Round 8

Title: here to help

Team: Wanderers

Position: Captain

Position Prompt: Headcanon: Luna has autism

Word Count: 2,100

Beta(es): KageKitsune


I

Rain clouds passed over the bright sun outside. The dark grey vapours drifted back and forth across the sky caught in the blustering crosswinds. It was coming into autumn and the weather couldn't seem to settle between dazzling sun and audible rainfall.

Pandora and Luna had spent the week painting the frequent rainbows on canvases enchanted to mimic the blue sky overhead.

They still had vibrant smears of coloured paint drying on their finger when they sat down with Pandora's old headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.

He looked just the same in Pandora's rounded living room as he always had, but she never tired of seeing him.

The news had only improved each time since his first visit, and between his regular advice, and the help of a tutor he'd recommended, Luna was happier than ever.

With a wave of her wand Pandora set about filling the low table before them with a selection of biscuits which floated in from the kitchen.

After some niceties they eventually settled on the topic at hand.

"Her moods are very predictable, she's not anxious. She's just herself," Pandora Lovegood explained, forgetting herself as she played with her daughter's hair for a moment before her colourful hand was promptly batted away like a distracting thought.

"Wrackspurts," Luna mumbled, and Pandora's hand easily slipped to Luna's shoulder, tucking the girl into her hip.

"She's reading and her speech has been in-keeping with expected milestones. You're a regular chatterbox, aren't you?" Pandora asked, jostling Luna a little, whose slightly surprised expression remained unchanged.

"Is it like a Blibbering Humdinger?" She asked softly, and turned to the Professor when he laughed.

"Do you like magical creatures, Luna?" Albus Dumbledore asked.

"My daddy has a whole bookshelf full of books and we look through them together. My daddy said magical creatures say what they mean to," she replied.

"Many of the talking magical creatures that I've met have been quite misleading," Dumbledore said.

"My daddy said magical creatures say what they mean to," Luna repeated, tipping her head down a little and glancing to the side.

"Alright, Luna," Pandora said. "Why don't you run upstairs and see if Xeno has anything the Professor might like."

"If you want to talk about me privately, I don't mind. I'm used to it," Luna said to Dumbledore, she smiled mildly and might have met his eye before she made her way to the stairs but the moment was too short to be sure.

"She can be quite perceptive when it suits her," Pandora said fondly.

"I see that. From what you've told me I'm hopeful that her mixed neurological profile won't translate as an academic learning difficulty," Albus said.

"Well, I'm sure if that is the case you had a big part to play in that, I'm aware that our meetings aren't conventional."

Albus selected a Hobnob from the plate in front of him. "You'd be surprised, I've taken time aside with many students when particular concerns are raised. Any educator worth their salt ought to know that early intervention improves the chance of prospective students like Luna accessing equal opportunity to their counterparts. The goal is to allow the student the most options at the lowest cost to their emotional well-being."

"I'm just glad that Xeno's family insisted we seek professional advice once Luna started to display signs of autism. I would've taken much longer to work out what was going on if it wasn't somewhat common among Xeno's relatives."

"I'm sure you've witnessed for yourself at any Lovegood family reunions that there's no reason Luna's condition should jeopardise her quality of life, in her particular case she seems capable of engaging with all avenues that a witch could hope to enjoy. I know not all people with autism have the support or access to treatment necessary to do so."

"It's been a relief watching her become more responsive over time. The practical methods that help her to communicate when she's struggling before she gets too distressed have been transformative. We're lucky that so many of the treatments available have made a difference. I know that sometimes even when the best amenities are available, symptoms can be too severe to allow some people to access the kind of independence Luna can. I suppose that's why they call it a spectrum," Pandora spoke easily on the subject which had become like second nature to her after nine years of raising Luna.

"Honestly, I'm not sure the language is the best it could be. The term autism is such a catchall it can be terribly misleading," Albus lamented, moving one of the plates of biscuits to read the title of the book on managing the instability in complex charm research hidden underneath.

"Measuring Luna against other children with or without autism has never helped me to care for her better. You can have that if you like, I've ordered the new edition. Fortescue said they've made some interesting amendments, and I made some edits to my own chapter."

Albus lifted up the book and replaced the plate to investigate further. "I am concerned that Luna might be taken advantage of by her peers when they're all so fixated on fitting in. As much as her integrity on the matter is to be admired, ultimately her lack of self awareness and disinterest in gaining approval could result in her missing keynotes in the dissonant harmony of the teenage experience."

"I won't disagree with you there. I've thought about it myself, but it's such a big part of who she is, it's one of those traits where I can't even discern the extent to which it's symptomatic and how much is just Luna. Do you think she'll suffer for it? What can I do?"

Dumbledore attempted to shape a reply. He placed the book back on the table, he had enough excitement in his life without taking on any new dangerous interests, such as the high-risk testing of new charms which put Pandora at the head of her field. She was fearless.

There was a creak on the stairs, Luna stood there in the shifting light caused by the unpredictable weather outside. A brief beam of sunlight caught her blonde hair only to be quickly extinguished by another passing cloud.

"Are you finished?" She asked. "I need go to the toilet please."


"Do you ever feel lonely?" Pandora asked her daughter that night as they flipped through a photo book depicting the magical creatures of South America. They'd read the book together a thousand times, but at this point Pandora doubted she'd be able to sleep without it either.

"How do you know if someone is your friend?" Luna asked.

"You take care of each other," Pandora said, wishing a little that Luna would look at her just once more before bed and then pushing the feeling aside. Knowing it was silly, and unfair.

You can't love anyone for what they're not.

"We're friends."

"Would you like more friends?"

"Does someone need a friend?"

"Sweetheart, that's lovely. You're selfless to a fault, just like your father. You'd be a great friend to anyone, just remember that people can be complicated, and even friends let each other down. But if anyone tries to invalidate you Luna, you can always rely on us to help you."

"No creature has the power to invalidate another. I am valuable as long as I am of use to the people I care about," Luna said, holding her head a little higher.

Pandora couldn't suppress how proud she was in her expression, and she didn't try to.

"If you take good care of yourself, that would be very useful to me," Pandora said. "It would be priceless." Pandora squeezed her daughter's hand and stood up off the bed to prepare for testing in the morning. "Goodnight."

"Will you help me take care of you too?" Luna asked.

"Promise," Pandora replied, and she got her last look.


The next day, Luna was no use to the people she cared about.

She found out her mother was right when she said friends let each other down.

She understood how priceless it would've been to her if Pandora had kept her promise.

She thought about the difference between invaluable and unvaluable as her daddy tried to wake Pandora up.

Just one letter could change so much, just one small slip of the tongue, and it all blows up.

Thick drops of rains started to fall against what was left of the window pane and her family.


II

"Who is that?" Romilda asked, upon spotting a long-haired little witch standing under a sign which read: 'here to help'.

"That's the new Lovegood, screw loose as usual," Marietta replied, tipping her head to get a better look.

"What's she offering help with? She's first year, what's she going to do? Offer her head as an armrest?"

"She could levitate something for you!"

"Or let her parents know how you're getting on in one of her twice-daily letters home detailing how lonely and homesick she is."

"Look at her, all puffed up like she's been elected Head Girl. Someone has to go over and put her out of her misery."


It turned out Romilda didn't actually need help as she'd claimed to, but Luna thought that one day she might, and she could be there. And they could be friends.

For now she would simply have to find her way out of the forest, since the clearing Romilda had asked her to collect toadstools from didn't actually exist.

Luna's father had explained that when a witch or wizard sends you into a dead end, it was probably on purpose.

"I am useful to the people I love, I am valuable," Luna whispered aloud to herself as she made the journey back to the castle. "I am valuable."

It was getting colder as October crept on, she hoped she would find her shoes before Winter came as she wiggled her numb toes in the grass.


"Did you find them?" Romilda asked, as Luna passed her on the way to Ravenclaw Tower where she hoped to run her toes under some warm water.

"You lied Romilda, but that's okay. You're still a good person, we could be friends and take care of each other someday."

"It was a joke Lovegood, Merlin. Just because you're a gullible little first year. Obviously I'm a good person."

"That's nice," Luna said, she tipped her chin down and stared to the side.

"She's bloody creepy," Marietta whispered, and Romilda nodded in avid agreement.

"Loony is what she is! That's too perfect, you should write that on all your essays Loony," Romilda said, and laughed loudly.

Luna wished Romilda wasn't a liar. She wished that she could've been of some value and been useful to her. She wished she had someone to take care of, and as Romilda's friends joined in, and her numb toes started to hurt a little on the castle's stone floor, Luna thought of how nice it would be to have someone to help take care of her just for a minute. She was used to taking care of herself, but she'd hoped by now...

"Loony Lovegood, I'm embarrassed it took us this long to think of it."

"I'm Luna."

"I'd already forgotten."

While they laughed a staircase shifted into place nearby and a flash of red hair appeared in Luna's peripheral vision.

"Plus now you have a better name, don't you think Loony suits you?"

"I'm Luna."

The new arrival was well within earshot and turned to face their position, folding her arms.

"Oi!"

"Oh, look! Loony's got a little friend."

"I'm Luna."

"You heard her, just call her by her name or... or shove off!"

Luna wasn't sure what the phrase 'shove off' meant, but the words sounded more magic than any spell when they left the ginger girl's mouth.

The laughing stopped, and was replaced with some jeering before the older girls seemed to lose interest when the other first year grabbed Luna's forearm and guided her back to the staircase.

"Are you alright?" The Gryffindor asked.

Luna smiled softly at the ground, and nodded.