Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. The plot of this oneshot is merely a contrivance of mine. Rowling is the real owner of Harry Potter and his universe, and additions to that universe in this story are my ideas or just accidents.
Considering who this was, Harry knew he shouldn't have been surprised by the sight before him. Yet, despite how many times he told himself this, it always seemed as if she had another trick up her sleeve (or her sock, or her shirt, or any of the other miscellaneous items that functioned as apparel for her).
"Go away," He heard her say. He wondered who she was referring to: him, or...that.
The...thing did not seem to give any indication of having heard her. Nor did it show any hint of actually having ears for that matter, so that was possibly a reason, but once again, once he took into consideration who was involved, such a logical explanation couldn't possibly be the answer.
Harry blinked. He would not call that a sound, but it certainly was something of a more communicable meaning that others would probably have imagined. The thing did not have a mouth either, or even a body at all, so he couldn't help but vaguely wonder as to how it managed to reproduce such an advanced thing as sound.
"Please leave." She said once more, with slightly more feeling than before.
'It's a boggart, Luna,' Harry thought to himself, 'It's your worst fear. It's not going to go away just because you ask it to.' Despite his own disapproval at how she was handling the situation, Harry kept quiet. Whether out of some strange want to give her some degree of privacy or just plain interest, he was feeling rather bad about doing this to her. He had accepted he was a bit of a hothead when it came to these things but even he knew that this was pushing it.
There it was again. The hairs on the back of his neck went up. This was insane! What the hell was this thing?
Finally, as if someone had just thrown a bucket of cold ice on him, he moved in.
"OI!!" He shouted, moving in front of Luna, "Look at me! Look at me you wanker!"
The thing moved...something. Maybe that was it's head, he thought as he moved to the side, and maybe that was it's rear end. It all looked like something anyways.
It changed. He felt relief flood his body as he heard the familiar "CRACK" of a boggart changing. He knew this thing now, he was very familiar with it. Already he could feel his parents' last words at the edge of his hearing. He didn't hear them, but he knew they were there, happening, but without anyone there to listen to them anymore.
The boggart vanished. Barely a wisp of smoke was left.
"Practice makes perfect," Harry muttered to himself as he looked at the spot where the boggart was before.
Then he said nothing, suddenly finding himself perfectly aware of his small audience.
They were all packed in the Room of Requirement, in hiding from Umbridge and her merry little band of sycophants. His face flushed as felt everyone's gaze rest upon him. Each and every one of them as intense as the rest.
"Err...right...seeing as how I've now...removed our subject...err...I guess...that is...all." He finished awkwardly, trying and failing miserably to not blush.
There was some mumbling from the group, but he was thankful he hadn't heard it. He knew had a knack for mucking things up, so being privy to the disgruntlement of his classmates wouldn't help the situation at all.
Some frowned in disappointment at not having a go at the boggart, while others were visibly relieved at not having to look at their worst fear. Some small part of him couldn't help but wonder if they even knew what their worst fear was.
'Like Luna,' He thought as he observed the blonde girl meld back into the group with hardly a word of complaint. He still had no clue what that thing was, but just the mere thought of it sent chills up his spine.
It didn't seem to have had any definite shape, he remembered. There were no physical limits to its size and no colors he could probably use to describe it. It was like the creature twisted in on itself and formed some kind of vague and uncertain hole in the area it occupied. He was pretty sure he saw a leg, maybe a foot, but at the same time he was almost absolutely certain he saw nothing at all. It was like someone had taken a photograph of all the things in the world, mashed it all together, and then removed any trace of its existence.
What could have been human skin was equally as likely to have been dog fur or maybe even a toaster for all he cared.
Cold, hot, curvaceous, chromed...there probably wasn't a word in any language that could describe it. Nothing fit the space.
So...what was it?
"That was creepy."
Harry looked at Ron as they crept back in the Common Room. The fireplace was still burning, putting up a brave fight against the laws of physics, but in a couple of minutes the last ember would be extinguished from the lack of fuel. In the meanwhile, the flickering shadows on the walls danced and frolicked, maybe on some level aware that soon they would be no more. The crimson decorations only added to the features. When you were a Gryffindor, there never was such a thing as too much red.
They trip back had been mostly silent, with only the sound of their footsteps to accompany them up to the tower. Ron and Hermione, being prefects, didn't have to abide by the curfew rules, but Harry had to hide under the Invisibility Cloak the entire time. Thankfully, there was no trouble from Umbridge and her goons, who were probably off getting pissed without worry of being punished.
"You think so?" Harry said quietly as they waited for Hermione to crawl through the entrance.
The Weasley boy nodded, his own nervousness showing, "Yeah, I mean...all those things that weren't, you know...there...blimey, I don't think I'll sleep tonight."
Despite the somber mood, Harry chuckled. Ron could sleep through a World War if it came to it.
"Honestly Ron, it was just a boggart," Came Hermione's voice as she emerged from the entrance, "It's not as if it was real."
Ron gave her an incredulous look. "Hermione, it was a boggart. It's supposed to be as close to the real thing as it can get."
"And a dementor is supposed to bring up your worst memories." Hermione shot back, "Does that mean that those memories are more real than what's happening right now?"
The metaphysical argument was lost on Ron. "Huh?"
The bushy haired teen let out a sigh. "Forget it."
The trio made their way to their respective dormitories. After bidding Hermione a good night, and making sure she was out of earshot, Ron mumbled something along the lines, 'Why can't she just talk like normal people?'
Harry said nothing in response. He figured that was the only way to just pass through this new argument without hurting either of his friends.
As both he and Ron started getting ready for bed, Harry decided to spend a couple of minutes looking over the Marauder's Map to make sure everyone was back where they were supposed to be. He knew that sometimes people didn't heed warnings and decided to risk exploring the castle, even with Umbridge, Malfoy and all the other little nasties prowling the corridors. Laying on his four-post bed, illuminated by the near half-light of "Lumos", the dots on the map looked like little ants sprawled over a Hogwarts-printed picnic cloth.
"Okay...lessee...Ernie's in bed, Susan's on her way, Fred and George are...those crazy twits," Harry shook his head as he looked at where they were. The Astronomy Tower, of all places was probably the one place guaranteed to have someone there. "And with Angelina and Katie too. Great, I just hope they don't fall off the thing."
He continued looking, "Dean and Seamus have just arrived, with Ginny too. Cho's in the...bathroom."
He tired not to imagine Cho Chang in the bathroom. Taking a bath, lathering, rinsing her hair...damn. He just realized another use the Marauders may have used the map for. He wondered if they ever tried adding a more visual feature to the thing. Knowing Sirius, he probably did.
The raven-haired boy shook his head, feeling his blush worsen as he thought about what his godfather may have imagined.
"He's rubbing off on me," He muttered to himself, "and I'm actually liking it."
Looking towards the map once again, and purposefully avoiding looking at Cho's dot, Harry tried to find Luna.
"She's in her Common Room," He said to himself as he frowned. Was she shaken up by that...thing? He wouldn't blame her if she was. It felt odd, being in it's presence; as if he was merely a shadow, as if he didn't factor into the grand scheme of things.
He wanted to talk to her. He knew what it was like to not be able to face your worst fear.
Invalid, pathetic, weak...things that no one should feel in his opinion.
'But who's to say she is feeling those things?' Whispered a tiny voice in his ear.
The sound of footsteps told him that Dean and Seamus were coming back up the stairs. Quickly, almost instinctually, he threw the bedsheets over himself and the map and whispered a quick "Nox" to remove what little light he had.
He layed like that for what felt like hours. It wasn't that he didn't want the others to seem him looking at the map, so much as he just didn't want them to think he was spying on the others.
Then, when he was sure everyone was in bed, and that they were all sound asleep, Harry got up and went to the Common Room. Nearly tripping over Neville's strewn about shoes in the process, he then proceeded to go about it slowly, brushing his hand against the wall so as to have an idea of where he was going.
When he got there he was not surprised to see that no one else was there. It was only the middle of the school year, so late night study sessions had not yet entered their climactic phase and people were not doing all-nighters. The fireplace, once crackling and sizzling, now merely glowed with the remaining embers.
There was a magazine on one of the sofas. Picking it up and holding it up to the light, the cover read Witch Weekly with an old picture of him on the front.
"WHO WILL SNAG THE BOY-WHO-LIVED?" It read.
Despite himself, Harry let out a laugh. He couldn't have been more than thirteen in this picture. Looking inside, he was surprised to see that there were no nasty descriptions about him or his friends. Then, as he checked the date of the magazine he was reassured in the simplicity of people's minds when he noticed that it was from his fourth year, right after the first task. There was even a section entirely focused on the Yule Ball in it.
He tossed the magazine at the remaing embers with hardly a twinge of remorse. If people were going to print and read that kind of trash, then they might as well contrive fanatical tales in which he wasn't some piece of meat to be won.
"Who will snag the boy-who-lived, indeed?" He said to himself as he observed the fire burn happily. The flames licked at the air, and sparks jumped from the fire onto the stone floor in front of it. It was oddly uplifting in a way.
He checked the Map, Luna was in her dormitory now. Still, he felt guilty for just letting her go like that. He felt he should have said something to reassure the girl, but some part of him was telling him that it was none of his business, that it was hers and her friends...
'But she doesn't really have friends does she?' Said the voice from before nastily.
The guilt in the pit of his stomach burned.
Then he'd talk to her tomorrow, he decided. With his dilemma done with, Harry trekked up the stairs, fell onto his bed, closed his eyes, and dreamed of mysterious doors.
Tomorrow came, tomorrow went.
He didn't talk to her.
And it was perhaps coincidence that only two days after the Gryffindor vs Slytherin match of his sixth year, Harry bumped into Luna on his way to lunch. And it was perhaps even more of a coincidence that Snape was covering Dark creatures for the fifth years, deeming their brains too "small as to retain even the most dangerous effects of werewolf bites and kappa scratches"
"He uses you a lot of the time as an example in his class, you know" Luna said as they descended their last flight of stairs.
"Really?" The sarcasm was lost on Luna.
Nodding, she said "Yes." And then, frowning slightly she told him, slowly so as to apparently not hurt his feelings, she then said "I don't think he likes you very much, Harry. Whenever you're around each other, the Yhadks between you and him always fizzle red."
Mundane gestures such as rolling his eyes or bothering her for a more in depth explanation probably wouldn't contribute much to the conversation, so instead he conceded the point with a slight nod.
"So what is he throwing you to now then?" He asked as they reached the Great Hall.
"Huh..." And then, like an old dream, he remembered.
But it was too late, they were already at the Great Hall, and lunch and laughs and sounds were happening all around them.
"It was nice talking to you Harry," Luna said as she began for the Ravenclaw table, "make sure to fix those Yhadks of yours. Professor Snape's are too burnt to do anything about but yours aren't."
The words died on his throat as he watched her leave him. Then shrugging, he made his way for his own table.
It wasn't anything really important now, was it? It was just a boggart.
And then, one day, when he was lying in his bed and trying to sleep, it came once again.
At this point he was in his midtwenties, still young, but about as Harry Potter as Harry Potter could get. He had passed the Auror academy training, barely that is. Apparently you needed more than experience with over a dozen dark creatures in their lifetimes, including Voldemort, Death Eaters, tabloids, and several other things that preyed upon the good of the world.
On his right was Luna, sleeping as soundly as person like her could.
It was, he figured, not the best question in the world to ask at -at this point he checked his watch on the bedside table- one twenty one in the morning; then again, some may say that he hadn't asked the best question that stormy day in The Hogshead two years ago, and with a transfigured Firewhiskey bottle instead of a ring too.
So he figured, if she didn't mind that, then she probably wouldn't mind this either.
He shook her gently with his hand, trying not to deprive her of her sleep to abruptly. She was the owner and editor of A.L.F., a slightly successful magazine that basically had the same material as The Quibbler, but only sold more issues because of her relation to Harry (Luna was plenty aware of this but she said she liked doing it anyways). The letters stood for All the Little Facts; in typical Luna fashion, she had chosen the abbreviation only, with no title for it to stand for. Harry was the one that came up with the official title, saying that people wouldn't exactly by a magazine called A.L.F. unless they knew what it stood for. Luna acquiesed, but only because "my Yhadks want to tango with yours so much."
He remembered how he blushed that time. Luna said some things that could seem so inapproriate yet be so very innocent in nature. It was one of her charms.
The Quibbler was still in circulation, but Luna wanted something of her own, not a present from her dad.
She said the job was easy, it was reading all those letters from her readers that drained her. It was easy to detect what was false and what was factual when people wrote of their unique experiences with the supposedly mytholigical. But sometimes a farce would slip by her screening, which was why she worked so hard. The readers deserved nothing but the truth after all, otherwise the Snorcack's would never come near her again.
The blond form on the bed moved slightly, and Harry heard a mumble.
"Luna?" He whispered to her, trying to wake her up while not wanting to, "Luv? You there?"
Some more mumbling in response. He felt a twinge of pity for her, but he stopped it. She made it clear early on that she wanted no pity and no guilt out of him.
"Yes...Harry?" She replied tiredly. Probably still asleep, he thought as he felt her heartbeat with his hand. She probably thinks this is all a dream.
That didn't make the moment as awkward as it would to any other person. Awkwardness made up around forty seven percent of their relationship (the other ninety three percent, according to Luna, was kisses, sex, pudding, conspiracy, Roklarion jewels, and a wee bit of love for extra flavor. Harry disagreed, but you don't argue with Luna when she gets her pudding involved.)
"Remember when we were in the D.A.?" He said gently, brushing his lips against her ear as he did. "Remember the boggart?"
Luna's response came out as a sort of happy groan. He took it as an affirmative.
He hesitated. He didn't want to bring up any bad memories but by now he had gone too far for him to fall back. He knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep now, not with this question hanging over his head.
"What was it?" He whispered into her ear, trying to be gentle with the question.
She turned over suddenly. There was no blush this time, he had gotten used to seeing her body over the years. So now, as she lay there, bare as the day she was born with the sheet failing to hide anything, it struck Harry that she was the same girl she he had seen ask a boggart to go away. It made him wonder if he was the same as well. The thought made him feel slightly ill.
What had it looked like, he wondered. What had the thing, Luna's boggart, looked like? The words escaped him every time he found them, and so he was left with asking the source.
He felt confusion take hold of him. Luna, however odd she may seem, always answered questions truthfully, and she was only redundant with her answers when she had to be. Hermione had once asked her why magic exists, and Luna's response had been "Because it does".
Existential references aside, the once-Ravenclaw was hardly ever redundant.
"Your worst fear...is a boggart?"
He received a weak nod.
Then, he saw her slowly open her eyes and smile. Her smile was as serene and as vague as always, like an alluring mystery waiting to wrap around you and pull you in. Sometimes she smiled for no reason than smiling, and Harry would always get the feeling that wasn't the case. It was like she always knew something you didn't and wanted you to guess.
His cheeks glowed red. Snorky, derived from the the Crumpled-Horn Snorcack, her favorite animal. The little imp knew that he thought that was about as embarrassing as it could get, but some part of him doubted that was the limit.
"Hullo," He said softly.
Her eyes went back and forth, looking around, yet she kept still. She was looking for something.
"What time is it?" she asked while yawning.
He smiled nervously. "It's after one twenty one."
Her protuberant eyes caught his gaze. "After?" She said, inquiries ready to rise, "Or exactly?"
She knocked on his head. It was a small habit of hers. Whenever he did something dumb, she would knock him on the head. Supposedly, it was to knock some sense into him. There worse the mistake the worse the knock. One time she even used a heavy book repeatedly; it hadn't been his proudest moment ever, but he understood what he did was wrong.
"I need some pudding."
He raised an eyebrow at her, "And I need some sleep."
Another knock. "You woke me up. My Yhadks are not happy with you." It probably was surprisingly difficult to say that with a straight face, but to Luna it was likely second nature.
"And mine want to tango with yours."
Luna stopped in mid-knock and gave him a look. Then she said, "And I'm supposedly the loony one?"
"No," And here, Harry grinned, "You're the crazy one."
She stopped knocking on his head. Next thing he knew, his tongue was practically wrestling with hers.
Then, she pulled back, a faint flush on her pale face. She was smiling, a triumphant smile. It said to him, "you may be my loony man, but I'm your crazy woman".
Damn. Luna: 1, Harry: 0.
"We should get to sleep." Luna said suddenly, her nearly silver eyes shining with mischief, vagueness, and exhaustion. Only Luna could have such a complicated combination.
"We should." Harry said, barely aware that he said that. She was being ambiguous again, and when she was ambiguous, that usually meant something was up.
"But now I'm afraid I'll dream of boggarts."
Harry froze. The part of his brain that had been hoping to get away with all this had come to a screeching halt.
Luna: 2, Harry: 0.
"Ah, so you were awake the entire time then?" Harry questioned in an effort to divert the focus away from him.
She shook her head, her blond locks swaying to and fro. "No, I was sound asleep."
"Then how did-" The question died on his lips as he saw her vague smile.
"Your Yhadks like mine a lot, Snorky. They gossip like a pair of old ladies."
Harry searched her face for any clue of falsity. He was not surprised when he saw none. It wasn't she couldn't lie, or even lie well, it was just that when she did, she could never smile like she usually does.
"Ah...so...since you already know, would you mind telling me why...boggarts?"
The sight of Luna, smiling and naked, was finally beginning to distract him. He kept focusing his eyes on her, but his pupils seem to have developed a will of their own and were beginning to wander places that, while they were privileged to wander, made it very hard to keep up with the concentration.
Fortunately Luna repositioned herself on the bed, obscuring her waist and everything below it with the sheet.
"So you want to know why I fear my worst fear?" She asked pointedly, her own eyebrow raised expectantly.
Putting it like that, it sounded foolish, but the basic gist of it was spot on. "Yes."
Luna leaned back into the wall behind her, biting her lip in concentration. There, in that moonlit room, in the shapes of darkness, her very being shined brilliantly. It wasn't the physical kind of shine, but something else, something much more basic and intrinsic than just that. Harry's heart jumped.
Her visage was screwed up into that of concentration, and hey mouth was saying words, silent and slightly unreal.
"When Professor Lupin told us about boggarts, he asked us to imagine our worst fear. Everyone else chose something predictable like a banshee, or a dead loved one, or something similar. It was all material. I had no clue, really, what my worst fear was."
At this point she had opened her eyes and was staring at the wall directly opposite of them. While some part of him knew she was still talking to him, he had the feeling she was not exactly in the here-and-now as much as him. She was somewhere else and with him, just not completely in either place.
"When he showed us a boggart, I thought I would see my mum or something else. I got...that."
"The boggart?" Harry asked, "You got the boggart's true form?"
Luna shook her head. "No, not exactly. I guess...you could call it Nothing."
By gods, he could actually hear the capitalization in that last word.
"It's like..." And here she made a gesture with her hands whose meaning was lost on Harry, "A space that wanted to be filled, but can't be. Something that attracted ideas and concepts, but stopped them from really getting there. Like...like...Ronald doing his homework."
Harry blinked. That had been unexpected. "What?"
She turned to him, and gave him a look again. "When Ronald did his homework in school by himself, did he ever do it all by himself the whole time?"
No, of course not, they had Hermione with them. And in the cases in which those two were being too thick in the head to talk to each other, Harry himself had always been the fallback option.
Even though he didn't answer, Luna went back to explaining, apparently confident he got the idea. "It drew things to it, but at the same time those things never really filled in the space, because then that'd mean another space somewhere else, one that may not be so easy to fill as before."
She fell silent.
"And you're...scared of that?" Harry asked tentatively. From the way it sounded, she didn't so much fear it as she did wish it wasn't there.
They were quiet. His watch beeped, signaling it was two in the morning at that moment.
Harry was impressed with Luna. He'd always wondered how she could be the way she was, and just now he was told something that helped immensely. She did not fear public humiliation or death, because those things were simply things. They operated within a set of rules, but this...Nothing sounded as outside and beyond the rules as anything could get. It wasn't material or even immaterial, just something that existed when there really was nothing left. No darkness, no empty space...just existence.
He put his arm around her. She didn't hug him or spontaneously burst into tears; she wouldn't have been Luna Lovegood if she did. She probably already was over it already, but they didn't have to participate in physical activities to relax around each other. The silence was enough.
They stayed like that for quite a long time. So much that he felt his back begin to ache against the wall. he hadn't been thinking of anything, just staring blankly at nothing, much like how he used to in History of Magic years ago.
"I'm your loony man, luv." He said out loud, whether to Luna or himself he did not know nor care.
"And I'm your crazy woman, Snorky."
Nothing could probably kill the mood faster than that blasted nickname.
Harry let the laughter in his chest escape, allowing it to roam free and scour the room and maybe even beyond with its echoes. His eyes were crunched up and he was pounding the mattress with his right hand as he tried not to fall over laughing.
"Luna Lovegood, don't you ever change. Otherwise I'll make sure the Snorcacks never come near you again."
He fell over the side of the bed.
Luna threw herself after him.
One could say that the two then snogged each other senseless. One could say they made love as many times as their physical bodies allowed and then some. One could also possibly say that they just laid there on the floor, with Luna's chest pressing against Harry's own, each somehow simultaneously in top of the other, all night long, sleeping.
One thing is for sure.
Their Yhadks tangoed all night.
Author Notes: Okaaaay...
This was my first attempt at something like this. Luna as an adult was difficult to capture, and Harry was as well, though less than her.
Cliche, but I liked it. The concept of Luna's boggart came up in a forum around here, but I can't say that I remember it's name. If I did, I would credit the inspiration for this to them. Criticism on this piece would be much appreciated, thank you very much.
Was the characterization out of place? Was the pace right? How were the dialogue and interactions? Feedback is the best part of a review, so please do so.