Written for Sora Snape's Gem challenge at the HPFC forum. My prompt was "quartz".

Of Mud-Covered Packages, Small Stones and Understanding

George was alone in the shop. That in itself was unusual enough these days. His friends and family were reluctant to leave him alone for any length of time in case he did what they euphemistically referred to as "something stupid". Not that they said that in front of him, of course, but he knew they were thinking it.

Well, he wasn't going to kill himself. Not today, at any rate.

The hooter on the door blasted and someone came in. Despite himself, George smiled at the sight of her.

"Hi Luna."

Luna jumped slightly, looking as if she were surprised to see him. "Oh, hello George," she said dreamily. "How are you?"

She didn't wait for an answer, but started wandering round the shop, looking at the items on display, frowning slightly. She was wearing a floaty pale blue dress with a zig-zag hemline, a lurid orange bead necklace that fell to her waist, and a pair of earrings that looked as if they were made of blackberries. She had a bright yellow bag over one shoulder, and in her other hand she carried a string bag containing a lumpy brown paper parcel that was shedding mud all over the floor, a fact of which she seemed happily oblivious. Her wand was tucked precariously into the belt of her dress, which looked as if it were made of string.

She continued to look at the shelves for a few minutes, occasionally reaching out to touch something, but making no comment. Then, abruptly, she turned to face George, who was still behind the counter watching her.

"I asked you how you were, and you didn't answer," she observed. "Though it was probably a silly question. You're sad, aren't you?"

George gaped at her. Trust Luna to state the absolutely bleeding obvious…

Luna didn't wait for him to answer, which was probably just as well. "You must miss Fred very much," she said, as if the thought had only just occurred to her. "It must be hard for you."

George shrugged, "Well, yeah…" What else was he supposed to say? Though in a strange sort of way it was comforting to have someone say what everyone was thinking, but no one but Luna would say out loud. "It's weird being on my own."

"It must be," said Luna. "You're not used to it. I am, and I like it most of the time, though sometimes I get a bit lonely. You must be lonely too now." She picked a decoy detonator off the shelf. "What's this?"

George came out from behind the counter, taking the detonator out of her hand and setting it to scuttling off across the floor. It exploded loudly in a corner behind the Wonderwitch display.

"It causes a nice diversion," he told her. "Handy sometimes."

She frowned. "I'm looking for something for my father. He needs cheering up. He has been very miserable, since…" Her voice trailed off, and she swallowed. "He feels he let Harry and everybody down." Suddenly she looked unutterably sad, and George had to fight the urge to put his arm round her shoulders. A small part of his mind thought that it would be nice to be the one doing the comforting for once.

"He was trying to protect you," he said. "He didn't really have a choice." He shrugged. "He did what he thought was the right thing, same as the rest of us did."

Luna nodded. She still looked as if she might cry, and George knew there was no way he could cope with that.

"Look," he said, leading the way to a display on the other side of the shop. "My dad likes these." He pulled a pack of cards off the shelf and held it out to her. "Muggle conjuring tricks. Not a shred of real magic in them. The cards are marked – see? So you can find the one that someone picked out and they think you did it by magic."

Luna smiled. "I like those. I think Daddy would too. He'd think they were funny. And do you still do those trick wands that change into something when you pick them up?"

"Sure," George said. "What do you want? A chicken? A pair of pants? A mouse?"

Luna giggled. "A mouse I think. It would be funny to see Daddy's face when his wand squeaks and runs away from him."

Smiling, George selected a wand from a basket by the counter and held it out to her. "There you are then," he said. "Anything else?"

Luna shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I think these will cheer him up a bit." She sighed. "I hope so." She dumped her bags on the counter, and started rummaging in the yellow bag for her purse. She caught George's eye on the muddy brown paper parcel in the string bag, and pulled out a knobbly purple vegetable from it to show him. Apart from the colour, it was almost indistinguishable from the sticky mud covering it.

"Jergies," she said, as if it were obvious. "I'm going to make a stew. They are supposed to make you happier. You should try it…"

George made a non-committal noise, mentally resolving never ever to eat anything that looked quite so much like the ground it had come out of.

Luna, meanwhile, had located her purse, and tipped the contents out on the counter. For a small purse, it contained a surprising number of things – some Sickles and Knuts, of course, and a single gold Galleon; but also a small gold star charm; some screwed up paper that George thought might be Muggle money; a couple of mouldy looking mushrooms; an unidentifiable green disc, and a small pinkish crystalline piece of stone. Luna selected some coins from the jumble of things, and handed them over, as George packed her purchases into a parcel considerably tidier than the one the Jergies were in.

Luna put the things back into her purse, keeping the pinkish stone out on the counter. When everything else was in the bags she picked it up and held it out to George.

"For you," she said.

"Uh, thanks…" George wasn't really sure what to say.

"It's quartz," she told him briskly. "It channels your life force, your inner and outer life. It'll make you stronger." Her expression softened. "It might help," she said earnestly.

"Thanks," George said again, pocketing the little stone, and thinking he had never heard such mumbo jumbo in his life. But that was Luna for you…

Luna swept her bags off the counter and smiled at him. "Bye George!" she said airily, sweeping out of the shop. "Thanks for your help, and try not to be too sad. Fred wouldn't want that, you know."

George kept the quartz in his pocket for the rest of the day. It felt warm when he touched it. Somehow, it helped a bit.