A small girl of nine ran through the wooded area near her home, ducking between trees and brush, trying to lose the person chasing her. It wasn't easy. Even in the dim twilight, her dirty blonde hair stood out amongst the greens and browns of the forest.
There it was! She'd spotted the small burrow under the largest tree in her favourite thicket. Her hideout was in that hollow. Ducking between the roots of the oak, she heard her father rush past, still trying to catch her. The sounds of his pursuit grew distant and she snuggled into the dirt wall, prepared to spend the rest of her life in the small nest.
I'll need food, but I can conjure that with a wand, she thought, disregarding the fact that, at nine, she was far too young to own a wand. She stopped her movements after a moment when she realized that the wall of her hideout was rather bumpier than usual. She turned, meeting a pair of amused brown eyes beneath ginger-coloured hair.
He must be one of those Weasley boys, she thought before jumping off his lap, on which she had been cosily sitting, and hitting her head on the roots above, much to the amusement of the other occupant.
George Weasley thought about things for a moment before speaking. While it was true that he was only twelve, he'd begun to realise that not all girls could be as annoying as his little sister, Ginny. There was even one in the village that seemed to be an alright sort. He wasn't too sure he liked her trying to kiss him all the time, but she didn't demand he play dolls with her, or presume to talk about Quidditch. Of course, he reasoned, she was a Muggle, so it was probable that she didn't know what Quidditch was.
But this girl, though she was only about his sister's age, seemed an alright sort, too. Coming to a decision, he stuck out his hand.
"I'm George Weasley," he whispered, feeling a bit silly. Still, he knew that shaking hands was the proper way to introduce oneself, as he'd seen his father do it just the other day, and his father knew everything, even about Muggles.
"I'm Luna Lovegood," she whispered, looking befuddled at his arm, which was still stuck outwards towards her. When no other answer came to her, she went with her first instinct and brought it to her lips, the way she'd seen her dad do to her mum. Obviously, that wasn't the right thing to do, because the boy jerked it away like he'd been stung by one of those big bees that buzzed through this part of the forest.
George eyed the girl warily. She'd kissed him. He thought about leaving her there and walking home, trouble or not, but he remembered that Mum had always told him to be a gentleman. Even if she wasn't grown up yet, this little girl would be a lady, and the gentlemanly thing to do would be to walk her home, even if it meant he would be in even more trouble when he got there than he would have been for just running away. Of course, being George, he wasn't merely in trouble for running away; he was in trouble for the prank he and Fred had played on Ron, their brother. Fred had stayed to take his punishment, but George was tired of Mum yelling at him all the time.
"I'll walk you home, Miss Lovegood," he said very formally, extending his elbow towards her the way he'd seen a man in a Muggle play do last Christmas.
"I'm not going home," the little woodsprite said serenely. George was relieved. He didn't really want to go home either.
"Well, then, I guess we'll have to stay here and have supper," he agreed. When she nodded, he pulled his mother's wand from his pocket and very clumsily charmed the mushrooms growing near the entrance to the small cave to grow legs and come inside.
Luna giggled. The mushrooms, while not very appetizing, were certainly very funny, walking around banging off the walls like that. The big problem came when George forgot how to remove the charm, and they tried to eat the mushrooms while the little legs kicked inside their mouths. It was so uncomfortable being poked in the neck by her food that Luna ate only one, while George gave up after two, setting the others free afterwards.
Suddenly, Luna felt overwhelmingly sleepy. Her companion's eyes began drooping as well, and she realised that there must be something wrong with eating things that could kick you. Her last thought before unconciousness took her was a fleeting wish to see her mother's face.
Some hours later, Luna awoke to a blindingly white wall and the flaming hair of the room's other occupant. Her father was sitting in a chair by her bed, and two red-haired adults were sitting next to George. It was then, seeing the boy's mother, that she remembered why she'd been running away.
Mum is dead.
Her father began crying and reached out for her, sobbing. It wasn't until he spoke that she realised she'd voiced the thought.
"Yes, your mother is dead, but we've still got each other Lunamylove," he said, using the special pet name that she hadn't heard since she was five and her mother thought it was inappropriate.
Luna tentatively held her father, realising that this would be her life now, taking care of her father and his fancies the way her mother had for so many years. Dreams of marriage, of a life outside of her father's home and his newspaper were gone now - a thing of the past. Without realising it, Luna had stepped tremulously over the threshold of young womanhood far earlier than was wise.
"Luna?" came a groggy voice from her left and her father released her immediately so she could turn to the injured boy.
"I'm okay, George," she answered, trying to soothe him when she'd never been less okay in her young life.
Clearly realising that they would both recover perfectly well, the red-headed woman pulled herself to all of her sixty-four inches and began shouting. "What on earth were you two thinking, running off into the woods like that!"
George was fairly certain that his mother could be heard all the way to the street. He slunk lower into his pillow, trying to remember what he had been running from in the first place. He gave an inward chuckle. He'd been running away to avoid a scene like this. He tuned out his mum and looked closely at Luna. She was staring into the wall above his head dreamily, or so it first appeared. The longer he looked at her, the more he saw things that he'd neglected to notice in the woods.
That dreamy expression, something wasn't right about it, he decided half-way through his mother's tirade. Mr Lovegood and Luna were both wisely not interrupting, but George was anxious for her to finish. All he could think of was wiping that far-away look from his companion's face and seeing her smile as she had when she'd seen the mushrooms dancing towards them.
The mushrooms! he realised with a start. They were poisonous! George was horrified for a moment, and his mother must have assumed that he was listening to her, for she interrupted his thoughts.
"That's right! I said no Quidditch all summer!" she affirmed. George groaned mentally at the thought, and visions of the boredom he'd feel all summer shoved his musings on the young girl's expression to the back of his mind, where he neglected to examine them for quite some time.
Hogwarts sounds nice, but I'd rather be home with Father, Luna thought disconsolately, sitting alone in a compartment on the train to school. It was her first year, and no one had chosen to sit with her. She'd just started feeling a bit sorry for herself when two stocky boys burst into her compartment.
"Can we hide in here?" asked one of them anxiously, while the other searched out a place to conceal himself, finally choosing the underside of the seat opposite her.
"Of course," she said, adopting the faintly dreamy voice she always used around anyone but her father. The startled boy stared at her for a full minute before realising he needed to hide and jumping under her seat. A rather unpleasant-looking face peered into the window of her compartment before moving on, clearly convinced that no one was hiding in there. The two boys emerged from beneath the seats and one began to speak.
"Thanks!" he exclaimed cheerfully, unaware that his twin was staring, open-mouthed, at the girl. "We thought our goose was cooked for sure. I'm Fred Weasley, by the way, and this is my brother George. You're a first year, aren't you? Our sister is, too. Maybe you'll meet her later. What's your name? I'll tell her to find you."
Before Luna could answer this rather unintelligible jumble, or feel faintly annoyed that this 'Fred' felt the need to make introductions for her, the other twin spoke.
"Luna," George said, answering his brother's question unwittingly. He couldn't quite believe that the dreamy little girl he had met one summer's afternoon had become quite so…dotty. For Luna made an odd picture, sitting alone in the compartment, her wand tucked behind her ear and an expression so serene it made one wonder if the girl was daft.
"Hello, George," she answered, pleasantly enough. With a little laugh, Luna held her hand out to George, reminiscently, waiting for him to shake it. What he did instead shocked them both.
Without thinking about it, George took her hand in his own and brought it to his lips, where he left a lingering kiss on the back of her knuckles. Fred was frozen to the ground, watching in awe and amusement. He'd never seen his brother struck dumb, but he and this crazy first year were staring at each other like the world had stopped. He nudged George.
"Come on, George. Let's go," he urged. George turned and said good-bye to Luna before leaving.
When he was gone, Luna sat back in her seat and snuggled herself deeper into her warm sweater. He is as nice as I remembered him.
For Luna, thoughts of her mother's death would always bring thoughts of waking up, hours later, in a room in St. Mungo's, listening to Mrs Weasley yell at her son - and her, to think of it. In her mind, she knew she'd built him up to be far more compassionate, caring and handsome than he could have possibly been, but nine is an age where a crush is as natural as breathing. Luna knew that she had a crush on the brawny fourth year.
Ah, well. Nothing will ever come of it, she decided before drifting off to dream of dancing mushrooms.
George didn't say much of anything the remainder of the trip to Hogwarts, but if Fred noticed, he gave no indication. They spent a goodly amount of time with Lee Jordan, who talked constantly, and Oliver Wood, who muttered things to himself while writing Quidditch strategies inside the back cover of his Herbology book. George knew his silence would not raise too much attention in that din. It didn't get much better when Angelina and Katie walked past. Fred thought that Katie was interested in Wood, and he heckled him for the rest of the journey, preventing George from truly delving into the thoughts that had flown through his mind when confronted with his wood sprite again.
Between Quidditch and the opening of the Chamber of Secrets, George could never find a moment to think of the girl again, and once more, thoughts of Luna Lovegood faded from his mind.
Another two years later found George sitting the stands at the Quidditch World Cup, looking down at the fantastic array of Quidditch talent on the pitch. He thought he caught a glimpse of sandy hair and slightly bulging blue eyes in his peripheral vision, but Viktor Krum dove for the Snitch and he forgot to look for her.
For the rest of the summer, he meant to go visit the Lovegood home and see her, but he and Fred were trying to get Bagman to repay the money he'd swindled them out of, as well as developing new things for their joke shop, and he just never found the time.
He saw her sitting alone on the train to Hogwarts, but this time he couldn't bring himself to go in. The aura of oddness that had surrounded her during her first year had grown considerably larger. Her wand was no longer behind her ear, but stuck into a rather messy knot at the back of her head, clearly holding her hair in place. She now wore a necklace of butterbeer corks that would become her signature piece of jewellery, along with the radishes adorning her earlobes. When he passed her compartment again on his way to the bathroom, he saw his sister Ginny and a rather annoying young man named Colin sitting with her. Colin was doing his best to avoid looking at her, which was easy, as she'd buried her face into a magazine that appeared to be called The Quibbler. George hurried quickly back to his compartment.
With the excitement of the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament, George once again put the girl now known as Loony Lovegood out of his mind. He focused instead of showing his brother Ron what a prat he was, and spending most of his time trying to figure out ways of recovering their stolen money with Fred. Then the Yule Ball came. Fred, of course, took Angelina, and though George thought that Ron should buck it up and ask Hermione, whom he was clearly infatuated with, Ron took a girl from Ravenclaw instead.
George, of course, took Katie Bell, and vaguely wondered what Loony was up to that night. He avoided his brothers and went for a short walk with his date when he heard crying. When he saw the bulging blue eyes, he whispered for Katie to go inside and knelt in the grass beside the younger girl.
George realised that she was the same age as his baby sister, but that didn't stop him from appreciating the feminine curves of her body as he pulled her towards him, cradling her head on his shoulder and wiping the tears from her face.
"What's wrong?" he asked her, knowing that had it been any other girl crying, even his sister, he'd have felt extremely awkward. Holding Luna just felt right.
"It's nothing," she denied, trying to pull away from him. The gesture reminded him very strongly of the first time he'd met her. Looking back, he realised that her eyes had been bloodshot, her face tear-stained and he wondered what had made her cry that day.
"You're lying, Luna," George countered. "Just tell me."
"Why?" she demanded. A fire he would have never thought possible from her scorched her words. "So you can laugh at me, too? Loony Lovegood, the Ravenclaw freak!" The last word was a scream, torn from her throat as if pulled by an invisible force, and suddenly, George remembered.
Mum is dead, she'd whispered that night, the pain in her voice achingly familiar in retrospect. He pulled her closer and she fought him, scratching his face and flailing her fists ineffectively against his chest until her rage gave out and great, heaving sobs wracked her body.
Luna stopped fighting him and settled into his arms. For just a moment, she allowed herself to dream, the dream of all thirteen-year-old girls, that George, like a prince, would carry her to a white castle and they would live happily ever after. She would no longer be teased. Engulfed in that wave of hope, she began to speak.
"Terry Boot invited me to the Ball," she whispered, dreading his reaction. "He did it privately, one night when everyone else had gone to sleep." Luna drew a great, shuddering breath and exhaled it slowly. "He said he'd meet me inside, but when I got there, he was dancing with one of those girls from Beauxbatons. When he walked past me, he didn't even look at me, but the rest of the Ravenclaws of my year did. They looked, and laughed, and I left."
George cursed softly. If he ever got his hands on Terry Boot…But he couldn't think about that now. All he could do was sit and comfort Luna.
"I spent most of the afternoon getting ready," she continued, her voice a bit stronger, but still shaky. "I did everything I could think of to look like other girls. I even put a shining potion on my hair so it wouldn't be so dull. I didn't wear my jewellery, but instead put in the diamonds Father sent for me to wear with the pink silk robes. They still laughed."
George pulled Luna closer and held her tightly against his chest. She murmured something into his shoulder, but he couldn't hear it, and didn't ask. Instead, he thought of how to fix her problem. An inspiration struck.
"I have an idea," he said, winking at her conspiratorially. She looked at him wonderingly as he pulled her behind him through various secret pathways in the school, pausing to let her catch her breath and to look for teachers.
Finally, they reached the long stretch of corridor on the seventh floor. He told Luna to stand at one end while he paced the length of wall in front of her three times. When he was finished, a door appeared and he led her inside.
George was thrilled. The Room had outdone itself this time. It was decorated nearly exactly like the Great Hall below, but soft music that would have no business in that rowdiness was playing, and the large clock showed that there were only three minutes until midnight. George drew the girl into his arms again, holding her in a perfect position and began to dance. Luna followed clumsily, but she caught on within a few moments and they enjoyed a very brief dance. As the clock drew closer to twelve, George drew Luna closer to him. When there was just a single minute left, he leaned down.
"Happy Christmas," he said. He bent his head towards the shimmering blonde locks and placed a chaste kiss on the top of her head. When she looked up in surprise, he couldn't resist dropping another onto her forehead. Her slightly protuberant eyes bulged more than ever, but she turned her lips up and he gently touched them with his own.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome," he said. He led her to the entry of the Ravenclaw common room and drew her hand to his lips, placing a soft kiss on her knuckles and urging her to get some sleep.
The rest of the year flew for George, and, while he couldn't get that dance out of his head, he didn't have much time to ponder it. He kept his whereabouts that night a secret from Fred, something he'd never done before, for he knew that if Fred knew, the whole school would know, and they would have no mercy on poor Luna. For that reason, he avoided her as much as possible, keeping only the most neutral of contact between them, even pretending not to see her sometimes when they passed in the vast castle.
And then it happened. The death of Cedric Diggory. The attempted murder of Harry. The return of Voldemort and the community's determined disbelief. He made up his mind. No matter what the outcome, he would spend his summer guarding Luna, determined that she come to no harm, for he was beginning to realise he cared about her. If he had told Fred, he was sure that he'd be mocked, and even more certain that Fred wouldn't understand. She was so much younger than they were. Fred would undoubtedly believe that she was too young to even understand his feelings for her. George didn't believe that. He saw Ginny's unwavering devotion to Harry, and Luna was Ginny's age. She could return his feelings, if he could only find a way to show her.
His plans were foiled, however, when his parents moved the entire family to Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place for the entire summer. He wrote her endless letters, but she never responded. He turned his attention to creating products for the joke shop Harry had so generously funded. Fred commented a few times on his quiet, and he made an effort to keep his heart locked away more securely, refusing to share his feelings, fearing he would be ridiculed.
Luna believed Harry. It was true that she didn't know him, but she knew he was a true person. If he said something had happened, then it had. She spent her days burning the letters that came from a strange owl, determined not to open anything until Voldemort was captured. It just wasn't safe. The letters kept coming, and Luna kept burning them. Her father was adamantly against opening any post, even from friends, for fear it was a trick sent from the Minister for his stories about Fudge's activities.
Her father wasn't home most of the summer, however, and Luna stayed with an old friend of the family for the remainder of her holiday, burning letters. At night, she dreamt of gleaming icicles and richly brown eyes. In the harsh light of morning, she remembered why she couldn't have that. Her father would always need her. Someone had to keep the household running when he was home. Someone had to remind him to wash his socks. That someone would always be Luna, and she knew that dreams of a stocky boy with gingery hair were a waste of time.
When she boarded the Hogwarts Express, she vowed that she wouldn't speak to George Weasley. She succeeded in that, but instead had to tolerate the condescension of his brother, and Ron's friends. She wasn't upset about having met Harry Potter, though he did look at her as if she were a bit odd, and Ginny was a dear. She'd always defended Luna when push came to shove. Ginny was almost a friend.
She did see George walk past the compartment once, and the smile he sent her was more annoying than anything else. It showed her that he felt the same level of contempt for her oddness that his youngest brother did. In actuality, George was thinking no such thing. He was quite thrilled to see his Luna, for that was how he'd begun to think of her, sitting with someone other than herself for a change, and that two of them were his family. He still didn't understand why she hadn't written him back, but he was determined to corner her on the first Hogsmeade weekend, if not before, and find out.
But, as was wont to happen with George Weasley, he got sidetracked. He spent so many hours, days, weeks even working with Fred to develop their line of products that he fell into bed exhausted each night when he should have been roaming the library, or, knowing Luna, some place completely unexpected, to try to talk to her. His Hogsmeade weekends were taken with shopping for various items he and Fred thought they could improve upon, and it was with some surprise that he noticed Luna walking into the Hog's Head amongst the group of people coming for a secret meeting on how to get rid of Umbridge, and learn defensive magic behind her back.
While he jokingly responded to the meeting, and even helped his twin threaten a particularly foul Hufflepuff, George's thoughts stayed on Luna, remembering the softness of her body nestled against his own, the way she tasted slightly of butterbeer when he kissed her. Must be those corks she wears round her neck, he thought absently.
Before he had a chance to look his fill, the meeting was over and he and Fred were off to purchase more things with the gold Harry had given them for their joke shop. He saw Luna wandering off on her own and was overwhelmed by a sudden urge to run after her. He turned quickly to Fred.
"I have to go," George told his twin abruptly.
"Well, you should have gone in the pub. Now you'll have to wait until we get back to the castle," Fred replied, obviously misunderstanding his meaning.
"Fred, I haven't divulged my need for a privy to you in years," he countered, more annoyed than amused. "There is someone I need to talk to. Now."
"Well, then run after Loony, if you must. I saw this coming long ago," Fred replied laughingly. "Now, go, before she disappears." But George was already gone. Chuckling to himself at the foolishness of his brother, he couldn't help the warmth that rushed through him at the sight of Angelina up ahead. He ran after her, hoping both he and his brother would have the luck they needed to convince their ladies of their intentions.
"Luna!" Luna turned, almost certain that she'd heard her name being called, and was surprised to see George Weasley coming after her.
"George?" she asked, coming to a halt.
"Hi," he said, sounding a bit short of breath. "How've you been?"
"I can do without your patronizing to notice me!" she exclaimed heatedly.
"What?" he asked, truly startled.
"Oh, don't pretend you don't know," she said, frighteningly. George had just learned something, something very important. She put on her 'serene' voice when she didn't want anyone to know her true emotions, and she had just spoken to him in that manner.
"Luna, I promise you, I don't," he pled.
"It doesn't matter." Luna's voice came airily, but the hitch in the final word belied her serenity.
George reached out for her, using her wrist to pull her towards him. "Luna, I have never once patronised to you, and I never will," he whispered softly. Luna's large blue eyes grew larger still. "Why didn't you answer my letters?" As soon as the question left his mouth, he regretted it. She wanted to talk about how he had wronged her, not about letters she'd never answered.
"I didn't get any letters," she whispered, pain in her voice.
"My owl delivered them to someone, because they never came back to me," he explained, confused.
"OH!" Luna exclaimed, eyes nearly popping out of her head. "That rather wobbly bird?" At George's nod, she grimaced. "Father and I thought they were from the Ministry or Death Eaters and we refused to open them - they all went into the fire."
"All of them?" George asked incredibly, trying not to laugh at her father's notions.
"Yes, nearly one every single…day," the last word came out a whisper as she realised the implications of what had just transpired. George didn't patronise her. In fact, if she were him…
"Are you angry?" she asked him.
"Not anymore," he answered, shaking his head.
"I bet you were terribly angry all summer, weren't you? You were wondering why old Loony wasn't answering your letters!" She gave a little laugh.
"Luna, don't call yourself that," George hissed, hurt at the nonchalance in her voice when she referred to herself as 'Loony'.
"It's alright, George, I know what I am," she argued. "I'm Loony Lovegood, the girl who believes in creatures that everyone else thinks are made up, wears radish earrings and a butterbeer cork necklace and her wand behind her ear. She may be a bit dotty, but she is known."
Her emphasis on the last word didn't go unnoticed by George, but he let it go, instead pulling her into his arms. "Well, Loony Lovegood, I've got ten Galleons in my pocket and an empty stomach. What do you say we have dinner before sneaking back into the castle?"
"We can't, not with Death Eaters on the loose," she answered. "But, you may escort me back to the castle," she added by way of consolation.
"Well, if that's the best I can get, I'll take it. Lead on!" George exclaimed.
They'd marched back to the castle where he'd pulled her into a secret passageway and kissed her soundly. He no longer cared that she was only fourteen to his seventeen. He no longer worried about Fred taking the mickey out of him if he found out. All he wanted to do was hold the little wisp of girl to him. He sent her off to her common room, and joined his fellow Gryffindors in his own, fully expecting to be harassed by Fred the moment he walked through the portrait hole.
Fred wasn't there, however, and he settled down in front of the fireplace with the products they'd purchased earlier, examining each one for ways to improve upon it.
At the first meeting, where the group now christened itself the DA, George fully intended to walk Luna back to her dormitory, but the meeting ran over-long, and he had to content himself with looking over Harry's shoulder at the map to make sure she made it safely. For each meeting thereafter, he made sure that he left with her, leading her down deserted corridors and stealing brief kisses along the way.
And then, disaster struck. While he didn't care that he and Fred were caught, he knew that leaving the school, as they had planned for some time, would mean leaving Luna. As long as Umbridge was there, he wouldn't be able to write Luna and tell her what had happened, and writing her at home was futile - her father, the crazy old bat, would just chuck it into the stove.
Then, he was called to the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts. Ron was in there, having been scarred by the Brains in the Department of Mysteries. George rushed to the infirmary, not expecting what he saw there. Luna, his sister, Harry, Hermione, Neville and Ron were sitting (well, Ron and Hermione were laying down) around, looking serious and depressed. That was when the rest of the missive he'd received from his father began to make sense. Sirius Black had died, and George felt a wave of emotion he didn't understand wash over him.
He now knew, from spending an entire summer with Sirius, that he had been one of the original Marauders, the men that he and his twin had aspired to be since finding the map. Stories of his and James Potter's highjinks at Hogwarts had been truly amusing, but he was a bit surprised to find that he'd grown a deep, abiding emotional attachment to the man, of whom he really knew so very little. He decided to leave. He couldn't go into that room and cry. Harry needed him to be strong.
He had turned to leave, was in fact, nearly out of the vicinity when he heard the dreamy, beautiful voice of Luna calling him.
"George!" Her voice stopped him. When she reached him, he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her and struggling for control. She patted his back and placed a soft kiss to his temple.
"Sirius Black was a friend of yours?" she asked quietly.
"Not just mine, everyone's. He's Harry's godfather," George explained, having finally gotten control over his emotions. When he was finally cognizant enough to notice his surroundings, he realised that she'd slowly lead him to the room that he'd taken her in her distress. It was decorated identically, and she wrapped his arms around her and danced.
The comfort of having her so near was a balm to his heart and he followed her around the floor, once again pulling her closer. He leaned down and kissed her hair, and then her forehead, and then, softly, her lips. She's only fourteen, he cautioned himself. Don't take this too far.
With that warning in his mind, he slowly eased out of a kiss that had become deeper than he realised and looked down at her face.
"Luna," he began, dreading what was coming, not seeing any way past it. "Luna, I just can't do this right now."
"Do what? Dance? That's fine, we don't have to dance," she asked, confused.
"No, not dance. Luna, we can't keep meeting like this. You've still got three years left here and I can't afford for anyone in the community to think that I chase after young girls. My shop caters to Hogwarts students, and the shop could come under scrutiny if people got the wrong idea about our friendship." George hated what he was about to say, but he knew that he couldn't endanger what he and Fred had worked so hard, for so many years on. "Come in soon, and I'll give you a special discount."
Luna studied him for a moment before the dreamy expression he'd grown to hate came over her face. She was hiding from him, hiding behind the placid look and wandering eyes.
"I'll see you then, George," she said, looking mad as she ever had before turning on he heel and drifting out of the room.
"Damn!" he cursed before walking through the castle and out, into the village of Hogsmeade, where he very much hoped that Madam Rosmerta hadn't closed up for the night.
Luna waited until she was alone in her dormitory before the tears found her. She hadn't cried since the day she'd lost her mother, and the dream world she'd built with George was supposed to be just that: A dream. She was never supposed to have taken it to heart, never supposed to have grown to care too much for him, because she would never have been able to leave her Father. She tried to stem the flow, but the tears continued to run down her face. The door opened, and Luna tried in vain to wipe her eyes, determined that none of the girls she'd shared the room with would see her this way.
When the figure stepped into the room, it wasn't a Ravenclaw, but Ginny Weasley.
"Michael gave me the password," she answered the unspoken question. Michael was Ginny's ex-boyfriend. "I saw you in the hallway coming up here, and I could tell you were upset, and close to tears. I wanted to find you, make sure you are alright."
The kindness in the other girl's words allowed the tears the leverage they needed over her, and the poured triumphantly down her cheeks again, winning the long-fought battle.
"Who is it? Who's hurt you?" Ginny demanded, sitting beside her on the bed and putting her arm around Luna's shoulders.
"I have," Luna answered shakily. With no more than that for a warning, the entire tale fell out. Losing her mother, hiding in the woods with George, the poisonous mushrooms, and the realisation that her life would consist of nothing but caring for her father.
"That is terrible, Luna," Ginny agreed. Luna shook her head, she wasn't done.
"I fell in love with George, and I let myself believe that there would be a way to be with him and take care of my father," Luna explained. "But tonight, he told me he couldn't risk being with me."
"Tell me who George is so I can go murder him!" Ginny exclaimed hotly, her fiery temper coming to the forefront. While she could understand that Luna might make a sane person wonder if they were truly suited, any boy who had obviously fallen for Luna as hard as this one had should know better. He sounded like a complete jerk to her. Luna just laughed.
"What is so funny?" Ginny asked, confused.
"George is your bother!" Luna explained, clearly still amused.
"Well, now I really can murder him - we live in the same house," Ginny said, chuckling. Inwardly, she wondered how her fun-loving brother had ever been serious enough to fall in love with the girl, but she was pleased that she did know the boy in question so she could talk some sense into him.
"Luna, lie down and get some sleep. We'll be going home soon, and there is no where for him to escape," Ginny explained.
"NO!" Luna shouted at her. Ginny turned to the other girl in shock. "Don't say anything. Even if he did love me, I couldn't do anything about it. I have to take care of my father."
Ginny kept her word, and Luna would never know how hard it was for her to do it. When they started their fifth year, she realised with a pang that she would not be seeing George on the train, or in the halls. For once, though, she didn't feel quite as alone as she normally did at the start of term. She realised that she had friends, and two of them were sitting with her in the compartment on the train. No matter what people said, Harry was just a regular boy like any other. She was proud to call him friend; not because he was famous, but because he was a good person.
George, however, was not as happy on that morning. He watched the others get on the train and wished he could go with them, leave the war-torn life of an adult behind and just be a child again for a little while; discard the missions for the Order and pretend to study for History of Magic. He shook off those feelings and walked back to the flat he and Fred shared in Diagon Alley.
For most of the year, minus a few brief family appearances, George was off in Romania with Charlie. While Charlie tended dragons by day, George performed scouting expeditions in the area surrounding the preserve that was dedicated to the dragon colony. They spent their nights chasing down leads on possible whereabouts of suspected Death Eaters. He wrote almost daily to Luna, but the letters always came back singed around the edges. His previous experience had taught him to put Fire-Retardant Charms on her letters.
And then Dumbledore died. George came home and attended the funeral, more depressed than he could have imagined. The grief was magnified by the sight of Neville Longbottom holding on to Luna for support. When the funeral was completed, George fled. He was grateful that Luna hadn't been invited to Bill and Fleur's wedding, though Fred had suggested he bring her as a date. George brushed aside the idea, and it wasn't until the Christmas after the wedding that he even saw the wood sprite with her dull blonde hair.
He arrived home from working a particularly long shift at the store. He'd taken the later shift so Fred could go home with Verity and meet her parents. They were expecting to be back at the Burrow and announcing their engagement that night. Sitting in the living room was Luna, talking quietly with Ginny. He'd read in the Prophet that her father had been trampled by a mysterious creature in Sweden. Harry and Ron were playing chess, Hermione was heating popcorn in the open fire and Fred and Verity were cuddling on the sofa. The 'adults', as George still thought of them, were in the kitchen, talking about Order business. Ginny gestured to Hermione and they walked up to the boys playing chess. The four of the left the room silently. Fred escorted Verity for a walk in the moonlight, leaving George alone with Luna.
He cleared his throat. "Hello, Luna," he whispered across the room, where the oddly beautiful girl sat. Her eyes met his, and he caught his breath. Gone were the recriminations he'd seen during their last encounter, the doubts he'd become used to and the dreamy expression he'd grown to love and hate.
"Hello, George," she said quietly, her voice stronger than he'd heard it since their first meeting. She stood and crossed the room. Luna smiled. George looked so nervous. While her father's death had devastated her, the invitation to join the Weasley family holiday meant a chance at happiness she couldn't imagine. She'd jumped at that opportunity, and it seemed to have come.
The WWN was playing softly in the background as George slid his left arm around Luna's waist. Hands met, clasped, and their feet picked up the dance begun so long ago on a Christmas far behind them. They circled the room. In front of the fireplace, they stopped.
"Happy Christmas, George," Luna said, a faint glimmer of tears visible on the inside corners of her eyes.
"Thank you," he replied, leaning down to brush a soft kiss to her hair, which was shinning brilliantly in the dim light, and then to her forehead, which was tilted towards him endearingly, and finally, to her sweet, butterbeer flavoured lips, where he lingered until his mother came in at midnight and shooed them off to their very separate beds.