Harry looked at the invite again. New Auror Welcome Party, Friday, 10 May, 2002. Bollocks, he had forgotten. In his haste to move everything out of the flat he shared with Ginny, it completely slipped his mind.
He had already RSVPed with a plus one. What was he going to do now?
He had barely told anyone besides Ron and Hermione that he and Ginny had split, and now he had a little over a week to find a date. He didn’t want to go stag. Ron would be parading his new girlfriend off—he was thankful his best friend had found someone after moping after Hermione for a year—but it would just be awkward to show up alone.
He didn’t have much time to think about it, though. He needed to get ready to go to Hogwarts. About once a month he’d go there to give a lecture in Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was good for the students’ morale, and he’d be lying if he said it didn’t lift his spirits each time he went. Hogwarts had always felt like home.
He was walking the grounds now, taking in the fresh air and scenery when he spotted a familiar face. “Professor Lovegood!” he greeted.
“Harry, please—call me Luna.”
He chuckled, knowing she’d say that. Luna had taken over as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher so Hagrid could relax a bit and focus on his duties as groundskeeper. With both her and Neville teaching, he always had friendly faces to welcome him.
“Of course, Luna. How are you doing?”
“I’d be a lot better if I could find the blast-ended skrewt that escaped from today’s lesson.” She was using her wand like a locating device, walking haphazardly across the grounds.
Harry smiled, comforted by the fact that some things never changed. “I’d offer to help, but I have to go inside and give my lecture.”
“No worries. This isn’t the first time.” She smiled serenely at him before returning to her business.
Harry felt lighter after their encounter and it was on his way out—after a successful session on how to cast a Patronus—that an idea came to him. He went off in search of Luna, finding her by the greenhouse, looking through some bushes while Neville watched.
“Luna!” he called, waving as he walked over.
“What is it, Harry? I was just helping Neville with his nargle infestation.”
“Right. I was wondering if perhaps you might be free next Friday?”
She looked up for a moment as she thought about it. “Yes, why?”
“Well, I—” he rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly and gave Neville a glare.
“Right, I’ll just be going,” Neville said as he ducked into the greenhouse.
Harry took Luna’s arm as they walked away. “Ginny and I broke up, a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, Harry I’m sorry.”
“It’s for the best, but I have this party for the new Aurors who completed their training and I was supposed to bring her. I was wondering… if you might be able to go and pretend to be my girlfriend for the evening?”
She nodded slowly, like his request wasn’t completely ridiculous. “Well, if you really want to sell us as a couple, we should probably go on a date or two leading up to this so people will see us.”
“Yes, I suppose that sounds—wait, so you’ll do it?”
Luna smiled brightly. “Anything for you, Harry.”
Date one was lunch on Sunday afternoon. Luna came to Diagon Alley where they ate at the Leaky Cauldron. She even held his hand across the table— it’ll look more natural , she assured him.
Date two was dinner in Hogsmeade on Wednesday. They met at the Three Broomsticks. She laughed at all of his dumb jokes and advised him to kiss her before she headed back to Hogwarts. If you were my boyfriend, you’d kiss me goodnight . It sounded reasonable, and her lips were rather soft.
Now it was Friday night and Harry was actually looking forward to the party. Luna had agreed to meet him at his flat so they could travel together. He was nervous as he combed his hair and checked his reflection. Why was he nervous? It was all fake anyway. The doorbell rang.
She was radiant—clad in icy blue dress robes like the queen of a frozen kingdom.
“Wow, Luna. You look brilliant.”
She flounced in and straightened his collar. “Thanks, Harry. So do you.”
He took her arm and Apparated them to the Ministry. The party was being held in the largest conference room, which may as well have been a ballroom the way it was decorated. He relished the looks on everyone’s faces as he and Luna walked in.
“Moving on quickly, I see,” Ron said with a raised brow.
Ron elbowed him in the side. “I’m just ribbing you, Harry. We all knew you and Gin weren’t going to last.” He motioned between the two of them and smiled. “This makes sense.”
Harry looked down at Luna, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself and thought that maybe it really did.
They danced and drank well into the night and were among the last of the people to leave the party. He had to admit, Luna was wonderful company, and he was starting to wish he’d just asked her to come as his date instead of his pretend girlfriend.
When he walked her back to the Apparition Point, he gave her a lingering hug. “Thanks again, Luna. You really saved me tonight.”
“Of course.” She smiled again—how had he never noticed before how beautiful she was?
He leaned forward a bit, then stopped.
Luna looked quizzical. “What is it?”
“It’s just—I really want to kiss you.”
She smirked. “So do it.”
“But this was all fake, wasn’t it?”
“Oh Harry,” she said, grabbing his lapels. “I was never faking.” She kissed him soundly.
He had never been so relieved.