As he rose ever higher above the gnome-filled Burrow grounds, Harry was definitely grateful for the new cardigan that Molly had practically smothered him with during dinner.
He’d been just about to excuse himself and take his Firebolt out for a quick spin before coming back to Floo home, but Molly had cornered him with the skill only a mother of seven could possess, insisting that he wore something warmer.
‘It’s nice down here, love, but up there it’s practically December already. You’ll catch your death,’ she’d said, and then presented him with a brand new cardigan. It was olive green, with small wooden buttons along the middle and the letter H elegantly embroidered where a breast pocket would be. The new garment matched Harry’s eyes and skin tone, and it made him look proper grown-up. That was what Molly had said, anyway. Ron snorted loudly upon seeing him, which meant that in reality he probably just looked like a prat.
Prat or not, right now he felt quite awake and just cold enough, the cardigan protecting him from the worst of the chilly September wind’s bite as he zig-zagged aimlessly on his broomstick and watched the sky change hues as afternoon turned sunset turned dusk.
This was Harry’s favourite pastime; after Hogwarts he no longer had Quidditch to keep him flight-ready (there had been offers, of course, to go professional--just about everyone wanted The Chosen One on their team, and every offer was met by said Chosen One with a resounding Thanks, But No Thanks), and the two-story maisonette he shared with Andromeda and Teddy was a bit too close to Muggle civilization for comfort, so weekends at The Burrow doubled as both Family Time and Firebolt Time.
He usually invited Ron or Ginny to join him, and sometimes there were enough of them to form teams and play a diluted version of Quidditch until it got too dark to see the ball, but Ginny wasn’t home this week; she was difficult to pin down nowadays, what with being a professional athlete with a foreigner girlfriend and all.
Besides, Harry welcomed the solitude. Once his hands gripped the neck of his broom and his feet left the ground, it never really mattered who else was up there with him. It was like discovering flight all over again. Reliving his first memory of clear, uncomplicated happiness.
Harry chased after that feeling until the purple sky faded to a pewter grey, and the moon was a nearly perfectly round gold coin right above his head. Immersed in pure sensation, he flew past the hills and clearings he knew so well, and then past ones that seemed entirely unfamiliar. He wandered around, half-lost, until he was struck by the fact that yes, in fact, he was somehow back on familiar grounds.
Harry was puzzled. Had the Firebolt turned them around and circled back to The Burrow without him realizing? Had the world somehow become small enough that he could fly North and somehow find himself back South within the hour?
The answer was much simpler, but in a way, just as whimsical.
The grounds were indeed familiar, but they were not the same as those surrounding The Burrow. Harry flew past trees and clearings until he found what he was looking for. A big, dark cylinder with round holes emitting soft light from the inside. A house shaped like a chess piece that can go up, down, and sideways, as far as the board allows.
Harry laughed loudly, the sound distant in his wind-deafened ears as the Firebolt instinctively started lowering them towards the Lovegoods’ house with a speed that Ron would have referred to as ‘wicked’, and Hermione ‘breakneck’.
Although Harry’s first visit to the Rookery had ended in disaster (for both Harry and the house), in the years that passed there were already more than plenty of fond memories that featured Luna as well as her Dad, in and out of this house, that more than made up for it in Harry’s book. He’d definitely never paid them a visit at night and on a broomstick before, but it felt fitting.
Suddenly, overwhelmingly, all Harry wanted was to see Luna. The one person whose presence felt as calming as solitude. Still smiling, he staggered off his broom and onto the porch, ran a hand through his windswept hair, and made to knock on the asymmetrical front door.
‘Hello, Harry Potter!’ said an airy voice behind him, interrupting him mid-knock.
Harry turned around quickly, expecting to see Luna’s giant blue eyes blinking up at him. Instead, he was met with the sight of a horse. No, a unicorn. A silver one, still quite young. Its eyes were indeed huge, but black, and slightly wary.
‘Did you come for the September Harvest?’ the unicorn asked. Or rather, chewed. Harry blinked.
‘Er… Luna?’ he asked it uncertainly.
The unicorn snorted and stomped a golden hoof on the ground. The air next to it seemed to shift. It was vibrating, and Harry got the sense that something invisible was laughing at him.
‘No, silly! I’m right here.’ the air said. Pressing his glasses further up his nose, Harry inspected it and found that it had the outline of a brow, a smile, a girl. He caught a glimpse of the blue eyes he’d come down here looking for, and then felt himself get hugged.
‘Oh, hey Luna. Why the Disillusionment Charm?’ Harry asked, wrapping his arms around solid warm nothing. After almost a decade of being Luna’s friend, he knew to roll with most things with minimal questioning.
‘It’s so the Druantias won’t see me. I was hoping to catch their moon song, but I’m either too late or too early. That’s alright, though. The charm should wear off in a few minutes. Would you like to come in? I’ll put the kettle on.’
The front door opened as if on its own accord, and stayed ajar for Harry to walk through. The Luna-Chameleon pulled up a pale blue chair for him at the dinner table and then started opening and closing cupboards in the kitchen area.
Harry made to walk in, but the unicorn beat him to it. It practically pushed past him and followed the sound of boxes of tea bags getting ripped open by Luna’s ghost-hands. Harry followed at a careful distance, eyebrows raised.
‘What’s with the unicorn?’ he asked. ‘Is it here for the, um, Harvest, too?’
‘Oh, no. Perry’s just a friend. We met when I was on a Snorkack hunt in Sweden. He volunteered a hair to help me sew up a pretty serious wound. He was just a baby, but he was already so smart. Then he just sort of… found his way back here, I suppose.’
‘Yeah, that sounds about right,’ said Harry, thinking about his own mindless trip to the house. A Swedish unicorn finding the Rookery on its own was somehow not at all surprising to him. ‘Wait, Perry?’
‘He likes it,’ the air that was Luna shrugged. ‘It’s meant to be Percival, but he seems to prefer Perry.’
‘That’s… great, really.’ Harry felt a grin spread on his face. He made a mental note to tell Ron and George about Percy’s glittery namesake as soon as possible.
It was almost as if the fumes from the teapot were melting the layers of Disillusionment off of Luna one by one. Harry sat back in his chair, rested one elbow on the table, and watched in comfortable silence as the strangest girl he’d probably ever know slowly came back in focus in front of him. He could now make out the length of her hair (still dusty-blonde, still curly, still covering her entire back), as well as the delicate fingers that worked the tea bags open and poured boiling water in teacups made of clay.
By the time she put the tea between them and sat herself down on the chair opposite him, Luna Lovegood was back in all her vibrant, eclectic glory.
‘There she is!’
Luna looked down at her hands, which were scratching at a tiny chip in her teacup. ‘There she is,’ she agreed. Looking up at Harry again, she said, ‘Do you know what this reminds me of?’
‘That summer, a year after the war. When you worked at that ice cream parlour.’
Harry felt his smile turn a bit rueful. He tried not to think about that year. He’d spent most of it actively isolating himself from everyone, but by the time spring had come around, he was going mad with boredom. George had offered him a job at the store, which Harry steadfastly refused. He still had trouble looking at George sometimes, even now. No, his fantastic job idea came to him when he watched Teddy smear his entire face with mint ice cream, and then turning his hair and eyes the same colour to match. The sight brought back memories of simpler times, and inspired Harry to reopen Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlour, in memory of the generous, kind-eyed man that went missing during the war.
Everyone had been so eager to see Harry out of his funk, they went along with what was, in hindsight, kind of a ridiculous idea. But sometimes ridiculous things can feel necessary, even healing. Especially after the trauma of war. So, it became a group project; Arthur cleared it with the Ministry, Molly helped make all the different flavours, and Andromeda offered free haircuts for the Muggles that lived on her street so that Harry would have an infinite (and safe) amount of hair to choose from for his ‘faces’. Hermione, of course, was in charge of the Polyjuice Potion.
There had been no other way to do it. So soon after the war, the name Harry Potter was still hot on everybody’s lips. The only way Harry managed to get around without getting unwanted attention was by using his Invisibility Cloak, but you can’t exactly sell ice cream with only your ankles and hand visible to the customer. And so, Harry began taking shots of Polyjuice Potion every day, about twelve times per day, for nearly three months. Only his closest friends and family knew the truth. To the rest of the world, he was Jacques on weekdays, Stanley on Fridays and Saturdays, and a few times Lorraine, because Harry was nothing if not adventurous.
Harry had quite enjoyed being someone else, talking to wizards who didn’t recognize his face or his name. But it wasn’t sustainable. The grand ice cream endeavor came to a natural end, swept away with the first autumn wind. And Harry had to go back to being Harry.
He realized that what Luna had said remained hanging in the air, unanswered. He shifted slightly in his chair and shook the memory off with ease that almost surprised him.
‘Yeah,’ he nodded. And then, smiling, he recalled, ‘You saw right through me, as always.’ Luna had a knack for reading Harry’s expressions like an open book, even when he wore a different face. The morning she and her work partner happened to drop by the ice cream parlour had been a Jacques morning for Harry. Luna paused when she saw him, and then smiled a secret, familiar smile at him that made Harry feel so thoroughly known. She never mentioned anything about it, until now. Harry just knew that she must have known, the same way Luna just knew that Jacques must be him. Thoroughly known.
‘It’s the eyes,’ Luna mimicked his nod. ‘You carry your heart in your eyes, Harry Potter. It’s there for everyone to see, if they only looked.’
‘Merlin, I hope they don’t,’ Harry huffed a self-conscious laugh. ‘Meanwhile, I can’t seem to recognize your eyes from those of a magical horse.’
‘Perry is a unicorn with beautiful eyes, so I will take that as a compliment.’ Luna decided. ‘What did you think happened there, though? An ancient curse? The Lovegoods’ family secret? Is there a rumour going around that me and Dad are secretly unicorns?’ She was teasing, Harry realized. The old Luna, the one from his adolescent memories, she never really teased. He sized her up for a second, her raised eyebrows and amused smile. She was still the same Luna he’d always known, and yet, there was something new there. Some new form of that old, fearless confidence. He decided he liked it.
‘Well, no, that’s the one rumour about you guys I haven’t heard just yet,’ he flashed her a cheeky smile, and continued. ‘My first thought was ‘Animagus?’ and then ‘If anyone’s Animagus form would be a unicorn, it would be Luna Lovegood.’’
Luna laughed at that. Her laughs were still explosive and loud and kind of goofy, like a socially inexperienced child. She always reacted to any given joke like it was her first time hearing one.
Harry suddenly remembered something he’d read in one of Teddy’s Muggle fantasy novels. Something about how lonely people tended to laugh with an intensity and depth that mirrored their loneliness. Feeling a familiar surge of fondness wash over him, he reached across the table and squeezed Luna’s hand. She reacted by caressing his thumb with her own, her shoulders still slightly shaking with laughter.
Finally, she said, ‘Although it’s impossible for an Animagus to take the form of a magical creature, I appreciate the sentiment.’
‘Never thought I’d hear a Lovegood say that word.’ Harry said. ‘Impossible,’ he clarified at Luna’s puzzled look, ‘it just doesn’t seem like it’s part of your vocabulary.’
Something complicated shifted behind Luna’s eyes. Harry wasn’t as skilled at reading her as she was him, so it escaped before he could identify it. She didn’t say anything, just laced her fingers with his. He squeezed her hand again.
They sat like that for a bit, sipping their drinks, exchanging soft smiles instead of words. By the time they were finished with the tea, Perry the unicorn decided he was bored and wanted attention, so he brought his shimmering snout to their still-interlaced fingers and began to huff over them.
‘Try giving him a sugar cube.’ Luna suggested.
‘I thought unicorns only let girls get close?’ Girls and virgins, the latter a fact that Harry came across much later in life. He didn’t have to think too hard to figure out why they’d omitted mentioning that to a bunch of sneering teenagers at Hogwarts.
‘He’s still young, so he’ll let you.’ She handed him a few sugar cubes. Perry practically jumped with excitement. ‘Besides,’ she said, caressing his silver mane, ‘unicorns don’t consider gender and sexual acts with nearly as much rigorousness as humans do. You’re either trustworthy to them or you’re not. Men just have to work a bit harder to get there, is all.’
Harry nodded, a bit shaken from hearing Luna say ‘sexual acts’. He wordlessly passed the sugar to Perry, who happily inhaled it and then immediately started poking around for more. Luna let him have the whole plate without a word.
‘What brought you here today, Harry?’ she asked. ‘Not that I mind, but we don’t usually get visitors that fly by unannounced.’ Her eyes widened. ‘I’d love it if people did that. Have they started doing that?’
‘No, not really. But we can make it a thing, if you wanted.’ It was a sincere offer. A weekend dinner with the Weasleys, an hour or so alone with the Firebolt, and then tea time with the Lovegoods sounded nothing short of wonderful. ‘We can invite your Dad next time, too.’
Luna nodded excitedly. ‘He’ll usually have a nap after dinner, but I’m sure he’d love to.’
Harry smiled in agreement, and then explained to her how he’d sort of mindlessly let the Firebolt direct him until it dropped him off on a familiar porch. He expected her to say that it must have been the Nargles or the Magnatoes or some such thing possessing his broomstick or leading the way, but she simply said she was glad to see him and left it at that.
Harry knew that it was probably getting very cold and very late, and that he was being missed back at the Burrow, but, looking at Luna’s subtly despondent demeanor, he couldn’t help feel like he’d brought himself here for a reason.
‘Hey, is everything..?’ He began to form the question, but it dissipated into nothingness. Why was he finding this so hard? Luna had been there for him countless times, always with the right words, or lack thereof. He frowned at himself. Luna deserved a better friend. Luna deserved the kind of friend that she was to him.
‘Hey, Luna,’ he said, more determined this time. Luna looked up at him from where she was putting away the dishes. ‘Wanna go for a ride?’
Luna somehow managed to perk up while simultaneously looking more perplexed than she had all evening. ‘A ride?’
‘Yeah! Take my Firebolt for a spin. A flight, I suppose.’
Harry was in love with this idea. Luna had been the only person to enjoy flying the thestrals as much as he had. And she’d flown side-saddle. He was never going to forget that. Granted, nobody but the two of them and Neville could see what they were flying on, and they were going on a very dangerous mission, but the fact of the matter remained; Luna liked flying. Harry was a genius.
Luna considered his words in a way that would have counted as nonchalant if her eyes weren’t threatening to pop out of her head. Finally, she nodded and said, ‘I’d love to go flying with you, Harry! Let me just put on something warm.’
‘Great! I’ll grab the Firebolt.’
‘Oh no, sorry, I’m not sitting on that,’ was the first thing Luna said when she re-entered the room, wrapped in an enormous dirty-white wool scarf that made her look like a moth caught in a spiderweb. Harry hugged the Firebolt to his chest, injured.
‘Sorry! It’s just that broomsticks chafe my thighs,’ she explained.
‘They chafe everybody’s thighs! How did I not know that this is how you felt about brooms?’ Harry asked, genuinely shocked. ‘Also, what did you think we’d be flying on? You don’t have any thestrals lying around the house, do you?’ Harry looked around just to be sure. He eyed Perry suspiciously. ‘He doesn’t have any secret Pegasus wings, does he?’
‘No, Harry, there are no flying horse-like creatures here right now. At least to my knowledge,’ Luna said, patting Harry’s arm comfortingly with her left hand. With her right, she grabbed her wand from where it was tucked behind her ear, and did a sweeping motion towards the hallway. ‘There is, however...’
A muffled thud came from the other room. Seconds later, Harry saw something blue and long and thin zapping up and down the narrow hallway and into the room, not stopping until it was within a hair’s breadth of their faces.
‘A flying carpet.’
Molly Weasley’s knitting wool must have been bewitched with some kind of warming spell. That was the only explanation. Harry had no right to be this toasty on a late September night, flying a magic carpet five, ten, twelve meters above the ground and somehow not freezing himself to death.
He thought he might topple to death, though. The very real possibility crossed his mind several times in the last five minutes. And again just then, when the wind caught the bottom of the rug and made it go nearly entirely vertical. Harry squeezed the left edge frantically. They were flying a magic carpet. He couldn’t believe this.
‘I can’t believe this!’ he yelled. ‘We’re flying a magic carpet!’
Well, Luna was flying it. She was sitting to his right, a bit further ahead, assertively pushing and pulling at the front of the carpet to give it directions. They were flying around the house, low enough that a topple wouldn’t be deadly, but would surely be discomforting. Perry chased after them, his playful hops turning into frustrated gallops when he found he could no longer keep up.
Luna slowed the pace to a gentle float and crossed her legs, unbothered by the way the movement made the whole rug vibrate beneath her. It was quite a pretty rug, Harry noted; a bit faded in the middle, patterned with several shades of blue and white and cream. The pattern gave it an overall powdery blue appearance. There was enough space on it for two people to lie down comfortably, and maybe even squeeze in a third. Luna leaned towards Harry, and he tore his eyes away from the rug to meet her gaze.
‘Do you want to fly it?’ Luna asked.
‘Is it safe?’ Harry asked. He doubted it was Ministry approved. Last he’d heard, the Ministry was quick to confiscate modified Muggle objects.
Luna gave him the closest thing to a withering look that her lovely saucer eyes could muster. Harry laughed.
‘Fair point.’ he said. ‘Yes, of course I wanna fly it, can you teach me?’
And she did. She taught him where to apply pressure and why, as well as how to position himself so his back didn’t get sore and his legs didn’t fall asleep. Within twenty minutes, Harry felt right at home.
That said, sitting on what was essentially a rough but thin piece of fabric in mid-air was a sensation that Harry would most likely never be able to fully familiarize himself with. He tried comparing it to sitting on a hammock, or a trampoline, or the contraption that Dudley showed him a few years ago in his apartment that Muggles apparently called a water bed, but in all honesty? None of those comparisons came close. He was hovering in mid-air on a magical rug, the pull of gravity being resisted by--nothing! It didn’t feel like anything Harry had ever experienced before.
It felt like magic.
After letting him fly around aimlessly for a few minutes, Luna suggested they head northwest, where the clearings ended and the forest trees were thick and uneven. They sat side by side, shoulders touching, and navigated the rug together, admiring the scenery below them as they drifted past.
The world was just shades of blue and silver in the moonlight. The moon, just as round and nearly-full as before, had lost that golden tinge and was now a dazzling white. It looked a bit smaller than before. He was about to note that to Luna, but when he turned around he saw that she was already looking at it, her irises reflecting it almost perfectly. She looked... wistful.
Harry slowed the carpet to a speed that required less supervision, and sat back to get a better look at her. He waited until she broke her gaze from the moon and met his searching eyes before he finally asked.
As he waited for an answer that he knew probably wouldn’t come, Harry leaned back until he was almost entirely sprawled on the carpet, his elbow keeping him upright. It might not have manifested the same way in her as it would in any other person, but Harry was sure he saw a restlessness within Luna that never used to be there before. He kept his eyes on her, his mind shuffling through the night’s memories to see if he’d missed something. Suddenly, it came to him. He’d gone on a tangent and missed it the first time. He felt like an idiot.
‘Why did your Disillusionment Charm remind you of the time I worked at the ice cream parlour?’
Luna looked down at him, her eyes revealing nothing. For a moment Harry thought she’d keep quiet this time as well, but then she released a sigh, the softest sigh he’d ever heard, and lowered herself on her belly, facing him again. Instead of an answer, she gave him a question:
‘How did you feel when you were those other people?’
Harry chewed his lip and stared blankly at nighttime scenery, thinking. ‘Like myself, still,’ he decided. ‘But also, like I was free from myself.’ Being under the Invisibility Cloak had made him invisible to everyone else, which could be a relief in dire times, but under it he was always completely aware of himself. Meanwhile, inhabiting the body of a stranger meant that he could interact with the outside world in a way that didn’t hinge on who he was or what he looked like.
Luna nodded like she understood whatever on earth that sentence ended up being. Then, leaning her head on her arms, she said, ‘Maybe I needed a break from myself.’
That was such an un-Luna response that Harry was a bit alarmed. Luna Lovegood braved the world every day while being so relentlessly herself for as long as he’d known her, and now she found solace in being invisible? This wasn’t right. Harry thought about saying all of this out loud, but he backtracked.
They were treading unexplored territory here, and Harry didn’t want to put his foot in his mouth. It didn’t matter, normally, not with Luna, but this time she needed him and not the other way around, and he couldn’t let her down.
Before he made a conscious decision how to proceed, his hand was reaching for a long strand of blonde hair (dark silver in this lack of light, like a fading star) to play with, and his mouth was saying ‘Is this about the, um, Doo-woo-antheas?’ He stumbled over that word both because it was foreign and half-remembered, and because he wanted to abort that entire sentence before Luna kicked him off the rug and into the trees for being an insensitive prat.
Instead, Luna shot him look of wonderment and rewarded his question with a smile, albeit a slightly sad one.
‘You’re better at this than you think, Harry Potter,’ she said. Her hair looked like it had a life of its own, blowing around her in windy slow-motion. Combined with her now-pearly white scarf, it had quite a haunting effect, starry backdrop and all. ‘It is, I suppose, partially about of the Druantias.’ She tried to get her hair out of her eyes, but she couldn’t see the strands, so she only made matters worse. Harry chuckled softly and helped her. They weren’t usually this physical with each other, but it felt natural, as familiar as their shared silences.
‘Thank you,’ Luna said, her eyes now unobstructed and gazing into his, intense as ever. ‘Do you know what Druantias are, Harry?’
‘They’re tree sprites,’ Luna said, her eyes making to widen excitedly the way they normally did when she spoke like this, but not quite getting there. Harry hoped it was just the wind. ‘Trees have sprites living in them, or, as some say, they are them, they are the essence of trees.’
Harry cast a look around them. The carpet was floating relatively lower than before, thick forest a few meters below, some of its tallest treetops poking out like slightly terrifying traffic cones. The trees definitely looked dark and mysterious enough to have some magic in them.
‘I’m with you so far, yeah.’ Harry said.
‘Well,’ Luna continued, no longer looking at Harry but looking past him, past the trees, possibly even past the sky itself. ‘During a Harvest Moon, it is said that the Druantias sing songs that pull the Moon closer, which is why it looks so big.’ Harry had to admit that the last bit did sound slightly far-fetched. But this was Luna, and far-fetched was the territory she thrived on, so he let her continue.
‘I’ve gone out every night for a week. Not just this time. For years, during a Harvest Moon, I’d go out. Trying to hear them. I thought, if they couldn’t see me, maybe...' 'I tried everything.’ Luna stared down at her hands, fingers toying with a loose fabric on the rug. Harry thought he had an idea where all of this was going. He shuffled closer to her, running the tips of his fingers along the length of her long hair in a way that he hoped was comforting and unobtrusive.
‘I’m not stupid, you know.’ she said with a defiance that almost made him laugh. Of course Harry knew Luna wasn’t stupid, was she joking? If the concept of Most Brilliant Witch His Age was shaped like a coin, then, as far as he was concerned, Hermione and Luna would be on either side of it. Luna was Hermione’s foil precisely because she wasn’t stupid at all; their wits could keep up with each other in any disagreement because their intellect pulled at them from vastly different directions. Harry thought about saying this to Luna, but he felt like tonight was more about listening. He made a mental note to tell her later.
‘I know some things are not real, or unlikely. I don’t go believing things without any proof whatsoever. However, in the past…’ Luna trailed off, suddenly seeming uncertain about how to continue. ‘My sources may have been misleading, in the past,’ she concluded.
She turned around to lay on her back. It opened her face up to the moonbeams above and their glow made her seem ethereal, like a celestial being herself. Her eyes shone bright with stars and tears.
‘Crumple-Horned Snorkacks aren’t real,’ Luna whispered.
Harry clasped a hand over his mouth in shock. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Hermione was probably out there somewhere, sensing a disturbance in the innate balance of the universe.
‘Luna…’ he began feebly.
Luna closed her eyes and sighed. ‘I’m a magizoologist now, Harry. I have my own newsletter in the Quibbler. I’ve read so many books on magical creatures. I’m actually in the process of writing one myself.’ Harry was about to congratulate her, but she pressed on before he could. ‘I’ve proven the existence of Nargles. Sure, they went extinct in the late 18th century, but they existed. I’ve been traveling the world for half a decade. I’ve been to Sweden so many times that it’s my second home at this point.’ She turned to look at Harry.
‘Do you know what I’ve never found, seen, read about, or even heard a single Swedish person talk about?’
Harry didn’t have to guess.
Now that she was lying on her back, Harry didn’t know what part of her he was allowed to touch to comfort her. He settled for tapping her knee, his fingers happy to have something to do in the chill breeze. He wasn’t at all shocked that Snorkacks didn’t exist. He’d always secretly sided with Hermione on that one. But, he supposed, now that Luna was seriously pursuing a career that required intimate knowledge of magical species, growing out of the less likely Quibbler-esque theories was inevitable. Harry tried to find a way to tell her that he understood and sympathized with her growing pains, but then, in one divine moment, the real problem occurred to him.
‘How does your Dad feel about that?’ he asked softly.
Luna looked up at him, and he could read every unsaid word in her sad, star-speckled eyes. Thoroughly known.
‘...Ah,’ he managed.
A tear escaped its wide silvery-blue confines and made its way down Luna’s cheek. Harry moved and caught it with his index finger before it got lost in her hair. He left his hand there, softly caressing his thumb over her temple. Usually their skin tones didn’t contrast so drastically, but right now she might as well have been the Moon, and him, the endless dark sky.
Luna closed her eyes again. ‘I’ve never seen him look so disappointed,’ she said in a strained voice. ‘I thought that maybe… Especially since I’ve proven, or gotten close to proving, that other things we’ve speculated about are real, I thought that he would believe it. But he… He didn’t even get angry, or defensive. He just shook his head at me, like I was still the same eight year-old that thought my shoelaces were getting untied by Bunchow Snails.’
Harry resolutely didn't ask what a Bunchow Snail is.
‘But I’m… I can’t be good at what I want to do and believe in everything he wants me to believe in at the same time,’ Luna continued, ‘and I can’t discuss my findings with him because then he disagrees with facts that I myself have proven… It’s never been like this. I don’t--’ More tears started flooding Luna’s cheeks, at a pace too fast for Harry’s worried fingers to keep up with.
‘I don’t want to lose my Dad.’
‘Oh, Luna.’ Harry’s heart broke for her. He’d had his fair share of mentors and father figures being disappointed with him, or worse, disappointing him. He imagined your actual Dad, your only family, somehow managing to do both at the same time, would feel world-shatteringly painful.
The carpet continued its sluggish pace above the trees, and Harry held onto Luna as best as he could in their awkward laying position. He waited until she regained a bit of composure before he spoke again.
‘Have you ever heard of the expression, ‘I believe that you believe it?’’ he asked.
Luna frowned. ‘Yes, and it’s usually said in a very condescending tone.’
Harry smiled at that. ‘It doesn’t have to be. If you break it down and think about it, it just means that the person is respecting your right to your own beliefs and opinions. They are acknowledging that your reality might be different from theirs, and they are alright with that. If it comes off as condescending, it usually means that it’s being said by a prat.’ Luna mirrored his smile, although hers was both sweeter and more watery than his.
‘Muggles say that to other Muggles all the time,’ Harry pressed on, ‘When someone claims they’ve seen a ghost, or about certain traditions and religious practices. Sometimes it’s meant to be patronizing, sometimes not. Like, if I went and started telling random Muggles I’m a wizard who owns the best broomstick to come out of the 1990s, some of them would sock me in the mouth, yeah, but I like to think there’d be a well-meaning sod or two that would pat me on the shoulder and tell me that they believe that I believe it. And we’d both be right. Do you see where I’m going with this?’
Luna nodded, wiping her face with her spiderweb of a scarf.
‘Your Dad loves you, Luna. You are his whole world. The existence, or lack thereof, of a few magical creatures, cannot possibly harm that,’ Harry said firmly. ‘And if you love your job, then you will find a way to keep doing it. I have no doubt in my mind that that’s true. Okay?’
Luna blinked back the last of her tears and leaned her head to the side. ‘I definitely believe that you believe that, Harry.’ Her voice was beginning to sound like its old dreamy self again. Harry gasped in mock-horror.
‘When,’ he demanded, ‘did you get so vexatious?’
Luna giggled. ‘At around the same time you started using words like vexatious in a sentence with semi-accuracy.’
Harry groaned and let himself fall back onto the carpet. ‘Touché.’
Luna looked like she was about to say something else, probably another uncharacteristically devastating comeback, but then her eyes widened, suddenly alert. Something about the way Harry had plopped down on the rug made it sound more like a slam, and now the whole thing was shaking like a mid-air earthquake.
‘What--’ was all Harry managed before the carpet jolted with alarming velocity, zigging and zagging and lowering them dangerously close to the spiked treetops underneath them, grazing several branches along the way.
Harry and Luna leapt forward at the same time, pressing and pulling at the front of the carpet, trying to get it back under control. It was to no avail. If anything it seemed to make the thing angrier; Harry had a flashback of a disgruntled Ford Anglia kicking him and Ron out of its seats, and yelled at Luna to hold on tight. Surely enough, the carpet began to move like a horse unhappy with its saddle. They both bounced along with it, wildly and with their knees in the air, but their knuckles managed to keep hold of the edges.
Unable to shake them off, the carpet tried a new tactic. It flattened itself, went almost entirely vertical, and started Wronski Fainting towards the ground with a ferocity that would have made Viktor Krum himself shake at the knees.
Bewildered, Harry made to pull out his wand, but Luna yelled at him to stop. She already had hers out, and she was whispering things into the rough fabric. The tree branches were getting dangerously close to their faces. Harry tried to use the rug as a shield against them, burying his head into it.
‘Start petting it!’ Luna bellowed.
‘Pet it! Caress it!’ she demonstrated with her wand-occupied hand. ‘Calm it down!’
Having nothing to lose except his life, Harry obeyed. It was no mean feat, trying to be tender and move in slow, relaxing motions while plummeting to the ground, but he did his best. Luna’s spellwork (Or was it just positive affirmations? How do you compliment a carpet? You match my drapes very well? You don’t stain nearly as easily as my Welcome Mat? Were these really going to be Harry’s last thoughts before he died?) got louder and more frantic, until she fell entirely silent and closed her eyes. Harry mimicked her, but before his were shut all the way he saw a flash of blue light escape the end of her wand and vibrate all the way through the patterned fabric under them.
Without any warning, the carpet straightened up again, standing up rigid and, for the first time that night, perfectly still.
Luna straightened up, her breaths coming out in heaves. Her hair was messier than a lion’s mane. She looked at Harry and smiled a bewildered smile. So many new expressions on this girl’s face tonight. Harry considered plopping down again but then changed his mind, and crossed his legs in careful, deliberate moves.
‘What the hell is this thing and where did you get it,’ he said. It came out sounding more like ‘whate’ll’ssthihawerechuge’, but he felt like he got his point across. He let himself plop down again. He couldn’t help it, his head was spinning and he felt so out of breath it was almost nauseating.
Nothing happened. The carpet stood frozen in place.
‘Dad got it from New Zealand.’ Luna answered between breaths. ‘It’s kind of old. But it’s never done this before.’ Luna blinked up at Harry. ‘I think we upset it.’
‘Understatement,’ Harry managed. He had never agreed more with the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts prohibitions in his life. Before he could advise Luna to turn this monstrosity in with Arthur before she or her Dad break their necks, Luna gasped, staring somewhere behind him.
Harry turned around slowly, giving his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the new and admittedly gorgeous new sight all around him; he’d thought they were falling through a clearing in the woods, but it wasn’t a clearing. It was a pond. He looked back at Luna, grinning like an idiot.
‘It’s beautiful.’ Luna breathed, her face full of wonder. And just like that, they were fifteen again, staring up at a pair of majestic thestrals that only they could see, recent near-death experiences temporarily forgotten.
‘It really is,’ Harry replied, and unglued his eyes from Luna’s face to really let his surroundings sink in. Tall trees, almost black, formed an imperfect circle around them. The pond spread out underneath them, reflecting a sky that made it seem deeper than an ocean and twice as glimmery. The moon peeked at them shyly, its reflection somewhat obstructed by the trees.
The place radiated serenity. It may have been the stillness of the carpet, or the soft sloshing of the water below. The barely-there breeze caressing branches and faces alike. It really was quite magnificent.
Harry’s heart pumped loudly in the sudden quiet. His adrenaline was still through the roof, he suddenly felt the need to do something, use his arms, his legs, his muscles and bones. He didn’t want to ruin the moment for Luna, though, so he opted for taking out his wand and murmuring harmless spells to blow off steam. He conjured up dozens of bioluminescent moths. They scattered above their heads, their imperfect reflections in the water almost indiscernible from the stars.
Luna took it all in for several long, quiet minutes. Then, she scooted towards Harry gingerly and placed her lips on his cheek. It was, without a doubt, the longest and most tender cheek kiss of Harry’s life. She let her lips linger there until they started to tickle, and then moved them closer to his ear, whispering a soft and earnest ‘Thank you.’
Harry gently moved away so he could look at her. Luna Lovegood, his strangest friend. Luna Lovegood, who would hold his hand and offer words or silence or solutions or distractions, without him ever having to ask. Without asking for anything in return.
Was he really going to do this?
His lips, as was their way, were way ahead of his thoughts. They met Luna’s forehead first. She allowed their kiss. Then her temple, and a bit of her hair. Next, her cheekbone, where Harry could feel the bloom of a soft smile. He found the same smile on the other cheek, too. Then her nose, just to see that smile widen. Then her chin. Then--
Her jawline. That is what his lips settled on this time. His hands were still pretty useless on either side, but they sprang to life when they felt Luna’s own. Luna’s hands found their way up Harry’s arms, over his shoulders, and then snaked their way over his chest, inside his cardigan, wrapping around his back. Harry let himself be pulled on top of her as she lay down. He used his hands to untangle her scarf.
Luna’s neck was warm under his closed mouth. He sighed deeply over it, causing her to giggle lightly. She squeezed her arms tighter around his back. Pressed their chests even closer together. Easily the best hug of Harry’s life.
‘I like your cardigan,’ she whispered into the night.
‘Thanks.' He sighed the word into her neck, watching as her skin responded with goosebumps. ‘It’s growing on me, too.’
He distantly wondered how far they were willing to take this. If there were any thresholds he should be wary of crossing if he wanted to keep what he had with her safe and undamaged. He didn’t actually think that mattered, though. He’d never doubted that they’d keep each other forever. You don’t grow out of someone that can read your eyes like the bold print of the morning paper.
He was perfectly content like this, with Luna wrapped around him, her smile tucked in his cardigan, his fingers in her hair, his mouth resting on her neck. The night air brushed against them like it wanted to join in on the embrace, and the carpet didn’t dare move, as if it were afraid to interrupt whatever sacred moment was happening above it.
Yes, Harry was perfectly content like this. It was Luna that craved more. Harry understood this, could feel it in the gravity of her touch, the soft buzz under her skin. He’d spent years deprived of affection and he recognized the vulnerability that came with that hunger. He couldn’t make up Luna’s mind for her. What he could do was kiss her neck until there was a small galaxy of barely-there bruises littering it. Until she unclasped her hands from behind his back and took what she wanted herself.
Luna’s mouth found his before her hands were even free. She kissed and nipped and explored his lips to her heart’s desire, Harry open and patient above her, matching her pace, never outrunning her.
When she found his tongue with hers, their bodies took over for them; they gripped each other even more firmly than before, hands not wandering so much as pushing and pressing one body tighter against the other.
The next time Harry’s mouth found its way to Luna’s neck, her fingers were in his hair, leading the way. He obediently peppered her collarbones with kisses, hands digging into her ribs, brushing against her breasts but not cupping them.
She let him press against her thigh. The pressure was a welcome sensation. Harry tried not to grind against it, though, as that felt like betraying the rules of this game they seemed to be in the middle of. Luna wrapped both her legs around one of his, and used that to pull herself upwards, closer to him, as close as possible.
This embrace felt a lot more intimate than it had any right to, thought Harry. It dulled and amplified the ache at his core at the same time, begging for release, relishing in the obvious fact that this was as close as he’d get. It felt like being young again. It felt like trust. Like being so, so thoroughly known.
They kissed and kissed and kissed until their mouths were sore and pink and bitten. There were a few moments that made the urge to take this further a bit difficult to ignore, like when Luna’s hands found their way under Harry's cardigan and then under his shirt as well, or when the breeze around them strengthened and pushed at them, tempting Harry to move his body against it. Or when Luna slightly shifted and kneed Harry in the crotch in a way that made him see stars even when his eyes weren’t open.
But, Harry could tell by the way Luna would freeze slightly whenever his hands lightly grazed near her breast or caressed her hip, that hers was not the kind of tension that was followed by release. It was the kind of tension that skirted the danger of being overly stimulated, which could be fun for some, but Harry inexplicably, thoroughly understood Luna’s body in a way that left no room for guesswork. Harry saw her limits and he accepted them, more than happy with what she was willing to give. He rode out his arousal until it became a pleasant backdrop again.
Luna sighed happily into his mouth, comfortable and content. Harry smiled, breaking the kiss as he did so.
He gently untangled himself from her, keeping close but not touching her where he could help it.
She gave the carpet back her weight, but she left one hand under Harry’s cardigan. No longer holding on for dear life--just holding.
Now that they were both on their backs, Harry could enjoy the entirety of the view around them. The Moon had risen higher, no longer obstructed by the trees. It was almost directly above them now. It was probably just a bit of vertigo from the carpet and the wind and the buzz of a fantastic snogging session… but Harry felt like he was rising up towards the sky; the Moon seemed just barely out of reach, and definitely much larger than a few minutes ago.
He saw Luna’s eyes grow wider from the corner of his eye. He looked down at her, a question on his lips. Was she uncomfortable? Did she want to leave? But Luna looked serene, her half-opened mouth forming a slow grin. She broke her watery gaze from the moon and pointed it at him. The invitation he saw in it confused him, at first.
And then he heard it. A sound that could easily be mistaken as the wind in his ears. So soft and melodic and keeping pace with even the most mundane of nature’s nighttime noises. It was around him, and beside him, and within him, like a not-yet-whispered secret. It was the kind of sound you have to expect in order to recognize.
Harry knew that this was the kind of moment where you have to choose if you believe or you don’t. And he chose to believe. Because he was here with Luna, and she believed. It was the easiest choice in the world.