Chapter 1 : A new day, a new life
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“As we go on, we remember
All the times we had together
And as our lives change, from whatever
We will still be, friends forever”
Vitamin C-Friends forever
It was a beautiful morning of July, the Sun was sparkling shamelessly on the crystal clear sky, the little birds were singing their cheerful song in the green trees and the habitual chillness of Scotland had been choked by the infectious warmth of a summer day. Hogwarts was silent, few people roaring on the dark long corridors that morning, and even fewer teachers surveying the grounds. Luna stepped outside the Ravenclaw dormitory wearing her house uniform for what was to be the last time in her life. Today she was graduating, along with some of her fellow colleagues, people whom she had seldom interacted with all throughout the first years of school, but in whom she had found love and affection right after Voldemort’s defeat.
They had become her family, her life and the school itself had been so much more than just an institution where she had learnt to do magic. It was in Hogwarts that she had discovered just how beautiful magic was; just how interesting animals and magical beasts were and it was there that she had found friendship…real friendship.
She emerged to the ground floor, every once in a while hopping, imagining that this was yet another morning when she would get up and have breakfast in the Great Hall and then head off to classes.
But it wasn’t just another normal morning… She suddenly felt sad for abandoning her childhood playground, the teachers, and her favorite desk in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom overlooking the Quidditch Pitch. She regretted having to say goodbye to the jolly ghosts, for she would surely miss a nice talk to Sir Nicholas, or a nice friendly advice from the Fat Friar, or even a shy glance from the Grey Lady. And even Peeves, she would most certainly feel sorry about not waking up in the morning without his pathetic little songs, most of which he had composed on her account…and Moaning Myrtle, how many times she had scared Luna to death, when she had sneaked into the damaged bathroom to find a little tranquility. Oh, this was all so difficult…
She entered the Grand Hall, with a lump in her throat, suddenly feeling coward and for the first time in years, reluctant to sit at the Ravenclaw table, at the exact spot she had occupied all throughout that time. Nevertheless, she managed to walk past the Slytherin table, without even bothering to frown at the hearing of the malicious sneers of Asteria Greengrass and her loyal companions, who now were the successors of Pansy Parkinson, Milicent Bulstrode and the other girls who had graduated the former year, as Luna recalled now. If by any reason, in the past, she would have felt offended by their name calling and the infamous “Loony” nick name, today she held her head high, knowing that she was just another person on whom the Slytherins would pour their hatred.
At least the other faces of the students belonging to the rest of the houses, were much warmer and in a way loving towards Luna. Emilia Stanton, a witty girl with black hair and deep blue eyes smiled at her from across the Ravenclaw table and waved at her to come and sit by her. Luna shook her head and then gestured towards the Gryffindor table at the far end corner of the room, and most specifically in Ginny’s direction, who was talking vividly with some of her dormitory mates. They were all laughing and smiling and Luna guessed that they were most probably talking about Ginny’s wedding to Harry, an event which was to take place at the start of September that same year.
Luna smirked as she remembered that next month she and Hermione would go to Diagon Alley to choose their bridesmaids dresses. She doubted that Hermione would let her get matching yellow robes, but in a way it hardly made a difference now, for the only thing that Luna was interested in was making sure that Ginny’s day went on perfectly.
She approached the table and all of the sudden the loud murmurs and giggles ceased, and the sparkling eyes of the flirty girls beamed at her playfully. Ginny smiled.
“Good morning, Luna” she said. “Care to join us for breakfast? The girls and I were talking about the wedding…I was just telling them that Harry and I are going on honeymoon to Sweden to see the Quidditch World Cup.”
“Merlin, you and Harry must be the only people on earth who think that the Wronsky Feint is romantic” Imelda Brown blurted from across the table, making the girls laugh soundly.
Luna smiled, her lips curling slightly, enough to leave the impression that she indeed had enjoyed the remark, but still not sufficient as to camouflage the sudden sadness about graduating and finally leaving the grounds after seven years.
“I find it quite…unique” Luna added after the giggles started fading. “My Dad and I went on a trip there; just before our fifth year…We went looking for Crumpled-Horned Snorkaks.”
“Did you find any?” another girl, whom Luna knew only by sight, asked, making Ginny glare at her.
“Oh…I’m afraid we didn’t” Luna responded dreamily, her eyes gliding towards the pudding in Ginny’s plate. “They’re quite difficult to track, you see. It takes years and years to at least get a glimpse of them, they’re quite agile creatures and do like to hide a lot.”
“I’m sure they do” the nasty girl replied and Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Harry ran into your Dad at the Ministry, the other day” Ginny spoke, thus breaking the awkward silence that was so characteristic of Luna sometimes. “He told me you’ve received a job proposition. Is it true?”
“Indeed…I’m starting next week” Luna answered playfully.
“What’s it about?”
“Oh, well, I’m going to be Newt’s Scamander assistant” she said and started fidgeting with her wand, not being able to find it a proper position in her pocket. “I reckon it should be really interesting…I mean, Mr. Scamander is one of the greatest naturalists of our times. I’m sure I will learn a lot from him.”
“I’m glad for you, Luna” Ginny replied, a broad grin appearing on her face. “But please, do sit!”
“Oh no…I must go back to my table” Luna said. “This is after all, the last time I’m going to be a Ravenclaw”
Ginny smiled as the girl with long, dirty blonde hair waved at her and then headed back to her respective table. How much had Luna changed, in the past three years…She was no longer an outcast…she had friends who cared for her, people whom she had helped and in return they had shown their undying loyalty.
She was no longer Loony the girl that talked too much about Crumpled Horned Snorkaks, making everyone else uncomfortable around her. Yet even if she still dreamed so big and at times fantasized about beasts and all kind of magical creatures that no one had ever heard of, she didn’t bother anymore like she used to in the past.
Her friends found that charming about her and Ginny now recalled just how soothing her dreamy eyes had been in times when nothing could have provided comfort to them. The war had ended, but everyone had lost something valuable, a friend, a husband, a child, a cousin…she had lost a brother, her parents had said goodbye to their son, Harry had cried for his friend and George had splintered his soul. Fred was gone…and the world could never be the same again.
But somehow in the midst of all the hurting and the suffering, Luna had opened her heart and had inspired everyone to dare to go on with their lives. Ginny recalled that talk they had had, right after the final battle, Luna’s arms curling around her body and the crystalline voice hissing to her ears “it’s alright”.
And indeed, everything had turned out great. She was getting married that year, Hermione and Ron were almost engaged, Neville had just started dating Hannah and George had found relief in Angelina’s arms. Despite all the people who had lost their lives in that war, Ginny looked at her life and felt pleased, because even if she dearly missed Fred, she had people on whom to count.
And if it hadn’t been for Luna, she would have never been brave enough as to open her eyes and see just how many beautiful things were waiting for her, behind the pain and the mourning. She owed so much to Luna, yet she knew that her dear friend would never ask for any kind of repayment, or compensation.
And as Ginny watched the blonde girl strode off to the Ravenclaw table, in that so characteristic hopping, she realized what true friendship was really about. It was about keeping one mind’s clear and focused in times when it’s virtually unattainable to do so, just because another one needs you to accomplish the impossible, about being able to reach a hand to someone who requires it, even if you, yourself, could certainly need some support, about giving up one’s grief to sooth the other’s. But foremost, it was about showing care, love, friendship and loyalty in times when those feelings are just as rare as a drip of rain in the dessert, when the circumstances strained one to give up any sense of humanity.
Luna had been brave, possibly braver than everyone, because not even once had she let a tear escape those dreamy blue eyes, because she had been that hand to hold, that embrace in which to tuck your body, that smile to lighten up the dark skies, the voice that calmed the sobs…she had been everything that they hadn’t been able to be, because the grief and the pain of losing everything they had held most dear had been too grave. She had held her ground and today Ginny was what she was, because in a cloudless night of May, after she had sensed on her heart, the manacles of death, Luna had taken her between her arms, had listen to her sobs and had encouraged her to lift her chin up, even if the pain overpowering her body was intense.
Luna sat at the table, glanced at today’s Quibbler that everyone seemed to devour ever since the final battle and Ginny silently thanked her for having been there for her in times when she may as well have been grieving for what she had lost. Luna took a plate of pudding and started eating happily, every once in a while pouting her lips as though humming a song. Ginny smiled at the sudden display, thinking to herself that despite all the things that had changed, there were still some, or better said some people, who had managed to get through that war in one piece.
She was glad that Luna was one of them.
Luna emerged from the Great Hall, where the graduation ceremony had just ended, and as she walked past the massive staircase leading to the upper floors, she noticed a small gathering of red head people, with some very familiar black jets of ruffled hair mingling between all the gingery tones. The Weasleys and Harry had come to get Ginny.
She eyed them lovingly, Harry with his trade mark round glasses and lanky figure, hugging his beautiful fiancée, Ron glaring at them as though still not fully ready to trust his sister’s life to his best mate and Hermione clutching his hand reassuringly. Mrs. Weasley was barely controlling herself of not bursting into fits of crying, her husband was gently rubbing her back, as though reading her mind and somewhere behind them she spotted one year old Teddy Lupin, curiously watching the baby bun inside Fleur’s arms, whom everyone knew to be Victoire, the first child to be born after the final battle.
Then Bill joined the scene, quickly followed by Neville and Hannah who as always, were holding hands and throwing shy glances at one another, flushing and giggling soundly. Luna smiled as she noticed the family gathering, and as her eyes glided to the main door she saw George and Angelina entering. He looked better than the last time Luna had seen him, far healthier in appearance and he didn’t seem to be depressed either. It seemed that Angelina was taking good care of him…
Harry glanced at the bottom of the stairs and saw Luna, the habitual bohemian gaze plastered to her face, and thought that she was most probably contemplating another wild hunt for yet another fantastic creature, one that no one had ever heard of nor ever seen. He waved at her and she smiled.
“Luna, come on up here” he shouted and she felt compelled by everyone’s stares to join the gathering, despite her wish to not be intrusive.
“Hi Harry” she whispered, while looking into the eyes of a man that had once belonged to a scrawny boy, haunted by an honorable duty he couldn’t possibly fulfill. "Thank you for the card you sent me for my birthday. It was lovely.”
“No problem” Harry said, blushing faintly. “I’m glad you liked it.”
“I would have taken it with me, today, if it hadn’t been stolen from my drawer last month” she replied.
“Don’t tell me that your dorm mates are pulling pranks on you, again” Hermione complained, while reaching out for Luna.
“Oh, no” she responded, a sudden melancholia wavering in her voice. “They are most kind, nowadays, which unfortunately doesn’t apply to Nargles. They have been quite nasty, lately. It’s their breeding season, you see… and they tend to become a bit hyper-active.”
Hermione rolled her eyes, as always dismissing any possibility that Nargles might even exist. But where Hermione lacked faith on an account of need for evidences, Luna would lay all her trust on, because she chose to believe in things that others didn’t. Not because she wanted to trot out or because she was plain credulous… she just wanted to show that ignorance as blissful as it is can blindfold in such manner as to make people miss the most beautiful and important aspects of life, which for her were those little, almost imperceptible creatures that in one way or another helped balanced the world.
If Luna had not been passionate about that particular field in the Magical World, and show an interest in Healing Charms for example, she would have still preserved that weirdness and people would still have pointed at her for her unrelenting studies trying to prove that there is a cure for lycanthropy. Because in the end she didn’t want to prove that Nargles existed, she knew they did and not even Hermione could convince her otherwise, but she was trying to get people into realizing that just because some things are not sustained by a proof, that doesn’t mean that they should be regarded as ludicrous.
And if Harry had vanquished the greatest wizard of all times at 17, despite the initial doubts that most people had shown concerning his capacities, then why shouldn’t Nargles, or Crumple-Horned Snorkaks or any other beast that she had ever mentioned, truly exist? If one asked Luna, she would always reply that the most mysterious things in life just happen to be right in front of our eyes.
“Oh, yes I forgot about that” Harry mumbled while recalling that Luna had mentioned something about Nargles in June. “So, this is the end…”
“Yes, most unfortunately….It’s funny how when you finally get used to it, you’re bound to leave. I was barely starting to settle in” Luna replied and suddenly Ginny felt like hugging her friend.
It had taken seven years for Luna to adjust to Hogwarts, and for Hogwarts to adjust to Luna…Seven, very long years, in which both sides had laughed, cried and witnessed events way past the capacity of a teenager to understand. But Luna and her friends were there, ending another chapter in their lives, standing in the blistering wind of a new life just waiting to happen and after all that had occurred they felt both sad and happy.
Sad because the last members of their group were graduating and even if Harry, Hermione and Ron hadn’t come back to finish their seventh year, all three felt as if they were saying goodbye to the school along with Ginny and Luna. This had been the place where they had grown up, where they had been happy and sad, where they had first fallen in love and kissed. On these grounds Harry had met Ginny, his future-to-be wife, Ron and Hermione had hated and loved each other…It was here that Neville had found out that he possessed courage, and strength and all the qualities based on which he had been sorted into Gryffindor, where Luna had first had a friend, and then had become one herself.
George glanced around and remembered all those times when he and his late brother Fred, had misbehaved, had ran on these very corridors…there had been happy days and nights and today all that was left of them was their mere memory.
But they felt happy, as well, because despite all that had happened, they had had the time of their lives in that school.
And now, they all knew, that it was time to say goodbye to the jolly years of childhood and youth and progress, later become adults and form families, have children and grow old. It was the natural state of the world and Luna felt happy that most of her friends were going to settle to that order in the end.
“Where are you heading to, Harry?” Luna suddenly asked, and even if her question had been in some way ambiguous, everyone knew what she had referred to.
“Well, I’m going to be an Auror…I’ll marry Ginny, have children…” he replied and then eyed Ron, as though asking him the same.
“Me? Huh…I’ll be an Auror too and err…marry Hermione” he responded, suddenly blushing.
“That’s if I’ll have you” she snapped, playfully curling an arm around his.
“Of course” he added.
“I’ve applied for a job in the Department for Magical Creatures…Somebody has to stop people from abusing house elves” she then said.
“A sort of larger scale Spew?” George asked playfully and Angelina smiled.
“It’s not Spew. It’s S.P.E.W., but the idea is kind of the same, indeed” she admitted. “What about you Luna? Scamander’s assistant I’ve heard?”
“Indeed, I’m starting next week. I’m rather excited about it, though it’s going to take a lot of hard work” she said, dreamily.
“I’m sure you’ll manage it,” Ginny told and laid her left hand on her shoulder.
Luna tucked her hands in the jeans’ pockets and hurried towards the Forbidden Forest, all by herself. She counted her steps towards the core of the forest where she knew that Thestrals liked to stay, for most of the day. She recognized every leaf, every tree branch and most certainly she could still trace her steps on the dusty alley. She had gone through this narrow path, streaming between the flourishing bushes, for so many times that now, that she was about to do it for the last time, she felt like lingering more, steadily dragging her feet along the road.
She walked slowly, yet determined to the core of the forest, trying to imprint every smell in her nostrils, to memorize every single décor and preserve the cheerful tune of the nightingales in her ears. She wanted to be able to remember everything, fifty years from now. She saw herself, at an advanced age, maybe 70 or even older, on a rocking chair in her garden facing a beautiful Victorian house, reading to her grandchildren a book about magical beasts that she had written herself.
And then, as the chilly wind of September would banish the children inside, she would still sit there, sniffing the air and recalling what it had felt like today. She would remember the beautiful flowers blossoming in the bushes, the odd, yet most interesting Thestrals and would recall all those time she had ventured inside the Forbidden Forest to go looking for something that couldn’t possibly be found between the branches of a tree.
And she would recall her friends… Ginny’s flaming red hair playing in the wind, Ron’s freckles that covered most of his cheeks and long nose, Harry’s round glasses and the way his hair stuck at the back, Neville’s plumpness and Hermione’s bossy voice. And even if they would be most certainly old, and some of them would have died maybe, their memory would still be as vivid to Luna as it was today.
She smiled to herself, as she emblazoned in her mind the figure of a 70 year-old self, her dirty blond hair gaining a grayish tone and her eyes, as dreamy as ever. She turned left, and as the chillness of the dark forest pierced her body to the bones she remembered all those times in which she had walked, barefoot, despite the cold outside, because her mates had hidden all her shoes away. Nobody ever did that nowadays, but somehow Luna missed that.
She reached for her flat shoes and removed them from her feet. And as she felt the agreeable sensation of dirt dabbing between her thumbs she continued her journey, every now and then hopping happily, her hand clutching the shoes while the other one placed the wand behind her ear.
The small family of Thestrals was just like she remembered it to be, yet today they felt special to Luna, even more than they already were on a regular basis. She reached for a piece of raw meat from her backpack and then threw it on the ground for the little ones to eat it.
“I’m going to miss you, all” she whispered, more to herself than to the Thestrals.
She noticed another piece of meat, being thrown at them but she knew she hadn’t been the one to do it, for her hand now lay immobile next to her body. She turned around and saw Harry, Ginny, Neville, Ron and Hermione sitting behind, all of them clutching a piece of the exact treat in their palms. They flanked her and together they watched the Thestrals enjoying the food. She sighed, remembering that not long ago no one had believed her when she had said that these fantastic creatures existed; no one, except for Harry.
Today, after witnessing all the deaths, they could all see the Thestrals. But awkwardly enough, the sight of the animals brought sadness to neither of them, but rather happiness, because it reminded them of just how many wonderful people had died bravely, so that they could get to live another day…so that they got to sit there today welcoming a brand new life, a better one… It connected them to their late friends, to their gone relatives and even to some people that they had never met.
The Thestrals were the living proof of their grief, of their incomplete heart and above all things of their unrelenting thankfulness to all those who had perished so bravely, fighting the experienced Death Eaters, in their quest for liberty… the liberty that they no longer enjoyed on earth, but the one they had granted to Harry and his friends.
“We’re always going to be friends, right?” Neville suddenly asked.
“Of course” Luna replied.
A/N Thank you so much for having waited patiently for me to post this first chapter. I hope you'll enjoy it and if you have any additional questions, please feel to stop by my Meet the Author Thread. For the time being, I will update simultaneously for this story and I go back to Black. When Luna met Rolf is dedicated to jaqueline_noir(a wonderful friend and fellow Romanian author), jk_rowling fan ( my favourite reviewer and penfriend), ILoveNeville, EmeraldGryffindor, Memento Mori( who showed that fanfics can be masterpieces; thank you dear for having been such an inspiration) and evie_doherty (for offering me a nice taste of oddness with her Vienna).