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On The Verge Of Happy Endings by WrenWinterSong

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Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.
Desmond Tutu

4 May 1998

–Do you see me as an evil man?” Luna’s father asked, as casually as if he had been asking what the weather was outside.

–Of course not,” Luna said, –unless compared to, perhaps, a month-old fawn. However, in comparison to Voldemort or to any of his Death Eaters, not at all.”

–I do try to find comfort in that,” he said as he finished off the last of his tea and Luna finished the last of her toast. Their late breakfasting was due to her father sleeping in till noon this morning after a late night in the Leaky Cauldron’s bar while Luna had returned a letter to Professor McGonagall to inform her that she would arrive at Hogwarts some time that day, perhaps with her father or possibly without. He feared running into Harry, Ron, or Hermione, so had avoided making a decision. Even though she had given him her forgiveness when he explained all that had happened, she knew it was not her forgiveness that he needed.

He glanced out the window, pondering his next sentence. –But do you see my decision to help those dark people as wrong?”

–Choices can’t always be easily categorized into wrong and right,” Luna said, tapping her finger along her glass of juice as she thought more about her father’s question. –Setting up that trap for Harry and the others was probably not a conventionally right to do, but saving your daughter’s life is not conventionally wrong.”

–So I did the right thing?”

–The Death Eaters finding Harry was one of the steps that led to the present, and most would say that any decision that helped defeat Voldemort was a right one.”

–But if Harry had failed because of me? If Voldemort had not been defeated because of the trap I helped set up?”

–Then, I suppose, a majority of witches and wizards would see the choice as a step in Voldemort’s winning and see the decision as wrong,” Luna said. Her father slumped in his chair. –Though I find the present world difficult enough to understand without also peeking into the infinite universes of ‘what if.’”

He patted Luna’s arm but still did not look at her. Since meeting her father at the Leaky Cauldron the previous day, Luna could tell he was no longer quite the same man. He put on a good front, but there was a haunted quality to his pale eyes, as if he could not take in the sun after so many weeks in the darkness of Azkaban.

She glanced at the clock on the wall when she finished her juice and watched the shorter hand reach the one. If she wanted to be of any help, she knew she had to leave soon. –Are you sure you won’t come? I’m positive McGonagall would appreciate the help.”

–I fear I’d be rather useless. You know my repairing spells are rubbish.” Luna couldn’t counter him since, yes, as far as fixing spells went, Daddy’s were not the best. –Besides,” he continued in a more light-hearted tone, –I need to be looking for a more permanent home for us.”

–Won’t many people be looking for houses right now?” she asked, remembering all of the families that were staying at the Leaky Cauldron.

–They haven't got the Anmores on their side," Daddy said, lifting up the small bottle of dark powder that hung around his neck. –When you wear evidence of your most recent tragedy, you’re more likely to attract them.” Luna realized the black dust must have been ashes from their home.

–Aren’t there are other families who would need the luck more?” Luna asked. –Mrs. Weasley offered us a place at the Burrow when our stay here ends.”

–I’d hate to impose,” Daddy said, not leaving room for discussion.

–Okay, then,” she said, stacking up her dishes and standing up from the table. –I’ll be leaving and will see you some time tonight.” Daddy kept his gaze downcast and simply nodded as she went to the fireplace. She took her time gathering a handful of Floo powder from the bag she’d bought yesterday, stalling in case her father changed his mind at the last minute. However, she managed to tie up the bag, step into the fireplace, and whiz off to Hogwarts without her father moving from his seat.

Stepping out of the fireplace, Luna saw she had landed in the staff room — apparently it was still the only room in Hogwarts with a chimney connected to the Floo Network — but the room looked different from two days ago. Instead of being cluttered with overturned chairs and tables, the room was empty except for an owl perch. The tiny brown and gold speckled owl flew off the perch and out into the corridor as soon as Luna stepped into the room. Her curiosity had her following its path until she hit what felt like a solid wall at the doorway. It bounced her back a couple of steps, and Luna realized the room had been secured. With Hogwarts connected to the Floo Network, anyone with a fireplace and some powder could get into the school. The spell felt like a simple Imperturbable Charm, but Luna thought it must be something far more complex, especially since the owl had no difficulty crossing the barrier.

Thinking of the owl, Luna realized the creature must have acted as an alarm for any visitors that came through the fireplace. She heard footsteps coming down the hall, and Luna looked at the doorway as Professor Flitwick appeared, the owl perched on his shoulder. He hesitated a moment as he peeked into the room then smiled widely when he saw her. –Luna, we've been expecting you,” he said, walking through the enchanted doorway but stopped as if he’d remembered something. –Oh, but, standard procedure... let me see…” He tapped his wand against his cheek as he thought. –Hmmm, what was the first charm I ever taught your class?”

–Wingardium Leviosa,” Luna answered.

–And what did I have you practice on during our first class?”

–An enlarged pigeon down feather,” she said, remembering how she had asked since she wanted to know what bird had feathers so large and white and fluffy.

–Good, good, I’m happy to see y—– Flitwick started to say but spluttered as the owl took off from his shoulder and tickled the professor’s nose with the tip of its wing. Luna smiled as the owl returned to its perch and hooted as if in mocking as Flitwick rubbed the feathers out of his beard, muttering about misbehaving birds.

He cleared his throat as he tried to regain his dignity. –Well then, well then, come along. We’ve just taken a break for lunch.”

Luna started to follow Professor Flitwick out of the room but put out a hand when she reached the barrier. Sure enough, it was still as solid as a wall. –Professor,” she called, and he turned around and jumped in his hurry to get back to her.

–Oh, my apologies, my apologies,” he muttered as he scurried back. –Completely forgot.” He waved his wand in a complicated motion in front of her, and Luna felt the faint warmth of magic slide over her. –There we are,” he said, leading the way down the corridor, now that Luna could walk through the doorway. –Can’t be too careful. The chimney is secured too; it’s a one-way Floo until the hours between six and eight tonight. Minerva spent last night finishing up the plans with Kingsley. It is nice to be working with the Ministry again. Less tension, less strain.” He drifted off as they walked through the Great Hall doors, and Luna stopped to take in the refurbished room.

Black Hogwarts banners hung around the room with hundreds of candles lighting the Hall. The four House tables and the staff table were set up in their usual spots and filled with people.

The biggest difference was who was crowding the tables. She spotted almost every member of the Hogwarts staff and other people that she recognized from the Battle, those she thought she overheard being called the Order of the Phoenix. There were shop owners from Hogsmeade that she’d seen only in passing and Ministry workers that she’d only seen in the Prophet. Many faces she did not recognize, so she made her way over to the far table where most of Dumbledore’s Army sat, along with a menagerie of other students, some graduated and some not.

As she approached the table, the after-lunch chatter died down and many people stood up to welcome her. Eddie Carmichael and Cho Chang, two Ravenclaw students who had graduated the year before, congratulated her on helping Harry find the diadem. Katie Bell introduced her to a tall broad man named Oliver Wood, who was apparently a rather famous up-and-coming reserve Keeper for Puddlemere United. Lisa Turpin gave her a hug, though Luna couldn’t recall ever having more than two conversations with her, and Terry Boot shook her hand as if she were a celebrity. Well, he sort of shook her hand. His right one was mummified in bandages and Luna was cautious of squeezing while his other arm was wrapped up in a sling, the cast of which looked too short to hold his entire arm. Padma Patil waved to her from across the table, her dark skin covered in what looked like burns that had turned her skin a vibrant purple. Her twin sister was nowhere in sight, and neither was Lavender Brown.

And then there was Ginny, tugging Luna into a hug, and Hermione who hugged her less ferociously. –We’re so glad you’re here,” Ginny said, her brown eyes glinting with happiness. –Doesn’t this place look great?” She swept her arms around to indicate the entire room.

–A bit less interesting than before but, yes, much cleaner,” Luna said.

The Hall quieted as the older adults headed out and McGonagall approached their table. –With the castle searched for curses, I think it fine for all of you to go into the corridors without an escort. Please be wary of any lingering dark magic and don’t do anything stupid.” McGonagall stared them down with her beady gaze until she was satisfied that no one would dare make a reckless choice while about the castle.

–Also, Hagrid has asked for some assistance on the grounds, tasks pertaining to the Forbidden Forest, if I have any volunteers.” She looked around the group, keeping her face stoic but her eyes searching for someone to step up.

–We can go, Professor,” Hermione said, motioning towards herself, Ginny, and Luna, who both nodded in agreement.

–Us too!” someone called from the back of the group. Luna turned her head to see Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan shoving their way to the front. The two tall boys stood behind them, Seamus grinning down at Ginny, trying and failing to catch her attention. From what Luna remembered of their time in the Room of Requirement her fourth year, Seamus could be quite the flirt. His sandy hair must have been infested with Engouementises.

–Very well,” McGonagall said, waving for the rest of the students and former students to leave. –Thank you,” she muttered between pursed lips.

As everyone left the table, Luna watched them break off into smaller groups of three or four, most of which were holding hands or hugging or engaging in some sort of embrace. There were a lot of relationships coming out of the comfort of surviving a war.

–I’ll escort you to Hagrid’s hut,” McGonagall said, leading their way out of the Great Hall.

–Do we really need an escort?” Ginny said, then jammed her lips shut in a harsh pucker, seeming to forget for a moment whom she was talking to.

McGonagall gave her a side glance but did not scold her. –I do believe it for the best,” she simply said. –It will give me a chance to properly introduce you to to the freelance Beast Consultant that’s been working with Hagrid all day.”

She led them out of the castle and down towards Hagrid’s hut. Ginny slowed her pace as she kept glancing back up at the castle’s front doors, as if she were deciphering a complex ancient rune. –Did you see who Susan Bones was with?” she asked at last.

Luna nodded, remembering seeing the girl with dark red hair sitting solemnly next to Cormac McLaggen.

–Must we start gossiping already?” Hermione said, picking up her pace. –You’re as bad as Rita Skeeter.”

–Ew, don’t compare me to her,” Ginny said with a sickened look. –I just found it interesting, that’s all.”

Seamus popped up beside them and added, –Talkin’ about Bones and McLaggen?”

Hermione continued walking as if she hadn’t heard, and Luna suspected that she had already seen the two together and didn’t want to talk about it.

–Yeah,” Ginny said to Seamus. –Quite odd. What do you think, Luna?”

Luna shrugged and said, –They look like they had plenty of Entincellies flying between them, but really, I don’t know either of them well.”

Ginny agreed — it was rare for her to disagree with Luna — but Seamus had cocked an eyebrow at them. –The hell are en-ten-chell-whatevers?”

–Etincellies,” Luna repeated so they all could hear the correct pronunciation. –They’re really small insect-like creatures that are made from the connection when two people are attracted to each other. They like warm places, so they normally settle inside the two people, which causes tingling feelings from their wings. Some people call it ‘butterflies in the stomach’ but they aren’t butterflies, they’re Etincellies.”

No one spoke after the explanation. Seamus looked caught between believing and not, Hermione seemed to be biting her tongue behind her closed lips, but Ginny smiled, bemused that no one besides herself could take Luna’s words as more than just nonsense. That was one reason Luna liked having Ginny as a best friend.

–McLaggen did come back to help fight,” Dean said, not commenting on the little creatures. After spending so much time together, he treated her like he treated everyone else and Luna appreciated having him as a friend as well. –Maybe he’s not quite the pompous jerk he was in school.”

–He’s only been gone a year,” Ginny countered. –I doubt he’s changed that much.” The bitterness in her voice made obvious she still had a grudge against him for losing them their match against Hufflepuff.

As they walked down the grounds, Luna spotted Hagrid carrying two large crates in each of his raised arms. The boxes blocked his view of his surrounding, so he didn’t know they were approaching until he was about to plow into them.

–Rubeus,” McGonagall called, –I’ve brought the help you asked for.”

–Huh?” Hagrid said, turning so suddenly that McGonagall had to duck to avoid being beheaded by one of his crates. –Oh, Minerva, didn’ see yeh there. Oh, yeh brough’ help with yeh. Hello there.”

–Yes, they’ve volunteered to help you and Scamander,” McGonagall explained, eyeing the crates as if she expected them to topple over at any second.

–Thanks,” Hagrid said. –These five’ll be enough, I thin’. C’mon, then.” He nodded his head towards the Forbidden Forest, and they followed with just a touch of reluctance.

Professor McGonagall walked with them as they came to the edge of the forest. Luna pondered a set of markers that lined the forest.

–Are you building a fence, Hagrid?” Hermione asked, making the same observations as Luna.

–As a matter o’ fact, we are,” he said, dropping his crates with a thunderous crash. –Nothin’ tha’ll keep anythin’ out tha’ wants to come in, but sum o’ the creatures need remindin’ of where they aren’ allowed t’go.”

Luna peeked inside the crate Hagrid had just put down and noticed that it was filled with wooden stakes and wire string. Like Hagrid had said, it would be nothing that a centaur or Acromantula couldn’t break through.

McGonagall took a step closer to the forest, peering through the trees. –Where did that Scamander boy disappear to?” she asked.

–Look up, Professor!” someone called from above, and Luna, along with everyone else, stretched their necks back to see a man lounging in the tree branches. He was shaded in the shadow of the tree’s leaves, but Luna had already decided that she liked him. Anyone who sat in a tree, especially one in the Forbidden Forest, had a good heart. Inimas were known to take residence in trees, especially ones near a lake with a giant squid, and they only allowed those with pure intentions to climb into the branches with them. She thought she spotted one of the leaf-like creatures drift down as Scamander jostled the branches on his way down. He jumped the last meter and landed on the ground in front of Professor McGonagall. –What can I do for you?” he asked with a beaming grin.

He couldn’t have been much older than Luna, maybe in his early twenties, but his wide hazel eyes held a gleam of someone who still thought of themselves as seventeen. He had the scruffy beginnings of a beard, the most grown in parts connecting to his hairline and outlined his jaw while his cheeks and upper lip still remained more patchy than not. Freckles dotted the bridge of his nose and a scar marred the corner of his left eyes, cutting across his cheek. His light brown hair was pulled back into the smallest of ponytails that was almost completely covered by the leather band that secured it. She imagined that hair would barely pass his ears if he let it down, especially if it was as curly as it seemed.

–I’ve brought some students who have volunteered to assist you and Rubeus,” McGonagall explained, stepping aside so he could have a proper view of the five of them. –This is Rolf Scamander,” she said, addressing them, then giving him each of their names.

When McGonagall finished, Hermione stepped up and asked, –Are you at all related to Newt Scamander?”

–Ah, yes, good ol’ Grandpa Newt,” Scamander said, glancing up at the bright sky as if he expected his grandfather to come soaring down on the back of a dragon. –What I’d give to travel like he did in his glory days. Now that’s the life I always wanted.”

–Mr. Scamander works with the Ministry’s Care and Regulation of Magical Creatures department,” McGonagall explained.

–More of an office job than I woulda liked, but the pay keeps the wife happy,” he said, walking over to one of Hagrid’s crates and pulling out slabs of wood.

–I didn' know yeh was married, Rolf,” Hagrid said as he finished unloading the other crate.

–Well, not quite, but I’m trying. I have to save up a whole lotta Galleons to get that girl the ring she wants. I’ve already learned any stone but a diamond won’t work, especially not tourmaline,” Scamander said, and Luna got the idea that he’d presented his girlfriend with a variety of alternative rings that she’d turned down for something more traditional. The observation stuck with her longer than normal since Scamander didn’t exactly strike her as ‘traditional’. He hadn’t even shook their hands upon meeting them.

–Did she also go to Hogwarts?” McGonagall asked, waving her wand so that the rest of the wood and wires and nails flew out of the crate and landed neatly beside it.

Scamander nodded his head in gratitude. –That she did. Sylvia Fawcett, Ravenclaw.”

The name brought up an image in Luna’s mind of a petite girl with black curls that had been four years ahead of Luna. She’d made wonderful banners for each Quidditch game and made cute little birthday cards for every single Ravenclaw each year. Luna had kept all three of hers, though she suspected they had been destroyed along with everything else in her house.

–Oh, yes, I remember her,” McGonagall said. –She took a job at St. Mungo’s, didn’t she? Working with the children?”

–Yep, they’ve got a terrific day care there for any sick parents who check in and don’t have anyone else to take care of the little ones. Plus, she visits with the younger patients when she’s got the time.”

–We better get to work,” Hagrid said, cutting Scamander off. –This’ll take more then a couple o’minutes.”

–Yes, very well, I’ll leave you to it,” McGonagall said before she returned to the castle.

Luna turned her attention to Scamander as he cleared his throat. –The easiest way to get this fence up, believe it or not, is the simple Muggle way. Getting stakes in the ground with a wand can be rather tricky and, if not done a hundred percent right, might make the whole bloody things fall to pieces.

–Now, wherever there’s a marker, pull it up, put one of these little darlings in its place.” He patted one of the pieces of wood that were much taller than the markers. –Pack in some dirt around it, maybe use a Sticking Charm or two, then we can string up this wire between the posts. Nothin’ too fancy or sturdy. We’re not trying to keep anything out, just wanting them to stumble a bit, maybe stop and think again about getting too close to the castle.”

Everyone nodded and began their work. Seamus tried to take one of the wooden stakes from Ginny, trying to be a gentleman, but she threatened him with a string of nasty-sounding jinxes before grabbing the stake back from him and marching in the direction of the nearest marker. Dean patted him on the back as Seamus stared in amazement at some of the suggestions Ginny had for where he could put that stake.

Before Luna could even look in the crate, she heard someone running towards them. She looked up to see her father hurrying down the small hill with a mad smile on his face. He skidded to a stop right in front of her and grabbed her shoulders in his hands. –I am sincerely sorry for not coming with you this morning, and I hope my being here now is enough of an apology,” he said in a rush, still breathing heavily from his sprint across the grounds.

She lifted her hands to touch his. –Of course it is. I’m glad you decided to come.”

–It took a lot of thinking on my part, but now that I’m here, I see where I fit in. So many damaged portraits, torn from spells and covered in muck, and I just so happen to be quite skilled at repairing paintings! Your mother, she loved to paint, but she was always so careless with the canvases afterward, I had to learn to fix them or else risk losing them forever.”

Luna smiled at the memory of her mother, seeing her flit from easel to cauldron as little Luna sat on a stool and watched her mother spritz in another spring of lavender, then grab her brush to add another stroke to the portrait. She stopped the memory before it could explode, but she still felt a wave of surprise, fear, and grief surge through her chest like it had that day.

–I knew you’d be useful here,” she said, patting her father’s hands.

He couldn’t seem to stop smiling as he said, –I suppose that I need to return then. I’ll see you soon.” He squeezed her shoulders one last time before running back up to the castle.

Luna smiled after him, then returned to the job at hand, following Hermione to the edge of the forest near the front gate to begin stringing the wire between the posts. Scamander and Hagrid had already gotten a few stakes settled in, and they fell into their roles: Luna pulling the wire and Hermione following and casting charms that would keep it in place.

Scamander and Hagrid met Ginny, Seamus, and Dean in the middle of putting in the stakes, so Luna and Hermione continue without interruption. When they reached the end of the fence-in-progress and attached the end of the wire to the wall that surrounded Hogwarts, Hermione looked up and gasped at something emerging from the forest. Luna’s eyes quickly found the source of her surprise. A small golden foal grazed in the less woody edge of the forest, looking up only when Hermione whispered a quiet, –Wow.”

Both of them took a step back, recognizing the little creature. Once they were far enough away, Hermione said in a hushed voice, –It’s a baby unicorn. They’re seldom far away from their parents. They’re peaceful creatures, but if a mother thinks we're too close to her offspring, she will use her horn in defense.”

Luna knew everything that Hermione said, but let her have the moment, knowing how much Hermione liked to explain things. They kept still as they watched the foal watching them, its big black eyes glistening with curiosity. After a few minutes, Luna and Hermione exchanged glances as they realized no parents were coming to claim the foal.

–What do we do if its mother never shows up?” Hermione asked. –Unicorns are known to be familiar with others of their kind in the area, though they never form a definite herd. Studying them is rather difficult, but there are some reported cases of unicorns caring for a lost foal until it is reunited with its parents. An adult will also adopt orphaned foals. But this one won’t find any adults this close to the castle. Perhaps Hagrid or Scamander will have an idea,” she finished, having answered her own question without any input from Luna. She walked away slowly, not wanting to spook the foal, but quickened her pace once she was a safe distance away.

Luna took a few steps towards the half a fence then sat down underneath the single wire. The foal stared at her as she settled in the grass, then took its own tentative steps in her direction. It stopped a few feet away, still staring and deciding if it should run back into the forest. It relaxed after a few seconds and inched closer. It paused, then moved again and repeated this until it stood right in front of her. It stared Luna down just a little longer, then lay in the grass at her feet.

She simply smiled at the foal and brushed a hand through its mane.

After a few peaceful minutes, Ginny ran over to her side, startling the foal awake. Hermione and Scamander were just coming into view, but Ginny was more interesting to watch as she stared at the golden foal. –That’s the most precious thing I’ve ever seen,” she said, kneeling and holding out a hand towards the foal. It sniffed her fingers before nuzzling them. She let out a quiet squeak of excitement.

Scamander walked up to Luna’s other side, squatting down and putting his hands on his knees for support. –He looks healthy enough,” he said as he studied the foal, who had not taken notice of his appearance, too blissful from Ginny scratching behind its ears. –Must not’ve been separated from his mum for long.”

–What can we do for him?” Hermione asked, appearing beside Scamander and watching the foal with tender eyes. Luna bet she would take it home if she could.

–We can build him a paddock by Hagrid’s for now. He’s already got Dean and Seamus on it. It’ll keep this little boy safe till his mum figures out where he’s gone. Hagrid’ll let him out as soon as another unicorn comes by.” Scamander reached across Luna to pet the foal’s neck, and it finally took notice of his presence. It jumped back a little but approached again as Luna held out a hand towards it. –Seems to’ve taken liking to you, Miss Luna,” Scamander said. –Ever think about going into the business of Creatures?”

–I have thought about it,” she said. –I would love to travel and discover new creatures, creatures that people don’t believe exist.”

–Oh, yes, like the Crumple-Horned Snorkack?” he asked.

Luna was speechless with surprise, a reaction she was not used to. –Yes,” she said tentatively, waiting for the part where he laughed and said someone had told him to say that as a joke. –You’ve heard of them?”

–A true magi-zoologist follows every lead he’s given,” he said. –I’ve read about them in your father’s magazine.”

Luna mirrored Scamander’s smile and thought she felt some of those Etincellies flying between them.

A shouting in the distance caused all of them to stand and look towards the castle, where Professor McGonagall was running towards them, her face the opposite of what Luna’s father had been. –Scamander!” she yelled as she held her robes away from her feet so she didn’t trip over them. –Come quick!”

He was in front of Professor McGonagall before Luna had even realized he had left her side.

Professor McGonagall handed him a piece of parchment and muttered words to him before he nodded and loped towards the castle. McGonagall put a hand to her chest, breathing heavily. Hermione muttered a spell at a tree stump so it expanded into a lounge chair, then assisted Professor McGonagall to the seat.

–Thank you, Miss Granger,” she said as she plopped into the cushions. –I believe that hill gave me more momentum than I was prepared for.”

–Professor,” Hermione said tentatively, glancing up towards the castle than back to McGonagall, –is everything all right?”

–I’m afraid not,” Professor McGonagall said, dabbing her forehead with a handkerchief despite her eyes becoming watery. –Ms. Fawcett has been taken hostage by Death Eaters.”
Chapter Endnotes: This is my favorite chapter so far, so I hope you liked it too! And if you did enjoy it (or even if you didn't) a review is always much appreciated :)