A Pooka Like No Other
It had been seven years since Hermione Granger had been to England for any length of time. After her son’s third birthday, she and her then husband, Ron had decided that no amount of counseling would resolve their long-standing issues and Ron had developed a fairly severe problem with alcohol. Unfortunately, the Wizarding world was not quite as forward thinking as the Muggle world about psychological problems and addictions like alcohol. Her mother-in-law, Molly, would just tell her to let Ron sleep it off. After one night when Ron had almost burned down their house because he had miscast the Ever Burn charm on the candles, she realized she couldn’t stay until he resolved those issues.
Even had he tackled his drinking problems, Hermione realized they didn’t have much in common other than their children. She had made sure they stayed in regular contact with their father and allowed them to visit the Burrow for holidays or the occasional weekend under Molly’s watchful eye.
She moved her children to Australia to be near her own parents. The magical community there was small and very integrated with the Muggle world. Her parents had continued being dentists and she worked as their office manager. Having graduated from Hogwarts and with no secondary education, she found it difficult to find meaningful work in the Muggle world and there were few well-paying Wizarding positions available. Having sole responsibility for her children meant she needed a job that gave her the flexibility to care for them. She couldn’t ask for funds from the Weasleys since they had so little of their own. Ron had been sacked as an Auror two years after she left and helped George in the Joke shop now. Oddly, from the beginning, it was George that sent the odd galleon or two as a “gift” for the kids’ future.
Then three years ago, Harry began sending her money as well. She guessed he had finally realized she lied to him about her circumstances. She had never wanted anyone to take pity on her or to have to rely on anyone, but when he finally visited her after his own divorce, he must have guessed at the truth. She was ashamed she had been unable to do better for herself. The smartest witch in her year and she could barely provide support for her children without her parents. And now – now they were gone in a freak car accident.
Since Rose was now old enough to go to Hogwarts, Hermione chose to return there. Between George’s and Harry’s gifts over the years, she could afford the tuition. Harry was currently the Caretaker for Magical Creatures for Hogwarts. He had assumed the position after Hagrid retired. She and Hugo would be moving in with Harry until she could get on her feet. Rose would live at Hogwarts and alternate visiting her father at the Burrow and Hermione at Harry’s house. Harry’s own sons were already matriculating at Hogwarts and Lily stayed with her Mother except for the rare weekend or holidays so his house was empty. She remembered he had sold Grimmauld Place many years before in an effort to forget the past. She partially wished he still had it as she could have lived there and not inconvenienced Harry on a daily basis.
When he had offered her a place to stay, she had asked if he wouldn’t mind having roommates. She remembered how Harry used to crave spending time alone when they were in school. She also recalled how uncomfortable he felt in crowds, particularly after the war was over and his “fans” swarmed him.
He had waved away her concerns. “Of course not,” he said. “Besides,” he added before ending the Floo Call, “I’m hardly alone now. A couple more faces won’t crowd the place.” She wondered what he had meant by that but assumed he was referring to the animals he cared for. It had been a long time since she had spent any length of time with Harry. She thought he seemed different, but then again, they were all older and everyone changed. Hermione was not particularly happy with how much she had changed. She hoped harry was better.
Molly had offered her to stay at the Burrow but Hermione felt it was a burden enough to ask Molly for daycare services when she did work. Living there would have been awkward since Ron was still there.
She hoped to find a part-time job at least to help with expenses until Hugo was old enough for Hogwarts. She wasn’t looking forward to heading back to Hogwarts with her tail tucked between her legs.
Well, she would do the best she could. That’s all there was to do.
Harry was quite happy his friend Hermione was coming to stay with him. And her son, Hugo.
“Won’t it be fun?” he asked. He paused a moment and then added, “Hugo’s 9, I think. He should have a wonderful time with the baby crups we’re expecting.”
He was carefully brushing crumbs off the kitchen table and laughed. “Oh – yes – I’d forgotten that phrase – it would be like puppy dog tails, wouldn’t it?”
“Harry? Harry, are you in there?” an elderly woman’s voice called in through an open window. The morning was warm and a soft sunlight filtered through.
“Headmistress! How delightful! Come in, come in. We’ve just finished eating.”
Minerva McGonagall was thin and tall for a woman. She wore her traditional tartan in her hat and dark green robes. Her hair had gone completely white.
She came around the side and walked in the large wooden door. While the inside had been modified to normal Wizarding size since Hagrid was gone, the door was still giant-sized, "in case of large visitors,” Harry had explained.
“Some Earl Grey, ma’am. I have a couple of leftover crumpets as well.”
Minerva began to sit when Harry exclaimed, “No wait – not that one! Sit in this chair.” He pulled out the chair at the end. “Unless of course, you want to sit on her lap,” he grinned. “I have to admit – it’s very comforting sometimes to sit in someone’s lap, isn’t it?”
“Ooh – I’m so sorry. I didn’t see her,” Minerva said glancing at the chair she had almost sat in. She sat in the other one and took the proffered tea and took a sip.
“Have you been drinking this morning, Ma’am?” he asked, cheekily. “I know Luna is a little short, but she’s not exactly invisible.”
Minerva choked on her tea, looking at what seemed to be a very empty chair. She reached for a crumpet and began to butter it.
“Of course not, Mr. Potter! It’s only gone 9:00 in the morning,” she said indignantly.
He raised an eyebrow at her. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d had a nip in the morning.
She flushed at his knowing glance.
He nodded at the empty seat again, “Yes – I agree, she does look rather fetching with a little extra color.”
She spluttered again. “These are really good. You always remember they’re my favorite.”
“Luna reminded me. She’s quite good at remembering little things like that.”
Again, Minerva looked at the empty chair and nodded. “Thank you, then.” And she took a large bite.
After a moment, she looked at Harry who was watching her with a pleased smile.
“So, what can I do for you, Harry?”
“What did you have in mind?*” Harry asked with a knowing glance and a wink.
“Don’t you tease an old lady! You know very well you asked for me to come here this morning.”
“Oh yes. Why did we want…” he turned to the empty chair again but this time his eyes lifted as if he were watching something walking around the room.”
“Right – that’s right.” He turned back to Minerva. “I think I’ve mentioned that Hermione will be coming to stay for awhile?”
“Well – she is such a smart thing I was hoping that maybe you could use her help in the Library. She used to love books.” He tilted his head as if listening to someone. “Oh you are so right – she did carry those Beedle Bard Tales for a long time.”
Minerva smiled at him. “Well, maybe she could help catalog some of the older books in the new library that we just discovered.”
“Just discovered?” Harry asked.
“Apparently, one of the former headmasters had Hogwarts build a separate library and had charmed them to be undiscoverable by anyone who didn’t already know it was there.”
“Well now...that’s just fascinating. Isn’t that fascinating, Luna?” Harry turned back to Minerva, “And how was it discovered then?”
Minerva took another sip of tea before answering.
A warm breeze blew through the room. Harry closed his eyes against the feel of it. “Don’t you just love how a warm breeze can just make you stop and appreciate the world? It’s like it’s reminding you not to ignore what’s out there.”
A couple of quiet moments passed as each of them enjoyed the moment.
The Headmistress broke the silence, seemingly regretfully, “Professor Trimblecooks was reading a new edition of Hogwarts: A History when he said he came across a strange paragraph. One moment it was there and then it was gone.”
“That is a little strange, but then again I’ve had books that have tried to eat me and books that have sucked me into their pages so I suppose an intermittently appearing paragraph isn’t all that odd,” Harry mused. “What did this paragraph say?”
“It said, and I quote ‘In 1754, Headmaster Dinkles asked Hogwarts for a Library of Really Restricted Reading. This library was filled with books the Headmaster didn’t want the general public to know about. Only those he chose to share the secret with would know how to enter. Except that it seems he chose not to tell anyone about it.’”
“So then, how did the author know?”
“That is the odd thing. The author didn’t know anything about it. The Professor called her and she said no such paragraph existed. And of course, when he went to show her the paragraph, it was gone. He would have dismissed it altogether as a bit of bad roast beef, but then the following night, the paragraph reappeared on another page.
“Amazing,” Harry said and winked at the empty space next to Minerva’s shoulder. She looked behind her to see what he was looking at but nothing was there.
“Yes well…this time it read, “‘In 1754, Headmaster Dinkles, asked Hogwarts for a Library of Really Restricted Reading.’ You should go to the Ravenclaw Tower at 2:00 am, Professor Trimblecooks and whisper, ‘Puddlemere United Suck Eggs. Open the Bloody Library of Really Restricted Reading'.”
“Truly incredible,” Harry said.
“You’re telling me,” she laughed. “Particularly as it seems you only need the second part to actually open door. Being a fan of Puddlemere, the Professor didn’t see the humor at all.”
The two of them laughed for a good minute over that thought of the little red-faced professor forcing himself to insult his favorite team.
Eventually Minerva stopped laughing. “So yes, as the term is about to start, our regular librarian will be too busy to take charge of cataloging its content, so it’s quite fortuitous that Miss Granger is available, or does she still go by Mrs. Weasley?”
“Ms. Granger actually – and yes how coincidental that this library is discovered just now.” He eyed a space by the window and grinned.
“Indeed, Mr. Potter.” Minerva smiled and got up to leave. “Well – I must be going. Mr. Longbottom has requested some changes in Greenhouse 3 that I need to review.”
“If you see him, ask if he got the seeds for the Lunar White Carrots. I want to be sure I have a good supply of them over the winter.”
Minerva snickered, “Of course, Harry. Anything for you.”
“Oh – they’re for Luna,” he said.
“Of course,” she agreed.
Hermione arrived two days later. Just a week before Term started. Rose had gone to the Burrow to stay with her father’s family for the week. Hermione had met up with her to do her school shopping, but otherwise told her to enjoy herself and she would see her once Rose got to Hogwarts. Ron seemed pleased to see her and looked better than Hermione remembered.
Otherwise, Hermione was in a flurry of activity, trying to get settled. Harry seemed busy as well so she hadn’t really noticed how Harry’s behavior had changed. Sure he seemed more placid than she remembered, less rushed and impulsive but he was also older so it seemed natural. She took note that he sometimes seemed to stare off into space at times and talk to himself though she never heard his conversation, but who didn’t talk to themselves on occasion? And if he vanished for a couple of hours every afternoon after tending to the animals, that was his business. The fact he brought a different person home for dinner every night was a little unnerving. The first night, it was Seamus Finnegan whom she hadn’t seen in some time so she enjoyed the reunion. Seamus had asked Harry about Luna’s whereabouts which Hermione thought was odd. The girl had passed away ten years before but then realized that Seamus was probably referring to one of Harry’s menagerie when Harry had answered, “Oh – she’s down in the garden eating all the carrots I imagine.” Hermione smiled at the thought that Harry named his animals after his friends – here and long gone.
The second night it was Minerva McGonagall who had offered her a part time position cataloging a new library and that was quite exciting, the third night it was George Weasley which was quite lovely to thank him in person.
After that Neville Longbottom stopped in. Harry was quite keen to learn that Neville had planted some specific carrots for Luna and they ended up in an in-depth discussion about what kinds of carrots were tastiest. Harry was insistent on trying different kinds to keep her happy. Hermione loved her friend’s compassion for his animals.
“And what is Luna?” Hermione asked. Neville looked at her, surprised.
“She's a Pooka,” Harry answered and took another bite of his beef stew. Neville smiled nervously at her. She wondered if Harry had taken up where Hagrid left off and illegally starting breeding animals.
Hermione looked at Harry curiously, “A Pooka? Is that a new breed?
“No. No, as I understand it, it’s something very old*,” he said, and took yet another bite.
She looked back at Neville who shrugged his shoulders.
“She’s pretty,” Hugo piped up.
Neville looked at him oddly. “Oh, you’ve met Luna then, Hugo?” Neville asked with a cautious tone.
“Oh sure. She’s quite nice. Is there pudding?” he asked.
Harry stood up. “Absolutely Hugo. I always have pudding for Luna. Tonight I made some Treacle Tarts for us.”
“Yummy!” Hugo’s face lit up at the mention of his favorite dessert.
“Let’s go sit outside on the swing and eat,” Harry suggested. “Maybe we can see some LightFlies tonight.” Hugo giggled and ran ahead of Harry.
That left Hermione and Neville alone. Hermione began cleaning up when Neville coughed nervously.
“Uh, Hermione, I’m not sure I should…well...”
“It’s just that Luna…well, your son seeing Luna,” he stammered as if he was unsure where to go with the statement.
“I’m glad that Hugo seems to be enjoying it here. I’ve been worried about him. He doesn’t like strangers and to move in with Harry like this – I thought it wouldn’t go this easily. He really seems to like Harry.”
“Oh…” Neville stumbled. “Yeah - I guess most people do,” he said.
Hermione wondered what he was getting at. “Is there a problem?”
Neville shook his head. “No, it’s just that Harry…he’s a little different than you remember, I bet.”
“He does seem more…grounded,” Hermione said.
Hermione handed a cup to Neville to dry. She could do it magically but had gotten used to hand washing. She found it kind of meditative. She could hear Harry and Hugo laughing on the porch. She smiled at the sound. Hearing her son giggling was almost magical in itself.
“That’s not a description I usually hear about him.” Neville sat another dried plate down.
Hermione laughed. “Oh? Maybe I mean happier? He doesn’t seem so prone to get angry or upset as I remember. He seems rather calm. I think it’s what Hugo needs. Maybe Rose, too.” She paused and watched them on the porch for a moment and then turned to Neville
“It’s been hard, Neville. I mean for both of them.”
“And for you, I imagine,” he said quietly as he rubbed her shoulder blades softly. She suddenly let out a sob and turned to hug Neville hard to cry into his chest in order to smother the sounds. She didn’t want either Hugo or Harry to hear her. She was mortified that Neville saw her in this condition but he was just holding her gently so she let it out.
“Hugo doesn’t remember much about his father before our divorce and visiting the Weasley clan can be overwhelming to a child that has few friends. Rose is pretty well adjusted but Hugo has had his difficulties. The loss of their grandparents has been tough. He loved his Grandfather. It’s good to see him happy.
She wiped the tears off of her face and stepped back.
“Thanks, Neville. I didn’t mean to…”
“No problem, Hermione. You were always nice to me. I’d like to think we are still good friends.”
“Of course we are,” she said. She noticed a ring on his finger.
“Are you married,” she asked, feeling foolish for not having noticed it before.
“Engaged actually – to Hannah Abbott if you remember her.”
“Sure – I remember her. Congratulations, Neville.” She turned back to the dishes to finish up the silverware. "So, does Harry see anybody these days?”
She didn’t see the look of bemusement on Neville’s face when he answered, “Oh, yes, Hermione, Harry sees somebody.”*
Until that night she had begun to wonder if Harry wasn’t trying to fix her up. After learning of Neville’s impending nuptials and a visit from Madame Malkin changed her mind. They were followed by Stan Shunpike’s young brother Stu who worked at the Owl Post. Even Hagrid came for a visit. There were even two people Harry had only met that day: Marvin Cutterbach and Powers Henberer – a Creevey cousin.
She was slightly annoyed that Harry never seemed to want to spend any time alone with her but Hugo seemed happy meeting some new people and so she didn’t say anything. As she had mentioned to Neville, Hugo had always been a quiet child and prone to moodiness and a fantastic imagination. After the second day in the hut, Hugo seemed more relaxed than he had ever been. Now, Harry took Hugo out to the stables every morning to help with the animals and Hugo seemed to settle to the routine quickly. When she asked him if he enjoyed helping Uncle Harry, he would grin. “Uncle Harry’s cool. I like his friends.”
For Hugo’s sake, she wouldn’t make a fuss. Harry had been gracious enough to add two extra rooms to the hut for her and Hugo and an extra bath the two of them shared.
About two weeks into term, Hermione had a call from Molly saying she’d have to pick Hugo up early as Victoire had contracted Wizarding Pox and was being sent home from Hogwarts and they wanted Hugo away from the contagion. Hermione hoped that maybe Harry could watch Hugo for the afternoon so she could finish cataloging the Compendium of Vanishing Charms and Curses which kept disappearing as she tried to write about it.
She finally saw him on the street heading into Honeydukes. Tugging on Hugo’s hand, she raced after him.
“Harry! HARRY!” The man turned towards her and grinned.
“Hermione! Hugo! How pleasant to see you. We were just going to sit at the Candy Bar.” He held the rainbow colored door open for her and let her and Hugo through, paused a moment and then followed.
“They make the loveliest toffees here,” Harry said. “Any flavor you can think of.”
“You mean like Bertie Bott’s, Uncle Harry?” Hugo asked wide-eyed.
“Except all of these flavors actually taste good!”
There weren’t many people in the store that time of day so there were a number of stools open at the bar.
Hugo went to sit when Harry held a hand up. “Not that one. Sit right here.” And he indicated a seat to his right. “Hermione, you can sit next to Hugo.”
“I can’t stay. I just wanted to know…”
“What can I do for you, Mr. Potter?” a young witch in her early twenties smiled at him.
“What did you have in mind, Miss?” He took her hand and held it gently.
The little brunette flushed but didn’t move her hand.
“Harry!” Hermione yelped.
“Yes?” he turned to his friend.
“You’re embarrassing the poor girl,” she hissed at him.
“It’s okay, Miss…” the candy clerk started to say.
Harry interrupted, “Oh, I would never do something like that. No. I was just thinking how nice it is to have such a lovely young woman greet me with such a happy smile. Don’t you think the whole world would be happier if everyone just stopped and smiled every now and then?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Harry – sometimes there’s no reason to smile.”
“But that’s the best reason of all. Sometimes if you have nothing to smile about but you smile anyways, everything seems a whole lot better.”
The girl giggled as Harry gave his biggest grin at her. Hermione felt warmed by his smile even though it wasn’t directed at her. When had he become so content?
“Now then Miss…uh – Miss Greengrass …what a lovely name that is. Makes me think of Spring. I would like to have a Fizzing Whizzbee topped with crumblybumblees. And what would you like, Hugo?”
Harry paused for a moment. “Oh, it’s all good but I think you might fancy a Tasty Tongue Twister. It’s a different flavor in every bite and makes you speak backwards for an entire hour.”
“Honestly Harry, why would anyone want to speak backwards?” Hermione laughed.
“I find words often confuse people. Puts things in perspective when you say them backwards. Can’t rely on them so much. So Hugo, want to try it?” Hugo nodded at the clerk.
“You have to ask for it properly now.”
Hugo giggled but said, “I’d like a Tasty Tongue Twister please.”
“Oh – no. Ask for it like this: “Please Twister Tasty My Tongue is what I’d like,” Harry asked with a grin.
Hugo roared with laughter and even Hermione snickered. “Really, Harry I have to go. Can you stay with Hugo?”
Harry nodded as the clerk sat his treat in front of him. “Sure, we’ll be fine.” As she turned to leave she swore she heard him order a “Candy Carrot Cane for his other friend.” She turned to refuse but realized he wasn’t looking at her but the empty stool next to him.
Just then another customer came into the door and bumped into her.
“Well – if it isn’t the…” he started to say. She glared at the blond man.
“Malfoy, don’t start.” She would recognize his platinum blond hair anywhere.
“I was going to say “Bookworm”. You look well Granger.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “What do you want?’
“Actually, I’m just picking up an order. Are you feeling paranoid?”
“No, why would you say that?”
“You seem stressed. Is it staying with him? That must be quite exciting to live in his space,” he said with a smile. He looked over at Harry. “Potter, how are you?”
“We’re all fine. Thanks for asking, Dr. Draco.”
Hermione stared stunned at the two of them. The clerk handed Draco a small package. Draco told her to put it on his account and turned to walk out. Hermione was still standing there staring.
“What? I am a medi-wizard. The git just refuses to call me Healer Malfoy.”
“Since when?” Hermione asked as she walked out of the door with him. She didn’t even realize she was walking with the man.
“Since I became a medi-wizard.” Draco answered with a laugh.
“I meant, how long have you been a medi-wizard? Since when? What kind of medicine? Where do you practice?” Hermione
“One question at a time. Why are you always in such a hurry to know everything?”
“Defensive,” Draco said as if he was pondering something important.
“What - are you a psychiatrist?” she asked snidely.
Draco smiled. “Actually, I am.” Hermione stopped in shock. “Love to chat more but I have a new medi-wizard on staff I have to greet.” Draco walked a few more steps and then Apparated away.
Hermione wanted to cry. Two days later she finally figured out why Neville and Draco seemed so odd about Harry. Even McGonagall had made some odd statements about her favorite alumnus.
Harry was delusional. And no one was doing a thing about it. And no wonder, he went to the pub every afternoon and drank – like Ron did. While she never saw Harry drunk, he had to be having issues and everyone was sweeping it under the rug. Stupid Wizarding world – more concerned with “appearances” than the well-being of one of their citizens. Just because Harry was regarded as a hero, they forgave him his “idiosyncrasies” when the man needed help.
She tried to talk with him when he introduced ‘Luna’ for the first time at the first supper that had just been the three of them.
“Who's Luna?” she had finally asked.
It was obvious Hugo was trying not to giggle. “She’s a blond rabbit girl, five feet tall. But when she hops, she can hop up to six and a half feet!”
“A five foot rabbit?” Hermione asked, confused. She was thinking back to all her “Magical Creatures” and couldn’t remember anything about large rabbits.
Harry frowned, “Five foot one and a half inches. Now, let's stick to the facts, shall we?” Harry said calmly. “Luna says she used to be able to jump seven feet but has lost some springiness.”
Harry turned to an empty chair and said, “Why didn’t you say something earlier. I’ll get you some Jumping Jelly Beans to improve your hopping.”
At first she thought Harry was just catering to Hugo’s imagination but she watched him closely over the next couple of days and realized it was Harry’s creation, not Hugo's. She was seriously concerned about Hugo’s impressionability at this stage. She needed Harry to stop it.
She told him he needed help. That he wasn’t seeing reality. He wasn’t taking responsibility. His response had been, “Well, I've wrestled with reality for over 30 years, Hermione, and I'm happy to state I finally won.”*
When she then complained about his afternoons at the bars, he said, “Luna and I sit in the pub and have a drink or two... or we go to Honeydukes and enjoy the Candy Bar. And soon all the people turn towards me and smile. They say, "We don't know your name but you're a very nice guy.".
“Of course they know your name, Harry. You’re famous, remember?”
“I am? I forgot. Don’t read the papers much anymore,” he said dreamily. Hermione wasn’t surprised by that but it did occur to her that no one did seem to ask for his autograph like they did after Voldemort’s fall. Maybe the fame was fleeting, after all.
“Anyways – I don’t always know who they are then. Luna and I bask in their welcome. We were strangers and now we’re friends. They sit with us... and they drink with us... and they eat with us and they talk to us. They tell about the terrible things they've done, and the wonderful plans they have. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Luna... and she's grander and more magical than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed and feel better about themselves.”*
After that, she didn’t know what to do. She needed a place to stay and he didn’t seem to pose any danger so she left it go another few days.
Until she came home and Harry had left Luna ‘babysitting’ Hugo. He had left her son alone when he was supposed to be watching him! Nothing had happened, but what if it had? She had been furious and yelled at him and he didn’t seem the least bit concerned and said Hugo had been in good hands. For Merlin’s sake, even Hugo said Luna took good care of him. Hermione was terrified her son would lose all grip with reality if they stayed with Harry and didn’t get the help he so obviously needed.
She wasn’t sure who to call. She remembered Draco and went to the Janus Thickney Ward to see him.
Hermione had been discussing Harry and Draco had seemed amused, as if he wasn’t taking her seriously. He allowed her to complete the necessary paperwork but kept interrupting her with inane questions like, “Why is this bothering you? Or, who is Harry hurting? Or What do you do for fun?” She could tell though that he didn’t feel as if Harry needed help.
Hermione crossed her arms defensively. She was determined to get across how important it was that Harry get help. “I read a book about art last winter.”
“Of course. A book. How predictable,” Draco eyed her critically. “This may shock you, but life is usually lived a little outside of pages. What are you trying to avoid?”
She looked sharply back at him. “Nothing! I’m here about Harry. I’m not the one here for analysis!”
“Maybe you should be,” he added with a wink.
She harrumphed. “So not professional….Anyways – I was reading about the difference between a fine oil painting, and a mechanical thing, like a photograph. The photograph shows only the reality. The painting shows not only the reality, but the dreams behind it.
“Photos can lie too. It just depends on how you take the picture,” Draco interjected.
“True, but photography shows what’s really going on for the most part. It might be filtered but it’s not just in our imagination. It is based in reality, not on dreams and figments of fancy.”
“It's our dreams, Hermione, which carry us on. They separate us from the beasts,” Draco contradicted.
“Harry is living like he’s a painting when the rest of us are photographs. I know too well that photographs can be messy, but they can also be beautiful, can’t they? I’m the first person that would say a little imagination is a good thing. I’ve encouraged it in my children. Certainly, I wouldn't want to go on living if I thought it was all just eating, and sleeping, and taking my clothes off, I mean, putting them on...”*
Draco grinned at her Freudian slip. He sat back and smiled at her. “Hermione, when was the last time you went out and had fun?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing except it seems you’ve lost the small bit of joie de vivre you did have since separating from the Weasel.”
“I mean living with your husband couldn’t have been easy, but it’s been what – over a decade now?”
“So, what?" Hermione's voice cracked in tightness. Her lips stretched taut.
“It seems you need to let it go a little. Maybe you could learn from Harry. He seems like he’s enjoying his life.” Draco took a drink of the water sitting on his desk.
“That’s because he’s seeing imaginary talking animals. He needs help. He needs to get a grip on reality.” She crossed her arms as if she’s decided something.
“Why? Doesn’t seem like reality ever did much for him.”
Hermione turned and stared at him. For once, she seemed speechless.
Draco smiled sympathetically. “Come with me Hermione. I want to show you something.”
They walked into the Hogs Head which Harry often frequented. It was packed and there wasn’t an empty table.
“Is he alone?” Draco asked the familiar bartender as he spied Harry sitting alone at a table by the window. Hermione shifted nervously next to him.
“Well, there's two schools of thought,” Seamus grinned at them and handed each of them over two small tumblers filled with Firewhisky and a third glass filled with a rainbow striped foamy drink topped with sparkling sprinklers. “This one is for ‘Luna’. Harry will thank you for remembering her.” Seamus winked at them with a bemused smile.
“See, that’s what I don’t get. You all seem to know Harry has issues and no one is helping him,” Hermione whispered furiously to Draco.
“Seems to me he doesn’t much need it,” Draco said as a man approached Harry. He greeted the portly man with a wide smile and beckoned him to sit.
Draco pulled Hermione through the crowd where they could stand behind Harry’s table, unseen. He pulled out an extendable ear. Hermione watched as it slithered over to Harry’s table.
After the generous round of warm greetings, Harry introduced himself.
“I’m Harry. Harry Potter,” he said. “Please sit. We have a couple of extra chairs not in use.”
“If you’re sure you don’t mind,” the man asked.
“I never mind. I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I'm with. It’s a good day to make a new friend.” Harry smiled and the man visibly relaxed and introduced himself as Lionel Crabtree. “So how are you this fine day?” Harry asked him. Within minutes the man was giving Harry his life story.
“Well…honestly I’m a bit frustrated. It’s my job, you know. I’m always being told by my boss that I have to do this or that – but it’s not what I really want to do.”
“Oh well – maybe he’s not doing what he wants to do either. I find people often think they have to be something they aren’t or think they have to do something they don’t want to do. Those people never seem happy. And they want you to be miserable with them.
"My friend Luna says it’s the wrackspurts. They fill your head with nonsense like ‘I must be rich,’ or ‘I must be on time,’ or ‘The bacon must be done just so,’ or, ‘You must sacrifice yourself for the world."
Harry said this very calmly, as if he wasn’t speaking about himself. It broke Hermione’s heart. Dumbledore had asked too much of Harry.
“I’m an Accountant,” the man said.
“Are you?” Harry said as he tilted his head in question.
“Am I what?
“An Accountant? With a capital ‘A’. I thought accounting was a job.”
“It is a job but it’s what I am and I hate it,” the man eyed him critically.
“You can be nice, mean, tall, short, wise, funny, but you can’t be ‘accountant’. Accounting is what you do, it’s not what you are. You can change what you do any time you don’t want to do it. I guess you can change what you are, too – but it’s harder. Much harder.” Harry took another sip. “Me, I’m pleasant. Took me awhile but it’s what I am.” He looked earnestly into the other man’s face. “Dumbledore used to say, ‘Harry, my boy’,” Harry looked around and then added as an aside, “he always called me “my boy. It was quite irritating at times.” And then continued, "Anyways, he said, ‘In this world, Harry, my boy, you must be very brave or very pleasant.' Well, for years I was brave. I think I like pleasant better. Doesn’t hurt so much.”
"Don’t you find pleasant people to be – well pleasant, Mr. Crabtree,” Harry smiled.
“Indeed, I do sir. Indeed I do.”
The men continued talking and Hermione blinked when Harry introduced Luna and Mr. Lionel Crabtree didn’t run away. Instead, both men paused as if to listen to someone.
Finally, Harry spoke up. “Well, of course Luna. You are always free to visit with whomever you like. I think Mr. Crabtree here would like to visit the fountains.”
“I would, indeed,” the man said. He stood and began to leave but turned to Harry and thanked him. “Sir, it has been a most unexpected pleasure,” and smiled broadly. He looked up as if someone was next to him and they headed out.
Draco turned to her. “Seems like Harry isn’t the one needing help, but providing it.”
Hermione snorted. “Helping people avoid responsibility, I guess. Oh well, the man at least looked happier. I just hope he doesn’t take Harry’s advice to heart. What if he quits his job and then can’t pay the mortgage or goes bankrupt and can’t feed the kids or…?”
Draco interrupted, “Or worse, what if he becomes happy? Besides – I don’t recall him mentioning a house or kids…you must be projecting.” Draco smirked and she glared at him but before she could retort, Draco announced, “Potter! Look who I found.”
“Hello, Harry,” Hermione said, unsure of her reception.
“HERMY! I’m so pleased to see you,” Harry hugged her and Draco tightly.
“I brought…Luna...a drink,” Hermione said hesitantly.
“Oh – it’s too bad she just went off with that Mr. Crabtree,” Harry said. “Luna thought he should visit the Fountain of Truth.”
“That’s a myth,” Hermione said.
“No, it’s a fountain – in Italy. Maybe Mr. Crabtree will see what he truly desires.”
“Like the Mirror of Erised?” Hermione asked.
Draco corrected her. “Not exactly. The Fountain of Truth shows you what would really make you happy that’s achievable, not some impossible dream you can never achieve.”
“Like a family that’s already gone,” Harry whispered looking slightly forlorn. Hermione looked at him sadly. Harry had been so damaged. So maybe it wasn’t so unreasonable that he sought refuge in imaginary creatures that wouldn’t leave him.
Draco nodded. “Or something silly like a pair of perfect socks,” Harry grinned at him, back to his usual affable self. Hermione suddenly remembered the story about Dumbledore and those socks. She hadn’t believed it either when Harry told her. She wondered when he would have told Draco that story.
‘So, Luna’s gone then?” Draco asked as he looked out the door.
“For now. Sometimes she likes to meet some new people or see new places. I wonder if I’ll see her again?” Draco sat and handed Harry one of the tumblers in his hands.
“Thanks Dr. Draco! I was just thinking how nice it would be to have another but didn’t want to bother Seamus. He’s been awfully busy tonight. Lots of folk around.”
“Just like you like it, right?” Draco winked at Hermione. “Always a new face?”
“Do you miss Luna when she travels?” Hermione asked, trying to figure out if maybe this was a way Harry tried to cope with coming back to reality.
Harry took a small sip and sat the glass back on the wood table. “Whenever Luna leaves, I always think to myself, ‘Harry’ – that’s me. I find it comforting sometimes to refer to myself in the third person,” Harry smiled and Draco and Hermione nodded for him to continue. “Anyways, I think ‘Harry, this may be the last time you see your friend Luna now that she’s gone to another big adventure so you be sure to be happy for all the memories you have of her as you may never make more.”
He looked at Hermione with a warm smile. “I try to remember to never take it for granted that I will be able to make more memories, that way I always enjoy myself as I make sure I’m making memories in every waking moment.”
Hermione felt a wave of nostalgia and loss sweep through her. She could not make more memories with her parents or her ex-husband. She had avoided making memories with her old friends. She wondered if she had not made enough memories for her children. If she died tomorrow, what would they remember?
She gulped her drink knowing she did so just to avoid those thoughts. Noticing Draco’s eyes on her, she suddenly flushed. He was probably reading her body language to gauge every insecurity she ever had. She waited for a snarky comment.
Instead, Draco swung back to Harry and said, “So, Hermione was wondering how you and Luna met.”
Relieved that Draco chose not to pester her, she noted Harry’s hesitance and decided she wanted to know how it all started. “It’s okay, Harry. You can tell me. I’m sorry I got mad at you earlier.”
"It’s not that…it’s just Ron…”
“Oh…well. That’s okay. You can talk about Ron," she assured him.
Harry took a big swallow. “Alright then, I'd just put Ron into the Floo. He’d been mixing his Firewhisky with his butter beer which is never a smart thing to do – as I’m sure you remember.” Hermione nodded, trying to keep more memories from welling up.
“Well, anyway, I decided a bit of night air was just the thing and as it now being safe – Death Eaters being all captured and such – I decided to walk back to Hogwarts.”
“Through the Forbidden Forest?” Hermione asked.
“Well – it wasn’t so forbidden anymore. At least not to me. Remember, I was acting as the Caretaker for Magical Creatures, after all.” He grinned. Draco and Hermione laughed.
“Anyways - as I wandered up the Biggleywigg Path, I heard this voice saying, "Hello, Harry." Right in front of me was this five foot blond bunny-like creature leaning up against a Merry Mulch Tree. Well, I thought nothing of that because when you're as famous as I’ve been, you get used to the fact that everyone knows your name. Naturally, I went over to chat with her. And she said to me, "Ron Weasley was a little in his cups tonight, or am I be mistaken?" Well, of course, she was not mistaken. I love Ron and all but he does like his drink at times. Well, she being a very pleasant sort of creature, we chatted for awhile and then I said to her, I said, "You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name but I don't know yours." And she said, "What name do you like?" Well, I didn't even have to think twice about that. She reminded me of my old friend Luna and so I told her – I said, “You remind me of my old friend Luna and I miss her so very much.” Luna Lovegood – you may remember her – was a great friend of mine in school. She disappeared a couple of years after we graduated. She was always one of my favorite people. You remember – we gave Lily that as her middle name.”
“I remember,” Hermione said thinking back to one of the last times she had had an extended visit.
“So I said to her, I said, "So yes – Luna is my favorite name." And, uh, this is the interesting thing about the whole thing: She said, "What a coincidence. My name happens to be Luna."* And as she stepped out into the moonlight, I could clearly see her face and she did in fact look so very much like my friend – well excepting the bunny ears and tail but that would have been just like her, you know?” Harry smiled nostalgically.
Hermione shook her head. “I know you can’t see her, Hermione. You’ve too many wrackspurts,” Harry stated. “Maybe we should sing. Wrackspurts hate happy songs.”
Draco laughed. “I think not. You do not want to hear me singing! I can’t carry a tune at all.”
“That’s the best kind of singing of all – no rules, no restrictions, no worries that you’re not good enough. Just singing because it feels good to sing!” Harry exclaimed.
Draco snorted. “Actually, we came for another reason. Your friend here though is at the bottom of a conspiracy against you. She's trying to persuade me to lock you up. Today, she had commitment papers filled out for St. Mungo's.” Hermione was horrified that Draco would announce that so casually.
“She did all that in one afternoon? Hermione, you certainly are a whirlwind, aren’t you?” He gazed at her admiringly. “Another round?” he asked.
Surprised he wasn’t upset with her actions, she nodded. It was the least she could do.
They drank for several hours.
They staggered back to Draco’s office, singing very loudly the entire way. Hermione couldn’t remember the last time she laughed so hard. She wandered over to Draco’s desk and collapsed in his chair. Draco and Harry stopped singing but were now talking animatedly in the corner.
She eyed the papers still sitting on the desk from earlier. Maybe Draco was right. Maybe she should learn to accept it. Seemed like everyone else in town had. No one even seemed to bat an eye at Harry’s antics and his odd behavior: Neville, Seamus, Draco, McGonagall – they all just accepted him as he was.
So he had an imaginary friend. Harry was happy, wasn’t that the most important thing? Hugo loved Harry. He was happy. All she had to do was be a little more careful and Harry could stay happy too.
No – how could she leave Harry not in his right mind? She felt confused and dizzy – but part of her suspected the Firewhisky had something to do with it. She shook her head in an attempt to clear it.
She picked up the damning sheets left on Draco’s desk and read them again. She noted a new paragraph had been added in her complaint.
She squinted and decided to read aloud to herself,
"P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large. The Pooka appears here and there - now and then – back and forth – to and fro - to this one and that one - a benign but mischievous creature - very fond of potbellied whizziprags, crumple-horned snorkacks, and how are you, Ms. Granger?"*
“How am I, Ms. Granger?” she asked herself. “Drunk – if I’m reading this that badly!” She snickered. Mildly amused, she looked down again and looked at a new prognosis that had appeared:
“Patient 674 has recovered perfectly. He arrived happy and content, watching sunsets and rainbows, talking to strangers and making friends with wizard and animals alike. But that’s not normal so he’s been fixed. Now he’ll work and complain and scream and be miserable like the rest of humanity and you know what stinkers they are.”
While Hermione was reading her papers, Harry and Draco were still talking about Luna.
“Did I tell you she could stop clocks?”* Harry asked.
Draco looked at him quizzically, “She has a time-turner?”
“No – nothing like that. She doesn’t go backwards in time. She just stops it,” Harry clarified.
“Why would she do that?”
“Well, have you heard the Muggle expression; 'his face would stop a clock'.”* Draco nodded.
“Well, Luna can look at your clock... and stop it. And you can apparate anywhere you like and stay as long as you like, and when you get back... not one minute will have passed.* I’ve gotten to see a lot of fine places and even finer people.” Harry smiled at the memories.
‘Do you think she would do that for me?” Draco asked.
“You’d have to ask her, but she’s with Mr. Crabtree, right now.”
They were interrupted by a loud sputter from across the room. “’No –No – No!” they heard Hermione yell. “I can’t do this. Harry, I don’t want you to change, to be put away - to be a stinker like the rest of us!” She was sobbing messily.
Draco and Harry burst into laughter. Harry came over to Hermione and took his hand. “I’ll try my best, my dear. Would you like to dance?” She hugged him hard until he began to hum and gently led her around the room in a quiet dance. Then he had Draco dance with her. Then he danced with Draco. Then all three of them danced together in an odd triangular waltz that Hermione claimed she didn’t know the steps to.
“Neither do we,” Harry said. “That’s the fun of it. We can just make it up as we go along.”
They danced until long past midnight.
Several days later…
Harry and Hugo were outside doing the morning chores. Hermione was watching them from the kitchen window. She had decided that while Ron’s issues had been harming him, Harry seemed quite happy and everyone loved him just the way he was. She thought she could learn to live in paintings for a while. In fact, she thought as she watched her son happily working alongside Harry that she probably should.
Suddenly Hugo started yelling across to an opening from the woods. The morning sun shone in Hermione’s eyes and she couldn’t see clearly. She blinked as she saw her son holding hands with someone as they pulled into the shadow of a tree; she very clearly saw a blond furred, five foot rabbit with Luna Lovegood’s face smiling beatifically at her son and Harry. A little voice inside her corrected, “Five foot one and a half inches.” She fainted.
Harry was happy to see his old friend again. Hugo was grinning as the two of them hugged Harry. It had been only a few days since she had travelled with Mr. Crabtree. He hadn’t expected her back so soon but when he asked why she decided to cut her trip short, he was pleased. “Well, thank you, Luna. We prefer you, too.”*
Two days after Luna returned, Hermione found a book in the Library of Really Restricted Reading all about Pookas. They were summoned from magic gathered by the self-sacrifice of selfless powerful wizards who performed noble deeds. So rarely was someone worthy of their appearance, it had been centuries since the last recorded appearance. They attached themselves for life to their chosen companion in the form of someone that person loved and lost. Their benevolence and luck extended to those their companion held dearest or sincerely wished to help. Hermione could think of no one better than Harry to befriend a Pooka.