Chapter 1 : Words of Advice
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~Words of Advice~
Diagon Alley had changed little since Harry had first seen it. It had probably changed little since it had first been built. Frozen in time, you might think, with its crooked, leaning buildings that seemed to jostle for space in the slanting streets, uneven cobblestones that were easily tripped over, and weathered, painted shop fronts. Nothing like the shiny glass, smooth plastic and dazzling neon of the London just on the other side of the pub that also doubled as an entrance. Looking around, it was impossible to tell that just four years ago most of the shops had been abandoned, roofs fallen in, windows shattered, some nothing but rubble.
The Great War had left an indelible mark on the Wizarding World, an unseen counterpart to the jagged, lightening shaped scar that cut across Harry’s forehead. Yet somehow Diagon Alley had managed to move on in a way that nowhere and no one else had, rebuilding what had been destroyed and resuming the hustle and bustle of everyday trading as if there had been no interruption. If it wasn’t for the haunted look that sometimes appeared in Ollivander’s eyes, the tight grip mothers held on their children, and the single, redheaded figure that ran the gaudily painted joke shop, Harry might not have known that this had once been a scene of violence.
Hands shoved deep into his pockets, he looked around with affection, at the stacks of cauldrons outside Potage’s, and the trays of beetle eyes, husks and other potion ingredients, just small samples of what the Apothecary stocked. There was Florean Fortescue’s, where he had spent hot summer days finishing off school essays or spending time with Ron and Hermione. Quality Quidditch Supplies, where he had first seen his Firebolt. And, there, Eeylops’ Owl Emporium; the glittering, intelligent eyes watching him from the windows always made him think of Hedwig, with a painful stab of loss.
It had all been so strange the first time he had been here. Walking with Hagrid to the towering, white Gringotts had been like something straight out of a fairy story. He remembered wondering if it was simply his eleven year old imagination providing an escape from his awful life, and if he would wake up to find it had all been a wonderful dream. Now it was as normal to him as walking through Trafalgar Square.
People looked at him as he passed, did double-takes, pointed him out to their family and friends with awed whispers. Not as much as they had in the first couple of years after the war, but enough to still make Harry feel awkward. He nodded, gave embarrassed smiles, then pulled the collar of his coat up and tried to keep his head down.
Much as the idea discomfited him, he knew he would always be a little bit famous. Surviving the killing curse as a baby, acting as a figurehead to a rebellion against the greatest Dark Wizard to have ever lived and then defeating that wizard in battle meant he was doomed to immortalisation in history books. But Hermione assured him that, in time, the awe that surrounded him would fade.
“One day,” she said, “you’ll be able to walk down a street without people pointing and staring at you.”
As far as Harry was concerned, that day could not come fast enough.
It was a relief to reach the shop he had come to visit. Snugly fit between Obscurus Books and Sugarplum’s Sweets, it was small and out-of-the-way, and could easily have been bypassed if he hadn’t been looking for it. The outside was painted a dark crimson, and graceful gold lettering announced it as Charmed Curiosities. Various, strange objects and instruments filled its window display.
Harry opened the door and slipped inside, setting off a small silver bell that announced his arrival with a light chime. The shop was deceptively larger than its outside let out - no doubt thanks to a little fancy wandwork. It was a large, rounded rectangle in shape, shelves and stands placed throughout holding more instruments like the ones displayed in the window. There was also a large selection of books, and even a few animals; owls, cats and even a couple of toads turned their eyes towards him as he walked in.
A low counter protruded from one side, behind which the single shop attendant rung up a purchase by the shops only two other customers; a older woman whose auburn hair was streaked with grey, and whose cloak was made from large patchwork squares, and a small boy who clung to her, looking around the shop with wide blue eyes.
Those eyes fixed on Harry as he walked quietly towards the counter and became, if possible, even wider.
“Ma,” he whispered, tugging on the woman’s cloak, “Ma ...”
“In a minute, Eadric,” the woman replied impatiently, waving the boy away. She had paused in the middle of counting out a number of sickles and now hesitated, shook her head and started again.
The boy was persistent, though. “But Ma!”
“It’s Harry Potter.” He said Harry’s name in a hushed, reverential whisper.
The woman now looked around, puzzled. When her own eyes fell on Harry she gasped, and a couple of sickles fell from her hand to the counter where they lay, forgotten. Harry shuffled uncomfortably under their awed gaze, but was saved by the shop assistant.
“So it is,” she said dreamily, unfazed by him as ever. With a smile she picked up the forgotten coins and pressed them into the woman’s hand, who looked at them as if from afar for a moment before starting to count them again. Harry mouthed a quiet thank you to the assistant, who twinkled gently back at him.
Luna had not changed very much in the years since their time at Hogwarts. She still wore radishes for earrings, and kept her wand tucked behind one ear. Her silvery grey eyes still seemed to see beyond what everyone else could see. There still seemed to be a small, secretive smile playing at the corner of her mouth.
At the same time, however, she was very different. Though she was still small of stature, her figure had filled out into that of a woman’s, developing curves it was hard not to notice. Her face had lost its childishness, her cheekbones becoming more defined, the line of her neck more pronounced. Her curls were a clearer, brighter blonde. Simply put, she had grown, losing the awkwardness of youth and gaining a grace and elegance of adulthood that made her natural beauty - which Harry had never really seen when they were younger - more evident.
To Luna, Harry had also both changed and not changed since the war. He was taller than he had been at seventeen, probably brushing six feet, if not over, but his slim frame was corded with a lean muscle that made him seem well built, rather than gangling or lanky. His black hair had grown out a little, though not enough to cover the lightning-bolt scar, but was still as unruly as it had ever been. And he still had that modest kindness in his smile, and the unassuming air to his walk.
What pained her, though, was to see the cares that had begun to press down on his shoulders once again, especially after seeing him living with a new lightness for the last four years. She wanted nothing more than to wish away the lines of worry that she could see were beginning to appear.
She waited until the patchwork-cloaked woman and her son had left the shop, another chime of the bell announcing their departure, before looking towards Harry, smiling.
“Hello Harry,” she said, leaning forward with her arms on the counter. “I didn’t know you were coming to see me.”
“Neither did I,” he admitted.
She shrugged. “Then it’s a nice surprise for both of us.”
He had never been able to put into words how much Luna’s simple, unconditional acceptance of him meant. During their time at Hogwarts, as Voldemort’s shadow slowly closed in on them all, she had been more of a support and comfort to him than almost anyone else. In the years since, she had continued to be so. She was always pleased to see him. Not the Chosen One, or the Boy Who Lived, but him. Harry. No one else, except Ron and Hermione - and perhaps Dudley, but given his almost total ignorance of the wizarding world Harry wasn’t really sure he counted - made him feel that way. Even Ginny ...
To finish that thought felt treacherous and Harry felt a stab of guilt. He loved Ginny, and he knew that Ginny loved him. But sometimes, when she looked at him, he felt like she wasn’t seeing him so much as the idea she had of him.
“How are you?” Luna asked, moving to straighten up a display on the counter.
“Oh, I’m alright,” Harry tried to answer breezily, but even to his ears it sounded false. He crossed to a nearby stand and started intently examining a revolving gold model of the solar system. “Same as ever, really.”
There was a pause, and when he looked up he saw Luna’s eyes set on him with characteristic directness.
“You had another fight with Ginny.”
It was a statement, not a question, delivered with Luna’s usual gentle bluntness. The dreamy aura in which she lived often made him forget just how insightful she could be, how she had a knack for stating uncomfortable truths. Feeling somehow as if he owed her an answer, Harry slowly nodded.
For a few moments they held each others’ gazes, Luna not asking any questions and Harry not volunteering any information.
Then Luna smiled and moved out from behind the counter. She walked across the room to a small door Harry hadn’t noticed in one corner, between two of the shelving units built into the walls. Pushing it open, she looked back to Harry. “I think I’ll put some tea on. Would you like some?”
A grateful smile broke across his face, and he nodded.
He followed her into what looked like a small living room, with squashy armchairs set around a small coffee table. A teapot and cups were already set out on the table. Reaching up to behind her ear, Luna pulled free her wand and with a wave set the teapot to heating. Forming a display on one wall, Harry noticed, were various maps of Europe and the British Isles. Little coloured pins had been stuck over certain place and, as Harry concentrated on one of them, the map zoomed in to a birds’-eye view of the marked spot, a list of the rare creatures native to it appearing to one side.
“Are these the plans for your next expedition?” he asked Luna.
About two years after she had left Hogwarts, Luna had set off to explore the country and document all the rare magical creatures she and her father were both so fascinated by. She had been gone for just over six months before returning, frustrated because although her time away had been ‘wonderfully interesting’ she had not managed to document nearly enough creatures to publish anything. Not that that had been the point of her travels, she always hastened to assure people, but she did think some of her findings could be useful for other wizards.
Unfortunately, she had not been able to return to her travels since. After his printing press had been destroyed in the war, Luna’s father, Xenophilius, had invested nearly all of his money in rebuilding the Quibbler (not to mention his house), and as a result had barely been able to support his daughter when she left school. For the two years before she left Luna had worked hard, scrimping and saving, just to be able to travel for those six months. She was now working herself to the bone once again to finance another, longer and hopefully more fruitful, expedition around the whole of Europe - perhaps further, if she could save enough.
Harry had exchanged letters with her while she was gone, but had been surprised by how much he missed talking with Luna. Despite her distinct dottiness, she had a kindness and a sweet, insightful manner he had come to rely on. More and more, she was the one he was turning to for advice, and he knew he was going to miss her even more when she went away again.
“Yes,” she said, coming up beside him and looking at the maps. “I’ve saved enough to buy some new equipment. And the Quibbler’s making a small profit now, so Dad was able to offer me a little. In another few months I should be able to go.”
“That’s good. Will you still be looking for a ... whatsit, a Crumple Horned Snorkack?”
That secretive little smile flitted briefly over Luna’s face. “That would be the big prize, yes.”
Something about the tone of her voice made Harry think her words held some deeper, hidden meaning, and, once again, for a brief moment he glimpsed the sharp intelligence that lurked behind Luna’s absent-minded air. Before he could ask, though, she had turned away, moving back over to the chairs in her dreamlike way. She hummed quietly to herself as she lifted the teapot and poured out two cups.
Harry slowly walked back to join her, settling himself in one of the armchairs. Luna sat in the chair opposite, and pushed one of the teacups towards him.
“Mum always said there was no problem so great it couldn’t be solved by a cup of tea,” she said with a smile, stirring her tea with her wand.
Though she had told him a little about how she had died, Luna had never really spoken to Harry about her mother. He had seen one picture of her, when he had visited Xenophilius during the war to ask about the symbol he wore around his neck, and knew that Luna looked very much like her, though she had her father’s grey eyes rather than her mother’s blue ones. He felt abruptly ashamed for never asking about her.
“What was she like?” he asked now.
Luna was quiet for a moment before answering. “Very brilliant. And very kind. But she did tend to forget things. Dad used to say that her mind was so full of the big things that she didn’t have any room for the little things. It’s funny though,” she added, suddenly setting her cup down, her lips curving into a fond smile. “It’s only the small things I remember about her. The smell of her perfume, how she felt when she hugged me.”
Yes, Harry privately thought, he could see Luna carefully remembering all her mother’s little habits. It would be easy to say that her mind was so busy thinking about big, important things, like whether or not Crumple Horned Snorkacks were real, or if her friends’ relationship was in trouble, that the little, mundane details that everyone else focused on seemed to slide off her. But that would be doing her an injustice, Harry couldn’t help thinking. Even if Luna missed little things about the world, she still noticed little things about people. It was why she had still been able to recognise him at Bill and Fleur’s wedding even when he had used Polyjuice Potion to disguise himself.
Still, it could be easy to forget. Especially when she wore the dreamy look that was fixed on her face just now.
“This was hers.” She was holding out her wrist, so he could see the cluttered charm bracelet she wore. It bore a myriad charms, so many it was difficult to make out what each individual one was - though he was fairly certain one was an enamel radish, and another was a bronzed bottle top. One gold, oval charm, he saw now, was engraved with the letters ‘E. L.’.
“Are those her initials?”
Luna nodded. “Yes. Eviana Lovegood. It was a wedding present. Dad gave it to me when she died.”
“I envy you, you know,” Harry said. She looked at him questioningly. “I’ve seen memories of my parents, and I sort of spoke to them with priori incantatem. But ... I don’t remember them. I don’t know any of the little things.”
“But you still miss them very much.”
Harry nodded, looking down at his hands. It felt a little embarrassing to be displaying his emotions so openly, but somehow he found he couldn’t hide anything from Luna.
“Maybe you don’t know the little things. But you know the important things.” He looked up to meet her clear grey eyes, a slight, questioning frown curving his mouth. “You know they were good people, and that they loved you. And that there’s a part of them that’s still with you.”
She spoke with surprising directness, rather than the words sounding as if they were a half-formed thought in her usual manner. The truth of them was soothing, like the warmth of a blanket on a cold night.
This, he realised, was why he had come to see Luna, without really planning to. He could talk freely to her, tell her his innermost thoughts, feelings and worries without fear of judgement or recrimination. Her gentle words of wisdom always comforted and cheered him, and when he saw Luna he always came away feeling somehow lighter. More at ease with the world and himself.
“Thank you, Luna.”
She only smiled, lifting her tea back to her lips.
A part of him wondered uneasily if he should be worried that he found it easier to talk to Luna than his girlfriend, but he shrugged it off. One of his other best friends was also a woman, and he talked to Hermione about plenty he didn’t always speak to Ginny about. They just had a different sort of relationship. It was nothing for him to worry about, as long as he knew he loved Ginny.
Of course, it would be easier not to worry if he and Ginny hadn’t been fighting. That, really, was why he was here. Trying to clear his head from the shouting match he had ended up having with his girlfriend.
“I wasn’t planning to come here,” he started speaking his thoughts out loud. Luna didn’t say anything, just calmly sipped her tea. “I was just going for a walk ... to try and calm down.”
And, without any clear intention, he had come straight to Luna’s shop. Some subconscious part of his mind had lead him here.
“I wanted to be alone.”
Luna smiled. “You can be alone with me.”
It was true; she was no intrusion on his thoughts. That was one of the reasons he enjoyed her company so much. They could talk for hours, laugh and share their thoughts, or they could sit in peaceful, companionable silence, being alone together. Exploring his mind, Harry found that he wanted to talk to her, to tell about the fighting and hear those sage words that would somehow make things clearer for him.
“Ginny ...” he hesitated, feeling as though he was betraying his girlfriend somehow, but needing to talk to someone. “Ginny was pressuring me to move back into the Burrow. And I ... just can’t.” He shook his head. “The Weasleys are like family to me, but ...”
“It’s their home, not yours,” Luna gently finished for him.
“Yes. I feel like a guest when I’m there, like I’m invading their space. I wanted to start on my own, make my own life. Grimmauld Place is too dark, too full of memories. I needed somewhere new. And part of me has always been drawn to Godric’s Hollow. I suppose it’s not exactly new, but it felt right.” He spread his hands.
Luna had drawn her knees up to her chin, resting her cheek on her arms while she listened. “If it were me,” she said now, “It would feel like coming full circle. That if you can live happily in Godric’s Hollow then the war’s really over, and you could move on with your life. And it would feel like a connection with your parents. It was the first place you were loved, so it would make sense that you wanted to make it home.”
He nodded, wishing he could put his feelings into words as easily as she had. He never failed to be surprised by the way Luna always seemed to understand, effortlessly, even when he wasn’t sure himself what he was saying. Or how, even if she didn’t understand, she still listened. The only other person who he had ever been able to talk to like that was Sirius.
“It feels like home, in a way that only Hogwarts has ever done before,” Harry admitted. “Ginny doesn’t understand that. She thinks it’s too far away. She just kept pushing and pushing for me to move back, even back to London, and I just snapped.”
“What did you say?”
“I started shouting about how I couldn’t see why the distance mattered, since she’s away more than the half the time with the Harpies. Even if I was in London, it wouldn’t mean we’d see each other anymore often. About how she expects me to make all sorts of sacrifices for her, but she can’t even put aside a whole day for me. All this resentment that’s been building up just came pouring out and I couldn’t stop it. Then she started screaming at me.” He winced at the memory of her red, furious face, her temper far too much like her mother’s for an easy life, “She said I was pulling away, that I don’t talk to her. That I’m a hypocrite and prioritise my job as an auror over her. That I don’t care about what she wants.”
Luna was quiet for a long moment, then asked simply, “Is she right?”
He hesitated. “It’s not ... as simple as that. I try to talk to her, but she’s not interested in anything beyond every-day, trivial things. She’d rather ... er ...”
Feeling suddenly awkward, he trailed off. Luna, as always, was able to finish his thought. “Snog you?”
Wondering if he was imagining the strangeness in Luna’s voice, he nodded, cheeks flushed scarlet with embarrassment. “Er, yeah. And my job’s not easy either,” he hastily changed the subject, “I’m an auror. If I don’t do my job, people could get hurt. I can’t just ignore that.”
“But if you’re always at your job, then it’s Ginny who’s hurt.”
“Exactly.” Harry sat back in his seat, exhausted just from baring his feelings.
Luna wasn’t done with her questioning, however. “Do you think you are pulling away?”
That was a harder question to answer. He thought for a few minutes before slowly shaking his head and answering, “I don’t think so. At least, not deliberately. She ... suggested moving in together, and I said no. I think that she believes I’m not sure about the relationship, but it’s not that. I just don’t think we’re ready for that.”
Nothing more to say, he lapsed into silence. He watched Luna twirling the hem of her skirt between her fingers for a while, as she gazed thoughtfully off into the distance. One stray, blonde curl had fallen across her forehead to rest on her cheekbone. Harry felt the strangest itching in his fingers to brush it back. After a time Luna looked back up at him.
“I think, if I were Ginny, that all the time away would be getting to me as well. I think I’d be afraid that absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, and I’d want to ... to ‘be’ with you as much as possible when I was around to make up for it. I’d try to find ways of bringing us closer.”
“Like asking to move in,” Harry realised.
Luna nodded solemnly. “Or asking you to move back to the place she feels most connected to.”
Speechless, Harry ran a hand through his hair. He wondered why he had never seen it like this before. Luna had such a gift for slipping into other people’s skins, and understand what they were feeling, while he was as dense as two short planks. It was why he valued her advice so much; she had a way of redefining the problem, and showing him how to solve it without patronising or criticising him.
“I can understand why she’d be afraid.” He looked back up to Luna, and was surprised to see faint spots of pink colouring her cheeks. “You’re a lot to lose, Harry.”
For a moment they looked at each other in silence, gazes locked. Harry wondered if he was imagining the embarrassed fear in Luna’s eyes, and the faint fluttering just beneath his ribcage. He moved his mouth, but no sound came out. He didn’t know what to say.
It turned out he didn’t have to say anything. The next moment Luna had turned back to the teapot and was refilling both their cup, complete with dreamy smile, as if nothing had happened. Harry sat back in his chair, still feeling his head reel a little. He told him he was reading far too much into Luna’s last comment, that she was just trying to reassure a good friend.
“Thanks, Luna,” he said finally, fingers just brushing hers as he reached to take his cup back from her.
“You’re welcome, Harry,” she replied, but wouldn’t meet his eyes.
Luna couldn’t believe she had almost given herself away. The words had slipped so easily from her tongue, without her even really meaning to say them. For the briefest of moments she thought she had seen a flicker of uncertainty in his pure green eyes, but it was probably her imagination. She had managed to cover her near-slip easily enough, and Harry seemed happy to turn their talk to more mundane matters. She forced a smile, easily lapsing into conversation about Ron and Hermione’s wedding preparations, Harry’s work at the ministry, and her plans for her expedition. The thought remained in the back of her mind, though: what would he have said? What would happen if she could find the courage to tell him?
She never would tell him, though. That was something she had realised a long time ago.
And if anyone had ever thought to ask her, she would have lied.
Finally Harry caught sight of the clock on the wall and set down his empty cup. “I’d better be going. And I’d imagine you need to get back to your shop.”
“Oh, we don’t get very many customers,” Luna airily waved away his concerns. “But it’s alright if you need to go.”
Something in Harry’s shoulders relaxed and he nodded, getting to his feet. Luna waited patiently while he shrugged his coat on, then walked with him back through the shop to the door. At the threshold they turned to say goodbye. Harry opened his mouth as though he might speak, then stopped and, seemingly on impulse, pulled Luna into a hug. She stiffened in his arms for a moment, then relaxed and slid her arms around his back. Dully she noted the sudden, rapid beating of her heart, and tried valiantly to ignore the way her head fit so perfectly into the curve of Harry’s shoulder.
The embrace did not last long enough for her, and as they broke apart she struggled to find her smile.
“That was nice, Harry.”
“I just ... wanted to say thank you.” He shrugged, seeming embarrassed. “For always being there.”
Luna tilted her head to one side. “Where else would I be?”
A smile broke out over Harry’s face. It was the first one she had seen all day that hadn’t had a strain of worry to it, and it made her smile to see it. “I’m glad to have you as a friend, Lu. You know ... I’ll always be there for you, too. If you ever need someone to talk to.”
“That’s kind of you, Harry. Thank you.”
He nodded, sliding his hands into his pockets. “I’ll be off then ... I’ll see you soon, Lu.”
With a smile he left the shop, the silver bell above the door chiming again to announce his leaving. Wrapping her arms around herself, Luna watched the man she had loved for years disappear into the crowds of Diagon Alley, and wondered if he had any idea at all that her heart had followed him out the door.
A.N. I'm a big fan of Harry/Luna as a pairing, and this is an idea that's been kicking around in my mind for a while and I finally got around to writing. I'd love to get your opinions on it (and please tell me if you spot any typos! I think I've got them all but I usually miss a couple ...). If there's enough interest, I've been wondering about turning into a longer story about Harry and Luna. So please do R&R.