Introduction: A/U after DH, i.e., EWE, Rated M for future lemons, language, etc. Response to "Of Weathers and Characteristics" challenge on the forums. 4 years post-Hogwarts for Harry, 3 for Luna (so, 2002). Luna Lovegood takes up residence as an Unspeakable, and Harry's work as an Auror brings them into close quarters. Whatever will happen when The Boy Who Lived (Twice) encounters The Girl Who Lives In Her Own Universe? Read on, dear reader, read on…
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, trademarks, etc. of this and all subsequent chapters are the property of their respective owners. The original characters, characterizations, and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media and/or commercial franchise. No copyright infringement is intended or implied.
Chapter 1 – Lunch (Or, Gee, That Was Awkward)
"Is that her?" Harry Potter craned his neck, straining to see the straggly blond head he'd spotted in the lunch line far ahead of him.
"It has to be," Ron Weasley replied, using his height to his advantage. "She still wears those orange radish-things for earrings."
Harry chuckled, though not unkindly. "Definitely Luna." He watched as the gentle, optimistic girl ordered her food and coaxed a grudging smile from the grouchy short-order cook.
"She always was a ray of sunshine," Ron remarked, shaking his red head in amusement. "Never could figure out why she was in Ravenclaw, though. Gullible as hell. I wonder what happened to her after Hogwarts."
"I think she finished out her seventh year," Harry said. "I remember Ginny saying something about it."
"You two back on, then?" Ron asked casually, darting a none-too-subtle look at his friend under his ruddy eyelashes.
"I have no idea." Harry shook his head with a defeated sigh. Coming back from the dead had a way of making one see things differently; his relationship with Ginny was only one example. She was mercurial at the best of times, but her behavior of late had been downright erratic, and they'd been fighting constantly. Wishing to avoid the awkward, painful subject of his on-again, off-again relationship with the sole Weasley daughter, Harry slipped out of line with a murmur to Ron to save his place. "Hey, Luna!"
She turned at the sound of his voice, her silver-blue eyes still as dreamy as he remembered. "Oh, hello there, Harry," she lilted, as though she had just seen him yesterday.
"How have you been? I haven't seen you since…gods…forever." He felt a little ashamed at the admission. She had been steadfastly loyal to him in her way, always finding a way to fight, but they had abruptly lost touch after the battle of Hogwarts. I should've tried harder, he thought. Out loud, he said, "You totally disappeared. What have you been up to?"
"Oh, travelling mostly," she replied. "Observing all sorts of creatures, writing articles for travel journals, that sort of thing." She tucked a lock of wavy blonde hair behind her ear, bringing her earrings fully into view. When she accepted a steaming plate from the cook with a nod of thanks, the dirigible plums bobbed gently with her head.
"What are you doing here, then?" Harry said, accompanying Luna as she carried her tray to the till. "Just visiting someone for lunch?"
"I got a new job," she explained airily. "I'm an Unspeakable."
Harry's eyebrows shot up. "Wow. What's that like?"
"It's very interesting, but I can't really talk about it," she reminded him gently. "I'm an Unspeakable."
"Oh, right," he agreed lamely, feeling like an idiot. "Erm. Well. It was good running into you."
"You too," she called over her shoulder, carrying her tray off to the edge of the cafeteria.
"How was that?" Ron asked when Harry returned to his side.
"Bloody awkward, to be honest," Harry replied. The two best friends laughed, each remembering just how awkward Luna Lovegood could be.
"You asked for it, mate." Ron nodded toward the grill and the cook waiting for their order. "What d'you reckon?"
For as long as she could remember, Luna Lovegood had been a girl apart. She still didn't feel comfortable using the word "woman" to describe herself. She was now twenty-one, and fully an adult, but most days, she felt like a girl: an overgrown, lonely teenager.
Her father had died unexpectedly the previous summer, bringing an abrupt end to her travels abroad. She now lived alone in her family's ancestral home, which had required near-complete rebuilding after the war. She'd seized the opportunity to paint and decorate, creating murals on the walls wherever she wished. There was a downpour outside the windows at that moment – complete with a howling wind that drove the droplets into near-horizontal, stinging needles – but inside the House of Lovegood, there was a field of daisies waving calmly on the living room wall. Ever the studious Ravenclaw, Luna had painted up the modest library on the second floor like the library at Hogwarts, complete with Madam Pince glaring evilly from her post. The walls appeared to stretch out much farther than was possible; it was her favourite place to go when the silence grew too large for the rest of the house to contain.
The one exception to the artistic explosions on every wall was Luna's bedroom, which she kept as bare as possible. She remembered a time when she had decorated her ceiling with the faces of her friends, but those people were long gone from her life. Well, until now. She stared out the window of her white-walled sanctuary, watching the gale bend the trees and lash the house with freezing-cold rain. A bolt of lightning streaked across her vision, reminding her of a certain scar – and the warm-hearted, green-eyed man who bore it. Harry Potter. Oh, there was a complicated man.
Luna was not a born fighter; she knew what it was to defend one's life and liberty, but action – especially violent action – was at the end of a long list of coping mechanisms for her. Harry, on the other hand, was a fighter by nature. He did everything with burning intensity; even a simple conversation in the lunch line at the Ministry had been enough to sear him into her mind's eye. She stubbornly resolved to stop thinking about the boy she'd crushed on from fourth year onward. Surely a favourite meditation technique would keep her mind busy, and perhaps compensate for the twinge of loneliness in her heart? Settling herself on her bed in the lotus position, she pushed her thoughts firmly to the back of her crowded mind, though she permitted herself one last comforting thought before she closed her eyes. It's enough that he called me friend, once.
It was nearly midnight before Ginny Weasley walked through the door of her Diagon Alley flat. Harry had been waiting for her for hours in the living room, curled up in a chair with a Quidditch magazine open on his lap. He had been sleeping over consistently for a couple of weeks; most of his clothes and his toiletries had found their way into her space. They had casually discussed making the arrangement permanent, but he was still paying rent on his own flat, and nights like these made Harry glad of it. He stood up, letting the magazine fall heedlessly to the floor. "Where've you been?"
"Just out with my girlfriends," the redhead replied defensively, shaking her hair back over her shoulders. She shrugged off the black leather jacket she was wearing and slung it over the back of one of the kitchen chairs.
"At the pub, were we?" The words were cold, accusatory.
"So?" She glared at him with red-rimmed eyes. "We were celebrating."
"Celebrating," Harry repeated derisively. "Celebrating what?"
"Janice got engaged," Ginny muttered, dropping a name Harry vaguely recognized as one of the Harpies' equipment managers.
"And you couldn't send an owl, or even your Patronus, or Floo-call?"
"I just went out with my friends after work, Harry. It's not a big deal."
Harry felt his temper rise. "Not to you, maybe, but I was worried."
"Oh, gods. Since when are you my mum?" Ginny snarked. "The war's over, Harry. There aren't Death Eaters lurking around every corner."
Harry sighed angrily, pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "That doesn't mean that bad things don't still happen, Ginny!" he exclaimed ungrammatically. "You know something? I don't even know why I stay here. You're hardly ever home, and when you are, all we do is fight. It's like you don't even want me in your life."
"Then don't stay," she replied nastily. "You've never had a problem leaving me behind before."
"Fine," he barked, throwing his hands up in the air. "I guess that's that, then." He stalked off to the bedroom to pack his things.
"Hello again," chimed a musical voice from behind Harry. This time, Luna had appeared behind him in the lunch line. Ron had owled in sick that morning with a dreadful cold, which Harry thought he might have contracted as well; he had wandered down to the cafeteria alone in search of some soup to soothe his scratchy throat.
"Oh, hey, Luna." He smiled wearily at her.
"You don't look well." She squinted at the air around him. Harry expected to hear that he was infested with Nargles or Wrackspurts or something, but to his surprise, Luna said nothing of the kind. "Are you all right?"
"I think I'm getting a cold," he admitted.
Luna dug in her large, square purple handbag, producing a single-dose phial of Pepper-Up potion. "Here, this should help."
"Thank you," he said, genuinely touched by her thoughtfulness. "Handy thing to have in your purse."
"I always travel prepared," she replied comfortably.
The wizard standing behind her cleared his throat loudly, and Harry realized he was standing there staring at Luna and holding up the line. "Sorry," he muttered, shuffling along quickly and filling his tray. Luna bobbed along in his wake, filling her tray as well. Harry noticed that she ate sensibly. "Want to have lunch with me?"
"All right," she agreed serenely.
They paid for their meals and carried their trays to an empty table in the centre of the bustling eating area.
"So, how's the new job?" Harry asked, uncorking the Pepper-Up and throwing it back in one shot. Steam began pouring from his ears, but he felt better within seconds.
"Interesting," Luna replied, poking at her salad with her fork. "What do you do here, Harry?"
"Auror," he replied, slurping a spoonful of his soup.
She smiled knowingly. "That fits."
Harry laughed shortly. "That's what everyone says," he agreed. "Completely predictable, I know, but I think it's what I was meant to do. Mostly it's just a lot of meetings – we're re-organizing the department completely – but I know someday, I'm going to save lives."
"I wish I could tell you more about my work. It really is fascinating," Luna said wistfully.
"Why don't you tell me more about why you got a job with the Ministry in the first place? I'm still a little fuzzy on that. It sounded like you had a great life, travelling and writing. Why give it up?"
"My father died," she said without preamble. She had lost her usual lilting, ethereal tone; she sounded like a completely different person, her voice flat and hard. It was only the second time in Harry's life he had heard her use this voice; the first was the time Hermione had cast aspersions on The Quibbler in her hearing. She wasn't angry now, just sad, but the effect was rather the same.
"Oh! Oh, gods, Luna, I'm s-so sorry," he stuttered. "I hadn't heard."
She shrugged. "It was very sudden. He left everything to me, so I moved into the house." She didn't elaborate further, and Harry didn't ask. Silence stretched out between them while they picked at their plates. "I've never decorated a house before," she said eventually. Her normal voice was back, and Harry breathed an internal sigh of relief. "I'm quite enjoying the experience. I like to paint murals, you see."
"What have you painted so far?" he asked, grateful for a change of topic.
"My living room is a field of daisies," she said. "I enchanted all the paintings, so the daisies actually wave in the breeze." One hand made an undulating gesture of illustration. "It's going to be a nice thing to have in the dead of winter." She paused for a bite of her chef's salad.
"What else?" Harry followed the question with a spoonful of soup.
"I've recreated the Hogwarts library on the second floor. Madam Pince and everything."
"You're kidding." He stopped in mid-slurp. "Now, that I would like to see." He was dying to know if she still had his portrait painted in her bedroom, but he thought it would be gauche to ask.
"She makes me feel less lonely, even though she doesn't talk," Luna remarked. Harry looked down at the table. There it was again – that awkward, unflinching honesty that always seemed to poke him in the place that hurt the most.
"So, a field of daisies and the library," he said, dancing away from his guilty conscience. "What else? What's in your kitchen?"
"Nothing." Luna chased the last drip of dressing around her plate with a scrap of lettuce. "I'm still finishing the beach scene in the bathroom. I don't have an idea for the kitchen yet. It will probably come when I'm asleep. That's how I get all my best ideas."
"I get mine in the shower," Harry laughed. Luna's cheeks pinked, and he wondered if she was picturing him nude, a train of thought that made a flush rise rapidly from his collar to his hairline. He cleared his throat. "So, erm...plans for the weekend?"
Luna shook her head. "I'll just be at home, painting, I suppose. You?"
"Cleaning," Harry replied with a grimace. "Ginny and I broke up for approximately the eleventh time last night. I haven't lived at my place for about two weeks, so it's sure to be a dusty mess. I guess we'll both be at home all weekend. Boy, listen to the pair of us. Exciting war heroes, living the glamorous life!"
One corner of Luna's mouth quirked up. The lunch hour was nearly over; she rose and stacked her now-empty dishes on her tray, preparing to leave. "There are different ways to lose a person," she declared unexpectedly, her airy tone at odds with her serious words. "Sometimes they die. Sometimes they move on without you." She paused, pinning him to the spot with her silvery eyes. "Either way, you really can't ever go backward and be happy. Humans are meant to move forward; that's why our eyes are on the front of our heads, you see."
Harry smiled and shook his head. Loony as she seemed at times, one really couldn't fault her observations. "I'll see you around, Luna."
When Harry arrived back at his flat in Muggle London, he was greeted by the sight of half the tenants in his block standing on the sidewalk, watching water pour out of the door and windows on the ground and first floors. He'd chosen to live in Muggle London as a respite from being constantly recognized and pestered in Wizarding London; most of the time, it was a welcome relief, but it had its drawbacks – like now.
"What the hell's going on, Bruce?" Harry yelled to his landlord over the hubbub of the crowd.
"Busted water pipes," Bruce hollered back. He was a tiny, angry, balding, Scottish cannonball of a man, with watery eyes and a graying moustache. He was currently so purple he resembled a frustrated grape, his fat little fists clenched at his sides. "I've been tellin' the property management company for weeks that summat like this was bound to 'appen, and look now!"
Harry groaned; his flat was on the ground floor. As he watched, a waterfall of water cascaded out of his living room window to the sidewalk below.
"I hope ye've got insurance, lad," Bruce said darkly, punctuating his sentence with a rough pat on Harry's shoulder. "I canna imagine there's much left in there ye'd wanna keep."
Luckily, Harry's truly precious possessions – his photograph albums and the like – were kept in a magical safe warded against all forms of physical damage. There wasn't much that could destroy it, short of a thermonuclear detonation (or Fiendfyre). However, his clothes and furniture were another matter. He'd left his bag on his bedroom floor that morning, and it had likely floated off down the Thames by now.
"I've got insurance, Bruce, never fear." He fetched a deep sigh. "Now, I've just got to find someplace to stay."
"Of course you can stay here," Molly Weasley told Harry emphatically. "Harry, you're family! You can have Percy's old room. Stay as long as you like, dear." She leaned across the scarred oak table in the Burrow's kitchen and patted his hand.
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley," he replied sheepishly. "It should only be until the wedding." He felt a bit stupid, finding his emergency lodging with his ex-girlfriend's mother, but he had little choice. It was going to be weeks before his flat was livable again, and he didn't want to rent at the Leaky Cauldron for more than a night or two. With only a few weeks to go until their June wedding, Hermione was already living in the tiny flat she would share with Ron, but Harry couldn't stay there, either. Hermione's current stress level was several orders of magnitude worse than Hogwarts exam stress, and Harry'd had his fill of squirrelly females for the time being. That only left the Burrow, where Ron would be living for a few more weeks.
"Anytime, Harry. As I said, you're family." She paused, considering whether to continue. "Ginny told me what happened, dear. Do you want to talk about it?"
In fact, he could scarcely imagine anything he'd rather do less. "Erm, no thanks, Mrs. Weasley. I'm okay." She nodded, patting his hand comfortingly, and trundled off to the stove to make tea, waving her wand at the cupboard. The tea things began assembling themselves on a tray. "Is Ron still asleep?"
"I think so, dear," Molly replied, not turning around. "Bad cold he's got, very bad."
Harry sneezed violently. "Eurgh. I think I'm getting it, too."
Molly bustled over and laid a practiced palm against his forehead. "I should say so, dear, you're burning up." She snapped her fingers at the stairs. "Go on. Up to bed with you. I'll be up shortly with some tea and Pepper-Up potion."
"I've got to get myself some clothes and other essentials first," Harry said. "I'll take you up on the Pepper-Up, though."
Molly made a moue of displeasure, but padded off to the medicine chest and returned momentarily, handing over a small phial with bad grace. "Very well, but I'll not be held responsible if you die of bloody pneumonia."
Harry feigned innocence. "What's 'bloody pneumonia?'"
"Unless you want to find out firsthand, I'd suggest you get going."
Harry returned from Diagon Alley to find Molly, Arthur, and a recently-roused Ron sitting around the table, tucking into supper. Mealtimes at the Burrow were a much quieter affair these days than in years past; George still lived above his shop, Ginny had her place, and of course the three oldest Weasley boys had been living adult lives for ages now. Ron was the last of the kids to leave home.
"I'm sorry we didn't wait for you, Harry," Arthur called. "We weren't sure when to expect you back."
"That's all right, Mr. Weasley," Harry replied. "I'm not very hungry anyway. I think I'll just take my stuff upstairs and lie down."
"Of course, dear, whatever you need." Molly waved a dismissive hand at him, taking over for Arthur, whose mouth was full.
Ron gave him a tired wave and a half-smile. He really looks like shit, Harry thought, returning the gesture. He trudged up the stairs, bags in hand, stopping in the doorway of Percy's empty bedroom. It had an antiseptic, un-lived-in feel to it, although it had also felt that way when Percy had lived there. The blue bedspread was pulled up too tightly, and the white walls were too stark and empty for comfort. However, the room boasted a tall window next to the bed, with a deep enough ledge that Harry could sit and gaze out at the surrounding countryside.
He did just that, leaving his parcels on the floor for the moment. It was a postcard-pretty view; the sun had set, leaving nothing but a deep navy glow in the sky, and the first few stars were peeking out above Ottery-St. Catchpole. The whole thing looked like a Christmas card depiction of sleepy Bethlehem. Best of all, the black, rook-shaped house that now belonged to Luna Lovegood stood just over the rise between the Burrow and the quiet village in the distance. He could see a light burning in a single upper window, though from this distance, it was impossible to discern whether a figure was silhouetted there.
Luna Lovegood. Now, there was a complicated girl. Woman, Harry corrected himself. She was still a mystic, still ethereal in her bearing, but she no longer gave him the impression that the line between fantasy and reality was blurred for her. It was sad, in a way, to see her former air of endearing dottiness replaced with one of capital-M Mystery. She was still herself, still said things that seemed to come out of nowhere, but gone was the openness and unquestioning faith that he remembered from their youth. Even so, Harry would've bet his last Galleon that she still saw things other people didn't – and he was no longer willing to say that those things weren't actually there. The woman was an Unspeakable, after all. It all pointed to one burning question in his mind – what in the bloody hell had happened to Luna Lovegood in the four years since he'd last laid eyes on her?
The single light in the distant window blinked out suddenly; the growing darkness blotted the rook-shaped house from his view. One by one, the stars continued to wink into existence on the face of the celestial sphere. Harry's bones were beginning to ache from the cold draft seeping around the windowpane; his second dose of Pepper-Up was wearing off quickly. He prised himself reluctantly from his seat and changed slowly into his new, blue-and-white striped pyjamas. He crawled between the cool white sheets of the single bed and lay back, wondering what Luna was doing. He was asleep in a trice.