A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Hermione and Ron, Harr...
Monday, August 19, 1996
Ron approached Hermione carefully as the limo pulled out of the Granger driveway. Hermione smiled and hugged him tightly. Ron gathered her into a hug of his own, and kissed the top of her head. "I've missed you," Ron said simply but sincerely.
"I've missed you, too."
"Were Ginny and Luna very bothersome?"
Hermione released his and gave him a dirty look. "No, not at all. Ron, you have to learn that only you look upon Ginny as a bothersome little sister. She's my best friend, she's Luna's close friend, she's Neville's girl friend, and even Harry thinks of her as a close friend, not your little sister. And yes, Luna is a bit. . . ."
"Calling her that is almost like Malfoy calling me a 'Mudblood,' Ron. Think about that." Ron flushed at Hermione's snap at him. She paused for a moment, and went on with a less scolding tone. "I really do like her, and Harry loves her. Accept her as a brilliant eccentric, help Ginny and me cajole her into slightly more conventional behavior if you want, but never call her that again."
"I'll try," Ron promised. "What do you mean, 'cajole her'? And yes, I know what the word means."
Hermione chose her words carefully. "I think she acts a little off because she probably does have some of that Inner Eye that Trelawney goes on and on about. She sees things the rest of us don't. Add in living alone with her father, who's at work twelve hours a day, seven days a week for almost two years after her mother's death and then on every vacation. It's no wonder she hasn't learned how to interact with people better. Then she's sorted into Ravenclaw, where every one starts picking on her, hiding her clothes and books and things. She was alone, lonely, and sad, with no one sticking up for her for four years. It was just easier to wear a pair of mis-matched socks than to cause a big stink that her dorm-mates had hidden all the matching socks -- she's not comfortable drawing attention to herself."
"You've got to be kidding! The way she dresses does nothing BUT call attention to her!"
"Attention to the way she's dressed, not to her," Hermione pointed out. "Everyone just dismisses her. Ginny and I went through her clothes with her at Mrs. Figg's and took away the mismatched socks and threw away anything that doesn't fit or seems too odd. Mum took us shopping Saturday morning and we got her some new things, and I'm going to put hexes on them so strong that if one of those bitches steal anything, they'll make Marietta look normal!"
"Hermione!" Ron said, shocked at the viciousness he heard in Hermione's voice.
"She's my friend! No one mistreats one of my friends!" Hermione took a deep breath and went on. "Harry let me send Hedwig to Padma and Lisa last week, asking if they could help at all. I don't want this to become Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, after all. I hope I hear back soon."
"Did Harry, Ginny, and Luna know this?"
"Luna doesn't. Harry agreed I could mention he and Luna are dating."
"Are they? It's official, not a summer thing?"
"It's official. Get used to it."
Ron sighed. "If she has to be with us, why couldn't she date Neville, and Ginny date Harry?"
"For the same reason I don't date Neville and you don't date Luna. That's not the way things have worked out. And be glad Harry isn't dating Ginny. What would you do if Harry shagged Ginny?"
"WHAT! I'd k . . . err, beat the crap out of him!"
"Harry could easily defend himself against a physical assault, and he'd crush you in a duel and you know it. If Harry was dating Ginny, she could never say 'no' to him, and you know that, too."
"In fact, even if they didn't shag, Ginny would probably want to. . . ."
"I get the point!"
"Ginny can, and will, say no to Neville, if it's ever even necessary. She would be begging Harry to. . . ."
"I said I get the point!"
"Sorry, Ron," Hermione said. "Ron, we have to do something about how we, and I do mean we, communicate."
"What do you mean?"
"We argue too much. Even if one of us is more at fault than the other, and I'm not saying that's true. . . ."
"You mean me," Ron pouted.
"Ron, do you think we argue too much?" Hermione asked softly.
He sighed. "Yes."
"I don't really like it. Do you?"
"Sometimes it's fun to tease and argue," Ron admitted, but went on, "but no, not most of the time."
"And you probably think it's more my fault than yours, that I don't see that you're teasing, or that I take things too seriously, or whatever. And I think that sometimes you're just being obstinate or deliberately dense. But I really like you, Ron. Neither of us is going to completely change, so we'll both have to work at not fighting, if we're ever going to be more than friends."
"I guess you're right," Ron agreed, somewhat reluctantly. "I have to learn not to say everything I think, don't I?"
"Yes, and I have to learn not to get so upset, and we both have to learn how to tell the other when we've seen or heard something we don't like." She put her hand on Ron's arm. "I don't know where our relationship might go, Ron, but we won't get anywhere fighting."
"You're right," Ron admitted. "I guess we should try to work something out this week, when it's just us."
Ron smiled, then squinted over his shoulder. "Looks like you have an owl."
"Great!" Hermione said. "You can wait until tomorrow morning, after it rains, for an answer, can't you?" Hermione asked the owl as she took the letter. The owl looked at her, and then flew into the garage.
"Oh, Ron, I don't have to read it, or answer it right now."
"Sorry," Ron said.
Hermione stuck the letter in the back pocket of her jeans and held out her hand. "Come on. Let me show you our home, and then I'll fix us lunch."
"Seems like a time-consuming and potentially wasteful way of storing and serving food," Ron commented a short-while later.
"It is, but it's better than having to hunt and gather every day," Hermione agreed, putting a salad down for her and two sandwiches and bowl of soup down for Ron.
"Go ahead and read the letter if you want," Ron said, who then went down to drink down the soup and refill it from the pot.
Hermione watched him with amazement and turned to the letter. "Lisa is staying with Padma, so they both wrote," she told Ron, glancing over the pages. After skimming through the letter, Hermione gave a disgusted snort.
"There's apparently a small clique that is really behind this persecution of Luna and a few of the girls in other years, although Luna's been the main target. This year, there will be two Seventh years, two Sixth years, a Fifth year, and two Fourth years in the group. Luna's roommates, with that one exception, have stood firm against most practical jokes, and make certain no one takes Luna's school work or books, but don't, or can't keep the harassment lower than that. They say that the two of them, plus Morag McDougal, have been fighting a losing battle against the clique to try and help Luna and the others. Apparently there's also a lot of nasty remarks and teasing, which I guess we should have expected."
"Let me guess, Cho and Marietta?"
"Cho was the leader last year and will be again this year," Hermione agreed, then added, "the manipulative little bint."
"How badly do you treat Colin?"
"Huh? Colin? Well, he's an annoying little poof at times, but once we got him to stop staring at us, especially at Harry, in the showers and to tone down his photomania, he's not so bad."
"What's the worst thing you ever did to him?"
"Told him if he peeked in the showers one more time, we'd get him expelled."
"You didn't hurt him, harass him, embarrass him?"
Ron laughed. "You can't embarrass Colin Creevey! I mean the boy was playing with himself under his towel as he watched Harry bend over to pick up the soap!" He sobered a bit. "But no, we have never hurt him, although we may have hurt his feelings. Sloper threatened him once and Harry reminded him that Gryffindors don't act like that. And we've never singled him out for pranks more than anyone else in his year." Ron grinned again. "He even got Fred and George once, in front of Katie and Angelina."
Hermione looked puzzled.
"Fred and George had switched off -- you know they like pretending to be each other."
Hermione nodded. The two could actually pass for each other when they tried, although normally it was easy to tell them apart from the way they acted.
"Well, they'd been teasing Colin pretty badly for a few days, so when Colin went past them, he called them by their right names. When they protested -- you remember how much the girls hated it when the twins switched on them -- Colin pointed out that Fred . . . err, dresses left, George right."
Hermione thought about that for a second, then smothered a giggle.
"Then Colin added that even though the twins didn't, well, 'pack much', their uniforms were so tight even Snape could tell them apart."
Hermione shook her head. "The point is, Colin is a lot more annoying than Luna could ever be, but we don't harass him a tenth as much as Luna is by Cho and her group. Cho and her group are a lot like Malfoy; they make themselves feel important by trying to look down on others."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"First, they asked if it was true Luna had been one of the students with Harry. I'll tell them yes. Voldemort -- Ron, you need to stop wincing at the name, even if you don't want to say it -- Voldemort and his followers already know Luna was there, so it shouldn't hurt to confirm that. Second, I need to tell them that yes, Harry seems serious about her. They want the DA to continue at least as a dueling club no matter who the next Defense teacher is. They like and respect Harry, and it should up Luna's standing a little."
"Not with Cho and her group," Ron pointed out.
"Cho and Harry didn't work out. How is she going to take Luna succeeding where she failed?"
"You're right," Hermione agreed. "I hadn't thought of that. They'd never acknowledge that as the reason but they'll harass Luna even more and badmouth the pair of them. I'll remind Padma and Lisa to look out for that. Third, I'll tell them about the hexes. It apparently took the people at Saint Mungo's three weeks to totally cure Marietta. They'll think twice before stealing Luna's stuff."
"Wow -- I know you said that hex was powerful, but I figured Pomfrey and Flitwick didn't cure her to teach her a lesson."
"Actually, they couldn't cure her any more than the healers could. I'm sure Flitwick and Dumbledore knew right away what would cure her and just didn't tell her."
"And that was?"
"I got a letter from the little chit in early July, apologizing. Once she apologized, THEN they only needed a week to finish cleaning up the mess."
"So, if they steal Luna's things. . . ."
"They'll be branded a thief until they apologize to Luna. Sort of defeats the purpose."
"Are you going to write now?"
"No, it's raining. Let's do the dishes . . . and then we can take a nap."
"A nap? But I'm not tired!"
"Boy, am I tired!" Ron stood and yawned.
"Don't worry, Harry, Luna will be back soon," Ginny said to Harry as Ron was driven away.
"I know," Harry said stoically, if distractedly.
"Harry, you don't have to be like this," Neville told him.
"What do you mean?"
Ginny took up the argument again. "Harry, I know you have to practice Occlumency, but that doesn't mean you have to close yourself off to everyone."
"I know," Harry said in the expressionless voice he'd fallen into in the short time Luna had been gone.
"Harry. . . ."
"Why don't we take the rest of today off?" Master J had shown up early that morning, and there was nothing else they had to do until dinner.
"And do what?"
Ginny thought she detected a hint of interest. She turned to Neville, embraced him firmly, and kissed him deeply. "I've wanted to do that since I got back!" Neville looked dazed. Happy, but dazed.
"No," Harry said turning away, "I don't feel like snogging Neville, and if I snogged you like that, Neville would punch me."
"Not us, idiot! Luna!"
"Oh . . . I guess we'll see how she feels about it."
"Fine, you stay here and stare at the empty alley for an hour and half. Neville and I will be using your bench, if you don't mind."
"Snog away," Harry said absently.
Ginny put her hands on Harry's forearm, which at least fully drew his attention. "I know you have a lot to worry about, Harry, but you still worry too much." Ginny kissed his cheek and led Neville away.
Harry decided to practice his physical conditioning -- Jones had been shocked at Harry's incredible balance, and had given Harry some advanced exercises to do. Harry changed into his exercise gear and went into his routine.
Ninety minutes later, Luna opened the alley door to the mews and was confronted by Harry in a handstand. Seeing Harry was concentrating, she went over and did a headstand in front of him. "Been here long?" she asked.
Harry had been aware on some level that a friend was near, and so he wasn't very startled. He opened his eyes and was a bit shocked to see Luna, also upside down, looking back. "You're back!"
"I am. Shall we do this some more, or have lunch?"
Harry rolled out of the headstand and then gave Luna a hand up. She was a bit surprised when Harry drew her into a passionate hug.
"I've missed you so much," Harry said in a small voice.
Luna now returned the embrace. She understood then that she had been a little worried Harry would NOT have missed her. "You did?"
"Of course," Harry said. Before he could say more, Luna was kissing him passionately and deeply.
When she let go, Luna said, "And I've missed you, too."
"What do you think they're planning?" Neville asked in a worried voice.
Harry shrugged. "I doubt if Luna is planning anything. It's more likely Ginny is planning something and trying to get Luna to go along."
Neville looked at Harry. It was often difficult to read Harry any more. He was distant during his many workouts, and over the last few days he had mostly withdrawn the rest of the time as well. He had been more animated during lunch, due to Luna's return, but had retreated again when Ginny had dragged Luna into the girls' bedroom.
'Is this what I would have become if Voldemort had selected me as the one fulfilling prophecy?' Neville wondered. Neville had had a hard childhood, although nowhere nearly as bad as Harry's. His first four and a half years at Hogwarts had been even more difficult, although not as bad as what Luna had endured. Now, even Neville was recognizing life could be great, and filled with many more good things than bad.
He knew that was largely because he was gaining confidence and ability, because of his friends and his relationship with Ginny, and because Harry carried a crippling burden that could have been his. Neville was grateful that he was only called upon to help Harry, which he was now more happy to do than ever before.
Ginny and Luna came into the common area, and both Neville and Harry recognized the look on Ginny's face. It was the same one the twins had when planning something. "What are we doing this afternoon and tonight, Harry?" Ginny asked innocently.
"We are going to meditate and practice our Occlumency. Then I thought should shoot stingers at each other for an hour, to practice our different shields, followed by ninety minutes of physical training. Then Neville can work with the two of you on Herbology, and we could then tackle some Potions work until dinner."
Ginny's face dropped. Harry went on. "After dinner -- it's supposed to just be your Mum and Dad and us tonight, remember -- we're going to study some more. Now, why don't you tell the two of us what you two plan on having us study? Or would you prefer to keep it a surprise?"
Ginny smiled. "I think now we'll keep it as a surprise."
By dinner time, the rain had developed into a heavy thunder storm. Dobby therefore brought the teens dinner, as Mrs. Weasley didn't want them coming through the monsoon. When Dobby left them to eat, Harry asked, "So, what's the plan?"
Ginny and Luna looked at each other, and then Ginny looked away. Luna therefore took up the story. "Ginny had an idea. After much discussion, we decided on this. Ginny and Neville are going to our room. Harry, you and I are going to your room."
Luna shrugged. "That's all there is to it," Ginny said.
"How long are we . . . staying like this?" Neville asked, sweat breaking out.
"Until Ron and Hermione come back," Luna stated.
"Nothing much will happen," Ginny emphasized.
"But we will be closer," Luna added.
"If you two agree."
Harry and Neville merely nodded their heads. It was the most they could do.
Tuesday, August 20, 1996
Although still asleep, Harry Potter knew he'd only had pleasant dreams. He had managed to slowly train himself over the last three weeks to stop reacting to his nightmares, with Master J's help. The dreams would start, and then Harry could step back. Harry couldn't consistently stop them, but instead of participating in the nightmares they were now like watching a movie.
No, he had had no nightmares that night. Instead, his dreams played and replayed the evening before. He watched Luna take off her clothes in front of him; he watched them shower together; he watched them kiss and explore. At Luna's suggestion, they had touched themselves more than they had touched each other -- watching and especially doing had been embarrassing to Harry, but very instructive to both. Maybe the next night, Harry hoped, they would touch each other more.
The rain had ended around 9:00, and by 10:30, the night had become hot and humid. Towards morning, Dream Harry imagined himself seated at the foot of the four-poster bed, the bed curtains open, just looking at himself and Luna, still nude, laying above the covers and holding each other, while a nude vision of Luna sat opposite and looked on as well. Both Dream Harry and Dream Luna seemed to be slightly transparent.
At 6:00, Dream Harry and Luna leaned over to kiss, just as sleeping Harry and Luna did as well. Luna opened her eyes, and Dream Harry and Luna disappeared. "Welcome to my dream world, Harry."
Harry blinked, accepted, and embraced Luna as they kissed deeply.
Ginny and Neville had been a little more adventurous than Harry and Luna, but not by much.
In all, it was four happy (if slightly embarrassed) teens who met over the breakfast table. "I think we'd all better start off with some Occlumency," Harry said.
"No need to broadcast our feelings," Ginny agreed.
After Ginny and Neville went to their respective rooms to change, Harry looked into Luna's eyes. "We were in a Dreamscape together?"
"Have you ever done that before?"
Luna nodded again, and then added, "But no one has ever realized I was there. I mean, that it was really me instead of them dreaming I was an observer."
She looked very worried. Harry kissed her forehead and said, "Then we'll learn to share dreams."