The moonlight reflected off the surface of the lake as Luna Lovegood opened the castle door and ran quickly down the steps. She hoped she wasn’t too late. Her gaze fell on the Whomping Willow, silent now. She’d heard stories of the havoc it had caused on her first night at Hogwarts. The stories had been passed around school and exaggerated; one version had it that several Gryffindors had hijacked a Muggle airliner and flown it to Hogwarts. But Luna had heard the truth from another first year girl, the sister of one of the students involved. It was two Gryffindor second year boys, and they’d got hold of a flying Muggle automobile and flown it to school -- something about missing the train, that detail wasn’t really clear. Apparently they’d found controlling the car harder than they’d anticipated, and they’d crashed into the tree, which had hurried to take revenge by wrecking the car and even breaking one of the boys’ wands.
Luna slipped her hand into her pocket to be sure her own wand, her most-prized possession, was there. Most possessions didn’t mean much to Luna. She’d already misplaced several items she’d brought with her to Hogwarts, and she’d been there less than two weeks. But her wand was special. Her mother had bought it for her when she was seven years old, and taught her to use it before she died. It was 9 inches long and made of willow, with the heartstring of a Chinese Fireball dragon at its core. The relatively short length made it the ideal wand for a young witch’s hands. Most wizarding parents didn’t allow their children to have a wand until it was time for them to go away to school, but Luna’s parents had never held much with such conventions.
Shaking herself from her reverie, Luna headed toward Hagrid’s hut, keeping to the shadows. Her heart beat excitedly. She wasn’t scared of going into the forest alone, but she was unlikely to find her way if Hagrid had already left. She’d hoped to be able to follow him. Few humans had the chance to witness such an event as would occur tonight. A deep voice called, “Fang!” -- she wasn’t too late after all. Luna followed Hagrid as he entered the forest. After a few minutes he left the path and stopped in a clearing some distance away. Luna crept to the edge of the clearing, hiding behind a tree to watch.
Lying in the clearing was one of the Hogwarts Thestrals, clearly in some distress. Tying Fang to a tree, Hagrid knelt down and spoke soothingly to the large, reptillian horse, and it seemed to know he was there to help. Not it, she. A female Thestral, about to become a mother.
Luna had overheard Hagrid mention the imminent birth to Professor Flitwick at the staff table, and she’d watched from her window in Ravenclaw Tower as Hagrid made nightly trips into the forest to check on the pregnant winged horse. Now the moment for the birth had come, and she was here to see it!
Hagrid bent over the horse on the ground, and soon she started screeching. It was an very uncomfortable sound, but it didn’t last that long. There was one last, loud cry, and then the horse lowered her head to the ground wearily. Hagrid moved to pat her neck and Luna could see the young foal. It was beautiful! It was lying on its side, sticky and wet and breathing hard. It’s legs and head were moving but its wings seemed glued to its side. Luna had read that the wings remained like this for several days.
The foal pushed hard with its back legs and ended up with its rump in the air and it’s face in the leaves on the forest floor. Then it tipped over onto its side again. After several attempts it managed an ungainly walk toward its mother, where it collapsed and rested for a while.
Hagrid seemed satisfied that he’d accomplished his purpose, untied Fang and started back toward his hut. Luna stayed to watch the new family and lost track of time. Luna wished she could stay and watch the new foal’s first attempt at flight, but she knew that wouldn’t happen for a couple of weeks yet. She wondered if she’d be able to find her way back to this spot again two weeks from now. Thinking of finding her way caused Luna to realize she wasn’t sure she knew her way back to the castle from here!
Heart beating a bit more rapidly, Luna walked back to where she thought the path was. “Lumos,” she muttered when she was far enough from the Thestrals that she felt the light wouldn’t be noticed by them. The light didn’t reveal any hint of the path, however. Luna stumbled over a tree root and almost fell. She looked back over her shoulder but she was no longer sure which direction she’d come from, nor which direction Hagrid had taken when he’d left the thestrals.
CRASH! A loud noise startled Luna, and it was quickly followed by other noises: sniffing and panting, like a pack of wild dogs, only much louder than any dogs Luna had ever heard. Luna ran away from the sounds, though whatever was making the noises was gaining fast. She could feel hot breath coming from above. Finally, she hid behind a big tree and turned to look. Raising her wand, she could see three enormous heads, panting and salivating. These dogs were enormous, but not very smart -- they couldn’t seem to decide which way to proceed around the tree that was in front of them. Two of them wanted to go one way and one wanted to go the other way, and something was keeping them from following its desired route. As Luna looked, she realized it wasn’t three dogs, but one enormous three-headed dog. She took advantage of its confusion to turn and run some more.
After a while she heard the dog behind her again, gaining. Luna still had no idea where the path was, and it seemed she might not have a chance to find out. She stumbled over another tree root and fell to her knees.
As she got back to her feet she heard a new sound. More crashing and breaking of foliage, but this sounded more like a machine than an animal. She saw lights glowing, like large eyes, approaching straight toward her. She moved to the side and saw that the lights were not eyes but the headlights of a Muggle automobile. Its engine revved slightly. “Nice automobile! Can you help me?” Luna didn’t find it all strange to speak to the car, and it responded immediately by moving closer and opening its passenger door. Luna jumped into the seat, the door closed, and the car took off, this time in reverse. After backing up for about 200 feet, it wheeled around and sped off, seeming to follow a path. After only a couple of minutes, the car emerged onto the Hogwarts lawn, stopped, and opened its door again. Luna got out, politely thanked the car for its help, and ran toward the door of the castle.