A/N: This fic was written for inell's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (with Each Other) challenge. Many thanks to sorbet for the painstaking beta.
Their first touch had ended with Hermione locking herself in the loo.
Luna says now that she always knew. The instant that she felt the delicate touch of Hermione's fingertips on the ticklish skin between her shoulder blades, she knew that they'd live happily ever after in a cozy cottage surrounded by wildflowers, raising crumple-horned snorkack babies until the end of their days. Crumple-horned snorkacks were endangered, after all.
What Hermione remembers is the way blood pounded in her ears and her throat went dry, how she felt compelled to cross the room to sit nervously on the edge of the bed.
She'd never seen anything more beautiful than the expanse of bare flesh still glistening with the remnants of a recent shower. The towel that Luna had wrapped around herself barely covered anything at all as she lay on her stomach with her head resting on her arms, legs bent at the knees with her feet tracing idle circles in the air.
The bed dipped slightly under Hermione's weight. Her eyes met Luna's as she raised a hand hesitantly towards her, stopping before making contact.
"Please do," Luna replied to the unspoken request.
Hermione had barely touched her friend when Luna let out a delighted giggle.
"That tickles!" she exclaimed as her body squirmed under Hermione's fingertips.
A surge of panic rose within Hermione's chest. She ran to the washroom, locked herself in, and alternated between crying and asking herself why she'd done what she'd done and felt what she'd felt. She just couldn't like touching another girl that way. Her family would think she was sick...perverted, she might lose her friends. She wished with all her heart to be normal, just normal like everyone else.
But Luna had liked it, too. Hadn't she?
Hermione shook her head and decided that it just wasn't the time for prolonged bouts of introspection. Between the pressures of the ongoing war and of being locked away at Grimmauld Place for weeks at a time with no news, she simply didn't have anything at all left to give to personal issues. She waited until she heard Luna leave the room, then made a vow to herself to avoid the girl as much as politely possible until she could escape the confines of Grimmauld Place.
The next day they'd all had to be moved to separate locations, so it didn't prove difficult.
Eventually Voldemort was killed, and the war came to an end. After all the funerals and celebrations wound down, and most in the community fell into happy routines, Hermione felt empty.
She kept her mind and body busy with a very time-consuming apprenticeship at Hogwarts. Exhausted at the end of every day, she had no energy left to spend on dating any of the eligible wizards her friends tried to set her up with, or to worry about the fact that she really didn't have the desire to date them anyway. She was also too busy to think about what had happened that day at Grimmauld Place.
One frosty November evening, Harry turned up insisting that she accompany him to the Three Broomsticks. Those of the old crowd who remained were meeting at the watering hole for drinks. After finally relenting, she had thrown a cloak over her plain robes and trudged across the school grounds into Hogsmeade beside him.
The warm, rich-smelling air hitting her cold lungs wasn't the only reason she felt as though she couldn't breathe as she came through the entrance. She hadn't seen Luna in over a year, and had purposely pushed all thoughts of her deep into memory.
There she was. All cascading blond hair and rosy cheeks pinked up from laughing with friends in the warm room. She wore a ridiculous necklace with what looked like a large root vegetable dangling just above the swell of her breasts, but her robes were a beautiful shade of blue that brought out her eyes, and they were fitted to perfectly accentuate her slender figure.
"You're letting all the cold air in, Miss," the barkeep called from across the way.
"Sorry, sir," she said, embarrassed when she realized that she was standing in the entryway holding the door wide open. She moved rapidly inside letting the door shut behind her. Hermione burrowed herself into the booth that Harry had sat at after spotting Ron. The three chatted warmly about what they had all been doing over the past few months, while Hermione struggled to keep her thoughts on the conversation.
"Hermione," Ron said sounding a bit irritated.
Warmth spread up her chest and over her face as she realized her gaze had wandered to the girl in the pretty blue dress. "I'm sorry Ron. What did you say?"
"Who were you watching, you seemed pretty focused on something?" Ron asked while trying to pick out which person standing in front of the bar might have been the object of her interest.
"Hey, you lot interested in a game of darts?" Neville thankfully interrupted, his voice full of Fire Whiskey-induced cheer.
"Sounds good," Harry said as he rose from the table.
"I'm in," Ron answered. "You coming, Hermione?"
"You three have fun. I think I'll sit this one out."
She ordered something a bit stronger than the butterbeer sitting in front of her, and sipped it slowly while contemplating the grain in the wooden tabletop to keep her eyes busy.
"Are you hiding out in dark corners hoping to catch a glimpse of a Shadow-Dwelling Lork?"
Luna slipped into the seat across from Hermione before she had the chance to respond. They sat in silence for a moment longer than was comfortable, and just as a perfect set of lips slid over the edge of a whiskey glass, Hermione caught herself staring and felt a blush, once again, burning her face. She quickly averted her eyes and clasped her hands together on the tabletop.
"You know there's no such creature, Luna," she stated matter of factly.
"And you know that I'm not as idle-brained as everyone likes to believe; I am a Ravenclaw, after all." Luna said airily with eyes still smiling. "And you're a Gryffindor, Hermione. Don't be afraid to be who you are."
Leaning across the table, Luna gently pushed a lose strand of hair behind Hermione's ear. An undeniable spark of attraction warmed Hermione's abdomen when the backs of Luna's fingers skimmed her cheek as she withdrew her hand. Hermione was trembling, and too shocked to speak. She hadn't thought of her avoidance as a form of cowardice before.
Luna rose and chirped, "I hope to see you soon," over her shoulder as she retreated back into the crowd.
It didn't take long; once she'd been challenged, her inhibitions began to thin. She had too much integrity to lie to herself any longer.
The whiskey burned as she downed the rest in one gulp. She set the glass down a little harder than necessary, took a deep breath, and smoothed her robes. With her back straight and her gait full of purpose, she strode directly toward Luna. The fabric of the girl's dress felt nice under her fingers when she laid her hand on Luna's arm to get her attention. Their eyes met and Hermione saw a smile spread across Luna's face. "Would you mind accompanying me outside for a bit of fresh air?"
"Not at all. Perhaps we'll have the good fortune to see a Snow Sally while we're out," Luna answered as she hooked her arm into Hermione's. They stopped to get their cloaks and Hermione let Harry know that she was probably going to leave shortly so he wouldn't worry if she didn't come back inside. They then made their way to the door.
The light coming from the stars sparkled magnificently off of the snow making it appear as though it were sprinkled with glitter. Outside in the cold, clean air of winter, Hermione could practically feel hope coursing through her veins for the first time in longer than she could remember. It really was a beautiful night for realizations.
Luna lies sleeping with her head resting on Hermione's lap; she always falls asleep when they watch movies at home. Looking down at her lover, Hermione smiles at the memory of their first tentative kisses outside of the Three Broomsticks that November night. Standing in four inches of snow under a crisp early-winter sky, Hermione had found quiet solace in soft lips and gentle caresses. She had seen the truth bravely bared in knowing blue eyes, and she has never wanted to look back.
Thanks for reading my first ever femmeslash fic. Criticisms and comments are very welcome.