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Chapter 1: Delivery
A/N: Hi, and thanks for clicking! I really hope you enjoy the story :)
First things first: Thank you so much to DarkRose for the title (seriously, you are awesome!), and to lizmusic16 for putting this challenge out there. It was the perfect incentive for me to start writing about my favorite couple again!
And one more thing: the numbers above the scenes represent the chronological order of events. You can skip around and read all the scenes in order, or just read it straight down to the bottom. The story should make sense either way :)
I don’t know what I was expecting to see when I walked into the Lovegood house for the first time. I guess I thought the place would look like Luna; a bit insane at first glance, but with an undeniable brightness underneath. But although there were plenty of eccentricities about it, I didn’t see any of the vibrancy or color that I’d come to associate with my girlfriend. Everything looked untouched, which was probably more or less true; when I ran a finger over the windowsill by the front door, it came away covered in dust.
It just felt lifeless in there, dull and stagnant, as if nothing lived in that house but a ghost. Which, judging by the tone of Xenophilius Lovegood’s letter, I guessed was also pretty much true.
The man in question was nowhere to be found; I had let myself in when no one had answered my knock. I was kind of afraid to advance any further to the house (some of the wall hangings looked like they could jump out and grab me at any moment), so I just stood in the kitchen for a few minutes, adjusting to the creepy vibe. The place smelled…interesting. Like mold, or spoiled food, or possibly both. I couldn’t picture Luna ever having lived here.
“Mr. Lovegood?” I called into the dusty silence, suddenly wanting to get the whole thing over with.
There was a thud on the ceiling above my head. So he was upstairs. Moments later Luna’s father tiptoed a few steps down the spiral staircase, peering out at me. He looked like a shell of the person in the pictures Luna had shown me. In a plain gray robe, with matted hair and jittery mannerisms, Xenophilius seemed more like a caged animal than a man.
But then again, he’d been on house arrest since the fall of Voldemort, for being an accomplice to Death Eaters. So really, he had been caged for the past year. I figured I’d probably go a little crazy too, if I was trapped in my house for that long.
“Who are you?” he demanded, eyes darting everywhere. “Who let you in?”
“Your door was unlocked, sir.” I was on my best behavior; even though the circumstances were less than ideal, I was still meeting my girlfriend’s father for the first time. He looked at the front door, still pretty confused.
“All right, then,” he said with a sigh. “Why are you here? I wasn’t expecting anyone today.”
“Mr. Lovegood, my name is Dean Thomas.” He squinted at the unfamiliar name, but his eyes widened to saucers as I drew an envelope out of my jacket pocket. “I have a letter from your daughter.”
I had asked Luna to move in with me almost a year after the final battle. By that point we’d only been dating for about five months, which, by the rest of the world’s standards, was way too soon to be cohabitating. And although we were both of age, there was a general consensus that we were too young for such a drastic step. But after going through the horrific experiences that we had, we realized that our time together was a privilege and not a guarantee. So when our mates (and my mother, for that matter) asked us what in Godric’s name we were thinking, we just shrugged and said, “Life’s too short.” And that was a good enough answer for anyone who had lived through the war.
As for me, I couldn’t have been happier with the arrangement. After only a few months of dating, I could not imagine my life without Luna.
She inspired me constantly. Her exterior was completely calm and serene, but underneath that she had more tenacity than anyone I knew. While I wallowed in my setbacks and failures, she rose above hers and kept going, often while helping other people move forward as well. After we’d escaped Malfoy Manor, it had been Luna who’d helped me face my demons, the ones brought on by war. She’d given me the courage to fight for our cause with Dumbledore’s Army. Then, after the dust had settled, she was the one who’d convinced me to try art school. Everything good in my life seemed to trace back to Luna; I owed her so much that sometimes I actually felt a little guilty. There had to be something more I could do to deserve her, something that would equal the countless ways she had made my life better.
Little did I know my chance to repay her would come much sooner than I expected, on the wings of a horned owl.
Xenophilius’s letter came on our first full day in our new place. Luna and I had made it our mission to repaint every single wall in the entire flat that day, since the original color was the most hideous yellowish brown shade imaginable. I was an art student, and Luna was, well, Luna; there was no way either of us could live with such lifeless walls. So we’d hit the Muggle hardware store early that morning, loaded ourselves down with a rainbow of paint cans, and got down to business.
Several hours later, I was lying spread-eagled on the drop cloth covering our bedroom floor, completely exhausted. We’d gotten the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom done (thanks to a quick-drying charm), and we only had the living room left to finish. But I wasn’t sure I was up for another room that day. Calling it quits seemed like a great idea to me, and we could easily complete our mission tomorrow.
Luna, apparently, had other ideas. She had barely painted the last stroke of blue on the ceiling when she started dragging another can of paint towards me. I couldn’t suppress a laugh at the sight of her. She’d managed to splatter herself with every single color we’d used that day: candy-apple red, pale yellow, blue, some weird salmon color she had “surprised” me with, and the eggshell and tan I’d insisted on for my own sanity. If it were up to my girlfriend, our place would be covered in wall-to-wall neon paint, and I just didn’t know if my eyes could take that.
“How did this even happen?” I asked with a grin, gesturing toward her paint-covered body. “I barely got any on me, and I did twice the work.”
“Well, Dean, what good is painting if you have nothing to show for it?” She beamed and tilted her head to the side, a cascade of blonde hair falling over her shoulder. It was ridiculously endearing, and I patted the floor next to me as an invitation.
“So,” she said happily as she sat down, apparently still bursting with energy, “what do you think of this for the living room?”
The paint can she opened contained the tackiest shade of blinding orange I had ever seen in my life. There were a lot of things I was willing to do for Luna, but I had to draw the line at this.
“Luna. That is completely obnoxious.” I tugged at her hair just so she’d know I was joking. Sort of.
“I’ve never heard someone call a color obnoxious before,” was her mild reply. “Did it say something to you? Because I haven’t heard anything.”
“No, love.” I said firmly, in answer to both of her questions. “Just no. I refuse to look at that while I watch TV.”
With anyone else I might have worried that I had been a little too blunt. But Luna was a rare find—a girl who didn’t mind brutal honesty. Instead of being offended, she just laughed, much to my relief.
“Well, you are an artist, after all. I trust your eye for these things. So, no orange. ”
“No orange.” I sat up and pressed my lips to her forehead, then to her mouth. Her eyes were still closed when we pulled apart, and I took a moment to admire the incandescent smile on her face. It still amazed me to think that I was the one making her that happy.
She rested her paint-speckled head on my shoulder. “This place is really ours now, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s all ours.”
She leaned up to kiss me again, deeper this time. I tangled my fingers in her hair and was thinking about dimming the lights with my wand when we pulled apart again, this time interrupted by a flutter of wings.
A post owl had flown into the room and landed right in front of us, with a letter tied to its leg. We looked at each other quizzically.
“How did he get in? Did we leave a window open somewhere?”
But Luna wasn’t listening to me. She stared wide-eyed down at the creature, reaching a tentative hand out for the envelope. “Dean,” she whispered, “this is my father’s owl.”
“Is Luna with you?” Xenophilius asked, taking a few eager steps down the staircase.
“No sir, she…couldn’t come. Actually,” I sighed, figuring it couldn’t hurt to be truthful, “she doesn’t know I’m here at all.”
He was crestfallen; his shoulders visibly deflated when he realized Luna wasn’t coming. “But she answered my letter?”
“Yeah.” I reached up and handed him the envelope. It was a bit of a stretch, since he was still halfway up the stairs and I was still on the floor. But the captive animal analogy was still fresh in my mind, and I thought it best to let him come to me.
He stared at it for a moment, moved it from hand to hand as though testing its weight, and then turned back to me without opening it. “You are a friend of Luna’s, I presume?”
“Er…yeah. We’re, er…we’re friends,” I stammered, deciding mid-sentence not to tell him just how “friendly” we were. That wasn’t something he should hear from me.
“Ah.” He nodded knowingly, and I thought I saw a hint of a smile. “So you’re in love with her, then.”
So much for my deceptive skills; he must have seen something in my face. I could tell where Luna had gotten her ability to read people. “Yeah, I am.”
He let the subject drop after that, and I was grateful.
“I haven’t seen her in months, you know.” He ventured a little farther down the stairs, and I was glad to see him looking a little less shaky. “And I never dreamed things would turn out this way. I was only trying to keep my Luna safe!”
I figured he could only be referring to the incident that had gotten him arrested, when he’d thrown Harry under the bus in a bargain for Luna’s life.
“Those Death Eaters came here and said they would kill her!” he went on. “I couldn’t just let that happen!” He turned an imploring gaze on me (his wide eyes reminding me of his daughter), and I wished I knew what to say. “Why can’t she forgive me? She must have spoken to you about it.”
“I mean,” I began slowly, “she just fought so hard in the war, and I think her cause was more important than her survival, in the end. She’s just upset that your priorities weren’t the same.”
Xenophilius nodded gravely. “Luna has always had such strong convictions. She takes after her mother that way.”
I felt a twist of pity at the mention of his wife, who had died when Luna was nine. The man had lost so much already; Luna’s silent treatment must have been doubly torturous for him.
“For the record, Mr. Lovegood,” I said, my voice sounding too loud for the motionless house, “I would have done exactly what you did.”
He squinted at me. I took that as permission to keep going.
“If someone I loved was in danger, I would have done whatever I had to do to protect them. War or no war.”
Xenophilius considered this for a moment, and then gave me another tiny smile. It made him look more healthy, which was encouraging to see. However, I was at a loss for what else to say.
“Well, I suppose I’d better go—“
“Would you—“ He cleared his throat and started over. “Would you stay with me while I read the letter?”
His voice sounded small and afraid. There was no way I could refuse him.
“Sure, Mr. Lovegood,” I said, nodding up at him. “But do you mind to come down now? My neck is starting to hurt.”
Since the moment she’d found out about his bargain with the Death Eaters (her life in exchange for Harry Potter), Luna hadn’t spoken to her father once.
Her reaction had surprised me. When we’d been together at Shell Cottage, it seemed like every other phrase out of her mouth was something her dad had said, or a story about something they’d done together. In fact, one of the first things I’d noticed about her (aside from her many peculiar beliefs) was how close she was with her father. Their bond seemed unbreakable, and I had envied the honest, open relationship the two of them seemed to have. But then the war ended, and that all changed.
When his letter had arrived at our flat, Luna had refused to even read it for the first few days. Eventually, though, her curiosity won out, so we sat down on our secondhand couch one evening and read it together. The letter was long, containing about a hundred different ways to say “I’m sorry” and “I miss you.” He had tried to give Luna space, he wrote, but he just couldn’t wait any longer to write to her. He pleaded with her to come see him so they could talk, and hopefully fix things for good.
I didn’t know Xenophilius personally at the time, but I could see from his letter that he was a broken, desperate man; losing Luna had created a big smoking crater in his life. If it had been me I would have forgiven the man on the spot, but I didn’t tell Luna this, and she didn’t seem to share my sentiment anyway. After she finished reading, she stuffed the letter underneath the couch and stalked into the kitchen without a word.
But she did pull it out and smooth the wrinkles before we went to bed that night, while I pretended not to notice.
After that, the ranting began. I hadn’t pegged Luna as a person who ranted; even though she was opinionated, she usually stayed pretty calm about it. But this was turning out to be an exception.
“I’ll never understand him,” she kept saying, her normally melodic voice sounding strained and tight. “He knew how important it was to keep Harry safe! How could he risk everything the Order had worked for?”
She would look at me imploringly, desperate for some sort of answer. Personally, I had a clear opinion on Xenophilius’s actions, but I wouldn’t give it unless Luna asked.
“Why don’t you just ask him all this yourself? Or go over and see him, at least,” I offered one evening as she paced the floor. Honestly, I was worried for her. Dad issues were well-worn territory for me, so I knew firsthand that if Luna didn’t resolve this thing with her father now, it would eat away at her for a long time. Bitterness wasn’t like her, and it wasn’t healthy for her to carry it around.
She shook her head. “I don’t think I can even look at him right now. Besides, I would probably say something I’d regret.”
“Then write him a letter,” I persisted. “You never answered the one he sent, anyway.”
She considered it. “A letter.”
“Yeah. That way you can get your answers without having to face him. It’s a win-win. Well, a double win for you.”
Either she was swayed by my logic, or deep down she wanted to make things right with her dad. I thought the latter was probably more likely. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try.”
And she did try. She pretended to be nonchalant about the whole thing, but I saw her working on her letter every night for days. She crossed things out, reworded things, wrote entire drafts and ripped them up. It was clearly important to her to say everything she needed to in just the right way.
When she finally finished it, I expected her to get it mailed pretty quickly. But the envelope never left her nightstand, and the longer it sat there, the more concerned I got. Whether Luna knew it or not, she needed to send that letter. Her relationship with her father was riding on it.
Normally, I wasn’t the guy to get involved in other people’s personal business. I had tried to stay out of the way and let Luna fix things on her own. But when the letter was still there after a month, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Luna would be hurt and betrayed when she realized what I’d done, but I was willing to pay that price if it meant doing what was best for her. I couldn’t let her lose her dad; they had been so close before, and I knew she loved him despite everything. So I made the trip to Xenophilius Lovegood’s house, letter in hand, hoping to give my girlfriend the one thing she seemed unable to give herself.
“I’ll try to get Luna over here tomorrow to visit, Mr. Lovegood, but I can’t promise anything,” I said as I rose to leave. Xenophilius and I had been sitting on the couch in the living room, which was just as unkempt as the kitchen.
“That’s quite all right, Mr. Thomas. You have done so much already. I cannot thank you enough for bringing this to me.”
We had read the letter together. It was just the kind of thing I would have expected from Luna; telling him in no uncertain terms what she thought of his actions, with no attempts to cushion the blow her words would cause. Without meaning to, my girlfriend could be really insensitive. But the ending made up for it; she’d told him that, even though she was upset now, she wanted them to be close again someday. Xenophilius had been vocal about his thoughts as he’d read, alternating between hope and self-loathing. As for me, I hadn’t really known what to do but sit there with a sympathetic look on my face. But he’d seemed grateful to have another person there for moral support.
I shrugged. “I just thought you needed to see it. And don’t worry, Luna will come around soon.”
The confidence in my tone surprised me, considering that she was probably waiting at home for me as we spoke, ready to confront me about my treachery. I swallowed hard.
He smiled at me; the smiles were getting bigger and bigger as they came. “I suppose I should clean, just in case,” he mused, looking around the neglected room. “Luna wouldn’t want to see our home in such a state. But I just haven’t had the will to…”
“I understand, sir.”
“Yes, of course you do. Mr. Thomas—“
“You can call me Dean if you want.”
“All right then, Dean. I’m wondering…is my Luna in love with you as well?”
This caught me off guard. I considered bending the truth, but…“Yeah, she is.”
He nodded approvingly. “Good,” he said, clapping me briefly on the shoulder. “I think that’s good.”
I left the Lovegood house feeling hopeful, until I remembered the next task waiting for me. I couldn’t facilitate a reunion without two willing parties. And I still had no idea how I was going to convince Luna to give him another chance.
“I have two questions for you, Dean. And I would like straight answers.”
I had barely stepped in the front door when she cornered me. If I hadn’t known her as well as I did, I might not have noticed the ice in her tone; it was well-hidden under her usual soft voice. But I heard it loud and clear, and I suddenly questioned the sanity of what I had done.
“Okay. Fire away.”
“Where have you been all day?”
I took a deep breath. “At your father’s house.
Some people narrowed their eyes when they were mad, but Luna was turning out to be the opposite, as if that was surprising. Her eyes had widened further than I would have thought possible.
“And where is my letter?”
I sighed. “I gave it to Xenophilius. He read it, and he wants to see you.”
She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths through her nose. It would have been funny if I wasn’t dreading what was coming.
“Dean, you had no right to touch that letter. I told you I would send it when I was ready.”
“Yeah, a month ago. And you haven’t touched it since.”
“Because I wasn’t ready!” She wasn’t quite yelling, but I still winced at the sound of her raised voice. “I’m still not ready! But that doesn’t matter now, does it?”
“Luna.” I fought to keep my own voice quiet, even though I wanted to scream sense into her. “I really am sorry for going behind your back. But I did it for a reason, love—“
“Don’t call me that, not right now.”
“Okay, that’s fair. But will you let me finish?”
She nodded stiffly.
“I know you don’t like what your dad did, okay? But you’re taking this silent treatment way too far. You have to forgive him sooner or later.”
“But what he did was unforgivable!” she burst out. “He bargained with the enemy!”
“To save your life!” I knew raising my voice would not make Luna hear me, but it was hard not to. “He loved you too much to let you get hurt. That’s a reason to shut him out?”
She clenched her jaw, too frustrated, it seemed, for words.
“Listen.” I took a second to level my head, and started over. “I’m just trying to save you from future heartache here. The longer you let this go on, the harder it’s going to be to make things right. And you need to make things right, Luna.”
“How do you know what I need?” she asked, genuinely curious in spite of her mood. “Sometimes I’m not even sure of that.”
“Because I know you. I listen when you talk, probably more than you do sometimes. And I’ve heard you tell all these stories about you and your dad, and I know how close you’ve always been. And if you think I’m wrong, then answer me this. Are you really happy without him in your life?”
There was a long pause.
“No,” she finally said in a small voice, looking down at her bare feet. “I miss him.”
“Then why are you being so stubborn about this?” I asked, trying to be a bit gentler. “You’re the most forgiving person I know. Why can’t you give him another chance?”
“I wanted him to do the right thing!” Her short-lived anger seemed to be subsiding already, and now she just looked sad. “He always did the right thing.”
I was beginning to understand. “Come here,” I said, leading her to the couch. She let me put my arm around her as we sat down, which I took as a sign of progress. “Tell me about it.”
“I just never thought Daddy would disappoint me,” she said quietly, twisting the ends of her hair between her fingers. “I always thought he was so perfect. Little girls and their fathers, you know.”
I didn’t know, but I nodded anyway, encouraging her to keep talking.
“And then when I found out what he did, it just…didn’t seem like the person I knew. And I stopped speaking to him, at first because I was angry, but then because I was afraid I might see him differently. I liked the way I saw him before.”
“He made a choice you didn’t agree with. It happens.” I shrugged. “That doesn’t mean he’s not the same person you knew. It just means he’s human.”
She shrugged a shoulder at this, conceding the point. “And now I just don’t know what to do anymore. It’s been a year, Dean. What can I say to make it right again after all that time?”
It was easy to believe that my girlfriend didn’t have the same kinds of emotions as most people. Even I had been under that impression when I’d first gotten to know her, during the height of war. She just seemed so out of touch most of the time, as if she was seeing things the rest of us couldn’t. But this situation had thrown her out of orbit, it seemed. For once in her life, she was facing a problem that she had no idea how to solve, and I had never seen her so lost. Pity tugged at me, but fortunately I knew exactly how to get Luna back on track again. I just hoped she’d be able to see it for herself.
“After seeing him today, I’m pretty sure he’ll want to hear anything you say,” I responded, after a bit of thought. “Just knowing you’re trying will be good enough for him.”
She let out a shaky breath. “So I should see him, then.”
“Most definitely.” I hoped my sigh of relief wasn’t too obvious. “How does tomorrow sound?”
“I suppose there’s no use putting it off any longer. But will you come with me?”
“Sure, but I have a feeling you won’t need me.”
“Dean, you’ve never seen a Nargle before, have you?”
It didn’t even occur to me to be surprised by this.
“Not once, why?”
“I think you must be immune to them, then. Your head is always so clear.”
Luna’s hand crept into mine as we walked up the path, but she wasn’t looking at me. Her attention was occupied by the sight of her childhood home, just visible at the top of the hill. As usual, her expression was unreadable, but her grip on my hand revealed a bit more.
“Are you nervous?”
“A little,” she admitted. “I thought about it all night, but I still don’t have any idea what to say.”
“I think it’ll come to you,” I said reassuringly. “When you see him, you’ll know.”
“Does it really work that way?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. I just said that so you wouldn’t be nervous.”
She smiled. “You’re sweet. And I think it helped a little.”
“I do know one thing, though. You’re not going to regret this.”
We had reached the front gate. I thought about asking her what a dirigible plum was (this was the second time I’d seen the sign without having a clue what it meant), but decided that now wasn’t the time. Although she probably would have welcomed the distraction.
We couldn’t really put the moment off any longer, though; the gate wasn’t far from the front door, and soon Luna would have to knock. She took a deep breath as if she were about to jump off a high dive, and reached for the knocker. I stumbled there with her, still attached to her hand.
Xenophilius appeared mid-knock, as though he’d been waiting just on the other side of the door. He looked much more alive today; his hair was combed and he was clean-shaven, and there was a look of such hope in his eyes.
From there, it happened just like I’d told her it would. The moment Xenophilius opened the front door Luna’s uncertainty seemed to evaporate into the air, and she launched herself into his arms. Cascades of apologies tumbled from both of their mouths, the words themselves getting lost in the chaos. But the only thing that mattered was that they were finally together again; that much was obvious.
“Come inside, my dear,” Xenophilius said earnestly, once they had calmed down a bit. “We have so much to discuss.” Luna nodded enthusiastically, her face glowing.
I knew when I wasn’t needed. “I’ll let you two be alone, okay?”
But she caught me in a tight hug as I turned to leave, standing on tiptoe to come level with my face (though I still had to bend a bit to reach her.)
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I could never have done this without you.”
I shrugged. “I just wanted to see you happy.”
She pulled back just far enough to give me a confused look. “But being with you makes me happier than anything. So really, you’re always seeing me happy.”
It was the best thing she could have said. I laughed, trying to sound casual even though a wave of warmth was crashing over me. “Well, then I wanted to see you even happier. You know what I mean.”
Her answering laugh was affectionate and very familiar, the kind she gave when she thought I was being nonsensical. Then she reached up and kissed me, waved goodbye, and walked back into the house without a hint of hesitation.
For the second time in as many days, I walked back down the path feeling pretty optimistic. There was no doubt in my mind that Luna and her dad would get on just fine after this; now she could be whole again. And if I had played a small part in that, I supposed that gave me a reason to feel just a little proud. Maybe now I could be a positive force in Luna’s life, just like she was in mine.
I still didn’t quite feel worthy of her, and I wasn’t sure that would ever really change. But Luna seemed to think differently, so maybe I could trust her instinct instead of mine. She could probably see loads of things I couldn’t, anyway.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I love this couple (and Liz, I hope you do too!) Please leave me a little review and tell me what you think...I'd love to hear from you!