There was a cake on the table. Muffins too, and dozens of tiny little biscuits stacked up on blue china plates. The best silver cutlery lay neatly arranged next to a pile of napkins. There was even a vase (blue, to match to the plates) filled with fresh flowers. Mummy was wearing clean muggle clothes, which was odd in the sense that she was clean, and odder still because Luna had never seen her mother wear muggle clothes in her life. Luna was wearing a muggle dress too. It was blue like the vase and the china plates, which was nice because everything matched.
Mummy was straightening the curtains. She had already straightened them three times. Luna wondered if something was really wrong with them, or if Mummy was just using the curtains as an excuse to peer out of the window.
Luna tugged absently at the hem of her dress. The muggle dress was shorter than her usual robes. She wondered why. She would have to ask Daddy later. Her Daddy knew about a lot of things no one else did, and ran a magazine to tell them so. Luna loved her Daddy very much, because he never lied to her.
Mummy was still straightening the curtains. Luna reached for a biscuit.
"Don't touch those, honey. They aren't for you."
Luna pulled her hand back. Mummy had not looked at her, but Luna knew that Mummy was watching her with her hidden eyes, the eyes in the back of her head. Every adult had them. It was meant to be a secret, but Luna knew anyway.
"Who's coming to visit?" Luna asked.
"A woman. A muggle." Mummy said. "She's going to help me with my work."
Luna nodded knowingly. That explained the cake, at least.
"How will she help?"
Mummy was silent for a moment. She released the curtains with a sigh, and moved back towards the centre of the room. The curtains looked a little worse for wear. Mummy had crumpled them with her fingers. She must have gripped them very hard.
"She's going to teach me about magic."
"But we know about magic."
"Another kind of magic, Luna."
Mummy sounded agitated now. Luna patted her gently on the arm, to soothe her.
"That's nice," she said calmly. "Are you sure I can't have a biscuit?"
The name of Mummy's guest was Miss Pevensie. Miss Pevensie was a very old woman with silver hair tied back in a braid, and pale skin wrinkled up just like Mummy's curtains. Her eyes were very old. Even older than her wrinkles and her silver hair, which made Luna feel sorry for her. She wore thick, clunky glasses to hide her face and her sad eyes. When she finally arrived at the house she gave Luna a box of sweets as a present.
Luna liked Miss Pevensie.
"You have a lovely daughter," she told Mummy. She touched Luna's blonde hair fleetingly, as if the gesture was something to be ashamed of. "I had hair like hers when I was younger. It ran in the family..." Miss Pevensie trailed off. Awkward.
Mummy smiled with all her teeth, as if she felt a little awkward herself.
"Would you like some cake?" Mummy asked. Miss Pevensie told her yes.
So they sat down and Miss Pevensie had a small slice of cake and Mummy had an even smaller one. Luna ate her sweets because she didn't want any cake, though she did take a biscuit or two. The sweets were nice. They weren't Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans or Chocolate Frogs, but they tasted like sugar and shined all sorts of pretty colours which was all that really mattered.
Miss Pevensie and Mummy talked about adults things for a while, like politics and family and the weather. It was very boring and very polite. Mummy glared at Luna when she tried to tell Miss Pevensie about the rain of fire in the Himalayas, because Luna was not an adult and was not meant to talk about politics or family or the weather, even the interesting kind.
After a while they ran out conversation and sat there in awful silence. Mummy did her tooth smile again. Miss Pevensie stared at her plate. Luna unwrapped another sweet.
"Have you ever read the Quibbler, Miss Pevensie?" Luna said. "My Daddy is the editor. He's very good. He told me all about the fire rain and everything. And the moon monster."
Miss Pevensie began to turn her face towards Luna, as if she was preparing to say something, but her eyes met Mummy's mid-turn and she fell silent again.
Mummy and Miss Pevensie were talking with their eyes. Perhaps it was another thing only adults could do. Luna decided that this was probably a correct assumption, and popped another sweet into her mouth.
"Go outside and play, Luna."
This was Mummy-speak for go away, so Luna did. She took the sweets with her.
Something strange was still going, but at least it was a normal kind of strange this time.
Mummy had been cooped up in her workroom for days. Her clothes were dirty again, and old. Certainly not muggle. Her hair was a fluff of loose strands around her face because she had no time to brush it. She was too busy. Mummy was reading charts and writing numbers and concocting potions all day and all night, because Miss Pevensie had told her something important that Mummy had to study very, very badly.
Luna spent a lot more time with her Daddy, because Mummy had no time to look after her anymore. Sometimes Daddy would take her to work. Luna liked that. The journalists were all nice to her, and they told her lovely stories and let her sit at their desks. Luna wanted to be a journalist when she grew up. Finding out the truth seemed like the best job in the whole world.
Mummy was still ignoring her at home. Luna did not mind. Not really. She was going to write articles to pass her time, because she would need to practice to become a good reporter like the ones who worked for Daddy.
She was going to write about Mummy's potions and Daddy's magazine, and about the moon monster too. She was going to write about everything.
But she didn't, because Mummy blew up her workroom and all the stories in one big bang. An ending.
Luna's Daddy had once told her that muggles knew a special kind of magic that wizards didn't. Muggles could make potions just like Mummy, but with bigger explosions that could hurt lots of people. He said they had done it before. Luna had believed him before of course, but now she had proof.
There was a funeral for Mummy even though there was nothing left to bury. There were a lot of people who cried and told Daddy to take care of Luna, which was silly because he had always done that anyway.
Daddy put out a few biscuits for the guests. He used the blue china plates just like Mummy had, and looking at them made Luna's eyes feel all scratchy and wet. The biscuits tasted horrid too, like grit. Luna liked Mummy's biscuits better. She always bought the nice ones.
Miss Pevensie was at the funeral, in a black muggle dress that stood out like a sour thumb among the sea of robes. Her glasses were damp and misty from crying. She kept taking them off and dabbing her cheeks with a little silk handkerchief. She did not clean her glasses. When she saw Luna she looked as if she wanted to clasp her in a hug, but she didn't. She didn't give Luna any sweets either. Luna was a little sad about that. She would have liked some sweetness, that day.
Miss Pevensie tried to talk to her later. Her voice shook like a leaf. It was a reedy voice, a thin voice. A voice hanging by a thread.
"I'm sorry about you mother," she said at first. Like everyone else.
"I know." Luna said.
"She... She was so kind to try and help me..."
There was that silence again. The awful one. Luna remembered it. She stared up into Miss Pevensie's clunky glasses. Light shimmered off them, like the glitter of stars.
"Is Mummy dead?" Luna asked.
Miss Pevensie was crying again. She buried her head into her old, frail hands. She shuddered, as if she was in pain, and Luna felt sorry for her all over again.
"I don't know!" She said, and the silence was gone but it was still awful. "Oh you poor child, I don't know! She's gone just like all the others, and I'm to blame. I shouldn't have talked to her, but I had to try one last time, you must understand, I had to know what became of them, I..."
And Miss Pevensie was not crying for Mummy anymore. She was crying other names now. Lucy, Edmund, Peter. Oh, Aslan.
Luna's face felt wet. She rubbed it with her sleeve. She thought of curtains and biscuits and sugar on her tongue, and rubbed harder.
Once Luna dreamt of a world where it was dark and silent because everything had been dead for a long time. She walked for a while, because she was looking for something. Someone. She shouted their name, but they didn't answer.
She was very alone.
She remembered other names that someone else had cried for, and she shouted them as well. She kept walking. She was not lost, because she had not started anywhere at all.
She saw a man who was not a man. A lion who was not a lion, or anything at all. He glowed like starlight and sunshine. She knew him. She did not know him at all.
"Is Mummy here?" Luna asked. She felt faintly as if she should be afraid.
"She has gone to a better place," he said gently, and Luna believed him because he would never lie to her.
"I want to go there too."
"It is not your time," he said. "Your story is not over."
"I should see her," Luna said. "I should say goodbye."
He looked at her gravely with his dark, endless eyes.
"Is that what you wish?"
She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face in his mane. She did not think of being afraid anymore.
He breathed on her - the breath of a lion who was no lion at all - and Luna heard voices that sparked in her head and shattered into white noise within her eyes. She heard his voice and her voice and thousand voices like laughter and sadness in her mind -
"The land of voices!" She breathed, and he laughed.
"An apt name," he said. "But I prefer to call it home."
And Luna knew she would never be alone ever again.
Sometimes Luna would set the table: fill the vase with flowers, pile the plates with cakes and biscuits, lay out the knives and forks and dainty little tea spoons in perfect order. Sometimes she would put on a muggle dress and eat some of the cake (but only a small slice) and nibble at the biscuits and straighten out the curtains and look. And listen.
Sometimes, Luna would wait.
One day Miss Pevensie was going to come back, and Luna would tell her about the land of voices and the lion who was no lion at all. One day.