Chapter 1 : naming
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She had been nine.
It had been quick. A flash of color, an intake of breath- and then no more. Just her mother lying on the ground, as if she were sleeping.
It was an accident. It seemed incredible to her that everything could suddenly be over in a second - a second separating her mother from life and death. Where had she been in between those seconds? In some sort of half-state, floating between the land of the living and the dead until another half-second passed, and then her mother crossed the River Styx.
They were very lonely, her father and her. They both missed her terribly.
What scared Luna the most was not that her mother was gone, but that she was starting to forget her. When she could remember, it was all right because it was as if she had not left. But when she forgot and the pictures grew blurry in her head, she panicked. What if she lost her forever?
Luna was afraid of forgetting. There was so much in the world, thousands and millions and billions of things and there was no way that she could know them all. She was an insignificant dot in a great landscape, and she was terrified of becoming lost.
All things deserved a name. All things deserved a name, to be remembered, to be told, yes, I know you; you are important.
Her mother’s name was Delphine.
So Luna and her father looked for ways to remember her. They made her favourite meals, they sang her favorite songs, and they thought about her, the name Delphine always on their lips. Delphine, Delphine.
And most of all, they remembered her research.
It had been so important to her, the things that she and Luna’s father had been working on together, trying to put together the puzzles of the universe. It had been one of the reasons for her living; it had been the reason for her death.
It had been her mother who had taught Luna about names. It had been her mother who had wanted to name everything, who had sat her on her knee and told her grand bedtime stories of the universe.
There’s so much out there, Luna, Delphine had said. Tons and tons. So how improbable is it that there’s some creature out there that makes you lose your train of thought? It has to happen somehow, doesn’t it? So what do you call it?
And she had begun to believe. If the world was truly so large and vast, then anything could be possible.
And she would name them all, every last one.
Not everyone in school understood that. They didn’t see the beauty in names, she realized sadly, but that was all right. Someday, they would, she hoped.
They laughed at her when she tried to explain about wrackspurts and they shook their heads about nargles and they ignored her when she spoke of heliopaths.
They couldn’t see what she could see: that there was something past what was visible, that just because something had not been found did not make it non-existent.
But she needed to believe in it, for her mother, for her father, for herself, for all the things in the universe that had yet to be discovered. She believed in each and every one of them.
The other students would laugh, would give her new names - and she smiled and brushed it off, for she didn’t mind. Names were important. She treated them as a gift.
But she didn’t like it when they said her head was in the clouds. Head separated from body, mind from heart, body disjointed from soul.
She preferred to think of herself as lives-in-the-stars, her whole self united, floating above the Earth and all its pains, past it all.
Stargirl, her mother had called her as she wove her soft bedtime stories.
She would make her home among the stars and she would float above and into the sky, all the way to where her mother was, and they would be reunited at last.
Luna believed in the impossible and absurd, but she had never before been as frightened as she was the moment she lay her eyes on the creatures standing in front of the carriages.
They were almost horses, but not quite. They were eerie, skeletal beings with fearsomely large wings and empty white eyes. They looked like phantoms, spectres come from some faraway place, some other world than Earth.
“What are those?” she breathed to the person standing next to her.
“Um, carriages?” the girl, who Luna recognized as a third year, said.
“No,” Luna said patiently, “I mean, what’s pulling the carriage?”
“Nothing,” the girl said slowly, looking as if she feared for Luna’s sanity. “There’s nothing there.”
Her response shriveled on her tongue, retreating back down her throat. The girl quickly escaped, walking away from her as quickly as she could.
But there was something there, Luna was certain. There was something pulling the carriage.
If it existed, there must be a name for it. So Luna searched, though to no avail.
So she went home for Christmas, being pulled to the train by a creature that did not exist and yet did at the same time.
She pulled out all of her mother’s books and notes and began to pore through them, examining each scribbled margin note, treasuring the beauty of her mother’s messy handwriting, a small piece of her still left behind.
It was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that Luna found her answer.
Thestrals, the page called them, only visible to those who had witnessed death.
They filled her mind for the rest of the holidays, visions of the harbingers of bad luck, mysterious, otherworldly creatures that existed invisible to most.
The embodiment of death. It scared her, more than anything else. She thought all magical creatures were wondrous, but thestrals were something different.
Luna was afraid of death. She was afraid of losing her father and she was afraid of forgetting her mother and she was afraid that one day everything she had would be gone, taken away from her.
She dreaded going back to Hogwarts if for the reason that she didn’t want to see them again.
Yet it was unavoidable, so Luna found herself stepping off of the train with trepidation, not sure how she would feel when she made it to the carriages.
There they were again, a horde of thestrals each connected to a carriage, pawing angrily at the ground, jostling about. All the other students’ eyes slid right over them, making Luna feel as if she was visiting the Leaky Cauldron for the first time, seeing something that no one around her could.
She climbed alone into the last carriage, studying the creature in front of her. It was strong, powerful, and intimidating. It did not look back, just pulling her forward resolutely.
She was alone in the carriage; this much she didn’t mind. It was peaceful, silent but for the sounds of her own breathing and that of the creature in front of her. Luna liked hearing the rhythms of their breathing combine, slow and steady, continuing on at an even pace.
This was the embodiment of bad luck, Fantastic Beasts had said. But as Luna continued to study it, the thestral didn’t seem so fearsome or unlucky.
Its appearance had been jarring at first: bones showing through, thin webbed wings with veins prominently running through. It looked terrifying.
But as she watched it pull her carriage, she admired the way you could see the muscles pulling and working, the way its heart beat steadily, the blood pulsing through the body. It hid nothing: it seemed to be laying itself bare before her.
When the carriage ride ended, and they stopped in front of the castle, Luna wasn’t quite ready to head inside yet. She had been the last to arrive; it was easy to hang back as the other students moved forward, talking amongst themselves.
Instead of following them, she took a hesitant step forwards towards the thestral still attached to her carriage. It had paused and now seemed to be resting, as were all the other ones around it.
Luna was frightened for a moment as she looked around her and saw the number of creatures that surrounded her, black wings flapping irregularly, sharp teeth showing. There was an enormous amount of them, a whole herd - and yet no one else had seemed to notice them. They were invisible.
Invisible to everyone but her.
Suddenly, the fright was replaced by compassion, and she took another step forwards. They were unknown, unnoticed. And yet they still lived on.
Someone ought to notice them, she thought.
“Hello,” Luna whispered, testing out the sound of her voice. “Hello, I’m Luna.”
Naturally, none of the thestrals spoke back, but she continued anyways. “Hello,” she said again, and she hesitantly put her hand out towards the neck of the thestral nearest to her. “May I?”
She knew the thestral couldn’t answer her verbally, but she still waited patiently.
It slowly moved its head and stared at her unblinkingly. She stared back, not moving, just looking into its black eyes. Its eyes felt surprisingly warm, despite the color. Instead of absent and vacant, they felt full.
“May I?” she said softly once more.
One more moment, a pause - and then it neighed softly. “Thank you,” Luna said, taking it as a sign of agreement, and she reached out and stroked its neck.
The thestral’s skin was surprisingly soft and smooth; her hand glided over it easily. It neighed once more under her touch.
It struck her how strange it must seem to anyone else who might have happened to look in - Luna, standing there in the middle of all the carriages, petting the air, and she laughed once, a bright, happy sound escaping her lips.
They weren’t as scary as she thought. Just lonely looking. Solitary.
She would be lonely too, if no one could see her.
And sometimes, Luna felt as if no one could.
“Hello,” she said once more, a large smile finding its way to her face. “I wonder what your name is,” she hummed. “Are you a boy?”
The thestral snorted loudly, pawing the grass underneath its hooves a bit.
“Excuse me,” she corrected herself. “I didn’t think so, you see, I was just checking.”
It neighed a bit softer, seeming to accept her apology.
“Do thestrals have names?” Luna wondered out loud.
“No, they don’t,” a gruff voice said, coming from behind her, and Luna turned in surprise.
Hagrid stood behind her. “And what are yeh doin’ here?”
She recognized him, though she didn’t know him very well. Hagrid was hard to miss. Her best memories of him were from first year, that gruff voice leading her and the others across a lantern-lit lake towards a castle of wonder.
“I came to look at the thestrals,” she said simply. “Do they have names?”
He raised his bushy eyebrows. “Nah,” he said.
“Could I name them?”
“If yeh want, I guess,” he shrugged. “But yeh should really be in the castle now.”
She hummed. “Let’s see,” she said to the thestral who pulled her carriage. “I think your name is Delphine.”
The name Delphine seemed to hang in the air for a moment, suspended.
Then the thestral - Delphine - made a noise of agreement and Luna felt the name float up, up into the air, all the way into space, dancing among the stars.
“Best get yeh back,” Hagrid said, and she let him lead her up to the castle to the feast.
Luna gave a glancing look over her shoulders as she walked up the hill, the sight of a herd of Death below her, looking upon her as if they were old friends.
She returned for her seventh year. Much had changed.
Now Luna was far from the only one who could see the carriage-pulling thestrals. Death had surrounded all of them the previous year.
She no longer sat alone in the carriage, but when they arrived, she still held back, waiting for the crowd to disperse.
And once again, as had become her tradition, she stood amongst the thestrals.
But this time, when she went up to each creature, as she stroked its neck, she softly whispered a name into their ears.
Colin, she called one. Then: Fred. Demelza. Abigail. Mandy. Fergus.
And as she spoke, she gathered each name into her heart, and she kept it there, as she would until the day when it too was her day to dance among the stars.
A/N: -sticks head in- erm... hi? I'm alive? This is the first thing I've posted in a while, so I suppose I'm a bit nervous as this is a bit weird, but I actually finished writing this up sometime in August and it's been floating around in my head for a while. basically, if you're reading this, I love you, yay!