Hermione greeted the familiar sight of Hogwarts castle's spires and buttresses with tangible relief, glancing at the setting sun edging ever closer to the lake's shimmering surface; it had taken hours to find the rare Skankegg root, and she'd begun to worry if she'd make it back before dark. She wasn't afraid of the dark, really; dark itself never did anyone any harm, it was the creatures that lurked about during that period which worried her.

She silently cursed herself for not having attended to it early that morning; but then, she had no way of knowing professor Spout's directions would be so vague, and at any rate she wanted to be supportive of her friends and had attended their morning Quidditch practice to shout her encouragement.

Her pace slowed slightly; until she'd glimpsed the reassuring sight of the Castle looming into view over the treetops, her stride had gradually quickened in opposite relation to the sun's elevation in the sky.

She was safe now, being only minutes away from the reassuring safety of the school grounds. Her hand reached down instinctively to the silk pouch in her pocket that contained the exotic root; she now had the last ingredient required for her clairvoyance potion. If successful, it might become very useful in rooting out any potential traitors in the midst of the Ministry, though Hermione had not made mention of it to anyone just yet until she could be sure it worked.

She followed the path meandering between the lake and the forest's edge, when she rounded a curve and spied a small form sitting among the tall grasses and flowers off to the right, her back resting against a large hemlock, the long, straggly pale hair the telltale hallmark of Luna Lovegood. Hermione saw she was contentedly reading through what was undoubtedly the latest edition of her father's ridiculous magazine.

Hermione came to a stop and took a deep breath. There was no way she could possibly get past her without being noticed, the path being only a few feet from where Luna was sitting. What's more, since the start of the semester the Ravenclaw had seemingly decided to make it her personal goal to get Hermione to believe in all things ludicrous.

It had taken much effort of Hermione's part not to belittle the girl's enthusiastic efforts; but then, Luna had displayed so much loyalty in the fight against Voldemort's minions the previous year, Hermione had decided to adopt a much more tolerant view of the girl; she deserved that much, at least.

Still, though, the thought of having to endure another story of the Crumple- Horned Snorkack or Blibbering Humdinger was making Hermione seriously consider swimming across the lake rather than have to run this most peculiar of gauntlets.

She took a deep breath, berating herself mentally for even considering such nonsense; it wasn't a vicious, fire-breathing dragon she had to get past here, just an odd but decidedly well-meaning girl with a frustratingly irrational penchant for ludicrous beliefs.

She took a step forward and braced herself for the inevitable vague greeting and subsequent discussion of the latest Snorkack sightings. As she approached, she found herself wincing at every tiny twig and dried leaf crackling underfoot as she approached, every sound conspiring to jeopardize her attempt at an inconspicuous passage.

To Hermione's surprise and relief however, the young Ravenclaw only looked up and smiled in greeting before turning back to her magazine. Hermione could hardly believe her good fortune; not a word about Heliopaths, Humdingers or even Snorkacks!

She'd just rounded the path out of the Ravenclaw's sight when she stopped in her tracks. Evening was rapidly approaching; was Luna intending to stay out until nightfall? It hardly seemed possible, though given the girl's total lack of a little something called anxiety, was she at all concerned, or even aware, of the potential dangers?

Hermione turned on the spot and trudged back reluctantly. She couldn't just let Luna put herself in danger - she had a responsibility as a Prefect, after all. And if she kept to the subject at hand, she just might be able to avoid getting dragged into one of Luna's ridiculous discussions or theories.

The young Ravenclaw glanced up at her again as she approached, smiling dreamily.

"Hello," said Luna serenely.

"Um, hello, Luna," replied Hermione. "You're not staying out here much longer, are you? It's going to be dark soon - "

"Yes," answered Luna, waving a pale hand vaguely in the direction of the lake. "There's going to be a quite lovely sunset in a while, actually."

Hermione ignored the proffered view of the lake and kept her gaze trained on the girl sitting before her.

"You can't be serious," she said. "Luna, you're right at the forest's edge! There's no telling what might come out this way at night. You're not going to stay out here just for a sunset, come on!"

Luna turned her large silvery eyes up at her, smiling serenely. "You don't have to worry, you know," she said dreamily. "I come here often, it's quite safe."

"Just became nothing's happened so far doesn't mean it won't!" exclaimed Hermione, exasperated at the Ravenclaw's lack of concern. "Come on now, I'll walk you back - "

"No," said Luna serenely, "I think I'll stay, but thank you."

Hermione was severely tempted to start pulling her own hair out. "Luna," she warned, putting her hands on her hips, "please don't make me invoke my authority as Prefect, all I'm asking - "

"I'm not," interrupted Luna, her dreamy smile unwavering. "I'm just reading The Quibbler, actually. There's a very interesting article this month on the Tusked Quintapeds, a wizard in Finland even managed to get a sample of fur - "

Oh that's it, thought Hermione.

"All right," she said sharply. "Luna, I'm sorry, but I'm ordering you to come with me, it's for your own safety."

Luna's dreamy smile faded slightly as she maintained her gaze up at Hermione for a moment before resolutely turning back to her magazine, unilaterally ending the conversation.

Hermione glared at Luna as the young Ravenclaw serenely flipped a page.

"Hey!" snapped Hermione, "I will not be ignored! As Prefect I'm ordering you to - "

"Actually, I think your authority as Prefect exists only within the school grounds, or on the train," said Luna calmly as she continued reading her magazine without looking up.

Hermione gaped at her, open-mouthed. Technically Luna was right, of course, but the fact that the girl was openly defying her was nothing short of shocking. She decided to change tactics.

"You're...right, Luna, of course," she said tightly. "But I'm only doing this for your own good. Anything can happen out here at night. Can't you just come in? It's just a sunset, for heaven's sake!"

Luna sighed softly and proceeded to carefully fold up her paper, and for a moment Hermione thought she'd finally gotten through to the girl. That impression was quickly dispelled, however, when Luna turned her gaze back up to the young Prefect, showing no signs of getting up.

"You know," said Luna, "you should stay awhile. Sunsets have a very therapeutic effect, Hermione. It soothes the mind, truly it does. I used to watch them with Mum all the time."

She patted the grasses next to her.

"You're joking," said Hermione incredulously.

"I'm not," said Luna, "I really think it would be good for you."

Hermione crossed her arms. "Luna - " she began in warning.

"Oh, come on," said the young Ravenclaw. "Just try it this one time. You should always try everything at least once in life, don't you think? At least I've always felt that way - "

"Oh, fine!" blurted Hermione loudly, throwing her head back in frustration. "I give up! If you want to stay out here and cavort with the bugbears go right ahead! I'm going - "

She stopped abruptly in mid sentence, startled by something brushing up against her hand. She quickly looked down; Luna's hand was extended, palm up in invitation, her outstretched fingers lightly touching the tips of Hermione's.

"Come on," repeated Luna softly, "you'll like it, I just know you will."

Hermione had been about to reject the invitation out of hand, but something unusually earnest in the girl's demeanour had stunned her into speechlessness.


Hermione blinked. Luna wasn't one to plead, that much she definitely knew...it clearly meant something to the girl that she stay.

"Don't worry," said Luna solemnly, "nothing ever comes here. We're quite safe, really."

She reached up and gently curled her fingers around Hermione's.


Hermione was at a loss. The last thing she'd wanted to do was sit and watch a sunset with the odd girl, but Luna had never asked anything of her before. Refusing now after all Luna had done for her and Harry was quite unpalatable. She finally resigned herself with a sigh and, with a last nervous glance to the forest behind her, she gingerly lowered herself to the ground, being mindful not to sit atop any anthills or spider's webs.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," she said more to herself than to Luna.

"Even though you're sitting right here," mused Luna pensively. "That's so sad."

Hermione turned to look at her. "What?"

Luna's elbow rested on her bended knee, her hand cupping her chin as she gazed at Hermione contemplatively.

"Well, you do have a tendency not to believe in a lot of things," she said sadly. "You have such a beautiful mind, really, it's a shame you restrict it so much."

"I - oh..."

Hermione looked away hastily, her gaze focusing on a small patch of cattails at the water's edge.

"I'm sorry," said Luna softly after a moment's silence. "I didn't mean to upset you."

"I'm not," said Hermione quickly. In truth, she was more confused and uncomfortable than upset. While she was used to getting compliments about her intellectual prowess from Ron and even Harry, it sounded strange coming from Luna Lovegood. "But...Luna, what did you mean by that, exactly?"

She could feel the younger girl shift closer to her, her alert ears picking up the softly rustling grasses clearly. She kept her eyes firmly rooted on the cattails just ahead, though she was very aware of the Ravenclaw's sudden proximity.

"Look," said Luna dreamily, holding out her hand before her. "What do you see?"

Hermione glanced down at Luna's proffered hand to see a dried up oak leaf in her palm.

"It's a leaf," she answered, the absurdity of the question momentarily distracting her from her own seemingly ignored query. "But Luna, what does this - "

"But it's so much more than that," aired Luna. "That's what I was trying to say, really."

Hermione turned to look at the young Ravenclaw, the girl's large silver eyes startlingly close. "Well, it's an oak leaf, if that makes any difference. But Luna, what did you mean when you said - "

"That's what I'm explaining," said Luna, smiling dreamily. "You see just a leaf, right?"

"An oak leaf."

Luna nodded serenely, bringing her hand up to her large observing eyes. "When I look at it, I see death, and life," she said, gingerly turning the dried leaf over in her hand. "This small leaf lived to see but a single solstice, and then died. Just like all the others."

Hermione sighed. "I still don't see what you're getting at, Luna." "I know," replied Luna solemnly. "That's what makes it so sad."

She gently took hold of Hermione's hand and raised it face-up, dropping the leaf in the Gryffindor's palm. "Just look at it...it's so lonely now isn't it? But it's not sad, really. It's nature's way, you see? The leaf might be lifeless, but the tree that gave it life goes on and on..."

Hermione stared at the piece of dried foliage as though it could suddenly spring to life. "That's...what you see when you look at a leaf?" she asked skeptically.

"Yes," said Luna, as though that simple statement could somehow unlock the mysteries of the universe. At the sight of the Gryffindor's doubtful expression however she pressed on excitedly. "Just think, Hermione; the leaf only lives for a few months, but the tree endures, for centuries on end. Possibly it might have been here when the Founders walked about! Can you imagine all the sights and sounds that tree might have experienced over the ages? It might have eavesdropped on the conversations of Rowena Ravenclaw herself!"

"Eh...Luna..." said Hermione, leaning back, as the Ravenclaw had pressed forward until she was just inches from her, her large silver eyes a bit overwhelming when in such close proximity.

But the girl showed no signs of discomfort, indeed she pressed on, her large eyes popping with excitement.

"And when you think about it, being a leaf isn't really so bad, is it? You're never truly alone, you're surrounded by thousands of siblings after all. Then when autumn rolls around you get to wear pretty colours, not to mention - "

"LUNA!" said Hermione loudly, leaning as far back as possible without toppling over backwards, as the Ravenclaw had edged in so close that Hermione suddenly responded by shoving her away with such force that Luna let go of an involuntary 'Eek!' as she fell back, striking the back of her head painfully on a large exposed root.


Hermione's eyes widened, hands covering her mouth in shock.

"Oh!!" she exclaimed, her stomach twisting into knots as she scrambled forward, eyes filled with worry. "Luna, I'm so sorry!! I didn't mean to - are...are you badly hurt? Oh please don't be - "

The young Ravenclaw lay on her back, unmoving, her eyes staring up at the sky blankly.

Hermione waved her hand in front of Luna's eyes, becoming profoundly concerned that she might have inadvertently knocked the girl senseless.

"Luna?? Oh please talk to me - "

"It's nice, isn't it?" whispered the Ravenclaw, her eyes staring off into the heavens.

"Eh...what?" said Hermione, her worry increasing at the girl's seeming incoherence.

A slight smile formed on Luna's face, though her eyes did not waver.

"Look," she said dreamily, one hand drifting up and pointing past Hermione towards the sky.

Hermione turned her gaze skywards. Apart from the clouds directly overhead, there was nothing she could see of note.

"Luna," she said as she turned back to the girl, "I think we'd better get you to Madam Pomfrey, I think you might've hit pretty hard - "

"No, look," said Luna with a bit more emphasis, pointing up higher, her wrist brushing a stray lock of Hermione's brown hair. "See?"

"There isn't anything there, Luna," said Hermione, waving her index finger back and forth before her eyes. "Focus on my finger now, concentrate on it - "

Luna let out a giggle.

"What's so funny?"

"You really don't see it, do you?" asked Luna dreamily, her eyes still gazing off into space.

Hermione sighed, though at the same time felt some relief. Clearly Luna hadn't been seriously injured, at least.

"See what, Luna?" she replied.

"Here," said the Ravenclaw, her hand dropping down to pat the grasses next to her, clearly meaning for Hermione to emulate Luna's prone position, "I'll show you."

"I can see perfectly well from here, thanks," said Hermione impatiently, sitting back. "There's nothing up there anyway. No Snorkacks or anything else. Come on, let's get - "

"Ouch," said Luna, one hand reaching to the back of her head, her large silver eyes squinting painfully. "Oh...my head hurts so..."

Hermione gaped at her. "You're...that's blackmail! You know I didn't mean to do that!"


"Oh...blast you and all!" barked Hermione, dropping down in a huff to the ground and rolling onto her back next to the Ravenclaw, staring up at the sky above, seeing nothing but the same clouds she'd seen moments before. "There, happy now??"

She heard Luna giggle softly next to her. "Yes," she answered airily. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but I really wanted you to try this."

"Try what?" said Hermione in exasperation, throwing a hand up above her in dismissal. "There's nothing up there but clouds."

"Oh, but there's so much more," said Luna dreamily, her voice tinged with distinct cheerfulness. "You just have to open your mind to it, really. See the colours? The sun is just starting to set, but still, look at the lovely hues...see how they splash against the sky and the clouds? Look at the one to the left, isn't it such a pretty shade of lilac?"

Hermione looked. Well, it is a nice colour, she had to admit, but colours could be seen anywhere, why come outside, exposed to the elements, to gaze at them?

"Well...yes, it is pretty, Luna," she said, trying to keep an undertone of impatience from creeping into her voice.

"And look at the one there," said the Ravenclaw. "See how those wisps rise up from either side? Doesn't it look like a Pegasus to you?"


Hermione scanned the sky above, but couldn't see anything remotely resembling such a form. "Which one?"

Luna took hold of her wrist and raised her hand up in the air to point a bit behind her head. Hermione saw it; a large, pink and white cumulus cloud with a pair of wispy extrusions giving it vaguely wing-like shapes.

"Um, that's a Pegasus?"

Luna lowered Hermione's arm back to her side, but instead of releasing her hold she moved her hand up and intertwined her fingers with the Gryffindor's. Hermione felt a bit awkward, though this was at least much less unnerving than having the girl's luminous silver eyes only inches away from hers, unusual though it nevertheless was.

"Well," said Luna dreamily, "it might also be an eagle; see how the front part is pointed slightly? That might be a beak, couldn't it?"

Hermione looked again. A Pegasus it certainly wasn't, though an eagle seemed at least a remote possibility.

"I suppose," she said.

"Look at the one on the right," said Luna, "the one near the tips of those branches; what do you think it could be?"

To Hermione the cloud looked like nothing she could readily recognize. It didn't have much of a discernable shape to it, so she concentrated instead on its general outline; it was rather long and flat, with a slight wispy curve to one end.

A snake? No, much too thick. Oh, maybe...

"Um...an alligator?"

She felt a gentle squeeze of Luna's fingers amidst hers, hearing Luna sigh softly. She chanced a glance out of the corner of her eye, seeing the young Ravenclaw still gazing up at the sky, a dreamy smile of contentment on her features.

"Was that it? Did I get it right?" she asked.

"Well, there's no right or wrong when divining cloud shapes, actually," said Luna airily. She was clearly happy about something, Hermione could tell.

"But you're still happy I guessed an alligator," countered Hermione, returning her gaze to the sky above, taking better note of the myriad swirls and colours ever so slowly forming above her.

"Actually," said Luna, giving another gentle squeeze of her fingers, "I'm just happy I was able to make you take a guess."

Hermione frowned. This she couldn't understand. What was so special about taking a guess??

"That's...um, nice...why?"

She heard the young Ravenclaw turn her head to look at her. Hermione kept her gaze firmly trained up on the colourful clouds.

"Because I just know you have an imagination locked away in there," she said softly. "You showed glimpses of it when you tricked that Umbridge lady. And also when you came up with that wonderful idea of the galleons for Harry's DA lessons."

What was she driving at? Hermione shook her head and cleared her mind. There were strange things at work, here.

"Luna," she said in a low voice, "why does it matter so much to you, what I think? You've been trying so hard to get me to believe in those creatures of yours lately, don't think I haven't noticed."

She was greeted by silence. A small flock of geese slowly drifted across the painted sky overhead while she waited, and when it seemed no answer was going to be forthcoming, she turned her head to look at her Ravenclaw companion. Her eyes fell upon a sight that shook her profoundly.

Luna was still staring up at the sky, her mouth slightly open, which in and of itself wouldn't have been so unusual except for the visible tears trailing from her large silver eyes down her cheeks.

Hermione's stomach contracted painfully. "Luna?" she asked softly, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, actually," the Ravenclaw whispered. Several more moments of silence passed before she voiced again. "Do you have dreams, Hermione?"

Hermione gaped at her. The girl was about as predictable as sheer chaos itself.

"Um, well, sometimes," she replied. "But I forget most of them by the time I wake up."

Luna giggled softly, a strange contrast to the flowing tears. "I didn't mean the sleeping kind. I mean dreams, Hermione," she said, gently squeezing her fingers again in emphasis. "You know, aspirations? Hopes, fantasies?"

"Oh," said Hermione, turning her gaze back up to the clouds. She thought carefully, trying to push the strange sight of Luna's trailing tears from her mind. "Well, I don't think I'd mind making a career in the Ministry, that's depending on the department, of course. It's one of the few places where you can really make a difference, I think? Well, so long as it's not under Cornelius Fudge's reign; I'd never consider working there so long as he was still in charge."

A light autumn breeze blew up briefly as she glimpsed a small swallow flitter briefly above her before settling itself on a branch, though her thoughts were still filled with the peculiar imagery of Luna's streaming tears, much as she'd tried to ignore it. She took some consolation at least that the girl didn't seem remotely grief-stricken.

"What about you?" asked Hermione, turning back to the young Ravenclaw. "You must have dreams, I'm sure."

"Oh yes," whispered Luna.

Hermione waited. The young Ravenclaw's had a distant, dreamy expression on her face as her gaze was still fixed upon the sky above. "Um...well, what are they?" Hermione asked finally.

Several moments of silence passed, to the point where Hermione was beginning to theorize the girl had somehow descended into a trance. "Did you hear - "

"I'm living one right now, actually..." whispered Luna.

"You are?" asked Hermione, stunned. She tried to think what it might be, though the situation didn't seem at all likely to be a fulfilment of anyone's 'dream'. "I guess I just don't see it..."

The Ravenclaw turned her head to one side and looked at her.

"Well, I suppose that's not surprising really," said Luna. "You'd need a mirror to see it."

Hermione's breathing became very shallow. She could feel an invisible weight pressing down on her stomach as a shiver shot through her.

"Luna," she said slowly, "I don't..."

Luna smiled dreamily at her and gave another gentle squeeze of her fingers.

"I've always liked you, Hermione," she whispered.

The Gryffindor swallowed hard, turning her gaze quickly back up to the clouds overhead, which she noticed were becoming slightly blurred. She tried desperately to think of something that might explain what she'd just heard in rational terms, though all tendrils of logic were staying frustratingly beyond her mind's grasp at the moment -

She felt a movement near her, becoming suddenly aware of Luna's head coming to rest on her shoulder; a tangle of long, dirty-blonde hair brushed up lightly against her cheek as the Ravenclaw sighed softly. Although her heart gave a sharp jump, Hermione was very surprised to discover that it was not an altogether unpleasant sensation.

For one of the very few times in her life she was at an utter loss. Nothing was making sense, and in a carefully structured mind, such inexplicable chaos was doubly difficult to analyse; and yet, no matter how she tried to look at it, none of it became any clearer. Her mind screamed for rationality, being decidedly starved of it with this odd girl. But to leave now would be disastrous, she knew; her shock at having Luna express such affection for her had thrown her entire thought processes out of whack, and she found herself desperately wishing she could just adopt the Ravenclaw's mindset for a moment to try and sort through the many onrushing emotions coursing through her.

They were silent for a time, Hermione squeezing her eyes shut, still trying desperately to understand what was happening, while the Ravenclaw just lay contentedly, gently squeezing her hand from time to time.

"This is nice," said Luna softly, "isn't it?"

Hermione's initial instinct was to sharply refute the observation. Try as she might however, she was forced to admit that the sensations coursing through her were actually strangely agreeable, from a purely emotional level, at least...there was something oddly soothing about Luna's closeness...

"I...I just...I don't know what to make of all this, Luna," she whispered. "This is all so..."

The Ravenclaw turned her head up to look at her, her large, luminous silver eyes so close that Hermione found herself mesmerized by their almost magical quality.

"You're analyzing again," said Luna softly. She moved up and brushed back strands of Hermione's brown mane from her cheek.

"Just take it as it comes," she whispered delicately into the Hermione's ear before settling back down onto the Gryffindor's shoulder once more.

Hermione said nothing, the silence reigning unchallenged as she let Luna's words and the sensations she was experiencing slowly sink into her consciousness; the clouds above slowly drifted by, adopting deeper hues of pink, gold, fuschia and lavender as the sky above became an elegant backdrop tapestry of orange and lilac.

The sun was setting slowly in the distance, giving the sky a soft, ethereal glow. Hermione's breathing gradually became easier and less strained as the tension in her shoulders slowly slackened. She sighed softly.

"It...it is rather nice..." she whispered at last.

She felt Luna give another gentle squeeze of her fingers.

"Luna," whispered Hermione, "look at me..."

The young Ravenclaw stirred slowly and turned her head over to face her, her chin resting on Hermione's shoulder, her large silver eyes reflecting the distant sunset in spectacular fashion. Hermione found herself enchanted once more by those eyes so very close.


She raised her free hand and gently brushed away a few wandering strands of Luna's dirty blonde hair, giving her an unobstructed view of those entrancing silver orbs only inches away.

Luna smiled at this, seeming to diving Hermione's thoughts as her eyes widened precipitously, inching forward until their noses were almost touching.

"Do you like them?" she whispered earnestly.

"I...I do," replied Hermione, stunned that she could be the source of such words. It was all so strange, so unlikely, and yet, there was an undeniable truth to her answer...

Luna's hand drew forth, slowly tracing one finger down Hermione's nose and mouth, gently pulling her lower lip down slightly.

"I'm glad," she whispered, smiling dreamily as she stretched forward and delicately pressed her lips to the Gryffindor's.

Hermione's mind reeled. Flooded by a thousand incoherent images, her thoughts became hopelessly lost; reason and logic abandoned her as she closed her eyes tightly, focusing on the wondrous sensations she was experiencing. Her mouth parted slightly; Luna's lips were impossibly soft -

Hermione opened her eyes as Luna pulled back, her head tilted slightly, her expression one of sublime dreaminess.

For the first time, Hermione found herself envying the young Ravenclaw; with her, there was no hesitation, no discomfort, no uneasiness whatsoever; it was as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Luna..." breathed Hermione, her free hand reaching up and brushing back the younger girl's hair from her ear, lightly caressing her cheek. "I don't know what I'm going to make of all this tomorrow..."

Luna smiled brightly before laying her head back down on Hermione's shoulder.

"Tomorrow doesn't exist," said Luna in a whisper, giving a gentle squeeze of her fingers. "There's only now."

Hermione smiled at the clouds above, running her free hand through Luna's long, tangled mane of sandy blonde hair. "I never thought I'd ever hear you say something doesn't exist."

"This moment does," whispered Luna.

Hermione gazed at the deep orange and lilac clouds drifting across the sky high above her, feeling the dry autumn breeze flitter through her hair while bathing in Luna's serene warmth, a sense of serene contentment she'd never felt before slowly seeping through her.

I'm glad it does, she thought in reply.

The sky gradually grew darker, the last vestiges of colour still glowing from the lake behind them. Directly overhead the brightest stars and the Moon were just starting to make their appearance when Luna suddenly rolled off Hermione and lay on her back in the grasses.

The Gryffindor turned to look at her companion. "Luna?"

Their hands were still locked together as Luna returned her gaze with a smile. "I like to watch the Moon," she said dreamily.

"Oh..." said Hermione, finding herself feeling strangely disappointed that their embrace had so abruptly ended.

"What are you waiting for?" asked Luna softly.

She looked back to the Ravenclaw, and knew straight away what the girl meant. She smiled at Luna and rolled over until she came to rest her head on Luna's chest, their fingers still tightly intertwined. Luna's free hand drew around Hermione's back and held her close.

Hermione pressed her cheek snugly against Luna's breast and closed her eyes, feeling the younger girl's chest rise and fall with each breath. The gentle motions engendered a soothing effect, Hermione musing she could remain in such a state forever. The potions assignment she'd planned to work on that evening had been cast into the forgotten realm of trivial, unimportant things.

The autumn breeze died down; she heard something...was someone approaching?

No, she realized, when the sound repeated itself over and over again with unswerving regularity...she was listening to the softly muffled beating of Luna's heart.

"Oh..." she breathed, pressing her ear closer.

"What is it?" whispered Luna. Hermione's free hand drew up, one finger trailing in the pale hollow at the base of Luna's throat.

"I can hear..."

She head Luna give a soft giggle.

"No, really, I can - " said Hermione.

"I believe you," whispered Luna, just as Hermione felt something slide up beneath her cheek, becoming vaguely aware of Luna's Ravenclaw tie being cast aside into the grass. She felt the top of Luna's school uniform gently pull apart, as her ear came into contact with bare, pale skin.

She felt Luna's hand return to its comfortingly protective place on her back. She pressed her cheek snugly against Luna's chest; without the intervening robes, she could hear Luna's soothing heart beat more clearly, the rhythmic pulses against her ear sending her into a tranquil, dreamlike reverie...

Time slipped by; how much, she had no idea. She felt herself drifting off, a dreamy smile slowly forming across her face...

"Luna..." she whispered, the girl's soft heartbeat becoming clearer in her ear the closer she edged towards the world of dreams.

"Yes..." answered Luna in a voice no louder than her own.

Hermione forced herself back from the beckoning dreamworld for just a moment.

"Tomorrow might not exist," she whispered, "but if it does, will you be here?"

"I think so..." breathed Luna dreamily.

Hermione smiled. She gave Luna's hand a gentle squeeze of her fingers.

"So will I..."