Here's the next chapter. Sorry it's been a while. This is going to be the last chapter of second year. I'm going to do a time jump for the next chapter, but I'm not completely sure how far ahead I'm going to go…

Chapter 13: Luna Lovegood

Epsilon staggered as he landed in Dumbledore's office. The headmaster looked up calmly from his desk.

"Good afternoon, Mr Brown," he said. "I'm glad you're back, your friends will be most relieved to know that you are safe. Dinner started a few minutes ago; there should still be plenty of food left."

"Yes sir, thank you sir."

Epsilon left the office quickly, and as soon as he reached the corridor he broke into a run, sprinting down the stairs to the great hall.

The wooden tables were packed as students devoured their dinners. Epsilon spotted Justin at the Hufflepuff table with some other second years. Draco was sitting at the Slytherin table as usual. Epsilon approached the Hufflepuff table, suddenly nervous.

"Um… hey."

Justin jumped out of his seat.

"Epsilon!" he cried, reaching out to grasp his friend's shoulders. "Oh my god, are you alright? We heard what happened; it was all over the Daily Prophet… we were so worried about you!"

"I'm okay," said Epsilon. He squeezed in amongst the others, and began piling his plate with food. "What's been going on here? Give me the rundown."

"Not much," said Justin. "Draco got onto the Slytherin Quidditch team, and they flattened Gryffindor a couple of weeks ago. Hufflepuff were beaten by Ravenclaw again, Lockhart's lessons are still useless, and his attempt at a duelling club was even worse… um… the head boy and girl had a screaming match over dinner… that's about it."

"So, nothing then?"

"That's right."

Suddenly Draco was behind them, clapping Epsilon's back.

"You're back!"

"Yep! How've you been?"

"Fine, just fine."

Epsilon could feel Draco's critical eye sweeping him up and down. He knew he probably looked awful. He had been training harder than ever, whilst failing to get enough sleep. No matter, he would be able to go to bed early tonight.

XXX

Epsilon waved to Justin and Draco as he passed them. The two boys were huddled in their cloaks, shivering. It was nearly December, and Epsilon knew the first snow would be arriving any day now. Soon he would be forced to go back to running inside. Today, the cold wouldn't make him stop running, but that might…

He stopped in his tracks as he saw a flash of blonde hair disappear inside the forbidden forest. He chased after it, ducking inside the first line of trees. He was vaguely aware of his friends calling to him, following him, but he didn't pay much attention. He searched in front of him for the mind attached, but instead found empty space. It was quite unnerving.

"Hello," said a dreamy voice. Epsilon had reached a clearing, and could now see the girl properly. Her blonde hair reached down to her waist, and she wore Ravenclaw robes. Her eyes were blue, and appeared to be dreamy as her voice. They were sharp as she regarded Epsilon.

"Hi," he said. "Uh…"

The girl tilted her face to one side.

"You have impressive shields," she told him.

"So do you."

They stared at each other for a moment, and then she turned away.

"Do you want to see the Thestrals?"

"I… what?"

"They're usually somewhere in this clearing," she stepped forwards and whistled softly. Justin and Draco reached the edge of the clearing, but Epsilon held up a hand to keep them back as he heard something move up ahead.

"It's okay," said the girl softly. "They're very friendly."

Epsilon gasped as a dozen skeletal horses emerged from the gloom.

"But… those are the things that were pulling the carriages!"

"Uh, mate," said Justin. "There's nothing there."

Epsilon ignored him, and reached out to pet one.

"They're called Thestrals," said the girl. "They can only be seen by people who've seen death."

Draco gasped.

"So, you've seen someone die?"

The girl frowned, and her shields dropped a fraction, enough for Epsilon to get a glimpse of a woman…

"I'm sorry," he said. She shrugged.

"It's alright. It was only a couple of years ago, so I still get quite sad sometimes."

"I saw her die to, my mother, I mean," said Epsilon. "I was just a baby, but I still get flashes. She… she had red hair."

"C'mon," muttered Draco to Justin. "We should go."

The two vanished.

"What's your name?" asked Epsilon.

"Luna Lovegood," she said. "You're called Epsilon Brown."

"That's me."

"I hear the others talk about you sometimes," she said. "They say you should have been in Ravenclaw."

Epsilon continued to stroke the Thestrals.

"Are you… like me?" he asked tentatively. "Can you hear people's minds?"

"Yes," she replied. "Yes, I can, and I have my whole life. My mother helped me when I was young, but now…"

"The ability in me was dormant," said Epsilon. "I needed to be trained."

Luna nodded.

"The gift was passed down through my mother's family, but she used to say that lots of wizards and witches could achieve it if they applied themselves."

"I've often considered that," agreed Epsilon. "Where I'm from, telepaths are rare, but a lot of um… people have similar abilities."

"Telepaths," she mused. "That's a funny word."

The Thestrals were starting to leave now, melting back into the trees. The two children turned to look at each other.

"Do you want to come to the library with me?"

"I need to finish my run," he said. "But then I'll join you. Uh… where is it?"

She laughed, and they began to retrace their steps back through the forest.

"Come and find me after dinner," she said. "I'll show you."

XXX

Epsilon gasped as he entered the library, awed by the sheer number of books it contained. Luna glanced at him.

"I can't believe you've never been up here before."

"I didn't want to," said Epsilon. "It's too quiet."

"You can take books out of here, you know."

"Really?" Epsilon seemed amazed at the thought.

"Of course! That's why it's called a library!"

"Oh, yeah."

Luna rolled her eyes.

"I've got an essay to write," she said. "You should take a look around."

Epsilon wandered around the shelves, until one particular title caught his eye.

A Beginner's Guide to Magic in Combat

He yanked the book off the shelf, and began to flick through it eagerly. He had never even considered learning how to defend himself with magic. It always seemed like cheating. But now…

He sat down at a table, and scrabbled in his pockets for some spare parchment and a quill. When he failed to find either, he sighed in frustration, and got to his feet.

"Psst, Luna! Who do I talk to if I wanna take a book out of this place?"

XXX

"You were where?"

Epsilon shuffled his feet nervously in the empty classroom he and his friends usually hung out in.

"I was in the library," he mumbled again. "With Luna."

"The library?" laughed Justin. "You've never set foot in the library before. Is Luna the blonde girl you were stroking the invisible ponies with?"

"They're called Thestrals," argued Epsilon.

"Well," sighed Justin. "The Three Musketeers has become the Dynamic Duo."

"Huh?" asked Draco, perplexed. Epsilon blushed.

"Epsilon's just become the first in the gang to ditch the rest of us for a girl," explained Justin.

"Oh," said Draco. "Do you like her?"

"Not in the way you're thinking," grumbled Epsilon. Draco grinned wickedly.

"Oh Luna…" he said in a sing-song voice. "Take me to the library. You know we can both see those ponies of death, and we both saw our mothers get…"

Stopped abruptly and turned pale.

"I'm sorry, Epsilon. You were right. That is quite a lot of common ground."

Epsilon nodded.

"So," said Epsilon. "Who's going to join me at the Ravenclaw table for breakfast tomorrow?"

Draco looked over at Justin.

"Did you check his dinner for love potions?"

Epsilon rolled his eyes.

"Anyway, guys, I've got a new project, and was wondering if you two wanted to pitch in."

"What kind of project?" asked Justin with narrowed eyes. Epsilon grinned, and pulled out the library book. Draco gulped.

"Never mind the love potion," said Justin. "She's hypnotised him."