Tea for Two
by Kelly Chambliss
Pairing: Ginny / Luna
Setting: Summer between HBP and DH
Disclaimer: The HP universe is so not mine.
A/N: This story was written for the HP_Spring_Fling fic exchange on LJ. My recipient asked for plaid Converse shoes, a visit to the Fountain of Magical Brethren, making up after a silly fight, and possible smut. I managed the first two, included a sort of half-fight (the girls didn't seem to feel much like disagreeing), and failed totally on the smut (I'm sorry, but the characters just refused). And of course I worked in a bit of Minerva.
Writing for the exchange was fun; I would never have written this pairing otherwise. I even managed the fluffy ending my recipient wanted, and fluff usually gives me a rash. But it was an interesting challenge, and I ended up being only slightly itchy.
"Ginny! Oy, Ginny! Owl! Hoo! Hoo! Owl for Ginny Weeeeeeeasly! Oooohhh, Ginny! Maybe it's a letter from Harry-poo! Telling you how much he misses snogging. . ."
I ran to the house as fast as I could. Fred was perfectly capable of standing there shouting like an idiot for an hour -- and as long as he kept howling about Harry, I was the one who was going to feel embarrassed.
"Stop it, you prat," I said when I finally got close enough to snatch the owl from his hands. It didn't look too happy at being bird-handled like that, but it didn't nip me. I think it was as glad to have Fred shut up as I was.
I didn't really expect the letter to be from Harry; he'd been serious about breaking up, and I understood his reasons. With Dumbledore dead and Voldemort trying to hunt Harry down, no one near him was safe. Harry himself was, though -- safe, I mean, as long as he stayed with his horrible Muggle aunt and uncle. Or at least that's what my dad said. Of course, the family protection would end in less than a month, when Harry turned seventeen, but I'd worry about that when it happened.
In the meantime, I had enough to worry about just being at the Burrow. Fleur and Bill's wedding wasn't for weeks, but the way my mother was carrying on, you'd think the fate of the entire wizarding world depended on our house and garden being perfect. By tomorrow. She didn't give any of us a minute's peace. With any luck, the letter would provide some excuse for me to skiv off for an afternoon.
And it did. But after I read it, I thought maybe I'd rather stay at home. The note was from Luna Lovegood, inviting me to her house for tea and "girl talk." Seriously, that's what it said: "girl talk." Poor Luna had probably been reading the agony-aunt columns in The Quibbler again: advice about how to make life-long witch friends or something. Come to think of it, I'll bet she didn't even have to bother reading. Her father wrote the whole silly paper; he probably was The Quibbler's agony aunt. She could just ask him for tips over dinner.
Still, an afternoon with Luna did sound better than another day at the Burrow picking pixies and listening to Mum tell off Fred and/or George. They were visiting for a couple of days, to "help out," they said. Right. Their "help" was driving Mum round the twist. And besides, I might have fun at Luna's. She was all right, in her loopy way.
So I wrote back that I would be happy to come and sent the owl flapping its way over the hill to the Lovegoods' house.
Mum wasn't best pleased to lose my labour the next afternoon, but she'd always felt sorry for Luna, so finally she said, "Well, go along, then, Ginny dear. Merlin knows Luna could use a friend, poor motherless thing. And you have been good about helping -- you need a day off, I expect. Go on, love."
I headed out before she could change her mind; I didn't think Luna would care if I was early. And as I walked along the road in the sunshine, I felt oddly happy. I had no idea what sort of death and destruction the future might bring, but for the moment, I was content. I had the wedding to look forward to, and, strangely enough, I was even looking forward to the visit with Luna. I suppose everyone can use a little "girl talk" now and then.
You couldn't miss Luna's house -- it looked like a giant black finger sticking up crookedly out of the ground. Fred always called it "The OG," short for "obscene gesture," although he told Mum it meant "odd and goofy."
I arrived a good twenty minutes too soon, but Luna was already standing at the gate waiting for me.
"I thought you might need a guide through the garden," she said as I reached her. "We should be careful; Father thinks the golunks might be active this afternoon."
I didn't even ask.
Luna tucked her arm in mine as we walked along the overgrown path to the door. I didn't see anything that looked golunk-y, but then, since I had no idea what golunks were, this was no surprise.
Once we got inside, I tried not to stare too obviously. I didn't want to be rude, but the Lovegood house was strange. Of course I expected that, but there's a difference between expecting something strange and actually seeing it. There were lot of clashingly-bright colors, and flower paintings that moved, and dozens of bird paintings that sang -- not bird songs, but the Hogwarts school song. Each bird sang the same words but to a different tune, just the way Dumbledore used to make the whole school sing it. The effect was. . .well, you can imagine.
"Come up to my room," Luna invited. We climbed up a spiral staircase through a crowded sitting room, all the way to the top of the tower where Luna slept. Even there, the sounds of "Hoggy Warty Hogwarts" still floated up the stairs.
The first thing I saw when I stepped off the staircase was my own face looking back at me. Luna had painted my picture (and Harry's and Neville's and Hermione's and Ron's) on her ceiling. It was a little freaky.
"Do you like it?" Luna asked, with perfect self-possession. "It's a picture of you."
"Um, yes, I can see that," I said. "It's. . .really good." And it was, in its odd Luna way. "But why did you paint us on your ceiling?"
"You're my friends," she said, as if that made the answer obvious, and then she turned to a small table that held a magically-refilling teapot. When I thought about it, I realised that the answer was sort of obvious -- I suppose if you had as few friends as Luna had, you might very well want to paint their pictures on your ceiling.
But somehow, realising this didn't make me feel sorry for her, because she never seemed to feel sorry for herself. We were her friends, and she painted our pictures, and that was that. No pity required.
Still, it felt a little weird to stand there looking at myself. I was glad when Luna handed me a cup of tea, and I could turn my attention to something else.
Or at least, I assumed it was tea. But then I took a sip.
It was all I could do not to spit the mouthful back in the cup. The stuff tasted absolutely vile, the way I imagine one of Neville's potions would. If it had fermented on a shelf for twenty years.
"It's my father's homemade bubotuber cider," Luna said. "I heated it up for a treat."
Bubotuber cider? If it were anyone but Luna, I'd think she was taking the piss. But since it was Luna. . . god, it probably really was bubotuber cider. Gross.
"Here, let's sit on the bed," she said, climbing onto it, and I joined her. We settled on the surprisingly-comfy pillows, our backs against a headboard carved with Beedle-the-Bard characters -- the sort of thing most people found too babyish once they turned, oh, six or so.
A few minutes went by. Luna just sat there smiling, looking as if she'd be perfectly happy to spend the entire afternoon stretched out silently on the bed, sipping toxic homebrew. But I'm the sort of person who prefers a little conversation while I poison myself.
"So," I said, casting around something to talk about, "you sounded like you had a nice time last year doing commentary for the Hufflepuff-Gryffindor Quidditch match."
"No one thought I did a good job," she answered, not seeming at all bothered.
I wasn't about to disagree; she had done a terrible job. The only surprise was that she'd been allowed to try in the first place. We'd all wondered why she'd been chosen, and by who.
"Well," I said, trying to find out. "Professor McGonagall must have had a lot of confidence in you, to ask you."
"Oh, she didn't ask me. She didn't believe I could do it. She thinks I'm bright but 'as scattered as Sybill's wits.' That's what she told Professor Flitwick. I heard them talking one Hogsmeade day at the Three Broomsticks."
"So who did ask you?"
The birds down below were singing "Hoggy Warty Hogwarts," and the steam from the disgusting bubotuber cider was filling the room with a sort of purple haze, and I seriously wondered if I was losing my mind. I shook my head to try to clear it.
"Luna," I said, speaking slowly and carefully. "I thought you just said McGonagall didn't ask you."
Luna explained. . . Luna-fashion. "She asked me in the sense that she was the one who actually talked to me. But she didn't ask me in the sense that it wasn't her idea, and she didn't want to."
"So why did she?"
"Because Madam Hooch wanted me, and Professor McGonagall can't say 'no' to Madam Hooch."
Huh? I didn't think there was anyone McGonagall couldn't say "no" to. I expect she could say "no" to You-Know-Who himself. And take ten points from Slytherin while she was at it.
I waited for Luna to clarify her remark, but of course she didn't, so I finally bit. "She can't say 'no' to Madam Hooch? Why not?"
"She's in love with her," said Luna.
I squinted through the purple steam, trying to get a look at her face to see if she was laughing. Because really, that had to be a joke. Absolutely had to be. But Luna was just leaning back, dreamily tracing circles on the duvet near my knee.
"McGonagall is in love with Hooch?" I said at last. "You can't be serious."
Luna nodded. "It's mutual. They've been heating up each other's beds for years."
I burst out laughing. "Luna, you are too funny."
"Yes," she said serenely. "Sometimes I am. But not just now. It's true, about the professors. My father told me."
Well, that didn't mean much. Luna was probably the only person who would ever believe anything Xenophilius Lovegood had to say. Everyone else just thought he was a complete crank.
As if she were a Legilimens, Luna said, "You don't have to take my father's word for it. Just watch them together sometime, McGonagall and Hooch. You can see how they feel about each other. Anyone could, who paid attention."
Apparently I wasn't one of those people who paid attention, because I certainly had never seen it. Nor did I really want to. But in spite of her spacey behavior, Luna was someone who paid attention to things. It was easy to forget that about her, or not notice it. But she was sharp, that girl. In her Luna way, of course. And I found that I was liking her "Luna way" more and more.
"There's a lot of same-sex attraction in a boarding school," Luna was saying. "Everyone is thrown together so much; you really get to know one another."
"People of the opposite sex get to know each other pretty well, too," I said, trying to block out a sudden mental picture of the ever-snogging Ron and Lavender. Some things you're just not supposed to have to watch your brother do.
"Yes," said Luna. "Like you got to know Dean and Harry."
I laughed again. "Well, not both of them at the same time! But, yeah, I like boys."
"I know. You get on well with them; they like you, too."
"What about you, Luna?" I asked, suddenly curious. "Who do you like?"
"You," she said.
No question about it -- the bubotuber fumes were messing with her head. And mine. Suddenly I felt too hot, and I jumped off the bed, making the purple steam swirl around my face.
"You. . .you don't mean that, Luna."
"Yes, I do," she said, nodding and looking solemn. "You don't need to worry about it, though. I like thestrals, too. But I don't expect them to like me back. Not that way."
Luna saw me as something like a thestral with sexual feelings? I didn't want to go too far down that road. But then I saw that she was smiling rather crookedly, and her eyes were twinkling.
"Luna!" I said. "You made a deliberate joke! About the thestrals -- that was a joke."
"I told you I was funny sometimes," she said composedly and then got off the bed herself. "You probably want to go home now. I expect it's all been a bit of a shock."
Sharp, that girl.
"Well, er. . . " I said.
It had been a shock, actually. But -- and I was surprised to feel this -- not a bad one at all.
For a couple of days after that, I couldn't get Luna and her revelation out of my head. It made me feel. . .well, I wasn't quite sure. Flattered, I think. A little nervous. Confused. Curious, maybe. Or something.
I was just thinking that maybe I should visit her again, when Mum said, "Would you like to ask Luna Lovegood to come to dinner, Ginny? Your father saw Xenophilius at the Ministry yesterday, and he said he was going to be out of the country for a few days. I worry about poor Luna up in that odd house all alone."
"I think she can take care of herself, Mum," I said. But I wasn't unhappy about the idea of inviting Luna. It would give her the chance to let me know if she had been joking about liking me. And if she wasn't joking, I wanted to find out if we could still be friends. I had an idea that we'd be seeing a lot of each other at Hogwarts next year, despite being in different houses. With Dumbledore and Harry and so many others gone, and who-knows-what sorts of threats from You-Know-Who, we old-timers were going to have to stick together.
"It was very nice of you to ask me to dinner, Mrs. Weasley," said Luna when she arrived the next evening.
"Not at all, dear," Mum said, smiling at her. "There's always room for one more, and it seems a shame to have you sitting home all alone when there's more than enough food here to share. Ginny, why don't you show Luna your room before we eat? Because afterwards, I want your advice on some wedding favors."
"Do I make you nervous now, Ginny?" Luna asked as we went upstairs. At least you can always trust her to be direct.
"No more than usual," I said, although she did, rather. There is something unsettling about Luna even when she doesn't have a crush on you. When she does, well. . . Still, I didn't want her to feel awkward.
Turned out I didn't need to worry -- she didn't seem uncomfortable at all. She said she liked my room, and she waved at my Gwenog Jones poster, which waved back. "I know she's not really seeing me," Luna said. "But it seems friendlier."
"Sit down," I said, pulling out my desk chair. But Luna plopped on the bed and lay back to stare at the ceiling. "The bed is nicer," she said. "If you don't mind."
Then she asked, "Ginny? Are you worried about next year?"
"In terms of school, do you mean? Or just in general?"
"There's quite a good chance we won't be safe even at Hogwarts," she said calmly. "Being purebloods won't save the two of us, if Voldemort gets more powerful. Our families have been too outspoken against him."
"Are you worried?"
"No," she answered. "Just aware. It will be dangerous for everyone. We should remember that."
"But the teachers won't let anything happen to -- "
"They can only do so much, unless they want to be sacked," Luna said, still in that calm voice. "Not even Dumbledore could stand against the Board of Governors, once they were opposed to him. And now with Voldemort so strong. . ."
"Luna, you don't think. . ." I wasn't sure what to say. But now I was worried.
"I don't want to scare you," she said, settling back on the bed comfortably. "We just need to make sure we enjoy the summer. Because it will come to an end."
Blimey, as Ron would say. She definitely knew how to set a mood. I felt as if the sun had just gone down. Forever.
Then Luna reached out and took my hand. It wasn't a girl-girl thing at all; it was just meant as a comfort. And somehow it was.
"I'm looking forward to dinner," she said. "My father says no one can cook like your mother. He says she could even make a Crumple-Horned Snorkack taste good."
Dinner turned out to be quite fun. I'm not sure how it happened, but between the family's silliness and the good food and Luna's total unflappable-ness, I felt more cheerful. Luna was right -- it was summer, and I didn't want to miss it.
Mum had just accio'd the pudding from the counter when Luna said, "Mrs. Weasley? May Ginny come Muggle shopping with me next week?"
"I bloody well hope so!" said Ron, ignoring Mum's glare at his language. "We're flat out of Muggles around here; it's about time someone bought us a new supply."
"Now you're making fun," said Luna. She seemed pleased. "I mean shopping for Muggle things, of course. In the Muggle world. My father thinks we all ought to be prepared to live like Muggles, just in case things go wrong with Voldemort. He wants me to get some suitable clothes."
Not that I could have said this to Luna, but it would take a lot more than new clothes to make her and her father fit into the Muggle world. The same could be said for the Weasley family, too, I suppose, although my father was looking quite intrigued by the idea.
"Oh, I don't know." Mum was nervous. "Ginny's never really spent much time in the Muggle world, Luna, and you haven't, either, have you, dear? I think it would be too difficult for you. I'd worry."
"Nonsense, Molly," Dad said. "I think it would be good for them. There are a lot of Muggle shops not too far from the Ministry. They could go into town with me on Monday morning, and I'll bring them back in the afternoon.
"But how will you know what to buy?" Mum asked. "It's very hard to dress like a Muggle; you could end up with something strange."
"I think that's very likely," Luna nodded. "But it will be all right. In the Muggle world, everyone wears extremely strange things."
This from a girl with giant radishes hanging from her ears and a necklace made out dried Snargaluff pods that she'd charmed to spray out little puffs of blue-and-bronze Ravenclaw glitter at random intervals.
But by the time we finished eating, Mum had finally agreed that I could go. Luna offered to help with the dishes, but Mum shooed us outside, and we wandered around the garden. It was a calm and peaceful night, so still that when we lit candles for the table, the flames barely wavered.
Luna and I didn't say much, but it was soothing, being with her. If she'd managed to upset me earlier by talking about danger to come at Hogwarts, she made up for it now, just by being so completely herself, unruffled and ready for whatever was to come.
Her hair looked soft and pretty in the flickering light, and the gnomes rustled quietly in the shrubbery, and the air was warm, and -- for just that moment at least -- everything felt almost all right in the wizard world once again.
Early Monday morning found Luna at the Burrow, minus the radish earrings and the pod necklace. She just wore jeans and a plain white shirt, and so did I.
"Here we go, then," said my father jovially. He put his arms around us and side-Apparated us to the rundown Muggle neighborhood where the Ministry of Magic was hidden. We followed him to the battered red telephone box that was the Visitors' Entrance.
"Be back here at five o'clock," he started to instruct, but Luna touched his arm.
"Mr. Weasley," she said. "Do you think we could go in and see the Fountain? I like to leave a little something in it every time I come. In remembrance of people."
I didn't have fond memories of the last time I'd seen the Fountain -- we'd all nearly died fighting Bellatrix and the others over Harry's Prophecy, and the Fountain of Magical Brethren had been more or less destroyed by Dumbledore and Voldemort. I knew it had been restored, but I didn't particularly want to see it.
"Let's not, Luna," I said. "Harry nearly died there."
"But that wasn't the Fountain's fault," said Luna.
"Well, of course not," I said, suddenly irritated. I mean, honestly. Even Luna should have known that's not what I meant. "You go ahead if you want," I said shortly. "I'll wait here."
"She's annoyed with me," Luna said to my dad, like he couldn't see that for himself. Somehow her earnest, accepting description irritated me even more. It made me sound irrational and unfair.
"Fine, then," I said, rolling my eyes. "Let's go look at the Fountain."
Anyone but Luna would have been able to tell that I still didn't want to. I suppose I expected her say something like, "oh, that's all right, Ginny; if it upsets you, we won't go." But this is Luna we're talking about, so of course she didn't. She just beamed at me and held my hand, as if she were a child being taken out for ice cream.
"Yes, let's," she said.
Damn that Luna. She couldn't even let you be angry with her in the normal way.
Dad was looking a little embarrassed, but he didn't say anything as we followed him into the telephone box and got our visitors' badges. In no time, we were standing in front of the repaired Fountain.
Luna took a handful of silver sickles from a pouch at her waist and carefully dropped seven of them, one at a time, into the water. As each one fell from her fingers, she muttered something over it and fluttered her arms high in the air. People were beginning to look at her out of the sides of their eyes.
All this ridiculous Luna-ness was getting on my nerves far more than usual. Being back in the Ministry like this, thinking of Harry, watching Luna do. . .whatever she was doing -- it all reminded me too strongly of how much everything had changed in the past few years. Even Luna was. . .different. It was all so different now.
I'd had enough. "I'm leaving, Loony," I snapped. "Dad, I'll meet you. . ."
"I'm finished," said Luna, acting as if she hadn't even noticed that she'd just been called an insulting name by someone she considered her friend. So of course I resented her even more, for being so nice.
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley," she said to Dad.
"Er, you're welcome, Luna," he said, looking bemused. "I'll meet you girls at the telephone box at five o'clock, shall I?"
"Fine," I muttered. Luna was just so infuriating.
Something was making me angry, anyway.
Once we were back on the street, we walked in silence for a few blocks until we were in a nicer part of town, the part that contained the shops Dad had talked about. I was feeling sorry for behaving so badly.
The whole way, Luna didn't say anything; she just hummed quietly to herself. She didn't seem angry, and I'd just about convinced myself that she had forgotten all about my ill-temper when she said, "I think maybe you need some time alone. Why don't you have tea here?" We were in front of a small Muggle teashop. "I'll do some shopping and come back."
"No, that's all right, Luna," I said; I really regretted having been so snarky with her.
But she just smiled and touched my arm gently. "I want to buy some ordinary Muggle trainers," she said. "I'll see you later."
And then she was gone.
There didn't seem to be anything to do but sit down and have a pot of tea and a bun. So I did. And while I sat there, I thought long and hard about a lot of things.
Nobody but Luna Lovegood could go shopping for "ordinary" Muggle trainers and come back with a pair of green-and-purple high-tops. With fluffy pink laces with daisies on the ends.
That's all I could think when, forty minutes later, Luna reappeared before me wearing her new shoes. "They're Converse All-Stars, Ginny," she said when I gawked at them, as if that explained everything. "But I got the laces separately."
"Luna, I thought you were going to get something that didn't stand out," I said faintly.
"Have you seen some of the Muggles around here?" she asked, nodding at several oddly-dressed teenagers walking past the sidewalk café. "I could have worn my Snargaluff pods and still not stood out."
I looked at her sharply; that crooked grin was back. She was making a joke.
I laughed. "You're right, Luna," I said. "You are funny. Here, have some tea. I'm glad you're back."
For the first time since I'd known her, she reddened and looked slightly uncomfortable, as if she were feeling a little shy. But she brushed her arm against mine as she passed.
"I'm glad, too," she said as she sat down. She swung her feet in their gaudy shoes and took a sip of my tea.
She looked pretty, with her cloud of hair lit by the sunshine and her eyes soft in the summer light. Very pretty. It occurred to me that I might like to kiss her someday. Maybe soon.
I reached across the table and touched her face.
Her eyes sparked with something like wonder. "I thought you liked boys," she said.
"I do," I replied. "But I've been doing a lot of thinking."
"Have you? What have you been thinking about?" she asked interestedly.
I took her hand. "I've been thinking," I said, "that I might like girls, too."
Luna smiled, and my heart gave a surprising little flip.
Then she looked down at the menu. "Do you think they'll have bubotuber cider?" she asked.
I laughed and watched her and thought that maybe our upcoming year at Hoggy Warty Hogwarts wouldn't be too bad after all.
"Luna?" I said. "When we're done here, let's go buy me some Converse All-Stars."