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Tangled Strings and Technicalities

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Harry
June 2002, Ministry of Magic

Harry didn’t work at the Ministry.

This should be a fact that he just knew, like his sisters’ names or his address, or, well, that Ron and Hermione had been his best friends since he was eleven. Not something that he had to stand in the Atrium thinking about. Was this amnesia? Had he been hit over the head recently?

Was this scurvy? Hermione was constantly telling him he was going to get scurvy.

He’d been certain that he worked at the Ministry. He had vivid memories of the paperwork. He was sure he’d had an office. He’d bought tea from the cafe that had been just over there - except there was no cafe. Over there was the Department of Stationary Supplies and Owl Treats.

“Alright, Mr Potter?” asked the wizard on the front desk. “Who are you here to visit? It’ll be the Department of Magical Games and Sports, yes?”

Harry narrowly avoided asking why he’d do such a thing. He was certain he’d only been there once before, when he’d - no, he didn’t know why. Probably something to do with paperwork, wasn’t it. He rubbed his forehead, hoping that he could disguise this as a headache rather than some sort of mental breakdown.

“Sorry, just a bit tired. Yes, I’m going to the Department of Magical Games and Sports.”

“Not surprised, after that last game. Four days, wasn’t it? Must say, even how long it took, you’re still the best seeker the Bats have ever had, Mr Potter.” The man grinned as he wrote out a pass. “Amazing capture, you know, the way you did that feint and the Magpies seeker went off in completely the wrong direction, and then hanging off your broom like that!”

“Thanks.” That answered a question, Harry supposed. “Always worth putting on a show.” He smiled, hoping that this was the right thing to do.

“Here you go,” said the man, handing over Harry’s visitor badge. “Just, if you wouldn’t mind, would you sign my match ticket?”

“Of course.” He still remembered how to sign his name, even if he hadn’t been sure where he worked.

Nobody questioned where he was going when he left the Atrium in the direction of the lifts, so Harry decided to see where his legs took him if he just walked, see if his body remembered anything he didn’t about where exactly he’d thought he worked. His forehead ached as he waited for the lift. Something was off. Something had been off the entire last few days, actually. Not that he could remember a lot of it.

Had he gone drinking with Fred and George again?

Maybe it was a dream. He pinched himself on the arm as hard as he could, just to see. No, not a dream.

There was something he wasn’t remembering.

“Oh, hi Harry. I was wondering if you’d come up here at some point. Not that I’m just lurking in an office that might have been yours in an entirely different reality, no, that would be strange, wouldn’t it?”

Harry blinked. He was inside the Auror Office, and Luna was sat on a desk in a cubicle reading the Quibbler, and none of this made sense.

“Yes,” he said. “Very strange.” He considered pinching his arm again. Or maybe something more drastic. What would happen if he jumped out of the window?

“I suppose you’re wondering why you’re here.”

“I don’t work here.”

“No, you don’t. Neither does Ron, if you’re interested. You’re currently widely considered as the best seeker in the English Quidditch League, and you’re debuting in your first World Cup this summer. You were named to the squad yesterday.”

“Why do you know that and I don’t?”

“Oh, probably because I read. Or perhaps it’s just something I know. I can’t always remember.” She tipped her head to one side and eyed him over her Quibbler. “Perhaps you’ve got scurvy. Or a hangover.”

Harry blinked.

Luna put down her magazine. “Shall we be going? I expect the actual occupant of this office is going to come back from their meeting soon. When they discover that it doesn’t exist.”

“The meeting, or the office?” At this stage, Harry wasn’t ruling anything out.

“Well, everything’s made up of tiny atoms, that’s what I learnt this week, so I suppose one could argue that the office doesn’t exist as a single construct, couldn’t they? Have you ever read a Muggle science book? Hermione gave me one for my birthday, and I have to say they’re fascinating.”

Harry thought perhaps he had, but he couldn’t remember any of it. He was also sure that there was something to remember about Hermione.

“Come on,” said Luna, already halfway out the door. “Time to go.”

He followed Luna down to the Department of Magical Games and Sports, which he supposed he probably should go to, as that’s where he was supposed to be going. Not that he still understood why. He pinched himself again when he didn’t think Luna was looking. Not a dream.

“Just so you know,” said Luna, outside the Department, “this wasn’t my idea.”

They entered the room to a huge banner that read ‘Congratulations Harry!’ and an excessive amount of balloons littering the walls and floor.

“Harry!” squealed Hermione, running over to him and hugging him. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Youngest England seeker ever!” Ron shouted, reaching in to slap him on the back. “Can’t wait to see you win it for us!”

Everyone was there, everyone Harry knew. His mum and his dad, grinning proudly, hand in hand. Uncle Sirius, his godfather, and Auntie Lyra, as she was always known. Uncle Remus and Auntie Phil. Ginny. His friends from school, Dean and Seamus and Neville, Neville’s girlfriend, everyone.

And he still couldn’t remember why this was weird.

It was an hour after this that Luna sidled over, a piece of cake on a napkin for both of them in her hands.

“This is weird, isn’t it,” said Harry.

“Obviously. I’m fairly sure that it’s a gross misuse of Departmental time, although, admittedly, Ron did pay for it out of his own pocket, so it isn’t a misuse of funds. Anyway, a Galleon is as much of a construct as a meeting, and certainly more than a physical representation of an office.”

“No. Not that. You know what I mean, don’t you?”

“Maybe.”

“You do. I thought I worked here, at the Ministry, but I can’t remember what I thought I did. There’s something odd about my parents being here.” He rubbed his forehead again. It sounded bonkers out loud. “They should be, of course, but it’s weird. And Hermione, I’m sure there’s something off about Hermione.”

“I think a few things have just been sorting themselves out lately. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”

“You know something, though.”

“I know a lot of things. I’ve been doing some interesting work on Nargles, recently. It seems like they’re not so much attracted to distress as they are to strong emotion of any kind, and you can train them to prefer positive emotions. It’s fascinating.”

“What happened, Luna?”

“Well, first you have to get a small group of Nargles together, perhaps six, certainly no more than eight…”

“No. Not that.”

“Somewhere,” she said, slowly, “there was a different timeline. One where your parents died when you were a baby, and you became the Chosen One, destined to defeat Lord Voldemort. This one is better. I’d say everyone would agree, well, except perhaps Voldemort himself.”

“Voldemort died before I was born.” Harry was used to taking everything Luna said with a pinch of asphodel. Why would this be any different?

“He did. And isn’t that better that way?”

“Obviously,” said Harry, but the way Luna looked, he wasn’t sure he was agreeing to the same thing he’d thought he was. “Why don’t things seem right?”

“Maybe we’ll never know,” said Luna, “but I think there’s just a few things recalibrating themselves. They’ll be alright by tomorrow lunchtime, I expect. Oh, look, Hermione’s here. I’m just going to go and talk to her, you’ll be okay here, won’t you, Harry?”

Harry looked around the room. Everyone he knew and loved was here; his parents, his family, his friends, the others from his team, everyone. It felt like it was right, all of it. And wasn’t that more important than trying to work out his niggling feeling that this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

“Worst case scenario,” he said, “is that I’m actually still in sixth year and this is still the dream I had after the concussion in the Ravenclaw-Gryffindor match.”

“Exactly, Harry,” said Luna. “And that’s not the worst thing a worst-case scenario could be. No vampires. Oh, look, Ron’s waving to you. I think he’d like you to pop over there, wouldn’t he?”

Ron was waving something in the air, definitely frantically signalling for Harry to come over. And when Harry looked back to Luna, she was gone anyway, wherever it was Luna went, and so he decided to put all of this out of his mind and just enjoy this party. Because what more had it been than a feeling, anyway? A feeling that something was wrong didn’t mean it was actually wrong, like that time he’d thought Crabbe and Goyle had been plotting against McGonagall, and Hermione and Ron had told him that wasn’t happening, and it hadn’t been.

He didn’t need intrigue or plots or anything. He was going to be playing for England, he had Ron and Hermione, he had his parents, he had Ginny, who’d all be at every match. He had everything he needed or wanted.

“Harry!” Auntie Phil, who wasn’t an actual Aunt but his not-actual Uncle Remus’ wife, stopped him as he was halfway over to Ron. “Congratulations! Unrelated, have you seen Calliope, I promised I’d keep an eye on her for - oh, never mind. There she is.”

“Thanks. We’re going to beat Wales, you know,” he said, unable to resist a dig at that. Philomena elbowed him.

“I’ll have you know that Wales has put together a strong side this year. It isn’t the same as it was when I was playing, no, but they’ll have you if you’re not careful, Potter.”

“Jones is weak,” Harry said, falling into a familiar habit of Quidditch banter with her. “And, honestly, Piper isn’t much better. Between the two of them you’ve relying far too much on your Seeker. And I’m faster than she is.”

“You keep telling yourself that.” She stuck out her tongue. “Besides, wait until Peter and Jessica are the age to play. I’ve been training them myself, and you’ll be squashed then. Squashed.” She looked over her shoulder, then dropped her voice to a whisper. “By the way. Have you proposed to Ginny yet?”

Harry tried not to let his hand go to the box in his pocket. He’d been carrying it round for weeks, now, waiting for the right time, but it hadn’t seemed quite right, not yet.

“I want to, but,” he started.

Philomena smiled. “Maybe after the first match,” she said. “I’d have liked that in my playing days, anyway.”

“Didn’t Uncle Remus propose to you in a battle?”

“Yeah. Ridiculous man, I think I told him that at the time, too.” She paused, looking emotional for a second, probably at the memories of that battle. Harry knew all the stories of that war, of everyone who’d fought in it. As much as anything else, the Headmistress had made sure they’d all learnt it in History of Magic, and he’d had everyone at home to tell him the stories, too. He’d used to think the stories were exciting, romantic, almost, but these days, he was mostly glad he hadn’t had to do it himself.

“Thanks, Philomena,” he said. “I’ll take that advice, I think.”

Harry Potter rubbed his forehead once more, still not sure why it ached so much, and then he went to rejoin the party.

 

Regulus
December 1979, Grimmauld Place

Regulus did not like being seen as a pity case. He was more than capable of doing almost everything for himself, now, provided that he paced himself. And he certainly did not need to be told what to do by Sirius, of all people.

“He’s trying to help,” Adeline told him. “Let him.”

Regulus did not need help.

They were to have a boy. A baby boy, who, Regulus and Adeline had agreed, would have Sirius’ name for it’s middle name. They had not yet told his mother, but Regulus would not change it, no matter what she thought. He was capable of making his own choices, and he would make them far better in the year 1980 than he had in the years previous. He would teach his son to make his own choices, too. He would teach his son not to join a dark lord.

The Dark Mark on his wrist had faded, a washed-out impression of a skull and a snake rather than the angry black mark it had once been. Regulus preferred it like this. This way, rather than it disappearing without a trace, reminded him. It reminded him of the choices he should never have made.

“You made the right ones in the end,” Adeline said. “That’s what matters.”

“I suppose.”

“It is. You killed the Dark Lord, Regulus, that’s hardly the actions of someone who doesn’t want to change.”

“I was told to.” He’d relived what he could remember of his role in that battle to her, having held enough secrets from her, and he’d told her exactly how it had happened. He’d been barely conscious, pointing his wand wherever he was told.

“And do you need to mean it to use the Killing Curse?”

“Yes.” He knew what point she was making.

“Exactly.” She sat down on the chair, easing herself down with one hand on her stomach. “There you are then. You meant to kill him, or you couldn’t have done it.”

And Regulus was forced to believe that was correct. He remained standing across the room from her, beside the family tapestry that would one day contain his son’s name. The one with Lyra’s name on, who was not entirely supposed to be there, and no Sirius, because Sirius had gone and come back and then one had gone again.

He would never forgive himself for killing Sirius. Sirius had, of course. The one that remained alive. There had been many conversations that had touched on it, after the one where Sirius had forgiven him, and Regulus had watched, waited, for the signs that really, Sirius hated him for it. They had not come. There would never be a day that Regulus did not regret it, did not wish for the Time Turner to have been fixed so that he could return and undo his actions. But that would be madness. Sirius, the one that was left, had told him to live his life.

And he would. With regret and shame and sadness, nonetheless.

Regulus. touched his hand to his chest, where, beneath layers of robes and bandages, an ugly scar chased across his skin. A Killing Curse, cast by someone who had not wanted to kill him, not completely. The curse had only weakened him.

“I love you,” he said to his wife.

“I love you too.”

“We should have another, after him.” Regulus walked over to sit next to his wife, and hovered a hand over her stomach. Adeline took it, and lowered it down to rest on where the baby was. “And perhaps one more. Or four.”

“Can we get this one out first?” she asked. “Four seems a lot.”

Regulus was not stupid enough as to challenge a woman who was pregnant, and so kept his thoughts to himself. He’d settle for three, he thought. Three Blacks raised to reject Voldemort’s ideology. Three Blacks raised for the better of wizarding society. And if they married a Muggleborn, like his brother had? Regulus would have to accept that.

 

Hermione
December 1979, back in the middle of nowhere

Hermione knew exactly where they were going, no matter how cryptic Luna had been about this little trip. Luna was not anywhere near as good at creating a mystery as she thought she was. They walked through thick woods, the ground more than half mud at this time of year, and Hermione’s stomach felt the familiar sense of foreboding. Of course she knew where they were going. They’d done this sort of walk before.

Things were, nominally, safer now. The Ministry had rounded up most of the known or suspected Death Eaters, and the others were assumed to be in hiding, too afraid of capture and inevitable imprisonment in Azkaban to emerge. No attacks had been registered in a month. The Minister for Magic had declared the war over in a radio broadcast, and then, a day later, issued a broadcast reminding everyone of the Statute of Secrecy.

And, much like the others, Hermione didn’t feel much better.

“Are we nearly there?” Ginny asked, from a few metres ahead of where Hermione was bringing up the rear. “I’d like to get there before we disappear up to our knees in mud.” She stopped, casting an Impervious Charm onto her shoes. “It hasn’t even rained that much, there’s no way there should be this much mud. It’s ridiculous.”

“As far as I’m aware, there were no deaths caused by disappearing into mud in 1978 or 1977.” Hermione cast the charm on her own shoes and stomped ahead.

“Doesn’t mean there can’t be a first time,” said Ginny, darkly. “Either that, or, you know, gangrene.”

“Wizarding methods can treat gangrene, Ginny,” said Hermione, shaking her head. “Honestly, I’d have thought you’d have known that.”

“Hyperbole exists, Hermione, I’d have thought you’d have known that.” She paused. “Is hyperbole the right word?”

“Yes. Come on.” She indicated Luna and Remus, now quite far ahead. Sirius had opted not to come, instead staying with Regulus, who wasn’t yet fit for this sort of thing. Not that Hermione would have said that in front of Regulus. “We won’t get there at all if you don’t move.”

“And the mud will swallow us and we’ll be lost forever.”

“That’s quicksand.”

Ginny, probably wisely, started off again, picking up her speed to try and catch the others. Hermione followed. Something about the look on Ginny’s face told Hermione that Ginny, too, knew exactly where they were going, and that she liked the idea about as much as Hermione did.

Closure, Hermione supposed. Voldemort was dead, Death Eaters dead with him or caught, or disappeared, Regulus would have a baby, James and Lily would have Harry, Remus and Ginny would get married. They’d stay here in the past and make lives for themselves, good lives, and so this was a part of that. They’d get closure, they’d be able to move on.

Hopefully, anyway.

As they turned a corner, the familiar wooden building loomed up ahead of them. Hermione’s stomach twisted even though she knew, logically, there was nothing there to be afraid of. If there had been, it’d have been a panicked rush here, not a visit planned a week in advance around the end of the Hogwarts term for Ginny, Luna’s job, Remus’ full moon, Sirius’ chopping and changing about whether he wanted to come on a trip to see something Luna had thought would be ‘interesting’. There’d still been an outside chance it’d have been an encampment of Nargles or something. According to Luna, that was the collective noun.

“Almost there!” called Luna, from up ahead. “Don’t worry! It’s perfectly safe!”

“How do you know?” Remus asked, who’d drawn his wand anyway.

“Oh, the Ministry’s cleared it out. They wouldn’t have - well, they haven’t, strictly speaking, approved this entire thing, but they do know it’s safe for people to visit. Just that, you know, why would they?”

“To burn it,” suggested Remus.

“A Ministry employee can hardly advocate arson,” said Luna. “And, I suppose, on a technicality, arson is what it would be.”

“Not just on a technicality,” said Hermione. “In the actual Ministry legal codes.”

“Okay,” said Remus. “If I don’t say I’m going to commit arson, can I still do it?”

“Not legally,” sad Luna, before Hermione could answer. “But, you know, personally, I don’t think we’re necessarily planning to get caught, are we?”

“Which is what the kids at school say,” said Ginny, “before they do get caught.” She’d drawn her own wand, which she twirled. “Not at all that I’m adverse to burning the place. I don’t think there’s anything in a Hogwarts contract about arson. Besides, I know for a fact that Flitwick caused a small fire in the Charms department last week when he was showing off to Minerva.”

Nobody had anything much to say to that, so they continued on in silence.

“Not sure I want to go in,” said Ginny, once they were close enough to the building to be considered there now. She prodded at the doorway with her wand. Sirius had been teaching her how to test for curses, and Ginny planned to teach her seventh years the basics of it. “We’re probably going to though.”

“I expect so,” said Luna. “I don’t mind you lot deciding, though.”

“We’re going in,” said Remus, who had the most to gain by going in, perhaps. “I am, anyway. Who’s coming?” He went through the door, Hermione straight behind, then Luna, and Ginny, sighing, bringing up the rear.

“Eurgh,” Ginny shuddered. “If there was ever a reason to commit arson, it’s this.”

“It’s probably Ministry evidence though, isn’t it?” asked Hermione, peering around. “Or I’d hope so, anyway. They should be investigating everything.”

“They are. It’s entirely possible that they might not have reached entirely the right conclusions, but we did manage to find a Death Eater that had been being really quite obstructive as a member of the Auror Department, and so, I suppose, there’s that.”

“Why do you know all of this?” Hermione asked. “I know you work for the Ministry, but so does Remus.”

“I had an unexpected departmental move, let’s say, and I’m not really supposed to talk about it all that much.”

“You work for the Department of Mysteries?”

Luna said nothing, pretending to find the pattern of the stripes on the wallpaper incredibly fascinating. Ginny raised an eyebrow.

“I think we can all assume that’s true then,” said Hermione. “I mean, we’d all worked it out, anyway, but…”

“I hadn’t,” interrupted Ginny. “Honestly, I’m going to find some less intelligent friends.”

“But of course we’d like to hear your news from you,” Hermione finished. “And, Ginny, honestly, you’re fine.”

“I’m mostly not allowed to talk about what goes on there,” said Luna. “I suppose I can tell you that this has been investigated by more than one department and one of them is closer to the truth than the others.”

“What’s the truth?” Hermione asked.

“Well, I suppose we’ll never entirely know,” said Luna. “We believe Voldemort was working here to try and test the limits of magic. He was always rather interested in pushing them, I suppose, and there was always going to be a time when he decided that he would like to test things on something of a larger scale.”

“I don’t think I want to know,” said Remus, going through another door. “I don’t think I need the truth.”

Hermione did.

“We’ve got to remember these things,” she said. “Because otherwise it’ll all be forgotten. They’ll all be forgotten.”

“But why?” Ginny asked. “I don’t understand why he’d do this.” She made to follow Remus, and Hermione and Luna trailed behind. “Well, I mean, because he’s a twat, but why this sort of twattery?”

“I suppose that’s enough of a reason why,” Remus said, emerging up ahead of them. “I don’t like this place. Nothing good’s going to happen here. It’s been tainted.”

“I think you’re probably right.” Hermione had kept her eyes mostly on the others while they’d been in the building, not really wanting to look around. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have come back, not exactly, because it was important to. They had to remember, after all, they had to know the truth. “Voldemort tested magic here, didn’t he? Magic he could use to affect Muggles.”

“Yes.” Luna shrugged. “Not all of the Ministry think that, of course, and enough of the departments have discounted the theory that they haven’t even bothered to restrict me from saying it. But I believe it.”

“That’s barbaric.” Hermione wasn’t surprised. That was the worst part. She didn’t put this past Voldemort, not at all.

“Fuck,” said Ginny. “Let’s burn it.” Beside her, holding her hand, Remus nodded.

“Burn it,” he said.

“I’d recommend going outside first.”

Positioning themselves at the four corners of the house, Hermione quietly counted down to herself, and then shot the red sparks up into the air as a signal to cast. Within seconds she saw the flames begin to take, dancing along the roof of the building and down onto the walls, crackling against the windows. She stepped back.

This was a cleansing ritual of a sort, she supposed. Luna had always claimed magic was about the intent of the thing, and they intended to cleanse the place, and it was likely to be what happened, wasn’t it? She’d have to think about that. There was a lot to be thinking about.

“Alright?” Ginny asked, approaching Hermione from her own corner. “I feel better for that, don’t you?”

Remus came to her side, taking her hand, and together, the two of them and Luna and Hermione, they looked at what they’d done. Maybe it didn’t help. Maybe it didn’t do much more than make them feel better about what had happened here. Absolve their own guilt that they hadn’t managed to stop it, even if they hadn’t been expected to. Hermione wasn't sure.

“I’m going home.” Ginny’s voice cut through Hermione’s thoughts.

“I’ll come with you,” Remus said. “Hermione, Luna?”

“I’m going to stay for a moment,” said Luna, her eyes never leaving the fire. “I suppose the most ethical way to commit arson is to at least make sure that a limited number of trees are harmed in the process.”

Hermione opted to stay, too, circling the area with Luna to check for any damage being made to things that weren’t the building itself. They rescued a couple of trees from the flames on their first round, nothing on their second, and one on the third until Luna stopped halfway around.

“I’ve still got this,” she said, pulling the little time travel device that had started the whole thing off out of a pocket on her skirt. Well, not started it. Started their involvement in it. “It’s yours, or it started as yours, so I thought I should tell you.”

“I don’t want it,” said Hermione, immediately. “I don’t want to go back, i haven’t got another use for it. You said we’ve used it as much as we can, around these dates, anyway.”

“That’s what I thought you’d say. Do you mind if I keep it?”

“No, of course not.”

They started walking again as the fire began to burn out. Hermione could hear the occasional crash as larger pieces of wood fell from the main structure, which was smaller now, with the flames less fierce. She still wasn’t sure if it made her feel any better. Burning this didn’t change what’d happened.

“Have you said anything about it?” Luna asked. “The time travel on the night of the battle, that is."

“No,” Hermione admitted. “Sirius would - well, I feel like I shouldn’t say this. But Sirius would want to try and change things, again, and I don’t know if I could stop him.”

“Or if you’d want to?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know.” Hermione knew exactly what she thought. “It’s wrong to keep a secret like this from him. I have to tell him. But then it’s the same argument we had a year and a half ago. Can we fix any of it, and should we try?”

“We did try. This is better than the alternative, don’t you think? And, anyway, I've got this, so…” Luna trails off, tucking the Time Turner into her pocket.

“He can’t.”

“No, he can’t. And neither should we.” Luna looked serious for a moment, more serious than Hermione had ever seen her. They all looked different these days. Hermione felt different. She wondered if this was how Sirius and Remus had felt, fighting a second war. They’d never got to the end of them, or, not entirely.
“No, you’re right,” Hermione said, almost entirely believing that, “but Sirius might not think so.”

“Oh, yes. It’s difficult, isn’t it? I’m not sure I’d know what to do, either.”

Hermione sighed. The whole thing, all of this - well no. She didn’t wish this had never happened.

“I wish this was easier.”

“Yes. So do I.”

“I’m going to tell him. I’m not going to keep secrets from him.”

“Good. I think that’s probably the right decision, all things taken into account, don’t you?”

“Yeah.”

Hermione wanted to go home now. Wherever home was. They’d not really discussed where they were going to live, apart from Sirius saying he wanted to sell the house in Lincolnshire they’d all been using as a base for the last few weeks. Too many memories, he said, and too much of Peter. Hermione understood that.

“Not today,” she said. “After Regulus’ trial.”

Everything was split into two time periods at the moment; before the trial, and after it. There wasn’t any real reason Regulus wouldn’t be let off. He’d get community service and a fine, and be under watch for a few years, but he’d not get Azkaban. Not for what he’d done. But it was still split like that, for Sirius most of all, and Hermione couldn’t bring herself to break that. Before the trial was for recovery. After was for moving on.

“That makes sense,” said Luna. She’d pulled the Time Turner back out, now, almost admiring it.

“Shouldn’t you put it away?”

“Yes. And no.”

“What do you mean?”

“I lied,” said Luna, twisting it round in her hand. Hermione was tempted to reach out and grab it from her, certain that Luna was about to do something stupid. “There’s one more safe trip in this, I think, back to the day it all happened.”

Hermione thought of several questions to ask, but didn’t voice any of them.

“I’m fairly sure I need to save it though,” she said, and her voice changed from her normal, if you could call it that, tones to something that sounded like she was telling a fairy tale. “Because I’m fairly sure that, all things considered, I’m going to need it at some point in the future. To tie up a loose end, as it were. Not for a while, though.”

Hermione didn’t want to think about that.

“Luna - “ she began.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Luna, firmly. “Anyway, I really suppose we’d better get back. Else they’re going to assume we’re doing something secretive and nefarious, and I tend to try and keep that sort of suspicion for what I do at work, don’t you?”

“Yes, but - “ Hermione paused. “Be safe.”

“Oh, I don’t think by that point safety will be the important thing, will it?”

Hermione decided that, earlier, she’d been wrong. Nobody needed to know the whole truth.

“Luna - thank you. Thank you for everything.”

“I’m not going anywhere yet, you know. I don’t think that’d really work out, or not very well if I plan a future with Betty, and want to go to Ginny’s wedding, and it isn’t like I know him very well but I’d quite like to meet Regulus’ child, too, and Harry when James and Lily have him, and - oof.”

Her sentence was cut off by Hermione’s hug.

“We did what we could,” she said, into Hermione’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” said Hermione, “we did.”