Chapter 1 : Beauty in the Breakdown
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A/N: Originally written in response to Rose Wilts “An Ode to Minor Characters”- collaboration challenge. Thanks to Labby for beta'ing this and for coming with wonderful suggestions. Also, formerly known as Never Alone. Reason for title edit: it's the Never - I'm working on yet another story with a title that starts with the same word and I simply can't have too many Never -- fics. Now, onto the first story I've ever written about Luna.
They were your friends. They saw you, got to know you, and they accepted you for who you were in the end. But you remember vaguely how they would furrow their brows at you every once in a while. Snicker when they thought you didn’t know, always finding something amusing about you. But that didn’t matter, because you learned from each other in many ways. They learned to see the world, if only hazily, through your wide eyes. You, however, learned that there are more things – that mean more when the dust finally settles – to explore than the forest and streets of Sweden for a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. Life’s true adventures are best shared with friends. While you are forever grateful for your father and everything he ever did to you, you have to agree with that. The bond which you came to share is to this day unbreakable and during the years that have passed by they’ve helped you more than you’ll ever realize.
Your memories of your times together are the ones that are as clear as if you’ve had the privilege to relive them once again. Even the battle, with everything it took away from you all – a friend, a parent, a sibling, a lover – you remember the details. One would think that you wouldn’t want to remember, but it’s important to do so, to think of the reason that you all survived.
You thought of your friends and your father as you aimed a spell at a Death Eater or as the Dementors reached you, in wanting of your soul, of their souls. You would’ve died to protect them too and you wonder if they ever realized that. If they ever will realize it. But you know that even if you would’ve failed, there’d be friends standing at the end of the war, at the beginning of a new terrible regime, to live for. And you’d help each other to deal with life’s many hardships.
The stars are shut off and for a minute the sounds surrounding you stops buzzing in your ears. They vanish into nothingness. You manage to drift off to a place to call your own - a place that ensures that nothing will ever hurt you there. Your mind is your haven and they will not take away your sanity while you lock yourself behind the safety walls. Earth and consciousness returns to you in that instant and you groan as you feel your head throb. Neville, ever so sweet and caring, is looking at you, his eyes wide with fear for your well-being. At your questioning gaze, you suppose, he explains.
“You were stunned.”
The lights from the many spells that had so recently blinded you are gone. “Is it over?”
He shakes his head in denial as an answer and there’s a knot in your stomach. But it didn’t surprise you. You know he’ll be back and that he won’t stop until one or the other wins. But you doubt he realizes that you won’t give up yourselves. Neville is exhausted. You can see it in his expression, his slumped shoulders and heavy eyelids. But his eyes are burning with an intensity you can’t really place; you think they’re trying to tell you that he’s not even near the finish line himself. Are your eyes burning? But you know; neither he, nor you, will surrender. The urge is sudden; it catches you a bit off guard. You cup his cheek in your hand. He looks surprised, but grabs your hand and kisses your palm. Then, you wrap your arms around his neck and bury your face against his chest. He holds you close, giving you comfort. You inhale the scents of the night, of his shirt, of the moment – they will forever linger beneath your nostrils. You love Neville.
You’re rejoicing because it’s over and now it’s time to pick up the fallen pieces and bind them together. The thought of it does not exhaust you, because you have your friends at your side and if you ever falter, they will help to steady you.
You’re walking down the corridors of Hogwarts, your fingers tracing the wall, the stone beneath your fingertips cold, yet welcome. Disarray engulfs you but people are waving their wands, muttering spells that are no longer unknown to you, restoring the school – your second home – to its formal glory. You’re not even sleepy, even though half the night was spent to run and aim and wave your wand and think, think, think. Colin has taken with him a piece of your soul, or your heart, or something similar, because you are wounded. You’re seemingly calm, but it hurts. The mere thought of losing your friends hurt.
“Harry!” you suddenly call out in surprise and he turns to see you cast a friendly smile towards him. He blushes, his eyes red from sleep deprivation and long periods of tearful musings. You don’t want to imagine the guilt he feels. But it’s not his fault and you don’t know what to do to make him realize it. Is there even anything you can do?
He stops in his tracks, and now you’re feeling guilty for having disturbed him in his own walk. You know that he’s thinking of fallen pieces too.
“Did you get any sleep?” you ask in a calm tone, reckoning that talking about the war might be too early.
“Not much. You?” he asks and you answer him that you haven’t either, seeing as you’re completely set on finding another Wrackspurt. There were tons of them at dawn you explain to him and even though you know Harry can’t care less about Wrackspurts or Snorkacks, you’ve made him smile. He’s grateful, because his eyes are shining.
You walk down the corridor together, him quiet beside you, you filling the vacuum. It’s a wonderful feeling to take him away from the war by talking. Harry is worn and broken and you feel that some pieces won’t ever return, so you grab his hand and squeeze it reassuringly. He looks surprised, but appreciative. And that is all that really matters - knowing you are appreciated.
The funerals come and go. You can’t cry, which makes the knot in your stomach expand, but you want to release everything within, knowing that you’ll never be free from the pain if you keep controlling yourself. As it is, you can’t and it frustrates you.
Ginny is sitting to your right and your arm is linked with hers. Her eyes are puffy and cheeks redder than usual, but she is calm now - the sobs fewer and the cheeks drier. Harry is holding her hand and you smile at their bond.
You hate seeing Ginny in pain. You’re used to seeing her stand strong, always ready to step in for a friend, ready to defend others honours along with her own. Her feet steady upon the ground, balancing perfectly upon a thread. Her head always is held high. The first real friend you’ve ever had, you realize as you sit there, reminiscing about times that are now gone.
Gone, but still not buried.
The glory is not fully restored, seeing as there’s been a war and the memories are etched to every brain that has survived. There’s still darkness, lurking behind a corner – at least in their imagination. You’re whistling, the sun fierce in the sky, the wind caressing your skin. The lake is a bit restless, stirring, mirroring the sun and the clouds. A figure is walking with hands in pockets around it, lost in thought. You approach carefully, not wanting to startle him. He looks lonely and you figure he might need someone to just sit there with. No talking - just company. You know yourself the feeling of satisfaction when somebody sits by your side, not offering words of comfort, but one’s presence. It’s enough to comfort, knowing that you have someone there.
“Ron?” you utter in a voice that is as steady and as calm as always. The pain in your chest has not yet been eliminated though. Will it ever?
“Luna. Hi,” he says a bit offhandedly and smiles without really knowing what he’s doing. The loss of his brother – whom you barely got to know, but you know was wonderful – is weighing in his chest and he’s wondering about how life will turn out now. It won’t be the same – that is something he knows. He’s thinking back, remembering how it’d felt to have him there. And he’s comparing then to now. Yes, there’s definitely something missing.
“You wouldn’t mind if I joined you, would you?” you ask tentatively, not feeling like being rejected either. Who’d ever said you couldn’t take no for an answer? You’re human too, which means you also need the company. But Ron has more than surely changed. Perhaps he appreciates you too.
“Not at all,” he answers as if on cue and sits down next to where you’re standing. You imitate him and look out over the lake which reflects nature in a perfect way. It’s peaceful, birds chirping somewhere in the distance, wind rustling the leaves.
Ron does not start a conversation, which makes you comprehend that he’s not in any mood to chat. You do not question it of course and you sit for several minutes under a silence so un-awkward it even amazes you. Not that awkward was a common word in your vocabulary. But it feels comfortable and you are unsure whether or not it has ever felt this way before in the presence of Ron. He’s not one you’ve shared a moment alone with, but the past two years, you’ve gotten along more than ever before. But it comes to your understanding that he’s not that gangly boy he’d been in fifth or sixth year, but a young man that has seen death in the face. You know that such a thing leaves its mark. You wonder what yours is.
You begin humming silently to yourself and from the corner of your eye, you see that he is smiling.
“I owe you for making me smile,” he says suddenly and you beam at him.
You’ve all done what you can for the castle and a glimmer of hope is waking you all up from the bad dream. It’s time to head home and you feel that the changes that are on their way, are for the better. The first sunbeams have broken through the horizon and paint the clouds in too many colours that you don’t know where to begin looking and naming. You’re taking the steps toward the carriages, the Thestrals peaceful-looking, their eyes gleaming in the light.
Hermione gasps, not being accustomed to see them standing there to pull their carriages to Hogsmeade. You look at her and say, “It’s fine, you know.”
She nods her head, know that they are not dangerous, but she knows the significance of seeing them and the thought that she’s seen death too is still a bit unreal to her. When will the dust settle? She speaks to you then, out of nowhere and you turn your gaze toward her.
“Thank you, Luna. For everything,” she says and even though you’re not sure as to what she’s referring to, you smile and look forward again. Your life will never be the same again, but you know that not a day will go by without you ever doubting their friendship.
“You’re very welcome, Hermione.”
She sipped on her Butterbeer when she saw from the corner of her eye two men approaching her. She recognized the shorter of the two, a former friend of Ginny’s – or more like a flirt she’d had when Harry and she had taken a break not so long ago. She remembered the many conversations between her and Ginny into many seemingly endless nights about that particular man. But she shut everything out and allowed Ginny’s face dissolve from her head as soon as they reached her.
“Luna!” he greeted but Luna did not answer and only looked at him with her protruding, blue eyes. They soon landed on the other man, his handsome face serene and his deep brown eyes sparkling. She recognized him from somewhere but couldn’t place him. Leo – the flirt – smiled a bit awkwardly but saw her looking at his friend and he sighed in relief – without trying to hide it – remembering what he’s doing there in the first place. Luna and Leo had never gotten along that well.
“Oh, this is, err, Rolf. Rolf Scamander.”
“Hullo,” he greeted and held out his hand. Luna took it automatically and her eyes grew, if possible, wider, when they touched. Her heart felt a thousand times heavier than it had only seconds earlier and something in her belly was swarming over. Butterflies? She didn’t know where the feeling came from, and hated it that her brain hadn’t had enough power to order her to draw her hand back. His skin was soft and warm and when she looked at him, she saw that his eyes were wide too. To Luna, there’s no such thing as a soul-mate, but she had just realized that this couldn’t be that far away.
“Would you like to go out with me sometime?” he blurted and Luna was caught off guard. She had known Rolf for –she took a look at her Muggle watch – four hours. She raised her head, looked into his warm eyes and felt her stomach heave. She did in all honesty believe she was going to be sick and was astonished by the feeling. Of course, Luna did not really think it was he who made her feel that unstable. It could be a Wrackspurt, for all she knew.
“I’d love to.”
And so, she went out with him and they both realized that they had a lot of views to share with each other about all magical creatures. She felt at ease with Rolf; not that she didn’t feel at ease otherwise, but he seemed to really like her for being her and even though Luna could seem oblivious sometimes, she did catch one or two things in other people’s behaviour as they met her. But Rolf was at ease too; and in time, her heart came to pound ten times faster at the mere thought of him. Luna had fallen in love and she’d never really realized when that had happened.
He reached his hand toward her left cheek, and there he led the strand of golden hair beneath her ear from where it had fallen. Luna couldn’t help but blush. She felt her cheeks go warm and she averted her gaze. He never drew back his hand, and next thing she knew, his hand cupped her warm cheek. She couldn’t resist the urge to look at him. She raised her eyes and he was looking at her in a quizzical sort of way, his eyes curious, his face a tad bit more coloured, though not as hers she assumed. His lips were slightly open and she suspected hers were too, not really taking it in. She leaned into his hand and closed her eyes, her chest and stomach heavy with the weight of the moment. The loaded tension in the air was tangible.
She could feel as he neared her, but she didn’t know how she did, since her eyes were still closed. But his breath was warm against her face and her lips were tingling in desperation to feel his against hers. They were warm when they made contact. It was a simple kiss, wonderfully comforting, only lasting for some brief seconds. When he drew back, his taste was still lingering. The blush had not yet vanished and he smiled at her. She took his hand in hers and felt that there was no other place she’d rather be. He kissed her cheek, her hair-line, and jaw-line; the tip of her nose and her closed eyelid. And she did the same. She loved the feel of his skin pressed lightly against her lips; be it his own lips or his cheek, or the tip of his rather long nose. As long as it belonged to him, she was content.
Luna wondered how she had managed to live without the feel of him against her. And she wished to never be parted from Rolf for as long as she lived.
Life has a way of surprising you sometimes. When you least expect something, it passes you by and its force makes you falter a bit. You lose track for a second or two and then you realize that things won’t be the same again. But it’s either for better or for worse. And you can’t really know if you don’t take a chance and just... live. Feel, smell, hear, taste, and see.
Luna lived. She learned of past mistakes and tried to lead a better life. She could falter at times down the long path, but she always had someone to pluck her up when things were the hardest. She watched as her own children grew and she felt how her love grew each day. For them, for her husband... for her friends.
She would watch the first signs of spring and when the first leaf fell upon the ground when autumn came to them, she saw beauty. Always beauty. And when there were grey skies, she would find something of colour amidst the colourless atmosphere. She found it and she appreciated it. She appreciated life.
But what she appreciated the most was the people surrounding her. The people that cared for her and those she cared for. People she’d seen much with, people who had stood by her at difficult times. She realized that she was never alone. And that even though she could live with herself, there was no better feeling than knowing you would always have someone by your side; to share life’s many adventures and to see the beauty it could bring.