Xenophilius and Pandora Lovegood were quite proud to say that they were, perhaps, the least normal people one could ever hope to meet. They lived together in a small tower shaped like a Rook near the small town of Ottery St Catchpole. They had one daughter, Luna, the spitting image of her mother, and as a family, they were quite happy, thank you very much.
They were also wizards.
This morning had dawned cold and bright, the early sun reflecting off of the fresh blanket of snow and the sky a clear blue. If someone were to stand on the path to this particular tower on the morning of February 13th, 1990, they would have found the image quite charming: the ruins of a once magnificent tower, covered in snow and rogue holly bushes, the Devon countryside rolling along in the distance. Only another wizard could see the tower for what it truly was: a small home with bright yellow curtains in the topmost window, surrounded by gardens of bizarre plants.
Inside, the family was waking up. In the room with the yellow curtains, Luna Lovegood was preparing for school. She was, understandably, quite excited; today was her ninth birthday and she had made gifts for all of her classmates to celebrate. The promise of gift giving, something Luna quite enjoyed, almost made up for what promised to be another dull day in school.
It wasn't that Luna was a bad student, in fact the opposite was true, and she adored learning in general, but… the classes at the muggle elementary school were boring. To make things worse, muggles refused to believe in things they couldn't prove! Luna only enjoyed two of her classes. Art, because she could let her imagination run wild, and language arts, because they let her bring her books from home. Claiming that the books were fiction, Luna could read fascinating manuals about the proper care of magical creatures, something that had always interested her.
Despite the boredom, Luna disliked dwelling on unhappy things when she could help it, and instead she finished getting ready for school. By the time she finally went downstairs, her mother was waiting for her.
"Happy Birthday, Luna!" she cooed, hugging her daughter tightly. "I have a couple of experiments to do this evening, but we'll have your birthday party after that." Her mother paused, looking at her daughter's bright yellow dress, blue stockings, and purple shoes. "I know you were upset that we can't invite any of the muggle children over, so I wrote to Molly and she's going to send over the twins with Ginny and Ron for dinner. Doesn't that sound fun?" Luna nodded and smiled as she pulled away from her mother's embrace.
She liked Ginny. Ron was older and thought that girls were gross, but Ginny was always nice to her. The twins, Fred and George, were much older and sometimes a bit mean, but usually they were just very funny, and they looked up to her mum's experimental spell work a lot.
By the time Luna finally left for school, she was convinced that today was going to be an excellent day. She had no idea how wrong she was.
Despite her optimism, things started to fall apart during her first class, when she distributed the gifts she had made. For each student, she had painted a small figurine of the magical creature they reminded her of, knowing that the muggle children would assume they were mythological. For the newest student in her class, a girl with curly brown hair and slightly tanned skin named Romilda, who had transferred only the week before, she had made one of her favorite creatures: a thestral. Thestrals were skeletal horses with wings like a bat's and Luna thought they were beautiful, though she'd never seen one in person-only someone who has seen death could see them, and as much as Luna liked them, she did hope she would not be able to see them for a very long time.
When she gave the gifts out, she saved Romilda's for last. What she really wanted was for Romilda to be her friend. Even though she had attended the same small school her whole life (or perhaps because of it), she didn't have many friends, something she knew she shared with the new student. The other students found her too weird to be friends with, and they often liked to hide Luna's things when she wasn't looking. Luna pretended that it was a game, but she knew that it wasn't.
When she gave Romilda the gift, Romilda was with a few of the other girls in the class, talking and laughing animatedly.
"Here," Luna interrupted during one of the rare lulls in their conversation. "I made this one for you." Romilda took the small package and opened it. Her reaction was not what Luna had hoped.
"Oh that's scary!" she cried, laughing as she showed the other girls. "What is it?"
"It's a thestral," Luna replied, her cheerful facade uncracked. "I think they're some of the most beautiful creatures in the world." Romilda looked at the figurine, unsure what to make of it, but then the girl closest to her whispered something in her ear. All Luna heard was the word 'loony,' leaving her unsure what would happen next.
"But… they aren't… real? Are they?" Romilda asked, uncertain. Luna didn't know how to respond, and she was interrupted before she could think of an appropriate answer.
"Of course they aren't!" the whispering girl laughed. "That's why we call her Loony." She lowered her voice to a stage whisper. "My mother says that her whole family should be locked up… in a Loony bin!" The whole class laughed then, Romilda included, and for the first time in several years, Luna couldn't keep up her habitual cheerfulness.
Her hopes of friendship had been shattered. Romilda was like the rest of them and Luna was the odd one out.
Luna resisted the urge to go to the bathrooms and cry, and instead stoically returned to her desk, where she remained for the rest of the school day. In her sketchbook she drew invisible wrackspurts and pretended they could talk to her, so she wouldn't be so lonely.
When class finally ended, Luna stayed in the classroom, trying to find her belongings so that she could head home. The teacher, a kind woman with grey hair and penchant for wearing antique green dresses, helped her look.
"Listen, Luna," she said after a few minutes of searching. "I was very strange when I was a kid, too. You'll grow out of it." She paused, and Luna fought back tears for the second time that day. Luna didn't want to 'grow out of it,' she just wanted people to like her the way she was, and she didn't understand why that was so hard. "I'm sending a letter home with you today, for your mum. I think you should consider homeschooling, you might find it better... and not just socially. I know that you're bored in class, and your mother is plenty smart enough to teach you everything I can."
The teacher handed Luna the envelope, a white rectangle of foreboding marked with the school's logo. Luna took it, silently, gathered the belongings she had been able to find, and went home.
When she got home, the tower was quiet. Her father was in his 'office,' a desk adjacent to the kitchen table, but he was so engrossed in his reading that he didn't notice her come in. She preferred it that way, not wanting to talk to him about her day before her mother. Pandora would know what to say to make Luna feel better. She always did.
Luna climbed the stairs to her mother's laboratory and stood in the doorway, watching her mother practice. Pandora had twisted her silvery blonde hair into a bun, but most of it was in disarray now, while she alternated between reading several books, scribbling notes, and miming waving a wand. After a few minutes, her mother looked up.
"Luna!" she greeted her daughter. "You're just in time! I just finished the new spell I'm working on and I'm about to try it. Do you want to watch?" Luna nodded and sat down in the room while her mother cleared the space in front of the window. "I've been working on some meteorological spells. They're very difficult but if we can master them, we can use them to help avert some of the muggle disasters. This first one should cause a short localised rain shower." Her mother turned to the window and flicked her wand. "Coeperit pluviam!" she cried. Outside, it began to rain.
Her mother beamed, and Luna clapped. Pandora took a mock bow and then waved her wand a second time. The rain stopped, but the cloud cover produced by the spell remained. Her mother frowned and returned to the window.
"Dahmi Sole!" her mother said, waving her wand forcefully. The clouds parted for just a moment and the sun came into full view. Suddenly, her mother's wand caught on fire, and the rest of her with it. Luna screamed and tried to find something, anything, to put the fire out as her mother shrieked in pain and her flesh burned from her still living body.
Luna was powerless, unable to properly do any magic beyond making her drawings move if she concentrated very hard, and had no choice but watch, frozen to the spot in horror, as her mother burned to death.
By the time her father made it up the stairs, Pandora Lovegood was little more than a burnt corpse and a pile of ashes.
Luna passed the next several hours in a blurred state of shock. Ministry of Magic officials came, as did the mediwizards, but nothing could be done for the dead body or the broken family. Her father lost himself, screaming and weeping in turns, until the mediwizards had no choice but to sedate him.
"What should I do with the daughter?" one of the ministry officials asked, seeming to be the first person who had noticed her in the chaos of the scene. "Does she have any family nearby?"
A redheaded man nearby responded, and it took Luna several minutes to recognize him as Arthur Weasley, Molly's husband. "I can take her until they discharge Lovegood. Pandora was one of my wife's closer friends. We can take care of her."
The first man laughed. "Don't you already have enough children, Weasley?" he joked, and Arthur's face flushed. "Anyways, better you than someone else. I would hate to have to try and find whatever relatives these nutjobs have."
Luna stayed still, seated in the same place she had been before the rain had stopped. She felt as though she was unable to move or cry or she would burst into a thousand pieces. Arthur seemed to understand, and he picked her up gently. She didn't resist, and he didn't struggle with her small frame.
Then Luna was at the Burrow, the Weasley's house, holding a cup of tea while Ginny stroked her hair. She still couldn't move, she couldn't think. All she wanted was for her mother to come back, for her father to come and tell her that it all had been a poorly planned joke or a mistake or something.
She waited, but nothing happened. Someone took the tea, untouched and now cold, and made her lay down on the couch. Luna watched the shadows of the room change, seeing nothing but the grey colors creeping along the edges. Time passed, and Luna didn't know if it had been minutes or hours or days when she heard the two adults speaking behind her.
"It was her birthday, too, poor dear…."
"She hasn't moved since she got here, I just don't know what to do….."
She stayed still, and eventually fell asleep. She dreamed of the accident, her subconscious over detailing the already gruesome scene.
"Luna!" Her mother howled, her hair burning on her scalp. "Why can't you help me?" Luna began crying then, wracked with a horrible guilt. Suddenly the dream changed. The fire was gone, like it never happened, and her mother was standing before her, healthy and alive. "Shhh," she cooed to the sobbing child. "It's not your fault. Remember that." She hugged Luna and stroked her hair. "After everything is over and done, Luna; we'll be together again then. It's not so long to wait, and then we'll have forever." Luna nodded, and she realized that she felt a little less sad. Her mother wasn't gone, she was just somewhere else, and eventually, Luna would be there too, and their family could be together again.
When Luna woke up, she was in Ginny's bed, the covers tucked around her. The sun was shining outside and some of the snow had melted. How long had it been? Luna asked herself. In the hallway, she could hear an argument.
"Aw, c'mon, Gin, it'll cheer her up!" cajoled one of the twins from outside the room.
"The last thing she wants right now is a petrified gnome in a tutu!" Ginny shouted back.
Luna stayed in the bed. Her dream had made her feel both better and worse, but she didn't know if she was ready to face the family. Unfortunately, she didn't have a choice.
"George!" came the disapproving voice of Mrs. Weasley.
"What?" called a voice farther down the hall.
"I'm Fred!" cried another nearly identical voice just outside the room, the one that had previously spoken to Ginny. Meanwhile, Molly sighed.
"Whichever. Let that poor gnome go," she ordered the trickster. "But not in my garden! As for the rest of you, find somewhere else to be. Even you, Ginny, dear. Go on."
Luna sat up, not sure what to do, as Mrs. Weasley entered the room, carrying a tray of soup.
"Ah, hello, dearie," Mrs. Weasley cooed, setting the tray on Ginny's desk. "How are you feeling?" Luna didn't respond. She didn't know how. Like a part of her would be missing for the rest of her life? Mrs. Weasley nodded. "I understand. Better than you might think… do you know why I named my twins Fred and George?" Luna shook her head and Mrs. Weasley sat next to her on the bed. "Several years ago, there was an evil sorcerer…. Among others, my brothers, Fabian and Gideon, fought against him for many years…. As did Arthur. The sorcerer decided to attack us, me and Arthur, and my brothers came to help us fight him off. At the last minute, he left, but his follower murdered my brothers in front of me." Luna noticed that there were a few tears on Mrs. Weasley's face. She knew that the evil sorcerer was He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but she'd never known that Mrs. Weasley had had brothers. It was hard for her to imagine the plump and soft Mrs. Weasley in the form of a man, so she quit trying. "When Fred and George were born, they were twins, just like Fabian and Gideon, so I kept their initials in the right order. They look just like them."
Mrs. Weasley turned to her, then, and looked Luna directly in the eyes.
"You need to know something very important, Luna," she said, in a reassuring tone. "People dying is a part of life, and it's always going to hurt at least a little, but you'll see them again, when your life is done. In the meantime, you can't forget to live." Luna nodded. It was the same thing her mother had told her, in her dream, and she felt it ring true in her heart.
"Thank you," Luna said, speaking for the first time since her mother's death. "Mum always used to say…" Luna trailed off to wipe away a few tears. "She always said that things we lose have a way of coming back to us… just not always in the way we expect." Mrs. Weasley nodded encouragingly.
"I've always found that to be the case with my sons," she joked, quietly. When Mrs. Weasley left, Luna followed her, and little by little returned to someone adjacent to her old self. She was different now, but change isn't always bad, even when it is precipitated by tragedy. By the time she left the Burrow several weeks later, her smiles came easily and her optimism was back to full force.