Once upon a time, there was a girl who wasn’t like the other girls. She saw the world as if through a prism, sometimes in rainbows and sometimes in blurs.
She was thought strange and odd and occasionally annoying. But as she grew, her friends began to see her oddities and strangeness as a gift, and they relied upon her for many things: a kind word when the world was glum, a smile to help bring on a Patronus, obscure knowledge for an obscure class.
But despite her good fortune in finding a few good friends, Luna Lovegood lived in hard times, for there was a war brewing, bubbling up and over the cauldron rim of her world. She lived safe in her tower of Hogwarts, protected, if not by a dragon, at least by many wards and many people. And even when that safety was breached, her friends and fair fortune kept her from lasting harm at the hands of the minions of the Dark Lord.
Alas for the young woman, however, for her father dwelled far beyond the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, and Luna, like all good daughters, worried for his safety. So she left her tower.
For all her insight and careful preparations, the Dark Lord’s followers found her and stole her away, imprisoning her in the darkest dungeon of the darkest follower, far from her light and airy tower.
There, her only beacon of light came in a most unusual form; to most, he was the epitome of all that was evil, Headmaster of the new, darker Hogwarts, bat of the dungeons and the hardest grading professor of the entire school: Severus Snape.
But when the man visited, Luna received food; when he looked in on her, his dry and sarcastic comments made her captors give her another set of clothes. When he was there, the horrors were less, and there was a moment, brief, when she could once again nurse hope that one day she would be rescued.
And then she was rescued. Eventually the war ended, and for a while, there was peace. The young woman learned to smile again, and while it wasn’t quite happily-ever-after, Luna was content.
But every ever-after is but the beginning of another story.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who wasn’t like other women. She saw the world as if through a prism, sometimes in rainbows and sometimes in blurs, though occasionally the prism was soot colored and the colors dimmed. But only sometimes.
Luna Lovegood, now free, returned to the safe and high tower where once she had dwelled, free and almost carefree. But the war and the dungeon and the world had changed, and she found the tower was no longer what it once was to her. The shadows clung and sorrow permeated the stones, and the grounds remembered the taste of blood and grieved for its losses.
Luna vowed to return light and joy to the dreary towers and halls. But how? she wondered. There was so much pain everywhere.
First she asked her friends, but like her, they had no ideas, no answers. Some said there was nothing wrong; some wouldn’t listen at all.
Worst of all, when she decided to search for the answer, it was called another of her fool’s errands, a snipe hunt of epic proportions. “Looking for what isn’t there anymore,” Hermione whispered bitterly as Luna left. That remark hurt.
So Luna wandered the grounds in search of her answer instead. But the centaurs, though they stared at the sky and mourned for their people too, had no answer other than, “The stars still shine dimly, and Mars still glows red.”
So Luna went farther into the forest, hoping the creatures more comfortable with the darkness might know something more. But the spiders, the brood of Aragog, had no wish for light to return, for they had feasted upon the evil dead. The unicorns still stayed hidden from sight in the most secret of groves, not showing a sliver of horn or a glint of hoof, not even to the woman of sunshine disposition and purity of heart.
Luna found herself discouraged, but as she exited the forest, the sun shone against the water of the lake, briefly throwing a rainbow that made her smile. There was still light, yes. This reminded her of her quest and gave her heart to go on—and an idea of where to go for answers.
A mouthful of gillyweed allowed the witch to dive under the waves of the lake. Down, down she dove, down to where Harry had told her the merfolk dwelled. At their village of stones and waterweeds, Luna went door to door, hut to hut, merperson to merperson.
But though they grieved with her and sympathized with her losses, they knew little of light, for it was a thing of land dwellers, and their joy was the joy of the hunt. They could not help.
So Luna swam away, swam up. The grindylows grasped at her with no real zeal, having tasted enough blood in the previous months. The Giant Squid wrapped gentle tentacles around her and set her upon the shore. He, of all the lake dwellers, reached for the light; but if he had some wisdom to impart, he could not speak of it, for he had no mouth to shape words, no language with which to speak.
To Hogwarts, then, Luna told herself. She suffered through the dungeons, twitching at every sound and seeing her past horrors in every corner, even if this was far from the place of her nightmares. The Bloody Baron did not know, for he was stuck in a darkness of his own making for all eternity. The damp stones here did not speak.
Luna had great hopes that the Fat Friar would have some insight, but he only floated in a beam of sunshine amid the rafters of the Great Hall and said time would heal all wounds.
Time, she thought sadly. She did not wish to wait. All too soon the school would reopen, and she would not have the children live amid the shadows. No one else amid the shadows, ever. Her heart and soul already ached enough for them all.
All through the castle, from ghost to ghost, portrait to portrait, Luna traveled in search of her answer.
Then there was only one portrait left, the one she had avoided until now. Headmaster Snape looked down his nose at her from his half-finished portrait, and her eyes filled with tears, remembering the subtle ways he had protected her and her friends even during that last horrible year. If anybody would know the secret of returning light to the darkest places, it would be him.
She should have come here first.
“What do you want?” his portrait asked. Though the background was unfinished, the portrait looked like the professor, moved like the professor, snarked like the professor.
Yes, she should have come sooner.
“How can I bring happiness back to Hogwarts?” she asked, as if he were an oracle and she the supplicant. “The light, the sunshine, the laughter?”
For a moment, it looked like he would laugh at her. But then he sighed and stared into the blank canvas at the corner of his painting.
“Pick up the paintbrush,” he ordered abruptly. “And I will show you.”
Luna looked, and for the first time she noticed the paint brush on the table below his painting. She hesitated only for a moment before reaching to pick it up. One end was pointed sharply, the other fanning out with soft black bristles. She rubbed it against her hand, savoring the softness, and wondered if it was his hair. She twirled the brush in her fingers, flipping it end to end, and touched the pad of one finger to the sharp tip.
As if she were Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger upon a spinning wheel, Luna collapsed instantly. When she woke, she stumbled to her feet, nearly fell, and leaned against the nearby… gilded frame.
And so Luna Lovegood sat in a painting, peering out of the frame. She tried every trick she knew, but still she stayed firmly in her frame. She tried until a voice silkily spoke, “I thought you wanted me to show you how to bring light back to your world.”
“I do,” Luna said, simple and straightforward in her own way. “But am I trapped here?”
“Yes,” Severus said, as straightforward as she.
“For how long?”
“For as long as it takes.”
It would take forever, Luna thought despairingly. Forever-after.
But every ever-after, even forever-afters, are but the beginning of another story, or at least part of another part of the same story.
Once upon a time, there was a portrait of a woman who wasn’t like other portraits of women. Her smile held secrets, and her eyes held questions. She saw the world as if through a sheen of paint, all colors of the rainbow, some watered down and some thick with oil.
Her companion in the frames was a man, painted with sharp and heavy lines. His painter had not been forgiving or prone to polite fixes of features; his nose was large, the lines around his mouth deep, and his hair was long and somewhat lank.
Severus Snape, former Headmaster, taught Luna to travel between the frames and how to talk in a way that those outside the world of paint would hear her. He showed her all the secret places and guided her way.
“But how does this help me?” she asked him one day, sitting in a painting of a picnic by a lake. The food tasted real to her, not like paint as she would have expected, and she ate only for the sake of taste, for she did not need food here. “I thought you would show me how to bring light back to Hogwarts.”
He gave her a smile, a small one, half hidden in his hair. “I already have,” he told her. “You just need to really look in order to realize what it is you see.”
So Luna looked, seeing only trees and grass and water, but could not find what he meant. Part of her wanted to return home, but she did not have the answer yet; so on she went, following Severus through the art.
She grew to accept her place amid the portraits, though some of those outside the land of paint and canvas could not understand why she was there. She thought she would have been lonely without those friends she held so dear, but sometimes she talked to them. And besides, she had a companion; she had Severus.
With each rising of the sun and each beginning of the school day, she treasured his company. His sly wit amused her, his subtle pranks on the students made her laugh. His unflagging steadiness reassured her. And, unlike many others, he allowed her to keep her faith that there was an answer, though he wouldn’t tell her what that answer was.
She kissed him for the first time in a stairwell, across from a window that faced the Quidditch Pitch. Ravenclaw had just beat Slytherin, but because she had kissed him, he smiled instead of frowned, and then smiled more broadly when his smile scared a first year student.
Though she kissed him and grew to love him, she always asked him, every day, how to bring the light back to Hogwarts, for shadows still clung to the corners and many of the students were sad and angry. Her job was not yet done.
Always, he answered the same. “I have already showed you. Just open your eyes and see.”
It changed, after a time, to, “I have already showed you, my love. Just open your eyes and see.”
But still she did not know, and so she continued searching with Severus at her side. He pointed out flowers, which were a delight to her nose and her eyes, but she did not see its shadow. He pointed out a waterfall, caught in a moment of cascade forever, and she only felt the spray and saw the miniature rainbow; she did not see the darkness under its fall or the shadow of every droplet.
He brought her to a private painting, a bedroom with many flickering candles, and she exclaimed in delight before moaning as he seduced her into the bed; but she did not see the shadows that danced behind the flames or their shadows entwined upon the wall as they loved each other fully.
She woke in the privacy of the hidden painting sometime later, Severus still asleep at her side. His side rose and fell in easy breathing, and their hair, dark and light, made a contrast on the pillow. The dancing lights made the shadows of his lashes grow long and short against his pale cheeks.
She saw, then, what he’d been trying to show her all along. Every painting was a balance of light and dark, the shadows skillfully applied. Even in the watercolors, darker colors gave highlights, drew attention to what the artist wanted to show, gave character to faces and definition to backgrounds.
But next to every darkness was light; one brought out the other in contrast, showing off the other. They coexisted equally; they could not exist apart.
When he woke, Severus could see the realization in the gentle lines of Luna’s face. He couldn’t seem to decide whether he was happy for her understanding or sad at what it meant. The indecision came through in a smile that twisted with both. Dark and light entwined, happiness and sadness both.
“So you’ve finally seen,” he said. “Now you can leave.”
Already she felt herself being pulled out of the frame. Her quest was successful, and now whatever magic had brought her in was releasing her. But she reached out for him, having found what he had also shown her during this time—that good things could be found in the darkness, in a man of shadows and hurt and honor and struggle.
“You can’t bring me along,” he said, though he still gripped her hand tightly.
But Luna was a witch who had grown up being told she believed in things that did not exist, and yet she had always found what she searched for. In this, she refused to be denied.
Either she would stay with him, or he would come with her. She believed he would come.
And because she believed, he came. They stood in the Room of Requirement, the bedroom painting on its wall and their feet solidly on the real floor. Their shadows, dark, were surrounded by light from the window.
“How?” he asked.
“I’ll show you,” she said, placing his hand over her heart.
“How long will it take?”
“As long as it takes,” she replied. Forever, she hoped. Forever ever after.
But every ever-after, even forever-ever-afters, are but the beginning of another story.
Once upon a time, there was a woman who wasn’t like other women. She saw the world in every shade of color, light, dark, white, black, every shade of grey. For every darkness, there was a light. For every sadness, there was a happiness.
With her, there was a man, a dark man who contrasted wildly with the woman at his side. He was the dark to her light, from the color of his hair to the darkness of his robes and the tarnish on his soul for past deeds. Yet none could say they did not complement the other, for when together anyone could see how they brought out the best qualities in each other. Her lightness soothed his darkness, but his darkness tempered her airy ways.
So when they married, the heroine and the once-villain, no one gainsayed them, but instead wished them all the best.
It was a fairy tale, many said. Their grandchildren, for they lived for many, many years, begged to be told their story, and their parents always ended it with, “And they lived happily ever after.”
But every ever-after is but the beginning of another story.
Once upon a time, there was a portrait that wasn’t like other portraits. It was lauded for the skill of the painter, for the perfect lines and the way every color contrasted but did not detract from the overall whole.
In the portrait, there was a woman and man. Neither was considered beautiful, for there was a strange ethereal quality about the blonde woman and an odd murky darkness about the dark-haired man. And yet, all who saw it liked it, and all who spoke to them came away glad that they had done so.
They hung in a far hall of a tower of Hogwarts. To find them, students had to travel through dark, fearful places and rooms of beauty. But consulting the portrait of Severus and Luna was well worth the quest, and every person felt wiser after the journey, and others who had many troubles sought them out for comfort and counsel.
Generations passed, and generations more. And one day, a student asked another, “How long has this portrait been there?”
“Forever,” the child replied. And the child thought it would be there forever after, as well.
But every ever-after is but the beginning of another story.
Once upon a time…