Disclaimer: Why don't we all drink some very sexy wine?
Luna noticed an odd expression on her friend's face as they shrugged out of their formal attire and changed back into their much more comfortable everyday clothing.
"Is something bothering you, Hermione?"
"I'm just a bit confused at how readily Neville's grandmother was to admit that they had muggles in the family tree," Hermione stated. "I didn't think that was the sort of thing purebloods would do in a public setting. I had this image of her of a strict proper old dame that would invite us to show that she was a proper progressive sort and to put a thumb in Malfoy's eye and be polite but . . . I don't know, it sounds absolutely awful when I say it out loud."
"Why ever would she not?" Luna asked, blinking at her friend. "You heard what Neville said, the truly pure families tend not to put much stock in such things. Every pureblood family has muggles in their family tree. In my case, for example, my most recent are my great-grandfather Orville's parents; Jenny and Sigerson Holmes on my mother's side. Claiming only magical human ancestors is generally only something the new families care about with a few notable exceptions, such as the Blacks. Most of whom mostly died out during the war, again, such as the Blacks."
"What about the Weasleys then? Ron said they've got a cousin who's an accountant that they don't talk about." Hermione frowned. "Mrs. Weasley is a bit condescending about muggles but she's got her heart in the right place and Mr. Weasley is absolutely fascinated by them and they don't talk about a member of their family just because he's a squib."
"Some families do think that squibs are shameful since it implies that the family has weak magic and that can be detrimental to their social standing," Luna allowed. "But I know the Weasleys aren't the type that would care too much about either social standing or the fact that a family member was a squib. If I were to guess, I would say that the there are reasons they don't talk about that cousin aside from their job or possible lack of magic."
"What reasons could anyone possibly have to disown a family-" Hermione's mouth snapped shut and she reddened in embarrassment as several examples came to mind.
"I may have remembered several family members on both sides that I may not be entirely pleased about being related to," the girl admitted. "Between the two of us. It's also possible that I might have a couple former aunts and a former grandmother that are no longer mentioned in polite company or using polite terms."
Remus watched as Bill finished layering the initial wards over the Granger estates. What was supposed to have been a thirty minute job had turned into a grueling six hour endurance test.
"That's the first bit," Bill gasped. He collapsed into the nearest chair, an antique that likely cost more than he made in a decade and tried to blink the spots out of his eyes. "Be able to add the next bit the day after tomorrow."
"You said it would take thirty minutes," Remus pointed out. And had been quite insistent that he knew what he was talking about even after the last of the Marauders had tried to explain just how big a job he was about to take on.
"You didn't say how bloody big this place is," Bill retorted. "If I'd have known." Bill shook his head. "Warding a castle is a bloody big job you know."
"You didn't want to listen," Remus laughed. "They've got another house in London they'll want done later," he announced. "Not to mention the school robes and the Granger wardrobe and likely a dozen other odds, ends, and locations."
"I'm gonna have to take a leave of absence to do all this," Bill moaned. "Do you know how much the goblins hate it when you take time off?"
"All this warding going to cause you trouble with them?"
"They hired me to break wards, not make them. The goblins could care less how many wards I put up. Be another story if I was taking them down," he added. "You owe me a beer for this."
"I'll get you two," Remus promised.
"I can do this about two months before I have to choose between going back to work and eating my shoes, should be able to get the house secure in that time. Not sure about the grounds and I'm not going to make any promises about the second house."
"Uh. You do know that you're being paid for this, don't you?"
"Really?" Bill grinned, perking up. "Six months before I have to go back to work or tender my resignation."
"How much faster would things go if you had some help?"
"Depends on the help," Bill replied.
"Give me a list of names."
Both men turned to watch the Granger's car pull up the drive.
"That's another thing I should slap wards on," Bill said thoughtfully. "Don't want them to be defenseless when they're on the move."
"I'll have a talk with their security people," Remus agreed.
Tonks made a quick scan of the room before stepping aside to let her charge through after determining that there were no obvious threats.
"All clear, boss."
"Are you going to tell me about the offer you got from the Granger security people?" Amelia asked as she took a seat.
"You know about that?"
Amelia smiled. "I know everything, that's why I'm the director."
"Yes, boss. Was planning to tell you, just not sure how to bring it up."
"You going to take it?"
"I don't know, boss. I like working for you, but . . ."
"But then there's all the other bastards in the department, eh?"
"Yeah, that." Tonks sighed. "And the fact that they're offering to double my pay. What do you think I should do, boss?"
"I think you should take the job and let me put you down as working a confidential undercover assignment," Amelia replied. "Two paychecks for one job."
"You want me to spy on the Grangers?"
"I want a backchannel to a family that will soon have as many armsmen as the Ministry," Amelia corrected. "It won't bother me at all if the Grangers know you're still working for me."
"Makes sense," Tonks admitted.
"Makes even more sense when you know that the Ministry rejected my latest request to expand," Amelia growled.
"Even after they've admitted that you-know-who is back?"
"Even then. I can activate a few on the reserve rolls and I can ramp up training. But I am expressly forbidden from inducting new members of the Auror corps than is traditionally authorized."
"Gonna expand the training class and feed the extras to the Grangers?"
"Something like that," Amelia agreed with a smirk.
Neville came down to breakfast to find his Gran already sitting at the table surrounded by several stacks of parchments.
"You'll never guess what I've found, Neville," the old woman announced.
"What is it, Gran?"
"If my research is correct, which it nearly always is, your friend Hermione is descended, on her mother's side, from the Primus Pilus of the Legio XX Valeria who retired with a local wife after thirty eight years of service." One which her contacts assured her was from a very good family, they were still trying to run down all the details. "A man of that same line stood beside Arthur in the defense of Britannia against the invading Saxons." Augusta smiled tightly. "The family's fortunes have ebbed and flowed since then, but the male line has never been broken."
Neville's eyes were wide in shock. "I didn't know that it was possible for muggles to trace that sort of thing?"
"I had to order record searches with Hogwarts, the Goblins, and the Ministry," Augusta explained. "A lucky thing her family has produced the odd magic user over the centuries or I may not have been able to discover what I did." The old woman gave her grandson a measured look. "She would make an excellent bride for you, Neville. Pity the Potter found her first."
"Gran," Neville sputtered.
"Still, you did well to befriend her." The old woman continued, seemingly ignoring her grandson's discomfort. "Very well indeed. Since the girl herself is unavailable, perhaps I could ask Anne to match you with one of Hermione's cousins?"
Augusta's smile broke as Neville fled the room with a look of horror on his face. "Still not a bad idea, even if I did mean it in jest," she mused. It would be good to inject a bit of new blood into the Longbottom line, especially if that blood was of the right sort.
Luna's lower lip was quivering as she prepared to leave the Granger estates. It had been so nice to spend every day with friends.
"Goodbye, Hermione." She threw herself into the other girl's arms. "I will see you again after Boxing Day."
"See you in a couple days, Luna," Hermione replied.
"Goodbye, Harry." Luna cautiously hugged the boy. "I will see you soon."
"Have fun spending Christmas with your father," Harry replied.
"Are you sure you don't want us to ride with you?" Hermione asked for the tenth time.
"No, it's not a very long trip to the place father is picking me up."
In later life, Harry would always treasure the memory of his first real Christmas. The first time he could remember feeling like he was part of a family during the holiday season.
'Perhaps I should have accepted the Weasleys invitations to spend Christmas with them,' he thought regretfully. 'Then I'd have been able to experience this earlier.'
Hermione had woken him as the sun was painting the sky red and demanded that he join her under the tree, insisting that she couldn't wait for him to open his gift a minute longer.
The world seemed to spin and the next thing Harry knew, he was seated under the watchful eyes of Hermione's parents as the girl thrust a small green wrapped box into his hands.
"I hope you like it, Harry," Hermione offered with a shy blush. "Professor McGonagall helped me pick it out."
Harry carefully opened the box and his breath caught when he saw what was inside.
"You never replaced the one you broke in the tournament and I thought it was time you had a new one so you didn't have an excuse to be late for class," Hermione prattled. "Do you like it?"
"Yes," Harry agreed, staring at the platinum cased pocket watch in the box. "I like it very much. Thank you."
Hermione's smile lit up the room. "I was hoping you would."
"Mind if I take a look, Harry?" Phil asked.
"Sure," Harry agreed.
Mindful of the expectant look on his daughter's face, the head of the Granger family resolved to find something favorable to say no matter what his true opinions may be. He was pleasantly surprised by what he found. "Hamilton?" a smile bloomed on the man's face. "These were some of the best watches to be had when they made them. Shame digitals took over the market." Even greater shame the American watch industry had disappeared, be good for the Swiss to have a bit of real competition in the mechanical market.
"It's also charmed to be almost indestructible," Hermione supplied. "It has to be to survive around Harry."
Harry opened his mouth but the protest died in his throat before he said a word. Depressing as it was, the girl had made a fair assessment.
"Here, for you." Harry thrust a wrapped tube shaped package into Hermione's hands. "I hope you like it."
"Thank you, Harry." Hermione tore off the paper to reveal a tube of fitted lacquered bamboo slats capped at each end with darkly glazed porcelain figures.
"It's a portable writing desk from China," Harry explained. "One cap is an inkwell, and the other holds brushes and quills."
"How does it work?" Hermione asked curiously.
"Pull out the caps," Harry instructed.
The girl complied, causing her gift to unroll to create a floating platform.
"It'll store five hundred sheets of parchment and hold up to fifty pounds, you can also move it and the caps to wherever you want and they'll stay floating wherever you place them," Harry explained. "Oh, and the inkwell is charmed so that it will never spill."
"How many quills and brushes does it hold?" Hermione was entranced.
"Five brushes, two dozen quills, or seven fountain pens. I had them put a mix in to start with," Harry replied. "Do you like it?"
"I love it," Hermione exclaimed, wrapping her friend in a hug. "Thank you so much, Harry."
"Hedwig will be happy to hear that," Harry said with a grin. "It took her almost two days of hard flying to get it."
"I'll be sure to thank her then too," Hermione giggled. "Um, how do I close it up again?"
"Just roll it up."
They spent the next couple hours opening gifts and marveling over each other's new possessions. Most notable of which was a silver lighter Harry received from Hermione's Uncle Jim along with a note explaining each of the objects eighty two functions and a fancy new fountain pen Hermione got from her former governess which, the woman had explained, was nearly indestructible and heavily enchanted with tracking and protection charms.
Hermione sat in surrounded by the shattered remains of the packaging and wrapping looking around to see if she had missed anything. The girl was beginning to develop a faintly puzzled look, entirely due to the fact that there wasn't anything left of the pile of gifts and she hadn't yet opened anything from her parents.
"Before we forget," Phil said, "There's one thing left, but it's a bit big for the drawing room."
Harry blinked twice, glancing around the large and decidedly opulent room.
"It's just out in the stable yard." Anne said. "Come along now."
Increasingly puzzled, the children followed Hermione's parents out to the manor's courtyard.
Here they were presented by a quite peculiar sight; a low-loader trailer for an articulated lorry, with a tarpaulin-wrapped object the size of a very large car (or small bus) sat upon it and tied up with a red ribbon.
It was Hermione's turn to blink bemusedly.
She cautiously approached the tarps, noted the tag marked, 'To Hermione, Love Mum and Dad', and pulled the edge of one up to peer beneath.
She then promptly froze, her eyes going about the size of Frisbees, and blinked several times.
Phil smirked, and yanked a specific rope; there was a twang, and a couple of sharp tugs on the tarps had them slithering off to reveal a rust-dotted, sooty, oil-streaked metal beast.
It was about the smallest full-sized steam engine Harry had ever seen. About twenty feet long with four chunky wheels and a hefty squared-off water tank (from the top of which a stubby funnel protruded) shrouding it's boiler, it had once been painted royal blue with bright red details here and there, though that was fairly hard to see through the dirt and streaks of rust, and the paint was kinda faded.
"Merry Christmas, Hermione." Phil said.
Hermione, for her part, was still rooted to the spot.
"It's ex Coal Board." Anne provided. "We had a dickens of a time tracking it down."
Hermione was still rooted to the spot.
Her parents were just sharing a concerned was-this-a-mistake look when she produced the most extraordinarily girlish squeak Harry had ever heard from her and went madly scrambling up into the aging engine's cab, wherein she spent nearly a minute poking around before, with another squeak, zooming out and latching onto both her parents at once while gabbling on her gratitude at about a thousand miles a minute.
Harry went over and had a closer look at the engine, in particular the oval brass plate on the side of it's cab.
It had, 'Andrew Barclay Sons & Co' arching over the top, 'Kilmarnock' looping round the bottom, and 'Limited' 'Caledonia Works' No 1836 1924' in descending order in the middle; it didn't make much sense but he figured Hermione would be all too happy to explain it.
Wait, had Hermione's parents just given her a REAL steam engine?
"Does it work?" he asked, frankly not quite believing what he was seeing.
"Of course!" Phil said, sounding like that was a silly question. "The chap who showed me it said it's sorely needing maintenance, but he had it running while I was there."
Hermione let out yet another delighted squeak. At this point, speech seemed to be completely beyond her.
Harry looked back at the engine, and said the only thing he could think of to say;
It took almost four hours to pry Hermione away from her new engine and to the breakfast table and even then, the soot covered girl kept casting longing gazes out the window at her new treasure, her precious.
"Hermione, stop being rude," Anne scolded. "I know I had the maids raise you better than that," she finished with an amused grin directed at her husband.
"Sorry, mum," Hermione mumbled, "It's just, her right-hand valve gear is sticking, half of her boiler tubes are punctured, and her left-hand big end bearing is shot - and I've only got two weeks before I go back to Hogwarts..."
"Don't worry about that," Phil laughed. "I've got it all taken care of. Picked up a piece of land, an old coal mine with plenty of track, near that school of yours. Should have a spur line to Hogwarts finished shortly after you get back to school?"
"Thank you, daddy," Hermione chirped.
"Thank the tax break I was able to arrange and all the good publicity I'm going to get with the locals for bringing in a few jobs," Phil replied. "Be good and I might even be able to arrange a couple more engines to keep the one outside from getting too lonely."
"Being good means we clean the soot off before coming to the table," Anne interjected. "I don't want to see so much of a speck of it on you when you're at the table again."
Hermione stood up with her chin in the air. "If you will excuse me, mother, I am in dire need of a bath."
"We shall wait for you to finish before we start breakfast." Phil checked his watch. "Better make that lunch."
Molly was shocked to the core when she noticed that her youngest son had not come in for lunch. It wasn't like the boy to miss a meal.
"Where's Ronald?" she asked.
"In the shed," Arthur replied. "Do you want me to get him?"
"I'll do it," Molly said. She walked outside and was mystified by the odd contraption her boy was fiddling with.
"Mum, good timing," Ron cheered. "Could you make this spin?"
"What is it?" Molly asked.
"It's a lathe," Ron replied. "You see, the wood spins here and I can use it to turn a new beaters bat."
"Finished with the broom, then?"
"It's at Nimbus being enchanted," Ron agreed. "The Harpies have some sort of deal with the company." Which was fortunate in that it meant his profit margin was going to be much much higher than expected.
"That's nice," Molly mumbled. "Come inside, I'll enchant your lith after we eat."
"Lathe, mum," Ron groaned.
"Whatever it is, we can deal with it after lunch."
Hermione's Uncle Jim arrived shortly after they'd persuaded the girl to clean herself up and shortly before they sat down to eat lunch and deposited a package in Harry's lap with strict instructions to tear it open immediately.
"Never pass up an opportunity for a free meal, both your stomach and your bank account will be richer for it," the big man explained. "How'd you like that lighter, Harry?" he added upon seeing that the boy had opened his gift.
"Quite a bit," Harry replied.
"Good, picked it up from an American chap I sometimes work with and figured that you'd have more use for it than I do."
"What is your work?" Harry blurted. "If you don't mind my asking."
"I'm a glorified cleaner," Hermione's uncle Jim explained. "When there's a mess my employers send me in to take care of it. They also use me as a distraction sometimes, I'm high profile enough that the opposition focusses on me when I'm in the area and that lets my colleagues do their jobs without too much bother. Why do you ask?"
"Just curious where you got all those gadgets you gave Hermione," Harry replied. "I've never seen anything like them in any stores."
"Friend of mine makes them for me," he laughed. "Different friend than the one that made your new lighter." Someone in his line of work that occasionally worked for the American Government. One of the rare freelancers in the business.
"Uncle Jim, look what Harry got me," Hermione yelled, rushing down the stairs. She demonstrated how to use her new portable desk.
"Interesting," the man agreed. "Anyway you could get more of these, Harry?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed dumbly. "You know about magic?"
"I know about a lot of things," Jim said mysteriously.
"Wait here a moment," Harry asked. He rushed up the stairs and came back a few minutes later with a box that looked like it was painted with rainbow vomit. "Merry Christmas."
"Thank you, Harry," Uncle Jim said, taking the box. He carefully opened the box and began to laugh. "What's all this?"
"Magical gadgets," Harry replied. "Got a couple mates from school that make them. Just read the directions first or you might accidentally turn yourself into something."
"You're giving him something you got from the twins?" Hermione hissed. "Harry, you know the wouldn't be able to resist booby trapping it."
"It's me, so they won't do anything," Harry replied.
"But . . ."
"I've got an agreement with them, trust me," Harry said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "It'll be fine, I promise."
Jim grinned at the way his niece immediately calmed down and unconsciously leaned into her friend. To be young again.
"I trust you, Harry," Hermione assured him.
"Since that's all settled, let's eat," Jim said loudly.
Ron gulped down his meal and rushed back to the shed. Only to return a few minutes later with a deep blush.
"I'll be out in a minute, Ron," Molly agreed.
"Thanks, mum," Ron replied. "I'll be waiting." The boy rushed back out.
"What does he need?" Arthur asked.
"He needs me to enchant a . . . leek, liik, laik, something to spin," Molly replied. "He's making a new beater's bat for his friend in the Harpies."
"Oh?" Arthur smiled. "He hasn't grown tired of making Quidditch stuff yet? Good, glad the boy's found a trade that'll keep him out of the Ministry."
"Arthur, the Ministry is-"
"No place for anyone," Arthur said firmly. "It's a steady paycheck and that's all."
"I suppose," Molly agreed. She looked over at Fred and George. "That doesn't mean I don't still expect you two to do your best and pass your NEWTs. Leaving Hogwarts is no excuse to not get them. It just makes things a bit harder. Even if you do decide to keep that joke shop of yours, I want you to have something else to fall back on."
"-whatever you say."
"That means if your scores are high enough I won't say anything about the 'research' you two do in your room," Molly added. She stood up. "I also expect you two to leave your siblings alone, do that and we won't have any problems."
"Deal, mum," the twins agreed.
Molly walked outside to join her youngest son in the shed. "What do you need me to do?"
"Just make this piece spin, mum," Ron replied.
"Alright," Molly agreed. She watched in fascination as the boy used a chisel shape a beater's bat from the chunk of wood.
"Slow it down a bit, mum," Ron asked.
"Alright," Molly agreed. "What are you doing now?"
"Sanding it smooth," Ron replied. "Then I'm going to take it off the lathe and sand it again and again and again till I'm satisfied."
"After that?" Molly prompted.
"After that, I'm going to free hand the handle, sand it to the right shape if I need to, rub a few coats of boiled linseed oil into onto the bat, wrap the handle with sharkskin and I'll be finished."
"Why are you using sharkskin?"
"Grip. No one else does it but there's no rule against it." Ron clapped his hands to remove some of the sawdust. "Madame Hooch says duelers like to use it on their wands, figured I'd try it here. Can't hurt and might be the start of a trend."
"Did you do that on the broom you made?"
"Nah, I checkered grips on the broom. Can't do it on the bat cause of league rules," Ron explained. "And we're done with the first bit, thanks, mum."
"Happy to help, Ron," Molly said with a smile.
Hermione spent almost every waking moment of the next day poring over her new toy and chattering excitedly about what she and Luna were going to do with it. Her mother was visibly and verbally not amused.
"I am sorry about all this, Harry," Anne sighed. "I wish I could say she got this madness from her father's side but I'm afraid mine's also been known to get a bit obsessive with things."
"It's alright," Harry laughed. "She's the same way at school. I'm just happy she's got something to distract her from dragging me into it."
"Give it another day and she'll remember you exist again," Anne replied with a smirk. The woman promised herself that she'd take measures if her daughter didn't remember at least some of the etiquette lessons that had been drilled into her unwilling skull.
"Give it another day and Luna will be here to distract her," Harry retorted. "They'll feed each other's madness in a never ending loop of insanity and I'll be safe."
True to Harry's prediction, Luna arrived early the next morning and was immediately drawn towards Hermione's newest and favorite possession. The two girls spent the entire morning happily chattering at each other and poking into every one of the engine's many nooks and crannies. They were both covered head to toe in grease when Anne finally managed to drag them away from the locomotive to take lunch.
"Clean and get down here," Anne said shortly.
"But we'll just get dirty again, mum," Hermione tried, hoping to get back to the engine as soon as possible. "It'd be more efficient to just get a couple sandwiches to eat outside. That way we'll keep my promise to you to keep it away from the table while still maximizing our time working on the engine. I think you'll find it makes the most sense if you think about it, mum."
"You are not just going to get dirty again because you are not going to mess with your train until tomorrow," the woman said firmly. "And tomorrow, you will be freshly washed and sitting at the table before lunch or you will not be messing with the train for the remainder of the holiday. Do you understand me, Hermione?"
"But, mum, I-"
"It was a simple question," Anne interrupted. "One with two possible answers: yes or no. Do I have to ask it again?"
"Well?" She prompted.
"I understand, mum," Hermione agreed.
"Good, now hurry up and get washed."
"Yes, mum," Hermione sighed. "Come on, Luna."
"Right behind you, Hermione," Luna agreed. "See you at lunch, Mrs. Granger."
"Call me, Anne, Luna."
"Alright," Luna agreed before falling into step behind Hermione.
"What are we gonna do now, Luna?" Hermione whined. She wanted to get back to her engine, her . . . precious.
"Research," Luna chirped. "You said we'd have an opportunity to play with the engine after we get back to Hogwarts. On the other hand, your library is not something we'll have access to when we're back at Hogwarts."
"You're right," Hermione sighed. "It's just . . ."
"I know," Luna agreed.
Anne walked into the dining room, took her place, closed her eyes, and rubbed her temples. People said that children were just as bad as their parents had been at a similar age. Oh how she wished there weren't any truth to that statement.
"Chore to drag Hermione away from her new toy?" Phil asked innocently.
"That girl," Anne groaned. "This is all your fault you know. She gets the obsessiveness from your side and you were the one to feed it."
"Both sides, I think." He turned to Harry. "You've got my sympathies, Harry, having to deal with it all year."
"She's not usually this bad," Harry laughed.
"Still, I'm going to have to have a long talk with that girl if this keeps up," Anne promised. "A very long talk."
The three of them made small talk until they were joined by a freshly bathed and dressed Hermione and Luna.
"Let me see your fingernails," Anne ordered.
"All clean," Hermione said. "See."
"Sparkling," Anne agreed. "How'd you manage that so fast?"
"Luna brought some soap that works wonders," Hermione replied.
"Good job, Luna," Anne said with a grin.
"Thank you." Luna blushed a deep red. "Father uses it after he has to maintain the press and I figured if it works for father, it should work for us too."
Molly watched as her son carefully shaved sliver after sliver from the handle of the newly made beater's bat.
"Why are you being so careful?" She asked after he'd paused for a moment.
"I want it to fit her hand perfectly," Ron replied. "The big companies don't bother with this sort of custom work, but I think there's money in it so . . ." he shrugged his shoulders. "Besides, I wanted to do something nice for her."
"And if that something nice gets you a bit of free advertising, what's the harm in that?" Molly giggled. "Good boy."
"I try, mum."
"You get it from your uncles," Molly said. "My brothers were always looking for an angle that would net them a Galleon or two."
Ron cracked his neck. "Good to know." Pity he hadn't been able to meet them.
"What are you going to do next?"
"Going to rough it up so the sharkskin has something to stick to, then I'm going to wrap it," Ron replied. "I'll need your help with the sticking charms."
"Of course," Molly agreed. "Are there any other charms you need me to cast on it?"
"There's a few," Ron admitted. "Wasn't going to trouble you with them."
"Was it because you didn't want to bother me or because you have someone else that could do them better?"
"The first, mum. League doesn't allow anything complicated so each of the charms gets removed and re-cast before each match."
"Point them out to me so I have time to practice them," Molly ordered. "It's usually a good idea to test things before letting them out into the world."
"Sure thing, mum," Ron agreed. "Good idea."
Luna walked into Anne's study with a pensive look on her face. She really hoped that the woman would be willing to help, she so rarely got an opportunity to solicit advice from an adult female.
"What is it, Luna?" Anne asked.
"Can I ask you a few things?" Luna asked hopefully.
"Sure," Anne agreed. "Have a seat."
"It's just, I was reading through some of Hermione's books and . . . it's all so confusing."
"Alright," Anne prompted.
"Well, is it true that . . ."
Phil found Harry hiding in the stables with the horses. It wasn't a surprise that the boy had made himself scarce, not after his prediction about the girls feeding each other's madness had turned out to be accurate.
"Trying to avoid my daughter?" He asked with a grin.
"Trying to get to know the ponies so there's a bit of trust built up before the next polo game," Harry replied. "The fact that this allows me to coincidentally avoid getting caught up in Hermione's madness is a bonus."
"Speaking of polo, you up for a game in a day or two?" Phil asked hopefully.
"Sure," Harry agreed. "Whenever."
"Wonderful, I'll leave you to it then." Phil walked out of the stables and back to the house and the madness it contained.
Anne had a dazed smile as her conversation with Luna wound down. The things the little blonde had wanted to know and the details she'd been curious about were a bit more . . . earthy than she'd expected.
"Let me have a word with your father," Anne offered. "With his permission, I will do my utmost to answer every question you have."
"Okay," Luna agreed. "Thank you, Anne."
"Happy to help, Luna," Anne said warmly. After she was sure the girl was gone, she threw open the door that connected her study with her husband's.
"I just had the most interesting conversation with young Luna," Anne announced as she walked into Phil's office.
"She got into Hermione's romances," Anne said simply.
"I thought those were all for the maids and any that may have slipped into our daughter's stack of reading material by accident and not certainly not by intention and that we had best just put them out of our minds and that she would be sure they were correctly filed in the future and there was no need to trouble ourselves about them," Phil said dryly, repeating his daughter's stuttered excuses. "Because our daughter would never dream of reading something so frightfully common and so completely devoid of literary or educational merit as an upstairs downstairs romance novel."
"That's the story we're supposed to believe anyway," Anne agreed.
"So what did she want to ask you?"
"She wanted to know if it was true that powerful men kept a girl on the side," Anne replied. "She then asked if Harry was powerful enough."
"What?" he choked.
"Seems that she's more than a bit terrified that she'll loose her friends and was wondering if becoming his mistress might be a way to keep hold of them," Anne said softly. "Poor thing got really worked up about it when I talked to her and I got the impression that Harry and Hermione were her only friends in the world."
"And I admitted that my grandfather had a friend on the side, then I made it a point to tell her that my grandmother did her very best to pretend that the other woman didn't exist. She said that wasn't how it worked in the book and then the conversation got a bit personal," Anne giggled. "All I'll say is that she's a very imaginative girl and Hermione has some very smutty upstairs downstairs romances. Master of the house with the maid while the mistress is tumbling a stable boy, that sort of thing." She made a mental note to embarrass her daughter with a conversation about the aforementioned novels at some point in the future.
"I trust that things are taken care of," Phil said hopefully.
"I've convinced her that her friends aren't going anywhere and that any talk of marriage or . . . uh . . . other arrangements should wait until they were all well out of school," Anne reported. "To be honest I'm fairly sure that she had no idea what a friend on the side did, I'm almost certain she didn't understand what the books had to say about the matter, just that it would give her a chance to stay with the others which was something she knew she badly wanted to do."
"I'm going to have a talk with her father," Anne continued. "If that pans out the way I hope it does, I'm going to have a long conversation with Luna about the ways of the world." And she was going to be sure Hermione was included in that conversation weather the girl liked it or not and not just because it gave her a chance to embarrass the girl over her choice of smutty reading material.
"Have fun with that," Phil laughed.
"Have fun with Harry," Anne retorted.
"I'm going to have a talk with the girls," Anne explained. "While I do that, you be sure to answer any questions Harry might have."
"I'll be sure to let him know that I'm here," Phil promised. "Though I think it'd be in the lad's best interests if I pointed him to your elder brother."
"Only if you want him to bed all the girls in his school and half the teachers by the end of the year," Anne giggled.
"I'm not the one that would have to deal with the paternity suits."
"You are the one that would have to deal with Hermione's broken heart," Anne retorted. "Which would certainly result from getting that sort of talk from my brother."
"I'll take care of things with Harry, you go use the fire to talk with Luna's father," Phil replied, privately agreeing with his wife's statement.
"I'll let you know how things go."
"You do that," he agreed.
Anne walked downstairs, tossed a handful of floo powder into the fire and prepared for what she feared would be a difficult conversation. It wasn't. Luna's father, it turned out, was almost pathetically grateful to have a woman available to steer his daughter through the difficult curves explaining that while he'd done his best, he really had no idea of how to raise a daughter or a son for that matter. Poor man was completely lost without his dear departed wife.
"Look at the time," Anne said suddenly, hoping to end a conversation that had gotten much too personal. "I'm afraid I really must go."
"If you must," Luna's father agreed. "Again, I must thank you for what you're doing for my little Luna."
"Happy to help, Luna's almost one of the family at this point."
"Goodbye," he said.
"Bye." The flames flared once before going back to normal. "I am never going to get used to that," she muttered to herself. Her head swiveled around till she found one of the servants. "Could you please have the girls meet me at the table."
"Should I announce that dinner is going to be early, ma'am?" The maid asked.
"Give me five minutes alone with the girls and then go ahead," Anne agreed.
"Yes, ma'am." It didn't take long for the maid to find the two girls, as they were reading, unsurprisingly, books in the library. "Your mother wishes to speak with you and Luna in the dining room, Ms. Hermione."
"Thank you, Sally." Hermione yawned. "Come on, Luna."
"Right behind you, Hermione," Luna agreed. The two girls walked down the stairs to the dining room and took their seats at the table.
"You wanted to speak with us, mum?" Hermione asked.
"Yes," she agreed. "I need you to save an hour or two tomorrow afternoon."
Hermione glanced at Luna. "Okay, mum."
AN: Another light crossover in this chapter. One that builds on some things in previous chapters in some ways. At least one additional reference. Neither need be known to enjoy the story but feel free to feel smug if you recognized them and no one else did. Better than feeling old since neither reference is anything close to recent.