A/N: My take on Neville's vague words, "they dragged Luna off the train last Christmas" (or something like that). Hope you enjoy reading this gap-filler!

A Last Train Ride

The Hogwarts Express was comfortably rumbling towards King's Cross and anxious families awaiting the safe return of their children. On board, the atmosphere was much more cheerful than it had ever been at Hogwarts that year—subdued, true, but generally lighter, with students freely chattering as they wouldn't have dared to back in school, a few even risking a bold call or two past the compartments.

The festive atmosphere was especially felt by the occupants of the last compartment, who were smiling as they hadn't done since their last ride on the train.

"I reckon we're about an hour away, now," said Ginny, face lit up with excitement.

Neville nodded, looking just as delighted as she was. "We've done pretty good work this term, but I can't say I'm sorry for a break," he said, ruefully fingering a particularly tender cut on his cheek.

Luna smiled, vague as ever, and said, "We have done pretty well, haven't we? But I can't wait to see Dad again. He said he got me a Crumple-Horned Snorkack's horn for Christmas, you know." Neville and Ginny exchanged an amused glance, but said nothing in response—after spending so much time together, they had gotten rather good at restraining their own opinions on Luna's unusual beliefs.

The three were sitting together quite comfortably, obviously greatly at ease with one another after the past few months. At first glance, nothing seemed to have changed; they were just normal, eager students on their way home for the Christmas holidays. Neville was, as ever, clutching Trevor the toad tightly; Ginny was gazing out the window at the swiftly flashing trees moving by, her expression one of delicious anticipation; Luna's hair was in a knot on the top of her head, and she had put on a brand-new butterbeer cork bracelet in honor of the occasion. But a closer look would have revealed changes: Neville's face had lost some of its roundness, Luna was no longer clasping a copy of The Quibbler—Umbridge's ban had been reinstated along with the forbidding of groups larger than three students—and Ginny exuded an air of calm authority and assurance, as if the past few months had toughened her up. All three were sporting evidence of the Carrows' punishments.

Ginny now broke the easy silence they had fallen into. "I wonder where they are now?"

The other two didn't need to ask who she was referring to—Harry, Ron, and Hermione were never far from their thoughts, and their possible whereabouts had often been a topic of conversation between the three in the Room of Requirement after D.A. meetings.

"Wherever they are now, they're going to come back to Hogwarts to help us sooner or later," said Neville confidently—it was a point he always insisted upon. "They wouldn't leave us in this mess. And I'm pretty sure they'd be—you know—proud of us, too, if they saw everything we've managed to do." They exchanged rather smug smirks—the Carrows still hadn't gotten rid of the "DUMBLEDORE'S ARMY" message written in glowing, orange Permanent Paint right on their office doors. Luna had chosen the color.

"Daddy always says Blibbering Humdingers are attracted to orange," she had said seriously, silvery eyes wide. "It might apply to humans, too, so lots of people will see it, don't you think?"

All the people present had laughed, but agreed that orange was a nice, visible color to use.

"I'm going to miss it," Luna now said unexpectedly, turning her misty eyes upon Neville and Ginny. "It's a good feeling to be part of a group working for a cause, isn't it? I won't be able to help at all when I'm at home with Daddy."

"Well, if we hear anything, we can send messages," Ginny said reasonably, hand in her pocket, presumably fingering her fake Galleon.

"Yes we can," agreed Neville, looking rather pleased at this idea. "Hermione's a genius, we could never have done anything without these coins."

"I hope she's all right," pronounced Luna gravely, voicing their thoughts. They fell silent once more, each wrapped in his or her own musings, until Neville finally said, in a transparent effort to change the subject,

"What are you all doing for the Christmas break?"

"I'll be stuck at the Burrow with absolutely nothing to do," said Ginny with a grimace, "but at least I'll be with Fred and George, it should be a laugh with them around. I'm surprised Mum hasn't kicked them out of the house yet, actually." She looked slightly cheered. "You, Luna?"

"Oh, I'll be with Dad back home," she answered. "He's trying to reconstruct Ravenclaw's lost diadem, you know, and I suppose we'll examine the horn of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack too. I'll miss you both, though."

"I'm going to miss you two as well," said Neville fervently. "I bet I'll feel pretty lost once I get back home, not planning anything. Mind you, Gran would probably have some ideas for stuff we could do once term starts."

"Fred and George, too," said Ginny, brightening up.

"Daddy's too busy," Luna said in a tone of mild regret.

"What's Ravenclaw's lost diadem, anyway?" questioned Ginny, looking as if she wasn't entirely sure whether she would accept the answer.

"It's a legend in Ravenclaw," said Luna dreamily, "a bit like a tiara, you know, and it's supposed to bestow intelligence upon the wearer. It was lost centuries back, but Daddy's pretty sure he can reconstruct it; he's made a lot of discoveries, the billywig wings…" Neville and Ginny allowed Luna to talk herself into silence before saying anything.

"Is it terrible," said Ginny suddenly, as if she were continuing a long conversation, "that I'm glad I'm going home? Back to where I don't have to worry about anything, where I know I'll be safe, where my family is, where my mum's cooking is waiting for me? So many people are suffering… it seems selfish to be glad."

"You feel like you should be fighting as well, especially since Harry and Ron and Hermione are out there not having any kind of Christmas at all," Neville said as a statement, not a question.

Ginny nodded, throat constricted.

"I feel the same way," Neville finally said, after a long pause. "I never thought I'd be relieved to leave Hogwarts, even for a while, but I am."

"I'm just glad I'm going to see Daddy again," said Luna. "I worry about him sometimes; he's all alone and publishing those stories against You-Know-Who… But when I come back to school, I'm going to fight just as hard as I can, just like he is," she added, a surprisingly steely edge to her usually dreamy voice.

"So am I," said Neville.

"Me too," Ginny put in, and they all smiled at each other, the same familiar unity clear on each others' faces.

Finally, Neville spoke. "I think we must be nearly the—" His words were cut off as the train suddenly jolted to a stop, and he was thrown onto the floor. Ginny had banged her head on the glass of the window; Luna alone had managed to remain on the seat.

"We can't be there yet," said Ginny worriedly, rubbing her head.

"This—this is just like—" Neville and Ginny's eyes met in a moment of déjà vu, and they knew that they were both thinking of the same thing—the time the dementors had stopped the train to inspect it for Sirius Black, Ginny and Neville had both been in the same compartment. Neville quickly pulled himself from the floor and firmly stuffed Trevor into his pocket.

"Terry Boot and Anthony Goldstein are in the next compartment," he said, voice steady. "I'm going to go see if they know what's going on."

"We'll come with you," said Luna, serene despite the strange events. They all hurried towards the next compartment and were immediately hailed by its occupants.

"Neville, Ginny, Luna! We were just about to go to you. Any idea what's happened?" Terry Boot called, sticking his head outside the compartment door. All along the corridor, people were doing exactly the same thing.

"I dunno," said Neville, who was trying not to look too anxious. "The train just stopped, and we—"

He stopped talking as they all simultaneously felt a shiver and sudden heat in their pockets. They pulled out their fake Galleons, stared, and then, as one, turned to Luna.

"Death Eaters—on the train—" stammered Anthony Goldstein, shock on his face.

"Looking for me," completed Luna quietly. Her face was white.

"Daddy," she murmured, and they immediately understood: The Death Eaters had decided to put a stop to the Quibbler's outspokenness.

"Luna," said Ginny suddenly, her voice shaking, "you have to hide." And as if her words had triggered a switch, all the occupants of the compartment flew into a frenzy, throwing trunks open to see if she could fit inside, attempting to blast the glass windows apart so she could escape. Only Luna stood still, her protuberant eyes wider than ever.

"Dammit," swore Terry, "the windows have got some sort of Imperturbable Charm on them, I can't blast them. This train's a cage, they've got us cornered."

Neville risked a peek outside the door and drew his head back in, eyes hard. "People in cloaks are checking all the compartments. They're coming this way."

"Luna, hide!" beseeched Terry.

"I can't hide anywhere," said Luna softly, looking around.

"Luna, get under the seat for now," ordered Ginny, pointing. "Terry, Anthony, do you—"

"Right here," said Terry quickly, preceding the question and thrusting her a cloak that lay abandoned on the seat. Ginny snatched it up and draped it over Luna's figure, arranging it so that it looked as if someone had simply thrown it carelessly on the seat, hanging over Luna's hiding place.

"It won't throw them off for long, but it's better than nothing," said Ginny, biting her lip.

"Wait," Luna's voice drifted from behind the cloak, muffled. "Listen to me, please."

"We're listening," called Anthony, adding in a low tone to the others as he glanced out the door once more, "They're almost here."

"When they come," said Luna, "please don't fight them."

The four halted their frantic efforts to gaze incredulously at each other.

"Luna," Neville addressed his words to the cloak in a voice of forced calm, "of course we're going to fight. We're your friends—"

"That's exactly why I don't want you to fight," came the serious reply. "You're my friends. I don't want you to be caught too."

"We can't—"

"Promise me, please."

Footsteps approaching; the Death Eaters were almost there.

"Promise me—"

"Luna, shut up, this isn't the time, they're coming—"

"Ginny—Ginny, promise me, make them promise—"

The thudding of boots was growing louder, as were indistinct cries and sobbing from the other compartments. Ginny shot Luna's hand (she had poked it out from behind the cloak) a panicked look.

"Luna, we promise," Ginny finally said. "Just stay behind the cloak and be quiet."

She withdrew her hand just as the door was opened with a loud bang. The four froze and slowly turned to the door, where a man in a black cloak stood, smiling and twirling his wand lazily. His eyes traveled from the upended trunks, to the cloak on the seat, to the telltale dread on each person's face. His smile widened.

"Luna Lovegood?" His voice was course, rough.

"She's not here," said Ginny, in an impressively calm voice.

"That's strange," said the cloaked man, keeping his tone light and pleasant, although there was a veiled hint of a threat in it, "we've checked every compartment except this and the last one, and my friend here—" another black-cloaked man appeared at his shoulder "—tells me that the last one's empty. I don't see where else she could be, do you?"

"She could have Disapparated," said Neville coolly.

The man shook his head. "Oh, no." There was no mistaking the threat in his voice now. "You can't Disapparate from this train, can you? I think she's in here, and I think you're going to stand right there—" he pointed to a corner of the compartment "—while we search this place." They made no move to retreat, and his voice became distinctly menacing. "Do it now, and maybe I won't bring the rest of you with me for harboring her."

With stony faces, they slowly moved towards the side he had indicated. His crony came to stand in front of them, arms folded.

They watched the first man methodically search the compartment, and then smirk in triumph as his eyes fell on the cloak.

"There we go," he murmured, walking forward and snatching it off. He dragged Luna out—her hair had come out of its knot.

"Guess what?" he said, a horrible grin on his face even as he gripped her arm cruelly. She gave no indication that he was hurting her, but simply gazed at him steadily. "Blonde hair, crazy eyes—you fit Luna Lovegood's description perfectly. Let's go." He began hauling her towards the door.

"No!"

The four had all started forward, but Luna quelled them with the closest thing she had ever managed to a glare. "Don't—you promised."

The Death Eater holding her simply cackled and dragged her out, closely followed by his silent accomplice. They all watched, helpless. Luna had closed her eyes.

For how long they stood there, silent, shocked, they didn't know—then the train began to move, and cries of relief jolted them from their horror. Ginny weakly fell into a seat, Neville put his head into his hands, Anthony and Terry shook their heads.

Finally, Neville spoke. "Terry, Anthony, thanks." His voice was heavy.

It was Terry who answered. "Don't—don't mention it. I'm just sorry we didn't—" His voice caught in his throat.

Ginny stood up, and after a dull pause, she and Neville left the compartment for theirs. They stared at each other for a while, and Ginny finally whispered, "We… we didn't even fight." Her eyes, uncharacteristically, filled with tears.

Neville laid a hand on her shoulder, and they spoke not a word to each other for the rest of the trip, gazing at the empty seat that had once been Luna's.


A/N: What did you think? Let me know in a review!