In every class he had with her Luna Lovegood sat directly in front of him, or at least somewhere in front of him. Every time that he would look up to the Professor and whatever he or she was demonstrating to the class, he would see that head of blonde hair. Since not many of the students had returned after the death of Dumbledore, many classes were combined, so he had plenty of chances to talk to her; none of which he took. Here he was, a chicken with the appearance of a Hogwarts seventh year boy, someone who did not have the guts to even strike up a conversation with the girl of his dreams.
Well, maybe not exactly the girl of his dreams; perhaps he was being rash; but she was certainly important to him. Luna was the other avid member of Dumbledore’s Army, the only other one besides himself who was the most disappointed to see the DA dissipate and disband. It had, after all, been after a DA meeting that he had truly befriended the blonde girl the year below him, as they walked down the corridor before the parted ways for separate towers.
“I really enjoy these meetings,” Luna had said as they walked past a statue of a rather portly wizard holding a round object and pointing enthusiastically at it. “Don’t you, Neville?”
He was beaming with pride, for he had finally achieved the Disarming Spell that evening, as he said, “Yes, very much. They let me know that I’m helping, even in some small way.”
Luna nodded solemnly, “It’s a kind of condolence, really. You never know when we might need to defend ourselves, or someone who we care about for that matter.”
After this loaded sentence, both stayed silent in reverence of Cedric, whose picture had been added, with a quiet ceremony, to the wall of news clippings and other such things. That evening, Dumbledore’s Army had a newfound vigor that they had seemed to have lost the last few meetings. It was if the picture of their fallen comrade reminded them of the purpose of their nighttime wanderings, the risks that they were taking by continuing to meet once or twice each week.
As if to lighten the mood that had come over them, Luna looked over to her walking companion and said, “Congratulations, by the way. I always knew you’d get Expelliarmus in the end.”
“Thanks, Luna. You’re not so bad yourself, you know,” he said, trying not to sound too full of himself after his monumental accomplishment.
“If you say so,” she said, and Neville had the distinct impression that she hadn’t really heard him, because she was gazing dreamily at the painting at the end of the corridor. They walked on in amiable silence for a few more moments.
“I’ll see you around?” Neville said as they reached the end of the corridor; it was here that they would have to go their separate ways, to two different sides of the castle to the towers they called home.
Luna looked up to him, a big smile on her face, making Neville feel very proud; Luna rarely smiled anymore. Since the last few news reports, everyone had become more solemn, but this effect had been seen most profoundly in Luna; her usual carefree nature had been marred.
“Certainly,” she said brightly. As they parted ways, she called out to his retreating back, “Make sure to watch out for the nargles!”
Neville stopped for a moment, a puzzled expression on his face for a moment. His mouth stretched back into the giddy grin he had been wearing before. “I’ll be sure to,” he said, waving a farewell to her.
“Enervate,” said a distant voice. A high, raftered ceiling loomed above her vision as Luna came to. The concerned face of a dark-haired boy filled her bleary sight as his lips moved, forming the words, “Are you alright?”
Luna nodded with her hand to her heart as her breathing returned to normal. She looked over to the worry-filled face of the boy next to her and smiled. True, it wasn’t her full, beaming, trademark smile, but it reassured her friend that she was going to be alright. He seemed to loosen a bit, as if a knot had come untied inside of his shoulders that held his worry over one of his closest friends.
He smiled and stood, holding out a hand to her so she could stand as well. Brushing off her school skirt, she straightened out herself after her ungraceful acquaintance with the cushions on the floor.
“Thank you for the cushions, Room of Requirement,” she said, looking lovingly around her at the room she was in, who’s lighting brightened a bit as it recognized her thanks. Her gaze returned to her partner, the look of loving fondness she had for the room never leaving her eyes as they landed on him. “And thank you, too, Neville.”
Neville’s cheeks turned a bit pink at her gaze and he turned away, hands in pockets. “For what? I’m the one who knocked you to the floor, may I point out.”
Luna put her hand on his shoulder, her long, piano-player’s fingers giving it a gentle squeeze. “It was a good Stupefying Curse. How could I be angry about that? And you helped me up like a gentleman would. That’s why I thanked you.”
By now, Neville’s cheeks were a color to rival to Uncle Vernon’s, who he luckily hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting. Luna’s hand lingered a moment longer on his arm as she gave him a small, sad smile, before letting it falling to her side, as graceful as the arm of a prima ballerina. She walked away and over to where he had been standing a moment before, waiting for him to take his turn. He did so, willing his cheeks to return to their normal color.
This was the way they usually practiced, now that no one else from the previous DA ever had the time or incentive to join them. One would stand at one end of the practice court, waiting for the other to perform their spells, and hope that the outcome wouldn’t bee too noticeable to anyone tomorrow in classes. They had been lucky not to suffer any major bruises or black eyes thanks to items and products provided by the Room of Requirement in the various storage cabinets. Neville had shared with Luna that he had been struggling with silent spells, so they had been working heavily in that area, and things had gotten messy a few times.
They stood like that for a few moments, neither moving. Suddenly, Luna lashed out her arm and stared hard at Neville, who had been inwardly flinching as soon as her wand arm had risen. She had excelled with the silent spells, much to his discomfort, and he never knew what she would choose to throw at him. But nothing happened. Her face was twisted in concentration, but her lips were pursed like McGonagall’s, as if she had something in her mouth she refused to let out. He waited patiently, never relaxing, not knowing whether it was a bluff to make him relax, or real consternation over what she was going to do, even though she had already begun to make her move.
With an explosive sigh, she deflated; her shoulders slumped and air blasted out from her slightly bloated cheeks. Her head was hung in a defeat that Neville couldn’t see the cause of. He stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to do in this situation; he had never been in such a position before. But when she crumpled to the floor and started to cry, instincts took over, and he ran over to her.
Taking her in his arms, he held her tight, letting her sob into his white-button down school shirt, not caring about having a wet spot on it. Though he didn’t know why, she was in pain, and that was his highest priority: to comfort her. He knew not to ask her what was wrong, or to shush her and tell her it was all going to be alright; she was too strong and would take offense to that. All she needed was someone to be there and to console her, letting her open up when she wanted, how she wanted, and if she wanted.
He had only ever seen her cry once before. Neville had walked in on her in the Room of Requirement. It had been late at night on one of the last nights of the year of his sixth year, her fifth. It had been the night after Dumbledore’s funeral and Neville hadn’t been able to sleep so he had decided to take a late-night stroll around the castle. There weren’t any prefects around to reprimand him for being out way past curfew for his age. Everyone was numb, and there weren’t that many students left, many leaving with shell-shocked relatives.
Not knowing that she was in there, not taking note that the door to the DA headquarters had already materialized, he had just walked right in. As soon as he was inside, he had halted and reddened. Luna was standing and hugging herself in front of the mirrors in one corner of the room. She had turned to look at him with her eyes streaming freely and in that instant he felt as though she was staring right into him, baring his soul for all to see. He hadn’t cried that whole day, forcing himself not to realize the glaring truth before him lying on the white marble slab. But it was as if a switch had been flicked in him and a single tear made its lonely way down his cheek. Luna’s mouth had lifted in a ghost of a smile before her chin trembled and she turned away from him, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her zip-up hooded jacket, shoulders shaking slightly, head down.
Hastily, he had gone outside to sit in the corridor. Neville didn’t want to go in there with Luna and intrude further on her private mourning, nor did he want to go back to Gryffindor common room with the mood of the brooding students there swinging constantly. The only choice he saw fit was to just brood by himself in the shadow of the statue of a rather portly looking wizard holding a round object and pointing enthusiastically at it.
Neville wasn’t sure when he had fallen asleep, but he distinctly remembered waking up with a strange sight before him. Heavenly light surrounded the head of someone with long and loose blonde hair. It took him a moment to realize that Luna had left the room and was leaning on the sill of the window, looking out dreamily at the source of her namesake. He was captivated by the eerie beauty of the scene, her petite frame surrounded with the moonlight and her chin resting in hands that were being supported by a slab of dark stone. The window panes were surprisingly clear for being so old.
He had the impression that she didn’t know that he was sitting there, but this was gone as she turned to him. She smiled at him for a moment with the same look that made him feel even the most intimately concealed layers of himself peel effortlessly away. She turned and unlatched the window and pulled it open, letting in a small summer breeze. Neville watched as she took in a deep breath, and then quickly closed the window again, latched it, and sprinting down the hall towards the Ravenclaw tower. He waited until he couldn’t hear the soft pounding of her bare feet hitting the corridor floors before heaving himself up and to his waiting bed.
“He’s gone, Neville,” she said after her sobs had died down to the occasional sniffle. “I can’t believe he’s gone!”
Unknowingly, he had begun to stroke her long blonde hair that had once been bathed in moonlight. In a soothingly soft voice, he said, “Who, Little Luna, who’s gone?”
Luna broke their tight embrace for a moment to look up at him with an undecipherable look in her eyes, a kind of mixture of sadness and another emotion Neville couldn’t place.
“You called me “Little Luna”. Only my father calls…called me that.”
Feeling terrible because of her tone with her voice cracking with emotion, he sheepishly said, “I’m sorry, I won’t if you don’t want me to.”
She shook her head. “No, do it. I don’t mind. I actually kind of…like it.”
Her face was very near hers, he realized suddenly, but he found that he couldn’t do anything about it. Surprisingly, as his body refused to answer his commands, his brain was firing at incredible speed, and he noticed something very important.
“Called you that? What do you mean, Luna?” Neville watched as her face, which had been blissfully emotionless before, filled with unspeakable pain. “Oh, Luna, I’m so sorry.”
She began to cry again, but this time it was silent. Neville rocked her back and forth, and began to hum a song he remembered his mother singing to him, the night she had been driven mad by Bellatrix Lestrange and her posse. She had just put him to sleep when the Longbottom home had been invaded.
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens; Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things.”
Much to Neville’s surprise, Luna looked up to him, eyes shining with tears as she took up the second verse in a lilting alto voice that blended quite nicely with his baritone.
“Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels; Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles; Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. These are a few of my favorite things.”
By now, Luna’s face had brightened slightly as she rested her head against his chest as he held her tightly, but not so tight as to make her uncomfortable. Her voice faded out on the last line, leaving him to sing the last verse by himself.
“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes; Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes; Silver-white winters that melt into springs. These are a few of my favorite things.”
He rested his head against hers, closing in his eyes and simply breathing in her scent and letting her rest against him. Visions of his mother, young and vibrant, filled his vision. Though he was very young at the time of her attack, his memory of those first few years of his life were very sharp, despite his less than admirable memory he had of recent events.
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad; I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.”
As those images of his smiling mother flitted across his memory like delicate butterflies, her voice mingling with his as he sang, he could feel himself breaking down. As soon as he sang the last note, he felt his voice crack along with his composure, as he cried silently into Luna’s hair. He felt her grip tighten a bit around his torso as she clung to him. Even though he himself was shaking from his sobs for his mother, whose condition hadn’t gotten any better over the years, he felt that she too was crying, as her body was shivering along with his.
For the next few minutes they simply held each other in the middle of the room, comforting one another for their lost parents. Neville felt insanely selfish. Luna’s father was dead, as his was still alive, as was his mother. For the first time, it hit him that Luna was an orphan, and wouldn’t be of age until the middle of the next September of her seventh year. Who would take care of her?
There was only one person left, standing alone next to the slab of marble that marked where a loved one lay; six feet under. It was beginning to darken, the sunset sending beautiful colors across the newly fallen snow across the ground. With the solitary figure motionless except for the sway of their black cloak in the breeze that was picking up by the minute, all was still. Picturesque; the kind of scene you would find in the file of some old and forgotten series of drawings in a box in an attic. Nothing special about it, really, except for those who were in it.
Leaning against a tree some distance away from the still mourner, another motionless person watched. Their face was etched in shadow, the lapels of their woolen winter coat drawn up against the breeze and the snow that had begun to fall softly. A cloud of steamy breath filled the air in front of them as they sighed. Their shoulders tensed up, as if they were steeling themselves against a powerful gale, as they walked from their hiding place in the semidarkness of the tree.
The steady cadence that his feet made as he walked towards her soothed him a little. He felt extreme shame by coming that day; he hadn’t even told her that he would be attending her father’s funeral. Avoiding her had been a chore, since she had asked to be left alone when she went. It was this that made him guilty, how she had seemed to almost silently told him not to come, but he had anyway.
He hadn’t even known her father. It had been with a guilty pang that he had realized this when he had passed the casket right before it was closed for the final time over a face that he had never seen in life. Luna had never shown him a picture of anyone in her small, now one-member family.
But there was nothing that could stop him from coming to the man’s funeral so that he could be by the side of his best friend and comfort her if need be.
“I thought I told you not to come,” she said.
He slowed to a halt a few feet from her, his hands in his pockets, the wind sporadically blowing snow in and out of his lengthening hair. By now the sun had set completely, leaving them in an eerie silence created by the dark and snow.
It was with a thoughtful slowness that she turned to face him, as if time had slowed down for that moment for them; his rigorously set face meeting her open and tear-stained one. A moment caught forever in the sands and oceans of time, imprinted in stone.
“But you did anyway. Why?” she asked quietly, her voice lilting and musical as it wafted through the air and to his ears, sending chills down his spine he knew had nothing to do with the steadily dropping temperatures. Her tone was nothing like the accusing tone he thought that he deserved, but the sad disappointment in her voice cut him deeper than any cursing or shouting ever would.
“Because, Luna,” Neville said, stepping closer to her, so there was less than a foot separating them. “That’s what friends do.”
A rebellious tear escaped from the corner of her eye and slowly coursed down her cheek, but started to freeze. Unconscientiously, Neville reached up and wiped it away with one of his gloved hands so that it wouldn’t freeze to her cheek. As he did this, he looked into her face, seeing her clearly for the first time since that day in the Room of Requirement.
Her hair, though prettily put up by one of her fussing family members, had the look of someone who didn’t really care about it anymore, as did her face. Sure, she was never one for much rouge or eye shadow, but the lack was clearly evident to anyone who cared enough to notice. The posture of a person without a care in the world, with nothing to worry about except which dessert to choose, was gone and replaced by someone who had the world on their shoulders.
“Thank you,” Luna said in a small voice, looking down to the ground and drawing her arms up to hold herself against the now blustering wind.
Neville closed the gap between them and embraced her, not quite as awkwardly as the last time he had, when she had fallen to the floor in tears. But like the last time, he was holding her together as she broke down and mourned her lost father. He felt as her arms wrapped around his torso and her hands clung to the back of his black woolen coat.
He heard her say something into his coat, but couldn’t make out what it was.
“What was that, Little Luna?” he asked with his voice barely more than a whisper above the breeze.
Her eyes shining like they had back on that night he had walked in on her mourning, he felt the now familiar feeling of his soul being exposed. Each fold that was brought back to expose a bit more of him each time felt like the petals of a blooming flower. Despite this unasked for sensation, he found that he wanted her to see his soul. Her lips quavered, then steadied as she whispered something to him, gently pulling his ear down to her mouth.
“I love you, Neville Longbottom.”
Heart leaping, he pulled her own ear over to his mouth and said, “I love you, Luna Lovegood.”
The same instincts that had kept him awake after Dumbledore’s funeral, the same that had made him hold her when she had fallen to the floor of the Room of Requirement, and the very instincts that had told him to come to the funeral made him do something he had never done before. Taking her chin in one gloved hand, he did what he had wanted to do for what he realized was quite a long time; he kissed her.
They broke apart after a long moment, their eyes locking instantly. Luna smiled up at Neville, the signature smile that she hadn’t let light up her face in over a year. Taking her hand from his shoulder, she traced down his arm to Neville’s hand and took his leather-clad glove in her own, lacing her fingers with his.
Walking hand in hand, they slowly made their way out of the graveyard in Godric’s Hollow where Xenophilius Lovegood had been laid to rest. They were silent for a few moments before Luna began to hum quietly. Neville felt a smile tug at his lips as he recognized the lilting melody and started to hum along.
When the chorus ensued, Neville sang the words aloud, Luna joining him.
“I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”