"Luna!" Ginny yelled to her friend that Saturday evening.
The fourteen-year-old girl with dirty blonde hair and wide, silver eyes only just heard Ginny call her name. Subconsciously she halted as Ginny caught up to her.
"Hey, Luna. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and I are all going to Hogsmeade for some butterbeer and we were wondering if you wanted to come along."
Luna gave this some thought, but something seemed to pop in her head that made her shake it.
"Perhaps some other day. I have...other things that need attending to. But thank you so very much for the offer, Ginny."
Without another word, she skipped along as if the conversation had never occurred.
"She keeps saying that she has other things that need attending to," Ginny ranted as the five of them drank their butterbeer.
"It's been so long since we went to Hogsmeade together, I've lost track of how many times she's claimed she had other things to do."
"Maybe she really does have other things to do," Ron suggested.
"Like what?" Ginny asked.
"Maybe one of the thestrals came down with an illness," Neville suggested.
"Can thestrals fall ill?" Hermione asked.
"No clue. Luna's the animal expert," Ginny sighed.
"So's Hagrid," Harry added.
"Maybe we could ask him."
"But can Hagrid see thestrals?" Hermione said.
Silence fell upon the group as they became lost in thought. COULD Hagrid see thestrals?
"Well, better safe than sorry," said Harry.
"Course I can see 'em," Hagrid answered.
"They're a damn good lot too; very healthy creatures. They rarely get sick."
"See, that's what we came here to ask you about," Ginny interrupted.
"Our friend Luna has been skipping out on evening outings we offer and she claims she has other things that need attending to. We were wondering if she was coming down here to care for the thestrals."
Hagrid pondered this for a moment, but ultimately shook his head.
"Nope, she doesn't come 'ere in the evenin'. Comes 'round early mornin' and afternoon usually. She's a kind girl too."
The five looked at each other.
"But if she doesn't come here, then where does she go?"
The week oozed on slowly as the mystery of Luna's whereabouts puzzled the five, with Neville especially worried. They asked around to see if any other students knew of what she was up to, but no one quite knew. There were theories, of course, but none of them fluid enough to be logical.
"I just don't understand it!" Ginny fumed as they sat in the Gryffindor common room one weekend.
"Where could Luna be going so frequently?"
"I dunno, but Neville, your behavior is worrying me a bit," Hermione said.
The boy snapped out of thought.
"What?" he asked.
"You've been incredibly dazed and lost since this all started. What's going on?"
"Nothing," he said quickly as his face began to burn a bit red.
"That doesn't look like nothing. You can tell us, Neville."
Neville shrugged lightly.
"Same as you lot. I'm worried about what's going on with Luna."
"We need to develop a way to catch her in the act," Ginny exclaimed.
"In the act of what?"
"Exactly! We won't know what it is unless we catch her ourselves."
"But why should we?" Harry asked.
"It's not like she's doing anything dangerous."
"She could be. We'll never know unless we take the initiative and find out for ourselves."
That evening, Luna proceeded along her usual route until she remembered something. Rounding a corner, she hid inside of a nearby nook until there was no sign of anyone nor was there any possibility of anyone seeing her. Luna couldn't take chances. They made her promise to never been seen.
Luna tiptoed lightly towards a part of a wall, faced it, and closed her eyes, lost in thought. As if by divine intervention, the bricks of the wall in one area rearranged themselves and there appeared a dark, elegant, wooden door. Grabbing onto the handle, she looked left and then right. Seeing no sign of anyone, Luna smiled and turned the knob. The door gave a long low groan as Luna stepped inside of the dark, mysterious abode, and closed the door quietly, certain it was only them.
What she neglected to notice, however, was a small redhead making her way to the Great Hall when she saw Luna step inside of the portal. The door began to smooth itself down to look as if it had been painted on and then simply disappeared entirely.
For a few more days, the redhead went that same way, careful to not be seen and the same thing happened. The door disappeared entirely, as if it had never existed.
"Slow down, Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed after she bolted into the Gryffindor common room panting madly, certain that she was not imagining what she was seeing.
"Take a deep breath and then tell us."
Ginny closed her eyes and filled herself with air before releasing slowly as one would release the air from a pool toy or a bounce house.
"Luna's been going into the Room of Requirement all these afternoons! But after she goes inside, the door just disappears."
"You mean it's replaced with another?" Ron asked.
"No! The door disappears altogether. It's as if it was never there."
"But that's not possible," Harry pointed out.
"Even if it's not the same room, the door still stays on the wall."
"It would take very powerful magic to make the door disappear and Luna hasn't even had her O.W.L.s yet," Hermione explained.
"There's no way she would know magic THAT powerful until at least the end of her N.E.W.T.s."
"But then how could Luna make it simply disappear off of the wall like that?" Neville inquired.
The five of them swirled the thought around in their heads, but it puzzled them a great deal. Luna was intelligent, but it would take years to master such difficult magic. Then someone occurred to Hermione.
"What if it isn't Luna that's making it disappear?"
"But there's never anyone else with her when she goes inside," Ginny pointed out.
"It seems like she's always wary if anyone else is around."
"But what if there's someone inside the Room that could make it disappear?"
Ginny considered this.
"Is there anything else?"
She began to shake her head when she remembered something that made her wonder if something was wrong with Luna.
"Yes. She also seems...strange recently."
"Luna? Strange?" Ron gasped, his voice oozing with sarcasm.
Hermione glared at him in anger.
"Not like her usual strangeness, but...stranger."
"Stranger how?" Hermione inquired.
"Well," Ginny began, wracking her brain for what she'd seen in Luna.
"She's drawing music notes and hearts in her notebooks. When she asks to go to the bathroom, she's gone for almost the rest of class. But the strangest thing is that she constantly seems...not all there. Like more so than usual. Like she's...in a trance of some sort."
"You're not suggesting-?" Neville piped up.
"Possibly. She looks almost exactly like how I looked when it happened to me."
"But that's impossible! Harry destroyed the diary, didn't you, Harry?"
"Yeah, I did."
"But what if he's controlling her through another horcrux? Or maybe through something of hers, like a quill or one of her magazines?" Ginny suggested.
"But why would he want to?" Ron asked.
"What use could Loony-ow! Alright, Hermione!-What use could Luna be to You-Know-Who? She's probably the last person anyone would suspect You-Know-Who would have any use for."
"Well, that might just be it!" Hermione exclaimed as she moved her elbow away from Ron's ribcage.
"Luna's the last person anyone would expect Voldemort to try and take control of. Maybe he's using her to get information about Harry or Dumbledore."
"Or maybe he's trying to make her a Death Eater," Harry suggested.
"Or maybe he's slowly killing her," Ginny added.
All of a sudden, Neville gasped and fell to the floor with a thud.
"Neville!" Hermione exclaimed as she ran to him.
He groaned in pain as he sat up.
"My head," he moaned.
"We'd better take him to Madame Pomfrey," Ginny urged.
As the five of them made their way to the Hospital Wing, they approached the hall where the Room of Requirement was located.
"Wait!" Ginny exclaimed.
"What time is it?"
"Erm, about six o clock," Hermione answered.
"Get behind the wall," Ginny whispered.
The five of them darted behind the wall and peeked their heads around the corner slightly. All of a sudden, they saw a girl with blonde hair and a Ravenclaw robe slowly walk towards the wall.
"It's Luna!" Ginny whispered harshly.
"Stay here and watch."
Ginny peeked out from the corner and casually walked over to Luna.
"Hey Luna!" she greeted her.
But Luna didn't respond. She simply kept on walking slowly. Ginny followed her.
"Luna, it's me. Ginny."
Once again, there was no response. Frustrated, Ginny stood in front of Luna and put her hands on her shoulders.
"Let go of me," she said dazed and entranced.
Her tone gave Ginny goosebumps. It was her soft, lyrical voice, but something about it was off. It sounded like she had a small yawn stuck in her voice, but it flowed so smoothly.
"Luna, you can stop now."
"Let go of me," she said once again in the exact same tone.
"You're really scaring-"
Ginny and Luna's eyes met. Luna's were her usual blue-grey-silver, except that it seemed to have a slight white veil covering it. Her pupils were much smaller than usual and they seemed to be focusing both everywhere at once and nowhere at all. It gave Ginny the chills.
"He awaits me," she droned.
"Luna, snap out if it!"
"Mustn't be late."
All of a sudden, Luna did something that proved to all five of them that, as if they weren't sure enough already, something was indeed wrong with Luna. She took both of her arms, put them in front of her, and pushed Ginny straight to the ground with a thud. Ginny and the others were so startled that they couldn't move or focus. By the time they came out of their startling paralysis, Luna was gone.