How did this happen?
Harry Potter asked himself that question when he woke up and glanced over to see Luna Lovegood sleeping peacefully next to him.
He shook his head and rubbed his eyes. She was still there, tufts of her long dirty blond hair cascading over her face, her shoulders rising and falling with every breath.
His heartbeat picked up. An electric tingle shot up and down his body. He felt a smile form on his face. Could he actually be happy?
Harry sighed, his shoulders sagged. How long would this feeling last? Every time a small shred of happiness entered his life, something happened to rip it away from him.
He couldn't go a day without thinking of her. After the war he expected to have a normal happy life with her.
He did a wonderful job messing that up.
Luna moaned softly and shifted from sleeping on her side to her stomach. Harry just stared at her. My God, she was beautiful. Why had he never noticed it when they were at Hogwarts? Or maybe he did, but was too stupid to appreciate it.
How many things in his life had he been too stupid to appreciate?
Harry reached out and gently brushed some of Luna's hair away from her face. The events of yesterday spooled through his mind. His jaw had dropped when Luna suddenly appeared outside his office at the Ministry of Magic.
"I'm doing a story for The Quibbler," she had told him. "It's a special feature on the five-year anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, catching up with some of the people who were involved."
Part of him didn't want to talk about the battle at all. Every bit of misery in his life over the past five years could be traced back to that horrible night.
But he found it hard to say no looking in to those large silvery eyes.
When he got off work, they went to a restaurant two blocks from the Ministry. Harry told her about his auror training and some of the cases he'd been on.
"What about your friends?" she asked. "How often do you see them?"
Harry had lowered his eyes, his fingers massaging his mug of butterbeer. How long had it been since he'd talked to any of his friends from Hogwarts? Would they even want to talk to him? After things ended between him and Ginny he'd done all he could to cut himself off from everyone who had mattered in his life.
"I'd rather not talk about it." Those words formed in his mouth, but he didn't speak them aloud. Instead he just stared at Luna, who gazed back at him with that dreamy expression of hers.
Before Harry could stop himself, confessions spilled out of his mouth, feelings he'd kept bottled up for years, things he didn't want to share with anyone. But he shared them with Luna. What was it about this woman that he never felt afraid to confide in her?
He admitted he was lonely. He didn't like it, but learned to accept it. What could he do to change it anyway?
"I know how you feel, Harry. Back at Hogwarts I was used to being alone. But I did have friends. You and Ginny and Neville. Now I almost never see them, and I really don't have any other friends. Not even at The Quibbler. Everyone there thinks I only got my job because father gave it to me. I often wonder if I'm going to spend the rest of my life alone, and at times it depresses me."
Loneliness became the main topic of discussion for the next hour. Somehow it led to Harry reaching across the table and giving Luna's hand a sympathetic squeeze. That soon led to both of them apparating back to his place. Luna pushed him against the wall. Their hands roamed over each other's bodies as they kissed fiercely. Robes and undergarments slipped to the floor. Harry carried her into the bedroom. He never imagined this sweet, quirky young woman could be such a tigress in bed. But he savored every moment of their intense love-making.
Luna stirred as he pushed the last strands of hair from her face. Her eyelids fluttered open.
"Morning." Harry flashed her a brief smile.
Luna took his hand and kissed each of his fingers. "Last night was lovely."
"Yes. Yes it was." Harry sighed and cast his eyes down.
He looked back at her, chewing on his bottom lip. He was about to say, "Nothing," but knew he wouldn't fool Luna.
"What happens now? With us?"
Luna pushed herself up on an elbow. "What do you want to happen?"
"That's the problem. I don't know. I'm afraid . . ."
"Afraid of what?"
Harry closed his eyes. "Afraid if I get involved with you, I'll end up ruining it, like I did things between me and Ginny."
"What did happen between you two?"
His eyes snapped open and widened. He couldn't believe after making love for most of the night she would want to hear about him and another woman. Still, he answered her.
"I was just afraid of giving myself completely over to her. So many people I care about wind up dead. If anything happened to her . . ."
His stomach quivered. Harry drew a slow breath before continuing. "And then there's Fred. Her brother died because of me. How could I look her in the face every day for the rest of my life knowing if it weren't for me her brother would still be alive?"
"Voldemort and his followers killed Fred. Not you."
"That's what everyone kept saying."
"Because it's true."
"He died fighting for me. So did Sirius and Professor Moody and Tonks and Professor Lupin. I got sick of people around me dying, of mourning for them, of feeling nothing but hurt and guilt. I didn't want to go through it anymore."
"So you walked away from everyone." It was more a statement than a question from Luna.
"I did." Harry nodded. "There are times I regret it, but I've managed to convince myself it was the right thing to do."
"When is not caring for people the right thing?"
Harry looked away from her, not having an answer.
Luna slid closer to him. "If you stop caring, then Voldemort will have beaten you."
His head whipped around to her. "What?"
"That night at Hogwarts, it wasn't just for you we all fought for. We fought, and some died, to have a world where loving someone wasn't a crime, the way Voldemort would have had it. If you stop loving people, then Voldemort will have beaten you."
Harry snorted, clenching the top of his blanket in his fist. He'd killed Voldemort five years ago. He didn't like the idea of the bastard defeating him from beyond the grave.
"But I'm afraid, Luna. What if we get involved and the same thing happens to us like it did me and Ginny?"
"Love is a risk, Harry. But if being happy is better than being lonely, isn't it worth the risk?"
Harry's entire body went numb. Somewhere in his mind a beam of light cut through the wall of darkness he'd built up. Did he really want to spend the rest of his life alone? Did he really want to spend his days not caring about another person? Is that the man he wanted to be after sacrificing so much during the war?
"Maybe it's time for me to take a risk." Luna slid her body over Harry's, her breasts pressing against his chest. "I love you, Harry. I've always loved you. And for some reason I can't fathom, it's the one thing I've never had the courage to say out loud . . . until now."
Before Harry's mind could take in the revelation, Luna's lips covered his. He ran his hand through her hair and to the back of her head. Just before Harry thought he'd suffocate, Luna pulled her lips away.
He traced his finger down her cheek. "I think, deep down, I've always felt the same way about you. You were there for me so many times at Hogwarts. I don't think I ever really appreciated it. I'm sorry."
Luna smiled at him. "Well, you're going to have a lot of time to make up for it."
She kissed him again.
"So . . ." Harry ran a hand down Luna's bare back. "What should we do for our first official day together?"
"It is Saturday. I don't have to work. You don't have to work. Why don't we just sleep in?"
Harry felt a crocked smile crease his lips. "Just sleeping sounds so boring."
He tickled Luna's sides. She laughed as Harry rolled her on her back.
After they'd made love again, Luna curled up next to Harry. He smiled and gently stroked her hair.
He still didn't know how this all happened, but he was happy it did.
- THE END -