Luna got four hours of sleep the night of the Death Eater invasion, which wasn't too bad, considering. She chewed on some chocolate-covered coffee beans as she strolled toward the Infirmary. Inside the sick bay, a beautiful young witch slumped over in a chair that was pushed up against Bill's bed. Luna peered at her for a second before she recognized the champion of Beauxbatons. Although both Fleur and Bill were asleep, her left hand firmly clasped his right. Luna thought it was rather sweet.
As the Ravenclaw crept further into the room, she noticed another visitor who had not been present the night before. A witch sat in an armchair beside Neville's bed. She was about the same age as Professor McGonagall, and she wore a hat with a stuffed vulture that leaned dangerously forward, threatening to topple. Her arms were draped with a scruffy fox stole. The woman did not notice Luna, because a copy of The Dark Arts Outsmarted kept her occupied. Luna did not wish to disturb her, but felt it would be rude not to say hello.
So she said, quietly, "Good morning, madam."
The witch looked up sharply, the stuffed bird whipping against the back of the armchair.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
The woman removed her reading glasses and stared at Luna. Her gaze roved up and down, sizing her up, and then she relaxed.
"That's quite all right, young lady. I simply didn't expect any other visitors this hour." She pulled her fox stole onto her shoulders, and rose to her feet with surprising speed for a woman of her advanced age, although her joints popped. "I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Augusta Longbottom, Neville's grandmother."
Luna shook Mrs. Longbottom's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Neville talks about you often. Not to worry, he says mostly good things," she added with a smile. "I'm Luna Lovegood."
Mrs. Longbottom arched her eyebrow. "Mostly? At least you're honest. I've heard some good things about you as well, Miss Lovegood." She opened her red handbag and summoned a scrap of paper with an Accio. "Here you are."
Luna took the proffered page. It was a Prophet article from the previous year, about the break-in and fight at the Ministry of Magic. In the center of the page were photographs of all the individuals involved. Bellatrix Lestrange's face had black lines drawn over it, so that it looked like she had devil's horns, a heavy unibrow, a mustache, and a goatee. Luna's smile grew wider.
"Did you draw this? Are you an artist? Lestrange's face is much improved."
Mrs. Longbottom's own thin lips curved upward. "I'm pleased that my scribbling meets your approval," she said wryly. "I am not without a sense of humor, especially at the expense of that - well, I won't say what she is in polite company, but she's certainly not good enough to be called a witch."
"I understand perfectly," said Luna.
The elderly woman regarded her with a more serious expression. "You are very brave to face Death Eaters twice, risking your life to defend your friends."
Luna beamed. "That's a very kind thing to say."
Mrs. Longbottom's wrinkled face hardened. "Young lady, I don't give out praises like party favors. I speak only the truth."
"Well, all the same, I appreciate you saying it."
After scrutinizing Luna for a moment, Mrs. Longbottom said, "I can see that you're not easily ruffled, in any case. What brings you to the Infirmary this early in the morning? Neville may be asleep for awhile yet."
"I've brought get-well presents for him and Bill. I don't mind waiting until Neville wakes up, at least. He had a very rough night and someone is going to have to break more terrible news to him."
"Neville can handle terrible news, but I'm certain he'll appreciate your visit, all the same."
Neville was brought to wakefulness by two familiar voices. He cracked open his eyes and saw Luna talking with his grandmother. Neither of them noticed him until he tried to sit.
"How do you feel?" asked Gran, moving toward his pillow.
"Not too bad." He felt a twinge in his belly as he propped himself up on his elbows. "I'm a little thirsty, though."
A pitcher of water sat on his bedside table, and Gran poured some into a glass for him.
"I'm afraid I have bad news. You'd better finish drinking first."
Neville gulped down the water and stared at her. He had a sinking feeling that someone had died.
"Professor Dumbledore died," confirmed Gran, in her usual brusque tone. She didn't believe in beating around the bush or coddling children from reality.
"Merlin," he breathed, his mind reeling. "What happened?"
"Snape struck him with the killing curse."
Neville's mouth fell open in shock. True, Dumbledore was over a hundred years old, and he'd gone on a mission to find an artifact that was probably laced with dark magic wards. Considering these points, the Headmasters' death wasn't that surprising.
Yet somehow, as shifty and shirty as Snape was, Neville had never pegged him as a murderer.
"When did this happen?"
"It must have happened late last night, when Mr. Snape ran through the barrier up to the tower," answered Luna with a frown. "Harry is the only one who can tell us exactly what happened, but doesn't want to talk about it."
Neville blinked. "What was he doing up there? Wasn't he supposed to be on that…Er…" He paused when Luna shot him a warning look. "…The thing…At Hogsmead?"
Gran raised her eyebrow. "What on earth are you talking about?"
Neville tried to cover his tracks. "I mean, he kept going away from Hogwarts this term. I didn't think he was back."
"I heard that the Death Eaters put the Dark Mark over the castle." Luna's eyebrows drew together as she thought. "Perhaps that's what brought him here."
"That would explain it. What about the Death Eaters? Did they get away?"
"All except the one who was killed."
Neville collapsed onto the bed. "We blew it," he said, his voice tinged with bitterness. "We should have stopped Snape, at least. Even if it was too late to save Dumbledore, we could have held him for questioning."
Gran was quiet for a moment as his words sank in. "Even the greatest wizards make mistakes," she said softly. "Dumbledore trusted Snape. Don't put too much blame on yourself, or your friends," she added, glancing at Luna.
It was nice of Gran to go easy on Neville for a change, but it was a small comfort.
"But it is partly my fault. If I had practiced defensive spells more, I might have been able to knock one of them unconscious."
"I'm as much to blame as anyone," said Luna. "I was disappointed that Harry didn't have the DA this year, but if I had wanted badly enough, I would have started it up again it without him, like Ginny suggested. I'm certain Ginny would have practiced dueling with us if we asked her, and she could have got Dean to join us. I should have wanted it more. But I didn't." She finished her speech looking downcast, staring at the floor. Neville had never seen like this. As flighty as she appeared when he first met her, she had established herself as serene and steadfast.
"It's human nature to think about what you could have done differently to prevent his death," said Gran. "But the blame lies squarely on Mr. Snape and his accomplices."
Luna stared at her with wide gray eyes.
"Young lady, I believe you have a present for Neville," Gran said abruptly. "Why don't you give it to him?"
"Oh." Luna blinked. "Yes, of course." She handed Neville a small jar with a blue gingham ribbon tied round the lid. "They're dirigible plums," she explained. "They're only dirigible when they're fresh, but they're still flavorful and nutritious when canned."
"Thanks. These'll be good with toast for breakfast," he commented, gazing at the orange preserves.
Luna strolled toward the far end of the room where Bill and Fleur were snoozing, and she set an identical jar on his bedside table.
"How is Bill, by the way?" asked Neville, staring at his bandaged face.
"Madame Pomfrey says that werewolf bites can't be healed by magic, but he'll be all right eventually. According to Professor Lupin, Bill won't become a true werewolf, but he might develop wolfish characteristics. I hope that means he'll have enhanced speed, agility, and sense of smell. That would be quite useful." An unsettling glint appeared in Luna's pale eyes as she returned to Neville's bedside, as if she wished the werewolf had bitten her.
"Yes, quite," agreed Gran. "It would give young Bill some consolation for getting his face torn to shreds."
"I have something else for you." Luna held out an issue of the Quibbler to Neville. "It'll help pass the time. There's a pair of Spetrespecs in it, so you can watch out for Wrackspurts. Although," she added, glancing at Gran's hat, "they're afraid of large birds, so I don't expect you'll see any."
Neville thanked her for the magazine, which potentially contained something of interest. But he privately hoped he wouldn't be bored enough to don the multicolored spectacles and swat at flying pests of questionable existence.
Luna stayed to chat for a few more minutes, and then headed down to breakfast.
"She's a very thoughtful girl," remarked Gran, after the door closed, "even if she is rather odd."
Neville choked back a laugh. That was rich, coming from a lady who had worn a dead bird on her head for as long as he could remember.