AN: A different look on Slughorn's parties, as if he had many of them and Luna continued to be Harry's date for all of them.
A Date and a Smile
Luna tugged at his sleeve rather impatiently, and she motioned him to look ahead at one of Slughorn's party guests.
"Look, Harry! The minister's new assistant doesn't have a reflection in that mirror on the wall," she whispered in his ear excitedly. Harry took an uncomfortably gulp of punch when he realized she was right.
"Bloody he… He's a …"
"…a vampire; you are correct, Harry," Luna interrupted, finishing his phrase. "And I'm sure that if he's a vampire, you'll believe me now that the minister is too. The minister only employs those who are close to him, so he has to have hired another vampire."
Harry chuckled and then rolled his eyes. He took another swig of punch, and replied to her, "Don't be silly, Luna."
"Why not? Look at the evidence!" she exclaimed with vigor. Then she sighed when she realized he didn't buy it, and said, "Well at least it gets you to smile, right?" Luna grinned, and Harry began to realize what she meant. Even after all these dull parties, Harry was still finding it valuable to bring Luna along, if not for her nonsensical stories, but for her laughs as well. Her light-hearted energy was contagious, and he couldn't help but smile in return.
"You are a riot, Luna Lovegood," Harry teased, and his response had caused Luna to burst out in a fit of boisterous giggles. Some people stared at them as she laughed loudly, but Harry was humored by her and wasn't uncomfortable by their looks at all.
'But that's what Luna does to me,' he thought, and after he finished that thought he couldn't help but continue to mull that over.
How did Luna always make him feel like he wasn't this brooding vengeful wizard that Ron and Hermione seemed to make him feel when he was around them? And even though it was obvious Luna was fond of him as 'the Hogwarts hero', she wasn't his friend just because she wanted to 'worship' him or be some president of his fan club.
'Luna is…just Luna.' And that thought made him outwardly smile. Luna was unusual, an outsider, just like him. And even if he had bouts of time where he didn't hang out with her or talk to her everyday, she still came to the parties when he asked her – she still was his friend despite everything that had happened to him. Whether he was popular one week, or big self-absorbed arse in the eyes of his peers the next, Luna was in the background waiting to be there for him when he needed her.
And she was right… Luna Lovegood was silly, but she was silly for him – so he could find reasons to smile in these dark days.
Finally Harry stopped, not comfortable enough with the silence between them. Even though Luna was content just to stay by his side at the party in silence, he wanted to come clean with her.
He pulled her aside and then in a small voice he said, "Listen Luna, I came to this party – not just to bring you here – but to find something out about what Malfoy and Snape were up to. Now I do intend to keep watching them, but I wanted you to know that this party would be dreadful without you."
Luna's eyes widened, and she smiled prettily at him. She clasped her hands together in front of her and swayed in place as she looked up at him. Harry watched her, noticing that her movements were carefree and almost flirtatious. Confidently, Luna replied, "Thank you for so saying so, Harry. Professor Slughorn's parties are the loveliest of times I've ever had at Hogwarts; well, besides riding the Thestrals too." She beamed at him, and then finally said, "I'm glad you are going to continue letting me make you smile."
Harry then reached out for her arm by taking her to his side again, and then continued to have them turn about the room. Clearing his throat, he replied to her in jest, "Well then, as the muggles say, 'Don't quit your day job.'"
In response, Luna leaned into him playfully and grew a wider smile.
'Yes,' Harry thought with a permanent smile, almost forgetting about Malfoy, 'these parties were much more worthwhile with Luna Lovegood around.'