Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers apply. I don't own Harry Potter or the Harry Potter universe, of course.
[Author's Note: Okay, so that was vastly longer than I expected it to be between chapters. My muse just, well, disappeared on this one for a while and I wrote other things instead. But it's returned, and I shouldn't be anywhere near so long updating this next time. Thank you for everyone who's come back to this.]
Chapter 15 – Easter in Ottery, Part I: In Loco Parental Guidance
March 29, 1996.
Harry Potter wiped the sweat off his forehead as he stepped off the Hogwarts Express, helping Luna carry her trunk. He had stuffed all that he needed for the holiday in a small piece of luggage – a few days worth of clothes and a few books – which he had placed on Luna's trunk, Hedwig's cage balanced atop it. Unlike his own minimal packing, Luna made it a point to bring all her possessions back from Hogwarts every time she returned home, lest they "disappear". That wasn't happening much lately, but it still made Harry's blood boil.
Lugging the trunk down the platform, they spotted Xenophilius Lovegood. He was wearing bright purple robes along with his navy blue Homburg, and his face broke into a wide grin when he saw his daughter. Harry and Luna quickened their pace, and soon she was hugging her father tightly.
"How was your term, Moonbeam?"
"Oh, quite good overall, I would say," she said, turning and smiling at Harry.
"And yours, Harry?"
"Well, parts of it were really great. Others..."
"Yes. Our interview made quite the impression," Mr. Lovegood said, casting a glance over Harry's shoulder, to where the Malfoys were greeting Draco. Harry looked and saw Lucius give Mr. Lovegood a dark look. Harry gave an equally dark look to Draco, who grinned mockingly at Harry.
"I should have expected them to go after Luna," Harry said.
"No, Harry, it's not your fault that the Prophet wrote that about me," Luna said touching his arm as she did so.
"Luna's right, Harry. It's not your fault – its the Malfoys' and the Prophet's."
"I wanted to write a letter to the editor to them, to say what a pack of lies that was. Umbridge wouldn't let me," Harry said.
"I know. I've been following the 'Educational Decrees'. The Ministry didn't used to just issue decrees at the drop of a hat. Even during the previous war against You-Know-Who, they did things properly. Of course, that may explain why they were losing the war so badly before your unexpected intervention," Mr. Lovegood said, nodding his head at Harry. "Unfortunately, I've had no success in getting a retraction of what those sorry excuses for journalists wrote about my Luna, and I'm in no position to sue them for libel."
"That's all right, Daddy," Luna said. "No one sensible believes the Prophet anyway."
Mr. Lovegood shook his head as he cast a Reducing Spell on Luna's trunk. "I wish that were true, Moonbeam. It would be so much easier if the only people who read the Prophet were fools, but that is sadly not the way the world works.
"We must be off, however. I have a meeting with a subscriber who says she's seen a nest of Crested Rock Voles near her home in East Yorkshire, and I'm sure Luna would want to come. Can you imagine? There's hasn't been a Crested Rock Vole sighting that far north since the Middle Ages!" Mr. Lovegood said excitedly as the three of them walked toward where the Weasleys were gathered. Harry saw Lavender standing with the Weasleys and smiling at Mrs. Weasley as Ron turned red, and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek as she left.
As he approached his neighbours, Mr. Lovegood tipped his hat to Mrs. Weasley, who gave Harry a huge hug, and then after a moment gave Luna a hug as well. "Well! Look at you, Luna. You've become quite the young lady. Can you come over Sunday for tea?"
"Oh, I'd like that very much, thank you," Luna said. She gave Harry a hug and said, "See you Sunday, Harry."
"I'll miss you," he said quietly.
Apparently it was not quiet enough, however, as while he was hugging Luna, he heard Ron snort with laughter, and then say, "Ow! Ginny, what was that for?" to which Ginny responded, "Oh like you weren't all treacly with Lav-Lav on the train."
Luna left with her father, and turned to give Harry a vigorous wave and a wide smile before the Lovegoods passed through the barrier to the Muggle part of King's Cross Station.
Impatiently motioning for Fred, George, Ron, Ginny and Harry to gather their things, Mrs. Weasley said, "Well, come on, everyone. We have to meet your father at the Leaky Cauldron in half and hour, then we're all going to floo home." She turned to Harry and said, "Luna's turned into a lovely young woman. She seems quite taken with you."
Ron barely suppressed a laugh at this. Ignoring him, Harry said, "I'm taken with her, too."
"Well I think you're very cute together. And Lavender seemed lovely as well. I've invited her for tea on the holiday as well." Mrs. Weasley shook her head slightly and smiled. "You're growing up. You all are." She was silent for a moment, and then said, "Well, come on everyone."
When they returned to the Burrow, Mrs. Weasley fed the family a hearty meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, with vegetables from the Weasley garden. The Hogwarts elves did a fine job at mealtimes, but Harry enjoyed Mrs. Weasley's cooking even more. Perhaps it was because of the love and enthusiasm with which she made her meals, and the concern she had that Harry eat and enjoy supper was just as much as she had for her own children. Harry knew that if Aunt Petunia had given him even a fraction of the love he felt from one simple meal with Mrs. Weasley, he'd be eager to return to Privet Drive from school rather than dreading the prospect.
Banishing that errant thought, he followed Mr. Weasley when he summoned him and Ron out to his shed. Harry caught the snickers of Fred and George, and with a shudder he realized what was coming. Luna had been right.
When they entered the shed, Mr. Weasley went over to his workbench and flipped a switch which caused a lantern to turn on. After his eyes got used to the sudden brightness, he noticed it was attached, crudely but apparently effectively, to a large battery sitting nearby.
"I've finally got an eckeltric lantern working!" Mr. Weasley said, pride filling his voice. "I only shocked myself six times, too. I must say, I'm almost ready to wire this whole shed, I think."
Harry thought it was nice to see Mr. Weasley look excited again. Ever since the summer, the man he had thought of as Ron's fun and happy father had been extremely somber. Getting attacked by Nagini at Christmas was no doubt a large part of it, but even before, Harry could tell the weight of Voldemort's return lay heavy upon his shoulders.
Arthur Weasley went over to a cabinet, pulled out three squat glasses, withdrew a bottle and poured about an inch of amber liquid into each of them. He gave a glass to each of the boys, and said, "Blake's Special Blend. Firewhiskey from Ireland. The Department of Intoxicating Substances says you're allowed to drink liquor with a parent or responsible adult. It's strong stuff, so you should sip it." Ignoring his own advice, Arthur tossed his glass back in one gulp, and poured himself another, which he then sipped.
Harry gingerly tried the drink. Other than butterbeer, which was very mild, Harry had never had alcohol, and didn't know what to expect. He had heard from Seamus that firewhiskey was even stronger tasting than Muggle whiskey, and it had a burning sensation completely different from its Muggle analogue, due to the magical nature of it. So when the first sip hit his mouth, he was completely unprepared for to numbness on his tongue, followed shortly thereafter by an intense heat, when spread down his throat to his stomach. When the sensation finally returned to his mouth, it left a burnt-wood and ash taste, that wasn't entirely unpleasant, but Harry knew it would take a while to get used to. He took another sip. It was better the second time... somewhat.
With a glance over at Ron, Harry saw that Ron was handling the firewhiskey better than him. He had obviously had it before.
"It's a drink for adults, and that's how I'm going to talk to you now – adult to adult. You're both growing up, and next year you'll both turn of age. You'll be entering a whole new world of responsibility. Not that you haven't had it before now, far more than children your age should ever have to face, but still..."
Mr. Weasley took another sip of the firewhiskey.
"Molly tells me you both have girlfriends now," he said. "That Harry, you're seeing Luna Lovegood, and Ron, that you're seeing a girl named Lavender."
Ron nodded. "Yeah, Lavender Brown. This is what she looks like," he said, pulling out his locket and opening it to show his father Lavender's picture.
"She's very pretty," Mr. Weasley said. "Your mother thought she was nice. I understand we'll be seeing both of them over the holidays. That should be fun for you both, I expect?" He took another sip. "I meant to have this conversation with you two years ago but after that business at the World Cup it completely slipped my mind. Ron, do you remember the talk we had with you when you were eleven about where babies come from?"
It had been months since Harry saw Ron turn quite that shade of red without Lavender somehow being involved.
"Yeah," Ron said, sheepishly.
"And Harry, I understand you recently had a talk with Sirius on this topic?"
Equally sheepishly, Harry affirmed this.
"Right. So do either of you have any questions about, well, how things work?"
Both boys shook their heads.
"Good. If you do, you can always ask me. Or talk to Bill, if that's less embarrassing. Sirius, too, I suppose, but he was quite the rake, and you probably shouldn't be taking advice from him about, well, girls. And things." Mr. Weasley took another drink, and poured himself a little more from the bottle.
"I remember being your age. Girls were new and exciting. You probably have friends who claim they've had all kinds of experiences with girls. Some may even be telling a bit of the truth. And I'm certain you both have had thoughts. And urges. Everyone goes through it as a teenager. Even your parents."
Ron had the misfortune to be sipping his firewhiskey at that point. Once his coughing an sputtering died down, Mr. Weasley continued.
"Girls get those urges, too. That's normal. But it means you'll be tempted to explore the physical side of... things. Holding hands, kissing, cuddling, or more."
"I'm supposed to tell you to wait until you're married before you go any further than cuddling. That you should wait until your wedding night. You really should, but I know that doesn't happen with most young people. It certainly didn't when I was your age.
"So I want to give you some advice. Love is powerful magic. Sex is powerful magic. With the right witch, it's... well, it's amazing. Life-changing. Life-creating. But it's powerful stuff. You should save it for someone you're completely, head-over-heels, over-the-moon in love with.
"When I was your age, Ron, I was certain your mother was the one for me. She was my first girlfriend, my only girlfriend. Once you meet perfection, why go out with anyone else?" he said, almost wistfully. "It's probably not the same with you two so far – I'd been going with Molly since I was thirteen. I understand you've only had your girlfriends for a couple of months.
"I can't control what you do. You're away from us for ten months a year, and unless things are vastly different from when I was your age, you're not under constant supervision. But my advice? Don't do anything until you know you're in love, and you know that love will last. Remember what I said about what it's like with the right girl. And whatever you do, whenever you do it, do it with care and respect. And with this charm," he said, as he proceeded to demonstrate the Contraceptive Charm to the two embarrassed boys.
"For heaven's sake, boys, practise that charm. Practise it in until you can cast it in your sleep. If you have any questions, just ask. Now go back into the house, boys."
As Harry left, he saw Mr. Weasley shake his head, and pour himself another firewhiskey. There was a certain relief in know that his version of the Talk was as painful for Mr. Weasley to give as it was for him to hear.
He devoutly hoped there wouldn't be a fourth version of it.
It took a moment for Harry to recognize the redheaded woman sitting next to Ginny and laughing with her at him and Ron when they returned from their talk with Mr. Weasley. She looked vaguely like a female Charlie Weasley, but there was something in her smile that tipped him off as to her identity.
"Wotcher, Harry! Ron! Did you and Arthur have a nice chat?" she asked in an innocent voice as Ginny laughed openly at them.
"Er, yes. Very informative," Harry said. "You wouldn't be able to obliviate the last half-hour for me, would you?"
"Molly and Arthur wouldn't like that," Tonks said.
"Plus, we'd just have to go through it again when Dad found out," Ron added. Wanting to change the subject, he asked Tonks, "So why do you look like that, anyway?"
"Why, I'm your distant cousin Polly Prewitt from America, Ron. Don't you recognize me?" she said in what Harry thought was a passable imitation of... well, some kind of American accent.
"Er, right, Tonks... I mean 'Polly'," Ron said.
"You can call me 'Tonks' here in the Burrow. Just not outside. No one's supposed to know I'm here – Moody's told everyone I'm on assignment in Northern Ireland, and you," she said, nodding to Harry, "are not supposed to have contact with Ministry personnel, what with you being so dangerously unbalanced and all."
"What about Dad?" Ginny asked.
"Everyone knows Harry's a family friend," Tonks said.
"So they don't hold it against him down at the Ministry?"
Tonks hesitated, before saying, "Well, I wouldn't say that, exactly."
On that unsettling note, Harry and Ron went up to Ron's room to settle in.
March 30, 1996
Mrs. Weasley had put all of the teens to work on Saturday morning. Fred and George were casting spells on the Burrow itself to shore up the structure and seal some leaks which had made themselves known over the winter, with Ginny assisting them by flying on her broomstick above the roof and directing the twin. Ron and Harry were instructed to de-gnome the garden, a task Ron took to with relish. Afterwards, they filled in the gnome-holes as best they could, and Harry and Ron tried to replant some vegetable seeds which Mrs. Weasley had left for them.
"Bloody gardening. Why can't the twins do this? They'd be able to use their wands, and we wouldn't have to get our hands in the dirt," Ron had grumbled.
"I don't mind," shrugged Harry. "I have to do this all summer back at the Dursleys', although Petunia only wants flowers. She would never eat something 'grown in the muck'. I don't know where she thinks food comes from. At least your mum appreciates the work we do."
And she did. Molly had prepared a huge lunch for the children of meats and rolls and pickles and jams, with some tarts for dessert, before insisting the teens go off and have fun. Harry and Ron spent the afternoon walking around the Weasley property and tossing a quaffle back and forth as they talked, while Ginny began writing a holiday potions essay Snape had assigned to 'keep the students out of trouble'. Harry and Ron planned on putting that off as long as possible.
Ron got an owl from Lavender at supper, which made Fred and Ginny tease him mercilessly, while George surreptitiously took his wand out, and cast a quick Summoning Charm to snatch the note out of Ron's hands.
"Dear Won-Won," read George, as Ron tried to grab it back, "I miss you already. I can't wait to see you again and hear you whisper in my ear ..."
"George!" interrupted Molly. "Give your brother back his letter!"
"But we're just getting to the good part, where she talks about his muscular – "
"Give me that back!" shouted Ron,
"You should just Accio it back," said Fred.
"Too bad you're not old enough," said George.
"Far too young," said Fred.
"Certainly too young to... how does Lav-Lav put it? 'Kiss her neck while running your manly hands through my – '"
"George! Give your brother back his letter," Arthur said. "And don't read things like that at the table."
"I'm not the one getting mash notes when the rest of us are trying to enjoy Mum's delicious Shepherd's Pie," George said.
"But you are the one sharing them with us," Ginny pointed out.
"Maybe you should have a talk with Won-Won, Dad," Fred laughed. "Teach him a few things he needs to know about girls."
"Your father already did. Now eat your food," Molly said, snatching the note and handing it back to Ron, who shoved it into his pocket while muttering darkly about what he would do to George.
March 31, 1996.
Harry, Ginny and Ron spent most of Sunday afternoon on their brooms – or in Harry's case, on Arthur Weasley's old Comet 180. Harry and Ginny were acting as Chasers to Ron's Keeper, trying to get the quaffle past him using a variety of tricks. Tonks was flying with them, acting as the third chaser while keeping an eye on the skies and ground around them. Ron was stopping about two-thirds of their shots, although Harry knew if he had his Firebolt that Ron wouldn't be doing nearly so well. Compared to Harry's broom, currently under Dolores Umbridge's lock and key, Mr. Weasley's broom was slow to accelerate, had a lower top speed, couldn't climb as fast, had a much wider turning radius, and had far worse handling.
But that didn't matter to Harry – he was flying! He'd almost forgotten that most basic of magical activities: the feeling of the wind through his hair, being high above the ground, under his own control, doing something he would have thought impossible before meeting Hagrid almost five years previous. Just the feeling of being of the air was exhilarating, and the view was amazing. He saw off over in the distance what Ginny had told him was Lovegood Tower – a strange looking house which looked like a chess rook, built on a small rise in a green meadow.
And then he saw a flash of blond hair coming down the pathway between the two properties. Harry signalled to Ron and Ginny for a time out, and flew down to meet his girlfriend who was skipping merrily toward the Burrow, carrying her white canvas bag.
"Hello Harry," she said cheerfully, as he flew down next to her and gave her a kiss.
"Woooo! Harry!" he heard Tonks shout from the across the field.
"Cut it out!" Harry shouted, smiling, as he gestured with his hand slash across his throat. Tonks just laughed at him.
"Who's that?" Luna asked.
"That's, er... Polly Prewitt One of Mrs. Weasley's cousins. From America. She's over here for the hols."
"It's always nice to have relatives visit. I wish my cousins from Ireland would visit more often, but they find Daddy odd, for some reason."
"How was Yorkshire? Did you and your dad find any of those voles?"
"We did, but it turned out they were just regular voles, rather than Crested Rock Voles. It's too bad – I've never seen a Crested Rock Vole. Daddy and Mummy saw one once, over in Kent, but that was long before I was born."
"I'm sorry your trip was a waste, Luna."
"Time spent with loved ones is never wasted, Harry. I was nice to go on a little trip with Daddy – I hope the trip to Sweden he's planning comes off. I haven't been camping since the World Cup last year, and that wasn't quite as peaceful as we would have liked."
"No, it wasn't," Harry agreed, remembering the mayhem when Death Eaters attacked the campground. "You're going to see Mrs. Weasley for tea?" At Luna's nod, he offered her a ride, so she hopped onto the Comet 180 with Harry, and wrapped her arms around his waist as he took off for the Burrow.
Unfortunately, Mr. Weasley's old broom was not the broomstick that Harry was used to in his Firebolt. With Luna's added weight, slight though she was, the Comet refused to go more than five feet off the ground, and the speed, well...
"We'd probably move quicker at a brisk walk," Harry said sheepishly.
"That's okay, I don't mind," Luna said, tightening her grip around his waist.
Thus encouraged, Harry "sped" Luna off slowly toward the Burrow, not minding Tonks and Ron's laughs as they went.
Molly Weasley looked out her kitchen and saw Harry and Luna Lovegood flying, very slowly, toward the Burrow, on Arthur's old broomstick from when they were students at Hogwarts. The old Comet was never much of a broom at the best of times, and she wasn't surprised it was moving so slowly. It didn't fly much faster when Arthur would take her for rides when they were no older than Harry.
She smiled, thinking of those long-ago days. Young love...
It was hard thinking of her boys (and Harry was always one of 'her boys' in her mind) as old enough to be in love. When she was a fifth-year student, she knew she would marry Arthur as soon as they graduated, but they were so much more mature at that age than Harry and Ron, who were still really just young boys. Weren't they?
That was part of the reason she wanted to meet with Luna... and with Lavender Brown. Both to meet the girls who had suddenly seemed to be so important to the boys, and to make sure that they weren't... getting ahead of themselves. Molly knew how teenagers could be – both from her own memories of that age, and from her experiences with her older children, Bill and Charlie in particular. Not that it should be a problem – Harry and Ron were good boys, and despite how they seemed to get in trouble and be, well, flexible with the rules, that was more due to their adventures being thrust upon them rather than anything else. Still, best to meet and get to know these girls, and if everyone knew that she was paying attention to them, well, so much the better.
The other part of the reason she wanted to talk with Luna in particular was to provide a maternal influence. The poor girl, losing her mother so young... after the accident, Molly had checked in on the Lovegoods regularly, making certain they were able to go on. Xenophilius was completely devastated – if he hadn't had the magazine and Luna to take care of, she wasn't sure he would have recovered – but Luna just seemed to withdraw into herself completely for a few months, before she began talking more than simple, "Yes, Mrs. Weasley", "No, Mrs. Weasley", and "Thank you, Mrs. Weasley" answers. The whole Lovegood family had been quite odd to begin with, of course – friendly, but odd. That, combined with seven children of her own to take care of, meant that they were neighbourly, but never really friends with the Lovegoods – but Xeno and Luna seemed to get vastly stranger after Astrid's death. She had checked in regularly for about a year or so after Astrid died, but then Luna went off to Hogwarts with Ginny, and Molly thought the school and Ginny would watch out for her. But with them being sorted into different houses, and Ginny's possession that year, Luna and Ginny had grown apart, and Luna fallen out of Molly's thoughts.
Time to change that, Molly thought as she heard a knock at her door.
She opened it with a wide, welcoming smile. "Luna, dear, how are you?"
"Oh, I'm doing all right," Luna said. "I was with Daddy in Yorkshire, but we didn't find what we were looking for. The Crested Rock Voles are almost as hard to find as Crumple-Horned Snorkacks! But that's what cryptomagizoology is like, you know. Most of the time you don't find what you're looking for, or even any evidence at all. It can be very disheartening."
"Er, of course, dear," Molly said, trying not to sound as confused as she felt. "I'm sorry to hear that. Come, sit down. Have some tea."
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley. Oh! I have something for you," Luna said, rummaging through her bag. "I know it's here somewhere. Oh! There it is. Here you go." She pulled out a large storage jar filled with a sort of pink, lumpy jam. "These are dirigible plum preserves. I made them myself last summer. They don't make you wiser the way these do," she said, touching her earrings, "but I always feel better after having some."
"Well it looks delicious," Molly said. "Let's open this up and have them with some scones." She poured them both some tea, and spooned some of the preserves onto some scones. "It's been a long time since we've really spoken, Luna. How have you been liking Hogwarts?"
"Oh, it's been quite fun, you know. I've learnt lots of things, and most of my classes are informative, although Care of Magical Creatures seems to focus mostly on common, dangerous creatures rather than the truly rare ones. They can't talk about the ones the Ministry pretends don't exist, of course, I understand that, but it's still disappointing."
"And how are you doing other than in your classes, dear? I've read what they've said in the Prophet. It must be hard, dealing with those lies," Molly said, her voice full of sympathy.
Luna shrugged. "Well, they've never been much for journalistic ethics, you know, so it's not very surprising. I'd rather they weren't writing about me, but I haven't had it nearly as bad as Harry. What they write about him is just terrible! He's very strong, and he tries not to show it, but I know it hurts him to have people not believing in him because of the Daily Prophet. Daddy and I never believed a word of it, but many did. People can be very credulous, you know. They'll believe all manner of silly things."
Molly coughed. "Of course, dear." She took a bite of her scone. "These preserves are delicious! They're like regular plum preserves, but – "
"They're much sweeter," Luna said. "That's because being airborne – except being tethered to the bush by their stems, of course – they don't leech any bitterness from the ground. I like to pair them with a darker, coarser bread, most of the time, but they're nice on your scones, Mrs. Weasley."
"We'll save the rest for later. I know Ron and Harry will love them. You've been spending a lot of time with Harry lately, I understand?" Molly said, changing the topic to what she really wanted to talk about.
Luna nodded. "He's been my boyfriend for two months now. He's... he's really very wonderful. He's very kind, and handsome, and he always treats me well and listens to what I have to say. Even before we became a couple, he listened to what I had to say, even if he didn't believe me then. Many people don't bother to listen to me at all, you know. They think I'm strange. Or mad."
Molly was surprised at how nonchalant the young girl sounded. "That doesn't bother you?"
"I'd rather they didn't, of course, but people are going to believe what they want. You can't stop them. As long as I know I'm not mad, that's the important thing. It's nice to know that some people don't though, and with my friends" (Molly noted she used that word almost reverently) "even if they don't agree with me, or they think my ideas are strange, they hear me out before deciding. Harry was the first to do that, you know. It's probably what made me fall in love with him."
Molly's eyebrows raised. "That's very quick," she said slowly.
"It is, I suppose. But some people fall in love at first sight. My parents did, you know. Well, not a first sight, I suppose. I'm sure they met at Hogwarts, but Daddy was five years older than Mummy. But when they met after Daddy had graduated, when he was sent by to give a gift my Grandfather had left in his will to Mummy's dad – Daddy's father used to contribute articles to The Quibbler when Mummy's dad owned it – it was love at first sight then. Maybe love at second sight, I suppose. Or love at new first sight. I don't know what the best way to put it is," Luna said, scarcely pausing to breathe.
"Anyway, I didn't fall in love with Harry until after I got to know him. He's really wonderful, and not just to me. I wish things weren't so hard for him, at school and with the Prophet. He doesn't deserve any of this."
"No, he doesn't. He doesn't deserve this at all. He's such a good boy," Molly said. "He's been a good friend to this family, and I'm glad that you're in his life, Luna. He's much happier now than he was in the summer or at Christmas. I think you're a large part of that."
"Oh, I hope so," Luna said, smiling at Molly.
"But there's something else I wanted to talk to you about," Molly said, wringing her hands. "When I was in school, Gryffindor girls all got a talk in second-year about, well, boys, and girls, and boys and girls together, and..."
"You mean sex," Luna said.
Molly just looked at Luna. She wasn't used to such bluntness. "Well, yes. Do they have a talk like that in Ravenclaw?"
"Oh yes. They give it to all of us in first-year. It's very informative."
"Good. And, well... do you have any questions? I know that young women don't like to talk about things like that with older women like myself, but I thought that, well, with your mother no longer being with us, you might have some questions. Ginny did. About, well..."
"Sex," Luna said simply.
"I don't think I do, Mrs. Weasley. It was very informative, and there are other books in the Library, if you know where to look. I think I understand how sex works."
"I'm not talking about the ins-and-outs... I mean, how it works, dear, although if you ever have any questions, you can ask me. I'm talking about feelings. Feeling pressured, feeling like you have to do things to please a boy, to keep him liking you. Or even feeling like you should do things just because you're able to. Things like that."
Luna just looked a Molly for a few moments, blinking her large grey eyes slowly in a manner Molly found very disconcerting.
"Mrs. Weasley, I don't think Harry would ever pressure me to do anything I wasn't ready for," Luna said quietly. "That's not what he's like at all."
"I know he wouldn't mean to, dear, but sometimes boys can have, well, expectations you might feel the need to meet. And you shouldn't feel that way. You need to make sure you let him know, if that happens, that you're not comfortable with that kind of thing until you're older."
"Oh, I don't think you should worry, Mrs. Weasley. I would never do anything I didn't want to. I'm not much for going along with the herd. And Harry's too much of a gentleman to pressure me to do something I'm not ready for. And I don't think I'll be ready for anything like that for a while yet. I'm only fifteen, you know."
"I know, dear, but... well, I just wanted you to know I'm here. If you ever have questions or need to talk."
Luna smiled. "Thank you. It's nice to have someone to talk to. I didn't have anyone, really, until this year. Ginny was the only one who was nice to me, and I didn't see her much, since we got to Hogwarts. But now we've become much closer again, and I have Harry, of course, and Hermione and Ron are very nice, and Lavender has become a good friend, so I'm not so lonely anymore."
Molly smiled. "That's wonderful, dear. So you and Lavender are friends?"
"Oh yes. We started hanging out because of Harry and Ron, you know, but she's really very nice, and we've become good friends. She sees things differently than I do, of course, but that's what you want in a friend, isn't it? It wouldn't be much fun to be around people who always thought exactly the way I did. How would I ever look at things differently?"
"I hadn't thought of things like that."
"She's going to come visit me for a few days next week. I've never had a friend from school stay over at my house. I'm really looking forward to it."
"Ron seems very smitten with her," Molly observed.
"I think so, too."
"What is she like?"
"Lavender's very cheerful, and always smiles. She's very good at Divination, and she's a good duellist as well. She's an excellent Gobstones player. And she's quite friendly to everyone – not just to me. And very pretty. I know lots of the girls are jealous of her."
"Well, she seemed very pleasant when I met her at King's Cross. She's coming over for tea next week."
"That's nice. She's smitten with Ron, too you know. It's why they're always snogging, I think." As Molly's eyes widened and she struggle to not spit out her tea in surprise, Luna said, "These scones are lovely, Mrs. Weasley. You'll have to give me the recipe so I can make some for Daddy."
Luna left the burrow into the bright cold mid-afternoon daylight. She had a good talk with Mrs. Weasley, and even if her concern was largely unnecessary, it made Luna feel good to know that the woman cared, both for her and for Harry. The offer of someone to talk to meant a lot to her, as while Luna was perfectly content with her own company, it was always nice to have someone else to talk to, especially an older woman. No one could ever replace Mummy, of course, and Mrs. Weasley didn't seem to be trying, but she did miss having someone to turn to.
Luna looked to the sky and saw that Harry was still flying around with Ron, Ginny, and their American cousin. She regretted not bringing a broom, but it was a lovely crisp day, and she wanted to walk through the fields and meadows surrounding her home that she missed so much when she was up in Scotland most of the year.
Harry spotted her shortly thereafter and swooped down to meet her. Luna could tell he was diving as quick as the broomstick would let him, and the frustration of flying such an obsolete broom rather than his Firebolt was evident on his face.
"How did it go with Mrs. Weasley?" he asked her when he got to her, dismounting the broomstick.
"Oh, it was lovely. She had scones and my dirigible plum preserves. I gave her a large jar, so there should be some left for you."
"That's if Ron doesn't eat it all before I get a chance," Harry said, laughing. "So were you right? Did Mrs. Weasley give you The Talk?"
Luna nodded. "Yes. It was very quick – I think she was uncomfortable talking out it."
Harry chuckled. "I wouldn't have thought that, what with, well..." He waived at in the air at Ron and Ginny. "All of them."
"Maybe she's a woman of action and not words. She is a Gryffindor, you know."
Harry burst out laughing at that. "Luna!"
"Oi, what's so funny?" Ron said, as he, Ginny and Polly flew down to them.
"Private joke," Harry said. "Luna, this is Polly Prewitt. Polly, Luna Lovegood, my girlfriend.
"Nice to meet you," Polly said, extending her hand to Luna.
"It's nice to meet you as well. Harry says you're from America."
Polly nodded. "Yep."
"I've been to the States once. My Mum and Dad took me when I was three. We went to New York. I don't remember anything other than the tall buildings – and the bagels. Where are you from?" Luna asked.
"Er... Texas," Polly said.
"Texas? How wonderful," Luna said enthusiastically. "Daddy wants to take me to Texas. He says we're going to look for the Pecos White Jackalope. They're not very common, you know. Daddy says they're being out-competed by the Great Plains Jackalope, but I wonder if they're just hiding. Have you ever seen a Jackalope?"
"Don't think so. I've never heard of them."
Luna's eyes went wide. "You've never heard of them?" she asked, incredulously.
Ginny put her hand on Polly's shoulder. "Polly, Luna's very into – "
"Made-up..." Ron began.
Ginny leaned over and swatted her brother and finished her thought. " – unusual creatures."
"Jackalopes are not unusual," Luna said. "They're very common in the American West, Mexico and parts of Canada."
"Well, I'm not really into animals," Polly said.
"Oh well," Luna said. "Where are you from in Texas?"
"It's in the desert. You've probably never heard of it. Near Galveston."
"Oooh, I always wanted to go to Galveston. They have a wonderful wizarding school there, I've heard. Is that where you went?"
"Yeah. Malhado Academy. I went there."
"I'd like to see it at some point," Luna said. "I might even see it sometime soon."
"Uh, Luna," Harry said, tugging her sleeve.
"Yes, Harry? Oh, right," she said. She probably shouldn't hint about Professor Umbridge's offer to Polly, although she did want to talk to Ginny about it. She turned back to Polly. "How do you like England? Have you ever been here before?"
"Yeah, I stayed with Molly – she's my cousin – and Arthur a few years ago. Er, England's great. Lots of friendly people. I love the food."
"You play Quidditch?" Luna asked. "I thought Quodpot was more popular over there."
"Er, yeah, but I'm more into Quidditch. I'm not the player these three are, but I love the game."
"I always wanted to see a Quodpot game," Luna said. "It's like Quidditch crossed with Exploding Snap, isn't it? Although I suppose you would think of it more like Quidditch being Quodpot without the Exploding Snap bits. And with more people trying to knock you off your broom. How long are you here for?"
"Just for the holidays. I'll be hanging around Ron, Ginny, and Harry here a lot. Then it's back to Texas," Polly said.
"Back to the desert," Luna said, no longer smiling.
"Right. It's nice to meet you, Polly," Luna said, smiling again. "I'm sure we'll see a lot of each other, as I'm going to be with Harry here as much as I can. He's a wonderful boyfriend," she said, as Harry blushed and Ginny laughed.
"Yeah, I'll bet. Nice to meet you, Luna."
"Harry, can I talk with you a moment?" Luna asked, dragging him away.
"Hands where we can see them, you two! Ouch! Will you quit hitting me, Ginny?" Ron shouted.
Luna led Harry around the Burrow, looking over her shoulder until she was sure they were alone.
"Harry," she said urgently, "You need to go inside and floo Dumbledore now."
"That woman, Polly – I think she may be a Death Eater."
"What? No, Polly's no..."
"How can you be sure, Harry? Ginny's never mentioned a 'Polly Prewitt' before, and she's going to be here exactly when you are? And I can tell you that whatever else, that woman is not from Texas."
"You need to trust me, Harry. Polly's an impostor. She doesn't like Quodpot, she's never heard of a Jackalope – "
"Lots of people haven't heard of some of the animals you have, Luna. That doesn't mean..."
"Harry," she said seriously. Harry looked right at her. She continued, "Everyone over there has heard of Jackalopes. Muggles have heard of Jackalopes. They think they're a legend, because Jackalope horns have an effect like a weak Muggle-Repelling Charm, but they've heard of them. And Galveston is on the sea. It's nowhere near the desert. And I'm no expert on accents, but I don't think she sounds like a Texan. And Daddy told me that Americans all think British food is terrible. Probably due to all the wrackspurts they attract when they come to Britain, because Americans have no natural immunity against them, you know. She's done some research if she knows Malhado Academy, but you have to trust me, Harry, that woman isn't what she's telling us."
Harry was frowning at her.
Luna sighed, and her face fell. "You don't believe me. You have to believe me, Harry."
He shook his head. "That's not it. I do believe you, Luna. Polly's... look, I should have told you right off, but she told us not to... to keep quiet about... Dumbledore sent her. She's Sirius' cousin. She's an Auror."
"An Auror? Oh no, Harry... She might be with the Rotfangs. You can't trust her."
"I know her, Luna. You have to trust me on this. She's on our side. Her name is Nymphadora Tonks. Her grandfather was Sirius' uncle... I think. She graduated from Hufflepuff just before I started at Hogwarts. She's one of the good ones, Luna."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"She's pretending to be Molly's cousin because she could get fired from the Auror Office for associating with me, and Dumbledore thinks I need protection. She's a metamorphmagus."
"I've never met a metamorphmagus," Luna said. "I've heard a person becomes a metamorphmagus in womb, if the mother is bit by a garden gnome the same day she gives birth. I wonder if that's what happened to Nymphadora's mother?"
"You'll have to ask her. And don't call her 'Nymphadora'. She hates her name. Just call her 'Tonks'. Although while she's here, you should probably call her 'Polly'."
"That's very sad. 'Nymphadora' is a lovely name. It means 'gift of the nymphs', you know. I don't know why she wouldn't like it," Luna said.
"She probably got called 'Nymph' a lot, I guess."
"I'd like that better than 'Loony'," she said, shrugging.
"It's what you're used to, I guess. Here, I'll properly introduce you," he said, taking Luna by the hand and calling out for Ron, Ginny, and 'Polly' once again.