Chapter 12 : Chapter 12: Smile in Your Sleep
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“So you really think Snape meant to use that curse?”
“How could it have been an accident?”
“Like you said, it happened as he fell! Maybe it was just the wand movement!”
Michael groaned and opened his eyes. He was lying in a bed in what he assumed to be the hospital wing, surrounded by a number of people. He rubbed his eyes and looked down at himself. The sheet was up to his armpits, and pulling it down to his waist, he saw that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. There were two faint lines that intersected right above his naval. An orange, fading light was coming in through an open window. It seemed to be evening.
“Ah you are awake, Mr. Jacobs,” said Dumbledore, who was standing on his left along with Jeff, Sarah, and Hermione. Harry and Ron were on his other side.
“Michael!” Sarah cried, immediately being shushed by Madame Pomfrey, who had just appeared holding a bottle of red liquid. “Are you okay?” she asked, much more quietly. “What happened?”
“You know what happened,” Jeff said fiercely. “Snape tried to kill him!”
“Before we make any judgments, Mr. Allero, I’d like to know what Michael thinks,” Dumbledore said quietly. Harry crossed his arms across from Dumbledore.
“Before we do anything,” Pomfrey said shortly, “you need to take more of this, Mr. Jacobs.” She handed him the bottle. “Make sure to drink it all.”
“What is it?” Michael asked, uncorking the bottle and sniffing it. “And what do you mean more? How long have I been out?”
“It’s a Blood Replenishing Potion,” she said patiently. “And we've had to pour it down your throat for the majority of the day, since you were injured.”
Michael threw back his head and downed the potion. After all his injuries, he had gradually grown used to the taste and effects of the potion, yet it was still not a pleasant experience. It was awful, and he nearly gagged. “I've been unconscious all day?” he choked. “What happened to Snape?”
“Before we get to that,” Dumbledore said again, “I would very much like to hear your side of the story, Michael.” Pomfrey hurried away as a Seventh Year Ravenclaw stumbled in, having grown an unnaturally large amount of extra noses.
“Well, me and Snape had a bit of an argument and it turned into…” Michael trailed off, trying to remember the word he used.
“A duel?” suggested Dumbledore.
“No, I made sure that was clear. It was more of an…an angry demonstration of magical skill.”
Dumbledore smiled very slightly, but his eyes remained totally serious. “So what happened in this...demonstration then?”
“Well we were exchanging spells, and I caught him with Jelly Legs. When his legs gave out and he fell, he kind of flailed around. I guess whatever he did with his arm was the movement for the curse I got hit with.”
Dumbledore studied Michael for a moment.
“I have one more question for you Michael. This is a very serious matter, and before I ask, I think it is important you know what has happened.” He sighed deeply, looking ancient. “Everyone present knows that Professor Snape was once a Death Eater in the employ of Lord Voldemort. Because of this, and of the dark nature of the spell used, he has been taken into custody. He is currently incarcerated in a cell in Azkaban. Michael I must ask you, do you believe Professor Snape intended to use this particular spell on you?”
Michael said nothing, thinking hard. Everyone was staring at him with looks of apprehension and anticipation. He raised himself into a sitting position, causing the scars to whiten. Had Snape meant to kill him? Who had the better picture of Severus Snape – Dumbledore, who trusted him explicitly, or Harry, who seemed ready and willing to name Snape a Death Eater himself?
“No, I don’t think he meant to use that spell,” he said finally. “How exactly it happened I don’t know, but somehow I have a feeling that it was an accident.”
“But how can you be sure?” Jeff asked incredulously. “You can't read his mind, can you?”
Michael stared at him for a long moment, and Michael debated the validity of that statement. “No, you’re right Jeff. I can't read his mind. But even if he had meant to kill or maim me with that curse, why didn’t he finish me? Why would he try it surrounded by witnesses? No, too many things point to this being an accident.”
“Unless Voldemort wants you dead that badly…” Harry muttered under his breath.
Dumbledore smiled. “I quite agree with you Michael. While your injuries are most unfortunate, I do not believe they were intentional. If you could just sign a statement confirming this, I could have Severus released and back at Hogwarts within the day.”
Dumbledore handed him an official looking sheet of paper and a quill dipped in Endless Ink. Michael took it with a glance at Harry. Both he and Ron were frantically shaking their heads no.
“Out of curiosity, if Snape didn’t come back, who would be his replacement?” he asked, appearing to study the statement closely.
“Most likely the Ministry would send a replacement,” Dumbledore said thoughtfully. “Perhaps a disciple of Dolores Umbridge.”
All through last year, STRIKE had been treated to stories of Dolores Umbridge’s tyranny at Hogwarts. Michael would not allow anything similar to happen again, least of all while he was a student at the school.
“If you at all doubt Severus’ innocence, I urge you not to sign the paper,” Dumbledore told him. “Of course, without a statement from you an investigation could take weeks. But I’m sure that Rufus would be only too happy to supply us with a replacement.”
“No doubt about that at least,” Michael muttered, signing his slightly sloppy name on the dotted line at the bottom of the paper.
“Thank you very much,” Dumbledore said, taking the paper back from him and vanishing it. “I don’t know how you’re feeling but…”
“I feel fine,” Michael said immediately.
Sarah sighed. “You always feel fine. And there’s no point acting tough either, is there?” she asked Dumbledore.
“No I'm afraid not. Madame Pomfrey has dictated that you will remain here overnight at the very least. If at that point you feel up to going to class, or have other urgent business to attend to you may leave.”
Normally Michael would have argued with the old man on this, but he felt that after basically picking a fight with his Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, he should just sit back and try to enjoy the rest.
“Fine, I’ll stay,” Michael said resentfully. “But I want credit for all the classes I missed today.”
Dumbledore chuckled. “If you wish. But surely you’ve realized…I really don’t care what kind of grades you make in your subjects. I would prefer if you would refrain from becoming locked in single combat with any of my other teachers, but as far as classes go…its wholly irrelevant to your job. Which I must say, despite the excellent things I've heard about you, you could do much better at if you didn’t make a point to fight every person in Slytherin house.”
His tone was light, but his gaze felt incredibly heavy on Michael.
“It won’t happen again,” Michael promised. “I'm sorry I betrayed your trust.”
“Severus Snape has made a habit of finding out precisely what angers a person most, then acting on that discovery,” Dumbledore said. He adjusted his spectacles. “Obviously, it did not mix well with what I gather to be the rather short temper you possess. I trust you have gotten this out of your system and you will continue to aid in the school’s protection in a more discreet way.”
“Yes sir,” Michael said, feely highly embarrassed now. It had been a full year since he had been in a school. Being reprimanded by a teacher was somehow worse than being written up by the Head Auror or having General Staffon threaten to demote him.
“I do have to get going,” Dumbledore said. He smiled kindly at Michael, which Michael found made him feel better than it should. “I’ll take these papers straight to the Ministry, to Scrimgeour himself if I have to. Good day to you all.” He waved goodbye and swept out the door.
Sarah watched Dumbledore leave, then swirled around and glared down at Michael. “You fucking idiot,” she seethed. “Why in God’s name did you think that was a good idea?”
“I knew it wasn’t,” Michael said weakly. Sarah buried her face in her hands and turned away in fury. Now Hermione took her turn.
“You are the worst spy I have ever seen,” she whispered at him.
“I'm not a spy,” Michael countered defensively. He didn’t like the sound of that word.
“Well then what are you?” Hermione demanded.
“The Captain of STRIKE’s special forces,” Michael replied defiantly.
“The Captain who gets peer pressured into fighting a teacher while undercover?”
“I…wasn’t exactly promoted to Captain for my subtly,” Michael admitted, as everyone else tried not to laugh at Hermione’s remark. He rubbed the back of his neck. “It was more about my dueling skills – which you can't deny now – and the fact that our last Captain and his second and third in command were all wiped out by Voldemort.”
“That's not all you were promoted for,” Jeff said seriously. He was looking hard at Michael. “Your tactics – if not subtle – are effective. I know what you were doing,” he finished shortly.
Michael frowned at his best friend. “What was I doing?”
“You want to get noticed,” Jeff sighed. The other four were watching him, trying to figure him out. Michael's face burned.
“I'm not trying to blow our cover,” Michael snapped.
“I know,” Jeff said. “But you still wanted to be noticed. Michael…is this really that hard on you?”
Sarah’s face lit up with understanding, though the Trio remained in the dark. Michael, meanwhile, was feeling a stronger and stronger urge to punch Jeff. But in balance with this desire was a need to speak; Jeff seemed to understand.
“I…I don't want to be the one to make the choice for her,” he said slowly, to his own hands. “I don't want to go looking….If she comes to me…its different.”
“No,” Hermione said sadly, “it’s not.” She paused and looked at Ron and Harry. She opened her mouth but Michael, knowing exactly what she was about to say, preempted her.
“I’ll handle it,” he said repressively. He gave Jeff a look that was near begging. Thankfully, his friend picked up on the hint.
“Listen, we gotta go,” Jeff told him. “It’s time for dinner, and thanks to you, if anyone tries to kill somebody, I’ll have to deal with it alone.”
“Ahem,” Sarah coughed indignantly, “I'm here too you know!”
“Yeah, but I have to handle it to impress you,” he shot back. “Now if it turns out another teacher is a bloodthirsty murderer, it’s my problem!”
“I thought we agreed he wasn’t trying to kill me,” Michael said crossly. Sarah had returned her face to her hands. “And where’s my wand?”
“Right here” Harry said, handing it to him. “I picked it up after you got hurt. I've never seen one like this, what is it?”
“That’s not very surprising,” Michael said proudly, “The core’s Werewolf hair, and the wand itself is from a California Redwood. Really durable, pretty rare too.”
“Did you say the core is Werewolf hair?” Hermione asked, shocked. “But doesn’t that make for really unstable wands?”
“Only in the wrong hands,” Michael assured her. “As long as the wand respects you, you'll be fine.”
“Respects you?” Ron repeated.
“Or something like that,” Michael shrugged. “I don't really get all that wandlore stuff, but from what I understand, since the wand chose me, it’ll work better for me than anyone else.”
“We’ll come by later,” Harry told him. Michael nodded gratefully.
They all left to eat and Michael lay back against the bed. He was bored within seconds – what was he supposed to do for an entire day?
Remembering that his mission at Hogwarts did not exempt him from his duty as a STRIKE Captain, he groaned and waved his wand. A stack of papers appeared and fell onto his chest. Marveling at the fact that he didn’t have an assistant or secretary to do this, he took the topmost paper and began reading the most recent STRIKE report, this one detailing Voldemort’s presence abroad. Considering he wasn’t actively participating in his leadership role at the moment, Michael felt little guilt about scanning the papers half-heartedly. It was accepted he wouldn’t be able to manage the day-to-day operations of his division from Hogwarts and one the older, more experienced Special Forces members had volunteered to take over for him. The reports were mostly standard fare anyway, apart from one suggesting Voldemort had Death Eaters operating in the Caribbean. That struck Michael as very odd; Voldemort had by and large stayed in his own hemisphere. What would he want in the middle of the ocean?
Harry, Jeff, and Ron came to visit him a few hours later. Sarah and Hermione came an hour after the boys. Gender compatibility had already set it, it seemed. Michael soon learned that there was a rumor around school that Michael and Snape were working for opposite sides of secret agencies, and that they had been contracted to kill each other. This made Michael laugh, but Sarah found no humor in it.
“But we are with a secret agency,” she said in a low voice, sounding worried. “What if someone knows? What if they know why we’re here?”
“Okay fine, we are with STRIKE, but that’s the only anything close to true. We weren’t hired to kill him, and I don’t think he wants to kill me either. It was probably just some Slytherin trying to be funny.”
She and Hermione left and went to work on Charms homework with the boys – or at least, Hermione did. Michael reluctantly returned to his paperwork. He had hoped his friends would visit again, but when they did not, he was forced to accept that it was late and they had likely gone to bed for the night.
He was the only one occupying a bed in the hospital wing, so that he didn’t even have strangers to talk to. It was around ten and he had just dimmed his wand and vanished the last report. He rolled over on his side, facing Pomfrey’s office, opposite the door. He yawned widely and closed his eyes, when the door creaked open, spilling weak light into the infirmary.
Wondering how someone had gotten hurt at this time of night, he rolled onto his other side to get a look at the person who entered. The door shut carefully and the room was returned to darkness, and all he could see was a female form stepping inside.
Whatever the girl’s problem was, Michael decided it was none of his business and turned back over to go to sleep. He expected to hear a knock on the door of the matron’s office and an explanation as to why she needed help. However, there was no knock. In fact the girl seemed to be going to great lengths not to be heard.
In fact, even when Michael listened hard, he couldn’t hear footsteps. This struck him as odd: He was a highly trained STRIKE agent, one of the best, and he couldn’t detect some student? Was it possible Sarah had been right, did someone know their secret? Was this an enemy?
Trying to move as little as possible, Michael extracted his wand, keeping his back turned to where he assumed the girl was. He expected he was just being paranoid, why would a girl be sneaking into his room at night? To kill him? That wasn’t usually what they wanted….
What he didn’t expect was to he feel a soft hand on his shoulder and a voice whisper his name.
He turned his gasp into a sharp intake of breath. He knew that voice. How couldn’t he? Michael's wasn’t sure what the qualifying line was for a dangerous heartbeat, but he guessed that his chest feeling like someone turned an oscillating fan on inside it was somewhat telltale. Michael took several deep breaths, his eyes tightly shut. His head filled with thoughts just as it had when he had blocked Snape from reading his mind, only this time there was no control possible.
“Are you all right?”
Michael's eyes opened. He discreetly put down his wand and pushed himself into a sitting position. Even in the dark, her huge blue eyes seemed luminescent as she looked down at him, obviously concerned. “Do you feel okay?” she repeated, looking him up and down. Michael didn’t know what to say – he didn’t know if he could say anything. “You're very sweaty,” she observed. “You look very distressed, should I get Madame Pomfrey?”
“No,” Michael said quickly, his voice at last back under his control. “I…you just startled me.”
“Oh, I'm sorry,” she apologized. “I didn’t mean to do that at. Do I look all right?” she added, tilting her head a little to the side.
“What?” Michael said sharply, blinking repeatedly.
“You're looking at me just like I was at you, and I thought you might be having a heart attack,” she replied. She looked herself up and down. “Do I have something on my face?”
“Oh, no, you…you don't,” Michael said quickly. He would’ve blushed, but all the blood in his body had gone to his brain. It was pounding against his skull. He had been staring. There was a pause where neither person said a thing.
“My name’s Luna Lovegood,” she said after what appeared to be a totally non-awkward moment for her, politely holding out a hand. Without a thought, he reached out and took it, giving it a light shake. She dropped his hand and smiled at him. “You’re the one who fought with Professor Snape, right?”
“Yeah, that was me,” Michael said. Michael glanced over at the matron’s office; the light was off and the door remained firmly shut. “I'm Michael.”
Luna’s eyebrows narrowed slightly, she looked deep in thought. “Hmmm.”
“Do you have a last name?” she asked. “I know some famous singers don't have a last name, but you don't look like a famous singer.”
Michael laughed out loud at that. He immediately looked towards the office again. He had not been too loud, no one came out. Forgetting himself, Michael smiled back at her. “It’s Jacobs. Michael Jacobs.” In the silence following, while Luna’s brow furrowed more deeply, Michael discovered his heart rate had slowed back to somewhat normal patterns.
“So,” Michael said after a moment, “what are you doing here? Are you hurt?”
“No,” Luna answered, shaking her head, “I wanted to ask you something.”
Michael couldn’t immediately figure that one out. “So…why here, and now? Its way after curfew, right?”
“You seem like someone who likes privacy,” Luna said simply. “I thought you might not want to talk to me if there were other people around.”
“I’d still talk to you,” Michael said in a rush. This time, he did have the necessarily fluids to turn his face red. Putting aside that comment, Michael turned to the crux of the matter. He had no idea what she was about to ask, but he had a feeling he already knew where they would end up regardless. “What did you want to ask me, Luna?”
It felt good to say her name again.
“Have we met?”
If Michael had feared his heart overdoing it earlier, its new condition was precisely the opposite – his heart nearly stopped. Well, it was a yes or no question. One answer forced him to lie, the other would bring out the truth. Michael still wasn’t sure which was worse. He compromised.
“Why do you ask?”
I just have a feeling, do you know what I mean? Like somehow I know you… or I did? You’re from America right?” He nodded, stunned by what he was hearing. “I grew up in America, but both my parents were British. Maybe we went to school together before Hogwarts?” she suggested.
“I have a common face,” Michael said before he could stop himself. It was a stupid thing to say in any situation, but he needed to stall. Just a little longer to make a decision….
“No,” she said thoughtfully, “that’s not it. And I don't think it's very common to have a scar like that....” She reached out and actually ran a pale finger down line near his left eye. He closed his eyes as her skin touched his. Maybe she was meant to know….
Maybe that was why he was really here….
“So, uh, when did you move here?” Michael asked. He would see where this went.
“We moved when I was ten, right before I would be Hogwarts age.”
He knew what was coming, but should she? He decided to continue. “Is that why you moved? To go to Hogwarts?”
“No, that wasn’t it,” she said softly. Michael felt terrible to ask a question he already knew the answer to, but he needed more information. “I was supposed to go to Salem University, but that was before the accident.”
So that’s what they told her. An accident. No, he decided suddenly, no. She deserved to know.
“An accident?” he repeated. “What happened?”
“Well my mother was a very talented Witch. But she liked to invent and try new things, like new spells. One day when I was ten she used a spell she had invented….It backfired, and she died,” she finished simply. Luna didn’t look particularly upset, less so than Michael did in fact.
Elysina Lovegood, dead by her own spell? It was the final straw for the STRIKE Captain.
“Luna,” Michael said slowly, looking her in the face, “there’s something I need to tell you. But if I do, you need to understand it will change your views about many things, and could put you in danger.”
“Go ahead, tell me,” she said, regaining her brightness.
“Luna, you need to understand how serious this is –”
“I will once you tell me," she said mildly. "Until then I really can't, can I?"
“If you are one hundred percent sure you want me to tell you –”
“Yes please,” Luna persisted.
“– then come with me. We’ll talk somewhere else, more private.”
He pulled the sheets off himself and climbed out of bed. He noticed Luna smiling slightly at him as he replaced his wand in his pajama pants pocket.
“Something wrong?” he asked, wondering what she was smiling about.
“Well, it’s just that we aren’t really supposed to be out this late. And if Mr. Filch catches us, it might be a bit of a problem…”
“Well I’ll just explain to Dumbledore this was important,” he said, failing to see the issue. “I’ve got some leeway with him.”
“Except that you’re not wearing a shirt,” she pointed out. “They might think we were up to something.”
“Oh.” Feeling stupid, he grabbed the t-shirt that lay folded on bed stand next to his mattress.
“Professor Snape really hurt you,” she observed as he pulled it on over his head. “I wonder where he learned a spell like that?”
“I’ve seen Death Eaters use it before,” he told her as they tiptoed towards the door, “maybe Voldemort invented it.” He made sure to check her reaction and was pleased to see she did not flinch at the name.
They pushed the door open as quietly as possible and set off down the hallway. Michael constantly looked around, on alert for both teachers and places where they could have a conversation.
“I have no idea where we’re going,” he finally admitted. “Where can we go that we won't be disturbed?”
She turned her huge eyes on him, looking vaguely surprised. "Why?" When he didn’t answer she said, “Here, there’s a concealed passage behind this tapestry here, Harry showed me last year.”
Michael drew the tapestry aside and held it for Luna, motioning for her to go in. She did so and he followed her inside, glancing down the hall on last time to make sure they weren’t followed.
He turned around and found his face inches from hers. It had been so long.... “So what did you want to tell me?” she asked, staring into his eyes. He was glad she, at least, wasn’t a secret Legilimens.
He hesitated, very unsure how to say what he must. “First you need to know who I am. My friends Jeff and Sarah and myself all work for a secret organization called STRIKE.”
She looked startled and turned slightly away from him. “The rumors are true then? You really are out to kill Professor Snape?”
“What? No! That's not what I said. We’re here because Dumbledore asked us to come, to help keep the school safe. We’re posing as students. We’re not assassins, we’re an organization formed to fight Voldemort and other Dark Wizards without interference from the Ministry…but right now isn’t important, what’s important is what already happened. I only found out about all this since I became a Captain in STRIKE. There are only five Captains in our organization, it’s the highest rank you can become, apart from our leader. Captains are given access to every bit of information STRIKE has, including all its old reports.”
He closed his eyes. “You were right when you said we’d met before. In fact, we were best friends until we were ten.” He wondered if she would think him mad or a liar. He opened his eyes to look at her; she looked more curious than frightened or incredulous.
“But why don’t I remember you?” she asked. “As more than a suspicion I mean?”
“Because when you were ten, you were caught in the blast range of an extremely dangerous curse. The same curse that killed your mother.”
“What are you saying?” she asked slowly, showing fear for the first time. "Not that my mother took my memories?"
“No Luna,” he said sadly, opening his eyes and looking into hers. “That curse was used by the assassin who murdered your mother. Your mom protected you with a Shield Charm…but it wasn’t enough to save herself. That curse took not only your mother’s life – as well as the bastard who cast it – but your memories.”
“Why would someone want to kill my mum?" Luna asked, looking shocked. "She worked for the Ministry, in the Department of Magical Games.” Her mouth stayed open as she finished speaking, then moved without noise for a moment. “She didn’t, did she?”
“That was what she told everyone, apart from your father. Your mom was a member of STRIKE, Luna. She was one of five Captains, like I am. I…I knew her really well when we were kids,” Michael said, feeling emotion he knew should be reserved for Luna. “Obviously I didn’t know she was in STRIKE but…she was so nice to me.
“You make a lot of enemies being in STRIKE, especially if you’re active in the field and good at what you do. Your mom was both, and a lot of those enemies are powerful Dark Wizards…it was four against one and from what I read, she almost fought them all off, enough to keep you safe at least.”
“What happened after?” Luna asked, still not showing nearly as much shock as Michael had expected. It seemed as though she was still mostly curious about the whole matter.
“A STRIKE group arrived at your house, your dad was holding you, and you weren’t moving or conscious. They took you to General Staffon, the leader of STRIKE, to try and save your life.
“He was able to heal your physical injuries, but your dad asked him not to restore all your memories. He wanted to move away, with your mom gone. He asked Staffon to alter the memories of everyone you knew outside your family, to stop you from every looking back. Your dad didn’t want anything more to do with STRIKE, and forbade them to ever reveal the truth to you. Out of respect for your mother, they agreed.” Michael gave her a moment to let it all sink in, during which Luna stared at her feet, eyes wide, then said,
“I never got to say goodbye to you, Luna.” She looked back up at him. “You were my best friend. You don't see a lot of boys and girls becoming best friends at that kind of age, right? But we were. We did everything together. And then one day, you were gone.” His voice had started dull and deadpan, but was rising as he spoke. “One day, you were just gone. Your dad told my parents your mother had died, and then you left. I never saw you.”
“You're angry with Dad?” Luna asked, tilting her head a little.
“No,” Michael said quickly. “No, I don't blame him. He wanted to protect you…maybe I'm wrong. I'm going against what he wanted. But I thought you deserved to know, Luna. And…I wanted you to know…STRIKE wouldn’t tell you. So I did.”
“But you’re going against your whole group,” she said, sounding very concerned for him. “Won't you get in trouble?” It felt good, hearing her speak to him with such…care.
Michael shrugged. “Probably. It’s…high treason, actually.”
“Will they come after you?”
“When they find out, they will,” Michael replied. He shrugged. “They will find out Luna…it’s our job. They don't know we were friends as children, they don't have reason to suspect I know anything or would act on it right now, though.”
“What about the other two people with you?” Luna inquired. “They work for your group too, don't they?”
“Jeff and Sarah already know what happened,” Michael said, rubbing the back of his neck. “They’ve been my friends a long time, they're the only people I trusted to tell. They’re my friends before they’re STRIKE’s agents. They’re on our side. I can't speak for the rest of STRIKE.”
“Will they try to hurt you?”
Michael paused, considering what she asked and what he knew of STRIKE. “Maybe. But you deserve to know…I did do the right thing in telling you, right?” he added, unable to keep the worry from his voice. Condemning himself to be hunted by STRIKE was one thing, hurting Luna Lovegood was something else entirely.
“Yes, of course,” she said quickly. “But if you think I should know, why didn’t you find me? Tell me earlier?”
“I’ve only known three months,” Michael told her. “I wasn’t a Captain until a little while ago…but really Luna, I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing. What are you going to do now?”
“What do you mean?” Luna asked.
“What are you planning to do with this information? Keep it a secret between us? Tell Harry and the others? Or something else?”
Luna smiled at him. “I'm going to help you fight, of course,” she said serenely. “I know you don't want your group to know I'm with you, but I can still help.”
Michael nodded. “We used to be best friends, remember? Wait, stupid question…but I knew that’s what you'd say. When I heard you were at the Ministry, I seriously considered coming for you and telling you everything.
“I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d want to join the fight. Part of me wants you to stay as far away from me and all the danger that come with that as you can. But another part keeps telling me, especially after the Ministry, that you’re in danger anyway, and it would be best for you to be trained to face it.”
“And you want us to be friends again, don't you?” she supplied easily.
Michael wanted to answer immediately, but had to stop once again for phrasing – Luna didn’t remember what they had been, he didn’t want to come across desperate or creepy –
“I do too,” Luna assured him, somehow knowing his thoughts. “You seem nice. I’d like to see what made us such good friends once.” Michael grinned at the blonde girl. “But if we’re going to be friends again, will you teach me to fight?”
“You want me to teach you?” he repeated.
“Have you ever heard of Dumbledore’s Army?”
“I read something about that in the paper last year…it was mostly propaganda and lies, like most of the Prophet I'm sure, but I think I got the general idea: A bunch of Wizards who wanted to seriously defend themselves against the Dark Arts, regardless of pointless government bureaucracy. Really, it reminded me a lot of STRIKE.”
“Harry was our leader and teacher, and he’s a year younger than me,” she told him happily. “So that means you could teach me! I’d love to learn some of what Mum could do.”
Michael felt happier and happier. He had alternately anticipated and dreaded this moment since he found out he would be coming to Hogwarts, but now he couldn’t believe it had ever given him so much as a headache. He was happier than he had been in a long time. “I’ll do it; I’ll teach you anything I can to help defend yourself against Dark Magic. But on one condition.”
“What?” she asked curiously, taking a step closer to him. She clasped her hands together in front of her and swayed on her feet.
“You can't do anything to let STRIKE know who you are or what you're doing. You cannot become embroidered in the STRIKE lifestyle. Your mom handled it really well, but I don't think it would be a good idea right now. STRIKE aren’t bad people, but you don't want to be with them right now. Can you trust me on that Luna?”
“And I don't want you to get in trouble,” Luna said dreamily. Michael rubbed the back of his neck; he hadn’t even thought of that.
“I just don't want you in any danger,” Michael said heavily. “I'm seventeen and I've nearly been killed more times than most people Dumbledore’s age. I don't want that to happen to you, all right? STRIKE is only getting more dangerous…to its enemies and to itself.”
Luna seemed to accept this as good judgment and nodded. “I won't put myself in any unnecessary danger,” she agreed. “What can be helped, at least. When can we start?” she asked eagerly.
“That depends. Are you going to tell the others?”
“Yes, I think I will,” she said after a bit of consideration.
“That’s good,” he said nodding. “Because Jeff, Sarah, and I all need to stay in form for everything that’s going on now, and we’ve got something special planned for Harry and his friends…actually, you too if you want to,” he added as an afterthought.
“Something special? Like what kind of special?” she asked curiously.
“Make the Death Eaters piss their pants special,” Michael answered with a small smirk that quickly dropped into a thoughtful frown. “Problem is, where can we train seven people?”
“Oh that’s easy,” said Luna dreamily. “There’s a room on the seventh floor that will be perfect. It’s where we practiced in the DA last year.” Michael raised his eyebrows. That…was unexpected. But then again, he was dealing with Luna. He’d have to get used to unexpected, often.
“Sound good,” Michael nodded. His vision suddenly blurred slightly and he found it very hard to stand; Michael leaned sideways up against the wall. A combination of his wounds, the incredibly difficult decision, and sheer tiredness had left him with little energy. He shut his eyes and ran a hand roughly down the side of his face. “But let’s talk about it later. I'm actually pretty tired, and I've got some healing to do….”
“All right,” she agreed. "Can I see you tomorrow? I'd really like to talk more to you.”
"Of course," Michael said at once, removing his hand and opening his eyes, which despite drooping slightly, were bright. “I really missed you Luna, you were a good friend.”
"Maybe I'll get to be a friend again," Luna said hopefully. "When is your free period?"
“Anytime I want,” he said smoothly, unable to help himself. “What about you?”
“Fourth and seventh,” she replied, giving no reaction to his claim whatsoever. Though Michael supposed by comparison to the rest of their discussion, his boast of flexible free time was a little insignificant.
“Right,” he recovered, “well I have no idea where your common room is, so I’ll wait for you outside the Gryffindor’s during fourth. Sound good?”
“I’ll be there,” she airily. “And Michael…thank you.” She smiled happily and he smiled back, slightly awkwardly. What else was there to say? Many things, but not tonight. “Shall we go then?” she asked. He agreed and they departed the concealed hallway. They set off back to the hospital wing together.
“So, uh, what exactly were you and Harry doing in there anyway?” Michael asked as they walked.
“Oh, I found him in here yelling at Cho Chang last year,” Luna informed him. She was not looking at him, or watching ahead. Instead she stared up at the ceiling as they went. “They didn’t have a very nice time together.”
“No,” she mused. “They were actually one of the worst couples I’ve ever seen. Harry will be much happier with Ginny, once he figures out he should be with Ginny, of course.” She looked at him sideways. “Why, what did you think we were doing in there? Having sex?”
“What?” Michael said, startled and amused at the same time, “No…well maybe.”
“Well that wasn’t it,” she said dreamily, “because Harry only wants to have sex with Ginny.”
Michael knew he liked Harry.
“Oh, good to know,” he chuckled, thrilled to be part of her guiltless honesty again. “Who do you have sex with then?”
“That’s not a very polite thing to ask a girl,” Luna pointed out vaguely.
Michael grinned. “Come on, Luna. Don’t you remember me at all?”
Luna smiled placidly. “No one actually…I suppose you haven't heard yet, but people think I'm a bit strange. My dating life hasn’t really begun to flourish yet. A lot of people call me 'Loony Lovegood, actually.'"
"What?" Michael said angrily, turning to face her. "Who?”
“Well, most people, really," Luna said unconcernedly. "Except Harry and Ginny and the others, they're very nice. It’s okay if I’m not dating though," she added. “I'm happy with my friends.”
"I can't believe Wizards around here haven't stared showering you with diamonds," Michael muttered under his breath.
"Maybe they know sapphires are better," Luna said easily, smiling. "Sapphire are the best wedding stone. They promote calmness, which is very important in a marriage."
"There's something your mom used to say," Michael said quietly. "She used to tell you 'change the world, don't let the world change you.'"
"I remember that," Luna said thoughtfully. "I wonder how much of what I remember about Mum is true? Apart from her job, but I didn’t know that to begin with.”
"I don't think your dad would want your personal memories of her altered,” Michael told her comfortingly. “She was wonderful to you, and everyone. Especially me,” he added with a smirk. “She made me lunch as much as my own parents.”
"Can you help me with that?" Luna asked cautiously. It wasn't the response Michael had expected, at least not at that moment. “If my memories can be changed, they can be changed back, can't they?”
"I... maybe," Michael said uncertainly. "I'm not real knowledgeable about mental magic like that, apart from some Legilmency skills, but I do want to help you Luna. Magic theory has never been my forte, I'm more of a practical Wizard.”
“I'm actually reading up on several alternative theories of magic right now,” Luna offered. “Did you know that there are cultures that don't believe it’s possible – or even right – to really control magic? They tend to look at magic as a sort of being, not quite alive, but sentient, I think. They don't think it’s moral to try and harness such a force for personal use. They attribute Dark Wizards to allowing unrestrained magic to corrupt and in the end, control them. Dark Wizards are used as a tool for magic to punish us for meddling in things we shouldn’t, or so the theory goes. It’s all very abstract though,” she smiled at Michael, seeing the look of utter confusion on his face.
Michael laughed. “Well, if we put our heads together, I doubt there's much magic we wouldn’t be capable of,” he said confidently. “If you can get a handle on the theory behind it, I might actually be able to work it in a practical way. I'll do what I can to help you get your real memories back, if that's what you want."
"I'd love that," Luna said quietly. "I really would...." She stifled a yawn behind her hand as they turned a corner.
“I can find my way back,” Michael told her. “If you’re tired, I don't want to keep you out.”
“No,” she said serenely, “I haven't seen you in seven years. I’ll stay with you.”
He paused when they reached the door outside the hospital wing. “I didn’t know I missed you this much,” he admitted, turning away slightly. He wasn’t sure what his face was doing right now, but he was fairly sure it wasn’t flattering.
“It’s strange,” she said, looking completely at ease, “but I feel like that too. Even though tonight is my first real memory of you, I feel like I really missed you.”
Michael shifted his feet a little. “Luna –”
“If you say so,” she said, looking at him curiously.
He’d done enough. He’s said enough. Despite the strange lump between his throat and sternum, Michael knew instinctively it was time for them to part, at least for a while. Any longer and he might overwhelm her.
He had to keep reminding himself that he had lost his best friend, but she had not.
“Well, ‘night Luna.”
“Good night,” she said softly, pulling him into a gentle hug, “and thank you again.” She released him before he even thought to put his arms around her.
He watched her turn and head down the passage, almost…skipping. Same old Luna. Smiling to himself, he opened the door quietly and slipped back into his bed. He pulled his shirt off and replaced it on the bedstand along with his wand.
Michael stretched grandly. He felt wonderful, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off him. He had no problem sleeping comfortably that night, for the first time in a long while. When he woke the next day, he was not surprised to find that he was still wearing the same smile.
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