Chapter 2 : The frightening routine of growing up
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“We never really are the adults we pretend to be. We wear the mask and perhaps the clothes and posture of grown-ups, but inside our skin we are never as wise or as sure or as strong as we want to convince ourselves and others we are. We may fool all the rest of the people all of the time, but we never fool our parents. They can see behind the mask of adulthood. To her mommy and daddy, the empress never has on any clothes—and knows it.”
Ottery St. Catchpole had never seemed so remotely beautiful to Luna, as it did that morning, while she was saying goodbye to her jolly father and faithful house-elf, Goran. She emerged from the rook-like house that too many appeared like a great cylinder, and glanced around. Her eyes indulged themselves with the smooth curves of the hills, bathed in the warm light of the morning Sun, her ears thrived at the hearing of the little blue birds singing in the apple tree in front of her house and her lips suddenly curled in a smile as she noticed somewhere in the distance the grey fog emanated, most probably, from one of the many chimneys of the Burrow.
She had been born in this very place, had spent all her childhood playing in the small back garden with her mother and later had lost her in one of the small, clustered rooms, at which windows she was now gazing. It was behind one of those old looking windows, flanked by grey worn-out frames that her mother has spent her last remaining minutes, in the company of her nine-year old daughter and her mourning husband. She had been happy there, the hours seemed to have passed so fast while in the basement with her clever mother who always experimented some new exciting and hopefully most useful spell. She had taught her to love and appreciate oddness and uniqueness but, most importantly, she had bestowed her only daughter the cravenness for discovery and adventure.
As she stepped outside, carefully descending the rocky sequence of steps in front of the door, she recalled all those moment when, as the curious 7 year old, she had barged into her mother’s lab to spy on her latest developments, always getting caught and always being invited inside to get a better look on whatever was happening there. She remembered the purple fog that emerged from the many bottles, her mother’s floral patterned skirt, the way her hands smelled – like cinnamon and floo powder – the dreamy blue eyes to which she would always wake up in the morning after taking a quick glance in the mirror and the woman’s soft voice, asking her to come in.
She sniffed the air and for a second, she thought it smelled like her mother’s perfume, magnolia flowers and jasmine. She shrugged knowing that she had self induced her nostrils to perceive that odd combination of scents that her mother had been so fond of. It felt like a distant memory, like a flash going through one’s mind in the morning, after a dream. It wasn’t real, it wasn’t even possible for the air to smell like her, and Luna reckoned that the mere sensation had been caused not by a calm breeze, bringing along the scent from the Asian forests maybe, but by a sudden olfactory memory-the one she had preserved for so long in her heart.
She dearly missed her, even after the many years that had gone by since her passing, for Luna had never fully accepted her mother’s parting. It had been so sudden, so unexpected, so hurtful… Her mother had passed away in autumn. She had woken Luna up that morning, running her gentle soft fingers through the dirty blonde hair, her voice calming the growls coming from her daughter’s throat, who always complained about having to abandon the bed at such early hours. She had helped her get dressed, had accompanied her at breakfast while her father had read them the newest edition of the Quibbler and after the clock had struck 10, her mother had retreated to the basement lab to experiment something she had been working on for months.
On that particular morning, Luna had stayed behind with her father to study the recent edition of Newt Scamander’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, which apparently had reached his 46th issue. She had not sneaked from the kitchen, while Xenophilius pretended to be busy, as to allow his young daughter to creep away. She had not emerged outside, had not ran barefoot on the dusty alleyway circling the house, had not shivered as the chilly air of October pierced the thin layers of her clothing and she had not entered the lab to look through the creak of the mahogany door at her mother. Instead she had tucked herself in her father’s arms, while he held the book for both to see it and together they had read the introduction.
And then an alarming sound had bustled from beneath them, where she knew her mother was. She knew then that something terribly bad had happened. Together they had lifted from the couch, the book had fallen from her lap, producing a grating sound as it hit the parquetry - a thud that Luna had never forgotten - and they had rushed to the lab. And there, she had seen her mother’s immobile body, fallen to the ground… the chaos that the once neatly arranged office had transformed into had managed to send shivers down her spine and as her father picked her in his arms, she had felt tears invading her eyes. He had carried her silently to their bedroom, while Luna followed them in the distance, her steps as staccato as the tune of an old broken piano. She had never felt so small before…
She had touched her mother’s hand, had watched the light leaving her eyes, had heard her muttering the last words, which she couldn’t understand and had seen her father’s eyes wetting as he sent a quick owl to Healer Trenton, who lived just a couple of hills away from them. And then the hand had stopped trembling, Mrs. Lovegood had closed her lids and her mouth did not open again.
She had died…too young, too unexpected, too little heroic than she would have deserved on account of her greatness.
Luna glanced up at the old faded frame of the window through which she had looked outside while, downstairs, a painful vigil was taking place just a day after the unfortunate event. She recalled her only parent left, walking through the door asking her to come to the kitchen to eat something, which she had refused. She had told him something that day, on the particular morning, something that she couldn’t quite remember today... something that had made her hope again... that had helped her move on despite the terrible aching of not having anyone to wake her up in the many mornings that had followed.
“Luna, darling” Mr. Lovegood said as he brought along the last luggage from inside. “Are you sure you don’t want Goran to help you carry these to the main road?”
“Oh, don’t worry Daddy” she replied, while grabbing the small hand luggage by the handler. “I can take them myself. Besides, it’s just the trunk and this hand bag and the main road is not far.”
Xenophilius smiled at the sight of his all grown up daughter. How much she resembled his late wife… everything in Luna was like her: her smile, her long blonde hair and definitely those dreamy blue eyes, the ones that had made him love the woman he had later married. He felt sad now, that he had to say goodbye to his beautiful daughter, the apple of his eyes. But it was only the natural state of the world, children fly away, they spread their wings and they leave behind some very proud parents. And Xenophilius Lovegood was a very proud father, indeed.
His Luna had graduated from Hogwarts with very good marks and her application letter for the job and training offer, publicly displayed in the Prophet by Newt Scamander, had been eagerly accepted. Despite her achievements and his elation at the sight of them, he still wished today that his daughter had not been so gifted and smart. In his fatherly egoism, he now wished his daughter had been a Squib, so that he could keep her by his side forever. But his wife would have never forgiven him for having such malicious thoughts. He must let her go, she belongs there - he kept telling himself.
“I’m going to be alright, Daddy” she whispered as she wrapped him in a tight embrace, as though reading his mind. “I’m going to write you everyday and I’m going to come around for Christmas… And Ginny’s wedding is in September, so we’ll see each other then.”
He cupped her little face, gazed at her blue eyes and then smiled. His Luna was growing up… “You take good care of you, there, love” he added as she estranged herself from his clutch. “You find that Crumpled-Horned Snorkak and I’ll write a nice article about it!”
“Of course” she said enthusiastically.
“Oh, Goran is going to be so terribly lonely without Miss Luna…” the scrawny house-elf cried out while erasing the tears with a rag.
“I’ll come to visit you too, Goran” she assured him and he beamed at her hopefully.
“Will you do that, Miss Luna?”
“Certainly” she replied while hugging him. “Now, it’s time to go… It’s exciting; I’ve never travelled by Knight Bus.”
She grabbed the trunk by its handler, then steadied the hand bag and proceeded towards the gate entrance. She waved at her father and Goran and as she stepped outside her home, she heard her name being called. She turned around and noticed her father rushing behind her.
“What’s the matter?” she asked dreamily.
“Your mother…” he replied while trying to catch his breath. “She would have been so very proud of you.”
Luna smiled. “I know...”
Luna had never travelled by Knight Bus before, not because she hadn’t wanted, but simply because she had never needed it. She had always gone to Hogwarts with the Express, had seldom required to travel long distances and when she had been in need to see her friends, she had just set on foot towards the Burrow, knowing that an army of people whom she trusted would be waiting for her behind the hill that disjointed the two properties. Once she had ridden Thestrals along with the rest of the people who had accompanied Harry to the Ministry of Magic, and more precisely to the Department of Mysteries back in her forth year, but other than that she had never had any experience in such matters.
Sweden had been crossed by train so again, no Knight Bus, and most certainly, now new experiences. She reached the main road, still wondering if her journey to Dorset would be as bumpy and terrifying as Harry had described his to her, just the other week. Apparently, he had left his aunt’s house back in his third year, and out of the blue, this three-decker bus had shown up in the middle of the night to offer him transport to the Leaky Cauldron.
She placed the handbag on the trunk and then took her wand from behind the ear. She held out her wand hand, as she had previously been instructed by Harry, and thought of how much she needed someone to take her to Dorset.
A blasting sound came from behind and as she turned around she noticed a big triple-decked bus, painted in a violet shade of purple approaching furiously. She froze in the middle of the road and before she could even let that intake of air leave her lungs, the bus had stopped, just inches away from where she stood petrified.
She sighed, then grabbed the trunk and moved it along the asphalt, curiously analyzing the outer appearance of the odd mean of transportation. She read out loud the golden doodling on one of the sides of the bus 'The Knight Bus' and as the doors swung open she noticed a tall boy, of about 19 emerging from inside, wearing a funny cap on his head and holding today’s Prophet in his right hand.
“Good morning, damsel in distress. Welcome to the Knight Bus, the only means of transportation for Wizards and Witches at strand” he said. “My name is Angus O’Hare and I will be your conductor for today.”
“Luna Lovegood” she replied stretching her hand and briefly meeting his.
“Where to Miss?” he asked and she smiled.
“To Dorset, please, to the Scamander house, if possible” Luna said, making Angus smirk.
“Anything is possible with the Knight Bus, unless you need to go underwater. That would be 15 sickles, but for 2 more I can offer you something to drink.”
“Oh, here you have them” she said while handing him the money and hopping up on board.
The Knight Bus appeared genuinely impressive to Luna: tens of comfortable-looking armchairs, neatly lined up on rows with a tiny little table on which the many wizards travelling that day had placed their belongings, brackets with burning candles on the walls and a small wooden staircase leading to the upper floors.
“This is Ernie, our driver” Angus told Luna as she sat on one of the front armchairs. "Off we go Ern!”
The bus whipped out and Luna barely managed to steady herself. It was going to be a bumpy journey, indeed. She smiled and glanced outside where the sights kept changing with such rapidity, which Luna found truly delighting.
“And muggles, they can’t see it, can they?” she asked suddenly after the bus had nearly evaded a telephone post.
“No, they can’t” Angus replied, while folding the newspaper. “They never notice anything, blindfolded they live, these muggles…”
Luna sighed. She would never be able to live if she could not see such interesting things, as the Knight Bus, or magic, or Hogwarts, or everything that made her a witch. She loved magic so much that having to bereave of it, would seem unconceivable. As the beautiful scenery of a summer England flashed before her eyes, her mind wandered to the happy days of her teenage years when she had discovered friendship in a handful of people, just as misfit as she was, people with whom she had defeated the greatest wizards of all times.
She recalled that particular day when Harry and Neville had entered the train compartment where she had hidden herself from unwanted looks and nasty comments from pug-faced Pansy Parkinson and her gang of perfect Slytherin girls. Little did she know at that time just how groundbreaking that little reunion back in her fourth year would be for everyone. She would never be the same again…
That year had been the greatest; she had been part of Dumbledore’s Army, had learnt so many wonderful things from Harry Potter, himself, like a Patronus Charm, or other little spells that in the end had saved her life in the battle of the Department of Mysteries. And the next term had been so much rewarding than any other, because she had had people on whom to count on and they had laid all their trust on her. She had never felt more relieved in her life…
And then, as the events of her sixth year unfolded, she found herself returning to Hogwarts, in someway aggrieved by the Headmaster’s death and repugnant towards the one who had replaced him. Her tiny group of six was split in two that year, but along with Ginny and Neville she had tried to revive Dumbledore’s Army, thus creating – with the taciturn approval of their teachers – one of the most organized resistances that had ever been instated in Hogwarts. Together they had defied Alecto and Amycus Carrow, had tried to steal the Sword of Godric Gryffindor from Snape’s office and had seized the dark forces inside, until she had been abducted on her way back to Ottery St. Catchpole for Christmas and then taken to Malfoy Manor.
She melancholically remembered the cold nights that she had spent in the cell, along with Mr. Ollivander, waiting impatiently for something to happen and secretly worrying about her friends. And then the unthinkable had happened…Harry, Hermione and Ron had appeared out of the blue to rescue her and the rest of the prisoners, and together they had set over to Hogwarts to put an end to the battle. She had fought that night, alongside Ginny and Hermione against Bellatrix Lestrange and other Death Eaters and had witnessed both the defeats and the triumphs. She had been there when they had mourned for their friends, but also when they had cheered for their recent victory.
“Dorset, Scamander house” Angus announced and the bus stopped abruptly.
“Oh, thank you” she said as she picked up her trunk and headed straight for the exit. “I’ve had a wonderful journey.”
“Do return, then” he replied and as the door closed behind her she noticed Angus waving at her.
The bus snapped again and before Luna could say a proper goodbye, it disappeared between the many trees that flanked the road.
The house that apparently belonged to Newt Scamander was a big one, with red roof tiles and many sparkling windows with spotless white curtains flaunting from the inside. She opened the wrought iron gate and gazed around, noticing at the far end of the garden a little swinger tied between two large trees with broad boles and long twiggy branches that resembled to tentacles. The pathway leading to the front door was paved with the same red tiles and apparently they had been cleaned recently, for they were wet. She dragged her trunk along, forcefully clutching her handbag and steadily marching towards the impressive entrance door.
She touched the rapper, curiously outlining the ‘S’ engraved just beneath it and then with a firm grip she pressed it to the iron surface, producing a rather peculiar sound.
She heard steps coming from the inside and she sighed. The door swung open, revealing a nice little woman, quite old some might say, with a wide grin plastered to her lips. She wore spectacles with thin red brims, behind which a pair of chocolate brown eyes beamed at her. She had long, curly hair which she had carelessly tied in a French bun, some thin lips that once curled in a smile, imprinted that certain warmth on her face that Luna found adorable. Her robes appeared to be luxurious; a nice floral pattern with golden leaves imprinted on the cuffs and around the turtle neck, while the velvety fabric painted in a royal purple tone added even more superiority to her appearance.
“Good afternoon” Luna said as she clutched her handbag, hoping her voice circumvented a bit of self assurance. “My name is Luna Lovegood and I’ve come…”
“Yes darling, I know perfectly who you are… Please come in,” the woman said and Luna nodded as she stepped inside. “I’m Porpentina, Newt’s wife. He’s in the kitchen now. Make yourself at home and he’ll attend you in a minute.”
The nice woman pointed at an open door and invited Luna to wait there as she headed towards the eastern part of the house, where the kitchen must have been located. Luna thanked her and then proceeded to the room that Mrs. Scamander had indicated, curiously analyzing the furniture and the multicoloured paintings hanging on the walls, portraying some of the magical beasts that Newt Scamander had discovered during his life-long activity as a naturalist. She left her trunk outside on the hallway and then opened the door, revealing what appeared to be the office.
The room was rather large and airy, a big mahogany bureau residing in the middle, just behind a comprehensive library stacked with all sorts of books, a brown leather armchair and a nice round carpet hiding the worn out parquetry. There were many notebooks spread across the bureau, most of them covered with funny doodling or coffee stains, as Luna noticed at a closer look.
She dragged a chair and sat on it and as her hands fidgeted in her lap, she glanced outside on the window, hoping that the sight of the little swinger slightly bouncing in the feeble breeze would her calm down. She heard another knock on the front door, but Mrs. Scamander’s quick stepping across the hallway assured her that indeed she wasn’t supposed to attend to the new guest.
Another couple of seconds had passed when the door opened behind her and as she turned around she was greeted by two men, one rather old and another one, closer in age with her. The man, whom she instantly recognized as Scamander, was not that tall, had a bushy white moustache and wore a monocle on his right eye, which genuinely emphasized his bright nature. The other one was a tall boy, of about 18, just like Luna, with brown hair and black eyes, who wore a dark outdoor robe that made a funny swish sound when he moved. Luna lifted from her seat and introduced herself.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Scamander” she said as she stretched her hand. “I’m Luna Lovegood… I’m here for the job offer.”
“Nice to meet you Luna… Your father owns the Quibbler if I’m not mistaken. Gustav, now you remember that name. You might want to read it someday - they take care of what truly matters in this world,” he said and winked at Luna while sitting in his armchair. “This is Gustav Shingleton; his father invented the self-stirring cauldron, so you’re not the only one with a famous last name, Miss Lovegood.”
She smiled at Gustav and as Mr. Scamander began talking again, she refrained herself from looking curiously at her colleague and instead focused on whatever the man was explaining.
“You will live and work in my house, each one with its respective rooms. You can leave whenever you please, just as long as you let me know at least a couple of days in advance. If by any means you are not satisfied with your achievements, you can always quit. I will not take it personally” he joked and Luna smirked. “Now, I suppose you’re both quite tired…we’ll talk more about your responsibilities tomorrow.”
Luna and Gustav lifted from their seats and together with Mr. Scamander proceeded outside on the hallway where they met up with his wife. There was a loud thud somewhere on the upper floor and Mr. Scamander sighed, obviously being fully aware of what had caused that noise.
“Bloody statuette” a growling reverberated from the bottom of the stairs.
“Rolf, how many times have I told you not to swear inside?” Mrs. Scamander cried out while the figure of a young man appeared at the end of the staircase.
Luna eyed him impatiently. He was quite tall, had short dark hair, a pair of mesmerizing green eyes - a slightly darker tone than Harry’s - and thin lips, resembling quite much with his grandmother. He was lanky, with broad shoulders, but not all displeasing in appearance and Luna thought he was quite handsome, as his face features and his movements imprinted a certain elegance that could only be inborn.
“Luna this is my grandson, Rolf, who likes to wake up at 2 in the afternoon” Mr. Scamander joked.
“Rolf Scamander” the young man said after shaking hands with Gustav and then, as his eyes met the blue shade swirling in Luna’s, smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, Luna. What a beautiful name, indeed.”
“Thanks” she added shyly and he ran a hand through his black strands as though not finding another gesture to retrench the awkwardness that had risen between them.
“Grandma, can I have some err…breakfast?” he then asked while Luna and Gustav were heading upstairs accompanied by Mrs. Scamander.
“Breakfast…? We’re already serving lunch, darling…” she replied and Mr. Scamander laughed.
“It doesn’t really matter, does it? I could eat a cow now” Rolf said and Luna smirked.
A/N Thank you all for your kind reviews on my first chapter and I hope you have liked this one as well. Visit my meet the author thread on the Forums if you have any additional question. Thank you all!
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