She sings a song to herself, her voice lingering in the air as if the notes were hung by invisible strings. It is an old tune, something that she is sure she has heard somewhere before but can't really put her finger on when, or how the song really goes. All that fills her head is the same few stanzas, which she repeats over and over with a vague sense of interest.
It sounds pretty, whatever it is. She thinks it could be a charm. Like an ancient one, the kind accompanied by a chant. Most spells are anyway, but this one could be different. Maybe it's special. Maybe, she realizes as she pauses, her pale eyes widening in discovery, it's not even magical. She holds her breath, wondering if that could be true. Such a pretty melody…it doesn't need to be marred by a reason for existing, a purpose for its rhyme. Perhaps…the magic is something greater.
Her forehead creases as she ponders the remarkable idea, that something as beautiful and serene as a simple song could have no magical heritage, and for a moment she falls silent. Around her, the quiet murmuring of the other students reach her ears. She turns to look at them, spread across the tables with their books open and quills ready, their heads bent together in whispered conversation.
She blinks at them blankly, staring at their mouths. Their lips move constantly, but half the time they're really saying nothing. Why do people bother with verbal speech when a simple gesture would satisfy so many? Unnecessary complications…as if half of the audience is even paying genuine attention. They aren't really. And besides, they don't even mean most of the things they say. It's just like decoration, she observes. Put up for show. That's why Papa leaves the walls bare, except for the necessary things, like maps and pictures and helpful charts.
She sighs dramatically. People need to listen more, not just hear.
Turning away from the strangers, she continues in her daily routine down the rows, letting her fingers brush lazily against the spines of the books. The leather of the covers feels strange against the soft of her fingertips, so foreign. She frowns, not thinking of the texture but of the song she fears she'll forget soon. She must sing it to herself as many times as possible, before her memory fades again and lets the bad things come.
Reaching the end of the aisle, she turns the corner and prepares to walk down the opposite way, her other hand out and ready to skim over the books. The song is remembered with great pleasure, and she is satisfied, listening to the way the notes compliment each other so perfectly, so magically in a purely non-magical way. And then-
She draws in her breath sharply, stopping dead in her tracks, her fingers frozen on a particularly hard-leatherback textbook. His voice disrupts the melody of notes in her mind, old memories shifting slightly from the places where she had neatly hidden them away. Shutting her eyes briefly, she allows time to compose herself. She must not let him know. Then, with a faint hint of a smile at how ironic it is to be afraid of someone like him, she turns around.
"Hullo, Harry," she replies with a perfectly normal conversational attitude.
"Er, hello." He looks uncomfortable. Then again, he always did have that element of discomfort when he talked to her, everyone does. Most likely because he has a hard time being honest, she supposes. Most people do. She watches unblinkingly as he sweeps a hand through his black nest of hair, his brilliant green eyes darting sideways to check for upcoming students passing their way. She waits, knowing he'll continue when he feels he's delayed embarrassment long enough. "You were…uh, I think you were looking at this before…" he trails off distractedly.
It is then that she realizes he'd been trying to push a book into her hands the whole while. Looking down in slight surprise, she stares at the cover, noting it as vaguely familiar. Perhaps not as familiar as the song she's had in her head all morning, but all the same somewhat recognizable. A Detailed Study of the Nature of Dreams and Nightmares and Their Hidden Meanings. Yes. She had stopped to flip through it earlier, but then another student had taken it before she could find what she was looking for.
"It didn't look like you were finished with it," Harry continues hurriedly, as though an explanation is what she expected, and a quick, rushed one at that. "So I came to give it to you. If you want it. So…so, here." He holds it out to her again, looking slightly uncertain.
She smiles to reassure him. "Do you need it?"
He blinks, taken back. "Huh?"
"The book. Would you like to read it?"
"This? Oh- er, no, thanks. I mean, I'm sure it's very…interesting, but I… I've got homework and things so I really can't…read it." He stops his rambling abruptly, and she feels she should prompt him into finishing. It's good to let things out, after all.
"But don't you have them?"
Clearly he needs more prompting than others do, she notes with an involuntary sigh. Perhaps he needs more of a visible reference. Thinking that must be it, she takes the book from his hands and holds it up in front of her chest, the front cover facing him. A thin finger points to the title. Comprehension slowly dawns on his otherwise blank face.
"Oh. Dreams?" She shakes her head vigorously, growing impatient. But she must let him figure it out. It makes more of an impact on particularly thick people when they discover the extraordinary by themselves, with a little coaxing of course. He swallows, shifting his weight on his feet awkwardly. "Nightmares," he realizes finally in an uncharacteristically flat voice. "Well, I'm not…"
"You do," she says for him quietly, just above a whisper.
"Everyone does." He steps back, searching for something else to change the subject with. Or an excuse to leave. "It's okay. I do, too," she presses in on him earnestly, and he backs into the wall.
There's a bit of silence as she studies his face carefully.
"But I guess yours are different."
He hesitates, and then- "Yeah."
"Do you think about him a lot?"
The fleeting look- she can't exactly name what it is- in his eyes answers the question for her. He wants to go, get away from her, but she's not finished. So he nods shortly. "Yeah."
"Don't think about him. Not that way. I don't think he'd like it very much. It gives you nightmares if all you see is the last moment."
Again he doesn't reply, mouth parted slightly in shock as if trying to sort out what she has said.
"Haven't you got any nice memories? Those won't give you nightmares." She looks down at the book, considering the offer she's about to propose carefully. She pushes it back into his stiff hands. "Listen, you can take it. I rather not think about my dreams anyway."
She finds she'd rather not look at him anyway, either. It reminds her too much of Mama. She doesn't know why. She turns away, walking with a definite step towards the exit. Then his hand flies out, grabbing her by the arm. She hides her flinch quickly, jerking her head back at him with surprise. No one has ever touched her like that, not even Papa when he's upset with her. Harry looks immediately sorry, and she realizes he hadn't meant to do that. That makes her wonder, though, how much more he could do and mean it. He has a lot of power in those hands, so much strength and yet…
"Luna, sorry, I didn't…that is, I was wondering…what- what do you see?"
She thinks he meant in her nightmares, but she's too afraid to tell him she dreams of him. A brief glimpse of a collection of recurrent visions slip by her mental barrier; she sees a war and heavy losses, destruction and unhappiness. An overwhelming rush of sorrow floods over her now but she blinks it away. So she tells him her dreams:
"I see my father."
He stares at her, the grip on her arm loosening and slipping away. He seems surprised at her answer, and that surprises her. She smiles at him, happily, thinking of her dear Papa and his quirky habits that make her laugh to tears. They have so much fun together; she misses him so much when she's in school. He'd have known the answer to her questions about her song. He's so clever, she's sure he'd even be able to write it down for her to play if she sang it to him.
"Yes," she nods thoughtfully, deciding she'd write him a letter as soon as she returns to her dorm to tell him about her song. "My father. He's very clever."
Harry looks as though he's trying to say something, but the way his mouth moves reminds her of the people she had observed earlier, the ones who move their lips with no clear purpose. "You- you mean, you don't see…your mother?"
A sharp jolt of pain causes her to take a quick breath before answering. Her head hurts.
"You do that often."
His green eyes have found their way back to hers, eyebrows arched. "Do what?"
"Stutter. Don't you like complete sentences?"
Again, he's struck speechless. Funny. Why are people so slow with coming up with things to reply with? She searches for a way to explain it to him in a simple context so he can grasp the simple idea fully.
"Do people tell you that you look like your father?"
His incomprehensive blink proves he doesn't quite follow where she leads, but tentatively answers, "Yeah."
"Well, you don't. That's a ridiculous thing to say. You look like yourself, what else is there possibly for you to look like? But people don't understand, they just keep telling you. They might as well tell you that you look like a troll and I think you'd believe them if you heard it long enough. But you mustn't, Harry. You look like yourself, and you do a very nice job of it, too, actually."
"Ah, thank you…" It sounds more like a question. He still doesn't follow. She sighs dramatically again.
"When you look in the mirror, what do you see, yourself or your father?"
"I…I don't know."
She shakes her head, half-expecting that. "Be careful, Harry. Mirrors break far too easily."
This time he shakes his head. "But how does that have anything to do with- with nightmares?" He says the last word like it's a wretched curse. Her gaze softens. His must be very different. She doesn't think there'll be anything in that book to help him. There wasn't anything there to help her.
"People will tell you a lot of things, Harry," she explains gently, speaking the works slowly. "But in the end, if you're too afraid to look in the mirror, all you'll see will be nightmares. Don't do that to yourself. Your godfather wouldn't have wanted you to." She shrugs, pursing her lips a little. "Personally, I never cared too much for mirrors. They're terribly biased."
"Yeah. I guess they are."
"My father doesn't even use a mirror. He says that all you see with a mirror is from here," she reaches out and pokes him in the forehead. He blinks, shocked, but she just continues. "So when you look at yourself, don't look from here," she taps a finger on his scar, feeling him tense up at her touch, "look here," she drags her finger down to his chest and lets it rest on his heart. "Do you see now? That's where your dreams come from. Nightmares aren't real, but the things in your heart, they are." She steps back, a small smile playing lightly on her lips. "That's what real magic is, my father says. Clever man, isn't he?"
His mouth is hanging open just barely, giving him the appearance of a stunned fool, which she surmises he gives often as he takes no embarrassment at him looking that way. She nods her head curtly, as if her work is done and she approves. With these slow ones, she must give time to sort out their thoughts on their own, now that she has triggered their beginnings.
She hums the song again, now definitely convinced that true magic doesn't always have to be from real magic. Some things don't need explanations, after all. They just happen, like dreams one can't forget, people one can't live without. Papa will be delighted to know she understands him now.