FIC: "Out of Order" for venturous Recipient:venturous Author: alwaysasnapefan Title: Out of Order Rating: PG-13 Pairings: Luna Lovegood/Moaning Myrtle Word Count: 3,838 Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *[None.]*. Summary: If there are two good things that have come about as a result of her mother's passing, they are her ability to see Thestrals and her healthy fascination with death. Author's/Artist's Notes: Much thanks to Supes for ideas and beta work.
Luna's small head is still fairly spinning from the start of the year, and she loves the feeling. She's learning at least ten new things every day; things like when to eat, how to hold her wand, what the Boy Who Lived looks like at breakfast, and, perhaps most shocking so far, that her name sounds an awful lot like "Loony". Funny how she's never really noticed that before.
Her dorm mates are fairly civil to her, but she believes at least one of them, the one with the ringlets, thinks she's a little mad. She still has her father's beaming letter of congratulations for making Ravenclaw on the bedside table, next to a small figure of Babbitty Rabbitty. Ravenclaw was her father's old house, and there isn't much she's done in her short life that he hasn't been incredibly proud of. They're all each other has, and for now, Luna is just fine with that. She doesn't know what she's missing, as far as friends go, and she just has to wait out the rest of life in order to see her mother again.
Death fascinates Luna. If there are two good things that have come about as a result of her mother's passing, they are her ability to see Thestrals and her healthy fascination with death. So, when Luna hears about the ghost in the out of order girl's washroom, she feels compelled to meet her. She listens raptly to the descriptions. The ghost moans and cries, always takes things the wrong way, is much too bossy, and is quite ugly. Mandy Brocklehurt calls the ghost pathetic.
Luna's well aware that her idea of pathetic isn't always the same as everyone else's. Luna thinks Professor Lockhart is a bit pathetic. He smiles too much, and he speaks only of himself, and his writing style, she thinks, leaves something to be desired. It's as if he lives in his own little world. Luna lives in her own little world, but she has an imagination. She's not sure he has one. He only seems to have an ego.
And yet, girls with lilac ribbons in their hair carry Gadding with Ghouls around in the hallways and call lonely ghosts pathetic. It's a strange world.
Not all ghosts are interesting, but this one might well be. She's young, and lives in a washroom, and likes to cry. When Luna's desire to know about the ghost grows large enough, she takes action. She gazes fondly at the Out of Order sign on the door and enters to find the most interesting washroom she's ever seen.
There are delicate little patterns of cracks on the mirror that look like spider webs and black spots that make it seem as if it's some wild, spotted animal, left without human contact for decades. Everything is chipped and flaking, like history, like an antiques store. The light of the small candles is soft and subtle, keeping the mysteries of the room alive.
Luna stands near the chipped sinks and says, "I heard there was a ghost in here."
There's a noise in the stall at the end, furthest from the door. Luna steps closer without hesitation, and the ghost comes through, looking altogether displeased. "A first year, are you? You came to laugh at me," she accuses. She floats in front of Luna defiantly, her body language daring her to poke fun, her eyes full of dashed hopes.
Luna fingers the ends of her dirty blonde hair for nearly a full minute before it occurs to her to answer. "I think it's rather silly to go somewhere just to laugh at someone. And awfully rude."
Nothing Luna says seems to comfort the ghost. "Perhaps you're telling the truth," Myrtle says, "but it's great fun to lie to Myrtle, to trick her. Because she's dead!" A silence rings after this, and Luna looks thoughtful.
"You never had friends when you were alive," she says softly. It's not a question; it's a deduction of the truth.
"Oh, yes! Who would be friends with miserable, moaning Myrtle?" The ghost reels back, indignation clear on her face, and Luna eyes her sadly, realizing how her statement must have been taken. "I don't see why people would like you! You're not very tactful!"
"No, I'm not," Luna says.
"What are you doing here, if it's not to make fun? The door says 'Out of Order'. You're just here to bother me, and I won't have it!" There's an edge to her voice, a rawness, and Luna suddenly remembers that ghosts can cry.
Leaving sounds like an intelligent plan of action. It would allow Myrtle to calm down, and Luna could find something else to do. But she decides to at least explain herself. "I came here to talk to you about death. I thought we could be friends."
"Death?" Myrtle sinks a bit in the air, like water pouring into a bowl, until she's level with Luna. "You wish to talk about death?" She searches Luna's gaze for something, but she doesn't seem to find it.
"Yes," Luna says carefully, a bit wary of the scrutiny. "And I wish to be friends, if you'd like that. I don't have any either. That happens sometimes, to some people." There's no way to explain who is popular and who isn't. It's far easier to prove the existence of a Wrackspurt.
"That's because students are cruel," Myrtle says. "I don't envy you. This is the worst time of your life."
Luna believes the worst time of her life was birth, or perhaps her mother's death, because every year gets better than the one before. She can survive loneliness. Father writes a letter every day. "Surely you must have had some fun, at some point. There are so many things to do." Luna leans against one of the chipped sinks.
"Well, there was Olive Hornby," Myrtle says thoughtfully.
Luna moves her wand from her pocket to just behind her ear, cautiously smiling. "Was she nice?"
"Oh, no. She was horrible. She never gave it a rest, always making fun, always taking the joy out of everything. I cried constantly. I tried to kill myself, but death arrived first, like a gift, thanks to a pair of yellow eyes. The only good part with Olive Hornby came later, after I died."
Luna makes no move to respond, once more playing with the ends of her hair. She wonders to herself why it is that some people like to tease when they have nothing else to do. She has no answer. She forgets to ask about the yellow eyes.
Myrtle moves closer, as if wanting to make sure she's being listened to. Her scowl becomes a smirk, expansive and mirthful, and she breathes a single word. "Revenge."
Luna's thin brow quirks. She's not usually the type to want revenge. After all, every situation has an upside, when you put it into context. "Did you feel better then?" Other people seem to like revenge, even if Luna doesn't.
"Yes. It was lovely. For a while, she couldn't sleep. I actually scared her! I laughed, for once, and her fun turned into nothing, and," she shifts, looking at Luna very seriously, "she finally felt it. Felt what she'd done to me. She was a nervous wreck, like I'd been before I died. Life is easier when you can't be shoved, when you can't be touched."
Luna becomes aware of a faint dripping sound and glances around, wondering what could be making it. She considers Myrtle's statement, and decides that being a ghost sounds no easier to her than being human. Having a life without physical sensation means no pain, but also means no pleasure. It means no soft cat's fur brushing your leg, no Gurdyroot infusion on your tongue, and no scent of paint in the air. She doesn't want a life without the cloak that smells like Mum, without her father's hugs. "I don't think I'd like being a ghost," she says finally.
Myrtle bristles, turning and floating straight through Luna, who shivers with a quiet gasp. She stops at to the door to the washroom and asks, "What's wrong with ghosts?" Luna recovers from an icy shock of a sensation, and notes that Myrtle's voice is just as cold as the rest of her.
"Nothing," Luna says quickly. "No, nothing is wrong with ghosts. I just don't think I'd like to be one."
"Wouldn't like to be one!" Myrtle flings open the door with a shriek of rage and heads back toward her favorite stall in a huff.
"Myrtle," Luna says carefully, a bit loudly, "I just mean to say...that it's unfortunate that—"
"Unfortunate!" the ghost hisses, whirling around in a pretty, pearly swirl of white. "I'm unfortunate. I'm...I'm...a charity case! It's laughable. Isn't it?" She puffs up, seeming to become slightly more solid, more real. "You're the unfortunate one! You're weird! Everyone would love to be a ghost! I don't like you! If you can't respect me, then get out!" she screams.
The room feels colder, the air heavier, and Luna swallows around disappointment and regret. "...Have a nice day," she finally says, bowing her head slightly as she makes her way through the open door. Even the only young girl at Hogwarts who is also a ghost wants nothing to do with Loony Lovegood.
Myrtle's washroom starts flooding, and Luna assumes it's due to an infestation of Blue-Padded Haynids at first. But they don't like to cause the same havoc more than three times, and she doesn't think Filch wouldn't call Haynids "she". Which probably means Myrtle is behind it.
Luna has stayed away from the washroom out of respect. She's contemplated talking to the other ghosts about death, but Myrtle is the ghost that fascinates her most. Myrtle is in a lot of emotional pain, and full of distrust for people, especially students. Luna may not be tactful or popular, but she's definitely trustworthy. She's also curious.
She's armed with a picture of her mother and her History of Magic textbook, and her lip wants to quiver, but she refuses to let it. "Myrtle?"
The wet sound of Myrtle's movement from inside the toilet sounds, and before Luna knows it, there's a shrieking ghost right in front of her. "You left me!"
Luna freezes, eyes wide. It's the last thing she expected Myrtle to say. Myrtle had kicked her out, hadn't she? Nothing makes sense. She scuffs her shoe over the damp tile floor.
"You said you wanted to be friends! You lied!" Myrtle collapses onto her knees, still hovering above the floor, and begins to wail. Luna isn't sure what to do, so she watches and wonders and hardly moves. After the sobs trail into hiccoughs, Myrtle gets up, walking right through Luna again.
"You shouldn't do that," Luna says gently, rubbing goose pimples off her arms, shivering a bit. She watches Myrtle pace.
"I asked everyone," the ghost finally says. "I asked everyone who came in here about you, where you were, and they couldn't help. You should have told me your name!"
"I'm sorry I never did," Luna says carefully. "That's a bit rude, I suppose. It's Luna. Luna Lovegood. They call me Loony Lovegood, though. And I was certain you'd never want to see me again, or else I'd have come."
"If you were so certain," Myrtle snaps, "then why did you come back?"
"Because you were flooding the toilets, and I wanted to know why."
Myrtle begins sniffing and wiping at her eyes. "So, it worked then." There's a bit of hope in her voice.
Luna isn't sure what that means, so she just stares at one of the small, dimly lit candles.
Myrtle whooshes in one big circle around Luna, without touching her. "You came back because I flooded the toilets."
Luna nods slowly. "Yes, I did." She considers pointing out that Myrtle could have left the bathroom and come to find her herself, but she understands how humiliating the prospect of a public rejection can be.
Myrtle floats about some more. "I want you here," she says finally. "I do. You can visit me."
"Okay," Luna says. She swallows, curling the textbook into her chest and holding out the moving picture of her mother in offering. "Look."
Myrtle comes closer and holds onto the picture as well, best she can. Her pointer finger happens to go through the tip of Luna's ring finger. Myrtle feels nothing, but Luna feels as if her fingertip is being dipped in icy water.
"I was nine years old. It was almost two years ago," Luna says fondly. "It was a day like any other at first, and I was watching her experiment. She did that, you know, with spells. She was brilliant. Perhaps too brilliant." She smiles faintly, remembering the way her mother always smelt of ink and magic. "But something went very wrong. I got to see her when it happened. I like that I was the last person she ever saw."
Myrtle floats away, sitting atop the door to one of the stalls. "You...kind of look like her."
"Thank you," Luna says. Her smile is soft, and full of fond memories. "I know that she's there, Myrtle, in whatever comes after death. She's waiting for me, and she's all right. You can think I'm loony if you want; lots of people do. I'll still be your friend."
Friendship is nice. Now, just about every day, Luna grabs one of the chairs from the common area on the second floor to take into Myrtle's washroom, and she sits and does her homework there. Sometimes Myrtle sulks and cries, making more noise than most students would wish to put up with. It's okay to distract Myrtle sometimes, or try and comfort her, but other times it's best for her to just let it all out.
Sometimes they simply talk. Luna talks to her more than she's talked to anyone else at the school all year.
Luna tells her about dreams she's had. Dreams are one of the many windows into the mind, and they're rather important, provided one does not go overboard with interpretation. Not everything about a dream is meant to be interpreted. For instance, a dream about Nargles is nearly impossible to interpret satisfactorily.
She talks about her classmates. Mandy Brocklehurt continues to baffle Luna at every turn, so she's a frequent, fascinating topic of conversation. A girl named Padma Patil tells Luna about her heritage, and about what it's like to be a twin. And then there's a girl in Gryffindor who comes from Ottery St. Catchpole like Luna, and has red hair, and seems to be very upset and distracted. Luna forgets to worry too much about her though, because students are being petrified, including Colin Creevy. He was teaching her about Muggle cameras, but he can't do that anymore, at least not until the Mandrakes mature.
She tells Myrtle about how Quidditch is going, and Myrtle groans and pretends not to hear her, but Luna knows she's listening, simply because it's nice to have someone around to listen to at all.
Sometimes Myrtle corrects Luna on her facts or on the way she's holding her wand, which makes Luna feel as if she's one of the luckiest students in Hogwarts. She has a close older friend, one good at listening and at helping, underneath all the pain and tears. "Don't do it like that!" Myrtle says or, perhaps, "No, Luna, you're thinking of Ulric."
Sometimes Myrtle talks about Harry Potter, though, and when she does, Luna feels something in her stomach twist, and she wants to change the subject, but she also doesn't. Harry Potter is always going to be interesting, especially compared to someone like Luna. It's a little upsetting to think that her secret friend is friends with the least secret, least forgotten person in the entire Wizarding World. Luna knows it's not right to dislike Harry. She doesn't know him, and she probably never will. It's completely stupid to be upset that Myrtle likes him as a friend...and possibly even more.
But Luna is a first year, and allowed to be a little stupid.
Luna is in her fourth year, and she can't quite remember how the flirting started—if, indeed, that's what it is. It had to be a number of things, little things like that time she asked whether ghosts can have sex. Or perhaps Myrtle is being influenced by the dirigible plums dangling from Luna's ears.
If she thinks about how she used to be jealous of her friend Harry, she laughs out loud, just a little bit. Because Harry is the most normal person she knows and he doesn't give a second thought to Moaning Myrtle, nor to her interesting washroom. His mind is on Cho Chang; Luna can tell. Myrtle doesn't talk about him much anymore, although she claims she's seen more of him than most have, when he was in the Prefects' bath with his Triwizard egg. Luna hasn't known Myrtle to lie, but she's known her to exaggerate.
Luna recognizes her old feelings for what they are. She had been jealous, very jealous of how Myrtle wanted Harry to share her toilet with her after he died, and of how she wanted to spy on him in the bath. In the beginning, in first year, it was all about friendship. It isn't now. Things, a thousand subtle things Luna can't remember, have all happened.
There are some things she can remember. Luna bought Myrtle a lily, her favorite flower, and preserved it. It sits in the last stall near Myrtle's prized toilet. Myrtle went to the library with Luna to point out a book on poetry about dragons that they spent hours reading together.
But Luna can't say what she wants to say, can she? Myrtle is from a different time. What if she doesn't understand? What if Luna is misreading things?
And what if, thinks Luna, she misses her opportunity? Wouldn't that be worse?
"Myrtle, I need to talk to you." Myrtle swoops toward her, smiling, unaware that a heart is minutes from being laid bare. Better bare than hairy, Luna supposes nervously. "Please let me talk, and please don't interrupt me."
Myrtle's smile fades, but she waits patiently for Luna to go on.
Luna reaches into her pocket, cupping one of the extra dirigible plums there, without removing her hand. "I want to know how you feel about boys, and how you feel about girls. Sometimes," she sighs, trying to gather the right words. "Sometimes, it's as if you'd like for us to mean something special to each other. You're from an older time where that didn't happen much, so I'm asking you now. Because I do like you. You're very interesting, and we get along."
Myrtle paces around the room, floating. Luna nearly squishes the plum in her hand, wishing Myrtle was as containable, as easy to hold onto.
"What do you mean, by saying that you 'like' me?" Myrtle swoops close to Luna, and Luna fights the urge to back away. She knows her regret isn't logical yet. "I'm really not sure that I understand you."
Luna smiles slightly. "It's like, feelings. That two people have for each other. Like a boy and girl, or like a girl and another girl. Or maybe a human girl and a ghost."
And Myrtle floats away again. She slips through the door to her favorite stall, and Luna can no longer see her. "And you like me like that?" she calls.
Luna pulls her hand out of her pocket, sucking at her fingertips. "Yes. I do, actually. We've been friends for a while, and you're a nice person when you aren't throwing fits."
"I don't throw them often," Myrtle says. Well, she throws them less than she used to, and that's something at least. "You gave me this flower. Not like a friend, though. You gave it to me like...like a boy gives a present to his sweetheart."
"Yes and no," Luna says. Yes because she had thought of the lily that way, but no because Myrtle hadn't, not at the time. "Do you like boys? You spy on them a lot. Did you know," and Luna knows she's reaching a bit, "it's possible to like both boys and girls?" Luna does.
"Boys are strange," Myrtle says, as if she'd thought about it often. "They have bits that don't make sense." This makes Luna grin just a bit, looking at the stall door. "They don't like me, and they don't let their emotions out. Crying is so important."
Luna stands up a bit straighter, and turns toward the mirror, using a bit of a spell to smooth her hair. "I cry sometimes."
"I know," Myrtle says. "Girls cry. Even mean girls cry. Especially when you make them."
"Like Olive Hornby?" Luna says gently.
Myrtle slips out through the door of her stall. "Would you like to hear about the way she cried?"
Luna shakes her head a bit. "No. I'm not interested in Olive Hornby. She was mean to you."
"Everyone was interested in Olive Hornby. You would have been. She was beautiful, and possibly the most intelligent girl in my year. She was perfect," she spat the last word.
"Well she can't have been perfect if she was a bully," Luna says. "Bullying is a rather large flaw. I'm more interested in people who wear big glasses than in people who find something wrong with proper eyewear."
Myrtle doesn't know what to say, staring hard at Luna. "...I'm also a Muggleborn."
Luna decides to change the subject. She's made it clear often enough that she appreciates Myrtle for who she is. "Myrtle, do you like me?"
Myrtle starts to slink toward her stall again, but pauses to look at Luna and nod. Luna makes her exit, for now, but leaves her extra dirigible plums in one of the cracked sinks.
It's been four years since Luna first met Myrtle. Her eyes are closed and she's taking deep breaths, systematically relaxing into the chilled embrace. Practice is key in everything, even in sharing a four-poster bed with a ghost.
Holding, when the cold is more permanent, more all-encompassing, is harder than kisses or other quick, enticing touches, where reaction, adrenaline, are prizes and not tattle tales. She lets out her breath, sighing softly. The soundproofing spell allows them to be able to speak to each other freely.
"What will you do after school?" Myrtle murmurs to her.
"I don't know," Luna says honestly. That's always what her answer is.
"You know you're going to outgrow me." It's never a question.
"Perhaps. But there are a lot of things I've not outgrown yet." Luna feels a ghostly kiss to the back of her head and smiles a faint smile.
"Give it time," says Myrtle, with a hint of that dark, self-deprecating humor she has.