Sometimes, she is what Daddy calls a ‘chatterbox’, even though she isn’t a box and she doesn’t like the word chatter. But, anyway, sometimes she can talk and talk about anything until her throat starts to hurt and her tongue gets dry. Mummy and Daddy don’t mind her talking, in fact, they encourage her to learn and teach them interesting things, but Luna knows that the other children don’t think the same thing.
Mummy and Daddy’s friends have children, and they always tell her to shut up. Luna doesn’t understand why they don’t want to hear about magical creatures and the things she finds so fascinating and Mummy and Daddy love to hear her talk about, but she does what they say. She doesn’t want to make them angry. If she doesn’t annoy them, maybe they’ll be her friends. It would be nice to have friends.
The first time she meets a Muggle girl, Luna thinks the girl may be her first ever friend. Her name is Jane and Luna meets her when she is out in the fields around their home picking wild flowers. Luna knows she can’t talk about magic, so she babbles to Jane about flowers and plants and animals, and Jane seems to like listening to her.
And Luna likes talking to Jane. She flaps like she always does when she’s happy and smiles and Jane smiles too.
“That’s so cool!” Jane says whenever Luna tells her something she doesn’t know, and Luna flaps harder.
At five o’clock, Jane’s mother comes over and tells Jane it’s time for dinner. She gives Luna’s flapping hands a funny look and puts her hand on Jane’s shoulder as they walk away.
The next time she sees Jane, she isn’t smiling. She scuffs her shoe against the dirt and mumbles that her mother doesn’t want her to see Luna again.
“Why?” Luna says, but Jane just tells her she’s sorry, and that her mother doesn’t want her to spend time with her.
Luna goes home and cries.
Even though Luna is a complete chatterbox sometimes, there are also times where she cannot speak at all. No matter how she moves her mouth or what she is thinking, the words can’t make their way from her brain to her mouth. She can hum and make noises, but she can’t speak. This usually happens when she’s tired or stressed, but there doesn’t always seem to be a reason.
When she can’t talk, she writes instead. It is the only option she is aware of, but it would be nice to have an easier way to communicate.
Most of the time, however, Luna is neither a chatterbox nor silent. She can talk, but it is hard. She really has to think about what she is trying to say and she has to force her voice to have tone otherwise it comes out flat.
It makes her tired too; after speaking for a few minutes her head starts to hurt and the muscles in her mouth and throat ache.
A lot of the time, she chooses to write even though she can technically speak, as it is the least draining option and she doesn’t want to get tired for no reason. Luna is grateful that Mummy and Daddy never force her to speak.
She is eight years old when she is diagnosed with autism. A new unit of St Mungo’s Hospital has only very recently been opened to diagnose developmental disabilities; it’s named after a wizard Luna has never heard of, but she supposes he was autistic or had ADHD.
In the waiting room, Luna flaps nervously and Mummy and Daddy chat to a family of redheads. The father keeps talking about Muggle technology and the son can’t sit still. The mother smiles at Luna and she awkwardly smiles back.
When she has her assessment, the healer is very kind and friendly. He gets Luna to do tests to rate her anxiety levels, to test her concentration, and observes her behaviour to see if she ‘exhibits autistic traits’. Luna isn’t really sure what that means, but she is certain she does it.
Two weeks after her assessment, Luna gets her diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The healer apologies and tells her the magical world doesn’t know much about disabilities, and that she might have been diagnosed earlier if there was more awareness.
A few weeks later, Daddy gets a diagnosis too.
“I’m so relieved,” he says to Mummy when they get back home. “I can’t believe there’s a reason for why I act differently, and that I’m not just weird.”
Mummy looks a bit confused, but Luna understands; she feels exactly the same way.
Luna struggles to cope when Mummy dies. The shock of losing her mother sends her into the worst meltdown she has ever had (she usually has shutdowns, but occasionally melts down when she is very tired or scared), and she goes nonverbal for two whole months.
She knows Daddy is struggling too, but she also knows he is trying to be strong for Luna. And seeing her father struggle in silence makes Luna even sadder.
When she is eleven, Luna gets her Hogwarts letter acceptance letter. Daddy had been wondering if Hogwarts might not let her in for being autistic, but they obviously don’t discriminate.
She is glad, and hopes this might be a way to meet other people like her. It would be nice to meet other autistic people.
Platform 9 and ¾ is too loud, and Luna is glad that she brought her earplugs. She sees a man wearing ear defenders biting his fingernails, and knows he must be having the same problem. She recognises him as the man she met in the waiting room at the hospital when she was diagnosed. He is stood with wife and several sons, one of whom is the hyperactive boy. There is also a girl, who looks about Luna’s age; she must be starting Hogwarts too.
When she gets onto the train, she manages to find an empty carriage. No one seems to want to join her; Luna wonders if they think she’s weird. Still, she doesn’t mind. It’s peaceful in here.
She gets out her book about magical creatures (Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them, which is her all time favourite book) and is still reading when the door to the carriage opens. She looks up and sees the redheaded girl standing in the doorway. She smiles at Luna.
“Hi,” she says, “is it all right if I sit in here with you?”
“That’s fine,” Luna says, hoping she has said the right thing.
She obviously has, because the girl doesn’t get cross with her and closes the door and sits down opposite Luna. Luna keeps looking down at her book, but she isn’t reading it. She just finds eye contact (and even looking at people’s faces) really uncomfortable.
“My name’s Ginny,” the girl says. “What’s yours?”
“Luna,” Luna says, part of her amazed that Ginny is even talking to her.
“That’s a nice name,” Ginny says.
“Thank you,” Luna says, because that’s what you are meant to say if someone compliments you.
The carriage descends into silence. Luna knows most people find silence uncomfortable, so she knows she needs to try and make small talk. Unfortunately, she is very bad at small talk.
Eventually, she says the only thing she can think of, “I met your parents and your brother at the hospital when I got my autism diagnosis.”
Part of Luna wonders if Ginny is going to be mean now she knows she is autistic, and she bounces her legs up and down to try and calm her rapid heart rate. But then she sees Ginny smile, and she is certain that Ginny is going to continue being nice.
“Yeah, Dad’s autistic too,” Ginny says. “He must’ve got diagnosed around the same time you did. And my brother Ron’s got ADHD; that’s why he can’t stand still. Did you find the platform overwhelming? Dad hates it.”
Luna nods and pulls her earplugs out. She shows them to Ginny. “Yes. I have to wear these whenever I’m in a loud place.”
Ginny nods in obvious understanding, and smiles again. Putting her book down, Luna touches the upholstery and finds the texture of the fabric wonderfully soft. She rubs her fingers across it, loving the sensation and finding her tension disappearing.
Ginny leans forwards in her seat. Luna wonders if she is staring at her stimming, but she realises that Ginny is actually looking at her book.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Ginny says, reading the title aloud. “That was on the list of books we need to bring. Are we meant to have read them already, because I haven’t?”
Luna thinks Ginny sounds worried, but she isn’t certain. Still, she tries her best to reassure her.
“No, we don’t have to read them yet. I’ve had this book for years. It’s my favourite. I read it all the time.”
Ginny sighs. “That’s good. Is it interesting?”
“Very,” Luna says, nodding her head.
“What’s your favourite ‘fantastic beast’?” Ginny asks.
Luna smiles and immediately launches into her Top Ten List she always tells people about. But then she trails off, her chest feeling tight with sudden anxiety. Last time she told someone about her list, they called her a swearword and said she was annoying.
“Am I annoying you?” she asks, biting her bottom lip.
“No, of course you aren’t,” Ginny says. “I think it’s really interesting.”
Luna grins and flaps, wondering if she is making her first real friend.
It doesn’t surprise her when she gets sorted into Ravenclaw. After all, it is meant to be the creative house. And most of her family was in Ravenclaw too, and she knows families tend to end up in the same house.
But she feels a bit disappointed when Ginny ends up in Gryffindor, because she likes Ginny and she wishes they could spend more time together.
After the feast has ended, Professor Flitwick, her head of house, takes Luna into his office. He tells her that she has been allocated a private room, and where she can find it (up the girls’ staircase). Relieved, Luna thanks him repeatedly, pleased that what she requested has been allowed.
She had been dreading having to share a bedroom, and this means that she should get a good night sleep.
Within the first few weeks of starting at Hogwarts, it becomes apparent that Ginny is her only friend. None of the other Ravenclaw girls like her, and Luna knows everyone calls her ‘Loony’ behind her back. But they don’t call her a loony when Ginny is around, because Ginny shouts at them and threatens to hex them.
One day, Ginny introduces her to her brother Ron and his friends, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Hermione is autistic too, and shares her struggles with socialising and sensory issues. Even though they are a year older than her, Luna thinks she might be making friends with Hermione, Harry and Ron.
Being Muggle born, Hermione knows a lot more about autism than anyone else Luna knows. So, over the next few weeks, Hermione teaches Luna her ‘survival guide’, which includes how to sew weights into her robes, and telling her the best spells to use to cope with sensory overload. She also tells these things to Neville Longbottom, the only other autistic student Luna is aware of.
Luna is immensely grateful for these tips, and when she tells Hermione this, she looks like she is going to cry.
Luna likes to walk the grounds in bare feet. She tells people that she misses her shoes (they keep getting stolen by the girls in her house), but she doesn’t really. She loves being bare foot, especially on grass. Her favourite thing is to go out into the grounds at dawn, and walk across the dew covered grass and watch the sunrise.
Sometimes, she sneaks into the forest. She knows she isn’t allowed in there, but it is so quiet and still and cool and dark and so calming that she can’t resist. The forest floor is springy and damp beneath her feet, and digging her toes into the earth is wonderfully stimmy.
One time, she stumbles upon a group of Centaurs. She has read that they get angry with humans, but they are very calm with her, although they do tell her that she can’t come into their forest when she is an adult and she should stay out of their way as much as possible. Not wanting to anger them, Luna does what they say.
It takes a few trips before Luna finally finds what she is looking for. She wants to flap when she finds the Thestrals grazing in a clearing, but she stops herself, not wanting to spook them. As quietly as she can, Luna approaches one of the mothers, knowing approaching a foal might upset its mother. She holds out her hand and the Thestral nuzzles her nose into Luna’s hand.
She loves Thestrals. They remind her of herself in a way; everyone thinks they are weird, but they really just want company. And that makes her sad.
Ginny may be pureblood, but thanks to her dad being obsessed with Muggles and Hermione being Muggle born, she knows a lot about Muggle culture. It is her who first tells Luna about sign language. It is hard to believe that wizards have never learned about sign language, but, apparently, most magical people have never even heard of it.
Hermione gets her a book about sign language and Luna starts to learn it. Within two months, Luna knows loads and loads of sign language (she has a very good memory, but only for things she actually finds interesting; hence why she knows every single fact in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but she can’t ever do Potions correctly), enough to hold several different conversations.
Her friends and family learn some too, so they can communicate with her when she is using it. Daddy finds the sign language particularly helpful, because he, like Luna, goes nonverbal sometimes, and now has a way to communicate when he can’t talk.
To Luna’s amazement, the professors and even the ghosts and portraits start to communicate in sign language when she is nonverbal. When she gets lost one time, a very stressed and nonverbal Luna ends up having to ask a painting of a knight for directions. He is very helpful, but he keeps calling her ‘lady’ and challenges anyone who comes near them to duels. Luna thanks him for his help, but makes a mental note to avoid Sir Cadogan if at all possible.
After she has an in depth signed conversation with the Grey Lady, Luna spots Hermione looking at her and smiling.
The best thing about starting third year is that Luna finally gets to study Care of Magical Creatures. She has been waiting for this for two whole years, and it has finally happened. She happy flaps all morning before her first lesson; she is so excited that she forgets to eat until Ginny reminds her. She sees some girls call her Loony, but she is too excited to care.
They have Care of Magical Creatures with the Gryffindors, so Luna and Ginny head out of the castle together. Luna is glad Ginny is in her class; whenever she doesn’t have Ginny, she never knows who to sit next to, and working in pairs is horrible, because no one wants to work with her. But Ginny does want to work with her, and that makes her new favourite class even more amazing.
At Christmas in her forth year, she spends the holidays at the Burrow. It is very busy and crowded, but the Weasleys are very good with sensory issues, so she never really gets overloaded. There are designated rooms that people can go to if they are feeling overwhelmed (Mrs Weasley has stocked them with homemade fiddle toys and nice blankets, and the rooms are soundproofed so it is wonderfully quiet), and Luna is always free to leave situations if she is struggling.
She has been sitting in the kitchen watching Fred and George hinder Mrs Weasley’s cooking (they are supposed to be helping, but they are causing chaos and getting on Mrs Weasley’s nerves), but the smells and noise has made her stressed. So Luna slips out of the room and heads into one of the quiet rooms.
She finds Mr Weasley in there, fiddling with something (a quick glance shows Luna it is what Muggles call a ‘plug’) and rocking backwards and forwards.
“Hello, Luna,” he says, his voice flat; like Luna’s, his voice always seem to go flat when he is stressed.
“Hello,” Luna says, sitting down in one of the armchairs and pulling a blanket (weighted; Mrs Weasley makes the best weighted blankets) onto her lap.
Mr Weasley also dislikes small talk, so the silence isn’t awkward. And Luna likes that; she just wishes more people liked silence.
Luna doesn’t understand love and romance, but she thinks she might love Ginny. She suddenly notices that whenever she’s with Ginny her heart beats faster and she wants to kiss her. She wants to tell Ginny, but she doesn’t know how. She’s never been very good at putting things into words.
So, even though it makes her anxious and sort of want to cry, Luna says nothing to Ginny. After all, it isn’t exactly likely that Ginny would love her back, is it?
One morning, Luna is eating toast in the Great Hall when she hears Ginny call her name.
“Hey, Luna! The stuff’s here!” Ginny calls, turning around in her seat and waving at her from the Gryffindor table.
Despite being half asleep, Luna knows exactly what ‘stuff’ Ginny is referring to. It’s the stim toys. Starting to flap, she drops her toast and hurries over to the Gryffindor table, where Ginny, Hermione, Harry and Ron are watching the post owls arrive.
Amongst the many owls carrying letters, a cluster of about eight owls are all supporting one huge cardboard box. Hermione looks as excited as Luna feels, practically bouncing up and down in her seat.
“You ordered that?” Harry is saying, sounding like he is trying not to laugh, his eyes wide. “What the hell’s in there?”
“Well, you know I was telling you about where I got this?” Hermione says, holding up a piece of blue plastic that Luna knows is called a Tangle Jr.
“From a . . . wesbite?” Ron says.
“Website, Ron, website,” Hermione says, giggling. “A website called Stimtastic. They sell stim toys. And, a few weeks ago, I went around and had a chat with all of the autistic people at Hogwarts, and then I got my parents to make me a bulk order of all the stuff we all want.”
“And they’re here,” Luna says, and Hermione grins.
“Yes, they are.”
The poor owls finally make it to the table, and land in an area they has obviously been cleared for them. As soon as Hermione unties them from the box, the owls take off again. Twisting her Tangle in one hand, Hermione opens the box and begins to rummage through the many, many stim toys.
“Would you like to have fist pick, Luna?” she says.
Flapping and grinning, Luna nods her head. “Yes please.” Luna digs her hands into the box, and pulls out a gear-shaped spinning necklace. “Can I get this?”
“Of course,” Hermione says, smiling.
Luna puts the necklace around her neck and immediately starts spinning it. It’s wonderfully calming and mesmerising to watch. She also picks a chewable owl and a spinner ring, which she immediately slips onto her finger.
“Thank you so much,” she says, and Hermione goes red.
“You’re welcome,” Hermione says, still digging into the box.
“That’s pretty, Luna,” Ginny says, smiling as Luna spins the necklace again and again.
“I know,” she says, “That’s why I picked it.”
Clearing some more space, Hermione tips the contents of the box out onto the table, allowing them all to more clearly see what is in it. It is rather strange to see Hermione stimming so much; unlike Luna, she is very skilled at suppressing her stims in public, to the point that many people are shocked to learn that she is autistic.
“Dad’ll love this one,” Ron says, picking up a black, mushroom shaped chewable necklace. “I think I’ll send it to him.” Turning to Hermione, he adds, “Do you think it’ll stop him ripping his nails when he’s stressed?”
“Probably,” Hermione says. “Mine helps me.”
Ron also picks out a black spinner ring and, along with the mushroom necklace, puts it in his pocket. Luna imagines Mr Weasley opening the package, and smiles, knowing that he will be as happy as she is right now.
A fifth year Slytherin boy comes shuffling over to their table, subtly flapping his hand against his leg. Luna can’t remember his name (she’s awful with names), but she knows he is the only other nonverbal student at Hogwarts (and he, unlike her, is nonverbal at least ninety percent of the time). He stops behind Harry and looks at Hermione, and started to sign at her. Hermione signs back at him, speaking as her hands moves so the others who don’t know much sign language can understand her.
“Hello,” she says. “Here are the things you asked for.”
Smiling, Hermione picks up a green squishy ball, a long, thin chewable necklace, and a small, multicoloured cylinder-shaped puzzle on a key-ring. The boy smiles broadly, signs his thanks and, taking his things, walks away.
“Doesn’t he have to pay?” Ron asks Hermione.
To Luna’s surprise, she shakes her head. “No, no one has to pay. Mum and Dad didn’t mind paying.”
Luna smiles, relieved. She hadn’t considered having to pay, but she knows she probably can’t afford it. Luckily, that isn’t necessary, as Hermione is really kind.
“Can I have one?” Ron says slowly. “I mean, can someone with ADHD use one of those... those stim toys?”
Hermione nods. “Of course. It’s not just autistic people who stim. What do you want?”
“I quite fancy one of those Tangles.”
Ron picks up a blue Tangle. He starts twisting it around his fingers, and smiles.
“This is nice,” he says. “Thanks.”
Luna continues to spin her necklace, loving the quiet whizzing noise it makes as the metal spins around.
She stops when she sees Neville, who has been watching from the end of the table, get out of his seat and come over to their group.
“W-Would I be able to have something, Hermione?” he asks, clearly anxious.
“Of course, Neville,” Hermione says. “Take whatever you want.”
Neville studies the selection of stim toys on the table, before picking up a green plastic toy that looks like a pea pod. He gives it a squeeze, and small, yellow, pea-shaped spheres pop out of it. He grins.
“This is great, Hermione, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Hermione says, flapping her hands with excitement, her face very flushed.
As more students, autistic, anxious and just fidgety alike, all come over and get the stim toys they requested or just fancy trying, Luna flaps delightedly. It is so amazing to see everyone coming together like this, and it makes her feel better about stimming when she knows how many other people do it too.
Basically, this is just amazing.
In their fifth year at Hogwarts, Luna notices that Ginny is acting strangely around her. She blushes a lot and seems to be embarrassed whenever they are alone together. Luna doesn’t understand, and hopes nothing is wrong. She starts to worry if she has done something to annoy Ginny, because Ginny is her best friend ever and she doesn’t know what she would do if Ginny stopped being her friend.
Eventually, Ginny explains what is going on, and it is nothing like the things Luna has been worrying about. She comes up to Luna and signs: I love you, Luna. Will you be my girlfriend?
And Luna grins and holds one of Ginny’s hands whilst flapping the other, and realises that Ginny had been flirting with her. And that Ginny loves her back. And that Ginny is now her girlfriend.
Twenty years later, Luna still uses sign language. Ginny is fluent too, and they often sign when Luna is fully verbal, just because they love communicating that way. She doesn’t go nonverbal as often these days, probably because the stress of going to school is no longer a problem.
Her work is nowhere near as stressful as going to school was. She loves her job. Luna trained as a healer after she left Hogwarts, specialising in autism diagnosis and therapy. She is the head healer of the Developmental Disability Centre at St Mungo’s, so she has complete control over which therapies they use. Because she definitely doesn’t want the magical world to start using the dreadful ‘therapy’ some Muggles use; she read the sources Hermione gave her, and Applied Behaviour Analysis seems to be more like torture than it does therapy. And, anyway, that isn’t what autism therapy should be about. She doesn’t want to eradicate autistic traits; she just wants to help people deal with sensory overload and to live a happy life. And, judging from the positive comments she gets from her clients and their parents, she seems to be succeeding.
As a hobby, she and Ginny have a miniature farm in their back garden, where they raise many different magical creatures. They even have a few Thestrals. Ginny can’t see them, and Luna hopes it will stay that way; she would hate for Ginny to have to go through what she did just to see the Thestrals.
Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes now has a section dedicated to stim toys, and it makes Luna happy flap whenever she sees someone chewing a chewy necklace or playing with a fiddle toy. Ron is almost never seen without several things around his neck and in his hands, and Luna knows he is designing stim toys with the Hogwarts house symbols on them. She can’t wait to get a chewy necklace in the shape of the Ravenclaw eagle.
A few years ago, Hermione started the Magical Neurodiversity Movement, and, since then, Luna and Ginny have gone to loads of her marches and speeches and fundraising events. Sometimes, she gives speeches, speaking (if she can) and signing at the same time. If she is nonverbal, Ginny will read her speech and Luna will stand next to her and sign.
That is another part of her proper autism therapy; she teaches the nonverbal children how to sign, so they have a way to communicate and don’t have to try and force themselves to speak. So many people know sign language now, and Luna knows for certain that it is no longer just a Muggle thing.
And, every night, when she has given Ginny a kiss, Luna makes sure to sign I love you so much before she switches the light off. And, as they cuddle together in the darkness, Ginny will always whisper, “I love you too.”