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Original February 2010; last modified May 7, 2010. Written for Elisabeth's birthday. Please see the endnote for disclaimers, credits and all that good stuff.
An E.W.E. Triptych
three Harry Potter ficlets
Sky | Roof | Bus
The flat was dark when Harry Potter got home, which meant Ron was over at Hermione's again, and Kreacher at Grimmauld Place. That suited Harry. After a long day of Auror training, he had put his foot in his mouth in a lift at the Ministry with Draco Malfoy. Harry had then returned to the Aurors' obstacle course, running it over and over until his brain stopped supplying the clever things he should have said — or looked or done — when he had the opportunity. Now, he just wanted to bolt a quick bite and black out into bed.
The lamps turned on automatically as he stepped inside. The charm was indistinguishable from a Muggle motion detector, except that it responded only to Harry, Ron and Kreacher. That distinction ran through Harry's mind as the light revealed Luna Lovegood sitting on his sofa, a yellow raincoat folded over her knees and her blonde hair straggling free of the loose plait down her back.
"Hello, Harry." Luna stood up and began pulling on her coat. "If we leave now, we can still catch peak intensity."
"Sorry? Oh!" Harry gulped. The Quadrantids. He had promised weeks ago to watch a meteor shower with Luna tonight. Ron had teased him about it over breakfast this morning, unwilling to believe it wasn't a date. Harry had utterly forgotten. "Sorry."
"You're all over wrackspurts, aren't you?" Luna looked at his ears and reached into her coat pocket. "Here."
Harry accepted the paper packet of dried dirigible plums. His stomach rumbled. He didn't know whether he was supposed to eat them or wear them or what, so he stepped into the kitchen for the sandwiches Kreacher always left them. Ron wouldn't need his, anyway. "Utredigo!" Harry shrunk the sandwiches, slid them in with the dirigible plums, and put the packet in his jacket pocket. Over his shoulder, he asked, "Is it raining there?"
"It is a shower, after all." Luna pulled on a water-resistant hat in the same yellow as her coat and extended her hand. "Are you sure you don't want to side-along Apparate?"
"It's not necessary, is it?" Harry zipped up his jacket. Apparating with another person determining the destination still squeezed him inside out. "We're just going to that big hill between the Burrow and your d— where you grew up, yeah? I've been there before."
Luna dropped her arm. She smiled slightly, then Disapparated with a faint popping sound.
Harry took a deep breath and followed. The black nothing pressed on his eyes, his ears, his nose. He braced up and waited for it to be over. Luna offering to take his hand to side-along Apparate didn't mean Ron was right about her having a crush on him, did it? Ridiculous. Wasn't it? Harry emerged on the damp, starlit hillside. For something that took no time at all, Apparition took forever.
Luna had unfolded a bamboo mat and was sitting on it, looking up. Harry joined her and discovered to his relief that the mat had a built-in warming charm. After a moment, he began to spot the shooting stars streaming between the handle of the Big Dipper and the head of the constellation Draco. Harry's thoughts danced off sideways, and he yanked them back. "Do we count them?"
"If you like," Luna shrugged. "Is there a certain quantity you want to see?"
"No, I've just never watched a meteor shower before."
"Oh! Well, you get the best view if you lie back." She demonstrated. "You know from Astronomy class that they're fragments of cosmic debris, and the flash is them burning up in the atmosphere. That's what makes them special, you know. Oh, did you see that one?"
Harry lay back beside her and watched the bursts of light, like bolts of lightning, or the flash of a sword, or his first attempts at a Patronus. He thought he knew what Luna meant. Everything else in the sky was fixed, dependable and practically eternal. A meteor shower was a coincidence if not an accident, and transient. Different kinds of beauty.
Seize the moment. Life and stuff.
He wondered whether he should wish on one. And which wish he should make.
After a bit, Harry enlarged the sandwiches and offered Luna Ron's.
She sat up and crossed her legs to take it, and then leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "Thank you, Harry. My dad loved meteor storms, but he never watched any between Azkaban and when he died. It puts things back together a little for me. Oh, did you see that one?"
Harry shook his head and took a bite. Sometimes, a wand was just a wand. And frequently, Ron was as thick as oatmeal.
The small crack of Apparition sounded like a car backfiring. Draco Malfoy whipped out his wand and spun around. He found himself embarrassingly on guard against nothing more than loopy Loony Lovegood, her arms full of painting supplies. Fresh dirigible plums hung from her earlobes, just like when they'd been kids at Hogwarts. He holstered his wand. "What are you doing on my roof?"
"Oh, do you live here, too?" Lovegood asked, setting up an easel facing the rising summer sun. "I haven't seen you. It's a nice building, isn't it? The Muggles in this neighborhood are so helpful."
"No, I don't live here." Draco sneered more out of habit than genuine disdain. She was right; it was a nice little building. Maybe he should get a flat here, or somewhere, now that his mother was doing better. He sat on the balustrade corner under an overhanging tree.
"Do you own the building, then?"
"Well, you did say it was your roof. If you don't live here, and don't own it, perhaps it's more my roof."
Draco looked back down the street at the empty park, and the people beginning to get up and get ready for work on all sides. The roof was his because he used it. The ordinary access had been blocked off, such that the Muggle owners had to come up on ladders twice a year for maintenance. And while the building wasn't tall, the sheltering trees had woven themselves together in just the right way to block the view in, but not the view out. He could watch and not be watched. He could be alone in the middle of everything.
Safe on the edge.
"I'm happy to share the roof," Lovegood continued. "Do we need to set up a schedule?"
Draco laughed wistfully at her. Merlin, if she didn't bother herself, then he wouldn't be bothered by her! How often could she be up here, anyway, and just coincidentally when he needed to scrub out his brain and fit his head back on? "No, I'm sure we can both manage our own time."
"Excellent." Lovegood clipped a tray of paints onto her easel and stepped behind it, vanishing from her knees up to Draco's view. "That's very mature of us."
He looked down the street again. It was time to go home and get ready for work, himself.
"Did you know that Harry and Ron live just down that way?" Lovegood asked. "Or, wait, am I not supposed to say that? Their flat isn't exactly unplottable, but Harry would rather that people from the Prophet not start hanging about again."
Draco swallowed. "I know where Potter lives."
"Are you being mature with him, too?"
Draco tensed, alert to the least sarcasm, but Lovegood just sounded as serenely strange as ever. He thought he understood where Weasley and Granger fit in Potter's life, but Lovegood didn't have any equivalent in Draco's experience. How close were they?
What did she know?
"May I ask you something, Malfoy? Both of your parents are alive, right?"
"Do you remember the first time anyone ever hugged you?"
Draco snorted. "Of course not."
Lovegood stepped out from behind her easel, her wand in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. "Do you think Harry does?"
Startled, Draco met her unblinking, grey eyes. That . . . fit. He bowed his head and spread his hands to acknowledge the new thought.
When he looked back down the street, he saw two familiar figures walking together toward the Ministry, as they did on most tolerably fair weekdays.
Severus Snape believed himself accustomed to the indignity of taking the Knight Bus to and from St. Mungo's. He appreciated the irony that if he could get there by Apparition, the Floo Network, or even a Portkey — the ordinary transportation choices of an independent adult wizard — then he would have no need to return to the hospital by any means at all. Instead, once a month, coming and going, he held out his useless wand and signaled the gleaming purple triple-decker.
But this time, when the Knight Bus shuddered to a halt in front of St. Mungo's, Severus paid his fare, shook the melting snow out of his hair, took one step into the compartment, and froze. All the way down the long hallway rug that marked the aisle, the overstuffed chairs and tiny tea tables were occupied. Indeed, they overflowed with witches and wizards, young and old, in a blinding mish-mash of fur robes and Muggle parkas. He had never seen half that many riders on the bus.
Severus almost asked the conductor where all the people had come from. But when he saw an unfamiliar little girl point at him, and one head after another snap in his direction, he took to the stairs. Tolerating the Healers all day had been as much society as he could stand. Recognition by strangers would surely push him over an edge; he just didn't know which of his many edges it would be. He concentrated on the feeble non-magical misdirection of the Muggle hat and overcoat that were at least under his control, and resolved that the crowd meant no more than that he was much farther away from his own home than usual, as the bus careened through its first-come, first-served route.
The next level proved even more congested. Severus continued to the top. When he found the one vacant seat in the vehicle — half of a sun-faded plaid two-seater with fringed cushions — he closed his eyes and raised his eyebrows. "Good afternoon, Miss Lovegood."
"It is, isn't it?" Luna Lovegood looked up at him with the same dreamy yet sober gaze that she had fixed on her potions when he had taught her. He wondered that subsequent events had not tipped that balance, battered out the dreaminess or driven her into it exclusively. She gathered her trailing rabbit-fur winter robe to make space for him. When she moved her head, the white pygmy puffskeins clinging to her earlobes purred. "The Viakriazo scale of afternoons doesn't allow for such severe winter weather, but perhaps she'll correct that in the next edition."
Severus took the seat and ignored the reference. He did not care what she was talking about, and she had never seemed to care that no one knew what she was talking about. It was comfortable, in its way. Miss Lovegood was not the most annoying of his former students, as involuntary company went. After adjusting his spot on the cushions so he did not trap any long, loose blonde hair — how she managed to avoid sitting on it herself, he had no idea — Severus leaned back and closed his eyes. She had the aisle seat, and he was against the window, where fewer passengers would see him, and none would try to talk to him. Peace prevailed for several stops.
"Oh!" Miss Lovegood exclaimed, as the bus swayed around a corner before screeching to a halt. Severus could feel her rise from the sofa and heard her set the fallen tea table upright by the window. "Professor, you may want to see this."
Severus opened his eyes reluctantly, prodded by habit. He expected the young woman to be calling his attention to Big Ben, or an airplane, or traffic signal, or some other trite Muggle artifact.
Instead, they were in Hogsmeade. He curled his lip to sneer that he hardly needed the war memorial pointed out to him, but followed her eyes the other direction. People were piling out of the Knight Bus, through the snow, into the thestral-drawn Hogwarts carriages.
"It's the first Family Weekend." Miss Lovegood breathed on the windowglass and sketched a quick Ravenclaw raven with her fingernail.
"Ah, yes." Severus leaned closer to the window. Minerva sent an owl at least once a week with news of the changes at Hogwarts. He replied less often — "still alive, still a squib" had gotten old fast — but he appreciated her letters more than he could express.
They had all learned to detest Ministry interference in the running of the school during the past two administrations. But with the degree of damage done and corruption revealed, a consensus had arisen that the school could no longer be left to itself. Shacklebolt's team had painstakingly negotiated the appointment of a Commission of Enquiry with the Sorting Hat, as a channel to the deepest magic of the school. To the delighted scandal of The Daily Prophet, and the grim, private satisfaction of Severus himself, who had been headmaster and knew things the Prophet never could, the Sorting Hat had insisted on interviewing a string of Muggle education experts, finally appointing two to the Commission, as well as two foreign wizards and Firenze the centaur.
In due time, the staff had been doubled, with Head of House now a full-time job, Assistant Heads of House added, new classes introduced and several administrative positions innovated. A limited Apparation station was set up inside the grounds for parental visits. Parent-teacher conferences had been instituted. There was escalating talk of withholding Sorting until the third year, housing all the eleven and twelve-year-olds together in some fifth, unaffiliated House, or shifting them from House to House . . . And now: Family Weekends.
While Severus watched the carriages fill, Miss Lovegood drew the other three mascots on the window as well, and then tapped each with her wand. "Expergefacio!" The transparent animals began to romp on the glass, glowing with the low-angle of the sunset rays. The lion and snake played together; Severus had never seen them depicted so friendly. He tried not to envy the casual magic, reminding himself that he had never had any talent for the visual arts, anyway.
Miss Lovegood fell back into her seat as the Knight Bus lurched forward. "It will be wonderful for most students," she observed conversationally, "but I can't help wondering how it will go for those with no family to come, or whose families just don't come, or who wish their families wouldn't come."
"They'll survive," Severus said. Their deck was almost empty now, and the reduced noise level indicated that they had offloaded most of the crowd. He was almost home.
"Can't we give them more than survival?" Miss Lovegood asked seriously.
Severus felt his wand, ready to his hand, useless in his hands. If the Healers never discovered how to restore his magic, life itself would have to be magic enough. "Sometimes survival is everything."
"Nature, red in tooth and claw. Magic, white in lightning flash and Seers' eyes." Miss Lovegood hummed. Severus wondered whether she were quoting song lyrics, or just being peculiar. "I think Hogwarts should make time for students to ask what we're surviving for. I think we all need to know."
The bus tilted up on its left wheels, and then landed with a bounce in front of a certain house on Spinner's End. "But," Severus recognized his home with confusion, "you boarded first."
Miss Lovegood shrugged. "Oh, I'm not on the list. This was my destination."
"The bus, I mean. Sometimes I get lonely; the people I know have such hectic lives since we graduated, and they've moved all over. And then there's the Reconstruction, you know. Riding the Knight Bus is like having someone to visit."
"'Ere! Professor!" The conductor shouted up the stairs. "You gettin' off 'ere, aincha?"
Severus stood, nodded to Miss Lovegood and strode to the stairs. One step down, he looked back. An impulse sat on his tongue. He swallowed it.
She smiled at him. Then she leaned over to straighten the tea table again.
Severus stepped out into the snow, just a few paces from his own hearth, and a few Muggle matches from a roaring fire, a warm cup and a good book. If he were lucky, an owl from Minerva would be waiting, as well.
If he saw Luna on the bus again, he would not be displeased.
Disclaimers. Harry Potter belongs to Ms. Rowling, her publishers, movie studio and associates. No infringement is intended. Please buy the things they sell so that they will continue to make more. Characters and situations depicted in this fantasy fan story are, of course, entirely fictional.
Inspiration. As a gift for Elisabeth's birthday, I did my best to feature her favorite characters and relationships in her favorite fandom.
Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think?
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