Pairings: Luna/George, implied Snarry, implied Fred/Helena
Word Count: 3255
Summary: Some scholarship is personal.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Notes: My last spring prompt, answered: Luna/George + library! Thank you, fodirteg and shiv5468, for beta'ing.
"When a magical creature dwells long enough in a place, it leaves something of its essence behind. For those practised in the art of Essential Discernment, as I call it, such signatures may be read as one might a book; it's as if the creatures in question leave biographies of themselves to be catalogued and studied. Essential Discernment is similar, if not the same, to the abilities of Muggle Sensitives—who may have more magic in their blood than they know—but such people take readings from inanimate objects. Today, we're going to explore the vast, living library that is the Forbidden Forest."
George hangs back from Luna's lecture, which she's giving in a clearing just inside the forest. One of the benefits of having taken Hagrid's position as groundskeeper is that he can eavesdrop on Hogwarts' Care of Magical Creatures professor and watch the expressions of her students; most of them appear fascinated by her. Others appear to be as lost by her words as he feels in his meandering through life. Verity believes that Luna "makes it all up," but George just laughs her off; he's learnt a lot about the denizens of the forest through traditional study—his job and Luna's sometimes intersect—and what she describes of the creatures is never wrong—although, truth be told, her descriptions can't always be verified through empirical observation alone. He thinks that Luna must have special senses, herself, even though she's nothing like old Trelawney, no matter that this part of her class seems more like Divination than anything else.
"Let's begin with something simple. Find a tree, and tell me what creatures live in it," Luna tells her class, and the Third Years spread out to do as she asks.
Luna turns her gaze towards George, who starts; he was certain, when he first followed her class into the forest, that no one knew of his presence. Her smile is undemanding, welcoming, but she doesn't approach him, for which he's grateful. He creeps away as quietly as he can, somewhat downcast in the knowledge that Fred would have bounded over to join Luna and her students—well, all right, bounded over to join Luna, whose tits he always admired—and enjoyed the attention that his noisiness made in the process. Once, George might have done the same, but now, all he can do in the face of a bird like Luna is to watch her.
It's been almost three years now, and he still feels as if there's only half of him, half-living.
The Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff group has completed their lesson and started back to the school, but Luna continues to stand in George's secret watching spot. She doesn't need to be Sensitive to feel his sadness; he's bled traces of the emotion upon the crushed leaves where he stood, and the snapped twig there bespeaks of desperation. She sighs.
The Headmaster's voice pours over her from above: "You're the first person in which he's taken an interest in years."
"That's not entirely true, sir," Luna says, looking up to spy her students' other watcher.
Professor Snape joins her on the forest floor. "Oh?"
"He's interested in my students' reactions to me."
"Yes, to you."
"Oh. Oh, well, perhaps that's so. And I suppose that, because he's family now, you feel compelled to look after him?"
The professor arches an eyebrow at her; Luna assumes that he's somewhat taken aback by her cheek in alluding to his relationship with Harry, and by extrapolation, the professor's connection to George. She looks away before he can see in her mind just how she knows of his relationship with Harry; this is only polite because Luna notices everything. For example, she sees that the professor's robes, torn on his last vigorous outing in the forest with Harry, have been repaired; there is the tiniest hint of newer, darker thread about their hem. Interestingly enough, the hem is embroidered to appear as if the spine of a book.
"Whatever you might do to encourage his . . . interest in others would be appreciated," Headmaster Snape tells her, before following her students.
Luna smiles at his need for discretion. She's already spoken with Harry about sorting out George. She's spoken with Fred about it, as well.
Luna was right; the Doxies have been at war with the fairies for arboreal territory; clearing his mind and stroking the claw-marks in the bark, he can feel anger in a stabbing tingle against his fingertips. Upon closer inspection, he sees that some of the trees in this area of the forest have an odd, iridescent lichen growing on them. No trace of any winged creature is found on these trees. A blight of sorts, is it? Is this lichen the cause of the shortage of acceptable homes?
There's no magic in this observation, but George takes a scraping of the lichen nonetheless; he wants to analyse it because it's his job to see to it that nothing harms Hogwarts' flora and fauna.
This corridor still bears the blackened marks of battle, but there is a cheerful, teasing presence emanating from its stones. "Fred, I believe he's taken your bait," Luna announces.
"I know!" the ghost exclaims, coalescing before her. "I watched him fire up his cauldron this afternoon."
"It was very wrong of you, scaring away the gnomes. Without them around to eat that lichen—"
"Oh, it's only temporary, and you know it! Bloody gnomes always come back. Besides, now he's up off his arse and doing something more than skulking about."
"Perhaps he wouldn't skulk quite so much if you'd talk to—"
"No. I talk to Feorge, and he'll never move on. It's better this way."
Luna shakes her head at "Gred," saying, "I don't see him moving anywhere."
"You're not looking hard enough then, Madam Librarian."
Fairies are thick; they continue to return to places they can ill-defend. They're not harmless, however, as Luna reminds her class while teaching them to heal the wounds the fairies received from their Doxy competition. Her warning isn't heeded by Mary Corner, whose mouth trembles against the pain of a bite; some of the Ravenclaws laugh.
"Think that's funny, do you?" George demands, emerging from the trees into the clearing.
"Er, uh, no. No, Mr Weasley," one of the boys replies.
George grunts and moves towards Luna.
Nerves, Fred thinks, vaguely disgusted by his brother's stupid moodiness and the fact that he allows the students to call him "Mr." But at least he's talking to them, and if I'm not mistaken, that's a crate of gnomes.
He's fairly certain that they're Weasley gnomes, too, judging from what he can see through the air holes of their confused expressions, and that means that Feorge went home when he left the grounds the previous day.
Mum must've been pleased on two counts, Fred thinks, as he wraps himself around the fractious fairy in Corner's hand to freeze it into temporary stillness. Helena taught him how to do that trick; she learnt it from a book when she was living.
Ah, living! Fred smiles; he's enjoying being a ghost in ways in which he could never have imagined when he was flesh.
And that's a trick he taught himself through some rather entertaining research.
Luna's alive to the plot being simultaneously spontaneously hatched by various inhabitants of Hogwarts. She has no idea why any one of them should think that she and George would suit, except perhaps that they both enjoy sex—well, she suspects this of George; it's not as if he's had any lately—but she doesn't believe that anyone knows they have this interest in common. She often thinks about George naked; he's an attractive person, but beyond masturbating to him and worrying about him, she can't say she's romantically inclined towards him; his sadness is easy to read but too difficult to translate into a place in her life.
Besides, there's that Verity person, the one who doesn't think much of her. She's made that more than clear on the last several Hogsmeade weekends that Luna has accompanied the younger students into town. George laughed at what Verity said about Luna's ideas of Doxy life on the most recent visit, and while Luna's used to people laughing at the things she says, that George laughed with Verity at her rankles.
No, she and George won't suit, no matter what her Erotic Arithmancy book has to say on the matter.
Severus is irritated by Weasley's idiocy. Grief, he understands; prolongedly suffering the effects of it, he knows very well—but then, he didn't have any alternative to his ruined hopes in Lily's direction in which to indulge until Harry. It took a long time to accept, but he loves Harry now, and the brat knows this well enough without Severus having to declare it because Harry isn't as much of an idiot as one might believe upon first meeting him. Weasley, on the other hand, appears to have no sodding clue that Lovegood's enamoured of him—or that he's hopelessly in love with the girl. The signs are everywhere ignored by both of them.
Weasley believes that the problem is lichen.
This is a problem for Severus because Molly Weasley wants her George happy, and Harry wants Molly happy, and this happiness is supposed to occur before the end of term—which is when Ginevra is marrying Zabini.
If it had been Fred, who was always the bolder of the twins, Lovegood would be well-satisfied by now, or so Severus has it upon very good authority—and how one of Hogwarts' youngest ghosts managed to persuade the Bloody Baron to step aside for him is beyond Severus, but he suspects that the disappearance of Peeves is at the heart of things.
"I'm not an expert, but I think you're right about the Doxies if what I've read of them is true," George says to Corner and her friends, who are preparing for their Essential Discernment examinations.
They look a little nervous to see him, which is understandable. It's late in the day, and they shouldn't be in the clearing without their professor.
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone that you've snuck out to study, a waste of a lovely evening though it may be."
One of the boys laughs. Ben, that's what he's called, George thinks.
"I did collect some wing dust off the fairies," another boy notes.
"Yeah? And what are you going to do with it?"
"Morgan! I told you that was stupid! Besides, it's Doxy dust you need for a Sparkle Bomb," Mary insists.
George is intrigued. "What's a Sparkle Bomb?"
He hasn't done any product research in a long time.
"Five points to Ravenclaw," Luna tells Mary, when the girl reports that she and her friends have managed to interest Mr Weasley in a special Care of Magical Creatures project.
She's pleased that none of them told George just who invented the Sparkle Bomb as she takes herself off to the forest to observe the experimentation.
Madam Pince is furious when she comes to see him.
"The dust is everywhere, all over the books! I can't get rid of it!"
Severus gives her a spell to banish the vexatious sparkles but waits until the librarian has left his office before permitting himself to smile.
Lovegood, it seems, is doing what she can to coax George back into the land of the living.
When Severus informs Harry of this development over dinner, he can read his lover like a book: Everyone Should Be Happy is a good approximation of its title.
Severus agrees, and they forgo dinner in favour of a little "page-turning."
Luna stands in her clearing—well, this is how she thinks of it, given how much she and her students have learnt within its leafy borders this term—and feels something fresh; the emotion is almost green by scent, and it enfolds her in a kind of calm excitement. George has been working here, she sees, catching the dashing figure of a young gnome, but not just on the lichen problem.
George has been healing here.
"Isn't it well after curfew, Professor Luna?" George asks, from behind her.
Luna smiles; she hadn't heard him approach, but now that she knows he's here, it's good to feel his presence.
"Madam Pince has banned all book bags from the library because of you. She makes the students turn out their pockets before entering sometimes, as well. I suppose this means that product testing is going well?"
Turning, she sees George smirk. He used to grin, but she'll take a smirk; it's progress, and a further sign of healing.
"You're the Doxy expert, so I've got you to thank for the Sparkle Bomb, I think."
"Well, you refined on it, didn't you? I think it's rather pretty, and I enjoy the temporary euphoria post-explosion."
"Doesn't work on Madam Pince," George says, dipping his head.
"Hmm?" George asks her.
"They're supposed to be full of dust and silence, but I like them better when they're like this, full of rich scents and vibrant colours and the secret passages of their inhabitants."
"You say the oddest things."
A twinge of hurt shoots through Luna then. "You think I'm silly."
"No, I don't."
Luna sighs and feels her smile fade.
"I don't think you're silly," George insists, taking a step towards her.
"And who cares what she thinks?"
"I thought . . . I thought that you did," Luna admits, looking at the rings on her toes.
The air seems heavy, but not with magic.
It's realisation, hers, that she's feeling. And she does feel silly because she should have known: she hasn't been worried about George for Harry's sake.
George remembers this look on a girl's face; it's the expression of doubt that a boy doesn't like her, he thinks, and that means that Luna does like him. He holds his breath; his eyes dart from a tree to the canopy of leaves above them and then back to the earth. Gnome tracks are visible, like writing, upon the ground. He doesn't know why, but suddenly, this is terribly important to him.
"They're not fighting with the forest gnomes, the ones I brought from home, I mean."
"How do you know?"
Luna's voice is small, and he doesn't like that. "The tracks all lead to one big under-tree burrow, see?" he asks, taking her hand and leading her towards it.
They follow the trails of footsteps in circles and criss-crossing arcs, eventually stopping before one very tall tree with a lichen-free trunk.
"I've looked for another burrow, but there isn't one, not for at least a mile."
"They're all Hogwarts gnomes now."
"Yes," George says, liking the way interest has transfigured Luna's expression, liking the pressure of her warm hand in his. "That sensing stuff you were talking about at the start of term, I've been reading about it."
"But I'm the only one who's written about it."
"I know. I asked Corner to bring me your articles."
Luna is too pleased by this discovery to speak.
George continues, "The Doxy sign isn't angry anymore; it's hungry, busy, er, well, they're all happy now, I think, since the trees are healthier."
"And are you?"
"I guess I'd be happier if I knew that you knew that I don't think that you're silly," George tells her, taking a deep breath after this rush of words.
Now there's an electric tang to the air blowing through her hair that Luna likes; it blends well with George's healing and the other forest scents. She takes them all in as if for the first time, knowing that it's because of George that everything seems new to her.
"Would you like to see a Doxy nest?" Luna asks George, not knowing what else to say. "We'd have to fly to it because it's high up in the canopy, but there's an entire history of habitation to be read in the leaves and spittle of a Doxy nest."
She wishes that she could just tell him to kiss her, that she didn't sound as if she were lecturing, but it's nascent, what she's feeling for George, and she doesn't want it to fade before it has a chance to grow.
"Verity just manages the Wheezes, you know," George says. "We're not, er, involved."
Luna grins to know this and is delighted when George actually smiles back. It's not the sort of smile that one would give a teacher.
"You're happy now," he says. "Good."
"I like being happy with other happy people."
"I like you."
No one's ever told Luna that he likes her before, at least, not as strongly as this, and Luna leans forward.
George reads her gesture as the sign that it is, and smoothly presses his mouth to hers, his soft, sweet, smiling mouth. Luna parts her lips and invites George in with her tongue, all thoughts of reading Doxies forgotten as fairy light twinkles above them.
Fred has no trouble discerning the embracing figures beneath him as he floats amongst the leaves with Helena. Persuading her to leave the castle has been a slow process, but a worthwhile one. Despite her history with the Bloody Baron, she's a romantic at heart.
"You say that she calls this place a library? How odd."
"Nah, how Luna. She likes to read everything—most Ravenclaws do, so I hear."
"Yeah, exactly," Fred says, understanding Helena's meaning at once. "You can read those, so—"
"Reading the trees and other forest signs—"
"Isn't odd at all."
Mr and Mrs Blaise Zabini dance their first dance as a married couple in Hogwarts' Great Hall during a reception that is attended by all the Weasley brothers, alive and otherwise, and Severus is pleased: Harry will no longer worry about George, and Luna will now, he hopes, be too preoccupied by George to spend any time cataloguing just how he and Harry occasionally spend their forest outings.
This thought makes him feel rather animated, indeed, but he takes care to avoid a certain gnome-infested clearing as he leads Harry into another part of the Forbidden Forest to make it their own.
For good measure, he takes some of their mingled essence and uses it in a warding spell to be certain that the place remains theirs alone.
Luna talks in her sleep, and George, as he awakens to the first faint rays of the morning's light on a cushion of leaves and Luna's bosom, finds that he still enjoys eavesdropping on her. He's not surprised when she murmurs reassurances about him to Gred, whose presence he can now sense again as if it had never left him. He finally understands why his brother's been absent for so long, and gratitude is enough to ease the relieved stinging of his eyes.
Blinking away his welling tears, he calls, "Stop staring at my future wife's tits, you git!"
"Wasn't!" Fred insists.
"Was," says George, grinning as he piles more leaves upon his "librarian."
Oh, he knows his brother did more than listen to them during the night, but that doesn't matter to him; he suspects that Luna also wouldn't mind knowing that they'd been observed.
He also knows, as Fred's cheeky grin disperses in the dawn, that he's found something essential in Luna; he's not so bloody thick as to fail to understand what it is, and he's looking forward to cataloguing all the ways in which he can find to love her.
He's done with meandering through life and ready to live it again.