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a very nice thing to say

Chapter Text

Ron placed his hand against the brick wall, fingers pressed against the solid surface so hard that parts of his hand were turning white and red. The passage to Platform 9 ¾ was not there. Like it had never been there. 

Harry, who had once had a nightmare about this exact situation, where he turned up to go to Hogwarts for the first time only to never manage to find the platform or to discover that it had been a trick all along, felt like he would be sick. It did not help his stomach that he had hit his head slightly, nothing worse than a Quidditch practice knock, as they had crashed into a heap. 

“Well… fuck,” Ron said seriously. His voice sounded fairly calm, but his freckles stood out strongly on the white of his face. 

“What do we do now?” Harry whispered, ignoring the bewildered and offended stares of the people around them. He grimaced apologetically as he hurried to fix their trunks and trolleys, then gently soothed Hedwig and her ruffled feathers, ignoring her unhappy screeches and glare. 

“I don’t know!” Ron said desperately. 

He looked wildly around and Harry followed suit. A dozen curious people were still watching them, but none of them wore cloaks or hats, and none of them were Mr. and Mrs. Weasleys. There was no help to reach out to. 

“We’re going to miss the train,” Ron whispered in horror. He looked back to the solid bricks. “I don’t understand why the gateway’s sealed itself. It’s never- No one ever told me that it closed -” 

Harry hummed agreeably, but it came out more like a panicked sound of pain. He was watching the giant clock nearby, the sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach growing stronger with every tick of the third hand. Ten seconds… nine seconds…

He passed Hedwig’s cage over to Ron and pressed his own hand against the wall. It was solid; it was solid brick and he could feel his heart drop like one. He pushed with all his might, with both hands until they hurt slightly, ignoring the whispers of the people around them, but the brick remained solid. 

Three seconds… two seconds… one second… 

“It’s… gone,” Ron said, stunned. “The train’s left.” 

Harry didn’t know what to say. He felt like he ought to wake up around now, but there was no way he could be sleeping through Hedwig’s screeching. 

“What if Mum and Dad can’t get back through to us?” Ron said, handing Hedwig’s cage back to Harry and pressing his ear against the cold brick. “I can’t hear a thing,” he said after a moment. “What’re we going to do? I don’t know how long it’ll take Mum and Dad to get back to us.” 

Trying to keep himself from being sick, Harry breathed deeply and told himself to be calm. He focused on the immediate, trying to placate Hedwig, which wasn’t an easy task when hewasn’t about to panic, and the uncomfortable heat of people’s stares all around them. 

“What if Mum and Dad have already Apparated back to the car?” Ron said quietly. “If they think the barrier’s closed, they might not… They might think we got on without them and…” 

“Excuse me,” said a small voice. “Is there a line?” 

“I think the barrier might be closed, plumkin,” a man’s voice said, sounding vaguely concerned but ultimately untroubled. “I didn’t know that the barrier closed for business.” 

Ron and Harry turned around. A man and a young girl were standing behind them, watching them with identical curious stares of silvery grey, both with the same shoulder-length, dirty blond, stragglingly wavy hair.

The man was obviously a wizard, perhaps a little older than the Weasley parents, and he looked a little strange even by wizard standards. He wore muddy hiking boots and grey slacks with dirty knees, and a white dress shirt embroidered along the hems with cornucopias of fruits and vegetables, presumably to match the plums hanging from his ears. Overtop, a wide mauve coat, which looked to have once been a homely quilt, was draped on his shoulders like a short cape.* A silvery charm gleamed at his collarbone, displaying a strange symbol, like a triangular eye, that Harry did not recognize. 

The girl was obviously a Hogwarts student, almost certainly a first year and the man’s daughter. She was small and slight, with protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look. She was dressed in uniform, slightly greyed black robes that were probably secondhand**, and red sneakers. But she too had plums, smaller ones, hanging from her ears, and an odd necklace of Butterbeer caps that was probably homemade. 

The strangest thing, however, was that no one was staring at either of them, despite their largely dreamy and distinctly dotty aura. In fact, no one was staring at Harry and Ron and Harry’s screeching owl anymore either. Everyone around them was going about their business as though the five of them weren’t there and never had been. 

Harry noticed that the man was holding a wand, resting casually at his side as though it were a quill or shopping bag. Had he done something? 

“Um…” Ron said. “Hi… Mr. Lovegood.” 

The man startled, then peered at Ron as though he wasn’t sure exactly who or what Harry’s best friend was. Harry looked at Ron too, very similarly. Ron and this man knew each other?

“I was under the impression that Weasleys moved in packs,” the man murmured, looking much more concerned than before. He turned to the girl beside him. “Plumkin, you had a Weasley for a while, didn’t you?” 

“Yes, Daddy. I think this one is lost,” the girl said. 

Mr. Lovegood nodded, satisfied. “Yes, yes. You’re right, of course, that’s it. Oh dear, that’s not good, then, is it?” He looked terribly concerned again, as though he thought Ron might be picked off by hungry wolves on his lonesome. 

“No, Daddy. It’s not.” 

Harry looked at the lost Weasley in question. “Ron, what’s going on?” he whispered. “Who are these people?” 

“Xenophilius Lovegood!” the man introduced loudly, so loudly that Harry knew it was definitely magic when no one looked at them. “Editor of the Quibbler, and Best Dirigible Plums, as voted by the judges of the National Magical Agricultural Fair. This is my daughter, Luna,” he introduced, beaming proudly, as though judges had also voted her the Best Daughter in the world. 

“…Um… yeah. They’re sort of neighbours?” Ron said. “They live nearby, out by the Diggories, I think.” 

“Marvelous people, the Diggories!” Mr. Lovegood declared agreeably. “Lovely garden!” Then his face shifted back to terrible concern again. “They’re taking a terribly long time to try and eat us, though. One would think intelligent predators of their ilk would have realized already that luring us in with their niceness and sparkling good looks isn’t working. They’ll starve themselves at this rate. And Lovegoods make terrible meals, anyway.” 

“We can always send them more blood-liver pies, Daddy,” Luna said. 

Mr. Lovegood visibly brightened, then deflated. “It won’t be the same making those pies without you, plumkin,” he told his daughter sadly. 

Luna reached out and patted her father’s wide cape-like coat. “You’ve got to do something with yourself while I’m gone, Daddy. Otherwise you’ll lose yourself in rooting out the Gulping Plimpies again.” 

This was all so strange that Harry had to look at Ron to confirm that this was actually happening to them right now. It seemed it was. Ron looked how Harry felt: bewildered and mildly horrified. 

While listening, Harry had finally managed to soothe Hegwig. Her screeching had stopped and she was now grumpily settling her ruffled feathers. Harry’s hand was getting in her way now, and an annoyed hoot from her reminded Harry that they had missed the train to Hogwarts. 

“Mr. Lovegood,” Harry said. 

The man looked up from his daughter. “Yes?” 

“Um, the train to Hogwarts has already left.” 

“Oh, we know,” Mr. Lovegood said dismissively. “We were rushing to get on, but then Luna thought she saw a Murmuring Crowder and, as journalists, we had to investigate. Unfortunately, it got away when the tolling hour distracted us!” 

“We almost had it this time, Daddy,” Luna told her father seriously. “I would have caught it if you hadn’t started panicking about the train.”

Mr. Lovegood grimaced. “I know, forgive me, plumkin. Thankfully, the train’s never really been a family tradition anyway. Were you two aware that the woman who sells candy on the train is an immortal semi-deity who annually leeches life from the passengers?” 

No, Harry could not say that idea had ever crossed his mind. 

“I thought she was the lady from Honeydukes,” Ron said, brow furrowed.*** 

“No, that’s just a convenient mask. She just turned up one day and no one ever asked any questions!” Mr. Lovegood said cheerfully, then switched moods again and said with very serious concern, “I would not advise that you ask questions. She may take offense if you stumble off the right ones in the right order. They’re very defensive of their niches, you know.” 

 Although Harry was now fairly certain that Xenophilius Lovegood was… odd… if he were ever planning to ask questions of the train’s candy-lady, he wasn’t going to ask them now. Just… just… in case. 

“Alright,” Ron said, as though he had made the exact same decision. “Um… how’re you getting to Hogwarts, then, Mr. Lovegood?” 

The man looked completely stumped for a moment, then adopted a very thoughtful expression. “We~ell, there’s no flying today due to the Heliopaths about… What do you think of taking the Knight Bus, plumkin?” 

Luna seemed to like the idea, brightening just like her father had. “Do you think we’ll see Old Lady Lurk?” 

“Perhaps if we’re very lucky and leave out some hard candy,” Mr. Lovegood said, seeming to look forward to the possibility. “We’ll have to make sure not to look directly at the corner seat.” 

“Do… do you think that we could come with you?” Ron asked. 

“Of course!” Mr. Lovegood said. “It wouldn’t do to leave a Weasley without their pack! And… whatever manner of person your friend is. The more people on the hunt for Old Lady Lurk means it less likely that she appear, but, haha, that if you don’t know what you’re doing! Come along!” 

Mr. Lovegood marched off through the crowd of oblivious Muggles, his daughter moving to roll after him. Harry and Ron scurried to right everything on their trolleys and hurry after the odd man that was their only chance. 

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Harry hissed. 

“…N- Yeah,” Ron said, then much more surely, “Yeah. Mr. Lovegood’s a bit weird -” 

“A bit,” Harry said. 

“- a lot weird, but he’s a nice enough bloke. Haven’t seen him much recently, but Ginny and Luna were good friends. I don’t see any other adults about to get us to school.” 

Well… that was a point.

Chapter Text

Mr. Lovegood led them out of the station and back onto the side road where the old Ford Anglia had been parked. Much to Harry’s disappointment, the car wasn’t there anymore; they probably could’ve waited next to it for Mr. and Mrs. Weasley to come back or something. 

“Would you like to do the honors, plumkin?” Mr. Lovegood asked. 

“Ooh, yes!” Luna said excitedly. 

She reached into the sleeve of her uniform and pulled out her wand, then stood on the curb and waved it very imperiously for an eleven-year-old girl. Harry didn’t hear her say anything, so he wasn’t sure what she was doing. 

He watched curiously as Luna tucked her wand behind her ear and stepped back. Then blinked furiously as with a blaring horn and a loud rumble of too-close thunder, a rush of hot air blasted over them. When Harry could see again, he stared with wide eyes at the enormous, purple, triple-decker bus that was suddenly parked in front of them, letting off what seemed to be massive clouds of steam with glittering gold dust and even a few sparks. 

Buses aren’t supposed to let off steam, Harry thought, stunned. 

Beside him, Ron looked equally stunned and a little nervous. “I’ve never ridden the Knight Bus before,” he said. “Um, is it supposed to be-?” 

“Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch and wizard,” a conductor in an equally awful purple uniform declared loudly. “Just stick out your wand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this morni-” 

The conductor stopped abruptly. He had just caught sight of Mr. Xenophilius Lovegood and his daughter, standing there with identical eager expressions. Close up, Stan Shunpike couldn’t have been older than eighteen or nineteen at most, with large protruding ears and quite a few pimples, and yet Harry had never seen anyone look more exhausted than Stan for that split second before the conductor managed to smile. Painfully. 

“Mr. and Miss Lovegood!” Stan said. “Back again... already...” 

“Hello, Stanley,” Mr. Lovegood said brightly. 

"Hello, Stanley!" Luna echoed. 

“Isn’t... aren’t those kiddos supposed to be on the Express right now?” 

“Extenuating circumstances required an alternate route!” 

“Ah. So... Hogsmeade station, then? That’s a... long way.” 

“Quite a long way, indeed!” Mr. Lovegood agreed, apparently totally oblivious to the conductor’s complete and utter despair. “Come along, children! Trunks and owls and selves on board! We have a long way to go today!” 

Harry and Ron heaved their luggage on board, teaming up to help Luna with her trunk, while Mr. Lovegood counted out fare and chatted to poor Stan. Stan almost grabbed the money out of Mr. Lovegood’s hand and ran desperately over to help them put away their trunks for the journey. 

The inside of the Knight Bus looked like someone had tried to make a bus out of a living room. There were plenty of seats, of various types and sizes, in vague rows and bunches, that didn’t really look to be bolted down or anything even remotely resembling safe. Very rickety stairs led up to higher levels, but Harry didn’t have to work up the courage to go near them, because Luna led them to a bunch of seats near the back. 

Luna sat Harry and Ron in chairs that were essentially armchairs, although not anything compared to the massive one that the driver was sitting in. Harry plopped down, Hegwig’s cage in his lap, and didn’t know whether to desperately hold onto her or the cage. Scabbers’ cage had been locked down with the trunks, but Harry didn’t think Hedwig would appreciate that much.

“Is... is this... safe?” Harry asked finally. 

“Er, I dunno, actually,” Ron answered. “I’ve never ridden the Knight Bus before. I mean, I heard stuff about it, but...” 

“Oh, it’s perfectly safe,” Luna assured them. “Mister Ernie Prang is an excellent driver. I’ve ridden this bus many times before. He’s never once crashed permanently.” 

“Oh… um… good?” Ron said. 

Harry quickly looked for a way to distract himself from asking too many questions of that rather confusing sentence. “So, um, Luna... are you a first year?” 

“Yes, I’m very excited to finally attend Hogwarts,” Luna said conversationally, or what Harry presumed to be conversationally since she sounded very dreamy still. “I was concerned about taking the train, so I’m very relieved to be taking the Knight Bus.”

 “…Why were you worried about the train?” Harry asked, curious.

 “I didn’t think I would have anyone to sit with,” Luna said. “I don’t like being lonely, but I’m not very good at making friends or talking to people.” She said this all with such frank honesty that Harry felt it like a punch to the chest, and yet she didn’t seem particularly concerned or upset at all; Luna just looked towards her father, who was still speaking with the driver up front. “Daddy wouldn’t have been ready to say goodbye earlier anyway. He doesn’t like being lonely either, even if he’s pretending that it’s alright.”

 Ron opened his mouth to say something, then clearly realized something that made his expression ashen. Instead of whatever he’d been about to say, he said, “Um… I… He doesn’t get much company over, nowadays, then?”

 “Not really,” Luna said. “He’s very busy with the Quibbler.”

 What’s the Quibbler? Harry wanted to ask, but he couldn’t decide whether or not this would be rude.

 “You know, you don’t have to sit with me if you don’t want to,” Luna went on, in a rather matter-of-fact way, reaching into her sleeve and pulling a rolled-up magazine free. “I know that you would have preferred to take the train.” She unfolded the colorful magazine, flipped it upside-down, and raised it high enough to hide her face and fell silent.

 Harry and Ron looked at each other with their eyebrows raised. Then Ron shrugged and Harry looked back to the magazine; with a bit of craning, he could make out its title. So that was what the Quibbler was.

 “Take ‘er away, Ern,” said Stan, sitting down in the armchair next to the driver’s, very desperately ignoring Mr. Lovegood, who had taken a seat much closer to the front. Almost absentmindedly, the teenager called on, “Hold on, kiddos!” 

 There was another tremendous BANG, and the next moment Harry found himself pushed against the back of his seat, holding onto a very unhappy Hedwig’s cage for dear life. Next to him, Ron gave a startled shout, thrown against the side, and let out a lot of colorful curses.

 Luna Lovegood was also pressed against the side of her seat, but wasn’t bothering to hold on. Her popping eyes had appeared over the top of her upside-down magazine, watching the both of them as though no one had ever told her that it made people uncomfortable to stare.

 With wide eyes, Harry stared out the windows and saw that they were now bowling along a completely different street. Actually, it looked like an entirely different city, even though Harry could barely catch glimpses of buildings as they sped along. Streets and cars flashed by, blink and miss them, as the Knight Bus bobbed and weaved around – and in some cases seemed to just go straight through – obstacles faster than was safe or naturally possible. Thin sidewalks were used as roads, lampposts flattening and mailboxes jumping out of their way.

 Harry didn’t understand how Muggles weren’t noticing any of this. The bus’ engine was making a horrible low roaring sound and there was a steady stream of golden dust and steam pouring out of a nearby wall vent and twisting straight into another in the ceiling.

 “How come… How is this working?” Harry asked, bewildered and a little terrified, trying to soothe the screeches he could tell Hedwig was going to start making soon.

 “No idea,” Ron answered, holding onto his chair with white knuckles. “Are we there yet?”

 “It’s not even been five minutes.”

 “Yes,” Luna agreed, turning the page of her magazine. “It’s a bit slow today, isn’t it?”

  “They’re making a few stops for the other passengers, plumkin,” Mr. Lovegood said, as he sat down in a nearby chair. Harry couldn’t fathom how he’d manage to walk over here while the bus was moving. “We’re somewhere in Wales at the moment, I believe. Everyone keep your eyes out for the ringing of well-bells; we’re in witch country.”

 “Abergavenny stop! Marsh residence!” Stan hollered.

 That was all the warning they got before Ern stamped on the brakes. All their chairs slid a foot or so toward the front of the bus, much to Harry’s heart-stopping horror and Hedwig’s furious screech. Ron swore again, even more viciously than before, as he held onto his chair and to Harry’s knee for dear life. The Lovegoods didn’t seem to notice; Mr. Lovegood had pulled a pair of binoculars from somewhere and was peering curiously out the window, as though they were on a safari.

 A witch tottered down the rickety stairs, wearing a long fluffy bathrobe and slippers. She looked relatively young and sternly pretty, and also faintly green as she passed them on the way to the door, pushing her glasses up her nose and muttering repeatedly to herself, “Got to remember: twist the doorknob left and then push before pulling for the washroom. Twist left and push, then pull. Twist left and push, then pull.”

 “’Ere you are, Madam Marsh,” Stan said cheerily. “Pro’ly see you tomorrow, eh? Have a good one!”

 The green-tinged witch wobbled off the Knight Bus and started off towards the large, haphazard-looking but ultimately sort of stately country house they’d stopped in front of. Stan watched long enough for her to reach the mailbox before he rammed the doors shut.

 “Poor woman, eh, Ern?” Stan commented. “Keeps taking a wrong turns in her own house. Glad I ain’t got a barmy old aunt to leave me a mad house like that to look after.”

 Ernie’s reply was another loud BANG, and then they were thundering down a narrow country lane, trees leaping out the way and cows rolling away. Green hills and village houses and everything blurred again, engine thundering away while spewing steam and goldish dust.

 Hedwig screeched unhappily. Harry hurried to let her out of her cage, which couldn’t be at all comfortable in the rough and tumble of the bus. She screeched at him and pecked at his fingers a bit, but settled down slightly as the cage was dropped to the floor and she took its place on Harry’s lap. Even then, though, she didn’t seem at all happy about the ride and her talons ripped into Harry’s already ratty jeans.

 “Your owl is very beautiful,” Luna commented. “What’s their name?”

 “Hedwig.”

 “What a lovely name.”

 The owl in question made an unhappy sound, but ultimately curled up against Harry’s chest for safety and comfort. Harry made sure to give her as much as possible. She had been expecting a smooth train ride, not any of this nonsense, and she would have to be spoiled greatly to make up for this whole misadventure.

 “Sorry, girl,” Harry murmured into her feathers.

 He looked up at Ron to ask the question on the tip of his tongue, but then remembered that Ron had never ridden the Knight Bus before. He also noticed that Ron rather looked like his stomach was on the tip of his tongue and he was trying very hard not to let it out. So Harry turned to Luna, who met his gaze evenly over the top of her upside-down magazine. Next to her, Mr. Lovegood had stuck his binoculars against the bus window.

 “How long do you think it’ll take for us to get to Hogwarts?”

 “I don’t really know,” Luna said from behind her magazine. “Hogwarts is quite a ways out of the way.”

 “…Didn’t we just go from London to Wales in less than five minutes?” Harry wondered, more to himself than his travelling companions. Hadn’t the bus appeared near instantly once called? How could anything be a ways out of the way with magic like that?

 “Not really. Look over there.”

 Harry looked in the direction that Luna had pointed. They were the only passengers on the first level of the Knight bus. The only people he could see were Ernie and Stan, who were driving and eating a enormous foot-long sandwich respectively. His brow furrowed, Harry turned back to Luna.

 “What am I looking at?”

 “That man reading the newspaper. Look again.”

 Harry looked again, squinting as though that might help, and then his eyes went wide as he saw a man sitting in the window seat Luna had nodded to before. “How-?”

 “You’re going to get the urge to blink in several seconds,” Luna said, finally lowering her magazine and meeting his eyes with her liquid silver stare. “It may give you a momentary headache, but you’ll see how if you just keep your eyes open. Don’t worry if you can’t,” she continued, her floating voice unconcerned, as she raised her magazine again, “it’s always difficult the first time.”

Confused but curious, Harry looked back towards the man sitting in the window seat. There was nothing at all extraordinary about the wizard, who appeared to be engrossed in a newspaper, as far as he could see, not knowing what he was looking for. And then Harry was suddenly overcome with the urge to blink – he needed to blink very, very badly, actually – an urge that he stubbornly resisted through stinging eyes and a faint pain in the back of his head to see what Luna meant.  

 Behind the wizard in the widow seat, outside the Knight Bus, there was all of a sudden another Knight Bus zooming alongside theirs. Without warning, in the same split second it appeared, the other bus swerved and smashed into them. But not in the way of a horrible accident; the other Knight Bus went through them.

 There was another split second, in which the two Knight Buses overlapped each other perfectly, and Harry felt as though he had stepped into another world. A thick layer of mist hung in the air of the bus, illuminated by still, hanging sparks and sparkling dust. The people all seemed to shift and blur as though perhaps trying to separate into two people or settle into one, and it was very clearly suddenly nighttime outside the bus, with a dark sky and bright street lamps in all the windows.

 The split second ended before Harry had a chance to do more than witness it, and then the overlapping Knight Buses ripped themselves apart. For a moment, Harry thought he was about to be slammed into the oncoming wall before it harmlessly passed through him, yanking the mist, sparks, dust, wizard by the window, and nighttime with it as the second Knight Bus came out the other side, and immediately vanished into the returned daylight and busy streets.

Harry was left feeling dizzy and disoriented as the Knight Bus returned to its chaotic normal. He stared in disbelief at the empty seat where the man had been sitting and the newspaper that the man had been reading now strewn on the floor.

The entire affair could not have lasted more than a second or so, and besides the missing man, it seemed nothing had changed during Harry’s blink of the eye. Ron still looked as though he were desperately trying not to be ill, Hedwig was curled up grumpily in Harry’s lap, and Mr. Lovegood still had a pair of binoculars pressed against a window. At the front of the bus, Stan crumpled up his empty sandwich wrapper and went to scoop up the fallen newspaper.

 Harry looked towards Luna, who was staring at him in her dreamy way, and said through a frog in his throat, “What- what was that? What happened to the man? Where did he go?”

 “I don’t know,” Luna answered, fiddling with the edge of her magazine. “I rather think that’s his business, don’t you?”

 “But! He’s gone! We didn’t even stop!”

 Luna nodded, as though to say exactly right. “Of course not. If the bus had to start and stop for every passenger all the time, it would never get anywhere or manage to arrive precisely when it needs to. The Knight Bus navigates space, time, and several dimensions. There’s more leg room that way, you know.”

 Well… space made sense, Harry guessed. He had heard quite a lot about the stretching and squishing of space in Charms and Transfiguration class. It was apparently very important to things like storage and Apparation and the hiding of places like the Diagon Alley Shopping District or Platform 9 ¾. Harry didn’t really understand the concept of dimensions yet – they would not be learning about them for several years – but Flitwick mentioned it occasionally and McGonagall referenced them in her lectures sometimes; he thought it probably made sense. But…

 “Time?” Harry echoed, confused and concerned. He’d thought that time travel happened in science fiction, or on the telly. “This bus travels through time?”

 “Of course it does,” Luna replied, sounding a little like she might like to add silly to that sentence. “It’d be a bit tricky to bend space and reality all the time without bending a little time.”

 Harry said nothing. He felt boggled. Even after a year at Hogwarts, magic still amazed him beyond belief. Imagine, one day, him working the sort of magic that hid an entire shopping district in the middle of a city, or that made a bus that twisted time and space whilst speeding along sidewalks. He glanced towards his best friend, who surely must see this sort of thing as normal, but the sickly looking Ron was staring at Luna with wide eyes.

 Luna looked evenly back at the both of them. “Don’t worry. It’s very safe-ish, if mostly unintentional initially. They don’t bend more than a day or so at the very most.”

 Harry was still too boggled to answer and Ron looked to be holding onto his stomach still.

 Luna tilted her head to the side, still fiddling with the magazine in her lap, and regarded them with a curious sort of confusion. “Haven’t you ever heard the phrase about ‘needing to be there yesterday’?” she asked, as though all of this was really plainly evident and quite normal.

 “Uh… yes…” Harry managed, “but… I thought it was just a saying.”

 “Hmm. What a curious thing to ‘just say’,” Luna said, clearly giving his response some thought.

 “I was raised by Muggles,” Harry found himself saying defensively. He still felt dizzy and now felt dreadfully embarrassed for not knowing that magic meant you could mean those sorts of statements literally. How was he supposed to know these things beforehand?

 Luna looked at him, dreamy and somewhat unnerving, as though she did not quite know what to make of his sudden statement. Like she didn’t at all understand what that had to do with their conversation, it was several long seconds of staring and magazine fiddling before something seemed to click in her expression.

 “Different people live differently,” Luna said.

 “Er, yes?” Harry agreed, still confused and embarrassed, before he realized, “Wait. If this bus can travel through time, why aren’t we using it to catch the train?”

 Mr. Lovegood finally looked over from his spot by the window. “That would be an overly complicated way of getting there, especially when we’re already on our way there,” he said. “We would be depriving ourselves of this experience doing that! And it would be absolutely ridiculous to get on a bus to go to King’s Cross when we were already at King’s Cross! That wouldn’t make any sense! Now, would it?”

 Since he seemed to expect an answer, Harry managed, “Um, I guess?”

 “Besides, you have to book those sorts of tickets beforehand,” the man continued, fiddling with his binoculars before pushing them against the window again. “And they’re hellishly expensive. Midnight robbery! Twilight burglary! It's outrageous! Whatever it may seem, I'm not actually made of Galleons, you know!"