Luna sat in the Leaky Cauldron with her two best friends in the world, Ginny and Hermione, at the endmost table of the bar where the curious glances of the many wizards who had stopped by the famous inn that day would not interrupt their little chit-chat. They had been walking by foot all day long, helping Ginny with the preparations of her huge wedding. They had gone to the caterer to check the menu that her mother had so gladly agreed to pick, had taken a detour on Flourish and Blotts to choose the final set of invitations for the Ministry officials and only after they had crossed every appointment in their schedule did they allow themselves to pay Madam Malkin a visit.
Hermione had brought along a cut from a muggle magazine where she had spotted a nice design that they could use for the bridesmaids dresses. Luna had found it truly delightful and after getting Ginny’s approval on the colour, they had ordered Madam Malkin, identical sets of robes and dresses to match. While Luna had gazed around for something to wear that same night at the party that she and Rolf were to attend, Ginny had stepped out of the dressing room, wearing what was to be her wedding gown. She looked fantastic indeed and Luna and Hermione had both agreed that she was to be the most beautiful bride that Ottery St. Catchpole had ever seen. They had cried, had laughed and had had so much fun imagining Harry’s face at the sight of a ravishing looking Ginny walking down the aisle to him.
Their loud giggles could be heard even by Tom, who still hid his face beneath the glasses set up on his bar, but no one in the room felt bothered by the noises. Instead, they would smile contentiously at them and as soon as they recognized Ginny, they would bow their hats at her, knowing that she was getting married with the Boy Who Lived. Luna felt utterly good that day, because she had sorely missed a nice little gossip with the girls and the approaching wedding was indeed a rather pleasing matter to discuss. She knew that as from that moment, they would hardly get to see each other until September, because surely Ginny would be stuck with all the preparations. Hermione was busy trying to get a bill through the Wizengamot to increase the life quality of house elves and still trying to help her future sister-in-law with all there was to be done.
As for her, well, Luna would stay in Dorset, working for Mr. Scamander and spend her free time in the company of his grandson, Rolf. She had not told the girls about her thing with Rolf, or whatever one could call their connection- not because she didn’t want to, but mostly since she had not had a good opportunity to introduce her friends to the changes going on with her life. She watched Hermione telling a story about how Ron had jumped from the bed in their first night in the new flat at the sight of tiny scrawny spider that had crawled on the wall, to which Ginny laughed heartedly.
“And he kept shouting ‘Hermione, kill it! Kill it right now!” Hermione spoke barely controlling her raging laughter.
“Tell me you didn’t crush it! Tell me you left him anguished all night long!” Ginny shouted while erasing the tears that had rushed on her face from too much laughter.
“Oh,” Luna cried out. “You couldn’t have done that, Hermione…”
“No, of course not,” she replied while taking another sip from her tea. “I’m not that mean…but the look on his face was…priceless.”
The girls giggled soundly while a middle-aged woman turned around and smiled at the sight of their happy faces. It seemed to Luna that after Voldemort and all they had been through, people had learned to value a good hearted laughter. It was almost like ointment to rub on the many wounds that had shaken their bodies and their hearts during the war. She suddenly had the impression that all that the world needed right now, to heal, was a big wide grin flaunting on everyone’s faces.
“Oh… I haven’t laughed like that in ages,” Ginny spoke, while finally managing to cease her raging giggles. “I’ve missed you Luna…”
“Me too,” she replied happily.
She glanced outside on the wide open window, giving a nice view towards Diagon Alley, thinking of Rolf and if indeed he was missing her like he had said he would. She needed something to wear that night, as he had told her that it was a rather fancy party. She felt somewhat anxious because she would get to meet his best friends and from what she had heard they were quite finical. She had never sought to impress people, but suddenly being liked by Rolf’s friends seemed like such a big deal.
“So, tell us what you’ve been up to in Dorset…” Hermione inquired curiously.
“I’ve been on a field trip with Mr. Scamander, Gustav- the other assistant and apprentice- and… Rolf,” she explained, and Ginny grinned.
“Who is Rolf?” she asked winking. “The name sounds…nice.”
“He’s Mr. Scamander’s grandson,” she responded, gazing out on the window again.
“And you don’t happen to fancy him, do you?” Hermione joked, for she knew by the look on Luna’s face as she answered Ginny’s question that she liked that Rolf.
“But I do fancy him and…” Luna spoke, obviously not understanding the sarcasm in Hermione’s voice.
“And he fancies you back!” Ginny concluded, clapping her hand noisily. “Oh… tell us, more! Please…”
“What would you like me to tell you?” Luna said, with the same naïve tone of voice as if she had no idea what the girls needed to know.
“Luna… the usual: time, place, how, actions implied and their degree of satisfaction!” Ginny spoke a bit too loud, but surely very much lovingly.
“Hmmm…” Luna murmured and then sighed. “Well we were on the trip and Gustav got food poisoning and Mr. Scamander had to stay behind with him; so Rolf and I went on working in the woods all by ourselves. I guess it was around midday and it started raining and he kissed me…” she explained blushing vividly, much to the girls’ pleasure.
“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rank him? My Harry was an 8.5 when I first kissed him…Now, he’s a ten,” Ginny boasted and Luna blushed yet again. “What?” she spoke after Hermione had thrown her a nasty glance. “Didn’t you rank Ron?”
“Yes, of course,” she admitted. “But I had someone else with whom to compare. I’m sure Luna found it very much pleasing.”
“Oh, yes, indeed…. It was a first kiss, but a good one!” she spoke truthfully. Indeed the kiss that Rolf had given her that day had been wonderful. She had never felt more elated than that cosy afternoon when they had darted away from the pouring rain, finding shelter beneath the heavy branches of an old tree where their lips had met for their very first, but surely not last time.
“And I presume that you are now a couple…” Ginny added.
“I guess we are,” Luna replied. “He’s taking me to a party tonight, actually. It’s his best friend’s birthday.”
“Oh for goodness’ sake Luna,” Hermione complained. “Hurry up with that pumpkin juice. We’ve got to buy you something for the party. You can’t go there wearing jeans, can you?”
Luna smiled and by doing that she was virtually thanking Hermione for having thought of her. She drank her juice in a heartbeat and upon emerging from the Leaky Cauldron they walked over to Madam Malkin’s again to get Luna into trying some other types of clothes than those she would have usually gone for.
Luna glanced at her reflection in the mirror and all of the sudden she felt like a new, different person; yet it did not frighten her as such thought or mere impression would have made her feel on a regular basis. It was refreshing, just like the cold rain dripping between their clasped mouths in that hot afternoon, like the stare in his eyes as she ogled him or the assurance that his hand clasping hers always provided. She wore a short silver dress, with bare shoulders and a rather tempting cleavage.
She had pulled her hair in a bun, but this time she had not used her wand. She would place it in her purse- the one that both Ginny and Hermione had offered to pay for as a gift for the brand new life that Luna had commenced in Dorset.
She smiled at herself, curiously analyzing the dark grey shade on her eyelid, a make-up trick that Ginny had taught her that same afternoon. She thought she looked nice, almost too good than she would have ever though she would. She hoped Rolf would think the same.
Luna felt nervous, for she had never been introduced as someone’s girlfriend and now that she was minutes away from doing just that, she didn’t know how to react. Should she be shy and introvert? Should she mingle with people and chat the night away with his friends? After a brief second of contemplation, she realized that the best way of handling this new situation was by being herself. How were his friends supposed to like someone that she was not? She would be Luna, the Luna she knew…the one that Rolf liked…the one that her friends had missed.
She would not restrain herself and surely she would not let people believe that she was something else. She would be truthful to those around her and to herself; if Rolf liked her the way she was then she saw no reason why they would not feel the same…
With those very thoughts swirling in her mind, she grabbed her purse, put her wand inside and then emerged from her room. She went downstairs, where she knew that Rolf would be waiting, probably all dressed up and glancing every once in a while at his expensive wrist watch (a gift from his father when he had come of age) to check if indeed they were on time.
Her assumptions had been true, for the very second that she descended the last sequence of steps, she noticed Rolf- who was wearing a very dashing suit that emphasized his regular elegance- sitting in the main lobby, wedging his hands and glancing relentlessly at his watch.
As he heard her footsteps he gazed up and at the sight of her angelic facial features and the daintily manner in which her legs crossed as she descended, he gaped. He had never seen anyone looking half as beautiful as she looked tonight. She had done something to her hair, her eyes seemed to beam even more powerful from the pit and her lips wore a delicate shade of pink that only outlined the perfect contour. Her short dress revealed a pair of fit legs, whose shimmering skin seemed to be so soft that Rolf could hardly control his eagerness to run his fingers over them.
She averted her gaze to him and for the first time he felt like the air had become insufficient, almost toxic at some point. Independently from him, he sensed his right arm extending forward and grabbing her soft hand, then gently leading her to the door. She spoke of nothing yet her silence assured him that indeed it had been a good choice to ask her to come with him.
He had been worried all week long about this silly party; about how would his friends react at the sight of her, if they would like her and most importantly if she would enjoy their presence. But now that he saw her, in all her grace and beauty, it seemed like nothing could go wrong that night. She had that poise that he had looked all his life in a woman, yet forever preserving that shyness that made him feel like a child again.
“You look wonderful,” he finally managed to whisper as he opened the door for her.
“Thank you,” she replied while clutching to her purse. “You’re looking quite dashing as well.”
He sniggered and then led her outside, without even bothering to look behind and say goodbye to his grandparents who had been spying on them all along from the dinning room, whose door was creaked enough as to allow them to see their figures in the lobby.
“You haven’t told me who your friend is…” Luna added while allowing Rolf to guide her to the exit gate, where an apparition was possible.
“Come to think of it…” he spoke, preserving the hushed tone of voice. “I believe you know him, or at least you might have heard of him. His name is Blaise Zabini. Does it sound familiar?”
“Oh…quite familiar!” she responded. “I guess he was in Slytherin, a year older though. And I remember that he was in Slug Club.”
“Slug Club…? What is that?” Rolf queried.
“Our Potions teacher, the one we had in my fifth year, his name was Slughorn; he had a habit of favouring students which he would gather in these famous parties… Slug Club of elites,” she replied and he frowned.
“Were you in this club?”
“Oh dear, no!” she said, quite alarmed. “I accompanied Harry to the Christmas Party because he had no one to go to and it was actually important that he went…But other than that, I’ve had no contact with it. I didn’t really have time to attend the parties…”
He nodded and then opened the tiny gate, leading on the main road.
They apparated on a dim lighted street, bordered by giant trees, whose branches bended to the ground, and every once in a while by tall wrought iron lamp posts that apart from their bohemian aspect, had no real use for the light they cast upon the street was insufficient. Rolf clutched to her hand and then started pacing along the narrow and apparently deserted street.
And then as they moved forward, Luna started making out the sound of music reverberating from the distance. She was sure that the house of Blaise Zabini was closer than the music allowed to be approximated. They stepped from the shadow and Luna noticed a tall brick wall margining the sidewalk, upon which the branches of the flourishing trees supported their weight.
They followed the line of the wall and after pacing for a short distance they reached the main gate, guarded by two gate posts so impressive and towering that their mere sight send shivers down Luna’s spine. Rolf took his wand from the hidden pocket of his coat and pushed it inside the round locket of the latch, making the gate swung open in an instant.
He grabbed her hand again, this time intertwining his fingers with hers, and walked straight forward, carefully stepping on the perfect green grass. The house was huge and for a split second Luna thought she was walking into Malfoy Manor again, like she had done it a while before, following her kidnapping in the Express. The Manor house was handsome indeed, with big grey walls and round archways that appeared to resemble those of a cathedral.
The windows were all covered by stained glass, immortalizing all sorts of blossoming roses and starry skies beneath which the faded shades of lovers kissed. They reached the front door which had a Z printed on the knocker and as Rolf sensed the shivering hand resting in his, he stopped.
He cupped her face all this time looking straight into her big eyes that seemed to have lost their dreaminess and all of the sudden had gained a peculiar aura of anxiety.
“Hey…” he mumbled trying to reassure her. “It’s going to be alright. I think you’re going to like them. They’re a bit wild sometimes, but who isn’t?”
“It’s not that,” she replied. “It’s them actually that could not like me.”
“Oh…don’t worry about that! I don’t care that much about what they think, anyway. One valuable piece of advice…don’t get too friendly with Mrs. Zabini, Blaise’s mum.”
“Why?” Luna asked.
“Well, she’s alright! Don’t get me wrong, but she can be pretty creepy if she wants to. Plus, she’s got some distorted ideas about life, which you won’t like.”
She smiled and he did the same gesture. “Now let’s go inside…I bet there’s a great party waiting behind the door,” he spoke again as he banged the knocker.
A scrawny, ragged-dressed house elf opened the door and greeted them inside. He picked up the gift that Rolf had carried in his hidden pocket and then urged them to join the gathering that apparently was taking place in the drawing room. Luna watched the dismal décor, the high mirrors covering most of the walls, the many paintings belonging to both wizard and muggle artists- some of them quite luxurious, or so it seemed- and the crystal chandelier hanging above the entry hall. Rolf squeezed her hand and she smiled again, this time actually feeling it like a natural mimic.
“Why are there so many mirrors?” she asked curiously analyzing their reflection as they passed before yet another reflecting glass.
“Zabini and his mum are very much conceited,” he sniggered. “They like to admire themselves all day long!”
As she barely managed to control the giggling he walked her over to a long corridor at the end of which, voices and the thunderous sound of music could be heard. He pushed the mahogany door open, revealing the most impressing room Luna had ever seen. It was circular, the walls were covered by colourful paintings, emblazoning men and women who must have been family at some point, luxurious pieces of furniture, a big round table on which house-elves were still placing full to the brim dishes and in the middle there was a huge gathering of young people.
Some of them sat on the antique sofas or on the comfortable-looking armchairs, others were leaning on the counter of the bar, while the majority of people were standing up engaged in vivid conversations. She noticed the black boy who had once belonged to the house of Salazar Slytherin sitting next to the spectacular purple piano that seemed to be the centre point of the whole room.
“Hey, Scamander!” a voice resounded through the room and everyone turned their heads towards them, making Luna blush.
“Damian,” spoke Rolf as he patted a blue-eyed young man on the back. “How are you?”
“Brilliant,” he replied. “Zabini, come here you rag!”
Blaise Zabini approached his friends and hugged Rolf first, then shook hands with him, as though they had not seen each other in quite a while.
“Guys,” Rolf said and Luna shuddered. “This is Luna, Luna Lovegood.”
“I think I know her, already,” spoke Zabini, but still stretched his hand briefly meeting hers.
“Luna, this is Damian Krueger,” Rolf spoke.
“It’s nice to meet you both,” murmured Luna and the boys sniggered to each other.
“Please, do take a seat!” Zabini pledged. “I still have to work my charms on the witty witch there…Elvira, darling!” Luna heard him muttering while moving forward.
They advanced to the sofas, where Rolf and Luna accommodated themselves next to Damian and a good-looking girl, with long black hair who spoke rather loud and did not seem to be bothered by the glares thrown at her whenever she laughed. She introduced herself immediately as Irina Nyx-Poe and as Luna shook hands with her, she glanced at Rolf who grimaced disapprovingly.
“She likes to gossip too much, so be careful what you tell her,” he advised her, bearing a jolly twitch in his voice.
“Oh, then I shall not speak that much,” Luna replied pensively.
She glanced around the room, but she did not seem to find any face familiar figures until she looked in the direction of the place where the armchairs stood circumventing a round coffee table. There he was, Draco Malfoy, with his blonde hair and striking grey eyes. He wore a smart robe and the goblet he held in his hand shone in the candle light. He glanced at her and she noticed the flabbergasted expression plastered to his face.
She knew that he still felt sorry for having been his house the one that had been a cellar for her. She knew he regretted everything that had happened there, the torturing that Voldemort had made him do and the Cruciatus that he had so often performed on her against his will. Luna could guess in his eyes the shame of having met her there, in his playground.
Then, two girls approached him, whose faces now Luna vaguely remembered from school. They had been also in Slytherin and they were sisters: Daphne and Astoria Greengrass. The younger sister, with long sleek blonde hair stretched her hand meeting Draco’s as Daphne was probably introducing them.
“Rolf,” Luna whispered, as he squeezed her hand. “Do you know Draco Malfoy?”
“Erm…not really,” he replied rather unaware as to why she needed to know. “I’ve met him once at a party before the war started, but that’s all. We’re not friends or anything. Oh, right, you were locked in his house for six months, weren’t you?”
“Yes,” she responded gravely. “And those are the Greengrass sisters, right?”
Rolf nodded and then she smiled at him, quite contented about the information that he had just given her. There was a loud thud making everyone cease their rambling and avert their gazes towards the entrance door, through which a tall, beautiful black woman entered the room, accompanied by a Siberian tiger. The animal seemed to be rather peaceful as he allowed his mistress to drag him along with the help of a leather leash. The collar around his neck was encrusted with rubies that matched the sparkling red rock of her impressive ring.
The woman, who bore a striking resemblance to Blaise, wore a long silky black dress that fitted her curvy body and a pure white fur collaret that Luna guessed that had once been an arctic fox. She strutted towards the purple piano, smiling as she noticed Blaise and as they met she gently pulled him in a tender embrace and then kissed his forehead in a motherly manner.
“That’s Zabini’s mum,” Rolf explained, leaning over whispering softly to her ear.
“Are the rumours true?” Luna asked curiously. “I’ve heard that…”
“That she had seven husbands who are dead now, right?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Well, yes, she was married to seven men and they’re all dead. But the circumstances of their death…hmm, they are odd indeed,” Rolf spoke rather worried as he noticed that both his friend and his mother were approaching their sofa. “Here they come.”
“Good evening, darlings,” Mrs. Zabini spoke and some of the guests lifted their red wine glasses as though drinking in her honour. Some of the girls rushed to greet her to which she smiled casually, but everyone could guess by the look on her face that she did not thought them as worthy enough to even stay in the same room as she did. She then noticed Rolf with what it seemed like a peculiar girl on the sofa and headed straight to them.
“Rolf,” she addressed him lovingly while extending her hand for him to kiss it. “I haven’t seen you in quite a while…”
“I’ve been busy Mrs. Zabini,” he replied courteously. “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend…Mrs. Zabini, this is Luna Lovegood. Dear, this is Blaise’s mother.”
Luna stretched her hand meeting the woman’s but this time Mrs. Zabini did not make any gesture, which needless to say would allow anyone to affirm that Luna had made a good first impression.
“Cassandra Zabini Cavanaugh Beauchamp Jung Mollyneux Castellis Richardson Trafford,” the woman recommended herself and Luna smiled.
“That it’s a rather long name, Mrs. Zabini,” she replied and everyone stared at her as though she had said a blasphemy. Cassandra Zabini laughed heartedly and the atmosphere seemed to have lightened up along with her raging giggle.
“She’s an honest girl, Rolf,” she said, while brushing his shoulder affectionately and then marching off from the room, through a side door, dragging the white Siberian tiger along.
The music started thudding and as soon as the joyful tune of the enchanted piano began filling the room again, everyone succumbed themselves in vivid conversations or shameless flirting, in the case of Blaise and that Elvira witch, who did not seem the type of woman to resist someone like him. Luna felt hot suddenly and asked Rolf to excuse her for a while as she needed some fresh air.
He pointed a back door that apparently would lead her to the terrace and as she lifted from the sofa he grabbed her hand and kissed it softly, making her blush. She headed to the door and as she opened it she was greeted by the most beautiful view she had ever seen. Tall trees rose mighty from the ground, their green leaves fluttering wildly in the chilly wind and a deep valley lay ahead of the manor house that stood on the top of a hill, as Luna now realized.
She approached the balustrade and then allowed the air of the night to protrude her nostrils.
As her mind wandered off to the many reasons why this party made her feel uncomfortable, she heard steps behind her. She turned around and it was then that she noticed just how beautiful and elegant Cassandra Zabini was. Her chocolate brown hair was pulled in a loose bun, some thin curly strands hanging on her bare shoulders and the briskly green eyes that contrasted with her black skin seemed to resemble a cat’s. She approached Luna and then let go of the tiger, which preferred to rest next to her feet rather than enjoy a cosy walk around the wide terrace.
“Boring party, right Luna?” she stated rather than asking, but Luna felt compelled to reply though at no point had Cassandra needed an answer.
“Not necessarily,” Luna spoke and Mrs. Zabini smiled after taking a sip from her red wine glass. “It depends who’s talking…Blaise seems to be having fun.”
Luna sighed, “I’m new.”
“You don’t fit, do you? You see, I could tell that by mere looking at you…You’re not like that girl…Irvina.”
“Irina…” Luna corrected her politely but Cassandra didn’t seem to bother for such trifles.
“They are going to crush you, you know?” the woman spoke, while patting her tiger. “Men, I mean…not just Rolf. You see that little fence over there?” she said while pointing towards the eastern side of the house. “That’s a little cemetery for my dead, very dead husbands.”
Luna bent over a bit and as she turned her gaze towards the wrought iron fence she indeed noticed some tomb stones all lined up behind the grill. Above the kissing gate she could make out the shape of an iron carved heart beneath which there was a big post saying “when you've told someone that you've left them a legacy the only decent thing to do is to die at once”.
She thought that it was quite a funny thing to write on the gate of a cemetery.
“I buried them all…” Mrs. Zabini said with a cold tone of voice and Luna smirked.
“You don’t believe me,” she replied pensively. “I guess it doesn’t really matter now…All that is left of them is their memory and the money they’ve left me with. Why mourn when I can just go and buy myself a fur?”
Luna gazed at the woman. She was strange in a way not even she was. There was something cold about her eyes that did not seem to convey the warmth of a regular mother like she liked to think of herself, or the grieving widow of seven loving and very rich husbands. As Rolf had warned her, the woman’s views upon life and men in general were not at all congruent to Luna’s and merely standing there, inches away from her and listening to her ‘caring advice’ felt somewhat consumptive for an eighteen year old girl who just happened to be very much in love.
“People like Rolf don’t change darling,” Cassandra went on talking. “It would be a pity to spoil such beauty of the spirit as you seem to possess; because that’s what you are doing now…I am the woman whom men have always fallen in love with… more men than the fingers on both of your hands, dear. And I can tell by mere glancing at you that you will not make it through a man like Rolf Scamander.”
“How would you know that?” Luna asked, quite offended.
“Because of all those men who lay now six feet beneath the ground…Burry them, or else they will burry you,” Mrs. Zabini spoke and then turned around and left Luna all by herself on the terrace.
She thought of Rolf and how he was different from the seven husbands that apparently Mrs. Zabini had not just buried but also gave a push into the grave holes they were now occupying. No one could ever match his eyes, his tender kisses or his caring whispers. He was not just another man that broke hearts with the same fluency as though changing a pair of socks. He understood her in a way not even her friends had managed and simply being comprehended entirely made Luna feel like she had been gifted that day when she had first set foot in the Scamander house. Rolf was right; she should not have related much with Cassandra.
She left the spot and headed straight to the door from where she had emerged minutes before, decided to break the ice with Rolf’s friends.
AN I would like to take a moment and thank all those wonderful people who have voted this story for the Dobbys. It is now a finalist for two categories, Best Post-Hogwarts and Best Story Graphic. A big hug and many many kisses go out to you my dears for being so dedicated in both reviewing and faving this story. This chapter is for you all:D Unfortunately, I will be away for two weeks on holiday(Spain and Portugal) and I won't be able to update or to respond to reviews. But rest assured, I will get back to each and every one of you! Roe
PS. The quote on the cementery gate belongs to Samuel Butler.
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