Professor Trelawney often used to say that Luna had all the makings of a true Seer, but she was wrong. Luna isn’t interested in predicting the future. She lives in the here and now, partly because it’s the best way, and partly because you never really know how much here and now you’re going to get before you’re over and done with.
She’s seen the colours as long as she can remember. Professor Flitwick, whom she has always trusted, had called them ‘auras’ but Luna prefers to think of them as glimmers. That’s how they look. They swim and glow around every person she meets, intensifying with emotion and health, and every single one of them is different. She can pick out a person who is close to their end, and when she sees the familiar cloudy pallor swooping over a young person or a child, her heart breaks. She had seen it that morning when she was nine years old, when her mother had ruffled her hair, headed off to her workshop and never come back. At first, she hadn’t understood the connection, but like the sight of the ghostly Thestrals two years later, it hadn’t taken her long to work it out.
In the end, there had been too many of them to count, the castle and lawns a dizzying mass of vivid, angry colours and then sickening wisps of milky light, swirling out from every corner of the grounds. Once or twice she had managed to throw herself at a friend or ally, knocking them to the ground and restoring their colours to bright, fighting red or green or orange. More often, her split-second advantage had simply not been enough, and the fall came anyway.
The dead leave no glimmers.
Luna shivers despite the bright morning sunshine and quickens her pace, grounding herself with each step through the long grasses that line the stream. The soil and moss are cool and soft against her bare feet and she sticks out one arm to trail through the rushes as she walks, the other curled tightly around a fat patchwork notebook. The corners are a little bent these days, many of the pages dog-eared, and the little press-stud fastener will no longer hold the book closed because so many bits of paper and photographs have been stuffed inside, but it doesn’t matter. Inside this book are her friends, and there is nothing more important.
Her best friend of all, of course, lives with her in the tall, happy house at the top of the gentle slope, and she turns instinctively, just in time to see a shower of green sparks from the attic window. She smiles and pulls out her wand, sending up an identical shot of sparks in return. He is well, and now he knows that she is, too. Some people have wondered—often when they think she isn’t listening—why she doesn’t move out and find a place of her own. It’s been more than two years since the end of the war, after all, they say; she has a job and most of an education, but Luna doesn’t care. Her father is happier when she is around. His colours glow in rich, golden shades of yellow when he knows she is safe, and she doesn’t think she could stand to see him so pale and frightened again.
She tells those people that they like it this way, and it’s the truth. It hasn’t escaped her notice that the truth makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but she doesn’t think there’s anything she can do about that. She has always been a truthful person, and she has always been a happy person. Harry says she has a knack for finding the bright side, even when there isn’t one, and the idea makes her laugh, because if anyone she has ever met knows how to find the light and keep going, it’s Harry.
And Harry, somehow, is her friend. Harry and Hermione and Ron and George and Ginny, Neville and Blaise and Draco Malfoy. They are all her friends, and she is theirs. They are a strange little group, at the centre of which she inexplicably finds herself, gently holding them all together. Having spent so much of her life at the fringes of things, it’s all a bit startling, but she believes firmly that everything happens for a reason, and as such, she has a plan.
Clutching her book tightly, she steps into the stream and wades carefully into the centre, where the gentle current ripples around her ankles and makes lazy swipes at the rolled-up cuffs of her dungarees. She opens the book and gazes down at a photograph of herself and Neville in front of an enormous cactus, glancing up when the sound of wingbeats catches her attention.
“Hello, Mr Abernathy,” she says, beaming at the large crow that has just landed on the bank. “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”
The crow tilts his head on one side and regards her with beady black eyes before releasing something metallic and shiny from his beak.
Luna laughs and walks back through the cool water to retrieve and inspect the offering.
“A butterbeer cap? Thank you,” she says, watching the soft blue glimmer around the bird darken from turquoise to cerulean.
He lets out a loud caw and hops from one foot to the other. Luna drops the cap into her pocket and digs around for a reward. Mr Abernathy is not a fussy eater, but she has discovered by watching his colours that cherries are his absolute favourite. She thinks it would surprise some people to know that animals have colours, too, but she isn’t really sure why. Why wouldn’t they? It’s clearly not a matter of intelligence, she thinks, finding a cherry and offering it to the crow, who accepts it daintily. When Draco first met him, he said that Mr Abernathy was smarter than some of the people they went to school with. Luna hadn’t known whether to tell him that wasn’t very nice or to thank him on behalf of Mr Abernathy. She still doesn’t. Draco makes her feel that way a lot, but she likes him.
He’s an interesting sort of person and he’s never told her that she’s strange, which makes her curious as well as grateful. He had been surprisingly kind to her and Mr Ollivander when they’d been kept in the dark place, and unlike the other followers, whose glimmers had been bright and fierce, his had been almost non-existent. She had known there was something different inside him, something beside fear and regret, and all the arrogance in the world couldn’t mask it.
Not then and not now. She lowers herself to the bank and sits, allowing her feet to dangle in the rippling water as she flips through her book and smiles at her photograph of Draco. It’s her favourite one of him, tacked onto the page with a piece of glittery Spellotape, and shows a struggle between stern disapproval and genuine laughter as two small children leap upon the unsuspecting Draco from behind and almost bear him to the ground. She cannot see the glimmers of colour in the photograph, but she remembers them perfectly from the moment when she took it, standing out in the grounds of the Starlight Home for Children just weeks earlier.
In these moments, Draco is a vibrant sea green, and he is only growing stronger. Volunteering seems to bring out the best in him, and Luna doesn’t know why everyone seems so surprised by that fact. Doing nice things for other people is good for the soul, and being terrified and angry all the time… just isn’t. As far as she can see, it’s simple, but then she has so often been told that she doesn’t see things the way that other people do.
“But difference is good,” she tells Mr Abernathy, flipping over to the next page of her book. “If we were all the same, then life wouldn’t be beautiful, or frightening, or fun. That’s what my dad always says.”
Mr Abernathy makes a small sound of agreement and hops closer, gently laying a blade of damp grass next to a picture of Harry in his Healer robes, standing on the front steps of Curatio’s on his first day of training, grinning and fidgeting and looking extremely sheepish all at once.
“Harry?” she asks, turning to look at the crow.
“Aak!” offers Mr Abernathy.
“I’m not sure it’s time,” she says, frowning. “Let’s choose a different one.”
Mr Abernathy regards her for a moment with bright, intelligent eyes and then mumbles the corner of Harry’s page with his beak. Luna laughs and nudges him away. She leafs through the pages, turning almost all the way to the front of the book, where her plans are laid out in bold strokes of purple ink.
The Happiness Project, she reads with a small smile.
She has never been much of a planner, preferring to let things happen naturally—chaotically if necessary—but being friends with Hermione over the years has taught her that a little organisation goes a long way, and as such, she has chosen to outline her project using the structure she has gleaned from her friend’s notebooks and folders and bits of paper pinned to cork-boards.
“Aims,” she reads aloud, and Mr Abernathy stops trying to eat an entire windfall apple in one bite to look at her with interest, as though he hasn’t heard these words hundreds of times before. He’s polite like that. “To spread contentment and joy. To give each of my lovely friends something to smile about. To make their colours glow.”
Mr Abernathy shakes his tail appreciatively and resumes pecking at the apple.
“Method,” Luna reads, frowning in concentration. It’s important that she concentrates. It’s all too easy to let her mind drift, to start wondering whether her father has eaten the breakfast she left, or exactly what crows worry about, or how many things are living in the stream at her feet, and then it’ll be midday and time to leave for work and she won’t have made any progress at all. Professor McGonagall used to tick her off for daydreaming all the time, and Luna still remembers the exasperation in her voice whenever she performed a spell correctly after paying next to no attention all through the lesson.
“You’re lucky you have a sharp mind, Miss Lovegood. If you hadn’t, you would surely have blown yourself up by now, given that you don’t seem to listen to a word I say.”
The thing is, Luna doesn’t mean to drift away on intriguing little tangents, much less ignore anyone as wonderful as Professor McGonagall… it just happens.
When Mr Abernathy pecks lightly at her leg, she jumps and then sighs.
“I know,” she says guiltily. “I’m daydreaming about daydreaming. That can’t be good.”
She stretches her toes in the water and tries again. “Method…”
By the time she bids goodbye to Mr Abernathy and runs up to the house to change for work, she is brimming with optimism once more. Together, they have gone over the plan and looked through the pages of the book, noting successes, works in progress, and actions to be carried out at a later date. Despite Mr Abernathy’s enthusiasm for the idea, her plans regarding Harry and Draco are not yet ready to be implemented.
“These things can’t be rushed,” she tells herself, throwing her notebook into her leather bag and slinging it over her shoulders. “What do you think?” she asks the mirror, indicating her winged sandals and multicoloured spotty dress.
“I think that September is a month of many contrasts,” the mirror says mysteriously.
“That’s very true,” she agrees, turning to call a goodbye to her father before she Disapparates.
When she arrives at the home, most of the children are eating lunch inside, but a small pack of boys are throwing a ball around on the front lawn and they make a beeline for Luna as soon as they see her.
“Did you even taste your food?” she asks, letting them surround her and pull gently at her dress and bag.
“I did, but I tried not to!” one declares, screwing up his face.
“Oh? Are you trying to turn into a Drenglebacked Gloonpuffer?” Luna asks.
“No… it was just horrible,” the first boy says, just as another asks:
“What’s a Drenglebacked Gloonpuffer?”
And the third says reproachfully:
“That’s not very nice, Gareth. Mary Ann can’t help it if you’re so fussy.”
Luna corrals the boys in a practised movement and starts to chivvy them towards the house.
“A Drenglebacked Gloonpuffer is a creature that can eat anything because it doesn’t have any tastebuds,” she explains, biting her lip when Benny accidentally crashes down on her foot instead of the ground. “Maybe we can find a picture of one in the library. Otis, you’re right, it’s not nice to be rude about Mary Ann’s cooking, and—”
“I take it that you three do not want your ice cream, then?” someone says, emerging from the dark hallway and into the bright sunshine that bathes the tiled entrance hall. “Hello, Luna.”
“Ice cream?” Benny repeats, and for a moment, all three boys stare up at Draco with wide eyes, and then they are gone, scuttling towards the dining room as though chased by Drenglebacked Gloonpuffers.
“What’s your favourite Greek island, Draco?” Luna asks after watching the exodus.
Pale grey eyes blink once, and again, and then he shrugs. “Kythira, perhaps. Why do you ask?”
“Because of ice cream. I was thinking that I had the most wonderful ice cream when my father and I went island hopping in the Aegean, and I remembered once hearing that you have relatives out there, so you’d probably visited, and…” Luna sighs, catching sight of Draco’s amused little smile. It’s a nice little smile, but it almost certainly means that she has been getting ahead of herself again.
After a moment, he tempers the little smile and it disappears. “I see,” he says gravely.
“You’re laughing at me,” she says, and she smiles to show that she isn’t offended.
She knows that people think she’s odd, and she also knows that it is partly because she always seems to be saying something odd, but it’s just so easy to forget to slow down. She tries, but her brain is constantly making connections and leaping all over the place whether she likes it or not.
“I wouldn’t,” Draco says, and she doesn’t believe him, but it doesn’t matter.
She follows him to the staff room, watching his glimmer with satisfaction. Today is a good day, she thinks; the light around him is soft and gentle but steady, reflecting the sort of calm that has only been possible in recent months. Inside the office, they sink into scuffed but comfortable armchairs with steaming hot coffee and discuss the afternoon ahead.
Slowly, the little room fills with other members of staff, each bringing with them their own colours and moods, fanned out around them for Luna to see. Mary Ann, the cook, seems happy and content, clearly oblivious to the dissatisfaction of certain small boys. Sam, the manager, is flickering anxiously as he so often is, but he finds a real smile for Luna as he edges past her to get to his desk. As the chatter in the room rises to an uncomfortable level, Luna tunes it out and focuses on Draco.
In his smart trousers and cotton shirt, top button undone and sleeves rolled to the elbow, he looks casual and cool in the way that has always fascinated and confused her, a way that only a person as beautiful and fancy as Draco could ever be. The inside of his left forearm, exposed as he reaches for the coffee pot, now displays a winding, gnarled tree, rendered in delicate shades of grey and completely covering the ugly, faded lines of the Dark Mark.
“It’s not because I’m ashamed,” he’d said, the first time he’d caught her staring at it—the day, in fact, that he’d turned up at the home and announced, in slightly shaky tones, that he was ‘here to help’. “It’s because I was sick of looking at it. It means death. This means life, because I want to live.”
If she hadn’t known before, she had known then. And he will live. They all will. She has a quiet, calm belief that everything will be alright in the end. Two years on from all the madness, life is clacking along, all of them crammed into a little cart on a bumpy track to an uncertain place, and that’s fine. Of course, there is always room for more happiness, but that is where she and her project come in.
She sips her coffee and smiles to herself, thinking of Hermione’s flushed delight when she’d finally had her article published in the Journal of Magi-Muggle Relations, a result due in the most part to her own skill and vision, but at least a little bit to Luna’s tireless campaign of encouragement, endless cups of tea and eagle-eyed proofreading. She presses her free hand to her bag, almost feeling the hum of positive energy bursting out of her little book. Inside, next to Hermione’s picture, is a copy of that article, each page carefully cut out and pasted in with pride.
Just a few pages on, there is the picture of Ginny with her Quidditch hero, Jayne Cavendish of Puddlemere United. That one had been a challenge, but Luna had been able to pull together an ‘accidental’ meeting between the two women with a little help from the Quibbler and her old housemate Terry Boot, who had turned out to be Jayne’s second cousin, once removed. Ginny, of course, has no idea that her chance encounter was anything but, nor does she have any idea that Luna was hiding behind a cart full of cabbages, snapping a photograph for her book and making sure everything went just as planned. There is, after all, a possibility that she might think that was a bit weird.
Like ice cream and Greek islands.
Draco looks up. “Is that where you had the ice cream?”
“Who’s having ice cream?” someone asks, slamming the office door behind them and adding: “Sorry I’m late.”
“You could be, if you’d turned up in time for lunch,” Mary Ann says mildly. “It’ll all have been gobbled up by now, though. Strawberry it was, as well.”
“Bugger,” Harry sighs, pulling his training robe over his head and rolling it into a ball. “Why didn’t you save me any? You know I love your ice cream.”
Mary Ann beams but Luna doesn’t catch her reply because once again, she is watching Draco. She is watching the flicker of distress on his face when Harry scrunches up his robes without a thought, she is watching the way his eyes flit guiltily upwards when Harry stretches and lets his t-shirt ride up, and she is watching the stiff nod he gives Harry when he passes, all tight jaw and fingers clenched into chair arms. Most of all, though, she is watching those gentle waves of sea green as they flare into a vivid, seething corona around Draco, and she certainly doesn’t miss the fact that Harry’s chaotic scarlet flares in return.
“What was the hold up?” Sam asks without looking up from his frantic scribbling.
“We got held back in the classroom—our Spell Damage tutor decided we needed a lecture on proper timekeeping,” Harry says, finding a spare seat next to Mary Ann. “She didn’t seem to see the irony.”
Draco snorts and Harry’s eyes flick to his immediately, filling Luna’s vision with shimmering red and green light. She closes one eye and pats her notebook through the leather of her bag, idly wondering if Mr Abernathy was right. These things shouldn’t be rushed, it’s true, but when two people are clearly mad about each other but cannot conduct a simple conversation without twitching and mumbling, something needs to be done.
“Is this even your day?” asks one of the care-workers, sounding puzzled.
“I always come on Wednesdays, Deb,” Harry says, but something in his voice makes Luna look at him.
“But weren’t you here yesterday?” Deb persists, and Harry shifts on the spot.
“And Sunday,” adds Sam from behind his desk.
“Well, yeah… I just thought I’d… you might need some extra help, or something,” he mumbles.
A ripple of amusement runs around the overstuffed room. Harry flushes.
“I’m trying to get more experience… with the kids…” he tries.
“Harry, you have lots of experience with kids already,” Luna says before she can stop herself.
Harry shoots her a dark look but continues to flounder, crossing his arms and looking, with his hair everywhere and his eyes on the ground, a lot like a sullen teenager. Draco, meanwhile, watches him covertly from his chair, colours pulsing rapidly.
“I like it here,” Harry says after a moment, lifting his chin and pretending nonchalance that doesn’t fool Luna for one second. “Why are you all being so weird?”
“We like you, too, Harry,” Luna says, smiling at him.
“Alright, alright,” Sam says, throwing down his quill. “Motion that everyone likes Harry?”
Grinning, everyone but Harry raises a hand, while he merely buries his head in his. Draco joins in, too, but Luna can see his anxiety as if it were written across his face.
Sam sighs. “Now that we’ve straightened that one out, can everyone look at this afternoon’s schedule for a moment?”
Luna draws out her other notebook—sober and brown and not to be confused with its lurid counterpart—and listens to Sam’s instructions, making notes with a peacock feather quill and allowing the unoccupied part of her brain to mull over the issue of Harry and Draco.
Unlike most things that involve Harry, this process has been a slow one. She hadn’t noticed it at first, and she doesn’t think many of her colleagues really notice it now. They have always made a game of embarrassing Harry, ever since he started his Wednesday afternoons as part of his Healer training—partly because they just enjoy making people squirm and partly because with Harry, it’s just so easy. He might be brave and fearless and uninhibited when it comes to matters of life and death, but a simple word or two about matters personal and he blushes and fumbles and dissembles better than anyone Luna has ever met. Even Neville is more confident these days; he’s still a little on the shy side, but next to Harry, he’s practically Casanova.
“Of course, he owes a lot of his success to love potions,” she mumbles to herself.
“Who?” Draco whispers.
Luna looks up. “Casanova. Not Neville.”
“Of course,” Draco says, looking back at his schedule with a smile. “That goes without saying.”
Luna watches him for a moment and then glances over at Harry, who is doodling on his schedule and gazing aimlessly at the side of Draco’s head.
The other thing that goes without saying, of course, is that Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy are in love with each other. Unfortunately, neither one of them is going to do anything about it, and she’s not sure if that’s entirely due to stubbornness or if it’s just possible that they don’t actually know it.
Hermione calls it ‘emotional intelligence’, this thing that her two friends and colleagues seem to lack. Both are clever, of course, but this is decidedly not about that. Obviously, Harry knows that his time at the home has increased over the past twelve months from one afternoon a week to every spare hour he has, but that doesn’t mean that he knows why. Perhaps he knows he’s drawn to the place, but not the reason, although she can hardly imagine that he doesn’t feel like he’s burning up inside every time the two of them look at each other.
Still. It isn’t as though she’s any kind of expert.
“Luna?” Deb asks, and she gets the impression it isn’t the first time.
“Can you swap with me today and do Movement to Music with the little ones?” Deb asks, twisting her shiny dark hair into a bun and pinning it in place. “I have to pick up Nola from her dad’s.”
“I hate Movement to Music,” Draco mutters under his breath.
“Of course,” Luna says brightly. She rather likes Movement to Music, and more than that, she might just have had an idea.
That night, she Apparates into the long grasses and walks down to the stream. The light is fading for the day, leaving behind streaks of pink and gold that shimmer over the water. Mr Abernathy calls to her from a low branch and she calls back to him, imitating his greeting and hoping she hasn’t accidentally said something offensive.
She sits at the base of the tree and pulls out her notebook.
“I think you were right,” she admits, as the crow swoops down to perch beside her in the grass.
Mr Abernathy drops a small silver key into her lap.
“Did you steal this?” she asks, trying to sound stern and failing. The crow looks so pleased with himself that she can’t help laughing. “Well, I don’t suppose you’re going to take it back, are you?” she sighs. She puts the key in her bag and fishes out a cherry for him, knowing that she ought not to encourage such behaviour. Still, there’s no one here and Mr Abernathy won’t tell.
She watches him working on the cherry for a moment and then turns to her book. Harry and Draco may have moved up the list somewhat, but she isn’t about to forget her ongoing campaigns. Drawing her wand, she performs a script scrambling charm to disguise her handwriting and then dashes off a letter to one Ronald Weasley. She has sent a dozen such letters in recent months, all of them raving about his delicious baked goods and demanding that he open a patisserie or cookie stall or pie shop, depending on her mood or the character she imagines is writing the letter.
It’s only a little deception—a kind lie, her mother would have called it—because everyone she knows really does love Ron’s food, and all have tried to persuade him to make a career of it, but when he says that their compliments are ‘biased’ and therefore ‘don’t count’, what else is there to do?
Mr Scruton of Luton, it seems, is most enamoured with Ron’s chocolate cakes.
They are light yet rich, soft yet substantial, and the icing is a thing of which dreams are made, she writes, picturing the imaginary Mr Scruton as a tall, dandified man with a velvet top hat and a cloak for every occasion.
Having tasted your wonderful cake at the Ottery St Catchpole village fair, I am ruined for all other sweet treats. Please tell me that you have, or at least are acquiring, a venue for your wares! Say yes, and I shall be the happiest, fattest man in all of England.
Luna signs the letter with a flourish and slips it into an envelope, ready for posting.
“One of my best, I think,” she tells Mr Abernathy, who is pecking around in the long grass.
It’s working, she thinks. Ron hasn’t mentioned receiving the letters, but he does seem to be baking more often, and Luna thinks she saw a copy of a business lettings magazine poking out of his bag the last time she saw him. It’s not yet time for her to place a large purple tick next to his photograph, but things are progressing nicely, as are her efforts to have a recently-discovered species of exploding stink flower named after Fred Weasley. The campaign has had coverage in the last three issues of the Quibbler, and seems to be picking up speed. Most importantly, George seems to be thrilled.
Mr Abernathy pokes his beak into the spine of her book and she looks up, startled to realise that the sky is almost completely dark. Out here the stars are clearly visible and she tips back her head, scanning for the constellations and naming them out loud. Finally, she tucks her notebook away and heads for the house. It isn’t until halfway through dinner that she realises she has forgotten all about her plans for Harry and Draco.
“I suppose I’ll have to wait another day,” she says, helping herself to another piece of her father’s specialty dish, pumpkin and pilchard pie.
“Waiting can be very beneficial,” he says, offering the ketchup bottle with a printing ink-stained hand.
Luna smiles and takes it. “Do you think a person can be in love without knowing it?”
He turns his tea mug this way and that on the table, like he always does when he’s thinking hard.
“Love can be very sneaky,” he says after a long time. “It can jump up on people when their backs are turned. They know that something has changed them, but they don’t always know what it is.”
Luna nods. “Alright.”
Her father picks up his knife and fork and starts to eat, pausing after a moment to peer into Luna’s eyes.
“Are you in love?”
“Not that I know of,” she says, hoping her smile is reassuring to him. “I’m asking for a friend.”
“I had a friend once,” he says carelessly, lifting a forkful of pie to his mouth.
Luna’s heart hurts. “I’m your friend, Dad.”
“Well, of course you are,” he says, looking at her as though she’s gone completely mad, but she doesn’t laugh.
When she retreats upstairs, she sits in her window seat and opens her notebook at a fresh page. Drawing out a picture of her dad from her wooden memory box, she pastes it into the book and scribbles:
Plan: to find you
a friend another friend.
Then, taking hold of her spirits and flinging them skywards, she turns to the page with Harry’s picture and starts to write. Perhaps they have all waited long enough.
The next morning steals into her attic bedroom with a shower of bright sunlight and a rustle of cool autumn air that sends all the loose parchments skittering off the bed and onto the floor. Luna scrambles upright, confused for a moment until her scribbles and diagrams come into focus and she smiles. There is work to be done, but first, she has to get some breakfast into her father. She can hear the whirr of the printing press already, and it wouldn’t be the first time that he has forgotten to go to bed in the run-up to publication.
Gathering all the loose leaves and stuffing them into her bag, she wanders down the rickety staircase and makes tea and toast, for which she gently pulls her father away from the press and out onto the balcony, where Mr Abernathy has perched hopefully, waiting for attention and leftover crusts.
“I like your dress,” Luna’s father says, eating his toast in a spiral pattern from the outside in. “Are you going to wear that for work?”
“It’s my nightie,” she laughs, looking down at the well-worn cotton garment with its ribbons and Kneazle print.
“I think it’s very nice,” he says airily. “Haven’t got a uniform, have you?”
“No, Dad,” Luna concedes. “But it’s not really the done thing to turn up in the clothes you wear to bed.”
With a little sigh that usually means ‘well, that’s a bit boring’, he picks up his cup and turns to look out over the stream, the trees, and the bracken-covered peaks in the distance.
Luna looks too, wondering just what would happen if everyone at Starlight did turn up in their nightclothes. It would probably frighten the children. That aside, though, Luna can’t help imagining her colleagues at their most vulnerable… whether Sam would wear matching pyjamas, buttoned up to his neck, whether Mary Ann really does sleep in her husband’s Hufflepuff yellow boxer shorts like she once joked, or whether Deb ever wears the red satin thing she got in the staff’s last Christmas gift exchange.
The she wonders just what Harry and Draco would do if suddenly confronted with each other’s half-nakedness… or perhaps full nakedness, and then she grins, letting out a sound that is half snort and half giggle.
“Aak!” says Mr Abernathy, and she gives him the last corner of her toast.
“I’m glad you like it, Dad, but I’m going to go and get changed,” she says, rising from her chair and kissing her father on the top of his head. He smells like ink and patchouli and his pale hair has been warmed by the morning sunshine. She smiles. “I love you.”
He doesn’t reply, but his voice finds her as she nears the top of the stairs.
“I love you, Luna—may your day be as interesting as you are!”
As she showers and dresses and heads out to the home, she thinks about the new notes in her bag and smiles to herself. It’s not a complete plan, not quite yet, but she has the feeling that she’s only waiting for one last little piece so that she can tie it all together and unleash it on her unsuspecting friends.
She hums happily to herself all the way through the morning handover and is amused when she catches several of her colleagues, including Sam, stuck with the tune for the rest of the day. She grins as she pokes the last of the children into their morning classes and wanders around the big old house, swinging her wand at her side and blasting everything in sight with cleaning and brightening charms. She sings as she picks flowers from the gardens and slyly encourages them with a spell until all of the vases are overflowing with colourful blooms, and when the little ones spill out for their morning break, they sing along with her, easily picking up the words of her old Irish folk song and belting it out at the top of their lungs.
When one of the teachers sticks her head out of a classroom and tells them all to SHUSH because her students are still taking a test, the younger children look at each other and exchange little ‘oooh’ sounds, and Luna hushes them with a smile still tugging at her face.
“Well, now, aren’t you in good spirits?” comes a familiar voice, and Luna turns to see a plump figure in tweed struggling in through the narrow French windows.
“Hello, Horace,” she says, offering her hand to pull him in. He takes it, and with one hard tug, he and his enormous bag are safely in the room. “How are you?”
“Horace is here!” someone bellows, and seconds later, Luna finds herself adrift in a tide of small children as every single one of them abandons their current activity and runs at him at once.
“Did you bring Beedle the Bard?” asks Benny, hopping from one foot to another in his excitement.
“Did you?” asks a little girl with long black plaits, eyes fixed on the bag of books.
“Give Horace a moment to breathe,” Luna says wearily, knowing that it’s pointless.
Horace gives her a little smile that crinkles up his eyes and she smiles back, shrugging. He’s been coming for months now to read to the younger children and they love him. She hadn’t been surprised when Harry had expressed his concerns, his suspicions about the old man’s motivations, his worries that perhaps Horace Slughorn was just looking to add to his ‘collection’. She understands all of that, but glimmers do not lie, and all she sees in Horace’s gentle, wavering indigo is a lonely man who doesn’t quite know what to do with himself after retiring from teaching a second time. He takes genuine pleasure in reading to the kids, and she can’t help wondering if being collected is the worst thing in the world for children who have no one to call their own.
He’s a nice old man, really, and he has a bewitching way with stories both old and new. She has already lost count of the number of times that she has tried to creep away to the office and has been held as though spellbound with one hand on the doorknob, caught up in the pin-drop silence of the children and the startlingly vast range of voices that comes from the chair by the fire. She knows them well by now, of course; the children often demand to hear the same stories again and again.
“Wouldn’t you like to hear something new?” Horace asks, right on cue.
“But you promised we could read Babbitty Rabbitty,” beseeches a small girl with enormous dark eyes.
“So I did, Serafina, I’d forgotten,” Horace says, and he retrieves the well-worn old book with a smile.
There is a mumble of satisfaction from the group, and, without a word, they move as one to surround the chair by the fire, leaning this way and that to allow Horace to make his way through. He sits with care, tucking his outer robe around himself fastidiously, and then looks up at Luna with a silent question.
“I can’t stay,” she whispers, reaching for the door. “Have fun.”
“A long time ago, in a far-off land, there lived a foolish king who decided that he alone should have the power of magic,” Horace begins as she walks away down the corridor, and she smiles some more.
At the last corner before the office, she walks straight into Harry, who seems to be in a hurry, despite the fact that today is not his day to be here. Of course, it very rarely is, so Luna takes a step back and smiles at him before following him into the office to a confusing chorus of ‘woohoo’-s and a rather impressive wolf-whistle from Mary Ann.
For a moment, she wonders if she has been daydreaming again and actually has come to work in her nightie with the Kneazles on it, but then she realises that everyone is staring at Harry, not her. Well, everyone apart from Draco, who is keeping his face carefully neutral and pretending to be interested in the report on his knee. Luna knows he is pretending because his colours are flickering wildly. She also knows because he is pretending to write with the wrong hand.
“What is it?” Harry asks, and he, too, is pretending. He’s pretending he doesn’t know why everyone is staring at him, and one does not need to be able to see glimmers to know that, because his face is bright red and his eyes are flicking all over the place.
“Come on, Harry, we just want to hear about your new boyfriend,” Deb says, grinning. “Or… what did they call him?”
“Harry Potter’s Coffee Shop Cutie,” Sam says, casually unfolding a copy of the Daily Prophet in his lap. “Oo, and may I add, er.”
Harry groans, the sound barely audible above the storm of giggles filling the office.
“You know it’s not true, don’t you?” he says, scrubbing at his messy fringe. “I’m not going out with him. I’m not… I’m not going out with anyone.”
“Says here you’ve had several meetings with this lad,” Mary Ann puts in, taking the paper from Sam.
“No… well, yeah, but it’s… business, that’s all,” Harry says, and Luna watches his eyes flit to Draco, who is still looking at the paperwork on his lap.
“Why didn’t I know about this?” Luna wonders, suppressing a sigh.
“Because you were too busy trying to give us all an earworm this morning,” Deb says rather accusingly.
“That doesn’t sound very nice,” Luna says, puzzled, but she lets it go.
“Never mind that,” Mary Ann says. “What sort of business?”
“Oh, well…” Harry lifts a hand to rub at the back of his neck. “The usual kind of business. Transactions. Expenses. Things going forward and up the… erm, flagpole. Taxes?” he tries, voice rising into a slightly more panicky octave.
Draco looks up slowly. “What flagpole?”
The glimmer around Harry all but bursts into flames as they stare at one another for several long seconds, and then he turns to Luna, expression appealing.
For a moment, she just stares at him as that last little piece of her plan sharpens and drops into place, and then she just smiles and shrugs.
“I don’t know why you’d think I know anything about flagpoles, Harry,” she says calmly, and then, gathering her bag, she walks out of the office.
She can hear the laughter of her colleagues all the way down the corridor, and she keeps going, breaking into a run as she emerges into the sunny courtyard. Folding herself onto a bench, she pulls out her notebook and writes the word ‘EMBARRASSMENT’ in large letters on the next clean page. All this time, it’s been staring her in the face—every time Deb or Mary Ann has made Harry mumble and flush bright red—and yet it has never occurred to Luna that such a thing might be used to help them.
Yes, she thinks, embarrassment might just be the key to Harry and Draco’s happiness, because embarrassment—along with its sneakier cousins, pride, fear, and inhibition—is exactly the thing that is holding them back from each other. All she needs to do is flood them with it until it becomes meaningless, until they become saturated, until they have nothing to fear.
Perhaps it’s like her mother’s fear of tubeworms, and the therapist she had seen, who had made her sit in a bathtub full of them until she couldn’t scream any more. At the time, Luna hadn’t thought it a very nice thing to do, but it had worked. And yes, her friends’ feelings are a lot more complicated than a straightforward, primal sort of terror, but she imagines that the logic is sound all the same.
After all, it’s just possible that Harry and Draco are afraid of each other, at least a little bit. Not in the way that they used to be, and not in the way that makes people hate one another, but in the unknown sort of way, the ‘who are you now?’ sort of way, and the sort of way that makes a heart race in its chest.
A little bit of fear can be helpful—it can push a person to greatness—but Luna thinks both Harry and Draco have experienced quite a bit of both fear and greatness already. What they both need, at this point, is happiness, and she thinks she knows exactly what she needs to do.
Humming with satisfaction, she pulls out her quill and begins to write.
By the time she hears the sound of mingled voices and footsteps that signify the children returning to their classes, she has filled several pages with her plans and suspects that, were she able to see her own glimmer, she would be glowing with excitement.
“There you are,” Draco says, stepping out into the courtyard with a cup of coffee and a persistent little frown between his eyebrows. “Are you alright? You dashed out of the office like something was chasing you.”
“I’m fine, Draco,” she promises. “Just writing a few things down… plans, you know.”
The kind that start sooner rather than later, she thinks, taking in the tightness of his jaw and the white-knuckled grip of his fingers on his coffee cup.
He narrows his eyes for a moment and then seems to let it go. “Blaise got another one of those parcels, you know,” he says, watching the fronds of her peacock quill waver in the breeze.
“Did he?” Luna says absently. “That’s nice.”
“Coffee fudge,” Draco says, and she looks up, feeling his eyes on her. “His favourite.”
“Perhaps someone’s trying to cheer him up,” she suggests, curling her fingers around the pages of her notebook as though the photograph of Blaise and his beloved greyhound might come shooting out and give her away. “He hasn’t been himself since Carlie passed.”
“She was part of the family,” Draco says. “He was rather unimpressed when he discovered that he wouldn’t be allowed to bring her to Hogwarts.”
Luna smiles. “I know,” she says softly.
She has heard all of Blaise’s stories about Carlie the wonder dog, especially over the weeks since her death, and she never tires of them. Losing a friend is always painful, but she thinks there is something about the pure, trusting nature of canines that makes the loss that much sharper. What Blaise really needs to do is get another dog, but these things cannot be forced. For now, the small gifts will have to be enough.
“Do you really think Harry is involved with that… coffee shop person?” Draco asks suddenly, and the flicker of vulnerability on his face fills Luna with hope.
“He said he wasn’t,” she shrugs. “I’ve never known him to lie.”
Draco makes a noncommittal sound and takes an uncharacteristically savage gulp of his coffee.
“I suppose you don’t think they’d make a nice couple?” she says innocently, and Draco’s lip curls for a fraction of a second.
“It’s nothing to do with me,” he says and turns to leave. “Apparently, I’m taking the little nips on a nature walk—do you want to come?”
Amused as she always is at the idea of Draco leading the under-fives on a ramble around the wild, overgrown grounds of the house, Luna smiles and nods.
“There are some wonderful creatures around at this time of year,” she says, tucking away her book and quill and slinging her bag across her shoulders. “Perhaps we’ll catch a glimpse of the giant tomato-eating spider. My father said he saw one once, but I’m not sure I believe him.”
“Prevalent in the rural south of England, are they?” Draco asks, following her back into the house.
“India, usually,” Luna admits. “But you never know.”
Draco lets out a small snort of laughter, which she finds rather heartening. The lightness is in there somewhere, and all she has to do is find a way to grab hold of it.
There are no giant tomato-eating spiders to be seen in the grounds of Starlight, but the children do spot some beautiful late butterflies, a family of hedgehogs, and several brightly-coloured snails. Unfortunately the midges are also out in force, and while their repelling charms manage to shield the children quite effectively, Luna and Draco both finish the walk covered in small, itchy bites.
That night, she persuades Mr Abernathy up onto her balcony and chats to him as she applies a cooling potion to her arms and legs. He brings her a shiny Knut that she suspects has dropped out her own pocket, and she provides several ripe cherries in the hope that he won’t take too hard to being the subject of a few extra-strength Cheering Charms. She really could do with the practise before she starts throwing them around at her colleagues, and her father’s moods are unpredictable enough as it is.
“Right,” she mutters, drawing her wand and sitting on the end of her bed.
Mr Abernathy is standing with his glossy black back to her, poking a cherry around the floor. She takes a deep breath, aims, and whispers the incantation. A split second later, a jet of warm yellow light hits the crow and envelops him. For a moment, he is lifted off his feet, and then he flops onto his side, cawing loudly and flapping his wings. Luna drops to the floor beside him and scoops him up.
“Are you alright?”
Mr Abernathy raises his head and regards her with one beady eye.
“Aak!” he offers, and then flaps into the air, swooping down to retrieve his cherry from the floor and then spiralling over to Luna’s desk, where he drops the cherry and punts it with his beak until it flies through the air and out of the window.
Intrigued, Luna kneels on the floor and watches as Mr Abernathy takes all the pencils from their wooden pot and rearranges them into an odd sort of nest before sitting in the middle of it and puffing up his feathers proudly. He looks at her as if to say… well, she isn’t entirely sure, but he certainly seems pleased with himself… and then promptly falls asleep.
With a sigh, she picks up her notebook and begins to write. She had, of course, suspected that there would be a difference in the reactions of crows and stubborn young men, but she’s not sure she wants to risk Harry and Draco tearing apart the office and then losing consciousness. It looks like ordinary Cheering Charms will have to do. She still has plenty more things to try.
Mr Abernathy doesn’t wake until she is getting ready for bed. He shakes himself and struggles to his feet, sending pencils clacking everywhere, and when his little eyes fix upon her, she doesn’t think she imagines the weight of accusation there.
“I’m sorry,” she says, finding a cherry to replace the one that has been sent flying out of the window. “Never again, I promise.”
Mr Abernathy catches a chunk of her hair in his beak and tugs it in clear reproach, but then accepts the cherry and retreats to the balcony to eat it. Sensing that she has been forgiven, Luna watches him for a moment and then turns out the lights. Tomorrow, she will be working the night shift, and it hasn’t taken her long to learn that one cannot be too well-rested for these occasions. As sleep pulls her under, her mind is filled with images of Harry and Draco, bathed in yellow light, running amok around the home and flinging pumpkins at one another while Mr Abernathy looks on, dressed in paisley pyjamas and a purple top hat.
The plan starts simply enough. When Luna walks into the office just after lunch, she hits both Harry and Draco with a standard Cheering Charm, concealing her wand in her sleeve and ensuring that both are facing away from her, standing side by side before the large notice board containing all of the children’s names and schedules. They are not, of course, looking at one another, but staring straight ahead as though both pretending that they haven’t noticed the close proximity or even presence of the other.
It is a common enough scene, so much so that Sam, behind his desk, is paying no attention to them at all. He looks up briefly when Luna enters the room but quickly returns to his work, because, of course, he cannot see the blaze of scarlet and sea green that flares around the two of them, intensifying at all the points where they almost touch. Neither does he see the shift in those colours as Luna’s spells take hold, but it’s safe to say that he does notice when the laughter starts.
It’s quiet at first, just a soft sort of tittering, but it rises quickly, giving way to giggles and then to deep, helpless belly laughter, the kind that is uncontrollable and runs away with a person, forcing them to close their eyes and clutch at their stomachs, their sides, each other. To Luna’s delight, Harry and Draco are soon laughing so hard that they have to grab onto each other to remain upright. Harry’s fingers are gripping Draco’s shoulder, and Draco leans forward, one hand braced against the notice board and the other fisted into the back of Harry’s t-shirt.
Sam stares at them, bewildered. “What’s so funny?”
“Must be a private joke,” Luna says, trying to hide her grin.
“Between those two?”
She shrugs. “Why not?”
“Oh, god, it hurts,” Harry mumbles in between bursts of laughter, mouth stretched wide.
“Don’t…” Draco manages, somehow pulling his features into line for a fraction of a second and then losing it again, suppressed amusement spilling from his lips in a cascade.
“It’s not funny,” Harry tries, but his eyes are streaming as he looks at Draco, and Luna watches approvingly, noting that this might just be the first time they have made eye contact and smiled.
“What on earth are you doing?” Mary Ann asks, appearing in the doorway and staring at Harry and Draco as though they have quite lost their minds. “I can hear you all the way from the kitchen! What’s tickling you?”
Me, Luna thinks, silently thanking Mary Ann for the idea of a tickling spell but saying nothing.
“I don’t know,” Harry whispers, attempting to pull his laughter under control. He’s still wheezing slightly as he adds: “Something just came over me.”
Draco snorts inelegantly and his pale skin flushes, but he can’t quite stop giggling as he says, “Harry started it, I’m certain.”
“I did not,” Harry says, and the severe look he turns on Draco makes Luna catch her breath, but then it falls away, and Harry is smiling serenely. “It was obviously you,” he says, seeming to notice his grip on Draco’s shoulder for the first time. He pulls his hand away and blushes hotly.
Draco jumps and extricates himself from Harry, but he, too, is still smiling and breathing hard. Secretly, Luna is rather relieved not to have gone for the extra strong charm in the end; they might have laughed themselves to death, and that would have been no good at all.
“What’s all the noise…? You two?” Deb asks, slamming into the office with a stack of files and staring between Harry and Draco with a look of pure confusion on her face.
“They just came over a little bit happy,” Luna explains, smiling to herself as Harry and Draco finally stop looking at each other and turn their ridiculous grins on the rest of the team.
“What’s not to be happy about?” Harry asks, beaming at Deb and flinging himself into a chair. “The sun is shining, I have wonderful friends, it’s the weekend…”
“I see, and where can I get some of what you’re having?” Deb asks, leaning over Harry and pressing the back of her hand to his forehead. “You’re hot.”
“Thanks!” Harry says brightly, and Draco lets out a dry cackle.
Luna isn’t surprised. They are both pink with exertion, with laughter, and with a healthy dose of embarrassment. Of course, the real discomfiture will come when the Cheering Charms have fully worn off, but this is definitely a start.
“I’m hot, too,” Draco says solemnly, touching Deb’s hand and then Harry’s.
“Did you put wine in the food or something?” Sam asks, frowning at Mary Ann.
“Yes, Sam, I put wine in the children’s lunches. I have a habit of putting alcohol in their food because I find it keeps them quiet,” she says, stomping across the room and hitting Sam over the head with an empty folder.
He bats her away with a book about good accounting practices and both Harry and Draco dissolve into helpless laughter again.
“Alright, alright, pull yourselves together or it’ll be Movement to Music for both of you,” Sam says.
“I hate Movement to Music,” Draco says, beaming.
“It can’t be that bad,” Harry laughs, moving his arms around in a way that reminds Luna strongly of the Giant Squid that lives in the lake at Hogwarts.
“Oh, no,” Draco says, sharp grey eyes shining with delight. “No. It’s terrible.”
“Don’t be rude, the little ones love it,” Deb says, folding her arms.
“Little nips,” Draco sighs. Harry reprises his squid impression.
“Why do I get the feeling I’ve lost control here?” Sam asks wearily.
It takes a little while longer than usual, but Sam does eventually manage to claw back some sense of decorum, and he dispatches the team on their afternoon tasks. Luna keeps one eye on Harry and Draco, checking on their progress in between one-to-one meetings, activity groups, and breaking up arguments over name-calling and stolen biscuits. By three o’clock, the charms seem to have worn off completely and Harry and Draco are back to almost their usual selves.
Luna watches them conducting a rather halting discussion in the entrance hall as she directs the older children out of their classes and into the afternoon sunshine to run off their excess energy. She feels a twinge of guilt at their red faces and stumbling words, but she holds herself firm. Sometimes, things must get worse before they get better, and this is one of those times.
“I’m just saying that… well…” Harry attempts, frowning.
“Really, there’s no need to say anything,” Draco interrupts, voice just a little too loud.
“Stout heart, boys,” she whispers, and follows the kids out into the sunny grounds.
That night, she eats Mary Ann’s delicious chicken casserole with the children and does her best to make sure that everyone has at least half of their peas. With the promise of jam roly poly and custard to come, even Gareth finds himself up to the task, and he is the biggest fusspot Luna knows. Afterwards, she drifts around the big old house, checking on the after-dinner clean-up crew, who certainly aren’t having a pirate fight with mops for swords, and the homework club, which is abuzz with muttering and tongues poked out in concentration.
In the big old drawing room, the setting sun is gleaming on the panes of the French windows and illuminating the dancing particles of dust in the air. Luna smiles, content to lean against the doorframe and listen to what sounds like a hundred conversations going on at once, the clack and hiss from a game of Gobstones in the corner, and the wireless, around which several children are leaping up and down in time to the music.
Life has not been easy for these kids, but they are incredibly resilient. They have made this place into a home, and more than that, into a living, breathing entity like no other. She feels at Starlight something she has only felt before in one other place—Hogwarts. It’s a place to belong, and sometimes, that’s enough.
Scanning the room once more, her eyes catch on something that isn’t quite right, and she heads over to sit cross-legged on the floor next to a girl clutching a letter and scowling. The light around her is a pale, unsettling shade of her usual vibrant orange.
“What’s the matter, Caroline?” she asks gently.
The girl turns bright blue eyes on her and sighs. “Lori wrote to me,” she says, holding up the letter.
“That’s nice,” Luna smiles, but Caroline’s expression remains woebegone. “Why don’t you write back to her? We could go up to the barn and send it to her tonight. I know which is the fastest owl—it could be there in time for the breakfast post at Hogwarts tomorrow.”
Caroline’s face darkens at the mention of Hogwarts and Luna pats her on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I know you miss her, but she’ll be home for Christmas and she’ll have all sorts to tell you.”
“I don’t want to hear about it,” Caroline says crossly.
Luna blinks. “Why not?”
The orange light flickers and dulls. Caroline looks at the floor. “Because I won’t be going.”
“Don’t say that, Caroline,” says Otis, looking scandalised as he often does. “Why don’t you want to go to Hogwarts?”
“Who asked you?” Caroline snaps, looking as though she is about to burst into tears.
“Hey, hey,” Luna murmurs gently. “He didn’t mean any harm.”
“I didn’t,” Otis promises. “But really… don’t you want to go?”
“Of course I want to,” Caroline says, pulling up her knees and curling into a protective ball. “But I won’t get in. I haven’t ever done any magic, not even by accident.”
“I blew up an oven once,” Otis says matter-of-factly. “It’s probably better if you haven’t done something like that.”
“Otis, you don’t get it,” Caroline says, voice anguished. “I’m nearly ten and I haven’t done anything. There’s no magic in me and I won’t get a letter and I won’t be allowed to go to Hogwarts. I’m going to be a Squib and Lori won’t be my friend any more and then I’ll just die.”
“I don’t think you will,” says Otis, who has always been very literal.
“You know,” she says, nudging Caroline’s knee with her own, “some people are just late starters. It doesn’t mean you’re not magical and it doesn’t mean that you won’t catch up. You know who Hermione Granger is, don’t you?”
Caroline nods and chews on her lip.
“She didn’t even know she was a witch until she got her Hogwarts letter, and she was the cleverest girl I ever met. She still is, and look at all those brave things she did in the war,” Luna says, watching both Caroline’s and Otis’s faces carefully.
She doesn’t usually like to talk about the war—especially not here, amongst all these children who have lived in its shadow for much of their short lives, lost parents and friends and brothers and sisters—but just sometimes, she has to ignore her own rules in favour of her better instincts.
Caroline smiles cautiously, sending warm relief spiralling through Luna’s chest.
“I think I will write a letter,” she says, scrambling to her feet and clattering over to pull up a seat at the big oak table.
“Benny’s got a picture of Hermione Granger on his wall,” Otis offers, and when Luna turns back to him, she is surprised to realise that a small group has assembled around them.
“Has he now?”
“He has. He says she’s so beautiful,” Otis says solemnly.
Luna smiles. “I’ll have to tell her that when I see her.”
“Tell her… tell her I think she’s beautiful as well,” says tiny Eliza, hauling herself up onto the nearby sofa with what looks like a massive effort.
“I will,” Luna promises. “I like your dress.”
“I like your earrings,” Eliza says. “Are they scarecrows?”
“Thank you. And no, they’re Bowtruckles. They were my mother’s. She gave them to me when I was a little girl because she thought they were lucky,” Luna says, touching the wooden earrings with her fingertips and remembering how she had loved to sort through her mother’s jewellery box, admiring the strange, colourful things and holding them up to her ears and neck in the mirror.
“Where’s your mother?” Eliza asks.
“She passed on,” Luna says. “Quite a long time ago.”
“Does that mean she died?” asks Otis.
“My mummy died, too,” Eliza says, screwing up her face for a moment. “And my daddy.”
“I know,” Luna says, because there isn’t anything else to say. Except perhaps the offer of a treat that always seems to bring a smile in this place. “How about we all get changed into our night things and I’ll make some cups of hot chocolate?”
This suggestion is greeted with the customary level of enthusiasm, with all the children, including the nine and ten-year-olds, dashing off to their bedrooms and returning in a stampede before Luna has even finished assembling the tray. Once she has changed into her Kneazle-print nightie and waffle bathrobe, she tucks herself into the corner of a sofa and watches the pyjama-clad horde descend upon the steaming mugs.
Someone knocks the wireless up a few notches and puts on a virtuoso performance of an old Celestina Warbeck hit, while Otis stands beside them and quite convincingly pretends to accompany on the piano.
“I wish we really had a piano,” Caroline says wistfully. “I was having lessons… you know… before.”
“Can we get one, Luna?” asks Serafina, dark eyes hopeful.
“It’s not up to me,” Luna says. “Maybe you should all save up for one.”
“Luna,” Otis says, hanging onto her arm of the sofa. “We get two Sickles a week spending money. Even if we saved up all of it, do you know how long it would take to buy a piano?”
“How long?” Luna asks, wondering if she’s about to be treated to some fast mental arithmetic.
“Ten million years,” he says with a huge sigh, and she has to try very hard to bite down on her laughter as she looks down at his tousled fair hair and utterly exasperated little face.
“That is a very long time,” she says absently, gazing at the grinning green frogs that splatter his pyjamas and then at the butterflies that cover Eliza’s as she silently hands over her hot cup to Luna in order to scramble up onto the sofa.
Serafina’s are Knight Bus purple with white spots, Caroline’s faded blue and a little too short because they are her favourites, even though she has outgrown them. Luna glances around the room and takes in an impressive array of patterns and styles, from button-up sets with long flannel trousers to old fashioned nighties and mismatched t-shirts and shorts. Over by the fireplace, one of the little ones seems to be wearing his dressing gown as a cape.
She looks down her the Kneazles on her nightie, a small smile tugging at her lips as she remembers her father’s words.
“I like your dress. Are you going to wear that for work?”
Luna sips her hot chocolate slowly, allowing the first threads of an idea to weave themselves into being. It would be wonderful for the children to have a piano, and she thinks she might just be able to help Harry and Draco at the same time.
“How very efficient,” she murmurs to herself.
“You know Harry?” Serafina asks, prompting Luna to wonder if she has unwittingly spoken his name aloud.
“I do,” she says solemnly.
Serafina stands on one leg and tucks the other underneath herself like a slightly wobbly flamingo.
“Does he have a girlfriend?”
“Ooh, do you like him?” asks Benny, abandoning his colouring book and turning from his seat at the table, legs swinging.
Serafina turns bright red, her darkened glimmer answering the question without her permission. Luckily for her, Luna thinks, Benny has no idea.
“No,” Serafina mutters. “I was just asking.”
“Don’t be mean,” Eliza pipes up, clutching onto her cup and her raggedy stuffed dog and peering fiercely at Benny. “I like Harry, too. I think he’s… marbellous.”
“Do you mean marvellous?” Otis asks, as Serafina smiles gratefully at the tiny girl.
Eliza shakes her head, dark pigtails flapping back and forth. “No… it’s marbellous… ’cause… he’s brilliant… like a marble,” she declares.
“What’s so brilliant about a marble?” Caroline asks curiously, just as Otis says:
“You can’t just make up words like that.”
“Why not?” Luna asks mildly.
“It’s not allowed,” Otis frowns.
“Marbles are round and they’re shiny and they roll,” Eliza tells Caroline, apparently deciding to ignore Otis.
“I don’t think Harry is very round or shiny,” Caroline says. “But I know what you mean.”
Eliza beams and wipes hot chocolate foam from her mouth with her sleeve. Luna sighs.
“I think he doesn’t have a girlfriend,” Gareth says suddenly.
Startled, Luna peers down to see him sitting on a cushion by her feet, calmly arranging building blocks into neat pyramids.
“I didn’t know you were there,” she says. “You were so quiet.”
“I know,” Gareth says. “I’m practising.”
“Why do you think Harry doesn’t have a girlfriend?” Serafina asks, swapping to stand on the other leg. “Don’t you think he’s good looking?”
Gareth shrugs. “I think he has a boyfriend. I think Draco is his boyfriend.”
Luna hides a smile. “And why is that?”
Gareth doesn’t look up, but his world-weary expression intensifies as he says, “You can just tell. They look at each other funny, and that’s how people look when they’re in love.”
Luna isn’t even a little bit surprised by his perceptiveness; so often, children just know things. Still, she feels slightly sorry for Harry and Draco for being outsmarted by an eight-year-old who thinks green vegetables are his mortal enemies.
“Really?” Otis asks, staring at his friend.
Gareth just shrugs.
“Can boys have boyfriends?” Caroline asks curiously.
“Of course,” Luna says, and Caroline nods, apparently satisfied.
“Boys can have boyfriends and girls can have girlfriends and boys and girls can be with each other,” Luna explains, using the simplest terms she can. It isn’t the first time she’s been asked these questions and she doesn’t think it will be the last. “But you don’t have to be with anyone if you don’t want to. You can just be with yourself, as long as you’re happy.”
“My friend Dennis has a boyfriend,” puts in Eliza.
“Who’s Dennis?” asks Benny.
Eliza sighs. “He’s sitting right next to you, Benny.”
Everyone turns to look, but the seat next to Benny is empty.
“His boyfriend’s name is Carlos and he has a wand and a cape and a special stone,” Eliza continues, combing her fingers through the hair of the stuffed toy dog in her lap.
Luna smiles, thinking of Horace, and wondering just how many times he has been begged to read from the Tales of Beedle the Bard.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” asks Caroline.
“No,” Luna says. “But I have friends who are boys. And one friend who’s a crow. Would you like to see a picture of him?”
“I’ve seen him,” Otis says proudly. “But it would be nice to see him again.”
Luna sets down her mug and rummages in her bag. She retrieves several photographs of Mr Abernathy, which she passes around, reminding everyone to hold them gently and by the edges. By the time she has finished answering questions about him to their satisfaction, the younger children are yawning and Eliza has almost fallen asleep in her lap. Picking her up, Luna directs them to bed and hovers while everyone brushes their teeth and crawls under their blankets. In each room, she casts a silent charm to drape soft stars across the ceiling and wishes them peaceful dreams.
In reality, there will be nightmares and there may be a shivery little figure attempting to climb into her bed in the early hours of the morning, but she asks for the tranquillity in the hope that something, somewhere, might grant it. She’s never really minded getting up in the night, anyway. Her father taught her early on that adventures do not always wait for daylight, and being friends with Harry over the years has only confirmed that.
She checks on Sam in the office before returning to the older children, prompting only a raised eyebrow in response to her Kneazle nightie.
“The children want a piano,” she says.
“That is not new information,” Sam sighs, rubbing his eyes.
“You work too hard,” Luna adds, and he cracks a weary smile.
“Neither is that.”
“Music is very therapeutic, you know,” she says, smiling back.
Sam leans back in his chair. “I’m sure it is, but we don’t have the spare cash for something like that.”
“I know,” she says, “but if I could find a way to raise the money… would you consider it?”
“You know I would, but…” Sam stares at her, forehead furrowed and pale, weary glimmer brightening with something like interest… or possibly suspicion.
“You’re being mysterious, Luna. I’m nervous.”
She laughs. “Don’t be. Do you want some hot chocolate?”
The night is a long one. Luna’s sleep is interrupted on three separate occasions by distressed children seeking the distance from their nightmares that only hugs and hot milk and soft, half-remembered songs can provide. By the time she has settled Serafina back in her own bed, the sky is beginning to lighten and she gives up on rest, deciding instead to curl up in the drawing room with her notebook and quill. When Sam finds her there, an hour or so later, she is just wondering exactly how much money she might be able to raise by persuading the entire staff team into their pyjamas.
“Did you get any sleep?” he asks, perching on the arm of the sofa and filling her nose with a familiar clean, spicy scent. His dark hair is wet and he has missed a patch while shaving. For a moment, she debates telling him this, and then decides to let it go.
“Enough,” she says, closing her book before he can see the little doodles she has made of all of them.
“Benny and Gareth couldn’t sleep, so they decided to eat an entire bag of Fizzing Whizzbees,” Sam says wearily. “They’ll probably drop off in the middle of breakfast but right now they’re bouncing off the walls.”
Luna raises her eyebrows, head suddenly filled with a vivid image of little boys ricocheting around the house.
“That sounds dangerous.”
Sam smiles, rubbing his eyes, and his glimmer warms and flares around him. “I’d love to spend a day in that mind of yours,” he says, and Luna doesn’t know what to say to that.
When Sam decamps to the office, she heads back upstairs, and by the time she has showered and dressed, organised her hair into a long plait and helped herself to coffee, she feels almost refreshed. When the others arrive, she and Sam relate the events of the previous evening, and as the tasks for the day are handed out, she finds herself watching Draco. He seems calm and not exactly unhappy, but she doesn’t miss his occasional glances in the direction of Harry’s preferred seat. No doubt he’s hard at work in one of his training classes right at this moment, Potion Therapy or perhaps Contagious Diseases, but he’ll be here as soon as he can; Luna would bet her entire notebook on it, photographs and all.
As it turns out, he arrives halfway through the afternoon, just as Horace is stuffing himself through the French windows with his bag of books. The children are already descending on him, wrapping little fingers around the edges of his jacket and bearing him over to his fireside chair. Luna watches for a moment from the middle of the corridor, and then turns and goes to meet Harry.
“Have I missed anything?” he asks, already yanking off his robes and rolling them into a ball.
“Not really,” Luna says, not bothering to hide her amusement. “You’re rarely away for long enough to miss anything.”
Harry frowns. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that you’re here a lot,” Luna says innocently. “It’s nice. We all like having you here. Me and Sam and Mary Ann and Deb… and the children.”
Harry’s mouth flickers in an anxious smile. “Thanks, I—”
“And Draco,” Luna adds, and Harry’s glimmer roars around him.
“Bless you, Luna, but I don’t think Draco would notice if I was here or not,” he says. He shakes his head and steps around her to reach for the office doorknob.
Luna fiddles with the end of her plait and regards him steadily. “I don’t see why not. You’re very noticeable.”
Harry laughs and turns to her. “I’m not sure how I should take that.”
“I only ever say what I mean, Harry.”
Harry stares at her for a moment and then quite unexpectedly catches her up in a hug. Startled, she allows him to squeeze her, wondering if he has any idea how strong he actually is, before she finally manages to lift her hands and pat him gently on the back.
“Thanks,” he mumbles against her shoulder, and then he releases her and disappears into the office.
Luna draws in a deep breath, willing her squashed ribcage to expand properly.
“What for?” she asks the corridor, but all she hears in reply is the echo of her own voice.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” Ginny says later that night, sitting on the bank of the stream and fending off the clouds of midges with a neat little charm Luna has never seen before.
Ginny nods, and when she turns to face Luna, the sunset paints her pale skin with glowing pink and gold. Beside her on the grass, her Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes robes sit discarded in a ball not dissimilar to the one Harry makes every afternoon.
“Really… though I might have a way to make it even better,” Ginny says, and when she smiles, Luna doesn’t know whether to be excited or apprehensive.
It’s fine for Ginny to know about this part of the plan, she reminds herself. It’s not a secret that the children would love a piano, and it needn’t be a secret that she’s planning a pyjama day for the staff to raise for the funds for it. As long as no one knows about the Harry-Draco-embarrassment part of the plan, then everything will be fine and the Happiness Project will be safe.
Ginny pokes Luna with her foot. “Are you listening?”
“I may have been distracted for a moment or two,” Luna admits.
Ginny snorts. “Right. Well, I was wondering where you were planning on doing it?”
Luna frowns, puzzled. “At the home, of course. Otherwise the children won’t be able to laugh at us, and I think that’s sort of the point.”
“Okay,” Ginny says, slashing her wand at the midges again. She looks down at the stream, expression intense and silvery glimmer rippling. “But imagine this: next Saturday, there’s going to be a solar eclipse.”
“I know,” Luna says. “Dad’s trying to find the special camera he bought for the last one.”
Ginny looks up and smiles. “I can help you with that, too, but just bear with me. Everyone’s going to be gathering in Diagon Alley—tons of people—the WWN people are going to be there to record a broadcast and all the shops are closing for an hour so that everyone can watch it.”
“Even George?” Luna asks, remembering that George usually has to be persuaded to close his shop on Christmas Day.
“George is having a stall,” Ginny says, grinning. “We’re going to be selling glasses with protective charms, cameras, all sorts of stuff. He’s even made eclipse-themed t-shirts. Some of them are really rude.”
Luna laughs. “That’s wonderful, but you can’t be suggesting that I make them walk up and down Diagon Alley in their nightclothes…”
“I’m suggesting exactly that. It’ll even be dark for a while… might spare their blushes a bit.”
Luna leans back on her elbows, pressing her weight against the cold, prickly grass.
“Night time in the daytime,” she murmurs, warming to the idea. “But what about the children?”
“Get them involved,” Ginny says. “Kids love doing anything a bit weird. And not only that… no one can say no to a child rattling a bucket at them. You’ll probably make enough for a whole orchestra.”
Luna stares at her friend. “There’s a little bit of Slytherin in you somewhere,” she says, and when Ginny grins, she grins back.
“Maybe,” Ginny says. “Hey… and we could put some of the buckets in the shop when we open up again. Me and George and Verity could wear our PJs, too!”
“Do you think they would?”
“I’ll say it’s for a good cause,” Ginny says. “And if that doesn’t work, I’ll put flatulence powder in their sandwiches… speaking of which…”
Luna watches as Ginny rummages in her bag, pulls out a large, paper-wrapped package and hands it over.
“No flatulence powder, I promise. Ron made these and thought you might like some,” she says.
Luna takes the offering. It’s heavy and smells wonderful, like spices and nuts and sugar.
“Brown paper packages, tied up with string,” she sings, smiling. “These are a few of my favourite things.”
“You’ve lost me,” Ginny says.
“It’s from a film. My dad has all the songs for the record player.”
“I’ve seen loads of films since my dad got the tape machine,” Ginny says, flopping onto her back and gazing up at the sky. “He likes the ones where everyone is running around more than the ones with songs.”
“Dad likes music you can dance to,” Luna says, gently prodding Mr Abernathy away from the package when he appears from nowhere and starts to pull at the string.
According to her father, dancing may be good for the body, but it is vital for the heart and mind.
“Without music, Luna, how can anyone be truly happy?” he says, and she wonders what it is about the whole thing that Draco dislikes so strongly.
“I’ll just have to find out why he’s so strange,” Luna mutters to herself.
“Who? Your father?” Ginny asks.
“No,” Luna says. “Draco Malfoy.”
Ginny laughs. “Good luck with that.”
Luck seems to be on Luna’s side when she arrives at work the following morning. It isn’t quite as much on Deb’s, who is stuck at home with food poisoning from what Sam calls ‘dodgy prawns’, and neither is it on Draco’s, as he is asked to take over most of her duties for the day.
“Fine,” he says, accepting his revised schedule and studying it with little concern.
Luna waits, because she knows, and so does Sam, who shoots her a glance that clearly conveys the message, ‘don’t say a word’. She mimes pulling a zip across her mouth and he does the same, but it doesn’t matter, because a split second later, Draco’s glimmer is sputtering and his fingers are gripping the sheet of paper a little too tight.
“I am not doing Movement to bloody Music,” he says quietly.
“It’s in Deb’s schedule,” Sam counters.
“I understand that,” Draco says, “and I will do everything else on this list, but I will not do that.”
“Why not?” Luna asks, earning herself a sharp look from Sam.
“It’s dancing. I do not dance,” Draco says, and though his face is calm, Luna detects a note of panic in his voice.
“Dancing is good for you,” she says briskly. “And you can’t let them down—they love it.”
“Why don’t you do it, then?”
“I will,” she says, hiding a smile. “But only if you do it with me.”
Draco’s eyebrows disappear into his hairline. “Luna. No. Just… no.”
“It’s a bigger group today,” Sam says helpfully. “Mr McGann’s off, so there’s no art lesson. I need at least two of you in there. I’m sorry, Draco, but you’re going to have to just… give it a go.”
Draco stares at Sam, panic pulling his face tight, and Luna can almost hear the conflict raging inside his head, the temptation to say, ‘fuck this, you don’t even pay me, I can walk out whenever I want to’ and the other voices, louder and dissenting, telling him that this place means just as much to him as it does to the others, that he’s going to have to deal with it, he’s going to have to…
“Alright, then,” he says very quietly, cheekbones flushed and shoulders tight. “Luna, I will see you at two o’clock.”
“Okay,” she agrees as he turns to leave, but he has stalked out of the office before the word has completely left her lips.
When she walks into the dining room at a minute after two, Draco is already there. The children have yet to arrive but the tables and chairs have been spelled to one side of the room, leaving the waxed, sun-warmed floorboards clear and ready for an hour of what seems to be her colleague’s absolute worst nightmare. He is here, though, and it hasn’t escaped her notice that his reluctance has done nothing to diminish his compulsion to be on time. He gazes evenly at her, arms folded and glimmer flickering with apprehension. He looks like he’s ready for some terrible adversity rather than a children’s dancing group, but she decides not to say so.
“Thank you for doing the chairs,” she says, flicking her wand to open the prop chest and then the cupboard that contains the record player.
“You’re welcome,” Draco says stiffly. “You seem to have everything under control here. Perhaps I should go and make myself useful in the office. Or the kitchen. Or…”
“You’re going to be useful right here, Draco,” she says, selecting a record for the warm-up and smiling with her back to him.
“Luna,” Draco sighs. “We’re friends, aren’t we?”
She turns. “Of course.”
“Please don’t make me do this,” he pleads, and the flicker of a hopeful smile around the corners of his mouth almost causes her to waver, but then she remembers the plan, and she shakes her head.
Just then the door swings open, admitting a stream of children led by Caroline, whose eyes widen at the sight of Draco.
“I thought it was just the little nips,” he whispers, taking an alarmed step towards Luna.
“Well, it varies, Draco, but Sam did say there would be a bigger group today.”
“Yes, but I didn’t think the big ones…” Draco trails off as Otis enters the room, pushing Benny like a wheelbarrow.
“Are you going to dance with us?” Benny asks, flopping onto his side on the floor and staring up at Draco.
“I’m going to supervise,” Draco says firmly.
“What’s that?” asks Serafina.
“It means do nothing,” Caroline says, bounding over to Luna and peering at the record on the turntable.
Draco frowns. “It’s not quite as simple as that.”
“Well, what are you going to do?” Caroline asks.
Luna turns her most peaceful smile on the room. “He’s going to dance.”
Draco’s eyebrow climbs quite some distance up his forehead but Luna is unfazed. She has never found him particularly intimidating and she isn’t about to start now when his true happiness is at stake. She checks the corridor for stragglers, closes the door and drops the needle onto the record of gentle classical music that Deb always uses for the warm-up.
“Let’s get started,” she says, standing front and centre and beginning to work through the usual stretches.
The younger children are full of enthusiasm but need frequent reminders to concentrate while some of the older ones are a little bit self-conscious and require a word or two of encouragement, but Luna keeps her eye on all of them, monitoring their glowing colours for signs of discomfort. Meanwhile, Draco stands in the corner, flickering, with his arms crossed and his face blank.
“Come on, Draco,” she says, smiling at him as she reaches down to touch her toes. “If you don’t warm up, you can’t dance.”
“Malfoys do not dance,” Draco says, and there is a note of amusement in his voice that intrigues Luna.
“What’s a Malfoy?” asks Eliza, pressing her hands to the floor and peering through her legs at Draco.
Draco gazes calmly back at her. “I am a Malfoy.”
“Oh,” Eliza says, frowning.
“And we do not dance,” Draco adds.
“That’s a terrible excuse, Draco,” Luna says. “Everyone can dance, and you can’t say you don’t like it if you haven’t even tried.”
“That’s what she said to me about broccoli,” Gareth says darkly.
“That’s right,” Luna says, smiling at him and then turning her most no nonsense look on Draco. “You might not like the taste of dancing at first, but that doesn’t stop it being good for you.”
Draco lets out a brief sigh and drops his arms to his sides. “How am I supposed to argue with you when you don’t make any sense?”
“I don’t think dancing tastes like broccoli,” Serafina says.
“It tastes like sherbet,” Benny offers.
“No… like green beans,” Otis says, adding defensively: “I like green beans.”
“Wonderful, now no one is making sense,” Draco mutters, but he emerges from his corner and positions himself at the back of the group, tentatively copying Luna’s movements with an expression so serious that she wants to dive into the prop chest and start flinging scarves at him.
She doesn’t, of course, because he is trying. He is so far out of his comfortable place that she can almost taste it, but he is doing it anyway, and she thinks she might just have to hug him once this session is over.
When the warm-up is complete, Luna changes the record for something fast-paced with loud, sunshiny horns and a Spanish guitar. She spends the first couple of songs encouraging the kids to match the tempo of the music, moving any way they like to shake out their tension and worries, and she tries to do the same, imagining that all of her friends’ loneliness and anxiety is flowing out of her, right out to her fingertips and away. With the afternoon sunlight warm on her skin, she leads the class in a round of loud applause and then starts to call out suggestions to inspire their movement.
“Let’s sweep the steps of Gringotts,” she says, laughing as Benny immediately hunches down and mimics the sour expression of a goblin as he makes energetic brushing motions to the beat.
Draco’s sweeping is, of course, extremely refined, but she has a suspicion that he’s loosening up, and that suspicion is only heightened when she suggests ‘spinning around on top of a mountain’ and he take Eliza’s offered hands and swings her around without a moment’s hesitation.
“Swimming with the Giant Squid!” Luna calls, laughing as Draco and Eliza come to a stop and stumble against each other with the momentum.
“I need things!” Eliza declares, tacking her way towards the prop chest on a rather wobbly path.
She pulls out several sheer scarves in various colours and waves them around herself as though she herself is the Giant Squid. In response, Draco pretends to swim around her. The others are now raiding the prop chest and Luna can hear the record reaching its end, but she can’t look away from Eliza and Draco. The tiny girl is giggling now as Draco drops to his knees with startling grace and reels back from Eliza as though genuinely fearful of her multicoloured flailing tentacles.
The grace isn’t really what surprises her—Draco has always been graceful, even when he was being a whiny, spiteful teenager at the same time. No, it’s the way he seems to have forgotten himself for a moment, lost himself in the imagination of a little girl and the music that always reminds Luna of an article about dancing tomatoes her father once ran in the Quibbler.
“Can we do the teapot dance?” asks Benny, and she turns to him with a smile.
“Of course. If you want to be a teapot, all you have to do is believe it,” she says, and within seconds, the room is filled with a whole variety of kitchen-themed interpretive dances.
She moves around, winding her way between the children and letting the simple joy of flinging oneself around flow over her. Every one of them has a different approach, from Serafina’s excitable leaping to Gareth’s solemn-faced stomping, and each of them glows with their own unique shimmering shade, washing Luna’s vision with a rainbow of magical colour.
At the back of the room, Draco has become the most elegant teapot Luna has ever seen, but it is his glimmer that makes Luna stop in her tracks, almost colliding with a slowly-rotating Otis.
“Careful,” she murmurs, but he doesn’t seem to hear her.
The sea-green glow around Draco looks almost exactly like it does when he’s with Harry, swirling and flickering with a mixture of intense pleasure and anxiety. There really is something about the way he moves that makes her wonder if…
“Let’s be swans!” Eliza cries, grabbing Draco’s hand.
“No, sharks!” Caroline counters, crouching and holding both hands on top of her head in the shape of a pointed fin.
“We’ll be sharks and then swans,” Luna says, extracting herself from the group in order to change the record.
As the dramatic, sweeping sound of strings fills the room, she turns around just in time to see Eliza shooting her new favourite dancing partner a significant glance as if to say that whatever anyone else might think, they will be swans from the start. Amused, she resumes her slow passage around the floor, absently arranging herself into a sharklike shape and baring her teeth at everyone she passes.
Ten minutes later, the strings are soaring and the company is now divided into little knot of sharks and swans, all swaying and gliding and snapping to the music. Luna watches them, offering encouragement and half-drifting into a daydream about lakes and sharks and water plants with minds of their own. Neville has bred some Indonesian grasses that spin their own webs to catch flies. She wonders if her father remembered to print the advertisement feature for his nursery in this month’s Quibbler. It’s only a tiny thing, but she likes to think that if she can help with his business, he’ll be…
“Oh my goodness, look,” Caroline says in a stage-whisper, cutting off Luna’s train of thought and diverting her attention to the back of the room, where Eliza is bouncing up and down with delight and Draco…
“Whoa…” Benny breathes, pulling up next to her and all she can do is nod.
Next to Eliza, Draco is spinning slowly on one foot in perfect time to the sweeping music, his other leg trailing almost carelessly behind him as though connected by invisible strings to his raised arms. He seems to be oblivious to his audience, expression serene as he leans forward deeply for Eliza’s hands and lowers his upper body almost to the floor, trailing leg now extended beautifully behind him. For long seconds he balances there and then rights himself, turning slowly to regard the others with the resigned flush of someone who has just realised he is being watched.
Eliza releases him and applauds enthusiastically. After a moment, the rest of the children join in.
Luna beams and claps along with them. “What was that then?”
“It’s from a dance called Swan Lake,” Draco says, frowning and swiping his hair out of his eyes. “I thought it might be fitting.”
“It was brilliant,” Caroline declares.
A murmur of agreement follows, and while Luna agrees, she can’t help wishing that Harry had been able to see him like this, just for a moment. As the children cluster around Draco and bombard him with questions, she turns away and heads for the record player for the final time, passing the large bank of windows and almost leaping out of her skin when she sees Harry standing there on the other side of the glass, robes balled under his arm and green eyes wide. He doesn’t even seem to notice her as he stares at Draco and the glimmer around him burns like a wildfire.
Luna laughs to herself and changes the dramatic strings for slow, soothing ocean sounds.
“I thought you said you couldn’t dance,” she says to Draco as they persuade the children to lie on the floor and stretch out their arms and legs.
Draco glances at her with a small smile. “I said I didn't dance. I never said I couldn't.”
Luna sighs, unable to decide whether she is amused or exasperated. When Draco spreads out on the floor with them and doesn’t complain about the indignity of the situation, she decides that amusement is for the best.
“Malfoys don’t dance,” she repeats, laughing, as they walk out of the room a few minutes later and almost straight into Harry.
Draco’s astonishment is obvious and Luna decides to retreat back into the dining room on the grounds of retrieving some imaginary item, hoping to give them a moment. In the interests of gathering evidence for her project, she decides to press herself against the door and listen as hard as she can, but Harry and Draco seem to have forgotten how to use their words.
When she emerges, they are pouring cups of juice for the children and shooting curious little glances at each other. Intrigued, she busies herself at the nearby blackboard and waits. There’s always time for another Cheering Charm, she supposes.
“That looked like fun,” Harry says eventually, stowing his ball of robes on the counter and stuffing his hands into his pockets.
“It could have been worse,” Draco admits. “Though… I’m not sure I want to know how long you were standing there.”
Harry takes a cup of juice from him and seems to think for a moment. “No, I’m not sure you do, either.”
“Then we’re settled. No talking about dancing.”
Harry laughs. “I never agreed to any such thing. Where the hell did you learn to do that?”
“It was just a bit of basic ballet, for heaven’s sake,” Draco mutters, but Harry has never been one to give in easily.
“Don’t give me that. That was fancy stuff and fancy stuff requires proper training.” Harry shoots a sly glance at Draco from under his messy fringe. “You might as well tell me. I’ll just annoy it out of you in the end.”
Draco stares at him for several long seconds. One of the children drops their cup and covers the tiles in a splatter of juice and ceramic shards. Luna cleans up the mess with her wand and quietly supplies a new cup of juice without Harry or Draco seeming to notice her.
“Fine. My grandmother was a dancer. My mother studied ballet when she was a little girl, and when I was old enough to walk, I studied it as well,” Draco says, rubbing an anxious hand over the sprawling tree inked across his left inner forearm. “I think my mother had ideas about me making a career out of it, once upon a time. Obviously, things did not quite turn out that way.”
“Wow,” Harry says, shaking his head slowly. “So you’re a b—”
“Harry, if you call me a ‘ballerina’, I will put a stinging hex so far up your—”
“Draco,” Luna warns, and they both turn to look at her as though noticing her presence for the very first time.
“Yes, well, just you think about it,” Draco mutters, turning slightly pink.
Harry grins. “So, didn’t I hear you say 'Malfoys don't dance'?”
Draco sighs. “That was what we non-Gryffindors call a 'lie'.”
Harry gives him a look that would stop a Crumple-Horned Snorkack in its tracks. “I can lie. I can say... ‘Hey, Draco, that grey shirt you’re wearing is really interesting’. That would be a lie.”
Draco lifts an eyebrow. “That would be your opinion,” he says tartly, and Luna stares at them over the top of the file she has picked up at random from the nearest shelf.
She thinks they might, just might, be flirting.
Beaming, she snaps the folder shut and pulls open the door to leave.
“Wait ‘til you see him in his pyjamas!” she says mysteriously, taking a moment to enjoy their expressions of wonderful confusion before she takes off in the direction of the office.
To her delight, Draco’s impromptu performance is the number one subject of conversation in the home for the rest of the day. Despite both Harry and Luna being sworn to secrecy, the news passes around the children like a case of dragon pox, catching up those who had not been lucky enough to witness the event in person and looping back around those that had, so many excitable times that when it finally reaches the office, it has made somewhat of a departure from the truth.
“Where did you even get a pair of glittery tights?” Mary Ann asks, casting a speculative glance over Draco’s legs. “Did you bring them from home?”
Draco instinctively smoothes down the immaculate black fabric of his trousers, glimmer waving and spitting around him. He opens his mouth to speak but Sam gets there first, looking up from his desk with an amused glint in his eyes.
“I heard there was a cutlass involved,” he says, and behind Draco, Harry snorts with laughter.
Draco turns and Harry covers his mouth with his hand in mute apology but his eyes are dancing with amusement.
“Stop… smiling,” he grumbles, pinning each of them in turn with a half-hearted glare.
Luna says nothing, secretly thinking that Draco should consider himself lucky. If Deb had been here, instead of at home with the dodgy prawns, he would never have heard the end of it.
“Next time you want to dance around with a weapon, you should fill in a safety form in advance,” Sam says, flicking his wand and sending a thick document whizzing through the air towards Draco, who catches it against his chest and responds with a rather rude hand gesture.
“I bet you’d look lovely in tights,” Mary Ann says absently and then turns bright red when everyone except Draco bursts into laughter.
“Remind me why I continue to come here?” he sighs, dropping Sam’s safety form into the nearest chair and folding himself down on top of it.
“Because we love you, Draco,” Luna says. “And because, like it or not, this place makes you happy.”
Draco looks up at her, small smile weary but genuine, and then his eyes flick to Harry and Luna is temporarily blinded by the surge of scarlet and green light that results. The pulse of longing that stretches between the two of them is intense enough to leave her breathless, and when she glances at Sam and Mary Ann, she is bewildered to see them engaged in conversation as though nothing so momentous is happening right in front of them. Sometimes, people are… strange.
That night, Ginny comes to her house for dinner, and over cottage pie and nettle tea, the three of them hash out a plan for the day of the eclipse. Luna’s father is excited to be involved, but more than that, he has a sense of theatre that allows him to take Ginny’s practicality and spin it into something bizarre and wonderful. They work so well together that after a while, Luna opts to sit back and let them get on with it, appointing herself chief scribe and teapot-filler.
“Of course, what this whole thing needs is music… and dancing!” her father cries, flinging cold tea down Ginny’s front in his enthusiasm. “Sorry, dear.”
“Not to worry,” Ginny says, looking rather amused as she vanishes the stain with her wand.
“That’s the problem, Dad… we haven’t got any musical instruments,” Luna says gently. “That’s why we’re doing this.” That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this, she adds silently.
“Oh… yes, right you are, Luna,” he says, face falling as he realises his absent-mindedness. “Well, I suppose you could play a record. You only need someone to carry the player and wind it up.”
Ginny frowns, tapping her pencil against the edge of the table. She pauses and grins.
“You don’t have any instruments yet… but you could improvise!” She picks up more pencils and taps out an energetic beat against the table, her teacup, her empty plate.
“Ah! That… that is very clever,” Luna’s father agrees, grabbing a fork and clanging it against the metal tea tray. “You’re saying… ‘look what a noise we can make without real instruments… imagine the infernal racket we could make if we had them’!”
Luna and Ginny glance at each other and dissolve into giggles.
“Behave yourselves, girls, I’m serious,” he says, reaching out and scraping the fork along Luna’s copper bracelets. “The most important thing is to get people’s attention. It doesn’t matter if they think you’ve lost your marbles, just as long as they’re listening.”
“I think you might be right,” Ginny says, clacking her pencils against the fork and grinning.
“We can be swans and sharks… and squids… in glittery tights,” Luna says, allowing her mind to drift momentarily and picturing Draco’s beautiful spins and stretches.
“You can be anything you like, Luna,” her father says firmly.
“We’ve already got the buckets made up,” Ginny says as Luna gets up from the table and goes to refill the kettle. “Verity’s done this brilliant design for them—it’s a silhouette of a piano and the moment of… I don’t remember what it’s called but the moment right before the eclipse, and then she’s done stars because it’s the Starlight Home, obviously…”
As the water in the kettle starts to bubble, Luna stops listening. She trusts Ginny, and she trusts George and Verity to help her in any way they can. Everything is going to be wonderful. All she has to do now is break the news to her colleagues. All she has to do is ask them to walk down Diagon Alley in their night things. She frowns at her distorted reflection in the shiny surface of the kettle, anxiety flickering around the edges of her excitement.
“George reckons there will be hundreds of people there,” Ginny says.
“That will be nice,” her father mumbles, smiling serenely.
Luna takes a deep breath. It will all be fine.
The next morning, she dresses in as many colours as she can lay her hands on, including her favourite purple trousers that flap around her as she walks, and a mango-coloured cardigan that used to belong to her mother. She leaves her father in the garden with his Dirigible Plums and takes her morning coffee down to the stream.
When she hears a rustle in Mr Abernathy’s favourite tree, she calls out to him.
“Wish me luck!”
The crow flaps down from the tree, circling her twice and dropping a small object at her feet. She bends and picks up a small, shiny glass pebble, the kind that people use to fill up old vases and make them look decorative. She fishes a cherry from her bag for him and then polishes the pebble on her sleeve before attaching it to her cardigan with a sticking spell.
“How do I look, Mr Abernathy?”
“Like a beautiful fruit salad!” shouts her father from the bottom of the garden.
“Is your name Mr Abernathy?” she laughs, turning to see him peering at her over the fence.
“It might be. You weren't there when I was born.”
“That’s true, Dad,” she says, reluctantly leaving the stream and walking through the long grasses to hand him her empty cup. “Think good thoughts. Accepting and enthusiastic ones if possible.”
He beams at her. “Luna, I will do nothing but.”
“Your trousers are all wet at the bottom,” Harry says when she walks into the office.
She looks, and he’s right. “That’s what I get for walking down by the stream first thing in the morning,” she says, drying them with a charm and then looking up at him, frowning. “You’re here early.”
“Teacher training day,” Harry explains, and she notices the absence of balled-up robes with interest.
Her fingers tighten around the strap of her bag as she silently debates her next move. Of course, some would say that the whole eclipse-pyjama madness should be enough to deal with for one morning, but on the other hand…
“Oh, look, the coffee pot’s empty,” she says, grabbing it and smiling at Harry. “I’ll go and make some more.”
“Thanks, Luna,” he calls after her, and she only feels a little bit guilty.
After all, it’s for his own good. All part of the plan. Some people might consider that it’s the only fair thing to do.
In the kitchen, she boils the kettle and sets the coffee to brew, idly looking around at Mary Ann’s spotless surfaces, her gleaming pans and the piles of ingredients already set out ready for the day’s meals. The air smells of herbs and earthy vegetables and good hard work. Mary Ann uses scourers and brushes and hot water as much as she uses cleaning charms, and she can be regularly found on hands and knees, scrubbing the floor until the kids could eat off it if they wanted to, and Luna wouldn’t be surprised if some of them wanted to.
When the coffee is ready, she pours out two cups, just to avoid suspicion, and then pulls out the small potion bottle from her bag and adds several drops to the one she intends to give to Harry. First thing in the morning is just about the perfect time for a potion that induces uncontrollable dancing, because the drinker is quite unaffected until he hears music, and there is rarely any of that until lunchtime, when one of the children will turn on the wireless. By then, Harry should have forgotten all about the cup of coffee she made him at nine a.m.
A minute or two later, she walks back into a comfortable silence. Harry accepts the coffee gratefully and Luna sits down next to him, sipping at her own drink and watching Mary Ann and a rather washed-out-looking Deb poring over a magazine article. At his desk, Sam is grimacing and scratching away with his quill, and behind them, the teachers dart in and out, fetching and swapping things for the day’s lessons.
“What are you reading?” Draco asks, smiling at Harry as he passes on the way to his chair.
Harry splutters slightly on his coffee and Luna thwaps him on the back a little harder than she means to.
“Anybody ever told you you’re a lot stronger than you look?” he manages after a moment.
“No,” she says, pleased. “How strong do I look?”
“As strong as a sea lion,” Harry says, or perhaps that’s what he says.
Luna isn’t sure because she’s not really listening to him; she’s listening to Deb, who is showing her magazine to Draco.
“There’s all the usual spots to watch it, of course, but a lot of people are going to Diagon Alley this time. They’ve got all kinds of fancy charmwork going on to cut through all the Muggle pollution and make sure the sky’s clear right over the street,” she says, tapping her finger at a brightly-coloured column. “It’s going to be quite an event… we could all go.”
“I think we should,” Luna says quickly, and all eyes swivel to fix on her. Most of her colleagues merely seem curious, but Sam’s expression is full of suspicion. She looks right into his eyes and takes a running jump. “You said that if I could find a way to raise money then the children could have a piano.”
“Oh, that’s a lovely idea,” someone says, and Luna turns to see one of the teachers hovering in the doorway, arms full of exercise books.
“Thank you,” Luna says. “You can join us if you like. All the teachers can.”
“Spit it out, Luna, the suspense is killing me,” Draco says, leafing through Deb’s magazine and affecting boredom.
“Keep your tights on,” Mary Ann mutters, and Deb, who has apparently been filled in on the previous day’s events, lets out a snort of laughter.
“Alright,” Luna says, touching her fingertips to Mr Abernathy’s glass pebble for luck. “Here’s the plan.”
When she has finished, she sits back in her seat and waits. For several seconds, there is silence, and then everybody is talking at once.
“I’m in,” Deb says. “I’ve always fancied causing a bit of a scene in Diagon Alley.”
“I’m going to have to buy a new bathrobe,” one of the teachers says, just as another blurts:
“I’ll come but if Rita Skeeter turns up, I’m hiding behind Sam.”
“I don’t think that’ll work, Penelope, Sam’s shorter than you.”
“Sam’s shorter than me,” Mary Ann puts in. “And I’m game, Luna. The kids’ll love it.”
“I’m not short, I’m… compact,” Sam says crossly, but when he looks at Luna, his expression is one of amused defeat. “You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?”
“I’ve had help,” she says, smiling brightly at him.
“Ginny,” Harry says, and his glimmer flickers as though he has just discovered the answer to the world’s most important question. “I ran into her at the Burrow last night and she was being very mysterious.”
“Ginny is full of bright ideas,” Luna says.
“She’s full of weird ideas,” Harry mumbles, but then he shrugs and drains his coffee cup. “I’ll do it. That is, if you want me to… you know what the reporters are like and I don’t want to take focus away from the kids.”
“Don’t be daft, Harry, you’re part of the family,” Sam says, and Luna wants to leap out of her chair and hug him, but she stays where she is.
“So…” Deb says. “That just leaves…”
As one, they all turn to look at Draco. He stares back evenly and folds his arms.
“I am not gallivanting down Diagon Alley in my nightclothes.”
“Nobody said anything about gallivanting, Draco,” Luna says. “You’ll be allowed to go at your own pace.”
“I think you’re rather missing the point,” he says, sea green fading to palest peppermint and clearly betraying the anxiety that he doesn’t want to show.
“Or you are,” Mary Ann says, nudging him with her elbow. “It’s for the kids. They’re going to love it. It doesn’t matter if we make idiots of ourselves.”
“That’s right,” Luna says. “And anyway, you thought you weren’t going to like Movement to Music and you did.”
Draco flushes and lets out a heavy sigh. “I feel as though someone is determined for me to be perpetually embarrassed.”
Luna pushes down a flicker of guilt and smiles hopefully. “Well, I promise I’ll look into that for you if you can promise to put on your pyjamas on Saturday and come and join us all in Diagon Alley.”
“Luna, it’s impossible,” he says, but all eyes are on him and she can feel him beginning to waver.
“It’s only impossible because you’re thinking about it too much,” Harry puts in.
“That’s the spirit,” Mary Ann says. “If I can face the world in my flowery nightie then you can put on your posh designer pyjamas and help us raise some money for the kids.”
“My pyjamas are not posh,” Draco says crossly.
“That almost sounds like a yes to me,” Harry cries, glimmer brightening as he reaches over to poke Draco in the arm.
“Pin him down before he gets away!” shouts Deb, grabbing a quill and a piece of parchment from Sam’s desk. “Get it in writing!”
Alarmed, Draco ducks away from her and ends up almost in Harry’s lap. “Luna, stop her… I’ll do it, alright? Good grief, why must everything be so…?” He stops, twisting around in his struggle to evade Deb and finding himself staring up into Harry’s eyes.
“What?” Luna asks innocently, making no effort to intervene.
“Er… so… bizarre,” he manages at last. “Everyone in this place has lost their bloody minds.”
“That certainly is true,” Sam says. “Luna—I think you’ve won.”
For a moment there is a wonderful, delighted silence. Luna, Deb and Mary Ann exchange triumphant glances, Harry and Draco continue to stare at each other and the two teachers in the entryway look on with interest. When something crashes to the floor in the corridor beyond, everyone seems to snap back to attention. The teachers grab up their things and scuttle out to deal with the incident and corral their students, Draco retreats back to his own chair and pretends interest in Deb’s magazine once more, and Sam shuffles his papers and attempts to retake command of the room.
“Right, morning schedules, everyone,” he says, raising his voice to ensure their attention. “This meeting of the eclipse pyjama party committee has been postponed.”
“Until when?” Harry asks, rubbing his face as though he has no idea why it is suddenly warmer than usual.
“Lunchtime. At least,” Sam says, picking up a tin of sweets and banging it on the edge of his desk. “Order!”
Luna spends the next couple of hours drifting around the home feeling light with happiness. Everything is going to plan; Harry and Draco are closer and more embarrassed than ever before, and the autumn sunlight filling the big old house seems to be putting everyone in a wonderful mood. At morning break, she follows Serafina and several of her classmates out into the tumbledown courtyard, watching a game or two of what they call ‘vampire hopscotch’ before joining Harry, Draco and Mary Ann on the benches.
Mary Ann and Harry are bending over something small held between them while Draco is reading the Prophet and doing his usual impression of ‘I am not interested at all, not even one little bit’.
“What are you doing?” Luna asks.
“Mary Ann has a mobile telephonic device,” Draco says without looking up.
“My dad’s got one of those,” Luna says. “It doesn’t work, though. He uses it as a paperweight.”
“This one does work. My daughter got it for me,” Mary Ann says proudly. “I don’t know who she thinks I’m going to bring up but it’s very nice…”
“Ring up,” Harry corrects, amused. “You ring people.”
“Is that right?” Mary Ann asks. “Well, I don’t know, but it takes pictures when you press this button—look, that’s my breakfast!”
When the little telephone is held out to her, Luna looks at the screen. Sure enough, there is a picture of a plate of toast with marmalade. One of the pieces has had a bite taken out of it.
“Where did she get it?” Luna asks, intrigued.
“That little shop next to the ice cream parlour in Diagon Alley,” Mary Ann says, pressing a button and showing Luna and Harry a tiny little day planner. “She says they’ve all sorts of Muggle things… adapted, you know. I’ve got to put a spell up its bottom every night to keep it working.”
“Why would anyone want a spell up their bottom?” Draco says absently.
Mary Ann ignores him. “You can play songs on it as well, see…”
She presses a combination of buttons and a blast of tinny music emerges from the telephone.
The children pause in their game and surge around Mary Ann, attracted by the upbeat rhythm, but Luna isn’t watching them. She is watching Harry. At first, nothing seems to be happening, and then his glimmer deepens and twists in confusion and she knows that the potion is taking hold. It’s happening sooner than she intended, but there’s nothing she or anyone else can do about that now. As the song continues to waft around the courtyard, the children bob their heads in time to the beat and Harry’s shoulders begin to twitch.
His expression turns from panic to pure confusion as his fingers drum against the arm of the bench, quite clearly without his permission. Soon his feet are tapping along the stone, and it’s all he can do to remain seated, but he’s trying, Luna will give him that.
“Are you having a funny turn?” Draco asks, watching over the top of his paper as Harry leaps to his feet, no longer able to control his body, and dances his way energetically around the courtyard.
“No, I think I’ve been fu—erm, flipping cursed or something,” Harry says breathlessly, setting the children off into helpless giggles as he jerks his hips this way and that and then rolls himself sensuously like a belly dancer. “It was you, wasn’t it?” he accuses, pointing at Draco and then making a clumsy sort of leap that almost causes him to crash into the side of the building. “I saw you dancing and now… you’re taking revenge!”
“Don’t be so bloody dramatic,” Draco says mildly, earning himself a poke in the arm from Mary Ann, who does not appear to be able to take her eyes away from Harry.
Luna can’t really blame her. Watching Harry fling himself around is a bit like watching a mid-air broomstick crash. You know you shouldn’t, but you still don’t want to miss anything. The children are watching too, and she can almost see them mentally comparing Harry’s performance with Draco’s the day before. If Draco is elegance and poise, Harry is energy and chaos; he is fully committed to every insane, jerky movement, and even as she feels a twinge of guilt about the fact that some time very soon, he is going to end up in a heap on the floor, she can’t help grinning along with the rest of them.
“Do you really think he can’t stop?” asks Serafina, as Harry hunches over and performs what looks like a kind of chicken dance.
“Stopping would be lovely,” Harry calls, turning pink in the face as the music becomes faster and he is forced to keep up.
“Perhaps it’s the music,” Luna suggests at last.
“Oh!” Mary Ann gasps and quickly presses a button, leaving the courtyard in silence.
Halfway through a messy sort of spin, the magic relaxes its grip on Harry and he stumbles, arms flailing, until he ends up on his backside, flushed and breathing hard.
“Do you really think it was the music?” Mary Ann asks, hurrying across the courtyard to help Harry to his feet. “Sorry about that,” she adds, though she, too, is struggling to hide a smile.
“No,” Harry says, flopping down onto the bench. “Like I said, I think it was revenge.”
“It wasn’t me, you idiot. Deb looked a bit shifty this morning, maybe it was her.”
“She’s not shifty, she’s just been ill,” Mary Ann says.
“Can you do it again?” asks one of the children, and Harry just looks at them.
“I’m glad you were entertained.”
“Is that a yes?”
Harry laughs, lifting his hands to press against his heated face. Luna pats his shoulder in commiseration. He doesn’t suspect her for a moment.
With a slightly guilty Mary Ann keeping her telephone well away from Harry, there are no more incidents until lunchtime, when, as Luna had predicted, the children turn on the wireless in the drawing room. Harry, lulled into a false sense of security, wanders in after finishing his beans on toast and is immediately compelled to whirl his way around the room as though mounted on strings. Luna, concealed in a quiet corner, watches with interest, and it isn’t until several minutes later that Sam appears, alerted by the sound of laughter and clapping, and turns off the wireless to release Harry.
“This stays off for the rest of the day,” he says, and even the small smile on his face does not stop the children from nodding solemnly.
The problem with Sam, Luna thinks, is that he sometimes underestimates just how crafty children can be. She isn’t a little bit surprised when, by mid-afternoon, Caroline has worked out that just about any approximation of music is enough to set Harry off, and when she whistles Auld Lang Syne at him from behind a tree at afternoon break, he breaks into such a sombre jig that he, along with everyone else present, is crying with laughter by the end of it.
The others quickly pick up the challenge, breaking into song whenever they spy Harry in the corridors, dancing along with him and giggling themselves breathless. By dinnertime, he is limping slightly but seems to have given up trying to fight. His eyes are bright with helpless laughter and his glimmer wraps around him like a burning scarlet cape.
Luna ducks into the kitchen at five o’clock, drawn in by the delicious savoury smells and the rattle of crockery. Mary Ann is serving up, but she stops when she sees Luna, holding up one finger and disappearing into the back room. When she emerges, she is holding a wooden crate filled with old utensils: ladles, slotted spoons, spatulas and potato mashers. The contents of the box clink as she hands it to Luna.
“I got all new things a while ago and I didn’t like to throw out the old ones,” she explains, returning to her task of adding a spoonful of carrots to each plate. “I thought the kids could bang them about and make a noise, like you said.”
“They’re perfect, thank you,” Luna says. She sets down the crate and picks out a wooden spoon and a metal ladle, smacking them together in rhythm and producing a satisfying clanging sound.
From somewhere outside the kitchen window comes a yelp, followed by the sound of rapidly shuffling feet.
“Sorry, Harry!” Luna calls, exchanging a smile with Mary Ann.
“Do you really think my telephone did that to him?” she asks, expression turning anxious.
“Not even a little bit,” Luna assures. “I bet he’ll be fine in the morning.”
As she edges out of the kitchen with her crate, Draco and Harry are just heading into the office.
“Shall I sing you a song?” Draco asks.
“Bite me,” Harry mutters, but he grins helplessly at the back of Draco’s head until they are out of sight.
Luna opts to stay for dinner and she takes a seat next to Horace, who is all but surrounded by his adoring fans.
“A piano? What a marvellous idea,” he says when she quietly tells him about the plan for Saturday.
“I’m glad you think so,” she says. “I hear you used to play.”
“I did,” he says, frowning as he slices into a piece of carrot. “And I’d love to help you, but… Merlin’s beard, Luna, nobody wants to see me in my pyjamas.”
“I do,” she says firmly.
Horace looks at her as though seeing her for the first time. “You’re a very unusual young lady, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know,” she admits. “I’ve never been any other young lady. Will you do it?”
“Well, how can I say no?”
Luna beams. “Thank you, Horace.”
“What are you talking about?” Otis asks from the other end of the table. “Is it a secret?”
“Only for a little bit longer,” Luna says. “That is, if everyone eats their carrots.”
When Harry appears the next afternoon, Luna is pleased to hear that her potion has worn off completely. This news does not stop Draco from ‘testing’ the magic several times with little bursts of everything from Celestina Warbeck to the Hogwarts school song. Finally, he gives up, and, a little while after that, the children do the same. Their disappointment is short-lived, however, as that afternoon, they are all gathered into the drawing room and told about the upcoming pyjama party.
“We’re going to be out in public and we’re going to be representing Starlight, so what does that mean?” asks Deb, looking around expectantly at all the eager faces.
“Best behaviour!” shouts Benny.
“No biting!” adds Eliza.
“There should never be biting,” Otis says, sounding scandalised.
“Right,” Deb says, nodding. “There definitely mustn’t be any biting, but Benny’s right—everyone needs to be on their very best behaviour, and that includes staff.”
A little ripple of ‘oohs’ passes around the children and they stare at the staff team as though trying to decide who is the most likely to misbehave. Luna catches Caroline’s eye and discreetly points at Sam. Caroline giggles against her arm and Sam continues to gaze evenly at Deb.
“So, we’ll be leaving here at twelve o’clock—”
“The eclipse is at two o’clock,” interrupts a small, urgent voice.
“Yes it is, and we need to all get into the bus and be ready to leave at twelve,” Deb says. “Not ten past twelve or quarter past twelve—twelve o’clock, and you all need to be ready. Okay?”
“Can we wear any pyjamas we want?” Gareth asks, and the murmuring among the children falls silent, as though the answer to this question is the most important of all.
“Any pyjamas,” Luna says. “But guess what they have to be?”
“Pink!” says Eliza.
“No!” shout out several children at once.
“Clean!” says Serafina, stretching her hand up towards the ceiling.
“Good,” Deb says. “So that means they need to be in your baskets on Thursday, otherwise, there won’t be time to get them washed.”
“Can I bring mine in on Thursday?” Harry asks, and the children giggle.
“Yep,” Mary Ann says. “But they won’t get washed.”
Harry heaves a theatrical sigh. Beside him, Draco looks at the floor and smiles to himself. Luna slips a hand into her bag, squeezes her notebook hard, and hopes.
Following the announcement, the whole house is buzzing with excitement, and as Saturday approaches, the anticipation rises among the children like a tidal wave, knocking them off balance and sweeping most of the staff along with it. It turns out that the opportunity to do something truly daft is appealing right across the board, and Luna couldn’t be prouder.
Happiness breeds happiness, she supposes, and every last bit of it is fantastic news for The Project. Under the guise of recording the whole experience for posterity, she takes her camera to work and snaps pictures of Mary Ann laughing as she leafs through a nightwear catalogue, Deb and Sam examining the newly-arrived buckets, Harry and Draco having a spirited sword fight using a ladle and a pair of tongs. She makes copies for her colleagues but the originals go straight into her notebook, along with a pretty piece of purple foil nudged in there at the last minute by Mr Abernathy.
When she arrives at the home on Saturday morning, the kids are bubbling over with energy. Most of them are already dressed in their freshly-washed nightwear and are darting around the place, giggling and sending Luna slightly off-balance with the leaping, blurring brightness of their colours.
“No bouncing on the sofa,” she calls. “Best behaviour, remember?”
At the sound of these magic words, the sofas are vacated instantly and play is redirected onto the floor at a slightly more ear-friendly volume. Amused and impressed, Luna watches them for a moment or two before heading for the office to have a look at her colleague’s outfits. In honour of her father, she is wearing the Kneazle-print nightie that started it all, along with stripy tights, purple wellington boots and a floppy straw hat.
“Oh, Luna, you didn’t disappoint me,” Sam says, grinning at her when she steps inside.
“I’m glad,” she says, confused. “What do you mean?”
“I bet him ten Sickles you’d be wearing one of those all-in-one things with the feet,” Deb says, sighing and reaching into the pocket of her pyjamas, which are made of dark blue satin and covered in tiny glowing stars.
“You weren’t very confident, were you, if you only bet ten Sickles?” Draco says, and Luna turns to look at him.
“You aren’t wearing your pyjamas,” she says, suddenly filled with anxiety.
“It’s nine-thirty in the morning, of course I’m not,” Draco says, but he indicates the immaculate garment bag draped over the chair next to him. “I’ll be ready. By twelve o’clock. Not ten past,” he adds, quirking half a smile in Deb’s direction.
She huffs. “You’d better be. And no, I wasn’t very confident. No offence, Luna, but you are a bit… unpredictable when it comes to clothes.”
“None taken,” Luna says brightly, just as Sam emerges from behind his desk, allowing her to see his ensemble for the first time.
His pyjamas are classic, no-nonsense, comfortable-looking—a lot like him, Luna supposes. Made of some sort of cotton or light flannel—she’d have to touch it to know, and she won’t—they are covered in neat, broad stripes of red and blue and look somehow perfectly at home with his usual brown brogues.
“Have I got a button missing?” he asks, brow furrowing as he peers down at his shirt.
“No,” Luna says lightly. “You look very nice. All of you do. Where are Mary Ann and Harry?”
“I just saw Harry wandering up the drive,” says Penelope, closing the office door and presenting herself nervously for inspection. “I think Mary Ann’s in the kitchen making more toast.”
“I’ve got those ones!” Deb cries, catching sight of Penelope’s pyjamas. “When you get them wet, the little fishes flick their tails!”
Penelope grins. “Yeah. I know I’m a teacher and everything, but I hope I never grow up.”
“Don’t bother,” Mary Ann says firmly, shuffling into the room and bringing with her the warm smell of fresh toast. “Luna, you look marvellous.”
“So do you,” Luna says, admiring Mary Ann’s ankle length nightdress with its big, bright blooms and tiny little pearl buttons.
“Any chance we can put the admiration on hold and run through this afternoon’s schedule one more time?” Sam asks wearily.
Luna and Mary Ann exchange glances but they take their seats and fish out their notebooks as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening at all. They are soon joined by Horace, who is wearing, over his pyjamas, the most luxurious brocade dressing gown Luna has ever seen, and then Harry, who arrives with windswept hair and an outfit that causes Draco’s ‘oh, good grief’ eyebrow to flicker almost out of control.
“What on earth are you wearing?” he asks after a moment.
Harry looks down at his polka dot boxer shorts, his worn old Gryffindor t-shirt and his suspiciously new-looking pair of red slippers.
“My pyjamas,” he says, frowning. As he looks around at the others, a flush starts to creep up the side of his neck. “Weren’t we supposed to come in what we actually wear to bed?”
“I bought new ones,” Deb admits.
“So did I,” Sam says, rubbing a hand over his face to hide the smile that Luna sees anyway.
“I didn’t,” Luna says. “I’ve had this nightie for years. I think you look… lovely, Harry.”
Harry smiles at her gratefully and then shrugs. “Could have been worse, I suppose. Could have been the middle of summer, then you’d have all had a shock.”
Laughter ripples around the room and Harry flushes even harder but he stands his ground, folding his arms and grinning sheepishly and pretending not to notice Draco’s startled expression. Only pretending, though—they both know what’s happening now, she’s sure of it. It can only be a matter of time.
At five minutes to twelve, everyone begins to pile onto the old bus, Sam at the wheel and Deb sitting beside him with a clipboard, checking off the name of each child as they board. Eliza has so many ribbons in her hair that Luna cannot count them all. Gareth is wearing his dressing gown backwards. Several of the little ones have swapped parts of their pyjama sets to create multiple mismatching ensembles, and Luna cannot help but admire their creativity.
At two minutes to twelve, all of the children are safely on board with seat belts on. The customary bus-ride singing has already begun. Harry, Mary Ann, Horace and all of the teachers are in place, strategically distributed around the bus to ensure that ‘best behaviour’ is, in fact, taking place. Luna hovers at the driver’s door, watching Sam’s expression as he, in turn, watches the door of the house.
At just about thirty seconds to twelve, the door opens and Draco stalks out, resplendent in beautiful pyjamas of soft, silvery grey that fit him so perfectly they must have been made for him. The shirt hangs elegantly on his angular frame and the buttons pull the fabric closed at mid-chest, revealing the pale, smooth skin that has often made Luna slightly envious. He turns to lock the door with a spell and Luna doesn’t think she imagines the tiny groan that escapes Harry’s lips. She doesn’t blame him; it’s a very lovely bottom and the fabric covering it clings just enough to spark the imagination. Draco is a very attractive man, and while very much not her type, she thinks she understands.
“Trust him to be able to look like that in a pair of bloody pyjamas,” Deb mutters to Luna as she climbs into the bus and finds her seat.
Luna grins, jumping as Sam yells: “Hurry up before I leave without you!”
Draco looks completely unconcerned, but when Sam fires up the engine, he shoots into the bus and pulls the door closed behind him. Harry laughs at him, and Luna thinks it’s only Benny’s stern reminder of “best behaviour!” that stops Draco kicking him in the shin.
When they reach Diagon Alley, they split temporarily into small groups, each adult taking a handful of children and allowing them to wind their way safely through the crowds towards their destination.
She takes a deep breath and tries not to feel overwhelmed. The cobbled street is packed with jostling people, each bringing their voice and their perfume and their excitable glimmer to the mix and threatening Luna with sensory overload. She blinks through her colour-hazed vision and gently guides Serafina, Caroline, Benny and Otis through the maze of bodies towards the Weasleys Wizard Wheezes stall where she knows she will find Ginny, George and Verity. In the distance, she spies a bunch of bright orange balloons flying above a similarly bright orange stall, and she relaxes, knowing that she is moving in the right direction.
She takes another deep breath, this time allowing herself to enjoy the mingled aromas of food—spicy, sweet, fried—and the incense and heavily scented oils of some of the stalls they pass.
“Get your eclipse postcards!” someone shouts. “Five for five Sickles!”
“Can we get postcards, Luna?” asks Otis, tugging at her hand.
“Can we get toffee apples?” adds Serafina.
“We’ll see about that later,” Luna says. “First we have to all meet up and check that everyone’s here.”
“Where would they be?” Benny asks.
“They might be lost,” Caroline says knowledgably, smoothing down her pyjama shirt so that the tiny Sorting Hats are displayed to best advantage.
“What happened to your blue ones?” Luna asks. “I thought they were your favourites.”
“They are, but Harry said we might be in the newspaper. I thought I’d better wear my newest ones.”
“Did Harry really say that?” Serafina asks, twirling around and accidentally banging into an old woman carrying a large lizard. “Ooh… sorry.”
Otis tugs at the sleeve of Luna’s nightdress. “You know lizards?”
“Do you think they can speak Parseltongue? Because Parseltongue is snake language, but lizards are a little bit like snakes, so maybe they understand… a little bit.”
“I can see the others!” Benny cries, jumping up and waving. “GARETH!” he bellows.
“Best behaviour,” Luna reminds him. “That means no yelling. I don’t know, Otis, perhaps you should ask Harry. Perhaps it’s true, though. Draco can speak French, and he once said that helps him to speak a bit of Spanish.”
“Draco can speak French?” Caroline asks, eyes wide. “Wow.”
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know he impressed you,” Luna laughs, waving at Ginny as they draw up to the stall.
It seems that George’s prediction was correct—the little stall is doing a roaring trade in charmed sunglasses, cameras, and souvenir t-shirts. Someone has even had the bright idea of selling cups of cold pumpkin juice, which, owing to the unseasonably warm weather, are disappearing almost as fast as poor Verity can supply them.
“You look brilliant,” Ginny says. “All of you.”
“Thanks,” says Luna.
“She’s really pretty,” Benny mumbles, staring up at Ginny, who just grins.
“It’s just the pyjamas,” she whispers. “When I’m in my normal clothes I look like a seamonster.”
“Cool,” Benny says, apparently unfazed.
Amused, Luna shepherds her little group along to meet the rest and takes a moment to enjoy George’s choice of pyjamas. They are made from a viciously bright pink fabric which clashes wonderfully with his hair, and are dotted all over at random with flashing yellow spots.
“If you think those are loud, you should see mine,” someone says, and Luna turns around.
“Dad!” she laughs, looking over his outfit, which is exactly the type of one-piece-suit-with-the-feet that Deb seemed to think she’d be wearing. She doubts Deb could have predicted the entire thing being covered in green fur, though. “What are you doing here?”
“Covering the important event for the Quibbler, of course,” he says, waggling a quill in her face.
“The eclipse, you mean?”
“Well, I’ll be honest,” he says, fixing her with a conspiratorial glance. “The eclipse is very interesting… but it’s all been done before, hasn’t it? This… now this is something new!” He indicates the children, who are now being asked by Mary Ann to choose between a bucket and a set of noisy utensils. “I thought that maybe we could drum up some extra interest, you know, just for anyone who couldn’t be here today. They can send money up to your place afterwards, couldn’t they, so…?”
His last words are muffled as she hugs him tightly. When his green fur tickles her nose and makes her sneeze, she pulls back.
“Harry’s in the Prophet with that man again,” someone says behind her.
“Scurrilous rag,” Luna’s father says, eyes twinkling. “I’d better go and get some background.”
She nods, turning around to see Deb peering in the window of the ice cream parlour, where someone has left a copy of the Daily Prophetopen at page two.
“It’s the coffee shop man again,” Luna mumbles to herself.
Draco’s eyes narrow as he hands out spoons and spatulas and he stares a silent hole in the side of Harry’s head, glimmer flaring turquoise for a split second and then simmering gently.
“Throw me a masher or something, Draco,” Harry calls, oblivious to the little incident and clearly surprised by the force with which the utensil is whipped at him from across the street.
“Thanks,” he says, catching it anyway and frowning in confusion.
“Come on, Caroline,” Mary Ann says. “Let’s go and speak to Mr Lovegood. I just know you’re the best person for the job.”
Caroline gets up from her seat on the ground without enthusiasm. “I wish Lori was here.”
Mary Ann gives her a squeeze. “I know… but let’s make sure we take lots of pictures for her. We can take them with my telephone! Make sure she knows she’s not the only one with fancy new kit,” she says, nudging Caroline and making her smile.
When they come back, it is, according to Sam’s schedule, time to begin. Luna takes a deep, fortifying breath and climbs up onto George’s stall. She wraps her fingers around the top spar and feels for the strings of the balloons, allowing herself to pretend that they are pulling her gently skyward as she gazes down at the sea of little faces and the curious glances of passing strangers. Lively music is already being piped down the alley, and the reporter with the Wizarding Wireless Network is loudly counting down each minute to the start of the eclipse, filling the gaps with astrological trivia and news updates. The Starlight Home for Children is going to have to make a hell of a racket if they want to be heard.
Unsurprisingly, given the choice of a bucket or a set of utensils, the children have gone for the noisy option, so the staff are carrying most of the buckets. Sam has three all to himself. But it’s alright, she thinks. She just has to find the right words to motivate them.
“Okay!” she calls. “Is everybody ready?”
The children cheer and rattle their utensils enthusiastically.
“Good! Now listen to me—somebody told me that that music…” She pauses to let the upbeat melody surge through the group, “…is so loud that no one will be able to hear us.”
A muffled “Booooo!” comes from the children.
“Someone also told me that your man over there from the WWN thinks he’s so interesting that no one will want to listen to us!”
This time the booing is louder and seems to be reinforced by most of the staff team. Luna smiles, hanging on tight to the spar and leaning out towards her audience.
“What do we say to that?”
“BOOOO!” comes the response, along with the clanging of utensils, the rattling of buckets and the stamping of feet.
“Alright, then… so what we have to do, when Sam gives the say-so, is be the loudest, most exciting, most ‘look at us, aren’t we brilliant?’ thing these people have ever seen!” she shouts. “Alright?”
“ALRIGHT!” yell the children, yell Deb and Mary Ann and Sam and the teachers, yell Horace and Harry and Draco and a man in a suit made of green fur.
Exhilarated, Luna jumps down onto the cobbles and takes two buckets from George.
“I never had you down for a rabble-rouser,” he says, grinning. “I’m impressed.”
Luna grins back, watching as he leaps up onto the stall to take her place. He looks over at Sam, waiting for his signal, and Luna turns around to wait, too, only mildly surprised to see Harry and Draco standing right next to each other and involved in an intense exchange of words. Finally, Sam nods, and George casts a Sonorus charm against his throat.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announces, and his voice seems to reverberate around the entire street. People turn to stare at him. The reporter from the WWN stops talking about the eclipse for a good five seconds before he recovers himself. “In just a few minutes time, day will become night, and to celebrate this celestial spectacle, the children and staff of the Starlight Home for Children have donned their pyjamas, their nightdresses, their… well, some things you have to see for yourself, and have come out here to entertain us. Please give generously, and remember, the more money they raise, the more of those spatulas they’ll be able to replace with proper instruments. Thank you!” George bellows and leaps down from the stall.
“Time to go, everyone,” Sam calls as a murmur of interest passes through the crowds. “Remember what Luna said. Burst their eardrums if you have to.”
The children cheer, and when the frustrated reporter turns up the volume on his countdown, their faces set in determination. Luna smiles. They’ll let him have his moment—the darkness is his prize, and it’s all his. But for now, there is a fuss to be created.
As the crocodile of children starts to move with Deb at the front and Sam at the rear, Luna rattles her buckets and walks alongside them, helping Harry and his boxer shorts and Draco and his fancy pyjamas keep everyone tightly together.
Clang, clang, clang, CLANG, goes Eliza, striking her utensils together with relish right next to Luna’s ear.
Beside her, Benny adds an out-of-time THOMP-scrape-THOMP-scrape-SCRAPE, and behind them, Serafina is rattling a pair of tongs as if her life depends on it.
Before long, Luna’s ears are filled with a cacophony of banging, scraping, rattling and clanking sounds, and though she does her best to tune it out, she suspects her head will be ringing with it for days to come.
She doesn’t care. It’s loud and ridiculous and it’s wonderful. People can’t help but hear, which means they have to look, and when they look, they see the children in their little pyjamas and the staff in their determined, brazening-it-out embarrassment, and they smile. They smile and they get out their money bags and purses and wallets. They drop heavy coins into Luna’s bucket that land with a satisfying thud. They drop coins into all the buckets, adding words of encouragement and offers of help and, “What a bloody awful noise, can I hire you to play outside my mother-in-law’s house?”
As they reach the top of the alley, ready to make their way back down, Deb turns around at the head of the group and yells, “Let’s dance!”
The noise from the kitchen instruments becomes, somehow, even more chaotic as the children begin to hop and leap and spin along the street.
“Draco, let’s be swans!” Eliza pleads, accidentally stabbing Draco with a slotted spoon in her enthusiasm.
“Maybe in a moment,” he mumbles, grimacing and rubbing at his sore thigh.
“Did someone say swans?” Caroline asks, holding her utensils above her head and hopping like a rabbit. “Are you going to do swans on the lake?”
“Yeah, Draco, are you?” Harry asks, eyes bright with amusement.
“I see talking but I don’t see dancing,” Deb sings, casting a spell to make all the stars on her pyjamas flash on and off again.
“You’re deplorable, the lot of you,” Draco mumbles, and then he shoves his buckets at Harry and drops casually into a series of loose, fluid spins that look utterly effortless until he slightly loses his footing on the cobbles and has to perform a complicated little leap to steady himself. “Cobbles are not made for ballet,” he says, taking back his buckets, but he smiles when several people from the crowd break into spontaneous applause and throw yet more coins into his bucket.
“What’s deplorable?” asks Serafina.
“It means he likes us,” Harry says, and for a moment he slings one arm around Draco’s shoulders, causing the sea green glimmer to effervesce beautifully.
“It does not mean that,” he says, but Serafina is no longer listening.
When they find themselves back at the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes stall, Luna is thrilled to find that all of the buckets they left there have been filled almost to the top. There are mostly Knuts, as people have wanted to get rid of their loose change, but she can see plenty of silver Sickles, too, plus a surprising amount of gleaming gold Galleons.
As the banging and scraping finally comes to a stop and the utensils are collected by Mary Ann, Luna finds that she can, as predicted, still hear the unholy racket. She sticks a finger in her ear and wiggles it about, hoping to somehow dislodge the ghost of the sound, but it’s no use.
She can hear the reporter, now the loudest thing in the street once more, talking rapidly about the movement of the earth, moon and sun, repeating what appears to be the same information over and over again. The sky is already beginning to darken slightly as the moon seems to edge over the sun, and she glances up through her WWW spectacles every now and then as she and the others settle the children on the ground with cups of pumpkin juice and spectacles of their own. According to the reporter, the exciting part is the totality, which will only last for a few minutes, but the children seem quite excited by the whole process, and when they are not staring up at the sky, they are chattering happily about just how many pianos the money they have collected will buy.
“Wonderful, isn’t it?” Horace says, standing beside her and watching the slowly-advancing dark shape.
“It’s beautiful,” she agrees.
“So many people, all together,” he says wistfully, and she wonders if her next project should be to find him a friend. Not that she’s finished with her current project quite yet.
When the moon finally slides over the sun and bathes Diagon Alley in darkness, the music stops and even the reporter drops his voice to almost a whisper. Luna gazes up at it through her glasses, taking in the velvety shadow and fiery corona—the sun’s own glimmer, she supposes. At last, the reporter stops talking altogether and the perfect, silent stillness washes over Luna, calming her and grounding her to the earth.
“Oh!” Caroline gasps suddenly, and an unoccupied cart on the other side of the street bursts into flames.
Luna turns, along with several other people in the vicinity, first to look at the cart and then at Caroline.
“No need to panic,” Horace says, drawing his wand and putting out the fire with ease.
Slowly, most of the people who had looked turn back to watch the last few minutes of the eclipse, but Luna heads towards Caroline, stepping carefully in the darkness.
“Did you do that?” Luna whispers, crouching down next to her.
Caroline nods, eyes large. “I didn’t mean to, though.”
“That means it’s accidental magic,” Otis says, leaning over to her. “You did it! You’ll definitely get your Hogwarts letter now.”
Caroline stares at him as a smile spreads over her face. “Yeah! Oh, that’s brilliant. I can’t wait to tell Lori, she’ll be… I mean… sorry about the fire.”
“It’s alright,” Luna says. “I know it was an accident. I was just wondering where it came from.”
“I was surprised,” Caroline says, eyes darting to her left and then back to Luna.
“I saw…” Caroline pauses, eyes flicking to her left once more. “I don’t know.”
Puzzled, Luna turns to see what she has been looking at, but all she sees is Harry, leaning on George’s stall and gazing up at the sky. She squints in the darkness but she can’t see anything unusual.
“Caroline, what did you see?” she asks again.
“Nothing,” she says firmly.
“Then what were you surprised about?” Otis asks.
Caroline shrugs and looks up just as the moon begins to move out from in front of the sun. Luna decides to leave her to it. There’s never any use trying to force children to tell you things if they don’t want to. Best to let her enjoy the relief of finding out that she will be going to Hogwarts after all, not that anyone but her ever had a doubt.
“Good for her,” Horace says when she returns to him and explains. “My first magic was taking all the water out of my grandfather’s swimming pool… while he was in it. A little bit of fire is a lot more easily fixed.”
“Was your granddad alright?” Luna asks.
“Oh, yes, he was in the shallow end at the time. Never did hear the end of it, though.”
Amused, Luna looks back over at Caroline, who is now surrounded by congratulations and whispered questions. Then she glances at Harry and wonders.
Harry is missing the next morning when the staff team empty the buckets on the floor of the office and count up all the money that has been collected.
“It’s Sunday,” Deb says, kneeling on the rug and flicking Knuts into neat piles with startling efficiency. “He’s probably catching up on all his studying.”
“Probably,” Luna agrees, but she can’t help being a little concerned.
“I don’t know how he gets it all done,” Mary Ann says.
“The energy of youth,” Sam offers, grimacing and reaching for another money bag.
“Ten more Galleons here,” Draco says irritably. “And would you mind keeping your voices down? My head feels like it’s about to explode.”
“You don’t look like you had much sleep,” Luna says, and Draco’s glimmer flickers crossly.
She isn’t worried as such, but Harry’s absence does prey upon her mind a little, and when the staff team gather the children the following day to announce the final total and he is still nowhere to be seen, she begins to think that something may be wrong. Perhaps she has meddled in his affairs a little too much. Perhaps he is angry with her, or worse, with Draco. Still, she smiles and stands beside Sam as he tells the children that they have raised enough money for a piano as well as a selection of other musical instruments.
The delight on their faces as they bounce up and down and hug each other lifts her like a Cheering Charm and she can’t help but laugh when Caroline’s excitement sets off yet another burst of accidental magic, this time causing all the chairs in the room to spin around in circles. Unsurprisingly, when given the option, the children vote to spend the extra money on a healthy percussion section, and, as Luna leaves the room, are gathered around owl-order catalogues, chattering and drawing circles around pictures of drums and tambourines and maracas.
“We could get a kazoo!” Otis cries, his loud voice following Luna down the corridor.
“Remind me why I said yes to this?” Sam groans, catching up to her and throwing her a pained look.
“Because you’re a lovely person,” Luna says solemnly, and he laughs.
The next day, Harry is still nowhere to be seen, and Draco’s behaviour remains... unusual. He still seems tired and anxious, but more than that, his glimmer is fierce and bright, flowing around him in a way that is completely at odds with his expression. Luna is puzzled, even more so when she realises that he hasn’t mentioned Harry even once since they seemed so close at the weekend.
“Do you think he’s alright?” she asks as they sit in the office side by side, pushing through mountains of neglected paperwork.
“What? Who? Harry?” Draco mumbles without looking up.
“Yes, Harry. I’m worried about him.”
“Leave it alone, Luna. I’m sure he can take care of himself,” he snaps, and she can see his fingers tightening around his quill until it threatens to break.
“Alright,” she says evenly, and Draco sighs.
“I’m sorry.” He drops his quill and sags in his chair, reaching up to swipe at his hair. “I really am sure he’s fine, though. He’ll probably be back in tomorrow like always.”
“I’m worried I might have upset him,” she says.
Draco looks at her, incredulous. “Have you ever upset anyone?”
Luna frowns. “I don’t know. I thought perhaps it was about the dancing... because...” She leans forward and lowers her voice conspiratorially. “It was me. I put a potion in his drink when he wasn’t looking.”
Something flickers in Draco’s silvery eyes for a moment and then he shakes his head, returning to his paperwork with a small smile on his face. When his glimmer wraps around him like a barrier, she knows that the conversation is over, so she excuses herself and steps outside into the courtyard. She lets the afternoon sunshine flow over her like a balm, warming her bare legs and helping to ease the stiffness from her neck. She listens to the clanking and rattling from Mary Ann’s kitchen and the shrieks of the children as they run around on the lawn just out of view.
She closes her eyes and thinks of the eclipse, the children’s whispers and Diagon Alley lit only by the light of a thousand glimmers. She thinks of Sam in his neat stripy pyjamas and feels better, and then thinks of Harry in his tatty old t-shirt and feels worse again. Feels a little bit sick, in fact, because perhaps she pushed them too hard. Embarrassed them too much. Perhaps it was all too obvious. Perhaps they caught on to her plans and turned their anger on each other.
Luna sighs and pulls her notebook from her bag, turning to the pages with Harry’s and Draco’s pictures and staring at them. Running her fingers over lines and lines of plotting in purple ink.
“And that’s what you get for interfering,” she tells herself, closing the book with a snap.
It’s all very well trying to make her friends happy, but maybe it will be best in future to leave their romantic lives well alone. Her stomach twists guiltily. It’s possible, of course, that it won’t be too late for Harry and Draco. She might not yet have ruined everything; she’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, she can go home, make sure her father eats something and write a letter to Ron about his peanut butter biscuits.
“Are you staying for dinner?” Mary Ann calls, waving at her through the window.
Luna shakes her head. “No, thank you. It smells lovely but I think I just want to get home as soon as I can... it’s been a long day.”
“Alright,” Mary Ann says, but Luna doesn’t think she imagines the note of anxiety in her voice.
Apparently, the odd behaviour is spreading. In Mary Ann’s case, at least, she doesn’t think she can blame herself.
Of course, Harry might be absolutely fine, she tells herself as she walks slowly down the drive at half past five that evening. The wind plucks at her hair as she walks, flapping it gently around her shoulders and filling her nostrils with the rich smell of earth and trees. He might be buried in his books without any idea what day it is. He might have had enough of all of them after Saturday and merely be taking a break. Most of the time, she relishes the unknown; it means curiosity and discovery and excitement, but today... well, it can take a running jump into a giant’s cereal bowl.
Impulsively, she turns on the spot and Disapparates, landing on the pavement outside Harry’s tall, beautiful old house. Ginny says she thinks the place is creepy, even though Harry has cleaned it up and purged it of dark magic, but Luna likes it. It’s the sort of place where she imagines the most wonderful stories to take place. She runs up the steps and knocks loudly on the door.
She opens the tightly-sprung letterbox and shouts through it, doing her best to avoid having her fingertips sliced off.
“Harry? Are you there? It’s Luna.”
“Listen, I just want to know if you’re alright... if you just say ‘Luna, I’m alright’, I promise I’ll go away,” she tries, but there is no response.
Feeling a little dejected, she leaves, Apparating into her garden and finding herself almost knocked backwards by the roar of voices that greets her. She stumbles, blinking, and immediately her vision is flooded with colour. Something yellow moves towards her and steadies her with an arm around her shoulders, and suddenly she can see scarlet and sea green in the crowd, fuchsia and silver and vivid blue, each colour distinct and glowing and each belonging to someone that she loves.
“I told you she’d forgotten,” her father laughs, squeezing her to his side. “Scatterbrained, this one. I’ve no idea where she gets it from.”
The others laugh warmly and Luna looks around at them, delighted but bewildered.
“What have I forgotten?”
Ginny emerges from the crowd, carrying two glasses of something sparkling. She hands one of them to Luna.
“Your birthday, idiot,” she says, grinning. “It’s today.”
Luna stares at her, then at her father, then at the others, who are all holding glasses of sparkling stuff and smiling at her. A glance around the garden reveals strings of lanterns, tiny lights in the trees, a long table set with all her favourite foods, including her dad’s speciality pie. It certainly looks like a birthday party.
“I suppose it is,” she says at last. “Are you all here for me?”
“Who else?” her father laughs. “I thought it’d be grand to do something for my best girl, you know, to celebrate the anniversary of her birth... I wish I could’ve done something when you turned seventeen, but it was...” he trails off, eyes misting over and she hugs him firmly.
“It wasn’t the time,” she says softly, and he nods.
“Ah, you’re always so delicate with your words,” he says, swiping at his eyes and letting out a loud bark of laughter. “Anyway, I asked around some of your friends, and it turns out they were planning a shindig of their own... so here we are. You’ve such a lot of lovely friends, Luna,” he murmurs, and when she turns to look at them, they are all smiling at her with pure, warm happiness.
She smiles back until her face hurts, whispering “Thank you” over and over again as her eyes flit over the familiar faces. Ron and Hermione, right at the front, are standing next to George and Verity, still in their vivid pink work robes; Neville waves at her with an enormous white bandage on his arm and beside him, Blaise beams at her and attempts to restrain an excited black Labrador puppy that is pulling at its lead and whiffling at the grass. Her heart leaps at the sight and almost thumps right out of her chest when she sees that Harry and Draco are standing next to one another and don’t seem to be cross with each other at all.
Puzzled but hopeful, she turns to see Sam, who is fixing her with a lovely crooked smile, and Mary Ann, now free of all traces of anxiety.
“You were trying to stop me getting here too early,” she laughs, understanding now.
Mary Ann nods. “Just a moment of panic, that’s all!” she says. “Everyone wanted to be here, you know. We had to toss a coin to decide who stayed behind.”
“Deb sent this,” Sam says, producing a pulsing red envelope from behind his back. “I think you’d better have it before it explodes.”
Luna steps forward and tentatively takes the Howler. Everyone else takes an instinctive step backwards. The moment she slides her finger under the flap of the envelope, the whole thing tears itself open and Deb’s voice—loud enough under normal circumstances—rips through the air, sending several birds squawking from their perches in the trees.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LUNA!” she yells, sending a ripple of laughter around the assembled group. “SORRY I COUDLN’T BE AT YOUR PARTY, BUT ME AND THE KIDS ARE MAKING YOU A CAKE THIS EVENING. I’M SURE IT’S GOING TO BE INTERESTING! HAVE A WONDERFUL EVENING, YOU DESERVE IT, AND—HEY, WHO THREW THAT? I THINK THERE’S A PIECE OF CAULIFLOWER DOWN MY SHIRT... SORRY, LUNA... ENJOY YOURSELF! SAVE ME SOME CAKE! LOTS OF LOVE, DEB.”
The Howler bursts into smoke and Luna laughs delightedly.
“I had no idea your workplace was so thrilling,” Blaise says, and in his inattention, the puppy manages to slip its collar and make a dash for the food table.
Harry leaps into its path and manages to gather it, squirming, into his arms just in time. The puppy plants enormous black paws on his shoulders and matter-of-factly sticks its nose into his ear.
“You got another dog,” Luna says happily, turning to Blaise, who is watching the behaviour of his pet with interest.
“I did,” he says, and the smile he turns on her is the brightest and most genuine she has seen on him in months. “She won’t replace Carlie, of course, but...”
“Of course not,” Luna says. “She’s her own spirit, but that doesn’t mean the two of you can’t be wonderful friends.”
“Indeed. I’ve been rather lonely without a dog... though someone has been sending me the most thoughtful gifts. It’s almost as though they’ve been trying to cheer me up.”
“Really?” Ron says, stepping away from his conversation with George and joining them. “Do you know who sent them, because I’ve been getting these letters...”
Luna continues to smile at them but she feels as though her notebook is burning a hole right through her leather bag and shouting ‘LOOK AT ME! I’M FULL OF SECRETS!’
“Just one more thing,” Harry shouts, and much to Luna’s relief, everyone falls silent. “I know how much you like to dance, Luna,” he begins, shooting her a crafty look that makes her think Draco has already told him the truth about the potion. “So, here’s my present to you—The Rainbow Eels!”
Everyone claps as nine or ten people emerge from behind various trees and arrange themselves in one corner of the garden. Each is dressed in multicoloured robes, the men’s sitting just above the knee and displaying some rather impressive calves, and the women’s flowing and swishing around their ankles. In each person’s hands is an instrument—flutes, tin whistles, violin, bodhran, guitar and an enormous, ornate accordion.
“It’s a ceilidh band,” Luna whispers, turning delightedly to Harry and knowing from his smile that he doesn’t care about the dancing potion. “You’re not even cross and you got me a ceilidh band!”
Harry just grins at her, and she hugs him tightly. “Thank you.”
“You’re the man from the coffee shop,” Mary Ann says suddenly, and Luna pulls away from Harry, following her eyes.
The man in question merely nods to her and settles his violin on his shoulder. He calls a count to his band and seconds later, the air is full of rousing music that makes Luna want to spin in circles, like Draco and Eliza on an imaginary mountain top.
“Yes,” Harry tells Mary Ann, and beside him, Draco is heaving a beleaguered sigh. “I had to make sure I got the best band for the job, didn’t I? It’s not my fault they’re always taking my picture.”
“Sorry I’m late, Luna,” Horace says, appearing by her side and puffing slightly. “I was getting these. Happy birthday. Goodness, I haven’t heard this song in years!”
Luna accepts a large bouquet of sunflowers and thanks Horace, amused to see his shoulders already twitching to the music.
“Ah!” cries her father, striding across the grass towards them. “Finally, someone else who isn’t just a whippersnapper!”
“Who are you calling a whippersnapper?” Sam asks, sounding puzzled.
“Shh, it’s a compliment,” Mary Ann says.
“Look, I’m actually... hang on, where’s my button?” Sam demands, pulling at his shirt just as something small and cool is dropped into Luna’s hand.
Turning away from the others, she looks down at the little silver button, complete with strands of thread, and then down at Mr Abernathy, who is hopping about at her feet, glimmer a rich and triumphant blue.
“You’re naughty,” she whispers, and drops the button into her bag.
“Aak!” says Mr Abernathy, and then flies up into a nearby tree to watch over the ceilidh band.
She turns back to the others just in time to see her father gathering her friends and attempting to teach them the steps of a set dance. Horace gamely joins in, Hermione drags Ron up to have a go, and Blaise loops the little dog’s lead over a fencepost so that he can throw himself around with the others. When the band leader nods to the others and kicks the music up a notch, the party seems to take off and fly. Everyone sheds their cardigans, outer robes, high heels and inhibitions, laughing as they attempt to follow instructions and laughing harder when they end up in a tangle on the grass.
Luna joins them, losing the worries of the last few days in the voices of her friends, the scrape of the violin and the piping of the flute, the warmth from the setting sun and the multicoloured glow of happiness that fills her garden with light.
“It’s working, isn’t it?” she says breathlessly in the brief gap between songs.
“What, this?” Draco asks, draining his glass. “I think it’s just sparkling elderflower.”
Luna laughs. “No, I mean the plan.”
“Luna, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Draco says as the music starts up again. “Are we supposed to start this one in a square or a circle?”
“A circle!” she calls, grabbing him by the wrist and pulling him into place.
Malfoys don’t dance, indeed.
“So, you’ll probably think I’m mad, but I wrote to her,” Ginny says, tucking her feet up underneath herself and fiddling with the stem of her glass.
The sky is almost completely dark now, but the lanterns glow softly and the band plays on, seemingly tireless. Luna’s father is still jigging around energetically, as are plenty of the others, but Luna is happy, just for a few moments, to watch them and drink in the atmosphere of her first proper party.
“Why would I think that?” she asks.
“Well, it’s Jayne Cavendish,” Ginny says, making a face. “She’s a superstar Quidditch player and I’m... well, you know... I only met her that once. Still, I thought, what the hell have I got to lose?”
“Nothing,” Luna says, head full of crouching behind cabbage carts and taking secret pictures. “What happened?”
“Well, nothing for a while. I’d almost given up. But yesterday...” Ginny shifts on the bench and pulls out a letter that looks like it has been read and folded and re-read many, many times. “She wrote back! She said she’d looked me up and asked me if I’d like to fly with them during training next week.”
“That’s wonderful,” Luna says, itching for her notebook and already wondering what she can come up with to nudge Ginny’s happiness up another level.
You see, she tells herself sternly as she studies the letter. It can work. It can.
“I’m not under any illusions about it,” Ginny says nonchalantly. “But it would be nice to get out of the shop for a little bit... really do something. And flying in the actual stadium where they won the cup five times in the last ten years...”
“Don’t write yourself off,” Luna says, giving the letter back to her. “I think they’ll be very impressed with you. And when you’re playing professionally, I’ll come and watch you. I could get a new hat!”
Ginny grins, silvery glimmer surging around her. “I’ll hold you to that. Hey... look at Slughorn and your dad!”
Luna looks. The two men are apparently taking a refreshment break and are both leaning against the side of the house. One figure long and thin, the other short and squat, they are both holding plates of food and chattering away like old friends. Her father is clearly telling one of his stories—he always stands like that when he’s spinning a yarn—and Horace is nodding, interrupting every now and then and gesticulating with cocktail sausages and miniature gherkins.
“Perhaps they won’t be lonely after all,” she says, and Ginny isn’t listening, but that’s alright. She was mostly talking to herself anyway.
“I’m going to see if there are any sausages left,” Ginny says, rising and half-walking, half-dancing her way over to the food table.
When she gets there, Neville greets her with a wave of his injured arm.
“What did you do?” Ginny asks, inspecting the tightly-wrapped bandages with interest.
“I got some popping beetles for the soil. They’re meant to help rare cacti to grow,” Neville says. “Turns out, I’m allergic to them.”
Luna can’t hear Ginny’s response over the sudden hammering of the bodhran, but she wrinkles her nose in sympathy.
“Aak!” cries Mr Abernathy, flapping down to perch on the edge of the bench.
“You’re naughty,” she says again, remembering Sam’s button, but he tilts his head on one side and regards her with such innocence that she has to laugh.
When he takes off in the direction of the stream, Luna gets up and follows him. She thinks she might like a little break from all the noise and heat and movement. It isn’t as though she isn’t having a wonderful time, but the dark, cool stillness of her favourite spot calls out to her like a siren song and she doesn’t even try to resist. She won’t be missed for a minute or two.
The grass is cool and damp against her feet as she walks slowly along the bank of the stream. Her shoes were discarded hours ago, along with her cardigan, and now she shivers slightly in her sleeveless dress, bag bumping against her thighs with each step.
“Aak!” calls Mr Abernathy and she moves unhurriedly towards him.
The moon is sparkling on the water, making each little rivulet gleam brightly as though to invite her in. She is just about to step down into the stream when she hears voices.
“You could try not looking so cross,” one says. “Everyone is going to think there’s something wrong with you.”
“Please tell me that you—Harry Potter—are not giving me lessons on keeping a straight face,” says another, and Luna pulls in a sharp breath.
That voice is unmistakeable. Intrigued, she creeps along the edge of the stream, holding her bag tightly against her side and ducking behind each tree she encounters. The conversation seems to have stopped dead, and when she finally lays her eyes on them, she knows why.
Harry and Draco are standing among the long grasses in a pool of moonlight, tangled together and kissing desperately. It’s not a first-time sort of kiss, either, all messy and slightly off-balance. It’s a different sort of desperation—slow and intense and full of promise. Harry’s hands are threaded through Draco’s hair and Draco pulls him in tight, fingers slipping under the hem of Harry’s t-shirt and onto his skin. Around them, the vivid sea green and the fierce scarlet are burning, crackling and roaring around them, merging over their heads in a burst of fiery bronze that steals Luna’s breath. Her fingers press into the rough tree bark as she tries to decide whether to dance with delight or run away and ends up doing neither.
“It will be easier when everyone just knows,” Harry sighs, gently pulling away and resting his head on Draco’s shoulder.
“It’s only been three days,” Draco says with a small smile.
“Feels like longer,” Harry mutters.
Three days, Luna thinks. So, on Saturday... she closes her eyes, infuriated with herself. It’s obvious now exactly what Caroline saw during the eclipse. So obvious that she feels herself flush with shame at having missed it. She has been focused on her own agenda for these two, but still...
“Drama, drama,” Draco mutters. “Anyway, I’m not against saying something but I thought we agreed...”
“We did,” Harry says firmly, pulling back and resting his hands on Draco’s hips. “This is Luna’s night.”
Luna blinks, startled.
“Exactly.” Draco leans in and kisses Harry again, firmly, deliberately, making him gasp.
Luna turns and leans back against her tree, stomach flipping. She reaches for her notebook and quill with shaky fingers and draws a large tick next to each of their photographs in bright purple ink. When they head back to the house, she edges further around the tree and out of sight. She can still hear the scrape and swing of the ceilidh band, the laughter of her friends, the cries of her father as he directs one dance after another.
He sounds content, just like Harry and Draco. And the others, they’re all getting there. The Happiness Project is well on track for success, she thinks, tucking away her notebook and fishing out the little silver button.
She wonders who’s next.
Halfway through the grasses, she sees Sam standing at the garden gate. He looks slightly anxious, but when he sees her, he smiles.
“I was just coming to look for you,” he says.
“Here I am,” she says, smiling back, and his glimmer soars. She holds out the button stolen from him by Mr Abernathy. “Is this yours?”