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05 May 2009 @ 07:36 am
Harry Potter: "The Relative Truth" by rotaryphones (1/2)  
Title: The Relative Truth
Author: rotaryphones
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing/characters: Luna Lovegood/Neville Longbottom
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and friends belong to JKR, not me
Prompt: 742. Harry Potter, Luna/Neville, It's seventh year and Neville and Luna get to know each other intimately; Luna doesn't quite get why Neville's baffled by what's under her skirts. Luna is MTF.
Summary: Luna knows the truth about who she is and whom she loves, and that's what really matters in times of war.
Author's Notes: Thank you so much to my wonderful beta, killing_rose, and my also wonderful Britpicker, nagi_schwarz. And thanks to the mods for another lovely fest. ~12,000 words


The Relative Truth

Luna’s first memory was of her mother. At least, she assumed it was a memory. Perhaps it was something she had exaggerated or invented over time. Maybe it was a story her father once told her that Luna had secretly cultivated until it blossomed into something with image and sound. In any case, Luna believed it to be a memory, and like so many things in her life, that belief was what really mattered.

She remembered that she didn’t want to go to sleep because of the nargle that was hiding under her bed. She couldn’t explain this to her mother, however, possibly because she knew her mother would get angry, and then her father wouldn’t be allowed to tell her about all those interesting creatures anymore.

In the end, the only way Luna would agree to go to bed was with her mother lying next to her on her small mattress. That was the part of the memory that remained the most tangible: the safety of falling asleep to the steady sound of her mother’s breathing, and the fading scent of mysterious potions combined with perfume.

***

Luna had been sleeping in the Room of Requirement for a week when Neville stumbled through the door late one night. He gave a startled jump when he saw her, but quickly recovered with a bemused smile.

“Er, hi Luna. Is everything all right?”

That was one of the things Luna liked best about Neville. He always thought of others first. “Yes, everything is well, thank you,” she replied.

Neville limped over to the second hammock that had appeared in the room, and sank down onto it. After a moment of staring at Luna, he finally said, “May I ask why you’re floating upside-down?”

“You may,” said Luna, then paused expectantly. Neville just rolled his eyes, and Luna grinned. “It helps me think,” she explained. “It’s always good to see things from a different perspective. You should try it sometime.”

“Maybe later,” said Neville in a tone that implied he'd not be trying it at all. “I reckon I’d rather be right side up just now.”

Luna shrugged, which was a surprisingly difficult gesture to coordinate from her position. “Suit yourself.” She flicked her wand, and dropped without ceremony into the hammock below her. She had become quite adept at self-levitation recently, even if the concentration involved combined with the blood rushing to her head did leave her rather dizzy. It took a moment to regain her bearings. Once she had, she sat up so she could coax her long hair back into place and regard Neville more closely.

That was when she finally noticed the new cut across Neville’s face, already in the process of magically healing although it would nonetheless leave a scar. The sight made her insides twist into a tight ball, but she was careful not to show any pity on her face. Neville couldn’t abide pity. He had always been that way, even when he was just an insecure boy trying to keep up in Dumbledore’s Army. Besides, injuries weren’t worth much mention these days, especially when it came to Neville.

“What did you say this time?” she asked out of curiosity, indicating the wound.

Neville smiled, but Luna found it to be a mournful expression. “I asked how many N.E.W.T.s one needed to become a Death Eater.”

Luna giggled. “I turned one of Alecto’s eyebrows blue this morning. I’m not sure if she’s noticed yet.” Neville laughed outright, and Luna was incredibly pleased that she could temporarily lift some of the weight from his shoulders. Rebellion was serious business, and no one took it as seriously as Neville. If Luna could still make him laugh on occasion, she found that more rewarding than turning both Carrows blue head to toe.

When the laughter subsided, Neville kicked off his shoes and made to get settled in his temporary bed. Luna watched him closely, forgetting that her staring tended to make people uncomfortable. Although the cut on his cheek wasn’t pleasant, and he still had that twisted ankle from a few days ago, she couldn’t detect any injury that would keep him from sleeping in his own room. “Are you locked out of your dorm as well?” she asked.

Neville turned to her in surprise. “You’re locked out of your dorm?”

Luna pressed her lips together. That was more than she had meant to say. “Well, not exactly. It’s more that my dorm has decided it doesn’t like me anymore.” Luna waited to see if Neville would ask her to elaborate, and was grateful when he didn’t.

Instead Neville just rubbed his eye and said, “I think I know the feeling. Sometimes I feel like we don’t even go to the same school anymore.” He paused before adding, “I just needed some time to myself, is all.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone then.” Luna immediately stood up to leave. She reckoned she could always sleep in the Ravenclaw common room, or perhaps with the elves in the kitchen. It might even be nice to wake up to the smell of breakfast.

Before she could gather her things, however, Neville was already gesturing for her to stop. “No, no, I didn’t mean that. I – I don’t mind that you’re here.”

Luna remained standing, determining whether or not Neville was simply trying to be polite. “Are you sure? Because I do love porridge first thing in the morning.”

Neville opened his mouth, paused, closed his mouth, furrowed his brow, and then slowly grinned. It was an amusing sequence of facial events to watch. “Yeah, I’m sure. Actually, I’m really glad you’re here. I could use someone cheerful about now.”

“I’m glad you’re here as well,” said Luna, flopping back onto her hammock and beaming because it was true. She missed having roommates and she’d never had a roommate who actually liked her before. Not for the first time that year, Luna was silently grateful for having Neville as a friend.

***

Luna didn’t have many friends growing up. Sometimes she would play with the other wizarding kids in the area, but more often than not they would eventually leave her behind to go play by themselves.

She did have a lot of books, however, and that was almost just as good. Her favourite were the fairy tales, not just Beedle the Bard but some of the muggle ones as well, especially if they came with drawings. She loved to draw almost as much as she loved books. She’d spend hours in her room drawing princes and princesses, dragons, hippogriffs, merpeople, centaurs, and all sorts of other things she’d never seen.

Her favourite story was one her father had written and self-published. It was about a little girl who grew up in a forest, raised by magical creatures both common and mysterious. The book was filled with interesting facts about life in the forest and what the different creatures were like. At the end of the story, the little girl was discovered by two wizards who insisted she return with them and learn how to become a proper witch. The little girl knew she’d never be a proper witch, nor did she care to be. So one night, when the moon was full, all the creatures of the forest came together and used their special magic to turn the little girl into a unicorn so she could live in the forest forever. It was a lovely story, and Luna could never understand why it didn’t achieve a wider circulation.

On special occasions, her mother would come to her room and read it to her before bed. That way, Luna could close her eyes and picture the story more vividly. Her mother’s soft voice would roll over her, and Luna would try her hardest to imagine how it felt to be that little girl in the forest.

When the story was finished, her mother would lean down and kiss Luna on the forehead, her long, soft hair tickling Luna’s cheeks. She would also recite a short poem, which marked the end of the bedtime ritual:

“Good night, sleep tight. Wake up bright with the morning light. Do what’s right with all your might. Good night – I love you, Lucas.”

***

When Luna, Neville, and Ginny sat together in the Gryffindor common room, everyone else knew to give them a wide berth. Some of them wanted to give them plenty of space to plan their next attack. The rest of them just didn’t want to be implicated. No one seemed to mind the lone Ravenclaw in their midst, and Luna was amused by how much had changed over the past five years. Back then, she had barely felt welcome in her own house let alone any of the others.

“I think we need to aim bigger,” Neville was saying. “The graffiti and pranks are fine, but they seem like too much risk for not enough result.”

“I’ve been thinking the same,” agreed Ginny. “I love making the Carrows miserable, but – what’s the point, really? They just clean up the evidence before anyone even sees it. We should do something more permanent.”

Luna had an amusing thought. “We could charm all the quills in the castle to start writing rude things about Death Eaters at once.”

Ginny looked at her for a moment. “That’s not – possible, is it?”

“No, I don’t think so,” said Luna. “But it would be brilliant, wouldn’t it?”

Neville sighed and tapped the table in front of him. “Anything that could reach all the students at once would be brilliant. I just want to give them some hope, or…I don’t know. Something. Even if it’s just symbolic.”

“Why does it have to be just symbolic?” asked Ginny, sounding frustrated. This was an argument they’d had before. “I want to do something, Neville. I want to hex the Carrows and hang them from the ceiling, bound and gagged. I want to feel safe in my own school again!” She leaned back in her seat with her arms crossed, and added quietly, “Harry would fight back, you know.”

“Harry wouldn’t do anything that put the other students at risk,” Neville countered.

Luna thought they were both wrong. If Harry were still at Hogwarts, he would probably internalize all the abuse, become moody and detached, and then lash out as soon as he saw someone he cared about being harmed, even if it put both of them in danger.

But that was beside the point.

Neville and Ginny’s different interpretations of Harry said more about themselves and their own responses to the crisis. Ginny was all action; Neville was all theory. It was good in a lot of ways, because they balanced each other well, even when they argued. As for Luna’s role, she had taken it upon herself to make sure no one became moody or detached.

“I think if Harry were here, he would probably tell us to stop talking about him in the third person.”

Neville laughed, and even Ginny couldn’t help but grin.

“Maybe we’re focusing too much on the Carrows,” said Neville after a moment. “We know they’re just pawns. Who we should really go after is Snape.”

The name was spoken with vicious loathing and had the same shuddering effect on all three of them.

“We could block the entrance to the headmaster’s office,” offered Ginny.

Neville thought about it, but then shook his head. “I don’t see how. At least, not permanently. And I don’t want to damage the office itself. Dumbledore’s portrait is still in there.”

“Okay,” said Ginny, “then what if we steal his portrait?”

“We couldn’t,” said Luna. “Professor Flitwick talked about it once – you would have to destroy the castle itself to get those paintings off the walls. Although I bet if we had some flobberworm mucus, that might help weaken the sticking charms.”

“Or some Bubotuber pus,” added Neville absently.

Ginny look back and forth at both of them and made a face. “Okay. Ew.”

Luna nodded in agreement. “Yes, that would be rather disgusting. I don’t think we should resort to that.”

“So let’s come up with something else,” said Neville. “I know we can think of something good.”

They all sat in silence for a few moments, settling into their thoughts. Luna had her chin resting on her hand, and she tried to think of a plan, but it wasn’t long before her mind started to wander. She found herself thinking about Neville instead. She’d been thinking about him a lot lately, in fact. She, Neville, and Ginny had designated themselves the unofficial leaders of the new Dumbledore’s Army, but it was Neville who was the driving force behind it. He was the natural leader, the one that everyone looked up to, even if he'd not realized it yet.

It reminded Luna of a moment they shared two years ago, back during the first incarnation of Dumbledore’s Army. Neville had stumbled upon a very embarrassing scene where Luna was being harassed by some of the older Ravenclaws. Luna was responding just as her father had taught her, and wasn’t showing any sign that their comments bothered her in the least. It was even mostly true.

They all scattered once they noticed Neville standing there, and Neville had asked Luna if she was all right.

“Oh yes,” said Luna. “Wands and stones can break my bones, but I’m used to the words by now. They don’t like me very much because they don’t think I belong in Ravenclaw.”

“That’s horrible,” said Neville, sounding somewhat unsure how to respond but sincere nonetheless. “Actually,” he added, “I sort of know what that’s like.”

“No one thinks you belong in Ravenclaw either?” Luna asked. Neville started to say something, then stopped and just looked at her in confusion. Luna found that she couldn’t hold back a grin, and a moment later Neville realized the joke and smiled back.

Luna was grateful for his empathy, but they really had the opposite problems. Luna knew perfectly well where she belonged; it was just that no one else agreed with her. By contrast, Neville was the one doubting the Sorting Hat’s decision, not his housemates. Luna could tell just by watching him at their DA meetings that he would become a powerful wizard once he gained a little confidence. “I think you’re very brave, Neville,” she assured him. “You just don’t know it yet.”

Neville blushed from embarrassment. “Yeah, well, I doubt it. I’ll see you at the next meeting, Luna.” He hurried off, looking more dejected than before.

But Luna had been right in the end, hadn’t she? Neville had shown nothing but bravery at the Department of Mysteries, and now he was one of the bravest boys in the entire school.

It was because Luna was thinking about Gryffindor and bravery that an idea suddenly popped into her head. “The Sword of Gryffindor,” she stated with certainty.

“What about it?” asked Ginny.

“We can steal that instead. We’ll display it in the Room of Requirement for all the students to see, and it can represent our bravery, and how we’re not afraid to fight back. I don’t think Snape would like it very much, either.”

Ginny turned to Neville, her eyes shining with excitement and anticipation, but Neville didn’t notice because he was still looking at Luna. He smiled slowly. The expression was equal parts pride and affection, and it made Luna’s heart swell.

***

Ginny probably didn’t remember this, but Luna used to come over to the Burrow to play when they were very little. They lived fairly close to each other, after all. Ginny could be quite bossy when she found herself free of her brothers’ shadows, but Luna was happy to play any game she had in mind.

On one of these occasions, Ginny decided they would play with her dolls. She handed Luna the one male in her collection. When Luna asked if she could have a female one instead, Ginny scoffed and said, “Don’t be silly. If you’re a girl, how are we supposed to get married?”

Luna had to admit she had a point. She took her doll with the hard, plastic hair and tried to think of what to do with it. Ginny was already picking out her favourite miniature dress robes for her doll to try on, and after a moment, Luna followed suit. They said nothing as they prepared their fiancés for the big day. A few minutes later, when Ginny was satisfied that the bride was dressed to perfection, she inspected Luna’s progress and let out a cry.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m doing the same as you,” Luna replied, feeling sad that she had already ruined Ginny’s game.

“But he can’t wear that! Those are girls’ clothes!”

Luna looked down at her doll and frowned. She had simply copied Ginny and dressed him in the most beautiful outfit she could find. But this was Ginny’s game, after all, and she wanted to do it correctly. “What should he wear then?”

“Forget it.” Ginny ripped the doll from her hand and threw it back in the box, dress robes and all. “Let’s play something else.”

About two weeks later, Mrs. Weasley flooed the house, asking Luna if she could speak with her mum. From the top of the stairs, Luna could hear their entire conversation, and it made her feel strangely empty inside.

“You know how it is,” Mrs. Weasley was saying in a light tone. “My sons all went through the same phase. Although with Ginny it might have to do with having so many brothers. In any case, she’s decided she’s just not interested in playing with boys anymore. I hope you understand.”

Luna’s mother assured her that, yes, of course she did, but Luna didn’t understand one bit. She snuck back into her bedroom and took refuge under her covers.

***

“What do you want to do when you leave school?” asked Luna from her hammock.

“You mean if the war suddenly ended, and I actually had a choice?” said Neville with a fair amount of bitterness. It was their second sleepover in two weeks, and Luna hoped it would become a regular occurrence.

“Harry will end the war,” she asserted. As the other students began to lose hope, Luna’s hope had only intensified. At this point she was absolutely certain that any day now, Harry would burst in and finish things once and for all.

Neville sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Well, if Harry suddenly decides to come out of hiding, kill You-Know-Who, and end the war all before the end of term. . . .” He trailed off and shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d do.”

“Yes, you do. Don’t be silly.” Luna would have accepted that response from another student, but not from Neville. Neville had plans; she could tell. He just needed a little coaxing to open up, like one of his plants.

Neville grinned slightly and continued. “I think I’d like to – well, it’s really stupid.” Luna glared at him until he finished, the words coming out in a rush. “I think it would be fun to travel the world and study plants.”

As soon as he made that statement, Neville began to turn bright red, even though he had nothing to be embarrassed about. Luna clapped her hands together and beamed. “Me too! Only, not with plants. I want to study different creatures, especially the Crumple-Horned Snorkack. I hear they’re more common in Africa, and I’ve never seen one for myself.”

“But, don’t you think it’s sort of – pointless?” Neville asked. “I mean, after all this. . . .” He gestured to the castle around them to explain what he meant by “this.” “I don’t know. Studying plants just doesn’t feel that important anymore.”

“Oh, but it is important. Understanding the world around us is what helps us grow as a society.”

Neville looked uncertain as he muttered, “I guess. . . .”

The defeat in his voice was heartbreaking. It was the hopelessness that had been spreading through the castle like a disease, infecting students and teachers alike. Up until now, Neville had proven himself resilient to despair, just like Luna strived to be, and she couldn’t stand this new creeping melancholy.

“Maybe you’re right, Neville. Maybe learning about plants really isn’t enough.”

Neville seemed crushed by her agreement. His shoulders sagged, and he said, “Yeah, I know. It’s selfish if you think about it.”

Luna nodded. “Yes, very selfish – if you keep it to yourself. That’s why no one knows about gnome magic anymore, or proper dental hygiene. But if you pass the knowledge along so it doesn’t get lost, that’s entirely different.” She considered him for a moment. “Have you ever thought about writing a book, or being a teacher?”

That finally had the effect that Luna was going for. Neville sat up a little straighter in his hammock, his eyes going wide with guarded excitement. “Er, no, not really. Well, except maybe a teacher. Do you think I’d be any good at it?” For a moment he sounded just like his fifth-year self, unsure and excited and completely adorable.

“Oh, yes. I think you’d be just brilliant.”

Luna smiled at him and Neville returned the expression. His eyes gradually lost their focus as he stared past Luna’s shoulder and into the future, hopefully one that would be free of Dark Lords and Death Eaters and his grandmother's expectations. Luna wondered when was the last time he’d given the future any consideration at all.

When he came out of his musings and his eyes were trained once again on Luna’s, she knew that his guarded brand of optimism had been restored. “Luna,” he said, “If I ever do travel the world for plants, would you want to come along with me?”

Luna couldn’t think of anything she would love more, and that’s exactly what she told him.

Before they went to sleep that night, Neville turned to her in the dark. “I’ve never met anyone like you before,” he murmured.

“Thank you,” Luna whispered back.

***

Luna had always known she was different, but she didn’t always know why. The answer never came to her in a sudden childhood epiphany, or a single moment of realization. It was more of a gradual awareness over time. When she was six, she knew that people had a lot of trouble seeing the person she actually was. By the time her eighth birthday rolled around, she finally gathered the courage to ask her parents about it.

Her birthday had been a small occasion marked by her favourite meal followed by a large cake. Everyone was in a good mood as they sat in the kitchen with bellies full, and so it had seemed like the opportune time to bring it up.

“Mum,” she said, one icing-tipped finger in her mouth, “what’s the difference between girls and boys?”

Her mother paled, and immediately looked to her father. Luna felt as though she had said something wrong, which she couldn’t understand since her parents always encouraged her to ask a lot of questions.

“What should we say?” her mother asked softly.

“I think we should tell him,” her father replied after only a slight hesitation.

Her mother considered it, glancing at Luna but continuing to talk as though she weren’t there. “But he’s barely eight. Isn’t this supposed to happen – later?”

Luna’s father shrugged. “He’s ready now. You said yourself how mature he was for his age.”

“Well, what should we tell him, then? Everything?”

“Absolutely.” In response to the shock on her mother’s face, he added, “You know I feel about withholding the truth.”

Her mother wrung her hands together, looked towards her father once again, and finally relented. Together, the two of them told Luna all sorts of things she'd not expected to hear. Things about boy bits, and girl bits. She told Luna that babies didn’t actually grow out of giant baby pods, which Luna already knew, even if she didn’t know the particulars. Her father told Luna about erections, semen, hair – all manner of disgusting things. And at the end of it, at the end of it all, she realized that neither of them had answered her actual question.

“But why are boys and girls different? Is it just because they have different bits?” This was all very uncomfortable to talk about with her parents, but Luna was trying hard to act just as mature as they were.

“No, dear,” her mother said with a tense smile. “There’s more to it than just that.”

“But I don’t get it,” Luna complained, quickly getting upset but trying not to show it. “Who gets to decide?”

Her mother’s smile faded, and she looked to Luna’s father to respond. “No one decides, Lucas,” he said with paternal authority. “It’s just the way you are.”

Luna said nothing. After a few more minutes of awkward conversation, she excused herself for bed early. Her parents let her go without question, although she could feel their concerned gazes on the back of her neck. Once she was in the safety of her own room, she lay in her bed and cried herself to sleep, even though she knew it wasn’t something that boys were allowed to do.

***

Luna hid in the shadows as Snape left his office to teach his N.E.W.T. level potions class, one of the few classes he still maintained. Neville nodded to them silently, and she and Ginny crept to the statue of the gargoyle that guarded the entrance.

“Fluxweed,” Ginny whispered.

The wall before them opened with a loud rumble that filled the empty hallway, making all three of them jump.

Neville gave one quick look behind them before muttering, “Come on, let’s go.”

They stepped onto a moving spiral staircase, and emerged somewhere Luna had never been before: the headmaster’s office. She never imagined one room could be so overwhelming, with portraits to the ceiling and curious items everywhere she looked. The Sword of Gryffindor gleamed from its case on the far side of the room, but Luna couldn’t help wandering to the wall on her left to inspect all the fascinating instruments and trinkets that lined the shelves.

She picked up a small metal tube that was making a low humming sound. “I think this might be the mind control device my father wrote about once. That’s how they were able to pass that legislation on–”

Luna!” Ginny hissed. “Get over here, will you?”

Luna reluctantly replaced it on the shelf, making mental note of all its details so she could later describe it to her father.

She joined Ginny and Neville where they stood, staring up at the case that held the sword. It looked even more impressive close up, the lights in the office glinting off the blade as well as the rubied hilt.

Ginny lifted a hand to the glass and hesitated before pressing her palm against it. Despite the danger and the thrill of the situation, a look of sadness crossed her face. “I wish Harry were here,” she said softly before dropping her hand back to her side.

There was a moment of silence as they stood before the sword. “Any ideas?” asked Neville. “I’m guessing the case won’t open on its own.”

“No it won’t,” said a familiar voice above them, scaring them all half to death. Once the initial shock had passed, Luna took a step back and couldn’t help but smile at what had been an empty picture frame only moments before. “Hello, Professor Dumbledore.”

He inclined his head politely. “Hello, Miss Lovegood. Miss Weasley. Mr. Longbottom. Am I to understand that you intend to remove that sword from this office?”

“Er, well . . . yeah,” said Neville. “If that’s all right with you, sir.”

Dumbledore’s portrait smiled knowingly in an unsettling imitation of the real thing. “Please, be my guest. I am flattered, of course, that you would ask my permission over the current headmaster’s, but I am afraid I have very little use for swords these days. An imitation, after all, is not the real thing, as much as it may resemble the original.”

The painted smile became even more smug, giving Luna the distinct impression that Dumbledore was telling them a riddle. Ginny interrupted her thoughts before Luna had a chance to figure it out. “Could you tell us how to open the case, then, sir?” she asked.

“Certainly,” said Dumbledore. He shared with them the incantation, and a moment later, the sword was freed from its cage.

While Neville and Ginny struggled with how best to transport the weapon, Luna continued to stare up at Dumbledore’s portrait, thinking about his choice of words. Dumbledore caught her gaze, and gave her the smile of a concerned parent. “And how have you been, Miss Lovegood? Have you procured a place to sleep yet?”

Luna’s eyes went wide. She didn’t look at Neville, although she knew he had heard that comment and was probably staring at her in confusion. “Yes sir, thank you,” she answered quietly.

“Come on guys,” interrupted Ginny. “We should really get out of here before–”

“Before what, might I ask?” came a low, dangerous voice from behind them.

The three of them spun around, the sword still in Neville’s hand. There, blocking the only exit to the office, stood Snape himself with fury written over his face. Luna’s heart was pounding so loudly in her ears she thought she might go deaf. None of them spoke, rooted to the spot as they were with fear and adrenaline.

Luna half expected Snape to pull out his wand and crucio them right there on the office floor. That was the sort of reaction they had come to expect from the Carrows, at least. Instead, Snape simply glared at them as he shook his head with a world-weary sigh. When he spoke, he seemed to be talking to himself more than anyone.

“Why do you insist on making things more difficult for yourselves?” He took a few long strides and snatched the sword away from Neville’s loose grip. “Now. What in Merlin’s name am I going to do with you?”

***

Luna’s shoes were wet, but she didn’t notice as she hurried behind Cedric Diggory, trying to keep up with him. They were walking alongside a stream during Cedric’s last summer before he left for Hogwarts. She could tell how excited he was to be going, as he talked of almost nothing else.

“And each house has its own Quidditch team,” he was saying. “I want to try for the team as soon as I get there, but Dad says first years aren’t allowed.”

Cedric was a few years older than Luna, and had no shortage of his own friends, but when he wandered around Ottery St. Catchpole by himself he didn’t seem to mind if Luna tagged along. Luna liked being around Cedric. He was kind, he seemed to know everything, and he was also quite fit. Even when he teased her, he was always nicer than any of the other boys. So she didn’t mind that he saw her as an occasionally amusing oddity.

“What position do you want to play?” she asked. She wasn’t very interested in Quidditch, but she liked to hear Cedric talk about it. It clearly made him happy, and the way he smiled as he talked made Luna happy in turn.

“Seeker,” was his immediate answer. “They have to be really fast, and that’s what I like about flying the most. Though I wouldn’t mind playing chaser, either. Or anything, really, if it means I’ll get to be on the team.”

“And what does the seeker do?”

Cedric stopped walking and turned to look at her. “You don’t know?”

Luna paused before she shook her head. The one time she had been to a game, it was the spectacle and energy in the air rather than the actual rules that had caught her interest. Cedric gave her a funny look before continuing on their path, reaching down to pick up a fallen branch and brandishing it like a wand as he talked.

“You should learn this stuff before you go to Hogwarts. You don’t want the other boys to think you’re a poofter or something.”

“What’s a poofter?” Luna asked, trotting to keep up. She didn’t like to look dumb in front of Cedric, but her parents had always taught her to ask questions, and Cedric always seemed willing to answer them.

This time he sounded uncomfortable as he responded. “Lucas, it’s okay to ask me these things, but you can’t go around talking about it at school. A poofter is – you know – a boy who likes other boys.”

Something about his tone bothered her. “Why? Is it bad to like boys? I like you.”

This stopped Cedric in his tracks for the second time. He looked straight at Luna and said, almost angrily, “You can’t say things like that. People are going to think you mean something else.” His expression softened, and his voice once again took on the patience of an older brother. “I’m talking about liking someone. More than friends. Do you understand the difference?”

Luna nodded to say that, yes, she understood perfectly. It wasn’t what Cedric said; it was how he said it. Liking boys was one of those things that she wasn’t supposed to do, like wearing girls’ clothes or talking too much about Nargles.

If anything, it was Cedric who hadn’t understood. Luna hadn’t been talking about friendship. She liked Cedric, in the more-than-friends way, but maybe it was better that he assumed otherwise. He clearly didn’t like her back and wasn’t even supposed to. If Cedric didn’t like “poofters” then Luna didn’t want to be one.

Sometimes it felt as though no matter what Luna tried, she was bound to say and do the wrong thing. Be the wrong person, even.

They walked a little further, and Cedric eventually discarded his branch into the water. Luna was deep in thought as she stepped over rocks and mud. “What about girls who like boys?” she suddenly asked as the thought struck her.

Cedric shrugged. “Well, that’s okay, then. That’s what girls are supposed to do.”

Luna inwardly smiled, content that the pieces had fallen back into place.

Part 2