"I wonder what pulls the boats," Luna said.
"Whatever pulls the horseless carriages must also pull the boats," a first year said.
"But…but…. You can SEE horses pulling the carriages and you CAN'T SEE anything pulling the boats." Luna said.
Luna's Failed Friendships Counter ticked up to four.
"They're called thestrals," said a gentle voice behind her, "Why don' yeh sit with me. I’m Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. I take care of the magical creatures in the Forbidden Forest."
Luna sat in a boat with the gameskeeper.
"You must know all about invisible creatures, Mister," Luna said.
"Call me Hagrid," Hagrid said, "I knew a few. There's threstrals, obviously. Imps can't be seen or heard or remembered. But there's lots of spells that'll move the imps about so you can cage 'em up."
"It sounds like there's no creature in the world you're scared of," Luna said.
"What? I'm just as scared of dangerous creatures as the next fella," Hagrid said.
"Like dragons?" Luna said.
"Dragons aren't dangerous!" said Hagrid.
"Trolls?" Luna said.
"They might pull your arms off but it's nothing personal," Hagrid said.
"Dementors?" Luna said.
"You don' geddit. Dementors aren't dangerous the way a nargle is dangerous," Hagrid said.
"What's a nargle?" Luna asked.
"I shouldn't have said that," Hagrid muttered, "I should NOT have said that."
Headmistress McGonagall gave her first opening speech.
"…I am also proud to announce to you that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Archaeologists have swept it for traps and curses. Guided tours have been added to your History of Magic curriculums this year…"
Luna tuned out the Ministry propaganda. There were new teachers. Lady Yue would be teaching Potions, Professor Susan Lapsusa would be teaching Transfiguration and—oh my god—
Gilderoy Lockhart would be teaching Battle Magic.
Gilderoy Lockhart was renowned as the greatest combat wizard of the era—a modern-day David Monroe. Every week the Daily Prophet printed a story where he described an encounter with ghouls, hags, trolls, vampires and werewolves. Rumor was this week he would tell about his encounter with a yeti in Antarctica. He had more confirmed kills of dark wizards than the best Ministry Auror. He had won Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award five times.
Gilderoy' golden hair flowed with painstakingly-crafted effortlessness. He thrust his shoulders back as if he had just saved the world. And that nose—
"Lovegood!", Prof. Lapsusa shouted.
Luna skipped to the front of the Great Hall. Students sniggered. This is the price you pay for being the daughter of someone who speaks truth to power Luna thought.
The sorting hat covered Luna's head all the way down to her shoulders. It was cozily quiet inside.
Hmm, said a small voice in her ear. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes – and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting … So where shall I put you?
Do you say that to every girl? Luna thought, Do you call all of us complicated and courageous and talented and—
"RAVENCLAW!" shouted that hat.
Food appeared on the golden plates. Luna wondered where it came from.
"Where does this food come from?" she asked a mousy-haired boy next to her.
"It's created from nothing," he said.
"That's magically impossible," Luna said, "Food is one of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration."
"Then where do you think it comes from?" he said testily.
Luna's Failed Friendships Counter ticked up to five.
"First-years follow me," the Ravenclaw prefect said.
The logical place for the kitchens is under the Great Hall. Luna waited to see what general direction the prefects went and then stalked her way to a place under the Great Hall called the "Kitchen corridor". The Hufflepuff prefect tapped a barrel in the rhythm of "Helga Hufflepuff". The lid slid open and students crawled into the common room. Luna circumnavigated the area under the Great Hall until the Hufflepuffs retired.
The "Kitchen corridor" was brightly lit with torches. Barrels were stacked in a nook to camouflage the Hufflepuff common room entrance. There was a suit of armor and several paintings, mostly depicting food. This, plus the absence of visible horizontal doors elsewhere adjacent to the area under the Great Hall, suggested the kitchen entrance would be in the kitchen corridor.
But how to enter? There were no obvious doors. Luna tapped the paintings with her wand. Luna tapped the Hufflepuff Common room entrance to the tune of "fish and chips" and it dosed her in vinegar. She talked to the fruit. She peeked inside the suit of armor. As she was chanting a long stream of gibberish to a giant painting of a big bowl of fruit the painting burst open straight into her nose throwing Luna across the broad hallway into the suit of armor which crashed down on her.
Two identical Weasleys stumbled out under armfuls of cakes, cookies and muffins.
"Episky," cast a Weasley while balancing the tower of food on his left arm, left elbow, left shoulder and left side of his head. Luna's nose stopped bleeding.
"Are you a first-year?" said a second Weasley.
"Yes. I'm looking for the kitchens," Luna said.
"What have you tried so far?" said the first Weasley.
"I tapped everything with my wand while muttering long strings of gibberish."
"Did any of it work?" the second Weasley asked.
"Tap that barrel to the tune of 'fish and chips'." Luna said.
"It appears we have a student who, on her first day of school, snuck away from the Ravenclaws to steal food from the kitchens," said the first Weasley.
"She discovered the entrance to the kitchen which is off-limits to students and the Hufflepuff common room which is off-limits to Ravenclaws," said the second Weasley.
"Then she soaked two older students in vinegar."
"We could report her to the proper authorities."
"Or we could take advantage of this opportunity."
"Really? What naughty things could we possibly do with this transgressive little girl?"