Chapter Three – …But None to Beat This Paradox

“I’m going to kill that little witch.”

As soon as Harry spoke, Luna cast a spell. “Incarcerous butyrum fermentum.” As she spoke, chains of butterbeer corks erupted from her wand and imprisoned Harry.

Staring at her incredulously, Harry looked down as he struggled to free himself. “Luna, I mean it; I’m going to throttle that meddling little witch.”

Shaking her head, Luna smiled at Harry. “Harry, I think the word you’re looking for starts with a ‘b’ not a ‘w’, but that’s beside the point.” Watching as he stopped and started shaking his head, Luna smiled at him. “Just calm down for a second, I want to ask you a question or two.”

Ceasing his struggles, Harry leaned back and stared at Luna. “Exactly what was the point of this whole exercise? And just why can’t I go out and throttle Ginny after what she’s done?”

Smiling coldly, Luna waited until she could see Harry was paying attention to her and not thinking about a way to escape before she answered. “Even being the ‘Wizard Who Won’ wouldn’t keep you from a couple of years in Azkaban, at least, if you rush out and just throttle her, as much as she richly deserves it.” Seeing the look in Harry’s eyes, she could tell he was listening to her while he plotted his vengeance. “Harry, once we get a few preliminaries out of the way, I can offer you a way to pay her back very appropriately and very permanently and you won’t have to lift more than a couple of fingers. Ginevra will do all the work.”

Frowning, Harry sighed as he looked pointedly at the chains that bound him. “I suppose I’ve got nothing to lose by listening. Throttling is always a last resort.”

“That’s a very Gryffindor way to look at it.” Luna nodded to him, pleased.

Shaking his head, Harry chuckled. “Then proceed, Ms Ravenclaw, and enlighten me.”

Watching Harry for a few seconds, Luna took a deep breath and began. “Harry, the things I’m going to tell you right now aren’t meant to make you feel bad or guilty, but it’s so you can get some things straight in your mind before you talk to Hermione and Ginevra.” Waiting for him to nod in agreement, Luna plunged on.

“While you were under the influence of that potion, you’ve been a right prat to Hermione over the last couple of years. At first, her behavior was influenced also, so pretty much everything during your sixth year was a wash since you both were acting that way. The closer you really drew to each other, the more the potion forced you apart.”

Sighing, Harry looked down for a couple of seconds. “I suppose this means that we would have found a solution to our arguments over Malfoy and that bloody book if we’d have been able to think about it clearly.”

“Most likely. Though you must remember that the two of you have rowed from time to time over the years, and you’ve been pretty bad about not taking her side when she needed you most of the time. But since you’re a wizard, I imagine she’s forgiven you for most of that.”

Shifting uncomfortably, Harry looked up at Luna with a quizzical look. “I’m not certain I follow you.”

Smiling, Luna shook her head a bit. “Harry, over the years, you’ve sided with Ronald more often than not, even when you knew he was being a bit of an arse about things. I’m certain that Hermione’s forgiven you for that, it’s pretty much a guy thing and since you’re a guy, she makes allowances for you.”

“There’s one she shouldn’t forgive me for.” Looking at Luna sorrowfully, Harry hung his head. “There was a time when she was pretty broken up over something Ron did, and I just ignored her.”

“Something happened in the tent after Ronald left the two of you?”

Looking sharply at her, Harry frowned a bit. “We agreed we weren’t going to go into the specifics of certain things that happened last year.” Watching Luna carefully, Harry was waiting for her to explain.

“Over the summer, I talked with Ronald a couple of times. He was very upset about some of the things he had done, and he wanted someone outside the three of you to talk to, I suppose. He said that he walked out on the two of you and tried to make Hermione choose between the two of you.” Nodding to Harry, she sighed. “She chose you, it would seem”

Thinking back to that December night, Harry hung his head in shame. In a voice hardly louder than a whisper, he replied. “She chose me, as she always had and I turned my back on her, again. She was crying and all I did was ignore her, wallowing in my own disappointment in Ron.”

“Actually, no.”

Looking up at Luna, Harry could see the concern she had for him. “Luna, I was there. I know what I did.”

“Harry, you can be an insensitive prat at times. You’re a guy and you really can’t help it on occasion. But this time, I think, you had a bit of help acting like a git.” Nodding encouragingly, Luna smiled. “Let’s look at the facts. You were tired, cold, and hungry. Ronald told me how on edge everyone was because your mission wasn’t going well. And the Horcrux, Slytherin’s Locket, was whispering into all of your ears when you wore it. And you were under the influence of Ginevra’s potion as well.”

Seeing the hopeful look in his eye, she shook her head. “It doesn’t totally excuse what happened, but it does help explain it. Hermione had shaken off the effects of the potion before that night, and her feelings for you were in flux. You were being driven away from her by the potion’s effects, and the part of Voldemort’s soul in the locket was intent on causing as much pain and despair as it could.”

“Things got better.”

Looking thoughtful, Luna nodded. “You were probably able to come to some sort of rapport as time passed.”

“But I failed her again. It was Christmas and we went to Godric’s Hollow. I wouldn’t listen to her when she said it was a trap, and I almost got us captured by Riddle’s familiar. She saved my life and I treated her badly, again.”

“Harry, from what you’ve told me, you were injured, depressed, and fighting for your life. Hermione cares deeply for you, I think that particular time you got a pass, as long as you didn’t keep it up too long.”

Leaning forward, Harry gazed intently at her. “Why?”

Smiling, Luna nodded. “She loves you, that’s reason enough. It’s what love does. She won’t let you stay a git, but she will excuse it while you’re a work in progress.”

Seeing the blush on Harry’s face, Luna changed track a bit. “Last question. What on earth really happened this morning in the Great Hall?” Blushing slightly since she had already left by the time the blowup occurred; Luna hoped Harry hadn’t noticed she wasn’t a witness to this morning’s events.

Blushing, Harry looked away. “Ginny was badgering me about spending time with her in Hogsmeade today. I kept trying to tell her that Hermione and I were going since Ron’s got himself involved in something today and can’t make it, but she wouldn’t listen. Finally I lost my temper and stormed off, leaving both of them standing there.”

“Why didn’t you storm off with Hermione? You were going into the village with her, anyway?”

Shrugging, Harry sighed. “I don’t know. I was annoyed with her, too. Instead of helping, she was just standing there. It was as if she was waiting to see what I would do.”

Silence, the type that echoes throughout the room, greeted Harry as he saw the disbelieving look in Luna’s eyes.

“Of course she was waiting to see what I was going to do. Not only am I an idiot, but I’m a hopeless idiot.” Groaning, Harry closed his eyes.

“No Harry, you’re not an idiot, you’re a guy. It’s close, but not quite the same thing.” Smiling to take some of the sting out of her words, Luna watched him carefully. “She’s already chosen, I think she was waiting to make certain that you have also.”

Putting his head down on his chest, Harry sighed. “And I couldn’t tell her I chose until now, could I.” Looking up at Luna, distress evident in his eyes, he sighed. “How could I have told her I chose her to love?”

“Harry, we never ‘choose’ the person we love, that’s impossible.” Chuckling, Luna shook her head. “But we do choose to act upon it.” Getting a bit of a dreamy look as she smiled mysteriously, she sighed. “Sometimes we have to wait for other things to resolve themselves, but we never choose love, it chooses us.”

Luna twirled her wand as she waited for Harry to relax. “Harry, I don’t want you to think about it, just answer my next question with the first thing that pops into your mind.” Waiting for Harry to nod his agreement, Luna smiled. “Close your eyes, and let your mind wander.”

Harry closed his eyes and Luna could see he was beginning to relax a bit. “Where is Hermione right this moment?”

Without a pause, Harry replied. “The Hospital Wing.” Opening his eyes in surprise, he stared at her. “How did I know that?”

Shrugging Luna smiled mysteriously at him. “We don’t know if you do actually know it. It might just be a wild arse guess. But, if you were going to guess, you probably would have said ‘library’.” Looking thoughtful for a second, Luna nodded. “Is that map of your father’s in your room?”

Nodding, Harry smiled. “Interesting. Do you trust me enough to let me go get it without causing murder and mayhem?”

Laughing, Luna silently canceled the chains that bound him. “Harry I think you’ve calmed down enough to not go running off to murder Ginevra right this second, but I think I’ve got a faster way to retrieve the map for you.”

Looking over at Ron’s bed, Luna smiled at Crookshanks who was watching them intently. “Crooks, would you go to Harry’s room and bring back that map of his?”

Yawning, Crookshanks nodded in Luna’s direction and slowly faded from sight.

Staring at the spot Crookshanks had recently occupied, Harry whistled. “Why haven’t I ever seen him do that before?”

Trying to look thoughtful while keeping from laughing at him, Luna paused for several seconds before giving him the answer. “Well Harry, Crookshanks is a familiar and since you’ve finally admitted that you love his mistress, I think you’ll be noticing all sorts of different things about him. That fact, combined with what your dad’s map is probably going to reveal to us, should tell the tale.”

As she finished speaking, a subtle ‘pop’ heralded the return of the kneazel mix. Shaking his head disdainfully, Crookshanks looked at Harry for several seconds while holding the map in his teeth. Seeing Harry nod his agreement, Crookshanks turned and dropped the folded piece of parchment in front of Luna before crossing back over and occupying Harry’s lap.

Smiling, Luna unfolded the parchment and spread it so both of them could see it. Seeing Harry’s amused nod, she tapped the map with her wand and said, in a sing-song voice, “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good.”

As the map began to fill itself in, she looked up at Harry and grinned. “How on earth do you say that aloud with a straight face?”

Shrugging, Harry winked at her. “I learned how to do it non-verbally?”

“Showoff.” Shaking her head, Luna traced her finger along the third floor corridors until she came to the Hospital Wing. Pointing towards the mediwitch’s office, she smiled. “It looks as if Poppy and Hermione are having a conversation of some sort.”

As they were watching, Luna noticed Hermione leave the office area and make a detour through the ward before exiting. Pausing for almost a minute in what was called ‘the witches’ corner’ she smiled knowingly as Hermione’s dot retraced her steps and exited the Hospital Wing and headed off towards the stairwell that would take her to the public entrance to the Heads’ quarters.

“Well, we now know two things we didn’t before.” Folding the map up she pointedly didn’t tap the parchment with her wand as she wandlessly cleared the map with a mental ‘mischief managed’.

Snickering, Harry shook his head as he muttered, ‘Showoff indeed’ under his breath. “Exactly what do we know now that we didn’t before?”

Rolling her eyes, she chuckled at him. “Harry, you’re such a guy.” Seeing the hurt look on his face, she smiled. “And I meant that in a good way, at least for Hermione’s sake. Since it would seem that you ‘know’ where Hermione is, and I’m willing to bet that she could do the same if she concentrated on it, the two of you are very much in love with each other. Finally.”

Nodding slowly, Harry smiled. “And the second thing?”

“I think it’s safe to say that Hermione feels the same way and plans on doing something about it, since she made a point of talking to Poppy today before stopping by the Witches’ Corner.”

Shaking his head, Harry looked at Luna quizzically. “The Witches’ Corner? What has that got to do…” Trailing off, Harry blushed and looked away.

Smiling knowingly, Luna laughed kindly at the look on Harry’s face. “Yes Harry, the dreaded Witches’ Corner of the Hospital Wing. That mysterious cabinet in the back of the Hospital Wing that will only open for witches who have been cleared by Poppy. The place where wizards fear to tread.”

“Luna, what do you think that means?” Watching the blonde witch across from him carefully, Harry blushed as he saw the knowing smile on Luna’s face.

“Well, it could mean that she’s having a particularly difficult time with her monthlies this time.” Smirking, Luna watched Harry start to shake his head.

“That was last weekend. She was a bit cranky, but she’s never really out there.” Seeing the smirk on Luna’s face, Harry looked puzzled. “What?”

“Harry, you two are hopeless. It would be scary to think about both of you if Ginevra hadn’t interfered with things.” Shaking her head, Luna smiled as she thought about her overly controlling friend and how radiant she was/will be when they talked earlier/later. “Don’t worry too much about it, Harry. I’m certain you two will have everything under control when the time comes.”

“But how? How can you be certain she feels that way about me? It could be someone else. It could be Ron.”

Laughing, Luna shook her head. “Trust me Harry, it isn’t Ron, it’s you. Look down in your lap for the proof.”

Looking down at Crookshanks, Harry was startled to feel emotional feedback from the kneazel mix familiar. While he had always been on good terms with the ginger cat, far better than Ron truth be told, he could feel those same echoes that he had gotten from Hedwig for all those years. While a feline’s perspective on things was different than an owl’s, Harry had been bonded with his familiar long enough to recognize the connection that now existed between him and the massive cat.

Nodding, Luna smiled. “Even with the potion running interference between the two of you, you’ve always had a very close relationship with Crooks there. But once that was purged from your system, the relationship between the two of you clicked into place as both you and Hermione accepted your own relationship.”

Looking a bit puzzled, Harry absentmindedly stroked the fur along the familiar’s back as he thought. “You make it sound as if we don’t have a choice with this. I won’t have her shanghaied into a relationship with me just because of a bloody potion. That would make me no better than Ginny.”

“Harry James Potter!” The sharp tone of Luna’s voice caused Harry to start and stare at her. “Haven’t you listened to a word I said? Amortentia doesn’t cause love, it reveals it. If Hermione didn’t feel anything for you, then you’d have a whopping case of unrequited love and you’d bloody well know it. Obviously the witch returns your feelings, if you weren’t so insecure you would know that.”

Shaking his head, Harry blushed. “I just want to make certain this is her wanting to be with me, not something that is being externally created. I can live with the fact I love her and she thinks of me as her best mate if she’s happy.”

“Harry, you’re sweet. A bit daft, but sweet. I can see what she sees in you.” Grinning at the goofy look on his face, she sighed. “Merlin help me, I feel like such a yenta.”

Puzzled, Harry came out of his reverie. “Beg pardon?”

“Never mind. But I’m not matchmaking for every love challenged couple in the school. Let’s just keep this between the three of us.”

“The three of us?” Looking down at Crookshanks he shrugged. “I think Crooks here can keep a secret.”

“Crooks makes four. I have no hope of you not telling Hermione about my role in this, but I’d appreciate it if the two of you would refrain from letting everyone else know about it.”

Nodding Harry smiled. “I think we can manage that.” His face clouded over and he looked involuntarily over towards the exit to the dorm. “That still leaves us with what to do about Miss Weasley and her meddling interference.” Shaking his head, Harry sighed. “Isn’t dosing someone with a love potion against their will an offense that could end you up in Azkaban?”

Shaking her head, Luna looked a bit thoughtful as she considered the possibility. “Not for an underage witch, which is what she was when she did it. “ Mulling it over in her head, she smiled. “Of course, a good advocate at DMLE could argue that since she turned seventeen this summer and allowed the condition to continue, she was now an adult accomplice to her underage self’s crime.”

Shaking his head, Harry frowned. “That’s too abstract for me. Reminds me of all that temporal paradox stuff Hermione’s studying in Advanced Runes and Advanced Arithmancy.”

“Trust me Harry, the intricacies of Wizarding law, as arcane as they would seem to the two of us, are not even close to temporal theory.” Ignoring the puzzled look on his face, she nodded. “Do you want to prank her back and make certain she learns a lesson she can’t ignore?”

Smiling coldly, Harry nodded. “That sounds perfect. I’m not certain if and when I’m going to forgive her for this, and if Hermione ever finds out, I know it will be a snowy day in July before she does, so a good object lesson through pranking sounds apropos. What do we need to do?”

Smiling wickedly, Luna looked around once more to make certain they were alone. “Actually, all you need to do is just take a drink of the pumpkin juice that Ginevra’s going to offer you sometime during lunch today.”

Seeing the shocked look on his face, she nodded. “I have it from a very reliable source that must remain anonymous that she’s going to dose you with a different love potion today, one called Sylph’s Blood.”

“Luna, I just got my head straightened out and I want to make certain Hermione feels the same way. Why in Merlin’s name would I want to take anything from Ginny, much less an actual love potion?” Staring at his friend in disbelief, Harry shook his head.

Sighing, Luna rolled her eyes. “Harry, the Amortentia has another slight side effect, one which you’ll be profoundly happy about in a second. The potion in your system will take a very dim view of anything trying to muck around with its stated purpose. The only thing that’s going to happen to you is that your hair is going to change colour to let you know which potion you were dosed with. Since we know it’s going to be Sylph’s Blood, your hair will turn a shade of blue that will be rather noticeable.”

“All right, no harm no foul. But I don’t see how that helps me prank Ginny, other than she’ll have instant feedback that her plan failed.” Looking puzzled, Harry began to contemplate more direct action to teach the youngest Weasley a lesson.

Chuckling, Luna nodded. “Interesting phrase you used there. ‘Feedback’ indeed. The Amortentia will rebound the Slyph’s Blood potion back on the individual who was attempting to tamper with true love.” Seeing Harry blush a bit, she nodded. “I believe they call it ‘The Blave Effect’. Ginny’s going to become instantly and violently nauseous when you drink the pumpkin juice. The more you drink, the sicker she’ll get, so unless you want her heaving her toenails up, you might want to limit it to just a couple of swallows.”

Smiling evilly, Harry looked beseechingly at her. “Please, can’t I chug the entire thing?”

Shaking her head, Luna laughed. “Harry, you don’t want to do that, because of the second part of the side effect.

“Second part?”

“Oh, yes. What the two of you have will protect you both from the charms of veelas, incubi, succubi, and the like without any problem.” Seeing the look on his face, she nodded. “You could willingly cheat on each other, nothing will save you from ‘guy stupidity’, but you can’t be charmed into messing up by normal levels of magical attraction. Hermione will never have to worry about you and Gabrielle. But as long as the potion is in your system, not only will you be shielded from potions and spells like we’re going to see today, but there’s a lingering side effect for anyone wanting to take advantage of you like that.”

Nodding, Harry smiled at the glint in Luna’s eyes. “This sounds good.”

Chuckling, Luna shrugged. “Good is a relative term, you realize. I doubt Ginerva is going to appreciate the fact that anytime for the next solar year she’s within ten feet of you and Hermione’s not present, she’s going to suffer a relapse of her bounceback symptoms.”

Eyes twinkling, Harry grinned. “Oh, this is good. Anytime she’s around me and Hermione’s not there she’s going to relive the moment, all over again?”

“Precisely. I think the muggles call it ‘aversion therapy’. To keep her thoughts from straying to things they shouldn’t, like how to get you into the nearest broomcloset or bed, she’ll be concentrating on things like not heaving her lunch all over. And the ten foot radius should make it difficult for her to spew all over you.”

Harry closed his eyes and a beatific smile came across his face as he imagined his former friend being extremely nauseous every time she tried to come around him while Hermione wasn’t present. Opening his eyes, Harry beamed. “Luna, how can I ever thank you for this?”

Smiling, Luna winked at Harry. “There are a couple of things you can do for me.” Seeing Harry’s enthusiastic nod, Luna smiled. “The first is you can wait a couple of days to let Hermione know exactly what my role in this was. Tell her we talked, but leave the potions out of the discussion for a day or two.”

“I can do that, but why?” Looking a bit confused, Harry nodded slowly

Thinking for a second, Luna answered. Deciding that telling Harry it was to avoid a temporal paradox would defeat the purpose, she temporized. “Well Harry, part of the reason is that I think it might be best if Hermione has a couple of days to adjust to being in a relationship with you before you spring it on her about what Ginevra did. You know how she can get sometimes.” Watching Harry, she could see the wheels turning as he thought about Hermione’s tendency to be a bit protective of him. “If you explain it to her gently, after you two have had some time to adjust to each other, hopefully we can keep Ginevra off that same list that Pansy Parkinson is on.”

Sighing, Harry nodded slowly. “Remind me again why I’m doing Ginny any favors after what she did?”

“Harry, she’s the little sister of your best mate, and you’re friends with Arthur and Molly. It would strain your relationship with them a bit if Hermione turns their only daughter into something that requires a terrarium and steady diet of flies.”

Savoring the moment, Harry’s imagination ran away as he pictured Malfoy the ferret chasing Ginny the toad. Smiling in a manner that was usually reserved for obtaining one’s heart’s desire, he shook himself and nodded to Luna. “I can see what you mean; it would probably be bad if we tell her too soon.”

“I would be much more reassured if you had a look on your face that matched that sentiment. Right now, you resemble a kneazel being questioned about a missing colony of pixies; very content and not the least bit contrite.”

“A bloke can daydream, can’t he?” Smiling, Harry shook his head to clear it of scenes of ferret-induced bufocide.

“Harry James Potter, promise me you’ll do this the way we talked about.” Trying to sound stern, Luna was having a difficult time keeping a smile from her lips as she took in the look of contentment on Harry’s face.

“Luna, if it’s that important to you, I’ll just take a small sip or two of the pumpkin juice Ginny hands me and I won’t mention the potions to Hermione for at least two days.” Staring into her eyes, Harry smiled as he nodded. “Is there anything else?”

“Just a small thing, really.” Trying to look innocent, Luna dialed up her ‘Looney Lovegood’ persona. “I’ve been counting nargles around the castle, and I’ve got to do a couple of things before I get back to Ravenclaw Tower. Could you have Hermione tell me ‘923’ when she sees me later so I’ll know what my count was?”

“Erm… I suppose I can do that. If I see you before she does, do you want me to remind you?” Trying not to look amused, Harry simply nodded in agreement.

Shaking her head, Luna smiled indulgently. “I’m reasonable certain we’re not going to run into each other until after the fact. You’re going to be very busy what with stopping by the hospital wing, having lunch, and sorting out your girlfriend, I think I can wait until Hermione finds me later.”

Standing, Harry held out his hand and helped Luna to her feet. Stepping close to her, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly. “Thank you, very much” he whispered in her ear as she brought her arms up around him.

“It really wasn’t anything, Harry.” Luna murmured as she returned the hug. “And I can see why Ginevra is reluctant to give up on you. You’re a most extraordinary wizard, you know.”

Chuckling, Harry smiled and glanced around the room. Seeing Crookshanks yawning over on Ron’s bed, he shook his head again. “How is it that you have such a good rapport with Crooks, if he’s Hermione’s familiar?”

“When I was a little girl, I was very fond of that ruffian’s mum. Ophelia still turns up from time to time, and for some reason Crooks seems to think of me as family, I suppose.”

“Well, for whatever reason, I can’t think of a better person for him to be fond of.” Smiling, Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders as they descended the steps from the dorm. “Do you want me walk you anywhere?”

Looking down at the watch on Harry’s wrist, Luna smiled. “I think it’s almost time for you to straighten things out with Hermione. Why don’t you head by your Common Room and have a long overdue chat with Hermione before you two head down to lunch?”

“Good thinking, Luna. I think that there are a few things that Ms Granger and I need to discuss, and several apologies I need to make to her.” Taking his leave from her, Harry nodded to Luna as she walked down the hall with him.

“Start with telling her how you feel; the rest of it will work itself out.” Keeping going as Harry stepped into an alcove masking one of the passageways that honeycombed the school, Luna looked over her shoulder and waved. “I’ll see you two tonight at dinner, promise?”

Opening the passage, Harry smiled. “If we don’t see you before. Have fun with your nargles.”

Shaking her head as Harry disappeared, Luna smiled mischievously. Taking out the timeturner, she tapped the device three times and whispered, “1327”.

Disappearing in a swirl of lights, Luna left the hallway quiet, except for a startled Mrs. Norris who came around the corner just as the blonde witch disappeared.

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