The Great Hall seemed very different when Hogwarts wasn’t in session. Everything looked bigger without the throng of students bustling about; even the ceiling seemed higher somehow. There was only one dinner table set out instead of the usual four, and tonight it was filled with the people I loved most dearly. Although I was happy that all of my friends were together, the circumstances were not so joyous.
A few weeks had passed since the battle at Hogwarts, and most of us had retreated into our separate lives to grieve. But now we were having a reunion of sorts, to comfort each other and to pay respects to the ones we had lost. It had been Hermione’s idea. She’d contacted everyone she could think of, and they were nearly all present in the Great Hall that night. The event was more for Harry’s benefit than anyone elses, really; ever since the battle he’d struggled with crippling survivor’s guilt. He seemed to enjoy being surrounded by his friends and loved ones, but the ghosts of those who had died were still haunting his heart. Still, it was nice to see everyone coming together to support each other; after the past year, we all needed it.
The table had gotten a little too noisy for my taste, so I had long since retreated to the top of the grand staircase. I watched the gathering from my perch on the banister, amused by some of the things I saw below me. Daddy had engaged Neville and Hannah Abbot in conversation; Hannah was leaning forward and listening eagerly, while Neville just gave the occasional nod between bites of food. The entire Weasley family was there, even Percy, who was currently trying to dissuade his mother from cutting up his meat for him. Most of the original Dumbledore’s Army had come as well, and were sitting together at one end of the table. The Patil twins were there, as well as the Hufflepuff boys, Cho Chang, and Susan Bones.
I was glad to see them all but, if truth be told, there was only one face I really wanted to see that evening. I felt a familiar blush come to my cheeks as my eyes fell on Dean Thomas, and was unable to suppress a giggle. He always had that kind of effect on me; even at my lowest moments, the mere sight of him could lift my spirits.
Why, I wondered, had it taken kidnapping, torture, and war for me to see Dean in a different light? After everything we’d been through together over the past few months, it seemed absurd to think that we hadn’t always been close. But while we’d been in school, I’d barely given him a second thought. I’d been polite to him, of course—I was always polite. But at that time, he’d just been another boy in the hallway, no one to think about.
Watching him now, though, I was reminded that he was all
I could think about. He was sitting between Harry and Seamus at the long dinner table, looking happier than I had seen him in a long time. Seeing him laugh brought a wide smile to my own face; he’d been doing so little of it lately. Of course the war had taken its toll on all of us, but things had been especially difficult for Dean. As a Muggle-born, he had experienced the war in a way that I could never really understand. I had always tried my best to be a comfort to him; I knew that he needed a good friend to depend upon. However, I was quickly coming to terms with the fact that I
needed more, that no friendship could satisfy the longing I held within me.
I remembered one particular evening at the Shell Cottage, when I had begun to see Dean, really see him, for the first time. I’d gone out to fetch him for dinner, but I hadn’t had any idea where to find him. He’d developed a habit of going out to remote places to write, or draw, or just to think. I’d combed the beach for a glimpse of him, wondering why I felt nervous. It had only been a little twinge in my stomach, but it was foreign to me. In all my life, I couldn’t ever remember feeling unsure of myself, even when my classmates would say mean things to me. But where Dean was concerned, I had begun to notice some definite butterflies in my stomach—an anxious, giddy feeling that I couldn’t quite articulate. Normally I was quite good at putting difficult concepts into words, but I was quickly learning that “normal” didn’t apply when Dean was near. Of course I’d had crushes before; I was a girl, after all. But somehow this was different.
I had found him that evening sitting in the shadow of a large rock, the grey beach spreading in front of him some distance away. The sun had just gone down, and I was worried that we’d never find our way back to the house once it was dark. But something about Dean’s dark silhouette told me that he was distressed, so I hadn’t rushed him away. Instead, I’d simply sat quietly down beside him. I could see why he’d chosen this spot; the waves had lapped serenely at the shoreline, and the call of gulls overhead had made me smile.
“May I see?” I’d asked after a few moments, gesturing toward the sketchpad on his lap.
He’d paused for a moment, and then handed the pad to me. I’d lit my wand, not too close to the paper, and peered at the image. It was beautiful, as Dean’s work always was—striking in its simplicity. The faces of three young girls smiled brightly up at me.
“Your sisters,” I’d said, sympathetic. “They’re very pretty.”
He had smiled at me, but his face was still so sad. “Yeah, they are,” was all he’d said. He was always so reluctant to talk, really
talk, about himself or how he felt about anything. I had begun to notice that about him during our time together; it had fascinated and baffled me. Dean was a mystery.
“You can talk about them, if you’d like,” I had offered. “I’ve been told I’m a good listener. And it must be hard to keep all that sadness locked up inside. Sometimes when I’m upset about Daddy or the war or whatever Harry’s got planned with Griphook—“ I stopped for breath. I’d been talking too fast again. “Well, anyway, it’s nice to have someone to talk to.”
He’d given me that look, the one he always got when I amused him. Most of the time I did it without meaning to.
“I don’t want to burden you,” he’d said.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,” I’d assured him. “I carry more burdens than anyone should ever have to; we all do, I suppose. So what’s one more?” I’d given him a cheerful smile, before I’d realized that smiles didn’t normally accompany this type of conversation. Dean didn’t seem to mind, though.
“It’s just that…they have no idea what’s going on,” he’d said haltingly. “They know I’ve gone missing, but they’re all blind to the circumstances. At least a wizarding parent could hazard a guess as to what’s happened to their child. But my mum and sisters—they’ve got nothing, Luna.” He’d turned an imploring gaze on me, and his dark eyes seemed to shine with grief. “And even if I…if I live,” he’d choked out, “how can I tell them that they’re the reason I was kidnapped? Because they’re Muggles!” At this, his voice had begun to shake with anger. “This whole ‘pure-blood’ thing is so stupid! Magic is magic—why can’t they see that?”
“Because they don’t want
to see it,” I’d said. “Death Eaters are elitists. They’re power-hungry, and they want someone to persecute. It makes me angry too.” Impulsively, I’d placed my hand gently on his knee. His body had tensed for a moment, but he hadn’t pulled away. “And as for your family, of course they’ll feel horribly guilty when they find out the truth, but you’ll just have to show them that you don’t blame them for what happened. After some time, I’m sure everything will be all right. Not back to normal, of course, but all right.”
He’d smiled at me then, a real smile, and I had known I’d said the right thing. “Thank you, Luna. I always know you’re going to be straight with me.” Very cautiously, he’d put his hand over mine, which was still resting on his knee. “You don’t know how much I needed that.”
I had been wondering what it would feel like if Dean ever touched me. If truth be told, I’d spent most of my waking hours think about it. When he’d held my hand that first time, I had marveled at how the warmth from his hand could spread through my entire body. I’d barely had time to enjoy it, though, when I’d felt the first raindrops hit me.
“We’d better get back to the cottage now,” I’d said, reluctantly sliding my hand out of his.
“Yeah, probably so,” he’d replied. We’d almost finished brushing the sand off our clothes when an ear-splitting crack of thunder sounded overhead, and suddenly the light rain had become a torrential downpour.
“Dean! Your sketches!” I’d cried, hurriedly sliding out of my coat and using it to cover his precious art. I gasped at the cold, and the wind that stung like razor burn. Dean had opened his mouth to protest, but I’d simply hushed him and hurried him back the way we’d come.
We’d half-jogged, half-waded back to the cottage. The journey had seemed impossibly long, and my body had grown so cold that it hurt all over. I knew that I was slowing us down, but Dean had been patient with me. He’d even tried to shield me from the cold with his coat, but it was difficult for him to do that and light our way at the same time. I’d just clutched his sketchbook close to me and stumbled forward, wondering if we would ever
Finally, we’d arrived at Shell Cottage, drenched to the bone and out of breath. I was shivering violently.
“Oh, my God, Luna,” Dean had shouted over the roar of the wind, dragging me underneath the protective slope of the roof. I’d rejoiced in escaping the rain; each drop had felt like a knife cutting into my skin.
“You’re crazy, you know that?” he’d said breathlessly. I had heard that phrase many, many times in my life, but somehow I didn’t think Dean meant it in the same way. He hadn’t been insulting me; it was more like he didn’t quite know what to make of me.
I’d smiled up at him. “I couldn’t let them get ruined. They’re too good, Dean. Too important to lose.” I’d hoped he understood how serious I was. Dean had done a great deal of sketching during our time at Shell Cottage, and I would beg him to show me every new drawing. His artwork always stirred something in me, a gorgeous feeling that I could never quite find words for. Even then, I’d thought the world needed to see how special his talent was.
Dean hadn’t replied to what I’d said. He had simply stared at me, and I’d suddenly felt horribly exposed under his gaze. I had only been wearing a thin blue shirt, and surely the rain had plastered it to my body. His brown eyes had rested unwaveringly on me, and I hadn’t been able to resist gazing into their depths. I’d shivered again, but this time it hadn’t been from the cold.
“Why are you looking at me?” I’d asked, so softly that I wasn’t sure if he’d heard. He still hadn’t spoken, but he’d slowly, slowly reached a hand out to touch my cheek.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even think. All I’d been able to do was feel the heat of his palm against my icy skin. It was the most delicious feeling, and I never, ever wanted it to end. I’d closed my eyes as his hand slid down to the bare skin of my collarbone, leaving a trail of fire behind.
After a few blissful moments, I’d opened my eyes to find Dean staring at me again. Suddenly I had wished more than anything that I knew what he was thinking. Dean did not put his thoughts on display, like so many other people I knew; his guarded demeanor had fed the flame of curiosity that threatened to devour me.
I’d decided to put that matter aside, though, because we were both leaning forward imperceptibly (or had it just been my imagination?) His smoldering gaze had made me feel beautiful, perhaps for the first time in my life. He hadn’t looked at me like I was Loony Lovegood, or someone to be made fun of; he’d looked at me like I was a woman, or almost one. Suddenly, I’d thought that maybe, just maybe, I could tell him how I felt. Even if I couldn’t come up with the right words, I’d thought he would surely understand. So I’d opened my mouth, ready to take the plunge, as they say.
“Yeah?” he’d prompted, leaning towards me.
Out of nowhere, the front door had opened and Bill’s voice rang out, completely shattering our moment. My confession was lost before it had even been given.
“Dean! Luna! Thank God you’re all right!” he’d cried, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. “Get in here, you’ll catch your death out in that storm! Luna, where’s your coat, for God’s sake?”
As he’d ushered us into the house, Dean and I had given each other a sidelong glance. It had been heavy with things unsaid, and emotions held inside. At least, I’d thought I had seen those things in Dean’s eyes, but I couldn’t be sure. With a final sigh, I’d stepped into the bright warmth of the cottage, wondering if such a perfect opportunity would ever come again.
I blinked a few times and returned to the present with a quiet giggle. I always laughed at myself when I thought about that night. I barely recognized that girl, who had been so flustered and unsure. But in the months since then I had come back to my old self a bit; the same confident Luna that I’d always been. Dean and I hadn’t spoken of that night since it happened, but we talked about nearly everything else. I educated him about all the rare creatures that Daddy and I had encountered, and he never once tried to correct me or prove me wrong. He always listened with an amused smile on his face; occasionally, he would even ask a question or two. He wasn’t usually talkative, but he could go on for ages when it came to art. He would always let me watch him draw when I wanted to, and I loved the way his face would light up when he was especially inspired.
“I don’t know why I had to go to a magical school,” he would joke, “when all I want to do is draw. I could have done that in the Muggle world.”
Dean became the one I always wanted to talk to when I was sad, and I was always there to listen to him on the rare occasions that he wanted to talk. I learned to pick up on subtle cues, small changes in his expression and posture that told me when he needed me. Somewhere in the midst of the war and the sorrow and the worry, we became close friends. When the darkest times came, Dean and I leaned upon each other. He stuck to me like a shadow in the weeks leading up to the battle, and I grew used to his rock-steady presence at my side. I could only hope that I was as much of a comfort to him as he was to me.
As I was thinking these things, I noticed Dean turn his head upward to search for me. It was a tiny movement, hardly perceptible because of how far apart we were. I noticed, though, because I was tuned to his every move like a bow to the string. No matter how absorbed I was in any task or thought, a significant part of my awareness was always devoted to Dean. I smiled down at him from my perch, waiting for his eyes to fall on me.
After a moment he saw me, and beckoned me to join him in the Hall. But instead, I gestured for him to meet me at the top of the stairs. My smile widened as I watched him rise from his chair, then speak to Seamus, tilt his head in my direction, and shrug his shoulders.
Tonight would be the night, I decided. I would tell him tonight. I had no idea what I would say, but I just couldn’t hold it inside any longer.
“Hey, Luna, what’s up?” he said when he reached the top of the stairs.
“Oh, nothing. I’m just watching everyone. And I also like to be high up.”
He considered this for a moment. “Yeah, I guess I know what you mean. Something about an aerial view…it just makes you see things differently.”
“Spoken like a true artist,” I laughed. Then, without warning, I
was struck by inspiration.
“Dean,” I said happily, “let’s go.” Then I took his hand and tugged him away, leading him through winding passages and up spiral stairs. Anticipation quickened my pace, and soon I was running at full speed, watching the stone walls blur past.
“Luna, where are we going?” he called, slightly out of breath and thoroughly confused. I just laughed at him and kept running. My excitement mounted as we began climbing the final staircase. This was night going to be perfect, I could just feel it. I paused to catch my breath when we reached the last door. Dean chuckled at me but said nothing.
After a moment I shoved the heavy door open, throwing all my weight behind it, and we ventured out onto the balcony. The chill in the air came as a shock after being in the warm castle, but soon I hardly noticed the temperature. I was too busy staring. There was nothing like seeing the Hogwarts grounds at night; the familiar lake and treetops were shrouded in mystery, and it felt like a completely different place. But as spectacular as the view was, Dean’s face had my undivided attention.
He was beaming, gazing out at the grounds and looking more exhilarated than I’d ever seen him. I could tell he was just dying to pull out his sketchbook right then and there. Maybe it was the way the shadows blurred the edges of the forest, or the bright moon’s reflection in the lake; whatever it was, something about that scene struck Dean in a powerful way.
“The astronomy tower?” he asked me, wide-eyed.
“Of course,” I said with a giggle. “Now we can look down and see everything
.” At this, we both turned to lean over the railing. After a few moments of silence, I felt him place a hand on the small of my back. His touch sent sparks racing through me, and I knew that the moment had come.
“Dean,” I said, keeping my tone light and conversational, “do you remember that night at Shell Cottage? The night when it rained?”
“Er…yeah, I remember it. Why?”
“Well…you said you knew I’d always be straight with you. Do you remember that part?”
“Of course I do. I still feel that way.” He turned to face me then, looking concerned. “Luna, what’s going on?”
“I’ve got something I need to be straight with you about,” I said simply. Before he could respond, I took his face into both of my hands and drew it towards me, pressing my eager mouth to his.
His reaction was immediate and electric; he threw his arms around me, nearly crushing me to his chest. His embrace told me everything I had longed to know; he needed me just as badly as I needed him. We kissed frantically, as though we were starving for each other, which I supposed we had been.
We finally broke apart to catch our breath, still clinging to each other as if we would never let go. He pressed his forehead to mine, his fingers tangling in my hair.
“Wow,” he said breathlessly.
“I was thinking the same thing.” I smiled up at him, hardly daring to believe what was happening. I felt as if my joy couldn’t be contained by my body; surely it would burst out of me in a shower of bright suns and glimmering stars. There were so many things I wanted to say, but somehow I couldn’t get any words out.
“Do you know,” said Dean as he drew me toward him, “how long I’ve wanted to do that?”
I leaned my head against his shoulder and gazed up at the stars. “How long?”
“Since that night at the cottage, when it rained.”
I smiled; somehow, I had expected that to be his answer. “That was a remarkable night, wasn’t it?”
“That’s a good word for it,” he said, kissing my hair. “Although, if Bill hadn’t walked out, it might have been more remarkable…” The rest of his words were lost as we kissed again, more slowly this time.
“Well,” I said as we parted, “I suppose we’ll have other nights.”
He grinned. “Definitely.”
As we turned wordlessly to the sky, my arms still wrapped around his waist, I knew that we were right. There would be other nights; nights to talk and laugh and even fall in love. But even so, I doubted that any night could be more remarkable than this.