The Sugar Quill
Author: purplequill  Story: Luna's Friendship  Chapter: Default
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Hermione closed her book History of the House Elves and set it carefully on her bedside table

Hermione closed her book History of the House Elves and set it carefully on her bedside table.  She crossed her hands on her Merino blanket and stared at the ceiling, keeping her mind blank while she heard the vague sounds of Madam Pomfrey making the rounds of the Hospital Wing. Though Hermione was the last remaining patient in the place, the school nurse seemed nevertheless determined to ensure every single bedsheet and pillow was in its proper place.


Ron and Neville had been discharged the previous day, but Hermione still had to endure the seemingly endless supply of potions Madam Pomfrey was concocting, and for several more days at least, if the nurse was to be believed.


Harry and Ron had come to visit Hermione at breakfast and lunch that day, but she’d insisted on their taking time for themselves that evening after giving them a list of books she would like to read, which they promptly fetched from the library. But as she lay in bed, staring blankly at the various ornately engraved arches and columns on the walls and ceiling above her, she was already beginning to regret that decision. Although she always enjoyed the company of a good book, she’d found it difficult to drift off to sleep.  There were so many things on her mind lately; she was still waiting for an appropriate moment to talk to Harry about Sirius, but every time she’d tried to broach the topic Harry had dropped his gaze from hers and awkwardly muttered some muffled excuse to change the subject. Hermione had the definite impression that he was not willing, or at least ready, to talk about it. She knew it would do no good for him to keep his pain locked away, but also realized she had to let him come to that assertion at his own pace, much as it chagrined her.


She was considering whether or not to start another book or to try and get to sleep, unlikely as that seemed. She was still wide awake even though she’d had her fill of written works this day, and was debating the merits of one over the other when the familiar creaking of the Hospital Wing’s door caught her ear. She eagerly glanced over to see who might be calling at this late hour, at this point hopeful for anyone’s company.


Luna Lovegood entered and gently closed the door behind her, a small box tucked under one arm and a rolled up copy of what Hermione assumed must be The Quibbler in hand.  As the young Ravenclaw turned back around and searched the room with her large, silvery eyes, Hermione found her conscience disturbed by a slight twinge of guilt.  Ginny had told her earlier that day about the endless ridicule and derision Luna was enduring, from members of her own house, no less, to the point where her personal belongings were routinely being taken from her. Hermione had suddenly felt quite badly about having given Luna a rough time of it over the past several months, disputing most of the girls’ claims, totally ludicrous though they were. Granted, the girl was peculiar to a high degree, but that didn’t excuse the kind of treatment she was receiving. 


Ginny had told Hermione how Luna had saved both her and Ron from the raging Death Eaters in the planet room back in the Department of Mysteries, while trying to carry a hobbling Ginny and dragging along an incoherent Ron behind her. Clearly the girl was not the hopeless loon that many made her out to be.


As Hermione’s was the only occupied bed in the infirmary, it didn’t take long for Luna to locate her; she stood at the door for a moment and blinked before making a beeline straight for the Gryffindor. Only a few days ago Hermione might have groaned inwardly, but she’d looked at the young Ravenclaw in a much different light since then. The Prefect in her glanced at the clock on the wall, though she quickly swept aside the fact that it was well past curfew at the thought of some company.


Luna sat down at the foot of Hermione’s bed, her wand still tucked in its customary place behind her ear and her ridiculous Butterbeer cap necklace still hung loosely about her neck.


“Hello,” said Luna, smiling dreamily. “How are you getting on?”


“Um...hi Luna,” said Hermione carefully. “I’m doing better, thanks. Madam Pomfrey says I should be out of here in a few days...and you?”


“I’ve been rather busy,” said Luna vaguely, setting the small tin box on the bed between them. “I sent an owl to Daddy to send me one of Mum’s recipes; I’d actually made some for all of you, but Ronald and Neville ate my whole batch in the hall earlier, so I had to go back and make some more. Sorry for the wait.”


Hermione’s apprehension about the contents of the box evaporated, figuring that if Ron would so eagerly ate something made by Luna it couldn’t be all that bad. Opening the lid, she saw what appeared to be miniature rabbit-like creatures with strangely elongated, upturned snouts, all apparently made from chocolate.


“Well, thanks Luna,” said Hermione, taking one and eyeing it closely as Luna stared at her. “I’m a bit curious though...what exactly are these supposed to be?”


“Well, Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, of course,” said Luna matter-of-factly, as though anyone in their right mind would know such a thing. “Daddy’s got a much better idea now about their exact appearance after interviewing all those eyewitnesses for The Quibbler article a few months ago.”


Hermione’s stomach tightened. She was sorely tempted to point out once again that such creatures didn’t exist, but after a brief moment’s reflection thought better of it. The girl had been well-meaning, after all.


“Well, thank you Luna, that was sweet of you,” said Hermione, taking a tentative bite.


She chewed on it for a few moments, Luna’s silvery eyes staring at her expectantly. Hermione realized with more than a little surprise that Luna’s account of Ron and Neville’s conspicuous consumption of these treats was no exaggeration; they were truly delicious!


“Goodness, Luna,” said Hermione, swallowing the remainder of her tiny ‘Snorkack’, “these are really good! How’d you manage to make these things here?”


“Oh, well,” said Luna, clearly happy that Hermione had found the treats to her liking, “I asked the house-elves if I could borrow a small part of their kitchen. They really are quite nice, you know.”


Hermione snatched up another treat from the open box. “You know how to get to the kitchen?”


“Yes,” said Luna vaguely, apparently entranced by how the candlelight played across the back of her hand. “The elves tell me a lot of things about Hogwarts when they visit late at night, actually. Although that Dobby fellow is rather an odd one, with all those little hats he wears.”


“You mean you’re still awake when they come to clean?” asked Hermione, wondering what Luna meant by all the ‘little hats’. “Don’t they come at the wee hours of the morning?”


“They do,” said Luna simply, now losing interest in the back of her hand and taking a chocolate treat herself. “I don’t really sleep very much, so it passes the time.” She nibbled on the chocolate’s elongated ‘horn’, staring at Hermione.


For a while both were quiet, chewing on their own chocolates, Hermione thinking furiously for any subject she could bring up without involving some nonsensical discussion of mythical creatures or theories.


But Luna finished her chocolate and rose from the bed. “Well, goodnight,” she said airily and smiled as she turned to go.


“Er, Luna wait,” said Hermione, wincing a little as she sat up straighter in bed. Luna turned back to her, eyes fixed in that oddly penetrating stare of hers. 


“,” Hermione began, indicating the chair between the two beds with her hand. “Please stay for awhile, I’d like to talk to you about something.”


Luna seemed to consider her for a moment, her head tilted slightly to one side.  Hermione laughed inwardly. The gesture made the young Ravenclaw look for all the world like a bemused pixie. 


Luna drifted over to the chair and gracefully took her seat, though she sat in a ramrod-straight posture that seemed to convey unease, which stunned Hermione.

“I know what you’re going to say,” said Luna in an unusually subdued voice.


“You do?” asked Hermione, curious as to what the other girl might possibly be thinking.


“I should’ve done more to protect Ronald and Ginny from those people,” said Luna. For the first time since Hermione had known her, Luna was averting her eyes and was gazing down at her intertwined hands on her lap.


“I really wanted to...” her voice trailed off, staring at her hands as though they were miles away.


Hermione could hardly believe what she was witnessing. Luna Lovegood, normally never one to be even remotely flustered or at a loss for words, had grown silent.


“Hey now, listen,” said Hermione, her heart heavy from seeing Luna in such a state. “I’ll tell you, you had the subject right, but certainly not the message.”


Luna’s gaze returned slowly to Hermione’s, her head still tilted to one side, her usual expression of surprise now replaced by one of uncertainty. “But I wasn’t able to...they both got hurt,” she whispered, Hermione’s heart sinking further upon seeing those enormous grey eyes suddenly glittering with tears.


“That’s NOT what Ginny told me,” said Hermione firmly, gritting her teeth slightly from the pain as she rolled her legs over the side of her bed and sat up, facing Luna.  Luckily Madam Pomfrey was now tending to some paperwork at her desk at the far end of the hall and hadn’t noticed. 


“Luna, you got them both out alive. Ginny told me everything you did, how you fended off those Death Eaters and got them out. I think what you did was truly remarkable, and what I wanted to tell you was,” Hermione looked straight into Luna’s silver eyes, “thank you. From all of us.”


Once more Luna’s gaze dropped. Hermione felt exasperated. “And also...sorry. I never really made it easy for you, did I?”


Luna looked up with an air of seriousness about her, a striking contrast with her usual dreamy countenance. “Oh, that’s okay,” she said quietly. “I’m quite used to it, you know. Most people seem to think I’m rather odd. Many call me ‘Loony Lovegood’, actually.”


“Well,” said Hermione, “I wasn’t very nice about it. I just...well, I have a bit of a temper sometimes, as I’m sure Ron would tell you. And I’ll tell you something else,” she added in a conspirational whisper, “Ron is starting to recall what happened back in that room, and I think he’s really impressed how you handled it...”


Luna stared back at her.  “Well, that’s good, I suppose,” she said vaguely. “I...rather like the company of your little group actually.”


Hermione felt a growing empathy for the girl before her. “Luna, I know you’re not as immune to abuse as some might think. No one can be. I just want you to know, if ever you need someone to talk to about that, I’m here for you. We all are.”


Luna continued to stare at her for several moments, her large protuberant eyes unblinkingly fixed on Hermione’s.


“Well, thank you,” said Luna in her typical dreamy voice. “It doesn’t really bother me much, but...that’s rather nice of you, actually.”


They were both silent for a long moment, Luna seemingly lost in thought. When she opened her mouth again Hermione thought that Luna might just take her up on her offer right then and there.


“Well I suppose I’d best be off,” said Luna, rising from her chair. “It’s past curfew already, and I’d really rather not get caught wandering the halls at this hour by Mr. Filch. Although that cat of his is quite adorable, don’t you think?”


She smiled dreamily at Hermione before making her way towards the hall entrance and then quietly slipped out the door.


Hermione smiled after her. It would take Luna to call Mrs. Norris ‘adorable’. She wondered...had she just gained a friend in the odd little Ravenclaw?

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