Ginny woke up in the coldest hours before dawn on Christmas Day. It was her first Christmas at Hogwarts and her first Christmas without Mum and Dad. Fred and George had tried to convince her that the only difference between Christmas at Hogwarts and Christmas at the Burrow was that each student had to kiss another under the mistletoe before they were allowed into the Great Hall for the feast. Ginny knew this wasn't true – Professor McGonagall would put a stop to that – but it did make her imagine what it would be like to accidentally-on-purpose kiss a boy.
Not any boy though. There was only one boy she wanted to kiss and even then she wasn't so sure . . .
She sucked in a breath as a new thought struck her: what if she wound up under the mistletoe with someone horrible like Draco Malfoy? She sent up silent thanks for Professor McGonagall protecting her from such things and then wondered why she bothered to buy presents for her twin brothers when all they did was put mad thoughts in her head.
She sighed and tried not to think about the other mad thoughts that had been in her head ever since she had come to Hogwarts. It wasn't the day to think about half-formed images of snakes and roosters and whispers from the walls.
"First year anxiety," Percy had said when she had confided her worries.
Today she was going to believe him, she decided as she gazed with anticipation at the pile of colorfully wrapped presents at the bottom of her bed. She looked around at the empty dormitory. There was no one to tell her it was too early for Christmas and to go back to bed. She could open her gifts and snuggle back under the covers if she wanted.
With a giggle, she clambered to the end of her four-poster and started to tear into the pile. After ten exciting minutes, she had a new quill, a pair of slippers, red and gold hair bands, three boxes of Chocolate Frogs, and a pack of Exploding Snap cards. There was only one package left and it had to be her Christmas jumper from Mum.
She gave a yelp of surprise and dropped the box on the floor, since it contained a sealed jar of writhing white maggots.
Her heart pounding from the shock, Ginny tentatively put one foot on the cold floor and leaned down for a closer look.
Maggots all right.
Then she spotted the tag. "For Luna, with love from Aunt Constance."
Many thoughts sifted through her mind. The maggots weren't for her, which was a relief. They were for a girl named Luna, which was puzzling, since there weren't any Lunas in Gryffindor – and they were from this girl's aunt, which was very strange.
Ginny hoped that this Luna person was an ace potion maker who needed maggots to complete her stores, because she couldn't think of any other reason to send such a gift at Christmas.
"There's a first year named Luna in Ravenclaw," Percy informed her later that morning in the common room. "Her roommates pick on her and Penny has been taking a special interest."
"Penny?" Ginny asked innocently. It was always fun to watch Percy blush.
"You know who she is," Percy retorted. "Do you want me to deliver them to Ravenclaw Tower?" he asked, looking askance at Fred and George who were trying to find out how many pieces of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum could be chewed at one time.
"No. I'll do it." She really hoped the maggots weren't a horrible prank for this Luna person.
"Um. Did you get a jumper from Mum?" she asked.
"Yes – purple as usual." Percy didn't ask Ginny about her jumper because at that moment Fred's huge bubble had popped, covering his entire head in a suffocating blue blanket of gum. While Percy was disentangling Fred from the sticky mess, Ginny slipped out of the portrait hole.
The Ravenclaws did not have a portrait guarding the entrance to their tower. Instead there was a fir tree with a nest in the middle branches.
Now what? she thought. There were three eggs in the nest. Ginny frowned. Knowing Ravenclaws, this was probably a puzzle to solve.
The branches of the tree suddenly bowed, like a stiff wind had been blowing through the corridor, and a young girl with flaxen hair stepped into the corridor. She was carrying a lumpy bundle, wrapped in Christmas paper.
"Um," Ginny said. "Do you know a girl named Luna?"
The girl goggled at her.
"In Ravenclaw," Ginny persisted. "A girl named Luna? I have one of her gifts. It's from her Aunt Constance."
Understanding dawned in the girl's blue eyes. "Aunt Connie?" she asked eagerly. "I thought she might have forgotten it was Christmas. She does that, you know."
"You're Luna?" Ginny asked, just to be on the safe side.
"Yes," the girl said, looking at the package in Ginny's hands. "You asked me if I knew Luna and it made me realize that I didn't really know myself as well as I thought." She tilted her head and looked directly into Ginny's eyes. "You know?"
Ginny didn't know. "Um, well. Here's you gift," she said holding out the package. "I accidentally opened it. Sorry."
"You wouldn't be Ginny would you?" Luna awkwardly juggled the parcels as she took the gift from Ginny.
"Yes," she answered eagerly.
"Then this must be yours," Luna said, shifting to present the lumpy package to Ginny.
She took the soft package gratefully. It must be her Christmas jumper.
"I didn't open it because I saw that it said 'from Mum,' and I knew it wasn't for me," Luna said.
Ginny clutched the jumper bundle to her chest and stared at Luna. "Your mother wouldn't send you a gift?"
"She's dead," Luna said calmly. "So she can't."
"Oh." Ginny looked at the nest in the tree because she didn't want to look at Luna. Though that didn't help the sadness welling inside of her; she had just noticed that there were three eggs and no mother bird to warm them.
"Look," Luna breathed, holding up the jar. "Mind Maggots. I wonder where Aunt Connie got them?"
"Something dead no doubt," Ginny muttered.
"No." Luna tapped the jar. "These aren't ordinary maggots – they're Mind Maggots. They eat dead thoughts."
"Dead thoughts?" Ginny asked, puzzled.
"You know. Thoughts like: 'I'll never learn this Charm,' or 'My roommates must hate me.' Those sort of thoughts." Luna held the jar up to the light as if to count them.
"I'm going to use one today," Luna said. "I'll have a much better time at the feast if I can stop thinking that this is the second Christmas without Mummy."
"Yes," Ginny said after swallowing several times. "You probably will."
"Baby blue jumper again?" Fred asked as they waited outside the door of the Great Hall for the Christmas feast.
"Yes." Ginny caressed the coarse yarn of her sleeve.
"It's not as bad as Ron's maroon." George observed.
"I like it," Ginny snapped. "And don't ever let Mum think I don't."
"All right," George said, putting up his hands. "You'll shrivel up the mistletoe with that look."
"Good!" she said fiercely. Fred and George were busy laughing when she spotted Luna.
"Um, I'm going to sit with a new – um." She couldn't quite think of Luna as a friend. "Acquaintance," she told them before pushing through a group of Hufflepuff boys.
"Acquaintance!" she heard them both trill. "Ginny has a new acquaintance."
"Hi," she said breathlessly as she finally reached Luna's side.
"Oh, hello." Luna stared at her solemnly. "You're wearing blue."
"Yes." Ginny looked down at the pale blue jumper with the darker blue G knitted into the front.
"It's like Drooble's gum," Luna continued.
Ginny didn't know whether to laugh or to be insulted. She decided to laugh. "It is."
"I like bubble gum. It's so unnecessary," Luna added.
As they sat together at the far end of the Ravenclaw table, Luna gazed at one of the fairies in the nearest Christmas tree. "After my Mind Maggot ate that dead thought, I had a new one." She tore her attention away from the tree. "Do you want to hear it?"
Ginny nodded, wondering exactly how much mind those maggots ate.
"I realized that none of us at Hogwarts have our mums with us this Christmas day," Luna said. "But we do have friends – even me."
Ginny smiled and felt lighter somehow. While she wasn't sure if she could ever be good friends with Luna, at least she knew that it was okay to be at Hogwarts at Christmas without Mum. They ate the soup course in silence.
"Um – the bird's nest at the tower entrance," Ginny asked, "Is there a mother bird?"
Luna smiled mysteriously. "No, but our constant handling of the eggs will give them enough warmth and eventually they will hatch after Christmas. That's what Penny told me anyway."
"Take care of one another," Luna said, "that's what Penny told us was the theme of this year's Ravenclaw Christmas tree."
Ravenclaws. Never in a million years would Ginny have figured that out.
It wasn't until they were halfway through the Christmas pudding that Luna spoke again. "If you ever need to rid yourself of a dead thought, I'd be happy to give you a Mind Maggot."
Startled, Ginny put her fork down. She thought of snakes and whispers and blood and then hastily thrust them away. "I can't think of a thought I need to kill right now."
"Well, if you ever do need one . . ."
Ginny nodded and wondered if Luna could read minds. She almost wished Luna could – then she wouldn't have to explain or voice her fears.
As they made their way out of the Great Hall, Ginny put her hand on Luna's arm. "If you ever need help with your roommates, I'd be happy to – er." There really wasn't much she could do for Luna, she realized.
"Thanks." Luna's face glowed. "I can't imagine what you could do, but it's the thought that counts, isn't it?"
Take care of one another. With love from. We do have friends.
Those were living thoughts at Christmas. Ginny nodded at her new friend. "Yeah."
A/N: This story originally appeared in my Live Journal. Thanks to Sherry for the beta. I promise a long story for all of you in the New Year!