Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns it all, except my three copies of Order of the Phoenix.
In the June twilight, the trees in the Forbidden Forest got their voices from the soft wind. The pink light filtered down on the fields, reflecting on the fairies' wings as they flew around the tallish weeds at the edge of the deep woods. One student approached the forest with a bag slung over her arm. The gypsy skirt caught on a low branch, but Luna swept the fabric up over her arm. Without looking to see if anyone followed, she stepped into the underbrush, and then further, under the trees.
The school was in an uproar. There was no place that didn't echo with speculation or dissent. Rattling newspaper pieces from March were in every other hand as theories and gossip made their ways through the Hogwarts halls. If Luna had noticed that the clippings were from the Quibbler, she didn't say anything about it when the students approached her.
"Luna, have you seen Potter?"
"You were there, Luna - what happened?"
"Dumbledore's back, Umbridge is in hospital, you were there when Dumbledore brought her in…"
Luna's large eyes hadn't blinked. "It's only a rescue when you get there at the last possible moment. Until then, it's taxi service."
No one had asked her twice.
The path in the Forbidden Forest wasn't particularly well cut. Luna pulled her wand from behind her ear and said "Lumos", letting the wand light lead until she reached the clearing.
Hagrid greeted her from the shadows. "All right there, Luna?"
Pixie lights and the low angle of the setting sun gave Luna a good look at the giant. "All right, Hagrid?"
The turned question showed Hagrid wore a pleased smile. "All right now. I've just come back m'self and I figgered to take a bit of stroll through the woods."
He dropped a small goat carcass and pulled out his knife. "Lupin did tell me you rode the thestrals to London."
"We did." Luna watched as Hagrid skinned the goat quickly, letting the blood pool on the ground.
"I shoulda had a cow fer 'em, then. London's a fair bit o' flying."
The thestrals trotted in, sniffing at the weeds where the blood had dripped, and then at the carcass. A tall thestral with a wheeze wandered into the clearing, as if dragging its hooves through sand instead of fragrant leaves.
"Does that one have a name?" Luna asked.
"That 'un? That's old Athan. He's one of the oldest of the herd."
"I rode him." Luna pulled up her bag from beside her knee. "I wanted to give him something."
Hagrid wiped his hands on a handful of leaves. "D'you now? What did you want to be givin' him?"
She pulled out two dead mice. "I read that they liked these."
"They do indeed, Luna. They do indeed." Hagrid picked one up by the tail. "Where'd you get this?"
"I asked a house elf." Luna held up the other. "Do I just hold it out to him?"
"Nah, it's better this way." Hagrid sliced open the mice's backs in quick strokes. "They like 'uns best this way."
Two of the near thestrals sniffed, catching the scent of the blood, but Athan didn't look up from his grazing until they stood beside him. "Hold it out by its tail, like. He'll catch it quick enough."
The thestral took both of the mice as welcome treats, and stretched its neck to let Luna scratch his withers. "Thank you," she said, putting her cheek against his shoulder. "Thank you."
The old thestral nickered into her hand as she stroked down his nose.
"He'll be lookin' for more mice," Hagrid said. "It's right nice of you, bringing 'im a treat like that."
"He sounds like he's agreeing with you, Hagrid," Luna said softly as the beast wheezed.
"A right old lad, this 'un," Hagrid patted him on his back. "I'll be wantin' to hear the whole of the story, Luna. Not manys as can tell they've ridden a thestral."
"I expect not," she said.
"And Ginny," Hagrid said over Luna's head, "I'll hear your part as well."
"Hallo, Hagrid. Hi, Luna." Ginny stepped into the clearing, her wand held high. "It seems rude of me, not to be able to see them, after all they did for us."
"All right, Ginny?"
"All right, Hagrid." Her sigh brought one of the thestrals up from his snack.
"That's the one Ginny rode." Luna pointed.
"Ah, that's a young 'un, Chelsis. She wert born from sweet Gaudia, the best of the mares, I reckon. Chelsis has a nice temper, and took to the bridle with nary a problem."
"Luna left…I mean, I found a book in the library that Luna left on the table…" Ginny held up her hand. "I brought a mouse."
Hagrid helped her offer her treat to the thestral, and showed Ginny where to stroke the mare. "You've a soft hand, Ginny."
Ginny jumped when she heard the neighing and felt the movement of the beast's chest under her hands. "It's not right."
"Don't be in such a hurry to see a thestral, Ginny," Hagrid counseled. "Time enough, I spect, to see thestrals afore yourn done."
By the light of Luna and Ginny's wands, the three of them headed back to the school, leaving the thestrals in the dark meadow. Ginny felt the passing of an invisible beast on the path, and put out her hand to stroke its side as it headed for Hagrid's feast. "Thank you."
Luna slung her bag over her shoulder and twirled her wand before sticking behind her ear. Hagrid pushed ahead of the girls, clearing the path.
"Luna, I was looking for you," Ginny said, her voice low. "To thank you. I couldn't have made it, back there, without you."
Luna shrugged. "The ancient runes told me to."
"I must have missed that prophecy," Ginny said.
The girls exchanged blinking looks, and laughed together until they reached the edge of the forest.