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To Drift As We Do
The first time they had spoken, it had been by the ocean.
Luna had a certain affinity for the water; its calmness, and the easy way its filmy rhythm had lapsed across the sand reminded him every bit of her.
Dean hadn’t known her. Not really, not much, and never enough. Perhaps they’d brushed each other past some crowded hallway some forgotten day in the past. Perhaps she’d sat near him in a Quidditch match. Perhaps her eyes had lingered on him for one second – one insignificant heartbeat of time – when she’d seen him. And then she’d moved on, looked away, and let go with the simple grace that one stranger awarded another.
It hadn’t mattered.
Maybe it still didn’t.
Perhaps they’d been around each other for the years they’d spent at Hogwarts and never just seen. Never just turned around or waited or looked hard enough. Perhaps if he hadn’t swerved to the left some odd day by a Potions Dungeon, he’d have hit her and she’d have spilled her papers over his feet and it would’ve played out like a novel.
One step to the left or one look away or one moment where Luna didn’t and Dean didn’t and so they didn’t become.
They’d grown up never noticing.
When they did meet, it was in a dungeon and not at all as metaphorical as he supposed she would have liked.
They spoke by the sea in Tinsworth. She had a softer, sweeter voice than he’d presumed and stardust in her eyes. The nights in the dungeon had given her a parched rasp like a cut of the wind, but in reality, she sounded like silence. Well-worn and experienced and brimming with wonderment.
Their first conversation hadn’t been very poetic at all. The ocean threw salt into the air and she looked at the driftwood that had come awash.
He cleared his throat and said, “There’s a lot of this stuff here. Beach’s filled with it.”
And she nodded in her earnest little way before saying wistfully, “Oh I do wish there were more of it.”
He let there be some silence after her pronouncement. She really was as odd as he’d first assumed she’d be.
“Why? It’s just rubbish.”
“It might be to you.” She touched a fallen log and smiled in her complacent way. “I think it’s rather lovely.”
Lovely rubbish. Now there was a thought.
She strolled past him airily. She looked alone even when beside him. But she smiled all the same for him and that meant something, even then. “It reminds me of something. Something like – like – there is a word for it, but I don’t – ”
He had known. Her manner was full of it.
And that had been all. The air and the wood and their shadows, black as a string, playing out on the clean shores of a memory.
After that were only a few peaceable nights of waves and scattered musings on an empty beach. He’d shivered as they walked and the slandering light of the nearby cottage was a promising sight.
But she liked the night.
“Quiet, isn’t it?” she’d always say.
“I suppose so.”
He almost expected her to say something ridiculous next. Sometime she indulged him. Once, she pointed at tiny balls of light hovering over the driftwood.
“The Wrackspurts must be breeding at this time of year, don’t you think?”
They were fireflies orbiting the wood, but he had the common sense not to say as much.
If it sounded disheartened, she never told him as much. She only gave him her clear, satisfied smile, before walking ahead of him. The fireflies parted as she walked past and she let him be in the solitude of the night. It might have been because she understood. He didn’t know. He’d never asked.
He’d almost lost the thing she carried in her manner until those quiet nights.
What had it been?
It had been a feeling and not a word.
It had spanned many concepts. Hope. Honesty. Truth. It was something like wanting to live.
He was all rationality and moderation with a stoic reason for existence. Dean had family and friends and he lived life in a familiar and conventional way.
Secretly, he thought that she was rather conventional too, even past the Crumpled Horned Snorkacks. She was every bit as conventional as he was because she still hoped as he still hoped.
He had known because she had stood beside him on those beach nights and had said very little. But he’d understood. Hope transcended difficulties. Faith transcended flaws. It was the beauty of believing, of trust.
Somewhere inside, he was a little bitter. It was hard not to be embittered after how long he had kept running. But he believed because he was still as human as the atmosphere of their memories.
Somewhere inside, she was at peace with her imperfection.
Their conversations were never really much past the fifteen minute strolls they allowed each other. Driftwood. Sand. Stars.
He’d mentioned his stepsisters once. She’d said something about her father in passing.
The silence was almost enough.
But the weeks together passed. The war had come and gone and had killed more than those who lay in their graves now. He fought bravely and as did she.
And time moved on.
He found his stepsisters again and moved in with them. He lost contact with Luna until Hermione told Parvati told Lavender told Seamus who told him that she’d found her father again.
He was busy. He enlisted to become a Healer and the studying was very nearly unbearable. He burned nights in sleeplessness studying and maddening himself with facts and figures, but life was fanning into blissful normality. One of his sisters got married and the family returned to its regular, happy chaos.
She was busy. She nursed her father back to health, before taking over his newspaper. The Quibbler became more popular. Occasionally, Dean rifled the pages idly, never much understanding all the things she’d written on creatures and how she planned to find them. Every page documented some future, unknown adventure. The prospect of it brought back the cool nights back into his vision and he smiled.
He slowly forgot her, though not with any intention. She receded to some background of his past as the months sprang forth.
At Seamus and Lavender’s wedding, he remembered.
Parvati sat next to him at the wedding. He was bored out of his mind, but Seamus and Lavender were grinning throughout the service.
Parvati played with a pattern on her dress smilingly. “I can’t believe that fool’s actually marrying her. It just doesn’t feel real that she’s getting married.”
“I reckon it’s too late for her to come to her senses and take a run for the hills.”
“I reckon so too. It’s a shame.” She said it fondly. It made him grin. “Remember when Seamus asked her to the Yule Ball? She was so excited, the ninny.”
“’Course I do. He’d practiced asking her on me.”
“Really? How was that?”
“Bloody awkward. I kept turning him down, of course.”
“Of course. You’ve got such high standards anyway.”
He smiled appreciatively and she got a nostalgic look in her eyes. “I can’t believe they’re getting married. Everything’s changing so fast and I feel like I’m just noticing it all now. My best friend is getting married. No matter how often I say it, it’ll still sound strange.”
“Everyone’s growing up.” He shrugged in his usual knowing way.
“I know, I know, and it’s stupid of me to say so, but it’s strange to watch people who were first years get so old. I mean, my sister’s working at the Ministry now. Terry Boot’s got his own Apothecary. And have you heard about Luna Lovegood?”
A scratched image flowered from the back of his mind.
“She’s leaving to Australia tomorrow on some naturalist expedition.”
Sand bars and banks of sky and driftwood.
The wanderlust girl was living her future.
He wondered vaguely for a moment precisely what she had been for him in those few days. Not quite a friend and not quite a romance.
Just a – just a –
Just a memorable phase of his life.
In that wild moment, he saw himself running after her – after a girl he barely knew but perhaps could have. Perhaps he would have looked up her information and Apparated in front of her house in rainfall. Perhaps they would have been made of certainty.
But that was not them. That was the stuff of novels. This was her. Not a friend and not a romance.
Theirs had been the interaction of two people when they had needed the company most.
To him, she had been a voice and a hope in a time of loneliness.
And that was enough.
He looked up to see Parvati giving him an expectant look.
So he smiled and said, “She’s a bit strange like that, but I reckon she’s happy wherever she is.”
When it came to it, Parvati caught the bouquet at Lavender’s wedding. He could see the disappointed expression of the other girls as the flowers landed in her open arms, but he’d known that Lavender had purposefully sent the flowers sailing at her best friend.
Parvati twirled the flowers against the sky, sending white petals into his lap.
He watched her hold them up against the coming dusk and rotate them joyously, her voice echoing all the while.
“I caught them! I caught them!”
They looked like tiny, blooming stars.
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