They apparated to a humid warmth and the sounds of birds chirping and the steady sound of waves hitting the shore. Hermione kept her hand firmly in Luna's as she studied their surroundings. Noticing a slight sinking feeling, she looked down at the sand beneath her feet, her eyes immediately drawn to the shore of a beautiful blue lake that was shadowed by large palm trees. The sun was shining brightly and she realized that it was in the afternoon where they were. But where exactly were they? She didn't know specifically, just that they were in India. Which is why she turned to Luna with a determined look on her features that she suspected caused that charming smile to form on the blonde's face.
"What region of India are we in?" asked Hermione, her eyes once again drawn to inspect their exotic environment, half expecting someone to jump out and yell about evil witches. Though she wasn't entirely sure why. Perhaps because it was too beautiful here and surely there had to be something wrong with the area.
"Southern India," said Luna and she released a sigh, closing her eyes and tilting her head back as a breeze swept over them, blowing back her hair and making Hermione want to reach out and push the stray locks from her face. But the younger girl did that herself as she opened her eyes and looked to Hermione, smiling sweetly as she said, "The Kerala backwaters more specifically." Luna's blue eyes focused on the large expanse of water in front of them and continued, "This is Vembanad Kayal, one of India's largest lakes and occasional bathing ground for the Krodha Swinging Lizard. But we'll be searching in there." The blonde turned and pointed into the lush green forest, thick with palm trees and the sounds of countless animals, too many for Hermione to possibly identify, though she was sure Luna could attempt it if pressed. "Lovely, isn't it?"
"You neglected to mention hot," a rich and playful voice greeted them and the two girls turned to see Bheru approaching. He was dressed in lightweight white pants and a pale blue kurta. When he reached them, he gave a low bow and gazed up at them with kind brown eyes as he said, "Or are you merely attempting to keep Miss Hermione from noticing such things?"
"Please, call me Hermione," insisted Hermione, smiling at Bheru as he rose to his full height.
"Very well," Bheru replied, acknowledging her request with an affirming dip of his head.
At this gesture, Luna seemed to bounce in place, waving a hand at him and exclaiming, "Then you have to call me Luna as well, Bheru! No more Miss Lovegood this and Miss Lovegood that."
"I'm afraid I cannot do that," said Bheru, a playful twinkle in his eyes although he wore an utterly solemn expression. "I am your guide and you are my employer. There must be a sign of respect between us and so you shall remain Miss Lovegood."
"And Hermione? She's my guest, why is she exempt?" asked Luna.
Considering this for a long moment, Bheru finally answered, "I am not sure why but I have decided she is."
It seemed as if Luna might protest this response but she merely shook her head, sending white blonde hair flying as she looked off into the distance. Bheru smiled at this reaction and stepped closer to Hermione and said in low tones, that only she could hear, "It is wrong of me, perhaps, but this is the only thing which flusters her. I find it somewhat amusing."
"It is wrong," Hermione whispered back and unable to help giving a chuckle. "But I do think I understand."
"The water is calm and our little friends the Shimmering Southern Butterflies are out," Luna's voice floated towards them on the wind, wistful and dreamy as her expression as she looked to them with a smile. "I think it means we should head east, Bheru."
"I agree," said Bheru, nodding his head and immediately wearing a serious expression. "They led us to the nest on our last expedition. Almost as if they wanted to help us in our search."
Hermione started to ask what they were talking about when her eyes caught sight of a small shining light amongst the grass up ahead. Walking forward and squinting her eyes, she was able to make out a pair of fast fluttering wings that shimmered with every flap. Unlike butterflies she was used to seeing about the Burrow these stayed extremely close to the ground, as if unable to fly higher. They headed into the depths of the forest, following after the butterflies, where the trees were full with leaves, blocking the sunlight and making the butterflies glowing light more pronounced.
"They eat the blades of grass as they go along. That's why they fly low," Luna informed, suddenly appearing at Hermione's side. "The tops of the grass seems to be the most delicious."
"I've never seen them before," said Hermione, still marveling at their beauty. "Are they only found here?"
Ducking under a hanging branch, Luna looked over her shoulder at Hermione with a smile. "Wherever the weather is warm and the grass is delicious, you can find them," she replied.
"I would suppose they don't favor Britain," said Hermione wryly.
"No," Luna chuckled, shaking her head and watching the brunette adjust the strap of her luggage over her shoulder. "It isn't too heavy, is it?"
"Don't be silly," said Hermione, sounding entirely resolved. "I've already sorted it out with some spells."
"Of course," murmured Luna winsomely, a pleasant smile on her lips and an affectionate look on her features as she regarded the older girl. "I should have expected as much. Hermione is always prepared, isn't she?"
Feeling altogether flustered by the fond expression Luna wore, Hermione drew her gaze away from the blonde and immediately noticed they were approaching a clearing inside of the forest. The shining light of the butterflies guided them forward and as they neared it Hermione could see that it was far more than the five or ten butterflies they had been following that were meeting here. Instead it was upwards of a hundred, creating a spectacular shining light with every flutter of their wings. It was truly one of the most mesmerizing and magnificent things that she had ever seen. She heard a quiet rustle of fabric and the sound of something unzipping and she turned to see Bheru remove a camera from Luna's backpack and hand it to her. Taking several careful steps ahead, Luna crouched down and began to take pictures as the butterflies flew about the clearing, gathering together in a large mass. Bheru moved to stand at Hermione's side and leaned down as he said in a soft murmur, "It is their mating dance."
"Is it rare?" asked Hermione, unable to draw her eyes away from the glowing creatures.
"Well," Bheru drew the word out slowly and a chuckle escaped him as he considered how to reply.
This wasn't a problem that Luna had and she continued to take pictures as she said, her voice kind but laced with the smallest hint of teasing, "The Shimmering Southern Butterflies have their flights of love at least once a day." Done taking pictures, Luna rose to her feet and hung the camera around her neck as she walked towards Hermione with a smile. "Some legends say they would wilt away and die without it."
"Without mating?" asked Hermione skeptically, she never heard of such a thing.
"Without love," Luna corrected kindly and she reached out to push a stray lock of hair from Hermione's eyes. "It doesn't always come to us in ways that we can see and properly understand but it is always there. Even when we would dismiss the ability for it to exist. Though," a playful smile tugged at her lips and Luna tilted her head to one side, wearing a look of consideration. "I have heard people say it's less a flight of love than a tremendous winged orgy. Which is valid, I imagine, when you realize they are having sex, after all."
"You're having fun with me," said Hermione despite the fact she suspected this wasn't at all the case.
"Not at all," Luna shook her head and she took the brunette's hand in her own. Gently pulling Hermione forward until they reached the edge of the clearing where the butterflies continued their shining flight, undisturbed by their observers. Slipping behind the older girl, Luna rested one hand on Hermione's hip and the other she extended in front of the brunette, drawing a line downward to point out two of the butterflies in front of them. Her breath warm and sweet on Hermione's skin, the blonde murmured in her ear, "You see how close they are? How their abdomens leave no space between them? That's how you can tell."
Observing that Luna was correct, there wasn't any space between their abdomens, Hermione's eyes drew across the clearing. Taking in hundreds of similar scenes, she said a bit dimly, "But there are so many of them."
"I think they enjoy having an audience," said Luna with a playful lilt to her voice. Hermione looked over her shoulder at the blonde, once again wearing a skeptical expression. Causing Luna to smile soft but mischievous as she said, "Why else would they do it this way?"
Unable to help blushing, Hermione replied, "Protection from predators? To have strength in numbers?"
Releasing a thoughtful murmur, Luna lightly rested her chin on Hermione's shoulder and said, "I do imagine that's correct. If you prefer not to think of things romantically."
"And how is a butterfly orgy romantic?" asked Hermione sardonically.
"They're surrounded by friends?" Luna suggested, forming an impish smile.
"Daft," Hermione accused fondly.
"A bit, here and there," agreed Luna easily as she pulled away from Hermione, removing her hands from the brunette's waist and putting space between their bodies. The moment she did this, Hermione found herself missing the blonde's presence and wishing she would return. "Everyone is at one time or another, don't you think?" Before the older girl could reply, Luna turned to Bheru who was kneeling down and inspecting some of the local fauna. "Have you found something, Bheru?"
"Imprints, I believe," said Bheru, scooting to one side to allow room for Luna. "It is the same as before, is it not?"
Leaning in closer and taking the thin leaf in hand, a thrilled look on her features, Luna said, "Exactly the same." Looking over her shoulder, a wide smile forming, Luna waved at Hermione, wanting her closer. "Hermione, come see."
Walking over to the other girl and crouching down next to her, Hermione ducked her head to look at a delicate green leaf that had a strange blue imprint of a pair of tiny feet where the stem began and the leaf ended. "That isn't--?"
"The prints of the Krodha Swinging Lizard," interrupted Luna with a gleeful cry, clapping her hands together and doing a little wiggle despite her crouched position. "Their feet always leave a distinctive blue mark because of the natural adhesive they produce that helps them take hold of their targets as they swing through the forest." Turning towards Hermione and taking her hand, she lightly pressed the top of her index finger to one of the blue footprints, allowing the older girl to touch the sticky texture. "You do feel it don't you?"
"Yes," said Hermione faintly, looking at her index finger that now had a slight blue film covering it. "I do."
Luna rose to her feet with Bheru and the two began discussing which direction to continue while Hermione remained where she was, marveling over what appeared to be proof that the Krodha Swinging Lizard might actually exist. Though she was nowhere near a Zoologist or a Magical Creatures expert such as Hagrid or Charlie Weasley, she did know a fair amount, and none of her knowledge led her to a known animal that left behind blue footprints in its travels. Was it possible that all of the creatures that Luna spoke about were real? Just the thought of this made Hermione experience a large surge of guilt as she thought of all the times she expressed disdain both out loud and to herself at the various creatures Luna mentioned. Confident in her belief that they were all completely and utterly fictional and the blonde was doing little more than telling fairy tales with her stories of them. But seeing that blue footprint, having evidence for the first time that Luna's tales weren't just fanciful, Hermione felt a strong desire to help the younger girl prove to everyone that was the case. That the Krodha Swinging Lizard wasn't a made up creature and Luna wasn't someone to be mocked but was instead a true naturalist, someone who persevered despite the odds and opinion being against her.
With this thought firmly in her mind, Hermione stood up and made her way over to Luna who, sensing her approach, turned to her with a soft smile on her features, her hand held out to the brunette in an offering that Hermione couldn't possibly refuse. Their fingers laced together, they returned their attention to Bheru as he mapped out their path and plan for tracking the movements of the Krodha Swinging Lizard. All with Hermione listening carefully to his every word because she now found herself invested in this expedition. No longer there just to ease her fears and to keep Luna safe but slowly believing in the reason it was being taken.
And the person responsible for their journey.
The only light Hermione could see was from their wands when they decided to stop for the night. Luna removed her backpack, unzipping the front pouch and pulled out a miniature brown tent that fit snugly in the palm of her hand. Walking cautiously through the growth, taking special care not to step on any of the exotic plants, Luna stopped in a clearing that was half the size of the one they had left the Shimmering Southern Butterflies in. Placing the tent in the center of the clearing, Luna gave a flick of her wand and murmured, "Engorgio." Instantly, the tent grew ten times its previous size, revealing that it was made of handsome but worn brown leather that gave it a very homey feeling. Stepping to one side and giving a little bow as she looked at them with smiling eyes, Luna gestured to the tent door and said, "Gentleman and lady first."
Bheru returned the bow before entering with a smile while Hermione shook her head in amusement as she followed him inside. The tent the Weasley family often used for outings such as trips to the Quidditch World Cup had an Arabian feel to it and Hermione half expected that Luna's would be the same. That simply wasn't the case. It was the furthest thing from Arabian with a large fur rug, massive stone fireplace, complete with a roaring fire, and sturdy wooden furniture. In fact, it rather looked like a hunting lodge.
"My great grandfather used this for his own expeditions," Luna revealed, standing at Hermione's side and wearing something close to an embarrassed expression. "Unfortunately he didn't have the same views on Magical Creature conservation as myself and my father."
"He was a hunter?" asked Hermione, wanting to confirm her suspicions.
"A very impressive one according to the texts," replied Luna, nodding her head. "Telamon Lovegood was well known for being able to track the most elusive of Magical Creatures." She paused and seemed to cringe as she added, her voice low and laced with shame, "And then kill them."
"You shouldn't feel guilty," said Hermione, altogether certain of this fact. After all, it wasn't Luna who went around killing those Magical Creatures. It was her great grandfather. But perhaps it was out of guilt that she became so interested in preserving the natural state of wildlife. Her interest also being an attempt to somehow make up for the harm he had done in his hunting of the creatures. "You're not responsible for his actions."
"The great Wizard in the sky is the only one who knows and understands everything we do," said Luna in a faraway voice, her eyes drifting across the room, sadly observing the animal hides. "And even he cannot control them." Her gaze focused on Hermione, a small and almost wicked smile forming on her features, she leaned closer to the older girl and said, "It's going to make Great Grandmother horribly upset but I plan on redecorating the tent over the summer holiday. She's sure to throw fits but this place does depress everyone in the family except her with all of Great Grandfather's macabre decorating choices."
Eyeing the stuffed head of a creature that looked to be a cross between an elk and an alligator, Hermione said, "Let me know if you'd like help. It would be an enormously good deed to change some of these decorations and it seems as if it would be quite the task to go about alone."
"Hermione says the loveliest things," Luna remarked, smiling so sweet and sincere that the brunette swore her heart stopped at the sight. Especially because she didn't think she had said anything at all out of the ordinary. But the fact that Luna thought that? And that she smiled at her in such a way? It made Hermione feel so very special indeed. Luna then laced her hands behind her back and skipped into an old fashioned kitchen that included a wood burning stove. Bending over, she began to search through the cupboards, removing various ingredients and placing them on the counter. "I imagine that Bheru has gone to unpack some of this things in his usual room." Luna pulled her head out of the cupboard, her hands full of spices and she continued, "I'm going to begin cooking our dinner, if you wanted you could decide which of the other two rooms suits you best. You can find them just to the right of the kitchen down the narrow hallway filled with magical portraits."
"Is there one that you prefer?" asked Hermione, not wanting to accidentally choose the blonde's favorite room in the tent. She recalled how adamant Ron had been on their trip to the Quidditch World Cup about which room was his. Although she was never the sort to have favorites about such things, he apparently was, and she supposed other people could be the same. Even Luna. Though somehow she didn't think that was true.
"I quite like hammocks," said Luna absently, standing on her tip toes and pulling out a large pot.
"Hammocks?" Hermione echoed in confusion.
She would have questioned further but the blonde was busy preparing dinner and Hermione got the distinct feeling that while Luna would never admit it she would be bothering her. So she turned and headed down the narrow hallway filled with magical portraits. Several of them featuring people who shared Luna's distinctive white blonde hair but most occupied by a stout man with a handlebar mustache pictured with various deceased or captured Magical Creatures. Hermione frowned at his portraits, assuming he was Telamon Lovegood, the great grandfather that Luna still held some guilt over from his treatment of animals throughout his life. Near the end of the hallway she saw three rooms, one directly ahead and one to the left and the right. The room facing forward was a sizeable loo complete with a separate bath and shower. Like the rest of the tent it was decorated in the style of a hunting lodge and had a masculine feel to it. Luna really was right, this tent could do with redecorating.
Looking to the room to the left, she pushed aside the heavy leather barrier and walked inside. It had a large brown hammock in the center of the room that was covered with a comfortable looking red and orange afghan. On the far wall was a large oak dresser filled that had several framed pictures resting on it. Instead of featuring Telamon Lovegood, they were pictures of Luna as a small girl with her parents, happily romping about with a Hippogriff. Drawn to the sight, Hermione walked over and picked up the middle photograph and was rewarded with the Lovegood family beaming happily at her and Luna excitedly waving her hands as she hugged the Hippogriff's neck. Returning the smile, the brunette carefully put the picture back in its place and examined the small stone fireplace in the corner. While the room was cozy and comfortable looking, Hermione hadn't ever spent the night sleeping in a hammock and she wasn't sure she was eager to change that as of yet. Which is why she pushed back the leather barrier and headed towards the room directly across the hall.
A bed was the first thing that greeted Hermione on entering this room and she gave a sigh of relief. It was held in a sturdy oak frame and like the previous room, there was a small stone fireplace in the corner and a large oak dresser directly across from the bed. Instead of featuring charming family pictures like the room Luna preferred, the dresser had an odd looking head of a creature that was clearly some type of lizard and an intimidating one at that with glowing red eyes and sharp fangs. Shuddering at the sight, Hermione took a step backwards and contemplated just how comfortable a hammock might be. That was when the leather curtain to the room was pushed aside and Bheru walked inside.
"Ah," he said wisely, his eyes moving from Hermione to the lizard head she was fixated on. "Now I understand why she was so concerned. That isn't pleasant looking in the least." With that said, Bheru walked over to the dresser and for the first time Hermione noticed that he had a small box and his wand in hand. Murmuring under his breath and giving a wave of his wand, the lizard head shrunk to the size of a galleon. He then picked the head up and placed it inside the box, putting it in the bottom drawer of the dresser where it was safely out of sight. Looking up at Hermione, he smiled and said, "Far better to have it in there, don't you think?"
"Yes," agreed Hermione, lifting the strap of her luggage over her head and placing it on the floor. With the lizard head hidden away in the drawer, the brunette felt much more comfortable about the prospect of sleeping in this room. "What was that creature?"
"One of her great grandfather's prizes," Bheru said in tones that didn't attempt to disguise his disgust. "The head of a rare Asian Snapping Dragon. They're currently on the edge of extinction."
Walking over to the dresser and slowly unpacking her things, Hermione decided to give into temptation and curiosity then said, "Luna asked you to remove it, didn't she?"
"She thought it would disturb you," said Bheru as he gave an affirming nod. Making a face, he continued, "I thoroughly understand why. Particularly when you do not share our experience in some of the more unpleasant aspects of Magical Creature naturalism." Seeing the question in Hermione's brown eyes, he explained, "Illegal hunting and poaching. Though I find what her great grandfather did reprehensible, it was legal in his era. That isn't the case in modern times with many of the creatures he hunted on the endangered species list or approaching it. However, that doesn't stop some wizards from desiring their trophies."
"That's horrid," said Hermione fiercely, frowning as she shut the dresser drawer and turned to Bheru. "Is there nothing that can be done to stop them? Perhaps with the Ministry's help?"
"The Department of Magical Creatures does have an investigation team but there are so many problems in terms of both abuse, hunting, and then the additional need to hide the presence of magical creatures from Muggles, they are quite overworked," said Bheru, he leaned against the leather wall which was surprisingly sturdy thanks to the spells cast and formed a sad smile as Hermione sat on the bed. "During our last expedition, we discussed the need for a large scale magical creature rights organization. A group dedicated to freeing magical creatures who have been abused and captured by wizards then once again acclimating them to the wild so they could live the rest of their lives in their natural environments. I believe if anyone could make such a thing a reality, it would be Miss Lovegood. She cares so much for these creatures that even in her search for them capture is never an option. The only evidence she wants of their existence is photographs. She said anything else would be far too invasive and damaging to their continued health. Unless, of course, the animal was facing extinction and capture was necessary for breeding and repopulation of the species." Bheru paused, wearing a thoughtful expression as he murmured, "I believe she was involved with such a mission last summer for the Green Grackenpuff."
"Known for its shining emerald stare?" asked Hermione slowly, doing her best to hide her disbelief.
"Exactly," said Bheru, looking pleased that Hermione had heard of the creature. "Though sadly, they were only successful in capturing a male. It's currently being studied at the Sao Paulo Zoo for Magical Creatures in Brazil."
They were silent for a moment, studying one another, then Hermione said rather hesitantly, "If you don't mind my asking, how did you come to meet Luna?"
"Naturalists in the wizarding world aren't terribly common," revealed Bheru kindly. "We all tend to know of one another. However, I believe we first met when we attended a lecture for Newt Scamander. Yes," he said excitedly, chuckling softly as he remembered. "We sat next to one another and began a discussion on the multitude of undiscovered magical creatures that we knew to be in existence that others thought to be figments of our imagination. That was the first time I mentioned the Krodha Swinging Lizard to her. After the lecture we side along apparated to my restaurant where I fixed her my famous Prawn Curry." Focusing back onto Hermione, an easy smile on his face, he said, "We have been friends ever since."
This response was more than detailed but somehow it didn't seem enough for Hermione because hearing it simply made her want to ask further about the naturalist community Luna was a part of and who else she knew through it. The more she knew of the blonde the more curious she became and Hermione wondered if she could ever know enough when it came to the younger girl, she found herself so consistently curious and intrigued by her. Though it did embarrass her at times to feel this way. She had never experienced anything like this, wanting to know so much about another person and feeling jealous of others when they were closer to that person than her. Certainly she had heard of such behavior, everyone had. Typically it was attributed to teenagers in love and since that was hardly her position, Hermione found herself irritated by these tendencies she was having towards Luna. It wasn't how she was meant to act and because of this she wanted to bury the feelings away. Only they just weren't cooperating and when she forced herself to, she was miserable as a result.
While she was fighting her desire to ask Bheru more questions on his relationship with Luna, the blonde called to them from the kitchen, her voice humorous and playful in its attempt to be stern as she announced it was time for dinner. With those words, Hermione pushed the questions down, trying to forget they were there but knowing she simply wouldn't be able. Not when the persistent and inexplicably strong need to know everything she could about Luna existed within her, not when she wanted to be the person who knew the most about the blonde instead of the one asking the questions, not until all of that happened could she ever forget.
Dinner was long over and they were gathered in the living room. Hermione and Luna sitting on a comfortable leather sofa in front of the large stone fireplace, warming themselves with the heat of the fire. Bheru had just excused himself to take a bath before going to bed and they were left in momentary silence from his absence.
Resting her head on the back of the sofa, Luna looked at Hermione with lidded blue eyes and said, "When does Hermione prefer to have her baths? In the morning or night?"
"Hermione prefers showers in the morning," replied Hermione smartly, lifting her arm from where it had been resting on the back of the sofa and pointing a finger at the other girl. Luna smiled softly at this gesture, grabbing the brunette's index finger that was aimed at her and squeezing it gently. "And what does Luna prefer?"
"Luna prefers the morning showers as well," said Luna, doing a fair impression of Hermione's tone from just moments before, causing the older girl to scowl slightly. Forming something of a pout, the blonde shook her companion's finger which she still held in her grasp and said, "You shouldn't make such a face. It doesn't at all suit your pretty features. You do know that if you look that way long enough your face will forget how to make other expressions and you'll become stuck that way. It happened once to a cousin on my mother's side. He resembled a nasty looking toad and I think he had a name to match. Something that reminded me of ribbits."
Unable to help herself from laughing, Hermione shook her head and said, "You're making up stories."
"No! It's the truth," Luna declared adamantly, shaking Hermione's finger again for good measure. "Once we're back home I'll ask my father what his name was. I'm sure we have a picture of him somewhere about the house also, what with him having such an interesting toad like appearance."
"And you don't want me to have an interesting appearance?" asked Hermione in teasing tones.
"Only if that's what you want," said Luna, her gaze was focused on the brunette's hand which she had flipped over in her hold and was busy drawing a feather light path on its palm. "Though I think Hermione is wonderful and needn't change a thing."
Her breath stilling in her chest at these words, Hermione wanted so very badly to see Luna's eyes as she heard this and so she reached out, tenderly pushing aside a lock of blonde hair and tracing her hand downward to cup the younger girl's cheek. Luna gave the happiest and softest of sighs, leaning into the brunette's palm and finally lifting her gaze upwards to look into Hermione's eyes. The expression she wore was one of utter peace and contentment and on seeing it, Hermione wondered if she was responsible for it being there. Such a thing never would have seemed real to her a few months ago, that she could make another person look that way, but when she was with Luna a whole new world of possibilities emerged.
"Thank you for letting me take this trip with you," said Hermione, her voice quiet and sincere.
"There's nothing to thank me for," Luna murmured, lifting her hand to cover the brunette's, pulling it down into her lap and lacing their fingers together. "I consider it a happy coincidence that we both wanted you here."
A reply was right on Hermione's lips but found itself stalled by a yawn escaping instead. On hearing this, Luna clucked her tongue and rose to her feet, offering both of her hands to the brunette who instinctively slipped them into the younger girl's grasp, allowing herself to be pulled upwards. They stood in front of the couch, barely a breath between them, Hermione all too aware of the nearness of the blonde as Luna rested her right hand on the older girl's hip, absently rubbing at the small bit of bare skin that was peeking out from under her shirt.
"You're tired," said Luna solemnly, as if realizing this was the most troubling thing in the world. Hermione wanted to protest out of stubbornness and the fact she was having a perfectly lovely time talking with Luna and she didn't want to stop simply because she was a little bit sleepy. She wanted to but once again her words were cut off by a traitorous yawn. She scowled, upset at her body for betraying her, while the younger girl smiled sweetly at this response. "You never told me if you like hammocks," Luna mused, tilting her head to one side, a slight frown forming on her features, no doubt contemplating the idea of losing her favorite room.
"I like beds," said Hermione quickly, not wanting to take the chance of having to try and sleep in a hammock for the very first time. "Though hammocks are nice as well."
"They're horribly comfortable," remarked Luna, turning on her heel and pulling Hermione after her as she made her way down the narrow hall and towards their rooms. Pausing in her walk once she reached them, she studied Hermione for a long moment, a look of concern on her features, one that made the brunette want to question why it was there but before she could, Luna leaned in close, her breath tickling Hermione's skin as she murmured, "I've been on countless expeditions since I was a little girl and have stayed in the most desolate and wild places but sometimes I still become frightened of the noises I hear and sometimes can't hear because of the silencing charms."
Hermione wore a faint frown as the younger girl pulled away, suspecting that she was the reason behind this confession. It was because of this that she said with a confident insistence, "I promise I'll be fine, Luna. Besides," she formed a reassuring smile, "this is hardly the first time I've been isolated and away from others. You do recall my seventh year spent away from Hogwarts, don't you?"
"How could I forget?" asked Luna distantly, her gaze almost melancholy. "It's remembered always." Focusing back on Hermione, she tilted her head to one side and blue eyes gained a mischievous twinkle as she said, "But you must remember that my hammock is quite comfortable for two and I'm a light sleeper who never minds being woken up. Particularly when it means there's a chance of cuddling."
"Cuddling?" repeated Hermione, giving a sputtering laugh. When Luna nodded eagerly, Hermione shook her head and said with a broad smile, "I'm sure you're having fun with me but thank you kindly for the invitation." Still shaking her head, Hermione turned and pushed back the leather barrier and entered her room as she said, "Goodnight, Luna. I'll see you in the morning."
"I'm not having fun!" Luna declared emphatically as the barrier fell into place. "I take cuddling very seriously."
For this, Hermione made no reply.