally, you are encouraging the two of them to go on up to bed so you can make your escape.
"I'm going to go on up. Are you going to stay up and read?"
"No, Madame Pomfrey said I still need to rest and our little walk has worn me out. I'll study better in the morning then if I tried to do it now. Scientific studies prove that staying up late and trying to cram can actually have detrimental effects on your ability to retain what you read." From the expression on Ginny's face you aren't the only one thinking, 'Oh give it a rest already!'
Finally, the two girls who apparently stole your heart and are trying to see what they can get for it on the open market, head up the stairs. You fluffed the pillows and made it look like you are under a blanket. It might look a bit funny if they stop to think that it is July - whatever date it actually is! But it should be enough to fool someone who takes a peak in the door. Grabbing a kitchen knife, you hack off a lock of hair. Maybe they will be nice enough to throw the Dark Tosser off your track. You vandalize the Weasley clock, removing your hand and writing 'Manipulative Bastards' right next to 'Mortal Peril'. You scribble a note on a piece of parchment and sneak out to the broom shed. You take Ginny's old broom, which once belonged to either Bill or Charlie and hide it in the back corner under some rags. That will make them think that you took her broom instead of your broom. You look at your note and read it with approval.
To my so called friends,
As you can see I have figured it out again. Small wonder we aren't exactly winning this war isn't it? My guess is you have tracking charms on my broom, so I am taking Ginny's. Since I am a man of my word, feel free to get her a new broom with my money. Merlin only knows how much of it you are spending anyway! It's the last gift she'll ever get from me. Take care of my owl. Apparently, she is the only real friend I have. I am going away. Maybe I will be back maybe I won't. I left some hair on the kitchen counter, so you can continue your little games if I don't come back to Hogwarts. I hope you do end up in your favorite book Hermione, with a caption saying how you screwed me over to get ahead! Tell Ronikins, when he gets back that he is even better at betrayal than he is at chess.
You know I don't know who is worse. Tom just wants to kill me. You want to deprive me of any choices and force me to live the life you want me to. I could write more, but why bother. Let's see how good your tracking skills are in the muggle world.
Harry J. Potter
Ps. Fred and George - If you are running a pool on how many more times I will have to get obliviated this summer put me down for a galleon on "You won't get your damn hands on me again!" I'm good for it, you backstabbing gits! Oh and another thing, if I do come back get used to hearing this, "Hi, I am Harry Potter. For all my joke and prank supplies, I shop exclusively at Zonko's."
Satisfied with the note, you sneak back into the house and floo to the Leaky Cauldron. You then immediately floo to Number Twelve from there, keeping your cloak on the whole time. It is after 11 pm. No one seems to be here.
'Okay Potter, lets figure out some things. I'll go grab Sirius's old trunk. He is bound to have some galleons and clothes I can use. Then grab a broom and some food and disappear. You slip up the stares. There is a light on in the library and the door is open. Someone is hunched over a pensieve. Hot damn! Remus is here. The worst that can happen is he's in on it and tomorrow you wake up to Ginny kissing you.
You keep the cloak on. Dumbledore uses the pictures as his spies. Tap Lupin on the shoulder and take him to someplace without any pictures. The bathroom sounds good. You sneak up behind him and tug on his robe sleeves. The head pops out of the bowl. It has a red ponytail attached to it.
'Shit! It's Bill!'
"Who's there?" Bill says. He reaches out and catches your shoulder. Double shit! You're busted.
"It's Harry. Keep it down and don't pull my cloak off. It will wake the paintings." You whisper.
"What are you doing here?" He replies in a whisper.
"Follow me to the bathroom. There aren't any paintings there."
Bill fishes the memory out of the pensieve bowl and puts it into a vial. He heads over to the bathroom. You review your options. You could try and knock him out and make a run for it. He's always been a pretty good guy though. How about a test?
"Okay, Harry. What's this all about?"
"Bill what day is it?"
"The tenth. Well in a few minutes the eleventh. Why? Are you okay? Is everyone at the Burrow okay?"
"Everyone is fine. I don't even know where to start telling you what is wrong."
"You could show me in the pensieve."
"How do you do that?"
"Concentrate on the memory you want me to see and I can withdraw it with my wand."
You concentrate on the minutes starting from when you take the "pain potion" upstairs. You focus on the journal entries and then following them out into the yard and overhearing their conversation.
"Okay Bill, I have the memory." He touches your temple with his wand. It is an irritating feeling, like trying to get water out of your ear or getting rid of a tough patch of earwax as he pulls the memory out. The events seem a little blurry now and slightly out of focus. He has your memory dangling like a white string from the end of his wand.
"How long is it?"
"Maybe ten or fifteen minutes."
"Okay. Put your cloak back on and wait here, while I see what this is all about."
'So, Bill's not in on this. Ginny and Ron always described him as something of a rebel in the family.' You step out into the hallway with the cloak on. Bill will think you are still in the bathroom. You can get the drop on him if you need to. The question is will he help you. Your heart is beating like crazy. It is the longest ten or fifteen minutes of your life. Finally he steps back out. He doesn't have his wand in his hand. That's a good sign. You tap him on the shoulder so he knows where you are and both of you go into the bathroom again.
"What in the hell was that?" Bill whispers urgently.
"Dumbledore's summer project. Force me to fall in love with Hermione or Ginny and keep me under control. Make me a happy well-adjusted Harry Potter - the perfect weapon against Voldemort. Pay off your brother, your family and Hermione to go along with it. I don't even care what they promised Fred and George. So what do you want to do about this Bill?"
"Lets get that memory back in your head and then I will apparate with you to my apartment. Fleur should already be gone. We can talk there without having to whisper. Sound fair enough. I'm not going to do anything until I get the whole story."
Bill fetches the memory from the pensieve bowl and shows you how to cram it back into your skull. This sensation is like when you accidentally snort water or juice up your nose. Why can't magical sensations be more pleasant? Why do potions have to taste bad? Why are the only pleasant spells you have ever experienced are the cheering charm and the Imperius curse? At least Imperius felt nice. He brought back a couple of books with him too. Though you don't know the details of Sirius's will, they are probably your books now. You ask him to grab a few books for you as well. You are becoming a bookworm by necessity, not because you are into Hermione. It's more about the bastard trying to kill you.
With that you get another unpleasant experience, side along apparition again. You appear in a modest flat. The decorations are rather Spartan. Bill sets the books down on the coffee table and gestures for you to sit.
"Bill, I thought I heard you out here. Did you come back for some more of my irresistible charm? My portkey was delayed until tomorrow. We have an extra night." Fleur asks in her heavy French accent, walking into the room in what can only be described as a see through piece of lingerie. She might as well be naked. You are embarrassed, but you know you can die a happy man now. Forget Ginny groping your bum. This is the next patronus memory you are using!
"Merde! What is Harry doing here?" Fleur scurries back in the bedroom. You don't know much in the way of French, but you have a good idea that she is not very happy right now. You don't care. The only cognitive thoughts in your mind right now are 'Nice ass! Hell, nice everything!'
Bill clears his throat. Both of you are extremely embarrassed. "Harry, give me a minute. I have to go get yelled at. Grab something to drink and relax. Welcome to the Palm Tree Apartments."
It takes about five minutes but Bill and Fleur emerge. Sadly Fleur has chosen to wear a dressing robe, which while very flattering doesn't come close to matching the image branded on your mind right now. Your cheeks are on fire. Everyone is blushing. You spare a moment to wonder how far down her blush goes. Sometimes it's great to be a teenager.
"Harry, Bill says his family is giving you love potions or something? What is this all about?"
They sit and you do your best to explain. You tell them the first two lines of the prophecy and tell them of your link to Voldemort. You explain about Dumbledore's theory of love and how he apparently lined up Hermione as your girlfriend. Fleur laughs when you mention how Ron lost control and must have told world plus dog what was going on. She doesn't seem to have a high opinion of him. Yours is fading pretty fast as well. You go on to describe waking up this morning with Ginny as your girlfriend and the rest of the day as you can recall.
"Harry, what color was the potion they were giving you? What did it smell like?"
"It was a pale yellow color and it smelled like strawberries."
"Oh. I know that one. It is called 'My Friendly Infatuation'. The girl, she gives you the potion and then kisses you with the potion's activating balm applied to her lips. Hermione was right. It will only work if you already have some feelings for the girl. Most girls use it to move a relationship on. To give the boy a, how do you say, a bit of encouragement in the right direction. Many of the girls I went to school with felt they had to resort to such things, especially with me around."
Bill chimes in. "So what do you want to do Harry?" There's the million-galleon question. Sometimes it sucks to be a teenager.
"I don't know. I don't want to go back there. You know what the sad thing is, I couldn't think of anyplace to go, because I have never been anywhere. If it's not Privet Drive, Number Twelve, your family's house, Diagon Alley, or Hogwarts, then I haven't been there. Could I stay here for a while?" See you won't call it The Burrow anymore!
"Fleur and I are both leaving the country tomorrow. Mr. Diggle is coming the day after tomorrow to use the flat, while his house is being repaired. She is going back to see her family in France and I am going on a mission for the Order. That's what I was doing at Headquarters last night, doing some last minute reviewing and grabbing a couple of books from the library."
"Harry, you could come with me. My sister would love to see you again." You cringe at the thought of another girl who wants to get her claws into you and she probably only just turned ten yet. "I guess from your reaction, the answer is non."
"Sorry Fleur. I just escaped one girl, well two actually. France could be fun though. Bill, where are you going?"
"South America to try and locate a magical artifact. I have a team coming in from other countries. I am the only Order member. I am leaving out of here and traveling on a muggle airplane out of Heathrow."
"Do you need an extra hand?" You ask interested. "I won't be able to use magic, but I'll do whatever you want me to."
"Harry, where I am going, no one checks to see who can and can't do magic. It's pretty rough territory and dangerous. You should go with Fleur."
"Would I be able to do magic in France without being detected?"
"Non. Our ministry is every bit as strict as the British. At least our food is better." Fleur says with a dazzling smile.
"Bill, please. I can hold my own. I need to practice. I can help. Dumbledore isn't going to let me do anything here. I have a mad wizard with a bunch of followers here in England, who would like nothing better than to stick my head on a flagpole. If I went to France, it sounds like I would have fun. It would be great to relax and try and enjoy myself, but with all this hanging over me I can't afford to relax. I need to be working."
"Fred and George said you are able to cast a corporeal patronus. Is this true?"
"Yes. It was able to drive several dozen Dementors away at once." You answer wondering where he is going with this.
"Liethfolds are pretty common out in that part of the world. So much that if you are out in the jungle you should have a guard who can drive them away at night. I could use an extra person to stand guard. It will let the rest of us get more sleep for tomb exploration."
You sense an opportunity, "I'm a halfway decent cook too."
"Alright. Mum will kill me and Dumbledore will probably find my ghost and interrogate it, but I'll bring you with me. I don't even want to think about what Ginny will do! I have a second curse breaker, two hitwizards and a guide. The curse breaker is Mexican. The guide and one of the hitwizards are Americans and the last hitwizard is from Korea. We probably won't have to disguise you, but we need a cover story for you. You'll be my cousin or something, lets think of a name."
After a couple of minutes and a few outlandish ideas from Fleur, you settle on the name James Black. Bill said he would get some muggle identification from Gringotts for James Black. You worry how Bill is going to pay for it.
"Bill, this isn't going to cost you too much is it? I don't know if I can access my money, but I'll pay my way."
Bill looks at you. He looks rather sad for a moment. "Well, as if you need any further reason to be pissed right now ..."
"Wait let me guess? Dumbledore is paying for this with my money isn't he?" You bet Ron's quidditch camp came courtesy of that as well. The funny thing is, had the little shit asked you, you would have gladly paid for it. He would have gotten all pissy about it and refused. Now, he is earning his payoff by screwing you over and it is still your money in the end. The irony is amazing.
"Yeah. I didn't think twice when he transferred a whole pile of galleons from the Black trust into the expedition vault. It's already in Brazil, waiting for us."
"Now I have to go, seeing as I am paying for this shindig!" You say moving Dumbledore up to the very top of the list of people to "thank" ahead of the girls. You wonder if he has ever heard of a muggle candy called EX-LAX. Now that you think about it, it is just par for the course. You come to a realization. You are his asset. Your money is his asset. It is better than just being his weapon you wonder?
"Harry, why don't you take the spare bedroom for the night. I'll go to the bank tomorrow and get the papers. I am supposed to swing by the Burrow in the morning to say goodbye to everyone. I'll offer to help 'look' for you, but I'll have to leave if I want to make my flight."
"They won't be able to figure it out?" You ask worried about a last minute betrayal.
"Who do you think the twins learned how to lie from?" He says with a devious smile.
"Not a chance. Charlie tried to hide his Dragon Handler job from Mum. It didn't last twenty minutes. If we ever get near a pensieve again, I'll show you that memory. Mum actually cussed!" Even as pissed as you are right now, that would actually be funny to watch.
Fleur offers to do a hair color charm on your hair. It will only last for two days, but now you get to see what Harry Potter looks like with blond hair. It's kind of weird, but you wonder if you haven't crossed a point in your life where weird is the norm. Bill shows you to your room and grabs some extra books of the shelf. They are his old school texts. He says that you can use them to study. They may not be what Hogwarts is using this year, but they are better than nothing. He says that he will resize some of his old clothes for you to wear until you can go shopping in Brazil. When you thank him for risking so much for him, he stops for a second.
"Harry, my dad and my sister directly owe their lives to you. Ron does too, probably. Without you, they would be dead. I don't know their reasons for forgetting this and frankly, I don't want to know. They may think they are doing right by you, but obviously they are not. Hopefully with some time away, you'll find a way to forgive them and they'll realize their foolishness. Now get some rest. We've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Hey Harry, I just thought of something?"
"I have to book and extra ticket for James Black. I believe Mr. Black and his companion Mr. Weasley would prefer to travel in first class instead of coach. I felt guilty earlier and booked coach."
"Who knows how else Dumbledore is spending my money? I might as well get something out of it. I believe you are correct. Mr. Black and Mr. Weasley only travel first class!" You both get a good laugh out of it.
Bill leaves and you page through a defense text laden with notes in the margins. Bill was Head Boy. He must have had very high grades. Charlie was the quidditch player. You remember Hermione bugging Percy a few years ago, when he was Head Boy for his note taking techniques. Typical Granger, anyone else would just ask to borrow his old notes. From the looks of things, she should have been asking Bill instead. You suppose that Bill would have made a great DADA instructor, instead you got Umbitch. Uh-oh, sounds like Fleur and Bill are getting a little frisky. Should you say something? Should you slip on your cloak and go watch? Bad Harry! Hopefully one of them will remember a silencing charm soon. You try to concentrate on Bill's writing. That's interesting a forty-five degree twist on a banishing charm will impart extra force. You should remember that one. Hey, Fleur is a bit of a screamer! That's also profoundly interesting. Suddenly everything goes quiet. One of them must have remembered the silencing charm. You try and read for a few more minutes, but nothing more is really sinking in. Putting the book down, you try those worthless Occulmency exercises again. After ten minutes of trying to clear your mind, you give up and try to get some sleep.
You wake up in a small puddle of drool. You are so cool aren't you? Maybe if the freckle-faced punkass err princess saw you now, she'd have second thoughts about how good a 'catch' you are. You slide your clothes back on and take a trip to the loo. Bill left some clothes on the floor outside your door for you. You still hear Fleur moving about. She seems like she is in a rush.
"Good morning, Harry. I need to be at the International Portkey Terminal in ten minutes. Bill will be back soon. There is some breakfast on the counter. I do wish you would have come to France, but I understand. I am sure Gabrielle would too." She gives you a quick peck on the cheek, fortunately you turn the cheek that wasn't marinating in your drool to her. After that and a hug, she disappears. The thought occurs to you that if they don't track magic in South America, then Bill and anyone else can teach you how to apparate. Take that Miss Funbags! With that cheery thought, you make your way to the shower to clean up and get into some fresh clothes.
After showering you get dressed. You have to reuse your boxers. There are some lines that can't be crossed and wearing another blokes' underwear is one of them! The 'turn them inside out method' is called for in this instance. Just thinking about that drags up the memory of Ron explaining the technique to a very disgusted Hermione in your third year. You're pretty mad again aren't you? Putting a hole in Bill's wall with your fist would feel good right now? Stupid, but good. You decide not to. It wouldn't serve any purpose. Bill could probably fix up your hand and the wall, but that's not the point.
After killing a couple of hours reading the sixth year defense text and listening to the wireless set, Bill finally returns.
"Wow! When you kick over an ant hill, you really kick over an anthill, Harry!" He says laughing.
"How'd it go?"
"Oh, they are running around like chickens with their heads cut off right now. They barely noticed I was there. Apparently, you are distraught and not handling things very well right now. I helped them look for you for a while. I even went to the bank to see if you tried to go there. I managed to pickup a copy of Sirius's will for you to read later. Mum was trying to track down Dumbledore, but Minerva doesn't know where he is. Dad's at the Leaky Cauldron. He and the twins are running all over the Alley. I finally said goodbye and that I would keep an eye out at the airport, if you made it that far. So are you ready to go to the airport, Mr. Black? I need to ask you to keep a look out for the notorious Harry Potter. He could be anywhere!"
"I'll do that. The Prophet used to go on about how dangerous and mentally unstable Harry Potter is. Should we curse him if we see him?" You quip while adding the entire staff of the Daily Prophet on your list of people that need extra special thanking.
Bill fixes your clothes so they actually fit. He hands you the fake identification papers and you watch as you picture complete with the blond hair appears instantly next to the name James Andrew Black. Magic is rather impressive, isn't it? It doesn't take Bill long to finish getting ready. Packing is accomplished by magic and before you know it you are standing in the terminal looking at large airplanes. You ride the fastest broom on the market. You perform death defying aerial stunts, which only occasionally result in hospital stays. There is no reason to be intimidated by an airplane flight. The flight crew's safety record is certainly better than yours! Oh for crying out loud! You are supposed to be the hero of the wizarding world and now you are acting like Neville before a Snape lesson. This is ridiculous. You wish Bill would come back. He is off picking up some snacks and reading material for the long trip. It might unsettle the passengers if you started reading a book on magic curses and whatnot. You shudder to think of the chaos that could be caused by a single copy of The Monstrous Book of Monsters in a confined space of an airplane.
As you stand there watching the jets land and take off, you listen in on a conversation between a man and his daughter, who have sat in the row of chairs next to your carry on baggage.
"Are you sure you checked the woman's teeth? The rotfangs are everywhere!"
"I did Daddy. She had perfectly normal teeth. I think the rotfangs generally control the International Portkey Terminal. That's why we don't go there anymore. Well that and the restraining order. We don't have anything to worry about here." The girl's tone is reassuring and slightly annoyed. It sounds like she is the parent and her father is the child.
"I know. I know. It's just with all these delays I am nervous that we won't arrive in time."
"The snorkacks will be there Daddy. We should even get a chance to look for those glitterwings, you were discussing in your last issue."
"Skitterwings! Not glitterwings! They perform a complex mating ritual involving muggle bug zappers, but only between Midnight and One Thirty AM."
"Skitterwings, got it. Now why don't you relax and maybe write some notes for your next issue. I'll keep an ear out for our flight. They said everything is on time right now. Here's a cup of water. The healer reminded me to have you take your medicine."
You listen to the man reply with theories about mind controlling substances and heliopaths. The girl uses a carefully chosen argument and finally the man relents and ingests his medicine. It can only be one person, Luna Lovegood. What bothers you is that she is acting around her father rather like everyone else acts around her. She sounds perfectly lucid and in control of the situation, rather than distant and dreamy. You see her reflection in the window glass.
Damn! Luna is walking over towards the window where you are standing. You keep your attention focused in front of you. Hopefully, she won't notice you. Just don't say anything, you'll be fine. Please don't let her notice you. Shit! She is looking at your reflection in the mirror now. Don't see the scar. Don't see the scar. Don't see the scar! Her eyes widen in shock.
"Oh, hello Harry. Blond really isn't your color, but it is nice to see you trying something new." She saw the damn scar. If you were a certain super hero, your spider sense would be tingling. On the other hand, would an Acromantula super hero have a human sense that tingled? Worry about that later - back to the problem at hand!
"Err, I'm sorry you must be confusing me with someone else." Your tone wouldn't even fool Hagrid into believing you. Good thing the Hat didn't put you in Slytherin! You keep staring straight ahead, not wanting to meet the eyes of your accuser.
"How have you been, Harry?" Luna Lovegood says to you.
"Miss, my name is James Black. I am afraid I am not the person you think I am." That was a much better answer. You sound sure of yourself this time.
"Harry, none of us are the people others think they are. Well except maybe Snape. He is pretty much what everyone thinks he is." You laugh. You can't help yourself. You're busted.
"Hello Luna. What are you doing here today?" You say with a hint of resignation in your voice.
"Our latest expedition was delayed and Daddy and I are finally leaving today. We prefer to go the muggle way. The portkey terminal tracks you. They are pawns of several conspiracies, so many it's difficult to keep track. Here they give you little bags of peanuts. This is much better." She deadpans with her newly replaced dreamy stare.
"I overheard you and your father. You can drop the act." You say. Her eyes fly open in shock. After a moment, she cocks an eyebrow at you. Her dreamy expression clears instantly. It's rather disconcerting.
"You're running away aren't you? I heard a rumor you were at the Weasleys. I called Ginny the other day to come over and she said I couldn't."
"I can't answer that question, Luna. We shouldn't even be having this conversation."
"You're not alone are you? You do have someone with you?" The concern in her voice is evident.
"Yes. I won't say who." You answer trying to be vague. Amazing, you are trying to be vague and Luna is trying to be straightforward! How deep is this rabbit hole?
"Do you need any help?"
"No, not now. I do need you to forget that you saw me today?"
"Good. I am glad you have someone with you. You have a way of finding trouble, or it has a way of finding you. I won't ask where you are going? I get the impression you wouldn't tell me anyway. Don't worry, Harry. I won't mention seeing you here. Besides, who would believe old 'Looney' anyway?"
You're curious now. She isn't acting anything like the Luna you know. Suddenly, she is a different person, very different. "You realize that you just called yourself 'Looney'. What gives?"
"I answered your question earlier. None of us is the person others think they are. Everyone wears a mask. Some are just better than others. You're trying to hide behind one right now. I won't mention seeing you here and you won't mention seeing me act normal."
You have an epiphany. The only time you remember her being this serious was in the middle of the Department of Mysteries. She fought extremely well outlasting everyone but Neville. She had been nimble and her spell casting had been much better than the DA meetings. This is the real Luna Lovegood! Not the girl reading the Quibbler upside down. Not the girl saying outlandish things or brutal, unspoken truths at inappropriate times.
"It's all an act. Isn't it?" You say as understanding dawns on you.
Her smile reminds you of the cheshire cat. Wow! Two Alice in Wonderland references in about just over a minute! "Congratulations! You discovered my secret. You are the first! Hello. My name is Luna Melanie Lovegood." She says offering her hand.
"Right now I am James Andrew Black." You shake her hand in amazement. Could the past twenty-four hours be any weirder? You're not so sure you really want to know.
"I suppose you are wondering why?" She says after a minute of awkward silence. Right now, you are more interested in this than finding out what the "Power the Dark Lord knows not" is.
"You could say that?"
"The ultimate prank." She answers.
"What?" Not exactly the answer you were expecting. Then again, what answer were you expecting?
"Looney Lovegood is the ultimate prank. I do whatever I want and no one says anything. I say whatever is on my mind and no one says anything. Everyone just accepts my behavior. Think about it. I could show up to the welcoming feast naked and get away with it, but that would be giving away what I plan to do my seventh year." You make a mental note that if you are still alive for the start of Luna's seventh year to try and be present for that.
You consider this startling revelation. It truly is a mind numbing experience. "I have two questions. The first is, why? The second is, why admit it to me now?"
"I'll answer the second question, you have too many problems in your life. You could use a good laugh every now and then. The very fact that you are standing here in a disguise tells me that something is dreadfully wrong. I've made it over the halfway point without anyone catching on. Two people sharing an inside joke is more amusing than just one. Plus, even when I was acting completely mental, you treated me with kindness. I actually felt guilty when you offered to help me find all my things at the end of the term. I almost told you right then. As for the first question, it's a long story. I don't think we have the time. We could exchange owls?"
You shake your head. "Not likely. I'll be indisposed. It's probably a longer story."
"Let me get something out of my bag. I'll be right back." She runs over to the seats where her bags are. You watch to see if she says anything to her father. She doesn't. She comes back with a pair of books in her hand. She hands one to you. "They're charmed. What gets written in one appears in the other one. Daddy and I like to write notes back and forth when I am at school. He just got me a new set."
"Is your dad 'pranking' as well?" You ask. Her expression darkens.
"No. He hasn't been the same since... " She trails off.
"Oh crap! I'm sorry. I didn't... " Way to kill the conversation, idiot!
She smiles a weak smile. "I know."
Trying to change the subject, you look at the book. "How does this work?"
"I write on the first page. You write back on the second page."
"Does it work over long distances?"
"Daddy was chasing one of his creatures in Mongolia and I was able to get them at school. It takes longer for the words to appear, but they eventually get there. It was about a six hour delay, when I timed it."
"This is brilliant." It really is.
"These are the expensive models. Most students buy the cheap ones so they can talk to their girlfriend or boyfriend if they are in different houses. Zonkos sells those. These come from a shop called Mallory's Outfitters." You watch as she pulls a muggle pen from her purse and jots 'Hello' on the first page. It instantly appears on your books first page. You ask if she has a spare pen. She rummages around in her small purse for a moment and then hands you one. You try yours out with the same results.
The PA sounds announcing boarding for Luna's flight. She looks up at you and smiles. You both seem uncertain. Is this a shake hands moment or a hug moment? You end up sharing an awkward hug.
"Be safe Harry. Write soon. I am curious to see how you ended up here today."
"I will. You be safe too Luna. I'm equally curious for your explanation."
You release her and watch her go pick up her bags. She looks back at you and already the dreamy expression has returned to her face. Her father asks her something and she answers looking not very interested. They queue up at the gate and you watch as the line moves forward with the ticketing agent checking boarding passes. Her father seems fixated on the boarding agents smile. You don't even notice Bill returning. Just before she steps out of sight she turns back and smiles at you. She disappears a moment later.
"Who was that?" Bill asks worried.
You smile at him and answer. "Someone I thought I knew." He looks confused. You can't blame him. You're pretty confused. She's been a friend for almost a year, but other than the moment in front of the veil; this was your first real conversation with her.
"Did she recognize you?"
"I'll explain on the plane. Don't worry. I just discovered that Fred and George aren't necessarily the greatest pranksters of recent history."
Author's notes - Full discussion on Darklordpotter. So what do you think of Luna? My acknowledgements to the fantastic team of FairyQilan, Smeagolita, IP82, Sirus009, Yarrgh!, jmcqk6, and Chuckdatruck. Your input helps make this story something unusual amongst the mundane.