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Thestrals by peppersweet
Chapter 1 : Thestrals
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7

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Luna is thinking of her mother again. 

It is a Sunday. One of those lonely, desperate Sundays, when the taunting becomes too much and she leaves the castle. Nobody attempts to stop her, not even the jowly, twitchy old caretaker Filch, so obsessed with keeping the rules. Her steps are light; she could be a ghost or a wisp of wind, for all the noise she makes. She can be unseen when she wants to. The Forbidden Forest is forbidden for good reason, and she knows that, but it is the only place she can remember undisturbed.

Down through the grounds, through the trees. In minutes, she’s in total silence. The canopy of leaves above is adequate cover from both noise and the weak sun, trying to shine through the moody rainclouds that have been threatening since last Tuesday.
It’s February. Cold. Someone has stolen her shoes again. Her bare feet are already frozen like ice blocks, crisscrossed with mud and blades of damp grass. It doesn’t bother her, because nothing could stop her pilgrimage to the Thestrals....

....Theodore is thinking about his past again. It was a whole year since that lesson, when the utter oaf Hagrid had brought out those Thestrals, and he’d almost lost it in front of the whole class. He tried so hard amongst the Pureblood high-society of his year to be liked, not to be the one with nicknames and cruel taunts, not to be like Loony Lovegood in the year below...she was always a target for Pansy’s gang when mudblood Granger was nowhere to be seen. Theodore could so easily be next, though. His mother? Dead. His father? Azkaban. Even Draco Malfoy, the self-proclaimed Prince of Slytherin, had suffered after his father had let Potter and the Prophecy slip away so easily. Neither of them dared mention their fathers in the presence of the others. Especially when Nott senior, the respected death eater, had been stunned by a mere mudblood only minutes into the battle. 

He didn’t talk about his mother either. What was there to say? She was a half-blood traitor, an absence from his life since the age of nine. She deserted the death eaters. Killed herself to escape their wrath. A cowardly deserter. He could hardly remember a thing about her, apart from her hair – because it was brown, tightly curled, just like his – the faint tangerine smell of her perfume, and her dull, lifeless eyes. He’d been watching that night, when they’d argued, and she’d hit the floor, poison bottle rolling from her hand, her dead eyes fixed on her nine-year old son.

The Thestrals brought it all back. He’d wished Hagrid dead a million times after that lesson, over and over in his head. He wasn’t meant to have seen...

... Luna could never be as brilliant as her mother, she knew that. Ariel Lovegood had been a brilliant eccentric, a beautiful, mad, maudlin Witch with a mind to rival Merlin’s and a life that had travelled to all four corners of the globe, seen three total solar eclipses, the northern lights, and graduated from the Wizarding Academy of Arts with a first class degree. Ariel met Xenophilius Lovegood, editor of the fledgling magazine The Quibbler on the second of these solar eclipses during a summer’s holiday in India. Luna had heard the story a thousand times before. Her father, researching the magical properties of eclipses for the magazine, had sat by the edge of the great river with the masses, quill and parchment in hand; special glasses perched on his nose, staring into the sky for the moment of the eclipse. And just as the sun hid behind the moon and the corona shone brilliantly down on the earth, he was distracted by a woman running past barefoot, her dirty-blonde hair straggling out behind her, bells chiming on her wrists and ankles, who jumped and threw herself into the water, eyes shut tight. This was Ariel. When she hadn’t resurfaced after a minute, Xenophilius panicked, and to the general amusement of the watching public, threw himself in after her, only to see her laughing head break the surface some ten metres away from where he was treading water, soaked and gasping for air. They were married within the year, and when their daughter was born on the date of the next eclipse – July seventeenth, 1981 – they took it as a sign and named her Luna, after the moon...

...murder. He remembered it more clearly now, as if he’d hooked it up from where it lay buried in the depths of his mind. His mother was an order spy. So why was there no record of her in A study of opposition to the Dark Lord? No mention in They dared to fight: A chronicle of the Order of the Phoenix in the 20th Century. Even when the most insignificant order members got a mention, even if it was a tiny footnote or an acknowledgement. No record of any order deaths in the year 1988. He wanted a mother; he wanted to be normal like his Slytherin peers, with a normal family and a normal home. He didn’t care what his father had said. He didn’t care if his mother was a half-blood double agent, a worthless traitor who’d rather swallow poison than live for her son. He just wanted a name, just something to call a mother...and slowly, the tapestry of a lie had unpicked itself, and he suddenly, somehow, just knew. The poison bottle, rolling across the carpet bore the label Aconite, and then listed the name of a little-known Knockturn Alley Apothecary. At the age of fifteen, after the Thestral lesson, he looked up Aconite in his potions textbook, the name only just beginning to mean something. It came from the Monkshood plant. It was one of the fastest acting poisons available. She only had to swallow it, and she’d be dead in minutes. But there was a struggle...she had been looking at finally clicked. His father’s hand, forcing the bottle against her lips, the struggle, her dead, dull eyes, the dull thud of the bottle on the carpet...he realised this at fifteen, a good few months after his father had been locked away for the blunder at the ministry, when now Theodore knew that his father was a murderer.
But he put it to the back of his mind, half-disbelieving, still wanting to idolise the death eater father...

... no, she couldn’t match her mother. After her death on that spring day when Luna was nine, things had somehow gradually fallen apart. The violent spell explosion that had killed her mother also brought down the cottage they lived in and destroyed everything, her father included. Luna divided her childhood into two halves. One was before her mother’s death, when whole years seemed to have been spent abroad, whole memories were formed of exotic, bright fabrics and sparkling magic, her mother’s sweet tangerine perfume, the smell of incense, the lazy bubble of her mother’s potion inventions. Then there was after the death, when she remembered picking through the rubble of their house to salvage her drawings, her stuffed animals, her bright clothes, all torn and grubby from the blast. Her father seemed to give up from then on. She’d watched his hair slowly turn from bright auburn to white wisps with the texture of candyfloss, watched his lazy eye go uncorrected, the yellow paint of her mother’s gravestone peeling and warping as the years went by. She tired not to let it hurt her. It was important to stay strong for her father. They moved to the turret-house near Ottery St Catchpole, grew the Dirigible plums her mother had so loved to use in her magic, but never went travelling again. 

Luna tried to be like her mother. She thought that, maybe, her mother’s brilliance could be genetic, and she could be like a mini-Ariel. Woefully wrong, her first year at Hogwarts had been her worst-yet. Maybe the nickname Loony came from the flowers that festooned her hair, or...’s only in the library, today, when he’s forced to share the only available desk with Granger. She’s pouring through old Hogwarts newspapers and copies of the daily prophet, and he’s seen a familiar face, smiling up at him from a photograph. Without asking, and earning a disapproving frown from Granger in the process, he pulls the paper towards him, to see his teenage father, dark-eyed and clad in Slytherin uniform, standing amongst a group of students. 

Seventh year prefects, the caption read. Slytherin: Tristan Nott and Cassandra Winterton. He pulls it closer, looking at the remarkable brown, tightly-curled hair that crowns Cassandra Winterton’s head, and the way Tristan Nott’s arm is draped across her shoulders, almost as if...

...she finds the Thestrals soon enough. Curling a hand into her bag, she brings out the bacon she sneaked from breakfast and places it on the floor, stepping back to watch the spindly-legged, skeletal horses creep forward. Luna can’t help but smile. These creatures are hers and hers only. Here in the forest, it feels quiet again. School is noisy. Corridors are constantly packed, people always laugh as she passes, cruel words always nip at her ears no matter how hard she tries to ignore them. Here was different. The raindrops, the gentle breeze, the rustling of the Thestrals among the leaves, her own steady breathing and her slow heartbeat...a solace, a sanctuary, here among the outcasts and omens of death, misunderstood just like...

...he needed to clear his head. His mother was real, her name was Cassandra, she was murdered- this much he now believed to be true. Her death still echoed in his head, as if the soft thud of the poison bottle on the carpet was amplified, resonating through his past to Hogwarts, seven years later. 

He strides from the library, ignoring the confused stares of his fellow students. Legs pumping furiously, he’s cleared three floors and the entrance hall before he knows it, and he’s walking without thinking to the forest. He closes his eyes and rubs them furiously, but those skeletal winged horses won’t fly away, that poison bottle won’t vanish into memory. Theodore feels haunted; as if his mother’s ghost is tailing him...can he really smell tangerine perfume in the cold air? Why do the Thestrals choose to haunt him, and no other? He knows, from childhood, that Thestrals are a death omen. Is he about to die? He can’t stop himself, powering towards the forest with a thudding heartbeat and a drifting mind...

...eyes still shut; she can feel the wind lifting tendrils of her hair, whispering in her ears. The absence of her mother is even more powerful here. Luna noticed now; her father had lost herself, and she had lost herself too, somewhere in the grief that had been hidden for so long. Side by side with a photograph of her mother and the mirror, she’d seen the differences for the first time. Nine years old with, Luna looked like a happy child, with her mother’s arm draped protectively around her shoulders. She might have been a carbon copy of Ariel. They had the same straggly hair, the same wide, blue eyes, although Luna’s vacant smile was more a mark of Xenophilius. These days Luna was ghostly pale, all eyes in her white face. Life had gone into reverse. She’d had friends before and now there wasn’t even the DA to look forward to anymore...

...crashing through the forest, he feels branches snatch at his face, turning his skin raw and red. He has to run. It feels like he’s pursued by his mother’s ghost, calling after him. He remembers it all now. How could he ever have forgotten? Childhood lullabies, a warm hand in his, his father’s gruff voice, calling out for his mother. Cassie. That was their nickname for her, she’d been Cassandra Nott, and she’d been killed for getting cold feet. 

Theodore feels her chasing him into the forest, her dead eyes screaming vengeance. He almost wishes he hadn’t questioned his father’s lies, because now he has to run before he loses himself entirely...

...sudden rustling, heavy hoof beats. Luna’s eyes snap open to see the Thestrals chasing away, disappearing through the thick forest. She wants to shout after them, bewildered at the sudden departure, but then she hears the footsteps behind her. Turning, she sees the dark form of a sixth-year Slytherin break through the foliage, and she doesn’t know his name but the fury that builds within her isn’t discriminating, this boy drove the Thestrals away...

...from her, they’re running off into the distance, but he doesn’t notice the frowning girl...(what was her name? Loony?)because his eyes are fixed on the running, skeletal horses, beating their wings and taking flight, leaving the earth and fleeing for the skies...

...all his fault. The Thestrals are hers, and he made them leave. But then she sees his eyes, following the creatures as they take off in flight, and she realises that he...

...can see them too. Is he really not the only one? This girl is watching too, the barefoot lunatic from the year below with dirty hair and a necklace made of Butterbeer corks. Has she lost...

...someone too? Luna doesn’t know this boy, but he’s seen death...

....just like him. She must have seen death too. He’s not the only... There’s at least one more now. Her and Harry and this boy, they’ve all... horrors in their past. Her and Saint Potter and Longbottom. Well, at least they’re all mad...

...together. Not the only one. She breathes out, in relief, because she was starting to...

...think he was going mad. Imagining things.

He realises he’s been holding his breath and finally lets it go. The air fills with frenzied clouds as he pants, out of breath from the run. The Thestrals are gone now, out of sight, and the girl’s frown has gone with them. Vanished entirely. 

Of all the things to do, she’s actually smiling.

A/N This was written for blueirony's Silence is Golden challenge over on the forums. The challenge was to write a one-shot with no dialogue. I got a bit out of my comfort zone with this one D: It was a slight rush job and also an experiment, with the constant switching of POVs and the few hours I had to write it in between revision and endless piano practice. The summary may have hinted at a pairing of the two, but it's more sort of intended as an understanding, or simply just a chance meeting. Constructive critiscism is always welcome - I might revisit this one day (:
Thanks to blueirony for creating such an inspring and, well, challenging challenge (:

Usual disclaimers apply - these characters and creations belong to the fabulous J. K. Rowling.

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