By the Light of the Night Rose
Hermione was humming happily as she helped clear up after
the DA meeting had come to a close, lost in her daydreams. She didn’t notice
she had company until a voice spoke over her shoulder, making her jump.
“Oh—hi, Luna,” Hermione said after she saw who it was. “Er … for what?”
“That Ron asked you out. Harry told me.” Hermione didn’t miss the fond look Luna cast over at the other side of the room, where Harry and Ron were also clearing up, deep in conversation. She’d suspected for a while that Luna might have a crush on him, but he (as always) was oblivious—and with Luna, it was really impossible to be certain.
“Yes, he did,” Hermione said, bringing her thoughts back to her own crush, without too much difficulty. “He’s planned something special for tomorrow. It’s Valentine’s Day,” she added, not sure whether Luna was aware of that.
“Oh yes, I know. I have plans with Harry,” Luna replied matter-of-factly.
“Really?” Hermione said in astonishment. “He hasn’t said anything to me!”
“That’s because he doesn’t know yet.”
“You won’t say anything, will you?”
“Er, Luna … You and Harry …” Hermione didn’t know how to say it. She was pretty sure Harry only thought of Luna as a friend. Not that they had specifically discussed the subject, but … after five years of knowing him, she could read him pretty well.
“It’s okay,” Luna said, as if she knew what Hermione was thinking. “I know. I have it all planned.”
“You mean …” Hermione couldn’t help a smile. “You’re planning to woo him?”
Luna just smiled mysteriously.
“Well—be careful, Luna. Please. You two have a good friendship going; I wouldn’t want to see that—”
“I know what I’m doing, Hermione,” Luna said, slightly less dreamily. “Please just promise me you won’t tell him anything, all right?”
“All right.” Though what Luna’s definition of ‘wooing’ might be, Hermione had no idea. She hoped this wouldn’t end in tears.
Harry, unlike his friends, had not been looking forward to today. With the exception of last year and his second year, Valentines Days had usually been ignored among them. But this year, Ron had finally mustered the courage to ask Hermione out (about bloody time, in Harry’s opinion), and had chosen to arrange their first date on that day.
It wasn’t that Harry wasn’t happy for them. He was, he really was. But he also really wasn’t in the mood for the lovey-dovey stuff right now. He had been feeling enough like the third wheel lately, and he knew it would be ten times worse today. He and Cho had been decidedly off since the beginning of the year, and he couldn’t muster the effort to look for a date for the sake of it.
All in all, when his alarm went off on the morning of the fourteen, he didn’t want to get out of bed.
Ron, most unusually, bounded out with a grin on his face, talking nineteen to the dozen about the picnic he’d arranged on the Astronomy Tower. Harry already knew the details, right down to every rose petal that would be scattered over the blanket for when Hermione arrived, and didn’t need to be told a tenth time.
“Come on mate, get up!”
Harry groaned in response and pulled his covers up over his head. Maybe he could pretend he was sick so he could stay right here and avoid all the couple-y stuff.
“It’s Valentine’s Day!”
“Really, I had no idea,” Harry mumbled into his pillow.
Ron pulled his covers down. “Don’t be such a grump—Is that an apple?”
It crossed Harry’s mind that the last statement might have been a feeble attempt to get him to sit up and open his eyes, but he couldn’t help it—his curiosity was piqued by the statement. Upon sitting up and opening his eyes, he found Ron staring in bewilderment at his bedside table. Harry followed his line of gaze.
An ordinary red apple was sitting on Harry’s bedside table. There was nothing to indicate how it had got there, but a small tag was attached to the stalk that read: DO NOT EAT.
Ron and Harry looked at each other.
“Well,” Ron said, “as Valentines go, that’s probably the oddest I’ve ever seen.”
“Don’t be stupid; it’s not a Valentine.” Harry picked the apple up and looked at it closely. It appeared to be completely ordinary. “It can’t be. Why would anyone give me an apple and tell me not to eat it?”
“Reverse psychology?” Ron suggested. “Maybe You-Know-Who sent it and it’s poisoned!”
Harry snorted. “Yeah, I’m sure Voldemort’s really in the habit of sending poisoned fruit with reverse psychology. More likely it belongs to Dean or Neville or Seamus and they don’t want someone else to eat it.”
“What’s wrong with a name tag? I dunno, Harry, maybe you should take it to Dumbledore.”
Harry thought Dumbledore probably had better things to do than check mysterious pieces of fruit for poison, but thought with a sigh that Ron was probably right to be cautious. “Fine. I will. After breakfast.” He dropped the apple in his schoolbag and slid out of bed.
At breakfast Harry got another surprise.
He dropped into his seat, staring in disbelief at his plate, upon which sat a circle of rope. There was no tag attached to this one.
“Okay, I take it back,” Ron said. “That is the oddest Valentine I’ve ever seen.”
Harry examined the rope carefully while Ron and Hermione exchanged Valentine’s Day greetings (determinedly not looking at them lest it involve snogging), but it seemed pretty ordinary. He put it in his bag with the apple and proceeded with his breakfast.
Under other circumstances, Hermione would probably have been all over the apple and rope, trying to figure out how they got there and why, but she and Ron were both very distracted that morning. Harry ate his breakfast as quickly as possible while they were wrapped up in each other, and escaped the Great Hall early.
As he made his way to Dumbledore’s office, he found his eye was drawn to couples more than usual. Whether this was his own mind playing tricks on him, or because there were more couples going around hand in hand today, he didn’t know and didn’t really care. He just wanted to get through the day as quickly as possible.
The truth was, Harry didn’t know what he wanted. He had felt lonely to an extent all year, mostly because of the prophecy. Ron and Hermione were the only friends he felt able to talk to about it, but they had been getting closer and he felt like the third wheel. He wished he had someone of his own, but trying to date felt so far out of his comfort zone, he was scared to try.
Harry pulled himself out of his gloomy thoughts and knocked on Dumbledore’s office door.
Dumbledore was feeding Fawkes, and smiled warmly at Harry when he entered. “Ah, Harry! It’s been a while. Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.”
Harry gritted his teeth. “Hi, sir.”
“Any special plans?” Dumbledore asked, his eyes twinkling.
“No,” Harry muttered, hoping his tone would convey firmly that the subject was closed. “Er, I’m here because I found a couple of weird items this morning.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “How intriguing. What are they?”
Harry pulled them out of his bag. “The apple was on my bedside table when I woke up, and the rope was on my breakfast plate.”
“Hmm.” Dumbledore took the apple and read the tag. His mouth twitched. “No idea who left them?”
Dumbledore performed a number of spells on both the items while Harry watched, but nothing happened. “That is interesting. They do seem to just be ordinary fruit and rope. Most curious …”
“Yes sir?” Harry said when Dumbledore hesitated.
“Hmm—I do think I know what this is all about.” There was humour in Dumbledore’s eyes, as well as some strange emotion Harry couldn’t identify. “In which case, you needn’t worry, Harry. But I won’t say more than that.” He placed the items back in Harry’s hands. “I would hang onto these if I were you.”
“But—why?” Harry asked, confused.
“Oh, trust me; you don’t want me to answer that question. I’m sure whoever gave them to you knows what they are doing. Goodbye, Harry.”
Harry blinked at the abrupt dismissal, but turned to leave. As he did so, he noticed a red envelope lying on Dumbledore’s desk.
Even Dumbledore’s got Valentines. Or is sending one maybe? Harry didn’t get a chance to see the name on the card as Dumbledore, noticing where he was looking, nudged Harry firmly out of the office.
Class went by fairly normally. Harry sat in front of Ron and Hermione so he couldn’t see them holding hands or anything else they might be doing under the table. He tried to focus on his NEWTs, and had almost forgotten the bizarre gifts when Colin Creevey ran up to him at break time.
“Harry! Hey, Harry!”
“Yes, Colin?” Harry turned to meet him.
Colin was carrying a long, pure white feather, and held it out to Harry. “Someone asked me to give you this.”
Harry took it, dumbfounded. “Who?”
“Sorry, can’t say. I promised. See you!” Colin turned tail and ran.
“Is that a quill, Harry?”
He turned again to see Ron and Hermione coming up behind him. “No. It’s just a feather.”
“A nice one though,” Hermione said.
“Another bonkers Valentine, eh Harry?” Ron said with a grin.
Harry felt himself going red as people around him tittered. “It’s not that bonkers.”
“I agree,” Hermione said, looking at it properly. “It would make a very nice quill—” She suddenly froze. “Hold on … what did you say you got this morning?”
“An apple and a piece of rope,” Harry muttered.
Hermione closed her eyes with a sigh. Ron and Harry looked at her curiously.
“You all right, Hermione?” Ron asked.
“Yes. Fine.” Hermione opened her eyes. “It’s, er, nothing.”
“Do you know something about this?” Harry said, frowning.
Hermione bit her lip. “Sworn to secrecy. Sorry.” The bell went. “Oh, thank Merlin.”
By lunchtime, Harry was half-expecting another strange gift, and wasn’t disappointed—but still surprised. Rather than an object sitting on his plate, he found an envelope with HARRY on it.
“Go on, Harry.” Ron and Hermione, for once not thinking about each other, looked on as he slit it open. Ron looked excited and curious; Hermione looked worried, though Harry couldn’t understand why.
Inside was a note and a handful of small hard brown seeds.
COME TO THE THESTRAL CLEARING
TONIGHT AT 5
“Trap,” Ron said, now looking as worried as Hermione. “Right?”
Hermione shook her head, though she still looked anxious. “No, it’s not.”
“How do you know?” Ron asked before Harry could get a word in edgeways.
“Because … I know who’s sent it. But I can’t tell you.”
Harry examined the seeds in curiosity. “Neville,” he said, raising his voice slightly, “do you know what these are?”
Neville stood up and came over to look at them. “They’re rose seeds.”
Ron raised an eyebrow. “That does seem a bit more Valentines-ey.”
“Are you going to go?” Hermione asked Harry quietly.
He thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yes. I’m going.”
At five o’clock, Harry made his way down to the Forbidden Forest. The sun was setting and it was dark inside. He followed the path until he reached the clearing the Thestrals called home.
There were no Thestrals there, but there was a person. Harry squinted through the darkness, and suddenly recognised her.
Suddenly, the weird gifts made sense. He almost laughed out loud. How stupid was he? Who else would send rope and apples for Valentine’s Day?
“Hi, Harry,” Luna replied.
The sudden awareness that these probably were supposed to be Valentine’s gifts after all hit him hard, and he stumbled to a halt.
Luna? His Valentine?
He honestly had never considered Luna in that way, and hesitated, wondering what to say. This had suddenly got very awkward. The realisation that Luna liked him was enough to stun him completely, leaving no room for any further thought.
Luna came right up to him in the silence while he tried to get his brain to function. Her eyes sparkled in the fading light. She was wearing a beetle-wing necklace and matching earrings instead of the usual radishes and Butterbeer corks, and had a long white feather identical to Harry’s tucked safely behind her ear, but otherwise she looked normal. (Normal for her, that was.)
“Uh … hi,” Harry said in a strangled voice. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Hi, Luna.”
“I’m glad you came.” Luna took the gifts out of his arms and laid them on the ground, sitting cross-legged beside them. “We have twenty-five minutes.” She beckoned Harry to join her on the ground.
“Um, Luna—what, er, are we doing?”
“We’re planting a Night Rose, of course.”
“Right,” he muttered. “I knew that.”
Luna giggled. “What did you think all this was for?”
Harry still had no idea, but decided not to say so and began to sit down, but hesitated.
He thought he suddenly understood her. This was Luna Lovegood language for “I love you”. How he knew that, he wasn’t sure, but he was certain he was right.
Well, he had two choices. One, gently break it to her that he didn’t feel the same way, and leave. Or two … plant this rose with her.
He sat down.
Luna was tying a very complicated-looking knot into the rope. Harry just watched her, trying to work out why he had stayed. He had always found her rather fascinating, but for some reason, he wasn’t sure that was it. A voice in his head was telling him he shouldn’t be playing with her emotions like this—but he still wasn’t leaving. Why not?
“Done.” Luna spread the knotted rope out on the ground. Harry realised it was some sort of Celtic design, though he had no idea what the point of it was.
“Very nice,” he said, lamely. “Um … what’s it for?”
Luna looked at him strangely.
“It’s the symbol for eternity, of course. The Night Rose only grows in the middle.” She picked up a trowel that Harry hadn’t noticed before and started digging a hole in the centre. “Cut the apple in half.”
Harry decided to go with it, and did so. Luna then had him sprinkle the seeds in the hole and close it up again. She placed the apple halves on each end of the Celtic knot, and checked her watch.
“Sunset in eight minutes.”
“It only, er, grows at sunset?”
Luna nodded. “Yes, and only on Valentine’s Day. And it only blooms for a few minutes. My grandmother said it’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world.”
“Wow,” Harry murmured.
“There’s something else.” Luna hesitated. Harry had never seen her look nervous before, and was quite taken aback.
“What is it?” he said gently, taking her hand without really thinking about what he was doing.
Luna looked down at their entwined hands, and so did he, his heart thumping. The sight seemed to clear her nerves. “It’s said that if a couple shares their first kiss in the light of the Night Rose, they’ll never be parted.”
She looked at him expectantly.
And in that instant, Harry knew. He knew he wanted to kiss her. He knew he wanted to kiss her in the light of the Night Rose and never be parted from her. He knew he was, completely and utterly, undeniably in love with Luna Lovegood.
The realisation was quite a shock, and he opened and closed his mouth for several minutes while Luna watched him, feeling like a goldfish, before finally stammering out, “Is it true?”
“Well, my grandparents did it. They shared a long, happy life and died peacefully in their sleep on the same night.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Coincidence, Hermione would say.
No harm in trying it, Harry argued. Even if it was just superstition, sharing a first kiss in “the light of” the rose (whatever that meant) sounded pretty romantic.
“Luna.” Harry’s mouth had gone dry. “I’d love to.”
Her face lit up, and his heart leapt. He wanted to kiss her then and there, but forced himself to check his watch.
Two minutes till sunset.
He wanted to say something else; maybe tell Luna how amazing she was; but his voice seemed to have frozen. She seemed to be quite happy just to sit watching each other, occasionally checking the time.
With thirty seconds till sunset, Luna told Harry to take his feather, and she pulled her own out from behind her ear. They held them upright above the rose plot.
“Three … two … one … now!”
Both feathers were plunged into the earth. Harry and Luna each withdrew their hands as the weird objects all seemed to be sucked into the earth, and a plant tendril appeared from the freshly-dug soil. It grew up to about a foot tall before stopping. A small bud at the top began to open.
Harry’s mouth fell open, and Luna gasped in wonder as the rose unfurled. The outside layer of petals was purest white; the inner petals pale purple. The whole flower sparkled like it was made out of diamonds, and it was glowing with a brilliant yet ethereal light.
“It’s so beautiful!”
“How long did you say it blooms for?” Harry asked.
The Night Rose really was one of the most beautiful things Harry had ever seen. But it was surprisingly easy to turn his face away from it, gently cup Luna’s cheek, and kiss her in the flower’s glow.
One hundred and thirty-two years later
“And that,” Harry concluded, leaning back in the rocking-chair, “is the story of how I fell in love with your great-great-grandmother.”
“Awww!” four-year-old Hermione squealed.
“But Grandma Luna,” Cedric piped up. “How did you know it was going to work?”
Luna smiled mysteriously, in that way her family had come to love. “I just knew. Harry was The One. He only needed a nudge to see it.”
Her hand found her husband’s, and he squeezed it gently.
Albus waved a hand in the air. “I have a question! What about the other Albus’ Valentine?”
“Ah, that’s a whole other story,” Harry said with a sadder smile, remembering his old mentor. Albus Dumbledore had passed at the ripe old age of two hundred and three, having lived long enough to see each of Harry and Luna’s twelve children grow up. “Perhaps another night.”
Sirius said something that sounded like a question, but he had the tail of his stuffed Snorcack in his dribbling mouth, so Harry couldn’t tell what it was. He chuckled and pulled the toddler up onto his lap. Sirius yawned, and the Snorcack fell out, but he didn’t seem inclined to repeat the question, just snuggled into his great-great-grandfather’s robes and went to sleep.
“Grandpa Harry,” Jamie said, “can you tell us the story of how you defeated Mouldy Voldy now?”
Harry laughed. “I think that’s also a story for another day, kids. Go on, up to bed.”
The rabble of great-great-grandchildren headed upstairs. Harry found himself alone with his wife and a slumbering toddler.
“I should get this one up to bed as well.” His joints creaked as he stood up. Sirius clung to him in his sleep. “And I think I might turn in myself. It’s been a long day.”
Luna nodded. “Me too.” She started putting away her knitting: a pumpkin-shaped hat for great-great-grandchild number fifteen, due in three months.
They made their way upstairs, put Sirius to bed together, and headed into their own bedroom. Harry was thoughtful as he undressed.
They had been through so much together—so much sadness, but so much happiness. They had barely left each other’s sides since that evening in the Forbidden Forest. Luna had been there for him throughout the rest of the war, given him the strength to fight Voldemort and win. They had married not long after—over a century together. Twelve children, seventeen grandchildren, thirty great-grandchildren, soon to be fifteen great-great-grandchildren, later.
And even after all that time, he thought as he climbed into bed with her, he would still choose kissing her over watching a Night Rose.