Luna at dinner looked like an all-together different girl than Luna at breakfast. Her pale hair shone silver in the torchlight, she had two buttons undone on her white blouse, and she was wearing another necklace of her own making – this one fashioned out of round bulbs.
“Did you make that necklace in Herbology?” he asked, once he had settled next to her on the bench.
“Yes,” she answered, looking down at it. “I was going to string flowers together, but they always wilt after an hour or so. These bulbs reminded me of my golden ball.”
“You can have it back.” He reached into his pocket.
“No.” She put her fingers lightly on his wrist. “It’s not time yet.”
They still had one more day of their bargain, but he found it hard to believe that she would want to continue to see him for any other reason than to get her golden ball back.
He shrugged and decided to simply enjoy the fact they were sitting at the same table and eating off of the same plate without any awkwardness – or at least he was eating.
“I’m not hungry,” she said, pushing the plate of roast beef with all the trimmings toward him. “I’m happy.”
He wanted to smile, but he didn’t. “You can eat and be happy at the same time.”
She didn’t respond to that. Instead she started to talk about other charms she remembered her mother doing around the house.
“She was never content with the incantation, Wingardium Leviosa,” Luna explained. “She thought it took too long to say – especially in the kitchen when you wanted to take things off the fire or if you were trying to keep something out of the reach of a curious child.”
Theodore had a good idea who the curious child must have been.
“I remember the time she was determined to invent a new Hovering Charm,” Luna said dreamily. “By the end of the week there wasn’t one piece of crockery that hadn’t been Reparo’d.”
“Didn’t your father mind?”
“Daddy?” Luna’s eyes widened. “He was proud of Mummy – that she was so intelligent and inventive.” Then she smiled. “Well, he was a little upset when she killed his garden that time.”
“Did they argue?”
Luna frowned. “No.” She absently buttered a bun and started eating. “No, Mummy just smiled and said, ‘Oh, Lou.’ My father’s name is Louis, you know. Anyway, she just smiled at him and said, ‘Oh, Lou, now you don’t have to fuss and weed that plot of ground.’” Luna tilted her head. “Do you know why that worked? I mean, he wasn’t angry with her after that.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know your father.”
“Yes, but you get angry a lot and then you get over it.”
“I don’t get angry a lot.”
Her silence was telling.
“Okay – maybe I do.” He shrugged in amusement. “But I certainly don’t get over things – I get even.” At her frown, he added reluctantly. “All right, maybe I don’t always have to have revenge.”
“I still don’t know why some people stay angry and some don’t.”
“I don’t know.” He squirmed under her intense stare. “Maybe in your father’s case he was just surprised at first – you know– that she killed his garden. And then once he saw her side of it, he saw it wasn’t such a big deal.”
“I think he just wanted to kiss her,” Luna said matter-of-factly. “I remember – that’s what he did after they talked.” She raised her eyebrows. “Then they told me to go out and play in the garden.”
She laughed, too. “At the time I thought it was mean of them to make me play in the garden when it was still smoldering.”
“What did you do?”
“I pretended I was a princess and that I was returning to my land.”
“I don’t think most princesses would have claimed it.”
“I didn’t want to,” she admitted. “But then I saw all the Ashwinders and Salamanders in the ashes and realized it was a good kingdom.”
“My grandfather used to send me out to hunt for Tebo,” he said, mopping up the last of the gravy with his bun.
“But they’re invisible.”
“And they live in Africa,” he acknowledged with a twisted smile. “Although I didn’t know that at the time. Granddad thought it was a good joke.” Theodore remembered now how pathetically hopeful he used to be as a boy – always looking for that invisible prize in the back garden.
“How do you hunt for something invisible?”
“You can track them – even invisible things leave footprints.” He shrugged and reached for the apple tart. “Demiguise stalkers use hounds to sniff them out.” He grinned. “I worked out a theory that if I threw mud it would stick to the hide and then I would be able to see the Tebo.”
“Did you ever hit a Wrackspurt?” Luna asked, taking a corner of the tart.
“What’s a Wrackspurt?”
“Invisible moths that can fly in your ear and make your brain go fuzzy.”
He smiled. “Maybe that’s been my problem lately.” Luna must have thought so, too, because she lapsed into silence as they shared the dessert.
“Come out to see the Thestrals with me tonight,” he said when they finished.
“I have Astronomy class.”
Did she sound regretful? “It’s still raining,” he pointed out.
“Professor Sinistra still makes us gather for class no matter what the weather.”
He had forgotten that trick to make sure none of the students were rendezvousing at night. Well, he knew a few tricks, too.
“I’ll meet you at the bottom of the Astronomy Tower steps by that tapestry with the hunting scene.”
“Okay.” There was a hint of pink in her cheeks. “What do you want to do?”
Pull you in a dark corner and see if you mouth tastes as good as it looks and then maybe…. There was nothing provocative in her candid gaze even though her words had been. “I dunno,” he said as casually as he could. “We’ll think of something.”
“I thought maybe you wanted to go on a Tebo hunt,” she said solemnly.
Was she flirting? He hoped so.
It was still stormy later that night. Theodore could hear the rain lashing at the small window set high in the wall of this narrow corridor that lead to the Astronomy Tower stairs. He was standing by a tapestry of a hunting party that was inaccurate to the point of parody. For the hundredth time he wanted to tell the needlewoman who had stitched it that Border Collies were for herding, not tracking – and even a hound couldn’t catch the scent of… whatever that maroon thing was the dogs were chasing.
At the sound of footsteps coming from the stairs, he hastily stepped behind the tapestry. It wouldn’t do for Professor Sinistra to see him. The twenty or so Astronomy students – including Luna’s roommates – filed down the stairs chattering loudly. Luna was the last student to appear and Professor Sinistra hadn’t yet descended. Perfect.
“Luna,” he whispered, hoping she wasn’t too lost in thought to be startled.
“Theodore.” She turned toward the tapestry.
“Touch the maroon thing in the tapestry.”
“You mean the marron?”
Trust Luna to want to name a blob in a tapestry. “Right.”
At her touch, the wall behind him slid open. “Come behind the tapestry,” he hissed, hoping Professor Sinistra hadn’t heard the low rumble of stone sliding on stone.
“I can’t see,” she said.
His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, so he silently took her hand and led her through the short passage to a narrow, comma-shaped room. “Lumos,” he muttered so Luna could see the dusty floor, the windows set high in the thick curved walls and the wooden bench and kneeler placed in the center of the room.
“What is this place?” she asked, shivering in the chill air. She dropped his hand and took out her wand.
“A chapel maybe?” he answered. Although there were no religious symbols, the kneeler and the air of calm and quiet seemed to suggest of a place of contemplation.
Luna walked the perimeter of the room with her lit wand, examining the walls and windows.
“The only way to see all the windows at once is from the bench,” he said as she ran her hands over the rough, white-washed plaster.
She nodded and sat on the bench and looked up. There wasn’t much to see on a rainy night.
“This room is off the Astronomy Tower,” she said.
He stood awkwardly next to the bench with one hand on the smooth wood of the kneeler.
“It’s a room to either contemplate the sun or the moon.” She frowned. “Is there another room on the other side of this corridor?”
“I don’t know,” he answered quietly. “I just know about this one because I was curious about the hunting scene and I touched the maroon thing.”
“Have you ever been here at night?” she asked.
“No.” There was just enough room on the bench for the two of them. He extinguished his wand, so their only light was from her wand, lying on the wide arm rest of the kneeler. “So what do you think? The sun or the moon?”
“The moon, I think,” she answered dreamily. “This room is crescent shaped.”
He had noticed that when he found this place his third year. “What’s a marron?”
“In French it means ‘wild person,’ you know, someone who is isolated out in the wild.” She frowned at the rain on the windows. “I don’t know what that animal on the tapestry is – but it looked so alone and wild and panicked that it made me think of someone who is described as a marron.”
Thoughts of those tapestry Border Collies, constantly nipping and herding, made him think of Luna’s roommates. He didn’t want to bring it up, but they should clear the air.
“Your roommates were in Astrology.”
“They’re afraid of me now.” She sighed and bowed her head. “Henriette is convinced that you are my boyfriend and I’m playing a deep game with Death Eaters and Dumbledore’s Army and the Ministry and the media.”
He snorted. If he was her boyfriend he wouldn’t wasting time in this room talking about isolated wild people. No, he would be touching that hair and kissing that mouth….
Luna’s eyes were bright. “I tried to explain that I wasn’t a part of the Avalon Anarchists but she said that everyone knew they were a hoax.”
“The Avalon Anarchists – they’re beautiful witches who only appear on the night of the full moon. With the merest whisper they have the power to lighten the blackest heart. They’re anarchists since they don’t believe in any laws except the rule of love. They’ve been on the front lines against Dark Magic for years.”
“You should belong to them,” he muttered.
She shook her head. “You have to be beautiful,” she said wistfully.
He didn’t understand that wistfulness. “Who says you’re not?” he growled.
Startled, she turned to face him.
Then he did what he had been wanting to do since she had called to him at the side of the lake yesterday – he swooped down and kissed her on the mouth.
Her response was instantaneous. She froze.
She froze like a rabbit in a field or a deer in a clearing. Once again, he had done the wrong thing and there was no way to fix it. Slowly, he backed away.
After a long silence in which neither of them moved, she finally addressed the wall in front of her. “Why did you do that?”
Pain and rejection and confusion warred in his mind, so he chose the first answer that popped into his head. “Because I wanted to.”
It was the wrong answer.
She stood up jerkily, shook out her robes, and grabbed her wand. “You should grow your hair,” she said. Then she left, taking all the light in the room with her.
He sat for a long time in cold and darkness, listening to the rain beat against the glass. It seemed the right thing to do for someone who felt as wild and isolated as a marron.
Theodore didn’t know how he managed to reach his dormitory that night without being caught. He was so deep in his dark thoughts that Peeves, or Mrs. Norris, or Filch could have caught him out of bed and out of bounds quite easily. But as is often the case, when he didn’t care – he didn’t get caught.
What he did care about was Luna’s complete lack of response to his kiss. After she had forgiven him in the afternoon, he had thought she cared about him a little bit as a person.
But now, lying in his bed in the darkest hours of the night, he wasn’t so sure. He tried to be systematic and review everything that had lead up to that kiss – what they had talked about and what she had said after, but he couldn’t find a definitive answer for why she had rejected him.
She told him his hair should be longer. What was he supposed to do with that? Luna wasn’t that shallow to base her affection on mere looks, was she?
Of course, she had wistfully stated she had to be beautiful to join that group. What was it? The Avalon Anarchists.
He snorted. He still thought Luna was perfect for that group since she was a law unto herself.
If she wanted longer hair, then longer hair she would get.
That still didn’t guarantee she would want to kiss him – even if by wild chance longer hair made him was as handsome as Blaise or Harry or any of the other boys the girls seemed to drool over. Looks weren’t everything.
Then there was the painful possibility that maybe it wasn’t a very good kiss – although he doubted Luna had much experience to compare. He thought it was better than a wet kiss under the mistletoe or a quick peck during a game of Spin the Wand. He had experienced those sorts of kisses and even Luna sitting still as a statue was better. At least her lips had been soft and warm.
His pulse quickened thinking about her mouth again. What if she ever kissed him back? That would be so… good. For once he was glad to be alone in his dormitory – he could groan out loud with frustration.
There had to be a way.
He had boasted on their first day together that the purpose of intellect and will was to get what you wanted. Now he knew what he wanted – he just didn’t know how to get it. Luna had explained that if her roommates would just know the real her they would change their behavior.
Maybe, came the hopeful thought, if Luna just knew the real me….
Then he smirked at himself. Luna did know the real him – warts and all. And so far he hadn’t been too impressive.
He turned restlessly in his bed. At least he had had the good sense to ask for a kiss before handing back the golden ball. And it would happen sometime tomorrow – no today, since it was now almost morning. He would try not to respond to her kiss with any sort of passion – he didn’t want to scare her away.
It sounded like a plan at least. Plans – not wishes – won the day, he reminded himself before rolling over for a few hours’ sleep.
Any worries he had about Luna acting differently around him were quickly put to rest when he saw her sitting at her – their – usual spot at the Ravenclaw table with her nose in a book, which turned out to be about magical hunting practices.
“Going Tebo hunting?” he asked as he settled next to her.
She let her eyes focus on him before she answered. “I had no idea how much advanced magic was involved in hunting.”
“It’s sort of specialized magic, but I don’t know how advanced it is.”
“Some of it is,” Luna said, returning to her book. “Freezing Charms are easy – but not when faced with a hundred tonne Re’em.”
“A Freezing Charm wouldn’t work on Re’em anyway,” he said, reaching past her for the plate of toast and pastries. Saturday breakfasts were always more substantial than the weekday meal. “Their hides repel most spells. You have to lure them and then use gentle lulling charms through either the eyes, snout, or mouth.”
“Re’em love color, so you can lure them with a bright blanket. They’ll stare at something for hours. Or you can use a favorite smell like oven cleaner.”
“Only the kind that has dragon’s blood.”
“Or give them clover – they love the taste. Love honey, too.” It was good to be talking about something neutral.
“Sight, smell and taste,” Luna said softly.
Suddenly Re’ems weren’t such a neutral topic. He tried to pull his thoughts away from how she would taste by focusing on her necklace. “Who tied those flies?” he asked abruptly.
“Daddy,” Luna answered. She looked down at the brightly colored feathers. “I thought they were pretty.”
“Did he mind that you took them?”
Luna frowned. “I think at first he did, since he was planning on fishing the autumn salmon runs once I went back to Hogwarts – but I asked him nicely and he said he could tie some more.”
Theodore didn’t blame Luna’s father. He would have been at the mercy of those blue eyes and Luna ‘asking nicely’ as well.
“What did you want to do today?” he asked abruptly.
“It’s the first Quidditch match,” she answered, surprised. “Slytherin and Gryffindor.”
“Right.” He hated the thought of sitting in the stands watching what was sure to be a rout.
“And it’s going to be a beautiful day,” Luna continued, pointing to the ceiling. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds.
“Yes.” She went back to the porridge, seemingly disinterested in the weather.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked again.
“You don’t want to go to the match later?” She stared at him.
“I asked what you wanted to do,” he answered impatiently.
When she continued to stare at him, he added. “If you could do anything at Hogwarts today, what would it be?”
“Oh.” She scraped a lock of hair behind her ear. “I’d go to the library first and then the Quidditch match.”
“Sure, why not?” He pushed the plate toward Luna. “I have studying to do.” He could also look up the Hair Growth Charm now that he thought of it.
“Really?” Her whole face lit up. “You really want to go to the library because I want to go?”
He tried not to feel too pleased that he had put that smile on her face. “If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
“You’re really not just saying that?” Her eyes searched his face. “I mean, that’s a figure of speech.”
Why was she harping on this? It made him feel slightly odd for being so casually magnanimous in the first place, but if she wanted him to think about it, he would.
The worst case scenario of what would make Luna happy and not him would be if his father died. But while another Death Eater killed might be a minor victory for the Ministry, he doubted that anyone’s death would make Luna happy.
What did make Luna happy? Going to the library. Throwing around her golden ball. Nicking things to make one-of-kind necklaces.
Could he be happy if she wasn’t happy? He went to that worst case scenario. The Dark Lord was in power; his father was rewarded and suddenly decided he liked his son. His skin crawled at the thought of his father cackling away about paying back the blood traitors and the eccentrics and the Muggle-borns. He couldn’t be happy about that even without Luna in the equation.
If Slytherin won and Gryffindor lost today, Luna would feel bad for Ginny. Could he be happy?
He snorted. He could care less about Quidditch. That wouldn’t make him happy either.
She waited patiently as he worked through various scenarios. “No,” he finally said. “It’s not a figure of speech. If you’re happy, I’m happy.”
“Oh,” she breathed. “Oh.” She stared at the clouds on the ceiling for a while. “Well,” she finally said, “I’ll meet you in the library.”
Luna had already surrounded herself with piles of books and parchments and barely glanced his way when he took the seat next to her. It probably looked strange that he wasn’t sitting across the table from her, but he didn’t care. He was used to sitting this way at meals.
Since he was only taking five NEWT Level classes, he didn’t have as much homework as Luna, who appeared to be studying for all of her classes at once. She had an Ancient Runes book open next to a star chart and a drawing of a Venus Flytrap, but the parchment in front of her was full of Arithmancy equations.
He smiled at her bent head and then looked through the bibliography in his Advanced Charms textbook – he was going to solve one part of his problem.
When he returned from the stacks with several likely volumes, he noticed that the star chart was neatly folded, the Runes text was closed and at the bottom of a pile of Transfiguration texts. And the parchment in front her now was…? He looked over her shoulder and caught a whiff of vanilla and outdoors and….
She had to have noticed him smelling her hair. “Did you find what you were looking for?” she asked mildly, not looking at him.
“I think so.”
She nodded and went back to her parchment, which turned out to be a Potions essay.
Finally he found a charm. He read the directions several times. It was a complicated sequence of spells, but thanks to Professor Flitwick, he had done all of them at least once. The last requirement looked like a joke. “A kiss from a fair maiden.” Any other time he would have looked for something else, but since he had a fair maiden next to him who owed him a kiss, this charm would do.
He looked around the deserted library. There was no one to witness this little bit of magic except for Luna and she was so absorbed in her essay, he didn’t feel self-conscious.
He took out his wand and ran it flat over the book, creasing the page so it would stay open while he worked. Then he began.
First he cast an Imperturbable Charm to seal in the magic and to keep out contamination. Hopefully, that would prevent him from disturbing Luna with the rest of the charm.
Under his breath he recited long incantations containing words like folium. Then he produced some mist and topped the whole sequence off with a green spark of Vivus Pario. He sincerely hoped he had got it right, otherwise he was going to look like a marron and he would have to live in the Forbidden Forest with the rest of the scary creatures.
Luna didn’t look up once, not even at the last flash of color and light. She probably thought he was doing his usual Charms homework. He lifted the Imperturbable Charm and then took out the golden ball. He was a few hours early, but he didn’t know how soon the kiss should follow the magic for the Hair Growth Charm to work.
“I’m going to give you your ball back now,” he said, nudging her elbow.
“What?” She dazedly focused on him. “Sorry, I was working through this History of Magic essay.”
She had already gone from Potions to History of Magic.
“Here.” He placed the ball in front of her – right in the middle of her essay titled Peace Conferences in the Middle Ages.
“Oh.” She put her quill down and stared at the golden ball that glowed brightly in the nest of books and papers. “I suppose that means….”
He was caught by surprise when he felt her lips brush his. It was probably the fastest kiss in history, but even that quick contact warmed him all over. The effect was different for Luna, however. Without a word she returned to her essay, gently rolling the ball to rest against the stack of Transfiguration books. He listened to the scratching of her quill trying to think of something to say. Was he dismissed? Was that the end of their friendship?
“Theodore Nott?” Madam Pince called his name from her desk.
He went, glad to have a moment to consider what had just happened. “This was delivered for you,” Madam Pince said, handing him a small scroll tied with a lavender ribbon.
It was a summons to Professor Slughorn’s office. He gulped. Obviously the Head of his house had heard about Luna’s roommates. Technically, they couldn’t prove it was him because there was no physical evidence of the letters. That Forgery Charm of his grandfather’s took care of that. Still, he was in for a lecture at the very least.
He returned and collected his things. “I have to go,” he said to the back of Luna’s head.
She didn’t look up as he gathered his things. He was pushing in his chair when she said in a muted voice, “Theodore, I wish your hair was longer.”
Her sadness and regret speared his heart and settled there.