Title: A Winter's Eve
“I did come here to be alone.” Harry smiled ruefully over the thestral’s back, letting his fingers tangle in its mane. Dusk was falling and the air was cold; he pulled his cloak closer around himself. Luna, of course, wasn’t dressed for the weather. Her boots were sensible enough, but the gauzy shawl she wore wasn’t nearly enough to stop the cold. That she let it trail down her arms and tipped her head back to look at the trees, letting the cold touch her long neck, didn’t surprise him. She looked like she enjoyed the chill.
He followed the line up to her jaw, across chapped lips and wind-reddened cheeks to her blue eyes. She looked down in time to meet his and smiled at him. “Of course.” She eyed the thestral he was patting. “I was going to go for a flight, but it looks like Stella’s already busy with you.” She frowned a little, wistful. “I haven’t been in the country enough to get to know the younger ones.”
Harry stepped back, patting Stella one last time. “Go ahead. I should go home anyway – Ginny’s waiting.”
Luna’s smile was child-like. Harry smiled back, and tried to remember when Ginny had smiled like that last. He couldn’t; her face was solemn and harried, lonely and desperate. Their faces, superimposed in his mind, held him motionless, hand still resting on Stella’s back. Luna walked closer, then reached out and laid her hand over his.
“I’m fairly sure it’s not a Wrackspurt,” she said. Harry blinked hard, forcing himself to focus on Luna’s face. He didn’t answer; he didn’t have to. Her smile turned sympathetic. “Come ride with me,” she said lightly.
Harry shook his head with real regret and forced a smile. “I have to go home,” he repeated.
“So? You can’t leave from here; you have to walk to Hogsmeade. Fly that far with me.” He’d gone to school with Luna, seen her in the war. He’d seen her tramp along comfortably carrying a pack that weighed nearly as much as she did.
Somehow, in that moment, she seemed both young and fragile. He could not tell her no when she so clearly wished for company, when she was such undemanding company herself. “Okay.”
She leapt lightly to Stella’s back and held out her hand to help him up. He accepted it, settling gingerly into place behind Luna. She – and the thestral – were warm in the cold. Luna murmured directions that he didn’t hear and Stella opened her wings, launching skyward.
Luna leaned back against him and he tightened his legs around Stella’s sides but couldn’t stop himself from wrapping his arms around Luna to steady both their balance. The cold air stung at his face and hands. Luna shivered.
When Stella’s flight flattened out above the trees Harry grabbed the edges of his cloak and wrapped it around Luna. She squeezed his fingers in thanks, hand icy on his. Keeping the cloak pinched between two of his fingers, he wrapped the others around her hand to warm it.
Stella did not fly straight to Hogsmeade, but circled over the castle as the sun sank lower. Harry tried to wish them to ground, but found that he could not focus on the likelihood of Ginny waiting for him when the fall air was all around him and Hogwarts was spread out below.
When the sun had set and the lights in the castle glowed more brightly than the stars Luna nudged Stella down to Hogsmeade. The descent made them lean into each other, and Harry was loath to dismount when they’d finally landed. Luna didn’t hurry him.
When he finally did Luna slipped down beside him, wrapping the gauzy shawl closer around herself as though missing the warmth of his cloak. Harry was already wearying heavy robes beneath, so he slipped it off and wrapped it around Luna’s shoulders. She smiled.
“Thank you. I’ve just come from Australia, and it’s summer there, of course.”
“Of course.” They were still standing close together, the mist of their breath rising as one in the air. Harry reached out and gave her a quick hug, then Apparated to his own front garden. Ginny was waiting.