The Sugar Quill
Author: purplequill  Story: Revelations  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Hermione closed her book and carefully placed it atop the stack of tomes next to her, mindful of the ever vigilant Madam Pince

Hermione closed her book and carefully placed it atop the stack of tomes next to her, mindful of the ever vigilant Madam Pince currently replacing volumes in a nearby aisle. Getting snapped at for accidentally dropping one of the librarian's precious books was not an experience she cared to repeat.

 

She sat back and gazed around the mostly deserted library, shoulders aching and vision blurred around the edges after so many hours reading. Or –

 

She rubbed her eyes. No, it was more than simply reading, she realized. She was exhausted.

 

But then, looking at the pile of books to her right, Hermione was quietly satisfied she'd made enough progress over the last several weeks that she might soon be able to start practising Legilimency more reliably than she'd heretofore managed. Which was to say, terribly.

 

After all, Harry was counting on her. She recalled vividly the hopeless expression on his face when he'd discovered he'd been required to continue his Occlumency lessons, as unpalatable as they were. Hermione had determined from that moment to help in any way she could, even though Legilimency was far from a skill which came naturally to her. In fact, she worried that she might be less gifted in that field than she was in Divination, a subject she'd gladly discarded three years previously. Still, though, she was getting better, little by little.

 

It had taken considerable effort to research this most arcane of the magical arts; the skill was not part of Hogwarts’ curriculum, its teachings being strictly controlled by the Ministry. Despite this Hermione had still managed, through endless hours reading and researching the subject, to learn enough from ancient sources that she'd managed to achieve at least rudimentary capability.

 

Unfortunately it required powerful concentration, and she was utterly incapable of performing the task on a subject outside her visual range. These were serious drawbacks; hardly enough challenge for Harry.

 

His lessons with Snape, which he'd very reluctantly resumed, were a terrible strain on him. If Hermione could at least gain some competence in Legilimency, however small, it might allow him to refine his skills and hopefully hasten the end of his trials with the unpleasant Potions Master.

 

Thus far, however, Hermione's ability had been a hit and miss affair at best, most of her attempts at peering into people's minds having been met with a muddled jumble of thoughts and images of which she could make little sense. It was one thing to see into someone's consciousness; it was something else entirely to understand it all once she got there. She would be of no help to Harry until she improved her skills, and significantly.

The books, at least, had been a help, even though they mostly dealt with a form of the craft that had been ancient in origin and difficult to understand. Still, she now had a better theoretical understanding of how the art of Legilimency was performed, but there still remained the practical application. She'd had no one to teach her or otherwise help her along, and so trial and error was the only way to hone what little skill she'd managed to acquire.

 

Who could she practice on? Harry, she knew, would be much too tired after his lesson to try this night. Perhaps Ron?

 

No, she quickly decided. What if she were to come across something in his innermost thoughts that might prove...disappointing? No, there were too many potential pitfalls there...

 

She looked up from her vantage point, down near the library's crackling fireplace. Over at a table near the Muggle History section was a pair of first year Hufflepuffs studiously working on an assignment. A few tables over, Blaise Zabini pushed back a chair and packed up his books in preparation to leave.

 

Sitting near a window facing the Quidditch pitch was Luna Lovegood, her long dirty_blonde hair hanging over the back of her chair, straggly locks dangling to within a few hand's breaths of the stone floor. The Ravenclaw had arrived about an hour or so before and was now serenely flipping through a rather large tome, apparently quite content to spend her evening there if her dreamy expression was any indication.

 

Hermione hesitated; what kind of thought process might she encounter within the odd Ravenclaw? She bit her lip. Luna was hardly the best subject – how could Hermione tell if the chaotic imagery she would surely witness be a result of Luna's jumbled faculties or Hermione's deficiencies in the art of Legilimency?

 

But, she was curious. Might she witness the fabrication of some of Luna's nonsensical stories? Or something else completely unexpected? The girl was an enigma if ever there was one, of that there was no doubt.

 

Ginny certainly seemed to like her well enough, however. She’d made that point quite clear when she'd coolly informed Hermione that Luna's grades were consistently in the top tier after she’d dared question Luna's sorting into Ravenclaw House. If Ginny was to be believed, Luna had a surprisingly redoubtable intellect hidden behind that whimsical facade.

 

Well, it was as good a time as any to find out for sure, she supposed.

 

Hermione took a deep breath and closed her eyes, forcing herself to relax while at the same time resisting the powerful urge to sleep. She concentrated her thoughts on the mental image of Luna where she was sitting, forming a picture in her mind. She recited the incantation of an ancient form of Legilimency over and over again in her mind.

 

Minutes passed with absolutely no results, not even the haziest of mental images. Indeed, apart from a slight dizziness, Hermione had nothing whatsoever to show for her efforts. So much for improving, she thought in disappointment.

 

But...might Luna be gifted in Occlumency? That hardly seemed likely, however, if the difficulties in self_teaching its arcane counterpart were any indication.

 

Hermione finally abandoned the attempt, sighed and opened her eyes, startled to see a large book open on the table before her. It certainly hadn't been there before, and yet there was no one else seated at her table...

 

The tome held pictures of various large sea creatures swimming about in underwater scenes; Hermione couldn't recognize any of them – clearly these were magical beasts with which the Muggle world, and likely much of its Wizarding counterpart, was unacquainted.

 

But who had left the book there?

 

She went to close the cover to gleam the title of the tome, but discovered to her surprise that her hand wouldn't move. She tried again. Nothing. In fact, neither one of her hands responded to her commands.

 

No, wait –

 

She blinked.

 

The pale hand resting on the table holding the corner of the page wasn't hers. The slender wrist was encircled, furthermore, by an absurd butternut bracelet –

 

It suddenly dawned on her. She...she was Luna!

 

Or rather...she was seeing the book through Luna's eyes...

 

She gasped out loud in surprise.

 

And saw her field of view rise from the book to an area down by the fireplace, at a small table where...Hermione Granger was sitting, eyes still closed, her elbows on the table and the tips of her fingers pressed against her temples in concentration.

 

It was more than a little bewildering to see herself through someone else's eyes; Luna maintained her gaze on Hermione for a few moments before returning to her book.

 

Hermione was transfixed; she'd never experienced anything even remotely like this before, her previous attempts having garnered very disappointing results. But this...this was something entirely different.

 

Luna turned a page. Hermione could feel the coarse paper between her fingers, the dangling butternuts brushing up lightly against her wrist –

 

Hermione marvelled at the sensory experience – it was as though she actually was Luna, in body if not in spirit. She could feel the butterbeer cap necklace around her neck,  and could even smell the book's age_old leathery fragrance drifting up from the table...

 

Hermione took all of this in amazement; it hardly felt like she was concentrating at all, and yet here she was, seeing the world through Luna's eyes. How had she managed it so readily? Could it be the ancient incantation she'd discovered in an obscure old book?

 

She'd read that in certain, exceedingly rare cases, minds that were attuned very similarly might sometimes produce startling results, but this seemed most implausible; Luna was just so...well, different!

 

She decided to explore this unexpected success further. She concentrated her thoughts inwards and recalled the incantation in her mind, the image of Luna's book slowly drifting out of focus, to be gradually replaced by a myriad hues and colours swirling about in chaotic fashion, of which Hermione could discern nothing.

 

This, at least, was very similar to her previous experiences. Similar, though no less unnerving. There was something intrinsically discomforting about peering into someone's thoughts without their knowledge, but...

 

She forced herself to still her consciousness, until the swirling patterns of light and colours slowly began to take on vaguely recognizable shapes. She concentrated on one in particular, though it stubbornly refused to reveal any more of itself. Another misty image seemed a bit clearer, and Hermione turned her attention to it instead.

 

It began to take a distinct shape; it was an old, dimly lit musty hall. Within Hogwarts, from the looks of it, though exactly where, she couldn’t be sure. 

 

The image coalesced. She immediately recognized the short corridor just outside the Fat Lady's portrait near the Gryffindor common room. Luna and Harry were facing each other next to the bulletin board. Luna was speaking, her muffled words quickly becoming clearer –

 

" – no, I think I'll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up.... It always does in the end.... Well, have a nice holiday, Harry."

 

Wait for what to turn up, wondered Hermione.

 

"Yeah...yeah, you too," echoed Harry, turning to watch as Luna walked away. Hermione felt as though she was floating weightlessly through the air as she effortlessly followed Luna around the corner, the young Ravenclaw moving down the torchlit lit hall a short distance before slowly coming to a stop. She turned and gazed down the corridor in the direction she'd come for several long moments. She bit her lip, a pensive expression drawing across her features, before slowly turning around once more and drifting off into the darkness...

 

Hermione drew back into the myriad overlapping images floating through her consciousness, stunned. She hadn't simply witnessed Luna's thoughts; she'd just glimpsed one of her memories, she was sure of it! This was something altogether different from Legilimency, at least in its modern, theoretical incarnation.

 

But that was of secondary importance at the moment. What had she just witnessed, exactly? She didn't recall Harry having made mention of a conversation with Luna, which Hermione knew must have taken place during the last day of term judging from Luna's parting words.

 

She became increasingly curious. Several of the images floating in the endless misty swirls were gradually becoming clearer. Hermione focused on one and concentrated carefully –

 

– and slowly found herself in a breezy wooded glen, the smell of honeysuckle in the air, with the autumn leaves all round reflecting the sun's early evening rays in an exquisite canvas of bright gold and crimson. But she was confused; Luna was nowhere to be seen. Was this not one of her memories?

 

Hermione looked around, seeing only a rickety old fence made up of weathered, silvery wood running through the meadow some distance away. It was then she noticed the elongated shadow move slightly in the dried yellow grasses up ahead.

 

She looked up. She could see a young girl, much younger than Luna, standing at the edge of a rocky outcrop overlooking the glen some dozen or so yards above. But aside from that...

 

Hermione squinted at the small figure. No, it was Luna, she realized, though at a much younger age, no more than five or six from the looks of it. But what was she doing up there?

 

It looked to Hermione as though Luna was gazing into the treetops in front of her with a strangely wondrous expression on her face.

 

The girl shuffled closer to the edge and stopped. Hermione gasped as several loose pebbles tumbled down the rock face. Luna was right at the edge of a dangerously lofty precipice – couldn't she see it?

 

Luna clasped her tiny hands together as though in supplication and closed her eyes.

 

Hermione had an ominous premonition. But she knew she was powerless to intervene.

 

Luna's eyes flew open. She held out her arms straight on either side of her.

 

She took a step forward –

 

Luna!!

 

The sight of the young girl falling from the rock face ingrained itself in Hermione's consciousness as she hastily withdrew from the memory in horror. She could feel her heart racing; she had to calm down. The images filling her mind were becoming dangerously erratic.

 

While shocked at what she'd just witnessed, she was very conscious of having experienced her first real success at a form of Legilimency, however bizzare, and didn't want to see it abate so abruptly.

 

She forced herself to regulate her rapid breathing, slowly bringing it back down to a more manageable rhythm, while the memories floating about her mind gradually re_established a vague coherence. Even so, she could feel a prevailing dizziness beginning to manifest itself. But she couldn't stop now...

 

She tried to console herself that no matter what she saw, or might see, Luna was very much alive today and there was no need to get horribly worked up over things that had happened in the past. She'd witnessed a terrible accident, to be sure, but the girl had obviously pulled through quite well.

 

She took a deep breath and went searching through the ether, another memory beginning to unfold in her mind. A tall auburn_haired man with a genial appearance was lifting Luna up into the sky and spinning her round, her long hair flying wildly as she giggled loudly. They were standing on Platform 9_3/4, Luna's battered old trunk a short distance away.

 

It was obviously the end of the school term, as many students were in the process of dragging their heavy trunks from the train onto the platform, scores of parents scattered about the station waiting to greet them. Hermione assumed it must have been after Luna's first year at Hogwarts, given her very youthful appearance.

 

The man playing with Luna must be her father, she concluded, as he continued to spin and hug his laughing daughter affectionately. Hermione looked around the bustling platform; where was her mother? She could see many women about, though they were all currently preoccupied with their own children or waiting near the train for them to disembark...

 

It suddenly occurred to Hermione. Luna had always been quite vocal of her father but, so far as Hermione could recall, had never mentioned a word about her mother.

 

How very odd, she thought. She wondered if Mrs. Lovegood might be simply absent from the platform, or...

 

Hermione shuddered. She sincerely hoped Luna hadn't lost her mother at such a young age.

 

She flashed to another memory. She was in a hazy, reddish, gloomy room with a strangely aromatic scent permeating the air. It looked vaguely familiar...

 

It took Hermione a few moments to realize she was witnessing a Divination class in progress. Ginny and Luna were seated at one of the small round tables scattered about the musty room, with the bird_like Professor Trelawney walking slowly among the students, arms crossed with her iridescent shawl draped loosely over her shoulders. Though she was far from Hermione's favourite teacher, she imagined she must get along fabulously with Luna.

 

It was very quiet, only a soft collective murmuring serving to inform her that the students were, at least, awake. All were staring into their teacups, all that is, except Luna, who seemed content to sip hers while staring dreamily out a small gap in the heavily curtained widow nearby, drawing repeated irritated glances from Trelawney. This did not seem to faze the Ravenclaw at the very least. Hermione couldn't help but smile inwardly at the scene.

 

Ginny waited until Trelawney had her back turned and leaned over to Luna.

 

"Cripes, Luna," she whispered, "aren't you going to at least try? At least write something!"

 

Luna looked at her. "The future's – "

 

" – not set in stone, I know," finished Ginny. She gave a sigh of resignation and grabbed her quill. "You know, at least Hermione had the sense to just quit and use the time saved to do other stuff. Why do you even bother?"

 

Luna pointed to her cup. "Well, she does serve exquisite tea."

 

Ginny rolled her eyes. "You're supposed to read it, not drink it!"

 

"But it isn't – "

 

Ginny help up both palms. "Yeah, okay, all right," she said in deference. She sank back in her chair and looked at Luna in exasperation. "You know, when you get set on an idea you can be the most stubborn person I know."

 

To Hermione's surprise, Luna simply smiled and turned back to gazing out the rain_splattered window. Ginny looked at her for a moment longer, looking a bit regretful, before finally turning to her bag and pulling out her workbook.

 

"Yes," agreed Luna dreamily a minute later, her misty eyes still trained on the similarly_hued skies outside, "I suppose that's true."

 

Ginny looked at her. "Luna, I didn't mean – "

 

"It's all right," said Luna musically, absent-mindedly rimming her teacup with her index finger, "I like you, too."

 

Though Ginny was staring at her, Luna continued to gaze out the window, looking more bored than anything. The red_haired Gryffindor eventually turned back to her writing and slowly shook her head, though Hermione could discern a distinct smile come across her freckled features.

 

Hermione continued to observe the class for a while, taking  particular delight in watching Trelawney's continuing sharp glances at Luna, whose utter lack of reaction only seemed to further irritate the bespectacled teacher. Hermione made a mental note to talk to Luna one day about her views on the subject of Divination.

 

A new image began to form in Hermione's consciousness. It was a cold, blustery evening outside the castle walls; Luna was bundled for the elements and wandering through the falling snow, heading back towards the castle in a very roundabout manner. Hermione couldn't understand why anyone would go for a walk in such conditions, but then, it was Luna.

 

She slowly climbed the crest of the hill heading towards the main gate, humming happily despite the occasional gusts of frigid wind and blowing snow. There she slowed as she caught sight of a form heading down towards her from the school, a broom slung over its shoulder.

 

The snow obscured the figure’s identity until it got to within a few yards. It was Ron, looking tired and extremely downtrodden. Hermione gasped. She knew at once what day it was –

 

Luna stopped in his path.

 

"Hello, Ronald," she said dreamily.

 

Ron looked up but didn't stop. He muttered something unintelligible and sidestepped Luna, moving off down the hill leading to the lake in the distance.

 

Luna turned and watched him go. She stood there in the snow, neither moving nor speaking, her hair slowly changing from dirty blonde to snowy white.

 

The young Ravenclaw continued to observe Ron, the Gryffindor Keeper slowly becoming a small dark figure in the distance until he rounded the forest's edge and disappeared from sight. Luna then looked up to the grey skies overhead, sticking the tip of her tongue out to catch a few freshly falling snowflakes. That peculiar task completed, she turned around and continued her meandering trek towards the castle.

 

Hermione felt strangely relieved, though her head was now beginning to throb painfully. She wasn't sure if it was due to lack of experience on her part, or...

 

She shifted through the gray matter to another drifting memory. It formed into partial darkness, a few floating candles providing but a faint and flickering light from the middle of a circular room. Given the beds arrayed along the walls, Hermione quickly judged it to be the Ravenclaw dormitory.

 

Luna, clearly much younger, was standing before the small table near her bed, pale fingers trailing over its bare wooden surface; though Luna's back was to her, Hermione could see the young girl's shoulders sag –

 

– and was startled as a fit of collective giggling burst forth from the girl’s bathroom across the room.

 

Hermione felt her stomach tighten as she watched Luna slowly pull a pillow and blanket off her bed and drift over to the staircase, pausing at the doorway to look back briefly at the half closed bathroom door before leaving her laughing housemates behind her.

 

Hermione followed her down the winding stairs, through the deserted Ravenclaw common room and out into the hall, her blanket dragging forlornly along the limestone floor behind her. She finally came to a narrow door recessed in a dark alcove which Luna opened to reveal a small broom closet. She knelt down into a dark corner and pulled her blanket around her, fists clenched tightly under her chin, mouth slightly open and eyes staring into the darkness...

 

To Hermione's immense surprise and dismay, she could see tears welling up in those huge misty eyes.

 

Hermione's stomach twisted painfully – what had happened to cause Luna such grief?? She felt her own emotions threatening to burst, and hastily closed her mind to the distressing sight before her, throwing herself back to the jumbled thoughts.

 

Other memories drifted by – an even younger Luna was sitting on an old wooden bench outside a small Muggle shop, licking a melting ice cream cone while her bare feet dangled playfully back and forth, two mismatched slippers jumbled together in the shadows underneath her –

 

– Luna was helping an obviously injured Pansy Parkinson up a slope in the direction of Hogwarts’ main gate, upon sight of which the Slytherin roughly pushed Luna away.

 

"Get away from me, freak!" she snapped, teeth clenched in pain as she clasped a hand to her leg, staggering awkwardly.

 

Luna, however, showed no sign of taking offense at the older girl's brusqueness. "You really should be more careful, you know," she said. "It doesn't like people lurking too close – "

 

"Stuff it!" barked Pansy as she struggled along the now level path to the gate, limping badly all the way.

 

Luna followed closely and tried to lend a helping hand once more when the Slytherin stumbled. "Here, we should go see Madam Pomf – "

 

"WILL YOU SHUT UP?!?" screeched Pansy, violently shaking herself free of the young Ravenclaw.

 

"Well, there's no need to get cross," said Luna calmly, pointing to Pansy’s leg, "you won't be able to get very far like that – "

 

"I'll get far enough so long as I don't have a crazed loon dragging me down," panted the Slytherin as she struggled along the narrow path.

 

Luna finally stopped once the Slytherin had made her way under the main portcullis into the castle proper, sighing softly before turning around and heading back towards the slope leading away from the castle.

 

Hermione saw the ominous form of the Whomping Willow looming in the dusk a short distance away. Luna was heading right for it. Surely Luna knew its violent nature, every student did. Yet she did not deviate from her course, and she was getting dangerously close.

 

Luna, be careful!

 

To Hermione's surprise, the girl never slowed nor hesitated, making a beeline straight for the Willow. She marched straight under the dangerous tree's twisted branches before sitting down in the wild grass with her back up against the ancient and gnarled trunk.

 

She picked up her copy of The Quibbler which had laid splayed open over an exposed root, re_lit her wand and tucked it behind her ear, and calmly resumed her reading. Hermione glanced nervously overhead. She knew she wasn't here in body, but the sight of the large willow tree hulking menacingly right above her was still more than slightly disconcerting. She wondered tough – why hadn't it reacted to Luna's presence?

 

Hermione's head was now aching terribly. She’d been about to end her experiment when a memory which had earlier eluded her once more came into view. She was curious; why had this one evaded her attempts at viewing it?

 

She decided to try one last time, concentrating all her mental energies on the elusive image...

 

The memory seemed to delve deeper into the ether, though this only served to further intrigue Hermione so that she plunged into the grey depths right along.

 

It took much effort, but finally, little by little, Hermione managed to slip through the barriers, emerging in a bright, early morning snowy landscape. A younger Luna was making her way towards a battered wooden shed partly hidden behind a rather rustic_looking house.

 

Luna pulled hard on the old iron latch and slipped inside.

 

"Mummy? Can we – oh..."

 

Apart from Luna, and Hermione in spirit, the small workshop was deserted, though with burning lanterns and a small cauldron steaming atop a strange metal hoop generating blueish flames, the place had clearly not been devoid of life for very long.

 

Luna looked disappointed and turned to go, but with her hand wrapped around the iron door handle, she turned and looked back at the cluttered workshop, a look of intense curiosity in her large silver eyes.

 

She let go of the door and slowly made her way to the centre of the small structure, looking all round at the various pots, vats, instruments, potions and beakers scattered throughout. The way she was looked at everything in wonder conveyed to Hermione  the distinct impression Luna had rarely strayed into this place.

 

And no wonder. The workshop was full of exotic materials and devices, many of which were a mystery even to Hermione. It was certainly a place where even the best wizards and witches would be wise to tread carefully.

 

There was a hiss and a pop as a puff of grey smoke rose up from the cauldron. Luna turned her attention to it, drifting over to the small bench. Hermione felt a chill go up her spine. There was no telling what was brewing in that cauldron, surrounded as it was by a multitude of flasks and decanters.

 

Luna stood up on tiptoes but still couldn't quite peer over the vat's rim to see what was inside. She settled back down and glanced towards the door, and for a moment Hermione thought she might do the sensible thing and leave this hazardous environment.

 

Her hopes were dashed when Luna instead turned back to the bench, eyes wide with intrigue. She was staring at one flask in particular, placed as it was right in front of the bubbling cauldron. Hermione assumed it was the next ingredient to be added –

 

Luna's pale hand reached up and delicately grasped the small flask –

 

Luna, no!

 

She peered at it curiously, holding it up to the light, noting how the liquid within formed beautifully coloured hues at the slightest movement, in striking contrast to its dull brown colour while it was at rest.

 

Hermione was aghast. While she had no idea what lay within, she could recognize a volatile substance when she saw one, and every little movement and resulting colouration only seemed to further enhance Luna's inquisitiveness.

 

Put it back, Luna, for Merlin's sake!

 

Luna then shook the flask vigorously, Hermione cringing fearfully despite her lack of physical manifestation. The liquid had actually glowed for a moment –

 

Footsteps were heard crunching the snow just outside the workshop.

 

Luna put the flask back on the table and rushed to the door, pulling it open vigorously.

 

"Mummy!" she said happily.

 

Hermione gasped. There, standing in the doorway, was a flaxen_haired woman of medium height, though her appearance was such that it led the Gryffindor Prefect to wonder if she wasn't staring at some medieval painting of a wood nymph; the young woman had a decidedly sylvan quality to her, and looked almost too young to be anyone’s mother.

 

And yet, as she knelt down, her movements fluid and graceful, there was no question that Luna was her daughter. There was a definite resemblance. Her eyes, very similar to Luna's, were possibly even more striking, being of a pale and unusually vibrant silvery_pearl hue. Her long hair, straight in only the most general sense of the word, was dishevelled as one might expect in the early morning hours, though Hermione had the impression this was the young woman's typical appearance. Her tan cloak was cuffed and fringed in leaf_patterned forest green, though it seemed to Hermione to be much too light for all but the briefest excursions into the wintery conditions outside.

 

The woman, down on one knee, deftly brushed back wandering strands of hair from her daughter's face. When she spoke, her voice sounded not so much dreamy as faint, with Hermione straining to hear the words:

 

"Luna, treasure, you should not be in here," she said, every word seemingly evaporating in the chilly air.

 

"I know," said Luna, grasping her mother's hand in between hers, "I just thought you were here..."

 

The young woman smiled. "I was," she said airily, "but, though I love your father more than the trees and the stars, he is most ungifted when it comes to working a kitchen...I had to go to his aid..."

 

Luna looked worried. "Is Daddy trying to make brunch again?"

 

Mrs. Lovegood nodded, her smile brightening and eyes sparkling. "He is making the attempt," she said, in a voice as soft as ever but laced with amusement, "and the kitchen is a dreadful mess. But, as with all things, we may yet be surprised..."

 

Luna looked slightly mollified. "Well...if you think so," she said, "I really don't think puddings should be crispy, though."

 

Her mother smiled at her and gazed around the workshop, her vivid eyes taking in every nook and cranny. "Well, there was no harm done," she finally breathed, "but Luna, do please remember not to enter unless I'm present..."

 

"I'll remember," Luna promised, "but Mummy, I wanted to ask, can we go find the winter mushrooms in the forest? You said we could after the first snow – "

 

"I did," said her mother in acknowledgment, "and of course we shall go, right after your father's latest...culinary experiment – "

 

Luna looked aghast. "But crispy pudding!"

 

"Luna," said the young woman consolingly, "you know your father looks forward to this."

 

"Oh, yes, but...oh, well..."

"It's part of their Christmas traditions," her mother continued. "Or your father’s, at any rate. I have an idea, we shall all go seek out the mushrooms together after brunch – "

 

Luna suddenly smiled brightly, her silver eyes full of hope. "Daddy too??"

 

"Yes," her mother whispered. "He has said his work has no place on this day."

 

Luna practically jumped. "Oh, can we go eat the crispy pudding now, Mummy? If we hurry – "

 

Luna's mother laughed, a chime_like merriment that sounded as different from her daughter's shrieks of laughter as could be imagined.

 

"Well, in a few moments," said her mother, rubbing her nose playfully back and forth against Luna's, "I need only add a component and take a reading. Once done, the day, my love, is yours!"

 

"Oh, well, all right," said Luna, rushing to the door with her hand on the latch.

 

"It may take a few minutes, cherished," voiced Mrs. Lovegood as she drifted over to the bench and opened her notebook next to the cauldron.

 

Luna sighed and released the handle, spying a small silver instrument that resembled a sophisticated antique scale sitting atop a wooden box near the door.

 

She looked to her mother. "Mummy? Can I touch?"

 

The young woman looked over her shoulder and smiled. "Oh, yes," she said, "it's quite harmless."

 

With that, Luna set herself to inspecting the device with her typical curiosity. Hermione turned her attention back to her mother, who was scribbling something in the log book; she strained to get closer to read it but could not. But then, Luna hadn’t seen it, so it was only to be expected that detail wouldn’t form part of her memories. Still, she was disappointed. Luna’s mother was obviously an exceptional witch, and it would have been very much to Hermione’s interest to see what it was she was working on.

 

Luna’s mother then took the flask Luna had inspected a few minutes before. Hermione noticed she was handling the vial with deliberate gentleness, being very careful not to jostle the contents in any way.

 

Mrs. Lovegood! No, wait –

 

But of course, the young woman couldn't possibly hear her. Hermione felt a deathly cold seize her stomach.

A slender hand unstoppered the vial –

 

Luna, tell her!! Hurry!!

 

Three drops were carefully measured and added to the cauldron. The mix within sputtered loudly, giving off a flash of sparks and a cloud of blue mist rising lazily to the ceiling.

 

"How odd," said the fair-haired gossamer witch, frowning strangely at the bubbling cauldron. "Such a reaction..."

 

Hermione looked desperately to Luna, who was still quite engrossed in the small instrument, turning it around in her hands. Hermione would have screamed until her lungs burst, but she knew it would do no good.

 

Luna's mother scribbled something more in the notebook. She then drew out her wand and held it over the smouldering vat. She uttered a strange incantation in a language Hermione couldn't recognize, though it clearly had no basis in Latin.

 

A soft white glow enveloped the cauldron for a moment. Within moments it began to bubble and froth forcefully.

 

Mrs. Lovegood stared at the sight in obvious confusion. She looked to the small flask.

 

"It ought not to behave in such a fashion," she said to the air. She took a hesitant step backwards. "Amplexorum is perfectly inert unless disturbed – "

 

Luna's head popped up, a look of realization on her face.

 

"Oh, Mummy, I – "

 

CRRRAACCKKK!!

 

An immensely bright and powerful bolt of energy shot out from the top of the cauldron and struck Luna's mother full_force, the resulting blast both blinding and deafening, the slender figure of the witch enveloped in a shroud of magical energy both awesome and terrible.

 

As Hermione's sight began to return, she could see the young woman's form drop to her knees before falling over limply on her side. The light inside the shop seemed to dim –

 

Hermione had no way of knowing the exact nature of the powerful charge that had struck her, but she knew with sickening realization that the woman was dead.

 

A clatter was heard. Hermione turned her anguished gaze to the door, where Luna was standing, impossibly wide_eyed with her mouth open in utter disbelief, the delicate silver instrument lying at her feet, forgotten.

 

"M_Mummy?"

 

But Hermione knew there would be no answer.

 

Luna took a step forward and stumbled to the floor, her legs giving out. She crawled to her mother's lifeless form, one colourless hand clutched by two smaller ones.

 

"M_Mummy...it...it was only a sleeping charm..." whispered Luna in desperation, tears trailing down her cheeks in torrents. "You can wake up now...we can go..."

 

Hermione felt as though her stomach was going to banish itself from her body.

 

Luna fell across her mother's limp form, her breathing ragged and uneven, her words choking.

 

"Only...sleeping...wake up...Mummy..."

 

Hermione began to sob uncontrollably. The image in her thoughts began to become disjointed –

 

"Mummy...wake up, Mummy...oh please wake up..."

 

Hermione felt herself descend into a maelstrom of grief, a myriad painful scenes fluttering through her mind in dizzying fashion –

 

She felt a hand gently squeeze her wrist. She emerged from her self-imposed trance and looked up, crying, her tears momentarily obscuring her vision.

 

"What's wrong?" she heard a soft voice ask.

 

Hermione blinked. She was in the library once more, though Luna was now sitting in the chair next to hers.

 

"I...what –  "

 

Luna tilted her head slightly to one side. "I heard you crying," she said, her silver eyes clear and earnest. "You seem so distraught – "

 

Hermione launched herself forward and wrapped her arms around Luna, burying her face into the startled girl's shoulder and bursting once more into tears.

 

"I didn't...I never...I've been so..."

 

She felt Luna's hands hesitantly slip around her, one pressing gently against her back, the other slowly stroking her hair, though the Ravenclaw kept silent, clearly at a loss. If anything, Hermione thought, their positions should be reversed – it was as though Hermione’s mother had died, the way she was weeping.

 

But it had been much more than that, she knew. The girl before her was no longer the odd, gullible and occasionally irritating person she'd once known...or thought she'd known...

 

She cried for many minutes, knowing that things could never be quite the same. But she was determined to make it a good change, a door opening rather than one closing.

 

She finally and slowly drew back, taking hold of Luna's hands in hers.

 

"I...I need...to talk..." she said, her voice hoarse and trembling.

 

Luna nodded slowly. "Yes, I think it would do you some good," she said softly. "Would you like to go for a walk?"

 

Hermione swallowed hard. "I...I'd like that," she choked. "There's...something I need to tell you..."

 

//
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