Chapter Two: Moonlight and Merpeople
Luna left the hospital wing later that afternoon once her horns disappeared. Ginny didn’t see them go, which was disappointing; she was still pretending to be asleep.
By this time, Madam Pomfrey was checking on her every half hour or so, placing her hand on Ginny’s shoulder and shaking gently. Sometimes Ginny stirred, sometimes she didn’t, but always she continued feigning sleep. Once, her stomach rumbled so loudly just as Madam Pomfrey was leaving that she was sure the nurse had heard it. Her heart leapt in fear. She was hungry, yes, but the thought of going to the Great Hall made her feel nauseous every time she considered “waking up.” Maybe if she cornered Fred and George, they would nick her something from the kitchens.
They had come by in the evening, all of them—Fred and George and Percy and Ron and Hermione and even—her stomach flipped as she remembered—Harry. They hadn’t stayed long, as she had been still been feigning sleep, and Madam Pomfrey had chased them out when they started making too much noise, but Ginny had been grateful for it. Now that they were gone, and Luna was gone, the hospital wing was too quiet.
Gryffindor Tower would certainly be noisier than the hospital wing, she supposed, but the thought of climbing through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room, of facing questioning eyes and looks of concern and maybe even smiling faces, made that Something holding tight to her heart squeeze even tighter.
Ginny was still wondering what to do when she heard someone enter the hospital wing and approach her bed. The side of the bed sank down as someone sat, and Ginny heard a few soft thuds as something was placed on her bedside table. Then a soft, musical voice whispered to her quietly.
“I’ve brought you up some dinner,” said Luna. “If you want, I can distract Madam Pomfrey so you can eat. I might try to turn myself blue or something.”
Ginny couldn’t help it. She laughed and opened her eyes. “Can you do that?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” said Luna. “But I think it’d be fun to try.”
Ginny laughed again. She eyed the small parcel of food Luna had brought and then glanced back toward Madam Pomfrey’s office. She would likely be coming round to check on her again soon.
“That’s all right,” Ginny said. “What did you bring?”
After her dinner with Luna, Ginny was dismissed from the hospital wing by Madam Pomfrey. The matron gave her a stern once-over and made Ginny promise to come back if she needed anything, and to eat plenty of chocolate.
“Don’t worry,” Luna had said, pulling a few boxes of Chocolate Frogs out of her bag. “I brought dessert.”
Ginny had nodded, as if chocolate could erase the memories of wet, damp caverns, of fangs, chicken feathers, and blood. Madam Pomfrey had nodded and smiled at Luna, but her eyes were still on Ginny. Ginny had looked away.
Once they finished the dinner, they headed out of the hospital wing toward the Grand Staircase.
“I suppose you’ll want to head back to your common room and see your friends, now that you’re out of the hospital wing,” Luna said. There was no malice in her voice; she spoke matter-of-factly.
“Oh,” said Ginny, who had decided to Gryffindor Tower only once she thought most people would be clear of the common room, even if she had to hide in a broom cupboard to avoid being caught out of bounds. “I suppose. What about you?”
“Oh, I don’t have any friends,” said Luna, her voice light and serene.
“Oh,” Ginny said. What on earth could she say to that? “Why don’t we go down to the lake for a while?”
By the time they reached the lake, the sun had almost reached the horizon and the light across the water was bright and golden. They sat at the water’s edge and took off their shoes, letting the water lap at their toes.
“I heard there were merpeople in here,” said Luna dreamily.
“Are you sure?” Ginny asked, and Luna nodded. “Fred and George said so, my brothers, but I thought they were taking the mickey.”
“I’d like to meet them, but I don’t speak Mermish.” Luna sat up suddenly. “Do you know Mermish?”
Ginny sat up, too. “No.”
Luna shrugged, then reached into her bag and pulled out a small, black leather book. Ginny recoiled before she remembered the diary now had a large hole in its front. This book, too, was much more modern looking than it had been.
If Luna had seen Ginny flinch, she didn’t say anything. She simply dug into the bag again, withdrew another small, leather book, and offered it to Ginny.
“Would you like to sketch?” she asked.
“Er,” said Ginny. “Sure. Thanks.” She accepted the book and pencil Luna offered, but didn’t open it. Rather, she watched as Luna opened her book and began flipping through its pages. As she turned the pages, Ginny could make out drawings—dozens of them, from what she could see, some in color but most in pencil, mostly of magical beasts of varying shapes and sizes.
The page Luna had stopped on contained a half-finished sketch of a merperson. Opposite the sketch was a torn sheaf of parchment that Luna had shut into the notebook—a detailed illustration of a merperson, likely from some book or other. Ginny snickered quietly for a moment, glad Hermione wasn’t there to see, but then the mirth was rapidly replaced by guilt.
The feeling dissipated, though, as Ginny watched Luna work. She was careful and deliberate in her pencil strokes, frequently looking back and forth between the reference and her own work.
But Luna had made no attempt to be faithful to the reference illustration. The merperson depicted stood tall and fierce, clutching a trident and frowning, brows furrowed. Luna’s merperson, however, was waving and held no trident, and their face was soft and smiling.
They stayed that way for a while, Luna sketching and Ginny watching her sketch, until it became too dark to see and the stars began winking into the night sky. If Luna minded Ginny watching, she didn’t say, or even notice that Ginny wasn’t sketching herself. Once Luna closed her book, they lay back on the ground for a while, watching the stars come out and listening to the gentle hum of the waves.
When Luna finally suggested they return to the castle, Ginny didn’t reply, but stood up regretfully and dusted herself off, and they began to head back.
As they reached the entrance hall, Luna said, “That was fun. Want to sketch together again tomorrow?”
“Yes,” Ginny said, and she meant it. The Something in her chest that was wrapped around her heart seemed to have loosened as she listened to the lapping lake water.
They agreed to meet in the courtyard after breakfast, and Luna skipped up the staircase toward Ravenclaw tower. Ginny watched her go and began her own slow climb to Gryffindor Tower, the Something in her chest drawing tighter with every step.