Rating/Pairing: Luna/Neville, PG-13 just to be safe.
Disclaimer: Rowling owns the Universe. I just come to play in it.
Feedback: Most appreciated.
Summary: In a future that shouldn't be, Neville deals with his ghosts. Literally.
Notes: Title stolen from an Ivy song. I looked for a complete cannon explanation of ghosts, but was unable to find anything more than the vague one Nearly Headless Nick gave at the end of OotP, so I devised my own.

Worry About You

by Alena Fryin


Harry was dead, grave dust, food for things greater and smaller than himself, but the universe had not grinded to a halt in the aftermath of their loss, as much as Neville had expected it to.

He was seventeen when it began, and that was two years ago. Two years ago, the Boy Who Lived had yet to be the Boy Who Died, the Boy Who Was Martyred, the Boy Who Earned Sainthood and failed the world in the process.

The Hero had died and the story had continued.


He goes to London.

London's former glory has been burned out of it. Wizarding London, anyway. The Muggle version of the same grand city is in turmoil, not dead but in the turbulent act of dying and the treat of what they have dubbed terrorism puts the salted taste of palpable fear in his mouth. He leaves, two suitcases checkered with patches in hand, on one of the last flights allowed out of the country. He sits in his seat and wiggles his toes in the five inches of legroom so generously provided by British Airways. He doesn't open the window, doesn't want to see acres and acres of water passing below the airplane and speeding toward the shores of his Home on the far end of the Atlantic. He sleeps and pretends he has never left at all.

He goes to Florence.

Tonk's hair hangs in porcelain doll curls around her face, heart shaped and studded with freckles. The remaining members of the Order, she tells him, are coming to meet them. She wears street clothes, blue jeans and t-shirts with anonymous logos printed across the chest, clothes so bland that they almost make her stand out in a world comprised of summer pinks and patent leather shoes, fedoras with brims that extend inches, miles past their owner's foreheads.

He goes to Madrid.

Bellatrix's mouth is lavishly decorated with a faint gloss of blood that may or may not be her own. She recites a single word, letting it loll on her tongue even as the spell it contains sinks its pitiless teeth into his already damaged nervous system. One word is all it takes for marrow to melt, for sinews to scream. This parent-murdering, life-destroying bitch towers over him like a living, squirming shadow, a raven whose arms--wings--are folded smugly across her bodice.

"You're so pretty when you cry," Bellatrix cackles. He's pretty when he cries and she kisses him with her red, red mouth, tongue dancing mockingly across teeth and gums. He makes a valiant attempt at a defiant bite, but the pain of performing a gesture as simple as clamping down is too excruciating to bear. He passes out and when it wakes up, it is Remus looming above him, not Bellatrix.
He knows he is lucky to be alive and fails to be grateful for it anyway.

He goes to New York City, to Tokyo, to Las Vegas. He has been around the globe twice, and has never had the courage to set foot on English soil.


The motel on the side of US Highway I-70 is dilapidated and would have brought images of Norman Bates to the mind of anyone more fluent in Muggle pop culture than Neville. The crackling sign advertising the name of the lodge fizzles in and out of focus in the steaming summer night, and the young man finds he cannot look at it for more than a few seconds at a time without his eyes burning with the sheer brilliance of the tawdry, dying advertisement.

He walks into the front office, a tall, thickset young man in no-color slacks and a Yankies camp whose better days were years in prior to his entrance into the motel. The girl behind the desk is summer help by the looks of her, a teenager with a tan that looks haphazardly natural at best. She looks up from her magazine and forces a plastic, wilting smile to her lips. "Can I help you?" she inquiries, striving for politeness that comes out flat. Dream pop gushes out from the stereo behind her.

"Bye, bye baby. Don't be long. I worry about you while you're gone..."

"I'd like a room, please," Neville says, hopelessly aware of how strange his accent sounds when countered by this girl's neutral, Midwestern one. He and the rest of the Order have been on the run for days, months, year and he still was uncomfortable around strangers? It seems comical. Half the Wizarding world is after you and you're worried about speaking to one girl?

"How many nights?" the girl asks. She swivels her chair over to the computer, the screen of which splashes blueberry colored light across her face.

"Just one," Neville replies, and reaches into his pocket for his wallet. Muggle money was not difficult to deal with these days, but the currency he carries changes from day to day and it takes him several moments to recover three crisp American twenties. Unlike many receptionists, the girl does not seem alarmed that he is paying in cash. She accepts the bills, punches away at her computer for a moment or two longer, then makes change using the hulking cash register on the counter.

"I'll show you to your room," she says, rising from her seat.


"This," Luna Lovegood proclaims as soon as the receptionist has exited room 1919, "is much nicer than sleeping outside, although I did like seeing the stars." The blond breezes past Neville, feet hovering several inches off the stained orange carpet.

She moves quite gracefully in spite of the five-inch heels that rise to her ankles. Luna has a dozen ribbons up snaked either one of her legs, and they form a magnificent spider web of color and design that disappeared beneath the rumbled skirts of a Victorian gown that expands around her like a frothy cake.

She is not beautiful in spite of the stardust that has collected along her lashes, lashes that drop down over her pallid cheeks and melt into the white skin. Nothing with so many sharp angles could be beautiful in the typical sense of the word and then, of course, are the thin network of cuts rising up the left side of her face. Ghosts maintain the form they died in, and Luna is no exception. Every bruise she bore when she passed away, every imperfect snarl of her hair has been captured in the wispy, moon white form she no takes.

The unfortunate jogger who discovered her corpse thought Luna had been going to a party when she was murdered. Neville knew better: it was simply the way Luna dressed. She motions for him to come forward and as always, her hands are better than words; they illustrate the colorful worlds that otherwise would remain in her mind. Neville locks the door behind him and follows, drawing his wand from the breast pocket of his jacket.

"No one will be able to find us here," says Luna, glancing at the thin knob of wood in his hand. Neville cannot remember what happened to her wand. Chances are that it was broken, either what was to be her last fight or in the fray of collecting the body afterwards, but he has no recollection of actually seeing the damn thing.

"I just want to make sure." He mutters a few spells into the half light cast from the lamp on the bedside, binding, shielding, unplotting, and replaces the wand in his pocket. The weight is tangible in a way that this brand of magic can never be and therefore comfortable.

Luna does not watch him; rather, she flounces over to the uncomfortable looking chair beside the window and throws herself into its embrace. As usual, the seat gives no inclination that there is a person in it at all. It does not sag or creak or do anything but remain stationary.

"This whole business of being a ghost is fascinating," Luna had once told him. "If I want my hair to move in the wind, I have to think about it. I have to make it move." He had tried to mirror her bright grin and failed miserably. Dead was dead; he could think of nothing captivating about such an ugly Truth.

"Where are we going tomorrow?" Luna asks. Neville places his battered suitcase on the bed and snaps it open. The contents take moments to survey. A shirt here, a robe here, ID cards that claim he is everyone from Mr. John J. Smith to Patrick O'Keefe, a native of Dublin.

"Denver," he replies. "We're meeting a few members of the Order there. Tonks, Remus." He raises his head and the phantom Luna fills his vision. "Hermoine might be there, too."

Luna laces her hands together in her lap, the perfect lady in both attire and posture. "I hope so," she says. "I haven't seen them in ages. Not that you're not excellent company," she amends. "You're far more interesting than anyone else we know."

Unsure as to whether to take Luna's use of the word 'interesting', Neville returns to unpacking.


They talk late into the night. Luna is always talking, but unlike most people, Neville finds what this girl ghost has to say quite interesting. She grew up in a perpetual fairy tale, a real Grimm story. She had more books than friends, had seen the world over before the war came and snatched them all away from home. She says nothings that make him think, and although much of it stings, he is thankful for it nevertheless.

"Do you ever think about Harry?" says Luna. She is not facing him; her gaze is pinned to a finite point on the ceiling he cannot make out. If Neville tries hard enough, he can imagine the shiver of her breath, the rise and fall of her chest.

"All the time," Neville says. "I miss him."

"You could have been him and he could have been you," Luna says suddenly. "But it didn't turn out that way, did it? Harry was the Boy Who Lived, the one he chose. " She closes her eyes and Neville watches a shudder move its way through her. "The whole concept of possibility is frightening, don't you think? But one must wonder why it was him and not you."

"Voldemort made the prophecy come true," Neville says. The young man reaches over Luna and clicks off the lamp placed on top of the phone book he'll never use, beside the telephone he'll never pick up. "If he had left us both alone, he wouldn't have fallen. That's what Harry told us."

Fallen. He frowns. Angels fall, leaves fall. Voldemort was never a saint to begin with, and so it is impossible that he was dragged down to a lower level by all that had occurred.

"True," Luna says, "but you still must think about it sometimes. What if it had been Harry and not you? What if he was here now and you were dead? Don't you at least wonder?"

"I haven't the imagination to wonder," says Neville, repeating a phrase he had so often heard his grandmother use. He has no idea whether he is actually not equip with an imagination, whether he is too pragmatic in his own absent minded way to dream up possible futures and ways that they weren't, chess games that never played out.

"You do," says Luna, tone implying that her words are fact rather than opinion. She turns her head towards him, the motion spraying a cloud of cinnamon colored hair into the air. Neville is swallowed by dreaming blue eyes that may or may not be with him. "I wish we could have known one another better when I was still alive. We were just starting to, and then I up and died with so much unfinished business."

"It's not your fault," Neville says. He reaches out, places his hand over hers, or where he imagines it to be. In the darkness, she outline is as faint as the glow of a distant supernova. "But I've never understood why you stayed."

"Because I wasn't ready to go," replies Luna. "There are things I haven't done."

"Like what?" The question drops from his lips unbidden, and he goes to cover it up with an apology for being so blunt, but Luna's reply smothers his feeble attempt to say how sorry he is for being blunt.

"Like swim with mermaids. Meet a real fairy. Talk to Big Foot. Well, find half the creatures in the Quibbler, really." She laughs, the noise light hearted and silver, and Neville feels himself smiling. "I'll try to do all those things now that I've chosen to stay until I'm not needed anymore. Then I'll move on."

"Needed?" Neville says.

"Yes, needed. When I'm not needed anymore, I'll leave. You need me the most, you see, so I'll stay until you don't want me to. Or until you die. Whatever comes first." Her shoulders rise in a shrug, a shrug that pulls her closer to him. "But you need me now. So I'll stay. It's very simple, really."

Simple. She gives it no second thought, but his mind races. Races...then all together stills.
She's right; it's simple indeed. She has been the eccentric certainty in the madness, the tranquility. So far back as the bungled rescue mission to the Ministry, she has never been phased by, never feared the ghastly situations that arose around them. She is calm, even in death. He imagines she faced her own end quietly, bravely.

Loony Lovegood, who gives him some semblance of peace. Luna, who he knows better as a ghost than a girl of flesh and blood.

The impulse seizes him and before his more sensible nature can dismiss the idea, Neville seals his lips over hers, to plunge his hands--bleached from the decided lack of sun has experienced over the past few years--into her hair, to tug the strands out by the root and watch the quickening, barely veiled flash of her throat as her breath pulls sharper, sharper.

She kisses him back, but there the kiss lacks the ferocity his own did. She kisses gentle and slow, photographing the details of the moment while her own hands crawl up the sides of the pillow. She is only half there, and the touches are diluted. Luna, forever seventeen and magnificent, is kissing him.
Neville pulls back, flustered in spite of barely being able to feel the girl gazing down at him. In the dark, ration bares his teeth and the realization is like a knife inserted into his gut. He winces.

"This isn't real," he says slowly. "It can't be...you're..." He hates himself for thinking it, vocalizing it. Hates himself more when the ghost girl's countenance remains bright with delight.

Luna smiles. "Since when," she says, "did reality matter much to anyone?" It is a Luna thing to say, and he accepts it as the Truth, as the holy Truth and nothing but the Truth in the cheap little hotel room on the corner of an unknown avenue.