Hope Springs Eternal

There was a thin blanket of snow coating the ground.

Neville sat glumly by the lake, staring into the blank horizon. It was the lunchtime after Slughorn's party. How could anyone have forgotten?

Oh, it was wonderful, so much fun!

How come you got to go?

Guess who invited me.

Ooh, who? I wish I'd gotten an invite!

There were the most fantastic people there! Best party ever.

Remember the Yule Ball? Not a patch on this.

Guess who I saw under the mistletoe!

He dug his nails into his palms.

Not Harry and Luna, please not Harry and Luna!

But the more he thought that, the more he saw them under the mistletoe, and the more he fought the urge to kick something. Trying desperately hard to think about not thinking, Neville closed his eyes and winced.

It seemed hours later that he felt someone sit next to him.

"It's not very safe to sit outside in winter when the Umgubular Slashkilts have been breeding," said a slightly distant voice.

A smile fought its way across his face, and Neville turned around to see Luna sitting beside him. A strand of hair had worked its way free from what appeared to be a hat made of Spellotape, and he reached out to tuck it behind her ear.

Luna looked mildly surprised. Neville felt himself redden, and looked away once more.

"Are you all right?" she asked, after a moment's silence.

"Yeah," he muttered dully, and forced himself to look back at her. "How was the party?"

"Oh, it was lots of fun," she said happily, her eyes sparkling.

Neville scowled and stared hard at the lake.

"It was very odd though," she continued, "Harry disappeared for a very long time, and I don't know where he went."

So it hadn't been Harry and Luna who were the talk of the evening!

Something inside Neville cheered loudly. They hadn't had that good time he'd feared would happen!

But Harry had also left Luna alone in the middle of a party.

He had left her.

"He shouldn't have left you," Neville said, indignantly.

Luna shrugged. "A lot of people were leaving their partners, though. Hermione Granger spent half the night trying to run from that Gryffindor boy, McCormac, or Claggencor, or whatever his name is."

"You're worth twelve of McClaggen," Neville retorted. "That's different."

"That's very nice of you to say," Luna beamed, "but I was fine anyhow. I was talking to Professor Trelawney. It was very odd, too- the vampire there wasn't Rufus Scrimgeour!"

Neville almost felt confused for a moment. Rufus Scrimgeour, a vampire?

Maybe it was just another Luna-ism. Funnily enough, he didn't mind them.

Luna took off her scarf and twirled one end. "I almost thought of owling Daddy about it," she continued, "but then I thought, maybe Rufus Scrimgeour was too involved in the Rotfang Conspiracy to bother coming to a Christmas party."

Neville did not know what the Rotfang Conspiracy was, or how it would interfere with Slughorn's Christmas party, but he decided not to ask. It didn't matter, anyway.

"It's going to be rather lonely this Christmas," said Luna abruptly, "everyone's going back home."

"Aren't you?" asked Neville, nonplussed. "You usually-"

"Daddy has work to do. He says it's safer that I stay in Hogwarts," Luna sighed. Neville tentatively thought of placing his hand on her shoulder, but she brightened almost instantly. "He says that he'll model Ravenclaw's lost diadem on me, though, and I've been promised a present from Switzerland."

"That's exciting," said Neville, in a slightly constrained voice.

But something was nagging at the back of his mind.

"D'you want me to stay back at Christmas?" he asked suddenly. "I can, you know- Gran says we'd just be going to Uncle Alphie's anyway. And if I stay- you won't be alone."

Luna positively glowed.

"You don't have to stay," she said, "don't worry about me. I know that I can count on you, though, Neville."

Suddenly the ground seemed a lot warmer than a normal winter ground should be. Neville felt a grin plaster itself on its face.

"I'll owl every day," he promised.

She smiled. "That would be very nice."

Feeling suddenly very confident, Neville helped her off the ground.

"Walk you back to the castle?"

She smiled at him, and slipped her hand in his.

Just the slightest touch- but suddenly Neville felt warm and tingly inside.

They didn't say a word as they headed back to the Entrance Hall, but then, he reasoned, they didn't need to.

It was going to be a very good Christmas.

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A/N: Thanks to all who reviewed last chapter! I hope this chapter lives up to your expectations. An especial thanks goes to the awesomely wicked Almyra who helped beta read this.

This chapter concludes this fic, but if all goes well, there will hopefully be another one up sometime this year. Long live Neville/Luna!