Hermione woke to the smell of expertly cooked food and opened her eyes to the sight of Luna placing said food, that sat on a lovely silver tray, onto the table next to her bedside. Her brain not completely awake, Hermione said sleepily, "What is this, Luna?"
Not appearing startled in the least, Luna turned to face the older girl and said with a smile, "An apology should always come with breakfast in bed. Unless, of course, you must apologize in the afternoon or evening hours. Then it would be a bit out of place."
"Apology?" repeated Hermione, still not entirely comprehending the situation she watched as Luna placed the silver tray neatly on her lap. Looking at the wide variety of breakfast foods that included sausages, fried bread, fried eggs, and a deliciously seasoned tomato sliced in half, she wondered exactly what Luna thought she did to warrant such a meal. "An apology for what?"
"When you went to bed last night you seemed rather cross," said Luna in matter of fact tones that were also strangely delicate. As if she was afraid of treading in some area that would cause Hermione to become angry with her. Her movements were just as careful as she sat down on the edge of Hermione's bed. "I do dislike to assume but I thought that perhaps it had to do with my earlier actions. You did tell me that I had tricked you and I know being tricked isn't at all enjoyable and I do want Hermione to enjoy her time with me. That's why I've made this breakfast, so you will enjoy it. Hopefully I've cooked some of your favorites."
"All of my them actually," said Hermione softly, amazed that the blonde had managed to pick out the same foods that her mother would cook for her every morning when she visited them during the holidays.
"I'm glad," Luna replied, smiling wide but it faltered and faded in such a way that the brunette couldn't help but notice. After all, Luna so often wore a smiling face that it was very odd to see it otherwise. Particularly sad and solemn as it looked right now. "I meant what I told you, that I have only seen myself working on this book with Hermione. That I've known since we began speaking again and have become friends that you were the one who would change my research into wonderfully written words. But simply because I feel this way so very strongly doesn't mean that Hermione shares in those same feelings and because I consider Hermione a friend I don't want her to be anywhere that she doesn't want to be." Pausing to look at the older girl with a gentle smile that was reassuring and loving and caused Hermione's heart to break just a little bit on seeing it, Luna said, "I won't lie and say I won't be sad if you were to leave but I would far prefer to be sad than for you to be unhappy being with me."
Unable to move, to process these words and Luna's desperately sad expression, Hermione remained in place until the blonde stood up and began to walk out of the room. That was when Hermione's body seemed to move of its own accord and she nearly tipped the tray of breakfast food over, cursing under her breath as she set it up right and tried to untangle her legs from the blankets. Finally she went halfway stumbling out bed and stood in front of Luna who looked at her with wide eyed concern.
"I don't want to leave," said Hermione quickly, looking at Luna with eyes that seemed to plead for understanding. "Really I don't."
Mulling over this for a moment, Luna turned her head away from Hermione, looking off into the distance at something the older girl simply couldn't see and murmured, "Then why are you unhappy being here?"
"It's not that at all, Luna!" Hermione insisted, reaching for the blonde's hands and holding them tightly. She opened her mouth to continue but thought better of her words. Only just moments later, she witnessed Luna's reaction to this reluctance, how she withdrew further into herself and it made Hermione think that if she kept her feelings completely to herself her friendship with the younger girl might not survive. Though she knew it was dangerous to be close to the other girl when she was having these feelings for her that threatened her relationship with Ron the mere idea of not even remaining friends with Luna pained her too much. Which is why she said, shy and vulnerable as she averted her eyes from the blonde, "I'm incredibly happy when I'm with you, Luna. And I'm not entirely sure that I should be."
Tugging her hand out of Hermione's hold, Luna gently moved to tip the brunette's head up so the older girl would look into her eyes. "I don't think I understand," she murmured, her fingers stretching out to softly stroke Hermione's skin. "You would prefer I make you sad?"
"No, of course not," said Hermione with a strangled laugh, shaking her head and ducking her head again. When she lifted her gaze, she swallowed hard and said in rough tones, "Please don't ask me to explain, Luna, because I don't understand myself. Just know that being with you does make me happy and I am so very glad to be here."
A moment of silence then Luna smiled, sweet and supportive, and said, "It's enough to know that Hermione wants to be here and that I haven't made her sad with my selfishness." Tilting her head to one side, she dropped her hand down to reach for Hermione's and pulled her forward as she said, "Now would you let me feed you some yummy breakfast?" Laughing again, only this time far more joyful than before, Hermione allowed Luna to lead her over to the bed where they sat down. Luna took the tray of food and carefully sat it down on the bed in front of the brunette then cutting into the tomato with a fork, she speared it and offered it to Hermione. "Have a taste?"
Blushing deeply, Hermione accepted the bite of tomato and chewed it slowly, savoring the taste before swallowing it and offering Luna a smile. "It is good," she complimented and she started to say that the blonde didn't need to feed her anymore but Luna was already offering her a piece of sausage with a bright smile. Unable to say anything that she thought might take that smile away, Hermione found herself finishing off the entire breakfast, all of being fed to her by a content Luna.
"The Krodha Swinging Lizard is a member of the Ingenuus family of lizards which has one hundred and seven members. Out of those members, the closest relative to the Krodha Swinging Lizard is the Laughing Lizard of Southern India. The Laughing Lizard of Southern India is found in the same region as the Krodha Swinging Lizard, the Kerala backwaters, and has relatively the same coloring and leaves the same sticky residue from its footprints on the forest floor. Both the Krodha Swinging Lizard and the Laughing Lizard of Southern India are known to possess distinct personality characteristics that suggest a higher thought process. No attempts at communication, magical or conventional, have been successful thus far. Unlike dragons whom wizards have discovered various means of communication with from ancient dances to casting complicated spells that allow them to speak telepathically with the dragons. There are but a rare two dragons who can be found throughout India, the Silver Long Tooth and the Ancient Armor Dragon. Returning to the subject of the Krodha Swinging Lizard, there have been rumors that its sticky secretions could be a cure for the Catastrophic Coughing disease. The Catastrophic Coughing disease is known for the awful effects it has on the body through a constant stream of never ending coughing. Sometimes the disease can be slowed by applying a large variety of potions but the disease never completely leaves the body. Many healers want the chance to test the potency Krodha Swinging Lizard's secretion but none have been able to conduct a professional study to view the medicinal results. This doesn't stop countless poachers from searching for the Krodha Swinging Lizard. On the wizarding black market it is said to be priceless and because of this the profit that can be made by a catching a live specimen is quite massive. Poachers are a consistent problem in the world of magical creature study, particularly for those which are rare enough to be thought more as a legend than an actual animal in existence."
It was a simple enough request, Hermione had thought, when she looked at the piles upon piles of notes that Luna had taken during her two expeditions searching for the Krodha Swinging Lizard, to ask Luna to summarize the most important characteristics of the creature and why it was sought after by poachers and explorers alike. But when the blonde did exactly as she asked, she began to understand why Luna insisted that she shouldn't be the one to transform her expedition notes into a book for the wizarding world to read. Certainly she knew far more than Hermione about the subject of magical creatures and the Krodha Swinging Lizard but her knowledge, at least the written version of it, tended to be disorganized due to simply how much she did know. Writing such as this couldn't hold the attention of anyone except those totally enamored with the realm of magical creatures and those were few and far between.
Mulling over it for a moment, Hermione tried to think about how to politely tell Luna what she thought of her writing when the blonde did it for her with a charming little laugh and a sheepish tone in her voice. "Morbidly dull, wasn't it?" she questioned and Hermione jerked her head up with an alarmed look in her eyes. "I think Hermione finally understands why I want her help so very much."
"It wasn't--" Hermione protested.
"It's quite all right," assured Luna, putting her notes down on the small table in front of them. They had settled out on the balcony that overlooked the sea after breakfast to begin their work, the younger girl insisting that the sea air would be good for their concentration. "I think it best to be honest about myself, even the parts that create things that are monstrously boring. The question is, do you think you could transform my dull writing into something terribly interesting? And please," she held up her hand, effectively silencing Hermione who opened her mouth again to protest, "don't insist that it isn't dull because it is, tremendously so."
Sighing and giving her head a slight shake, Hermione bit the tip of her quill and stared at the blank piece of parchment. After a few seconds, she began writing rapidly. In what seemed barely a minute, she lifted her quill off of the parchment and read over her words with a slight frown on her features. Then she looked almost nervously to Luna and held out the parchment for the blonde to take.
"Won't you read it for me?" asked Luna gently, an encouraging smile on her features.
Hesitating for a moment, Hermione eventually returned the smile and ducked her head, a blush covering her features as she read, "The backwaters of Kerala are where the freshwater of the rivers and the saltwater of the Arabian Sea meet. It is in the lush forests thick with exotic plant life that the Krodha Swinging Lizard makes its home. Though it was long thought by many to be nothing more than a legend the lizard has been sought after by countless poachers for the sticky secretions it creates to swing freely throughout its forest home. Secretions which are rumored to be a possible cure for the horrible effects of the Catastrophic Coughing disease. But these poachers think nothing of the Krodha Swinging Lizard's rarity and role in the world nor of the good that a cure for this disease would do, instead they think only of trophies and profit, something not even the most eager of researchers would endorse." Before Hermione could look up to see Luna's reaction, she found herself propelled backwards and swept up in an enthusiastic hug. Trying to ignore the far too pleasant feeling of the younger girl's weight on her lap and her arms around her body, Hermione mumbled against Luna's shoulder, "I take it you liked it?"
"I loved it," said Luna happily, beaming at the brunette and cupping Hermione's cheek. She adjusted herself on the older girl's lap, appearing quite content to stay where she was. "I knew Hermione would be able to make my dull writing into something simply spectacular."
"Thank you," said Hermione, trying her level best not to blush again and failing as she looked into Luna's features which were regarding her with a deep affection. "But as I keep trying to tell you, your writing isn't as boring as you insist. It's a bit scattered because you tend to ramble then jump onto random subjects which have little to do with the actual focus of your writing but it isn't all that dull. If it was then I wouldn't have been able to do a job as spectacular as you claim. Honestly, all you need is a good list and a thorough outline. I find those always help me to keep my focus when writing. Anytime you feel yourself begin to wander, you just give them a look and you find yourself back on track."
"Does that mean you won't be helping me?" asked Luna, a disappointed lilt in her voice.
"Of course not," said Hermione quickly and when the younger girl smiled brightly at this, she found herself blushing again. Coughing and looking away from Luna, she did her best to ignore the feel of the blonde on her lap and how she found the feel of the other girl's weight on her lap comforting and oddly right. As if that was where the blonde was meant to be. Then she suddenly found herself filled with thoughts of Ron and the loyalty she owed him and Hermione bucked her knees slightly up, trying to encourage her companion to stand.
Instead, Luna rode the motion out and looked at Hermione with a look that was soft and understanding, reaching out to cup the brunette's face in her hands. "It's ever so frightening, isn't it?" she said in a quiet murmur.
"What is?" asked Hermione, unable to move, struck by the kindness in Luna's blue eyes.
"The feeling that everything is perfect," Luna said, smiling sweet and a little bit sad as she rose to her feet, removing her weight from Hermione's lap and as soon as she stood the older girl found herself missing the blonde's presence, wanting her to return. But it was too late, Luna was already making her way off of the balcony and back inside the villa, leaving Hermione to consider her words.
They worked throughout the day, sifting through the seemingly endless stack of notes and trying to organize them into a general outline that would help to transform the expedition into a cohesive story. Luna explaining the odds and ends that Hermione didn't understand, bringing a tray of snacks and serving tea, insisting that the brunette take breaks to rest her brain. At sunset, she pulled a protesting Hermione away from their work and down to the beach below, saying something as beautiful as this couldn't be enjoyed in front of paperwork.
Hermione watched the sunset, the sky changing brilliant shades of purple, orange, and red as it did, and almost failed to notice Luna bend down and begin to remove her shoes. "Luna!" she cried with a surprised laugh, balancing precariously on one leg as the blonde removed her shoe and sock. "What in the world are you doing?"
"Walking on the beach while wearing shoes is quite possibly the least fun thing a person can do," remarked Luna, looking up at Hermione, gently lifting up her other leg then ducking her head as she proceeded to remove her other shoe and sock. "After all, how can you even hope to feel the delightful squish squish of the sand between your toes with them on? It simply can't be done."
"What if I don't want to feel the squish squish of the sand between my toes?" asked Hermione in tones that she meant to be lofty and a tad on the warning side, to keep Luna from feeling so close to her, but came out rather affectionate and teasing.
"Hermione," said Luna very seriously, looking up at the other girl as she sat in the sand and removed her own shoes and socks. "Everyone wants to feel the squish squish of the sand."
"Everyone?" asked Hermione, a skeptical expression on her features.
"Everyone," Luna enforced as she rose to her feet and offered the brunette a charming smile. Reaching her hands up towards the sky, she whirled around, laughing and skipping along, looking over her shoulder and calling out, "But you can't feel it if you keep absolutely still!"
"Luna," Hermione called out, unable to keep from laughing as she followed after the younger girl. "Where are you going?"
"To chase the water," said Luna, turning to face Hermione with a wide smile. Holding out her hands to the brunette she said, "Won't you come with me? But do be careful of the Beach Blighters, they love to disguise themselves as the sand and nibble upon the toes of those who dare to invade their sandy territories."
"What?" asked Hermione, looking alarmed as she lifted her feet, one after the other, off of the sand. "Then why in the world did you have me remove my shoes?"
"The squish squish of the sand, I told you," Luna said guilelessly, skipping forward to take Hermione's hands. "If we walk along the edge of the water we should be perfectly safe. The Beach Blighters have tremendously large teeth but they can't swim in the slightest." Before the older girl could respond, Luna was running happily ahead, pulling Hermione after her until they reached the portion of the beach where water met sand and the sea swelled towards them in small waves, soaking their feet. Beaming at Hermione and giving her hands a gentle squeeze, Luna murmured, "I hope that Hermione doesn't find it to be tricks or manipulation but I would like to say I had a lovely time working today."
Turning to the other girl, Hermione found herself struck by her beauty, how the sun hit her hair in just the right angle to perfectly accentuate its white gold color, her blue eyes sparkling and full of warmth, and her smile, how it was endlessly sincere and genuine, enough that Hermione knew it could make her trust Luna about almost anything. She was lost in these thoughts and would have remained that way for quite a long while if it hadn't been for that setting sun turning Luna's hair slightly red and in that moment, Ron's face flashed in her mind and Hermione swallowed hard and stepped backwards, away from the younger girl. A guilty flush to her skin, Hermione focused her attention on the sea, trying her best to forget the feelings she just had as she said, "I enjoyed it as well and I don't think it tricky in the least to say that."
"Or manipulative?" prodded Luna, stepping closer, a look of concern on her features.
"Or manipulative," Hermione agreed quietly, still keeping her gaze away from the other girl, not trusting herself to look and keep her senses.
Releasing a humming and thoughtful sound on hearing this, Luna started her walk again, tenderly pulling Hermione along as they made their way down the beach, taking in the setting sun and breathtaking scenery. When the sky was filled with shades of purple and orange, signaling it would be dark soon, Luna looked to Hermione and said, "I'm rather hungry, aren't you?"
"A bit," said Hermione and she cautiously turned her attention to the other girl, relieved to see the blonde looking off into the distance. She wasn't sure what her reaction to looking at the other girl would be and it entirely solved matters if Luna wasn't paying her any attention.
"Would you mind terribly if we extended our work break so we might eat at a local restaurant? I know the most splendid bistro that isn't far from here, Ophelia introduced it to me on my last visit," said Luna, focusing back on Hermione.
"I wouldn't mind at all," said Hermione, offering a small smile. Though her brain was telling her to think better of it she still couldn't stop herself from agreeing to Luna's plans. After all, it was just dinner, wasn't it? Surely there was no harm in that.
A slow smile formed on Luna's features and her thumb lightly caressed the palm of Hermione's hand as she murmured, her voice soft and tender, "Wonderful. As thanks I promise I'll make certain that everything is simply heavenly."
Staring at the back of the younger girl as they walked, her pace lagging because of the conflicting responses between her heart and her head, Hermione did her best to ignore the repeating thought that anytime she spent with Luna was that.
After casting the Interpretatio spell they made their way to a small bistro that looked to be in existence for quite some time. At least if the hanging wooden sign with letters so worn that you couldn't properly make out its name was any indication of its age. The inside of the restaurant was just as charming as the outside, white stone carrying throughout the entire structure, it was filled with a small collection of small round tables as worn as the sign outside, clear evidence of the amount of appreciating customers who had sat at them.
Following the hostess to a table in the far corner that gave them ample privacy and was romantically lit with candles, much to Hermione's chagrin, they made use of the interpretation spell by going through the menu. Although the spell did its job well in allowing them to easily understand the Greek language when they spoke, heard, and read it that didn't allow Hermione to completely understand all of the many food options offered by the restaurant. That's why she found herself focusing on Luna with an awkward expression.
"Luna?" asked Hermione rather hesitantly. When the blonde looked up, she found herself instinctively ducking her head as a blush covered her features and she said, "Since you've done such a magnificent job with our previous meals together could you… I mean, would you…"
"If Hermione wants I would like very much to choose her food for her," Luna interrupted gently. She smiled sweetly and leaned forward, her voice was low and inviting and it caused Hermione's heart to beat faster and suddenly she had quite the strong urge to kiss the younger girl. "But that's only if Hermione wants it."
"I wouldn't have asked otherwise," asked Hermione a little on edge, embarrassed by her emotions and her inability to control them, turning her attention away from Luna and her lips which she had just wanted to kiss. She immediately felt an immense wave of guilt at her words and she lifted her head, wanting to apologize but the words were never voiced as she looked at Luna's compassionate expression. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. I do want you to choose for me. That is, if you still want to. Although I can understand if you've changed your mind after how I just acted."
"I still would like that very much but I would also like to know exactly why Hermione was upset just now," said Luna, clearly concerned.
Turning from the other girl, her cheeks burning with an embarrassment that was far more significant than before, Hermione mumbled, "I'm not sure why it was I became so upset. But please believe me," she faced Luna and wore an imploring look, "I am sorry for how I behaved."
There was a moment of silence and Luna had a faraway expression look on her face and just as Hermione began to speak again, to apologize further and to try to come up with some explanation for the blonde other than her confusing feelings towards her, Luna spoke in clear and confident tones, "Tyropita would be a good start." Luna tilted her head up and Hermione immediately smiled, wanting to ask precisely what the food was when she noticed the younger girl hadn't been speaking to her but the waitress standing at their table.
"I agree," the waitress replied with a charming smile. "Do you need more time to think?"
"Not in the least," said Luna, taking Hermione's menu and neatly stacking it on top of her own. "I would like the Briam and I want to order the Kapama Roast Lamb for my friend," Luna paused to look at Hermione, "with her permission, of course."
"Of course," Hermione repeated, a soft smile on her features.
"A wise choice," the waitress drawled and her smile seemed to change from charming to alluring in Hermione's opinion. A frown formed on her face as she observed the Greek woman's flirtatious behavior. It really wasn't proper at all of her, was it? How was she to know that Luna wasn't dating her. She could very well be flirting with another woman's girlfriend right in front of her face.
Her annoyance level rising as she watched Luna return the waitress' smile, Hermione reached out to take Luna's hand and offered the waitress a very large and somewhat insincere smile as she said, "Thank you so much for your time."
Taking the all too effective hint to leave, the waitress exited with a raised eyebrow and slight chuckle. Hermione frowned again then turned to face Luna who wore a curious expression. Before the brunette could say anything in hopes of explaining herself, Luna said, a thoughtful look on her features, "I wonder if she thinks me strange again."
"Who? The waitress?" asked Hermione in confusion.
"Astrid, yes," said Luna, gazing after the departing woman. She focused back on Hermione and played with the older girl's hand until she laced their fingers together. "Ophelia informed me after our last visit I said things considered strange by Muggle standards."
"Such as?" inquired Hermione.
"I asked on seeing a picture of the calamari they serve if it was perhaps related to the Siren Squid of Guppiepull," Luna said matter of factly. When a slow smile spread on Hermione's features and her eyes twinkled with amusement, she made a clucking noise and wagged her finger playfully at the brunette. "I recognize that look. I do think that Hermione finds me strange as well. Or at the least, extremely silly."
"Not at all," said Hermione, shaking her head, the smile still firmly on her face. "I just understand a little what she meant. It isn't as if Muggles have heard of the Siren Squid of Guppiepull, Luna. I doubt that many in the wizarding world have."
"I suppose that does make a bit of sense," murmured Luna. "And it does explain why Astrid's eyes became so very wide. Do you think it's the same reason why she looked confused when I mentioned the similarity between a Chizpurfle and a crab?"
"Probably," said Hermione with a warm laugh. "How did her face look when you said that to her?"
"Incredibly confused though she did do her best to disguise it," Luna confessed and she wore a concerned look on her features. "Do you think that I might have frightened her with what I said?"
Hermione looked to the waitress and Luna followed suit, noticing their attention, Astrid formed the same alluring smile she had earlier, causing the brunette to frown deeply. "Somehow I don't believe that's the case," said Hermione, her voice a tad cross. A moment passed then she felt a soft touch on her chin and her head was gently turned so she was facing Luna. She started to ask the younger girl what was wrong but found herself trailing off into silence when she saw the tender expression on her features.
"There's no reason to be jealous," said Luna softly and Hermione opened her mouth, perhaps to protest, as her cheeks flushed a dark red hue. The blonde stretched her fingers outward to lightly caress Hermione's cheek, holding it gently. "I like Hermione best."
The restaurant was a flurry of activity, dishes clanging, and people ordering food but despite all the noise, it seemed absolutely silent to Hermione in that moment. She found herself lost as she looked into Luna's eyes, so kind and understanding, filled with such caring that the brunette could barely comprehend it. Perhaps that's why she found herself leaning across their small round table. She knew it was wrong, a betrayal to Ron, that she shouldn't be doing it but ever since she realized she had romantic feelings for Luna they had become nearly impossible for her to ignore and even harder for her to control and to make it worse, it hurt so very much to do so. As if it was the most unnatural thing in the world for her to suppress these feelings.
For all of those reasons she understood and the ones she hadn't the slightest clue about, Hermione kissed Luna. She fought the urge before, hiding her feelings away, burying them deep down, but it was too difficult now, hearing Luna's words and looking into her lovely features. Hermione couldn't fight it any longer, she wanted to kiss the younger girl. No, it was more than that. She needed it, like air.
And so she did.
It was nothing once you saw it in a certain perspective. Just a light brush of lips. There was no tongue involved and it was in a public place. All in all it was entirely chaste but the reality of the kiss wasn't so much important as the very fact that Hermione had done it. That she felt compelled to do it, that she just couldn't control her need to capture Luna's lips with her own.
And when she did, no matter how brief it was, the experience was still utterly amazing. The feeling of Luna's lips on her own, soft and silky and wonderfully full. The kiss itself was gentle and delicate, there was a cautious care in it, like it was something very precious that could be ruined and shattered when it ended and when they parted, it was slow and reluctant and Hermione found herself wishing that it had been deeper and she started to lean in again, for another kiss to rectify this problem when Astrid suddenly appeared at their table.
"My apologies for interrupting," Astrid said with a playful smile. She lifted up the bottle of wine that she held and said, "I simply thought that such a beautiful couple would enjoy an equally beautiful wine selection for their romantic evening."
With that she leaned over and proceeded to fill their glasses with wine and Hermione watched, her mind suddenly numb as she realized that the entire restaurant had seen her kiss Luna. She looked around them with a nervous expression and saw that most of the population was busy with their own food and conversation and those who weren't greeted her with happy smiles and looks as teasing in their acceptance as Astrid herself. She felt a soft squeeze of her hand and Hermione turned her attention back to Luna, realizing that they were once again alone. The blonde lifted up Hermione's glass of wine in offering and the brunette took it, drinking it in slowly, trying to calm her nerves as she did. When she was done, she was rewarded with Luna giving her a glittering smile.
"I do agree with Astrid," Luna murmured, reaching across the table to tenderly cup Hermione's cheek, her fingers trailing across her skin to push some hairs from her eyes. "We do make a beautiful couple."
She wanted to protest but looking at the blonde's features and feeling herself overwhelmed by an immense feeling of contentment and sheer happiness, Hermione couldn't seem to find the words. Not when, in her heart, she knew it was right.