Chapter 1 : Lilacs
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Harry sighed heavily, misery pooled right the way through his body as he wandered through the cool corridors of Hogwarts. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. It was the perfect day to mock his misery.
He ignored the looks and sneaky whispers that followed him. Lowering his head and avoiding eye contact with his fellow students he tucked his hands into his pockets and immersed himself in his own bleak world.
It still didn’t seem real, it still didn’t quite sit right in his heart that Dumbledore was gone. Sometimes his mind just refused to register it. Even now that he had sat through the Headmasters funeral Harry still couldn’t quite grasp the fact that Dumbledore was dead.
His heart thumped dully; would the guilt and pain ever go away?
As he rounded the corner his eyes fell on Luna Lovegood, she was skipping up the corridor, her long hair flying behind her and her eyes bright. “Hello, Harry.” She waved at him.
“Hello, Luna. Where are you off to?” Harry asked, although he didn’t really give a damn where she was going.
“Down to the lake, would you like to come? No-one will bother you if you're with me.” She assured him, leaning closer to him she added in a stage whisper, “people think I’m loony you see.”
Harry sighed softly, if he wanted to get away from people, a social misfit like Luna was the best bodyguard he could hope for. “Yeah, fine. Thanks.”
She nodded smiling sweetly. “I know a nice little spot, no-one really goes there.”
“Fine.” Harry fell into step beside her.
Luna hummed a tune to herself which grated on Harry’s nerves. It wasn’t the fact that it sounded totally tuneless that bothered him, he couldn’t carry a tune either, but it was just so damn happy and light! It wasn’t what he needed at the moment.
Harry wanted to wallow in the dark pit of despair, pain and misery he had created for himself. It was where he should be at the death of a loved one, the only link he really had to the future had been cut, now he was stumbling around in the dark. As usual; he, Harry, had been left alone.
He tilted his head back and glared viciously up at the sun. How dare it shine like that when he was sad and lonely. How could the world still carry on unaffected when the only person left in the world who could really help him with his huge task was gone?
“You don’t look very happy, Harry. Is it because Dumbledore died?” Luna asked softly.
Harry just stopped dead in his tracks and stared at her. She looked back at him with a steady gaze, completely unaffected by the anger in his face. “What else do you think is the matter with me?”
She shrugged, “could be anything. My guess would be Dumbledore though. You were there when it happened after all weren‘t you?”
“Yes.” He replied shortly.
“His death would affect you more because of that wouldn’t it?”
“Yes.” He barked back.
“What do you think he’s doing now then?” She wondered.
“Doing? He’s not doing anything Luna, he’s …. he’s gone.” Harry stumbled angrily.
“Oh yes, I know he’s dead and gone.” Luna agreed nodding. “I mean Nearly Headless Nick is dead but he’s not gone is he? But Dumbledore is definitely gone.”
Harry just groaned and ran a hand through his hair. Perhaps tagging along with Luna wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had. He’d give her another five minutes before she mentioned The Quibbler.
“How are you feeling, Harry? Have you been sleeping ok?” Luna asked tucking her hair behind her ears. “I should think it must be difficult to sleep after seeing Dumbledore killed like that,”
Harry looked at her as he sank down onto a rock, she smiled sweetly at him and moved towards a clump of flowers at the base of a tree. “Lilac’s,” she said sniffing appreciatively at the scent. He wasn’t sure how to react to Luna at this moment in time. She danced from one subject to another so quickly that he couldn’t grab hold of an answer for her before she dived on to the next topic and question.
Hermione and Ron were treating him with kid gloves at the moment. He could almost see them tiptoeing over eggshells around him in fear of saying the wrong thing and upsetting him, or triggering off his temper that had been on a short fuse lately.
Even Ginny was steering clear of him now. True, he had only recently broken up with her and she had been rather mad over it, so she stayed away from him. Harry couldn’t help but wonder if she was withholding her friendship from him as punishment at the moment.
Luna however didn’t seem the least bit fazed by his angry eyes, moody silence and general shock at her behaviour. That’s what Harry liked about her really, her ability to sit back and accept a person for who they were.
“I haven’t been sleeping all that well.” Harry said carefully.
“Oh? Why not?”
He glared at her, “Why not? Why do you think? You just said it yourself! Because I saw him die! I was there!” Harry yelled, jumping to his feet, his body quivering with unconcealed rage.
“Yes I know you were there,” Luna replied softly. “I meant why exactly couldn’t you sleep? Do you replay the moment over and over again, or do you torture yourself with what if’s?”
He opened his mouth to respond but no words came out. His jaw just hung there, loose and slack; his eyes wide with surprise. He hadn’t expected her to try to prod into his problems; no-one else did, no -one talked about it. Everyone avoided the subject whenever he was in the room and it was driving him crazy.
Luna nodded and said wisely, “Big pink Hippogriff.”
Harry blinked, “what?”
“Everyone is behaving like there’s a big pink Hippogriff in the room and they can’t see it. If they ignore it, it might go away. But it doesn’t.” She added, “you’ll need to talk about what happened to move past it. Would you like to talk, Harry?”
“What’s the point?” Harry said dully, flopping back down onto his rock. “You can’t make it better can you?”
“No, I’m just a witch, Harry.” Luna replied, she moved to stand beside him and patted his head lightly.
He gave her a crooked smile. “You know, when I was younger Aunt Petunia took me and Dudley to see a magic show. It was amazing to me at the time, to see this man in a top hat with a wand produce white rabbits out of a hat, and pull coins from behind people’s ears.” He sighed heavily. “I thought it would be great to be able to do magic, I thought magic would solve all my problems.”
“Magic doesn’t solve problems, Harry.” Luna said softly.
He snorted, “you're telling me, all it does is create new ones.”
“Problems are there to be solved.” She told him.
“I don’t think I’m smart enough.” He replied, biting his lip and looking up at her. “What if I’m not good enough?”
Luna looked surprised. “You're good enough.” She told him firmly. Pressing her palm to his chest she whispered, “in here, you're good enough in here.”
“You mean good always triumphs over evil?” Harry asked scathingly.
“Not always no. But mostly it does, when the leader of the good is strong, when he’s a true leader and not a fake.”
Harry considered her words carefully. He didn’t think he was particularly strong, probably more along the lines of stubborn. As for being a leader, who was he to lead anyone? Everything he had achieved so far had been with help from someone. Could he make it on his own?
One thing Harry knew for certain was that he wasn’t a fake, Dumbledore had cleared that up for him. He raised his hand to touch lightly to his scar. Voldemort had marked him as his equal; with anything else he could or could not be; a fake was not one of them.
“I know I’m not a fake, but I don’t know how good I’ll be,” he said.
Luna smiled softly, stroking his hair absently. “You’ll be good enough. Dumbledore thought so, and Voldemort thinks so to. Two of the greatest wizards of all time have faith in you and one even fears you, that says something, Harry.”
“I never looked at it that way before.” Harry admitted, he never looked at situations the way Luna did, but somehow she always seemed to be right. Luna sometimes made him feel as though he were incredibly stupid and slow. She had a different kind of cleverness than Hermione, and while Hermione’s book smart ways had saved his skin on more than one occasion, it was Luna’s advice that he valued the most.
“Not many people see things the way I do.“ She said. “Would you like to talk about the big pink Hippogriff now?”
Now that he’d started to share his worries and fears, now that he’d started to talk Harry couldn’t seem to stop the words bubbling from him. He could feel the burning of the tears he hadn’t yet allowed himself to cry and he swallowed past the lump in his throat.
“I was under my invisibility cloak, he put a body binding spell on me and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything to help him…” Harry trailed off, rubbing at his forehead.
“So it’s guilt that’s keeping you awake most of the time? You have nothing to feel guilty about, Harry. Dumbledore put the spell on you to keep you safe.” Luna spoke quietly, her voice flowing over him, teasing out the good feelings hidden beneath the despair and guilt he had been feeling a lot of lately.
“But I could have helped! If I knew more magic to lift the spell I could have stunned Malfoy, or Snape or something!” His head jerked back as he shouted up at her, his emerald green eyes burning brightly with guilt and rage. “I could have done…. Something.”
Luna squatted next to him, her thin arms wrapping around his shoulders she hugged his deflated body close to her. “Dumbledore knew what he was doing, he wouldn’t want you to feel like this, Harry. He did it to make sure you were safe, so that you could lead the wizarding world against Voldemort.”
“But it’s like the blind leading the blind!” He shot back. “I have no idea what I’m doing! How am I supposed to defeat a wizard like Voldemort without someone like Dumbledore to help me? He was killed before he could tell me everything, I’m… I’m just… I don’t know where to go from here.”
“You just don’t know that you know.” Luna soothed.
Harry ground his teeth with frustration. “Can you not talk in riddles, Luna? I don’t have the energy to figure them out along with everything else I’m supposed to be doing. I need help not nonsense.”
She laughed quietly. “You have help, Harry. You have us all, when the time comes we’ll all be there to help you. It’s probably a long way away yet, but by the time the war comes to a head you’ll know what needs to be done.”
“I wish I could be as optimistic as you.” Harry leant his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands.
“Everything will be alright in the end.” Luna promised, giving his shoulders a squeeze.
“And if it’s not alright?” He wondered forlornly.
“Then it’s not the end.” She replied simply.
Harry glanced up at her. Those large blue eyes gazed dreamily down at him, somehow making him feel as if he could take strength from her forever full well of optimism and belief that was hidden deep inside her.
Her lashes were longer than he had thought they were and he noticed a splattering of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Her lips twitched at the corners in a soft smile. Harry’s eyes lingered on her lips for quite some time. Really they looked so soft and gentle, so innocent and pink, with a vulnerable curve. How could they speak such comfort to him at the times in his life when he needed it the most? How did they give the words of wisdom that they did; words that helped him more than anyone really knew.
It took Harry a few seconds to realise that Luna was speaking again.
“Here Harry, take this.” Luna dug around in her pocket and produced a pale pink lace handkerchief, carefully she tied a knot in it and handed it to him.
“What’s this for?” He took the scrap of lace in his hand and stared stupidly at it.
“A knotted handkerchief wards off evil.” Luna explained, “You might need this more than I do too.”
Harry smiled when she dropped a small acorn into his palm, “and what do I do with this?”
“An acorn carried on your person brings good luck and longevity.” She told him. “When you leave, Harry always sleep facing South, it brings good luck too. I figure you might need a helping hand from the universe.”
He laughed then, he hadn’t laughed in ages, but Luna always made him feel good. “Thanks Luna, but did you know that if you believe in superstitions they’ll follow you everywhere?”
“They follow you everywhere for a reason.” She replied.
Harry chuckled, “I’ll keep these safe,” he promised.
Really, it wouldn’t hurt him to carry them around would it? Tucking his new treasures into his pocket he grinned. “We’ll see how effective they are.”
“They’ll help you a little bit. Here, have some of my lilacs, they bring good luck too.”
Harry took the lilacs she offered him and twirled the stem in his fingers. “A little bit of luck might come in handy.”
Luna squeezed his hand gently. “Just remember that even though you might not know the way to go just yet, the universe already knows. Dumbledore would have told you enough to be getting on with even if you don’t see the whole picture just yet.”
He smiled easily at her, Luna was right just the way she was always right. Dumbledore was far from a fool, once he, Ron and Hermione sat down together he was sure they could figure something out between them. He and Dumbledore had already made a start hadn’t they? Beginning was the hardest part, working out where to go first, that was already done.
“Come on, we’d better go in for dinner.” Luna suggested.
“Yeah.” Harry stood up before Luna could move and he found himself mere inches from her.
Her eyes grew wider for a second as she stared up at him, her head tilted back slightly to adjust to his height. A thoughtful look crossed her face, “I wonder….”
Before Harry could ask what she was wondering Luna swayed up onto her toes. Her lips touched his. There was no pressure, no nothing, her lips just touched his.
Harry’s lips tingled, he was unsure of what to do. A part of him wanted to pull her closer and kiss her properly. The other part of him wanted to push her away, keep her at arms length the way he was with Ginny. It wouldn’t do to get Luna all mixed up in this.
As suddenly as her lips were there they were gone. “Yes, they are as soft as they look.”
“Um…” Harry could feel his cheeks begin to heat up.
“I thought it might be alright as you and Ginny had broken up. I like to experience new things.” Luna explained.
“Um… yeah, new experiences can be good.” He agreed, “and surprising.” He added.
She considered him for a few silent seconds, her fingers curled around the front of his jumper and she swayed towards him again. This time Harry reacted, resting his hands lightly on her waist and slowly kissing her back.
“What a nice experience.” Luna said dreamily.
Harry’s cheeks flushed again.
“I wonder what pudding they’ll have today?” She tucked her small hand beneath his elbow and pulled him into a walk.
Harry allowed himself to be lead. He wasn’t sure exactly what had just happened, what it all meant; why she had kissed him and why he had kissed her back. None of it made any sense. But then again, what logic could really define someone like Luna Lovegood?
As she had said it had been a nice experience, one he wouldn’t have minded pursuing under normal circumstances. If Luna was right and everything worked out in the end, did that mean he would in effect return from the war to Luna rather than Ginny?
He groaned inwardly and ruffled his hair. Luna was great at helping him, but at the same time she didn’t half confuse him!
* * *
A week after the wedding of Bill and Fleur Weasley, Luna was sitting alone in the rocking chair in her front room reading a book. She was jerked out of her fictitious world by a knock on the door.
Rising and marking her page she opened the door with a smile on her face, “Yes?” She questioned the harassed looking man on her door step.
“Personal delivery for Miss Luna Lovegood, sign here please,” a piece of parchment materialised with a quill and Luna signed her named as requested.
She received a small bouquet of lilacs in return and the man apperated away.
Smiling with delight she crossed back to her rocking chair to read the note. “Who in the world would send me flowers?” She asked the empty room. Her smile widened, she laughed easily and her cheeks stained a light shade of pink when she read the note. “I guess he’s not superstitious after all then,”