After the war ends; after Voldemort is defeated, Harry Potter disappears.
He leaves enough clues to make sure Hermione and Ron and Ginny know he is all right, but he erases his traces well enough to make sure they can't follow. Harry is very apt at making sure nobody is following him.
He goes away. He buries his wand at the bottom of his suitcase; he starts trading in things that have nothing to do with magic – train tickets, restaurant bills, travel toothbrush. These things calm him down, these things comfort him. The lack of familiar faces, the lack of ruins, a world where war never was. Muggles were killed, but war never happened, because nobody ever called it that name.
Harry studies timetables and the soothing rhythm of cricket results in the newspaper pages. Summer comes.
`Hi, Harry Potter.´
They meet on a little village by the sea, the kind of place that is too real to be tourist-y and too picturesque to be real. Where people in bicycles talk about neighbour's pregnancies and everyone makes their own cider. A world moved by breeze.
It's a coincidence, that he is here and Luna is here but they are wizards, for whom nothing ever truly is a coincidence.
(later, much later, Luna explains: that's how we are rigged, don't you think? we can feel another witch's or wizard's powers in the vicinity)
When he finds her – or she finds him – Luna is eating cream puffs with bird-like curiosity.
`I didn't feel like being around people,´ he tries to explain.
`I understand. I wanted to travel a bit too. It is quite nice, being around people who have no idea a magic wand can kill you.´
The tone of her voice tells Harry that Luna also wishes to go back to some abstract time in her life when she didn't know a magic wand can kill. Harry had never thought about it like that but that's how things go when you are in Luna Lovegood's company, you see things in a different light.
They sit outside a family restaurant by an empty, grey beach. In the distance they can see an abandoned lighthouse, the sea biting at its stone.
`You are staying here? It's very nice. Very lonely, but in a good way.´
They go up to his room at the hotel; top floor and huge window, blue wallpaper with drawings of terriers doing gymnastics.
`You must like the high ceilings,´ Luna adds. It hadn't occurred to Harry, of course. But she is right.
He's been here a week and yet he's not unpacked, his things in a very boyish disarray over the bed and the chairs. He tries to tidy up a bit. It makes Luna grin.
`I'm really tired.´
`Why don't you sleep?´
And it sounds so ridiculously obvious.
Harry hasn't slept properly since it all ended. One might think that the body would break down after they won the war and allow him, finally, some respite. It doesn't work like that. In his dreams Voldemort rises from the dead, playing a trick on Harry, just like he did on the Dark Lord. That's why he still sleeps lightly, his hand clutching a wand he no longer needs to survive.
He lies in bed – at first as if he was watching himself from outside his own body, the movements mechanical-toy stiff and heavy, then like an old piece of parchment that hasn't been unrolled in centuries, he creaks and he wrinkles. When he settles down, head on the pillow, he discovers he can breathe.
Then Luna too climbs into bed without a word; Harry finds himself instinctively drawing back to allow her some room. It's midday. The air is full of sunshine and the sunshine is full of motes of dust. It's Luna's tiny, inconsequential body by his side that reminds Harry that he has not had human touch in months. He buries his face in Luna's sandbleached hair until he can only see sunshine.
She lets him sleep. Sleeps with him until the light grows softer, like an old friend. Harry dreams he knows her better, one hand snaked around Luna's waist. He dreams in colours. The wind hisses against the window above them. When Harry wakes up his hand is resting on her hip and she looks just like a young girl, a girl wearing jeans and a ridiculously old-fashioned shirt that looks too big on her, she looks like nothing but a girl and Harry wonders where she carries her wand, because he hasn't seen her use it all day and he wonders if Luna, too, is running away from something.
`It's okay,´ she says, her eyes closed, `you can stay like this a bit longer if you want. You should do what you want.´
Ever since he first knew her, ever since she first talked to him, there hasn't been a moment when Luna hasn't made his life a bit better by her mere existence, through her words. It has taken him years to realize this.
It would make little sense to anyone else but there's something about Luna that reminds him of Sirius: the utter unconditionality of being understood and accepted.
(later, much later, Harry asks: was I sent to retrieve you? like I am some sort of special agent on a secret mission. that would be exciting she replies with her fingers around his wrist like soft threads)
He knows he will have to go back, eventually.
He knows he will have to take Seventh Year classes for his exams.
He knows he will have to decide about his future.
He knows he will have to talk to Ron and Hermione.
Be with Ginny.
Go to parties.
Remember the fallen.
Punish the villains.
Forget about the end of summer in a bed & breakfast in a wind-drenched little village; forget about this room and the blonde girl sleeping under his arm. Forget his weariness and go back. Go back.
But not just yet. Harry makes a wish: not just yet.