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Witches' Garden Under Moonlight

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When Neville Longbottom started working the guest shop register in a private hospital, he quickly learned three things: Dr Xenophilius Lovegood is the hospital’s most valuable asset, Dr Lovegood has a daughter who works for a tabloid, and said daughter, Luna, is even barmier than her father is. Though the staff mostly tolerates her visits, they do try to keep her away from the patients.

As such, it’s common for Neville to find Luna near his locker.

Today, he greets, “Hullo, Luna.” Digging out a pumpkin juice, he tosses it over.

Dad’s going to trip down the stairs today. Will you bring him a raspberry lolly after he does?”

After a moment of inner debate, Neville asks, “If your dad’s going to trip, shouldn’t we try to stop it?”

Down the line, Neville learned more about Luna: Her mum was Irish, and as such, Luna’s own Irish accent had set by the time her mum died. Luna’s frizzy, dishwater-dirty blonde hair often falls over her eyes, but she never trips, stumbles, or walks into anything. Luna’s agnostic, but she does strongly believe in everything from ghosts to aliens.

Eventually, Neville learned something even more important than all these facts: Luna often knows something is going to happen before it does.

He’s never gathered up the courage to directly ask her about this. There’s ordinary, logical explanations that could be applied, yes, but there’s also the possibility Luna could be seeing the future, time travelling, and/or something else involving magic, aliens, or psychic abilities.

Neville’s never been sure if he believes in magic and the like, but he is sure there’s something going on besides Luna making lucky guesses.

We won’t be able to,” she matter-of-factly informs him. “It won’t be too bad.”

Do you know when he’s going to fall? And where?”

Her eyes catch his. “It needs to happen, Neville. Dad understands. But it’ll be nice if you’ll bring him a lolly. Raspberry’s his favourite. I need to do some shopping, later.”

Well, I’ll try to bring him a raspberry lolly, then.”

Giving him a vague smile, she says, “Thank you, Neville. You’ll find five quid in a shoebox. I’m sorry, I’m not sure exactly when or where. But keep the change.”

Neville tries to keep an ear out for Dr Lovegood, but he doesn’t have much hope.

If Dr Lovegood were a surgeon- well, assuming he managed to become one, he wouldn’t stay one for long. Unlike his daughter, Dr Lovegood does routinely stumble, trip, and walk into things.

However, despite his clumsiness and taking about everything printed in the tabloid Luna works for at face value, Dr Lovegood is a brilliant diagnostician and well-respected in the immunology field.

At around ten, a woman with food stains on her blouse and bags under her eyes somewhat frantically babbles, “Lilies are related to onions, aren’t they? My Jasmine needs flowers for her room, but they can’t be toxic. I’d get her jasmines, but they could be fatal, couldn’t they?”

Er-” Neville takes a deep breath. If he had to guess, he’d think there’s a good chance she’s afraid of this Jasmine girl eating it, but he’s more worried about the fact the shop doesn’t sell plants, and he knows the nearby places that do aren’t likely to be patient with her.

Why don’t you tell me a bit about this person you want flowers for, ma’am, and we can figure out the safest thing to get for her?”

She’s too frazzled to properly answer his questions, and he ends up paging Hermione.

Following in the steps of her dentist parents, Hermione ’s doing an internship under the hospital’s dental surgeon, and when she’s not busy with those duties, she’s often in the shop. Really, in his opinion, she ought to be paid, because, not only is she better with interacting with customers, she’s better at selling things.

Coming in and immediately going over to where the woman’s waiting by the shoe display, she greets, “Hello, I’m Hermione Granger, an intern here. Could I help you find something, ma’am?”

I need to some non-toxic flowers for my daughter. Her name’s Jasmine, but I don’t think jasmines might be right, do you?”

I’m sure we can think of some better alternatives. Does your Jasmine…”

He half-listens to the conversation until Hermione turns to him. “Neville, why don’t you call Mugraves’s Flower Shop and check on their stock of grape ivy?”

After he does and the significantly calmer woman leaves, Seamus Finnigan, one of the porters, rushes in, and Neville winces at the almost crash into the stack of sweets Hermione thankfully manages to stop. “That barmy Xeno tumbled straight down the east stair entrance and managed to break the glass. He’s mostly alright, though, but Hermione, he’s knocked out a tooth, and with Dr Fletcher in surgery-”

Looking down at her watch, Hermione’s mouth tightens in irritation, but sighing, she agrees, “I’ll be right there, Seamus.” Turning to Neville, she says, “You best put some of the new shoe boxes out, Neville.”

Right, I’d forgotten. Thanks, Hermione. Tell Xeno I’ll be by soon.”

I’m sure he knows,” is her crisp response.

Neville knows not to take it personally. Hermione and the Lovegoods have never managed anything beyond basic civility towards one another.

Occasionally, the Grangers will refer a patient or do consults for Dr Fletcher. They’re well-off, well-dressed, sociable types who have opinions on stocks and politics. Dr Lovegood’s valuable contribution mostly exempts him from the hospital’s dress-code, he certainly has opinions on politics, but his opinions can be a bit controversial, and if he and Luna are responsible with money, it doesn’t outwardly show.

Physically, Luna and Hermione are polar opposites.

Luna’s frizzy hair is thin and often looks as if it hasn’t been combed, never mind brushed, and Neville didn’t notice until others pointed it out, but she sometimes wears odd jewellery, her clothes often don’t match, and even when they do, though they aren’t tattered or worn, they clearly aren’t anything approaching dressy.

Hermione’s brown hair is thick, bushy, and often pulled back into loose buns or plaited. She’s not one for fashion, either, but her casual clothes are always nice looking, she looks amazing when she dresses up, and at hospital, her scrubs are always clean and pressed.

They’re both somewhat short, but Hermione is poised and, he imagines, is right at her ideal weight with dark, brown eyes, whereas, Luna is almost waif-thin, often sprawls out, and has big, bug-like silvery-gray eyes.

It’s not these differences that cause problems, however.

The Lovegood family’s more out-there beliefs offend her rationalistic worldview, and though all three parents and Luna are naturally easygoing, live-and-let-live types, Hermione can be blunt, sarcastic, and go on something close to crusades when it comes to proving people wrong.

Starting to stack the shoes, a box falls, and kneeling down to close it, he finds himself looking at five quid.

After getting directions from Seamus, he knocks on the door.

Come in,” Hermione calls.

Hey, I brought a raspberry lolly. Is that alright?”

She nods. “Thankfully, he didn’t do too much damage to himself.”

Dr Lovegood is naturally slightly cross-eyed, but Neville doesn’t imagine he’d have the appearance of a focused look even if he weren’t. Smiling, Dr Lovegood nods. “Yes, and while my Luna was out, there was a rabid fox attacking the shopping centre she was at. Unfortunately, it had to be killed, but no human was bit. Imagine if an immunocompromised person was.”

Hermione outright glares, and if he were braver, he’d try offering her- the thing is, he knows Hermione isn’t angry over the fox being killed. She might be a bit sad, but she’d always place a human over an animal. He knows it’s the fact Luna and Dr Lovegood are likely to proclaim the fox’s appearance and it being stopped could be attributed to so many absolutely nutter things.

He just worries people who don’t know her so well might think badly of her.

A few days after Dr Lovegood crashed into the east entrance, Neville finds Luna lying on the locker room floor with her legs curled up on a bench. She’s wearing a skirt, but thankfully, it’s one of those ones with a pair of shorts attached underneath.

Hullo, Luna.”

The ravens insisted I come here today. They’re harbingers of death, you know.”

Yeah, um, I think I remember you telling me that, once.” He sits down on the floor. “What happened?”

She stares. “When an important death is to come, they steal my shoes, and I follow their flight. They landed here. Not much death happens directly in this place. It used to, but not since Dad, Hermione, and I came. Too many in one place, you see.”

Harbingers of death,” he guesses.

He supposes with Luna’s ability to sometimes know what’s going to happen before it does, she could be called one, especially if she really does have some connection to ravens. Though, even someone more observant than him could quickly lose sight of birds in the sky, see a different set, and assume they were the same. She could have been following loads of different birds this morning and some of them just happened to land here.

We’re not,” Luna says. She flips herself over so she’s sitting crossed-legged. “We just have connections to them. We’re interceders.”

He reckons this makes sense with her dad being a doctor and Hermione training to be one, but her- “Right. Well, I better get to work.”

She gives a small wave.

He sees Luna a few times during the day, but no patient dies, and no one’s brought into the morgue.

It’s a bit of a weird thought, he’ll admit, but he considers getting her another thornless cactus. She still has the one he got her for her birthday, and she seems to like it. He knows she isn’t disappointed someone didn’t die, but maybe, it’d cheer her up a bit if she is feeling- it’s never fun to be wrong, even in the instances when it’s a relief, he knows.

Signing out, he says, “Night, Seamus.”

Not looking up from his phone, Seamus gives a small wave.

Going outside, Neville starts to head for the bus stop when he hears a screeching noise. Looking over, he finds himself staring at a large lorry, and before he can move, he feels pain, and then, nothing.

Wiping her eyes, Hermione comes down to the morgue. “How’s she doing?”

Xenophilius glances towards the door before setting his magazine down. “She has until 5:16 tomorrow afternoon. I know he was important to you, too, but the agreement-”

Oh! This doesn’t have anything to do with that!” Sniffling, she glares.

Doesn’t it?” Pulling a packet of tissues from his pocket, he offers them to her.

Accepting them, she composes herself as best she can. “What happens if he doesn’t ask?”

Then, he doesn’t. Luna and I both learned from her mother’s mistake. She wouldn’t do such a thing, and if she did, I likely couldn’t stop her, but I wouldn’t knowingly support her.”

Neville was my friend, too,” she sobs out. “He was so young. So kind. I hate that he’s lying in there.”

He takes her hand. “Neville wasn’t her friend, Hermione. She liked him, and he was kind to her. If he doesn’t ask, it’ll hurt for a bit, but it won’t settle in her as it will you. My daughter has to do what she believes right, and so do you. Whether he does or doesn’t, I’m truly sorry. Unfortunately, the only way I could possibly ease your pain is to cause pain in my Luna, and I refuse to do that. Even with what happened to my wife, I still believe in the rightness of what she and our daughter did and do.”

She gently squeezes his hand.

Neville looks down at Luna sitting next to the slab containing his mutilated body.

Now that you’ve been given all this knowledge, you have a choice,” his companion says. “Come with me, or tell her to save you.”

At the sound of movement, Luna lowers her mobile and looks over.

Luna, please, help me,” Neville says.

A few days after Dr Lovegood crashed into the hospital's east entrance, Neville wakes up.

Looking down at his mobile, he sees a text from Hermione, but just as he’s opening it there’s a knock on his door followed by the doorbell ringing.

Setting it aside, he goes and glances past the living room curtains.

To his surprise, the person he sees standing outside is Luna.

Opening the door, he greets, “Hiya, Luna.”

Hello, Neville. Something bad’s going to happen if you go to hospital today. Would you help me pick out some flowers for Dad’s office instead?”

Utterly confused and a little uneasy, Neville wonders how to handle this. He’s never thought Luna was dangerous, but this is outright creepy. He’s not entirely sure if her knowing where he lives- His gran left him the house in her will, and last year, several people from work helped him move into it from the flat he was renting, but he doesn’t remember if she or her dad were among them.

What bad thing is going to happen?”

Do you have some pumpkin juice? If so, may I please have some?”

With anyone else, he’d think this was dodging the question, but he knows from experience she’ll answer in her own way, in her own time. Glancing down at his watch, he sees, thankfully, it’s still early.

I’ll check. Come on in. Hey, could you grab my mobile? It’s in there.” He gestures to his bedroom.

In the fridge, he finds some pumpkin juice. His mum’s grandfather was a farmer with a knack for growing pumpkins. When he was little, his gran got the idea of selling pumpkin juice, and it turned out to be moderately successful. When she died, he let some distant cousin of his mum’s take over the business, and the cousin will send him a crate or two on occasion.

Aside from him and the Lovegoods, no one else has any interest in them, and he sometimes reckons the only reason Luna started hanging around his locker is he’ll often have some inside it.

None of your drink got on your bed, but there is some on the floor.”

Looking over, he sees Luna holding up his wet phone.

Cursing, he grabs it and desperately prays-

It’s completely dead.

Must have set it on my nightstand and knocked the glass over without realising it,” he dejectedly mutters. “I’ll probably have to buy a new one.”

I can call Dad, and he’ll explain the situation for you.”

Really? Thanks, Luna. Oh, um, could you tell Hermione, if there’s something important, she’ll need to call my home phone. I’m pretty sure she has the number.”

Dad has everyone at hospital’s home numbers.”

Thanks, Luna,” he breathes out.

After she makes the call, he wonders what he’s doing. He can’t just skip work because he needs a new phone and, because, apparently, something bad may happen.

Luna, what bad thing is going to happen?”

Whenever I know something bad is going to happen, I often don’t see it directly.”

So, er, you get feelings?”

No,” she answers. “Or, yes, in some instances. My intuition and what I know for a fact are two different things.”

He rubs his forehead against the headache brewing.

Along with my mum, my great-grandfather on my her side was the same way. He was a bit foolish about it, however. He told everyone he could travel through the time. Waterboarding had a different name back then. A medical classification. If done properly, it won’t kill a person, but no one’s sure if it was done improperly or properly done wrong. Either way, he died the third time.”

Feeling the nausea rising, he turns away.

Luna couldn’t- even if Luna does somehow know about his parents, he’s never believed her to be a cruel person. She wouldn’t- except, maybe, she doesn’t even recognise the fact hearing such things could hurt.

I wish he could have been stopped some other way,” she continues. “He took choices away from others, but he sincerely believed what he was doing was right.”

Knowing he’s going to regret it, he chances a look at her. “How’d he take choices away from others, Luna?”

He killed people.”

Look, I’ll get some plants for Dr Lovegood, but you need to-”

Have you ever wanted someone dead, Neville?”

She stares at him, and everything in him is frozen.

Yeah,” he finds himself answering.

She nods, as if she finds this unsurprising, and disturbingly, as if she isn’t disturbed by it at all.

That’s understandable, but I hope you aren’t currently one of the people you’ve wished it on. I’m not often wrong. Something bad is going to happen at hospital today, and I don’t think anyone else is in danger, but you are.”

Neville wishes he could send a discreet text to Hermione, but since this option isn’t available, he realises the only way he’s sure to get rid of Luna is if he rings the police. Dr Lovegood is unlikely to understand how his daughter’s presence is bothering someone, let alone care.

He can’t call the police on Luna. She’s not dangerous or even mean, and it’s not going to hurt him to spend an hour or two humouring her. If she’s not distracted by something else by then, he’ll call Hermione.

Have you eaten? I need some breakfast.”

Some breakfast sounds nice,” she says.

I’ll get dressed, and we can get some.”

They go to a pub near the house, and thankfully, she pays for her own food.

There’s a store in Manchester that sells cheap mobile phones. Or if you’re looking for something more expensive-”

Manchester? No. Uh, I plan on getting a p-phone here. And, um, you don’t need to help me, Luna.”

The store is Chesney’s Electronics. My dad once helped one of the employees, a kind woman named Parvati. I’m sure she’d be glad to give you a good deal.”

Neville manages not to groan or sigh, but it’s close.

Until puberty hit, he was even clumsier than Dr Lovegood is now. As a kid, he had numerous broken bones, accidentally broke several family heirlooms, and once unintentionally destroyed his own art project due to a series events of that led to it ending up in the bathtub. He believed in Santa Claus until he was in his teens. He’s been the weird one, the shy crybaby, the overenthusiastic, socially awkward one giving more openings than his bullies could ever hope for, the person all the nice people managed to put up with so many times.

He hates the fact he sometimes finds himself privately agreeing with the snide comments others make towards the Lovegoods. He doesn’t want to treat Luna like the mental girl he can’t wait to get rid of.

At the same time, he doesn’t understand why Luna is willing to semi-cash in a favour towards her dad on his behalf or why she’s even concerning herself over his lack of a phone.

Frankly, he’s a little suspicious, and this makes him uneasy.

The Lovegoods aren’t suspicious people. Neither is what he’d call manipulative. They can be too-blunt and occasionally say things that they don’t realise will hurt people, but almost nothing either of them does is done with the intent to hurt or inconvenience anyone. Hermione is the exception, and even with her, as far as he knows, they’ve only ever done the latter, and really, he’s not sure how much he can blame them, because, she is undeniably the one who first struck out against them and refuses to stop.

Dad still isn’t sure mobiles don’t cause brain tumours and cancer. He believes electromagnetic hypersensitivity is real.”

Maybe it is,” he offers. “Until I started working at the hospital, I didn’t realise how many different things people could be allergic to. And uh, my gran was worried about mobiles causing cancer, too. But hasn’t- you have your mobile, right?”

Nodding, she finishes her breakfast. “I’m not worried about cancer. And if I had a brain tumour, I’m not sure how much it would change anything.”

Before he can fully process this statement, she continues, “It was my mum. When I was six, I insisted on walking to my dance lessons by myself. I’ve always been very carsick, but I usually don’t have much trouble with other vehicles. It was rather unheard of for someone as young as six to have a mobile back then, and they were rather expensive. But she used her abilities to get a good deal on one, and she and Dad taught me how to use it.”

She stirs some more lemon into her brew. “Sometimes, she was fearless, but she was often the most sensible of us.”

The thought, she married your dad, and look at how you turned out, how sensible could she have been, pops into his head, but thank God, he had the last bite of his breakfast in his mouth, and so, he knows for sure the words didn’t come out.

When did you get your first mobile?”

I don’t really remember.”

There’s a pause that’s awkward on his end. One thing he’s always envied about the Lovegoods is, unlike him, their being so different from most people doesn’t bother them. Dr Lovegood is usually cheerful after a fall, Luna either doesn’t notice or care how obviously ridiculous most people find her articles, and even when they realise they’ve done or said something others don’t approve of, they often simply avoid the person. When they realise they’ve hurt and/or offended someone, they’ll pleasantly apologise and try to avoid doing the same thing in the future.

He imagines neither of them sometimes lies in bed, unable to fall asleep, remembering this stupid thing they did when they were a little kid. They don’t constantly go over a way they could have handled a situation differently in their head. They don’t come across as too detached or clingy due to not being sure how to properly act around someone and managing to go overboard.

Though, this does make him remember: He didn’t like his old phone. But he’d gone through a sort of hell to get it, and with Luna genuinely offering- he could use some help. Better have her confuse and possibly irritate people when it’s won’t bother her than to end up with another phone he doesn’t like or, worse, a bad contract.

Uh, look, Luna, if you’re sure, I would actually- some help getting the phone would be nice. If you think this Manchester shop would be a good idea, we can try it.”

She smiles. “I’d be happy to. I’ll call Dad.”

...

This is going to be terrible.

They agreed to take the tube to Manchester, and then, catch a bus to the shop.

Except, they managed to get on the wrong train, and they’re going to have to wait about twenty minutes before they can hopefully get on a right one.

For the life of him, he can’t figure out how they managed to do this, but he’s not surprised. In school, he was once unable to remember where a class that he was literally looking at was, and Luna once almost got arrested for illegally entering Canada when she and her dad were vacationing in America. Even though there was no argument she’d done it, thankfully, everyone quickly realised she hadn’t meant to and that she wasn’t trying to illegally immigrate or take advantage of anything Canada offers that the UK doesn’t.

He’s on a train with no phone, music, or even anything to read, and sitting next to him is- Luna.

Trying to shut down his mean thoughts, he tells himself to focus on the positive: The train isn’t crowded, but it’s not creepily empty, either. Luna isn’t doing anything to garner attention, although, if he didn’t know her, he’d be uneasy about the girl sitting stock-still and staring into space with a blank expression.

Oh,” she suddenly says, and it isn’t loud, but he jumps at the unexpectedness of it, “I just remembered, I brought cards.” Producing them, she asks, “Would you like to play?”

Yeah, sure, Luna. Thanks.”

They finally get to a small shop with Chesney’s Electronics painted in bright green above the door.

Inside, the door is barely closed when a pretty brown woman in uniform spots them and waves.

Luna waves back, and when the woman is done with her customer, she comes over, and he sees her nametag reads Parvati Patil . “Hey, Luna. Everything good with you and your dad?”

Very well, thank you. Hermione and I are having another disagreement, but it should be over soon. How’s Lavender doing?”

Parvati gives her a sympathetic look. “Sorry to hear that. Lav’s doing wonderful. That yoga class you recommended is doing wonders for her stress. Are you or your friend here to shop?”

Yes. Neville’s a colleague of my dad’s, and-”

I work in the guest shop,” he interjects.

Parvati gives him a kind smile. “Huh, bet you have your share of terrible customer stories, too?”

The problem ones are usually more upset or frantic than actively mean. I couldn’t handle working in a shop like this for more than a month or two when I was younger.”

Maybe you can tell me about it someday. This is my third job. The first was good, but I wanted to move, and the second- Well, luckily, my awesome girlfriend was able to flirt me out of legal trouble for pouring hot coffee on a complete arsehole. Are you here for you or to help Luna?”

She’s, uh, here to help me. I need a new phone.”

Shouldn’t be a problem,” Parvati cheerfully says.

Um, thanks, Luna. Er- how’d you feel about getting some lunch?”

He has a new phone that he thinks he’s really going to like. It wasn’t a painful process getting it. Even with the fact he didn’t think to bring his old mobile, and so, even if there were a way to transfer his contacts, that won’t happen unless he brings it back, this phone is easy-to-use, looks nice, and is a much better size than his old one. He can get his contacts re-entered easily enough within a few days.

That would be nice. Although, I’d like to veto anything barbecued.”

No problem,” he says.

Everyone at hospital knows the Lovegoods aren’t picky eaters but avoid barbecue. It’s probably not exactly fair to think this, because, Hermione does genuinely like barbecue, but he’s always had a suspicion her birthday dinners over the last few years have been chosen to include that particular food to ensure that neither Lovegood ever takes her up on her invitation.

Why she doesn’t just not invite them, he’s not sure, but maybe, it has something to do with her own parents.

They find a vegan cafe, and after they’ve given their orders, he asks, “What sort of plant do you think your dad might like?”

I’m rather fond of the thornless cactus you gave me. I’m not sure many patients would like something like that, however. Something low maintenance and hypoallergenic. Mum was the gardener.”

Your mum had a garden?”

He knows his parents had one when he was little. Everyone says his would have put theirs to shame. Apparently, his dad was good at it but didn’t have any serious interest, and his mum mostly just went along with it to indulge his dad.

An herb garden,” Luna answers. “She thought store-bought vegetables and fruits were safer, but her gran taught her all these facts about herbs that few people know. Her gran’s was called a witches’ garden, but I don’t know if anyone ever called Mum’s that or not.”

Withdrawing a pen, she begins writing or drawing something on a napkin.

He considers letting the silence go on until they get their food, but he finds himself asking, “Luna, d’ya think you could, um, tell me a little more about why you’re so convinced something bad is going to happen to me at hospital today?”

Looking up, she sets her pen down, and her fingers make odd movements. “Ravens. They led me to you. They’re harbingers of death.”

He wonders if he’s really up to trying to pursue this. He thinks she might have said something once about ravens stealing her shoes, but he’s not sure. Pointing out even someone more observant than him could quickly lose sight of birds in the sky, see a different set, and assume they were the same would be pointless. He doubts she’d ever accept the possibility she could have been following loads of different birds this morning and some of them just happened to land near his house.

Hermione thinks it’s mental, too. She’s good at her job, but she’s never going to fulfil the destiny she believes is hers.”

Feeling vaguely guilty, he decides it’d be best to simply comment, “I didn’t know Hermione even believed in destiny.”

She might think she doesn’t. Even if I suspect I know a person’s feelings better than they do, I rarely say so. But Hermione is devout, and she’s on a mission of god.”

Before he can think, he says, “I thought you were agnostic.”

I am.” A slight smile crosses her face. “In the states, football is called soccer. The concept of eyeglasses has been thought up by different people in different time periods and countries. There are things very mysterious to most humans, but so far, none of them I’ve come across have fit what I'd consider to be a god.”

Their food comes.

He considers asking if there’s anything truly specific about the sort-of feud between Hermione and the Lovegoods, but instead, he says, “I’m sorry she’s so dismissive of your beliefs, Luna.”

Except, he guiltily notes to himself, he is, too. He’s just much politer in listening and much, much more unwilling to challenge her or voice his scepticism.

People bullied me in school. That’s why I didn’t go to college. Before my mum died, she used to say, if someone has to tear you down to build themselves up, they’ll never manage to be half the person you are. It’s much the same with beliefs. If a person has to tear yours down to secure their own, theirs are shallow, insecure in the foundation, and will be long gone before yours ever start to fade.”

Neville really wishes he had someone tell him something like this when he was little. Well, a few times, some of the kinder kids at school did say encouraging things, but his gran and the teachers mostly ignored it when he was bullied.

He also desperately wishes Luna’s mum hadn’t died in a way that goes past the kinship he feels with others who’ve lost a parent and past the normal empathy he has for people who’ve faced pain. No doubt, Dr Lovegood tried his absolute best, but maybe, Luna would have gone to college, and then, uni. He doesn’t know much about her life, but what he does know: Tabloid job, lives with her dad, often has to contend with Hermione at her dad’s workplace- maybe, she could have had something better, something more.

Try not to feel sad for me,” she says. “I understand why it was her time to go, and there’s more purpose in my life than most people realise.”

Surprise and uneasiness flood through him. Usually, the Lovegoods, Luna especially, often don’t pick up obvious cues on how people are feeling, but every now and then, Luna will make it clear she knows exactly how he’s feeling, and he’s never sure if he’s not keeping his feelings as hidden as he thought or if the ability to suss out hidden feelings is up there with her knowing something is going to happen before it does.

We should wait until we get back to find your dad a plant. Trust me, I know from experience, lugging even a small one around on the tube is no fun.”

That sounds good. It’d be nice if we had a flower nursery at hospital. Dad’s partially right; having too much technology and not enough nature throws things off-balance. I imagine that might be why so many people at hospital are having problems with their mobiles today.”

Oh. They are?” He shouldn’t feel relieved that he’s not the only one, he knows.

She nods. “Hermione accused Dad of stealing hers. Seamus found it with Hagrid’s kittens. If she’d read Rolf’s articles, she might better understand why the cats do some of the things they do, but since he often writes about undiscovered and largely unknown animals, I imagine she’d simply disbelieve what she read.”

This all happened today?”

Yes. Dad told me about it when he called and you went to the loo at Chesney’s.”

Right. Er, I was t-thinking, I don’t mind helping you take the plant to your dad and giving him some suggestions on it, but why don’t we wait until tomorrow morning?”

He does want to try to make sure Dr Lovegood will take good care of the plant, but he also suddenly feels an almost desperate need to completely avoid hospital for the rest of the day, and he knows everyone else would be better off if Luna did the same.

That sounds good,” she brightly says.

Is Hagrid alright?”

Yes. She knows he didn’t steal her phone.”

He relaxes. Hagrid is one of the hospital’s janitors, and he occasionally brings animals in to cheer up certain patients. For all Hermione has little patience for the Lovegoods, she’s deeply fond of Hagrid and often respectful of his quirks and out-there beliefs.

They finish their food, and he suddenly has an idea.

Dr Lovegood picks them up at the station, and Neville feels vaguely like a kid.

Hullo, Dr Lovegood.”

Hello, Neville. Thank you for agreeing to help my Luna.”

It’s the least I can do. I’ve never had such a good mobile before or such an easy experience getting one.”

Once they’re buckled up, Dr Lovegood says, “Hermione’s car isn’t working, and her oyster card isn’t in her purse.”

Oh, poor Hermione,” he says.

None of this is his fault, he knows, but he still feels guilty. Aside from how weird everything seemed this morning, he’s actually had a nice day with Luna away from hospital, but it sounds like Hermione’s been having a bad one all day.

What shop did you say we should stop at first, Neville,” Luna asks.

The Lovegood house is an oddly-shaped, tall structure in the country. The land around it is beautiful, but the feeling there could be coyotes, rapid foxes, and who knows what else around refuses to leave Neville until they go inside.

His first thought is: This is definitely the Lovegoods’ house.

It isn’t dirty, but it is messy. There’s random spots of different coloured paints on the walls along with drawings of insects, flowers, and birds, there’s clothes hanging from an indoor clothes line, there’s books, papers, and art supplies spread all over, and most of the old but comfortable-looking furniture doesn’t match.

Mum and Dad built it together when she first came here from Ireland,” Luna says. “The kids at school used to call it the Rookery.”

Neville, perhaps, you should stay for tea. We’d be delighted to have you,” Dr Lovegood says. “Is there anything in particular you’d like?”

He almost protests, but then, he realises: It’s going to take time to get the herbs for Dr Lovegood’s office garden set up, and he knows this is around the time the two usually try to have supper. It’d probably be best for everyone if he just said yes and joined them rather than making them possibly feel awkward or decide to wait until he leaves.

Uh, um, if you’re sure it’s not too much trouble, that’d be g-great, thanks. And anything’s good, I like a lot of the same foods you two do.”

Dr Lovegood beams, and Luna smiles. “Wonderful! Luna, my moon, why don’t you take Neville up to your room?”

Luna nods. “We can work on getting the garden ready to transfer in there. I’m not much of a cook, and Dad has an easier time when people aren’t underfoot.”

Luna’s room is just as eccentric as the rest of the house, but the thing he finds his eyes most drawn to is a picture of her and her mum. In it, she’s a tiny girl with her hair in unplaited pigtails, probably hadn’t even started primary yet, and her mum is standing in the living room and holding her. Mrs Lovegood was a tall, willowy woman with crimped, dark brown hair and eyes. She’s wearing an over-sized t-shirt, white in colour but covered in different paint spots, that goes down to her knees, and her smile is beautiful.

The sound of the door being shut jolts him back.

He’s gone on a few dates but never had a girlfriend. When female classmates came over, his gran always insisted his door stay open, and he’s heard enough stories from others to know this is pretty normal whether the boy and girl are dating or not.

But he stops himself from saying anything. He and Luna are both adults, and Dr Lovegood clearly respects his daughter as one.

Where should we start,” Luna asks.

Once they’ve got the herbs planted, ready for transport, and the instructions and scheduling for their care all recorded on Luna’s mobile with alerts set up, Dr Lovegood has whipped some delicious spaghetti and toast up.

When they finish, he insists, “Let me help with the dishes, at least.”

My wife and I always had a firm rule about none of our Luna’s friends ever doing dishes. Besides, I prefer them to be washed in the morning. Whenever you’re ready to go, I’ll drive you back home. Luna, will you be coming?”

No. I’m going to work on my astrology charts.”

Neville’s stomach twists painfully. He has no idea how to handle this situation. It’s not that he minds going home in the least or has any reservations about being alone with Dr Lovegood, but it’s already dark out. The Rookery is in the middle of the country with the nearest neighbour literal miles away, and the Lovegoods only have one car. He doesn’t even know if she knows how to drive and/or has a driving license.

Luna’s likely been all alone out here during the night loads of time, and he knows there’s some sexism in his discomfort, but he simply feels wrong at the thought of her being left while her dad drives him into the city. To make it worse, he knows there’s a good chance she’ll be working on her star chart outside, and if her dad were here, he’d feel easier knowing, if something happened, there’s a chance she’d quickly have help.

Unless, you’d rather stay the night,” she continues. “We don’t have TV, but I don’t mind if you use my laptop, and you can read any books here you’d like. If you’re interested, I could show you some of my artwork.”

Dr Lovegood nods. “Yes. I’ve been told our guestroom is quit e cozy. Once we get my office set up, I can drive Luna to her newspaper.”

You don’t need to, Dad. I called Rolf, remember. He knows what sort of day today is, and he’s offered to pick me up in the morning.”

After Neville is asleep in the guestroom, Xenophilius and Luna talk quietly in Xenophilius’s room. “It’s almost midnight, and Hermione wouldn’t come here. He’s safe, now.”

Crossing her arms and patting them with her hands, Luna says, “She hasn’t come here, yet, Daddy. There’s a difference. After what she did with Nurse Pompfrey, I imagine it won’t be long until she escalates.” Rocking back and forth, she looks up at the ceiling.

Yes,” Xenophilius sadly agrees. “She’s becoming just as ruthless as her mentor, isn’t she? However, in this instance, there’s an advantage to us and a disadvantage for both of them.”

His alarm clock beeps, and the numbers read 12:00.

Luna’s body uncurls. “Yesterday was nice. Neville’s a very kind soul. Hopefully, he’ll be around for a long time.”

Xenophilius smiles. “I sincerely hope so.”

I’m going to go to bed. Goodnight, Dad. Try to remember any dreams of Mum.”

He kisses her head. “Goodnight, my Luna. You, too.”

When they get to hospital, Neville freezes.

Near the bus stop- there was clearly an accident or summat, and he feels an unexplainable, brief jolt of pain.

Luna’s standing next to him, and the thought, You were right , goes through him.

Before he can say anything, however, they’re inside, and Seamus is rushing over and throwing his arms around Neville. “Thank God you took yesterday off, eh?”

The hug is nice, but he doesn’t know how to react to it. “Um-” He wiggles away. “Seamus, what happened?”

At around 5, a bleedin’ drunk crashed a flippin’ lorry into the bus stop’s bench. Thankfully, no one else was around, and luckily for ‘im, he didn’t die. Completely banged up, mind you, several broken bones and a nasty concussion, but alive. He was transferred to some nearby hospital after my shift.” Shaking his head in disgust, Seamus says, “Still, knowing your luck...”

Another shiver goes through him as Seamus says what he’d already been thinking: He usually gets off at five or a little later. There’s a really good chance he would have been sitting at that bench or walking towards it when the lorry crashed, and knowing his luck, he wouldn’t have been quick enough to get out of the way. He could be in some hospital, too, with broken bones and a concussion of his own. Or worse, he could be in a coma or dead. He could’ve ended up with brain damage.

He jumps when Dr Lovegood squeezes his shoulder. “Best not dwell on it. Yesterday wasn’t your time to go.”

Right.” He takes a breath. “Let’s get your office set up.”

Approaching Luna in the hospital’s car park, Hermione says, “I think your dad’s herb garden might turn out to be a good idea. You were very clever yesterday. Congratulations.”

Luna walks to a different part of the car park.

Once Dr Lovegood’s indoor herb garden has been set up and Neville’s gotten signed in, he’s mostly forgotten about the crash yesterday.

Hermione comes in, and smiling, he greets, “Hullo, Hermione. Not that I’m complaining, but what brings you here?”

He managed to help a little girl who wanted to buy a present for her big brother without calling her, and the other few customers have been in-and-out with no problems.

To his horror, she looks as if she might cry, and he’s only seen such a look on Hermione’s face one time.

Keeping his voice gentle, he tries, “Hermione?”

Taking a deep breath, she rubs her eyes. “I’m sorry, Neville. Um- What happened yesterday. I’m truly happy you’re here today.”

Thanks? Don’t worry, I reckon Luna really came through. In her own odd, Lovegood sort of way. Hey, if you have time, could you look at my phone? It’s working great, but I’m having some trouble with getting a few things set up.”

Giving him a small smile, she nods. “I’d be happy to.”

After her shift, Hermione goes to a small teashop near the hospital.

Minerva McGonagall is waiting at the table they usually sit in. Kissing her cheek, Hermione greets, “Professor.”

Dr Granger,” is the affectionate reply.

Sitting down, Hermione smiles slightly and sips the drink waiting for her. “Not yet.”

Soon enough.” Minerva's smile fades, and she sighs. “Now, onto poor Neville. How is he?”

He seems to be okay. I don’t think there’s any residuals in his case.”

Minerva folds a napkin onto her lap. “If there’s one good thing to come from him being so scatterbrained- Unfortunately, you need to look at him with a critical eye, now. I hate having to say this. Even if Augusta could forgive me for what I did to her, she’d never forgive- Neville was such a sweet boy, and I regret how stern I sometimes was with him.”

Do you really think- As much as I like Neville, he’s not exactly-” Hermione lets out a frustrated sound.

Squeezing her hand, Minerva says, “Only those who could quicken the demise of free will are given the choice. The opportunity. I can’t say whether all of them do ultimately contribute to it or not, but they all have the potential. Neville’s a good man, an innocent, but even innocents can severely disrupt things if they aren’t stopped. And if he does start to become a threat, well, then,” she lets out another deep sigh, “we, but especially you, must be prepared to take matters into our own hands.”

Hermione’s nod is resolved. “I understand.”