Settling For Less

A Harry Potter - Luna Lovegood story

Angst/Romance

Disclaimer JKR's, not mine etc.

Chapter 1: Settling For Less

He lay awake, wondering where it all went wrong. He had settled for less and it was tearing him apart. His best friend was dead in the war against Voldemort. Ron had been killed defending him in the final battle. Neville had wound up in St. Mungos like his parents, tortured into insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange. Hermione had disappeared to Merlin knows where with her parents.

He had settled for Ginny, when he had really wanted Hermione. Even if he had known where she had gone, he couldn't afford to follow her. The war had drained all his resources, leaving him next to penniless.

True, he had finally defeated Riddle in an epic battle on the grounds of Hogwarts, but at the cost of so many lives and the destruction of the one place he could call home. Hogwarts had been levelled. His favourite teachers had been killed - Dumbledore in a futile attempt to draw Voldemort away from Harry; McGonagall in an intense fight with Bellatrix in which both were killed.

Some of the others he had lost were hanging heavily in his heart. Arthur and Molly Weasley in a fire fight with Lucius Malfoy. Harry had finally engaged Lucius in a vicious no holds barred fight in which Harry had emerged victorious after beheading him with the Sword of Gryffindor.

After that, he had faced Wormtail and crushed the rat with his foot when Peter changed into his animagus form and attempted to escape. Voldemort, he left to last. Voldemort, in a rage at seeing his Death Eaters decimated by the Order of the Phoenix, made a fatal mistake and turned his back for a moment on Harry. Seizing the advantage, Harry swung the Sword of Gryffindor and sliced Tom in half. A gasp escaped Riddle as he fell and Harry swung again in pure rage, splitting Voldemort from skull to sternum in half again. The release of magic at his death had killed the remaining Death Eaters and nearly killed Harry. Many had fallen that day. Harry had spent nearly a month in hospital in a coma and had awakened to find the total cost in lives and money the war had cost him. His best friends, lost. His vault nearly empty. The girl he loved, but never told her, gone.

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Harry had initially been happy with Ginny, but as the years wore on, he started to notice the little things that were wrong. Ginny didn't want children and the one time she was pregnant, decided to abort. That eventually tore Harry apart. He would sit for days with his head in his hands, slumped over his chair at work. A work that paid him just enough to live on, but nothing left over for much else. He had changed jobs several times. Auror, Quidditch, he even worked for awhile with George in Weasley's Wizarding Wheazes, but his heart was just not in it. He finally settled for a non descript job with the Ministry of Magic as a cipher clerk. The job was demanding, but boring. There were still dark wizards out there, but Harry had lost interest in everything. The Ministry had refused to believe that he alone had killed Voldemort, taking the credit for themselves, and Harry couldn't care enough to set the record straight.

This was one of the many arguments he had with Ginny. They had never married, but live together in a cheap flat outside of London. The daily commute and the heavy work load combined to rob him of any enthusiasm for life. So he had settled for less. A grinding existence with Ginny. Oh, some days weren't so bad, but they had stopped being intimate years ago. He was now twenty-six and had not had sex for three years. She was not interested and he was less than enthusiastic the last time they had managed it. Now, she wouldn't even hug or kiss him, and he had stopped trying. The both knew they were at a dead end with their relationship, but were too settled to separate and try again. Harry couldn't afford to live alone, as Ginny helped with the finances by working as a trainee healer at St. Mungos. Neither had much money, so they agreed to pool what little they had.

The strain had finally been too much for him and he contemplated suicide several times, but never found the inner strength to do it. So he wept. Silent tears and regrets were his secret companions when he was alone. Ginny occasionally noticed the sad looks, but never bothered to dig deep enough to discover what really troubled him. She would be furious to discover the real reason for his sad looks. He still pined for true love, and that would have been with Hermione, he was sure.

It all went pear shaped when he eventually learned that Hermione had married in Australia but had died in childbirth. It broke his heart and he sunk deeper into depression. Nothing, it seemed, could pull him out. He went for days, barely speaking to anyone and some even noticed unshed tears in his eyes, but knew enough not to ask, for Harry was known for his quick temper.

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Spring came late that year. The winter had been unusually long and cold. When the first signs of spring finally came, even the birds seemed subdued, as if the world was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Magical Britain had slowly recovered from the vicious war and was now almost back to normal. Hogwarts was still under reconstruction, but nobody expected it to be ready for students for at least another year. Children of age were mostly home schooled and privately tutored for those that could afford it.

Luna Lovegood fell into the first category. Her father taught her the necessary subjects in order for her to take her NEWTS exams, which she passed handily. She had no friends now, although she saw Ginny Weasley from time to time. Harry was never there when she met with Ginny and she wondered what had happened to him. Ginny never told Luna that she and Harry were living together, probably suspecting that Luna would interfere and try to take Harry away from her. She couldn't afford that, as she depended on Harry's meagre salary to maintain what little life afforded her. She didn't really love Harry, but she couldn't afford to live on her own either, so she too, settled for less.

Luna, however, never gave up searching for Harry. Little did she know that he wasn't all that hard to find. She had inquired with all the Quidditch teams, but they had informed her that he had left them years ago. The next logical place she checked was the Ministry of Magic, but they would tell her nothing. Harry worked in a secret department and the Ministry refused to divulge that information to anyone. Even Ginny didn't know.

That was about to change, however.

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