A Very Memorable Birthday
Based on a plot bunny by Mary Janice Davidson.
Luna spun around in her office chair to read the latest memo from her father. She had insisted on modern office furniture when she had come to work at the Quibbler, and she would never regret it. Being on wheels, she felt, was a distinct advantage in the magazine business.
"Witch Weekly is killing us," she sighed to her best friend at work, who happened to be the head of the photography department. "It's like being attacked by a menopausal snorkack."
"We expanded too quickly," Colin said with a shrug. "Your father should have listened to you in the first place. You told him to take it slowly"
"Well, he thought that with the war over, people would do more light reading." Luna sipped some coffee, and stared moodily at some notes she had gotten from her father that morning.
"This special edition can't be dropped, so we go back to a normal monthly schedule?" Colin asked hopefully.
"No, Daddy already sold it to the advertisers."
"But we don't have a lead story," Colin whined. Honestly, Luna thought, sometimes he was just so flamboyant. He had always been sweet, but coming out of the closet had made him a tad too swishy. Luna hoped it was overcompensation and that he would outgrow it.
"Then it's time to go to the top again," she said, pushing the proofs of some new rune puzzles into a neat pile. She tossed her long, blonde plait of hair back behind her and shrugged. "What do we always do when we need a big story?"
"Harry?" Colin asked, brightening.
"Harry," Luna nodded.
Harry Potter gave no interviews, except to the Quibbler. Ever loyal to the few surviving friends he had, it was a long standing rule of his, and it had stood the Quibbler in good stead several times before. A Harry Potter story would save the issue. Since the war he had kept as low a profile as possible, finding "the-man-who-defeated-the-Dark-Lord" just as distasteful a title as "the-boy-who-lived". He was not a recluse exactly, but he preferred keeping out of the limelight. He saw her often, and Ron and Hermione, and Neville Longbottom, but the war had taken a toll on him, and he preferred peace and quiet. If she asked him, though, Luna knew he would come through.
"What's the angle this time? You already used him for the Horcrux story and the story about Dumbledore's last night, and you've quoted him in at least a dozen other stories over the last couple of years."
"I'll think of something." She picked up a piece of parchment and wrote quickly before she could change her mind.
Colin and I are sitting here thinking about our favorite hero.
We're in deep again, and I need your help. I swear, this is the last time, but then isn't that what I always say? I'll do my best to make it stick after this, though. Can we meet for dinner? How about the Dragon Flagon at seven? I know the Leaky Cauldron is too crowded on Friday nights for us to be able to talk.
I will sit right here and not move until you do. I don't know about Colin, though. I think he has a hot date with the janitor.
Colin leaned over her shoulder and yelped, "You brat! I do have a hot date, but it happens to be with the head of the art department!"
"You do go through them," Luna sighed. "I wonder if Ginny knew when she was dating him that Dean was gay?"
"I don't think HE knew," said Colin. "Hey, maybe that's the angle we need for the story!"
"What? A story about how many gay friends Harry had at Hogwarts while remaining totally clueless about them? Not even Harry would let me do that," Luna said, tying the note onto the screech owl that sat on the perch next to her window. She let him out, and watched him fly away.
"No," said Colin slowly. "We could do a tribute to Ginny Weasley. After she got killed Harry never mentioned her again. It was weird. Maybe it's time for a memorial- a look back."
"NO!" Luna said firmly, slamming the window. "Harry broke up with Ginny at the end of our fifth year, because he thought it would make her safer. Well, I could have told him that was a stupid idea. Voldemort already knew who Harry's friends were. He was trying to get at all of us from the day we left the Department of Mysteries, but Harry wasn't thinking straight right after Dumbledore died. He has always felt guilty that Ginny was the one that got caught."
Colin looked thoughtful. "I always wondered if he really loved her. To me they were too much alike to make it. They were both hot tempered and impulsive, and she was so much like a sister to him for so long, it was like watching a documentary on incest."
Luna flopped back down on her chair. "He never told her he loved her. Ginny never told him she loved him. She admitted that to me after they broke up. She always thought it was just something crazy they did to try to have a bit of a normal life before the war really got underway. It was the last time they could just think about Quidditch, and hanging out, and school gossip, before things really got going."
"Didn't you date him for awhile? I thought you did."
"Officially? Just once," Luna said, remembering a silver spangled dress and how it felt to have all of the girls who had made fun of her for years lined up with their tongues hanging out from envy. It had been the best night of her life, aside from the night that her father had gotten an award for actually interviewing and photographing a Cyclops. She shook her head to clear the image of Harry standing in front of her, asking her to go to an exclusive party with him. "But ever since then, he always has been, and always will be, my best friend. We see each other a lot, but not seriously. I don't think Harry even knows how to do serious."
"Too bad," Colin said, doing some remembering of his own.
"Out!" Luna said, laughing at the dreamy expression on his face. "Go start planning a layout. I've decided…we're going to do a feature on Grimmauld Place, one of the oldest wizarding homes still standing in Britain. Tell Daddy it will have LOTS of pictures."
Colin looked delighted. "Luna, you're brilliant!"
"That's why I was in Ravenclaw."
After Colin had gone, Luna glanced at the picture hanging beside her desk. Six faces smiled back at her, one of them her own. Merlin, she thought, why didn't I ever do something about my hair when I was at school? It had been so easy, though, just to let it hang or put it up in a knot. Harry had told her once that the time she'd come out of the greenhouse with a smudge of dirt on her nose and her hair piled up was the first time he's really thought of her as cute.
"You did not," she'd replied.
"Yes, I did. You said you believed in me, and you'll never know what that meant to me. What you meant to me."
Luna knew what believing in Harry had meant to her. It made her feel powerful, because it felt so right. It didn't matter any more what people had thought of her, or how they had either abused or ignored her. Standing up for Harry in front of all those people had set her free. She had in her heart become someone bold and free, for Harry Potter's sake.
Ron and Hermione looked pretty much the same. Luna thought back to their wedding. Even though she and Harry both hated dancing, they had danced that night, and it has been wonderful. Luna had been so happy for Ron and Hermione, even though she and Hermione had not always gotten along. Hermione had always been Luna's psychic opposite. Practical, where Luna tended to take more on faith, she now had two kids ages three and five at home and had just found out another baby was on the way. They went to France every spring to see Bill and Fleur, and to Disney World every fall. Hermione made her own Christmas cards and Ron out of sentiment drove a Ford Anglia, even though it was a pain to get parts for it. Luna remembered when Hermione had told them all the new baby was on the way.
"God, Hermione, when you became a Weasley, you really became a Weasley!" Harry had grumbled, but Luna knew he was secretly thrilled for them. Harry loved having the Weasley kids over to Grimmauld Place. He would play hide and seek with them for hours, in the massive house, and then made sure to fill them up with enough sweets and ice cream that it took both of their parents to peel them off the ceiling when it was time to take them home.
Neville looked the same, too. He had never married, and had taken over Professor Sprout's job when she had retired. The kids at Hogwarts loved him. Luna privately wondered if he hadn't still been carrying a torch for Ginny when she had died. She and Ginny and Neville had all gotten quite close when Harry, Hermione, and Ron had gone off to do the things they never told anyone about.
The one face that would never ever change stared back at her. Luna looked into the brown eyes, and at the fiery red hair, and sighed. No one would ever know what would have happened if Ginny had lived. And there was nothing any of them could do about that, outside of the fact that Hermione and Ron had named one daughter Ginevra Jane and the other one Molly Ginevra. Luna was really hoping the next one was a boy.
She heard tapping and saw that the owl was already back.
You can move now if you want to. I think I can manage to clear my fantastically crowded social calendar and meet you at seven. But what are you doing working on your birthday? Don't tell me…your father forgot the day you were born, didn't he? Let's get this magazine back on track, so you can have a life again.
And when you get one, tell me what it's like.
I'd tell you to give my love to Colin, but I'm afraid you would! But I will tell you more about THAT when I see you!
Luna glanced at the calendar. Damn it! It WAS her birthday. Not only had Daddy forgotten but she had, too. Not that it mattered. Her birthdays were notorious for being bad news. Her mother had died two days before her birthday when she was nine, so the funeral had been on her special day. If just one more person had come up to her that day and said, "Happy birthday! Isn't this awful?" she would have spontaneously set them on fire.
When she was ten she'd fallen in the creek just below Stoatshead Hill. Never much of a swimmer, she would have drowned if Cedric Diggory hadn't of been passing by on his way to the Fawcett house and pulled her out by her hair.
When she was eleven she had been stuck in her room all night with five girls who hated her guts, all because the entire school had been locked down. People, and ghosts, and animals were getting petrified all over the place. They had blamed Harry Potter, and she had watched him, whenever she could, and had seen the misery in his eyes. She knew it wasn't true.
When she was twelve one of her dorm mates had stolen all of her sheets and blankets and she'd had to sleep for a week on a bare mattress, until she found them buried under the window seat of the common room.
When she was thirteen she had gotten her period for the first time and none of the girls would loan her anything to use. She'd had to walk all the way to the nurse's office with a wad of rolled up toilet paper in her knickers.
When she was fourteen, someone in the dorm had stolen one of each of her socks, so she'd had to walk around wearing the mismatched ones she had left. Marietta Edgecomb had called her "Dobby" on the way back from a DA meeting and the name had stuck, until Marietta had wound up with the "sneak" pimples and the novelty of that had overridden the interest in calling Luna names. She remembered a night when she'd stood under the mistletoe, talking to Harry about nargles, and thinking he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen on a boy. He'd jumped out of the way pretty quickly, of course. He'd barely known her then.
When she was fifteen, she had spent the night crying because she had just found out Harry was going out with Ginny. Luna still felt guilty about that, but she'd had a terrible premonition that it was going to go badly, and knew it was no use telling either one of them, as they wouldn't have listened. She had liked him herself, it was true, but she had always beaten down that liking, accepting it as a lost cause. It still hurt to have it made so blatantly obvious that she'd missed her chance.
When she was sixteen, Ginny had just died, and Harry was so determined to win and stop the Death Eaters for good that it scared Luna to see the look on his face as he prepared for that final battle. She had helped as he checked and rechecked the plans and the supplies, and to her surprise, he had kissed her before he left, a kiss that started out as gentle as snow falling over the lake, and then turned into bruising kiss that had left her shaking and breathless. She had wanted, desperately to call "I love you!" after him, but had held back, knowing how horrifically clichéd it would have sounded. He had, for his part, left her without speaking a word. They had never, in fact, spoken of it, but the memory of that kiss had haunted her ever since.
When she was seventeen, Hogwarts had reopened and the golden trio had joined her to finish their last year, but it was not the same. Too many faces were missing, people who had not come back or simply could not come back.
When she was eighteen, she'd caught a terrible case of flu. The healer dosed her with Pepperup Potion, which made her nose run worse than the flu ever could have. It got so swollen that she looked like a clown and sounded muddled when finally felt well enough to talk to her friends for a few moments through the fireplace. Harry had responded by sending her a huge bouquet, the biggest arrangement she'd ever seen, with pale pink roses, baby's breath, fern fronds and a jaunty pink bow. The card had read, "A nose, I mean a rose, by any other name...get well soon! Love, Harry." She'd wondered if he had even figured out yet what love meant, and decided he probably had not.
For the past three years she had sat at home eating pizza and watching Muggle TV. Now she was twenty-two and had forgotten her own birthday! Oh, well, if she could have picked anything to do that day, being with Harry would have been her dream choice anyway. He was, as always, sweet, and loyal and sincere, and the most interesting person she had ever known. And he was still as cute as ever.
She did a final check on the rune puzzles, gave the okay to the one she wanted to run next, and then glanced at the clock. Grabbing her handbag, she tossed her owl a few treats, since she wasn't going to let him out that night, and strode out the door, eager for a good meal and a nice evening with Harry.
As she walked up to the Dragon Flagon, she noticed the crowd outside and wondered what was up. Had bowtruckles come in with the fireplace wood again? They were so difficult to handle when you went to toss another log on the fire. She saw several people in lime green robes Apparate onto the sidewalk in front of the door, and heard someone in the crowd shout, "You're too late! The poor woman is dead!"
Someone else yelled out, "No, no, let them in! Maybe she'll be okay."
Luna shoved past the crowd and literally burst into the restaurant. She glanced around and saw nice white tablecloths, with a couple of white daisies in a small crystal vase sitting in the center of each one. The tables were all empty, though. Most of the people still inside seemed to be grouped round a pair of feet sticking out in what looked like expensive, dragonhide high heels. Luna looked down and saw a pale face, with light, wide open, staring eyes, framed by limp, white blond hair. Oh, for Salazar's sake, it was Narcissa Malfoy. Oh, yes, that woman was dead. She heard someone mutter, "Murder, definitely. Maybe he used poison. He could have put it here some time during the altercation they had earlier."
She turned and saw him standing to one side of the body. He was hunched over slightly because an Auror she thought was named Dawlish was lashing Harry's hands together with a leather strap, as a female Auror of medium height, with very dark blonde hair, whom Luna did not know, stood alongside the two of them, wand at the ready.
Harry was dressed in Muggle clothes, a nice pair of tan trousers held up by a thick braided belt, and a dark blue shirt. The shirt had a huge blotch of something on the shoulder. His hair, untidy as ever, was sticking up in front.
"I guess I can't do dinner after all."
"What?" she said stupidly, beginning to catch on but not wanting to, figuring it all out, but not wanting any of this to actually be happening to her, and to certainly not to him.
"I bought you some flowers for your birthday," Harry said, gesturing his head at a table to the right, where a large bunch of multicolored carnations sat forlornly, their fluffy tops sticking out of the end of the green tissue they were wrapped in, "but you'll have to go get them yourself."
"Oh, Harry! You didn't!" she wailed.
"Get you a birthday bouquet?" H e looked puzzled and she noticed his eyes were still as green as the grass on Stoatshead hill on a May morning. They were, as always, absolutely gorgeous.
Focus, Luna! Focus! She hissed to herself.
"No! Poison Narcissa Malfoy!"
"Hell no! Oh, absolutely not! Trust me, Sweetie, if I'd wanted to kill that miserable old bat I would have done it years ago."
"That's enough, Miss," said the male Auror sharply. "We have to get to the Ministry now. We'll get to the bottom of this!"
Harry sighed, "Sorry, Luna," as he vanished. Luna for her part sat down hard on the nearest chair before she could fall down, and cradled the flowers in her arms. This was going to be the worst birthday ever- a new low.