Chapter 1 : Take My Hand
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The sound of frantic shouts, crumbling stone, and crackling spells press in on me in concert with the dark and muggy night air. The pressure around me compresses my lungs and weighs my limbs down. From the tumult around me, I hear an agonized voice cry out a name that I chose to block from my consciousness, it is probably better not to know, and then a rally call from out on the grounds. I do not move. Several black hooded figures apparate into a skirmish not far from my left shoulder; the students duelling there do not notice their arrival. My mind is buzzing, screaming really, to shout out a warning of the deatheaters’ appearance to them, but my lungs cannot find adequate air and my mouth cannot formulate the words. Still, I do nothing.
I look around the scene in front of me. It occurs to me how stunning the utter destruction around me is. It would be impossible to capture the scope of this night into a sketch. No quill, no matter how skilful, would be able to convey the pain and desperation rooted in every aspect of this night. Lost in my own thoughts, the searing sensation of a stunner narrowly missing my hip tugs me back into the real world that is quickly crumbling before my eyes. I refocus in time to see a small, familiar figure rush forward from the nearby fray to shield several other students. The next two moments last for an eternity in my mind.
The figure pauses for several fragments of a second before being illuminated in a gut-wrenching green light. His small frame is thrown backwards into the students he was shielding, and he irreverently falls to the ground. The three other students seem frozen in time.
“Collin!” A familiar voice cries out and breaks the trance that had settled over the group. They refocus; the tangible reminder of death fuels their resolve. Stunners and cursors exchange hands in rapid succession. That voice, I know that voice; it belongs to Neville, my brother. I know now what I need to do and move.
I enter the heated battle and notice that the other faces around me are familiar too. Seamus and Hannah Abbott hold their wands stiffly, as though they are surprised by my sudden appearance in the fray. Neville’s scarred and puffy face is caked with dirt and blood that mix together as silent tears run down his cheeks. Seamus is bleeding from his shoulder; his face is pale and stern. Hannah holds her wand gingerly as though her wand hand is injured. Her face looks like a blank slate. Then, as soon as I had arrived, the surprise of my arrival wears off and reality consumes us.
Spells fly every which way. The only way to differentiate the friendly ones from those of the deatheaters is by their colour. All around me, the splintered tree limbs and blasted ground allude to my future. I am dancing through spells on borrowed time. I send a particularly impressive stunner towards the nearest deatheater and watch it collide with his face. I feel the corners of my mouth turn up and simultaneously hear Seamus’ inane Irish accent shout my name. I begin to turn my head to look for him when it occurs to me why he was calling my name. Before I have a chance to react, a jet of red light collides with my chest. I feel my body rocket through the air and then nothing.
The world is strangely quiet. I lift my arm to rub the sleep and awful dream I had had from my eyes. A searing pain shoots through my rib cage and I cough rather violently. I blink my eyes several times and survey my surroundings. I expect to have to open the scarlet curtains surrounding my four poster bed before sliding out onto the icy stone floor. The sinking realization that my awful dream had not been a dream hits my stomach like a brick. I am lying on the grounds alone, although I can see several groups of frantic people only several yards away. The battle was still underway.
Gradually, the silence pressing in on my ears transforms into a violently dull buzz before it explodes into a cacophony of voices, explosions, spells, and destruction.
I slowly pull myself to my feet and begin looking around for Neville and Seamus. Surely they were still fighting nearby; the alternative is not an option in my mind. A few frantic moments pass before I spot them up the path a bit towards the castle. I take several hurried steps before the searing pain in my ribs explodes and threatens to pull me to my knees. My best mates need me and I do not know how I am going to make it up the path to them. Desperation fills my mind and brims up into my eyes.
“Dean Thomas.” I hear a tranquil and friendly voice say in disparity to the sounds of defeat and death around it. I know this voice and turn to locate its owner.
I see Luna standing several feet behind me and feel a calming peace settle over my broken body. Her straggly white-blonde hair stands out against the darkness of the night. Somehow, through the battle, she had managed to keep a bright yellow flower tucked behind her ear. The flower reflects her spirit and calls out a challenge to the grime and dirt that coats her clothing and face, daring it to try to overtake her. Only one of her usual pair of radishes hangs from her delicate ear lobe, and her butter beer cork necklace is nowhere to be seen. Her eyes are peaceful and her face is the picture of ironic contentment. In the midst of the battle, I wish for a quill and the skill to capture the dissonance between Luna Lovegood and the world around her. Despite the despair I had been consumed by only moments earlier, I feel the corners of my mouth pull up into an almost-smile. Gods only know why, but Luna Lovegood has this effect on me.
My eyes focus on her and I feel comforting warmth spread through my body. I am no longer on the bloodied grounds of Hogwarts. I am seated on a quiet beach with my feet buried in the sand watching the most peculiar girl I had ever met spin around in the wake of the tide. It is evening and the sound of lazy gulls intermittently cooing harmonizes with the sound of the waves. She is seated next to me, closer than casual acquaintances usually sit, but she doesn’t seem to notice. She begins an earnest explanation of droobles or dingalings or some combination of syllables her rabid imagination had thrown together. I am hesitant, but I offer her a sincere smile; at least she was a friendly companion. As the days wear on, I find myself less confronted by her proximity and less offended by her imagination. Her fanciful stories are now a switch that tugs the corners of my mouth skyward.
One evening, I decide to lead the conversation for a change of pace. She blames this on the Humdingles in the sea grass. I ask her if she believes in the nonsense she babbles on about. I ask her how she could be so unaffected by the state of the world, by being held prisoner, by being separated from her friends and family. What follows next is a humbling moment. Luna Lovegood’s wide blue eyes fill with tears and her chapped bottom lip quivers ever so slightly. I slide over closer to her tiny, quivering frame and wrap my arms around her shoulders. She jumps back slightly as her eyes question my face. I gently ease her head onto my shoulder and begin to tell her a fanciful story from my childhood. I chide myself for being so thick. Of course the state of the world affects her. Of course the memories of being held prisoner traumatize her. Her naïve stories are a bridge to the good left in the world. The remaining weeks at shell cottage pass much in this manner, story telling and discussions to the tune of the tide.
The tune of the tide is replaced by the gut-wrenching sound of the battle raging on around me. Still, all I can see and focus on is Luna. I feel as though I’ve been enchanted by some binding force. The gallantry she had shown that evening on the shore when she repressed all of her negative feelings is now leaking through her pores as she stares lucidly up the path at me. Merlin, I love this girl.
I freeze to the spot I stand on. Did I just say that? This is Loony Lovegood I was speaking about. There is no way that I love her. That ridiculous sentiment must stem from battle fatigue, or stress, or side affects of the stunner I had taken. Yes. These had to be the explanations. After all, love is a strong and bizarre driving force that the people around me have gone to war and are dying for. A battle field is not the place to find love, or is it? I must be insane. I remind myself that this is Loony Lovegood I am considering. No one who’s ever met her could have predicted this predicament. I certainly didn’t. I did not predict love, or anything remotely close to it, on that afternoon I first saw her swinging radish earrings.
It is a blustery October day. The frigid wind whips down the winding and narrow streets of the quaint town. The hoards of Hogwarts students pull their cloaks tighter around their shoulders and strain to tuck their blotchy red cheeks into the sanctuary of the cloak collar. I too tuck my face into the recess of my cloak and turn into the wind to make my way down the sparsely populated side street in front of me. The Hogshead Pub lies at the end of this ominous looking lane. Hogwarts Students do not frequent this obscure location, bloody hell, I do not even know if students were allowed to enter this Pub. . This is why, in Hermione’s reasoning, that it is the perfect location for our underground meeting. Five years of sharing a common room with her is enough reason to trust her and I continue on my way down the lane momentarily wishing that Seamus would pull his head out of his arse long enough to join me. Merlin knows that he hates Umbridge as much as the rest of us do.
I reach the door of the Hogshead and tentatively survey my surroundings. The outside of the establishment seemed to dare passer-by’s to enter. I seriously consider backing out of the dare. Looking through the window, I notice that there are several students inside already. Surely they wouldn’t miss me if I just turned around. As I turn around, my eyes catch the most intriguing sight.
A girl. Not just any girl, but a slender girl with stringy, white-blonde hair and a pallor hue to her skin that seem to dare the sun to shine. Her giant blue eyes imitate a look of surprise. She does not walk down the cobbled street, but skips, occasionally twirling for embellishment. Her wand is tucked behind her ear, whose lobes support massive purple radishes. She does not wear shoes. Loony Lovegood.
There is no other explanation for this girl, creature, myth walking down the lane towards the Hogshead. I quickly bite my tongue to stifle the chuckle threatening to escape my frigid lips. Stories of this girl bounced off the walls of Hogwarts and range from her talking to the suits of armour to her sleeping inside her trunk so as to protect her mind from an imminent invasion by her pillows. I had always doubted the extent of these rumours, after all Ravenclaws were a tad nutty themselves. Now, staring up the lane at the quickly approaching legend, there was not a doubt in my mind. This girl was certifiably bonkers. I tear my eyes away from her and pull enough courage out of my toes to walk in the ominous door of the Hogshead.
The meeting is exhilarating. A student uprising. Me, us, all of us, Dumbledore’s Army sticking it to the man. It felt so 1960’s, like something teens on my mum’s records would approve of. I felt like a man. I stand when it is my turn to sign my allegiance over to my dorm mates and Hermione when I feel a light touch graze my back. Surprised I turn around and immediately chide myself. Of course it wasn’t Ginny. She was Michael Corner’s girl. My heart sinks into my empty stomach, which reminds me that I haven’t eaten yet, as my eyes convey that the source of the touch was none other than bloody Loony Lovegood. She does not jump at my sudden withdrawal from her and stands there blinking at me with her ever-surprised eyes.
“Er, do you need something?” I ask only because I feel as though everyone in the room was watching the exchange between myself and the nutter Ravenclaw in front of me. I needed to get rid of her quickly. Insanity could quite possibly be contagious. “Do you?” She blinks her giant eyes slowly as though she is deep in thought. I clench my jaw in frustration and consider turning back to the contract on the table in front of me.
“The Nargles,” her voice finally escapes her lips, although the words they carry are non-sensible. I feel my eyes roll but continue to listen. “Your head is so full of them right now.” Alright. This was ridiculous. I turn my back on her and sign my name to the list. As I leave the Hogshead, my mind races over all the embellishments I could add to this exchange with the infamous Loony Lovegood.
No. There was no way that I could seriously love this peculiar witch. It was unthinkable.
“Dean Thomas.” I hear my name again somewhere in the midst of the commotion raging around me. Luna. I focus and see her no longer standing down the path from me, but right next to me. Her eyes are bright under the evidence of the battle. Her spirit is strong. “You are there.” He voice is a melody of hope. “You know, this is certainly not the place for nargles. Your head is so full of them right now.” It is honest concern that carries with her words. A stray jet of green light passes inches above our heads. She is right. This is not the time or place for nargles.
“Seamus and Neville, they—and Collin, he –” I begin to explain what had happened but my words fail me. She purses her lips gently together and blinks slowly.
“Take my hand.” It is not a question. It is not a statement. It is a lifeline. A lifeline that pulls me out of the fog that had been slowly settling over my reason and sense since this battle had commenced. I reach my arm out and grasp her tiny hand within my own. Before turning my attention back to locating Neville and Seamus, I make a mental note to tell Loony Lovegood that I love her when this battle is all said and done.
Thank you! This story was a bit of an experiment for me. I wrote it in one sitting, in the present tense, and from Dean Thomas' POV. All of these are new and frightening accomplishments for me. Please leave me a review and let me know what you think... Your constructive criticism is always appreciated.