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HP stories following Canon after Deathly Hallows >> What Luna Sees by Northumbrian

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
What Luna Sees

I was woken, as usual, by the sound of my own voice singing.

‘Wake up, Luna,
another day has dawned.
Wake up, Luna,
there are lessons to be learned.’

I enchanted my alarm clock with that verse when I was twelve years old. I have not changed it because it reminds me how much my voice (and my sense of rhyme) has altered in the past six years.

Usually, I wake quickly. This morning I did not. I had difficulty moving and I could not open my eyes. I lay perfectly still and tried to analyse why this should be.

Facts: during the night my eyes had been gummed tightly shut, all of the moisture had been removed from my mouth, an engorgement charm had been placed on my tongue, and a spike had been driven through my head.

Naturally, I was concerned. I considered my options. It seemed to me that the spike through my skull, and the pain it was causing, was of immediate importance.

I estimated that the spike entered and exited at the pulse points on either side of my forehead. I lifted my hands up to my head and cautiously felt the entry and exit points.

There was nothing there.

I wondered if the spike could have been conjured inside my skull.

After some careful consideration, I dismissed that idea. Both Waffling’s “Magical Theory” and Marcius’s “Limitations of Magic” clearly state the twenty seven reasons why it is impossible to conjure an item inside a living creature, or indeed, anywhere out of line of sight. The fact that I had even considered so preposterous a proposition was itself worrying.

Unfortunately, attributing my inability to reason to the spike inside my brain was no longer possible, because I had just satisfactorily proved to myself that the spike did not exist.

I pondered this conundrum for some time. Fortunately, I eventually remembered what I had done the previous night. This too was of some concern to me, as my memory is usually excellent. I could only conjecture that my memory loss and confusion was associated with the three goblets of mead, half bottle of elf-wine and the (unfortunately indeterminate) number of Firewhiskies I had consumed the previous evening.

By then, I had managed to get some saliva back into my mouth. By licking my fingers and rubbing my eyes I managed to ungum them (I do not believe that there is such a word as ungum - there should be). When I opened my eyes I discovered that the world was brighter, and rather more out of focus, than usual.

I sat up. Both my brain and my stomach appeared to want to remain in a prone position, however, and it took them quite some time to adjust to the vertical.

I opened my mouth. It made a sound not dissimilar to a wellington boot being pulled from a viscous, sludgy marsh. I ran my tongue over my lips, which felt unpleasantly similar to dried and cracked earth; however, as I was reasonably confident that I had not, at any time, attempted to eat a marsh, it seemed likely that these feelings could be attributed to the alcohol.

The non-existent spike in my head was still painful. I decided to empty my brain of some thoughts to try to improve my thinking. To achieve this, I began writing an essay. This was not the best idea I have ever had. I could barely focus on the parchment and my handwriting was poor because my hands were shaking. Fortunately, it was at this point that I thought of taking a hangover cure.

The hangover cure made me feel much better, and I decided that I was hungry. I made myself some toast, found the butter and yeast paste, and filled a large jug with pumpkin juice. I was remarkably thirsty.

As I ate and drank, I decided that the best thing to do was to write down my recollections of the previous evening. Perhaps that would help me to make sense of my experience of inebriation.

‘All done, Luna?’ Ginny asks me.

‘Yes, thank you, Ginny,’ I tell her. ‘I am finally ready for Christmas. Do you know where Hermione is?’

Ginny Weasley is my first best friend. I am not very tall, but she is shorter than I am. She is not, however, lighter. Ginny is an excellent Quidditch player and, while I always support my house, if Ravenclaw is not playing then I support Gryffindor instead. Ginny has very red hair, pale skin and lots of freckles. (She has told me that her freckles are everywhere. I have not personally verified this statement, nor has Harry. He simply blushed and shook his head when I asked him). My ex-boyfriend Dean (who is also Ginny’s ex-boyfriend), says that Ginny has nice knockers, which I believe he meant as a compliment even though, when I told Ginny, she threatened to hex him.

Hermione Granger is another of Ginny’s friends. I think that she is my friend, too, though sometimes I am uncertain. She is more than a year older than Ginny and I. Hermione has a remarkable quantity of brown hair, enough for at least two people. She is Head Girl at Hogwarts. Hermione should have finished school last year, but she was unable to attend the school. I could tell you why she wasn’t there, but that would take at least seven books. So I won’t.

‘We’re in a bookshop, Luna,’ Ginny says.

Like many people, Ginny is often imprecise in her responses. Her reply does not answer my question directly, but it focuses my thoughts and allows me to answer the question for myself. Like me, Hermione reads a lot. She will be browsing, looking at the shelves full of wonderful books.

‘She could be anywhere in here,’ Ginny says. ‘Let’s find her and get out of here. I promised that I’d take you to the Leaky Cauldron and buy you a birthday drink.’

I do not drink much, but Ginny wants to take me out for a drink to celebrate my birthday. She motions for me to follow, then leads me between shelves stacked high with books. We look down every aisle and eventually spot Hermione at the far end of a dark passage.

‘There she is.’ Ginny strides towards Hermione. ‘She’s found someone to talk to… Oh!’ Ginny falls suddenly silent.

‘Hello, Cho,’ I say loudly. ‘Are you shopping too?’ I wave both of my arms like windmills to attract the attention of Cho Chang. It does not work; Cho looks at Ginny, not me.

It is not unusual for people to fail to notice me, I do not know why. My clothes are always bright and colourful, but even when I wave and jump and shout I still am often unsuccessful in my attempts to attract the attention of a number of people. In fact, some people mistakenly look in the opposite direction. I believe that I have the unconscious ability to make myself invisible. Ginny disagrees; she tells me that I am simply trying too hard. I don’t really understand this. How can anyone try too hard?

Cho looks over Hermione’s shoulder at Ginny but does not look pleased to see her. Cho and Padma Patil are the only other girls from Ravenclaw house in Dumbledore’s Army, but Cho is two years older than I am and we are not close friends. Perhaps we are acquaintances? We are certainly acquainted.

There was a fourth Ravenclaw girl at the beginning. She was called Marietta; I do not know her at all and we do not talk about her. She did a bad thing. People do bad things sometimes, but she betrayed us to the enemy, which is very bad. My father has done that, too. But he did it because he was frightened for me. Marietta did it because she was frightened for herself. That is a very important difference.

‘I’ve just finished, Luna,’ Cho tells me. I am surprised that she answers my question. She has not otherwise acknowledged my presence. I think that Cho often does not understand what I am talking about; she answers me, but she watches Ginny.

‘I was telling Hermione that I met the Patil twins and poor Lavender Brown in the street,’ Cho continues. ‘They were on their way to the Leaky Cauldron. They asked me to join them for a Christmas drink. I asked Hermione if she wanted to join us, but she said that she was with friends.’

Ginny scowled at Cho’s comment. She was unhappy because Cho had been going out with Harry before she did. That is a silly reason not to like someone because he wasn’t Ginny’s boyfriend at the time. I decide that it is time to give Ginny some advice. I have noticed that people do not always like to hear my advice, but Daddy says that we must try to help others, so that is what I do, even if sometimes the others are ungrateful.

‘You should try to be friends with Cho,’ I tell Ginny. ‘She fought at Hogwarts, she appears to be a nice girl and she hasn’t kissed Harry on the lips since he was fifteen. That was three years ago, and a lot has happened since then.’

Cho looks shocked, but Ginny laughs.

‘That’s what Harry says too, Luna,’ she tells me. ‘Though that’s not exactly how he worded it.’ Still laughing, she turns to talk to Cho.

‘We’re heading to The Cauldron for a drink, too,’ she says. Ginny is smiling at the girl she doesn’t like very much. This is called being sociable. I am not particularly good at it, but Ginny is very sociable, so I try to learn from her.

‘It was Luna’s birthday the day before yesterday,’ Ginny tells Cho. ‘Eighteen years old, that’s an adult in the Muggle world, too.’

‘I know; I work in Muggle Relations.’ Cho is speaking a little sharply, I think.

Ginny pulls her “I’m starting to get angry” face. She can be very dangerous when she’s angry, but she calms herself down and tries to be friendly.

‘As we’re going to the Cauldron anyway, it would be nice to join you. I’m sure Lavender will have some gossip for us.’ Ginny smiles at Cho again. ‘You’re going out with a Muggle now, aren’t you?’

I watch Cho and Ginny with interest as they face each other. So does Hermione. They are in a bookshop, and standing still, but they somehow still have the appearance of two predators prowling around each other.

Cho looks surprised by Ginny’s question. ‘Yes.’ She nods.

‘Harry told me, he tells me everything,’ Ginny says with a special smile. This is her “Harry is mine” smile. I wonder whether I need to explain to Cho what the smile means, but when I look at Cho’s face I realise that she knows.

‘Have you told your new man who you really are?’ Ginny asks.

‘No, not yet, we’ve only been together for two months,’ Cho explains.

‘Are we going to the pub, or are we going to simply stand here?’ Hermione asks. Her words seem to break a spell. Ginny and Cho fall silent and Hermione leads us all from the bookshop. As we walk down Diagon Alley, no one is speaking, so I decide to tell Ginny about my birthday.

‘The night of the winter solstice, the moon was full, eighteen years ago,’ I sing as I look up at the cloudless night sky. Tonight, the moon is a slim silver sliver, a waxing crescent.

‘Silver sliver,’ I whisper to myself. Words are wonderful.

‘What?’ Cho asks.

‘The night I was born, eighteen years ago on the winter solstice, it was a full moon night,’ I explain.

‘That’s why you’re Luna,’ says Ginny, smiling in understanding. She knows what I was saying. Cho and Hermione are trying to catch up.

‘Of course,’ I agree. ‘Daddy says that it’s a very good time to be born. It means that I am receptive to knowledge, I am imaginative and that I’m very fertile.’

‘Your imagination is certainly very fertile,’ Hermione says. Ginny bursts out laughing. I smile, but I’m not sure whether Hermione is being nasty, nice, or silly. I decide to think that she was being nice.

‘Thank you, Hermione,’ I tell her.

The streets are crowded. We walk past what used to be Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. Mr Fortescue has never been found. That is very sad because it probably means that he is dead. I used to love his ice cream.

The building is now the office of Katie’s charity, The Society for the Assistance of Muggle-borns. They are assisting those people who were wrongly imprisoned and lost everything while Minister Thicknesse was in charge. Ginny points through the window. Inside we see Katie Bell, Angelina Johnson and Alicia Spinnet.

‘Look,’ Ginny says. ‘Let’s see if they can join us for a drink. If they can, almost all of the DA girls will be at the pub.’

Without waiting for a reply, Ginny leaves us and strolls through the door.

I look at Cho and Hermione, and they look at me. We don’t speak. I wonder why? I decide that I should again try to start a conversation.

‘Cho,’ I begin, ‘Ginny says that Harry is a better kisser than Dean. Is he?’

Cho looks annoyed. Perhaps I have said the wrong thing again. Hermione is trying not to laugh.

‘I wouldn’t know, I’ve never kissed Dean,’ Cho tells me.

‘How many boys have you kissed?’ I ask. ‘Cedric, Harry, Michael…’

‘That is none of your business,’ she says.

People often tell me that. But how can I gain knowledge without asking questions? I am trying to think of a polite reply when Ginny comes out with the other three girls.

‘Angelina and Alicia were trying to persuade Katie to go to the pub. I’ve promised Katie that if she comes with us, I’ll help her here tomorrow, on Christmas Eve,’ Ginny announces. ‘I’m not doing anything else tomorrow. That miserable sod Robards has got Harry working until Boxing Day - because he doesn’t have a family to spend time with at Christmas.’

This last statement is true, but it annoys Ginny anyway because she thinks that Harry is part of her family, even though he isn’t. Not yet.

‘Come on, Katie,’ Angelina is pleading, ‘they can spare you for an hour or two, I’m sure.’

‘I’ve got too much to do!’ Katie protests. ‘We have who knows how many knutless Muggle-borns arriving here on Christmas Day, expecting food and whatever presents we can find for them. We’re short staffed. I only have tonight and tomorrow to get organised.’

‘I’ll help you tomorrow, Katie,’ Hermione volunteers. ‘Ron is working, too, and I know that there are a lot of poor Muggle-borns relying on your charity.’

I know that Hermione is correct, so I volunteer to help, too. Katie looks at the others.

‘I’m seeing my boyfriend, sorry,’ Cho says.

‘I’ll help,’ Angelina volunteers, and Katie begins to waver.

‘But…’ she begins.

‘The Patil twins and Lavender are already at the pub,’ Ginny announces. ‘You might be able to persuade them to help, as well,’ she suggests. ‘If you come with us, there’ll only be two DA girls missing from the pub.’

‘One,’ Angelina corrected. ‘Hannah’s still working there. So that only leaves the other Hufflepuff, the tall thin blonde one, what’s her name?’

‘Susan Bones,’ Ginny says.

Katie stares at us seriously, ‘Noon tomorrow, do you promise to be here?’

We promise. Cho says, ‘Twelve? I can be there at twelve, but I must leave at three o’clock.’

Cho’s offer is enough, and Katie agrees to come with us.

‘Sarah,’ she shouts back into the shop, ‘I’m going out for a couple of hours, we’ll finish in the morning.’

By the time the seven of us reach the pub Katie has managed to extract more promises from us. Ginny, Hermione and I agree to help Katie on Christmas Day, too. Alicia refuses, because she will be working, but she promises to get her boyfriend, Lee, to mention the charity during his Christmas Eve show on the Wizarding Wireless Network.

We have to force our way into the Leaky Cauldron. The pub is very noisy and packed to the point where even standing is difficult. Fortunately the crowds are happy and good-natured and we squeeze through the throng to find the Patil twins and Lavender. They have managed to appropriate one corner of a table. I notice that Parvati is trying to keep a gap between herself and the dark-haired young man sitting next to her, but he seems determined to close it.

‘Where on earth did you find this lot?’ Lavender asks Cho.

‘We just bumped into each other,’ Cho tells her, ‘I hope you don’t mind.’

‘The more the merrier, although I won’t be getting merry,’ Lavender says. ‘We tried to keep a seat for you, Cho. But we’ve no chance finding anywhere for everyone to sit together.’

The dark-haired wizard at the table overhears Lavender. He generously, and drunkenly, offers his lap, and the laps of his five friends to us. Angelina tells him that we aren’t interested. I think that it is presumptuous of Angelina to speak for all of us, but no one disagrees with her. It seems that she has correctly judged everyone’s mood.

‘I know you!’ one of the other wizards shouts. He is a fair-haired man in his twenties. He points at Ginny. ‘Where’ve I seen you afore?’ He peers at Hermione and me. ‘You two, too,’ he adds.

‘Tutu!’ one of the other wizards giggles. The first had said two, too; the second had misinterpreted this as an item of ballet wear. I wonder whether I should correct him, but I doubt that he’ll be able to hear me over all of the noise.

‘You’re Pottersgirl,’ the first wizard says, his face lighting up in recognition. He shouts loudly. His friends, and several other bystanders, stare at Ginny. I know that Ginny does not like this.

‘Gizzakissferchristmas, Pottersgirl, G’wan,’ the blonde wizard shouts. He leers at Ginny and his friends cheer him on.

Leering is very unbecoming in a man. I wonder why they do it.

Ginny begins to reach for her wand. Hermione and I grab her arms.

‘Hannah,’ Katie shouts.

Hannah Abbott is collecting empty glasses from crowded tables. Katie waves her over. She looks curiously through the noisy multitude, and slips quickly between chattering clumps of customers to reach us. She is very good at moving through the crowds. I decide to study how she does it. It’s a strange, sliding sideways shuffle with lots of gentle contacts. When she reaches us she looks at us all curiously; it is obvious that she is wondering why we are all together.

‘Coincidence,’ Katie begins. ‘This lot met outside and dragged me in here.’

‘Jewnothislot‘anna?’ the blonde wizard interrupts. He is shouting loudly. ‘Tha’s Pottersgirl tha’is, jewno ’er? It’s Christmas, ‘anna, tellertugizzakiss. Unless you wanna gizzakiss.’ He purses his lips.

The man’s friends laugh at his words. It takes me some time to work out what he has said, and when I do, I’m not certain why they laughed.

‘Is Room Thirteen vacant?’ Katie ignores the drunk, ‘I’d like to find somewhere quieter than this where we can go for a drink and a chat.’

‘Room Thirteen?’ Hermione asks. Everyone ignores her, too; there is too much else going on.

‘If you don’t stop pestering my customers, Martin, I’ll chuck you out, you and all of your friends.’ Hannah glares at the blonde wizard.

‘You’n’whose army?’ the man asks. He is laughing at her threat.

‘Dumbledore’s.’ We all turn to face the man and speak in unison. It sounds rehearsed, though, obviously, it isn’t. It makes us laugh when we all speak. The wizard Hannah has called Martin doesn’t laugh, he just looks at us. His mouth opens and closes several times, but no sounds come out. I suspect a sudden Wrackspurt infestation. Then, very quietly, he says ‘Oh,’ and his friends start looking at us all rather differently. They begin whispering to each other.

‘The Leaky Cauldron doesn’t have a Room Thirteen,’ Hannah tells Hermione. ‘I’ll go and get the key for you, Katie,’ she continues.

This statement makes no logical sense. I assume that it must be a joke and laugh. No one else does.

‘Susan is meeting me after work,’ Hannah continues. ‘We were going to go out for a drink. I finish in half an hour…provided that the temporary Christmas staff can cope.’ She stares at a slim and curvy black girl who is surrounded by young wizards.

‘It would be great if you could both join us,’ Hermione says. We all nod. Hannah smiles and nods, then glares at the curvy black girl.

‘Oy! Frankie,’ she bellows. I suppose that if you work in a busy pub there must be a technique to making yourself heard over the hubbub, ‘You’re being paid to work, not chat.’ The girl looks across, sees us all staring at her, and dashes back behind the bar.

‘Frankie is one of Romilda’s friends,’ Ginny informs Hannah.

‘Is she?’ asks Hannah with interest. Lavender takes a very good look at the girl, too. ‘Thanks for letting me know, Ginny. I’ll get that key.’

‘Room Thirteen?’ Hermione asks again as we watch Hannah carry one tray of glasses back to the bar while levitating two more. Katie and Alicia laugh. It is a little, “we know something you don’t” laugh. I do not join in, because I don’t know either.

‘We used it as a meeting room and information exchange last year,’ Alicia tells her. ‘It was used to pass messages to PotterWatch command, the Resistance, and the Order of the Phoenix.’

‘Very useful it was, too,’ Angelina adds.

It is several minutes before Hannah returns with a key. She tells us that she has put a keg of mead, four bottles of Elf-made wine and three bottles of Firewhisky in the room. She tells us that we can settle up later as she has enchanted our goblets to keep a tally. Katie leads us upstairs.

Room Thirteen is very nice and is decorated for Christmas. Paper chains and streamers hang from the ceiling and a small tree stands at the centre of a round table.

There are eleven chairs, and a gap, at the table. The goblets are on a tray next to the tree. Each goblet has a set of initials on them. Ginny finds mine before she finds her own. She fills it with wine and passes it to me.

‘I’m paying for your drinks, Luna,’ she announces. ‘It was Luna’s birthday, her eighteenth, the day before yesterday,’ Ginny explains to everyone else. The others all wish me a happy birthday. They congratulate me and ask about my presents. Everyone is very nice to me. I think that I like them all.

Lavender wheels herself up to the table. ‘There’s a perfectly good table here,’ she announces. ‘If you all sit, then I won’t have to crane my neck to talk to you.’ She sighs and turns to face me. ‘It was my eighteenth birthday two days before the battle, Luna. So, at the battle, I was exactly the age you are today. When I was your age, I could dance. Now I can’t even walk.’

Lavender was badly injured by a werewolf at the Battle of Hogwarts. Her cursed wounds are not healing and she cannot stand without re-opening them. She is a pretty girl with lots of brown hair and unusual violet eyes. She is also very sad most of the time. Lavender thinks that I have no fashion sense and that I am bonkers. I know this because she has told me so several times.

Lavender is not drinking. She cannot, because of her curse-scars. She drinks pumpkin juice and blood replenishing potion. Lavender had always seemed like a silly girl, but I think that she grew up last year. I think that, probably, we all did.

Hannah arrives with Susan Bones as everyone begins to do a hesitant, shuffling dance around the chairs. The dance is the one people do when they are trying to decide who to sit next to without offending the person who is trying to sit next to them. I sit next to Lavender and Ginny sits next to me. Susan and Hannah are told about my birthday, and they, too, wish me a happy birthday. Everyone offers to pay for my drinks.

We sit and we drink and we talk and we laugh. It is very nice to have so many friends, but when I say so everyone seems a little embarrassed.

The subjects we talk about ebb and flow and eddy and swirl like a river meeting the tide. Most of the girls have left school; they are discussing their new jobs. Ginny, however, is still complaining about the fact that she won’t see Harry for several days. Hermione makes the same complaint.

‘We’re all working over Christmas,’ Susan Bones says. ‘Every unmarried Auror and trainee is working, to let the Aurors with young families have some time off. It’s not unreasonable.’

Ginny grumbles. She seems unable to see any good in the situation.

‘It’s almost Christmas, Ginny,’ I remind my friend. ‘You might not see Harry, but you didn’t see him last year, either. Even without Harry, it will still be better than last Christmas, won’t it?’

Ginny hugs me, which is nice. ‘You’re right, Luna. Where were you last Christmas? In the dungeon at Malfoy Manor?’

‘Yes,’ I tell her. ‘I arrived there on my birthday. So I didn’t have a very happy seventeenth birthday, either. But I did meet Mr Ollivander, who is a very nice man. I don’t suppose many of us had a good Christmas last year. Where was everyone else?’

‘Lee and I were in a cottage in Snowdonia, getting ready for the PotterWatch Christmas broadcast,’ Alicia says. ‘I was outside in a blizzard trying to set up the transmitter. Lee was inside next to the fire, setting up his microphone. I’ve never been that cold before and I hope that I never am again.’

‘I was in Cardiff, trying to persuade my Granny to move out of her house before the Law Office came to arrest her,’ Angelina says. ‘She had failed to attend her hearing at the Muggle-born Registration Commission. Granddad and Granny Johnson were both Muggle-borns. My mum’s parents were a pure-blood and a Muggle. I’d have been arrested, too, if it weren’t for Granddad Peters, the pure-blood.’

‘Escaping from Voldemort with Harry,’ Hermione says.

Everyone is silent as we remember last Christmas.

‘And this year we’re sitting in a pub with our friends,’ I say. ‘That’s better, isn’t it?’

An hour later I am beginning to feel rather lightheaded, and when Ginny makes yet another remark about Harry, I tell her, ‘Harry is a very nice boy, Ginny, but there were other boys in Dumbledore’s Army.’

‘He’s the most fanciable bloke in the DA, Luna,’ Ginny tells me. ‘No competition! Absolutely none!’

Everyone begins to laugh and argue. And that is how, half an hour later, we are all secretly writing two names on scraps of parchment and posting them into a small wooden box.

We are surrounded by bottles and glasses and most of us are giggling. I am giggling, and the fact that I am so giddy makes me laugh even more. I don’t think that I have ever laughed like this before. It seems such a silly thing to do.

I have drunk three glasses of wine and Ginny is trying to persuade me to drink some mead with a Firewhisky chaser. Almost everyone else thinks that it is a good idea, too, though Cho and Susan are silent on the subject.

Hermione leans onto the centre of the table, picks up the box and posts her folded up slip of parchment into the slot in the top of it.

‘This was Ginny’s idea,’ she reminds us. ‘It’s just a bit of light-hearted fun.’

Hermione does not sound convinced by her own words.

‘It is,’ protests Ginny. She takes the box from Hermione and drops another piece of parchment into it. ‘You have all written the names of the two DA members you reckon are the most fanciable. The box will count them and sort them by the number of votes they have.’

‘It is not very scientific or accurate, Ginny,’ I say, as I post my parchment. ‘Everyone knows you will have voted for Harry; and people might not vote honestly, anyway.’

‘Look on it as a simple social experiment, Luna,’ says Padma as she follows me. ‘It might let some of us discover if we have any rivals for our “Chosen One”.’

Now I’d really like to know who you’ve voted for, Padma.’ Lavender looks at her friend curiously as she slips her own parchment into the box.

‘I think that I can guess,’ Parvati says, posting her votes and passing the box across to Cho Chang.

‘I think it’s a rather childish idea,’ Cho observes coolly as she posts her parchment. Ginny scowls.

‘I’m more worried that some of us might be embarrassed, or annoyed,’ Hannah muses, taking the box from Cho, and glancing at Ginny and Hermione as she speaks. ‘I’ve seen witches fight over less than this in the bar.’

‘We’re all friends here, Hannah,’ Susan Bones assures her fellow Hufflepuff as she, too, posts her vote.

‘We might be surprised by the results,’ Angelina says as she places her carefully folded parchment in the box and passes it to Alicia.

‘Well, everyone knows where one of my votes has gone,’ Alicia announces. ‘And I’d like to point out that every bloke in the DA, except Lee, is younger than me, most of ‘em by at least a couple of years.’ Katie takes the box from her.

‘… and there go the last two names.’ Katie says, smiling mischievously as she passes the box back to Hermione. ‘Unlike Alicia, Ginny, Lavender and Hermione, I can’t vote for my boyfriend. Do your stuff, Head Girl, but if Ron Weasley wins we’ll all know that you’ve cheated.’

‘He won’t win,’ Ginny says. ‘I don’t think he’ll even make second place.’

‘Second place?’ teases Hermione. ‘You don’t really think that Harry will win, do you?’

Ginny drinks some more elf-made wine and bursts out laughing, ‘Just because you don’t fancy him, Hermione, that doesn’t mean that he won’t win. But you can’t have him, any of you! He’s mine, all of him, all mine, especially that cute bum of his.’

‘There are other boys in the DA, you know, Ginny,’ says Lavender. ‘Although he’s certainly fanciable, I’m sure that we don’t all fancy Harry.’

Ginny waves her hands dismissively. ‘There are twelve of us,’ Ginny says. ‘So even if you and Hermione didn’t vote for him, Lavender, that’s still ten votes for Harry.’

‘We all had to name two DA members we fancied, Ginny,’ Lavender reminds her. ‘Perhaps we all named the same boy as our second choice.’

Ginny snorts with laughter. ‘Five galleons says that my Harry is the winner.’

‘Five says that he isn’t,’ Lavender replies.

‘I wouldn’t bet on it, Ginny,’ I say. But my friend ignores me.

‘You’re on,’ she says, leaning past me and shaking Lavender’s hand.

‘Shake the box, Hermione, and sort out the names,’ Ginny orders. ‘Are you sure that this will work?’

‘It’s elementary sorting magic, Ginny. OWL level stuff, you should know that,’ says Hermione. I nod in agreement. Hermione shakes the box and taps it with her wand. A small scrap of parchment slides out from the slot and Hermione reads it.

‘Dennis Creevey has no votes,’ she announces.

‘Poor Dennis,’ Ginny says. ‘Still, he’s a bit young, even for me, and I’m the youngest here, the only seventeen-year-old left. Happy birthday, Luna!’ She raises her glass and drinks more wine.

‘Thank you, Ginny.’ I sip some of my own wine. ‘Dennis is sixteen now, and he’s got a girlfriend. At least, he was kissing one of the Slytherin Quidditch team under the mistletoe on the last day of term – that girl Wylde.’

‘Snogging a Slytherin!’ Alicia barks, outraged. ‘What the hell’s he playing at?’

‘She’s quite good looking,’ Ginny says. ‘It’s a shame he didn’t snog her sooner, really. We could have done with some inside information before the game.’ Ginny grins at Alicia. ‘He’s not the only one. I caught one of my Beaters, Ritchie Coote, snogging the Slytherin Seeker, too. He broke her arm and knocked her off her broom during the match. Then he caught her when she fell.’ Ginny chuckles. ‘I’m not certain that it’s the best pick-up technique, but it seems to have worked.’

Everyone laughs.

Hermione taps the box again.

‘Justin Finch-Fletchley has no votes,’ she announces.

‘He’s even richer than Harry,’ observes Lavender. ‘At least, his father is. Is no one even interested in him for his money?’

‘There are no Slytherins here, Lavender,’ Alicia says. ‘Money isn’t important.’

‘It’s nice to have, though,’ admits Parvati. ‘I hear that he’s fond of dark-skinned girls. Perhaps we should consider our options, Padma?’

‘He likes blondes, too,’ Ginny says. She is watching Hannah carefully.

‘He was a mistake,’ Hannah admits. ‘We were both frightened, and there was a war on. But it didn’t work, it never would; he’s scarily self-confident, and he never stops.’

‘Surely that’s a good thing in a man?’ Alicia giggles.

‘Working,’ says Hannah, blushing. ’He never stops working.’

Hermione picks up the next piece of paper.

‘Seamus Finnegan has no votes,’ she announces. Everyone falls silent and we all look at Lavender.

‘You’re going to have to tell him, Lavender,’ Ginny says. ‘Are you sure you want to finish with him?’

‘He’s always there, whenever I turn around. It’s overpowering; I just can’t escape from him. He’s so clingy that it drives me crazy.’

Ginny raises an eyebrow.

‘I know, I know,’ Lavender says. ‘I was like that with Ron: if I’d been a bit more laid back, or a bit more argumentative, we might still be together.’ Lavender looks close to tears. Ginny stands and puts a comforting arm around her shoulder while keeping Hermione quiet with a glare.

‘Not calling him Won-Won would’ve helped, too,’ I suggest. Even Lavender laughs at that.

‘I really did fancy him, you know,’ Lavender confesses. ‘But Ron’s a lost cause now, I know that. Seamus … Seamus is just a pain. How can I get rid of him?’

‘Try calling him Muss-Muss,’ I say. Lavender laughs again, then grimaces in pain. ‘Bloody wolf scars,’ she complains.

‘Literally,’ Parvati reminds everyone.

‘Tell him,’ says Ginny forcefully. ‘It’s the only way.’

‘It’s not easy,’ says Lavender. ‘He’ll be devastated, and he’s a nice boy, he simply isn’t “the one”. Not that I’ll ever find “the one” while I’m like this!’

Lavender is close to tears, and a silence falls. I’m wondering what to say, but before I can give any advice Hermione speaks.

‘Anthony Goldstein has one vote,’she says hastily.

‘Anthony? Who’s he?’ Alicia asks. It’s as though they don’t want to talk about Lavender’s injuries.

‘He’s about Hannah’s height, with dark hair,’ says Ginny. ‘He’s always with Michael and Terry. If Michael starts chatting you up, Anthony is the one who’ll start talking to your friend and Terry is the one who looms in the background.’

‘I’d like to loom,’ I tell everyone. ‘But I’m much too small.’

‘Anthony and Michael are brilliant at Arithmancy,’ Hermione adds admiringly.

‘You three have no idea who he is,’ Ginny observes, looking at the three Quidditch girls sitting opposite. She then looks curiously at the rest of us, but no one admits anything.

‘Hermione,’ Ginny pounces, ‘he’s your number two, isn’t he?’

Hermione shakes her head.

‘I think that one of the other Ravenclaws has chosen him,’ Lavender announces.

‘I’m not interested in Anthony,’ I say.

‘And Cho’s got a new bloke,’ Ginny says. Everyone looks at Padma.

‘Is this a secret vote, or not?’ she snaps, refusing to meet our gaze.

‘Apparently not,’ says Parvati as she laughs at her sister.

Hermione squeaks. She stares at the next piece of paper in silence.

‘Angelina Johnson has one vote,’ she whispers.

Angelina grins and gives a deep chuckle. She flicks her hair, which has tinsel braided into it, back over her shoulder and looks at us.

‘I only got one vote?’ she says. ‘That’s rather disappointing.’ Hermione and Lavender both make nervous noises. She looks at them in surprise. ‘Come on, you must have had a crush on a girl at one time.’ Lavender and Hermione shake their heads vehemently, and Ginny joins them.

‘It’s sort of flattering, in a weird way,’ muses Angelina. ‘I always suspected that one of the Valentines I got in my fifth year was from a girl. Now I know which girl.’

We all look at each other, and at Angelina. Angelina won’t tell us who, and the voter manages to keep a poker face and consequently remains unidentified. There are a few moments of silence.

‘Lee Jordan has one vote,’ splutters a blushing Hermione, trying to move the conversation forwards.

‘That’s because none of the rest of us knows what you see in him, Alicia,’ says Angelina. ‘He’s all mouth, that one.’

‘But he knows how to use it,’ retorts Alicia, with a contented smile.

‘Too much information,’ Angelina replies, screwing up her face. Katie and Lavender both burst out laughing. Susan and Hannah both blush.

‘Ernie Macmillan, one vote,’ says Hermione quickly.

Now it’s the turn of Ginny, Lavender and the Patil twins to burst out laughing.

‘Ernie gets one vote and poor old Justin gets none!’ says Lavender.

‘He’s really a very nice boy!’ Hannah Abbott protests; then she blushes.

‘Gotcha.’ Lavender laughs gleefully, shaking her head. ‘Ernie Macmillan, the boy of our dreams.’

‘Yes,’ says Ginny. She stands, puts her hands behind her back and pushes out her stomach in a peculiar approximation of Ernie’s lecturing stance and tone of voice. ‘It’s nice to know that we purebloods are appreciated for our manners and lordly bearing.’

Ginny grins. ‘He’s definitely not my type, Hannah. You’re welcome to him.’

‘He wasn’t my first…’ Hannah begins to protest. Then she stops again, her face now beetroot. ‘Damn you all. None of my customers has ever managed to embarrass me like you lot.’ She shakes her head and frowns ruefully.

‘So who was your first choice, Hannah? Was it Romilda’s boyfriend?’ guesses Ginny.

‘Oh, shut up, Ginny,’ Hannah protests. ‘How come you know so much about who we fancy, anyway?’

‘I listen to the gossip and I watch what’s going on, Hannah.’

‘Yes,’ Lavender agrees. ‘You’re not very subtle about it, Hannah. It’s really rather obvious that you fancy the “Snakeslayer”.’

‘Ron is mine and mine alone, apparently,’ Hermione observes, reading the next piece of parchment.

‘Does he share the same redeeming qualities as Lee?’ Katie asks.

‘We haven’t…’ Hermione begins. She stops, flustered and embarrassed. ‘I knew this was a bad idea, Ginny. We’re all giving away our secrets.’

‘It stays between us, Hermione,’ said Cho firmly. ‘Does everyone agree?’ There was a serious silence for a moment.

‘Friends don’t tell secrets,’ I say. ‘And we’re all friends here, aren’t we?’

We all look at each other and nod.

‘What’s said in here…’ Hermione gestures around the room, then taps the side of her head, ‘…stays here.’ She is speaking very firmly. Suddenly, she is the person Ginny calls “Head Girl Hermione”.

‘Merlin, Hermione,’ Padma says. ‘You didn’t jinx the voting papers, did you? We’re not going to come out in spots, are we?’

‘No,’ Hermione assures us. She picks up the next piece of parchment and reads the name. ‘George Weasley has one vote.’

Everyone looks at the Quidditch girls. Katie and Alicia both look horrified and immediately shake their heads.

‘No!’ they announce simultaneously.

‘Bollocks,’ Angelina says when all faces turn to her. ‘Thanks a lot, girls. Some friends you two are! Three Chasers “together through thick and thin,” you promised! I’ll remember this betrayal. Perhaps I should say something about your votes, Katie?’

‘Like what?’ Katie asks, staring into Angelina’s eyes. ‘That I’m the one who put your name in the box? You’ll never know, and you’ll certainly never prove it.’

Angelina laughs and hugs her.‘I’ve got to trust you all now. But like Hermione said, what’s said in here stays in here. If anyone tells the ignorant, one-eared git I’ll kill her, okay?’ Angelina announces. ‘There can’t be many names left, now, Hermione.’

‘Terry Boot has two votes,’ Hermione says, sounding surprised.

‘He’s the big guy who looks like someone slammed his face into a wall, isn’t he?’ Angelina says curiously. ‘The ugliest of the lot of them, and he’s got some stiff competition. Who voted for him?’

‘He’s the only Trainee Auror available,’ Ginny suggests. ‘You all know that you can’t have Harry, or Ron, or Nev, so who has chosen the only available Auror?’

‘Didn’t you tell me that Terry was the cleverest boy in your year?’ Parvati asks her sister mischievously.

‘Yes, but I agree with Angelina, he’s the ugliest,’ Padma snaps.

‘One vote is mine,’ admits Lavender. ‘He’s tall, and I like tall men.’

‘You do?’ Ginny asks. ‘Ron’s tall, but Seamus? Only Dennis is smaller than Seamus. Merlin, Lavender! Katie, Hannah, Susan and Angelina are all taller than Seamus.’

‘I rather hoped he’d grow,’ explains Lavender. ‘Harry did. But I’m much more interested in who else put Terry’s name down.’

‘Why?’ I ask worriedly. ‘Is it because you really do fancy him?’

Lavender laughs at me. ‘Oh, Luna! I should have guessed that it was you! You’ll make a lovely couple.’

‘Michael Corner has two votes,’ Hermione announces.

‘He is good-looking,’ Lavender says. ‘I almost voted for him, but I decided Terry needed a vote from someone instead. So, who fancies Michael? Are you going to fight for him?’

‘I knew this wouldn’t really be a secret ballot,’ announces Cho resignedly. ‘I’m one of the votes! I’ve just got a new boyfriend and I didn’t know we’d be playing this stupid game, and I didn’t know who to choose. There wasn’t a “no one” option, so whoever else voted for him, don’t worry about me.’

‘Why Michael?’ I ask. ‘You finished with him.’

‘We had to write down the names of two DA members,’ Cho protests. ‘To be honest, I don’t really fancy any of them now. Whose names were I supposed to write down?’

‘You chose the two you did fancy at one time,’ says Ginny shrewdly. ‘Your two exes.’ She smiles understandingly at Cho’s discomfort.

‘Dean Thomas has two votes,’ interrupts Hermione as the next piece of parchment is ejected.

‘For the benefit of the other voter, whoever you are, and following from Cho’s example,’ Alicia announces, ‘one of those votes was mine.’

Lavender stares at me, so I shake my head. ‘Dean and I are finished. I don’t understand him, and he doesn’t understand me,’ I say.

‘If it wasn’t you, Luna, then who was it?’ asks Lavender. ‘Who’s going to admit to fancying Dean?’ Lavender looks curiously around the room. Her best friend refuses to meet her eyes.

‘Bloody hell, Parvati,’ Lavender snorted. ‘You kept that quiet.’

‘Oh, sod off, Lavender,’ Parvati snaps, ‘You’re enjoying this far too much.’

‘These days,’ Lavender says, smiling grimly, ‘I take my pleasures where I can.’

‘Dean once told Harry that you and Padma were the best looking girls in the school,’ Ginny announces.

Parvati grins happily.

‘I knew that this secret ballot wouldn’t stay secret,’ Hermione complains as the box ejects the next slip of parchment.

Ginny reaches across and looks at it.

‘Bloody hell! You win, Lavender,’ she announces. ‘Harry’s only got five votes, and my second choice name hasn’t come up yet!’

‘Whose name is missing?’ Angelina asks curiously, ‘Who is more popular than Harry?’

‘Neville,’ eight voices say together. The four who don’t speak – Cho, Angelina, Alicia and Katie – look at us all in astonishment.

‘But I didn’t vote for him,’ says Padma hurriedly. ‘I just knew whose name hadn’t come out.’

‘Neville Longbottom?’ Alicia snorted. ‘That little fat blond kid who always got picked on?’

‘You were at the battle!’ Hannah Abbot snapped. ‘He’s the one who stood up to Voldemort.’

‘And he killed the snake,’ Susan Bones said.

‘He led the resistance at Hogwarts last year,’ Lavender added. ‘And he isn’t little and fat any more. He’s as tall as Harry and sturdy and strong.’

‘He’s ever so nice, and very brave,’ I remind everyone.

‘And he’s wasted on that bitch Romilda,’ Parvati adds.

‘I had to choose someone other than Ron,’ Hermione admits.

‘And Harry.’ Ginny is laughing as she looks at the last slip of parchment. ‘I should have realised that Neville was likely to be our favourite man. You weren’t at Hogwarts last year,’ Ginny says as she waves the parchment at the older girls, ‘so you wouldn’t know.’

‘Neither was Hannah,’ Susan points out.

‘Neville is lovely,’ says Hannah, sighing. ‘But no one is going to tell him I think so, okay?’ She glares at all of us and silence again descends across the room.

‘Do you think that we should tell him that he won?’ I ask.

‘No!’ everyone says.

‘You know, if Lee had won, he’d be insufferably bigheaded,’ says Alicia.

‘So would Ron,’ Hermione admits.

‘And Michael and Dean, too,’ Ginny adds. ‘But Harry would be embarrassed, and so would Neville, if he ever found out.’

Ginny begins laughing. It’s a wild and loud and infectious laugh and we all join in. She is still laughing as she pours a generous measure of Firewhisky into everyone’s goblets.

‘To my very good friend, Neville Longbottom,’ says Ginny. ‘You can all fight over him, because I have my Harry.’ She raises her goblet.

‘Neville,’ we all say as we join her in the toast.

‘And Happy Christmas, everyone,’ I add as our impromptu party comes to a close. There is a lot of whispering going on, I notice.

After I finished my breakfast, and my essay, I felt much better. I told Daddy that I was going to the Society for the Assistance of Muggle-borns, to help my friends get ready for Christmas. He told me to enjoy myself.

When I arrived at Katie’s charity the other girls were already there. Susan Bones was in her Auror uniform, and she had Terry Boot with her.

‘So, Terry,’ Katie asked. ‘Do you think that we’ll need Auror security on Christmas Day?’

Ginny was behind Terry. She levitated a sprig of mistletoe above his head and Lavender fixed it there with a sticking charm.

The girls all fell silent and looked at me.

I wondered what it would be like to kiss Terry. I decided that it was time to find out.

Amelíe, Maddie, and Maple poked, prodded and polished this.

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