Disclaimer: Characters belong to J.K. Rowling. Song lyrics are from Angels by Within Temptation.
A/N: This is the final chapter of this short story. My deepest thanks to everyone who has read this story, and especially to all who have taken the time to leave me a review. I appreciate it more than words can say.
Happy reading and writing,
Classes resume as they usually would the next day. Dumbledore wants us all to go on with our lives as normally as we can, with just a hint of caution as we go about our day to day tasks. Harry is under strict watch by the professors because everyone knows Harry is the type who will go out looking for Voldemort. Some parents have pulled their kids out of school, which is the most outrageous thing I have ever heard. Why take your child out of the safest place in all of England?
“Because that Potter kid attends Hogwarts, and that’s who You-Know-Who is after.” That’s what Seamus Finnegan said his parents said before they sent him on the next train ride home.
I can’t stand another moment of this madness. After dinner, I quickly make my way to the North tower to meet Luna, anxious to get this over with and hoping beyond hope that this sacrifice – whatever it may be – will be accepted.
The room at the top of the tower is already illuminated with candles galore. Luna sits on her knees on the ground, her hood concealing her face. She is petting an animal, and I immediately recognize the bowed-legs and squashed face of my Crookshanks. She scratches under his chin and he lets out a long low purr of contentment.
“Luna,” I start, “When I said find an animal, I didn’t mean Crookshanks.” I walk forward ever-so-slowly, sure not to make any sudden movements, as her dagger is already laid out on the side of her.
“He’s such a good kitty,” she says, and now Crookshanks is stretched out on his back while Luna pets his fat and fluffy belly.
“You promised me, Luna.”
Luna pulls her hood from her head and meets my gaze at last. “And I’m keeping my promise,” she says. “Crookshanks followed me up here of his own accord. He’s not the sacrifice. In fact, he couldn’t be the sacrifice even if you gave permission. He’s deformed.”
I slowly kneel down next to Luna and pet Crookshanks as well, hoping to lure him away from Luna. “He is not deformed,” I say in my cat’s defense.
“He’s bow-legged,” she says.
And for the first time in my life, I am glad for each and every one of Crookshanks’ flaws. I scoop him up into my arms and press my face into his fur and inhale his scent. And then I look up into the rafters expecting to see another owl, but there is none. “Where is the sacrifice, then?” I ask.
Smiling, Luna leans into me and kisses me deeply. And then she whispers into my hair, “What is your purpose in life, Hermione?”
I think about this. “I don’t know. I don’t suppose I’ve figured it out yet,” I answer truthfully.
Luna rests her forehead against my own. I think she is going to kiss me again, but instead, she says: “I think you’re meant for something much greater than other people. It’s because you’re so special, Hermione. So very, very special. I’ve never met anyone like you.” Her hand is on my cheek, stroking my skin gently. “You’re just so … perfect.”
My confusion suddenly turns into a haunting understanding. “Luna …”
“Perfection such as yours shouldn’t go to waste,” Luna says.
And I pull away from her at once, because I know exactly what she is playing at. Her wand is in my face in one clean sweep, and when she speaks the word, “Incarcerous,” I fall over to my side with a grunt, feet bound tightly at the ankles, and wrists tied at my back with thick rope. Crookshanks scampers away and disappears into a dark corner of the tower.
“What are you doing! Don’t be crazy!” I exclaim, my voice cracking like a whip across the dimly lit room.
Luna chuckles sweetly. “That’s what you said last night too, in the Shrieking Shack. We wouldn’t want to make that mistake again, now would we?” She struggles to pick my body up, her arms at my back and under the crook of my knees, and then she carefully sets me on a small wooden table with a white sheet splayed over it. She straightens out my hair and pushes it out of my face, smiling. “God, you’re so beautiful. Please don’t cry, Hermione.” She brushes her thumb across my cheek and wipes away the wet trails that have leaked from the crevices of my eyes.
I choke back the tight knot of a sob that is threatening to leave my throat and my voice cracks when I speak. “Why are you doing this?”
Luna lowers herself to the floor and emerges with the candles. She places them on the table around my body, circling me in a luminescent orange glow. She lays her book open on my stomach, beaming at the picture of her golden angel. “You should feel honored,” she says. “Because of you, the Wizarding world will be saved. Your name will forever go down in history.”
“I thought …” I stop as the knot fights its way back up my throat and leaves in a sob. I realize how silly my thought is and close my mouth, shaking my head.
“You thought what?” Luna asks.
I take a deep breath, making a futile attempt to control my ragged breathing. “I thought you liked me,” I say slowly.
Luna’s grey eyes widen more than they already are. “How can you say that? Of course I like you. I wouldn’t have chosen you if I didn’t, Hermione. You are the most amazing person I know.”
And she bends her lips down to mine, but I don’t let her kiss me. I turn my head away and her mouth catches my cheek. She looks at me with a heavy veil of sadness clouding her silver eyes. I can not understand how a person who likes another person can treat them this way – can kill them. And then, looking at Luna full in her eyes, I faintly whisper, “I could have loved you.”
“I do love you, Hermione.”
“No, you don’t,” I cry, feeling wet patches on my cheeks and trying to blink back the tears.
She sighs. “If only you knew,” she says. “If only you could understand.”
I shake my head. “Not this. I will never understand this.”
And then Luna’s hands are resting on my stomach. I find it odd that her touch can still have such an effect on my body, even under the circumstances and learning her hidden agenda that had been masked behind everything all along. The lies, the deceit, the broken promises, the shattered dreams. She scans the words from her book, and then, seemingly frustrated, tosses the book aside. She does not speak the incantation in the text, but makes up her own, and in a loud clear voice that rings around the tower like a beautiful bell, says:
“Sparkling angel, I couldn't see
Your dark intentions, your feelings for me.
Fallen angel, tell me why?
What is the reason, the thorn in your eye?”
I can’t help the whimper that escapes my lips. I try with all my strength to free myself, but the bindings are tied too tight. A breeze rustles through the window of the tower and chills me to the bone. Luna is breathing heavily, her chest heaving with each intake of air. And then she holds her precious dagger before her. She scrutinizes it closely, the silver blade shimmering with the flickering flames of the candles that surround me.
“Please, please, please,” I whine again and again. “Please, Luna. This is not a game; it’s my life. Please. I beg you.”
A solid orb of remorse cascades down Luna’s pale cheek.
“You don’t want to do this,” I say to her.
She holds the dagger gently, and slowly brings it to my skin. She brushes the flat part of the silver up my stomach, my chest, my collar bone. She stops at my throat, and I can feel the dagger turning in her hands. My whole body goes rigid as my toes curl under and my eyes clench tightly shut, a low guttural sound rumbling up from inside of me.
The tip of the dagger merely scratches over the pale skin of my throat. I can feel the sting it has left, and when Luna pulls the dagger away, now slightly stained red at the sharp edge, a giant cloud of golden dust erupts through the window and into the room. She makes another small scratch across my neck, and at once, more golden dust flows into the room, winding and weaving through the furniture.
“She is pleased,” says Luna. “She wants more.”
My body wriggles in desperation. “Let me go, please. I’ll do anything.”
“Would you be mine forever?” she asks, and her gaze is all mine.
“Luna,” I say, my heart sinking, “You had me all along.”
She kisses me as the golden wind snakes over our heads and entwines itself around our bodies, and this time I kiss her back. I can’t understand the passion I still feel for her, even though she is about to take my life.
Our kiss ends in a blood curdling shriek, and as Luna jerks away from me, I see why. The sleeve of her black robe has come in close contact with the fire, and now it seems her entire arm is up in flames.
“Luna!” I exclaim as she flails her body about. “Take it off!” I scream to her frantically. “Take off your robe!”
The inferno spreads like wild fire. “I can’t, it’s stuck, I – oh, God! Oh, God! Help me!”
But I am still bound, and so I watch from my place, screaming bloody murder as the fire engulfs the entirety of her arm and catches contact with her hair. Oh, her beautiful, beautiful hair …
My body squirms until I collapse from the table and land face first to the wooden floor. I hear my nose crack before I feel it as it collides with the hard wood, and when I see Luna, it is to see that she still clutches the gem ridden hilt of her dagger in her other hand, trying to hack away at the material of her robe and her hair. But it seems the more she moves, the more rapidly the fire spreads.
“Hermione!” comes her strangled cry of despair.
There is nothing I can do for her. I squeeze my eyes tightly together to shield my vision from the horrific scene before me, and when I open my eyes again, it is to see her body crumpled on the ground and blood pooling away from the orange glow where she had fallen onto her dagger.
“Luna! Oh God, Luna, no!” I sob from my restraints on the floor, my tears mixing with the blood that has leaked from my nose. But I know that Luna is gone.
All of the coiling golden dust comes together and materializes into the form of an angel – a giantess with a golden gown and wings and magnificent white hair that fans out around her body. The fire is extinguished at her very presence, as if the flames themselves fear her, and Luna’s body is gone.
And then the brilliant creature glides to me and bends down. Her hair is all around me, coating my whole world in white and gold, and I am suddenly lost in the heat of her wings that envelope me. Warmth suffuses through my body, and I feel like all of my nerve endings are on fire, from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes. I bask in her glory, and when she leaves me, I find I am not only untied and freed, but also cold and craving her embrace once more. But the angel explodes into a sparkling cloud of dust, and all that is left of her are tiny specks of golden sprinkles that float down to my body and coat me with a thin film of blazing warmth.
No one knows what has happened to Luna Lovegood. Her father threatens the school of course – says his daughter is their responsibility and it is up to them to find her. I don't have the heart to tell him he will never see his little girl again. And so I sit by and watch and listen when people in the Great Hall go on with their theories about how Luna has run away to join a colony of thestrals that are migrating to Switzerland so she can spend the rest of her life studying the mythical crumple-horned snorkacks. I suddenly don't feel like I am taking part in the world any longer. It is as though I have isolated myself in my own little plastic fish bowl, where I sit idly watching the world go by. People often ask me if I have seen Luna. "You two were practically inseparable," they say when I tell them I have no idea where Luna has gone to. Sometimes, I even encourage their outrageous and outlandish theories, just to get their questions off of my back.
Harry Potter has also isolated himself and fallen into a depression. He won't admit his great deal of inner turmoil, but I know the torment is there brewing inside of him when I see the dark bags under his blood shot eyes and his thinning form. My concern for him truly begins when I hug him one day and can feel his ribs through his school robes. His frustration at not being able to kill Voldemort is sending him to his grave. He is so afraid that his namesake will transform into "The Boy Who Ran Away."
"It won't, Harry. I promise you," I tell him, hugging his skeletal form once again.
The magic swirls inside of me. It has been building up since the night of Luna's death, desperate for release. Magic with this type of uncontrollable power can not be contained. It is a wild thing, not something that belongs caged away like a beast. Sometimes I can literally feel it struggling to leave my body in rushing and tumbling waves, but I hold it back. I don't know how much longer I can last before it explodes.
The Dark Mark appears in the sky over another household, the twinkling and slithering snake riding the wing's back as it protrudes in and out of the skull's brilliantly disgusting mouth. "He's trying to lure me in," Harry tells me from where we sit crammed together in the Great Hall under the professor’s protection. "He's showing me exactly where he is, waiting for me to break and go to him. How many more families will have to die before I listen?"
"None," I assure him, and it is the magic itself that boils over in my body and makes me sneak away from my sleeping bag in the hall during the night, cracking the door open just so, so no one will even know I have gone. Pulling my hood up, I venture into the warm night, although I can't tell if it really is warm or if the heat is radiating from the bubbling power surging through my veins. It is the oddest feeling to be coursing with life, yet knowing you will never be fully alive because a part of you died on the night you came to life.
The emerald stars are shot over another Muggle house, this is clear to see. I know because people are standing outside in their pajamas and nightgowns and pointing into the air at the never before seen spectacle. Some snap pictures, while others stand smiling with their "ooh"'s and "ahh"'s each time the snake moves. I shove my way past them and with my hood concealing my identity, I boldly stride into the house, stepping over the crumpled and deceased body of an elderly man. I climb the rickety and narrow stairs, and there at the top is the body of a woman with a wrinkled face and curly grey hair. My heart fills with sadness as I imagine the scenario in my mind – the old man protecting his wife and standing between her and the line of fire, his wife screaming his name from the top step as she watches him die in cold blood.
And I vow that no one else will die because of this monster. Because of him, too many lives have been snatched away from this earth. And Luna ... my sweet, lovely Luna ... I can not be angry with her, no matter what she has done, because I know the goodness of her heart and I know lurking somewhere inside of her twisted theories was reason.
I am suddenly pounced on from behind, and my arms are bent at an uncomfortable and awkward angle behind my back. I do not struggle when the Death Eaters capture me with the tips of their wands digging into my back and drag me down a long dimly lit hall where we turn into the very last room. Lord Voldemort is sitting in a high backed leather chair, long, pale, bony fingers laced together in front of his deformed face and his wand resting on his lap. He lowers his fingers so that I can see his thin lips and blood red eyes. And then, he speaks in a voice like hot iron.
"Harry Potter. How good of you to come. Although I must confess my disappointment. Do you not fight for your life, when I hold its fragility in my hands?"
I say nothing, but stand up a little straighter.
Voldemort's eyes narrow. "Search him," he orders.
The Death Eaters stick their hands in my pockets, each time coming out with nothing. Their faces are puzzled, and they begin to pat my body. I can see one of the Death Eater's eyes go wide at the unexpected curve his hand has just touched, and he jumps back. "You ain't Harry Potter," he growls. He reaches over my face and yanks back my hood, revealing a long mane of curly brown hair. I tilt my chin up confidently and stare at Voldemort's shocked expression.
"She's just a girl!" The Death Eaters cackle and break out into a raucous of laughter, lowering their wands as the threat of any danger has just taken a headlong and plunging dive for the ground.
Voldemort is on his feet, his great snake Nagini curling at his heels. "What is the meaning of this, witch? Or are you a witch at all?"
"Not all power comes from wooden sticks," I proclaim clearly without a hint of fear present in my voice, even though on the inside I am terrified beyond words.
The Death Eaters laugh some more, but there is some level of concern playing in Voldemort's crimson eyes as he reaches behind himself on the chair for his own wand. My confidence sky rockets at this as a smirk plasters itself across my face and I ask, "What are you so afraid of? I'm only a girl."
Voldemort's wand is pointing directly in my face. "Grab her!" he commands his followers.
But they simply laugh. "She is a silly little girl, my Lord," says one.
"Well this silly little girl is angry,” I say with a maddening tone that borders insanity. And then, looking Voldemort straight in the eyes, I say, “This is for Luna." I stretch my arms open wide and throw my head back. The magic cascades out of me, rumbling the floor boards, sending framed pictures crashing to the floor in a devastated glassy mess, and causing a deafening roar all around us. I am like a beacon of bright white light, blinding the eyes of anyone who is near. The power is like a flash flood – like a tsunami breaking through barriers.
And when it is over, my arms fall limp to my sides. My knees feel shaky and wobbly. I can hardly manage to lift my head back into place, so weak am I. And I laugh. I laugh as I step over Voldemort’s crumpled body and exit the old house. I laugh as I walk through the throng of Muggles who are standing in fascinated wonderment over the bright light that has blasted through the windows on the second floor and shattered the glass to pieces. I laugh as I walk into the night and let the darkness claim me as its own.
I laugh because I know wherever Luna is, she is laughing too.
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