The Dying of the Red Moon
Very occasionally, I have a bizarre urge to wade into the waters of shipping… so I thought I’d briefly address something that’s come up several times in recent conversations: Luna’s alleged crush on Ron. It seems that this interpretation of the scene where we meet Luna is quite prevalent in the fandom, and I’ve heard it brought up with some regularity since 2003. So let’s set the record straight.
First, I hope we can all agree that Ron has absolutely zero romantic interest in Luna. In the two years between Book 5 and 6, Ron/Luna became a satellite ship of the Harmonians. If Harry and Hermione ended up together, and you still wanted the main six characters (the trio, Ginny, Neville, and Luna) to end up in couples, Ron/Luna was the only logical combination, barring the inclusion of Weasleycest. It was never quite clear how Ron and Luna would end up together in this scenario, but the pairing was a thing in fan fic circles. (At FictionAlley, the pairing was called Red Moon, which is kind of catchy even if it never caught on fandom-wide.)
Then Half-Blood Prince came out and put to rest all that nonsense. Even to those whom it had not been clear to before, it became apparent that Ron and Hermione had feelings for each other. Moreover, Ron actively dismisses the possibility of Luna as a romantic interest: “‘You could’ve taken anyone!’ said Ron in disbelief over dinner. ‘Anyone! And you chose Loony Lovegood?’” (HBP 312). Unless Ron is being uncharacteristically deceptive and attempting to steal Luna for himself here, he makes it pretty clear he would not be interested. (His loss! Just saying.)
But there is still an argument to be made for Luna having an interest in Ron. This all stems, as I’ve said, from the scene where they first meet. Let us look at the relevant bits of text:
You went to the Yule Ball with Padma Patil,” said a vague voice.[…]
Everyone turned to look at Luna Lovegood, who was gazing unblinkingly at Ron over the top of The Quibbler. He swallowed his mouthful of Frog.
“Yeah, I know I did,” he said, looking mildly surprised.
“She didn’t enjoy it very much,” Luna informed him. “She doesn’t think you treated her very well, because you wouldn’t dance with her. I don’t think I’d have minded,” she added thoughtfully, “I don’t like dancing very much.”
She retreated behind The Quibbler again. Ron stared at the cover with his mouth hanging open for a few seconds, then looked around at Ginny for some kind of explanation, but Ginny had stuffed her knuckles in her mouth to stop herself giggling. Ron shook his head, bemused, then checked his watch.
I’ll make Goyle do lines, it’ll kill him, he hates writing,” said Ron happily. He lowered his voice to Goyle’s low grunt and, screwing up his face in a look of pained concentration, mimed writing in midair. “I… must… not… look…like… a… baboon’s… backside….”[…]
Everyone laughed, but nobody laughed harder than Luna Lovegood. She let out a scream of mirth that caused Hedwig to wake up and flap her wings indignantly and Crookshanks to leap up into the luggage rack, hissing. She laughed so hard her magazine slipped out of her grasp, slid down her legs, and onto the floor.
“That was funny!”
Her prominent eyes swam with tears as she gasped for breath, staring at Ron. Utterly nonplussed, he looked around at the others, who were now laughing at the expression on Ron’s face and at the ludicrously prolonged laughter of Luna Lovegood, who was rocking backward and forward, clutching her sides.
“Are you taking the mickey?” said Ron, frowning at her.
“Baboon’s… backside!” she choked, holding her ribs.
Can I have a look at this?” Harry asked Luna eagerly.
She nodded, still gazing at Ron, breathless with laughter. (OotP 189-190)
Luna then carries Pidwidgeon from the Hogwarts Express to the carriages for Ron. And the last bit of relevant interaction they have is as follows:
Well, we think [Hagrid]’s a bit of a joke in Ravenclaw,” said Luna, unfazed.
“You’ve got a rubbish sense of humor then,” Ron snapped, as the wheels below them creaked into motion.
Luna did not seem perturbed by Ron’s rudeness; on the contrary, she simply watched him for a while as though he were a mildly interesting television program. (OotP 200-201)
The thing is, without the context of what Luna Lovegood is like, this could totally be read as Luna expressing interest in Ron. Knowing about his “dating history,” bringing up the possibility of going out with him, laughing too much at his jokes, and staring at him… it all points toward a regular teenage girl flirting with a teenage boy. But this isn’t a regular teenage girl; it’s the singular Luna Lovegood.
Let us take everything we know about Luna as a character. Her knack for honesty and speaking her mind, for example. Can anyone honestly say that Luna Lovegood is the type to feign laughing at a boy’s joke as a means of flirting with him? Because that doesn’t resemble the Luna I know and love. I think it much more likely that she just genuinely found the comment amusing. We know she marches to the beat of her own drum; her sense of humor is probably as odd as the rest of her sensibilities. Also consider that she doesn’t really have friends and was likely not exposed to many jokes from her peers, so she’d be more affected by one than usual.
As for everything else about this interaction, I think we can explain it in a way that makes more sense than romantic interest: Ron is a totally normal teenage boy, and Luna has almost never interacted with such a specimen outside the context of them bullying her. Consider the other people in the car: Hermione and Ginny are girls, Harry is a huge celebrity, and Neville is painfully shy (and also Luna’s one true love, and you can’t convince me otherwise!). But Ron is that rarest of specimens: a normal boy.
Luna’s talk about the Yule Ball is not flirting; it’s her attempt at speaking on Ron’s level. (If you watch The Big Bang Theory, think of the episode where Sheldon and company go to Penny’s Halloween party and attempt to socialize.) If you are Luna, and your interaction with teenagers has been limited, what would you assume to be good conversation fodder? Dating and school dances, of course! This very brief moment is one of Luna’s only attempts to fit in, as it were, where she tries to discuss things the others would find interesting instead of what she’s reading in the Quibbler. It’s the moment we all have when we meet someone new, and we maybe try opening with “What do you do for a living?” before inevitably bringing the conversation around to Harry Potter.
To Luna’s credit, this attempt at assimilation is extremely short-lived: As the Whomping Willows sing, “You know you look good when you rock those raddish earrings / And it’s a crime to change yourself just to fit it / Let’s face it, girl, there’s nothing cool about convention / It’s more fun to make your life your own invention!”
And finally, there’s Luna staring at Ron. I believe this is, once again, her fascination with Ron as a perfectly normal teenage male specimen. Luna is a Ravenclaw and is taking an academic interest in Ron. That’s why at first, she is “gazing unblinkingly” at him. After a couple of hours, she’s got his measure and “watched him for a while as though he were a mildly interesting television program.” We never really get an indication of Luna staring at Ron after that – she’s figured out whatever she needed to from him.
We have a few salient bits in the rest of the series on the subject. The proponents of Luna’s crush point out her support of Ron in his first Quidditch match: She makes a lion hat to show her support for Gryffindor. “‘It’s good, isn’t it?’ said Luna happily. ‘I wanted to have it chewing up a serpent to represent Slytherin, you know, but there wasn’t time. Anyway … good luck, Ronald!’” (OotP 403).
This is one of those wholly platonic gestures that shippers always seem to latch on to. Luna is very excited to have friends at long last and counts Ron among them. Of course, she will want to show her support for him. So she expresses her support the best way she knows how: through crafts. And she wishes Ron luck specifically because it’s his first game; Luna realizes he needs the encouragement! Additionally, perhaps Luna was excited to finally be invested in the Quidditch matches since she now has someone to root for. So she seized the opportunity to show her school spirit!
Next, during “The Beetle at Bay” (Harry’s meeting with Hermione, Rita, and Luna), “Luna, on the other hand, sang ‘Weasley is our King’ dreamily under her breath and stirred her drink with a cocktail onion on a stick” (OotP 566). Keep in mind that this is still when the song was derogatory toward Ron before the Gryffindors co-opted it for themselves. If Luna were indeed romantically interested in Ron, she probably wouldn’t be humming nasty songs about him under her breath.
And for the last word on the subject, we look to Half-Blood Prince, where Luna offers up her assessment of Ron: “He says funny things sometimes, doesn’t he? […] But he can be a bit unkind. I noticed that last year” (HBP 310). These don’t sound like the words of someone who is in love with Ron.
So let’s just agree that the Ron/Luna ship never set sail and call it a day. Now, Neville/Luna, on the other hand… 😉