Luna Lovegood looked with dismay at the essay she'd just gotten back, which was marked with a C in yellow ink. "But I organized all the facts just the way the instructions said."
"Yes, you organized it well enough," the writing teacher, Caitlin Deleon, told her with a sigh. "Luna, you are a very good writer and you followed the instructions just so. This earned you a C instead of an F. But you cannot simply come up with your own species and write a paper on it. This was clearly stated at the beginning of the week, when we started this project."
"I didn't come up with the Gulping Plimpy!" Luna protested. "There is an infestation of them in the drain pipes of my bathroom sink. Everything in the paper came from my own personal observations... and experiences, which were quite nasty, really "
"I'm sorry for your nasty experiences," Caitlin replied, a little sarcastically. "But I'm afraid your grade stands- unless you would like to write another paper and not count this one," she offered, reconsidering. She really did like Luna, even if she did blur the line between her daydreams and reality- much too often for an Erudite, one might add. "Take this home- I won't file it until you decide what you want to do. But do decide quickly, Luna- the aptitude tests are at the end of next week."
Luna sighed, but nodded. "Okay. I'll write a new paper. Thank you, Mrs. Deleon."
This is typical, she thought as she left the classroom. Erudites were usually very unreceptive to things outside of textbooks, that was what her father always told her. And Mrs. Deleon had been born in Erudite and elected to stay there on her Choosing Day. Luna already knew what she would choose- she'd talked with her father about it on multiple occasions. He had been born in Candor, chosen Erudite, and had regretted it ever since. Luna herself was naturally honest, sometimes uncomfortably so, though she always meant well. Xenophilius Lovegood had allowed his daughter to come to this conclusion on her own, and once he knew she was sure had expressed his complete approval and support.
Maybe that was why all her friends at school were from different factions. The only Erudite friend she had was her next-door neighbor Lily Raymond, but Luna was of the opinion that Lily would end up in Amity, so she didn't really count. Lily didn't mind the studying, but what she really loved was music, and that coupled with how she could get along with just about anyone definitely suggested Amity.
Lily had stopped outside the classroom to wait for her, along with Neville Longbottom, another of her friends she was sure would choose Amity. He was from Dauntless, but Luna knew he was afraid of their initiation, even though he wasn't allowed to talk about it. He wasn't generally a nervous person, though very reserved, so he was a potential Dauntless, but given his horror at the thought it was highly unlikely.
"You all right, Luna?" Neville asked as they started for the lunchroom.
"I'm sorry about your grade," Lily added, slipping an arm through hers. "I thought the paper was wonderful. And very accurate, I might add." She laughed ruefully, rubbing her nose which still looked slightly bruised.
Luna smiled and nodded. "Fine, thank you, Neville," she replied truthfully. She really didn't mind so much having to write another paper- writing was a form of art, after all. "And I am sorry about your nose, Lily."
"Well, I did offer to help," Lily reminded her. "It wasn't your fault the venom made you punch me."
Neville looked at Lily as if he was concerned for her health. "Venom made her punch you? What?"
"Of course!" Luna laughed lightly, waving her paper at him. "It's all in here. The Gulping Plimpy is really a very interesting creature. It does get a little vicious, though."
Neville's concern quickly turned into alarm at that. "Luna? Don't tell me one bit you!"
"It did. Twice." Luna rounded the corner with a small skip, her mood already much improved. "The first time my arm just puffed up like a balloon- my left sleeve is still a bit too tight- and the second time I punched Lily in the nose and then apologized ten times exactly. But all that felt rather dreamlike so I knew it was the venom."
"You need to be more careful, Luna," Neville told her seriously, holding the door open for her and Lily. "You may run into something dangerous someday if you go on like this."
Luna laughed again, one of her silver laughs that Neville secretly loved hearing, as she slipped through. "If I do Padma will take care of it. But I will be more careful next time," she added, knowing he was genuinely worried for her safety.
Neville nodded, satisfied. "Thank you."
The three of them picked up their lunches from the counter and found their seats. The six others in their usual group were already there, in various conversations and/or arguments.
Abnegation Hermione Granger was in a heated discussion with Candor Parvati Patil over whether or not learning algebra was necessary if you weren't going to be an engineer. Hermione, who showed strong preference for Erudite, was taking the affirmative side, of course. Parvati's twin sister Padma was explaining to Ginny Weasley how a Dutch braid worked, and Amity Harry Potter was enlisting Ron Weasley's help in predicting what factions their group would end up in, which seemed to be a popular topic among the sixteen-year-olds in general.
"Everyone's going to choose next Friday and leave me behind," Ginny complained as soon as the conversation quieted enough for her to be heard. "Who am I going to talk to or sit with at lunch?"
"You'll find someone," Ron assured his younger sister, ruffling her hair.
"But I'll have to start all over again!" Ginny pouted, leaning her head on Padma's shoulder. "It just isn't fair that all my friends are a year older than I am. Padma, can't you age me by ten months?"
"Doesn't work that way." Padma smiled sympathetically. Her ambition was to be a doctor, she was already certified in first aid, and people were always teasingly (and occasionally seriously) asking her for various remedies and potions. "But hey, at least it's only a year. Then you'll get to go wherever you like."
"I'll get to live in a faction," Ginny added. "The closest I've come to that is sleepovers."
The Weasley family was factionless for a reason that had never been confirmed by any member of that family. The most common rumor was that Arthur and Molly, their Abnegation-born parents, had dropped out of Dauntless initiation, and quitting initiation made you automatically factionless. Of their seven children, five had already had their tests and Choosing Days. One, Percy, had chosen Erudite, and the other four- Bill, Charlie, and the twins Fred and George- had chosen Dauntless. Ron had confided in their little group that he was trying to decide between Dauntless and Amity- no matter what the test said, he would pick one or the other. Ginny, even more firey than her brothers, had had her heart set on Dauntless since she was old enough to understand how the factions worked.
"I need to introduce you to my sister," Harry put in before Ron could say something insulting to Ginny's intelligence, as he usually did when she brought up their living situation. "Or rather one of my several sisters. Abigail would love to meet you."
"Amity girls giggle too much," Ginny announced, and promptly stuffed half a biscuit in her mouth so as not to have to answer protests against her statement. None were forthcoming, however, so she swallowed the biscuit and added, "Maybe Abigail isn't as bad as most of them though."
"She isn't,. Harry assured her. "I'll get her to sit with us tomorrow if that's all right."
"It can't hurt, I suppose," Ginny conceded finally.
Various conversations started up again, but Luna said nothing. She focused her attention on the table, trying to imagine the layout of the painting she'd been planning. Then she looked back up and glanced between the smiling faces around her.
With such good friends, she knew the painting would be beautiful.