It starts for no good reason.
“I need a date,” blurts Ginny Weasley on a Wednesday afternoon. She blushes pale red. “For prom. To prove my brother wrong.”
Luna looks up from her math homework and tucks a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “What about Neville Longbottom?”
She thinks: prom is in a month, why are you making a bet with your brother?
She thinks: go to prom with me.
“No,” says Ginny, sighing as she drums her nails against the wooden table. “My brother thinks he can get a better girlfriend than me. Neville doesn’t exactly qualify.”
“Girlfriend?” asks Luna, humming with an energy she doesn’t understand. Maybe it's because Ginny’s the sun–golden and electrifying to the touch.
A beat. Ginny inhales.
“So. Would you?”
Luna pauses. “Would I…?”
“Be my fake girlfriend for a month.” Her blush spreads as Luna watches her blankly. “I mean, it wouldn’t be a big commitment and I won’t hold it against you if you say no and I can always ask someone else–”
She knows it’s a bad idea before she even answers, but she’s watching Ginny’s eyelashes and red cheeks and her throat and she sighs because–
Because she knows this is as close she’ll get to what she wants.
Ginny catches her arm one day and pulls them together. Luna can feel small puffs of breath on her nose. “So, since you’re my girlfriend now,” she says, licking her lips, “does that mean I can walk you to math?”
Luna smiles. “I’d like to tell you all about my new theory on mermaid evolution along the way.”
Ginny’s face lights up as if Luna has just given her more than permission to walk her to math. She leans in close for a kiss, and Luna can see every freckle in detail, like they’re stars and she’s a telescope. She pauses to whisper, “Is this alright?” Luna tries to ignore how their lips almost brush when Ginny pops the t in alright.
“Of course,” Luna says, breathily, slowly leaning into Ginny. She watches Ginny’s eyelids shut, memorizing her smell and warmth and the way she feels under her hands. She paints it in her memory where Ginny is a lioness–gatekeeper to the stars–and they hold a thousand dreams in the space between them.
Their lips are so close to meeting that they actually brush when Ron shouts, “Really, Ginny?”
Luna tears her painting to threads in her head, blushing furiously. She bends over into her locker to grab something, anything. “Sorry,” she tells Ron.
Ginny glares at him. “I’m sorry,” she says, “that I have a girlfriend and you don’t.”
Luna realizes it’s just because Ron’s here that Ginny is being so flirtatious, not–
Not because Ginny has any feelings towards her.
“Sorry,” says Ginny to Luna when they reach her math classroom, her voice hushed. “I just have to rub it in Ron’s face that I’m winning this bet.”
Luna forces a smile. “It’s fine.”
(She thinks: this should be enough).
(She thinks: she is the stars, distant and beautiful, and you must be happy watching).
Ginny’s lips don’t stop burning all the way through third period. She was so close to kissing Luna, the way her hands had fit on her waist–
This is stupid, she thinks. This is the way to lose your best friend.
Neville Longbottom pokes her halfway through the period. “You okay?”
She forces a smile and nods. “Of course.”
He looks at her for two more moments before sighing and turning back to his science homework. “Okay. Will you help me with number four?”
“I don’t understand it at all,” confesses Ginny and wishes for the millionth time that Luna was next to her.
Luna comes to Ginny’s soccer game and sits next to Harry Potter. “I heard about the bet,” he tells her.
Luna shrugs. “I heard about it, too.”
He runs a hand through his tangled hair and watches her quietly. She looks back at the playing field and watches the other team score.
“So, how’s having Umbridge?” he says after a long pause. Luna thanks him silently for the change of topic.
“She’s awful, but not that hard.”
“Shut up,” his nose wrinkles as he laughs. “I nearly failed that class.”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t take AP Chemistry, then,” Luna says.
“Didn’t plan on it in the first place.”
She smiles at him and turns her attention to the game just to see Ginny score. Her smile widens, and she knows Harry can see it; she’s transparent, and Ginny is light, clear and bright. She’s invisible without her.
But, she can’t help it. She’ll always flower under Ginny’s touch, always—
She catches Harry watching her with too much concern.
After the game, Ginny wraps Luna up in a hug and properly kisses her, pressing her lips against Luna’s, still running on adrenaline. Luna spends the whole kiss memorizing the little noise of surprise Ginny makes when she kisses back and the curve of her lips and the way they fit against hers. It feels real, like suddenly the world is undergoing the big bang, and Luna’s chest is the nothingness Ginny fills with everything.
They both think about the way the other fits underneath their palms.
You are my universe, thinks Luna Lovegood.
I wish this were real, thinks Ginny Weasley.
This is all, they think, mistaking the other’s hesitation for disinterest. This is all I can have.
After all, it’s only a bet.
It’s a secret.
Ginny Weasley, soccer player extraordinaire, kisses Luna Lovegood’s cheek, who blushes a pale pink and looks fixedly at her journal.
They lace their fingers, and Luna pokes her tongue out at Ginny, just slightly, waiting for the warm laugh that lights up in her own chest.
Ginny wraps her other arm around Luna’s bare shoulders and leans in slightly, inhaling the soft scent of Luna, comprised of lavender shampoo and mint candies.
Their touches burn with longing and almosts. This is their secret.
Luna realizes it early on. They’re in the cafeteria; Ginny has her hand around Luna’s waist and is yelling at a boy. She’s fiery and Luna is a moth, too close to the flame to pull away. Neville is watching with a small smile. Their eyes meet and he gives her this soft, I know expression.
She bites her lip and looks down. She’s always been one to be upfront about her feelings, but she stops herself from whispering it late at night, because–
–because she can’t imagine losing her.
The realization settles and it feels like a weight she forgot she was carrying. There’s no difference in how she holds the world; only in the way she sees it. It’s like seeing the stars in daylight: they’re always there, but there’s only evidence at nightfall.
She pecks Ginny on the cheek and goes to study in the library, the words echoing down the hall with every footstep.
You love her. You love her. You lo–
Ron manages a girlfriend, Lavender Brown, a week before prom. Ginny raises an eyebrow. “Her?”
He tells her to shove off, because she’s the one dating Loony Lovegood.
Ginny punches him. “I’m still winning this bet, Ron, so I wouldn’t be talking.”
She marches off before he can respond.
It ends the same way it began: for no good reason.
Ginny wears a black tux because she thinks she looks good in it (she does), and Luna wears a pale blue dress. They dance underneath in the gym, and later, underneath a streetlight, because Luna mentioned in passing they didn’t play her favorite song. Ron scowls when he finds Lavender kissing Parvati instead of him, though no one else is surprised.
Harry announces Ginny the winner of the bet at the afterparty, and she kisses Luna, hard, for real, for a last time.
The kiss is tinged with sweetness, with red punch and the soft burn of alcohol. It’s slow, and long, and Luna breaks away first. She may be transparent, she may be the earth in orbit, she may be a moth, she may be a plant, but she still has herself to lose.
She’s gone before Ginny can stop her.
It’s Pansy Parkinson who offers Luna a beer. “Sucks, doesn’t it.” She doesn’t even ask what.
“I guess,” says Luna, and swigs. “How’s your mom?” She sits down on the step next to Pansy.
“I’m not one for small talk,” says Pansy.
They sit in silence, and Luna watches the moon. She wants to say something poetic, but she knows Pansy isn’t that type of person. She downs her beer and is thankful for Pansy’s presence.
It feels like loneliness is better taken in pairs.
In the morning, her head hurts and somehow it feels like the right distraction from an aching heart.
Ginny realizes it a week later. She gets into a fistfight for no reason, she loses three games in a row, everything seems off, and she hasn’t said anything to Luna.
She keeps stopping blonde girls in the hallway because she thinks it’s her and doesn’t know why she wants it to be.
Neville stops her in the hallways and tells her to go to the library.
She keeps ignoring him, because Luna doesn’t feel that way, because what if–
What if she loses her for a second time?
Luna studies a little harder. She tells her classmates weird stories. She doesn’t sit next to Pansy Parkinson at lunch, because Pansy is popular and cares about her reputation, but Pansy does come over after school and complain about some boy or girl.
Luna listens and advises her. Sometimes she tells her about her father’s daring theories about mermaids, and dragons, and explains her theories on how exactly these creatures could exist.
It’s a weird, improbable friendship, based on nothing.
It’s always nothing that hurts the most.
Ginny catches her in the hallway. She pulls her close, licks her lips nervously.
Luna swallows. “Hi, Ginny.”
“I think I might love you.”
She finds herself being pulled closer, as gravity is doubled between them, tripled, and she swears she can feel it, this increase in the tug towards Ginny.
“Oh.” Luna pauses, because what do you say to the girl you’ve been avoiding for weeks and has just confessed her love to you?
She pulls away. “I’m sorry.”
The gravity between them returns to normal, and the world is a little less interesting because of it.
Ginny watches Luna go and feels her heart break a little more.
“She told me she loved me,” Luna says, slowly.
“Since when are you letting some girl break you up inside?” asks Pansy.
“Since–since forever, really.”
“Then don’t be stupid.”
Luna goes to Ginny’s last game before the season ends and watches the sky the entire time.
They win, but barely.
Ginny huffs off the field and Luna slips off her seat and gravitates toward her.
“Ginny?” she asks.
“Hey. Uh. Luna.” Ginny scratches the back of her neck and blushes slightly, because Ginny blushes when she’s nervous.
“I was thinking–about what you said.”
There’s a pause.
“You don’t have to explain anything, really.”
“I wanted to tell you, that I think–I think if you said ‘I love you’ again, then I think I would say ‘I love you, too.’”
She wants to be pulled in, she wants to be a flower tasting sunlight after a cold night, she wants to be a planet.
Quiet. This is how she knows she can’t be pulled in, a flower, a planet.
“I’ll let you consider it,” says Luna, and walks away from Ginny for the third time in her life.
She’ll only know Ginny loves her if she follows.
She’s painting wildflowers in art. Ginny peeks around the corner and watches Luna add a dollop of poppy red paint onto the canvas. There’s something strange about seeing her, in a different world, as if she’s farther away from Ginny than before (if that’s possible), but shielded, too.
Her heart skips a beat when she thinks about talking to her.
The bell rings and Luna methodically puts everything away, starting with her paints. It’s like watching a dance, thinks Ginny, and she’d appreciate it more if she wasn’t so–so nervous.
She wishes she had never asked Luna to be her fake girlfriend.
Luna stops and stares at her. “Hi, Ginny.”
“I love you,” Ginny blurts, abandoning her meticulously planned “I want you back, even though there is no back, I’m sorry,” speech.
Luna smiles and leans in, like this was expected, somehow, or like she was waiting for Ginny to come back to her. They kiss, and this time there’s no bittersweetness. There’s a relief, a feeling of inevitability in it. Their noses touch right before their lips meet, and Ginny has to keep taking a break from kissing because she’s smiling so much, and Luna has her eyes open the entire time to watch Ginny smile, because it’s for her, it’s for her.
When they break apart, Luna whispers, “I think I love you, too.”