On a whim, at the beginning of sixth year Harry offers to keep practicing DADA with Luna. The passage of a year. Slight AU
He sat down across from her, reaching out twitch down the top of the copy of The Quibbler she was reading so he could look her in the face. "Hey, Luna."
She slowly dragged her eyes up from the article she was reading to meet his. "Good morning, Harry. Have you read this morning's edition of The Quibbler? I helped my father research the article on hairy-finned schiswazers on page three."
"Uh... no. I'll make sure to check it out later, though. What are they anyway?"
"They live on sea sponges, and secrete a fluid that keeps them from sucking in much water. It keeps the ocean levels from dropping."
"Er..." said Harry, never quite sure exactly how to respond to her strange beliefs, "That's interesting. Sounds like they're important creatures."
"Yes, very. But they've been having a population boom lately, and it's been making the water levels rise. My father is trying to convince people that they should keep them as pets, to waterproof their robes for them. But it's not going very well, he needs to catch one to prove that it would work, but they're very shy and hide whenever people get near."
"Then, the next time you write home tell him I said good luck catching one soon," Harry said pleasantly, not seeing any reason to let her know that he didn't think hairy-finned schiswazers were anymore real than crumple-horned snorkacks.
She smiled faintly at him. "Thank you. I'll do that." They sat in awkward silence for a moment, or, at least, to Harry it felt awkward while Luna didn't seem to mind and just absently buttered a piece of toast. "I've decided I'd like to try being a Quidditch commentator," she said at last.
"You have?" he asked, surprised. He tried very hard to sound happy for her, and not to imagine her wearing her lion's head hat in the commentator box.
"Oh, yes. It's quite exciting, and I thought it would be a good way to show my support. I told my Head of House that I'd very much like to take a Gryffindor game if I could, but I hope it won't be one against Ravenclaw. I think my housemates would be even less friends with me than usual if I were biased against them."
At that, Harry remembered her words on the train, about how D.A. was like having friends to her, and suddenly he knew what he ought to say to try and make up for her housemates being so awful. "Listen, Luna, you liked being in the D.A. right?"
"Very much," she said, giving him one of her dreamy smiles. "It would be nice if we were still having meets, but all good things must come to an end."
"Then, even though we won't be having meetings anymore, I was wondering if maybe you'd like to have private tutoring lessons with me. Now that Snape's the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, I thought it would be good to practice with a friend. Going to need to stay in top form to pass with /him/."
She looked absolutely delighted, "I would be happy to practise with you as your friend," she said. "I've never helped anyone as a friend before, so I may not be good at it at first, but I promise I'll work hard at it."
"Uh, that's great, Luna!" He glanced around, noticing that the room was starting to clear out, and stood up. "Look, I need to get back to my seat to get my schedule checked, but Saturday morning, okay? We can see what Snape's like in the job this week, then get started then."
"Okay, Saturday." She turned her attention back to her paper as he left.
- - -
When he practiced with her, he wished that he'd had a better teacher the year before, or that she was more than one year behind him, or even that he'd just read his textbook the year before a little more thoroughly. He didn't know what a fifth year should know, and instead of just getting straight to helping her every meeting she had to go over what she'd been taught that week. Which could get kind of embarassing when he didn't know the spell she was talking about.
"It's an anti-aggression spell," she was saying, leaning back against a tree and twisting a blade of grass around her fingers. "It's very interesting, it makes a person who's attacking you more willing to talk things out instead of fighting."
"I can think of times when that would've been useful," Harry said, touching his nose lightly and remembering meeting Malfoy on the train.
"It doesn't work when someone really wants to hurt you, though." She raised her wand and moved it in slow, sweeping, gestures, pointing it toward him at the end and saying, "/Ruhe/."
Suddenly Harry's mind was enveloped by a deep peace, every problem that had been bothering him for the past few years--Sirius and Cedric's death, Voldemort's return, how positive he was that Malfoy was up to something--suddenly seeming very distant to him. "Oh. So this is what you mean by anti-aggression."
She brought her knees up to her chest and rested her cheek against him, studying him serenely. "Maybe I ought to have demonstrated on something else," she said, "but I thought maybe you could use some calm. It will wear off soon, and then I'll teach it too you."
"It's a nice feeling," he said, scooching across the grass to lean again the tree next to her.
"It would feel different if there was anyone you hated here," she said, turning her head to continue to look at him. "I'm glad that you don't hate anyone here."
"Luna, there's no one but us around."
"That's what I mean," she said, and ducked her head so her hair fell all around her.
- - -
"Harry!" Luna called out to him, breaking the stream of encouragments he'd been giving to Ron on their way back to the common room after Quidditch practice.
He wished she'd picked a better time to approach him, the first game of the year was in just a few days and he had to try convincing Ron that he wasn't a failure as a Keeper. But then, it didn't seem like Ron was really willing to listen to him anyway, so maybe it didn't matter. He let Ron walk on without him, and turned back to face her. "Hi, Luna."
She was standing a few feet away down the corridor, her hands hidden behind her back. "It snowed the day before yesterday," she said, as if somehow that were very important.
"...Yeah, it did. You want to talk about the weather, Luna?"
She walked forward to him, looking even dreamier than usual. "Have you ever heard of a snowflower, Harry? They're very rare. They only grow during the last few weeks of autumn, and only underneath the snow. People don't believe that they exist, because they die as the snow melts off of them, and while they're still alive they blend in with it almost perfectly so you can tear them up without ever even knowing they're there."
And now her started to notice that he face was red, as if she'd been out in the cold, and how she was still wearing her summer robes which were much too light for the weather. "You weren't outside dressed like that, were you Luna?"
She looked down at herself, then shrugged. "All my other robes have been hidden. I'll need to find them soon."
"You should have them /now/. Come on, Luna, I'll let you borrow one of mine until we get yours back." He turned to continue on to Gryffindor.
"Harry, wait/," she said, the vagueness momentarily leaving her voice. When he turned back to look at her again, she'd brought her hands in front of her and was holding up a tiny flower that looked like it was made out of ice. Only /then did he notice the excitement in her eyes. "Father will be so proud," she said, twirling the stem between her fingers. "It's the first rare thing he's told me about that I've found all on my own. I'll need to write him right away and tell him to make room in the next edition of The Quibbler to let people know that they can find them growing in this area."
Harry, meanwhile, was just staring at the flower as it twirled, frankly shocked. He'd never even imagined that one of the strange things Luna believed in would ever turn out to be true. Now that he actually had one in front of him, he wasn't sure how to respond. So he just went for the stupidly obvious. "But, isn't the snow already melted?"
"Mostly. But there's still some near the forest. I was just beginning to think I'd need to going in without finding one, when I did. And I thought that I ought to show you, because it seemed like the sort of thing you ought to share with a friend when it happens. I might be wrong, but if it isn't, I think that it should be."
"...I think it is too, Luna. Here, let's go get that robe and then we can see if Hermione or Ginny or one of the other girls has a vase you can borrow for it."
"Oh, I won't need one. You're supposed to press them in a book so you can keep them. They're very lucky."
"Like four-leaf clovers?"
"Well, yes, except that four-leaf clovers aren't really lucky. It's a conspiracy by the leprechauns to keep everybody looking for them so people will overlook that it's the clover flowers that have real luck in them. Not enough to make much of a difference for anyone our size, but it's good for the leprechauns. I thought everyone knew that." She held the flower out to him. "Anyway, I want you to have it. I think you'll need luck more than I do."
"You didn't need to," he said, accepting the flower but feeling a little strange about it. Regularly his friends didn't give him flowers, and part of him couldn't help but wonder whether she meant anything more by it. And he wondered, a little, how he'd feel if it did mean anything more.
She smiled as he took it. "I know, but you didn't need to start training me either. So I thought it would be right to let you have it, even though I don't need to. But don't show it to Hermione, she needs to learn that just because she's never seen something it doesn't mean it isn't real on her own."
"Well, thanks. Hopefully the luck'll start working before the match on Saturday. We could really use it. Come on now, the robe." He walked the rest of the way to the painting of The Fat Lady, expecting her to follow, but when he said the password and turned back to let her in she was nowhere to be seen.
"Harry, where have you been?" Hermione said on the other side of the portait before he could go back and find Luna. "Ron caught Ginny kissing Dean, and he's furious! You need to help me stop them before they start cursing each other!"
Harry reluctantly let himself be dragged toward the shouting match going on in the middle of the room.
- - -
Luna was waiting for him at the entrance to the Gryffindor common room when he got back from Christmas holidays. Or, at least, she was there, and she rose to her feet from where she'd been sitting reading one of her textbooks when she noticed him, although with Luna you could never be sure she meant to be anywhere. "Harry, welcome back," she said. Her eyes drifted over to the others with him. "Ginny, Ronald."
"Luna," he responded, and found himself smiling.
"Hey Luna," Ron said, absently. "Come on, Harry, let's get--" he was cut off by Ginny elbowing him in the gut.
"Hello, Luna. We'll just let the two of you go off and talk about your holidays, all right?" she said quickly, pushing Harry towards Luna. "See you later, Harry!"
Harry let himself be pushed, feeling a little confused but not minding. "Would you like to go to the kitchen?" he asked her. "We could talk there if you want to."
"We don't need to go anywhere," she said, although she followed him readily enough. "I just have a Christmas gift for you."
"I have something for you too, Luna," he said, smiling.
She stopped where they were. "Then we don't really need to go anywhere, unless you're hungry. My mother always used to say it was bad luck to watch food being made if you weren't the one cooking it. I think she said that to keep me from getting in the way when she was in the kitchen, but I'm not sure of that so I wouldn't want to risk it."
"If that's what you want." He opened up the bag he'd taken to The Burrow and still had with him, and dug through his clothing and textbooks until he found a wrapped gift. When he looked back up again she was holding a thin certificate.
"I got you a subscription to The Quibbler," she said, holding it out to him. "That way I don't need to always lend you mine. Please don't think I got it for free because my father's the editor and be insulted, I paid full price for it. I thought it was important to do that."
"Thanks, Luna," he said, not sure how much he wanted the subscription, but knowing that to her it was pretty much the most important gift she could give someone. "I'll read every issue. Here," he held out her gift, and continued to talk while she unwrapped it, revealing a book. "It's from the muggle world, so I don't think you'd have read it before. One of my old professors in primary school read it to our class. I remembered it earlier this year, and thought of you. I mean, if you don't want it it's okay, I'll get you something else, but I thought you'd like it and..." he realized he was starting to babble, and shut up.
"/The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles/," she read. "That sounds interesting. What's a whangdoodle?"
"A type of magical creature that hid from the people in the world," he said, wishing he could remember more about it to tell her.
"Oh. Yes. I can see why that would make you think of me." Suddenly she leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Thank you, Harry. I'll start reading it tonight." She pulled away, seemingly oblivious to the way he was gaping at her, and turned to walk away. "I need to go now. I want to be in my room in case anyone there brought me a gift like they always do for everyone else in it. I doubt they will, but hope does spring eternal."
He watched her leaving, sure that there was something he should be saying or doing before she went, sure that there was something she wanted him to do, but nothing he thought of felt right, so he just watched her as she disappeared around the corner.
- - -
She beat him in a practise duel for the first time just before the beginning of spring. All he could do for a long moment was stare at her slack jawed as she straddled his stomach, her wand pressed against his throat, his trapped underneath her knee. "Do you surrender," she asked serenely, paying no attention to how surprised he was by losing.
"Yes! You win, Luna."
She rolled off of him, then onto her side, looking at him. "Maybe I ought to write to The Prophet, telling them you were beaten by a girl a year younger than you," she said, thoughtfully. "Maybe that would make them decide you aren't a chosen one after all."
He laughed, a little harshly. "I was beaten by a girl smart enough to be sorted into Ravenclaw, who I've been training for almost two years, and who was good enough a year ago to survive against the Death Eaters. It shouldn't be a big surprise you'd manage it one day."
She smiled at him, and it was actually teasing instead of vague, "Just like you weren't surprised by it, right?"
He laughed, startled again, and nodded. "Yes, just like that."
"Then I think they would decide you're not The Chosen One." She pushed herself into a sitting position, tucking her wand into her pocket. "We won't be meeting next week, will we?"
"I do have a game next week, but if you want to meet I think we could after the game."
"No, it's all right. You'll see me at the game. I'm finally going to be commentating."
"...You are. Well. That's great, Luna. I know you'll do your best."
"Yes," she said. "I think I'll do much better than most of the people who've tried. The others always spend too much time talking about what the players are doing with the balls. People don't need that, they're paying attention to it on their own. I'd like to help people notice the things they won't be paying attention to on their own."
He really should say something to her about doing the job the way it was described to her, he knew. He should tell her to stick to giving people in the stands updates about the score and helping them keep track of where the balls were. But... she looked so pleased at the idea of commentating the way she thought it ought to be done that he couldn't bring herself to tell her he didn't think it was a good idea. "That sounds like it would be a great change of pace," he said instead, and the smile she gave him was worth the lie.
- - -
After Dumbledore's funeral, he found her sitting under the tree they'd met at so often for training. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but otherwise you'd never guess she was upset from how composed her face was. "Luna," he said, sitting down beside her.
"My mother will be glad to see him again," she said, seeming to see straight past him. "He was always her favorite professor."
"Sirius will be too," Harry said, suddenly hoarse. "And... my mum and dad too, I bet."
"So we shouldn't be too sad, because... it means they'll all be less lonely, even if we can't see them for a long time. It would be awful if they were all alone on the other side of the curtain." She sniffled loudly, but didn't bother brushing her tears away. "I can say that, but it doesn't really help, does it."
"No... no, it doesn't." He swallowed thickly. "Luna, I want you to have this." He held out the snowflower blossom, still glittering faintly even dried. "I think... I want you to have that luck next year."
She took it, and closed her eyes. "You aren't coming back, are you?"
"Not next year. I can't, but... we'll see each other again, Luna. Keep the flower, keep yourself safe, and I promise I'll be back again."
She leaned forwards and kissed him softly. "If you say it, then I believe you. Because friends keep their promises. I might not know that much about being friends but I know that."
He wish he had done that months ago, wished that he'd kissed her at Christmas time and had all those months with her, but it was too late to regret. "I will. And when I come back again, then we'll have all the time in the world."