Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, the characters, the universe, or anything like that. I'm just playing around.
Cheese Shop Sketch
Harry Potter was halfway through watching his programme one Sunday night when he heard a knock at the door of the flat he shared with Dean Thomas. Pausing his VCR, he walked to the door, wondering who it could be. His friends and coworkers from the pub would normally call before coming over, and Dean didn't mention any of his family or friends were coming by, so it was probably as wizard. Most never did figure out how to use the telephone.
Only a select few knew where Dean and Harry lived. Ron and Hermione, of course, and the rest of the Weasleys, Luna, Seamus and Neville, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Andromeda... that was basically it. It's not that Harry was hiding out in Muggle London or anything – the flat wasn't under the Fidelius Charm – he just valued his privacy.
Harry had been burnt out after the war ended. Ginny and he made a valiant go of getting back together for a few weeks, but the pressures of the year they spent under the Carrows, or hunting horcruxes, changed them in ways they hadn't expected. The death of so many people, Fred especially, weighed upon them both, and so they had agreed to split up when Harry simply needed to get away from the Burrow after nearly a month. They needed time apart to find themselves before they could even think of finding one another again. Harry had hoped initially they could get back together eventually, and a part of him still hoped so, but there wasn't the desperate need for her there had been during the long months camping out.
It was Hermione who suggested the idea of a "gap year" after the war. Harry needed time for himself, time to be a normal young adult, time for fun, without all the pressures of the Wizarding World. He didn't want to be swarmed by the press, he didn't want to jump immediately into hunting Dark wizards. And so he told Kingsley he would consider applying for Auror training after a year or so, disappointing the new Minister, but Kingsley said he understood.
It was sheer chance that he ran into Dean while looking for a flat. Dean needed time to recover as well, and had applied to art school, so the two old roommates found a place together in Newham near where Dean's beloved West Ham United played. Their shared past with Ginny made it awkward at first, but they soon got along well and stayed out of each others' hair when they needed privacy. Harry got a job as a cook at the Huntsman's Horn, a local pub – cooking being the one marketable Muggle skill he had, and something he enjoyed to boot – simply to keep busy, and Dean was an on-call bartender there when someone got sick. The Huntsman's had become their main hang-out as well, and Harry had a few short flings with some of the girls he met there. It was a surprise and a relief that he was able to meet and impress girls on his own charm and merit, and not because of his fame, but he hadn't had a relationship in the ten months since he and Ginny broke up, and he didn't know if he wanted one yet – he was just enjoying himself.
He didn't shun the Wizarding World entirely – he made sure to put in an appearance at the Leaky Cauldron every few weeks, both to keep in touch and make certain no one thought he was abandoning his old life. But other than that, a few awkward trips to the Burrow, and the rare trip to Diagon Alley, Harry pretty much stayed on the Muggle side.
They had visitors – Seamus was by nearly every weekend, and had become a popular regular at the Huntsman's. Just last weekend, he brought Ron and Neville by, and the five old roommates had a "boy's night" that turned into a pub crawl. It was Neville's first real trip to the Muggle side, but given how he looked when a sweet young buxom brunette dragged him by his hand out of the last pub they were at, it wouldn't be his last.
Ron and Hermione would visit regularly, of course, and Ron brought Arthur and Molly occasionally as well. Arthur simply loved visiting Harry's flat, and was fascinated by the microwave, the electric oven, and the VCR, insisting Harry play videos for him over and over. For her part, Molly would try and make sure Harry and Dean were getting enough to eat ("Muggle food doesn't have all the nutrients a wizard needs, you know"), and would tell Harry all about how Ginny was doing. This was exceedingly awkward for Harry, as it was clear Molly wanted them to get back together. Harry didn't think Ginny shared her mother's enthusiasm for the prospect, however – she was pleasant but distant during Harry's trips to the Burrow, but she had only been to the Huntsman's once, and had never visited Harry's flat. Having two of her exes rooming together probably made things very awkward for her.
Unlike for the young blonde Harry saw when he opened the door.
"Come on in, Luna," Harry said, smiling at his unusual friend.
Luna gave Harry a quick hug, and skipped into the flat.
If Ginny would have found it awkward to visit Harry and Dean, Luna found it exhilarating. She loved visiting Muggle London - "like a whole hidden world!" she gushed at her first trip the their flat. Along with Ginny and Luna's father, Harry figured that he and Dean were the people Luna was closest to in all the world. Dean and Luna grew close during their captivity at Malfoy Manor and in the weeks when they were together at Shell Cottage. Harry had considered Luna one of his closest friends since they met four years ago, and there were few people he considered more loyal or was more protective of.
Hogwarts had reopened the September after the last battle, and Luna returned to finish her schooling, along with Ginny and Hermione. The extensive damage to the castle after the battle with Voldemort meant that it could no longer function as a boarding school, however, and the students returned to their homes every night by a hastily constructed mass Floo hub in the rubble of the Great Hall. Apparently reconstruction was proceeding briskly, but having their children home every night was a pleasant surprise to many parents, especially after the traumatic year of the Thicknesse Ministry. There was some talk about leaving Hogwarts as a day school, although Harry thought it unlikely that the Department of Magical Education would ignore a millennium of tradition.
Luna, however, loved it. Being able to spend every night at home with her beloved father was a wonderful experience for her, especially after their imprisonments last year. Harry knew she had never felt particularly comfortable in the dorms, as her housemates would mock her, hide her things, or generally ignore her. Being at her home, even if it was still under reconstruction, was a tremendous improvement for her.
And so every few weekends, Luna would apparate over to Newham and visit with the two roommates, sometimes at their flat, often at the Huntsman's. With her wild fashion sense, unusual jewellery, and dreamy aura, she rapidly became known as "Harry's hippie friend from school" at the pub. Luna was bewildered by this as first – "My hips aren't particularly wide," she commented – until Harry and Dean explained the reference, which she then embraced wholeheartedly. She had grown to love hanging out at the Huntsman's, and had even had her eighteenth birthday party there the last month. She loved the atmosphere, the drinking songs, she had turned out to be quite a good darts and backgammon player, but most of all she loved hanging out with her friends.
She would always greet both Harry and Dean with a hug, and leave with one as well. Dean would invariably give her a kiss on the top of her head when they hugged goodbye. Harry commented on this once, asking if there was anything deeper between the two of them.
"You did spend all that time together last spring," he pointed out.
"Just like you and Hermione did, and you say nothing happened between you, even when Ron was gone." At Harry's sputtering response, Dean laughed and shook his head, saying there could never be a relationship between he and Luna.
"What's wrong with Luna, then?" Harry had asked sharply, protective of his blond friend.
"Nothing, mate, she's great. But my dream is to be an artist. I'm not giving that up. Her dream is to travel the world and be a naturalist, and she doesn't want to give that up. Even if we were to hook up, eventually she'd have to give up either me or her dream. She's lost too much already, Harry. I'm not going to make her lose something else."
"She's tougher than you'd think, you know," Harry said.
"She is, but she's been through a lot, Harry. Being a prisoner at the Malfoy's was tough on her, and almost losing her dad – after what happened to her mum, it was devastating for her. She was more worried about him in that dungeon than she was about herself. Well, him and you," Dean said with a look.
Harry paid closer attention to Luna's moods after that, and while she was always her usual cheerful, dreamy, baffling self, Harry began to get the feeling Dean was right. Of all the people in the world to have the traditional British stiff upper lip, Harry would not have thought Luna would be one of them, but in her own weird and endearing way, she was.
She certainly seemed cheerful now, skipping into his flat, her long dirty blond hair tied up in a loose bun on top of her head, held in place with a chopstick and her wand, as she usually wore it when she came in to Muggle London.
"So how's school," Harry asked with a smile.
"Oh, it's going fine. The nargles are slowly returning to the castle after the battle, but I think Professor Slughorn is making some nargle-repelling potion. They never seem to be in his classroom."
"Maybe they just don't like his Slug Club meetings."
"Oh, I don't think that's it. If they're anything like his parties, I bet the nargles would have lots of fun. I know I did," she said, referring to the time Harry took her to Slughorn's Christmas party two years ago. "Anyway, Headmaster McGonagall wanted me to say hello if I saw you, and remind you of the importance of completing your education."
Harry frowned. McGonagall managed to send that message to him through everyone they both knew, and Hermione had taken to pressing the point with particular passion. "I'm just enjoying being here at the moment."
"I know. That's what I told her." She plopped herself down on the couch as Harry brought her a cup of tea with honey. "Ooooh, you're watching telly!" she said excitedly. "What's on?"
Luna had really taken to watching television. She particularly enjoyed Dean's art programmes, wildlife specials, and oddly enough, spaghetti westerns.
"Some tapes of Monty Python's Flying Circus," Harry answered.
"Oh, I love the circus! Mummy took me to one in Exeter when I was a little girl, you know. I loved the elephants and tigers. And all those clowns stuffed into a car!" she said, beginning to laugh one of her incapacitating laughs at the memory. Stopping herself, she said, "And this circus stars snakes?"
Harry laughed. "No, it's a sketch comedy show. No circuses or snakes. That's just the name. Dudley turned me on to it."
Harry and his cousin had begun a slow reconciliation after the war, building on their handshake on Harry's last day at Privet Drive. The year under the protection of the Order of the Phoenix changed Dudley for the better – he was more responsible, more driven, more tolerant. Dudley had enrolled in business school, and visited the Huntsman's on a few occasions, where he was obviously trying his best to be friendly, although Harry thought having a cousin willing to slip him a few extra bangers with his meals didn't hurt either!
Sitting down next to Luna, he said, "Want me to start at the beginning?"
"No, let's just pick up where you left off," eagerly taking the remote control (which she referred to as his "telly wand") from him and pressing 'play'.
The show resumed in a middle of a parody of a news-magazine show devoted to storage jars. Luna looked quizzically at Harry when he began laughing at Terry Jones' correspondent character talking about jars in the middle of a Bolivian civil war, which caused Luna to say, "I don't know why you're laughing, Harry. The people in that poor country are probably worried about all those explosions breaking their jars."
"It's not real, Luna, it's just a sketch."
"I bet it's real to them."
Harry didn't comment further. Luna enjoyed the cartoon of the telly trying to destroy the eyes of the man watching, although she didn't get the humour of the punch line - "Turn off the telly – you know it's bad for your eyes!" She thought it sensible advice.
When the Cheese Shop Sketch began, Harry turned to her and said, "You'll love this one, Luna. It's a classic. It even ends as one of those spaghetti westerns you like."
As they watched John Cleese's character unsuccessfully try to order a series of increasingly bizarre cheeses from Michael Palin's shopkeeper, Harry began to laugh. Luna did not. Harry was not a master of reading people, but he had grown to know Luna's body language over the years, and she was looking increasingly agitated.
"Why won't he give him any cheese?" she said, worried.
"You'll see, just watch," he said patting her arm.
As John Cleese asked for such things as Venezuelan beaver cheese, and eventually shouted at the bouzouki player in the background to be quiet, Luna exclaimed, "What is the matter with him!"
"The other guy won't sell him any cheese, Luna," he explained patiently.
"I know, I mean the shopkeeper," she said, her voice thick with worry.
"You'll see, it's hilarious."
Luna just got more and more tense as the sketch went on, however. At the climax, when John Cleese asked Michael Palin if he had any cheese at all, telling him he would shoot him through the head if he answered no, which Michael Palin did, earning him the promised bullet, Harry began to laugh uproariously, but Luna stood up and screamed. "Auuugh! That's horrible, horrible!" she screamed over and over.
Harry quickly turned off the television and gathered his friend in a fierce hug. "Shhhh, it's okay, Luna, it's okay. Look, I've turned it off. It's okay," he said soothingly into his friend's ear.
She cried for a few minutes, her face buried into his shoulder, and sniffled.
"Why were you laughing at that horrible show, Harry? Why? The tall man just wanted some cheese. All he wanted was some cheese."
"I know, Luna, but that's the joke. The cheese shop has no cheese at all. It's just a simple joke."
Sniffling again, Luna said quietly, "It's a cheese shop, Harry. There was obviously cheese there. The shopkeeper was just cruel. He was so cruel! All the tall man wanted was some cheese!"
Harry was completely bewildered. It was just a comedy sketch, and a hilarious one at that. He didn't think anyone would ever react that way to Monty Python.
But he hadn't reckoned on Luna Lovegood.
He just continued to hold her and soothe her as she calmed down.
"I'm sorry, Harry," she said quietly into his shoulder. "I didn't mean to yell. You must think I'm crazy."
"I don't, Luna. I never have and I never will. I just don't understand."
She sniffled again. "I thought after the war things would be different. I helped people, I fought the Carrows, I believed in you, I was imprisoned by Death Eaters, I was on the right side! I thought things would be different. But I'm still just 'Loony' to them, my Daddy's still crazy to them, and they still keep taking my things! They won't give them back. I keep losing books, and I know it's not nargles, Harry. I'm like the man in the sketch, who the other man won't sell cheese to."
She sniffled again. "I used to think it was all just a joke on everyone's part – just a laugh. 'It's all good fun', I thought. But it's not. It's so mean! It's so mean!"
"I know, Luna, I know. You don't deserve it. You never have. They just don't appreciate you like they should," he said soothingly.
She sniffled again, and they continued to stand there, his arms wrapped around her. He could feel the warmth of her small body, feel her contours through her thin sweater, smell her violet and peach shampoo...
"I sometimes worry that I'll be like the tall man at the end, and use my wand on them like he used his Muggle deathstick," she said, her voice full of shame. "You must think I'm terrible," she said almost inaudibly.
"Not at all, Luna," he said. "I would have years ago in your situation."
She wiped her eyes. "Yes, you would know. I'm sorry, Harry, you probably didn't want some weird girl soaking your shirt with her tears tonight."
"You're not 'some weird girl', Luna. And that's okay, I'm always here for you."
"I know you are," she said, looking up at him smiling. "It's one of the reasons I love being here."
"How about we take you down to the pub, get you glass of wine or a mug of lager or something."
"Or a pink gin?" she said, referring to the gin-and-bitters cocktail she had been introduced to at her birthday that she really liked.
"Yeah, or one of them. No more, though – you have school tomorrow. And we can play some backgammon."
"That would be lovely, Harry. I do so love your pub. No one there thinks I'm 'loony'," she said.
"They all love you there."
"I'd much rather be seen as a 'hippie' anyway," she said, smiling again. "But can we just stay here for a few minutes?"
"Sure," he said, continuing to wrap her in his arms.
It would be so easy, he thought, to begin something with the girl nestled up to him. He'd always been fond of her – his spur of the moment invite to Slughorn's party didn't come out of nowhere. And he'd always felt protective of her. Her disappearance last year nearly destroyed him.
She'd become very cute as she got older, and he certainly liked the way she felt cuddled up to him, her every curve, small though they were, pressed up against him. He was certain she'd be receptive to any romantic advances he were to make.
But Dean was right. Luna was fragile – far more fragile, he now realized, than he had thought. Yes, she was tough too, she was always tough, but after all she'd been through, she was so close to breaking, it seemed. There was no way he was going to do anything that he wasn't certain would last. Not unless and until he was sure.
He wasn't prepared to lose her or her friendship.
"Better?" he said.
"Yes. Let's go to your pub." She took his hand, and began to lead him out of his flat. "Oh, and Harry?"
"Next time, I'd like to just watch an animal show. Something lovely about sharks or something. Something nice."
Smiling internally at the concept of sharks being nicer than Monty Python, he allowed Luna to lead him out of his flat.
[Author's Note: This was inspired by the following prompt from respitechristopher at the Teacher's Lounge: Harry and Luna watch television. Any show you like, just make it chronologically correct (iow, they can't watch Big Bang Theory while in school).]