"Aren't you excited we're going back to Hogwarts?" Neville asked excitedly as the Hogwarts Express glided smoothly out of Platform 9 ¾.
"Of course!" Harry grinned, "We really should finish our wizarding education, else, who would really hire me as an auror?"
He had put the emphasis on 'me'. Everyone chuckled.
"Of course, you'll be an auror!" Ron exclaimed, "Now me on the other hand…"
"Rubbish," said Hermione "You know perfectly well that you're intelligent, you just need to apply yourself to your work." She tried to look stern and failed miserably.
"Well we all know Hermione's just dying to get back to her books," Ginny teased.
"What about you Luna?" Neville asked, "What do you want to do when you've finished Hogwarts?"
"I haven't made up my mind yet." She said thoughtfully staring at Neville, "I would really love to do some sort of Magizoology, but we would need a… better… Care of Magical Creatures professor."
She braced herself for the usual furious comments from the Hagrid-loving Gryffindors, but to her surprise they never came. The reaction was exactly the opposite.
"Erm…" Hermione started sheepishly, "Well that would be nice, for a change…"
None of the rest said anything, but Luna didn't need any super intuition to know they were all thinking the same thing. Or at least they agreed enough not to complain. Luna was quite pleased they had all seen the light at last.
"Anything off the trolley dears?" the voice came form outside the compartment,
Luna bought a package of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum and chewed it enjoyably, blowing bright electric blue bubbles that refused to pop no matter how hard anyone tried. They finally had to open the compartment window to let them all out, and a stream of cold air blew right through Luna's Muggle clothing. They all hastily put on their coats, Ron offering his to Hermione who had hers still packed.
"Oh, are you two together now?" Luna asked them brightly.
"Er…yes," Ron said semi-confidently his ears turning slightly pink as he turned to judge Hermione's reaction.
Hemrione looked a tad embarrassed but her eyes twinkled YES.
Luna beamed even more.
"Found anyone you fancy Neville?" Harry asked slyly.
"No not yet. But we still have another year at Hogwarts. To tell you the truth, I was a little to pre-occupied last year to bother with girls."
"How about you and Luna hook up so we can all go to Hogsmede together?"
Neville looked appalled at the very thought.
"Don't worry," said Luna reassuringly, "They're just teasing you. I'm sure you'll find someone eventually."
That's when the compartment door opened and the pale pointed face of Draco Malfoy appeared. Harry, Ginny, Neville, Hermione and Ron all stood up. Luna remained sitting and tucked up her knees, surveying Malfoy distastefully.
"I…" Malfoy started, then his courage failed him and he turned to leave.
"Wait." Harry caught his elbow and turned him back around "We're waiting." His tone caught Luna by surprise. Was it verging on kind?
Malfoy inhaled steadily.
"I would like to start this year off… better than the rest."
"Not f-friends!" Malfoy said hastily "Just not…"
"Like before." Harry finished.
Harry pretended to ponder it for a second.
"Taking into account that you have tried to get us all expelled many more times than we can count; tried to kill Dumbledore; almost killed Ron and Katie Bell; joined the Death Eaters; and so many many more… I would have to say absolutely no."
"Spots of colour appeared on Malfoy's pale cheeks.
"Look, I get it," he sneered and turned to leave again.
"But…" Harry raised a hand, "The fact that it's because of your mother that I am still alive today seems to negate all the rest. My answer therefore is yes."
Both their hands made an odd spasm in the other's direction as if they were going to shake, but they grimaced and pulled back.
"Seriously, mate!" Ron exclaimed when Malfoy had left, "You can't have just agreed to that! Think of what he's done!"
"To forgive is not to forget." Luna said dreamily, "It is to accept and move on. So is the nature of life."
"Yeah well…" A comeback for that was nowhere in sight for poor Ron.
Luna lost track of the conversation after that. She was far more interested in the scenery outside of the Hogwarts Express. The trees, the clouds, the sky, she could gaze at them for hours at a time. Talk of Quidditch, Hogwarts and the Ministry really had no appeal in Luna's world. She only took herself out of her reveries when the steam engine glided to a halt. They had reached Hogwarts at last.
"Firs' years! Firs' years! Righ' this way please."
Rubeus Hagrid towered over the throngs of excited students. The new first years seemed frightened of him and tried to not be seen.
"No it's okay darling." Hermione coaxed a pigtailed girl our from behind the train door "He's one of my dearest friends, he won't hurt you." The girl seemed comforted by her assurance and timidly crept to join the others.
"Were we really like that when we were new?" Luna heard Ron comment as she mounted into the Hogwarts carriages "I swear they get tinier and tinier every year."
Then there were a couple gasps and Ron said "Blimey!"
"I can see them." Hermione whispered
"So can I."
"Well you've seen death haven't you?" Luna said dreamily while the rest of them filed in.
"Yeah, but it had never occurred to me that we would be able to see thestrals!"
"I bet a lot more people can see them now, Hermione." Harry said darkly.
Unfortunately Luna had to drift off to the Ravenclaw table when they entered the great hall. She had expected to sit quietly and eat alone as usual, so was utterly bemused when Padma Patil waved her over to sit with them.
"Hey Luna." she said conversationally "Had a decent summer?"
"It was quite enjoyable."
"Great. Mine was-"
But she was cut off my Professor McGonagall's magically amplified voice, which filled the Great Hall.
"I would like to say a few words before we begin the Feast." she began "First, to welcome our returning seventh years and our new first years. As you all know, last year's teaching has been deemed insufficient so you all will be redoing your previous year. I thank you for your co-operation. There are other announcements but I shall leave them for the end. Let the feast now begin!"
The magical dishes suddenly filled themselves with every type of food imaginable and Luna didn't hesitate to help herself. A boy beside her was gaping at the heaping plates. Luna turned to get a better look at him.
She had never seen the boy before, but she must have, since he looked about her age. He had freckled and weather-beaten face topped with a mop of sandy hair. His eyes were a dark blue and his robes were immaculate and looked brand new. Luna had never seen such a handsome person.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
The boy turned in surprise.
"Oh, er… sorry. I'm new here and I've never seen the plates just fill up like that before."
"You're new?" Luna was surprised "What year?"
"Seventh," he replied
"Ah. Yes, I'm supposed to be in seventh too. But well, you heard McGonagall, we're all repeating our year."
"Well I'm Rolf anyways." Rolf said, holding out his hand.
They chatted as they ate. Rolf had spent most of his life traveling the world with his father, but he transferred to Hogwarts for his final year.
"That's Father there." Rolf pointed to a happy looking man with the same weather-beaten face sitting at the Professor's table. He was chatting to another red-haired witch Luna didn't recognize.
"You're father's a teacher?"
"Yep. Care of Magical Creatures."
"Is he any good?"
Luna thought vaguely for a moment that Ginny, Harry, Neville and all the rest wouldn't be very pleased with that. Sure enough, they were scrutinizing the new professor from the other side of the Great Hall. Luna caught Ginny's eye and mouthed 'Care of Magical Creatures'. Ginny raised an eyebrow and turned to tell the others.
"Merlin's pants! Is that Harry Potter over there?" Rolf exclaimed.
"The one and only." Luna said brightly
"And you're his friend?" Rolf gazed at her dumbstruck.
"Oh yes." Luna felt quite pleased with herself, "One of my closest. We've been through quite a lot in the past few years together."
"Do you mean you were involved with the defeating of You-Know-Who? How? That is, if you don't mind."
Luna was more than happy to oblige, but suddenly she wasn't sure where to begin. She didn't want to come across as bragging, or that she was terribly shy. And for the strangest reason, Luna felt for the first time that she really did want Rolf to like her. Normally she never cared what others thought. Normally Luna never needed to think before she spoke either.
"Well, I suppose it began when I was in fourth year. I met Harry on the Hogwarts Express, you see…"
Rolf listened eagerly as Luna told of Dumbledore's Army, the Quibbler article and then the battle at the ministry. She delved into the tale of Dumbledore's death and then her previous year at Hogwarts. Finishing it off, was the spectacular first-hand account of Voldemort's death. Rolf was staring at her with wide eyes, when he wasn't occupied in his food.
"Unbelievable!" he breathed at the end. "You must be terribly brave."
"We all have to be," Luna replied dreamily "It's the only way we survive."
"A-hem" Professor McGonagall stood once again to address the crowd.
"Welcome to Hogwarts! Firstly, I would like to thank the school governors for appointing me Headmistress for this school year. This being said I would like to welcome our new Transfiguration professor, Professor Bedelia Marsh!"
Professor Marsh beamed down at them all. She was a middle-aged lady, with long red curls and dimpled cheeks. Her robes were a deep shade of indigo, which matched here twinkling eyes.
"I would also like to introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Professor Levi Otterman!"
The crowd applauded. Professor Otterman, a dark haired man, gave a brusque wave of his hand. His mouth was stretched tight in a small smile, a smile that didn't look natural enough to occur often. Luna thought he must be rather strict.
"And finally, we have a new Care of Magical Creatures professor. Rubeus Hagrid has resigned from the post, but will be staying as the school gamekeeper. Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to Professor Geronimo Scamander!"
Something stirred in Luna's memory. But it was very hard to concentrate through the applause.
"Scamander…" she turned to Rolf "Isn't it Newt Scamander-"
"…who wrote Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?" Rolf grinned "Yep. He was my great grandfather."
Now it was Luna's turn to be surprised.
"Our caretaker Argus Filch has asked me to remind you for the hundred thousandth time that any object purchased at Zonko's Joke Shop and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes shall NOT be permitted in the hallways NO MATTER WHAT. He has also threatened to resign if this problem is not resolved."
A couple students snickered.
"And finally, I would like to mention that our returning first years do not need to follow the prefects to the dormitories as they already know where they are. Thank you, and good night!"
The rumbling of voices grew quite loud as they all exited the Great Hall. Luna took her time though. She didn't see what the rush to get to bed was.
"Er… Luna?" Rolf tapped her on the shoulder. "Do you mind showing me to the dormitories? I just arrived this evening with my father and I didn't have a chance to look around."
"Follow me." Luna said serenely and began to wade through the sea of people.