Luna held the letter close to her chest as she walked inside, cuddling it tenderly. She rapped upon her father's door, adding a quiet call of, 'Daddy, we have a story to print.'
Patiently she waited, listening to the various bumps and groans and rustling fabrics as her father stumbled around in the darkened room. Eventually, the door creaked open and Xenophilius stood in all his psychedelic glory with a vibrant pink robe covered in bright blue, yellow and green bands and circles. 'Is it just me or has someone stolen the sun?' he asked after a yawn.
'I don't think so, but we'll have to wait until sunrise to see,' Luna replied, dragging her father along slightly. 'I'm awfully sorry to wake you up, but as I said we have a story to print and it is rather important.'
'Important you say? We haven't received another confirmed sighting of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, have we?' he asked with excitement in his voice.
Her steps faltered for a moment and she sadly replied, 'Harry Potter might be dead and so might He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.'
'Harry Potter? Where have I heard that name before? Oh, he's that lovely chap, isn't he? The one who got us that wonderful exclusive? You mentioned him in your last dozen or so letters too, didn't you? You said he was your friend?'
'Yes daddy,' was her reply, though her voice was distant.
Silence reigned until he added, 'Awfully sad then, but what might be is not always what will have been.'
'I do hope so...'
Nothing more was said as they settled into the office from where the Quibbler was written and printed. She watched, unable to help for a change, as her father began warming up the equipment, as it would take several hours to warm up, and scribbling down ideas for headlines based on the three possible outcomes, as it wouldn't be much of a story if they had both lived or so he thought.
'You-Know-Who No More… no, no… Boy-Who-Lived now Man-Who-Didn't, no…' he murmured whilst fiddling with some cogs. 'Luna, dear, I don't suppose you could give me more of an idea of what occurred?'
'Harry created his own ritual and accidentally purposely invoked the Egyptian Gods of magic and death to pass judgement on You-Know-Who and offered his own life and seven of his most important items as a payment. If Harry has died and You-Know-Who has lived, then Harry has severely weakened him and ensured that he would be unable to return if he was killed again unlike last time.'
One of the springs popped up, sending a billow of steam floating towards the ceiling and setting off a coughing fit from Xeno. Once able to again, he replied, 'Good good, always good to have at least a positive… He-Who-Has-Been-Slain? Wrong image… Boy-Who-Gave-His-Life-For-Peace… no, no, Man-Who-, no, still not right… Saviour of the wizarding world once more and no more? Yes, that could work…'
Luna continued to do no more than watch as her father continue working. She stroked the envelope, desperately wishing for time to move oddly since the hours seemed to unusually drag on.
Eventually, it was time and she slowly tore it open, snatching up the parchments.
'This letter is the longest letter I'm sending out, mainly because I know you the least and in a lot of ways that's helpful to me. First of all though, and I will only say this once, stand up for yourself. You are wonderfully weird and eccentric and those stupid cows in Ravenclaw shouldn't treat you like crap, so don't let them. I know you say it doesn't bother you, but I won't accept that, because everyone, including you, wants to be loved.
'That nicely brings me onto my next point: I love you. It's not in the romantic sense, though your radish earrings are rather radishing (terrible pun, I know), but as a younger sister. As an older brother, it's therefore my job to make sure that no one (who values their life) picks on you and that I intimidate any boyfriends into treating you with the utmost respect. I'm afraid I won't quite be able to do either of those jobs, for reasons I'll go into in a sec, but know that I've left the most capable (er, well, very capable – Hermione's got a few too many other things to do, so I couldn't ask more of her) people to do them for me.
'Right, now onto the heart of the matter. I won't go into too much detail, but basically Voldemort split his soul into a load of different pieces and stored them in things. As long as one of the pieces still exists outside of his body, he'll just turn a weird ghost-like thing if he's killed and from there he can be resurrected (like at the Tri-wizard tournament) so we have to get rid of all of them to get rid of him first. There's a bit of a problem with that as there's a piece of his soul stuck in my head. To solve that, I'll have done a ritual by the time you got this letter.
'I can't tell you much about it, since I'm kind of going with guesswork here, but I'm putting down a couple of runes and offering some of my stuff – that's pretty much what makes up a ritual, isn't it? Hopefully it'll take care of Voldemort, but if it doesn't then I've asked Dumbledore to. Oh, I'm kind of missing out the important bit: I'm offering my life as the centrepiece.
'Er, yeah, not too sure where to go immediately from there. At best, I hope that I'll live (without the soul piece) and Voldemort dies, but at worst I'll just kick the bucket (not sure if wizards know that phrase actually, but it means I'll have died) and not helped at all in getting rid of him, other than getting rid of the soul piece in me.
'Moving on from that, I really wanted to thank you for your help at the Ministry. I was stupid and reckless and all that crap, but all of you were amazing. Honestly, Luna, you were holding your own against some of the toughest bad guys around! You're a great friend, incredibly fun to be with and talk to and if no one else sees it then it's their loss. Sure you sometimes talk about things no one else knows about, but for eleven years I didn't think magic existed and up until fourth-year I wouldn't have believed anyone (well, maybe Hermione, but she's nearly always right) if they told me such a thing as a Blast-Ended Skrewt existed, so why can't a Crumble-Horned Snorcack exist?
'Going back a bit, I've included you in my will. It's not much, but it turns out the Black's had a property in Sweden (a house on the beach) and Sirius made me his heir (found out a few days ago,) so to you it'll go. If you need any money for travelling to it or furnishing it or anything like that, ask the goblins as some of the Black money has been put aside for anything house-y that needs to be done.
'Going back a bit further, I've entrusted Neville and Ron to take my place as your "big brother". Nev just needs a bit more confidence and, if you can (which, if I've read the signs correctly, then you definitely can,) you should help him with that. I've given him a bit of a push in the letter I sent to him, but if he doesn't stick his neck out on the line, don't go slightly crazy (like girls tend to, slight offence meant) and instead confront him about it. If there's one thing I could tell you, it would be to find happiness wherever you can and I truly believe you two could find it if you were both willing to risk it.
'Going even further back, as I said, I probably know you the least out of any of the other "Ministry Six" (who most of the letters are going to, with a couple of others to some adults) and I wanted to fix that. So, tell me, what's your favourite flavour of ice-cream? If I had to guess, I would say chocolate with whole strawberries on a slice of watermelon and with grated cheese on top – I'm not sure why, but it fits. Mine's just plain old chocolate with vanilla swirls, but I'm boring like that. How about what you want to be when you grow up? I think you want to either write articles for the Quibbler or go search for new and exotic animals or maybe both, but you haven't told me that, so I wanted to make sure.
'To tell you a bit more about me, I wasn't really hoping to have a job, rather stay at home and be a good house-husband, looking after the kids, doing a bit of cooking and gardening and all that. Even more boring, I know, but I'd like boring a lot after all the "excitement" I've been having at Hogwarts.
'I'm stalling now. I… I had to tell someone and I chose you because I thought it would be easiest, but it's still bloody hard. Sirius… I didn't kill him. I know I didn't, but I am still one of the people responsible for his death. We had a two-way mirror so we could chat if we needed to, but I forgot about it – heck I even forgot about him a lot of the time. I was all he had left and, since I couldn't see him, I forgot about him. He was all alone in that crappy house, probably hoping he could talk to me, all the while I was whining about how horrible it was that Professor Umbitch was making me torture myself and that I was having nightmares.
'Merlin, how did you guys put up with such a whiny ass all year? Siriusly (sorry) though, I was a right proper jerk, wasn't I? The least I could have done was put aside some time once a week to talk to him, but I couldn't even do that. I should've talked to him every day, helping him get over the pain he's been in all those years since that night and getting to know the man who could have meant so much to me and did mean so much to my parents. I was being a stupid kid though who couldn't see passed the end of my nose.
'Well, since then, I have and it's not pretty. I can't live knowing that I will die eventually and the longer I put it off the more people Voldie can kill. If I'm lucky, I end it now before he gets a chance to start another reign of terror and, if not, then at least I did the only thing I could to prevent it. I don't know if you can understand that, but I guess it's a bit like when the twins pull a prank and McGonagall lines us all up and tells the culprit to come forward and we'll stand there until they do. Of course, the twins always own up right away, but if they didn't, everyone would suffer mild discomfort. Multiply that by a few million and that's where I am.
'I've also been a bit of a twat to other people. For starters, you. It's hard to admit, but before I got to know you a little, I purposefully avoided being seen with you because of what other people might think of me. More than that, I knew you were being bullied and I did nothing. Both of those kill me to think about (erm, bad choice of words?) now that I'm less of a twat and I only wish there was something I could do to go back and fix it, but I can't so I'm apologising.
'Neville too. He's always been who he is now, the quiet and shy but courageous boy. Well, I guess he's a man now and you'd have to be mad to disagree after seeing him shove his broken wand into a Death Eater's eye. Despite that, I pretty much ignored him in the first few even though I should've at least stuck up for him as a House-mate – who knows how much, well, better he would've been if Snape was too busy blaming everything wrong in the world on me rather than breathing down Nev's neck?
'Next up is Parvati. What was I thinking? Seriously, I was lucky enough to get a gorgeous witch at the last minute and I spend nearly the entire night discussing how much of a betrayer Hermione is with Ron? At least I had the sense to personally apologise to her after, but really, was I always that much of an idiot before my life really got screwed over?
'Unfortunately, the more people I think of, the more I have to say, "I was such an idiot," because I really didn't treat them properly. Nothing as big as what I've already mentioned, but things like copying homework off Hermione (at least I stopped going that second year.) Still, I can't go back and change myself, but I can admit that there was a problem.
'Maybe that's the difference between being a child and being an adult, I don't know. I've never been very good at the whole philosophical things, but suddenly everything was very different when I looked at myself from where other people stood. Everyone has their problems, but the important thing is that they work to fix them, either alone or together, isn't that right?
'Well, I hope I've backed you into a corner now. After what we did, kicking Death Eater ass, there's gonna be a target on your back. I couldn't ask Hermione to give up Hogwarts, never, but I... I can ask you to try and convince her. Despite what she sometimes says, she does listen to you, but, well, her problem is that she finds it hard to trust without proof and evidence. Please, if possible, have her, Ron, Ginny and Nev join you in Sweden until things settle down. It's hard enough for me to say goodbye, I can't say hello to you all again so soon.
'So, where was I? Right, well, I was telling you about how much of an idiot I was. Of all my regrets, the biggest was that I let what people, who weren't my friends, thought affect me. I am so jealous and proud that you have remained completely true to yourself and it would be an amazing and wonderful world if everyone could be like that. I've already apologised, but I'll have to again, I'm sorry it took me over three years and the Hogwarts Spanish Inquisitioner (ask Hermione if you don't get the joke) to make us friends.
'Finally, my dying request. If you will do but one thing I ask of you, then this is it: help the others. Of all of them, I think only you won't be completely distraught. I know it's not that you don't care, just that you, well, you know what it's like to lose a loved one and you can deal with your emotions a lot better than anyone I know.
'Perhaps I'm not as good as understanding as you as I think, but, if I'm right, you don't need to be sad because I'm with those I love and I promise to tell your mum that you love her on your behalf. Not only that, but you understand that I couldn't be happy knowing that I could've helped.
'So, please, help the others find whatever they can. I hope you all can make peace, but, well, it's a bit hard to be an optimist right now. Just, please, don't come see me for a long time.
'Love your unofficial big brother, Harry "Just Harry" Potter.'
A tear-drop fell onto the letter, then another, but before the third, she whispered, 'Oh Harry.'
Short note: For those asking/wondering, I haven't decided if Harry lives or dies yet. I might chicken out and offering alternate endings or I might look at both and go with whichever one I can write better, I don't know and I'll probably only know when I get there.