Chapter 3: Lunaraker
Bond smiled happily as he lined up his sights with the head of another wannabe warlord in some arse-backwards country. This particular bit of human refuse was espousing more genocidal politics, and MI-6 decided that Britain, and by proxy the rest of the world, would be better of without him. 'Now this is an assignment that defines job satisfaction.' He relaxed. 'Just move a bit more to the left…'
Click. 'Bugger,' James thought as the barrel of a pistol rested itself lightly against the back of his head.
"Mr. Bond, we have to stop meeting this way," said an entirely too familiar woman's voice.
"Good day to you, Mrs. Granger. Is there any particular reason why you are pointing a gun to my head?" He asked.
"Well, it might be the fact that you have a certain somebody under the sights of your rifle." She replied, amused. "I can't let you shoot him."
"Don't tell me you're working for that miserable bastard." James said; a bit worried. He was fond of his cranial matter, and would rather it not wind up splattered on the sidewalk.
"Perish the thought. I have standards, you know," Mrs. Granger replied slyly. "You know, Mr. Bond, you are entirely too relaxed for a man under a gun. Whatever do you have up your sleeve?"
"Mrs. Granger, I should have you know a true professional never tells; however, I'll have to admit that I'm planning on seducing you."
"Oh Mr. Bond, I would dearly love to see you try." Mrs. Granger replied coyly.
James' retort was cut off by the sound of a man laboring under a heavy load. "Mr. Bond, flirting with my wife! What do you have to say for yourself?" The Dentist asked him wryly.
"I have excellent taste?" James quipped.
"Touché!" The Dentist replied. "I see my lovely wife has managed to stymie your plans on a bit of pest control?"
"Well, yes, and I'd like to get back to it, tight schedules, armed guards, and all that." Bond said wearily.
"We can't have that, Mr. Bond," The Dentist replied. "You see, my dear daughter whipped up this most ingenious little gadget, and she's been itching to see it used in real-world environs. So, if we don't test it out here, most likely she'll just find some way of trying out on young Mr. Potter."
"Is that a threat?" James asked softly.
"Oh, no, it's more of an observation based on the previous behavior." Mr. Granger replied jovially. Bond found himself agreeing. He heard a heavy load being gently set on the rooftop. "Now," he said in far more dangerous tones, "if you ever flirt with my wife again I'll rip off your balls with a pair of pliers and keep them in my office as a trophy. That, Mr. Bond, is a threat."
"No need to worry, Mr. Granger, because if what they say is true that all daughters grow up to be their mothers then…"
"I'd suggest you don't finish that sentence while I have a gun to your head," Mrs. Granger interrupted coyly.
"Speaking of the matter, if I put down the rifle, would you mind pointing the gun elsewhere?" James asked.
"I don't suppose that would hurt," she said. Bond slowly put the rifle down, lamenting the loss of a perfect shot. He felt he barrel withdraw. He turned and looked at the pair. The Dentist appeared to be fiddling with an absolutely mish-mash combination of a miniature naval cannon, quartz crystals, copper wires, tubing, and bloody glass bottles containing what appeared to be giggling fairies.
"What the bloody hell is that thing?" James asked.
"I haven't the foggiest," Mr. Granger replied, "but it's supposed to be rather impressive if it works."
Bond eyed it with some trepidation. "You know, these sorts of contraptions never work out the way they are supposed to, usually to the misfortune of whoever's about it."
Mrs. Granger nodded slowly. "We've tried to explain these sorts of things to our daughter, but she's stubborn that way." She laughed lightly. "Really, you wouldn't believe the things she tried to do before she went to Hogwarts. Dear, remember the time she tried to kidnap the President of the United States and hold him for ransom?"
Her husband scratched his head. "Was that the time with the lasers, or the time with the genetically-enhanced carnivorous land-sharks?"
"Land-sharks," she replied.
He chuckled. "Oh yes, took us ages to settle with the Secret Service. I think we grounded her for a month over that one."
"Right, well, I hate to disturb these touching memories," James said with a shudder, "but it appears that there's an influx of APC's and troops down there. I'm afraid we may have been sussed out."
Mr. Granger glanced over the ledge. "It appears you are correct. Well, if our daughters device doesn't work we may have to go with plan B." Mrs. Granger nodded, and pulled out a small black box from her purse. She flipped it open, and pressed a small button on the side. "Alright dear, our exit should be appearing shortly. Do… well, whatever it is that you are supposed to do to make that thing go."
Mr. Granger nodded. James watched worriedly as The Dentist ambled over to the monstrosity, pointed it vaguely in the direction of the target and his assembled protective detail, and pressed a prominent red button. The device shimmered, hummed, glowed, gibbered ('gibbered?' Bond thought. 'That's a new one.') and chugged, before falling silent. Bond noted that the pixies were no longer in their glass container.
"I don't think it worked." James said.
Mr. Granger's response was cut off by an unearthly wailing from the street. Mrs. Granger peered over the ledge and paled. "Oh, that is most unsanitary. Dear, remind me to ground our princess again. I do believe that goes against most laws of man and God."
Mr. Granger, against his better judgment, looked over the ledge once the wailing became interspersed with echoing growling and crunching. He turned a most unhealthy shade of green. "I agree."
Bond began nervously backing away from the edge of the building as he noticed slimy tentacles starting the creep over the gutters. "I don't suppose you'd mind company overmuch," he said as he gently discouraged one persistent pseudo-pod's exploration with the barrel of his rifle, "with your hopefully soon-to-be appearing exit?"
Mr. Granger smiled as the sound of a helicopter's blades grew rapidly closer. "Not at all, Mr. Bond, not at all. After all, we could be co-workers one day!"
James nodded. "Don't tell that to Harry, though, he might have a heart attack at the venerable age of twelve," he shouted over the engine noise.
Mrs. Granger quickly climbed up the ladder, followed by Mr. Granger and Bond. "I'll make you a deal," The Dentist shouted down at James while they clambered hastily up the rope, "I'll send you a picture of when I tell my daughter, if you send me one when you tell Mr. Potter!"
Safely in the cargo-hold of the helicopter, Bond offered Mr. Granger his hand. The Dentist pulled an over-sized hand-grenade from his jacket, pulled the pin, and dropped it out of the bay. "Mustn't leave evidence!" Then, he grasped James' hand in his own and pumped it fiercely. "We have a deal!" He bellowed out, the explosion covering his word. Mrs. Granger smiled softly. James noticed the words, "Boys will be boys," on her lips, but he couldn't hear her over the sound of the helicopter blades.
M stared down at Harry's beaten and bloodied form as the medics wheeled him away for treatment. "Agent Double o' Hex, what happened? You were supposed to be on a simple vacation!" She asked sternly.
Harry coughed. "It appears that Hermione discovered my location and took it upon herself to 'spice up a boring day' by siccing a pack of mutant aardvarks on me. Oh, but she won't have the last laugh. Oh no, events are already in order that will wipe that insufferably smug grin off of her lips… oh yes, she may have won that battle but the war will be mine!" Harry began laughing maniacally.
"Mr. Potter, you will stop that this instant!" M shouted crossly. "Maniacal laughter is unbecoming of an agent, and I won't tolerate such unprofessional behavior!" Harry immediately sobered. "Much better Agent Double O' Hex; now promise me that whatever revenge you cooked up won't cause another international incident. I've my hands full enough dealing with the French."
Harry couldn't meet her eyes.
"James," M's pretty blond secretary called out to him as he walked into the MI-6 main office. He noted she apparently had been chatting with the front desk receptionist before noticing his entrance. "M wants to see you in her office. She seemed quite… perturbed. You haven't done anything… naughty… again, have you?" She asked him coyly.
"Not that I know of, Moneypenny," Bond replied as he grinned charmingly at her, eliciting a faint blush. He paused for a second in thought, then sighed and shook his head. "I had nothing to do with the Dubai incident. I'll see what she wants," he said resignedly. He took the elevator to her office, and knocked on M's door.
"Enter!" M barked out. 'Oh dear, she does sound exceptionally pissed,' James thought worriedly. He opened the door and walked into her office. He noticed that M wore an especially stern expression, one reserved for agents who managed to create a particularly sticky situation for the agency. He'd faced that look more than a few times in his career.
"You wanted to see me?" He asked.
"Agent Double O' Seven, it is time you put a leash on your 'nephew's' pre-adolescent flirtation."
James swallowed. "Now, M, you know how boys will be boys and girls will be girls. It's perfectly normal for…"
"Agent Bond," M interrupted, "throwing rocks and putting gum in a girl's hair is 'perfectly normal.' Hacking into the NSA database and listing a girl, along with providing detailed information about her current location and itinerary, as a clear and present danger to the President's life whilst simultaneously hacking into the CIA's 'operations slush fund' to pay for a full mercenary operation is most certainly NOT!"
James chuckled. "Well, I'm certain he didn't have to fudge too many details on Miss. Granger…"
"That is not the point!" M said. Bond wryly noted that she didn't contradict his statement. "Furthermore, he also managed to place a hideously complex transfiguration layered with an illegal portkey charm onto her 'delicates,' the end result of which simultaneously transformed her into a baby panda and deposited her in the PRC zoo!" Bond snorted in barely restrained amusement. "James, this is not a laughing matter!"
Bond tried valiantly to smother his chuckles. "Of course not, M."
M glared sternly at her agent. "Mr. Bond, if they are doing these things now, can you imagine the devastation the pair will cause once they mature enough to have actual sexual tension?"
James paused for a moment, and then shuddered. "I see your point. So what do you expect me to do, spank him? Make him sit in the corner? Take away his Nintendo?"
M glared at her subordinate. "No, Mr. Bond, I've a much better idea. I expect you to act like a responsible guardian and have a discussion with Mr. Potter about how a proper young man acts around girls. One sufficient to correct his behavior regarding Miss. Granger."
James' laughs died mid-chuckle. "You mean you want me to have 'The Talk' with the boy?"
M nodded sternly.
"Bloody Hell! I doubt his balls have dropped! I don't think that…"
M cut him off, "Agent Double O' Seven! You will curtail your charge's behavior! That is an order! I've just finished communications with the Grangers and they also understand and agree about the severity of the situation! This last little escapade nearly caused not one but two international incidents! I will not tolerate any more! Our government has had to appease not only the French Ministry but the American's as well! This ends here!"
"The French Ministry as well?" Bond asked. M nodded. James sighed. "Very well then, I'll sit Harry down for 'The Talk.' Is there anything else that you want me to do?"
"You will keep a closer eye on your charge and ensure that he fully understands that this can never happen again," M ordered. "I will leave any further discipline of Mr. Potter's to your discretion."
Bond nodded, understanding the severity of the matter. "I'll do so. So, where is young Mr. Potter now?" Bond asked.
"In the medical wing, recovering from a… tongue lashing." M said wryly.
Bond raised his eyebrow at his superior's euphemism. "You shot him?"
"No, Mr. Bond," M said sternly, "although I admit I was sorely tempted." Her mouth drew into a tight line. "It appears that his actions were in response to an 'unprovoked' attack on his person by a number of genetically modified class-W aardvarks with pre-conditioned feeding-aggression triggers responding solely to his pheromone signature." M's lips were thin, but the corners of her mouth twitched upwards. "They apparently were also granted significant enhancements to the length, flexibility and tensile strength of their tongues."
Bond swallowed his laughter. "You call that pre-adolescent flirtation? Why there are people who'd pay-"
"Out!" M interrupted loudly, pointing at the door. "You have your orders!"
James hastily stood and left M's office, wisely keeping his laughter to himself.
Hermione grumbled internally while rolling her eyes. She nodded mindlessly as the no-necked cookie-cutter agent lectured her about why it was not appropriate for young ladies to hire mercenary outfits with CIA money, especially for the purposes of destabilizing the U.S. government. 'Just like Ms. Chaucey, my fourth-grade teacher, going on and on about "Not playing God" and "Creating man-eating mutant kittens is both morally wrong and exceedingly poor taste." Unimaginative Philistines stifling my natural intellectual talents, the lot of them! Regardless, it should be quite obvious to the Americans that I had nothing to do with the mess, considering I'd never establish an alibi by hiding myself as an exhibit in a PRC zoo!'
"Are you paying attention, Miss. Granger?" The agent asked.
"Yes sir," she replied, taking a drink from her water cup. Hermione swished the water around in her mouth a few times before swallowing. She still hadn't managed to get the taste of bamboo out.
'The last round may go to you, Harry, but the game's not finished yet. Oh no, it is most certainly not over!'
"Young lady, cease that line of thought this instant! I know signs of impending maniacal laughter!" The agent barked, interrupting her thoughts.
Hermione nodded contritely, and re-focused on appearing properly remorseful. She idly noted that the urge to play with old tires still haunted her.
James walked into his 'nephew's' hospital room. Harry lay covered in bandages, furiously typing away at a laptop he'd somehow procured. Bond noticed that the boy was so engrossed in whatever he was doing that Harry didn't notice his entrance. James walked over and gently took the computer from his ward. He ignored Harry's sputtered protests as he perused the document in front of him.
"Now this is a bloody vicious series of events you've cooked up." James looked down at Harry and raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "This is certainly a more… aggressive… set of plans than one would expect for a simple recruitment operation."
Harry flushed. "Sod recruitment, it's more of a contingency."
Bond shook his head. "Harry, this has to stop. M was most," he paused, as if searching for the correct term, "displeased with your previous contingency. I'd rather not see her reaction to this one." He looked around quickly, and then dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "How did you manage it, anyhow? You've hardly the clearance to access the equipment you'd need to pull off a stunt of that magnitude." Harry mumbled something unintelligible. Bond shook his head. "I'm sorry, Harry, I didn't catch that."
Harry looked abashed. "I sort of appropriated your clearance."
"You what?" Bond shouted. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, massaging it between his fingers. "M was right," he muttered, "this has gone too far." He favored his charge with an appraising look. "Very well, Harry, I can see that you are starting to become a young man, and as such you need to be informed on the proper way to behave around the object of your affections."
Harry stared at his 'uncle' like he'd sprouted bushy brown hair. "Object of my affections? Have lost your bloody mind?"
Bond continued, ignoring Harry's outburst. "Now, Harry, there comes a time when a young man begins to notice that girls are," he paused dramatically, "different; different in a most interesting manner." He pulled a chair over beside Harry's bed and sat down. "Since I'm your guardian, it's best that I'm the one to explain these special," again pausing dramatically, "facts of life to you."
Harry paled. "Oh dear Merlin, you don't mean…" Harry's voice trailed off.
James nodded. "Yes, Harry: The Talk."
"Kill me now," Harry whispered.
Bond smiled, ignoring his 'nephew's' discomfort. "You're a lucky man. You have the opportunity to learn from a true master about art of seducing and satisfying a woman." Bond's smile widened and he spoke with absolute confidence. "First, there are the Signs." He gave the word 'Signs' an almost religious reverence. "Do you think it coincidence that young Miss. Granger attacked you with creatures both symbolically phallic and extraordinarily orally gifted? When a woman looks at you with…"
Harry shrunk into his covers, his hopes of avoiding this particular discussion crushed like a first-year Slytherin under Graag's club.
Hours later, his 'uncle' left him, promising to continue their discussion when he returned the next day. Harry shuddered, causing him to wince at the spikes of pain his movement drew from his injuries. 'Merlin's cancerous left testicle, I will never want to do… that… with Hermione!'
Hermione, curled up underneath her blankets and clutching her stuffed platypus (she wouldn't touch her old favorite: a plush, overstuffed panda), fumed in a combination of embarrassment and outrage. Not a half-hour after her parents rescued her from more lectures by irate foreign officials; they decided the time had come to have a serious talk with their only daughter about 'the delicate dance between a man and a woman'. It wasn't a clinical affair, either; her parents, knowing that she'd researched the physiology around the reproductive organs years before, instead chose to educate her on the far more subjective elements of the human mating ritual. The fact that they continually used Harry as a point of reference and/or example didn't help her composure in the least. Neither did their ill-concealed amusement.
She shuddered and clutched her platypus tighter, while ruthlessly suppressing a vague craving for bamboo shoots. 'Merlin's cancerous left testicle, I will never want to do… that… with Harry!'
The rest of the summer passed relatively uneventfully for Harry. His 'uncle' expressly forbid Harry from leaving the apartment without an escort, although he still allowed him the freedom to work and train in the main MI-6 headquarters. Lacking anything better to do with his time, Harry completed his summer assignments and read up on the following year's texts. He was dismayed by the sheer number and frankly fictional accounts of his DADA texts. 'This Lockheart fellow appears to be full of himself,' Harry mused, 'but if he's not talking out his arse, I might actually learn something useful.' Regardless, he learned a few more tricks from the various black-ops personnel, and found himself loaded with a new grab-bag full of interesting devices from Q.
"Don't worry too much about M," Q told him, "she has this unfortunate tendency to get flustered whenever the words 'international' and 'incident' are spoken around her. Especially when used in conjunction with, or worse adjacent to, one another. She'll forget all about it once Bond returns to his normal tricks, and you'll go back to being on her good list again." Harry nodded, while shrinking packing up the assorted gadgets handed to him.
Finally, time came for Harry to leave the apartment for Hogwarts. Just as he was about to activate the portkey, a loud cracking noise signaled the arrival of an unexpected guess. Harry flung himself to the left and drew his wand. He found himself holding a very flustered house-elf at wand point.
"Oh, Mister Harry Potter sir is a great wizard indeed." The curious creature stuttered out. "Dobby cannot let Mister Harry Potter sir goes to Hogwarts! He is in great danger, he is!"
Harry stopped, and scratched his head. "Er… I'm fairly used to danger, so I believe I'll be on my way now, but thank you for the warning."
The frantic elf tugged on its ears. "Oh no Mister Harry Potter sir, Dobby can't let you do that!"
Harry shook his head and grabbed his portkey. "Well, Dobby, I'm afraid you don't have much say in the matter. I'd suggest you leave now."
Dobby shook his head. "Dobby is trying to save you!"
Harry sighed. "Fine, right, whatever." He waved off the house-elf's concern. "I can take care of myself, you know." Harry shrugged and waved at the pitiful creature with a smile. "Goodbye, Dobby," he said as he activated the portkey, vanishing from the room.
Dobby slammed his head against the floor repeatedly. "Oh, Dobby must be punishing himself! Dobby has done a bad thing, and Dobby still didn't stop Mister Harry Potter sir!" With one last mournful self-inflicted concussion, Dobby snapped his fingers and disappeared.
Harry boarded the Hogwarts express, shaking his head over the elf's antics. He plopped himself down in an empty compartment and waited for the rest of the students to arrive. About a half-hour later, he saw the first trickle of students arriving at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, mostly Ravenclaw upperclassmen and the occasional over-excited first-year. He scanned the crowd through the window, and was releaved at the absence of a familiar mass of hair. 'Perhaps she'll decide to sit somewhere else for this ride. I really don't think I can face her right now, considering that bloody Talk my 'uncle' gave me.'
His thoughts were disturbed by the sound of the compartment door opening. He sucked in his breath, then released it in relief as he noticed a small blonde girl with wide and unfocused eyes walk in.
"Oh, hello," the girl said airily. "Do you mind if I sit here?"
Harry shrugged. "Go ahead." He couldn't see any harm in it. He noticed her struggling with her trunk. "Oh, sorry, let me help you." Harry stood up and helped the slight girl set her trunk up in an overhead compartment. "So, is this your first year?"
The girl nodded. "Oh yes, but daddy's told me all about Hogwarts, including its dirty little secrets." She talked about it in the same way one discusses the weather.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "It's dirty little secrets?" He grinned. "You'll have to tell me all about them on the trip."
She smiled and looked slightly to the left of him. "I won't have to, but I would like to, if you don't mind."
Harry blinked. "Um, right. So, I'm Harry Potter. You are?"
"I think I'll be Harry Potter too, if you don't mind? It looks like fun," the girl replied.
"Um… sure. Er, who were you before you decided to be Harry Potter too?" He asked, while thinking: 'Just smile and nod and back away slowly from the crazy person, Harry.'
"Luna Lovegood, daughter of the world-renowned investigative journalist Xenophillius Lovegood," she answered blithely.
"Oh… um… I'm sorry, I don't think I've ever heard of him." Harry said.
Luna smiled. "I wouldn't have expected you too. You aren't a world."
Harry's confused retort was cut short by interjection of an all-to-familiar voice.
"His ego is certainly large enough to qualify," Hermione interrupted snarkily. Harry didn't bother hiding his groan as she casually deposited her trunk in an overhead compartment and sat down next to him. Harry scooted closer to the window. Hermione ignored his retreat and smiled at the blonde girl. "Hello, I'm Hermione Granger. Are you a first year?" Luna nodded. "What's your name?"
"Harry Potter," she said happily. Harry didn't bother hiding his grin at Hermione's nonplussed expression.
Hermione blinked a few times in confusion. Finally, her eyes lit up in understanding, and she gave Luna a very sympathetic look. "I'd heard lots of magical children were named after Harry, but I'd never thought that anyone would be cruel enough to name their daughters after him." Harry sniggered. Hermione huffed. "Honestly Harry, it's not funny. Think about the childhood the poor girl had, how would you like to be named Lily?"
"Why that would be lovely!" Luna exclaimed happily. She looked over at Harry. "Don't you think so Lily?"
Hermione sniggered. "I quite agree. I think Lily is a wonderful name for him."
Luna beamed. "Well it's only fair he has a new name now, considering how I decided to be called Harry Potter for now." Hermione stared at her in confusion. "Well, I used to be Luna Lovegood," the girl explained patiently, "but I decided that I'd avoid an attack from the Leather-lipped Snorklepsies."
Hermione looked at Harry and mouthed, "Leather-lipped Snorklepsies?" Harry shrugged.
"Um, there's no such thing as Snorklepsies," Hermione said in strained tones, "leather-lipped or not."
Luna cocked her head and considered the girl sitting on the other side of the compartment. Finally, Luna gave Hermione a deeply pitying look as she reached out and patted Hermione's hand consolingly. "I see the Ministry's elite squad of Rowling Dumdingers has managed to brainwash you into becoming a mindless zombie parrot like the rest. If left untreated you could find yourself waxing rhapsodic over washing the underpants of Red-Crested Dooshieprat; you must seek treatment, cleanse your poisoned mind and skip happily amongst the sparkly Rorschach's Bingblots of truth." Hermione looked like she was somewhere in-between bewilderment and outrage. Luna looked over to Harry. "Don't you agree, Lily?"
Harry decided to ignore his new nick-name in favor of rattling his nemesis. "I certainly do," he replied sagely. Luna gave him a dreamy smile.
Hermione sputtered a bit before managing to regain focus. "Honestly! How can you say that, I mean, how do you know? I mean…" It was obvious to Harry that Hermione hadn't quite re-booted her brain.
Luna smiled dreamily (Harry noted she seemed to do that a lot) and pulled a newspaper. "Oh, my father, Xenophillius Lovegood, or is it Xenophillius Potter for now," Luna mused absently, "is a world-renowned investigative journalist and the owner slash head editor of The Quibbler." Luna said 'The Quibbler' in the same reverent tones the devout give gods and politicos give poll results. "The Quibbler is the foremost antidote to the diarrhea the Daily Prophet spatters about."
Hermione eyed the paper like it was a marriage offer from Malfoy. "And I suppose it tells us all about leather-lipped snorklepsies?"
Luna shook her head. "Oh, no, not this paper. That was last month's special edition."
Harry was almost scared to ask. Almost. "So, what's in this paper?"
Luna smiled. "Well we haven't decided on a proper name for them yet, although I favor lash-tongued snarkvaards. Father thinks that they are the devilish product of cunning transfiguration by an up and coming Dark Lord. While I personally agree with the up-and-coming Dark Lord theory, I think they are actually the combined product of Muggle genetic science and advanced charmed work." She continued, oblivious to the stunned looks on Harry and Hermione's faces. "Anyhow, we recently uncovered evidence that they were used in some sort of attack this summer at an undisclosed French beach." Luna showed them a picture of one of the creatures, misinterpreting their sharp inhalations as horror. "Oh, they may look ugly to the unenlightened, but from an aesthetic viewpoint they neatly symbolize the blossoming awareness of a virginal girl fumbling towards true womanhood." Hermione's face turned a sickly shade of green, making Harry wonder if his own had done the same. Luna blithely continued her dialogue. "Now, there was a hasty cover-up, which less illuminated people attribute to the fact that the attack occurred in the presence of Muggles. Father disagrees, noting the presence of muggle agents." She pointed to another photo revealing an MI-6 extraction team carrying Harry's battered body onto a helicopter. Fortunately, his face and other features were blocked by the frantic crew. "Additionally, there's the further indication of a world-wide conspiracy. Almost immediately after the attack, the American Secret Service went on high alert. Even more damning, the alert coincided with the mysterious appearance of what can only be called an exceptionally bushy panda cub in a PRC zoo," Luna said, showing Harry and Hermione a picture of the panda. It was definitely over-qualified for term bushy, mused Harry. More like 'Hermione-esque.' He wondered if that was a real word, and if not, what he'd have to do to make it one. "And of course the tension vanished from the Americans at the exact moment the panda cub vanished from the zoo as mysteriously as it'd appeared. Strangely, PRC Minister of Magic Hung Lo expressed no outrage, even though pandas are a protected species." Luna looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Perhaps the cub's over-exuberant fur offended his sensibilities? Both he and his evil doppelganger Lo Wang are notoriously traditional."
Harry and Hermione stared at the girl. "How did you find all that out?" Harry stuttered out a moment before Hermione.
"I told you, my father is a world-renowned investigative journalist," Luna said as if that explained everything. Harry and Hermione turned to stare at each other for a moment, and then both looked to the blonde girl.
"How much for a subscription?" They asked simultaneously.
Harry and Hermione spent the rest of the train ride reading over past issues of The Quibbler that Luna gleefully provided. All thoughts of revenge were banished by the shockingly accurate (albeit oddly named) creatures and accounts published.
"Merlin," Hermione muttered, "they've even got a bit here on the Dubai incident."
Harry pulled himself away from the article on the vanishing panda cub (which the zoo-keepers dubbed Péng Sōng – Pinyin for 'fluffy') to look at Hermione. He pictured the panda in her place, and silently vowed to have the article framed. "The Dubai incident? My uncle mentioned something about that."
"I'm sure he would," she said absently, "seeing as he was there."
"And?" Harry asked, glancing over her shoulder in an attempt to read the article.
"Oh, nothing, it was just a partially successful field test, that's all," Hermione mused. "Unexpectedly uncontrolled, but I should have the kinks worked out for the next run. Shame there isn't a picture."
Harry decided to drop the subject. He was grateful she hadn't tested it out on him. He picked up another issue of The Quibbler after gently setting down the one he was currently reading. He made sure to keep the paper open to the picture of Péng Sōng, having grown quite fond of it. The sight of Hermione as a fluffy panda cub sitting on the other side of the planet filled him with warm fuzzies.
"Definitely framing that picture," Harry murmured to himself.
"What was that?" Hermione asked curiously.
"Oh, nothing, just talking to myself," Harry replied innocently. 'I wonder how much I'll have to pay for the originals,' he mused as the train chugged towards Hogwarts.
Harry and Hermione separated from Luna as she left to follow the rest of the first-year students. He shuddered as he saw the skeletal winged horse-things tethered to the carriages. He turned to Hermione. "Why do you suppose they've got such ugly buggers hitched to the wagons?"
Hermione stared at him like he'd sprouted blond hair and a dreamy expression. "What do you mean, Harry? Those are horseless carriages drawn by magic. There's nothing tethered to them."
"No, I can quite clearly see that they are pulled by those ugly buggers right there," Harry replied. "Can't you see them?"
"Sure they are Harry," Hermione said condescendingly. "I think maybe you need to see Madame Pomfrey when we get to Hogwarts. Obviously you've suffered an overdose of Miss. Lovegood, or it's contagious."
Harry shook his head and entered the carriage. Hermione hopped in after him. "Why do you insist on following me everywhere?" He asked her.
"Because it bothers you," she replied with a smug smile.
"I still hate you, you know."
Hermione ignored him while muttering something about bamboo and old tires under her breath. Before the carriages started moving, they were joined by Ron and Neville. The three boys talked about Quidditch while Hermione buried her nose in one of the DADA texts and the carriage carried them into the next semester.
A\N: I am… amazed. Utterly stupefied, even. I never thought that my little story would be so popular. Thank you for all the reviews.
Oh, and to those of you who suggested that I don't strictly follow canon… argh! Originally I was stumped on what I was going to do for years two and, especially, three because the major plot points of both would be quickly resolved by our erstwhile heroes. Now, I've got so much bubbling around in my head its taking me even longer to write it all out.
Lucky you, I suppose.
Yeah, I know this is short, but I've taken so bloody long getting everything written out that I'd rather not wait another month before updating. Unfortunately, I'm going to break my one-chapter-per-year rule in order to speed up updates. This covers the summer before Harry's second year, as well as the trip to Hogwarts.