Luna is twenty-one years old the first time she meets someone like herself.
Or - alright, later, she will learn that Charlie Weasley has been under her nose all along, a fellow sufferer of the world's romantic inclinations, but she doesn't know that right now, won't learn until months later.
(Charlie also believes he's alone, has believed it longer than her, and something in her will ache at how lonely he was all that time, even if he's happy with his dragons.)
But for now, for now -
For now, Luna is on an magizoological expedition, intent on finally finding a crumple-horned snorkack, with some of the best magizoologists in the business: Rolf Scamander and his long-term co-worker and best friend Jake Kowalski, and Jake's girlfriend and more recent co-worker, Aisha Picquery.
If all goes well, Aisha will be the one to write and publish an article in the magical side of the USA, while Luna will do the same in Britain.
Rolf and Jake, of course, are the ones who are going to do most of the work in actually cataloguing the species - even Luna has to say that she'll probably bow to their expertise there, because as good as she is, as much as she knows about what crumple-horned snorkacks could probably be like - Rolf and Jake as a team are better; not individually, but the way they work together and bounce off ideas, hypothesis and observations of each other makes it clear the distant cousins have been working together for a long, long time, covering for each others blind spots and using the other to improve their own ideas.
It's awe-inspiring to watch.
… Luna has seen what they call an "article", though; editing that kind of mess is how the pair initially met Aisha. Who, unlike Rolf and Jake, does have a decent grasp of orthography and grammar, as well as a gift of making her articles interesting, and who easily works off the pair's sometimes illegible notes.
Luna's main contribution to the expedition is a working knowledge of every single possible place of crumple-horned snorkack sightings and theories, as well as - like the other three - having been trained as a magizoologist.
Still, today, they haven't found anything, and it's a cold and rainy day somewhere in Northern Germany, so they've all agreed to go for a drink - Luna's kind of curious how German beer tastes: She's heard a lot about this stuff, but never had it before. Food in general has a tendency to be... iffy, with Luna, but that won't stop her from trying new things. Once.
Rolf and she are both ready to go, so they're waiting for Jake and Aisha outside of the tents; Rolf was fore-sighted enough to bring an umbrella, so she's currently huddled close to him, sharing with him.
Finally, finally, Jake opens the flap of the tent he's sharing with Aisha, and waves at them.
"Uh - sorry guys, I think the two of us are going to take a rain check."
He's looking at Rolf when he says this, and something seems to be stuck in one of his eyes, because he's winking like mad, before disappearing back into the tent again.
Rolf and Luna look at each other, and it's Luna who asks: "Do you still want to see how German beer tastes?"
Rolf swallows, gives her a nervous smile: "Uh - yeah. Yeah."
They stand there for some more minutes, until finally, Rolf takes the first step, moving them in the direction of the village - Luna's glad, she has no idea whatsoever where that is.
Rolf, in contrast, seems to even know where the local pub - "Gasthaus" is.
He opens the door for her, and lets them in, and belatedly, much, much belatedly, Luna realizes this could all, in some light, be read as romantic, and immediately feels ill, freezes in the entrance.
She hopes not. She really, really hopes not, hopes that it's just too many romance novels that she's read in trying to figure out how this thing works, hopes that that's not what this is, what Rolf wants, because that would be - awkward, to say the least.
"Everything alright?", Rolf asks.
Luna swallows. Nods.
If it is - well, she'll find out, won't she?
They sit down, and it doesn't take long for the atmosphere - and their easy cameradie - to recover, although beer tastes predictably awful-but-drinkable even when it's German; soon, Luna's laughing along to Rolf's stories of prior expeditions and he to her stories of her school days as if nothing ever happened.
There's something sad about the fact that her school days involve more murder and mayhem than his supposedly very dangerous line of work, but that's what growing up into a civil war means, really.
"So - crumple-horned snorkacks are rarely sighted by wizards or witches?"
"Yes, that's one of the problems we had in trying to prove their existence - I've theorized they might be repelled by wizarding magic, and so mainly might occur in muggle areas where they can remain undetected, and - well, you read the paper on that."
"I did." He smiles at her, and Luna's almost sure he's as excited as she is. "It was excellently written, and made a lot of good points how a species might evade wizarding detection."
"Thank you." Luna beamed at him, and took another sip of her drink - still beer; she really didn't like the taste, nor how it made her head feel, but then, she'd eaten things before that actually hurt, and this didn't.
"Nothing to thank me for, I'm just being honest." He took another sip of his drink, and they continued trading stories.
Right up until one of Rolf's stories was all about Jake. "And then - then, he asked me whether I still had any of Gramps' books, and so we managed to get a copy before Jake's Ma noticed he'd kind of nearly destroyed hers. Then took the book to Gran, and she fixed it up right 'n' proper before Jake's Ma even noticed, and we didn't get in trouble at all.
"And now - now Jake's leaving. Jake's leaving me."
Luna carefully patted his arm, not quite knowing what to do - the colours were starting to seem a bit off, and she was sure that if she tried to stand up, she might fall over.
"I'm - I'm happy for him. So happy for him, He - he meets this amazing girl and he's head over heels and - and it means he's leaving me. 'cause we're friends, and it doesn't - appa'ntly, it doesn't count as much. Friends."
"I get that", Luna says, and thinks back to Ginny, and a friendship and closeness that had apparently meant so much more to her than to her friend.
"I just - Aisha's amazing, y'know? She's amazing, and she makes him happy, and I like her - no' like Jake likes her, but I like her. And - and it means he's leaving me. And - and that hurts, you know Luna?"
"I do", Luna says, and continues: "Ginny - she kind of left for Harry."
"Huh?", Rolf says, and looks at her, really looks at her. "She your best friend, too?"
Luna thinks back, to laughter in their shared kitchen and afternoons at the Burrow, to three years of only occasional contact and three years in-between of near silence, and answers: "Sometimes, she is."
"Oh. You - you really get it."
"It - it hurts that it doesn't mean as much to them as it means to us, doesn't it?" And Luna doesn't quite know why she's using us, or maybe she does but hasn't quite thought it out yet, but she suspects - she suspects and hopes and distrusts herself so badly.
"Don't - don't know about us", Rolf replies, and then laughs. He's got a pleasant laugh, soothing and dark and rumbling, and Luna likes laughter, likes joy.
"You know, Jake was probably trying to set us up", Rolf continues, and Luna - Luna freezes up, tenses all over - please. Please not this. "He was winking the whole time, and I think he's been trying to talk you up to me because he wants me to be happy, and - and I like you a lot Luna, really -" Luna's holding her breath, wishing to Merlin - "but really not like tha'? I jus' - I jus' wanna be your friend, you know? Don' ever wanna be somethin' other than someone's friend, and Jake - he doesn't get it."
Luna exhales, and stares. "I - me too."
Rolf laughs again, and this time it's sharp and loud and Luna doesn't like it. "What - you don't get it, either? No one ever gets it..."
"No, I mean - I don't ever want to be something other than someone's friend, too."
Rolf looks at her. "Oh."
Then: "You - you're like me?"
And Luna - Luna can almost hear the hope in his voice, of finally, finally having found someone who gets it, if only because she shares that hope, that almost desperation.
"Yes", she says, and Rolf smiles at her, gives a chuckle. "I'm like you." And then Rolf is laughing, laughing and laughing and crying, all at the same time, before just smiling at her again.
The words feel correct but not quite, an almost - there are other things Luna has noticed about what Rolf doesn't do: The way he doesn't react to squeaky sounds, the way he can remain perfectly still when sitting, the way social interaction seems to be effortless to him; so they're not quite like each other.
But in this - in this they are.
And so, Luna smiles back at the first person she's ever met who - who actually gets it. Who understands this part of herself, because he's living it, too, and lays her hand in the middle of the table.
Rolf's observant enough, has lived alongside her on expeditions for long enough, to know what she's asking for, and takes her wrist, while she wraps her fingers around his, both of them giving a short squeeze.
"Do you want to go back to the camp?", Rolf asks, and Luna nods.
Rolf takes care of payment - he's better with muggle money than she is, although to be frank, it's not that hard to be good with muggle money; but he's also better with people than Luna, so she's kind of glad to let him handle it.
Then, they walk out, back to camp, their hands still wrapped around each other's wrist - Luna doesn't want to give this comfort up, not now, not right after she found it, and maybe Rolf feels similarly, because he doesn't even attempt to pull away.
They're both still drunk, and it seems easier to just stay together, so the next morning they wake up warm and cuddled together, her fellow in romance-lessness' breath cool on her cheek and kind of really smelly because neither of them had brushed their teeth, and that feels - great, actually.
It feels great to have someone like herself around, and Luna feels - content, happy with existence, like the world's flapping its hands.
Luna really doesn't feel like the expedition could be going any better.
Two weeks later, she's proven wrong.
They finally, finally, find a crumple-horned snorkack.