the story so far
fandom: harry potter
rating: pg-13 (slight language, mentions of sexual activity)
word count: 4,800
disclaimer: JKR and a bunch of publishers pwn and I'm making no money.
notes: Something that's been brewing since I finished my OotP re-read. Post-Hogwarts. Two huge thank you's go to sioniann and thysanotus for betas and Amy + Joan for encouragement.
Harry Potter has had three love stories in his life.
The two first ones do not have any huge relevance when considering the third one. The one with Cho ended almost as it began; like building a house and hitting your thumb with a hammer when trying to hammer down the very first nail. The one with Ron never really started and never really ended because it just wasn't like that. Hermione argued that Harry couldn't really call it love because platonic love in today's society was just considered friendship. Essentially, he admitted, it was just that, but it also ran deep, deeper than he ever could've told Hermione about without hurting her feelings.
The third love story Harry had should begin from its end; all the moments after. Backward order, because nothing with Luna was ever normal even when it was normal. Which was probably why Harry loved her. Had loved her. Still does.
He has to start somewhere. So he starts from the moments after.
The end is so similar to the beginning that it hurts even more.
Maybe it isn't really the end but just another beginning. Harry Potter was not one to be called an optimist, though. He didn't like beginnings anymore. The process of starting over, going back to regularity.
Slowly sliding back to the gray.
After you've survived something you think would kill you eventually, you should feel more than glad to be alive. Everything should feel magnificent: everyone day is a new one, filled with new smells, tastes, people.
You breathe the air and your lungs should feel like big, exploding bags of joy.
But Harry Potter was tired.
Tired of his so very ordinary life, his two-room apartment, his work, his 30 years of age that just seemed too bloody little, because he felt a century old.
He also knew what too many painful things felt like and that was his value. It was like the bright red box in a magazine article about The Boy Who Lived that said, "The story so far" and listed all the tragedies he had encountered during his life. The box everyone read instead of the main article which talked about his current life. Then their eyes would slowly go over the captions under the moving photographs and then they'd turn the next page. It was the bright red box that interested people. Everything else was mundane. Harry was mundane and only his past troubles made him special.
Harry no longer had the ego to be frustrated about it. His whole existence had faded into the wallpaper, so boring he was hardly even there.
He still met Ron and Hermione daily, and after work they went to a pub and drank a Butterbeer or two. They shared a laugh and maybe it was like the old days; Harry was always too drained to say, really.
Harry always means to throw out her photos, her letters, her books but instead they somehow gather around his apartment into huge piles of memories that sting. He guesses he just enjoys this method of self-torture. He walks among them and feels like maybe it's not the end.
Maybe it's a beginning and he stirs up his own memories, as if they were liquid in the Pensieve. He mixes them up and throws them around and maybe it really is a beginning.
He still met Ron and Hermione daily and after work they went to a pub and drank a Butterbeer or two. They shared a laugh and maybe it was like the old days.
Work as an Auror wasn't all it had been hyped up to be. There were no super-criminals trying to invent new torture spells or mutate bats into killing machines. Harry's typical work day included way too much paperwork and when he got to leave the office, it was hardly ever anything more exciting. A few weeks back, he and Ron had gone to interview some old witch in Lincoln about a missing tea set that had levitated out of her house while she was cleaning the attic. The lady had wept on her cat and Ron had given her a tissue and assured that everything would be done to get her tea set back.
Adventures, excitement; during school years, maybe. Harry was mundane and beginning to accept it.
Harry was gloomy but it was different gloom than the kind he'd had in his teens. Nowadays he was just tired and bored, feeling strangely incomplete and out-of-place.
Like pieces of him were missing. Like he had a puzzle he couldn't solve. Like everything was in dull, numbing greyscale.
Perhaps he should give up on making vague metaphors to pinpoint what exactly was wrong with his life. Harry had scribbled more words, adjectives describing his existence, on a piece of parchment that Hermione had seen. She had called him painfully melodramatic.
"You just need to go out more, Harry," she had said and walked off, crumbling the parchment in her hand and throwing it into the trashbin.
The second time they kissed.
Harry leant against her doorframe and waited for permission to come in. She smiled and looked translucent against the gleaming white apartment, no decorations because she had only just moved in. She was talking but he concentrated on just watching her.
"Silkworms and silk weren't discovered by the empress Lei Zu in China," she said, walking toward him in the tiniest steps.
"Who, then?" Harry asked, knowing not to make a guess because with Luna one could never get the answer correct anyway.
"Spiders discovered silk and they decorated their nests with silk, not because it looked lovely but because it was strong." She was close to him and her beauty seemed ethereal in that moment.
"Strong?" Harry gasped as she pressed her lips against his throat. She couldn't reach his mouth until he lowered his chin toward her, breathing in her scent of bookdust and ...silk.
"Even spiders need things to hold everything together. Strength," she breathed against his lips and grasped his bicep, guiding him away from the door and into the apartment. "And flexibility."
Harry stirs up his own memories, as if they were liquid in the Pensieve. He mixes them up and throws them around and maybe it really is a beginning.
In a fantasy Harry goes back to square one.
If you believe in chances, it all happened by accident.
One day Harry picked up The Quibbler off the floor of the lift in the Ministry. It wasn't the latest copy, it had been read several times and a few pages had been torn out - posters, Harry saw, posters of some famous wizard musician. He read it during his lunch hour, cover to cover. After that, he threw it in the trash, where he felt like it belonged.
Two days later he sent a letter to Luna Lovegood by owl.
Harry couldn't even tell why he did it. He figured that perhaps it was one of those things where you're reminded so strongly of a certain person you can't help but contact said person, just to see how they're doing, what's going on in their lives.
The morning after he'd sent a message to Luna, Harry was buzzing. He just couldn't stay still. He'd drum his fingers against his desk, he'd whistle and he'd repeatedly sort the pieces of parchment on his desk for no good reason. He felt excited and happy but weird at the same time, his hands shaking and his heart thudding somewhere near his throat.
After Luna's reply (purple ink, huge blotches for every dot on the top of an 'i', signed "Love, Luna") they met in a pub somewhere near the Ministry.
"You really don't have much of a life, do you?" Luna asked. Harry stared at her quizzically and then laughed.
It was the sort of free laughter he rarely laughed these days, the sort of laughter that just made him forget. It bubbled from the inside and even when he stopped laughing, it stayed within him, making him smile secretly to himself because for that tiny moment he had felt the happiest he assumed he ever would be.
Luna's eyes wandered over his throat and chest and she was smiling, too.
"Or did you just invite me here to be amusing?"she then asked, meeting his eyes directly for the first time that night.
"No, no, you're absolutely correct, I am a sad, lifeless bore," Harry said lightly. "And I didn't invite you here to be anything but yourself."
"That is such a cliché," Luna simply said, without scorn, without contempt. She was merely stating a fact and as she looked at Harry he saw that there was very little of that faraway dreaminess left in her. Her round eyes seemed to still see things others didn't catch and she still often spoke in a rather silly way, using colourful words and eccentric metaphors.
Every bit as strange as before, only more grown up now. Fifteen years can do that to a person.
Harry wanted to take her home already.
"My father wants to write an article about you," she told him on their fourth date, after three uneventful first ones that all ended up with her Apparating in mid-sentence. Harry had immediately learned it to be her own style, instead of taking it as a personal insult toward his desperate wooing skills.
"An article? Haven't there been enough of those?" Harry asked, poking at his lunch with a fork. He wasn't really hungry. He hadn't felt properly hungry for quite some time now.
"An article that shows you're just human," Luna specified. "An article in which you tell about the time you hexed your toenails to grow too fast or something ordinary like that."
"Wouldn't that be a bit too ... i ordinary /i for The Quibbler?" Harry asked, raising an eye brow. What he really wanted to ask about was the toenails thing. Who did that and why?
"Discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary and the ordinary in the extraordinary is really the course we're taking for the magazine," she briefly explained. "New times, new winds."
"Winds and flowers, Harry, winds and flowers." She stabbed a cucumber slice in her salad with her fork and ate it, her gaze wandering outside of the restaraunt they were in.
He wanted to ask, but had learned that sometimes it was just better not to.
"What's your secret?" Harry asked her one Saturday morning, his fingers travelling up and down her smooth, pale backside. They had been in bed for hours and he didn't wish to change that but he wanted something else to fill the day than languid silence only interrupted by gasps and groans caused by lovemaking.
"I couldn't tell you," she said, smiling and rolled to place her back against Harry's chest, pulling his arm around her.
"Why not?" he asked while nuzzling her neck, so content in this state of being.
"Because then you wouldn't love me anymore." There was a certain darkness in her voice that made him pull her closer.
"I don't love you for your secrets."
"Of course you don't." Disbelief. Sadness.
"I don't!" Defense.
"You don't." Fact.
She left the bed, naked and silent and dressed herself while he dramatically thought of things that cracked and broke and were thrown away.
"But I do love you," he managed to say before she took her purse and a step toward the door.
"You do," she said, turning back and slipping back to bed with him.
Hermione isn't allowed to visit him because she's full of good advice and frustrated sighs.
Ron instead does visit, to bring food and to talk about Quidditch.
"The Tornadoes are doing absolutely shite," he says, watching Harry fork at his dinner.
"Good," Harry says and takes a bite of his bread.
"Yes, the Cannons definitely have a chance now that McGrough is back in the team. Some people say the man's seen his best days but he's brilliant, always has been, there's no denying that after his great performance against Uruguay in the national team last year..."
Slowly but steadily Harry's thoughts drowns out the sound of Ron's voice; like he is standing in the shower, his eyes closed, his thoughts elsewhere and they fly him away from the situation he's in. Then a few minutes later he opens his eyes, wipes the water off his face and realizes he is surrounded by sounds of running water and tiles. Tiles tiles tiles.
"Perhaps I should write a book," Harry says, more to himself than anything else.
"Oh, pull yourself together," Ron groans, frustrated. "You're turning into Remus or something with your dusty books and old photographs and blank faces. And Remus is mourning, you're not."
Harry knows he's being a miserable, boring old git but he kind of doesn't care because he's just back to square one.
The way he was is the way he is and he's the only one accepting it.
The first time he met her father.
He was a tall man with an unnaturally thick moustache, dressed in a chalk-stripe suit. Mr Lovegood had an air of professionality around him, but quirky details in his expressions, accent and clothing made it clear that it wasn't only Luna's mother where her kookiness came from.
"Bang, you're it!" he exclaimed and pointed his forefingers at Harry, firing them like guns to his direction.
Harry laughed, not out of obligation to do so because this was the father of the woman he wanted to marry, but out of sheer mirth that he felt because another unusual character had just stepped into his life.
Mr Lovegood spoke in scandalous headlines and arched an eye brow every time he happened to hear a bit of suspicious dialogue spoken in the table next to them or anything else of that sort. He firmly believed in conspiracy theories or what he called the "Layer of the Unknown".
"The Layer of the Unknown is another portion of reality that we will never know about because we close our eyes from it. This is why I publish The Quibbler. It releases all the information we close our eyes from." Mr Lovegood smoked a cinnamon cigarette, and dropped the ashes in the remains of his tea in a manner only he could make seem royal. "Some people say Muggles are stupid because they do not understand well enough to see magic. I say we're no different from them, we too do not see what lies beyond this reality. And the worst thing about our ignorance is that we simply refuse to see further. Even when it's possible."
Luna leaned over to whisper in Harry's ear. "Father always talks about the Layer of the Unknown when sales are dropping. It hasn't been a great 6 months but things are improving in terms of circulation."
When Harry told Ron about this interesting encounter with Luna's father, Ron just laughed.
"He sounds like a great person for such a strange old bloke, but really, what a load of dung!" He ran a hand through his red hair, looking at the floor thoughtfully, then turning to Harry. "You didn't buy into it, did you?"
"Of course not!" Harry snorted and made a mental note to hide his Quibblers in his sock drawer by the next time Ron visited him.
It's not that Harry had started to believe. He just kept his mind more open. It was the only way to live with Luna Lovegood and not go insane. And he liked it just as he liked her.
Another one of Harry's favourite self-torture methods is reading the From the Editor column that Luna often wrote under the name of her father. He imagines her breathing those words into the shell of his ear with that faraway and slightly ethereal voice. It had a touch of that sophisticated Southern accent she'd adopted from spending so much time at the beach every summer.
The fact was that Harry had never read the magazine for the articles. He'd always just wanted to understand Luna a bit better; find out the things she'd never tell him.
He thinks he loves a woman and the only way to make her love him back is to know her.
Harry puts away all the pieces from the past because he got it all wrong from the beginning. He wants to get to the bottom of it all. To understand Luna Lovegood.
Ron and Hermione never stop visiting but they don't hide the fact they think Harry has lost his mind.
Doing his detective work obsessively from the moment he gets back from his real work to the moment he goes to bed, Harry believes he's on his way of figuring it out.
A relationship doesn't go stale when the sex stops.
At least not with Luna Lovegood. With her it can happen much, much earlier.
The last time they had sex, it was rough.
Luna used words she normally didn't, ones that started with f's and some others and Harry knew she didn't mean the farm animal with one of them like she normally would.
She was alien and sweaty and it was hot but somehow wrong. Harry came and didn't sink into calming dreams but nightmares where people died and suffered and burned in fire and no one rose like a phoenix bird, no one.
Harry woke up and walked to the kitchen to drink a glass of cold water. She snuck behind him and like a wicked demon, bit into his backside so hard it hurt and burned and Harry shrugged her off of him and muttered a curse word.
"Why don't you speak the tongue of the snakes sometimes?" Luna asked, her voice so present it shocked and scared him.
"Do you know me at all?" he spat out angrily and hunched over the sink to drink straight out of the tap.
"What do you think I've been trying to do all this time?" she said and left the room, possibly the building; perhaps she really did wander nude into the night. Harry never left the kitchen that night. He slept against the table the next day, the whole day and it was around the evening that Hedwig woke him up.
The following day was a Sunday and Luna came by and they talked about nothing at all but didn't touch each other, not on purpose, not by accident.
Harry knew it couldn't burn and she was not dangerous but something made him take a step back when she took one forward.
The problem was never that they were these two people who didn't love each other and weren't happy together.
They did love each other and were happy but it was more a question of being ready for that love, for that happiness. Harry had always been ready. Harry had never had it as good as he felt he should have it. Pain and suffering and pressure and getting screwed over; oh yes, Harry was definitely ready to just feel happy and content with his life.
But Luna had gone through just as much as Harry in a way or another but she had layers and layers covering all of this up while Harry let the entire world know about his misery. And Luna had never felt ready for this kind of grown up happiness that didn't involve endless fields of flowers or the joy of getting a new pet.
Luna felt like she ought to change like the moon she was named after; wane and bloom again.
Harry wanted to know Luna's secrets. Truth was that she had none. She just had layers she wished to hide from him. For no special reason apart from the fact that she was afraid.
The layers got between them, clogging up their conversations, making every love confession sound forced, making every apology seem fake.
Luna just wanted to know Harry better than anyone. Truth was that she already did. Harry had no layers.
Like two light beams that never crossed, never came together, the fundamental misconception lead to tiny misunderstandings, slightly hurt feelings, distance, so much distance.
Too late in the game to patch things up.
Harry worked tirelessly with his project of finding out about the real Luna Lovegood. He read articles about her forefathers, he arranged all the photographs he had of her, he collected and assembled materials to form a clear picture.
The more he worked, the more frustrated he grew. There didn't seem to be anything to discover.
Like all he'd seen in those tiny moments of watching her sleep as the sun came up or holding her hand when seeing a Muggle movie truly were the real her, and everything there was to her, he already knew.
It couldn't be like that, Harry thought, because if he'd known her, truly known her, there wouldn't have been distance.
Harry wanted to know Luna. Truth was that he already did. Better than anyone ever had or ever would.
They had their final argument over something as trivial as a sugar spoon used for stirring tea.
"You don't do that," Harry hissed angrily. "Why would anyone do that? No one does that. No one."
"It's just a spoon," she commented in the calm, rational voice because when Luna argued, she didn't and that was the one thing that drove him insane.
"It's not just the bloody fucking spoon, it's everything you do. You do everything like no one else does." Harry angrily poured his tea down the drain. "I hate that."
He lied. So did she.
"Why do you insist on being dramatic? I don't understand you, Harry Potter."
"Is that what I am to you? Harry i fucking /i Potter."
"Yes, that's exactly it. I'm so lost in my fantasies, I don't want you, I want Harry Potter. Capital letters and everything. Boy Who Lived. That's all I want. A name and a title." She scoffed and a tiny voice inside him told him she was playing like he was playing, acting just to escape it all.
"I should've known."
"But you didn't. That's just your loss, Harry Potter. Your curse of a name. Your scar. Your legacy. What I've been sleeping with. Harry Potter."
Lies created their own safety net because the truth was that none of them had a real reason to leave.
They fell comfortably on their lies, like landing on a trampoline, but they never bounced back. Not until now.
Hermione insists on taking Harry out for lunch and she talks and talks and talks until she suddenly becomes silent. Harry turns to look at whatever it is she's staring at and grouching there, awkward in his seat, he feels like the world's biggest fool watching Luna, all colours and light.
She's with a friend, another former Ravenclaw and they laugh. He turns away quickly. Suddenly the world shrinks and becomes just the distance between them, so real and electric and suffocating.
"I think I want to leave now," he tells Hermione and stands up, taking his coat.
"I suppose you do," she says, and grabs his hand when he's walking past her. "I-- I thought it'd be a good idea to take you out," she continues apologetically.
"Yeah," Harry breathes out. "Yeah."
He leaves and doesn't think she saw him – hopes she didn't.
Luna moved out before he had to ask.
It wouldn't have felt so bad if Harry didn't still have the feeling he could've done something.
The very first time Harry saw Luna, he didn't. Too caught up in his own world of trouble, there wasn't any room for new people, to see anything other than a quirky girl who saw Thestrals as did he. Then he merely disregarded her as someone he was bound to run into but no one whose company would offer him the same sort of entertainment and encouragement as Ron and Hermione's company did.
The first time Harry looked at Luna and really saw her was over a pint, as she went through her bag to find a quill so he could scribble down his home address for her to owl him. Her hair had fallen to slightly cover her face. Her expression was calm and yet she seemed awfully concentrated on what she was doing.
Harry said something utterly ridiculous, possibly meaning to say one word and saying something completely different and she laughed relaxedly, placing her bag on the table. The bag was made out of paper, various Quibbler covers, blaring headlines, gossip.
She handed him the quill and their fingers brushed, the quill dropping onto the table because of this sudden contact. Accompanied by Harry's nervous laughter, Luna smiled suggestively and handed him the quill for the second time. This time their hands made no contact and Harry wrote his address down on a piece of parchment successfully.
They left the pub together and when they hugged goodbye, Harry wanted to stay and breathe in her scent just for one moment longer.
At the break room of the Ministry floor that Harry works on, there are usually various magazines and papers spread all over the table. Today there is only one and Harry stares at it.
It is a five months old issue of Quibbler and there is Harry on the cover. He looks happy. He was happy, when the photograph was taken. He was extremely happy.
He goes through the magazine, scanning over every unbelievable picture and every screaming headline. He read the article about himself, dismissing the yellow "Story So Far"-box and skipping every bit that mentioned anything to do with his social life.
After reading it, he throws the magazine in the trash, where he feels like it belongs.
He then pauses.
Repetition. The cycle starts again.
It's Luna who contacts him this time around.
She shows up on his door step and Harry curses the fact he doesn't have a peephole. For a few seconds he just stands in front of her in all his unwashed, boxers-and-t-shirt-clad glory and doesn't say anything.
"Why are you here?" he then asks, hoping to sound bitter and cold. Failing at this, he just sounds confused.
"You ordered The Quibbler. I was surprised, I didn't think you actually ever read it."
Harry scoffed. "So a bloke can't order a magazine anymore without a representative from said magazine coming to his place for a questioning, a third degree? I'll cancel my subscription if it doesn't suit you."
"You know I didn't come here for that." She frowns and then gazes at his chest, the few grease stains on his shirt. "Fast food."
"Luna, what is this?" Harry asks tiredly, unconsciously rubbing at the stains with his hand.
"I think I left some of my things here," she says and smiles brightly. Harry grows suspicious.
"You didn't left any of your things here," he says and then watches her step inside his appartment. Reflexively, he takes a step back to give her more space.
"I did," she says and turns her pockets over, dropping tiny china dolls and ribbon and buttons and candy wrappers onto the floor.
"You did," Harry just repeats and stares at the memorabilia, feeling the world shrink as she steps closer, his heart in his throat.
She looks at him with her wide, knowing eyes and nods. Harry has no time to return the nod because soon her body is pressed against his and she's soft in his arms and under his lips. He knows where they go from here. They both do.
Harry gets rid of his study notes, the useless things. He shakes his head at his intense organization, the charts and the question marks for all the things that didn't make sense to him while they really did.
All the pieces fall into place and he doesn't need to stir his memories in the Pensieve anymore. They're already in order.
The fifth time they kissed, the entire world didn't spin around and it wasn't like heaven or heat and it was still not quite perfect but incredible despite. It was real, and real kisses don't taste of rainbows or sunshine, they taste of lunch or breakfast or toothpaste or wine, but this one tasted just of Luna.
It felt strange, kissing on a busy street and Harry could never rid himself of awkward self-consciousness but on that moment he was just enjoying himself too much to stop.
To let go.