As the train neared London's outskirts, Luna – who had finished reading her copy of The Quibbler - seemed to break from the reverie that held her and fixed her silvery-blue gaze on Harry.
"Harry Potter," she said, and then waited until he looked askance at her, "I've always wondered what enchantments you have on your glasses."
Harry frowned in confusion.
"I don't have any enchantments, Luna. Why would you think that I do?" He asked.
"Oh. Well, it's just that everybody who wears glasses has some kind of enchantment on them. Daddy's remind him of things he needs to do, stories he wants to publish, that kind of thing. If you don't have any, why do you wear them?"
"Because… I... need to wear glasses?" Harry was very confused. He had thought that was why any person wore them.
"Oh, you haven't had the spell done? I always assumed you wore glasses because you had some interesting enchantments on them. Like something to find danger, or identify a monster's weaknesses. That seemed the most likely, given the stories Ginny and Ron tell about you, and the rumours I've heard from the other students. I didn't realise it was because you needed them to see. You should go into St. Mungos and get them to fix your eyesight. My daddy cast the spell for me, but between you and me -" here she lowered her voice and leant in closer, looking around furtively, and Harry and Hermione couldn't help but lean in too, "- I don't think he did it quite right. My eyes haven't been quite the same since." She sat back and turned to look out of the window. Now that Harry thought about it, her eyes were somewhat protuberant, and he wasn't sure he'd actually seen her blink since he entered the compartment. To think that it was because of a poorly cast spell instead of being natural was a worry, and he resolved to have his done professionally.
When it came to it, he'd had no idea that it was possible to fix ones eyesight with a spell, but it made sense that it be possible. He did wonder why Madam Pomfrey didn't offer to do it, but he wasn't exactly in a position to ask her just then. He added a note on his list to do so when he got back to Hogwarts in September, and another note to go and see about getting the spell cast during the summer.
The train began to slow as Harry looked over his list. He had amassed quite a few things to look into or do. He considered breaking the list down by some means – perhaps organising it by things he could research from books, things he'd need to talk to someone about, and things he wanted to do?
He was already (hopefully) going to be spending time staying with Hermione this summer, and Luna and Neville had basically agreed to help him with his list, but he realised he hadn't actually explicitly asked them if he could come over. Additionally, he realised that he didn't actually know the addresses of the three other people in the compartment with him. That would make it quite difficult to visit them.
"Hey, guys. Um, I don't actually know where you live, Hermione. Could you tell me so I know what stop to ask for on the Knight Bus? And Neville, Luna, would it be ok for Hermione and I to visit during the summer? I realised yesterday that I actually haven't visited any other magical homes or spent time with any of my other magical friends besides the Weasleys at all during previous summers, and I want to change that."
"Oh, of course, Harry. How could I have forgotten? That would make visiting me easier, wouldn't it?" Hermione asked, putting a hand to her forehead.
Neville looked surprised that Harry would want to visit him, and Luna just looked surprised, though Harry was beginning to wonder whether that wasn't just how she looked anyway.
"O-of course, Harry. If you want to. I mean, if you're sure. I'll have to ask my Gran, but it'd be pretty great to have some company over the summer. I… I'd like that," Neville said.
"I'm sure Daddy would be fine with you visiting, too. And I did say you could look at Mummy's notes. As Neville said, it'd be nice to have some company over the summer."
Harry frowned at this, but noted down their addresses. Hermione lived in Crawley somewhere while Neville said just to ask for 'Green Hill Hall'. He remembered that Luna had said she lived near the Weasleys, but even though Ottery St. Catchpole was a small village that didn't actually help very much. She told him just to ask for 'The Rook', saying they'd know what he meant. He jotted all these down.
Looking up, he noticed something small and grey bobbing in and out of view outside the window. Frowning, he stood up for a better look and saw that it was a tiny owl, carrying a letter that was much too big for it. The owl was so small, in fact, that it kept tumbling over in the air, buffeted this way and that in the train's slipstream. Harry quickly pulled down the window, stretched out his arm, and caught it.
He brought it carefully inside and released it again. The owl dropped its letter onto Harry's seat and began zooming around the compartment, apparently very pleased with itself for accomplishing its task. Hedwig clicked her beak with a sort of dignified disapproval. Crookshanks sat up in his seat, following the owl with his great yellow eyes. Hermione, noticing this, tried to snatch the owl out of harm's way, and managed after two tries.
Neville and Luna looked on, curious, but Harry knew he couldn't risk mentioning who the letter was from with them in the compartment. He couldn't even say it was from 'Snuffles', because it would make no sense. He'd just show it to Hermione when he was done.
The part about the Firebolt coming from Sirius wasn't really much of a surprise, and he was glad Hermione would have some vindication there, but he was sure Ron would have made some unnecessary comment about how it hadn't been jinxed, conveniently forgetting that at the time he'd received the broom, knowing it came from Sirius would have increased suspicion of it.
"Ouch," said Hermione, the tiny owl in her hands having nipped her finger in what it seemed to think was an affectionate way. She gave it a reprimanding look, but continued to stroke it.
His chest seemed to fill with warmth when he found the permission slip in the envelope, but that quickly drained away when he saw that the owl had been meant for Ron, as it meant he'd have to go and find him to pass it over.
He sighed and handed the letter over to Hermione, then took the owl from her and headed out of the compartment. He found Ron a couple of carriages down and had to ask him to step out into the corridor so he could explain. He thought for a moment he'd refuse, but Ron's curiosity got the better of him and he acquiesced.
He stood in stony silence while Harry explained where the bird came from, but looked genuinely pleased and surprised when he was told the owl was now his. When Harry was done, he just gave a perfunctory 'thanks', took the owl, and headed back into the compartment.
They were almost at the station now, so Harry made his way back to the one he had shared with Hermione, Neville and Luna, and everyone packed up their things and got ready to disembark.
In keeping with his earlier realisation that he was, in fact, a wizard, Harry suggested that they all cast lightening charms on their luggage while they were still on the train, and therefore still technically allowed to do magic. Hermione agreed, but Neville looked sheepish.
"Um. Harry," he began, "I keep forgetting that you didn't grow up with magic. Most pureblood and half-blood children get enchanted trunks. Mine's already light," he said, hefting his with one hand.
Harry frowned. It made sense that people that lived in the magical world would know about and have magical trunks, but he remembered helping move Ron and the twins' luggage on several occasions, and their trunks hadn't been lighter.
"But… when I've helped Ron move his… " he began, but trailed off. "Ah," he finished.
It had just occurred to him that maybe the Weasleys, while being a magical family, didn't actually have the means to equip their seven children with magical, enchanted trunks. He felt a little bad for not realising it sooner.
"Well, I know another thing to add to my list," he said. "For both of us, Hermione," he continued, looking at her.
She looked like she was on the verge of saying something, but just then they stopped, and he could see the platform through the window over her shoulder. He cast the spell on his trunk, then on hers, and they all trooped out.
Hermione stood by Harry as he looked around at the various families reuniting, seemingly waiting for him so she could guide him to her parents.
Harry watched as Neville met his extremely strict looking grandmother. He had an idea of what she might look like, given that he'd seen Neville's Snape boggart forced into her clothes and hat during the previous year, but it didn't prepare him for the look she wore that gave the impression she was constantly about to issue a reprimand. It came to him that she might make McGonagall look like a pussycat by comparison, and then he smirked at his pun.
For Luna, on the other hand, he had no ideas as to the appearance of her father, so he watched her wander over towards the back of the platform with interest. She was met by a… colourful looking wizard. He had long silver-blonde hair, like his daughter, but his was slightly wavy and more unruly and he was wearing robes of such vibrancy that they put even Dumbledore's most ostentatious clothes to shame. Harry now realised that he hadn't actually caught a name besides 'Daddy' for him. It would probably be a good idea to learn another one.
He was disturbed from his rumination by Mrs Weasley coming over trailing her family, and he realised with a little plunge in his stomach that this could potentially be quite bad, depending on what Ron had said, so he steeled himself.
"Harry dear, what's this Ron's telling me you don't want to come and stay with us this year?" she asked in a disapproving, brittle sort of voice.
"Oh, Mrs Weasley, it isn't like that," Harry said quickly, "I just… I realised that despite being best friends with Hermione, too, I don't even know her parents' names, and I figure… what kind of a friend does that make me? And I've spent parts of the last two summers with you. I feel like I want to balance things out, you know, so I asked her parents if I could stay with them this year."
Mrs Weasley had obviously been building herself up for him to say something different, and had to stop and think about it. Ginny and the twins seemed to think this was reasonable, judging by the looks on their faces, but Ron was looking mulish. He was obviously choosing to forget all the things he'd said about Hermione and her parents.
Harry deliberated within himself over whether to tell her that Hermione's parents were planning on going away to France on holiday halfway through July, and that as such he would be free to potentially come and stay with them, when the choice was made for him.
"Harry and I would love to come and stay with you at the end of August, Mrs Weasley," said Hermione, "and Ron's told us about the Quidditch World Cup. Could we stay with you for a little while before that?"
"Oh, yes dear, I think that could work well. Well, just owl us over the summer and we can arrange it," said Mrs Weasley, looking happier. Turning, she led her brood away and Harry took the opportunity to look askance at Hermione.
"I guess I was just feeling a little selfish… " she said, looking down and blushing slightly.
Before he had much time to think about that, let alone look around, a very strict voice announced the arrival of Neville's grandmother, who had made her way over.
"Mister Potter. My grandson has requested that you be allowed to visit during the summer. This is the first time Neville has asked to be allowed guests, and so would be delighted to host you and your friend Miss Granger. Please owl ahead that we might make appropriate arrangements," she said, drawing herself up. It looked to Harry as though he were expected to respond in some way, so he quickly cast about for something that sounded suitable.
"Of course, Madame Longbottom. You must have social engagements all the time, and I wouldn't wish to surprise you or make things awkward by dropping by unannounced. I'll make sure to owl you." That seemed to pass muster, for the woman nodded stiffly then turned and stalked off with Neville trailing behind her. He exchanged a look with Hermione.
Never had he been more thankful for his aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon's obsessional coaching of Dudley on social etiquette before the 'grand' dinner parties they would throw in order to impress his uncle's clients.
His musing was interrupted again, this time by the dreamy voice of the little blonde Luna. He wasn't surprised as he turned around.
"Daddy said its fine for you to visit. He just wants to speak to you for a moment," she said.
"Of course. Hello, Mister Lovegood," Harry said, holding out his hand.
"Hello hello, there's no need for formalities with me, Mister Potter. We're not all like old Augusta there," said Mister Lovegood, grabbing Harry's hand and pumping his arm up and down. "I'd be happy if some of my little pumpkin's friends came over this summer! And please, call me Xeno."
He said all of this quite fast, and he had an extremely excitable, effusive sort of voice that Harry felt matched the man perfectly. Now to get his arm back.
"Then please, call me Harry," he said, beginning to pull his arm away, "is it ok if we just turn up? Madame Longbottom requested we send her an owl before we visit her," he continued as he began to apply more effort to extracting his arm, which Xeno was still shaking enthusiastically.
He must have been showing his discomfort at the constant shaking as Luna cut in at that moment.
"Daddy," she said, "I think Harry Potter would like his arm back."
"Oh, of course!" he let Harry go, "I do forget sometimes. Come on by, that's fine, not to worry. We only stand on rugs at home, not ceremony," he said, giving a small guffaw at his own joke.
Despite the vigorous jostling he'd just experienced, Harry couldn't help but smile as well. If only Petunia and Vernon lived by that motto, too. But then again, if they did he'd have been foundering while trying to talk to 'Augusta' – presumably Neville's gran. He had a feeling that first impressions and good manners were important with her.
"Ok, thank you sir – er, Xeno, I mean. Well. See you during the summer. And you, Luna. It was nice to meet you," he said, turning slightly to give the impression he was about to go.
"Of course, of course. Come along then, pumpkin," said Xeno, putting a hand on his daughter's shoulder and herding her off.
Harry and Hermione picked up their trunks under one arm, and their respective pets' carriers under the other, and began to make their way towards the barrier between the platform and the rest of Kings Cross. As they walked, Harry leant in to his friend.
"Am I likely to have my arm shaken off with your parents, or be studied like a cavity?" he asked her quietly.
She laughed softly. "Somewhere in the middle I think, Harry. Don't worry," she said, reassuringly "They already know a lot about you from my letters. They'll love you."
Harry had a feeling that, if her hands weren't full with her belongings, she'd have rubbed his arm. He smiled at her as they passed through the gateway.
"Hermione!" called two voices in unison.
"Mum! Daddy!" Hermione called, dropping her trunk but placing Crookshanks' carrier down rather more carefully, then running to the couple who had called out to her.
While Harry had of course seen her parents last year during the annual Weasley school shopping trip, he hadn't really given them much thought. His friend was currently enveloped in a three way hug, and Harry had to fight down a sharp stab of melancholic jealousy. To take his mind off the unpleasant, unwelcome feeling, he took Hermione's parents in with a careful eye.
They were both dressed in comfortable looking, stylish clothes that Harry wouldn't have though out of place if he'd seen them in a clothing catalogue. Her mother had much darker, bushier hair than her daughter, though it was styled in a way that Harry thought looked very beautiful, and she had much darker skin than Hermione, too. Hermione's father, on the other hand, had much lighter skin and messy, sandy hair. Harry remembered that Hermione had looked very brown when she'd come back from her holiday in France during the summer of the previous year. He realised it made sense; while it hadn't actually occurred to him at all in the last three years, Hermione's skin was probably so light most of the time – like very milky tea – because she spent most of the year inside, in a castle in northern Scotland.
Both Hermione's parents were smiling warmly at their daughter as she spoke excitedly to them about her year while Harry hung back. Harry thought he could see a sort of boyish warmth in her father's face, while her mother had a certain elegance in hers that Harry thought made her look quite striking. It was also very clear to him just how proud of their daughter they were. He could see it shining in their eyes, and there was none of the smug, self-satisfied, gloating look that his aunt and uncle always had when they were looking at his cousin.
Harry had to force the spike of jealousy down again.
"Harry," Hermione's voice broke through Harry's thoughts, "these are my parents, Dan and Emma. Mum, Dad, this is my best friend Harry."
Harry put down his trunk and Hedwig's cage and stepped forward, holding out his hand.
"Mister and Misses Granger, it's a pleasure to meet you properly at last," Harry said, shaking first Dan then Emma's hands.
"Hello, Harry," Mister Granger began, but he was cut off when a bellowing voice sounded, breaking the relative quiet around them, Harry's good mood disappearing with it. The voice was one with which Harry was, unfortunately, extremely familiar.
"BOY!" shouted his uncle, trundling towards Harry and the Grangers, looking absolutely furious. His aunt trotted along behind him and his cousin was waddling to try and keep up. Vernon's face was the classic puce colour that Harry had learned through long experience meant trouble. He fought to keep his breathing and expression under control. It was exceedingly unlikely he'd have to face the brunt of his uncle's displeasure here in public.
"Do you have any idea how long we've been waiting for you?" he snarled, getting right up in Harry's face.
"I'm sorry, uncle. I several of my friends' families wanted to talk to me and it would have been rude to ignore them," Harry said, thinking very quickly while his heart hammered in his chest, "in fact, these are Mister and Misses Granger, the parents of my best friend." He made a gesture with his hand that felt far too fast and big but was probably only barely noticeable to the faintly shocked couple who were still standing beside him.
His uncle's eyes widened for a moment and he straightened up, plastering a sickly grin over his flushed face. He gave the Grangers a very obvious once-over, and while he didn't seem to find anything to object to his smile remained fixed. He had presumably made the connection that if they were the parents of his best friend, they must therefore be the parents of someone magical.
Harry meanwhile was fighting the ringing in his ears. This was going almost exactly as he'd feared. He swallowed, thickly, almost entirely unable to. He was surprised when a hand touched his shoulder and it made his head swim.
"It's ok, Harry," Hermione whispered to him, "we'll see you soon, in a couple of weeks at the worst."
That was all she could manage before his Uncle Vernon wrenched him away.
"Terribly sorry," Vernon almost snarled, not sounding in the least sorry at all, "we really must be going, Mister and Misses Whatever. Come along, boy." He started pulling Harry away.
"See you, Hermione," he said, stumbling slightly.
Hermione watched him being almost dragged away sadly.
"Well… " said Dan Granger, as the three of them buckled themselves in and he started the engine.
"I didn't want to believe you when you told us in your letters, honey," said Emma Granger.
"I know, I didn't want to believe it, either," Hermione said. "Harry actually thought it might be worse."
"Worse? Worse how? That man was incredibly rude. I thought for a moment he'd start saying things about your mother and you."
"I'm not sure, dad. I don't think it was that, though. Harry's said they hate magic, so I think that he was worried they'd say things about me being a witch. Um… Do you think… I'm worried that they… " Hermione trailed off, hugging herself sadly.
"I'm sorry honey, but I think they probably do," said her mother. "Did you see the look on that poor boy's face when his uncle called out to him?"
There was silence in the car for a little while as its occupants thought their separate thoughts.
"Em, do you think… ?" asked Dan, looking over at his wife briefly while they were waiting for a light to change. Emma reached over and took his hand. The understanding that they were having a complete conversation with just these few gestures clicked into place quite suddenly for Hermione, and then the realisation that she and Harry occasionally did the same thing burned like an ember into her heart, giving her a little thrill. She began a small, secret smile without even realising it.
"I think so, Dan." She said, and then turned in her seat to look back. "Hermione, honey, I know we said we wanted to meet Harry before he came to stay with us, and that we said he should come and join us in a couple of weeks, but your father and I now feel that we would like to extend our invitation to begin whenever he feels he wishes to join us."
A brilliant, ebullient smile erupted on Hermione's face, and she felt her heart swell with gratitude towards her parents.
"Thank you so much Mummy, Daddy. I'll let him know as soon as we get home."
The spirits of all three lifted considerably, and the rest of the journey back was filled with her parents' questions about her school year.