Characters: Luna Lovegood
Summary: Luna slips away from the Battle of Hogwarts, and then the weight of other peoples' lives is placed upon her shoulders.
Word count: 2100
Warnings: General violent and warlike imagery
Author's Notes: Written for hp_darkfest on LiveJournal
Luna thought that Hogwarts looked beautiful while it burned.
She had slipped out of the castle while the walls crumbled around her. A small part of her mind had worried that it had been cowardly to leave, but that part of her had been swiftly silenced when she reminded herself that she wasn't going to be any more help to anyone while she was in the castle, and she was more likely to survive outside. She would be more use to the world alive than she would be dead.
So Luna had slipped out of the castle. No one had noticed her, of course – people saw her as a ghostly sort of creature who was insubstantial and could disappear when she needed to. She didn't think that she was real.
Perhaps it was better not to be real, if she was going to survive while they all died – and she felt sure that that was what was going to happen.
She had fled across the grounds, a little fairy-like creature of a girl, and when she passed the first few trees of the Forbidden Forest, she had felt safe for the first time all year.
There had been an explosion just as she darted between the trees and while it had rocked the very earth on which she stood, she had registered no fear. The forest understood her in a way that the rest of the world didn't, and she understood it and knew that it would keep her safe.
It was only after she had run so deep into the forest that she couldn't see the glow of the school anymore that she slowed and finally stopped and turned around.
Was she lost?
No, she wasn't lost, surely. She couldn't be lost. Not in the forest that she knew so well.
Besides, she was aware of human life nearby.
People made a certain type of nose, made themselves known in a certain way that was unique from other animals, and Luna perceived those sounds as danger.
She froze in place and held her breath, trying to block out the sounds of the far-distant battle so that she could be more aware of the people she knew were near. Were they friends or foes – and, even more to the point, would they be a danger to her, a help to her, or neither?
Luna was almost ready to assume that whoever she had heard was not going to be a danger – for surely, if they were, they would have sensed her presence and made a move to harm her.
But just as she was starting to relax, Luna heard a bang from much too close at hand than the school. It was immediately followed by a sharp, harsh, feminine laugh. Luna whirled and grabbed at the branches of one of the trees. Her feet slipped and scrambled against the bark and she could hear the people coming closer now.
She had just gotten her leg over a branch and hauled herself over it so that she was partially concealed by the leaves, when a group of hooded figures stepped into the clearing. Luna held her breath, as though that would make it any harder for them to see or hear her.
"Can't go on much longer, can it?" one of them was saying in a slightly hushed tone. Luna recognized Lucius Malfoy's voice, low and nervous. It frightened her badly and she clung to the branch as tightly as she could. She had reason enough to be afraid of him, after what he had done to her while she was in his manor…
"It will go on until Potter is dead." Bellatrix Lestrange's voice cut sharply through the clearing. Luna peered over the edge of the branch and saw her lowering her hood and running her fingers through her hair. "You would do well not to make it sound as if you want the battle to end quickly more than you want our Lord to be victorious."
"You know that that is not my intent," Lucius told her, and his voice shook. "You would not say a thing like that to him, would you?"
"I might," Bellatrix said airily. "If I thought that there was reason to believe–"
"Damnit, Bella!" Lucius's arm shot out, catching Bellatrix by her shoulder and spinning her around. "Don't say things like that! You have no idea what the Dark Lord would do to me if he thought–"
"Don't I?" Her voice was full of scorn and she slapped his hand away. "I know what the Dark Lord does to those who he suspects are not loyal to him, make no mistake."
"And you would want that for me?"
Luna could hardly breathe. Lucius's voice, high and panicked, reminded her too much of how she had heard him speaking when she was in Malfoy Manor. The anger in his tone was a warning signal that a fight would soon break out, and when there were fights, she wasn't safe…
"Perhaps I would," Bellatrix breathed. "Perhaps I would like to see you suffer at the Dark Lord's hands – dieat his hands."
Luna saw Lucius launch himself towards Bellatrix, saw him wrapping his hands around her throat, and then she had to close her eyes. She didn't want to see this sort of fighting – so near at hand, so raw and real and primal. It frightened her far more than seeing the castle burn ever could have.
So she curled on the branch and clung to it and prayed that no Death Eater would see fit to look up at her. She heard Bellatrix snarl and then there was a crack and a flash of light and when Luna peeked down again, Lucius was on the ground.
A sharp voice snapped through the clearing and one of the hooded figures grabbed Bellatrix's arm. She jerked away, but didn't say anything and eyed the man with what looked to Luna almost like wariness.
"We should not fight amongst ourselves," the man said. "It does us no good, and it distracts us from our cause. We are not here to fight over who here is more faithful to the Dark Lord than who – we are here to win the battle against Potter."
There was silence. Lucius Malfoy picked himself up slowly, brushing dirt from his cloak, and finally, Bellatrix spoke.
"Very well," she said. "Then we should go to the Dark Lord. Potter will come to him soon enough, and we should be there to fight for our Master when he does."
The certainty in Bellatrix's voice when she said that Harry would come to the Dark Lord sickened Luna. Her mind was filled immediately and completely with thoughts (visions, almost, for she was sure that they were all too real for them to be mere fancy) of Harry walking out into the forest – which was unsafe to him as it was not to her – and meeting the Dark Lord there. Harry was going to die tonight, Luna knew at that moment. Harry was so very much a Gryffindor that he would surely not let the slaughter go on if he thought he could end it by dying…
But he was her friend.
"And if he does not come?" Lucius asked.
"He will. The Dark Lord knows!" Bellatrix did not sound displeased with Lucius anymore. She sounded ecstatic. "We should go to him. We need to be there when Potter is killed – to see when he falls…" She was already starting towards the edge of the clearing, and almost dancing while she walked. The other Death Eaters followed, muttering amongst themselves.
Luna shook as she lowered herself down from the tree. Never before in her life had she felt so completely useless – so completely unable to do anything to help. Harry Potter had been one of her only real friends, and the thought that he would die here, in a place that was meant to be safe to her, was terrifying to her.
She had to get up to the castle. She had to tell Harry that he mustn't go to the Dark Lord.
But he would do it no matter what she said, if he thought that it would end the battle.
So she stood still and paralyzed in the forest, trembling with fear.
If she did tell him, and if, by some miracle, he listened to her and saved himself, she would be guilty of the murder of everyone who died in the battle. That would weigh on her soul forever. And if she did not tell him, if she did not stop him, then she would be guilty of his death.
Either way, a murderer would be made of her.
Luna could not comprehend herself as a murderer. She could not think what it would be to have someone's blood on her hands.
She turned away from the castle and moved deeper into the forest, as if she could, perhaps, outrun the guilt that would plague her, whichever choice she made. Stupid, foolish, but it was all that she could think to do.
Luna had been speeding up, almost running, when she heard the voice ring out behind her, and her mind did not consult with her morals before she had her wand out and had whirled around and pointed it in the direction of the voice. In the split second before she spoke, she could see a man standing in the clearing, his own wand raised, and then a curse, one that she had learned in Dumbledore's Army, back in her fourth year and the first one that sprung to mind, left her lips.
By the time she realized what she had said, the curse had hit the man.
Luna saw fear in his eyes before he exploded.
She stood still, stunned, while his blood showered her. Warm droplets splattered across her face, into her hair and onto her clothes, and she didn't even flinch. The look upon his face when the curse had hit was burned into her mind.
He had looked so afraid, and so shocked, shocked, perhaps, that such a delicate and pretty little fairy girl had cursed him.
She stepped forward, over earth that was spattered in his blood as well. There was a heap of smouldering robes and flesh where he had stood and she almost retched at the overwhelming scent of burning tissue.
And when she looked down at him, the realization finally sunk in that this made her a murderer.
Luna fell to her knees before his burned remains and clawed at them, as if she could put him back together, mould him back into shape like a child would fix a squashed clay figure. And even though Luna felt as though her heart was being torn out, she shed not a single tear.
But she did kneel in front of him for a long time, clutching his burned and ruined flesh in her blood-stained hands, until she felt something cool, rough and firm brush against her shoulder.
She turned and saw a Thestral standing over her. Its tongue slipped out and it licked at her face slowly, carefully.
Licking up the blood of her victim.
A shudder ran through Luna's body and she rose up slowly, clinging to the Thestral's neck for support while it licked blood from her. It felt good to have it lapping at her. Comforting.
It did not call her a murderer. It did not judge her.
Luna wished that she could cry, but she never had. So she stood and clung to the Thestral, who, in that moment, she thought was surely the only person who would not think her a criminal.
"I didn't mean to do it," she whispered into one of its large, leathery ears.
It let out a soft snort and Luna stroked its muzzle automatically. How loving it was, how much sweeter to her than any human ever would have, had they known what she had done.
Luna turned back to the mass of charred flesh that her spell had left behind, and though an unbearable sense of guilt still churned in her belly, she did feel a flicker of hope while she looked at it.
This meant that she was already a murderer.
So she would no longer stain herself with that crime, no matter what she did to Harry.
A smile crept onto Luna's lips and she rested her head against the Thestral's.
The guilt of this crime lifted the weight of other deaths from her shoulders.
How beautifully ironic.