A/N: This chapter turned out to be more philosophical than I expected. I never really planned it to happen that way, so it may seem a bit over the top.
I'm also concerned about Luna being a bit OOC. If you think she is, please leave some suggestions. I would like to keep both girls (especially Luna, which is very difficult) close to their original characters in the books. Keep in mind, however, that I do try to write Luna as someone whose deeper than her eccentricities. After all, she is a Ravenclaw and must have some degree of intelligence. If it bothers you then you probably won't like this very much. I also tend to write Hermione as a fairly insecure person because, once again, that's my opinion of her. If you don't agree then don't flame me.
It's long though. So be happy about that :-)
Hmm... this chapter also contains a few quotes from famous works. If you cannot figure out who the author is by reading it, or where the quote originated from, see the section at the very bottom of the story. I encourage you to find out for yourself if you do not know it.
Thank you for your reviews! They are always good pick-me-ups.
Chapter IV: Waiting For You
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
Sometimes Luna just wanted to just reach up and grab a handful of stars. Not to steal them of course, but simply to borrow for a short while so she could see them closer. Perhaps it was the feeling that everyone experienced when on their back in the grass, face turned up toward to heavens- of that she wasn't sure. What she did know was that she loved the sight of the sky just after dusk, a canvas of deep blue that nature painted with drops of light as the sun faded. To her it was a masterpiece with no comparison.
Her head was resting on a smooth rock that jutted out of the grass and gradually flattened out. She found it in her second year, and ever since she fondly remembered it as her pillow. It was the best spot to view the night sky shortly before curfew. Hardly anyone came near it, since it sat close to the castle; those who went outside in the first place wished more often than not to get away from the building. The tranquility it allowed was a nice change from the bustling business inside.
With a small, content sigh, she turned her pale eyes to the moon. What she saw made her chest heavy with pity. It seemed tired tonight, with it's pallid white skin and hint of shadow around the right edge. There was no brilliant halo or silvery beams to fill her with a regal sense of pride at her namesake. It was just ashen, almost corpselike. An empty vessel of sorts. She wondered if it was growing old and weary of looking down upon the earth and seeing people suffer.
Or, at least, it was how she felt until her eyes grazed along the ribbon of stars starting across the sky. As the night grew darker, the stars grew brighter and more numerous until even the moon had it's own devotees to keep it company. The feeling of gloom she had just felt lifted as quickly as it had descended, and in it's wake was a vivid memory. She heard the voice of her father reading from an old muggle book he used to pull out on nights like this, when both of them were outside and Luna ripped her shoes off to feel the grass in between her toes. She could never remember the author--Joan Milkin? John Muffin?-- but knew the passage by heart. With a dreamy, almost whimsical voice, she recited it aloud.
A broad and ample road, whose dust is gold,
And pavement stars,—as stars to thee appear
Seen in the galaxy, that milky way
Which nightly as a circling zone thou seest
Powder'd with stars.
Satisfied with her recitation, Luna studied the Milky Way with her protuberant eyes. She always found it curious that the poet called it a "road." To her, it looked more like a delicate veil worn by Queen Cassiopeia or Andromeda. To call it a road meant that it had to be a path that led to a destination. But where could this one lead? To paradise or the next world? What if it led to nothing at all; after all, it could be just a path carved out of the sky for no real purpose other than to leave people like her wondering. Somehow she could see the gods of yore laughing at her expense as she sat here pondering. A slight tremor erupted in her chest at the thought.
"It's not funny to tease people like that," she said aloud. The stars gazed back and offered no reply.
She frowned. How she hated cold indifference- it seemed that this was the response she always received when she sought to answer something meaningful. People would either laugh or tell her to quit searching, for they saw it as fruitless. Even her father told her that she expected too much out of the world. It was beginning to make her wonder if she should even continue the search at all.
Suddenly, as if sensing her plight, a star winked at her. Her body tensed as she waited for it to do it again, but it continued to burn steadily as if nothing had happened. Luna was tempted to ask the star why it winked at her if it didn't care about her at all. After all, there had to be a reason for it. Stars don't just wink on a whim and then sink back into stillness.
It was in that moment that Luna got the joke. A small smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she wondered why she hadn't thought of it before. It was simple, really. The stars were really trying to help her understand- they wink to keep her intrigued, to keep questioning. Maybe there was no answer to where "the road" led, or it was different for other people. In any case, she didn't come out here to find the answer; she came out here to wonder. There was a distinct difference, like the feeling one gets putting the puzzle together and the other from completing it. Both were good feelings, but one needed to have a little of both to be happy in life. After all, only the first option would lead to frustration, as you would never be able to solve anything; the second would lead to indifference, for why would you want to try something you know that you'll just finish and throw away?
Then what of Hermione Granger? Which is she?
The thought came almost out of nowhere, and for a moment Luna wondered if something had whispered it to her. She swatted the air with her hand in case a foul creature had decided to confuse her, but felt nothing but the cool autumn air. The damage had already been done, however. She became flooded with the image of Hermione.
In the few weeks since she had given Hermione the pendant, she had barely seen the girl, and that counted the times she saw her bushy hair just above the pages of a book. The only time Hermione had even looked at her was at breakfast that day last week when she held her gaze for a moment's time before crashing into Draco Malfoy. Somehow that didn't matter, though. She thought of her all the time while she was studying or reading, and it was becoming very distracting. She was sure a few of her housemates noticed how she had been watching her during every meal since the beginning of the year, and rumors were bound to start up eventually. But she couldn't stop- meals were the best time to see what Hermione was really like, when she was surrounded by friends she felt comfortable with.
She had never really figured out why Hermione had suddenly invaded her thoughts. At the beginning of the year it was simply because she rather liked her and wanted to talk with her once in a while. Now Hermione was the puzzle she couldn't complete. She was like the night sky, something to ponder about and try to figure out. Only she actually cared what would happen when there were no secrets left. The mystery of her true self was what made Luna like her so much.
The ironic thing was, she was sure that the girl felt the same way about her. Hermione just viewed the situation differently, as she so often did. This left Luna wondering if Hermione felt her stomach flutter whenever she entered a room, or if she was left thinking about waves of blonde hair and butterbeer caps before she went to sleep. Was Hermione just as adamant to figure out Luna as she was to figure out Hermione?
The rumble of her stomach brought her thoughts to an end. She had missed dinner because of her stargazing, and surprisingly she didn't mind. Now, however, the absence of food was becoming all too apparent.
Michael Corner made it his duty to inform his friends of anything and everything ridiculous. When he ran out of ripe gossip, he took to another form of nonsense entirely- confrontation for the sake of getting someone annoyed. For this he was well known, and though not exactly well liked by the general population, his skill of manipulation was respected for being almost Slytherin-like.
He stood in the corner of the Ravenclaw common room among two other boys, or his retinue as they were so fondly referred to by members of other houses. His dark eyes scanned the room for worthy prey, a task that didn't take long to complete. He spotted Luna seated at the edge of a long table near the blue tapestry; or, rather, a mess of blonde hair spreading itself over the book's pages. To him, the opportunity couldn't have been more perfect.
"Hey, Loony Lovegood," he shouted. A pair of protuberant eyes rose from the Defense Against the Dark Arts textbook. Her demeanor showed no sign of recognizing the insulting epithet.
He was wearing a particularly smug smile that made her wonder what was going on in his head. "Just wanted to see if you were paying attention."
She frowned. "All right, then."
Choosing to ignore the sniggering of Michael's two friends, she refocused her attention on the book, absentmindedly humming Weasley Is Our King on her breath. It was a trick she discovered a year ago to help keep her mind focused. Michael, however, didn't seem to be done with her yet. He motioned to his friends to stay put and then strode over to Luna, shoulders thrown back in an attempt to look imposing. "Lovegood," he said again as he slipped in a chair next to her.
She looked up again, still humming. "Yes?"
He smirked. "You sure like that song, Lovegood. I hear you sing it all the time."
"I do, yes," she replied simply. She wondered if maybe he wasn't feeling well. There was a strange glint in his eye, and he seemed to be taking far more interest in her than usual.
"You look very nice today, Luna." His two friends began to laugh again. Three third-year girls seated near the edge of the table hid smiles behind their hands as they eyed Luna's clock-faced earrings and infamous butterbeer cap necklace. To them, it was as if he just called a pauper a prince.
Luna, however, seemed outwardly unfazed. "I look the same as I did yesterday." She did, actually. This morning she had put on another one of her Ravenclaw jumpers and a newly pressed robe. Even her socks were the same style.
Michael shook his head and said (with a hint of sarcasm), "Nonsense! You look more radiant every day, like a seed steadily blossoming into a rose." This comment caused his friends to laugh harder, and the third-year girls to audibly chuckle.
"What kind of rose?"
"Err, sorry?" Michael asked, raising one eyebrow at Luna's question.
"What kind of rose?" she repeated. "I mean, there are so many. White roses. Red roses. Roses of Avalon. A rose from Midas' garden perhaps?" Michael smiled widely and proceeded to brush aside her question.
"It doesn't matter, Luna. The one that is most lovely."
"I think they're all lovely. I couldn't possibly choose."
"Then choose all of them."
"But you said "rose," which means one. How can one be many?"
With a slightly annoyed sigh, Michael reacher forward to grab Luna's left hand. "Just take my compliment, will you?" he purred, bringing her hand to his lips. A collective "oooh" echoed around the common room.
Luna's eyes grew slightly wider, if that was even possible. Michael took notice and dropped her hand, still smiling widely. "Is there something wrong?"
"So you are sick." She paused, observing Michael with a fixed stare. "I figured as much. It's been going around everywhere. Dreadful, really, that so many are afflicted by it."
The ridiculous smile playing about Michael's face vanished. "What?"
"You're sick, and I don't want to be. I'd be best if I leave so you can detoxify."
Michael stared at her in surprise for a moment before attempting to open his mouth. "Detoxify? I'm not sick; heck, I haven't been sick in years! Wait, what are you...?" Luna had stood up during his rambling and began gathering her things.
"It's just as I thought- you've got Tongue Dither. You know, the one that makes you say things you don't mean and damages your ability to form a coherent sentence."
She pulled her book and notes to her chest and fixed her eyes on him again. "Get some rest. The symptoms are rough, you know, with the sore throat and all, but you'll be normal soon. I'm afraid, however, that no one will like you much until then." Michael pursed his lips together and blushed deeply as the vast majority of the students in the common room began to laugh. Even his friends were in an uproar. One girl in particular (who dated Michael in the past) laughed harder than the rest, and shouted, "Nice one, Lovegood!" as Luna made her way up the stairs to her room.
The morning sun gleamed through the stained glass windows of the common room, leaving shards of color scattered about the tables and walls. Luna absentmindedly traced a section of red with her finger, starting from the edge of the table and landing next to her plate. The other hand supported the underside of her jaw so her fingers could entangled themselves in her freshly washed hair. It had been difficult for her to get up this morning because she had not slept well the night before. She kept dreaming of Hermione wrapped up in a blanket and reading to her by the fireside, and almost as soon as the dream started she would wake up with her head spinning and her chest on fire. Needless to say, sleep was hard to come by.
Of course, the fact that Hermione was seated within sight didn't help much either. Luna had been watching her all morning as she chatter amiably with her friends. The Gryffindor seemed much more alert that she had been of late, and Luna wondered what exactly had compelled her to finally take her friend's advice and get some sleep. Whatever the reason, her normal self was at work again. That fact at least left Luna feeling warm inside, a sign that she hadn't been possessed by a scopulus-anima (although she had considered asking Madam Pomfrey about this morning to see if she had any antidote).
Unknown to the distant Luna was the constant retelling of her conversation with Michael Corner the day before. The entirety of the Ravenclaw table was occupied with news of the event, and it was told so often that people began to quote her word for word. Even the Slytherins had heard of it by now, and though the respect for Luna didn't rise at all, the appreciation of Luna as comic relief from everyday normalcy was definitely boosted. Michael himself sulked at the far end of the table, gripping his juice tightly and glaring at the amused glances people kept throwing him. Foremost among the recipients of his hard glares was Luna herself, though she obviously took no notice of the attention he was paying her. That left him in an even more foul mood, and he could only stand to sit for a few moments longer before exiting the Great Hall.
The sudden fluttering of Michael's robes caught Luna's eye, and she turned and watched him leave. She noted a particular stiffness in his step, the kind that usually attempts to cover up some type of emotional distress but usually just gives it away. The cause of it was obvious, though why he took what happened so badly was confusing. To be perfectly honest, she was still rather puzzled over yesterday's events. Obviously he was trying to toy with her; she knew that type of situation quite well. But why on earth everyone thought it was so funny was beyond her.
Not that it matters anyway, she thought. Let them think what they want, and laugh at what they want. They always do.
With a sigh, she returned to tracing the light with her finger.
It was during Potions that Luna thought of it. It was certainly a revelation, though there were no burning bushes or anything fantastic about it. In fact, it slipped into her mind during one of Slughorn's pompous speeches about a poison he managed to find the antidote for. Hardly the time for what could be a life changing thought.
But then again, Luna was no stranger to peculiar events.
It happened as she was writing notes. To keep herself from growing bored, she often drew pictures in the margins of her parchment when she had the chance. They were always relevant, so she didn't feel any remorse for drawing them; as for what Slughorn would think if he saw them, well, that she wasn't too sure of. So she kept them hidden by one arm while she busily scribbled with the other.
As he described the creature that could produce the poison, she formed a picture of it on paper. Tall, with broad shoulders and a furry mane. Eyes like dying embers. Claws that could rip a man to pieces (though she wondered for a moment if he was exaggerating). What struck her was the mention of flaming red hair.
Red hair. Flaming red hair. Ginny Weasley. Why hadn't she thought of it before?
Luckily for her, there were only a few minutes left of class. As soon as the clock reached ten, she knew she was free. Keeping her excitement inward, she gathered her things and calmly walked out of the door. She even gave Slughorn one last look as she left, knowing he would take that as a signal that she was at least somewhat interested in what he was saying a moment before.
With a brisk but smooth motion, she began to walk down the dungeon hallway up to where she knew Ginny would be. Sure enough, within only a few moment's time she was able to spot the girl among the throng of students leaving their last class."Ginny," she called out. The redhead stopped in her tracks and turned around.
"Luna!" she replied cheerfully, noting Luna's bright expression. "You look happy."
Luna gave her a small smile in acknowledgement as she slipped past another girl and began to walk next to her. "Slughorn mentioned a beast he found some antidote for. I knew, after that, that I had to talk to you."
Had she been ignorant of Luna's bizarre sense of social behavior she would have been offended. Ginny, however, knew better. "And why is that?"
"He said it had red hair."
"So I thought of you."
"Of course." Ginny waited for Luna to speak again, but the other girl made it clear that she wasn't going to do so any time soon. Ginny shifted uncomfortably, vaguely wondering if Luna really wanted to talk at all or if she just wanted to have someone's company for a moment.
"Do you need to talk or something?" she finally asked.
Luna nodded. "Can I ask you a few questions?"
"Sure. About what?"
"About Hermione Granger."
Ginny nearly stopped walking at the mention of her friend's name. One thousand questions had just flooded into her brain, chief among them being the simple and overused "why". She was just about to voice her queries when she noticed the strange look in Luna's eyes, and all questions quickly vanished. Somehow she knew that things were about to become more complicated.
A/N Part 2:
Hey literature buffs! Name the book where the "broad and ample road" passage was taken. I gave you a hint for the author. (Don't scroll down, you cheater!)
Guess it, yet? Yep, it's Paradise Lost by John Milton. Congrats if you got it.
The quote at the very beginning is from Walt Whitman's poem Song of Myself.
scopulus-anima rock spirit. Something that leaves you indifferent and unfeeling.
As for the Michael Corner situation, it will play a larger role in later chapters. I had to include it her so it could... err... fester into something more important.