The next morning, Hermione once again woke to the smell of delicious food being cooked but when she wandered downstairs Luna wasn't responsible, instead it was Ophelia. Sensing the brunette's approach, Ophelia turned to observe Hermione, flashing a bright smile before she held up her index finger to her lips in a gesture to keep quiet as she nodded to the far side of the room. Hermione followed her gaze and instantly locked onto the sleeping figure of Luna, gently swinging to and fro in her hammock.
A sinking feeling, one caused by shame and guilt, seized Hermione on seeing this. Luna hadn't slept in Ophelia's bed after all.
Slowly approaching the kitchen counter, Hermione looked at Ophelia, and she supposed the guilt was evident in her eyes or her stance because the Greek woman graced her with a tender smile as she leaned forward. "She carries it with her always on trips, that hammock. How she finds it comfortable, I do not know. It looks something like a torture device to me."
"She slept down here all night," Hermione said this more as a statement then a question but Ophelia still replied.
"Yes," said Ophelia with a nod, returning to making breakfast, carefully moving the chopped vegetables about in the frying pan, ensuring they were all evenly cooked. "We spoke for over an hour then she insisted on gathering her things from my room and set up her hammock." She paused for a moment then said, very carefully, "She was concerned you might think something that wasn't true as to the nature of our relationship by staying in the same room as I did."
That sinking feeling returned and Hermione ducked her head, lifting it moments later to look into Ophelia's understanding brown eyes. She formed a weak smile and said, "I don't suppose you that you think very much of me."
"Luna does and I find that is more than enough for me," murmured Ophelia kindly. Pausing for a moment, she appeared to be considering her words carefully, debating whether they should be voiced. Finally, she said, "She cares for you a great deal."
"I care for her as well," Hermione said, her eyes instinctively drifting over the sleeping blonde. "More than I probably should."
"Because you're involved with another?" asked Ophelia, her tones gentle and prodding.
Jerking her head towards the Greek woman in surprise, Hermione saw the understanding but accepting expression she wore and found herself wanting to explain. "I've been with him for quite some time, years in fact," said Hermione quietly. She found her attention and gaze drifting back towards Luna as she murmured, "I never thought I would care for someone else. I didn't think it was even possible but before I knew it I found myself having these feelings for her… and I couldn't control them, I couldn't stop them, no matter how hard I tried."
"Perhaps you weren't meant to," said Ophelia wisely as she turned off the stove and began placing the vegetables onto three plates before turning her attention to the eggs. "Some things cannot be controlled or stopped. I do think love is among them."
She wanted to protest this assumption, to say she didn't love Luna but Hermione couldn't make herself say the words, not when she knew in her heart they would be a lie. So she remained silent, watching the blonde as she continued to sleep, her hammock swinging ever so slightly from side to side. Then she said in a bare whisper, "I wish I knew how she felt for me."
A soft touch on her arm caused Hermione to shift her focus to Ophelia who looked at her with a sympathetic gaze. "You shouldn't blame yourself. This is a common problem when it comes to those Luna loves." When Hermione gave her a confused but quietly curious look, she sighed softly then continued, "There is little that Luna despises more than to feel she is forcing herself onto another person. Therefore she has a bad habit of letting those she has feelings for come to her rather than she go to them. I think, perhaps, it helps ease her mind to know they've chosen to approach her and it takes the fear of rejection away to leave the responsibility solely on another."
"I didn't know Luna could become afraid," said Hermione wryly.
"Everyone has fears," said Ophelia, sprinkling the eggs with a bit of seasoning. "Hers involve those she cares for not returning her feelings. I think that because she was laughed at for many years when she revealed what she believed truest in her heart she became more reluctant to do this as she grew older. Everyone wants to protect themselves from pain, especially when it is one they have experienced before."
Silence as Hermione contemplated this and then she asked rather hesitantly, "Was it the same for you?" When Ophelia lifted a sculptured eyebrow in a gesture of mild curiosity and confusion, Hermione blushed and said, "I mean… did you have to tell Luna how you felt first."
"Yes, after I tried my best to attempt mind reading," remarked Ophelia with light humor. She scooped the eggs out of the pan and placed them on the plates as she continued, "Even in her fourth year I think that perhaps Luna had some skill at occlumency. Like you, I spent just a terrible amount of time attempting to understand what she was thinking and feeling towards me."
"How was it once you told her?" asked Hermione, unable to stop herself from asking, finding some solidarity in their situations involving Luna. Instinctively thinking that perhaps if it ended well for Ophelia she might be lucky enough to be granted the same result.
A slow smile curving on her lips, Ophelia leaned across the counter and said in a low murmur, "We kissed. Quite innocently, due to our ages, but we kissed all the same and did so several more times before the summer ended. After which we happily became close friends." Hermione couldn't help but return the Greek woman's smile and once again, her attention turned to the sleeping Luna and it was then that Ophelia continued, her voice gentle and kind, "She might be too scared to say the words and she might guard her feelings beneath a mysterious air but every mystery can be solved if you pay close enough attention. It is the same for Luna."
Considering this, Hermione watched as Luna rocked to and fro in her hammock, her breathing steady and even, looking so very content with the world and everything in it, Hermione included. And as she watched, Hermione promised herself that she would solve the mystery that was Luna Lovegood and her feelings.
Half an hour later, Luna woke to the sound of Hermione's soft laughter and Ophelia's playful tone of voice. Slowly sitting up in her hammock, causing it to swing gently from side to side, she observed the two women silently. They were sitting across from each other at the small round table in the kitchen, having what looked to be a delicious breakfast. There was an ease to their interaction, a comfort that Luna found herself smiling at and immediately enjoying. She wanted very much for it to continue and to find herself a part of it. A part of Hermione's happiness.
Which is why she called out, "I've missed the sound of Hermione's laughter. It is among the most beautiful of sounds."
They turned to Luna and immediately on looking at the blonde haired girl, Hermione started searching for that sign that Ophelia spoke of earlier. A clue that the younger girl cared for her in the same manner. Drawn forward because of this pursuit, Hermione rose to her feet and approached Luna, holding out her hands to help her out of the hammock and onto the slightly chilly hardwood floors. Grasping Luna's hands in a tender hold, she kept a close watch on the other girl's reaction and sure enough there it was.
Subtle but the signs were there, a hint of a blush, a duck of the head, the way Luna's lips immediately curved into a wide smile at Hermione offering her hands and how her blue eyes sparkled with affection. Mostly it was the feeling she got when coming closer to the other girl. There was a sense of contentment, a pleasure at being close to Hermione and it was then that she wondered how she never noticed it.
Letting go of Luna's hands so the younger girl could head upstairs to the bathroom, Hermione's eyes never left the blonde while she was in sight. Ophelia quirked an eyebrow and questioned, "Were you able to see it for yourself?"
"Yes," said Hermione in a whisper, her eyes still on the stairs where Luna had disappeared. Slowly, she looked to Ophelia and murmured, "How is it I never noticed before?"
"This the first time you truly looked," said Ophelia, gentle but astute. "But what will you do now that you have seen it? That is the real question. You cannot ignore it and it wouldn't be fair to Luna to allow things to continue as they are. Nor would it be fair to you."
Hermione was considering Ophelia's words and what her response would be when Luna appeared at the top of the stairs, smiling still. Looking at the blonde girl's features that glowed with happiness, Hermione knew what her answer was and from the approving expression that Ophelia wore, it was a popular one indeed.
As they sat down to breakfast with Luna, the significant portion of Hermione's writing was given to a curious Ophelia to sift through. She read through the pages with great interest, remarking on the quality of the writing and revealing a similar objection to Luna's method of freeing the Krodha Swinging Lizard from the poacher's trap.
"It is amazing," said Ophelia, her tones full of awe and wonder as she looked at Luna with shining eyes. "You spoke of wanting to do this all those many years ago, when we were just children, and now it is finally becoming true."
"With Hermione's help," Luna added, smiling before she took a bite of eggs. "I couldn't have done it without her. My writing is rather atrocious. I don't imagine many people would be interested to read my descriptions of things, no matter how fascinating the subject."
"Luna," Hermione said her name in scolding tones. "I've told you, your writing isn't bad, it simply lacks focus."
"Hermione has the kindest way of saying something is horrible," said Luna teasingly, a fond smile on her features. Hermione shook her head in frustration at this and Luna laughed, light and carefree. Turning her attention to Ophelia, she remarked, "It's such a shame we couldn't find the Charybdis, even after so much searching. I was hoping to look for it again someday. Perhaps to put in the book."
"Between our searching for the Charybdis and Niko's mad hunt for the Minotaur, I'm not sure how the Counselor Agatha could deal with all our madness," said Ophelia with an amused chuckle. "I would not have wanted her job."
"She did have a great deal of patience," agreed Luna. "Do you recall the explosion Duncan caused?"
"Which one?" asked Ophelia, laughing as she recalled the gangly black haired boy who was fond of mixing potions to track his favorite magical creatures, even if more than half of the time said potions had a nasty habit of blowing up.
"There was the explosion that destroyed half a hillside and nearly announced our presence to the local Muggles," said Luna thoughtfully. "It was highly impressive and Counselor Agatha appeared the most irritated when it was incited."
Finding herself charmed by the reminiscing about the camp, Hermione couldn't stop herself from asking, "Is it still open?"
"Camp Charybdis?" asked Ophelia and when Hermione nodded, she formed a thoughtful expression. "I’m unsure. You could always find out for yourselves though. I don't believe the location on Corfu would have changed."
"Do you want to see it?" questioned Luna, looking quite excited at the idea of going to see her old camp with Hermione.
It was their last day to work before they had to return to Britain and Hermione knew what they should be doing. They should work, concentrate on the book, writing the search and discovery of the Krodha Swinging Lizard. That was what she should do but was it what she wanted? Looking into Luna's pleasant features, eager and affectionate, Hermione decided what she should do wasn't nearly as important as what she wanted to do and yes, she did want very much to see the camp where Luna had spent a happy summer, to see for herself where all of those stories she told with Ophelia took place, hoping somehow it would also help her to understand the blonde a little bit better.
"Yes," said Hermione quietly, forming a soft smile. "I'd like that very much."
They side along apparated to the site of Camp Charybdis, which announced its presence with a large boulder that had the name of the camp carved into it with the words reflecting beautifully in the sunlight. The camp consisted on several large sloping hills and what looked to be several buildings that appeared to be restored ruins. Hermione turned to Luna, her features full of questions and curiosity and the blonde beamed happily then hooked their arms together.
"The entire site was once a village, apparently the Muggles who lived here had some sort of nasty falling out, a war of sorts, and it became quite deserted for many years," Luna informed as they walked inside the empty camp. "Counselor Agatha and her family discovered it and thought it would be a most lovely spot for a camp because of the nature that surrounded it and this area's notoriety for magical creatures."
"How old are these buildings?" Hermione asked, her hand extending to touch the white stone of one of the columns, marveling at how good it looked despite the period it appeared to be constructed from. "Surely they aren't from the Athenian Era?"
"Counselor Agatha and her family restored them with a great many spells," said Luna. She wore a thoughtful expression and said, "I do believe she said they were originally created in 458 BC. It did take a significant amount of time for them to fix everything." Luna leaned into Hermione and gestured to a building in the distance that looked to be crumbling a bit. "As you can see, they're still working."
Several minutes passed as they strolled about the grounds, Luna finally leading them down a gently sloping hill to a small beach scattered with several large boulders. Releasing Hermione's hand, she jumped onto the largest one that was partially in the sea, the waves quietly hitting the edges of it. Once she landed, Luna turned to Hermione with a wide and welcoming smile on her features, holding her hands out to the brunette in offering. Hermione hesitated just a moment before taking a deep breath and jumping after Luna, finding herself wrapped up in the other girl's arms when she nearly lost her balance on landing and began to fall backwards.
"I've got you," murmured Luna in comforting tones and though she didn't know it, she had never spoken truer words.
But Hermione did know and that's why she pulled back from Luna's embrace, slow and sure, searching the blonde's features and finding the same reassurance she had earlier. The same affection and care and genuine love hiding just under the surface, waiting for her to notice and notice it Hermione did. "Our kiss wasn't between friends," she said, soft but strong, reaching up with trembling hands to caress Luna's cheek. The younger girl's eyes became large and for the first time Hermione witnessed Luna in a truly stunned state. "And I never wanted it to be, I wanted to tell you that but I became scared that you didn't feel the same as I did when you suggested that."
"But I never intended…" Luna trailed off, sounding quite anxious on hearing this. "Hermione simply looked so very distressed and guilty and if it was a kiss between friends there would be no need for you to feel that way. That was why I said that."
"I know," said Hermione with a laugh, tenderly stroking Luna's cheek, smiling weakly. "I haven't been thinking correctly in what seems like a very long time now. I do believe my feelings for you have something to do with it. Luna," Hermione breathed her name more than said it. "I must speak to Ron about this… about us…" Suddenly Hermione felt herself becoming just as anxious as Luna had been earlier. "That is if there is an us to tell him about? I really shouldn't presume, we haven't properly discussed--"
Her fingers pressing gently onto Hermione's lips, a sweet smile curling upwards, Luna said, "There has always been an us to tell about."
"I'm not sure of that," said Hermione when Luna's fingers fell away, laughter bubbling up in her throat and an immense feeling of relief filling her. As her thoughts returned to Ron, she became serious as her hand moved to hold Luna's. "I do need to speak with him before we can progress any further. It's the right thing to do… the fair thing to do. I couldn't bear doing anything less, not when it comes to Ron."
"I understand," whispered Luna in soothing tones, releasing Hermione's hand and reaching up to tuck some stray strands of hair behind her ears, tenderly caressing her features as she did so. "Hermione wouldn't be Hermione if she wanted to do it any other way."
Releasing a shuddering sigh, Hermione leaned forward, resting her forehead against Luna's, her eyes closed tight, she murmured, her voice wry and self deprecating, "You do realize that made me want very much to kiss you?"
"I realize," Luna replied, mischief in her words and on her features as she wrapped her arms around the brunette and pulled her forward and into her embrace. "I would encourage that feeling enormously if I didn't know it would make Hermione feel terribly guilty again."
"That's nice," muttered Hermione sourly.
A moment of silence passed then Luna moved closer yet, her breath warm and sweet on Hermione's skin, tickling the hairs of her neck as she murmured in her ear, soft and sincere, "I would like very much to kiss you back."
On hearing these words, the first admission of any sort that Luna had made aloud that she wanted Hermione like Hermione wanted her, the brunette allowed herself to finally relax, to lose those ever present worries of what the blonde might be feeling and to simply be. There was just the sound of their breathing and the gentle crash of the waves against the boulder on which they stood.
"You'll speak to him when we return?" Luna's voice came in a strangely uncertain whisper and Hermione pulled back to observe the blonde who immediately averted her eyes but still, though she tried to hide it, Hermione saw the worry there, the fear, and it tore at her heart.
Reaching out to hold Luna's chin in her hand, holding it tender but firm and turning her head so their eyes would meet, Hermione did her best to reveal in her expression and her tone how very serious she was. "I will," she promised. "I'll tell him straightaway. Soon as possible." Luna seemed to nod at this, her head bobbing, coming to some sort of internal resolution. Then she lifted her head and a rather naughty smile formed on her features, one that thoroughly intrigued Hermione. "What is it?"
"And then we can kiss again," said Luna, looking altogether pleased about the idea.
"Yes," replied Hermione with a laugh, shaking her head. "I suppose that's true."
Looking much like a great philosopher as she regarded Hermione with an utterly solemn expression, Luna said, "It would be so much more convenient if we had telepathy like the Frinklefrump Deetle. Then we would be kissing already."
Hermione couldn't manage to disagree.