Recipient: the community
Word count: ~6600
Rating/warning(s): rated R for Character death, violence, and non-graphic sex
Summary: After Dean was murdered, Luna, the last person to see him alive, doesn't know what to do. When an old friend of his comes to town asking questions, Luna is drawn to him. Perhaps, she told herself, Harry potter would help her move on.
Author's Note: I've never written mystery (or Harry/Luna, come to think of it), so I hope you enjoy it! ♥ The title comes from a song of the same name by PJ Harvey.
Disclaimer: This piece of art or fiction is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made, no copyright or trademark infringement, or offence is intended. All characters depicted in sexual situations are above the age of consent.
It rained the day Dean died. When word finally got round to Luna, the streets were flooded over and the dirt in her gardens had run up over the walkway, sludgy and thick. It rained at his wake—a closed casket, the town had muttered, rumors of a bloody murder flying up and down the streets—and it didn't stop until ten minutes before the funeral.
Everyone was there, from the entire Weasley family to old Mister Dumbledore, his bright purple top hat standing out over the top of the crowd as they made their way from the church to the graveyard. Luna smiled. Dean would be happy, knowing that his funeral had a bit of color. He'd always hated black.
But then, she reconsidered, he was an artist of many colors, so he couldn't very well like the absence of them, could he?
"The Lord is my shepherd," Minister Fudge began as they all stood around the edge of the grave, watching in solemn silence as the younger men lowered the casket down. Minister Fudge was a rather self-important man who was known to go on for hours and hours, long enough that even Mrs. Weasley brought a paperback to church most Sundays.
"Luna," Ginny squeezed through the crowd, pulling at her coat sleeve.
"Ginny," Luna returned.
"I'm sorry," her old friend said, her brows drawn together and her eyes damp. "I can't believe it… Dean."
"It's terrible," Luna said, ignoring the dirty looks of several of the men around them.
"They're saying he was murdered," Ginny continued. "Have you heard?" And yes, Luna said, she had. The entire town of Hogsmeade was outraged about the very idea, a murderer! There hadn't been a single scandal in forties years, the older women had said, which was utter tosh. Just a week before, Seamus Finnegan had nearly been run out of town for knocking Lavender Brown up the duff. Dean had been the only thing standing in the way of that particular ending. "I wonder if it's true," Ginny continued nervously. "Inspector Shacklebolt has been talking to people. Bill—" Her eyes cut across the crowd to her family. When she resumed speaking, her tone was hushed. "Bill said they've been questioning Mr. Lupin. You remember him?"
"Oh, he was a lovely teacher," Luna said. "I can't imagine he would want to hurt anyone, except maybe himself." She hummed thoughtfully. "He's always been so sad. He comes to the commune sometimes, you know. He takes pottery there."
"Didn't Dean teach pottery?" Ginny asked eagerly.
"No, that was Padma. Dean never had a hand for pottery."
Luna liked to believe she was a woman of preternatural patience and Ginny was a very good friend, but there was only so much speculation she could take. Just as she'd opened her mouth to inform the other woman of the poisonous aura her unnecessary guesses were sending into the atmosphere, she caught sight of something most unusual.
A man, not too tall and not too short, stood just outside the circle of people gathered around Dean's grave. The coat he wore was drenched, as if he'd skipped the wake altogether and stood in the rain until everyone arrived. He definitely wasn't from Hogsmeade, as everyone knew everyone in the small town—whether they liked it or not. She squinted, trying to get a better look. The man must have noticed her odd attention, because he frowned and looked at her.
"… do you think?" Ginny looked at her strangely. "Did you hear a word I just said, Luna?"
"No," Luna said honestly. "But I'm afraid I can't stay for a repeat." The man turned, walking off.
"I'm sorry, Luna. That was awfully insensitive of me, wasn't it? I forget how close you two—"
"Goodbye, Ginny," Luna rushed, stepping around her flabbergasted friend and out of the funeral party altogether. She hurried after the man, his hunched over figure making its way down the woodchip path back to town. She'd been afraid she would lose him with how fast he was moving, but the man stopped suddenly, turning around. He looked straight at her, and Luna hurried on until she caught up. "Hello," she said.
"Hi," the man said, shifting uncomfortably. "Do—can I help you?" He sounded unsure.
"I don't think so," Luna said. "I was just wondering, you see. I don't know you."
"Oh," the man said. "Well, uh—"
"And I thought that you must have known him," she pressed on. "Did you?"
"Know him," the man repeated. "Yeah, I knew him. Dean, you mean, right? Yeah."
"I'm sorry," she said. "I knew him too, and it's very sad that he's gone."
"Oh," the man said again. He didn't seem to be a very good conversationalist, but Luna decided she probably didn't need to tell him that. "How—um, I mean," he fumbled over his words, the bridge of his nose spreading a bright flush down his cheeks. "How did you know him?" She caught his eyes drift to her hands and laughed.
"We worked together," she said, smiling dreamily. "He said we were friends, which was quite nice as I don't have a whole lot of those." The man looked even less comfortable then, scratching the back of his head.
"Sorry," he said awkwardly.
"It's all right," Luna assured him. "It's not as if it was your fault. I'm Luna, by the way. Luna Lovegood." She grabbed his hand, her smile stretching wider when she felt how he started at the simple touch.
"Harry," he said finally, gripping her hand firmly for a moment before shaking her off. "Harry Potter."
"It's nice to meet you, Harry Potter," Luna said very seriously. "And where did you meet Dean?"
"We went to school together, through secondary," he said. "Played football a lot, too."
"So you knew him from before he came here?" Luna asked curiously. "I always wondered where he came from. Would you like to see his studio?"
"No," Harry said firmly. "I have something to do, and—I need to go." He backed away, watching her. Luna had the strange feeling that he was frightened.
"Perhaps later," she offered. "It's very easy to find. Gryffinclaw is the only art school in town." He nodded curtly and walked back down the path, his shoulders rigid.
At the top of the path, Luna saw the sermon had ended and everyone was mingling. Mrs. Weasley had a bright red kerchief pressed against her eyes. She smiled at the bright color and caught one of her earrings, little miniature radishes her mother had made for her. Dean would definitely have approved.
It was a pity that the overall pleasant mood of the funeral hadn't continued into the next day. Everyone wanted to blame someone. There wasn't a single person who wasn't speculating about the identity of the murderer, as ready to accuse their own neighbor as any stranger passing through. Luna didn't hold much stock with the gossipmongers of Hogsmeade, perhaps because she'd been a much talked about item for so long. It wasn't until Inspector Shacklebolt showed up on her doorstep that she even bothered to think about how Dean died at all.
"Miss Lovegood," he nodded. "I don't suppose you have some time on your hands?"
"I always have time," Luna said, "so long as I'm alive. Come in." She ushered the tall man into her sitting room, pushing him into a chair dominated by a lime green afghan and offering him tea.
"Not today, I think." He pulled out a notepad and a pen. "I had a few questions, actually."
"I don't think I have any answers, but feel free to ask," she said solemnly. Shacklebolt snorted.
"The night that Dean died," he thumbed through the pages, finding a blank one, "do you know where he was?"
"Well," Luna began, "I don't know exactly where he was, you see. Only, Dean had mentioned needing to be somewhere."
"Needing to be somewhere?"
"Oh yes," Luna said. "I had to cover his classes for the night. He's never missed any classes before, so everyone knew right away that he wasn't anywhere in town."
"If everyone realized it, then you're the first to say it," Shacklebolt said dryly. "The general consensus seems to be that Dean went fishing that night."
"Fishing!" Luna cried indignantly. "That's ridiculous? He said—" She stopped, frowning.
"He said?" The Inspector leaned forward.
"I'm having trouble remember," Luna said apologetically. "It seemed very unimportant. I didn't know he was going to—to die," she said finally.
"No one but the murderer did, I'm sure," Shacklebolt shrugged.
"Then you're certain it was murder?"
"Cause of death was strangulation," he replied. "And he was cut up badly, as well. Whoever did him in apparently couldn't wait until the blood stopped flowing."
"I see," Luna said faintly, torn between a mournful disgust and morbid fascination. "But, from what I remember," she tried again. "He said he had an appointment outside of town. It was something important to him."
"Did he mention what kind of appointment?" Shacklebolt was jotting things down in on the pad of paper. Luna scrunched her nose, shaking her head.
"He wasn't very specific."
"All right," Shacklebolt said. He stood up, giving her a curt nod. "That will be all then, Miss Lovegood, but if you remember anything at all about that night…" He slipped a card out of his coat pocket and dropped it onto the table. "Contact me."
"Of course," she said. "But I don't see how I would know anything." The Inspector paused in front of the door and gave her crooked smile.
"Because, Miss Lovegood," he said, the odd tone of his voice sending a chill down her spine, "from what we could find, you were the last person to see Dean Thomas alive."
The night after Inspector Shacklebolt had visited, Luna had a series of dreams, each and every one of them about Dean. Dean calling for help, Dean trying to tell her something. He had tried to tell her something that afternoon. With every passing day, she became more and more certain of that, going so far as to go through her old friend's office at the studio. Surely, she thought desperately, surely he would have left a hint of some sort.
As a child, she had been on another plane, not living in the present reality so much as physically existing there. It wasn't until she was older, more grounded, that she found herself in the present, and it wasn't until she met Dean that someone could so easily understand being split between two worlds. "Artists," he had shrugged, smiling, "are just that way, you know?" If he had left anything for her, it would have been in a place that only she would have known.
At half three, she finally gave up and went out for a late lunch, flipping the sign on the front to closed with the intention of leaving it there for the rest of the day.
"Lovegood," Luna corrected automatically, blinking at the man on the doorstep. "Harry Potter!"
"Yeah." He looked flustered. "I had some time," he explained. "I thought, well, maybe I could take a look at his studio."
"Oh, that would be nice," she said. "I'm going to lunch right now, though. Would you like to join me?" While he seemed wary of her company, Harry agreed, and she led him down the street, mindful of the townspeople's' watching eyes as they sat in a booth at Rosmerta's café.
"You must have been very close to Dean to have come here for his death," Luna observed after they'd given their orders. "Especially as you seem to be staying."
"We—we weren't really all that close," he said sheepishly. "I mean, before he died, we hadn't seen each other in, oh, about five years. But I wanted to see the funeral, and I guess I just like it here."
"Where did you come from?"
"Where did I…?" Harry poured a heavy dose of milk into his tea, swirling it absentmindedly in the glass and taking a sip. "Surrey," he said. "I lived there for a long time. I've been in London recently, though."
"London sounds fun. I've always wanted to spend time there, but no one much leaves Hogsmeade."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked. "'No one leaves?'"
"Just what I said—no one much leaves." Luna leaned her elbows on to the table, her gaze drawn out the window. "Dean was one of a few people who weren't born and raised here. Most of us start here and end here." She stared dreamily out the window. "I suppose Dean at least did one of those things." Harry shifted uncomfortably.
"I guess he did," he said finally. "You and him—did you, I guess, know him really well?"
"Only, I'd been wondering," Harry's expression was guarded, "I wondered if he'd changed much."
"Oh, I imagine everyone changes in five years," Luna agreed. "But I like to think I know the present him." She frowned. "Knew."
The conversation was stilted for the remainder of lunch, weighed down by the grief kept quiet between the two of them. By the time they were back to the studio, Luna wondered how Harry even managed to stand upright in his sorrow.
"He always was a good artist," Harry said reverently, skimming his fingertips over the surface of one of Dean's works. It was his least popular. Most everyone seemed to think it was too dreary, the coloring too dark, and the people too twisted looking. Luna had spent a great deal of time thinking about the piece: a group of four boys in a strange urban area at night, kicking human heads around. It was beyond disturbing in the eyes of most of the people who saw it. The boys' bodies were all twisted, like rotted tree roots shooting out of the ground. The moon was less a moon and more a smudge in the sky, tinted dark. Indeed, the painting, untitled, did give off a rather disturbing vibe.
"He was," she replied. "More of his things are in the main gallery, really, but I supposed that you would want to see his early things first." She thumbed the plaque on the wall beneath the painting. "He finished this about three months after he moved here." Harry seemed transfixed, his hand flat on the canvas, almost fully covering the boys. "Where are you staying?" She asked. Harry started, apparently having forgotten she was there.
"An inn," he said. "It's down the street from the café we ate at."
"Oh, of course. How long?"
"How long?" He echoed, frowning.
"How long are you staying?" She persisted.
"I hadn't thought about it," he replied. "A week more? It depends."
"If you need someone to show you around, just ask," Luna offered. "It's difficult to be all alone." She knew that well enough. Harry was surprised by the offer. He watched her, standing stock still with one hand on the canvas, as she scurried around the room, pushing all the things she'd been going through earlier back into place.
"Luna," he said suddenly. She stopped, pushing a few loose strands of hair from her eyes. "Would you like to go to dinner?" He flushed darkly, stammering. "I mean, as thanks! For—for being so helpful, and all."
"That would be nice," she said.
Harry looked very handsome when he showed up at the shop that night. He'd apparently gone shopping, too. At lunch, he'd been dressed shoddily, his shirt and trousers too big and threadbare, his hair unkempt. When he stepped through the door that night, he'd managed to tame his hair and find a nice button-up and pair of khakis. He did not look at all like a man who belonged in Hogsmeade.
"You look very handsome," Luna told him when he offered his arm. The tips of his ears turned red.
"You too," he said. He looked nervous.
"Where are we going?" She asked.
"I've been looking around, and there was a place down the way that looked good," he said. "But if you don't like it, you just should say—"
"I like most everything," she said matter of factly. Harry laughed, the first one she'd heard from him.
"You look much better when you're smiling," she said to him. He stammered out a 'thank you' and pulled her down the street, looking determinedly at his feet.
"This is it," he announced, stopping. "Italian, right?"
"Yes," Luna said. Then, "This was Dean's favorite place, too." Time stopped and Harry's expression shuttered, the smile dropping off as if it had never been there at all.
"We don't have to go here," he said finally. "I didn't know."
"How could you?" Luna shook her head. "I like this place as well, you know. There's no reason not to go here."
"But if you're not comfortable with it—"
"I think you're the one who isn't comfortable with it," she said honestly. His mouth clicked shut, and she grabbed his arm, pulling in the door. "It's nothing," she said. "It's just a memory."
Harry had become a strange fixture in Luna's life, filling the hole that Dean had left and spilling over into everything else. He wasn't an artist, however, and was not employed at all. 'Independently wealthy' was the only job he would ever admit to having, and Luna decided that meant he simply found work tedious and had decided not to do it. She could almost have believed that life was back to normal were it not for the dreams.
The dreams she'd been having of Dean grew increasingly dark, going so far as to create scenarios of his murder that sent her clawing at her sheets, waking soaked in sweat, her heart pounding. Dean had tried to tell her something that last afternoon. If only she could remember what!
Now, however, she wondered if Dean was still trying to tell her something.
The investigation had come to a standstill. The most popular rumor was that the murderer was too clever. He'd left nothing at all behind, no weapon, no fingerprints, had simply vanished as quickly as he'd come.
One night, Harry came to her home for dinner, and she told him all about the rumors.
"They'll find something else to talk about eventually," he said heavily. "You won't believe the number of people watching me like I was the one who did it!"
"They're like that," Luna offered. "You're an outsider, so naturally you'd be the one suspected. Has the Inspector come to see you?"
"Inspector?" Harry asked blankly.
"Inspector Shacklebolt," she replied. "He came to ask me questions after the funeral. He said I was the last one to see Dean."
"I'm sorry," Harry said, a sliver of his old awkwardness showing through. He'd been there for two months, and it had taken just as long to keep him from being so closed up. Luna swiftly changed the topic.
He wasn't fond of talking about Dean. He wasn't fond of much of anything but her, it seemed, and Luna always found it strange that he dodged any questions about where he'd been before he came to Hogsmeade.
He'd been in Hogsmeade for nearly three months, renting a room above Aberforth Dumbledore's pub, when he started acting strangely, enough so that even Luna had to take notice.
The newspaper had begun running stories about an old homicide case in Surrey. Harry had taken one look at it—the headline said NEW EVIDENCE LINKING SUSPICIOUS DEATHS OF TWO BOYS IN SURREY and was hardly difficult to spot—and tossed it in the bin, refusing to so much as look at it. Luna thought nothing of it until Inspector Shacklebolt began coming around work more and more often, always asking about Harry.
"If you suspect him of something, why don't you speak to him rather than me?" Luna asked. "It's not as if I know much more than anyone else."
"He spends more time with you than in his own place," he said. "You're the obvious choice."
"The obvious choice is the least likely," Luna replied. "I don't think Harry's done anything."
Shacklebolt watched her closely for a moment, sipping tea from the chipped cup she'd dug out for him. Then he dropped a paper in her lap. It was the article from that morning; the one Harry had taken one look at and thrown aside.
"What are you asking me, Inspector?" She asked, smoothing the crumpled paper with shaking hands. "If Harry's the one who killed him?"
"No, Miss Lovegood," Shacklebolt said. "I don't need to ask that. What I'd like to know is if Harry has seen this paper."
"This morning," Luna answered uneasily. The whole situation felt wrong. How could anyone think Harry could have been involved with anything criminal? How could they think he would have hurt Dean?
"And how did he react?' Shacklebolt had the pad of paper out again, the pen poised to jot down anything incriminating that she might have to say. Luna wanted to wrench it out of his hands and tear it to pieces and throw them away so no one could ever see them, could ever think that Harry—her Harry—would ever do something so terrible.
"I don't know," she said, looking at the floor. "He didn't react at all, I don't think." He'd thrown it away, he'd gotten rid of it immediately! Her mind shrieked. Why protect him if he's innocent?
By the look on his face, the Inspector was wondering the same thing.
"We've found letters," he continued. "He was coming to meet Dean on the day he died."
"That's not true," Luna said. "He was in London." But he hadn't exactly told her that, had he? She couldn't recall if he'd ever said where he'd been when Dean was murdered, or how he'd found out, and that frightened her.
"The letter sounded very odd, I have to admit," Kingsley continued. "Potter kept repeating something about it 'being time to fix an old mistake'. You wouldn't happen to know what he meant, would you?"
"No," she said stiffly. "I don't know anything."
"I see. If you happen to recall anything, Miss Lovegood, as always I am a phone call away."
Of course he was, she thought waspishly, but that didn't mean she'd ever dial him.
When Harry came by as she was closing the gallery that night, Luna was beside herself. She'd spent all day turning over the Inspector's words, wondering what it all meant.
"You all right?" Harry asked as they made their way to her flat.
"I'm fine," Luna said, letting him in and closing the door. "Harry—" How does one ask whether their houseguest is a murderer? She didn't want to, didn't think it possible, but she had to know.
"Yeah?" Harry threw his coat over the couch.
"The—the newspaper this morning," she began, watching his face darken.
"What of it?" He snapped.
"The Inspector came to ask me about," she continued, just barely. Harry grew increasingly agitated; his face flushed an angry red.
"About it? You mean about it, about me?" He asked. "They think I've—Dean," he said in a strangled voice. "They think I did it, then?"
"I don't know," she said. "I don't think you did." It was all she could offer him, and it wasn't even true, not fully. Shacklebolt's words, the letters, left her with a nagging feeling of suspicion. She'd know Harry for a few months, but what of the twenty-some years before that? What of the day her old friend had died? She hadn't known the man standing before her then, so she couldn't very well say she knew he hadn't done it.
"I should go,' he said stiffly.
"No," Luna said softly, pulling him away from the door. "Stay." And that was all Harry needed to hear.
It was so easy, too easy, to let Harry wrap her in his arms and pull her close, to guide him backward to the bedroom, to relax under his weight. His hands jerked up her skirt, shoving it around her waist, and Luna sighed, running her hands under his shirt, feeling his heart racing in his chest.
It was all too easy to forget.
"Thank you," he said, pressing his lips to her neck. They moved slowly, unhurried.
"It's all right," she said, for no reason other than that she knew he needed to hear it. There was something about Harry, a heaviness that she could never understand. Her hands smoothed over his back, pushing the weight he carried off him like smoothing wrinkled paper.
"It's—Sorry," he mumbled against her neck, and she wanted to know why he was always so sorry, but his hand went between her legs and rubbed. Her toes curled, and she bit her lip, groaning.
"Oh," she pushed her hips into his hand. "Oh!"
"You feel so good," he said, his free hand jerking his trousers down to his knees. Luna spread her legs as wide as she could, hooking him in with her thighs.
"In me," she said, her voice breathy and light.
"Fuck," he grunted, his dick pushing between her thighs, his hands shifting to grab her hips and hold her still. "Luna—"
"Now," she cut in. "I'm ready." When he slid in, Luna sighed happily, her hips jerking in his grip to quicken the pace.
It was so good, forgetting.
All good things, Luna's mother had told her when she was young, must end. She shouldn't have been surprised when the walls crashed down around her, but she was.
The article was old, several years. Shacklebolt had handed it to her that very morning, impressing upon her the importance of reading it, when she'd come to pick up Dean's things from the police station.
"There isn't anything else we can get from any of this," the Inspector said, handing her the box. "Be careful."
She didn't understand at the time why he'd said that, but now, oh, now she did.
The article—articles, really—had been among Dean's things, stowed away in his flat. It was from Surrey, five years earlier.
"I mean, before he died, we hadn't seen each other in, oh, about five years. But I wanted to see the funeral, and I guess I just like it here."
Dean had had a gun on him the night he'd died. She pulled it from the evidence box, setting it on the kitchen counter, and paced her flat, the article trapped in her fist.
Surrey. Five years earlier.
"Surrey," he said. "I lived there for a long time. I've been in London recently, though."
Harry had—she took a deep breath, covering her mouth with her hand. It couldn't be!
Death of two boys linked! Classmates questioned
It couldn't be.
Harry Potter of Surrey gave a statement to the Surrey PD regarding the deaths of his close friends—
Harry, she thought, lied to her. A white-hot anger bubbled up inside her, the force of her startling even herself. He'd lied to her, he'd killed Dean. Maybe even those two boys all those years ago.
Surrey, she read again. Five years.
Dropping the article to the ground, she strode across the kitchen and grabbed the phone, dialing quickly.
"Harry," she said into the receiver. "Meet me at the gallery, would you?"
She couldn't let this go.
The rage was still gripping her tightly when Harry stepped into the room behind her, Dean's old office. She watched him walk behind the desk before she pulled the gun out.
"What the—Luna?" Harry gaped. "What are you doing?"
"You lied to me," she said. "Dean," she said. "You killed him." Her voice was deceptively soft, and Harry seemed to sense the danger.
"Luna!" He cried, holding his arms out straight. "Stop! You have to listen—"
"Listen?" Luna demanded, incensed. "You lied to me! You killed him!" She gripped the gun tightly, her hands shaking, her eyes bulging and wild. "I trusted you!" She cried.
"You can still trust me, Luna! I didn't kill him!" Harry tried to take a step forward, but Luna jolted, her finger poised on the trigger. Dean's gun, she thought, her mind whirling with the irony of it all. Dean's gun would kill the beast who stole her friend from her.
"I don't believe you," she grit out, watching Harry's panic-stricken face over the barrel.
"Please," he begged, his hands held out. "Don't do this. Not until you know the truth!"
"I know the truth," she said coldly, "and it's all I need to know." The first shot missed just barely, and Harry cried out, trying to shield his face with his arms. She fired the second shot immediately, running high on self-righteous adrenaline. The shot didn't miss, hitting the man straight in the jaw, blowing the entire lower half of his face clean off. Harry collapsed immediately. His eyes were open, Luna noticed detachedly as the gun slipped from her limp hands and clattered against the ground. An empty green.
Harry was dead.
Luna could feel liquid pouring down her cheeks, knew her vision was blurring. She wiped furiously at her eyes. If killing a killer felt so painful, she couldn't imagine how Harry had lived with himself all that time he'd been in Hogsmeade. Was it possible for any man to be so cruel, so uncaring?
She had to call Inspector Shacklebolt. He had been correct, after all, even if she hadn't been willing to see it. Willing her hands to stop shaking, Luna reached for the phone, only to shriek and jump as one of the paintings fell from the wall, hitting the ground with a loud shatter as the glass from the frame broke.
Breathing deeply, she moved around the desk, tiptoeing warily around Harry's body to the painting. It was Dean's, she realized. The painting she'd shown Harry that very first day they'd spent together. Biting back the fury of being so utterly betrayed by the man, she crouched down and grabbed the painting, shaking the glass off and pulling the frame off the back. She'd need a new one, of course. Maybe she'd even move it back to the front gallery so—
An envelope fell to the ground as she pulled the frame away. Luna paused, staring curiously at it before crouching back down and setting the painting itself gently on the ground. The envelope was thick. She slit it open with her thumb and pulled out what looked to be some sort of letter, and a picture of five boys. She gasped, one hand going over her mouth.
Dean, she saw immediately. He was standing on the left, next to a boy who had to be Harry. To Harry's right was a grinning redheaded boy with his arm slung casually over Harry's shoulder and the shoulders of the boy to his right, a round faced boy with a nervous smile and brown hair. On the far right was blond boy with pointed features and sharp gray eyes. He didn't seem to belong with the four other boys, yet there he was. Intrigued, Luna turned the photo over. June 8th, 2001, it read. The picture had been taken six years earlier, then, a year before whatever happened between Harry and Dean had happened and caused her friend to move to Hogsmeade.
The letter, she noticed upon returning to it, was addressed to her.
I hope to God that you never need to find this. I wish I didn't have to write it, to be honest, but better safe than sorry. I should have been honest right from the start of everything, but I never had the chance. None of us did.
Luna frowned. The letter was handwritten, and Dean had apparently been having a hard time holding still, if the shaky handwriting and near illegibility was anything to consider.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you're reading this, I'm probably dead. I can't really think of any other reason for you to have taken my painting out of the frame, unless you're doing some sort of weird ritual or spring-cleaning, in which case I would suggest you put this back immediately, if you could manage.
To the point, it's all in the picture. Six years ago, I made a mistake. We all did. Five years ago, we began to regret that mistake. Only three of us are alive to regret it today. Well, unless I'm dead. Then it's just two.
The others in the photo, in order from the left: Me, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy. Neville was the first to die.
You have to understand, we were stupid. We were seventeen and we thought we were invincible. I think Neville, really, was the first to realize we weren't.
Malfoy, see, he didn't like Neville to begin with. He was only there because Harry insisted (and don't worry, I'll get to Harry later). The rest of us thought he was an arse, always showing off his daddy's wealth. We hated him, really. But Harry, see, Harry's a good guy. He didn't like anyone getting the short end of the stick, so we got stuck with Malfoy.
Malfoy was OUR short end of the stick.
We thought it was a mistake at first, you know, when Neville died. Maybe it really was. Who knows? But one day, we were all together, like usual, and Malfoy has this idea. He thought we should all go to the construction area on the other side of town. It was just some stupid place that everyone always dared everyone to go to but no one ever went because it really was dangerous. Things were always being blown up, for whatever they did, and there were a ton of high up areas.
So, naturally, we all thought this was a grand idea. Except Neville. Neville was the one who was least likely to get into trouble. He was the quiet, shy guy who got bullied when he was in primary school. So, he says it's a bad idea. Malfoy, loudly, says that Neville should just shut his mouth. He always tried to nix Malfoy's ideas because they were always BAD ideas. But this time the rest of us agreed with Malfoy, not that we phrased it that way, so Neville went along with it.
It was fine at first. We ended up playing Man Hunt, which is really just tag for bigger kids, and it was great. It was great right up until Neville went flying off the top of one of the way high up construction platforms and cracked his head open on the pavement, right between me and Ron.
He was dead, and we both knew it. Harry came running, but Malfoy didn't show up for another minute or so, but Ron swore at the time that he'd seen Malfoy at the top. He thought Malfoy'd pushed Neville, and I can't say that I didn't agree.
We didn't know what to do. It was stupid, and now I wish we'd gone to the police, but we all ran. We agreed that we hadn't gone to the construction site and went home. When they found his body a few days later, we kept our mouths shut. When they ruled it homicide, we kept our mouths shut. When they arrested the foreman, we had a harder time keeping quiet.
Malfoy told us if we just kept quiet, no one would know. Harry said we couldn't, that someone who hadn't been involved was in trouble because of us, but Malfoy just said we had to keep our mouths shut or we'd all be sorry. A year later, we figured out what that meant.
The guilt killed all of us. Everyone thought we were just grieving over Neville, but we knew what had happened. It was our fault. But Harry, Malfoy, and I kept our mouths shut. It was Ron who cracked first. I don't know even now what happened, but apparently, Ron couldn't take it and tried to go to the police, only Malfoy got to him first. Pushed him in front of a car, I think it was. At that point, the four of us barely spoke to each other, so who knows?
But there it was. And Harry and I didn't say a damn thing. We were in too deep at that point, so why bother? But then, things got worse. With Ron's death, they decided to reopen Neville's case in the belief that they were connected. Apparently, they'd proven the foreman's innocence. It was about a month before I'd planned to start a university nearby and live at home. Harry convinced me not to.
Harry, I think, knew exactly what was going on. He'd been the closest to Malfoy, just as he'd been the closest to all of us. He told me to forget about staying where we were, we had to leave, and we had to leave separately. I wanted to argue, but we both knew the truth. Ron dying wasn't a coincidence.
I don't know where Harry is now, but I know for a fact that it's best that way. I'm hoping Malfoy will leave it alone, you know? Let it drop. I don't have a lot of faith in that though, especially not now.
I read in the paper this morning that there was new evidence in the case with Ron, even though it's been five years since his death. It's only a matter of time, really. Malfoy was always more concerned with his own arse than any of us.
I hope you never find this. I really hope you do. But if you have, you're the only one I trust, Luna. If you've found this, then you have to find Harry. If he's dead, then you have to go to the police. We've all been cowards, letting this go on like it has. You understand things better than anyone I've ever met. Don't let this mistake go on any longer.
All the best,
"No," Luna's hands shook, her eyes blurred once again, the weight of her actions hitting her. "Please," she said thickly, "no." But it was too late to take back. Harry was gone. Dean was gone. Luna was no better than that Malfoy boy was.
Her breath was coming in short puffs, her chest seized in panic. She'd killed him. Harry was dead, and he'd tried to tell her! He'd begged her, begged for the chance to tell her. She could have saved him. She could have ended all of it, all of the terror. Together, she and Harry could have stopped Malfoy and been happy.
The letter fell from her grasp as her hands flew to her face. "It's—" she sobbed, weighed down by the truth of it. "It's not fair!"
Behind her, a low voice chuckled. "Harry—" She said thickly, trying to turn around. Hands caught her, holding her still.
"No," the man said. "He's very dead, in case you hadn't noticed." Luna's eyes cut down to the ground, focusing through her veil of tears on Harry's vacant eyes. "And I do thank you for that."
"No," Luna said, her stomach dropping, her mouth dry.
"Yes," the man said viciously. "Now what I need from you," his voice was against her ear, "is that letter you have."
Luna froze. "Letter?" She spun around, her eyes locking on to sharp gray ones, pointed features, blond hair.
"The letter," the man confirmed. A gun barrel pressed into her ribs, just below her breast. "And by now," he continued, "you must realize who I am." Malfoy cocked the trigger, pressing it firmly into her.