Almost Rosey

Chapter 1: Legimancy and Punch

The night Hermione learned legimancy was a hot one in August, making her shirt cling to her and her normally unmanageable hair hang, damp from sweat.

Whose idea was it to have the Auror's Ball outdoors on a night this warm? she thought. But it was too late now to complain. She was already here, and Ron had gone to fetch her some punch. Harry and Ginny were both across the lawn, dancing by the light of floating torches and looking altogether too happy. Hermione was sitting crossly at a table, surreptitiously casting cooling charms on her robes. Magic ought to make this sort of thing easier, but in reality robes were terrible at holding cooling charms, and the clothes that were better- well, she couldn't cast spells on them in front of all these people, and she was too tired to find a bathroom and solve the problem. Cooling charms only lasted about twenty minutes, anyway. Hardly worth the effort.

Suddenly, she felt as though a bucket of ice water had been dumped over her head. She gave a little shriek, turned, and found herself face-to-face with Luna Lovegood.

"Luna," Hermione said in a slightly choked voice (patting her hair and finding it no damper than before). "How nice to see you!"

Luna nodded, staring a bit too intently, and said "You looked a bit warm."

"Er- yes. What charm was that?"

"Ice-bucket charm. Frigio. My dorm mates used to use it on me, back at Hogwarts. I think it's much more pleasant on a day like today, though."

"Well, yes. It's a bit sudden, though, isn't it?"

"Much better than having to find a bathroom and charm your-"

"So what are you doing here? I haven't seen you in… Merlin, nearly a year! Since my wedding."

"I was invited. A lot of people involved in the war are here. Neville's over by the punch, you know. And Padma is around here somewhere. It isn't all Aurors, you know. Or Auror's spouses…"

Hermione wanted to protest suddenly, to say that she wasn't just here because she was Ron's wife. But Luna knew that. She hadn't meant any offense, probably, though you could never really be sure with Luna.

Searching for a change of subject, Hermione noted a ring on Luna's finger. "You're engaged, then?"

"Yes. He's very nice, my Snorky."

"Snorky?"

"Yes. He said I can call him that so long as I don't fall in love with anyone else."

Hermione tried and failed to imagine the conversation that had precipitated that remark. It must have been an innocent, off-hand comment. But Luna had a way of twisting things until they didn't quite make sense anymore. It was one of her least-endearing traits.

"That's… nice, I suppose. When is the wedding going to be?"

"We haven't decided yet. I wanted a summer wedding, but summer is almost over. So perhaps next year."

"Well- good luck, then. I'm sure you'll be happy."

Luna nodded, then stared for a moment at Hermione, so intently that Hermione had to look away. It was so hard to have a conversation with Luna; she was unnerving.

"You aren't happy at work," Luna said abruptly.

Images flashed across Hermione's mind. Paperwork, and smiling, uncooperative faces. Outdated filing systems, and abused house elves, and no way to grasp at any power or authority to blame, because authority these days was like smoke; every time you thought you'd got hold of it, you lost it.

"It gets frustrating at times, yes. How did you know…"

Hermione wished that Ron would hurry back with the drinks. He was better at handling Luna than she was. Hermione always ended up flustered and confused after their encounters. Today, she was even less prepared to deal with her; the ice charm had just worn off, and she was once again sticky and uncomfortable.

"That was legimancy," Hermione managed, finally recognizing the stream of images that had rushed through her mind. "Wasn't it?"

"Oh, yes. Snorky showed me how. It isn't very hard. You just do this."

And suddenly Hermione found herself recalling all the times Harry had tried to teach her occlumency.

"You just have to… er… imagine minds are like ribbons, alright? And they're all sort of lined up on a table, in neat rows. You want to sort of twist your ribbon so that it isn't lined up with the others anymore."

And then:

"Well- er- try to imagine that you've got a sort of mental invisibility cloak."

"What happened to the ribbons?"

"You can imagine it in all sorts of different ways, whichever works best."

It had been then that Hermione decided occlumency was too wishy-washy for her, much as Divination had been and broom-flying before that. Just words as good intentions, with no facts to back them up. More instinct than knowledge.

"How do you do it?" Hermione found herself asking through the haze of memories.

"You just do," Luna said with a confused look. "Like I showed you."

"One more time," Hermione murmured.

And then Hermione was half a second behind herself, experiencing each moment and then experiencing it again.

"Oh," she said. She was suddenly twice as aware of the heat and her clothes, and Luna's calm, wide stare. It should have been unpleasant. Certainly the heat and stickiness were, in reality. But it was like remembering being burnt; you knew it hurt, but you didn't actually feel the pain again. The net result was that she didn't notice how uncomfortable she was. It was all neatly muffled by the half-second-ago memory.

"That's quite clever," Hermione said, then listened to herself say it again, fascinated. Is this how Luna feels all the time? she wondered.

"Yes," Luna said. "Yes." Hermione wasn't entirely sure whether she was answering what Hermione had said, or what she had thought.

Hermione shook her head, breaking eye contact. The oppressive night came back to her in a hot rush.

"I still don't understand how you do it. You don't use your wand, or a spell, or anything at all…"

Their eyes met again, but not long enough for Luna to do anything again. Somewhere across the lawn, the band started playing a slow love song, and Hermione wondered a little bit where Ron was.

"It's a sloppy art," Hermione said, more for her own benefit than Luna's. "I'm no good at-"

And then Luna grabbed Hermione's chin and forced their eyes to meet. Hermione was too startled to resist, and found herself in that calm, half-a-moment-behind state again, staring into Luna's huge grey eyes.

"We're all lined up now," Luna said. "All you need to do is push."

Without knowing exactly what she was doing, or why, Hermione did push, and found herself staring into her own brown eyes with a sense of accomplishment and irrational disappointment.

There was a flood of emotion too sudden and overwhelming to sort out. Luna.

There was the sorting hat on a stool, and a glance at the other tables. "You're funny one, aren't you? Better be RAVENCLAW!" it shouted and

There was the dungeon, and that Death Eater who came in every day to

That cute Neville boy, he needed to stop being so clumsy because he was so sweet when

Hermione closed her eyes, breathing heavily from the suddenness of it all. And all of this was slightly detached, the memory of a memory. Every hurt and injury had been buried under a thin layer of memory, for Luna's entire life.

"You've never lived," Hermione said.

"Haven't I?" asked Luna, voice suddenly gone cool. But she didn't take her hand from Hermione's cheek, and there was a challenge in her voice.

Hermione locked eyes with her again. "Have you?"

This time was easier, now that Hermione knew what she was doing. She did the lining up herself, reveling in the easy feel of detachment for a moment before plunging in to Luna's mind.

There was a single kiss, lived over and over. Every time was like a petal, making a whole rose of emotion and joy and hopeful longing, one experience made into many by

And there was little Luna, dancing in the rain with the cold unable to touch her, and her sheer exhilaration at moving only growing as she lived it a hundred times, a million times over.

And there was Hermione's own face, staring into Luna's eyes and smiling, and the happiness Luna felt was anything but simple, it had been put down in so many layers-

"Oh," Hermione heard herself say through Luna's ears. Suddenly she was aware that Luna's hand was still on her face- she could feel it not only through her own skin, but through Luna's- in a much more intimate touch, mind-on-mind in a-

"Oh, Luna," Ron's cheerful voice said from behind Hermione. Hermione turned to him, breaking eye contact. Luna's hand came off Hermione's cheek.

Hermione found herself blushing, as though she'd been caught out at something wrong.

"You wouldn't believe the crowd around the punch table," Ron said, setting a glass of watery pink liquid in front of Hermione. "Would you like one, Luna? You can have mine, if you're thirsty."

"No, thank you. I'm not very thirsty." She stood, and Hermione noted that she still wasn't at all sweaty, though Hermione herself was even stickier than she had been before their encounter. "I'd best be off to find John."

"John?"

"My fiancé. Didn't I mention him before? He must have wandered off…"

Luna hadn't mentioned his name before. Hermione didn't comment, but she wondered.

"I'll see you later, Luna," Hermione said, knowing it was most likely a lie. They moved in different circles, now. It was unlikely they'd meet again.

"Of course," Luna said, expression unreadable. Their gazes locked once more, but nothing came of it.

"Odd woman," Ron said as the blonde wandered away.

"Don't say that," Hermione said absently, still trying to understand exactly what had happened in the last five minutes.

Luna always left Hermione feeling confused. It was one of her most endearing traits.

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A/N:

Against my better judgement (I have several other fics going right now...) I've decided to make this a WIP rather than a oneshot. Updates will probably be a bit slow, but they will come.

Please review!