The stones of the little wall that separated the Lovegood property from the surrounding hills was warm under Luna’s chin as she leaned her arms on it. Her chin rested on top of her hands – she was the perfect height for this, being a rather small five-year-old, despite her pronounced maturity for that age – and her eyes were directed a bit downhill, at an orchard that was visible some ways off. The sun was quite high overhead, and the child’s large, silver-blue eyes kept flicking between it and the orchard, thinking.
If she looked hard enough, and tilted her head just slightly to the left, she thought that she could see the small dark figures of other children playing in that orchard. They weren’t out there every day, but she always looked for them whenever she was out in the front garden nonetheless. Some days it got a bit lonely, having only her mother and father for company and rarely anyone more her age. Xenophilius and Iona Lovegood doted on their daughter, of course, and she was really quite happy living where she did.
But on certain days, she wondered what it might be like to play in that orchard.
A distant shriek echoed up from the little valley where the orchard sat, rolling over the grass, yellowed from constant sun exposure, to touch pleasantly on Luna’s ears. She’d only heard vaguely of the people who lived near the orchard, in a house that had a funny name. Something about animals, she thought, frowning suddenly – the Nest? The Den? Her dad didn’t talk about the neighbours a lot, but he did seem to like them. Maybe he could have them over for dinner soon, so she’d have someone to play with, if only for a few hours.
A sort of shuffling sound came from the grass beside her, and Luna swiveled her eyes up to look at her mother – her beautiful, graceful, intelligent mother, whom Luna already knew she took after very much. Iona smiled down at Luna, adopting a similarly relaxed pose on the long, low wall. Her long, straggly blonde hair, very much like Luna’s own, was tied up in a knot at the nape of her neck.
“What’re you doing?” she said, smiling and looking out in the direction of the orchard as well. Luna tapped an irregular beat on the wall with her fingers and snuggled a bit closer to her mother.
“Just looking,” she said, hoping to play off the loneliness – she didn’t want her to feel as though she wasn’t being taken care of, because really, Luna loved her mother almost more than anyone else in the world. Her tiny hand slipped into her mother’s larger one, and Iona squeezed it gently.
“Mummy, who lives down there?” she asked suddenly, pointing toward the little orchard in the distance; one of the children there was now chasing another one around, from the looks of things, and it looked like rather a lot of fun.
“Those are the Weasleys. We’ve told you about them,” her mother reminded her. “They have a girl about your age, too, and a whole mess of boys a few years older.”
Luna wondered for a moment why they didn’t give the boys baths if they were so messy, but she supposed it was one of those grown-up things that she didn’t understand. “It would be fun to play with them,” she admitted then, nudging a rock with her shoe and watching as the beetle that had been hiding beneath it ran for shade. “Do you think we could have them over for dinner?” she blurted suddenly, the thought that had crossed her mind previously suddenly finding form on her lips.
Iona’s forehead puckered in thought, and she tucked a strand of hair back into her bun as she contemplated this, tilting her head exactly as Luna had. “Not tonight, I think, dearest,” she said at last. “Your daddy’s on a deadline, and he’s feeling a bit worn out at the moment. Why don’t we ask him later?”
Luna’s father produced a magazine, she knew, on one of the floors in their house – it was a noisy machine, and lots of fun to watch, as long as you didn’t stand too closely. He always seemed too busy for company, and she accepted this without much debate. Besides, it wasn’t so bad, Luna rationed, removing her hand from her mother’s to bend down and pick a particularly long blade of grass. And they could have a very cozy tea tonight, too, just the three of them and some biscuits and – if they were very lucky – some Gurdyroot Infusion.
“But you know,” Iona continued, a small and slightly mischievous smile twisting her lips. Luna looked back up at her hopefully. “You’ve always got a playmate with you, all the time. Haven’t you met her yet?”
Luna looked about her curiously, half-expecting to find someone standing behind her that she had never noticed before. Her mother knelt down and gestured at the wall in front of them, where the sun was still casting the shadows of the two upon it, slightly darker than the stone itself.
“My shadow?” said Luna doubtfully, her own mouth twisting in disappointment.
“Your shadow’s not just a shadow,” Iona explained, and as she spoke, she stuck up the second and third fingers of her right hand, folding the rest down. “She grows as you grow, and she plays whatever you want to play. Do you know what we need to do?”
“What?” Luna asked excitedly, matching her mother’s tone of voice without helping it; perhaps there was more to her shadow than she’d always thought, after all.
“I think we need a shadow-naming ceremony,” she said importantly, rising up from the ground and brushing the dirt and grass off the knees of her robes. Luna, who had of course remained standing, clapped her hands excitedly, for a ceremony sounded very much like a party.
“What do we do to name my shadow?” she asked, holding her hands above her head and doing a little twirl, which she just could not help in all the excitement – it did not take much for her to get excited about little things, even should they fall right on the heels of temporary disappointment.
“It’s quite simple,” said Iona firmly; she was making all of this up as she went along, of course, having seen the exact sort of lonely expression Luna had worn not five minutes earlier, but the child need not know that. “What we’ll do is –“ Her eyes cast about the front garden, and landed on a patch of dandelion weeds a few paces away, their tops thick and fluffy with seeds. She walked over and promptly plucked one from the ground, handing it to her daughter. Luna held it so closely to her nose that she went slightly cross-eyed.
“All you have to do is think of a name for your shadow, and then blow the dandelion,” her mother said, “and the little seeds will carry its name away and plant them in the ground, so you’ll always remember your shadow.”
“But what’s a good name for a shadow?” the five-year-old asked, again momentarily dismayed. She was never very good at naming things, and her plush animals all had names like Cat or Mr. Duck or Sir Puppy. Iona tilted her head to the side for a second time, thinking very hard about this.
“Why don’t you try closing your eyes, and thinking very hard,” she said, her voice so low it was almost a whisper now, quite fitting for this seemingly magical moment. “And whatever comes into your head will be the name your shadow has chosen for itself, I imagine.”
Luna grasped the thin, stringy stem of the dandelion so hard it was very probable that it might snap in her small hands. She closed her eyes tightly, as her mother had prompted, able to feel the skin wrinkling at the corners, and tried to think of a name. But all that came to mind was Miss Shadow, and she felt that, for these purposes, such a name just would not do.
A word suddenly burst before her tightly-shut eyes, as though appearing in thin air, and she puckered her lips and blew before she could question it. The small dandelion seeds floating away through the warm air, bobbing and dancing before settling down to perch in the grass. Iona smiled fondly, watching at the last trailed away over the edge of the hill.
“And what did you name it?”
“Dandelion,” Luna said promptly, clasping her hands behind her back and looking thoroughly pleased with herself. Iona smiled and tweaked the end of her daughter’s braid.
“That’s a lovely name,” she said, and turned to the wall where Luna’s shadow still projected. She gave it a little bow, and her own shadow did the same. “So very nice to meet you, Dandelion.” Luna giggled, and she watched as Dandelion did the same, her hands flying to her mouth in exactly the same motion as Luna’s. Her mother had been right!
Leaving Iona in the front garden, as she had suddenly turned her attention toward the small dirigible plum bush growing by the front door, Luna ran inside to inspect her newfound shadow friend within the house. The sounds of odd bangs and thumps from upstairs where her father was working momentarily distracted her, however, and curious as ever, she trotted up the little spiral staircase to inspect the magazine machine.
To her surprise, however, her father was not in the room when she entered, and the massive machine was churning all by itself, spewing glossy magazine pages at an alarming rate. Luna tentatively stepped closer – she had never been alone with it before – and from the corner of her eye, she saw her shadow friend do the same.
She didn’t know why she had never stopped to look at her shadow before. It was exactly an elongated replica of herself in silhouette – almost like a twin, she thought, standing on her toes and stretching her arms out to the side experimentally. And she realized everything had a shadow, too, as she watched Dandelion’s long arms brushed the shadow of the magazine-maker, despite the fact that Luna herself could not touch it physically. It was as though her shadow was melding with the other shadow, forming one very abstract-looking splotch on the wall. She moved a bit closer, still walking on her tiptoes.
Unfortunately, she was too engrossed in what was on the wall to look where she was going, and walked right into the side of the machine. Being small, as she was, her forehead pressed a rather odd-looking button, and the machine gave a great shudder, groaning incessantly. Luna stepped quickly backward in fright, shrinking into the wall where her shadow was, and Dandelion disappeared for a moment as the machine bucked and quivered, seeming to take on a rather monstrous life of its own.
All at once, without any sort of warning at all, the machine began shooting out magazine papers at an unprecedented rate, rocketing out of the little spout so fast that they missed the tray entirely and smacked into the opposite wall, sliding limply to the ground. Pages loosed themselves from their bindings and fluttered through the air, twirling a bit whimsically before landing next to the magazines that had miraculously remained intact.
A head appeared at the top of the staircase a few feet away, peeping over the floor with wide and confused eyes. Luna’s father, clutching a steaming mug in one hand, had made his reappearance. Upon seeing exactly what sort of disaster had befallen his little studio, the confused look changed to one of shock, his eyes nearly bugging out of his head.
“I – what –“ His eyes fell on his small daughter, still flat against the wall lest she should be crushed by the onslaught of tumbling magazines. Her own eyes were popping out of her skull, as well, although for slightly different reasons. Quickly, Xenophilius set his mug precariously on the banister and hurried over in the direction of the machine, fully getting smacked in the face with one of the pages as he went.
“Blasted thing – Luna, what’s – such a mess –“ As was customary, her father seemed to be unable to complete a sentence as he attempted to pick his way across the floor, which was now covered in very slippery pages. Finally giving up the effort, he withdrew his wand from an inner pocket of his robes and waved it in the general direction of the press. With another groan and shudder, it whirred to a stop, clacking every few seconds. The slew of pages dissipated, and finally stopped all together.
Xenophilius looked rather accusingly at her, and Luna was under the distinct impression that whatever had occurred was not her fault. She clasped her hands in front of her, crossing and re-crossing her thumbs for something to do besides meeting her father’s accusing gaze.
“Luna, dear, would you care to tell me how this happened?” he said with a tremendous air of patience, bending down and picking up one of the dislodged magazine pages, which listed some rather stirring debates on the ethics of using Billywig stings in Fizzing Whizbees (“Levitating sherbet balls are delicious, and if I’m eating stings, all the better to threaten my enemies with!” writes Magdalene Herbert of Wisbech…”).
“I’m not quite sure,” said Luna brightly, hoping that a cheerful disposition would be the way to go in this particular instance. “I do believe it was my shadow, though.” And now that she thought about, could she be sure that smacking her head into the machine had been the cause of it all? Dandelion’s hand had disappeared into the shadow of the machine, after all. Suspicious stuff, that.
Xenophilius blinked, but he didn’t seem at all adverse to this idea. “Hmm,” he said instead, abandoning collecting his strewn work for a moment and looking thoughtful. “How interesting... Luna, dear, have you been playing amongst milkweed lately? It is said to cause one’s shadow to do funny things… Does your nose feel any heavier than normal?”
Luna poked her nose with an inquisitive forefinger, but it didn’t feel any different. “I don’t know,” she said again. “What’s milk have to do with anything?” she asked suddenly, wondering if the milk she had poured on her porridge that moment might make her nose fall off.
“Oh, nothing,” said Xenophilius a bit distractedly, wading through the small ocean of pages and laying a warm and perhaps forgiving hand on his daughter’s head. “But I think it might be a good idea to clear out of here for a minute, sweetheart. Daddy’s got a bit of a mess to sort through.”
“Okay,” chirped Luna agreeably, stepping tentatively away from the wall, pleased to see that Dandelion reappeared as she did so. Her father picked her up and swung her over the paper, depositing her on the small landing at the top of the stairs, and she caught a distinct whiff of Gurdyroot Infusion from the mug that was still sitting on the banister.
She eyed her shadow from the corner of her eye, and stretched out a hand toward it as Xenophilius bent over once more to resume collecting his magazine pages. Dandelion’s shaded fingertips touched her small ones, and she felt a little tingling feeling shoot up her arm, remembering her mother’s words about a shadow being a constant friend.
Feeling considerably less lonely than she had an hour or so earlier, Luna tripped downstairs to inspect the milk – just in case.
A/N: Luna is a rather tough character to write, but I enjoyed the challenge immensely -- she seems just the sort of person who might think of her shadow as a friend. I admire a lot of qualities in her, and, having a lot of imaginary friends myself when I was younger, I think her imagination is certainly one of them.
A million thanks to my dear friend Melissa (WitnesstoitAll), who looked over part of this story in advance and was generally lovely in her expertise in all things Luna. Thank you for reading, and if you've made it this far, please don't forget to leave a review!