Hermione took a sip of her cherry syrup, quietly gazing at the bustling students from her place on an old wrought iron bench outside Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop. Her schoolmates were busily scrambling about during this second Hogsmeade weekend of the school year, visiting the various shops, kiosks and recently arrived gypsy caravan. If nothing else, the Hogsmeade Valentine's Day Festival was certainly drawing crowds.

She looked up at the sky, grateful that the temperature had warmed considerably from the day before so that it was now quite comfortable outside, even without the heavy woolen coat Mrs. Weasley had given her for Christmas.

Busy the village certainly might be, but there was still no sight of her slightly dotty friend, a straggly-haired Ravenclaw who had gone off several minutes earlier to get them a few treats from Honeydukes. She looked again in the direction of the shop down the street; surely Luna had made her purchase by now? What could possibly be keeping her, she thought. Though the girl was the epitome of dreaminess, Luna Lovegood was nevertheless as reliable as the dawn.

She smiled to herself. She was actually missing Luna's company, unthinkable as that had been not so very long ago. While the girl still unnerved her on occasion with her talk of various nonsensical creatures and ridiculous theories, the two had nonetheless grown close, as Hermione had found in Luna a perfect sounding board, especially when she needed to get things off her chest. She was surprised at how easy it was to confide in the young Ravenclaw. It was so refreshing to let her innermost thoughts spill out onto Luna's lap, as the girl was nothing if not non-judgmental. While Luna could still be outspoken and loquacious by turns when the conversation drifted to her spheres of interest, Hermione had found her to be a surprisingly good listener.

She glanced back to Honeydukes, recalling how insistent Luna had been to get the treats, despite the Gryffindor's vigorous argument about sharing the expense, knowing full well her friend was very nearly destitute. It had only been with extreme reluctance, and more than a little pang of guilt, that she'd finally acquiesced to Luna's suggestion. That, and the fact that the Ravenclaw had proved adamantly stubborn on the point.

She sighed at the image forming in her mind of Luna rummaging through her small tweed purse in search of her last remaining Sickles and Knuts. But then, lack of money had never seemed to dampen Luna's spirits any.

Well, she thought to herself consolingly, she seems happy, at least...

Nevertheless, she'd resolutely decided she'd make it up to her before the day was out.

She watched as Seamus Finnegan walked out of Madame Puddifoot's café hand- in-hand with Lavender Brown, both clearly having a very pleasurable time in each other's company. She sighed. Only a few days before, she'd been looking forward to enacting the very same scene with Ron. Up until their latest row, that is. She'd resigned herself to waiting the traditional few days for him to come to his senses, even if it meant missing her hoped-for rendezvous.

She was startled from her musings by the sound of someone calling her name behind her. She turned her head to see Luna running excitedly in her direction, her long disheveled hair flying wildly behind her. Hermione blinked. She was coming from up the street, the opposite direction of Honeydukes; where had she gone off to?

"You have to see this," said Luna breathlessly upon reaching her, her large silver eyes wide with excitement as she took hold of Hermione's hand and pulled her to her feet. "There's a palm reader just a few streets down; she's really quite good!"

"Er, I'm not really into that sort of thing, Luna," said Hermione as she grabbed the strap of her carrybag with her free hand. "Where were you, anyway? Weren't you going to Honeydukes?"

"I got rather sidetracked," said Luna, looking strangely over Hermione's shoulder. "Really though, you should come see, she's got these really ancient books in – "

"Books?" said Hermione, her curiosity suddenly piqued. "Oh, well, I suppose it can't hurt to have a look. We've got plenty of time anyhow..."

Luna's face lit up with a smile and she took off at a run, pulling a stumbling Hermione along behind her.

"Luna!" exclaimed Hermione, scrambling to keep up with the girl even while being pulled along. "Not so fast! Why the rush, what's going on??"

Luna stopped in her tracks as though having run into a wall, causing Hermione to bump into her from behind. She spun around to face the young Prefect, silver eyes glowing.

"You're absolutely right," she said serenely. "It's not like the place is likely to disappear suddenly, is it? Well, I suppose a Vanishing spell might do it, if it were cast by a really powerful wizard, I mean. Actually, I've often wondered if Professor – "

"Um, Luna," interrupted Hermione. "Aren't we going to that palm reader you mentioned?"

"Oh, yes," said the Ravenclaw, awakening from her brief reverie. "It's this way."

She led Hermione towards the outskirts of the village at a more leisurely pace, though it was still a rather brisk walk, the Gryffindor noted. Clearly Luna had been most impressed by whatever it was she'd seen, judging from the spring in her step.

They came up to a small isolated barn, Hermione scanning the old structure skeptically with her eyes, looking for some sign or placard that would indicate the presence of a palm reader inside. Seeing none, she concluded that the woman must be part of the passing gypsy caravan that had made a stop in Hogsmeade for the festival.

Luna grabbed hold of the old rusty iron doorhandle. "We have to enter quickly," she said in a whisper. "She doesn't like the light very much."

"Er, she doesn't?" asked Hermione, confused. What manner of palm reader was this? "Are you sure about – "

"Don't worry," said Luna reassuringly. "She's harmless."

"Well, okay," said Hermione with a residual trace of apprehension. What sort of person abhorred light so? Only the thought of rummaging through the ancient books kept her on this course of action.

Luna motioned for her to get ready. She pulled the door open quickly –

Hermione scampered through into the darkness, coming to a halt just a few feet inside, her ears picking up the quite unexpected sound of straw crunching underfoot.

BAM!!

Hermione spun around in alarm, having been plunged in total darkness by the door slamming shut behind her.

"Luna?" she called out, groping blindly with both hands until she felt the door's worn wooden surface. "LUNA??"

"Yes?" she heard her friend's serene voice answer from the other side.

"Wha – aren't you coming in?" asked Hermione, becoming rapidly uneasy in these dark and unfamiliar surroundings.

"Oh, no," replied Luna. "I couldn't do that."

"What??" exclaimed Hermione, searching around until her fingers found and grasped the rusty old door handle. She pressed the latch and pushed, though the door held firm. She'd been locked in!

"HEY!" she shouted, slapping the door hard with her hand in frustration. "Luna, what are you playing at? Open this door!"

"I'm sorry, Hermione," said Luna dreamily, "but I'm afraid I can't do that."

"You can't – " gaped Hermione, her apprehension quickly giving way to a surging irritation. "Why not??"

"Well, it would defeat the purpose of getting you in there if I were to let you out now, actually," said Luna.

"What purpose – oh, never mind!" exclaimed Hermione, reaching for her wand in her back pocket. Her apprehension suddenly retook its former prominence. Her wand was gone!!

"LUNA!" she yelled, "I've lost my wand!!"

"Actually, no," said Luna. "I have it. Not to worry."

Hermione gaped at the pitch blackness. What was Luna doing?? Had she gone completely mad?

She pounded the door loudly with her fists. "OPEN THE DOOR, LUNA!"

"Oh, look," said the young Ravenclaw from outside. "What a lovely little snipe..."

"What?" said Hermione. "Luna, snap out of it! I'm stuck in here – "

"They're so rare at this time of year," said Luna serenely. "Come here, little snipe, I have some treats...oh don't fly off, oops – "

Luna's voice was becoming fainter; clearly she was moving away from the barn.

"LUNA!!" cried Hermione, "DON'T YOU DARE LEAVE ME IN HERE!! GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!!"

Luna's voice grew gradually more distant as Hermione pounded the door in angry futility.

"LUNA!!"

"Don't bother," said a voice from the darkness behind her. She spun around, her heart giving a lurch.

"Who's there?!?"

"You-know-who," the voice said, though Hermione was quite confident that wasn't the case; besides, the voice sounded very familiar, before suddenly adopting a very exaggerated central European accent. "I have come to suck your blood!"

"R-Ron?"

"Yeah," said the voice. "Don't worry, it's not really You-Know-Who."

Hermione felt a surge of relief. "Well, I more or less gathered that much," she said to the darkness. "He might be a lot of things, but a vampire isn't one of them!"

"Either way," said Ron. "We've got worse things to worry about right now."

"What do you mean?"

"Loony trapped me in here too a little while ago," he said. "Took my wand too, the little sneak."

"She...she did?" asked Hermione, taking a hesitant step forward. "Ron, where are you?"

"Right here, can't you see? Well, give your eyes some time to adjust – "

Hermione reached out and almost jumped when she felt her hand brush up against something right in front of her. Ron took her hand in his.

"I...thanks, Ron," she said earnestly. "I know it's completely irrational, but I don't like being in the dark like this..."

"I guess I can't blame you there," he said. "I couldn't see an inch in front of me when I first got in. What'd she lock us in here for, anyway?"

"Well..."

"What?"

Hermione thought. She was starting to see Luna's quirky logic at work. She'd confided in the girl just the day before about her row with Ron...happily though, their currently shared predicament seemed to have cast all remaining acrimony into the gutters.

"It's...well..."

"Well, come on," prodded Ron. "Is it a secret or something?"

"No," said Hermione hesitantly. "It's just...well, I told Luna yesterday about our...well...our fight."

"You did?" asked Ron. "What'd you do that for?"

Hermione sighed. "She's a really good listener, Ron," she said. "And you can really open up to her. Strange, I know, but it's true."

"If you say so," said Ron, though his voice held no hint of irritation. "But it also means we're stuck here!"

"Yes, well," continued Hermione, "I think she took what I said a bit far; I told her how much I was really looking forward to today."

Silence.

"Ron?"

"Yeah...what'd you tell her, exactly?"

Hermione swallowed. "I just...I told her how much I was looking forward to going to Madame Puddifoot's, Ron..."

More silence.

"Er...with who?" asked Ron, a bit nervously, thought Hermione.

"Well, with you, silly," said Hermione. "Who were you thinking?"

"Oh..." said Ron.

"But...it's okay, though...I know you wouldn't want – "

"Well, I'll tell you, Hermione," voiced Ron thoughtfully, "if you can figure us a way out of here, I'll gladly treat you."

Hermione's heart jumped. "Really?"

"Yeah," said Ron sheepishly. "To be honest, I thought about asking you, but I thought you were still mad at me, so..."

"Oh, Ron!" cried Hermione, lunging forward in the darkness to wrap her arms around the redhead, though with the pitch blackness she only managed to bump into him awkwardly.

"OW!" cried Ron. "Bloody Hell!"

Hermione drew back quickly. "Ron? What, did I – "

"You poked me in the eye!!"

"Oh, I'm sorry!" said Hermione hurriedly, reaching out instinctively into the darkness –

"Watch it!" blurted Ron, grabbing hold of her hand. "You almost did it again!"

"Sorry," said Hermione, giggling slightly in spite of herself. "I just wanted to see if you were all right, that's all." "I will be, so long as you don't keep poking me in the eyes," voiced Ron. "Anyway, any idea how we're going to get out? I checked the walls before, there's just that one door, and don't bother forcing it, I've already tried."

"We'll have to get Luna to let us out...I still can't believe she pulled the wool over my eyes like that," said Hermione reflectively.

"How'd she manage to lure you, anyway?" asked Ron.

"Um, she said there were these old books," answered Hermione, embarrassed. "How did she manage to get you to go with her though? That must have been quite the trick!"

"Yeah, well," he said sheepishly, "she said there were members of the Chudley Cannons signing autographs, so..."

"Oh Ron," said Hermione, rolling her eyes even though the act was lost in the darkness, "I can't believe you fell for that!"

"Me??" exclaimed the redhead. "You're the one who got suckered in by a book!"

"She said there were several books, actually," countered Hermione. "But you know, she never did look at me in the eye when she said that? I should've seen right through that..."

Ron was silent for a moment. "Come to think of it," he mused, "she never looked at me either. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, it's better than her staring!"

"Well, I don't think deception is her strong suit, really," said Hermione, moving to the door; now that her were beginning to acclimate themselves to the darkness she could make out faint shapes, and the door in particular was easily located by the thin sliver of light emanating from underneath its sill.

"And yet," said Ron, "here we are. She duped us both. I'm telling you, we should lock her in here for a change!"

Hermione gave a faint giggle as she pressed her ear to the door and listened.

"What?"

"Well," said Hermione, "I was thinking something along those lines too. I have an idea..."

Hermione went on to explain her plan to Ron. She estimated a half hour had passed by the time she spied a shadow drift across the thin sliver of light at the base of the door. She quickly motioned to Ron, both quietly skulking to either side of the door, their backs pressing up to the wall. Several long moments of silence passed. Hermione began to wonder if the shadow had been cast by Luna after all, or had simply been some passerby. She was just about to peek under the sill when a light rapping sound emanated from the door.

"Hello," said Luna's vague and dreamy voice. "Have you two kissed and made up yet?"

Hermione's eyes widened as she glanced at Ron on the other side of the door, putting a finger to her lips.

"Hello?" she heard Luna's dreamy voice call out again after several seconds. "Hermione? Ronald? Can you hear me?"

The two Gryffindors remained silent, which was made more difficult by their desperate attempts not to laugh out loud.

A few moments of silence passed, until Hermione heard the outer latch unlock with a mechanical click. She motioned Ron to get ready.

The door opened a crack and Luna peered in, her large silver eyes staring into the empty darkness ahead of her. "Hello?"

Hermione froze. They couldn't exactly grab her by the head, after all...

"Oh, I hope the Bollywoggles haven't gotten them," mused Luna out loud. "They're not supposed to be active at this time of year, after all – "

She thrust her wand out ahead of her. "Lumos."

"NOW!!" cried Hermione, deftly snatching the wand from Luna's hand as Ron grabbed the girl's sleeve and heaved hard, Luna stumbling into the barn with a surprised eek! just as the two Gryffindors ran out the door and slammed it shut behind them, Hermione flipping the latch down into its locked position.

"Aha!" exclaimed Ron to the barn. "Not much fun being locked in, is it??"

The structure betrayed no sound from its newfound occupant.

"Oh, this is Luna's wand," said Hermione, holding it up to her eyes and examining it closely. "She must still have mine – "

As though divining her thoughts, Hermione heard Luna cast the Alohomora charm on the door lock.

POOF!

"Oops," said Luna from beyond the door. "I hope the owner doesn't mind that color..." "What's she doing?" asked Ron curiously.

"She's trying to use my wand to get out," said Hermione. "Luna, give it up, it won't work right with – "

FOOMP!

A loud chorus of chicken clucks emanated from inside the barn.

"Oh...well, I suppose they can always sell these..." voiced Luna.

Hermione had trouble keeping the laughter out of her voice. "Luna, it won't work!"

"I wonder if...Evanesco?"

BANG!

The chorus of coots and clucks elevated to a feverish pitch.

"Luna?"

"Ohhh, they won't be able to sell them like this..." said Luna's voice. "Hermione, you have a rather peculiar wand, you know – "

"There you are!"

Hermione and Ron spun around to see a familiar figure walking down the snow- covered road towards them.

"Harry!" said Hermione, holding Luna's wand behind her back. "Where were you?"

"Looking for you guys," said Harry, looking at the barn behind them in bemusement. "I couldn't find Luna anywhere either – what are you two doing, raiding a chicken coop?"

"Er, no," said Ron, exchanging a knowing glance with Hermione. "Actually mate, you should have a look in there, I think it's right up your alley – "

"It is?" asked Harry skeptically, leaning closer to the door. "Sounds like a bunch of chickens to me – "

"NOW!" shouted Ron, just as Hermione yanked open the door and snatched Harry's wand from his back pocket. At the same instant, Ron shoved him forward, Harry stumbling into the darkness just before Hermione slammed the door shut behind him.

"HEY!" called Harry a moment after trying to open the door. "What's the idea?? Why lock me in here the with the chickens??" "There's not just chickens in there," said Ron, grinning at Hermione. "We make a great team don't we?"

"Not just – " said Harry. "Why, what's that supposed to – "

"Hello, Harry," Luna's voice sounded.

"Eh?? Luna?" said Harry. "What are you doing in here? Where are you, anyway? I can barely see my own feet – "

"Oh, well...Lumos," voiced Luna.

SPLAT!

"Oops."

"Ack!" cried Harry, "My hair!! What is this stuff??"

"Oh...well, I'm not entirely sure, Harry – "

"Aarrgh!!! What are these things??" cried Harry frantically. "Back!! Stay back!!"

"Actually, they were chickens not too long ago," said Luna. "But I'm having a bit of trouble adapting to Hermione's – "

"Can't you get rid of them??" asked Harry, sounding decidedly horror- struck.

"Well, I can try...Finite Incantatum!"

WOOSH!

The mass clucking came to an abrupt halt. Several seconds passed where no one said a word, Hermione and Ron pressing their ears to the door.

"Er...well, thanks for getting rid of those...whatever they were," said Harry slowly, "but...what's with all the feathers?"

"Do they itch?"

"Um, well no, but..."

"Here, let me try something – "

"No!!" said Harry quickly. "Um, I mean, that's all right, Luna, I'll, er – "

BLOOP! "Hey! MY CLOTHES!!" voiced Harry. "DON'T LOOK THIS WAY! TURN AROUND! NOX! NOX!"

"Oh, that didn't go quite like I'd imagined," said Luna a bit mirthfully. "Well, at least you don't have any feathers anymore – "

Ron had by now doubled over with laughter, while Hermione had to use the barn for support to keep from falling over.

"We'll be back for you two in a little while!" called Hermione breathlessly to the door before taking Ron by the hand. "HAPPY VALENTINE'S!"

"Hey, no wait – " she heard Harry's voice intone behind her as the two Prefects ran laughing in the direction of Madame Puddifoot's cafe.