Only She Can Bear
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Whedon and Rowling own everything, as usual. Honestly, couldn't they share? We'd give them back...eventually.

Summary: There is dust and blood on her robes and most of it isn't hers, but some of it is.

Notes: My first foray into the Twisted Shorts Challenge. I figure trying it won't kill me, particularly since I find these rather easier to write anyway.

Timeline: Moving HBP's timeline up to the present, but no further changes other than the plot dictates.

Only She Can Bear

Filch catches her coming in through the front doors, something that's actually without precedence. Everyone's eyes have always sort of just slid over her - that or darted quickly off to the side before she was promptly elbowed or shouldered out of the way (into a wall, statue, complaining portrait that would later soothe her with calming words) but right now, Filch is staring straight at her, Mrs. Norris, usually full of a decent cheer to see her, has a predatory look upon her eyes and Luna knows why.

For the first time in all her five years at Hogwarts, Luna has just been caught out of bed and bounds, and this time with contraband, if you could even call it that.

It is a weapon, Filch is right about that, but he can't understand why a sharpened piece of wood would be any better than a wand for anything, but he doesn't know everything - he couldn't, what with being a Squib and all, but that's not the point. It's nothing she's ever held against him and - she's becoming distracted and distracted is not something to be in Filch's presence because it's an automatic guilty sentence, no matter what defense you may have.

And tonight she doesn't have one at all, how could she?

There is dust and blood on her robes and most of it isn't hers, but some of it is.

Luna sighs, knowing she can't get out of this, and settles for the truth because the truth, most of the time, unsettles those around you enough that they think, want to believe it's a lie.

It was that way when she told Harry, Hermione, Ginny, Ron, and Neville. Hermione was worst, Harry and Neville easiest. They could see the thestrals, they knew there were things out there no one could see but some people, so why couldn't it be true - what with the fact that both Harry and Neville were tied to Voldemort by a ridiculous set of circumstances, none of which would have come into action or been anything to worry about if Voldemort, himself, hadn't been so obsessed with either of them.

So they came to this new side of thinking far faster than Hermione or either of the Weasleys, but it was alright in the end. The Room of Requirement is a haven for them now, filled with books on the demons she fights every night and even some on what's happened to her - why she needs even less sleep than she did before or why she heals so quickly.

None of them has called her a demon, herself, and for that she's immeasurably grateful. It's just painful to be called the thing you've been asked to kill over and over every night. Not that they're not trying to kill her right back, of course. In fact, they always start the fight, without fail.

Luna, contrary to her Calling, is not the violent type.

Right now, all Luna wants to do is curl up on one of the soothing cushions in the Room and go to sleep, Hermione and Ginny rubbing healing tinctures into her fractures because Madam Pomfrey would never believe anything she'd say about falling except off the Astronomy Tower and only then because she'd ask why on earth Luna is still alive - but Filch is still watching her and Luna realizes she's been quiet for a long time, far too long.

Harry, Neville, and Ron would never look, blushing furiously as they buried themselves more deeply into the books they read all the time now, and Luna would smile dreamily as the pain receded, her bones mending more quickly as Hermione learned more spells, and they boys would preserve her privacy.

Harry and Neville are each very sweet - Ron not very at all, but she lets it slide because all the same things are boring, especially in people, and anyway, she knows he doesn't understand how much he can hurt people. It's not a tool for him, but an accident.

She wishes he'd realize it, though, he's terribly nasty when he's been stewing about something for a while.

But Harry, Neville, and Ron aren't here, however. Filch is.

He sneers, then, and looks remarkably unpleasant. Luna doesn't think he brushes his teeth very often, which is quite unfortunate. She'd never pictured him for a member of the Rotfang Conspiracy, but he certainly does bear all the marks of it.

"Don't want to talk, do you? Well, let's see what we can come up with for you since you've so suddenly lost your voice."

"I haven't lost it," Luna says calmly and Filch, who had turned away from her, turns back around with appall written all over his face. He'd expected her to be afraid, she knows. Petrified of what punishment she'd receive.

Compared to the fractured pelvis she's been nursing all the way back to the big wooden doors in the front of the school, however, how bad could anything he'd come up with be anyway?

How bad could any of it be when she's about to pass out with the pain?

It's all she can do to stay calm now and not cry. Never mind the fear, she never thought she'd feel pain quite this bad - at least not while Voldemort was biding his time and not torturing people like her mother's diaries were full of. She remembers watching her illustration of what the Cruciatus Curse was like.

This seems very much like that.

She's lost quite a lot of blood, on top of that. Filch thought it was mud. Really, can't he tell the difference between dark brown and bright red? They're two different stages of blood being alive and being dead, after all.

She is not dead and rather wishes she was just now, but something inside her - maybe The Slayer the man from the International Council of Watchers told her about - the Vampire Slayer and how there used to only be one every generation, new ones being Called when their predecessors died, but now there are a very many.

She asked this man, Mr. Giles, why there needed to be so many - much less why anyone would think her so useful - and he gave a rueful smile and actually clapped her on the shoulder.

"I've learned through a great many trials that no one should ever face anything difficult alone. Much less someone such as yourself. If you've got friends, tell them, trust them. Let them help you if they wish."

"Oh, I trust them," she'd said instantly and Mr. Giles had smiled widely.

"That's a very precious thing to have, Miss Lovegood. Try to hold onto it as much as possible. Don't let them go."

"I won't," she'd promised and, before she knows it she's back in the present, her very tired feet are following Filch up the stairs to the Headmaster's office, likely to report this most grevious offense of trespassing in the Forbidden Forest and resisting arrest, as Harry would doubtlessly call it, the others chorusing in agreement after Umbridge's rampage the year before.

They're nearing a fork in the halls, one branch headed straight, further toward the headmaster's office, but Luna knows she can't go there. She can't put the professor in danger by knowing her secrets. He isn't counted as a friend and any one of his enemies would gladly love to know there's a Slayer in his school - if not more - surely, Mr. Giles didn't come all the way here from Rome just for her? - and try to put her to their uses.

She can't.

So when the fork arrives, Luna ushers a burst of energy from somewhere and dashes off to the side, far too quickly for Filch's fingers to do anything but brush fruitlessly against her schoolbag, which is filled with stakes, crosses, and a tome or three about the demon she found in the forest tonight.

It wasn't supposed to be there and even the centaurs - who usually ignore anything other than astronomy, for the most part - were deeply disgruntled at its presence, but left it alone out of fear for the foals in their midst, both in their herd and the school.

Luna is breathless, heaving with pain, but the idea that the centaurs regard herself and her fellow students circumstantial members of a sort of herd brings warmth to her pounding heart and she knows that if Filch hadn't realized she was losing so much blood, he ought to know it now.

He's unpleasant, not stupid.

Luna would carefully Vanish it, but it's a mess only managed by Mrs. Skower's Magical Mess Remover or a very concentrated wand, and the only concentration she can afford is getting...home...

She's dashed ahead so far, darted around so many corners, that she's left Filch terribly far behind. As well as the Room of Requirement, unfortunately.

Sighing and trying to breathe as blood bubbles up her throat from a wound in her chest she hadn't realized she'd had, made far worse by her dead run for safety. Luna uses her flagging strength to retrieve the coin Hermione enchanted the previous year for the D.A. and feels it warm in her hand.

Harry had Dobby the wonderful House Elf he knew, enchant it further with House Elf magic so that when she clenched it now, it allowed her to be pulled into thin air and arrive in the Room of Requirement, where everyone now spent as much of their time as they could get away with.

"Luna!" Hermione almost shrieks and immediately, they're pressing in upon her in a bubble of warmth and it's all she can do to stay conscious.

Harry administers a mild Stinging Hex to keep her conscious and while she'd be annoyed, she knows she's likely dying at this point.

They get to work without another word, Ginny's hand in hers, locked in a death-grip. Even Ron is eager to help, ordered around by Hermione or Ginny for whatever they need to fix her up.

In the end, they're all shaky and their wand handles are smeared with her blood and that of the G'oreathl demon she killed...but Hermione says she'll live.

Tomorrow they can take her to Madam Pomfrey and make up some story, but for now she has to rest.

As if Luna could do anything else.

After all, she's among friends here, among saviors. She's free to let go of her burden, at least for a little while.