It took Luna a moment to orient herself when she Flooed into the Ministry of Magic one drizzly afternoon, partly from the necessity of soothing the small blue-speckled bird hunched onto her shoulder--Iden still seemed frightened of all magical travel, but refused to separate from her for long since she had found it as a lone nestling--then went on to the stairs rather than the lifts so as not to perturb her passenger any further.
Passing the fourth floor she saw Hermione Granger busily organizing parchments behind a large corner-shaped desk, and as the older witch (no longer quite so bushy-haired as she once was) also happened to look up and notice her, Luna paused and meandered over.
"Hello, Luna. What brings you here today?" she asked politely.
"Getting a Portkey to America," Luna answered placidly. "I thought I should introduce Rolf to the twins."
Hermione frowned. "Rolf?"
Luna smiled. Rolf Scamander had happened to pass by her sitting on a bench one day and stopped to stare with evident delight and fascination, not at her or Iden, but at the jackalope crinkling its nose by her feet. "I might marry him someday."
Hermione blinked in surprise, but quickly smoothed it over. "So you want the boys' approval before committing to anything like that," she nodded. "But you know Harry is down in Wales right now, after that Rob Roche figure; he's not likely to take a vacation soon."
Luna wondered idly if Rob Roche would prove merely a criminal the Auror department assigned to Harry Potter or one of the other wizards to have cheated Death that the specter desired a second chance at, but gave it little attention. Both twins were so circumspect in carrying out that agreement with Death that she had heard no rumors of a current bearer of the Elder Wand, and no suspicions about the occasional reasonable deaths of some of the people Harry Potter came into contact with.
So she merely smiled again, unbothered, and assured the other witch, "It doesn't have to be both at once. It's time Benji goes home to have a chance at a family; it's not fair to keep him here forever without any of his kind."
"That's responsible of you, especially considering how small the population likely is," Hermione said approvingly, then glanced at the bird sheltering as close as possible underneath Luna's ear and asked, "Oh, is that a jobberknoll?"
"This is Iden." She gently coaxed her pet onto her finger, and Hermione kindly refrained from leaning in too close while she studied the faintly trembling creature.
"Is it murmuring?" Hermione drew back in alarm. "They only make noise when they're about to die--"
"I've found that to be a misconception," Luna reassured her. "She makes sound whenever she's stressed, the more the worse it gets, independent of her strength or alertness. She's nervous now because of all the bustle around--she's very shy." She didn't mention, even to Hermione, that Iden also had the perfect memory for sound of all jobberknolls and could actually therefore be quite useful as a messenger or recorder if the bird were spoken to and then deliberately distressed. It was better for the reclusive avians if wizardkind continued to want only their feathers for memory-related potions.
"Oh--the poor little thing." Hermione straightened and drew back a little further in evident sympathy, and was distracted by a paper-plane memo flying onto her desk and settling atop one of her neat stacks. "Well, say hello to Harry for me while you're over there, and let him know I'd like to know how he's doing if you would--"
"All right." Luna smiled, returning her bird to its perch on her shoulder, and made a note to herself to see if the twins were likely to reassure the other witch any time soon as to how well they really were. She thought they would no longer mind the idea much, they had made so much progress, but it was still their right to decide how much of their business to share rather than hers.
As far as the British wizarding world was concerned, the Boy-Who-Lived's brother had faded reasonably away--all but the two witches were still unaware of how regularly the twins switched places, taking turns with the burden of notoriety--but in America, taking turns with the unassuming job of a cross-country trucker without any inclination to greater ambition, they were known to be twins who went by Ri and Ro to everyone on their routes and wore a light and dark cowboy hat respectively to truthfully distinguish which one was there.
They had survived, and surmounted Britain's strictures on them, and were growing--although perhaps still slowly--into their own persons in the freedom of another country, Death's contract aside. She suspected Death was the only tie they had ever really held to British wizardkind anyway, even before they knew it, but they seemed to regard the specter as a master far less demanding than the general magical public, leaving them free to live as they chose around the single requirement of ensuring any cheaters were clever enough to deserve whatever extension of life they had won (still unbothered by the morality of such a task). Luna was proud of them.
"Would you like to come along?" she offered to Hermione, on impulse.
The other witch looked startled, and evinced slight hesitation, but not necessarily unwillingness. "Well--where is it you're going?"
"To the Rocky Mountains, but Rolf and I are going to start at the Blue Ridge." She smiled, recalling the beauty of her first cross-country journey, unchaperoned and unstructured, with the teenage twins. "That range is such rolling country, so colorful; sheer overgrown stone right beside you and then out to distant peaks and forests half a horizon away... if I were a bird Animagus I would have flung myself into the open air the first time I saw it and likely never made my way back." She returned mostly to her present surroundings from the memory, stroking Iden with one finger and contemplating whether she might lose the little jobberknoll to such temptation--she wouldn't blame anything with wings. "If you're not a bird Animagus, though, and your soul is firmly grounded, it's simply a long, lovely trip."
"It sounds like it." Hermione suppressed what looked like a smile, then relaxed her stance slightly and said, "Well... I do have some vacation time accumulated, and there's nothing critical that needs my attention here at the moment. I would like to see Harry where he seems to be so content... I suppose I could just come with you part way, and you and Rolf can have the jackalopes to yourself?"
Luna smiled, and wondered, if the academic witch was still not quite comfortable with the existence of jackalopes, how she would react if she saw the twins' current trucking partner.
A/N: So there we have it--there is actually a jobberknoll in the story, not just in the title. ^_^ According to the HP Lexicon, jobberknolls are blue speckled birds that make one cry at the moment of their deaths consisting of every sound they've ever heard, backwards. I thought about it and decided Luna would learn more about them even if they're not mythological even to wizards.
Just to try to head off a few questions I'm sure most people will have: I don't have a specific time this takes place in mind beyond a few years after Hogwarts. I threw Rolf in because I like the idea of his and Luna's twins Lorcan and Lysander, but who she actually gets together with is up to your own imagination. Ditto the twins' current trucking partner.
Seriously. It could be anything. Although I like the idea of Luna having discovered that she and her dad never found crumple-horned snorkacks in Europe before because the species discovered they preferred America's warmer climes, and now random individuals regularly hitch rides from state to state with the twins just to see if there's anything better over the next horizon... they could be crazy adventurous things, those crumple-horned snorkacks. ;D
Thank you to everybody who's read this through with me, especially those of you who left such wonderful comments. I hope this little flight of fancy was as much fun to read as it was to write. ^_^