The Last Time


Story Summary:
Years after a wartime fling, Dean and Luna meet in China, and a long-forgotten flame is reignited.

Chapter 01


The Last Time

It had been wartime. They were young, scared and lonely. Trapped in the confinement of Shell Cottage for weeks on end, one thing led to another. A burgeoning closeness eventually led to an intense passion between them. They would constantly seek one another out, and then remove themselves from the cottage to go for long walks along the cliff-side, or to make love on the sand.

At the time they didn't think about the implications of it all - they made no promises, said no 'I love you's and avoided talking about the future almost entirely, because it was a future that might not even unfold for them. Fear made every glance, every touch and every word that much more alive, more filled with electricity than it ever would have done otherwise. They needed each other in order to hold on, to not give in.

The waves of the sea vigorously caressed the shore, but they were bleak rather than beautiful; just another image that added to the weight on their shoulders. But when they were in one another's arms, they reminded themselves that there was always something to fight for.

Then the war ended, and suddenly there was no more fighting to be done. All there was to be afraid of was mundane things like whether they could get a job - or whether they could make relationships work.

They tried, for a little while. In the end it just fizzled out, and they went their separate ways. There was no bitterness, no tears. They accepted that if it hadn't been for the war then they never would have got together in the first place. They were grateful for what they had.

Years later, having fallen out of one another's lives completely, they met whilst staying in the Sichuan Province of China.

Dean was there as part of a group researching Chinese Fireball Dragons. It would be his job to photograph any they found (without angering it, preferably). He really wasn't qualified for the position, but he was painting a series of dragon portraits as a commission for a Muggle, so when he'd seen the ad in the Daily Prophet, he'd jumped at the chance to see one close up.

The group had booked a small retreat halfway up a mountain as a base, and as they approached it Dean saw a mass of familiar blonde hair out on the porch.

And there was Luna. The same but different; darker skin, lighter hair, and a less dreamy look in her eyes. All of this registered as they approached the house and she turned to look at the group. She was holding what was unmistakeably a baby Demiguise as if it were a two-year-old child. Its arms were around her neck, its head rested on her chest, and she bobbed up and down slightly as if she was trying to get the creature to sleep. When she noticed Dean she let out a stifled gasp, which seemed to wake the Demiguise as it turned itself invisible, and Luna attempted to calm it.

They didn't speak that night, as arrangements for Dean's group were made with the owner of the retreat so he was mostly busy. When he went out onto the porch to play cards with some of the others she was gone.

A few days later Dean had a rest day. He slept through most of it, tired as he was from the endless treks through the wilderness. He finally got up when dusk fell. He didn't bother to get dressed, but made himself some tea, and stood out on the balcony to drink it, appreciating his surroundings - committing them to memory for future reference. He looked down, and there was Luna on the porch, holding the Demiguise again. Her hair was pulled into a messy bun on top of her head, and held there with a paintbrush. She turned and looked up at him, obviously feeling his eyes on her, and smiled gently.

Dean went back inside, haphazardly put on some clothes, and went downstairs to join her. She pressed one of the fingers of her free hand to her lips when he appeared, and he nodded. They stood side by side for some time, silently looking out at the Chinese countryside as it was plunged into darkness. Without a word, Luna disappeared inside. Dean didn't move, he was confident she would return. When she did, the Demiguise was gone, and she had a lamp, which she placed on a nearby table.

'Are you here to look after the Demiguise then?' Dean asked, feeling as though they had been silent long enough.

'I was doing some work with them, and some poachers came,' Luna told him matter-of-factly, but she looked down and there was some powerful sadness there. 'Zhi's an orphan now - none of the others wanted him. I think I'll have to leave him behind when I go back home and I don't quite know if he'll survive without me.'

'Won't the Ministry give you permission to bring him into Britain?'

'I'm sure I could persuade them,' she sighed. 'Or rather, Hermione Granger could persuade them. No, it's Rolf, my husband, he says it's impractical.'

Dean caught sight of a ring with a glittering blue stone in it on her left hand, and felt his heart sink a little. Of course she was married by now. Even Dean had been married. He just wasn't anymore. He didn't respond to the reference, didn't ask her how long they'd been together. It was one of only two times that Luna referenced Rolf.

'You're photographing dragons,' she said. He nodded. 'I didn't know that you were interested in photography.'

'It's a means to an end.'

She turned away from him, and looked out into the darkness again. Sometimes it seemed that things moved in the trees, but if you focused on a place where the movement had been, then there would be nothing there at all.

'It's funny isn't it?' said Luna quietly. 'That after all this time, we don't meet in the queue at Gringotts, or at the party of a friend, we meet in the depths of China.'

Dean tried not to laugh at the ridiculous romanticism of their situation, or to focus on the way the dim lamplight lit her face. He looked at his hands for something to do.

'I like seeing the world,' she went on, 'but I often miss Hogwarts. I almost applied for a position as Care of Magical Creatures professor once.'

'Why didn't you? I'm sure you would have got it.'

'I thought the better of it. It would have been selfish. And if I had, Zhi would be dead by now, wouldn't he?'

Dean shrugged. 'Maybe, maybe not.'

Later, he would not remember who had initiated it, all he would remember was the extreme swooping sensation as their lips connected again after all those years. The tenderness of those kisses, outside on the lamp-lit porch, and then the ferocity of them as they stumbled into his darkened bedroom.

The feeling of her touch again almost did him in, he would swear. And she swore, unable to free catches and buttons in the pitch black. The night was still, sticky and humid. As Dean lay on the bed, his eyes adjusting to the darkness, he saw the silhouette of Luna above him, and her hair fall out of the paintbrush bun into waves over her shoulders.

His breath caught in his chest. She was so warm, so cold, so unchanged and so altered. It was all too much to take.

Afterwards, they lay gasping, side-by-side, staring at the ceiling. They did not speak and they did not touch. Some time later, Luna slipped away to her own room. When they crossed paths after Dean returned from his trek the next day, she did not look at him.

Yet, there was a light tapping on the door each night. With each time they grew ever closer, reconnected. Perhaps they were only doing this out of nostalgia for a time when life had been more than their careers. A time when everything was at stake and often the only thing you had was the people around you. Perhaps it was more that they understood their connection better now that they were adults and not teenagers. They hadn't ever felt anything quite like what they had, and they blamed it on the war when it ended. But maybe they could handle it better now. Perhaps they were just lonely. They were far from home; they'd found a familiar face that provided each with more comfort than they'd felt in a long time. It was a prevention of loneliness, and an escape. But neither would ever admit this.

A month later, and they were both still there, sneaking into one another's rooms as if they were teenagers again. No one in the place knew their history, or even that they had met before. It was intoxicating for Dean, both being with Luna again, and all of the excitement that came with it.

However, eventually the time came when her husband suggested she come home - and that she bring the little Demiguise, Zhi, with her. It was an offer she couldn't refuse. Dean didn't blame her, but he couldn't help but feel like he had lost a fight.

The night before she left he lay in bed, a thin sheet across himself, and stared at the door by the moonlight that streamed through the open window. He was sure that tonight she would not come. But eventually, she did.

They were slower this time than they'd ever been. Even the slightest touch was tenderer, and they lingered longer over every action they made. Dean tried not to think 'this is the last time ...' at every act. Eventually he stopped thinking all together.

She didn't stay afterwards. Just lay for a moment to catch her breath, and then sat up and began location her clothes.

'I'm sorry for all of this, Dean,' she told him, distractedly, as he lay watching her.

'Don't be.' He meant it, as much as he didn't like where they were heading.

'None of this should have happened. It's completely immoral.'

'Will I see you again, when I get back to England?'

She stared at him for a long, hard moment, and then shook her head. 'It's not a good idea. I'm married and I don't think you and I could just be friends.'

He didn't react because he hadn't expected anything else. He'd hoped for it, but he hadn't expected it. She was still looking at him, but it was a softer look now. Somehow, he couldn't hold her gaze, and looked away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her put her hair back into a bun with the paintbrush - the first time she had worn it that way since their first night together. It felt so long ago, but it was barely any time at all.

'I'll always think of you, when I'm putting Zhi to bed, or when I see a cottage by the sea. I hope you'll think of me too.'

She stroked his cheek, and then leaned in and kissed him softly. Their last kiss.

She left without another word, and as the door closed behind her, Dean knew that this was the last time he would ever seen Luna. He couldn't be completely sad, just grateful that chance had given them this fleeting second romance.