Chapter Three: Tuesday

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

Beta cred: Palmetto Blue

 

Luna sent one more sticking charm toward her classroom ceiling and stepped back to admire her work. It was a surprise for Draco, and she was exceptionally pleased with how well it had turned out. Candles floated in the incense-thickened air, throw pillows lay scattered over the floor, and now her piece de la resistance hung in the center of the room: a sex swing. She clapped her hands in delight. Draco would be speechless! But there was something missing . . . She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.

 

Two components of Luna’s life were unswerving: her star charts and the love of her life. When in doubt, she consulted at least one of the two, and so she paused to dwell on the excellent qualities of her inamorato. Draco Malfoy had grown into a wise and loving wizard, and he looked amazing in dragonhide pants. She had followed him to Hogwarts at the behest of the sun, moon, and stars, and had spent the last year and a half anticipating the moment when he realized how much he wanted to marry her. The time for his proposal was fast approaching; her star charts were never wrong. A small, secret smile spread over her face.

 

The moment of reflection passed all too soon. She still hadn’t figured out what her sex scenario was lacking, and she had a meeting with a seventh-year scheduled at a quarter past five. A quick glance at the nearest timepiece showed the technical time to be four, but it felt an hour and a quarter later. A clock was not a definitive measurement of time, however; a fellow ‘claw would sense the same temporal flux and adjust accordingly. With a wave of her wand, she Disillusioned the swing and turned to the door just as it opened. “You felt the shift as well, Miss Hipthripple?”

 

The student nodded sagely. “Venus has begun her ascent.”

 

“Love and change converge in a path of totality,” Luna agreed. “What did you wish to see me about?”

 

“I felt compelled to say the words ‘peanut butter’ in your presence at this exact time,” said Miss Hipthripple. “It seemed important.”

 

“Eureka!” Luna beamed. “Ten points to Ravenclaw.” She tucked her wand into her hair. “Walk with me to dinner?”

 

Later, as she sat at the teacher’s table in the great hall of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, she practiced the venerable art of Forceful Peace, in which she meditated silently and pushed every serene vibe from her own body and into those of the people closest to her heart.

 

*   *   *

 

“Shit! Fuck! Damnitall to hell!” Draco beat the flames from his robes and looked for his wand. It had rolled off the worktable at some point, he thought. He couldn’t be sure, though, because he was up to his eyeballs in flammable fumes and bubbling pink goop. What in Salazar’s name was he concocting? He had no idea; the recipe hadn’t been titled.

 

Ordinarily this type of red flag would have been grounds for scrapping the project, but Luna had asked him to brew it, and Luna would never steer him wrong. Would she require him to turn every single one of their socks inside out? Yes; he’d been told to do that before he left for breakfast this morning, on pain of a blibbering humdinger infestation. Would she convince him that the fate of their friends’ preordained relationship depended on his participating in an ancient mudbath ritual at exactly three o’clock? Yes; he still had dried clay stuck in his short hairs.

 

But would she ever ask him to wear something undignified, or be kind to an idiot, or go without sex? No. Luna might be unique in some ways, but she knew him and would only ask for reasonable things. And if Luna wanted him to wear inside-out socks and brew a potentially volatile potion while trying to ignore the clay-caked state of his cock, he would bloody well do it without complaint. Or with as little complaint as possible . . .

 

Truthfully, Draco was a little worried. Luna’s interpretations of her star charts had become stranger and more difficult than usual over the past six months. Could she be temporarily losing her mind? The thought made him sick. It happened, though; seers often experienced bouts of madness during certain astrological occurrences. Could the ascendance of Venus be addling her brilliant yet adorable brain?

 

He peered down at her directions and grinned despite such weighty thoughts. She’d dotted each ‘i’ with a little purple heart just for him. That endearing detail swept a great deal of fear and hesitancy from his cautious Slytherin heart. It didn’t matter if Luna misplaced a few more figurative sandwiches from time to time; he’d prepare a feast for every metaphorical picnic they shared, and he’d hand-feed it to her. And if by being with her he was required to perform Herculean tasks at the whim of the universe, the inconvenience was far outweighed by the reward.

 

His witch was silent at dinner that evening, lost in a deep, silent meditative state, and so he spent the meal enjoying the comedic dinner theatre playing out beside him. Neville and Hermione both entered the great hall with secretive smiles, which could only mean they were playing along with The Plan. Why, he wondered. Why wait for Friday if you both finally know the other is interested? It must be the House factor, he finally decided. Gryffindors tended to play a game by whatever rules had been set.

 

*   *   *

 

“Come on, help a bloke,” Neville leaned over the counter at Dogweed & Deathcap, hands spread in supplication. “You know me.”

 

Tracy Davis, former classmate and current proprietress of the local Herbology shop, leered up at him. “I know certain parts of you quite well.”

 

“Not going there, Trace.” He gave his sternest professorial look, the one reserved for forward seventh-year witches. “We talked about this. I’m-”

 

She huffed. “Have you even asked her yet?”

 

“That’s beside the point.”

 

“Six months, Nev! You have no trouble talking to me; what makes her so different?” She turned back to the catalogue spread between them with a sigh. “This guy should be able to help. And don’t you dare get arrested; I want you available, on the off chance you ever get over this obsession. Tremendous waste of man-flesh.”

 

“Thank you.” Neville was tempted to hug Tracy until he remembered her penchant for affectionate gestures. No hugs. He shook her hand instead and departed.

 

It was a quick ride. As he parked his broom he pondered the absurd arc of his life story; he couldn’t seem to land his dream witch, but had no such difficulty with any other girl. At some point after graduation, in fact, they’d begun throwing themselves at him despite the fact that he’d told each one his heart belonged to Hermione Granger. It would have been both rude and foolish to turn down such sweet offers to help cure his fixation and so he didn’t, until seven months ago when Minerva casually mentioned Hermione’s appointment to the Transfigurations vacancy. He’d courteously rebuffed all advances since.

 

His destination turned out to be even shadier than he’d expected. The wizard who spoke through the shutters didn’t have a mature venomous Tentacula, but he knew who did. Ten Galleons produced the necessary details, and Neville left with a swagger in his step and an appointment for Thursday evening in Diagon Alley. He managed to make it back to Hogwarts just as dinner began.

 

“Good of you to join us, Neville,” remarked Minerva as he passed behind her chair.

 

“Evening, all.” He took his seat between Luna and Hermione.

 

Luna seemed to be in a meditative state, but Hermione replied with the sort of smile indicative of a secret. He forced his attention to his plate, which was already laden with food. Had she served him? The thought made him slightly giddy.

 

Minerva called down the table, “Did you get what you needed at D&D?”

 

He blushed and scooped up a forkful of beef and potatoes. “Uh, yeah, thanks.”

 

“I’m intrigued by this Herbological emergency of yours,” she continued. “Is it something I should know about?”

 

Neville froze just as his fork reached his mouth. He glanced at Hermione from the corner of his eye and then leaned forward to answer Minerva. “Uh, no?”

 

The headmistress frowned. Finally, she gave a curt nod and turned her attention to Hermione. “How did the Floo call with your former Ministry office go, Hermione?”

 

There was a loud clatter to his right as the witch in question dropped her knife onto her plate. “Errrrrrr . . .”

 

Neville’s heart swelled with optimism. Why else would Hermione have contacted the Department of Pop Certification, if not to find an Animagus! They spent the rest of the meal in a silence that, for all its awkwardness, had a curiously hopeful flavor to it.

 

*   *   *

 

“Ministry of Magic, Populace Certification Department,” Hermione called into the only Hogwarts fireplace connected to the Floo network. She glanced over her shoulder once more, hoping Minerva would honor her request for privacy. The door to the headmistress’s office was shut tight but, given Minerva’s nosy tendencies, it might ‘accidentally’ swing open at any moment. She turned her attention back to the hearth just as the interior of Anthony Goldstein’s office came into view.

 

He made his way to the fireplace at once. “Hermione! I’m so glad to-”

 

“No time for chit-chat; I need your help,” she interrupted, figuring she had less than five minutes before Minerva began eavesdropping.

 

“Sure!” Anthony beamed. “Let’s have dinner-”

 

“No!” That might have sounded a bit harsh, she realized, but there was a fine line between civility and encouragement with Anthony Goldstein. It was how they’d ended up together in the first place – Hermione simply hadn’t realized exactly how fine a line it was until they were sleeping together regularly. She tried again. “I just need some information.”

 

“Anything specific?” He leaned close. “I don’t have my personal planner here at work, so dinner really would be the best way to-”

 

“No, Ant,” she began firmly. It wasn’t going to happen again. He was a wonderful man; he just didn’t fill her stomach with butterflies. And she knew someone who did! The thought of Neville and the way he turned her brain to mush simply by being galvanized her determination. “I need the name of an Animagus who Transfigures into a pug.”

 

“That’s confidential!” He frowned. “I can’t divulge Ministry secrets.”

 

“You know me, Anthony. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

 

He shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. If it were anything else . . .”

 

Hermione thought quickly. She had two decent arguments left. Escalation seemed the most strategic path, and so she began with the weaker of the two. “A life is at stake.” Her sex life, to be specific. “Two lives, really.” Because she was going to kill him if he didn’t give her what she wanted. Then, seeing him waver, she added, “The war taught us all that rules must sometimes be broken.” She gave him what she hoped was a sad smile. “My scars remind me of that every day.”

 

Anthony looked conflicted, and Hermione held her breath for the span of several heartbeats. For a brilliant man, he had no concept of manipulation and, therefore, had been quite malleable to her whims in the past. “No, I’m sorry. I took an oath of loyalty to the Ministry when I took this office. If it were anything else, Hermione . . .”

 

Well, fuck. That left the one argument she’d hoped not to need for his sake. “There’s always the fact that I know you like to cross-dress and take it up the butt with a strap-on.”

 

“I-!” He glanced around nervously. “I just wanted to try it; you said no!”

 

“So are you going to help me?” She cocked an eyebrow. “Or not?”

 

He looked scandalized. “You’re blackmailing me?”

 

“Don’t sound so surprised, Anthony,” she scolded. “I just told you I believe rules should be broken given the right circumstances! Now are we going to do this easy way or the hard way?”

 

“Fine! Fine!” He scrunched up his face. “Give me five minutes to scan the files.”

 

“You have two.” Hermione watched her former lover scurry to the far wall and rifle through a file cabinet. When he returned with the requisite information, she thanked him profusely. “You’ll never know the good you’ve done today, Ant. And no,” she added when he looked hopeful once more, “we can’t go out for dinner.”

 

Her next Floo call was short and to the point. Yes, the Animagus would meet for tea this Thursday at six. Yes, she expected to be reimbursed in some manner for her cooperation. The conversation ended just as Minerva cracked the door open with all the subtlety of a troll, and the two witches walked down to dinner together.

 

Neville was late to the teacher’s table. Hermione served her meal and, seeing his empty plate beside hers, impulsively did the same for him. It was a simple gesture, and yet so imbued with a sense of familiarity and care that she blushed as she added a second helping of potatoes to his plate. She’d found a crucial part to Luna’s plan, and soon she’d be doing such things for Neville on a regular basis!

 

Just as she was thinking all this he slid into his seat beside her, and she smiled up at him in secret delight.

 

Then Minerva began poking her nose everywhere, rooting about for interesting news. This upturned the fact that Neville had been at Dogweed and Deathcap that afternoon. Had he been seeking out a venomous Tentacula? Hermione’s heart beat to a rhythm of anticipation for the rest of dinner, even as her face burned intermittently at the knowledge that he might know what she’d been doing.