It's Quidditch season again, guys, and I'm back as the Captain of the Caerphilly Catapults! The prompt for this round was my teammate's NOTP, so we have here a little post-war scene for Neville and Luna. I'm not a huge long-term Luna/Neville shipper (WHO DOESN'T LOVE NEVILLE AND HANNAH AND THEIR PLANTS), but I don't mind the idea of them being together for a little while... ;)
9 June 1998
Everything had felt so dark, for so very long, that Neville felt nothing short of disrespectful by going on a date—made much worse by the fact that he had roped Ginny into helping him get ready for it, just because he was a nervous wreck. He sat in the deserted kitchen of the Weasleys' house in his new suit, berating himself for his insensitivity and poor timing. What had he been thinking, asking Ginny for this sort of help, after all that had happened?
"All right," Ginny beamed, coming into the kitchen holding a bouquet of wildflowers and a smaller, matching cluster of purple and yellow blooms. She picked up her wand and fastened the boutonniere to his lapel, and Neville turned red.
"Is that necessary?" he asked sheepishly.
"You involved me, and so I am involved," Ginny announced, picking up the comb from the kitchen table and using it to smooth back his hair one last time. "Now, stand up, you'll wrinkle your trousers. Let me have a look at you."
She stood back and watched critically as he rose, turning slowly on the spot with his arms half-raised on either side of him. She tapped her chin thoughtfully for a moment, and then stepped forward to adjust his flower-patterned tie. "All right. You've got my seal of approval," she grinned, leaning on the nearby counter.
Neville looked at her; she was pale and thin, with dark circles under her eyes that he knew were more of a souvenir of recent grief—though all that they'd been through with the Carrows certainly hadn't resulted in excellent health. She shifted a little uncomfortably under his gaze and pushed back her newly short hair (which, like Luna's and Hermione's, had been burned during the fighting at Hogwarts) from her face, and gave him another smile.
"You're going to be great," she told him. "Just relax, be yourself. It's Luna, right?"
"Thanks," he replied. "I really appreciate the help, Ginny."
"I'm just glad I can do something," she said, folding her arms and looking him up and down appraisingly, though there was now something slightly detached about her gaze. He knew how hard it had been for her to be held back from the repair work at Hogwarts because she was underage—but he had started to suspect recently that there was something else going on, and possibly that Mrs. Weasley was not coping well; at least, she was nowhere to be seen in the house, and he knew he had not seen her at the school since the day that the war had ended.
Indeed, a gloom seemed to have settled over Ginny's features, and Neville reached for her, drawing her into an embrace, which she returned gladly.
"Well," she said, drawing back a moment later and swiping quickly under her eyes (Neville pretended not to notice), "I think I've done all I can. The rest is up to you, Longbottom."
Ginny took the flowers from the table and handed them to Neville. "You remember where it is?" she asked. "Top of that third hill. The house looks like a castle turret."
Neville nodded and straightened his shoulders. "Thanks, Ginny. I really appreciate it."
"That's all right," she replied, patting his lapel and turning him towards the door. "Have a good time, I hope it goes well." She put on another smile, but it didn't quite brighten her eyes as it usually did.
"See you soon," Neville replied, and they hugged briefly. He gave a wave and went straight to the gate at the far edge of the garden. With one last glance back—Ginny leaned against the back door as she saw him off—he waved again and turned on the spot into crushing darkness.
Neville emerged from the confines of his Apparition exactly at the base of the hill Ginny had described, and looked up at the silhouette of the rook-shaped house that could only belong to the Lovegoods. The sun was going down behind the house, making it seem darker and gloomier than it perhaps really was—but the pale gold light that shone out of the square windows heartened him, especially when he saw one of the lacy curtains move, as though someone inside had been watching for his arrival. He smiled, adjusting his slightly sweaty grip on the flowers Ginny had picked for him, and began the ascent up the path to the house.
He saw that one of the upper stories was still being repaired; according to Harry and Ron, that damage had been done by an Erumpent horn that Luna's father had managed to purchase, under the impression that it belonged to a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. Neville hesitated for a moment, wondering if he'd made an error in letting Luna suggest that he come over for dinner. He passed through the gate and saw three hand-painted signs (he recognized Luna's handiwork with a smile) tacked to it, one on top of the other:
EDITOR: X. LOVEGOOD
PICK YOUR OWN MISTLETOE
KEEP OFF THE DIRIGIBLE PLUMS
The garden he had entered, lit up by the sunset, was a marvel on its own. Neville couldn't help but stop and look around, taking in the sight of commingled Muggle and magical plants; there was, indeed mistletoe, as well as Flutterby bushes, at least one Snargaluff, and a handful of very ordinary crabapple trees, including two that stood on either side of the front door, which was painted a fresh, sunshiny yellow. He wondered how much work Luna had been doing in the garden, which didn't look overgrown by a day, despite the fact that neither she nor her father had been free for much more than a month.
He raised a hand and rapped on the door, shifting his weight nervously. After a few moments, it swung wide, and Luna appeared. Her shorter hair was gathered up on top of her head, her wand tucked, as usual, behind her ear for safekeeping; she was barefooted and wore a flowered sundress that clashed with her equally flowered apron. Her enormous, pale blue eyes widened even more at the sight of the flowers he held.
"Er," Neville began, "hi. How are you, Luna?"
"I'm great!" she said cheerfully, flinging her arms around his neck and hugging him. She took the flowers and held them up to admire. "Did you bring me these from Ginny's? They're lovely, thank you!"
Neville turned red. "Erm—"
Luna put a hand over her mouth. "Oop, I don't think I was supposed to know you were there," she said, her eyes fixed unblinkingly on him. "Oh, well."
Neville laughed. "It's okay," he said. "I mean, if it's okay that I tell you I was nervous…about this?"
Luna blinked at him for a moment. "Yes, of course. I was too, you know," she announced matter-of-factly. "So I thought we could go fishing to break the tension. What do you think?"
Neville laughed again, but then he realized that she was speaking seriously. He looked down at himself, dressed in a new jacket, tie, and trousers. "Er, I don't know that—I mean—"
"Oh, just roll them up," Luna told him with a bright smile, already having set her flowers aside and moving to help him take his jacket off. "We're going to catch Plimpies for dinner down at the stream. I hope you don't mind, that's what Daddy's suggested for dinner. It's my favorite thing to cook!"
Neville, feeling thoroughly wrong-footed but amused nonetheless, allowed himself to be shunted towards the front door once again, fumbling his way out of his shoes as he went.
"Now, you'll need your wand," Luna said, seizing his hand and leading him out the door, "because Plimpies have been known to bite, and—what is it?"
For Neville had stopped walking, halfway down the garden path. Luna turned to face him, her features lit by the glow of the setting sun. She seemed suddenly iridescent; her blonde hair shone like gold, and her eyes seemed more silver than blue as she gazed up at him.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
"I'm—great," he managed to say. Then he stepped forward, took her face in his hands, and kissed her.
For a long moment, they stood that way, her hands on his elbows, both barefoot, in among the wild garden plants, their lips pressed together. When they finally pulled apart, Luna gave a little shiver as their eyes met once again. Neville began to stammer, but she stopped him.
"That was quite nice. You can do that again, if you like," she said.
Neville's heart leapt, as Luna's smile turned her face into millions of radiant beams, and he kissed her again.