As slowly as he had fallen asleep, Harry Potter begun to wake up. At first, he clung to the frail, dark world of sleep, trying to hold on as long a he could, for he had slept fitfully last night, unhappy dreams plaguing his mind. Butt at last he could not hold onto sleep any longer, stretching his tingling arms overhead, his mouth opening into a cavernous yawn.
He froze, then groaned inwardly, all the memories of the previous night flooding back to him in a rush. He was here in Luna Lovegood's house, subjected to her strangeness and random behaviors, as well as her pictures of her deceased parents that immersed him with guilt every time he saw them, and her frankly amazing yellow pot. As well as his regret of his actions, and his inability to, well, comprehend Luna. She was absolutely mad.
Finally, choosing to deal with whatever Luna had in store for him this morning over pretending badly to still be asleep, Harry cracked open his eyes, blinking away the fog of sleep, while sitting up and slipping on his glasses. She was sitting at his beside, just staring at him again. He had the impulse to tell her to stop, but he swallowed it bitterly. It was only a few days, he reminded himself. A few more days of this happy-go-lucky torture.
"I made you breakfast," Luna said softly, pushing a tray of food onto his lap. He stared down at it. Toast, scrambled eggs, and a glass of orange juice. His glance shot back up to Luna's face, then her silvery eyes still fixed upon him.
"Thank you," he managed, picking up a piece of toast and biting into it. When he glanced back toward her, he was surprised to see that she was flitting out of his room, leaving him in peace, for once, which he decided was very unlike her. He definitely would not have been surprised had she stayed and ogled him the whole time he ate.
He slowly ate the meal, savoring the solitude and, well, lack of Luna. Then, reluctant to leave the refuge of his rather comfortable bed, Harry slid from under the covers, and went over to his fallen suitcase, pulling out some clean clothes from the tangle. Then, feeling guilt again, he left his room, ventured down the lilac hall, and into the main part of the tiny house. Luna was no where to be found, he realized uneasily.
"Luna?" he found himself calling to his surprise. He mentally shook himself. What was he doing? She was wearing off on him, maybe. How could she live alone like that, he briefly wondered. Here he was, unable to be alone for ten minutes. Here was the the brave, famous, strong Harry Potter. Good Lord.
"I'm in here," rang out her voice. He frowned, regretting that he had called out to her, and feeling like a git for that regret. Harry pasted on a nonchalant face, going in the direction he assumed her voice had come from. He found himself going down another hallway, this one painted sky blue, and peeked into a room branching off of it. She was in there, seated at a desk, typing away on a rickety old typewriter. She paused, her hands dropping down from the keys, so that she could look at him.
He looked back at her, feeling uncomfortable, and then forcing out a, "Hi."
"Hello," she replied.
Silence grew between them now, with both of them just looking at the other. It was maddening for Harry, and once again, he was wondering why he had bothered to come in there. Luna annoyed him, it was true. He wasn't going to lie and say that he liked her. Rather, the opposite. Actually, it wasn't that he disliked her. He really had no idea what he thought of Luna. One moment she was almost normal, like when she had spoken about her father, and the next she was goggling at him like she was now.
"What are you doing?" he finally asked, feeling the need to break the silence, then immediately rebuking himself for engaging her in a conversation that would most likely end with her talking about a conspiracy at Madam Malkin's.
"Oh, I have to finish this article," she replied, looking genuinely pleased to see him, with that mysterious smile of hers on her lips.
"For the Quibbler, you know. I took over the editor position when Dad died." Her tone was so conversational and light, but it made Harry cringe.
"Oh," was all he could think to say to that. Then, he added quickly, "What's it about?"
"There's been a rumor that Head Goblin at Gringotts has been smuggling in Cornish Pixies, stuffing them full of a potion to make them grow really big, and having them guard the high security vaults. But as we all know, pixies aren't content to stay in one place for a long time. It's been havoc down there, apparently. Vaults unguarded, that sort of thing. Money getting stolen, you know."
Harry forced a smile. Her voice had taken on that almost serious tone again, like how she had spoken about her father, and it struck him how un-Luna it seemed. It was weird to see Luna serious in any way.
"That's ... interesting," he blurted. She looked at him with some interest.
"Do you want to go outside?"
He heaved a sigh. "I can't, Luna. Shacklebolt said I had to stay inside." Like a little kid. He frowned at his shoes.
"What about a game of Exploding Snap?"
What was she, a child? He glanced up from his feet, giving her a calculating look. Harry hadn't played Exploding Snap since he had been in school.
"No, thanks," he said quietly. He wouldn't remember how to play, anyway.
He didn't need to look up to know that the look on her face was sort of sad. He could feel it.
"Oh. Ok," she replied, her voice just as mystical as ever, betraying no emotion. She got up from her seat, and gave a little twirl, stretching her arms overhead. "Giganitcus Cornish Pixies can wait," she stated, her wide eyes searching Harry's. He looked away. Was 'giganitcus' even a word?
"Let's bake cookies," Luna suggested, dancing out of the room. "Cookies with chocolate, and coconut, and peanut butter, and macadamia nuts, and apricots."
Harry slowly followed her out of the room, wondering where she got all of her energy from. He felt drained of everything, numb, and lifeless. It was unfathomable to him. He was envious of her and her life, so untouched by the horrors of the world of today, when he had seen far more into the darkness than he had wanted. He had felt the depths of how black his opponent's mind, and it was scarring.
Luna was pulling out mixing bowls, and baking sheets, as well a an almost exotic array of ingredients – butter, flour, sugar, chocolate chips and a bag of shredded coconut, then a bottle of vanilla, some eggs, a bag of nuts, a tub of peanut butter, and a flask of oil. Once again, Harry caught himself wondering why she didn't just use magic.
"I guess we're out of apricots," Luna mused, searching through the pantry, her dirty blond head hidden inside.
"That's a shame," Harry muttered, glancing away from the only really visible part of her – her bottom. Everything Luna did made him feel awkward.
Once Luna had extracted herself from the pantry, she set to work, measuring flour and sugar, cracking open eggs, the lot of it. She poured in a bit of the vanilla, and Harry was oddly reminded of those professional chefs that his Aunt Petunia used to watch on the television.
"My mother loved to cook," came Luna's voice from out of the blue, startling him from his thoughts.
"What?" he asked, as if he hadn't heard her.
"My mother," Luna repeated, indicating another picture on the wall of a woman, dressed in lab robes, with Luna's brownish-blond hair, waving gently from where she was. "She loved to bake and cook things."
"Oh." Immediately, his unease went up a couple of notches.
"She left me all her recipes," Luna continued with a smile, "but I already knew them by heart." A glance at the shelves of cookbooks told Harry why they were so dusty.
He got the distinct sense of sorrow radiating from Luna, something he did not expect from her, Ms. Happy-As-A-Clam. Harry felt the need to say something to comfort her. A sad-ish Luna just wasn't Luna.
Harry lost his nerve. Her mother had died a long time ago. How would anything he said make things better? They wouldn't. No person's consolations about his parents, or Sirius, or Professor Dumbledore had made him feel the slightest bit better about what had happened.
"Never mind," he replied.
"Oh, ok." Luna stirred her mixture of cookie dough thoughtfully. Round and round the bowl it went, a never ending cycle.
"Luna, I think you've got it."
"The cookies. They're mixed," Harry added, ill-tempered.
Luna beamed at him. "Oh, thanks, Harry. Sometimes I lose myself."
He was tempted to ask where. Where did Luna lose herself? In fairy tale land of unicorns and rainbows. He wouldn't be surprised. A snort of mirth accidentally escaped him, and he looked up guiltily, hoping she hadn't heard him.
Luna seemed not to notice, now scooping rounds of dough onto a cookie sheet. She was humming to herself again. She paused, holding a spoonful of dough over the baking sheet, and glanced at him, a curious expression on her feminine, yet childlike features.
"What?" Harry half-snapped, immediately angry with himself for being so harsh.
She was completely unmoved by his small outburst. It was as though she hadn't even noticed, the way she had resumed plopping cookie dough onto the baking sheets, a smile still, almost eerily, he though, fixed upon her lips.
"I was just wondering where you lose yourself," she finished quietly, as she slid the baking sheet into the oven to bake.
It was a decidedly odd question. He stared at her, unable to respond, and willing the dam holding back his annoyance not to break. Once again, he was convinced of her staggering childishness.
"You don't want to know where I lose myself, Luna," he responded shortly, thinking of the blackness that had been brought upon him. Uncharacteristically, Luna seemed to decide not to press the subject, leaning up against the counter, and for once, not staring him down. Harry felt a sense of relief, sinking into a chair at the tiny, two-person table with a sigh. He felt the need to apologize to her, but he couldn't bring himself to admit his wrong. It sort of came with the pride, which made him weak, he realized.
They reveled in the silence for awhile, Harry staring blankly at the floor. He didn't dare look at Luna, certain that she was peering at him once again. It was like being in a bloody zoo around here. People goggling at you the whole time. Absolutely insane, it was.
It seemed like a year, how long the two of them left the solitude unbroken. After awhile, the scent of the cookies billowed into the air, signaling that they were about done. Luna was the first to move, scooping up a heat resistant pad, flinging open the door to the oven, and pulled the baking sheet out from within. The aroma was overwhelming, and Harry felt his eyes drawn to them. Luna actually had her wand out, and was doing a simple Cooling Charm.
"Would you like one?" she inquired, her voice feather soft. Harry simply nodded, getting up from his seat and going over to her, and at the confirmation of her smile, he snatched one up, bit into the softness of it, and savored the flavor.
And before he could stop himself, he was saying, "Your mother was a very good, er, baker."
Luna stared at him, to no surprise. But her eyes soon lit up, along with an even bigger smile.
"Thank you, Harry." It was the type of thing that sort of brings two people together, a sort of bridge. He had finally discovered a way to comment about a person's late relatives without it being too awkward. It was a nice feeling, and Harry couldn't help but smile at Luna in return.