Follow her they do—out from the brightly lit Burrow, past the pond and the paddock, past the stand of trees that marked the edge of the Weasleys’ property, through a stile and into a stubbly field frosted with moonlight.
Harry wonders how Remus is doing and then feels the familiar, reflexive twinge when he remembers that Remus isn’t around to suffer through full moons anymore. In a way, that twinge is why he was so ready to abandon the Halloween party at the Burrow—that, and the fact that Ginny is accompanying Luna on whatever crazy pilgrimage this is. As festive as the Weasleys always are, this year all of their cheer and good spirits do little to mask the pain that all of them feel on this anniversary—a year to the night since Ron died, with Hermione by his side.
Tomorrow there will be speeches and celebrations, and Harry will be trotted out to unveil a memorial to all of the dead in the wars against Voldemort. The memorial is very nice; it’s nice to think that a hundred years from now they will still be remembered—Ron and Hermione, Dumbledore, Sirius and Remus, Harry’s parents, and all of the hundreds of other victims and heroes of the war.
But tonight all that Harry feels is their absence, and it hurts.
It doesn’t help that Ginny has spent the last year mourning as deeply as he has. They had a brief coming-together after Tom Riddle’s final defeat, weeping in each other’s arms in relief and in grief. But as the weeks went on, as he and Ginny were finally released from St. Mungo’s and from Ministry debriefings, Harry felt incapable of facing her—of facing the knowledge that Ginny’s brother and her best friend willingly died to save Harry. And she hasn’t seemed any readier to speak with him.
Two arms-lengths away, striding resolutely in the October chill, Ginny murmurs, “I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth, Loony, but what on earth are we doing in Farmer Hardy’s fields? He’s been known to shoot at people out here, you know.”
Luna simply walks on for another minute or two before stopping, raising an arm and an impossibly long, outstretched finger towards a bumpy patch in the midst of the harvested field. “We’re going there.”
“Oh,” Ginny says, and follows, keeping pace with Luna, side by side with Harry, neither getting closer nor further away.
Luna has been their owl for the past year, carrying news and messages-that-aren’t-messages between them, and Harry loves her dearly for it. Without asking, without being asked, she has kept Ginny in Harry’s life; her visits are the only part of the past year that he can honestly call a life, as opposed to living.
As they enter the bumpy patch, the low shapes resolve themselves: pumpkins on the vine. Not quite as massive as Hagrid’s—another twinge—but impressive enough.
“Yes, this will do,” Luna sighs. “This seems sufficiently sincere.”
Sincere? Something bubbles at the back of Harry’s brain—a memory—but he can’t quite get it to hold still long enough to identify it.
From under her arm, Luna takes a large, pale blue blanket and lays it down amongst the vines. In the moonlight, the blanket seems to glow with almost exactly the same intensity as Luna’s eyes.
Ginny’s eyes are dark and unreadable.
Luna plops herself down, loose-limbed on the blanket, taking up most of the moonward side. “I think it would more comfortable if we all sat,” she said airily.
Tentatively, Harry sits in one corner while Ginny takes the other.
Luna pulls three bottles from out of her robes. “Butterbeer? I always find it makes the waiting more pleasant.”
“Waiting?” asks Ginny just a moment before Harry is able to.
“Yes,” Luna answers, opening the bottles and passing one each to Harry and Ginny. She sips from the bottle and then looks up at the orb that she was named after, moonlight making her hair appear as pale and insubstantial spider silk. “Beautiful tonight, isn’t it?”
Harry looks at her, then over at Ginny, who is also gazing pensively up at the moon. Her hair is the only color against a landscape of black and silver.
“Yes,” Harry says. “Beautiful.” He drinks from his butterbeer, which is sweet and smooth.
They sit there for a long moment—perhaps a minute—to the point where Harry is about reiterate Ginny’s question when Luna draws herself up and looks at them.
“I always thought it a shame that we celebrated this holiday at Hogwarts,” she said, “without any real discussion of the reasons for it. It is celebrated around the world, you know.”
“Reasons?” Ginny and Harry say together. Each flinches at interrupting the other.
“Yes,” Luna continues, her voice deeper than usual. “My mother’s family has lived in these islands for over twenty centuries. She told me that they believed that on this night of all nights the veil between this world and the other was at its thinnest. That the spirits of the dead visited their old haunts, and that it was important to welcome them with sweets, to keep their spirits sweet.”
Would Sirius have enjoyed Mrs. Weasley’s fudge tonight? Harry wonders. Ron would have.
“Her mother’s father was the last High Priest in Nuevo Tenochtitlan, before the Fwoopers swooped in and distracted them all.” Maybe that’s where Luna got it from—the distracted bit. “They went out and visited their dead, not waiting for them to come visiting, and they brought them familiar things to eat, and to play with.”
Harry has a sudden flash of a class at his primary school—of the teacher talking about Dia de los Muertos—and Dudley nicking the sugar skulls.
Luna lifts up her arms. “My father’s mother was an Olafsen—great Snorkack hunters for centuries. She said that it was important to frighten away any evil spirits, ghouls or Humdingers that might have got loose, and so her family always wore the most frightening disguises they could put together.”
Ginny interjects, “Yeah—I think my mum’s still got the picture of the two of us dressed up as pixies somewhere.”
“Oh, pixies can be terribly frightening,” Luna says.
“True,” agrees Harry, thinking back to Gilderoy Lockhart.
“In any case, my father was a Muggleborn,” Luna says, and Harry suddenly feels a wave of guilt and sorrow wash over him—he and the Weasleys are not the only ones to have lost loved ones in the past few years. Luna’s face is just as calm as ever, but her large, silvery eyes seem somehow darker. “He… he said that… every year, the Great Pumpkin rises out from the pumpkin patch that he feels is the most sincere, and then he flies through the air and gives presents to all the good girls and boys of the world.”
Suddenly the sorrow and the guilt melt away and it is all that Harry can do not to laugh—which hardly seems fair to poor Luna.
“Well,” Luna says, lowering her arms at last, “this seems like a sincere pumpkin patch, don’t you think?”
Ginny laughs; it is that low, earthy, wonderful laugh that he hasn’t heard in over a year, and Harry finds himself laughing along. “Luna,” Ginny says, “I bet you this is the most sincere pumpkin patch in all of Britain. In Europe!”
“Good,” Luna says with a nod. “I would love to see the Great Pumpkin, just this once. Wouldn’t that be nice? Now,” she continues, pulling pumpkin-shaped biscuits from another pocket in her robes, “while we wait, shall we have something to nibble on?”
Harry and Ginny accept the biscuits, which are chocolate and wonderful, and go marvelously with the butterbeer and the cool, clear night.
They wait an hour.
At one point, as they are looking silently at the moon, which is almost directly overhead, Ginny’s hand accidentally brushes Harry’s. She begins to pull it away but he wraps his fingers around hers; she threads them together without a word. When he looks over at her some time later, she is smiling up in the night.
“Well,” Luna says some time later, “that was lovely.” She starts gathering up the odds and ends that are scattered on the blanket.
“Don’t you want to wait?” Harry finds himself pleading.
Luna puts her hand atop Ginny’s and Harry’s. “I think we’ve all waited long enough,” she sighs.