Title: Step by Step
Author: JoeHundredaire
Rating: PG-13/FR15
Disclaimer: Captain Fangirlhumper… err, J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter universe. Wish I owned something that I could continually fuck up and abuse while still raking in millions of dollars but alas. Not mine.
Summary: In Hogsmeade to pick out robes for the Yule Ball, Hermione has a close encounter of the Loony kind… and her life will never be the same.
Joe's Note: Lexi got bored working on a handful of different Ginny and Luna ideas, so we decided to swap over and try things with Hermione and Luna. After all, they make slightly more sense from a UST perspective than anyone light-sided and Draco while still possessing enough spice to make things interesting. Originally this was billed as a songfic but to be brutally honest, that was just a remnant from my early days where I discovered that I could pad my word count with song lyrics and people would accept it if I labeled things appropriately. To be fair, that was also my 'write drunk, edit drunk, post drunk' phase too...
Dedications & Thanks: To Nicholas, Howard, Daniel, Alonsis2, Tibor, William, Koby, George, Chris, Ziryo, Marc, bloodylord, Riley, Jason, Joseph, Morgan, Fablesrogue, Odd Duck, Crygon20, Charles, Mikey, PbookR, Wil, Roofcrawler, Edward, Haematite, Adrien, Sam, Gerald, mpotato, TheTenthAncestor, Gavin, David, JJbelle, Haunz, D, Darrell, Zordmon, Bryan, Warren, Roman, Lookshy, and Hawken for sponsoring me on , and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing.

"You're trying to make yourself pretty for them, but you don't realize that you're already pretty and they're just too foolish to see it."

Hermione Granger's head snapped up and she turned, not recognizing the voice as belonging to either one of her friends or the Gladrags sales staff. Instead, she found an odd-looking girl with blonde hair and wide silvery eyes staring at her without blinking, head canted slightly to one side. A random girl was commenting on her life. How horribly rude. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"

After pondering that one for a long moment, the girl shook her head, exposing… radishes for earrings? This was just getting odder and odder. "No. No you don't. The real question, though, is do you know who YOU are?"

Groaning, Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose. She could have purchased dress robes back in August when she visited Diagon Alley, but noooo. She'd opted not to, figuring she wouldn't be participating in whatever social event required them. Now, though, she actually WANTED to dress up and attend the Yule Ball, if for no other reason than to remind Harry and Ron that she was a girl and that one of them could have asked her. That required her to have something to dress up in, which had brought her to Gladrags, and now she had someone spouting philosophical nonsense at her while she was trying to shop. "Yes. I'm Hermione Granger. Now that we've established who I am, will you tell me who you are? And what you want? I'd like to finish shopping."

"I suppose you could call me Luna. Most of the students call me Loony, though. I suppose they think it's witty." No, Hermione decided, it was entirely accurate. The now-named Luna slipped past Hermione and eyed the robes critically before grabbing the brunette by the wrist and leading her away. "And I'm here to save you from making a horrible mistake while trying to look pretty."

Hermione looked down at the girl pulling her along, with her radish earrings, what looked like a necklace made of butterbeer corks on a string, straggly blonde hair, and mismatched purple sweater and peach dress. "You? You're going to give me fashion advice? No offense, but you don't really strike me as the type to be in the know when it comes to haute couture, Luna."

Oddly enough, the blonde didn't seem insulted in the least, just giving Hermione an odd little smile in return. To be honest, it bugged Hermione a bit. She'd been hoping to be rid of the girl with what was normally an insult among girls. With Luna, though, it just flowed over her like water. "I know more about formal wear for witches than a muggleborn does, Hermione."

That… actually made sense, oddly enough. Did the wizarding world have different ideas of what colors matched and clashed than the muggle world did? Not that Hermione was anything close to an expert in fashion in the muggle world to start. She'd been looking at pink dresses because… well, it was pink. It was the closest she could come to wearing a dress that actually had 'I'M A GIRL!' printed on it. "Alright, Luna, I'll bite."

"Really?" Luna gave her a concerned look, and then released her grip on Hermione's arm. "Perhaps I should stand a bit further away then…"

Hermione groaned and debating head-butting one of the store's wooden support pillars. Concussing oneself had to be less of a headache than dealing with this girl. "Not literally. I guess it's a muggle saying. I meant I'm interested in what you have to say, so... lead on."

The hand on her wrist returned and Hermione frowned as she was led over to the lighter shades of the grayscale spectrum: silvers and whites. She wasn't a horribly big fan of white, seeing as how anything she got on herself would show quite noticeably. Some of the silvers were nice, though, including the gown Luna was fingering at the moment. "These would look nice on you and match the silver in my robes. After all, it's important that we coordinate so we make a fetching pair."

"Wait, what?" Hermione had heard the comment perfectly; it wasn't as if her hearing was going. Comprehension, on the other hand… "Why does it matter if my outfit and your outfit match? Half a mo, how are you even going? You're a third year."

Luna just grinned and pulled the dress off the rack, holding it up against Hermione and looking her up and down slowly. "Simple. You're taking me, Hermione."




"Yes you are." What, was the girl psychic or something? Oh bugger. What if Luna was psychic? Hermione tried desperately to clear her mind of anything unflattering. "No, I'm not psychic. You're just easy to read for someone who's spent some time watching you." Gah! "You want Ron and Harry to notice you, particularly Ron. You won't make much of a splash if you go alone. You need a date. I want to go just… well, because. It sounds more interesting than sitting in my dorm reading or some such. So I need a date. Quid pro quo, Hermione."

Huffing, Hermione crossed her arms over her chest. Lovely. She had an odd little stalker girl who wasn't even good at keeping an eye on her. "I'll have you know that Viktor Krum asked me to the Yule Ball, and once I get back to the school and definitely have robes to wear, I plan on accepting. Now if you don't mind, thank you for the help, but I'll be going now."

Hermione took the admittedly pretty dress from Luna's hand and turned, making it a single step away before the blonde's voice stopped her in her tracks. "Would you rather go with someone who wants you because you don't want him, just to make a point with your friends, or go with someone who's actually wants to know you?"

Grr. Yes, Hermione had been well aware of why Viktor had asked her to the Yule Ball: she was pretty much the only girl in the castle who wasn't a raving fan girl, save for that French tart Fleur. Fleur was a fellow champion, though, and therefore ineligible to be his date… which only left her. Hermione grit her teeth. She hadn't been too keen on being an consolation prize shield against his fangirls before, and now that Luna had brought it up again she was even less thrilled. "Quid pro quo, huh?"

"It's a good way of looking at it." Luna grabbed Hermione by the elbow, slowly turning the brunette to face her. "I'll be a perfect gentleman. Bring you a corsage and everything. It'll be just like a normal date for you. We can even sit with your friends… after all, it's not like I have any." Hermione felt a pang of kinship then, remembering what it was like to be the house outcast those first few months of first year, before Ron and Harry saved her from that troll. Luna just waved what must have been visible sympathy away. "I am who I am. It's not your fault they choose not to like me, Hermione. So, what do you say? We can even meet for lunch on the next Hogsmeade weekend. Get to know each other a bit better so it's not so terribly awkward on the night of the ball."

Strangely enough, when Luna put it that way… it didn't sound like such a terrible idea. After all, she didn't really know anyone outside of Harry and Ron, so if anyone other than those two took her to the ball, she'd be going with a stranger. Luna was stranger than most, but had approached her, initiated conversation, made the offer (even though it really hadn't been her place and had been more of inviting herself), and wanted to get to know her between now and then. She could surely do worse… but the real question was, could she do better?

No, probably not.

Hermione let Luna wait and wonder for a bit longer before nodding decisively. "That sounds good to me. But only if you agree to have lunch with me this afternoon too. We both have to eat, so we might as well do it together and get a start on getting to know each other, hmm?"

"Acceptable." Luna took the dress from Hermione and headed for the nearest saleswitch. "Excuse me. My Hermione needs to be fitted, if you have a moment?"

Blushing faintly at 'my Hermione', the witch in question followed behind the saleswitch obediently as she was led to a back room for a fitting. "Luna?"


"I know it's rather iffy in the muggle world still… but where does the wizarding world stand on two witches or wizards as a couple? Is it normal here? Not that we're a couple or anything, but if I'm going to be stoned or something for showing up at the ball with you, I might want to learn a shield spell or something…"

"No, it's not normal. But then again, neither of us is quite normal by the wizarding world's standards either, are we?"