Story - Sunlight & Moonshine: Dean and Luna's Story
Author - Yours Truly, my dear readers.
Genre - Harry Potter, slightly OOC, post-War
Preface - Dean Thomas and Luna Lovegood have been found to be a perfect match by the Ministry of Magic's method to find soulmates after the War. Sudden and unexpected, now the two friends must try to look at each other through rose-coloured glasses. But when romantic interest is a stranger to one, and the other has only ever been the unrequited giver, is there any way that love can bloom? Find out in the second installment of the Arranged Marriage series!
Key - The cross-like figure represents a break in time within the same point of view. The cross surrounded by left and right slashes represents a switch in point of view and, more often than not, a break in time from the previous dialogue.
Author's Notes: We're back for another selection! This time the second most odd pairing (at least that's how most people see it at first, the top place definitely goes to Cho and Neville!) is up for the story-telling time. Stay with me, gals and gents, and let me spin their story out. :) And hint-hint? They are one of two couples that would have gotten together on their own...but it took the Ministry to make them really realize it.


Chapter 1 (Prologue) - Love?

"Love? You can't mean the thing between Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown?" - Luna whispering doubtfully to Ginny, after watching a particularly heavy petting session between the two.


I'm pretty sure I've never been a strong believer in romantic love. Not the windswept, the knight in shining armor come to save the damsel from distress kind of love, not the sweeping her off her feet and fixing all her problems sort of love that most people seem to think is what will happen to them. What should happen to them. No, I don't believe in it at all. It's silly and doubtful. It's the kind of love is way too abstract, way too unreal, too idealized for me to believe in. If a wish-granting flying amore pig isn't involved in those kind of loves (and no one's seen those creatures for a decade), I'm just not going to believe it. Not to mention that I've never felt it: no frantic beating of my heart, no nervous blushing or helpless shyness, nothing.

Nothing.

It hasn't happened to me and somehow I don't think it ever will. And I'm happy about it - after all I've always had myself for company.

Romance wasn't anything I saw in school – indeed, for the majority of my time at Hogwarts, I was isolated. Pointed at. Whispered about. Usually, it didn't matter to me one way or another what my schoolmates thought about me. I had my Dad and the paper and the investigation of things people believe to be unseen but exist all around. Besides, there weren't a lot of people who I found magnetic enough to attract my interest.

Except Harry Potter.

Someone who was always pointed at and whispered about. Sort of like me. Except Harry had a heavier burden – I'd say saving the magical world was probably a pretty hefty weight for a teenager who'd just discovered who he was and what he was meant to do. To have all these people look at you with stars in your eyes, the legend preceding you, and having to navigate an entirely new world that you hadn't know existed until you turned eleven...A much much heavier burden. Harry had Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley to help him, cheer him up, make it better. But I could see that sometimes they weren't enough.

There are some things that you have to deal with alone. And it's usually these selfsame things that have the ability to make or break you.

Harry was a little bit darker than the rest of his Year from the start. He'd already seen things, been through some things that were a bit different. When we really became friends, right before the start of the War, I learned that his aunt and uncle hadn't raised him the same as his cousin. He'd been hated in house – in fact, he'd lived in a cupboard room instead of an actual bedroom. I think that sort of begin made sense to me – why Harry was a little bit separate. And what with him being the reason his parents were killed by Voldemort, Harry's propensity for saving and avenging were kind of…self-explanatory.

It was from there that I became friends with his year. Ginny, one of the best of my friends, I'd already seen and spoken to by Fourth Year. Neville, who is the closest thing to a brother that I've ever had, was so very earnest and honest that I think he would have roused my interest eventually. Hermione, who I knew for a fact thought I was strange from the start, took a long time to warm too. But when it happened, it was instant and we were permanent friends. Seamus, the one Irish Gryffindor in his year, was funny. And then there was his best mate, Dean.

Dean Thomas.

Dean was tall and gentle and so very…comfortable…to me. He was always polite, always conscientious yet he rarely spoke without weighing his words. He was happy and cheerful, and had a wry subtle sense of humor all his own, that I couldn't help but be a little bit lighter just being around him. Yet, he was also like Hermione, thinking I was incredibly strange. But he seemed to just skip right over the part that usually came after people meet me, the awkward silence that the polite ones try and fill before making excuses to leave and the rude ones simply leave. He treated me like the rest...like I wasn't nicknamed 'Loony Lovegood', like I wasn't always talking about my father's magazine. My explanation of fire-breathing Smygmies, a unique cross-breed of pygmies and snockerels, and Nargles didn't throw him off at the very first. And that was a refreshing change. Even though he was so nice that it didn't immediately garner my attention, I appreciated it. And once Ginny had brought me into the circle, I ran into him more and more often. Either with Seamus and Lavender or with some other Gryffindors. And slowly, we started to get to know each other. Believe me, those first few weeks of our acquaintance were the strangest of any acquaintances I'd had yet. But it was so…

Comfortable.

That was what it was in a nutshell. Dean and I slipped into that kind of easy going friendship that few experience but many envy. It was easy, effortless, not even really requiring words or heavy conversation to keep the mechanics of it minutes would go by in silence that I didn't feel the need to fill, nor he. Amazing to find something like that, skirting above weighty words, skimming the top. I only ever saw the good side of him that first month, the month leading up to the official start of the War.

And the War? Daddy had refused to leave the country but had agreed to aid the effort through indirect spy-work. Daddy is an unregistered - changing into a calico tabby cat, unremarkable except for the blueness of his eyes. I'd been worried about the danger of the job but Daddy had wanted to help out in any way he could, and Professor McGonagoll had decided it would be for the best. Wartime was indescribable. Death Eaters were on the run, news of the giants gathering up north, the centaurs gone from the Forbidden Forest, parents taking their kids out of Hogwarts in droves. We were their the first month of that Year before Harry made the decision to leave. And if he was leaving, we were going with him. Not just us, his friends, but many of the kids of Dumbledore's Army - with or without their parents permission. Taking hold of our destinies was intimidating and terrifying and courageous in parts. And it was the deciding part, the doing part, that banded the youngest members of the Order together tighter than anything else. We were apart of something greater, and we might lose our lives in standing up for this, but we were going to do it anyway. No one knew better than the adults what to expect of the days ahead, but no one understood better than Harry what had to be done. And he did it all - worked hard on learning the dueling skills needed, improved upon some and created new shields of his own to aid in protecting and fighting against the Dark Side.

Those dark days would have been unbearable, had I still been as alone as I was during my school years. Neville and Ginny were my constant companions in Guilding Place, the Order of the Phoenix's refuge and stronghold. And Dean was there too, albeit a more serious Dean, but I enjoyed his company all the more for the now-rare laughter that he engaged in. Then the battles begun. At first, the adults shielded us from battle. I'd like to say that I'm one of the more levelheaded teens of my peergroup, and that Professor McGonall and Lady Vance and Moody and Lupin were dead-set against us doing much more than providing Healing or Support on the grounds. Casualties weren't high, that I knew of, in that first month, and we were all kept close together. But Harry was adamant that we be added to the ranks of the army - and pretty soon, his demands for active duty were taken up by the rest.

The first battle I was involved in was almost too much for me. The adults had aquiesced...finally...talking down Tonks and Molly Weasley and Hagrid, but could only compromise so much. They'd wanted us prepared but in a situation where we would know what to expect. And so, against all hopes, the forty-or-so of us were divided into half with one half stationed at home and other half out to scout for enemy movement in the rural outskirts of Alberdon. I was of the second half. My group consisted of Tonks as the adult leader, and Lavender Brown, Anthony Goldstein and Neville Longbottom finishing my small group of five. The abandoned building we'd specifically been sent to search was thankfully empty, and all the sleuth tactics that we'd practiced at the base were finally put into use. All had been clear...

Until I'd heard a scream and spun around just in time to see a thin beam of bright green light shoot into the air a hundred yards away. The signal for help from the Light Side. All hell had broken out with all groups sprinting towards the blazing light in the sky. I myself was off running before I could think too deeply about it. My mind was a blur, my legs pumping dirt into the air behind me, my breath coming in short gasps from the exertion. Thank God for my quick reflexes because once into the forest things kept coming at me. Two Death Eaters appeared suddenly on my right, and doing the only think I could, I ducked, rolled and managed to elbow one between the ribs before taking off again with the dimming green light in sight. My thoughts had been muddled: green light and help being everything my being was focused on.

And then I had reached the clearing, jumping unconsciously right into battle. Spells everywhere, the eerie whizzing of shooting charms and speeding curses leaving flaming trails of pretty light all over the place. In a glance I took in the situation - all in all, it was rather even, even with the three or four wizards and witches down at various points. I slowed down, whipped out the wand, and began wending my way through the fold. And, of course, my arrival heralded the arrival of a few more groups so attacks began immediately.

It seemed like it was just a long blur of fighting after that...my arms were tired and I had a head injury that made it difficult to concentrate, not to mention the blood that trickled down the sides of my face. I fought and fought until I thought that I was beyond doing anything but that, but my energy waned, and I found myself struggling to stay above. Before I knew it, I was crawling to the edge of the clearing and fighting from a crouch, shooting off really basic levitation spells and distractive charms because I couldn't do a lot more. I'd to wait for a lull, and thankfully it looked like the battle was coming to an end.

"You alright?"

Dean. My friend. And, at the moment, a savior. He looked as tired as I felt but he offered me a smile and an urgent hand and pulling me to my feet easily. Two spells went off so quickly in the air above us that I had no time to react. Dean went into battle mode though - deflecting the two of them and destabilizing one attacker. I couldn't even nod, could barely support myself, so I just leaned against the tree gratefully.

"Stay with me, Luna," he shouted again, shaking my shoulders. "Stay with me."

"Very," I gasped, "tired."

"I know," he said urgently. "But I need you to stay conscious. Hold on to me and I'll get us out, okay?"

I nodded wordlessly and clutched his rough cloak. It was all that was keeping me standing at that point. Really.

So I held on and kept my eyes open wide and even propped up my wand to watch his back. I held on and walked and Dean never left me, never had to look back to see if I was still there. Crazy how tired I'd felt, crazy how much I'd wanted to just sort of close my eyes and sleep for a bit. But it was war and I was in the middle of battle and the sky would freeze over before I let myself be tricked or surprised by some Death Eaters. I thank whatever Being there is for Dean since he got me out of there intact, taking a few bruises along the way himself. And much later, when we'd gotten back to the safety of Phoenix Headquarters, I smiled and took one of his really large hands and squeezed it and thanked him. Then got myself off to bed before I fell over where I was standing.

That kind of thing drew us closer, drew all of my best mates closer into a...recognizable unit. Even Harry, who had so much to worry about and plan and just ponder, was drawn inevitably. And I kept thinking that Friends are really good things to have, I say. There's really no accolade high enough for someone who'll come back into battle to make sure you hadn't moved on to the next world yet. So the battles were exhilarating and terrifying and ultimately rewarding since we all knew we were doing something to fight for our side but...We started losing each other.

A recruit from Shanghai, a pretty girl who's name translated into something like 'Frozen Flower' only nineteen years old and fresh out of school, died a month in. She'd been hit around the knees with a freezing spell - a spell that actually caused ice to form instantly around the legs, effectively trapping the person - and had been found by a Death Eater before anyone could help. Her death had been water in the face...because she was young, and quiet, and most importantly was the only daughter of a working family back home who would ache for her.

The sight of Professor McGonagoll's shaking hands as she penned the letter to the mother and father, the black ribbons her room-mate wore in her hair the weeks immediately after, Charlie's face upon returning from delivering the letter...all of it served as a reminder. A sort of sign that said 'Hey. Look. War is not fun and games. We're fighting for our lives.' Even I who hadn't known too much about the quiet girl was taken aback by the suddenness. I was scared and disturbed - life could be extinguished so bloody easily.

It taught the rest of us to walk carefully.

Now missions and battles weren't all fun and games. They weren't looked at as fun or exhilarating, so much, and we all looked out for each other even now. The adults didn't know it but we met individually in our groups and came up with recon-style battling, improvising and improving upon what we saw the adults do as to make sure no one was ever caught out the way that girl had been. Frozen, helpless, no way to escape inevitable death. But the reality of war-time is that no side goes unscathed. And so, of the hundred and fifty young recruits from all over the world, we lost a few. Some deaths were of those I didn't know personally or had never talked to, but some? Some were of people too close to home.

Hannah Nott's brother Alfie, who was a male slightly-less dramatic version of his little sister, was killed in the middle of battle. Kingsbolt's niece by marriage was struck down in a recon-mission by a stray death curse, and a French boy named Gaspard Didier was caught unawares a month later in a similar mission. And then the Creevey brothers. Colin had somehow been captured in battle. Headquarters had been in an uproar over it. Not just the adults who were terrified of what could have happened to him since the Death Eaters has said nothing but the DA too. Harry had been distraught that day, Dean silently tense and Ron openly angry. Ginny, Hermione and I had been at wit's end trying to keep the boys from going out to do their own recon for the little Gryffindor who's quirk for photography had sort of wormed its way into our hearts.

He'd been missing a week when news had come back to base. The worst had happened. Colin had died horrifically during torture, needless torture since he hadn't known anything about the Phoenix's leaders plans. Like some sort of sick joke, the Eaters had taken photos as they burned him. Neville and Dennis Creevey had found the pictures and the urn of his ashes. That one death had destroyed any morale, any cheer, anything good that we'd felt we'd accomplished all those months. Later that night, sitting quietly in a chair in his room, I watched a curled-up Neville on his bed.

"Never seen it," he kept muttering, eyes closed, turned towards the wall. "Never seen anything like it in all my life."

Dennis went on his suicide mission less than seven days later, killing twelve Death Eaters before he was overcome and killed in turn. We didn't get anything left of him.

It had been the oldest set of Death Eaters, those left from the last War, that had led it. And later on, we'd found out that event had caused strife. I suppose even Voldemort followed rules of War, or else took badly to insubordination, because the bodies of the Eaters that had survived Dennis misled attack were left at the next bomb site. Twisted retribution for a dangerous misdeed. Black justice. Nothing in this War was ever as straight-forward as it could have been.

Harry spiraled into depression after that. He locked himself up in his room. Didn't eat. Didn't drink. Wouldn't see anyone. Same way that Hannah Abbot had...as if all that time alone in grief made them into machine-killers all on its own. Our group was sad. Weary. And I was horrified. I couldn't figure out how anyone could condone burning another human alive, much less watching. Watching? Bloody hell, watching so that they can take photos? I just...even now, I can't even describe the way it felt to see how broken up we were...the night I spent crying in my bed with Ginny, the way Mr. and Mrs. Creevey had crumpled on the doorstep of Headquarters. It felt like I spent that week crying, reminders of them everywhere, the cameras, the photos. It really hit everyone hard. A few recruits went home after that. The realities of War were too much, too much to be borne.

Dean was the one thing that I came to realize was dependable. Even if he wasn't as cheerful as he used to be, he was a constant. Even if most of our conversations circled around the unfamiliarity of war, we still talked. He was comfortable, constant, unchanging...and I came to really value him as a best mate in addition to Neville.

"I'd better always watch out for you," he'd say with a teasing half-smile. "Don't need to find you crouching against a tree again, do I?"

Always watching out for me, always looking out for me. Merlin only knew what other creatures were watching out during those days. So maybe I grew to rely on him a little bit more than the others, look for him a little earlier than everyone else. He'd accepted me before any of the others, and I think I noticed it subconsciously. Dean was a good guy, a genuinely great guy - and I think I noticed that too. But he was just Dean, always Dean. And when I look back on it now, I think that I had wanted to keep it that way.

For as long as possible.

"You sure you can't make it?" Ginny's voice came through loud and clear over the phone I held to my ear.

Saturday morning and I was where I always was - headquarters for The Quibbler. Today was crunch-day since publication should be done tomorrow. Therefore, all forty of our staff-members were in the office, in the print room, running in and out of Daddy's office to make sure all the stories were done. Since I was to be taking over the editorial in a few years, I'd began coming in regularly to get aquainted with everyone and get used to how things run. And, of course, create ideas on how I'd run it. So far, so good.

"Oh, yes," I answered, my eyes following my assistant Eric as he leaned over the old-fashioned ink printers to check the layout for one of the back pages. "You know I won't be able to get hold of the letter until I get home anyway. Where are you supposed to be meeting everyone anyway?"

"Florean's."

"And you have your letter already?"

There was silence for a little while, and a world of feeling in that silence.

"Yes."

"Well." At the moment, there wasn't much more that I could say. When word had first gotten out about this 'soulmate' thing, it had been quiet and subtle. It hadn't been spoken to those who would leak it to the world, and a handful of departments in the Ministry were privy to the knowlege. Bill Weasley's was one of them. The first response was shock, a sort of "Are you joking?" before . The reasons were good reasons but not for interference in something so personal...but it was right after the War, and much of the magical world was focusing on rebuilding for peace.

I guess peace includes this sort of thing.

Regardless, it would be fine for people like me who had no signficant other. No love of their life. No romantic emotional attachment not marriage to anyone else. But for people like Ginny, young men and women like her? The Ministry was setting out to potentially ruin strong relationships. The argument was that the method was basically a sure-go way. If you were meant to be with person you are with right now, if you two had a strong enough relationship, then you would be each other's one. With an argument like that, Ginny and Harry should be safe.

Still...still. The doubt was there. And every single one of their friends knew it.

"Well," I repeated. "I can't offer you anything comforting 'cept this: we all know you and Harry are meant to be together. Heavens, the world knows it too. The whole 'strength of relationships' thing means you two are certainly fated to be betrothed."

"Yeah?"

"Yes," I said firmly. "Yes, I believe that. We all do. So you go to Florean's with the rest of them, open that letter, and let me know the good news as soon as possible, alright?"

"Deal." Gin sounded happier, more confident, and much more like herself. As it should be, I thought to myself. "Oh and if you can get ahold of Neville, that would be lovely. Left a message yesterday to let him know Dean will have his letter."

"Double deal," I responded. She laughed - one of our little jokes. "I'll call you later then."

"Cheers."

I flipped the phone shut and pushed myself off the wall to get into the fray of things. As I worked, I thought. I should have felt more of an impact with this kind of change heading for me. I am often called 'unruffled' but this should have had me feeling...somehow. And I wasn't. For a minute, I let myself dwell on it - was I not taking this seriously enough? Should I be worried about whoever it was I was supposed to be ordered to tie myself down to? I just wasn't bothered. And couldn't be.

And so, whoever he was, I guessed I would make it work. After all, I didn't really believe in love but if we were good enough together, I'd be content. And peaceful. And that was really all I could ask for.

In a way, I'm just like the rest, I thought, content to rebuild for peace.

Soon work got so busy that I couldn't afford to spend time thinking about change, much less the letter waiting for me back at home. I was swallowed up in the hustle and bustle of my small workplace. When colored ink ran out for one of the print-presses, I had to apparate down to the city to get a whole new box of it. And while I was gone, two staff writers discovered that a story wasn't in from one of our freelance writers so we'd have to run some more adds to fill in the page space. Our Head Layout Editor was out with a case of the laughing cold, and her assistant was having trouble filling in the position. Saturday from morning till afternoon was filled with problem after problem arose and I was in and out off the press room, talking to Daddy, easing arguments between the Chief Editor and her lackey.

It wasn't until nearly four thirty in the afternoon that I had an inch of breathing space, and I took myself off to Daddy's office to sit for a minute.

"You're doing very well," Daddy said with a slight smile over the rim of his coffee mug. I smiled back and reached for the other mug of coffee. Four creams, two sugars went in. I loved sweet coffee.

"Still so much to do, though." I took a sip. "I keep forgetting to ask you - any word from the write-in on those Keffler Bugs in North Hampton?"

"Article came in yesterday," he said. "Three pages and I need you to get it down to one and a half."

"Pre-deadline?"

"Midnight. Karen will look over it herself." Karen was the Chief Editor. I didn't want to deal with any more fights between herself and her assistant but it was looking like I was in for that anyway.

"Eventually we're going to have to move Cherise to a different appartment." I took another sip of my sweet coffee. "The two of them haven't been working well from day one, and that disagreement over the Spotted Horned Toads sighting in Kensington has made things worse."

Daddy looked at me in that considering way that told me that I'd just done something correctly in the business. I smiled, he caught it, and smiled back.

"Lune, I know that you should be getting home soon."

Quick switch of topics. I didn't have to ask why. Daddy and I understood each other without speech most of the time. It was a good thing.

"I will," I responded. "But will you be staying until tomorrow morning for the print?"

He nodded. This, after all, was the first time The Quibbler was back in publication after the War. It was an important edition. I sighed and took another sip of the coffee.

"I'll be home in an hour tops, Daddy. Agreed?"

"Agreed." Daddy put down his mug and started rifling through papers on her his desk. He pulled a stack of papers and held them out to me. I smiled slowly. Break time was as good as over with head honcho ordering me back to the press-room. "Take these to Karen for me?"

I drained the rest of the cup, placed it on the table, and took the sheaf of papers.

"Yes, sir."

Took the papers, went out on my way, encountered more problems in the hour I had left. By the time I left work, the sky was dark and I was standing in front of the small building that housed everything needed to run Quibbler comfortably. I remained still for a minute and tilted my head backwards to look at the sky. A slight breeze lifted my hair, had some of it floating in front of me. I stared through the gold to the sparkle-studded darkness above.

Stars, I thought to myself. Pretty stars out tonight.

I'd always loved the night - probably always will. I closed my eyes and shook the hair away from my face. It was a pretty night. A very pretty night. And no matter what happened later when I got home, it'd still be that way. That was always good to know.

"It's Gin. I've been trying to reach you for the last two hours!"

The anxiety in her voice immediately put me on edge.

"What is it? What's happened?"

"Hermione fainted at Florean's and we're at St. Mungoes." I breathed deeply. That could mean any number of things but since I'd known what they'd been meeting up for..."Knocked her head hard on the edge of the table and there was blood."

Her betrothed then. Reaction to her betrothed.

"I'll be there right away," I said, "and I'll call you when I get there, alright."

I didn't bother heading back into the building to let my father know, but isntead immediately apparated to my favorite magical place in London. Diagon Alley wasn't very far from the hospital but I'd still have to take a cab to get there. So much time wasted, but as long as Hermione was alright...As soon as I'd hailed a cab, which I was getting much better and better at thanks to Harry, I flipped out the cellphone to let him know what was going.

"Daddy, I'm on my way to St. Mungoes."

"What has happened?" he asked, concern evident.

"Hermione took hard knock to the head during a fainting fit so I'm going to go see what's happening," I said. "I have no idea what happened.

"Alright, poppet, call me when you get there."

"I will."

When I finally arrived in the massive lobby for the hospital, I had to take a minute to orient myself. No use asking for her at the desk, best to call Gin again and have her come get me. I was just reaching for what seemed the upteemth time in the day for my phone when a deep familiar voice sounded behind me.

"Luna?"

I turned to see Dean walking towards me. So tall and quite confident - the crowd simply moved out of the way of their own will. A little part of me laughed at the speed one short wizard used to sidestep Dean. Funny thing though - his size didn't mean he was mean. In fact, Dean was pretty much the gentle giant most of the time. Or rather, the laughing giant. He was always cheerful, always willing to help, very kind but a cutting sense of humor. I hadn't seen him in over twenty-four hours - a record for us since we'd made it a habit into seeing each other very regularly. I hadn't even had a chance to call him all day either though I'd thought about it after the call with Ginny. I supposed that's what work will do to you. So I was really happy to see him. Although I'm almost always happy to see him. I supposed seeing friends will do that to you. He looked as happy to see me as I felt to see him. I smiled briefly when he pulled me into a hug but then pulled back when I was released.

"Do you know the room number?" I asked without preamble.

He nodded.

"Let's go then."


/-|-\

"I always fall for the wrong ones, don't I?"- Dean carelessly to Seamus second Year, watching Lavender Brown stroll by on the arm of yet another boy.

It's not so much that I don't believe in love. Believe me, I believe in love. But I've never loved and been loved in return. I guess I just don't have what it takes for that instant attraction to happen - I might be tall, dark, and pretty attractive, but I'm not mysterious. I am what you might call the 'nice' guy. And you know what they say about nice guys?

That we usually finish last.

You would think that girls would be motivated romantically to look past the nice-guy exterior but that's just not the case. And the ironic truth? That at the core of what makes me Dean Thomas is geniality. I am a simple guy, and at the end of the day, I would rather be kind and humurous than sharp and cruel. I am more inclined to be sunny than to be moody - Merlin knows that I don't have a brooding bone in my body. Not much has ever angered me past the point of no return, but the few times that I was well and truly upset, it tapered off slowly. Anger is a rather heady thing- I don't like it when it appears and I certainly don't much like myself when I'm furious. It's an unfamiliar part of me.

It's not nice.

I guess that's why I take such stock in the knowledge that I'm a good guy, that everyone knows and understands and pegs me as the good guy. That's the Dean Thomas that I'm familiar with. That's the Dean Thomas who I'm most comfortable being. Perhaps there's a part of me that longs for something not so stable...perhaps that's the part of me that drew me to Lavender Brown. Lavender Brown, one of the prettiest girls in my Year. She had lovely brown hair and lively eyes and every time I caught a glimpse of her my First Year, she was laughing or entertaining friends. She was a bit snooty, and not a little bit selfish, but I couldn't bring myself to mark those down at faults. And that's when I understood that I liked her.

Things that should have been flaws, should have turned me away from or off of her, did not. I thought of her as a bit spirited, perhaps flighty, always willing to have her way, but not a bad sort. Looking back at those first few years, not a bad sort at all.

I don't know too much about love. But I do believe that love is something that grows with time. I think that you can fall in love with most anybody, and I think often than not, it's those around you that you fall in love with. At least it had been for me.

These days, I don't give love a great deal of thought. I've been trying not to miss my oldest friend, been visiting his family to make sure they are okay. I've been concentrating on doing the best I can to get my license, which would mean more money to support the Finnegans and my grandparetns, mother, brothers and sisters with. Not that money has ever really been a worry in my household - when Dad died six years ago, he'd made enough provisions in life to save us from undue expenses in death. That said a lot about the kind of man my father was - careful, protective, always looking to take care of everything. And I missed him more now than I did before - I missed him every day. Money wasn't a problem though, especially since Nai's band had skyrocketed in fame and money was not tight. But I want them to live more than comfortably, want to be able to give my mother even more breathing room and be able to put aside some to build us a nice family fortune base. For my oldest friend's family, I want to take care of them. I want to ease a little bit of Mr. Finnegan's worries about his farm, make Mrs. Finnegan smile more often. I suppose you can say I want a lot and I am determined to accomplish it.

Family is family, above all else. And there's absolutely nothing I wouldn't do to protect and take care of me and mine.

That's another kind of all-consuming love, isn't it? But I love hard, that's for sure. When I love, I love hard. No surprise it had taken me so long to fall out of love with Lavender Brown those years ago. Perhaps thats why it took me so long to figure out the potential of what was given to me. When it finally happened, I was so blind to the possibility that I just didn't see it. Or perhaps, I refused to see it.

Perhaps.

"So what's the plan today?"

My younger sister Adrienne was sprawled comfortably on the rugs in front of the fireplace, her chin resting on her arms as she stared at me. Quiet and almost painfully shy, Adi is one of my very most favorite people in the world. She was a Third-Year Hufflepuff beginning in the Fall, and I couldn't have been more proud of her if I tried. My older sister Naira and I often joked that she would have made a fine scholar in her past life, but truth be told, Adrienne Thomas was so smart that sometimes I was surprised by the fact that she was thirteen and not thirty-five.

"Good question." I pondered as I reached for two slices of buttered toast on the coffee table. God bless the house I grew up in - the place would always mean comfort for me. "Anything you want to do, Adi. But remember that the twins are coming along this time."

"Go to the park?"

Cornelius Park? I thought about it and decided it mightn't be a bad idea. Better that than somewhere else where the six year-old twins Sophie and Sammie might get into some trouble. Again. Good thing I had a built-in radar that sounded when they were about to wander into a danger zone. I smiled at my little sister and finished off the toast.

"Sounds good."

"Dean?" My mother's voice called. Sounded like she was somewhere nearabouts the kitchen. I uncurled myself from the couch with a slight groan, smiled at Adi again, and set about to find my mother. I loved this house though it was not where I lived any longer. This place would always be home to me, with its long corriders and sprawling rooms. Home, I always thought when I got here to visit my family for the weekends. This place is still home.

"Mum?"

"In the kitchen!"

Ah, my favorite place. She need not have said any more - I was there in three or four strides at most. Poked my head in to see her sitting down in the chair next to the large glass-windows. My mother, Carrie Thomas, was one of the strongest women I'd ever known. When I was little I followed her around whenever Dad wasn't home (Naira claims that my love of all things food stems from this since 'mum' used to equal 'grub' to me. I think she's wrong, though.) and my mother would tell me all sorts of stories. Funny stories about what it was like for her growing up, sad stories about Grandpa's first heart attack and what it was like for her to almost lose him, happy stories about how she met my father. And I absorbed all the stories like a sponge, so much so that when harder sadder times came, it was me telling the stories to my younger siblings.

She worked for an all-witches health magazine and doubled as one of the emerging voices lobbying for an integration of technology and magic. She was popular writer and loved her job. I think people were always quite surprised to meet her. Tall, confident, but rather young. She'd married almost right out of Hogwarts so she was younger than many parents but life had given her the sense of age and wisdome that people who haven't had personal loss never gain.

"Shouldn't you be getting the letter today?" No preamble - just cutting into my thoughts. That was Mama.

I shrugged and walked over to fold her in my arms. Warm, direct, clear - that was my Mama.

Truthfully, I'd given the letter a great deal of thought and decided that in the end, it didn't matter very much I was tied to. It bothered me that the liberty of choosing had been taken out of my hand. It bothered me that it felt like forcing love. But I had no one important to me in that way at the moment. So, it wasn't like they were destroying anything, per se. I just hoped that whoever she was, I could stand her. I didn't want to be tied down to someone who would make me unhappy. It's just that I would do my best to make this thing work, as much as it would be able to, and even if love didn't grow out of it, happiness would.

"I'll get it when I get it," I said with a smile, looking down at her. "It's not more important than coming to see you all on weekends."

"Sometimes I wonder how you got to be so good," she said, patting my face.

"You, of course," I teased her. "You and Dad, of course."

She laughed and then wormed her way out of my arms to get a letter on the hardwood kitchen table. It definitely did not escape my notice that there was a platter of assorted fruit on the table.

"Letter from Grandpa and Grandma Blake?"

She nodded. "If you're free next weekend for sure, we'll go up to see them."

"Gives me time to get that new book on spell-casting that Gramps wanted," I said and took the letter, still eyeing the fruit platter. Could I get to the fruit before we went out to the park?

"Question...where are Sophia and Samuel?"

Good question. The house was a little bit too quiet - which almost always meant that the twins were solemnly up to no good. I grimaced then kissed my mother's cheek.

"I'm on it!"

I left the kitchen and headed up the stairs to the big playroom that Nai and I had decorated a few years ago for the younger kids. Surprisingly enough, Sophie and Sammie were being good and playing nicely with their toys instead of ripping holes through the walls or something just as mischievious. When I pushed the heavy door open I found Sophie in the corner puzzling through the words of a book and Sammie playing with a massive blue carriage toy, and a miniature magic carpet. I didn't like the carpet since Sammie would definitely get on it and fall from some distance but maybe the pain would get him to stop doing that? For a minute, I just stood in the doorway and looked at the two of them. Sammie was strong for his age, surprisingly so, and a bit of a smart-alec at that. I swear, one day his quick responses were going to get him into trouble. He didn't look like me at all (I took after my mother almost entirely) but instead was a mini-version of our Dad. Looking at him was like looking at the photographs of Dad when he was younger. Same smile, same stance. Our mother often said he was like Dad's parting gift since Dad died four months after the twins were born. Sophie was a pretty little thing who looked a lot like Nai and Adi, except she was really girly with those red ribbons in her pigtails and turquoise studs in her ears. She'd been determined to convince Mama to get her jewelry since she learned to talk, and she'd been winning the war for almost two months.

"You two look surprisingly innocent," I spoke up finally. "Imagine that."

The two looked up, dropped the toys and ran. I came all the way in and got down on my knees so I could catch them when they barrelled into me at the same time. And barel they did.

"Dean!"

I hugged them close before releasing them so I could rock back on my heels and sit on the floor. Immediately, they clambered into my lap.

"Where are we going today?" asked Sammie.

"The park, I think," I said, looking down at him. "And if you can take care of watching your toys, you can each bring one."

"Okay," Sophie said. Almost absently she reached up to rub one of my ears. Kids and their habits - I'm sure Adi used to do the same thing to Nai all the time when she was little. Matter of fact, I probably did it to Nai too. "But I want an apple," said Sophie.

"Are we leaving now?" asked Sammie.

I'd have my hands full with these two all day.

"We'll get an apple before we go," I said with a smile. That fruit bowl was looking more and more likely all the time. Sophie was a girl after my own heart, I swear it. "Soon as Mama says yes, we can go."

Sammie clambered out of my lap before apparently thinking better of it and clambering back in. He lifted a little arm, stretched out his fingers, and wham the carriage came up off the carpet and hurtled through the air towards us. I couldn't help my raised eyebrows as I watched. Already getting so good at it? I thought, slightly awed by the way the thing jerked in the air right before it hit us. What crazy control. I'm not sure I'd ever seen a child with so much control. I watched Sammie snatch the toy out of the air and then lean back to cuddle in my arms. I kissed the top of his head, then the top of Sophie's.

"Down to the kitchen then."

I stood with the two of them cradled comfortably in an arm each, wished the door closed behind me, and strode down the hallway.

"Adi," I called as I got past her bedroom, "are you ready to go? Mama's packed food and the rest of us are!"

Some garbled girl-scream that I took to be aquiescence sounded through the door.

"Maybe she's not ready yet," said Sophie with a wise shake of her head. I laughed.

"Perhaps. Let's get you that apple now, though."

"Okay."

Down to the kitchen we went, past our mother to the basket standing on the table. Since she had a deadline to make tonight and it was already past noon, the four of us would be going by ourselves. Then we should be back in time to receive Naira, who was coming back for a week from tour with her all-girl's rock band The Noisettes. Naira was the eldest Thomas, and the person I was closest to in my family. We were only two and a half years apart, which means that where Adi and the twins had always clearly been the ones I protected, Nai and I had been inseperable growing up. Almost on the same level, I think. And God, knows I missed her when she was gone and loved it when she was back. Nai had left Hogwarts early to pursue a career in music. Dad hadn't agreed with her choice but he'd supported her when she'd set her mind to it. Mama had embraced it whole heartedly (the two of them have a feminist thing going) and it hadn't been long before she'd found three other girls who loved music the same way she did. The band was supposed to coming along too, which was good, since Holly, Meredith and Brooke were like family anyway.

"I'm ready!" said Adi when she appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Shall we?"

In next to no time (okay, no, twenty minutes later), the four of us were out and about in Cornelius Park. It was a pretty nice day for summer - not bright but certainly not as overcast as it could be. The twins were running ahead of us, and surprise surprise, we were holding their toys. I'd told them not to get too far ahead and hoped that they would listen. It was already almost three o'clock, after all, and they were bound to get tired soon. We'd been gamboling about for nearly two hours. It was a good thing Sophie and Sammie were distracted ahead of us since there was a look on Adrienne's face that said she had something she wanted to say.

"What's up, baby Adi?" I asked, using the nickname I'd used on her when she was much younger.

"Don't call me that," she protested. She made a face at me and ducked out from the hand that was heading to pat her head. "And don't do that either, Dean."

I laughed and settled for brushing back her hair as we walked.

"But really, what's on your mind, little sis?"

"Just thinking about school this year." She swung her arms and looked around the dark green grass, and the tall leafy trees as we walked. I did the same, sensing that this wasn't something I could prod out of her. Better to let her talk, I think. "Just thinking about how different Third year will be."

"It will be different," I said. "It was fun for me."

A fleeting sense of loss hit me as I thought about the person who had been so integral to all my years at Hogwarts. Seamus. I swallowed the loss and continued.

"I think you'll like all the new classes that you get to take. And with that extra-curricular writing course you signed up for with Professer Macabre?" I waggled my eyebrows at her to get a laugh. It worked. "You won't even want to come home."

"You won't be there," she said softly.

"I know." I chucked her under the chin. "But you know what else I know? That you are stronger than you think. "

Adi looked so comically dubious that I had to laugh a little bit.

"It's not just because I'm your brother. You are, even if I can't convince you of that. All I can say is that you'll see just how true that is this year."

The dubious look passed. Adi now looked pensive. A small part of me wanted to wrap her up in a bubble so she'd protected from the rest of the world but that's not so. She'd always hung close to Nai and me - too shy to make any friends in school. But she had to learn, to experience. There was nothing I could do but stand by her if she needed it.

"You think so?"

I nodded and smoothed her wild hair back again. "I know it."

She smiled, reassured. I breathed a little bit easier. She was happy for now, at least for a little while. And we had all of summer ahead of us before anything happened. Good thi- The loud ringing of my cellphone cut off any train of thought. I reached into my trouser pockets and snagged it.

"Hello?" Ron's familiar voice came through the phone.

"Hey mate, what's up?"

"Almost at Florean's," he responded. I could hear the hum of busy streets like white noise in the background. "I take it you haven't even been back to the apartment yet?"

The apartment the four of us shared - Harry, Neville, Ron and me.

"Nope," I said. "Nai's coming home today, remember?"

He made a sound of assent and I chuckled.

"I suppose we'll get to see who it is tomorrow for you then."

"Who are you thinking of for yourself?"

A pause, like Ronald Bilius Weasley was really thinking about it.

"Merlin knows I haven't the faintest."

That was God's truth for all of us.

"And Harry?" I didn't really have to specify the question. We just hoped everything came together and he was meant to be with Ginny. Because it would kill them both to be with any others.

"Alright," he said, in a way that made me think that the bloke in question was in the near vicinity. I sighed

"I'll be back late, I think."

"Cool. Send your family hugs and tell the twins I'll have presents for them next time." I smiled. Ron was turning into a favorite Uncle with the entire family. I suppose it's something the two of us share, coming from relatively big families. "Oh, and Harry and I'll still be up, bro. We want to see you open that thing."

I rolled my eyes then remembered he couldn't see me.

"Alright, alright. I'll tell everyone you said hello."

Clicked off to find Adi watching me with a smile on her face.

"What?"

"Ron?"

The girl was clairvoyant. Maybe.

"Yeah," I replied, taking her arm to continue walking again, "and he says hello."

"Welcome home!"

Back at home in the evening and Naira and her band had finally arrived. They'd taken that godawful bus to get here, and looked little rattled for it, but were intact and happy to be so. The four of them had stepped off the bus with their luggage floating next to them in front of our home (lucky us, that the bus stopped here), all leather jackets and sunglasses as if they'd need it during an English summer. Just gos to show you what fame will do to you, I suppose. The minute they were off the bus, Mama and Adi I surrounded them. There was a lot of laughter and crowing from Adi, and giggling from the twins as they swamped her legs. It was only after Sammie reached up to touch her belt that I noticed that Nai's hair was dyed pink. Don't ask me how it slipped by me. All I know is that when I noticed, I rolled my eyes - last time it'd been green...so I suppose bubblegum pink was an improvement. Mama took one look at Nai's hair, opened up her mouth to say something, thought better of it and let the thought go. Naira and I shared a look then began laughing at the same time.

"Dean, you really need to stop growing," she said, hugging me tight. She was tall just like our mother but after the growth spurt I'd experienced right before Final Year, no female ever came up past mid-chest for me. She was the closest.

"I've missed you too, Nai." I released her and spun her around. "Older sis's got a brand-new hairdo. Had to find a way to make things interesting for yourself, eh?"

She punched me in the arm but grinned. "Always."

The visit doubled as a way to spend time with family and a way to get her letter. The rest of the band fell under the rule just the same way I did, and it had been easier to schedule in a break in the tour than to not go on tour at all when the news had leaked. In any case, I planned on spending the week at home as much as possible. Or as much as possible with my own sorta-kinda coming change on the way...I pushed the thought out of my mind and grinned at my sisters who were indulging in something every girly.

"Dean, you got taller?" This from the short dark-haired Brooke who was pulling her guitar straps as she spoke.

"I sure did, ma'am."

She shook her head and motioned me over. "Come over here and greet the rest of us properly!"

I did but deliberately walked slowly to irritate them. There was twenty-two year old Brooke of course, drummer and sometime-back up singer to Naira's man vocals. Even though she was short, she was as larger-than-life, perhaps the loud abrasive I don't care girl of the group. Meredith Hunter was only slightly taller than Brooke even though she was a year younger, with pale skin that complimented her strawberry blonde hair, and a soft cultured voice that had you startled that she wasn't from one of the old wealthy Pureblood families. She was the lyric-writer of the group, and helped orchestrate and compose almost all of the melodies, with input from everyone else of course. Holly was stout and friendly, solid, and good-natured with a voice like an angel and a gift for the guitar. How Naira had managed to find such talented girls in the short time since she'd left school, I don't know. But I did know that The Noisettes were on their way up in the magical world.

I went through them all, giving everyone a hug and/or a high-five before the twins came in and distracted the rest of the band. Only then did I lean back to catch my mother's eyes and motion us inside the house. Soon we were seated at the dinner table, saying grace, and digging in to the feast Mama had prepared while we were gone. If there was one thing that was instilled in me at home, it was always family gathered at the dinner table. Always. Even if we'd been doing our own thing all day, we all had to get together and eat together for meals. It was one thing that had never changed.

"What are we going to do all week?" asked Adi eagerly, looking at Brooke and Holly. Those two had lost most of their family in the War, and what was left, they weren't close to. They would be staying here with us in the meantime. Which meant their letters would probably also find their ways here too. "If you could take me to another concert, that would be neat!"

"There aren't any concerts that I know of going on," said Brooke shaking her long hair out as she looked around the table to Melanie. "Heard of any?"

Meredith shook her head too and looked at Adi.

"We'll find out and take you if there are, chickee."

Adi looked dissapointed for a minute before she got into her food. A look passed over her head from Merry to Brooke. Aha, I thought to myself. There was a concert in town, and Adrienne Thomas was definitely going to see that concert...even if she didn't know it yet. Trust the two of them to turn it into a surprise outing for her. Talk turned into discussion of the tour, and how the band was holding up for it. This week would double as a break and a reason to be in England during this big time of change. After all, the Ministry's clause said any one age 16 and upwards that was a citizen of the state. That meant that Naira and her bandmaes needed to be here to get their letters and they had a week to figure out what to do about it before the tour resumed in Bulgaria. A week seemed like an awfully short amount of time to me - to be with family and to sort out this new massive affair. I hadn't even gotten a chance to really wrap my head around it and I had most of the summer to make it work.

Bully for them though, for trying though.

Halfway through the meal, my cellphone was ringing again. I excused myself from the table and headed out to the atrium to take the call.

"Hey mate, it's me." Ron, again. "Hermione's in the hospital."

"What?" I stood, shocked.

"Fainted at Florean's but smashed her head into a table on the way down. She's been out cold for the last two hours and we're in the room with her."

I started for the closet door, reached in and grabbed my cloak one-handed all the while holding on to the cellphone. Bloody hell.

"Called Mr. and Mrs. Granger yet?"

"Dad's on his way to get them."

"I'll be there as soon as I can then," I said shortly.

"Good. Remember, room 1125, seventh floor in Wicca Wing."

With an abrupt click, I shut the phone off and headed back into the kitchen to give everyone the news.

"Will she be okay?" asked Adi, fearful and quiet. Her face said she was remembering the time not so long ago this year when someone in the hospital meant someone dying. Hard to shake the remnants of war. I knew I agreed.

"She'll be okay," I said with a smile that I didn't really mean. "I'm sure of it. I'll call you all when I get there, alright?"

With further reassurances, I made my exit and apparated immediately to the heart of busy night-time London: Diagon Alley. It would be a short cab ride from here as long as the driver stepped on the pedal. And by heaven, I made sure he did. Fifteen minutes later I was wondering whether to go up the left or right staircase of the massive building that was St. Mungoes. You could get let lost in this place if you had no idea where you were going. And you would get lost if you didn't get a competent receptionist or have a Healer and a map to get you to the correct ward. I stood in the lobby, ignoring the long line, and looked for a map. When I'd figured out the way, I turned and-

Luna. I'd know that golden hair anywhere.

"Luna?"

She turned, her hair spilling over shoulders like silk on the black of the cloak. Ah, Luna. If anyone had told me years ago that I would be friends with the infamous Loony Lovegood, I'd have laughed myself breathless and then laughed some more. But it had happened, and not only were we friends, but I was even closer to her than I was to Ron and Harry. Surprise, that. Before the War and because of Neville, we'd been pretty good aquaintances. I'd never thought of her as crazy, even though the rest of the student body had, and I'd certainly never shunner her. But it was during the War, in the middle of all that pain and fear and warfare, that we really became best mates. She'd been at my back and I at hers and Neville's so many times that it had been natural to confide in her so much. She'd been the one to keep me sane after Seamus's death. And it was over her kidnapping that I'd gone crazy...tearing down walls, maiming wizards - hell, I'm sure I would have willingly killed for her that night. Damned I would be if I had to bury another one of my friends. She'd understood a little bit of that dark part, and she and Neville had helped me more than anyone to pick up the pieces and stop the rage after he was gone. It would have been infinitely harder without them.

"Luna," I said happily, with a smile blooming on my face. She smiled back slowly, in that infinitely calm way of hers, and I nearly laughed. She'd always been a puzzle to me. I pulled her in for a hug as soon as I'd reached her, then let her go when the smile began to fade.

"Do you know the room number?"

I nodded.

"Let's go then.

I turned to lead her down the right hallway to the elevators that would take us up the eleventh floor. We'd have to find an aide when we got up there to locate the right wing but at least we were on the right track.

"How did deadline day go?" I asked her. The Quibbler was all set to publish their first grand edition since the end of the War tomorrow morning. She'd been busy all week just with those preparations, which explained why I hadn't seen her since Thursday afternoon's brunch at Lovegood Manor.

"Really good," she responded with that same slow smile. "Really good. Well, as good as it could."

"Eric didn't mess up at all?" I teased. "No layouts to fix? No ink print gone?"

Her eyes widened slightly. "How did you know?"

"I'm right?" I asked, slightly astonished. I'd been kidding.

"You are," she replied, "almost down to the tee. I had to run into Diagon Alley to get the ink and certainly had to fix the layouts. Eric was great today though."

I smiled at her as she talked, interrupted when appropriate with a question, teased when I could. When the elevator slid to a slow stop, we got disembarked and headed down the hallway. Automatically, I slowed down so that she could keep up. She was only the teensiest bit taller than Hermione which made her rather short. And she was light enough that I could pick her up and toss her if I so desired. Not that I'd ever do it...although it was interesting thought.

"Left or right?"

I tuned back in and decided left, definitely left. Two more long corridors and we were standing in front of Room 1125. For a minute, we stood there and looked at each other. Then Luna took an audibly deep breathe and pushed the door open. Hermione lay on the bed, chest falling in time with the beat of her breathing. Harry and Ron stood like guards at either side of the foot of the bed, while Ginny was sitting in a chair holding Mione's hand. They looked up all at the same time when we entered.

"How is she?" I asked as I strode the rest of the way into the room. Luna immediately went to the bed to hug Gin briefly before she sat down in the empty chair next to her.

The guys greeted me first, and I clapped Ginny on the shoulders, before I retreated to hear Harry softly answered the question.

"She's fine...blow to her head and shock." Harry shook his head and looked at the girl lying prone on the bed. "Quite frightening though - she hit her head so hard that there was blood."

"It was audible," added Ron worriedly. "Swear to God, there was so much blood. But then again, surface head wounds bleed like that anyway."

Merlin only knew he who her betrothed was...I was almost afraid to ask.

"And her letter?"

An exchange of looks. This couldn't be anything good.

"Draco Malfoy."

"What?" That was certainly not a name I'd been expecting. Nor was I happy to hear it. In fact, I was shocked and angry. Could the Ministry be any wronger about these matches than they'd been in the first place? I dropped my voice when Gin gave me a look. "Hell, I'd faint deadway too."

Ron snorted. Clearly, someone agreed with me. Harry looked pensive but remained quiet. Harry had changed quite a bit in the last few months - the volatile anger that had motivated him during school melting away into a...kind of...strange melancholy. In many ways, he was more adult than the rest of his - wiser than his years, older than his age - and I think that nearly dying in the Last Battle had cemented that change. this was no longer the old Harry Potter. Not at all. With Harry's moodiness slowly giving way to a mature thoughtfulness, that could mean anything from 'I agree' to 'I wouldn't say that'. And knowing Harry, he wouldn't say anything.

I stepped forward and took one of Hermione's free hands and squeezed. She looked asleep, her breathing even and deep, although there was a purple bruise alarmingly close to her temple on the right soide of her face. A hell of a shock to receive. Where I mereley disliked the bloke, Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger were like blood feud enemies - always opposing sides, forever bearing grudges, no bridge to be built over. I smoothed the blanket over her like she was like a kid to be coddled, then resumed my place among the guys.

"Where are the Grangers? I thought they'd be here when I arrived."

"Dad's on his way with them - should be here any minute." Ron looked around as if there would be some time-telling apparatus. "Soon, though."

"How much did he tell them?"

"Everything," said Harry. I was sure the Grangers wouldn't be pleased either - I'm told they'd met Lucius Malfoy once by accident and he had been civil but incredibly rude. "Everything. But they mostly just want 'Mione to be okay."

I nodded and we settled into chairs behind the girls while waiting for Hermione to wake up. If she would wake up today, anyway. Two hours and a short nap later, everyone was awakened by the sound of the Grangers coming in with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. All five of us left the room

"You two?"

Ron's face took on a thoughtful cast just like the one Harry had had on a minute ago. Before I could verbally congratulate him on the mature look, his face edged towards slight distaste.

"Padma Patil."

Vast improvement over the Draco Malfoy predicament although Ron didn't seem to be enthused or dissapointed either way.

"Huh," I finally said. "Huh. Why the look?"

He looked surprise. "What look?"

I stared at him for a minute. Sometimes, he was so startlingly self-aware. Other times...Other times, he was not.

"Never mind." He stared back at me, but let the matter drop.

"You Harry?"

Finally, a smile broke out on Harry's face. Didn't have to ask. I reached out and clapped him on the shoulders.

"Congratulations, mate," I said in a cheerful whisper lest Gin turn that look on me again, "though we all knew it would turn out fine."

Well, things were working out just fine for one of us at the very least. Could I hope that it would work out 'just fine' for me too?

/-|-\

After Hermione's parents arrived with the rest of the Weasley's in tow, Hermione woke up. Extremely angry and in a lot of pain. But at least she was awake - it was enough to speak to her, touch her hand, and then leave her to her parents and her rest for the night. Outside the door, we split up. Usually Dean came over to the Lovegood Place a few times a week with Neville, so he picked tonight to do it. It wasn't all that late when we finally got home. Daddy wouldn't be back until the next day anyway, so I had the house all to myself. Truth be told, it had been a long stressful day and I was tired. But...

The letter.

I was really happy for Ginny and Harry - the doubt had been there and the Ministry had banished it. But Mione's situation was an all-together different cup of tea. She was betrothed to an enemy, and an ex-Death Eater at that. Don't misunderstand - the hatred for much of the Dark Side still thrived in this day and age. It was bordering on half a year since the Last Battle but a lot had been lost in the wizarding world - culture, loved ones, a way of life. But peace was the main thing now. We, the people, wanted peace. If another war never broke out as long as we lived, people would be happy. And so with the Ministry's promise to cut down the work and I find the 'love of your life' for you, I suppose most of us had forgotten that they'd really meant what they said.

"A mixing of lines" they'd called it. A mixing of lines indeed.

As soon as I lowered the ground wards and unlocked the door, Dean made a beeline for the kitchen. I let out a small breath of laughter as I watched him disappear into the house, then laughed earnestly when he stopped to see why I'd been making that sound. Without having to say anything, he understood. And rolled his eyes. And left me to laugh as he sped ahead to the kitchen anyway.

My house wasn't very big as far as houses go but there were two distinct areas of the house. The ground floor was the visiting area and my father's area - the place where our large comfortably-looking living room was, the kitchen and two bathrooms, Daddy's office adjoining two rooms - Mum's old experiment room, and Dad's current one. He'd kept Mum's room just as she left out of sentimentality, so I could go in there and feel a bit of her when I was little. These days I go to the Sunroom which is upstairs in my domain - sunny yellow walls and all of her belongings are there. Now, I went in there when I was a little bit lonely and needed to be surrounded by her things, breathe in the familiar scent. Sometimes I went in early in the morning and fell asleep on the windowseat, or I'd go through the old photo albums. I loved that room very much. It was the connection to a mother I missed everyday, like an ache that never really went away.

"Luna?" I turned to hear his deep voice coming from the kitchen. Just as I noticed the sound of the dishes going and the sounds of pots and pans being banged around. "I feel like cooking. What do you want to have?"

So we'd fallen into this pattern months ago. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a terrible cook. There are two dishes that I do really well - exceptionally well, actually, and I'm not sure why - but I only cooked on very special occasions. Beef casserole with stuffed red and green peppers, and sweetcorn dumplings. Otherwise, Daddy did it. To save us from imminent death and house fires, at any rate. Whenever Dean came over he managed to cook up so much that Daddy and I were usually set for at least a week. Small wonder my father loved Dean so much, wasn't it?

"Luna?" He was already growing impatient. I padded down the long corrider and turned right, into the kitchen. He was already going through cupboards and pulling out ingredients when he turned to me. Water was already boiling on the stove, and as I watched potatoes were peeling and cutting in the sink. An errant salt shaker did its thing above them, and a deep dish pan full of some creamy orange sauce was going in the oven. Sometimes I wondered how it is that he'd mastered starting a meal so fast. And then I remembered that he was probably born in the kitchen. I smiled at him before I caught sight of something more important. The stack of letters on the counter across from him.

"Make sure there's corn somewhere on the menu," I said absently as I moved forward and reached for the mail on the table. There it was - in official Ministry hand. Stamped, black ink. I didn't have any enemies that I wouldn't want to be connected with but I still felt a little thrill of something as I picked up the letter. I leaned against the counter with the letter in hand, and looked up at Dean who was busily working away at the rest of his preparations.

Better now than never.

To Miss Luna Lovegood,

As you may or may not know, as of today, the Ministry of Magic has begun owling out letters to witches and wizards of ages 16 through 29, stating their betrothed in an arranged marriage that we have deemed suitable. These matches are not random. In fact, we have devised a way of determining the perfect wife and husband for each of the single wizards under our Ministry, though the public is not privy to the particulars of the process.

The reason for arranged marriage is simple. We are matching wizards and witches with their soul mates, the ones that have the greatest potential of providing mutual happiness. A happy couple would logically lead happy lives. No evil, no new Voldemort. Just happiness. Though we don't fool ourselves into believing that all strife will be erased, everyone will be a lot happier if they are with the one they love, and the Ministry has eliminated the search.

The two betrothed will need to make a blood link, and this will be explained in detail if need be. They will have to spend time with each other, so that they get used to each other; the auras of the respective man and woman have to realign themselves with each other. They will need to be in each other's presence regularly, otherwise great fatigue will trouble both. Cheating poses dire consequences to the faithful one and there is no divorce.

The one we pick for you is your soul mate. We know this, without a doubt. But it's up to you two to make it happy marriage, though your personalities may clash.

Miss Luna Lovegood, you're betrothed is Mr. Dean Thomas.

Please be sure to get in touch with your betrothed as soon as possible and get all necessary paperwork owled to the Ministry of Magic in a punctual magic. You will receive more information pertaining only to the female half of things. More will be explained later.

From all here, we wish you good luck with your marriage. Have a magical day!

Signed, Ministry of Magic

I think I gasped softly. I never gasp. I...never gasp. Nothing ever moves me to such extreme surprise that I involuntarily gasp. I couldn't even peel my eyes away from the paper for a minute. When I could, my eyes fastened on the back of the man across from me. He was humming now, whistling as he waved a hand and something or other flew out of the cupboard and into his waiting grasp. He hadn't caught on yet.

Heavens...

Dean? I stared at him while the emotions. Couldn't absorb it. Dean? Couldn't bring myself to believe it.

"Dean?"

"Eh?" he said over his shoulders. He turned around and dusted his hands on his dark jeans, smiling and whistling the whole time. I realized at that moment that I had no idea how he would respond. Had never seen him react to a situation like this. He must have caught a hint of something on my face because the smile faded into one of concern. I looked at him silently for a moment. Then with a hand that wasn't even shaking, strangely, I held the letter out to him.

"I think you'd better take a look at this."