Timeline: Luna's 6th year, spoilers for HBP

Challenge: "Liking Luna shouldn't change anything. It put her in danger, just as much as Ginny. But, then, why did it seem so different?"

Maybe This Is Growing Up

He met her in a bar on the wrong side of Daigon Alley, and though he came dressed in full Polyjuice attire, she walked right to his booth and sat across from him with a giggle.

"How did you recognize me?" He was seventeen, for Merlin's sake—he supposed to have perfected this spell by now.

The dark-haired young woman pulled out a thermos from her bookbag and poured reddish liquid into one of the empty butterbeer mugs. It looked like watered down blood but smelled like tea. Without breaking her smile, she poured some for him too and pushed it across the table.

" 'Ave some tea, Monsieur Enhri."

"I'm serious!" he whispered fiercely. "What gave me away? I was supposed to contact you first!"

Luna sipped her tea and stared at him placidly. "It was nothing to get worked up about," she said, dropping her attempt at the over-the-top spy accent. "You fidget sometimes, is all. I looked around, saw a few people fidgeting,"—it was the sort of bar where a lot of people fidget, which is why they chose it—"and looked around for the one whose fidgeting looked the most familiar. Once I saw you it seemed rather pointless to wait and not come over."

Harry bit the inside of his cheek, but despite the default "you broke the rules of secret meetings!" whine, he couldn't really see any holes in her logic. He was sure there were holes, but he wasn't really meant for this cloak and dagger stuff.

"Alright, forget about it."

"Okay," she said, and smiled again. Harry sighed and glanced at the tea. Still looked like blood. It might offend her if he didn't try it. He wasn't thirsty anyway.

"We found the last croak box." He hated that anagram. Fred had made it up; Harry was sure it didn't count as a real anagram if you added entirely new letters.

Luna couldn't help swallowing a gasp. The last one! All Harry's planning, all their work. It was going to come to a head so much sooner than she'd expected. And she'd helped make it happen. She felt a glow of pride, but it was quickly stomped by a looming wall of fear.

The last Horcrux. The last battle. The possibility that they all might die, or none of them.

"Great Lady of Ravenclaw," she murmered. "It's not even spring yet."

"I know. We got lucky. I don't know if the luck will last long enough for us to destroy it." He put his head in his hands, and covered his eyes with his palms. "I just want this to be over."

Emboldened by his moment of openness, Luna reached out and put her hands on his, drawing them away from his eyes and down to the table. She held them there, squeezing his fingers slightly in hers.

"I would like to be there." To her surprise, he didn't react with anger, just with a slight drop of his eyes and mouth.

"I know."

"Let me come."

"If I say no, will you fly out on a thestral and follow us anyway?"

She smiled a little, wryly. "Of course not. A thestral is much too obvious. A keentos is what us serious student investigators use."

Harry knew she was trying to tease him, to come up with a new and mysterious creature, but he'd heard of keentosi before. They were useful. They were also extinct.

"We…" he began, not sure what to follow it with. Her hands still held his, and they were warm.

"I can do it, I'm sure I can."

He sighed, bowing his head and squeezing her hands in return. "All right. I'm too tired to worry about you trying to track us, and if the worst happens it won't matter whether you're with us or at Hogwarts, not in the end."

She didn't thank him, and he appreciated the consideration in that.

"When do you want me to be ready?" she said instead. He thought it over.

"You'll get the signal the night before. Come to headquarters an hour before sunrise. Bring everything you think might be useful, and we'll sort through and assign it."

Luna nodded vigorously. "I've got some things from the Quibbler's storeroom that might be useful for scouting ahead once we're on site."

"There's something... else," Harry said, "Something else I wanted to talk to you about."

Luna felt her throat go dry.

"I've been thinking about a lot of things…" He wanted to stop there. That sounded so cheesy, and it wasn't how he'd wanted to start.


"I…" he drifted off again, looking nervously at the table. Absent-mindedly, his hands began to caress hers. Like something natural, casual, easy. Luna wondered if he even realized he was doing it.

"Yes?" She wanted to say 'Yes, Harry', but didn't dare whisper his name out loud in this place.

He raised his gaze to hers. "I want you to know. That—that I care about you. Meeting with you this year, talking to you... it's risky and dangerous for both of us, but it's still been the highlight of my time here. I know that any day someone could follow you home or follow me home or find a pattern in the supposedly random location selections, but no matter how scary it is sometimes, I really...really love meeting with you. Not just to get out of headquarters or to trade information, but—to see you."

Luna felt like she couldn't breathe, as if her own Polyjuice disguise was falling from her body like sand and everyone in the tavern could look at who she was underneath everything.

"And, I know I shouldn't be telling you this. Last year, G—my mate's sister and I agreed not to see each other because it could be too dangerous, because we had to focus on... the task at hand." He squeezed her fingers, lacing them between his own on the tabletop. It was the most intimate way Luna had ever been touched by a boy, more delicate than her first fumbled kiss in a Ravenclaw closet with a boy she'd thought she liked. Luna caressed her thumb against Harry's and stored away the feeling of skin touching skin.

"We thought it was too dangerous. But that's bollocks. I've thought about it for months and it's complete bullshit. But I also know that getting back together with her wouldn't make me any happier, either. Being with her for that short time… it was good, but that's not who I am anymore. Too much has changed. It's changed me, it's changed us, and it's changed the situation with the war. All I want now is to have something to hold onto, something just for me, when I go to fight him."

His fingertips brushed a black curl that wasn't hers from eyes that were. He dreamed of doing so much more.

"And when I think about what I want, I keep coming back to our conversations. That's… that's what I hold in my heart."

There was never a moment in Luna's life when she wanted so much to say something elegant as now,inthis moment. Something beautiful to match the beauty of his words, something that wouldn't be heard as confusing or strange.

Deciding it might be impossible to match that confession, Luna leaned across the table and kissed the face of a stranger, in the middle of a dingy bar on the wrong side of Daigon Alley. Harry's hand's came up to cup her face, and she closed her eyes to see him.