When Luna Lovegood is nine years old – a tiny girl with big eyes and scraggly hair and a head full of curiosity towards what might be in the crooks and crannies of the world – her mother dies in front of it. It is nothing less than awful. It is nothing less than worse to know that it was Pandora Lovegood’s insatiable sense of discovery that led her to a far too early death, right in front of her daughter.
“How awful,” all the neighbors say.
“How tragic,” they murmur to one another, as they come around to give their condolences.
They come to give their condolences despite the fact that many of them never bothered to come around and welcome the Lovegoods to the neighbourhood in the first place. Despite the fact that many of them had not very quietly expressed they’d rather the Lovegood leave, if Luna’s family continued being “strange” where other, ordinary people could see.
“But really,” the neighbours mutter amongst themselves, with crinkled eyes and rolling smirks, when they think that Luna can’t hear them or see them. “What did you expect?”
“Parasites!” Xenophilius Lovegood declares between sobs, after the memorial service, after all their neighbours had finally left. “Parasites, the lot of them! People! Worse than any other sort of monster!”
But really, Luna thinks. What did you expect?
Luna’s voice is caught in her throat. It has been ever since the accident. A frog-like creature must be stuck in her throat, she imagines, a creature that no one else has discovered yet. It’s a creature that must be eating all the words that try to come up, stealing them out of her throat, and leaving Luna with nothing to say.
“What a sad little girl,” the neighbours said of Luna’s quiet, when they had thought Luna couldn’t hear them. “So silent! So scarred! What sort of parent does that to their child? Honestly!”
Luna remembers what her mother said about people. It was a piece of wisdom in two parts.
Firstly, that people are people, and always have been.
Secondly, that are were two ways to hate them: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is the way that everyone knows. The hard way is almost entirely unknown, because it doesn’t involved hatred. Not really. Just deep disappointment. Because you love people so much, in all their awful ways, and you know they have the capacity to do so much better. To be so much kinder and more open-minded, if only they would find the compassion to try.
Luna thought that very wise, but she doesn’t have much love in her for people at the moment. The best that she can scrounge up is pity for her neighbours, who come to squawk and gawk at an inconsolable widower and a girl who’s just watched her mother die.
What sad creatures these people are, Luna thinks, to sustain themselves on other people’s suffering and grief. How awful, Luna thinks spitefully. How tragic.
The least awful person to come around and give their condolences is Mrs. Diggory, who comes by with her husband and son. The Diggories are another wizarding family who live in the area. Luna's father sometimes thinks they may be a new type of vampire or some other carnivorous non-human, who lure in their victims with good looks and sparkling personalities, but they're essentially harmless. Mr. Diggory is a bit awful, though he’s trying not to help it, and their son, who is several years older than Luna, mostly stands awkwardly off to the side after a quiet condolence.
But Mrs. Diggory isn’t really awful at all.
“My dear girl,” Mrs. Diggory says sadly. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
She tries to look Luna steadily in the eye – her gaze is warm, but it’s still uncomfortable, and Luna doesn’t cooperate – but she doesn’t insist. She doesn’t clutter up their house, already filled to the brim with sadness and grief, with any unnecessary words. She sits next to Luna on the sofa and set her hand next to Luna’s, not quite touching.
“Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you and your father,” she says.
Luna doesn’t say anything. Probably because the Griefeater Frog in her throat eats whatever words try to come up. Instead, Luna nods. She doesn’t know what to ask for, she doesn’t know if she’ll ever ask, but she knows that acknowledgement is polite and will get people to go away.
“I just lost my own mother, earlier this year,” Mrs. Diggory confides quietly.
Luna looks at the woman now, though still not in the eyes.
Mrs. Diggory – who introduced herself as Mabel Kirke-Diggory – is at least four times Luna’s age. Her hair is nearly entirely grey, even though she’s not that old. Luna’s mother had said that some women were always meant to be silver-haired, as Luna had curiously plucked white hairs from her mother’s dirty blonde head.
“Chin up, dearie,” Mrs. Diggory says, with a sad smile, as another girl who recently lost her mother. “Tomorrow’ll be a better one.”
And Luna looks away again. She’s heard that before and she’s seen no evidence of it being true. Tomorrow has always been worse. With every day that passes, Luna only gets further and further away from her mother. She wouldn’t call that better.
The Diggories leave shortly after that. Luna cleans up the tea that her father had served – cold and unmixed and with no more cup than necessary, the Diggories had been nice enough to pretend to drink it – and goes out into the garden.
Her father is there, tending to the dirigible plums, to the point where Luna is concerned they may die of too much more attention. Luna sits on the back step with her toes in the grass and watches the sky for her distraction.
The Griefeater Frog that’s caught in her throat croaks several times.
Luna lets her feelings drip on the too green grass, watching the sun get lower in the sky, and hopes that tomorrow really will be better. Everyone says so. But Lovegoods have never been ones to believe something just because everyone says it’s true.
Tomorrow is another day of watching her father forget to do the dishes, of watching the clouds pass them by, and of watching her mother’s crafting sit on the end table in the living room. Pandora Lovegood had left it there. It sat there now as though Luna’s mother meant to come back to it at any moment and keep working on it.
The day after that is another day of Luna watching her father scrub all the dishes in the house, even the clean ones, of watching the clouds pass them by, and of watching anything and everything as though the memory of watching her mother die can be replaced by something else.
It doesn’t work.
The Griefeater Frog in Luna’s throat grows big and bloated, until she thinks it might burst on her. The days pass with it croaking at the oddest moments. It might, Luna think worriedly, be getting too big to crawl its way out of my throat again.
A pie is delivered to their door, ostensibly from all the Diggories, but Luna knows that it’s really from Mrs. Mabel Kirke-Diggory. There’s a note attached. The note again assures the Lovegoods that they can come by the Diggory home for anything and that tomorrow will be better.
Luna wants to write back and say: Yes, you keep saying that.
I am hearing you.
But, and I don’t mean to be rude, when is tomorrow getting here?
But, somehow, those words get eaten too.
There must be Griefeater Tadpoles in my fingers now, Luna surmises.
The days pass them by and a striking thought occurs to Luna.
The thing about tomorrow, she thinks, is that tomorrow is always the next day.
Tomorrow is always out of reach.
A person can wait for it. They can wait and wait and wait for tomorrow to get to them. But whenever it seems like a person has finally reached tomorrow, it rudely moved again. Like one of those terribly unfun games where someone keeps changing the rules to win.
And one day, when the dirigible plums have swelled to the point of begging for mercy, when the dishes can been rearranged dozens of times and still have yet to find their perfect positions, when Luna’s mother’s crafting has finally been tidied up into its bag and put into storage, when it feels like Luna may have seen all the clouds that the sky has to offer…
Luna gets tired of waiting for tomorrow.
Luna goes for a walk.
She ignores all their neighbours, save to assure some particularly rude busybodies that she’s not lost, thank you. Luna Lovegood is nine years old and knows exactly where she’s going.
Luna marches to the Diggory house, with some allowance for meandering, and knocks on the door. She’s all of nine years old, a tiny girl with big eyes and scraggly hair, and she has a quest in mind. She has a pertinent question for Mrs. Mabel Kirke-Diggory.
Mrs. Diggory isn’t the one to open the door. It’s her son, who looks down at Luna with his usual awkward apology. Luna fixes her eyes on his forehead, to pretend she’s looking him in the eye. She doesn’t say anything, since the frog in her throat has gotten so big lately.
“Er, Luna, right? Are you looking for my mum?”
“Was that… a yes to both questions?”
Luna nods again.
“Oh, um, that’s… my mum’s not here right now, sorry. She’s out at a friend’s house right now. Dad’s out too. Do… you want me to tell them you dropped by? Do you need me to go get one of them?”
Luna thinks about it, then shakes her head. She turns around to leave.
“Er, alright then,” says the boy behind her. “Bye, Luna!”
Luna looks back and…
Luna swallows the great, bloated frog in her throat.
“Bye,” she says quietly.
Then she turns around, with a feeling like the frog has turned into butterflies in her stomach, and goes home again. Her throat feels a little dry. It feels enormously empty.
Luna thinks, every step of the way. Mostly, she thinks about how on the way here, every step of the way, she hadn’t considered that Mrs. Diggory wouldn’t be at home. Wouldn’t be waiting. Luna can’t even really remember what her question was now.
On the way home, Luna looks down one of the roads and thinks about where it leads.
Out at a friend’s house.
Luna thinks about following that road. About not waiting.
But then she looks at the sky, at the passing clouds and setting sun, and turns home again.
Her father must be worried sick by now.
Xenophilius Lovegood is terribly worried when she gets home, even though Luna left him a note. He tells her, in a babbling fashion, never to do anything like that again. Even though going on a walk through the village or the woods wasn’t anything Luna hadn’t done before.
Later, over dinner, Luna makes an announcement.
“I’m going to Ginny’s house tomorrow.”
Xenophilius Lovegood looks up, startled. “Luna, plumkin,” he says, flustered and bewildered and generally himself. “You haven’t been over to the Weasleys’ house in ages. Not that you shouldn’t go, of course! Of course, you can go! I’ll drop you there! But… what’s brought this on, plumkin?”
He doesn’t mention that this is the first time that Luna’s spoken in quite some time. He doesn’t need to. It was said clearly enough by the surprise on his face.
“I realized that today is really yesterday’s tomorrow,” Luna says. “That’s all.”
She doesn’t know how it’ll go. The most she’s seen of Ginny lately was watching the other girl zooming about at night on stolen brooms, through the telescope Luna usually uses to watch stars and clouds. The Weasleys were well-meaning but slightly awful in their loudness when they came by to give their condolences.
But… whatever happens has to be better than waiting for something that will never come. Or for hoping for someone who will never come back.
Luna’s tired of waiting for tomorrow.
If there is one thing she remembers from her mother, it’s that things have to be chased down. People have to go out and find these wonderful, impossible, ridiculous things for themselves. Knowledge. Creatures. Better tomorrows.
Today is really yesterday’s tomorrow, after all.
“Er, yes, I suppose it is,” Luna’s father says brightly. “It rather is, isn’t it?”