It began, if you can call it a beginning, the year he taught at Hogwarts. She was just another student, a strangely lovable sort of student, so odd and other-worldly. Odd, but then when you grew up in the magical world, unusual was actually the constant, and so she was just part of the wide sea of them, those young lions of Hogwarts. In fact, she would have passed idly off the map of his thoughts and memories had she not planted herself so insistently there.
It was early Saturday evening on a Hogsmeade weekend, and he was watching the last of the students straggle back to the castle when she bobbed gently in front of him. He blinked, once, both at her sudden appearance and the miniature pomegranates dangling from her ears.
'Luna?" he said mildly.
"Hello Professor." He waited, but her wispy voice trailed off and she simply looked at him in the silence that followed.
"Er...is there something I can do for you?" He thought for a moment that her lips curved up in a strange manner, and that her wide eyes flashed some secret code at him, but he must have imagined it, because when he looked closer he saw the same vague smile on her face as he always did.
"I was just thinking Professor, that you and I share many connections."
"Connections?" he asked blankly.
"Oh yes." She stared at him. "Don't you find my name more than coincidence?"
"What about your name?" he asked more sharply than he meant to.
"Why the moon, of course, though I expect you already knew that."
He looked deep into her misty eyes, but he saw no trace of triumph or revulsion.
She continued calmly, "You know, the moon is important in many aspects of magic. My mother followed its cycles diligently. She said it was the pulse of earth magic, the piper of the wilds. Even a woman's body follows its cycles."
She stopped talking and stared at him again for a few moments. "You need not fear me, Professor. It doesn't bother me. But perhaps we should talk about our connections later. When the times comes back around again." She departed with that enigmatic statement, and he was left staring after her, pale hair swaying in long ropes down her back, walking with the strange grace of a woman contained in the vessel of a child.
The rest of the year passed, and she was not the one to give up his secret. The next time he saw her was in the Department of Mysteries, after he had watched his reclaimed childhood friend fall through the Veil, a mockingly graceful movement like a dancer pirouetting off a high cliff.
Harry had been sent to Dumbledore's office, the others to the infirmary, but somehow she was still there, a small trickle of blood running from the widow's peak of her silvery blonde hair.
"Luna! Are you alright? What are you still doing here?"
"Oh...the others were worse than I, so I told them I'd wait for another portkey."
He touched a finger to the soft skin of her wrist, measuring her pulse for a moment before he let go.
"I'll get you one," he said quietly, but he did not move. The thin stream of blood on her pale face fascinated him. Some deep part of him wanted to smear its graceful curve with the pad of his thumb.
"The moon is waxing tonight," Luna said into the space between them, and looked up at him expectantly.
He thought of Sirius; of the Longbottoms and Cedric Diggory.
"It has not yet reached its fullness, and neither have you."
He stared at her, and a man entered with a fountain pen turned portkey. She wrapped her thin fingers around the cylinder and still he stared. Her smile was gentle and vague, and then she was gone.
The war ended just as Luna graduated from Hogwarts, and two days later he opened the door of Grimmauld Place to find her there on the well worn step.
"Hello," she said dreamily.
"Hello, Luna, are you looking for Harry?"
"Oh...uh...who are you looking for, then? Hermione is at the Burrow."
"I know she is, I saw her there yesterday. I was looking for you."
Her hair looked like a bolt of silk in the afternoon sunlight, and most of her face was in shadow.
"I've found you."
He could not argue that point, so he invited her in. She sat on the edge of the armchair he offered her and gazed at the ceiling.
"So...what can I do for you, Luna?"
"Do you know anything about weight-bearing beams?"
"I have a house in Ottery St. Catchpole, you know, just on the other side of the woods behind the Weasley's. They tore it up pretty badly in an attack during the war."
She looked at his taken aback expression. "The Death Eaters, not the Weasleys."
"Yes. Yes, I remember that now. I am sorry about your father, Luna."
"Thank you," she said. "I'm a bit afraid the main beams were compromised, and I don't know how to fix them. I should hate for the house to collapse with me in it. That would be a bit of a shame. It's a nice house, really."
He felt like all he did when he was around this girl was stare at her. "You want me to come help you fix the house?"
She smiled radiantly. "Thank you for offering. That would be lovely."
As he gathered some things in his battered suitcase he wondered what madness had possessed him, and her for that matter, and just exactly how guileless Luna actually was.
The ceiling of the house was indeed listing to one side; more than one of the beams bowed unnaturally. He winced to think of the hexes that could have caused that sort of damage. He ran a hand over one portion of the splintered wood and said regretfully to the girl, "I'm not sure about this Luna. This seems to be a bit beyond me."
"I think not," she said airily.
The days passed quickly, the physical work stretching out his muscles and expanding his lungs. Luna floated here and there, sometimes humming tunelessly, sometimes silent, but as the days turned to weeks he found that the silence between them was not uncomfortable. Always, the progress of the moon in the sky held him captive in its slow dance.
The last night before the full moon he went to tell her he must leave and found her by the kitchen window, looking out to the forest. She did not turn when he came up behind her, but began speaking softly. "There are wood elves in that forest. When I was small I would wander through the trees at night, trying to catch one of them unawares. It became a game between us, after a time. They would let me catch a glimpse of them, and then disappear. I learned to track them. I learned to walk without making a sound, and to listen to the shadows of the woods, the leaves and twigs underfoot, and hear what they could tell me. I think I should have liked to be the one tracked, but the wood elves never varied their game."
She glanced at him over her shoulder, and her misty eyes gleamed at him in the red light of the sunset. "Soon it will be dark. I love the moonlight. I think perhaps you would love it, too, if you let yourself." She floated past him, up the rickety stairs, and he heard her bedroom door close softly.
How did she know so well what would startle him, what surprising observation would send him reeling through memory and desire to find the kernel of truth she presented him? For he did love the moonlight. He loved it and he hated it in equal, dizzying parts. It called to the wild in him, but it chained him to it also; it beckoned like the crisp wild of a thousand harvest moons, with orange bonfires stretching up to meet them and packs of ravens winging through the smoke, but it milked from him the darkness that he hated. The dark intrinsic to the wolf, and to the man he was forever running from. Moonlight was like heroin injected into his veins, coursing through his blood and forever after that first taste of it his blood wept for more.
The kitchen was dark now; the moon was rising. He followed the steps she had taken, up the stairs that creaked beneath his weight, along the hallway with the rough floorboards and paused at her door. He pressed fingertips against the frame.
"Luna." No answer. He slowly pushed open the door, only to find the room empty and the window open, her white curtains fluttering in the breath of the night. He walked toward the desk underneath it, and noticed her small leather shoes sitting atop a piece of parchment.
Shoes make the chase too easy for the hunter. I always wished to know the thrill of being the quarry.
He stared at the lilting, tilting curves of her writing and he smiled.
The forest was whispering this night, wind rustling through the leaves and swirling around his head. The moon peered with its almost-full face through the trees, their limbs filtering through the beams of its silvery gaze. He stopped and he listened. He touched the ground with his hand, noted the shiver of the mossy undergrowth, and changed direction. His sense of smell was already heightened in anticipation of the transformation that would come the next night, as she had known it would be, and he used it to track her peculiar scent of pepper and oleander through the forest. He paused once and felt the chipped bark of a birch tree; she had climbed up and proceeded for a distance among the thick branches. Once he lost her scent and realized that she had retraced her path, but through a small, icy stream that wound through the forest like a gurgling spine.
Eventually he came to a small clearing. Her scent was all around him, filling his senses. As he pondered what direction to take, a soft garment fell from the tree branches above him. He looked up, peering through the foliage as he realized he held her dress in his hands.
"Well done, Hunter. You have caught your prey." His breath hitched and his mouth went dry as she slid bare skinned down the trunk and landed before him. He backed away uneasily, but she followed and as the pale light fell on her naked form he took in her small, high breasts and achingly straight shoulders. The curve of her soft belly was in shadow, but her eyes were the same color as the moon, and he was lost. When she touched him it was with the heat of those sacrificial bonfires in his blood and he let her push him down to the slightly damp grasses.
Her angular face loomed over him and her fingers undid all the buttons on his shirt. She kissed him then, her tiny tongue running over his teeth and pressing against the corner of his mouth. Her skin felt cool against his burning flesh. She rose above him and the moonlight was drugging him with its power, pulling his hands to touch her like it pulled at the seas to caress the shore. Her skin was so pale, like white marble with little webs of veins running below the surface.
Then he noticed the small silver pendant dangling between her breasts. It was a moon; a waxing moon. He watched, transfixed, and she bent down over him, the necklace gleaming bright between her brown nipples as she brought it to his throat. She drug the tiny moon down across his Adams apple, over the notch of his collarbone, down his chest. He gasped and he wondered how his skin could react so oppositely at the same time; the heightened muscles quivering instinctively away from the silver, while goosebumps rose to meet the trailing pendant, its pointed edges catching gently on the sensitive ridges.
She slithered down him like some foreign aquatic creature and kissed each of his toes. Her fingers brushed along his shins, and he arched his back as she worked her way up his thighs, laying him bare to the night. The shudders that wracked his body as she pulled him into her wet mouth were minor earthquakes, and he knew they were poised on the fault line. Still the wild called and he rose to answer.
His breath was coming in sharp rasps when she finally moved up to straddle his waist. He looked up at her flushed face and for the first time thought her beautiful. Her long hair pooled on his chest as she leant down to kiss his mouth. The soft feel of it shivering in strands against him brought to his mind an old memory; there was a maypole and brightly colored silk ribbons dangled from it. He remembered watching the village children dancing around it, winding and threading their ribbons together into the tight spiral, while he watched, hidden. He had never been welcome among them.
Now he threaded his hands through the silk ribbons of Luna's hair and pulled her down to him again, bringing her chin around so he could lick the tender outline of her jaw and breath her name against her ear. Her earlobes were surprisingly plump and he pulled one into his mouth and nipped it softly. She sighed; it sounded to him like an autumn wind.
Her hips moved down and rested their damp heat around him. She moved wantonly against him, breath coming in puffs that made her small chest rise and fall unevenly. When he could stand it no longer he raised her hips, fingers digging into the soft ghostly flesh, and pushed inside her. She threw her head back and her ragged breath was the only sound for a long moment. He reached up and placed a fingertip against her throat, feeling the steady thrum of her pulse.
"What does it feel like?" he asked hoarsely, pulling her back down from the starry climes she wandered in, tasting her need in the damp sweat between her small breasts.
"Like I've swallowed the moon," she breathed.
They moved and strained against each other like the wild things they were, and he realized dimly, as he forgot to inhale and clutched blindly at her shoulders, as he toppled off the edge of the fault line and took her with him, that together their cry sounded like the cry of the wolf.
He did not leave the next night; he took his potion and he curled up by one of the scarred beams. It had chunks missing, it was battered and chipped, but it was still strong. It could still bear the load.
Luna wandered into the house from doing something only she would understand, and without hesitation she pulled off the summer robe she had been wearing and lay down beside him. He felt the wild rise up in him, but this time it was different. This time he did not fight it or hate it. She had drawn it from him last night and she had reveled in it, and he found he could not feel shame over it anymore. In its own way, it was beautiful.
He looked at the strange, pale girl lying on the floor beside him. The full moon fell in bars across her, illuminating the strange curves of her body. It was as if she had longer bones than she had enough skin for, the same feeling he had experienced watching her walk away when she was twelve years old; the peculiar grace of a pendulum stopped between child and woman. In her own way, Luna was beautiful.
He laid his muzzle over the bare skin of her abdomen and she smiled at the tickle of his coarse coat.
"Sleep, Remus. The piper of the wild, the moon, is keeping watch."
And sleep he did.