Or, Twenty-One Letters to the Order of the Unexpectedly Expositive Kestrel
Epilogue – "How was everyone's summer?"
The thirty-first of August began as a beautiful, sunny morning and only warmed up throughout the day. Hermione rather thought the weather should have been more ominous, to fit with her sense of impending trouble.
Just after lunch, Kingsley, Remus, Tonks, Moody, and Bill left to pick up Harry from Privet Drive.
They were all hesitant as they left, uncertain as to what, exactly, they would find.
About ten minutes after they left, Hermione was waiting for Luna and Ginny to get the towels the Headmaster had conjured for them out of their sand fort when it collapsed on top of them.
For two seconds her heart stopped, worried they might have been hurt - then Ginny sat up coughing and spitting out sand, followed by Luna's hand punching triumphantly through the sand pile like a zombie out of a grave. Hermione burst out laughing at them.
Ginny glowered at her. "This isn't funny," she fumed. "There is, for the umpteenth time this summer, sand in my pants. When Harry gets here, I am going to BURY HIM."
Hermione just kept giggling, especially when Luna managed to sit up, sand falling from her and still looking oddly like she was rising from the grave.
Ginny gave her a look, somehow not seeing what was so funny. "Shut up, Hermione."
Luna started giggling then, albiet through a mouthful of sand, which only set Hermione off further. Eventually, even Ginny cracked a smile, and by the time a very confused Ron and Neville wandered over to join them, all three were laughing.
"What's so funny?" Ron asked.
"And what happened to the sand fort?" Neville added, staring at the huge pile of sand and sand covered beds.
"Fort collapsed," Hermione managed to get out.
"Got buried," Ginny continued, gasping for breath.
"I was a zombie!" Luna said brightly, before dissolving further into laughter.
Ron and Neville shared a look. Neville shrugged. "Guess you had to be there."
Eventually the three girls managed to compose themselves (though they were very pointedly avoiding looking at one another or at the collapsed sand fort), and they, along with the boys, started walking down the beach to 'kitchen rock', as it had been dubbed by Arthur.
"I wonder how long it will take for them to collect Harry?" Ron wondered as they walked.
"Anywhere from ten minutes to ten hours, probably," Ginny said. "Knowing Harry."
"Is it just me," Neville said through a yawn. "Or is the beach shrinking?
"Oh dear," Luna murmured. "Harry won't get to see the pretty seaside."
Ginny yawned too, setting off Ron and Hermione. "And I think I'm about to get more sand in my pants." She promptly fell face forward into the sand, letting out a snore.
The others followed not long after.
Hermione awoke sprawled across a couch in the living room off the kitchen in Grimmauld Place, and smiled. "Hello Harry."
Harry, who was perched on the arm of the chair across from her, grinned. "Hello Hermione." He glanced down at Ginny, who was still asleep in the chair. "I didn't know she snored so loudly."
"I wouldn't let her hear you say that,' Hermione warned. "She doesn't take it well."
"Duly noted. Is there sand in your hair?"
"Don't pretend you had nothing to do with it."
"I'm completely innocent."
"And I'm the tooth fairy."
"Oooh, really?" Luna asked, suddenly sitting up from the floor next to Hermione's couch. "I've been waiting so long to meet you!"
Ginny groaned sleepily. "I feel more annoyed than usual," she said, eyes still closed. "And it's not just my pants."
"What's wrong with your pants?" Harry asked, though from the way he slid off the arm of the chair and started backing away, he must have known.
Eyes snapping open, Ginny gasped. "YOU!"
Harry smiled nervously, still backing toward the kitchen. "Er, hello Ginny, how nice to see you?"
"You are so lucky the sand is all gone, Harry Potter," she growled. "I will get my revenge for this!"
"I wouldn't call it luck," Harry said lightly with a laugh. "But anyway, it's time for dinner and you three are the last to wake. If you're not quick, Ron will eat everything." With that, he darted into the kitchen, leaving the girls no choice but to join the rest of the household.
Once they were seated, Harry sent a beaming smile around the table. "So," he asked, helping himself to some roast potatoes. "How was everyone's summer?"
Hermione had to grab the back of Ginny's shirt to keep the other girl in her seat. A few chairs down, she could see Remus doing the same to Severus.
"Wonderful, my dear boy, and how was yours?" The smile Albus was bestowing upon Harry was just as cheerful as the boy's own. Both Hermione and Remus rolled their eyes and strengthened their grips.
"Absoultely fantastic, Headmaster," Harry replied without a trace of sarcasm. "Especially with Dudley out of the way."
"Your cousin wasn't down a bottomless pit," Bill sighed. "There was no such pit at all, and Dudley was sitting in his room playing video games when we picked you up."
"There was a hole," Tonks muttered to Hermione under her breath. "It was barely three feet deep, though."
"I filled most of the hole in once I pulled him out," Harry explained. His tone of voice was completely reasonable, which left most of those at the table the feeling they were reasoning with a madman.
"I am glad you enjoyed your summer, Harry," Molly said, piling more potato on his plate. "But I do hope you weren't too lonely."
"Oh no," Harry said with a laugh. "I mean I didn't spend much time with Uncle Vernon, and Dudley was otherwise occupied all summer, but until Aunt Petunia had to go away I spent plenty of time with her. Plus I had Luna to talk to."
That merited a pause. Severus and Ginny even stopped struggling.
"You... spoke with Miss Lovegood?" Minerva asked, frowning. "I never saw Hedwig take a return letter - in fact, she refused any attempts to give her one."
"That's right," Harry agreed, taking a mouthful of potato to try and appease Molly. After swallowing, he continued. "I didn't get any letters all summer bar my Hogwarts letter and my birthday gifts. But Luna and I were chatting a fair bit."
"Chatting," Hermione repeated faintly, suddenly remembering all the times Luna seemed to be conversing with the wall. "And how, exactly, did you pull that off?"
"A highly experimental telepathic link," Luna said dreamily. "It was ever so fun."
"A highly expermen- Harry, Luna, that sounds incredibly illegal and downright dangerous!"
Harry shrugged sheepishly. "Yeah..."
Hermione turned to Albus. "Much as they probably deserve it, they won't get in too much trouble over this, will they?"
Albus blinked and looked away. "Ah, Hermione, your concern is admirable. Rest assured that neither Harry nor Luna will be punished for their rather remarkable - and completely unique - feat of magic."
"Yes, we will never be able to repeat the results we accomplished," Luna said, sounding a little sad. "On the plus side, the Headmaster was so impressed that he has been my spell slave all summer."
Almost everyone remembered Luna asking for random objects or glittery additions to her bedding and being provided them by Albus with no questions asked.
Hermione and Severus, however, exchanged a vaguely horrified look as they came to a very different realisation.
"I have a question," Kingsley said, unknowingly delaying an explosion. "Before we start trying to work out everything else, where is Kreacher?"
Harry blinked. "Kreacher? He's been here all summer."
"We haven't seen him in ages, though," Bill said.
"Yes, you have," Harry said slowly, trying not to smile. "In fact, you've seen an awful lot of him."
"Oh dear lord no," Severus groaned.
"What?" Neville asked. "I don't get it."
"Elmer," Ron said, horror dawning across his face. "Kreacher is Elmer."
Remus just barely managed to catch the edge of Severus's sleeve as the other man tried once again to launch himself across the table, fingers twitching in a very strangle-y manner.
"Damn it Remus, just let me strangle him a LITTLE!"
"How long, exactly, is Kreacher going to remain a camel?" Fred asked.
George nodded. "Because we really do think this is an improvement."
Harry shrugged. "Who knows? A while, probably. I don't know a lot about Transfiguring House Elves."
"Then perhaps you should not have done so," Minerva said though clenched teeth.
"Oh, I didn't," Harry replied. "How could I have? I've been at Privet Drive all summer."
"Are you sure?" Charlie asked. "I mean, really, really sure?"
Harry stared at him. "Yes, Charlie, I'm very sure," he said, clearly and slowly in case Charlie had trouble understanding. "Privet Drive, all summer, admittedly eventful but no leaving whatsoever."
"You can't expect me to believe everything you put in your letters, Harry."
"Why not? They were the completely true chronicle of my summer, after all."
"If those letters of yours were anything but a very poorly disguised cry for help, I will eat-" Charlie paused. Harry and Luna were both leaning forward in their seats eagerly, eyes sparkling with amusement (and no small amount of madness). Charlie coughed. "Five chocolate frogs."
Harry and Luna both slumped back in their seats in disappointment.
"All right, I'll bite," Bill said, rolling his eyes at his brother's sudden change of heart. "If you didn't do it, and by 'it' I mean all of the large scale pranks this summer, who did?"
Before Harry or Luna could answer (as he was in the middle of an overly dramatic smirk and she had started to frown), Hermione spoke up, voice icy. "I believe Headmaster Dumbledore can answer that one." She shot the man a vicious glare.
Albus chuckled, a little nervously. "I'd prefer Harry to answer all the questions, my dear, as he is the one with the answers."
Severus, sufficiently distracted from trying to get away from Remus to maim Harry, snorted incredulously. "Lovegood already answered that one, Albus," he said. This cleared Luna's frown away.
"Luna said you had been her spell slave all summer," Hermione continued. "And Luna's known too much to be uninvolved. Given that she's also been in contact with Harry all summer, that explains why he seemed so much like he was behind it all."
Luna giggled a little. "Between the two of us, we really were behind it all, but Professor Dumbledore was kind enough to offer a few ideas and a lot of magic."
Hermione sniffed. "I am very disappointed in you, Headmaster."
"Wait, WHAT?" Moody exploded. "Albus, it was YOU THIS WHOLE TIME?"
Albus stopped feigning any kind of embarrassment or reluctance and beamed around the table happily. "Oh yes, and wasn't it such fun?"
Hermione clenched one hand around her fork and the other around Ginny's wrist (Ginny quickly went from struggling to attack someone - Headmaster, Harry, she wasn't picky - and just started trying to free herself from Hermione's overly strong grip).
"'Fun' is not the word I would use," Severus snapped.
Almost everyone else was caught in varying degrees of speechlessness, or at least a reluctance to speak as they had thought the summer rather fun.
"I will make you pay for this, Albus Dumbledore," Hermione said ominously. "Somehow."
"I look forward to it," Albus replied with a smile.
The next morning Hermione found herself standing on Platform Nine and Three Quarters, staring at the Hogwarts Express. Behind her, Molly was fussing over Ron and Ginny, and both Neville's Gran and Luna's father had arrived to see them off.
Harry stood next to her and slung an arm over her shoulders. "I have a good feeling about this year, Hermione," he said. "I think it's going to be great."
"Funnily enough," Hermione replied. "I have exactly the opposite feeling. I think you're going to cause unmitigated chaos wherever you go."
He grinned at her. "Well, yes, but it's going to be FUN."
Hermione gave in and smiled. "Yeah. I'm almost looking forward to it."
Well. That's it. We're done.
It took about ten years, but Dear Order is complete. I have nothing but gratitude and love for anyone and everyone who has taken the time to read this fic, especially those who left reviews, and those who have been reading along for years.
And while it feels a little like the end of an era, it's not really the end. There will be... A Sequel. The first chapter of which I have now posted. It should be fun.
Whether or not you'll join me there, thank you, from the fuzziest depths of my heart.
All my love,