Warning: certain chapters contain sexuality, drug use, violence, disturbing imagery.
(#8 Up: Ares's son.)
As the train sways along southward towards London, Luna tries to unpuzzle the Crypto-Quibbligram without remembering that she wrote all of the clues herself just last month. She does this to distract herself. She wishes to distract herself for a number of reasons, most having to do the girl sitting next to her, Luna's best friend Ginny; some having to do with the boy sitting directly across from Luna, her other friend, Harry; and several having to do with both of them together. Also, Neville is snoring onto Luna's shoulder, Hermione is scribbling madly in a diary, and Ronald seems to have been ambushed on his way to the loo, since he's been gone for what feels like hours.
Observation: Ginny Weasley, who is rarely still, is leaning silently and motionlessly, forehead-first against the compartment window, staring out at the Perthshire countryside as it whizzes by. Hypotheses: Either Ginny Weasley is unhappy or she is suffering from an acute case of Nargle infection. Inferences: It is rather late in the year to be suffering from Nargle-induced depression, therefore Ginny Weasley is sad. Most likely she is sad because of Professor Albus Dumbledore's death—they are all sad about that—or her own brother Bilius Weasley's near brush with death two nights ago. It also seems possible—likely, even—that the very serious conversation that Ginny Weasley shared with Harry Potter at Professor Dumbledore's funeral this morning has been in some way negatively affecting Ginny Weasley's mood. Deduction: Ginny Weasley is sad. Possible responses: A) Hug Ginny Weasley. B) Engage Ginny Weasley in a game of Exploding Snap or a discussion about Stubby Boardman's comeback tour. C) Ask Ginny Weasley what is bothering her. D) Hug Ginny Weasley. E) Sit and give Ginny Weasley time to think through whatever is bothering her.
(#4 Upper-left to Lower-right: The sound made by a blue-pelted creature living in Sussex and parts of Savoy up through the late-eighteenth century, at which point they went into hiding somewhere in Scandinavia.)
Observation: Harry Potter is looking fixedly at Ginny Weasley with an expression that the observer (Luna Lovegood) has only ever seen on her father's dog, Cadwallader, when the dog has treed a squirrel and knows that it will not be able to climb up and catch the small creature. Hypotheses: Identical to those inspired by observation of the first subject, Ginny Weasley. Inferences: Likewise identical to those that flowed from the observation of the first subject, Ginny Weasley. (Luna likes to observe the first subject. Such observation is frequently… entertaining. And edifying. She also likes watching the second subject, and recently has taken great interest in observing the two subjects together. Not at this particular moment, however. They are neither entertaining nor edifying at the moment, not at all.) Deduction: Harry Potter is sad. Possible responses: A) Hug Harry Potter. B) Engage Harry Potter in a game of Exploding Snap or a discussion about Stubby Boardman's comeback tour. C) Ask Harry Potter what is bothering him. D) Hug Harry Potter. E) Sit and give Harry Potter time to think through whatever is bothering him.
(#8 Center-top to Middle-right: Assyrian word meaning "Snorkack."Eight letters, ending in K.)
Several things complicate her planned responses: in the first place, she has never hugged Harry, and isn't sure how Ginny might react to such a course of action. Luna has hugged Ginny many times, but Luna isn't certain how she herself might react to such a course of action in this moment; hugging Ginny… Yes. Perhaps Luna is a bit too... Also, Luna knows that any mention of his godfather is likely to upset Harry, so the Stubby Boardman topic is out of the question.
Observation: Luna Lovegood is fidgeting, which is not her normal mode of behavior at all. She has put down and picked up The Quibbler three times in the last hour, has jumped every time the train sends Ginny's hip or Harry's knees bumping against her own. Her hands are trembling, her breath is short, her brassiere feels abnormally tight and her knickers rather more snug and humid than Luna can in any way reasonably explain. Hypotheses: Luna Lovegood is in a state of excitation. This state most closely conforms to a state of mild but persistent sexual arousal. Inferences: This state is most likely a result of either: A) a definite sexual attraction as well as a sentimental attachment to Ginny Weasley; B) a possible sexual attraction to as well as deep admiration for Harry Potter; C) sexual attraction to both Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter (Luna has been having the most interesting dreams…); D) ovulation; or E) too much tea. All things considered, Luna thinks it probable that all five are involved. Possible responses: A) Hug Ginny Weasley. (Already discounted.) B) Hug Harry Potter. (Likewise.) C) Hug them both. D) Disrobe. E) Run to the loo and relieve some of the agitation with which she seems to be plagued—as well as the effects of drinking too much tea. F) Sit and work on the Crypto-Quibbligram.
(#2 Widdershins spiral: Incantation spoken to attract all members of the mustiladae family within a one-mile radius to the spell-caster. Eleven letters, begins AC, ends ET.)
Luna is weighing the relative merits of D), E) and F) when Ronald Weasley returns to the compartment looking disheveled and smelling vaguely medicinal. Yes—he seems to have been relieving some of his agitation in the loo. Luna is considering following his example, but notes to her interest that upon his entrance the tension in the compartment has both increased and decreased, and she is intrigued. Hermione has looked up from her writing. Ginny seems to be staring at her brother in what appears to be a most shrewd manner. Neville manages to snort back to waking, and Harry gives what looks to be the first faint smile he has shown in days. "Glad you could make it back, mate. We were about to send out a search party. You get lost?"
Ron straightens his tie. Apparently, he wishes to avoid looking at Harry, Hermione (who is also smiling), or Ginny, and so he meets Luna's gaze. "Nah. Just walking the corridors. Trying to help out, you know."
"Ron, taking your prefect duties seriously," says Hermione brightly. "I never thought I'd see the day!"
Ron frowns, eyes still on Luna. They seem dark somehow, those blue eyes. "Yeah, well, you know… Anyhow, it's pretty quiet. Couple of bawling first-years next carriage back. But the Slytherins are definitely… no problem."
"Miss the annual attack?" Harry asks with a smirk that looks as if it would belong more on Ginny's face than on his. Perhaps he stole it?
"Nah," mutters Ronald, finally looking away—out the window, like his sister. "Crabbe and Goyle look pathetic, like bloody bookends on an empty shelf. And the rest… Well, bloody Malfoy can bloody die. He's not missed."
"Ron," murmurs Hermione, "hatred isn't worth the energy."
"No?" Ronald asks. "Don't you think he's earned it?"
"No," Harry answers, and they are all of them—even Luna—surprised.
"C'mon, Harry!" mutters Ronald. "If you looked up 'git' in the dictionary, it'd have a picture of his pointed bloody face in the definition!"
Harry nods and shrugs. "Yeah, but… He is a git, and a prat, and a self-centered, bullying, moronic blood-purity snob. And he brought the Death Eaters into the school. But I saw him, that time we fought in Myrtle's toilet, and… and up on the Astronomy Tower. He was scared, Ron. For himself. For his mother." He shrugs again and looks out the window—following Ginny's gaze? "So no, I really can't find it in my heart to hate the git. I mean, don't get any wedding invitations printed or anything."
Luna can feel Ginny's back bowing, as if she's holding in a snort of laughter, and it makes Luna herself giddy with relief.
"No?" asks Ron again, his tone light now. "We're not going to have Peeves flying around shouting, 'Potty LURRRRRVES Ferret'?"
They all laugh, even Ginny, though her eyes never leave the countryside.
"Peeves is a very silly spirit," Luna says, glad for once to get the joke. "He shouted out that Harry loved me, you know."
Again, Ginny's back bows, only it doesn't feel like a stifled laugh this time.
(Oh, dear, I seem to have caused a silence again. I'm rather good at that.)
Harry stammers to fill the gap. "N-no, I don't think Peeves'll have the opportunity to spread tales of about Malfoy next year, Ron." His shoulders get terribly square the way they do when Harry is doing something he knows he should do, like when he tried to get Luna, Neville and Ginny not to come to the Ministry that night. He's looking right at Ginny now. "Don't think he'll get to say much about me, either." He sighs and softens and glances over at Luna. "Did that hurt your feelings, Luna? When Peeves said that? I mean—"
"Oh, no, Harry," Luna says with as much of a giggle as she can manage. This too is not her normal mode of behavior. "I don't listen to Peeves much. He's quite mean and stupid. Besides, I don't believe in love."
(Oh. I seem to have done it again. What have I said?)
Even Ginny is looking at Luna now; all of her friends' faces are wide and disc-ish. Disc eyes. Open disc mouths. Hermione speaks: "Really, Luna? I mean, you seem to believe…"
"Oh," Luna elaborates, "I believe in hormonal urges and instincts—the parenting instinct, the reproductive instinct, the self-preservation instinct and the urge to companionship that lead one to surround oneself with sympathetic, like-minded people. Social conventions that encourage certain mating behaviors. Complex interactions of the pleasure and power principles. But I don't particularly believe in some large abstract idea like Platonic Love or True Love or anything like that, so there was nothing about what Peeves said to get upset about. I am extremely fond of you, Harry, and sexually attracted as well, but Love? Really, there's much more reason to believe in Humdingers and Nargles."
Luna looks around the compartment. Neville and Ginny both appear to be quite upset, as if she's said something obscene. Ron has his bewildered face on, while Harry's is stony. Hermione frowns. "That… makes sense, Luna. I disagree with you absolutely, but it makes utter sense."
"Can you refute my hypothesis?"
"Not at the moment, no." Hermione's frown deepens. "Let me think about it."
Harry lets loose a long, very melancholic sigh. "I'm utterly screwed then."
"Why?" asks Ginny. It is the first thing that Luna has heard her say since this morning.
He opens his mouth to talk, but no sound seems willing to come out. He is emotional. Harry is never emotional. Except perhaps when he is angry, and then he's simply male. He looks up at the ceiling and takes a breath and all of the agitation that Luna was feeling earlier is focused suddenly into a powerful urge to comfort him. Without looking back down, Harry says, "Dumbledore was always on about how Love was the one thing that I had that Voldemort never did. That it was my… power that the Dark Lord knows not."
Ginny's hand grasps at the hem of Luna's robes. That last sentence has the distinct sound of Doom and Divination, and Luna refuses to believe in them either.
"The thing is," he continues, a bitter humor now sharpening his tone, "if Love doesn't exist, what have I got against him? I mean, I'm a bloody Hogwarts sixth-year. Good student, but not great. Really good flyer, but can you see me and old Tom settling our differences over a friendly Quidditch match? What else have I bloody got?"
"You've got us," says Neville, and now Luna seriously considers hugging him.
Harry gapes, apparently emotional again, and manages a soggy grin. "Lucky me."
Ginny laughs, and so do the rest of them, Luna too, although she feels certain this time that she doesn't get the whole joke—that Harry and Ginny do, but that it doesn't matter finally. "Perhaps I'm wrong," Luna says. "Perhaps I've mistaken lack of evidence for non-existence. And, of course, there are always Nargles."
"Right," says Harry. "Nargles."
"I believe in love," Ginny says, looking back out the window. Her grasp remains tight on Luna's robes, however.
"Me too," says her brother, and the two words manage to convey so much meaning so simply that Luna almost wants to ask him just what it is that makes him believe, what it is that he believes in, but she decides that this would not be a terribly good idea.
"What about you, Neville?" she asks instead.
Neville Longbottom looks down at his green-stained fingers—they were covered in blood that night that the Death Eaters attacked. "I… I'm not sure what I think."
"Oh, a skeptic," Luna says, nodding sagely. "I think that that is the wisest course to take." They all smile—sadly again, it is true, but together—and as the train rolls and jiggles along, Luna returns to the Crypto-Quibbligram.
(#7 Out: #8 Up's domain. Four letters, beginning L, O, V…)