Luna went to Hogwarts to see the thestrals as often as she could. She never tried to keep a Consistent Schedule, (once a week or once a month or once a fortnight) because she was very poor with time. Despite the bad memories at Hogwarts, the castle and surrounding lands still felt like home. She would of course see Neville and Hagrid. Harry would join her if he could get away from auror work. She knew it was good for him to get away from the ministry sometimes. McGonagall could always convince him to give a guest lecture. He always looked uncertain at first, but Luna could tell he enjoyed it— he would come back looking like he did when he’d just jumped off a broom.
Now Luna was following Harry on a broomstick. He kept forgetting that she wasn’t as good a flyer as him and having to double back, but Luna didn’t mind. She liked being up in the sky even if she wasn’t very good at it. It was especially nice today with the earmuffs Ginny had given her for flying, more for the noise than the cold.
The air up here was brisk; it made her nose pink and her eyes bright. The wind howled, but with the protection of her earmuffs, it sang in a low, soothing rhythm. The sky around them was a brilliant blue, somehow bright and deep and crisp and clear all at once. Being surrounded by this color, a mile away from the greys and blacks and glaring reds of the city brought her a calm only paralleled by the feeling of Ginny’s hands in her hair.
After a while, they could see the familiar rolling emerald hills and purple peaks that gave Luna a better sense of place than any map she could puzzle over. Harry dove beneath the cloud cover and Luna followed at a slower pace. They soared over thick forests and herds of sheep until finally Luna saw the lake, sparkling black like the night sky. And close beyond it, the stone towers they’d called home for seven years.
They didn’t need to speak to know they’d swoop down to land by Hagrid’s hut. It was early October, 1999, and the day was cool but the sun shone bright enough to warm Luna’s shoulders. They leaned their brooms against the stone wall and knocked on Hagrid’s door.
“Harry!” Hagrid burst out of the door and enveloped them in a pleasantly warm and crushing hug, “and Luna!”
“Good t’see ya,” Harry attempted through layers of jumper and tangley beard.
Hagrid seemed to remember that they needed to breath and let go. “I’ll start some tea, How’ve you been?” Hagrid ushered them inside.
“I’m doing alright,” said Harry, this time Luna believed, meaning it. Luna hadn’t noticed on the flight, but Harry’s face had a light that wasn’t always there. The shadows under his eyes weren’t as dark as usual.
“Good ter hear,” said Hagrid, rustling in his cabinets for cups. “And you Luna?”
“I’m rather well, thank you,” said Luna, “how is it here?” When she’d been at Hogwarts last year, the school had been in collective mourning. Everything was still and quiet, in stark contrast to the vibrant magical bustle that had surrounded her for the first half of her education.
Hagrid took a softer tone, “Better, the kids can talk about it now, but it’ll still take awhile ter get back ter normal, y’know.”
Luna and Harry nodded. Of course it would be hard to forget the year spent fearing for the lives and safety of yourself and your friends, but it was good to hear things were improving.
The kettle whistled and Hagrid poured it into their cups. “How’s the Sanctuary? Is that hippogriff you found doing any better?”
Luna took a sip of tea before answering. It was warm and strong, pleasantly fortifying after flying over the UK on broomsticks.
“Yes, the bones in her wings are healing nicely and we hope to release Gertrude next month,” Luna smiled fondly, thinking of Gertrude’s subdued clucks and they way they made the soft feathers around her neck rustle against the palm of her hand. She loved working with magical creatures. They didn’t really speak, but she felt they understood her better than most humans. She remembered something else— a velvety gold coat and finicky hooves flitting at the ends of too-long legs. “We found a unicorn foal the other day,” Luna told Hagrid, “a bit of his horn’s chipped, but Willard’s the happiest little boy I’ve seen.”
Hagrid’s brow furrowed, “what happened to ‘is mum?”
“Not quite sure,” Luna’s eyes stared a little beyond Hagrid’s face. “We’re searching nearby woods.”
They all looked into their cups for a moment. Then Hagrid cleared his throat, “so Harry, how’s the auror business been?”
“Quiet lately,” Harry said happily. “My last case was on some pollyjuice smugglers. Turned out they were just impersonating famous witches and wizards to make a few galleons at birthday parties, of course now we have to figure out how they’re getting hair or toenails or whatever.”
They were both relieved to hear Harry was at least not in continuous danger in his chosen line of work.
“I suppose you’ll want to feed the thestrals then?” Hagrid asked, taking a last sip of tea. They didn’t need to answer. Hagrid got up to bring them a bag of raw meat. Luna used to hate the smell when she’d first fed the winged horses when she was in school, but now she was used to it. She could get a flower crown from Neville if it got bad enough. Luna traded their empty teacups for the bag. Harry’s nose wrinkled a bit, but he quickly corrected his expression.
“Don’t leave before saying goodbye, you too!” Hagrid called as they walked out the door.
“Wouldn’t dream of it!”
Harry glowed as they walked across the lawn. Luna admitted this likely had less to do with visiting the thestrals than the human company they were meeting. Neville seemed to take some tension from his boyfriend’s shoulders as simply as smiling. Harry and Neville were both a bit lighter in each other’s presence, especially since they had been Seeing Each Other.
Luna pondered whether feeding the Hogwarts thestrals in the forbidden forest consisted of a date. She remembered coming here with Ginny (kisses under the trees, rolling and giggling in the grass until their flower crowns fell apart and their hair fell everywhere) she decided it did. Neville was never quite at ease with the winged omens of death, but he was willing to give them a chance, especially as it meant spending more time with Harry.
“Neville can get you some gardenias if you like,” Luna said to Harry, breaking his trance.
“For the smell. Or roses, I suppose, but you’d have to mind the thorns.”
“Oh,” said Harry, “but does he keep them? They aren’t magical are they?”
“Non-magical plants can be used for magical things,” said Luna, “after all most beetles aren’t magic but they make their way into half the potions we made in Snape’s class.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Harry looked at the roses climbing the exterior walls of the greenhouse.
While Harry was searching for more plants he hadn’t noticed during his seven years at Hogwarts, Luna approached Neville’s cottage, just beyond the greenhouse. She knocked on the door.
“Wait just a moment!” a muffled voice called out, with more feeling than the situation called for. This was followed by a series of grunts and sparks, and the sound of gardening shears clattering on a stone floor.
Luna and Harry looked at each other, both wondering if they should ignore Neville’s instructions and come inside to help.
But soon enough, the door banged open revealing Neville, with an only slightly singed eyebrow, and his thoroughly overturned living room.
“Hello!” he said brightly. Then remembering the scene before them, the pale patches on his face flushed red, and he ran a hand through his new dreads. “Er, devil’s snare,” he explained looking steadily at the ground, “you know how they can get.” Harry and Luna did know how they could get.
Neville and Harry shared a deep embrace. They looked happy together. Luna smiled.
Neville broke away to hug Luna. This was briefer and clumsier than Harry’s, because Luna and Neville weren’t Seeing Each Other, but mostly because Luna was holding a bag of raw meat for the thestrals.
When the smoke had dissipated, Neville’s nose wrinkled at the smell of raw meat. “Right,” he said, reaching for the gardenia bush, “do you lot want one?”
“Please,” Harry and Luna replied in unison, but with entirely different tones.
They waited patiently as Neville fashioned flower crowns from some of the nicest smelling plants. He’d become adept at this after many picnics and camping trips with Luna and Ginny, for whom flower crowns were a necessary accessory. He first nestled Luna’s lavender and honeysuckle among her curls. Neville smoothed Harry’s perpetually disheveled hair too make room for gardenias and lilies-of-the-valley. He placed a kiss on Harry’s head along with the flowers. Finally, Neville carefully crowned himself with cream colored roses.
Looking and smelling lovely, Luna thought, the trio walked towards the Forbidden Forest. Luna happily shouldered the bag so Harry and Neville could hold hands behind her. When they reached the tree cover, Luna and Harry sat in a patch of grass, while Neville stood a little ways back.
It was darker here, of course, but the sunlight filtering through the leaves covered the forest floor in a glowing lacey carpet. There was no need to speak. Some people got uncomfortable with silences between people, and felt the need to start a conversation, which could be quite frankly exhausting. Harry and Neville weren’t like that, and Luna appreciated them for it. Besides, nothing was ever truly silent anyway, just Quiet. Luna found people were often so concerned with what they were saying to each other, they never heard what the rest of the world was whispering. Now some birds sang and the wind rustled the branches, and that was enough, really. Like when she put on a tape for Ginny and they sat together and listened for the next 30 minutes, the music speaking for them. Now the song of the forest spoke for her and Neville and Harry. Until the cadence was changed by a rustling of leaves.
“Look!” Luna pointed in the direction of a sharp black beak emerging from behind a shrub. A tiny hoof shuffled into view. Harry and Neville grinned, Neville with a bit of a quaver. Luna opened the bag and tossed a small piece of meat in the direction of the little creature. She came into the clearing on wobbly legs, reminding her of Willard the unicorn foal.
“You must be new!” She gasped. She knew the whole Hogwarts herd as she’d been visiting them since she first met them on the carriage ride up to the school her second year. Harry sometimes got their names mixed up (thestrals looked very similar to each other if you didn’t spend a lot of time with them). He was getting better though, and even Neville could recognize the most outgoing of them.
Luna reflected on the last time she’d seen the mares, trying to think of who could be the mother. Esther seemed heavier than usual the last time she’d seen her, but Luna believed that was just a matter of the swallow migration. She repressed a shudder. She knew animals had to kill to eat and didn’t blame them for it, but she hated to think about it. Then she remembered Winona, or really, the absence of Winona. She hadn’t seen her the last time she visited. Luna had been worried, but this explanation sated her. Even social mares usually prefered solitude during pregnancy.
A snuffle from behind the foal confirmed this. “Is that… Winona?” Harry asked.
Luna nodded blithely. She beamed in the knowledge that her favorite thestral (the first one to approach her when she come into the forest with bacon from the breakfast table) was not only safe but happy.
Luna held out more meat and the foal hesitated before her mother nudged her in the direction of the food. The foal’s new legs moved wildly beneath her, Winona following. After foal and mother took a few pieces of meat each, Winona put the curve of her beak against Luna’s forehead. Luna brought her hand up to stroke her mane. She let the foal clamber up to Harry to he could do the same. Harry smiled when the foal tried to get in his lap.
“Friendly,” he stated, a little bemused.
“Does she have a name?” Luna asked.
Winona backed up and looked at her intently, white eyes somehow endlessly deep.
“Oh,” said Luna, “I’m honored, thank you.” Harry’s mouth curled at the corner but he remained silent.
Hagrid usually named the thestrals since he was with them all the time. This was quite an honor- she wondered if she might be Winona’s favorite human. She blushed, humbled.
This was a serious task. Luna couldn’t pull something from Nowhere like she did for the names of the creatures at the sanctuary. (Not that she chose their names flippantly- she truly felt the names she gave belonged to everyone she gave them to.) But thestrals were old souls, and were more suited to names with a Personal History. Winona, for example, had been named for Hagrid’s own care of magical creatures teacher.
Luna remembered another elusive being she had known at Hogwarts. Strange and unusual and more than comfortable with Quiet. Often distant, but helpful those who were kind to her, the Ravenclaw ghost was severely underappreciated.
“How about Helena?” Luna asked. Winona snorted her approval. Harry was looking at the foal intently, no doubt remembering that horrible night and their race to the Ravenclaw common room. Helena closed her eyes as Harry rubbed behind her ear.
Neville hesitantly stepped a bit forward. Luna, delighted, beckoned him closer. She held his hand as Winona sniffed it. Both a bit shy, this was a gesture of comfort for her thestral friend and her human friend. Winona evidently decided Neville was trustworthy and rested her beak on his hand. Surprised at it’s smoothness, Neville let out a soft chuckle. He looked over at Luna, eyes wide with nerves or excitement, Luna couldn’t quite tell at first, but a smile from Harry told her it was the latter.
Luna put her head against Winona’s neck and exhaled peacefully. She could feel her sharp bones but also her soft skin. Luna dug her bare toes into the grass, reminding herself she was still on earth. She felt Grounded here. She didn’t always. But with Harry, Neville, Winona, and now Helena, under the shelter of ancient trees, it was easier to feel like she wouldn’t float away.