He couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t drawn to her – her wisdom, her self-assurance, her courage which always seemed to outweigh his own. Her way of pointing out truths others shied away from or simply didn’t pick up on. It seemed not a day went by with Luna that she didn’t astound him with her insight, delivered in that matter-of-fact, absent-minded way of hers, as if there was nothing unusual about her observations. She was like a Seer, Neville thought. Except she didn’t see into the future, she saw into the soul of anyone she met.
It kept him constantly in awe of her. Seven years after they met, five years after the Battle of Hogwarts and he’d confessed his feelings for her, she still found ways of suprising him, making him wonder how she was even real. Childlike in her innocence, elderly in her understanding. She skipped through the park after butterflies by day and curled up in front of the fire, blanket on her knees, by night. At twenty-two, she was ageless and eternal.
Five years they had been together. Five years of walks through this park on Thursday afternoons, five years of tea in front of the fire in their little cottage, five years of burnt toast, feeding the cat, wilderness expeditions with Mr Lovegood, vanishing crosswords in the Quibbler, picnics in the back garden, of her smile giving wings to his soul.
It was the first Thursday he’d walked through the park without her. Her absence pressed in on him, loud, intrusive, demanding his attention in a way her presence never had; the sound of just his footsteps on the crunchy leaves underfoot seeming twice as loud as them both together.
With the clarity of hindsight, he knew now how he couldn’t have kept her. She was like the wind – not a wild wind, just a gentle breeze that you barely noticed except for its gentle caress against your skin. She spoke in whispers and danced through the treetops, and while she was there she was beauty, tranquility, life. But you couldn’t keep the wind. She would move on, despite your entreaties for her to stay.
A week ago, this park was alive with autumn – the carpet of reds and yellows formed by the falling leaves, the branches of the strees on fire with colour. Now, winter had descended and stark trees stretched out with bare fingers to the grey sky. The air was still, as if already frozen in ice. Back home, the cat was curled up on Luna’s blanket in front of the fire – she hadn’t had the heart to take it from him.
He wanted to be angry at her. He wanted to feel the sharp, bitter pain of her leaving. He wanted to yell, punch walls, burn at least one picture of them together. But acceptance, weighed down with grief, settled down around him. She was never going to stay forever, and that simple fact sapped his anger and bitterness. He was left to wander, alone, through the park, as she slowly made her transition from his life to his memories.
She had met Rolf Scamander six weeks ago, and Neville realised that was when he had lost her. He remembered how her eyes lit up when she talked to him, arms waving in wild gestures as they discussed rare magical creatures. Rolf offered her a life of discovery; Neville, with his new job at Hogwarts, offered her stability.
Discovery won. Discovery would always win with Luna. As serene as she appeared, a passion for exploration burned, white-hot, inside her. Neville wouldn’t hold her back from that.
He had let her go, fighting with every word he spoke not to snatch her back into his arms before she could drift too far away from him. And then the door had swung shut behind her, blocking out the late afternoon sun, and he’d been left alone.
He stopped beneath the tree where they had shared their first kiss, up into the branches where they used to sit for hours, and the trunk where he had carved their initials one summer evening two years ago.
NL + LL Forever.
He drew his wand from his pocket, taking his cues from her as he replaced the words.
NL + LL. Only for a short time, but that’s okay.
He replaced his wand and turned his back on the tree, surveying the park. It was pretty, but it was theirs. And there was no more them.
He smiled to himself. The afternoon was young yet, and there was a new subspecies of moondew west of Hogsmeade that was calling his name.
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