Before & After
Claim: Dean seeks out Luna to see how she's faring in the weeks after the final battle. She's hard to find, but worth the trouble.
Pairings: Dean/Luna, with appearances by other old friends.
Summary: The after is always harder than the before, especially when you think you’ve forgotten how to laugh.
Author's Notes: Luna is stronger and more important to some people than they realize. She’s a delightful character to explore! I hope you enjoy this – and there could be more to come as she and Dean reconnect.
The days and weeks following the battle at Hogwarts were a mix of joy and grief, tearing down and rebuilding. The castle itself, like the homes of many of those who fought to defend it, had suffered serious damage. Neighbors and friends turned out to help each other put houses and lives back together once all the dust had settled.
Some tired of the constant company and sought quiet refuge where they could. Others found themselves seeking someone or something they’d take for granted. Before.
~ * ~
That was how Dean came to think of his life. Divided as it was into the time before Voldemort’s reign of fear and the almost overwhelming emptiness of after. Even though he and nearly all his Hogwarts classmates had reached their age of majority by the time the castle lay under siege, it wasn’t until after that they’d begun to think of themselves as something resembling grown up.
That was where Dean found himself presently. Wondering what to do with the after.
“Oi! Thomas, snap out of it!” Seamus set two pints down on the table and waved a hand in front of his best friend’s face.
“Sorry.” Dean shook his head to clear away the gloomy fog in his head. “What?”
Seamus smirked. “Daydreaming again? Must be one incredible dream. Who’s starring in it now?”
Dean chuckled into the pint of Guinness Seamus pushed towards him.
“It’s nothing like that you lech. I’m not exactly the debauching kind of wizard.”
“Ah, and ‘tis a great shame that is, lad.” Seamus was deliberately exaggerating his already heavy Irish brogue, something he normally did to impress the pretty witches he chased. “We’ve all this time on our hands and the world at our feet. We should be sowing some oats by now.”
Dean laughed openly at the goofy grin on his friend’s face. It was hard not to laugh around Seamus. He had grieved just as deeply as anyone who witnessed the destruction Voldemort and his followers wrought. Seamus, though, had practically attacked what he considered a return to a more normal life with a cheerful determination that bordered on the manic. For him, it seemed to work.
“Drink up, Thomas. I’ve a big evening planned with one lucky witch.”
“Only one?” Dean raised an eyebrow in mock surprise.
A mischievous smile lit Seamus’ eyes. “You caught me. It’s two. And a matched pair at that.”
“Parvati and Padma? How on earth do you do it, man?”
“It’s the famous Finnegan charm. ‘Tis a fearsome weapon no lass can resist.” Seamus drained his glass, clapped Dean on the shoulder and headed towards the door.
“You know, mate,” he said as he grasped the handle. “Maybe if you found that one thing from before that made you smile or laugh, you might be able to start enjoying the after.” Seamus shrugged his shoulders and stepped out into Diagon Alley.
Dean found himself right back where he’d been. Back to the before. Figuring it couldn’t hurt to give Seamus’ advice a turn – he wasn’t completely daft, only somewhat mental, Dean mused – he finished his pint and crossed the pub to the fireplace, returning to his flat by Floo Powder.
As he set a small supper on the table, Dean started making a list of the high points of his early days at Hogwarts. Those were the relatively carefree days, with only basilisks and secret chambers to worry about.
Quidditch matches. Especially when the losing team was Slytherin.
Watching Fred and George Weasley experiment on unsuspecting first years, testing their new products like Canary Creams and Ton-Tongue Toffee.
Sitting in the Three Broomsticks drinking Madam Rosmerta’s mean and listening to Loony Lovegood’s outrageous stories.
At the thought of her name, Dean felt like he’d been hit by a Bludger. Loony Luna Lovegood. Ravenclaw. She’d always been a little odd, but she was kind-hearted and funny. That had to be the answer. He had to find Luna.
With dinner all but forgotten, Dean rummaged in a drawer for parchment and a quill.
“What on earth am I supposed to say? Dear Loony, I’m very sad and I need to hear one of your ridiculous stories so I can get happy and get on with my life?” Dean shook his head and crumpled the first piece of parchment before tossing it on the floor.
Denham, his Little Owl, hooted occasionally as Dean continued to scratch opening lines of his letter and reject each one before throwing the scrunched parchment over his shoulder. Denham had moved from his normal perch in order to avoid being hit and was watching the sudden flurry of activity with bemusement.
Finally, after more than a dozen tries, Dean picked up the letter he’d written and read it aloud.
I realize you’re probably more than surprised to hear from me. We weren’t close when we were at Hogwarts and haven’t seen much of each other since then except for those few days at Shell Cottage.
It might sound awfully strange, but I was hoping I could see you. Name the time and the place. My schedule’s pretty open, and my flat is close to Diagon Alley.
“That sounds all right, doesn’t it?” Dean turned to Denham as he rolled the parchment up and tied it to the proffered leg. “Just make sure it gets to Luna. It’s important.”
The owl fixed his eyes on Dean as if to say that he knew it was important. That’s why he carried the post in the first place. Mere wizards and witches simply couldn’t be trusted. Owls were far more reliable. With one last hoot, Denham soared out the window.
The owl was scrupulously reliable and almost fanatical about delivering his letters. Denham always returned promptly, having waited in that snootily patient way of a post owl for the recipient to draft a response so he could return it to Dean.
Hours after sending the original message, Denham returned to the flat but with no response, Dean noted.
“What happened? Did she burn it? Did she laugh and tear it up? Tell me, for Merlin’s sake!” Dean asked the bird frantically. When Denham failed to respond, Dean smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. “I’m talking to a bird about Luna Lovegood? Seamus is definitely not the one who’s mental here.” He shrugged his shoulders and sighed. Maybe it wasn’t meant to happy. He’d just have to find another way to get on with life.
As the days began to pass into weeks, Dean thought he’d found a way to deal with the lingering hole in his life. He filled it writing letters to friends, looking for information on Luna and what happened to her and where she might be. He also continued to write to her, at least once a week, always keeping his letters non-committal and hopefully cheerful. It certainly didn’t make the after much more enjoyable, but it gave him something productive to do to pass the time. Even Seamus commented on the change when they met for one of their weekly lunches at The Leaky Cauldron. They were sometimes joined by other friends – Neville and Hannah Abbott fairly frequently, Harry and Ron and Hermione less so.
Wednesday was a packed day for the former Hogwarts classmates as they found themselves all crowding into the pub late in the afternoon. It seemed somewhat like the old days back at school before Voldemort and before the darkness that followed him.
Somewhat like, Dean thought to himself miserably.
“You’re doing it again, Thomas.” Seamus snapped his fingers in front of Dean’s face to rouse him into rejoining the conversation. “What’s with you? First, this flurry of letters. You were never that prolific at school. Why now? And who on earth are you writing to?”
“Lots of people,” Dean mumbled. “Mostly Luna Lovegood.” Dean felt the heat in his cheeks and hoped that the dim light in the pub hid his embarrassment.
“Loony Lovegood? What for?” Seamus exclaimed.
Dean shook his head in irritation. “She’s not loony and you know that as well as I do. After what she went through at Malfoy Manor, it’s no surprise that she’d rather stay away from people. I just, well, I wanted to talk to her. She always made me laugh.”
Hannah smiled across the table at Dean. “Luna was always such a kind person to everyone. Even when her housemates hid her shoes.”
“Yeah, I remember that,” Harry offered. “She just brushed it off and went in search of pudding, I think.”
The whole group chuckled, but it was Seamus who spoke first. “Mate, you need a girl in your life. Why don’t you put one of those ads in Witch Weekly and find some pretty witch to keep you company?”
“An ad?” Neville asked.
“Yeah, Witch Weekly has a whole section of them now. Lonely wizard seeks adventurous witch for company…” Seamus grinned.
Dean set his glass down on the table with a clatter. “That’s it!”
Hannah had jumped at the noise, and everyone turned to look at him. “What’s it, Dean?” she asked.
“An ad. But not in Witch Weekly. In The Quibbler. If it’s clever enough to grab her interest, in her father’s own paper, I’m bound to find her. I think I’m going to need some help with this one. I can write a decent enough letter, but this needs to be clever.”
“In that case, we need Hermione.” Harry nodded emphatically as the whole group burst into laughter once more.
Hours later, having enlisted Hermione’s help, Dean pronounced himself satisfied with the ad they had written. He quickly rolled up the parchment, tied it to Denham’s leg with a little pouch containing the fee for submitting an ad to The Quibbler and sent the owl off once more. The group broke up into twos and threes as people finished their drinks and set off for homes or other engagements.
Dean returned to his flat and found himself staring at a nearly empty refrigerator. It looked like his was going to have to arrange for take away again. The thought of dining alone at home, again, was depressing.
“Might as well go out,” he said to his empty flat. He showered and was changing into a clean set of robes when he heard a flurry of activity at the kitchen window. Apparently, Denham had been successful on his mission because he’d returned with a scroll sealed with The Quibbler’s logo. It contained a receipt for his payment and an assurance that his ad had been placed in the issue being printed that very night. It would be on the stands and in subscribers’ hands in the morning.
After a quick meal, once again at The Leaky Cauldron, Dean settled in for the night. He slept fitfully, tossing and turning and having some of the strangest dreams he could recall. He’d dreamed about nargles and mistletoe – though he still had no idea what exactly a nargle was, but he did recall Luna having said they lived in mistletoe.
A quiet but firm knock on the door of his flat startled Dean into jumping out of bed. Checking to make sure he was at least partially clothed, he sprinted to the door as the noise persisted. His jaw dropped when he opened it.
She held out a cup that smelled delicious. Coffee. Luna Lovegood was standing on his doorstep and she’d brought him coffee. Dean shook his head, certain this was another one of those dreams he’d had during the night.
“Daddy was impressed with your ad. He sent a copy to me by owl last night.” Luna stood quietly in the doorway.
Dean smiled. “You’re not an easy witch to find, Luna. I sent hoards of letters to just about everyone I know trying to find you.”
“Sometimes it’s all in how you do the looking, Dean. Maybe you needed to find something else before you found me.”
He didn’t know how she knew, but she did. She looked him straight in the eye, smiled, and kissed him on the forehead as she stepped through the doorway and into his flat.
“Hush. You need not explain anything. Why don’t we just start with coffee and catch up? I’ve been in some of the most interesting places lately. We got a report of a Suileach Blue Dragon being spotted in Ireland, and the funniest thing happened while I was traveling through this little village…” her voiced trailed off as she sauntered into the kitchen.
Dean chuckled. Perhaps it was good that some things from before had not changed. With Luna Lovegood now rattling about in his kitchen, it certainly felt like his after was looking much better than before.