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Romantic Love and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks (Through the Years)

Chapter Text

Luna is seven years old, and told she'll be in love one day.

When it happens, she's visiting Ginny.

It's a pleasant summer day: spring is happening, and Luna can hear the world around her for miles around, just loud enough to be interesting, but not loud enough to hurt, and so she decides to skip over to visit Ginny in the afternoon.

The skipping's literal, in fact - it's fun, and she likes it, and it makes her feel like joy is exploding out of her chest, and so she skips, all the way, through hills and the little bit of forest nearby and just existence in general.

Her father has brought out another article recently: It's on a crumple-horned snorkack sighting, right here in Britain! She can't wait to tell Ginny about it!

She arrives at the Burrow, bathed in golden sunlight - pretty, Luna thinks, but also maybe a bit too much for her: It's the way the Burrow always feels, nice and warm and just a bit too much.

She rings the doorbell, and patiently waits until someone lets her in - it's Ginny, and a smile steals itself onto Luna's face.

Immediately, she moves to hug her friend - hugs are nice, and warm; Luna likes hugs.

Ginny hugs her back, and squeals - a bit too high, but Luna can deal with that. She always has.

She burrows her head into her friend's shoulder, and feels warm and at peace and friendships are the best.

"Did you hear what they sighted?", Luna asks.

"Harry Potter!", Ginny answers, and Luna blinks.

She has… not expected that answer.

"Crumple-horned snorkacks in Britain, actually. Maybe, at least."

"No, I mean maybe they did, but there was a Harry Potter sighting recently, Luna!"

… and why is that supposed to be important when there are crumple-horned snorkacks?

Sometimes, Luna doesn't understand Ginny at all. That's alright, they could still be friends even if Ginny was a bit odd sometimes.

"They said it was in London, near the ministry - apparently, Mister Diggle ran into him, and even got to shake his hand! You know, I kind of wish I could shake his  hand… Do you think he'd like me, Luna?"

"Well - of course", Luna answers, feeling a bit confused - how can anyone not like Ginny? Apart from some of her brothers, and that is probably A Sibling Thing, and therefore incomprehensible to an only child like Luna.

At least, that's how Ginny described Sibling Things. Quite a few things that don't have anything to do with siblings are also incomprehensible to Luna, so she isn't quite sure whether it actually is down to that, but for now, she's going to go with Ginny's expertise on the matter.

"See? I knew you'd agree! I have to tell Ron!"

And so, Ginny hurries into the house, leaving a baffled and slightly unsatisfied Luna behind. She hadn't gotten to talk about the crumple-horned snorkack sighting at all! 

Still, Luna scurries after her friend, into the loud, cheerful and sometimes incomprehensible innards of the Burrow, intent on getting to talk about crumple-horned snorkacks at some point.

"Ron! Ron! Luna agrees that Harry Potter would like me!"

"Yeah, but she has to, she's your friend."

And so, another Sibling Thing (in this case, an argument) starts, one that soon devolves into "m-hm"s and "nu-uh"s, going back and forth, something that Luna always found fascinating.

Maybe daddy's next article could be on the fascinating habits of sibling interaction in humans? Daddy doesn't have any siblings either, so it would be sure to be fascinating to him, too! Mummy could help!

Decided on her plan to bring this up at home, Luna nods to herself, a chorus of "m-hm"s and "nu-uh"s still going on behind her.

That is around the time Mrs Weasley interrupted the Sibling Thing.

"Ronald, Ginevra, stop it - I'm sure Harry Potter would be friends with both of you."

Ronald sticks his tongue out, while Ginny blushes furiously. "But Mum, she doesn't want to be friends with him - Harry and Ginny are sitting in a tree, K-"

"Ronald Bilius Weasley, you stop teasing your sister!", Mrs Weasley interrupts, leaving Luna very confused - why was Ron teasing Ginny about kissing Harry Potter? What has she missed? Had it been important?

"But Mum!"

"No backtalk! It's kind of sweet your sister's having her first crush, but that doesn't mean you get to tease her about it."

Crush? Crush? Aren't they too young for crushes? Luna has kind of been looking forward to a few more years without Nargles confusing everything.

"Crush?", Luna asks, and Ginny blushes again - if she keeps up like that, her face might permanently be stuck the colour of her hair. Which, well, would be interesting, but not particularly nice for Ginny, probably.

"Ah, yes - she's been talking about Harry Potter all week, Luna-dear, it's the cutest thing ever."

Ginny squeaks, and flees, leaving a confused Luna alone to face the baffling Mrs Weasley, who really isn't making any sense at all.

"Aren't we too young for crushes?", Luna asks, voicing her earlier thought, and Mrs Weasley pats her head.

"Ah-ah, those can happen at any age, my dear! I remember..." Mrs Weasley  laughs softly to herself, a pleasant, rumbling sound - like the purring of a cat, but higher-pitched.

"But yes, a crush. Just you wait - one day you'll have one too, and then it'll all make sense, hun." Mrs Weasely pats Luna's head again.

Luna? Have a crush? Something in her rails against that, but Luna doesn't let it bother her too much. Mrs Weasley means well, Mummy always says.

Still, she is kind of annoyed she still hasn't gotten to talk about crumple-horned snorkacks with anybody. 

Luna side-eyes Mrs Weasley - maybe she would be a receptive audience?

Well, the only way to figure it out is to try.

Chapter Text

Luna is thirteen, and her classmates are getting crushes.

Fact: Everyone around Luna is infested with Wrackspurts, judging by their level of obsessiveness.

She really doesn't have a lot to do with her dorm mates aside from the way her things mysteriously disappear, so she is not really able to judge their general level of obsessiveness: The only of her year mates she regularly interacts with is Ginny, and her obsession? - with Harry Potter is still going strong, not helped by whatever went down in their first year, when Ginny withdrew completely, although at least she's talking to Luna again. Luna... well, she'd withdrawn herself after Mommy died, so she understood not talking, but still... she'd missed Ginny.

They hadn't really had a proper talk from when Mummy died until second year, and the bad part about this was that Ginny had still been Luna's best friend even so.

The fact that Ginny's main topic of conversation right now is still Harry Potter is… honestly, Luna'll take what she gets, even if is her friend absolutely, positively infested with Wrackspurts.

Luna has not needed to know Ginny's opinion on Harry's eyes, hair, chest and - butt.

She really cannot understand what is so interesting about anyone's butt one needs to talk about endlessly.

Sure, she guesses some of them might look nice, maybe, but... why is this a topic of conversation, and why is this a topic of conversation only when other girls are there and no boys? Wouldn't it be interesting for at least the boys that are into girls to know what the girls who are interested in boys like?

Luna very much does not understand.

Crumple-horned snorkacks (and the possibility of them being sighted!) make a lot more sense.

Nonetheless, Luna is aiming to be a good friend, and so she's enduring Ginny's luckily not actually endless monologues about Harry Potter; like right now, actually - they've decided to meet up in between Ginny's DADA and Luna' free period, although Luna really doesn't think it should be called a free period when it is, by necessity, mostly taken up by walking up all the way to the Ravenclaw dorms to get her Potions' kit and then back down again to the dungeons.

It's loud though, Hogwarts, and there's just so much everything that Luna is kind of having a hard time keeping track of what Ginny is saying, even though focusing on her friend helps with the noise, she only catches the tail-end of Ginny's ramble.

"And did you see him do that dive in his face off against the dragon? I thought he'd be toast, Luna!" Ginny mimes a broom diving, a gesture that seems to mainly consist of the hand making a weird downwards arc accompanied by a whooshing noise.

She nods - that at least makes a little more sense than any rambles involving butts: facing off against a dragon is pretty impressive, especially against competitors who are all older than Harry. The fact that he did it with just a broom and a summoning spell? Icing on the cake.

Still, Luna really would prefer for this to be a conversation about nargles. Or crumple-horned snorkacks. 

"Daddy's thinking of writing an article about the inhumane treatment of the dragons brought here for the tournament and how that relates to the Rotfang Conspiracy's plans", she interjected. "I think it has to do with Minister Fudge's need to stay popular so he can continue eating goblin pie, though, although the conspiracy might possibly use it to further their own agenda."

"Uhm... sure, Luna", Ginny answered, in the same 'I'm humouring you' tone Luna was used to from everyone around her. 

Which was kind of unfair, because what she'd said had made perfect sense: If Minister Fudge wanted to continue his treatment of goblins, he really needed the popularity boost the Quadriwizard Quest would provide. Daddy had petitioned for the name change, but unfortunately, the Ministry hadn't agreed, so it was still the Triwizard Tournament even though it had four people in it, which was remarkably silly in Luna's opinion.

"I really wish he'd ask me to the Yule Ball, though", Ginny continues, stopping at the stairs. They'll have to part ways there, Luna knows, but for now, they're still chatting a bit.

"Who, the Minister?" That would be bad; it might mean Ginny seeking an in with someone with a severe hatred for goblins, and although Luna knows good friends support their friends choices, she's really not sure she can support goblin death even for Ginny.

"No, Harry!" Ginny laughs, and Luna's not quite sure whether it's at her or whether she's thinking Luna made a joke.

"Oh", Luna answers.

"I know it's not going to happen, and even if, it'd only be as 'my last option, Ron's little kid sister', which would be worse than not going to the Yule Ball at all, I just wish... Anyways, I've got to get going right  now - I'll be late to DADA, otherwise. See you later?"

"See you later,", Luna replies, waving at her friend, and now that Ginny's gone, Hogwarts' noises are even more at the forefront of her senses than before, assaulting her from everywhere: Footsteps and wordless voices and laughter in the distance, the hissing of the pipes and the creaking of the stairs.

She continues on her path, climbing stair cases and ducking out of the way of people who are late to class,  intent on entering her dorm and gathering the books necessary for Ancient Runes.

She answers the eagle's riddle without really listening to it - it's not like she needs to pay attention to answer "Speak friend and enter", anyways, it's not like that's a hard one - and silently enters the common room.

In the corner below the stairs, Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecombe are sitting together, giggling over something. The sound is high-pitched and uncomfortable, barely not painful, and Luna wishes she could walk past them faster to get away from it, but that might mean they could notice her, so she tip-toes into the Common Room, silencing spells on her shoes, and hopes.

As Luna comes closer, she learns that they're technically giggling over someone: Cedric Diggory, in fact, and according to Marietta, "absolutely swoon-worthy, I knew you liked him".

Luna does not understand why anyone would ever want to "swoon", and being worthy of fainting sounds a bit… well, Luna can't quite reconcile why that should be a good thing.

It sounds more like those horror stories where people faint dead away after being faced with a particularly cuddly-by-Hagrid's-definition magical creature.

"He's just... gah, he's just so kind and handsome and do you think he'd take me to the astronomy tour?"

"What, for some -" Luna really doesn't want to know what "some" refers to in this sentence, does she?

"No! I mean, to watch the stars."

"Watch the stars, suuu-"

"Actually watch the stars, Marietta, get your mind out of the gutter." Cho might have sounded annoyed, or maybe not, and Luna really isn't the best person to ask about that, anyways.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say", Marietta replies, and Luna finally manages to be far enough up the stairs she can't hear them anymore, collapsing on her bed in the safety of her own dorm - she's charmed the curtains with silencing spells, so it's finally quiet, too..

The whole interaction feels - odd. Performative. Sometimes, often, all of these conversations feel like that to Luna: As if everyone else is participating in a giant game of making people believe in romantic love just to finally laugh at Luna when she does.

At least there are still crumple-horned snorkacks to think about. The last possible sighting was in Sweden; if they went by the possible sightings, the area where they live might be as far spread out as the Southern Sweden and Northern Italy! 

A lot of people don't believe in crumple-horned snorkacks, but that doesn't really bother Luna.

Romantic Love does, in fact, seem a lot less likely to exist than crumple-horned snorkacks. It is funny, kind of, that most people assume it is the other way around: but then, crumple-horned snorkacks could be found and seen and stalked through clues, and one day definitely be proved to exist.

Luna is quite sure one couldn't do the same with all this "crush" and "romance" business - Wrackspurts everywhere.



Chapter Text

Luna is sixteen years old, and she's starting to believe this whole "romantic love" thing does exist - only, it doesn't seem to happen to her.

She's drawn to people, yes, drawn to Harry and Ginny and Neville and Ron and Hermione, but...

She's not... she doesn't…

She doesn't know how to put into words what she doesn't, even in her own mind she doesn't know.

It's a pleasant day today: spring or maybe summer, warm, a bit of cloud cover so that the world is not too bright, with just a slight breeze going that doesn't bother Luna too much.

She stares at Ginny and Harry, currently cuddled up together at the other side of the lake, and does not want the same.

She doesn't want sighs, held hands, declarations of romance: but cuddling and hugs and being important to other people all sound nice.

She wants-

Ginny's not really there anymore, she knows: Not with Harry there. But now she has both of them instead, when they want to talk to her and aren't wrapped up in one another, and that's nice, too: Having more people. It's more due to the DA than to Harry's and Ginny's relationship, true, but connecting things like that is helping her from feeling bitter.

Luna looks at them, and wants Ginny's time again: She wants to be important and cared for so badly it hurts, but she does not want what Ginny and Harry have.

Her Spectrespecs had kind of been useful for that, looking at herself in the mirror.

She just wishes-

She looks at Ginny and Harry, over at the other side of the lake. she can hear the great lake, the noises coming out of the Forbidden Forest and the wind brushing through the trees, and they both look perfectly happy, like a couple on the cover of one of those books Luna has taken to reading, trying to understand what romance is supposed to be. It's not a pleasant experience, but Luna trudges through anyways: They're the best source of information she has.

She swallows, and looks away. She's going to believe Ginny and Harry'll have time for her again when the "honeymoon phase" is over; that's what books suggest might happen.

It feels odd, Hermione-ish, to learn of romance from books: But then, Hermione gets it, too, if the way she lit up under the Spectrespecs when looking at Ron was any indication, so it really is not a Hermione-ish behaviour after all.

Luna also still thinks that referring to a wedding tradition is a silly way to talk about the early stages of a romantic relationship.

Whoever thought of that really must have run out of metaphors to use. (Metaphors, Luna is convinced, only exist to confuse people and muddle things up.)

"Hey there, Luna", someone says beside her. It's Colin's voice, and then a body plops down beside her. She looks at him, and his eyes are transfixed on Harry and Ginny.

"I know what you're going through", he tells her.

"Be eternally baffled by romantic relationships and how they work and reasonably sure I do not understand this whole thing at all?", Luna asks. If he does know that, then Luna is amazed at his mind-reading powers.

Colin laughs, short and quiet. "Apparently, I don't know, then. I'm sorry... I just assumed you were like me."

"Like you?", Luna repeats, feeling distinctly like a muggle parrot.

"In love with someone incompatible already in a happy relationship." His eyes are still trailed on Ginny and Harry, and Luna might not be especially good at reading people, but she's got at least an idea of what's going on.

"Ginny?", Luna asks, and Colin shakes his head, hesitates.

"Harry", he finally replies, and Luna feels kind of stupid - she usually doesn't overlook unusual viewpoints just because society says they're not obvious.

"Ah. That makes sense. You're surrounded by wrackspurts whenever he's close."

Colin looks at her and laughs, scratching the back of his neck. "I don't know why I expected you to be surprised."

Luna shrugs.

"So. Yeah. I like boys. Romantically", Colin says.

"I don't like anyone. Romantically", Luna replies, and smiles at him, her eyes unfocusing when she looks at him so she looks at the castle behind him.

He's smiling back, for just a moment. "Lucky you."

Luna doesn't feel particularly lucky, but she doesn't say so, not when he's looking back at Harry and Ginny a moment later.

She's read enough to know unrequited love is supposed to be very painful, and it doesn't seem right to talk about how constantly feeling like she doesn't fit really doesn't make her feel lucky.

Instead, she just plays with her Butterbeer cork necklace, before continuing to observe Ginny and Harry. It's soothing, playing with things: It's part of the reason she likes the necklace so much; also because she can chew on it, but that's harder to hide.

And of course, it keeps away Wrackspurts.

She's happy for the two of them - happy to spend time with them, when they're paying attention to anyone else - but being invited as friends to a Slughorn party will never again happen, and staying up with Ginny until the early hours of the morning and just talking is going to get rarer and rarer now that it looks like she's going to Harry with her worries, the way Ginny did in her previous relationships, and-

She's happy for them.

She really is.

Colin is still just sitting there, not turning his face away even when Ginny reaches out to kiss Harry, but something about his facial expression changes then, and so - Luna reaches out to him, puts her hand on his shoulder.

She still doesn't get this talking about crushes, but pain seems more real, impossible to perform, and so - yes, she's come around to romantic love's existence: Now she only needs to prove to people crumple-horned snorkacks are at least as real (and probably qualify more for reality, because creatures are a lot more observable).

Harry laughs about something Ginny said, and finally, finally Colin, Colin who is also friends with Ginny but in love with Harry, turns to her, and stretches his arms out.

Luna replies with a hug.

"I'm happy for them", Colin says.

"I am, too", Luna answers, and she doesn't think he understands but maybe he does, because he squeezes her around the middle in reply and they stay in that hug for a long, long while.

Finally, though, Luna lets go, and tells him, as seriously as she can: "I wish you good luck with finding a boy who likes you back, romantically."

He swallows audibly. "I don't really know what to wish you, but - good luck. Non-romantically?"

"Thank you."

They both walk back towards the castle together in silence, and Luna feels kind of selfish, but she's glad that kind of heartbreak can't happen to her.

Chapter Text

Luna is nineteen years old, and she realizes she does not need to fall in love to have her heart broken.

These are things that do not break her heart: her father's betrayal, and the Battle of Hogwarts.

It's a close thing, a very, very close thing - the knowledge that her father betrayed her friends, betrayed everything she believed in hurts and burns in a way she cannot put into words.

Similarly, the Battle of Hogwarts, the knowledge that so many people are never coming back... that hurts, too, and she also does not know how to put it into words: Only that it feels different, hurts in a different way than her father's betrayal did.

Colin - the only person whom she'd ever talked to about her feelings about romance - is dead. Her wish for him never happened, and that hurts, too.

Everything hurts, but she's dealing with it. She's healing. She's finished school, and now she's living with Ginny, because she just can't deal with her father daily, even if she's working for him, not after everything, and it's - things are good, even if they still hurt.

Even if everything still hurts, there is also laughter: There is a small kitchen in their flat, that smells of cinnamon and where Harry visits regularly - and Harry's good at cooking, truly, unbelievably good at it the way she and Ginny just aren't - with cozy pillows and blankets; the whole flat is lined with sound-proofing charms so Luna only very rarily feels like everything is too much, like she is breaking, when she's at home, and their friends visit regularly enough that Luna - Luna is happy.

She's truly, oddly happy. Healing. Despite - despite her father, despite Colin, despite the battle - despite everything that still hurts, Luna feels safe.

Perhaps for one of the first times in her life since her mother died, she feels safe somewhere.

And she wishes, perhaps, that this could continue forever: Or maybe, if it changes - that they'll have Harry move in with them, or maybe Ron and Hermione, too, a place full of life with all her friends close by, where she's never alone when she doesn't want to be; it's a wish so strong that it takes her breath away and yet also one she isn't ever going to utter, isn't ever going to talk about, because it feels like it's too fragile for that kind of thing: That it would break when spoken aloud, when she tries to clumsily put it into words.

She dreams of Sunday afternoons with people dozing lazily in the sun, quietly happy; dreams of a place that is both calm and full of life, dreams of a haven to return to after returning from expeditions trying to find, observe rare magical creatures: To come home somewhere and have the first-ever photograph of a crumple-horned snorkack hanging there, somewhere where all her friends are right there and safe and happy themselves.

It is not a wish that feels like it could ever actually happen, and so Luna is content to be happy with what she has now: Ginny right here, and her other friends when they visit; her writing articles for the Quibbler on their kitchen table and Ginny and Harry dozing on a sofa nearby, cuddled up in one another and happy and safe; and Luna slowly feeling like she is knitting herself back together after all that death and destruction, feeling like she'll be alright even if she isn't quite, right now.

Not alright, but happy.

It lasts until Ginny tells her "We need to talk."

If this was one of the novels Luna had attempted to learn about romance through, then she'd have had an idea what was going to happen, but this is not what this is - although, are there friendship break-ups?

They're sitting in the kitchen: Luna on a pillow on the kitchen bench, where she can  put her legs, and Ginny opposite of her, on one of the chairs.

There are no noises coming from outside, just quiet; the smell of cinnamon is drifting into her nose, both pleasant and maybe a bit too much at once, her clothes are soft and nice.

"Yes, Ginny?", Luna asks, looking at her friend's nose: It is a very nice nose; it looks like it was made to be bopped.

"I - this is hard. But - you know things with Harry and me have been going well. Really well." Luna nods. "And - well, we've been together for - well, it depends on how you count, but either two or three years, now."

Well, yes. Luna knows all that. She nods, carefully.

"We've decided to move in together", Ginny blurts out, and for a moment, Luna almost lets herself believe that this is like her wishes: that this means all three of them, Luna with her friends, and not her being left alone. "Harry and I, I mean", Ginny clarifies, and Luna can't let herself believe.

"Oh", Luna replies. And then: "I'm happy for you."

And she is. She knows Harry and Ginny are happy together, that they'll be happy living together: She just wishes that she'd be included, that this would not feel like falling, like -

Luna does not feel safe anymore.

She is not alright, and she is not happy, and her heart has felt like it was maybe bruised and cracked from everything but was healing, before, but now - now it just feels broken, like her last safety blanket has been pulled away from her.

And at the same time, she feels numb: Completely, utterly numb, like she can't do anything, can't talk, can't cry. Just be there, and nod: Maybe smile for Ginny, even.

She does smile, then.

"Thank you. I'm really happy, too", Ginny says, and smiles back, a smile that seems so blindingly bright it might etch itself behind Luna*s eyelids.

It's only later that Luna manages to escape her own room, wrap herself into her blanket, and finally, finally cry. 

A month later, she's helping Ginny move her things to the place she'll share with Harry, and declines an invitation to come to their house-warming party, and does not cry until she's at - home.

Only it doesn't really feel like home anymore.

Two weeks later, she's signed up for a magizoological expedition that starts the following month and takes her away from Britain for half a year.

It's her first; it's very successful.

It does not include crumple-horned snorkacks in any shape, way or form, unfortunately, unless Luna trying to convince her fellow crew members of the possibility of their existence counts.

Chapter Text

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.