Chapter 6 : Coup de foudre
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“Every beginning is a consequence - every beginning ends something.”
Despite persistently tucking herself under the blanket, the chillness still pierced every inch of her body as he dragged her along the narrow path leading to a dark forest. She clutched fiercer to his hand while steadily moving along with him, every once in a while looking behind them to see if anyone had noticed their departure. The base camp seemed to be far away now that they prepared to venture into the dark forest, which was succumbed in a peculiar and lugubrious silence that not even the creatures of the night dared to disturb.
The only audible sound was produced by their feet as they touched the ground, crushing some sticks that had been resting on the soft soil until their peaceful existence had been interrupted by their stampeding.
She was holding her breath, though at no time such a thing had been required. The forest was a couple of feet away from them but one could only seethe first trees and some of their branches, for the depth could not be perceived so easily due to the murkiness that seemed to have narcotized the habitual vividness of the surroundings. Luna felt a chill running down on her spine but she knew that it was not on account of the chilly wind that had just started to blow, nor the numbness that pierced her bare feet.
Rolf stopped inches away from the entrance of the forest and looked at her to see if she was alright. At noticing her dazzled eyes, he smiled and assured her that there was nothing to worry about. He held her hand again and for the first time since she had left her bed, she felt secure. Together they entered the darkness of the forest, and before Gustav emerged from his tent they were out of sight.
The leaves caressed her bare shoulders as she proceeded forward, following her silent companion. They didn’t speak but at that point it seemed de trop to do so, for their voices could not express what was requisite to be highlighted. There was a battle going on in Luna’s mind, caused by the powerful beating of her heart as Rolf looked into her eyes and the steady shaking of her hand as she clutched fiercer to his. She could barely find the strength to walk and sometimes she would feel like choking with air.
She silently recalled the recent events of that day: Rolf watching her through the creak of the door, the coloured box that all of a sudden had lost its essentialness, and the same pain throbbing in her chest that had choked her at the mere acknowledging of this fact. She couldn’t quite remember the look upon his face as she had smiled at him that morning, but there were fragments of that sighting that she could vividly emblazon in her mind.
She saw the green iris of his big eyes, sparkling in the pale light coming through the open door; the black hair that always looked as if he hadn’t combed it recently, yet still looked remarkably effortless and chic, and his hand grabbing hers in the midnight mist surrounding their camp.
Rolf looked up at the silver moon that was gazing down upon them as they walked along the narrow path, leading to a place he only knew. There was something between him and the celestial entity, that type of bond created by complicity and the concealment of a secret that he was about to reveal to a third party. He was betraying her…and as he determinedly headed towards the core of the forest, the moon followed each and every one of their steps with such jealousy and outright disappointment; at least that’s how it appeared to Rolf. He was giving their precious secret to a mortal, without even bothering to investigate whether she was worthy of it or not, whether she would wish to keep it the secret as they had done for countless years.
He sighed, realising that indeed he had never shown that place to anybody because no one had ever gained that privilege. But with Luna, everything was different… he was different by merely losing himself in the depths of her enchanting blue orbs. She was true, pure and utterly indulging as a presence in a way he had never thought a person could be. He shook his head, not wanting to drift again into that haunting contemplation like he always did when her name would cross his thoughts. Instead of allowing his reasoning to take over his mind, he proceeded forward without even looking at her. She walked by his side with such elegance and amazement imprinted on her look that it proved impossible for Rolf not to lose track of his feelings again.
She gazed down at her feet and silently hummed something to herself as she watched the soft grass being crushed between her toes. Then, without even realising why she had been afraid to do so, she dared to look at Rolf. He was as absorbed by the contemplation of his walk as she was, and Luna gaped at the sight of his half face, glistening majestically in the silver light provided by the moon. His silence spoke to her of dreams and a magic way beyond one which she could perform with such facility. His lips did not move but she heard words that at first appeared random, then as her eyes focused on his cadent chest movements, she started making sense of them.
He said ‘fear’ and she understood it, because she felt it as well; it was the fear of growing, of losing oneself in everyday. Rolf spoke of ‘change’ and she knew what he had intended. Change frightened her because it meant that she would no longer be herself, that he would no longer be himself by the time the sun would cast the moon away from the sky and take its rightful place.
She had known that, even when she had trusted her hand to him barely a couple of minutes prior to this, but although terribly daunted by the feasibility of her, his, alteration, she had done it with such easiness, like the blink of an eye. It had happened - so natural, without the least of struggle. But as the dawn of a new day would approach, she knew that the easiness that had brought about the tangling of their hands would transform into a crux.
They seemed to have reached their destination, but with the many queries troubling her mind, Luna hardly realised when Rolf stopped, thus managing to cease her walk as well. She had been immobile for a couple of seconds, but with her mind being far from requiring a rest, she hadn’t even acknowledged that their journey through the forest had reached its terminus point. She glanced around but did not see anything eye-catching except for a flourishing green bush that, apart from its size, didn’t really stand out much. She stared at Rolf, bemused, and as he turned around to face her, she smiled.
“What is this?” she asked as she let go of his hand.
“Shhh…” he replied, while placing his index finger on his lips in a very erotic manner. “You shall know soon. Close your eyes…”
She smiled, feeling excited about the surprise or whatever the closing of her eyes implied, and abandoned herself to his trustworthy hand that was supposed to guide her. She stepped clumsily on the soil, at one point turning left, though she could not assure that, and after walking a couple of feet’s distance, they stopped. He asked her not to open her eyes yet and then helped her sit down. He took a place next to her and wrapped his arm around her tiny waist.
“Now you can open your eyes,” he whispered into her ear and she performed the action in a child-like manner that amused him.
The surroundings were still as dark as Luna remembered them to be, but for the surface of the little pond that glistened in the pale light of the moon. It still watched them from above. Then she saw the unicorns…they were so white that they sparkled through the opacity of the night. She felt like she had ceased breathing for a split second on account of their beauty.
There were two of them, a couple, as one could tell easily by the discrepancies between the two animals: one was taller, while the other one appeared to be more fragile and even feminine at one point. She watched them silently, her eyes growing bigger with each movement the animals made, and her heart racing faster in her chest, betraying her habitual state of self-control. One could not maintain posture at the sight of these fantastic creatures.
They were the epitome of purity, of love, of everything that she had fought so hard to protect in the war. They were that ounce of hope that made people want to goon, despite the fears that seized their souls, regardless of their knowledge.
“Oh, Rolf…” she murmured, keeping her gaze firmly fixed on them. “They are so beautiful. How did you…?”
“Know…?” he continued her question and she nodded. “They’ve always been here, ever since I was a child. My grandfather took me to these very lands as a boy on various occasions. One night I escaped from the tent and ventured inside the forest hoping to find a dragon, but I came across the unicorns. Needless to say that I was more excited about them than the sight of a dragon could have ever made me feel.”
“I’ve never seen one up so close,” she echoed, as she stared bemused at the two unicorns that apparently were sharing quite a tranquil moment.
“Go and touch them,” he said. “They like women.”
She turned her face around and looked into his green eyes trying to figure out whether he had really meant what he had just said. He nodded and as she lifted herself from the ground she dropped the blanket that covered her tiny body. She stepped forward, steadily approaching the unicorns and in spite of the coldness she didn’t shiver, for the happiness in her heart made up for the lack of proper clothing.
He watched her walking towards the lake, then submerging her bare feet in what should have been icy water and as she extended her arm to pat the unicorn, he sighed. The animal bent his head, allowing her to cup it between her small hands and as she felt the softness of its long hair, meddling with her fingers, she smiled.
It had been a good idea to bring her here, he thought, as she turned around to wave at him while the unicorn licked her other hand. She appeared genuinely angelic, wearing that short night gown that covered so little of her, her hair falling on her shoulders, her bare feet sinking in the black water and her eyes sparkling magically in the moonlight. How could something so beautiful walk on the face of the earth, he asked himself. This time, he definitely wasn’t thinking of the unicorns.
His heart started pounding faster; his lungs had long ceased functioning properly. He stared at her over and over again without even bothering to blink, afraid that he might lose something relevant, like a smile, like the fluttering of her lashes or the elegant manner in which her feet made circles on the surface of the water. How could Luna, with her fascinating oddness, put a spell on his heart without using a wand or an incantation? He knew she had charmed him in such a profound manner that merely walking would seem different from that moment on.
He was still Rolf Scamander, of that he was certain, but at the same time he felt something new nesting inside of him…something he had never felt before but, regardless of its novelty, which on a regular basis would have frightened him, it made him capable of sentience. He knew everything, yet nothing about her, and the more he steeped into her universe, the more he felt less and less attracted by what he was leaving behind. He could never again return to his prior-to-this-moment futile existence which had often implied long parties in the company of his many friends, some bottles of fire-whiskey and the intoxicant perfume of a young lady whose presence had never truly liberated him.
Luna patted the female unicorn on the neck again and then, deciding that it was time she allowed them to enjoy a peaceful night, she whispered a goodbye that only she could hear and headed towards the place where Rolf was waiting. She looked at those hands that had touched the purity of their flesh and felt them warm in a strange, yet pleasant sort of way.
Those were the same hands that had closed Colin Creevy’s eyes before Neville Longbottom and Oliver Wood had pulled his corpse into the Great Hall that had comforted Ginny when Fred had died, that had wrapped Harry in a clutch after he had finished Voldemort off. Those hands were the ones that had sealed every major change in her life: her mother’s death, the day she had first opened the door of her Ravenclaw dormitory, the battle at the Department of Mysteries, the battle at the Tower only a year later, the victory succeeding that night in May, and finally, the last time she had walked into the Great Hall as a student.
She approached Rolf and sat next to him, carefully tucking both hands beneath the fluffy blanket that she had abandoned on the ground only minutes before.
“Thank you,” she said as their gazes met. “It was…wonderful.”
“No problem,” he whispered in a very casual manner. “They are by far the most interesting magical creatures. Even Muggles find them mesmerising; I’m sorry that they can’t see them.”
“I had never seen or touched one before…”
“Not even at Hogwarts? I find it hard to believe that they are not in the curriculum.”
“Oh…” she chuckled. “But they are, just that our teacher is…let’s say, a bit eccentric. He would rather teach the students about Blast-Ended Skrewts and Acromantulas than about unicorns…” she trailed off, her eyes slightly glazed over in thought.
“Right,” he said, eyeing her curiously. “It’s a pity that you didn’t see their babies… when I was twelve they had a foal following their every move.”
“I hear they are gold…”
“Yes indeed, they are. One of the cutest sights I have ever witnessed. It’s hard not to like them, as abrupt and serious as one might be. They’re adorable,” Rolf explained and Luna smiled. “I couldn’t imagine why people would try to hurt them…”
“Voldemort killed one,” she spoke bitterly, whilst lovingly eyeing the couple of unicorns. “Harry told me he’s seen one dying.”
“Harry?” he asked. “Harry Potter?”
“Yes… the Boy-Who-Lived,” she admitted while blushing. “I went to school with him…and we’ve been friends ever since my forth year. Do you know him?”
“No…” he replied. “The world surely owes him quite a lot.”
Luna smiled. She had never thought of Harry in that manner. Of course, he had saved the world, had vanquished Voldemort when no-one else could have done so, but to her he had always been that shy, introvert boy who had searched for assurance in her words.
“Did you fight that night?” he asked, thus breaking the silence. “That night… when Voldemort attacked Hogwarts…”
“I did,” she replied pensively. “It was rather horrible but in the end it was worth it. I lost friends, good friends that night…people who had a whole life ahead of them, but who chose to grant us the opportunity to grow old.”
She spoke, in a resigned manner, about their loss, about the sadness and the happiness that had filled their hearts that night, about the days following the battle when they had silently buried so many of their friends. She bitterly remembered Fred Weasley, Professor Lupin and his wife, Nymphadora, who left behind an orphan child, Colin Creevey who had died too young as well as many other fellow students, friends and acquaintances who hadn’t stood a chance against the experienced Death Eaters. Rolf listened to her sad recollection of people whom he hadn’t known but towards whom he felt grateful, because on account of their sacrifice the world was free again.
He didn’t understand her loss, because nobody from his family had been afflicted by the war, but he knew it had taken quite a toll on her; he could still see the pain shadowing the sparkle in her eyes, no matter how much she tried to cover it. It glistened in the blue shade of the iris and it didn’t matter the casual manner in which she would respond to his questions, for they both knew that such aching could not be bedighted by a self-assured tone of voice. It hurt and it would always burden her soul, for the memory of that night could not be erased, no matter how many years would eventually pass.
She now realised that it still aggrieved her, even if the events of that second day of May were just a horrible memory, one that she would never manage to estrange from the back of her mind. It accompanied her everywhere she went to, sometimes ailing and staining her happiness, but most of the time it was bringing along gratefulness and a deep sense of esteem for all those who had perished. It was part of her and she didn’t wish to wipe it away – as grievous as it was –because by merely bereaving of such feeling she rescinded her entire existence. She was a survivor – it defined her, it made her who she was today – she was that someone for whom friends had died.
“I’m sorry,” he concluded upon hearing her story. “I’ve never watched a person die…”
“It’s truly tragic,” she spoke conversantly, with a certain bitterness wavering in her voice. “But you learn to value life more after witnessing such events. I learned that from an early age, when my mother died.”
Rolf gazed at her, confused as he always seemed to be when Luna made yet another of her confidences. She was open about all the horrific things she had been through in life, acknowledging her pain and sturdiness to fight against it, while fixing her blue eyes towards an immobile object in the distance, thus being able to tell it without further implication on her behalf. She had a peculiar – that certainly was the word that defined her – manner to distance herself from her retelling, hoping to give the audience a candid side of the events, even if she had been directly involved.
She did not refrain from stating her views and impressions, but what would cause her to cry in her intimacy, barely managed to flutter the beam in her eyes now. She was sad and aggrieved by what had happened to her in the past years, she would state that indeed they had taken a huge toll on her, but she would never show it. And perhaps, that was what truly differentiated her from the rest of the people whom Rolf knew, what made her unique and special. One couldn’t guess Luna by merely looking at her.
“Oh…” he mumbled not knowing what would sound appropriate at that time. “I didn’t know…”
“Don’t worry about it. It happened quite a while ago now. I was only nine,” she replied, absentmindedly, though certainly feeling like her mother’s death was just as present in her heart as were those of her friends. “Do you reckon we’ll see some dragons tomorrow?”
Luna had changed the subject and that could only bring some relief to Rolf, because he had never been the type to comfort people in such situations. He could hardly find his words to sooth his grandmother when her favourite plant died, so he knew that finding the proper manner of addressing someone who had lost so much would not come easily either.
“I hope we do,” he replied. “I haven’t seen one in years…”
She looked into his eyes, trying to find the answer for a question that had troubled her ever since their meeting, but while hers always reflected her true heart, his iris was just as mysterious as his sudden estranging from the field that allegedly he had loved as a child. He stared back at her, wishing she blinked, so that he could take advantage of it and kiss her rosy lips but deep inside he knew she wouldn’t do it. She rarely did such thing.
“I think it’s time we headed back to the camp site,” she said, glancing around at their surroundings once more. Rolf nodded in agreement, lost in his own thoughts, yet still managing to keep a close eye on Luna.
They lifted themselves from the ground, and after waving at the unicorns they proceeded to walk purposefully towards the path that was supposed to lead them back to their tents. As they reached the blossoming bush they both realised that something had changed in them, in their hearts, in the way they perceived the world. Its cared them, but somewhere, deep inside, they nurtured the excitement of a new beginning… for this was certainly the beginning of something.
A/N Hello! Thank you so much for being a part of this story for so long… Thanks to your wonderful reviews my writing has improved very much and I believe that, in part, due to you, to your support, I’ve been made a Trusted Author. So thank you for being there for me! Now, I’ve got a few people I’d love to mention.
Firstly, my incredible, wonderful, fabulous Beta, xXLuna_LovegoodXx, who has done a great job with this chapter and will surely do the same with the following ones.
Then, Jacqueline_noir, Mahalia(rozen_maiden), obviously394, evie_doherty, shadowycorner, jkrowling_fan, CD_Johnson(Craig), Jaime, Ydnas Odell, dianap00, PixiePower, ButterflyRogue but also to all the other reviewers and people who have fav’ed my story. I love you all!!!!!
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