The hours slipped away without Hermione taking notice. For once she didn't track and note the passage of time, it simply sped by until suddenly it was quite late and Luna was murmuring that the club would be closing soon. Having to leave the club, stop dancing, and return to her usual life filled with constraints and doubt was a concept that barely registered in her muddled mind and she realized that she was quite tipsy. Or at least, that's what Luna was telling her.
"You're quite tipsy, aren't you?" Luna remarked, placing her hand at the small of Hermione's back, the touch comforting in its gentle press.
"I'm not!" Hermione declared, looking huffy and contemplating forming a scowl.
"Oh?" questioned Luna, a playful glint in her eyes. "How much did you have to drink then?"
A scowl forming now, Hermione tried to remember how many shot glasses were on the bar the last time she had seen it but it seemed such a long time ago and the numbers were lost to her. Hearing a laugh from her companion, Hermione's scowl increased and she narrowed her eyes. "Just because I can't recall doesn’t mean I'm tipsy," she said, looking at the blonde with great offense and the beginnings of a cute sulk. For outraged good measure, Hermione pointed her finger in Luna's face, failing to notice as it weaved back and forth, unable to stay still just as she had trouble keeping her balance even with the other girl's arm wound firmly around her waist. "So there!"
Laughing softly, Luna didn't reply, she simply reached for Hermione's hand, giving the finger that pointed at her a light kiss before releasing it from her hold. They slowly made their way through the club, winding through the levels until they were once again in the coat check area and Hermione was glaring at Corinne. She wasn't positive why, especially in her alcohol befuddled state, she disliked the French witch but she did, immensely, and decided to act on this dislike through glaring. She did this until Luna approached with her coat and wand in hand, carefully tucking the wand into the pocket of Hermione's red vest then walking behind her, holding the coat out for the brunette to shrug into. Slipping her arms into the sleeves and continuing to focus on Corinne, she felt strangely triumphant that Luna was doing this for her within the French witch's eyesight. It was as if she had won a great battle but a battle for what, Hermione hadn't a clue.
While Hermione was busy glaring, Luna flicked her wrist and in seconds they apparated into the living room of the brunette's flat. It took several moments for Hermione to realize where they were and she looked at the blonde in confusion. She knew, of course, they were leaving the club. Luna had told her as much. Somehow she hadn't thought they would come back here. This signaled an end to their evening together and that wasn't something she wanted to happen yet, so her mouth opened, fully ready to protest but soft fingertips covered her lips, preventing her from speaking.
"You need sleep," said Luna kindly, removing her fingertips from Hermione's lips and tracing them upwards, curling into the locks of hair at the brunette's brow, her touch gentle and soothing. "We can play some other time if you like. Once you've rested."
Hermione wanted to dispute her state of exhaustion but even as she started to do so, her eyes grew heavy and her mind wandered and suddenly her bed became a very appealing place to be. But if she was going to bed then she wanted to have her say on things.
"We'll do this again?" asked Hermione, looking painfully vulnerable as she held onto the sleeve of Luna's coat. In that moment, she felt it was terribly important to have Luna give her this promise. Just because part of her felt if she didn't then she might never have a night like this again. A night that was carefree and fun, making her feel as if she could be the same. "I liked dancing."
I liked dancing with you is what she meant to say but she couldn't force it past her lips and perhaps that's why Luna's blue eyes were lidded and her gaze melancholy. Uncurling her fingers from the older girl's hair, the blonde dropped her hand down, lacing their fingers together, a gentle smile on her lips as she tilted her head and said, "Perhaps you should mention it to Ron."
"Ron?" Hermione looked perplexed. "That’s not what I--"
"Do you have your cauldron and basic potion supplies from Hogwarts?" interrupted Luna as she slid behind Hermione and reached for the brunette's coat sleeves, carefully tugging the material off.
Watching as Luna hung her coat on the rack by the door, Hermione frowned, her alcohol dazed and sleep deprived mind trying to work out why the blonde would want to know about such a thing. "Yes," she said slowly. "They're in the broom closet in the hall. Why do you ask?"
"I want to make you something," replied Luna, digging through the broom closet and walking into the kitchen with the cauldron filled with various potion supplies and the fire kit. Hermione slowly approached, watching as the blonde methodically arranged the various ingredients and Luna turned to face her, a soft smile on her face. "You should get ready for bed."
Her scowl returning, Hermione was entirely petulant as she said, "I'm not tired."
Silence as the blonde lifted her eyebrow then she turned back to the potion supplies, opening a small bottle of bogwater and pouring half of its contents into the cauldron which was at low heat. "I'm sorry," Luna said after a moment, her voice careful and controlled in a way that Hermione had never heard before. "I suppose I'm treating you as if you're a child, aren't I?"
The immediate desire to agree struck Hermione but she held off from saying this because she didn't like the way Luna was sounding and she was sure her behavior was the reason behind it. That wasn't right at all, especially considering the blonde was responsible for her having fun for the first time in quite awhile. But she couldn't really help acting this way because they had such a lovely evening, had such a good time, and now here Luna was, trying to end it all with putting her to bed like she was some sort of cranky toddler. That wasn't what Hermione wanted.
"You are," Hermione said after several long moments, her balance wavering, and her eyes squinting as she tried to make Luna out clearly. "But perhaps I'm acting like one."
"No," said Luna and her voice was serene once again as she added a pinch of tree dust to the potion. "Children never admit they're acting as such." Looking at the brunette over her shoulder, her eyes warm and twinkling, she said, "Hermione is Hermione. Even if she's grumpy from being tipsy and tired."
"I'm not tipsy or tired!" declared Hermione, pointing hard at the blonde and losing her balance in the process. She began to lean to one side and appeared in real danger of falling over when Luna quickly moved forward, wrapping her arms around the brunette's waist. Hermione was once again in Luna's arms and it was just as disconcertingly warm and comfortable as it had been when they were dancing and she had to stop herself from sighing at the sensation. Her face hot with a blush, she hid it in the crook of the blonde's neck, and muttered sheepishly, "Maybe a little."
"The Ruffled Fliverhorn wilts away and dies if it doesn’t get precisely twenty hours of sleep a day," Luna's peaceful voice floated into the air and Hermione found it soothing, particularly when combined with the tender press of her hands rubbing the brunette's back. "It's a terrible thing to see, really it is. How its life empties rather like a popped balloon becomes deflated." Hermione felt one of Luna's hands trace up her back and tangle in her hair to gently massage her scalp. "I would hate to see you become the same. Especially because you are so very attractive when inflated."
"All right," said Hermione with a chuckle, pulling back to look into Luna's smiling blue eyes. "I'll get ready for bed." She couldn't help but scowl on seeing how pleased the blonde looked at this. "You bloody well guilted me into it. Happy?"
"Infinitesimally," replied Luna in sing song tones that caused Hermione to snort humorously before she turned and cautiously made her way down the hall to her bedroom, taking care to put her hands on the walls to maintain her balance. The blonde kept her eyes on fixed on the older girl until she disappeared into her bedroom and then returned back to her potion making.
Inside her bedroom, Hermione sat down on the soft mattress and was struck with the overwhelming urge to lay down and never get up. Maybe Luna was right. She was tired. But that didn't mean she was tipsy! Not at all. She stared absently at the pillows and a minute passed before she realized she was supposed to be changing. Heaving a sigh, Hermione moved her stare to her shoes, slowly lifting a leg up and pulling the shoe off her foot and tossing it to the corner of the room where it hit the wall with a satisfying smack. Normally she would've put it neatly away in her closet but she simply didn't feel like it and it wasn't like she couldn't do it in the morning. Following suit with the other shoe, Hermione stared at them in a pile and knew she should be standing up to remove her pants or her vest but she loathed the idea of moving. So she sat staring at her shoes until a quiet knock sounded on the door.
"Come in," Hermione called, keeping her gaze on her shoes, wondering if she would be scolded by Luna for not changing. Though she was hard pressed to imagine the blonde scolding anyone. Looking up at the younger girl as she approached with a small bottle of potion in hand, she decided to state the obvious, "I haven't changed."
"Do you need help?" asked Luna, her voice innocent and light but her expression mischievous.
"No," said Hermione immediately, forming a scowl and trying to fight a blush that she was sure Luna would be calling adorable at any moment. She moved her attention to the bottle that the blonde held which was bubbling and emitting white puffs of smoke. "What is that?"
"Hannover's Hangover Helper," said Luna with a smile, bending down and offering the potion to Hermione who squinted and frowned at it. "It's wonderfully effective but it does have a rather nasty taste. I've added merrywig flavoring to make it less wretched. Go on," Luna encouraged, covering Hermione's hands with her own and lifting the potion to her mouth. "Give it a try. I promise it will make you feel better in the morning."
Staring at the potion doubtfully, Hermione lifted her gaze to look into Luna's warm and expectant eyes then sighed before she swallowed it whole. The taste wasn't as bad as she expected, sweet but with an odd sticky aftertaste and she restrained herself from wiping off her tongue as she handed the bottle back to the blonde. Releasing a cough, she said, "It's not wretched."
"But still sticky?" asked Luna, appearing worried as she rose to her feet and walked out of the bedroom. "I thought as much." She returned a few moments later holding a glass of water, giving it to the brunette who accepted gratefully. "No matter what I try I can't quite rid it of that detestable stickiness. Perhaps it's the mixing temperature."
Finishing off the glass of water, Hermione placed it on her nightstand and as she did, she could feel her eyes become heavy and her movements slowing. Looking to her pillows, she was once again consumed by the intense desire to lay down. "I need to change," said Hermione absently, more to herself than her companion who was crouching in front of her, looking at her with concern.
"I'll be going then," said Luna, rising to her feet, she started to walk away when Hermione grabbed her hand and she stopped in place, turning to look at the brunette.
"I had fun tonight," Hermione said this soft and solemn, so there was no way to doubt her words. She opened her mouth to say more but shut it and looked away from the blonde, unable to say the words and look at her at the same time. Hermione wasn't sure why but she felt compelled to tell the other girl what she was thinking but at the same time it was all so very embarrassing. So she kept her gaze focused on her shoes in the corner as she said, "Lately it seems as if I only feel that way when I'm with you. I wish I could with Ron but…" Hermione trailed off, her face hot with shame.
There wasn't any response. Just a faint caress of Luna's fingertips on Hermione's palm and then a pair of lips softly pressing against her forehead. Her breath warm and comforting on the brunette's skin, Luna murmured, "The stars don't listen to us anymore. They've become dreadfully exhausted from dealing with our petty demands."
"Luna?" Hermione said her name in confusion, looking up as the blonde pulled away, smiling at her softly as her hand cupped the brunette's cheek, thumb tenderly caressing her skin.
"You shouldn't have to wish for such things," said Luna, her voice hushed. "It makes me sad to think of it."
At a loss for how to respond, Hermione simply stared up at Luna, taking in her blue eyes that were lidded and looking at her with such calm understanding that it unnerved her. It was as if the blonde could see everything she was and everything she could be and accepted it all. Feeling the light stroke of Luna's thumb caressing her cheek, she sighed, overwhelmed by the intimacy of the moment. She never felt this way with Ron, there was never this quiet intensity that threatened to consume her. Instead it was, well, she didn't want to say boring but there was a certain expectation that each time would be the same if not similar to the last and it wasn't exactly exciting. And it was entirely the opposite of how she felt now with Luna. Looking at the blonde, finding herself entranced by her eyes that were kind but so terribly sad, Hermione knew, horrible as it was to realize, if Luna tried to kiss her she would allow it. More than that, if Luna kissed her, she would kiss back and somehow she also knew it would be wonderful, better than countless kisses in the past.
"I should go," Luna said in a whisper and her hand slipped away from Hermione's cheek.
With her retreat, the image of that kiss began to die and Hermione found herself reaching out to the blonde, not wanting to lose that thought, that fantasy that had somehow consumed her, but the other girl was gone, disapparating with a wave of her wand. Leaving Hermione alone to remember what it could have been like and to wonder why it mattered so much that it had never been.
In the morning, Hermione woke with a distant pounding in her head and an ache behind her eyes. Rubbing her forehead wearily, she shut her eyes tight and futilely hoped it would stop. But the pounding and aching continued and keeping her eyes closed wasn't doing anything to help it go away. So with a groan she got out of bed, heading into the bathroom then making her way into the kitchen, intending on finding something to deal with the pain. There she discovered a small bottle of potion sitting on the table with a piece of parchment next to it. Picking the parchment up, she read it with a slight frown.
I've made a second batch of Hannover's Hangover Helper for you. It works best when you take it before bedtime and then as soon as you wake in the morning. I would've told you about it last night but I thought it best not to simply because you were terribly insistent that you weren't tipsy.
Perhaps you're already feeling differently? Oh, don't scowl. It does ruin your pretty features.
I'm ever so glad you enjoyed our night together. I do think that if you found dancing with me to be fun then you ought to give it the same chance with Ron. Even if he needs convincing of it.
The potion might leave your mouth rather sticky so do have a glass of water ready. I've never been able to remove that problem from the mixture. I wonder if I should ask the Professor for help? I find it a bit silly to say but I wanted to thank you for a perfectly lovely evening.
I don't think I shall have another quite as nice in some time.
Putting the parchment down after reading it twice, Hermione swallowed the potion whole, making a face and placing the empty bottle in her sink and immediately fixing herself a glass of water. Luna was right. The potion did leave your mouth sticky and it wasn't pleasant in the least. Though it wasn't the most appealing, the potion was effective, and in seconds Hermione could feel the pounding and aching disappear completely. Sighing happily, she rubbed her forehead and wandered back into the bathroom to brush her teeth and take a shower.
When she was done, she set about the task of cleaning her flat, putting away the items she had left out last night and cleaning the bottles of potion that Luna had provided. She opened her broom closet once they were washed and dried to place them back with the cauldron and other potion supplies but stopped at the sight that met her. The closet had been completely reorganized, not to say it was messy in the first place, but it wasn't the tidiest and Hermione hadn't been putting the task of rearranging it in high priority. The cauldron sat perfectly centered on the floor, sparkling and clean, and the shelves were filled with ingredients placed in alphabetical order, with the top shelf occupied with empty bottles of varying sizes meant to hold the potions that would be created.
"Luna must have done this," Hermione said in a whisper, speaking not to herself or to Crookshanks who wound himself around her legs with a purr, but simply voicing her thoughts aloud.
Without warning, she was struck by a strong desire to see the younger girl and shutting the broom closet door, she began moving about the flat on automatic. Gathering her wand and putting on her coat, Hermione apparated to Ballyvaughan before she could think better of it. She was greeted with the sight of the blonde standing on the roof of her cottage, dressed in a pair of baggy jeans and a yellow tank top with a bee on it, no shoes on her feet, her wand in hand and a thoughtful expression on her features.
"Hermione!" exclaimed Luna happily. "Have you come to help with Gnawing Flower Sprites?"
"The what?" Hermione blinked, already feeling thoroughly confused by her sudden need to see the other girl. "What are you doing on the roof, Luna? Come down, that can't be safe. What if you fall?"
"That's why I'm not wearing shoes," informed Luna absently, her gaze no longer fixed on Hermione but instead on the flower filled vines that grew on the cottage roof. "Bare feet are good for equilibrium." The brunette was baffled at this reply and was about to question the logic behind it when the younger girl released a triumphant cry and cast several stunning spells. She crouched down, sifting through the vines and pulling out several small objects Hermione couldn't make out. Rising to her feet, she walked over to a bucket and dropped them inside then she peered down at Hermione, almost seeming to truly realize for the first time she was there. "How is your head?"
"Better, thanks to you," said Hermione, trying desperately to fight the shy blush she knew was spreading across her features. She kept her gaze from the blonde, focusing instead on the winding vines filled with flowers as she said, "I wanted to thank you for making that potion for me and sorting out my broom closet. You didn't have to do any of that, you know."
"I know," Luna's voice was serene and utterly content. "It was a gift."
"A gift for what?" asked Hermione in confusion and she started to frown but the expression was halted by the blonde's sudden walk to the edge of the roof where she kept going until she walked right off of it. Hermione released a panicked cry and instinctively reached for her wand only to pause in the middle of casting a spell as she watched the younger girl float safely to the ground. "Luna," Hermione said her name crossly, resting her hand over her heart in an attempt to slow it down. "Don't do that."
"If I don't float, I'll fall," said Luna with a slight frown. "I thought that worried you."
Shaking her head, Hermione closed her eyes and fought the urge to rub her forehead as her headache threatened to return. When she opened them, she became aware of a high pitched squealing. Looking around for the source, she found it came from the bucket Luna had been holding that now sat on the ground, rocking back and forth. Walking over to the bucket, she looked inside and found it full of tiny creatures that were almost human in their features if you ignored their small size, pointed ears, green skin, and butterfly wings. The creatures were trying to escape but each time they flew up they were met with an invisible shield that sent them bouncing down.
"What in the world?" said Hermione, mystified at the sight.
"Gnawing Flower Sprites, they've been eating at the flowers Neville gave me," supplied Luna, her breath tickling the brunette's skin, causing Hermione to jump forward, bumping into the bucket and sending the sprites rocking about more, creating even louder squeals. Luna frowned, looking at Hermione in concern and as the brunette rose up to her full height, the blonde reached out, gently cupping her cheek as she tilted her head to one side, studying her closely. "You're anxious."
Not bothering to confirm or deny Luna's suspicions, Hermione said almost wearily, "I only wanted to thank you. I'm not sure why that feels like such a terribly difficult task but somehow it does."
"Perhaps because there isn't anything to thank me for?" Luna suggested and when the brunette lifted her gaze, she was rewarded with a sparkling smile from the younger girl. "Friends do favors, friends give gifts, and friends make sure their friends have a spot of fun when they need it most." The blonde dropped her hand to curl it in Hermione's hair, twisting a lock around her finger, her blue eyes wise and kind as she murmured, "And we're friends now, aren't we?"
"Yes," Hermione sighed, her body relaxing, losing the inexplicable tension that it had been holding onto as she returned the blonde's smile. "We are." Silence for a few moments and Hermione kept her gaze from Luna as she said, "I'd like to go again sometime. Dancing with you, that is." Luna started to reply but before she could say anything, Hermione continued, "And I know you said in your note I should give it a go with Ron but I already know how he'll act about it. Once he's decided there's something he doesn't enjoy you can't ever change his mind about it and that's how it is with dancing. If I tried to get him to go he'd only sulk or disappear into those blasted game rooms."
Pulling away from the brunette, Luna retrieved the bucket filled with sprites and cast a spell, creating a tiny vortex and one by one she began throwing the protesting sprites inside it. "Is there something that you both fancy?" she asked. "Something that would be fun for you both?"
Considering this, Hermione searched her memories for a common activity that they enjoyed but nothing came to mind and the more she thought on it the more frustrated she became. Eventually she settled for heaving an aggravated sigh and deciding to abandon the effort. "Can I help?" she questioned, wanting something to distract her from the intense feeling of annoyance.
"Be careful of their teeth, they're tiny but horribly sharp," said Luna, she reached in and grabbed a sprite by its wings, holding the struggling creature aloft for Hermione to see. "It's best to hold them by their wings. They thrash about like it hurts them but really it's all an act. The second your grip loosens just a little they'll escape and have at you." That said, Luna casually flung the squealing and cursing sprite into the vortex which sucked it up with a loud burp.
"Where are you sending them?" asked Hermione, peering into the bucket and trying to pick the least violent of the sprites. Though it was hard to decide as they were all worked up, squealing and cursing, crashing into the invisible shield that trapped them in the bucket.
"Namaqualand, South Africa," said Luna, reaching for a sprite that was punching at the invisible shield and wincing as it bit at her thumb. Shaking the sprite to dislodge its teeth from her thumb, she tossed it into the vortex. "They're making such a fuss but I'm positive they'll love it there. It's flowering season and they'll have oodles to eat."
"Are you hurt?" asked Hermione, moving forward to take the other girl's hand in her own, she examined the bite that was already turning Luna's index finger red. Retrieving her wand from the pocket of her coat, Hermione cast a quick healing spell. "There! All fixed."
Hermione was still holding onto Luna's hand as she looked up at the younger girl who wore a winsome smile as she said, "Thank you. That does feel better."
A blush forming on her cheeks, Hermione ducked her head and said, "It's nothing."
"I wouldn't say that," remarked Luna, choosing for whatever reason to not take the opportunity to call Hermione and her blush adorable. She reached into the bucket and pulled out another thrashing sprite, throwing it into the vortex before it could follow its brother's example and bite at her. "You're marvelously fast at healing. I would have loved to have you on my last expedition searching for the Krodha Swinging Lizard. Skills like that are most valuable."
"Aren't you going to look for it again?" asked Hermione and she tentatively grabbed one of the least struggling sprites, holding it by its wings which weren't at all light and feathery like she had thought but thick and almost rubbery. The tiny creature started to squirm in her hold and she quickly flung it into the vortex, wincing at the high pitched squeal.
"Someday," Luna agreed, her voice distant and wistful. Snapping out of this, she looked to Hermione and questioned, "Have you thought of any activities for yourself and Ron?"
"Nothing that we both enjoy," said Hermione, a grouchy tone to her voice. She turned to Luna and on seeing the compassion in her eyes, she felt absurdly guilty for being upset about her predicament. Looking away, she confessed, "Ron and I tend to make sacrifices on that sort of thing. I do something he likes, then he does something I like and so on and so on. Though I'm sure he wouldn't agree to dancing. That isn't something he enjoys in the slightest."
"I see," said Luna in a thoughtful murmur.
"Was it the same for you and Katie?" asked Hermione, her curiosity getting the best of her. The blonde's relationship with the chaser was exceedingly interesting to her. Perhaps because they were a pairing that she would've never put together and she couldn't grasp what they would have been like as a couple. Although she was fairly certain they were nothing like her and Ron.
Crouching down and studying the last of the sprites which was flying madly about in the bucket, squealing and cursing at her, Luna wore a contemplative expression. "I don't believe so," she said finally. With a swift motion of her hand, she grabbed the sprite, flinging it over her shoulder and into the vortex which released the loudest burp yet then closed with a gush of air. Standing up, Luna wiped her hands on her jeans, and faced the shore, watching the waves crash up against the rocks as she said, "Some smells simply don't go well together."
"Smells?" Hermione echoed, frantically searching her brain, recalling very distinctly the blonde had said this before, but in reference to her relationship with Ron. "What do you--?"
"Katie said I was able to get along with anyone and anything," Luna interrupted, her voice faraway, sounding as if she was lost in some distant dream. "That I was so difficult to bother that it was impossible to find something I'd dislike and that made me special. But I don't think I agree." Turning to Hermione, her blue eyes lidded and pensive, she murmured, "Because don't you think anyone could be that way if they tried? All it takes is caring enough about someone and surely you would be able to discover something to love in whatever makes them happiest."
Considering this, Hermione frowned and said, "I'm not sure that's true. I'd like to think I try awfully hard with Ron and still I can't find things in common to enjoy with him. I mean, of course, I like Ron himself but I could do without the jokes from the shop and going to nonstop Quidditch matches."
"Some make chores a game while others make it just a cleaning," Luna murmured. She turned to Hermione who was perplexed at her words and offered a cheerful smile. "I have more to do about the cottage, would you help? I'll fix you a tasty meal as thanks."
Without a second thought, Hermione nodded in agreement and Luna gave a happy cry, hooking their arms together, and talking away about the various tasks she had planned. As they walked inside, Hermione thought on what the blonde just said and she knew instinctively that Luna would make these chores a game. And it would be one that Hermione would enjoy playing.