This is a work of fiction using the characters created by J.K. Rowling. They are not used with her permission. All actions follow the events of book six of the series. Any similarity between any person living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional. If you happen to find your life reflected in this piece I'll be impressed.

The Chalice and the Wand

Story ideas by poetheather and Wintermoon3

Chapter Eight

Luna woke and felt the warmth of Rhonda cuddled next to her. That made her smile. The redhead was sleeping so peacefully and that was so good to see, as that had not been the case when they had first started this trip. The girl had slept fitfully and it had taken lots of physical labor and lovemaking in order to wear her out enough so that she had been able to sleep enough to not be tired day in and out. That she was peaceful now was a good sign. That meant that Rhonda was healing from the pain that Hermione had inflicted on her when the breakup happened.

After a few minutes of enjoying the sight, she slowly eased herself out of the bed, needing to answer the call of nature. Rhonda made a noise but did not wake, instead grabbing the pillow she had been using and cuddling against that instead. Unable to help herself, Luna reached down and ran a hand down the girl's hair, gazing at the girl fondly. It was going to hurt so bad when she lost her.

Walking into the kitchen after she had gotten ready for the day, she looked through their supplies, smiling as she did. It was a really good thing that they were starting to run low on provisions at this point or it would have been a lot more difficult for her to pull this part of the plan off. Even Rhonda, who was admittedly not the most observant of the Golden Trio, would have noticed something amiss. And it would really help matters that the girl was so immersed in her work right now that it should help mask things as well. Luna had to admit that the site was fascinating. To have found the cave of Helga Hufflepuff was simply amazing. And it was all Rhonda who had done it as well. How could she not be impressed? Who would ever believe it?

She noted down everything that needed restocking and then turned and made some breakfast for herself as well as Rhonda. As she was putting it onto plates, Rhonda came stumbling groggily out of their room, hair tousled and still clearly sleepy. Luna smiled at the redhead affectionately and put a mug of tea in front of her. She had made it just the way Rhonda liked it and had kept it ready with a warming charm. The tea seemed to help the girl wake up enough to have her eyes open up more than mere slits.

"Ready for breakfast?" asked Luna airily, as she was running through her own packing list, making sure she was ready to go. She was going to be away for a few days and needed to have what she would need and it would not be useful to forget anything.

"Thanks. Hungry." mumbled Rhonda, not really looking up from the table.

Luna snickered lightly, "You are always hungry. You have always been the hungriest Weasley."

"s'not my fault." grumbled Rhonda as she began to dig into the plate that Luna slid in front of her.

"I know. You'll be fine but I am going to get us more supplies. You have enough food and such for a few days. I should be back by then, so it shouldn't be a problem. I have not seen any infestations of nargles, wrackspurts, or Black Forest Dumfliegers, which can steal your intelligence, so you should be fine. But if you start to feel stupid, wave your hands about and hop, the commotion often drives them off."

Rhonda looked up from her plate of food slightly confused. She swallowed and then asked, "Are you serious?"

"Absolutely Rhonda. An infestation of Dumfliegers can reduce you to a gibbering mess and we wouldn't want that." Luna smiled at him.

"Uhm… no… no we wouldn't." Rhonda had kind of forgotten this part of Luna, as it had not really manifested during their trip so far. She smiled a bit uncomfortably and unsure. "Thank you for that. I'll be sure to keep that in mind."

"Thank you. I would hate to return and find you in a puddle of your own drool." commented Luna seriously.

Rhonda started laughing. "Oh Merlin Luna, thank you. I will be on the lookout for that. I certainly wouldn't want that to happen."

"Good." Luna stood up from her place at the table, collecting her dishes. "Now I really should get going. There is so much to do. I will be back in a few days."

Rhonda nodded. "Be safe."

She smiled at her, glad that the redhead cared for her, even though it made this whole thing harder for her to accomplish. "Certainly, and you do the same."

"Oh, and use that apparation point I found at the back of the cave. That way there is less chance of the muggles seeing you before you leave. Clearly Hufflepuff thought of everything." commented Rhonda, as she had some more tea.

"I shall. And do remember that falling is not your fault and can be a good thing."

Rhonda looked up at her quizzically, trying to make sense of that last statement. Luna just smiled, came around the table and kissed the girl good bye. She put a lot of her feelings into it so that Rhonda might be a bit too stunned to actually ask her about things she really couldn't answer. Sometimes she just said things and she didn't know why. If they felt right, the words came out. She had always been that way.

She grabbed her bag and walked from the tent that she had erected in a cleared area inside the cave. Since the site was of such historical importance it felt weird to even consider sleeping on Helga Hufflepuff's bed. So it was probably for the best that she had put up the tent and not done that. Rhonda had not noticed when she was doing that as she had been busy inventorying the cave, trying to get and accurate picture of what was here visually before she started really delving deeper into what was there in terms of analysis. She really was approaching this work logically and with a good methodology, so unlike a Gryffindor.

It was already pretty interesting. There was a small greenhouse, a small forge, the library, personal rooms, a kitchen which seemed to double as a potions room. The whole complex was a wonderfully compact and efficient place for someone to do their work free of distractions. Luna was certainly impressed and she was sure Rhonda was as well. The area that Rhonda had mentioned was a small cleared area in the back that looked like it had protective wards around it but was still a valid apparation point. It was incredible and was a work of some amazingly advanced magic to make such a tiny hole in such strong wards that was invisible from the outside, but it made sense given that a badger would want more than one way out.

She read the Arithomancy formulae written in the runes around the border around the floor that spelled out the name of the spot, Puff's Den, and the layers of protections. It made her smile. This was like needing to apparate with a Floo address. It was pure genius. Hermione would be all over this, enjoying the spell and rune work that went into this place, maybe even squealing with delight. Stepping onto the bare earth and fixing the spot in her mind, she smiled faintly, trying to remind herself that she was doing all of this to help her friends. She disappeared with a pop.

"This really is a rather complex and ingenious potion Ms. Granger. I must admit I am rather impressed." said Professor Snape. "I gather that from your notes that you believe the problem to be the lingering energies of the Founder's Artifacts?"

Hermione smiled faintly. Once such praise would have made her puff up with pride, but now it was all kind of hollow. A lot of her life felt that way right now as all of her energies were devoted to solving this one problem, in the hopes that it could fix her screwed up relationship. She just wanted her old life back. "Yes. I figure that with Ron spending all that time working with those two Artifacts so closely that the energy seeped into him."

"Not unlike water penetrating a sponge?" He said with a slight sneer.

"Yes, exactly. That was what I was thinking. I think the reason all the other attempts to fix this failed is because all of that power is still in there. If it is stripped from him…" ignoring the slight against Ron, because it was not important in the overall scheme of things.

"…then the weak power of the fortune cookie spell will be all that remained. As I said, ingenious. The way you used multiple disciplines to solve this problem is really a skill outside of most witches or wizards out there. I must commend your work." Professor Snape favored her with a slight smile, more a turning up of one corner of his mouth than anything else. "It will take me a while to brew this. In order for greatest efficacy to occur I do believe it may be several months. This has never been attempted before, at least not in this fashion nor strength. I do look forward to this challenge. I thank you for that."

Hermione sighed and sagged slightly in her chair. She had honestly been worried that Snape would have refused the job and he was the best potions Master she knew of. "Thank you Professor. This really means a lot to me."

"You are welcome. I have all the ingredients available at Hogwarts and will start brewing immediately. I wish you luck in this endeavor."

Hermione stood and offered her hand to the tall, thin professor. He took her hand and shook it gently. He raised an eyebrow and pierced her with his gaze as he had of old. "And do try to take care of yourself Ms. Granger. It is clear that you are not sleeping well and that will take its toll on your work. Harry worries about you, you know."

The brown haired girl blushed a little at his comment, aware of the dark circles under her eyes and the paleness of her skin. She had been trying to mask it but naturally Snape would be able to see through such things. "I will try Professor. I am just under a lot of stress."

"Very well. Now that this is in my hands, you can cease your stress and leave it in my capable hands. What good does this do you, if at the end you are too unwell to properly celebrate?"

"Thank you Professor." replied Hermione, blushing some more and shaking her head.

"Good day." He turned and his cloak spun around him, like it often had at Hogwarts. She shook her head. Some things would never change, which was something of a comfort. Before the door closed she heard his voice again, "Miss Lovegood."


Hermione looked towards the door in some surprise as the blond walked in. Her brows furrowed in worry, "Luna? But I thought…? Weren't you with…? Is Ron okay?"

"Yes. Yes you did. Yes I was. She is fine. We have made some amazing discoveries, but that is for her to tell you. I just have a few questions." The smile that Luna graced her with was beatific.

The responses and the look threw Hermione for a bit of a loop and she sat down kind of heavily, trying to parse all of that. She needed to get things back under her control where she liked them. "Uhm… yes, so what is it that you want?"

The girl smiled happily and asked in response, "Did you have a nice chat with Professor Snape?"

"I… I did thank you." Hermione could not figure out where this was going. Luna was always the most random person she had ever known and that had clearly not changed since she had last seen her. This was not helping matters any.

"That's good. I am so glad that Harry was able to clear out the nest of Nargles that was infesting him. He does seem to be much happier now."

Hermione smiled a little. Luna's imaginary creatures were always kind of amusing. They always seemed to be used to justify odd or unusual behavior in people, when it was really just psychology. "Yes, he is so much nicer since that happened."

"Oh! Rhonda said that you had enchanted a pair of glasses to be able to translate any language they looked over into English. Would it be possible to borrow those for a little while?"

"Certainly. I assume you found something that Ron can't read?" Hermione asked, growing interested in what Ron was doing.

"Yes. Rhonda is not very skilled at several languages though I must admit she is developing some skills as a linguist." There was something in the smile that Luna gave her that had Hermione trying to figure out what the blond meant by that. "And the quality of the work she does. I must admit, I had not thought that Rhonda would be quite that cunning. You must have had a rather strong influence on that part of her."

"Thank you…" Hermione was not sure what to make of that. Luna was smiling that smile of hers, the one that made her seem all blissed out and like there wasn't a problem in the whole world. It did seem like she was saying something else though. "I have no problem letting Ron…da borrow those glasses for her work. I assume this has to do with her search for answers?"

"Oh yes, you would be very proud. She is doing some amazing things right now." Luna smiled happily, clearly proud of what Rhonda was doing.

Hermione closed her eyes and rubbed the tense spot between her eyes. She was the one that should have been proud of Ron's work and not Luna. This was not right. "Look Luna, I know that you are with him and that I may have screwed things up beyond fixing but could you not rub my face in it."

"I am sorry Hermione, that wasn't my intention. I was trying to let you know how she is doing, since you seemed worried about her." replied Luna with a bit of a frown on her face.

Luna was being so forthright that Hermione was finding it difficult to be angry with her. If the girl weren't so open about everything it would be easier to hate her. "No I'm sorry Luna. I should not have snapped at you."

With another of her characteristic smiles, Luna replied, "That's okay. You are just worried about someone you care about. Even if things aren't going well right now that doesn't mean your feelings stop."

Hermione nodded. When Luna made sense there really was no denying what she said and she really was making a good deal of sense right now. "Thank you. Let me get those glasses."

She stood and walked over to one of her bookshelves and grabbed the solid glasses case that was designed to survive most any damage that came to it, which contained the glasses that Luna had asked about. Handing them over she asked, "Was there anything else you needed?"

"Yes. I was wondering if you would have dinner with me tonight?" Again Luna turned one of her brightest smiles on her.

Hermione's face scrunched some in confusion. Had she misheard Luna? "Excuse me?"

"Dinner. Tonight. Surely you still eat, right? I mean surely you must unless you are dealing with an infestation of Librapath Beetles that make you disregard normal life for studying. I know it might be tough to tell with you sometimes but this development is worrisome. We need to start treatment right away!" Luna was clearly a bit distraught and began to get up and moved towards her side of the desk.

"No, no… it's okay Luna. I don't have a beetle infestation. I am perfectly fine and yes, I will have dinner with you. See, no need to worry about me and some strange infestation." protested Hermione, wanting to keep Luna from doing anything too strange to her head in order to stop the infestation.

Luna smiled at her serenely and sat back down. "Well, if you are sure. I could still check for them. It won't take but a moment. We need to be safe."

"No, I'm good." Hermione gave a small indulgent smile.

"Okay. Do you want to come over to my place before dinner? I will have everything set up for it and you will not have to do a thing."

"That sounds fine. Thank you Luna."

The blond stood. "Well I should get going. I need to do some more shopping and get things ready for our dinner. Here is the Floo address for my flat. I hope to see you there at seven?"

"I'll be there."

Once the blond left, Hermione lowered her head to her desktop, groaning in frustration. Why did this sort of thing always seem to happen to her? She had been good. She had been in a good relationship with good friends and everything, so why this? Why was all of this happening to her? To Ron? Maybe there was some sort of curse on them? Some sort of lingering curse that Voldemort's death had started? She shook her head. There was no way that was true, based off of how happy Harry and Ginny were, but she wished it was. That at least would be an easy thing to fix, a problem she could tackle and overcome instead of having a life that was falling to pieces all around her and completely out of her control.

She looked at the paperwork and projects on her desk and she sighed. There was just no way she was going to be able to focus on any of this stuff, not while she was still all tangled up with these issues. Maybe having dinner with Luna would actually help her clear her mind, get her out of the rut she had been in and let her tackle these problems fresh in the morning. Right now she really was not doing her best work and that was not what she needed. No, if she wanted to save her engagement and her love she had to be at her best. Only that way could she fix things.

Rhonda looked around the cave, at all the amazing things in it and smiled. This really was kind of awe inspiring. She was actually standing in the cave of Helga Hufflepuff, one of the founders of Hogwarts. She had found the cave of Helga bloody Hufflepuff. That was amazing. To think that without this stupid curse that she had somehow given herself she might never have actually gone on this trip and searched for this place. She might never have discovered this out of sheer laziness if not for a fortune cookie. It was mind blowing. Hermione would be so jealous.

That thought made her frown. Yes Hermione would love it here. This place with all its books and interesting objects and lore would be a veritable playground for the woman. However she had hurt Rhonda and so she was a bit cross with the genius at the moment. With a shake of her head she tried to clear her thoughts of her fiancé, grumbling out, "I don't have time for this."

Choosing instead to follow the lure of the room in front of her, Rhonda left her brooding and moved deeper into the cave. She had noted the greenhouse yesterday so it would make a good first project to tackle as without the glasses looking at the books would not be helpful. Looking over the outside, what she noted first were the heavy use of runes on all the joins and around the windows. It was interesting work and fairly advanced for the time period.

This brought to mind visions of Hermione bent over an Ancient Runes text back at Hogwarts, studying like mad over the crazy symbols. Rhonda frowned and tried to ignore that thought, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand. She tried to remember if these runes were similar to the ones on the greenhouses at Hogwarts but could not precisely remember. Her memory for those sorts of details was not that great. It was probably the case, but she was not sure.

Entering the greenhouse cautiously, with her wand out and at the ready, Rhonda looked around the glass enclosed room. It was well lit and a bit humid. There were a number of plants there, mostly having overgrown their pots, spilling over the surfaces they had been put on and draping over the floor. The ceiling was giving off what seemed a little like daylight and if there had been a watering system built in as well, that could explain how these plants had managed to survive all these years and the humidity in the air. She couldn't identify most of the plants, as herbology was another subject that she was not particularly good at. It was a bit annoying as at every turn in this damn place she was wishing that she had the bushy haired girl that she still loved despite the pain.

Groaning in annoyance, Rhonda tried to get back to her work of figuring things out about Helga's place. It did not look like there was anything of note that she could spot in here but she need to finish her search. Neville could have identified all of these she was sure and given her a better assessment, but her own herbology grades had not nearly been nearly as stellar. She knew she had been pretty much a crap student back at Hogwarts but she had been trying to make up for it even since and in fact had done a lot more learning and studying since she had joined the Unspeakables in order to more effectively do her work. Their training program was intense and she had almost not made it, to be honest. If it had not been for her fame because of the War there was no way she would have even gotten the position, but the extra hours she had studied both at work and at home, with Hermione helping her ensured her eventual success.

That train of thought made Rhonda scream in annoyance, "Bloody hell, does everything in my life relate to perfect fucking Granger! I know we wouldn't have survived the bloody War without her but I have done things on my own! I'm a success. I have done all sorts of things! Look, I found this bloody cave, haven't I! A cave no one found for about a thousand years! Damnit Hermione, you aren't the only smart witch around here!"

She collapsed to her knees against the back of the greenhouse, head against the stone, pounding her fist lightly against it as she cried, tears of anger and frustration burning down her face. "It's not fair! This whole damn thing is not fair."

Suddenly she fell forward onto the floor as that section of wall swung open and all that supported her was empty space. Rhonda, lay there on the dirty floor, blinking at the opened area in some confusion. She cast Lumos and looked at the tunnel that was before her. She climbed to her feet, brushing the dirt off of her, wand still held before her as she walked down a short tunnel to another chamber. Once she stepped into the room several torches burst into light. Rhonda was blinking at all of this as she took in the chamber. This was clearly some sort of secret room within Hufflepuff's secret living space. There was a worktable in there with a chair in front of it and as she drew closer it was clear that there were metal carving tools on there. Looking closer she could spot a few pieces of metal that looked similar in composition to the chalice. Was this where the chalice was made?

Running her fingers over the surface, she smiled to herself. This place was amazing. There was a bookshelf in here as well, but it was empty, and there were shelves of jars that had labels on them that she could not read. This was more than likely Helga's work room, where the other rooms had been for living and normal study. This was clearly the safest place in the whole complex.

That thought made Rhonda pause. This would indeed be the safest place in the whole complex so how in Merlin's name did she get in here?

Frowning, she headed back to the door, trying to make sense out of this. If the door was protected, like it would have to be for a secret room, then how did she manage to do this? It would probably be something in a manner similar to the Chamber of Secrets, but she had not really said anything that might work as a password. She had just pounded on the stone and spoke regular words. That made less than no sense. The parseltongue defenses made sense but this?

She had already seen the room, so should she take the chance of never getting back in to try and solve this mystery? With a nod, Rhonda pulled the door closed. Once it was back in place, there was no seam anywhere to mark that there had ever been a door. She knelt down to the same spot she had been at before and examined the rock. She saw a faint mark on the stone and it looked like a badger. She peered closer until she was sure that what she was seeing was actually there and not something she was making up to make herself feel better. It was and if she was correct that was where her fist was hitting. Tracing the figure with a finger, she then rested her hand flat against it, holding her breath nervously. The stone swung open as her hand went flat on it.

Rhonda gasped. How the hell? This didn't make any sense. Why would her hand open the door? She needed to think and it was not a skill she was particularly gifted at. Heading back to the main rooms, she was distracted as her thoughts were a tangled, jumbled mess. She needed a cup of tea to think clearly, and it might even be easier if she was back in the comfort of the Burrow. This was strange and difficult to wrap her head around and was making her head hurt a little. Somehow she was able to open Hufflepuff's secret workroom with a touch. That made no sense.

Once back in the tent, she made the tea while she was rubbing the back of her neck, trying to loosen tight muscles, her mind busy trying to make heads or tails of this whole issue. Could it have to do with the magic bleed over from the artifacts she had been working on? If so, did that mean that it made her read like Helga Hufflepuff magically to the door? That was crazy, wasn't it? But then again the Chamber opened to anyone speaking parseltongue. Was this something similar? You just had to feel somewhat like Hufflepuff to get in? Did this mean she might be able to do something similar if she was able to find where Rowena Ravenclaw had lived in the Italian Alps? She drank her tea and rubbed her eyes. This was so frustrating and maddening. There was no real precedent for this and she was not sure how to proceed.

What the hell was she going to do if that was true? It made no sense at all but the idea was something she had to consider, even as a remote possibility. What was she going to do? This was almost too much for her to deal with. All she could really do now was keep studying this place in order to get as much from the place as she could. If she did not keep moving her worries would overwhelm her and she really did not want that. This was all she could do. Maybe when Luna got back she could help. Rhonda looked sadly at her drink, wishing that her favorite genius were here to make everything better.

Hermione stared out the window trying to figure how the hell this had happened to her. How in the hell had she agreed to letting Luna Bloody Lovegood take her out for dinner for Merlin's sake? What was she thinking? Was she thinking? Was she simply sleep deprived and making stupid decisions? There was no way for her to know and that was making her crazy. She needed to do something but what? She had been fighting off the advances of the Derek, at least her attraction to the man that she had never seen this date coming.

Maybe going on this date, dinner, or whatever it was, was a good thing after all. She might be able to get more information about Ron out of Luna and find out what was going on with him right now. Regardless of all of that, she still had to sit there and eat a meal with Loony and not mock her for all her crazy beliefs. That just might take more than she had at this moment. She felt so close to breaking that it was making her a bit crazy. It was difficult enough to maintain a façade at work, let alone an intimate setting with someone who actually knew her.

How was she going to do this? The clock chimed and she sighed. Her time was up. There was no longer any way of getting out of this. She had agreed and it really was a great opportunity to get information, since Ginny wasn't telling her anything. No going out to dinner with Luna was it. She had to do this if she wanted to know.

She went to the fireplace, threw in the Floo powder and said the name on the paper, stepping through the green flames. The flat she arrived in was nothing like she had expected. It was rather plain, all told, with a neat and well-ordered bookshelf off to one side of the room. There were a lot of wizard photos on another wall, more than she expected the young woman to have. The furniture was plain as well, though the couch did have an attractive and rather colorful Afghan tossed over the back. This did not seem to be what she thought of when she thought of Luna. Where was all the crazy stuff?

When Luna came into the room, she smiled happily at Hermione, saying, "Right on time."

Hermione noticed that Luna was wearing perfectly normal muggle clothes, with no strange earrings or anything. It was a rather shocking look from what Hermione was used to. The blond asked, "Are you ready?"

"Sure." Hermione was a bit confused but tried to play it off. This was again not going like she had expected. "So where are we going?"

"I figure we can Floo to the Leaky Cauldron and from there take a taxi to the restaurant." Luna looked so happy when she said that.

They quickly flooed over to the wizarding tavern and from there went down the street a little, finding a taxi. As they got in the back the cabbie asked, "Where to then?"

"Souk Bazaar." answered Luna.

"Right then. Hold on." The taxi headed down Charing Cross Road and they were on their way.

"Souk Bazaar? Middle Eastern food?" asked Hermione, turning a little in her seat to better face the girl.

"Yes. It is more Moroccan food than general Middle Eastern food. Very tasty. I am sure you will enjoy it."

Hermione actually relaxed and smiled, one of the first real smiles she had had since this whole thing had started, certainly since Rhonda had left. This was so unexpected that it made it even more wonderful. "Thank you Luna."

The blond reached over and briefly rested a hand comfortingly on one of Hermione's. "You are welcome."

Once they reached the restaurant, the headed inside. It was rather nice, with a rather rich Moroccan flair that really did impress Hermione. This was exactly the kind of place she would have loved to have gone with Ron if he were more partial to trying more muggle things. It had taken a lot of work to get him to try the few things he had done and that was quite frustrating. He almost seemed averse to exploring the muggle world she had grown up in.

The next surprise to hit Hermione was when Luna started speaking Arabic to one of the people there. The person bowed their head and then led them back into the restaurant, into a back corner where they sat on thick cushions next to a low table. Hermione looked at her in shock, "You speak Arabic?"

"Some. Some of the expeditions my father and I have been on have taken us all over. I speak a number of different languages because of that." Luna smiled happily as she shrugged as if it were no big deal. "Those were good times."

"Have you… have you ever found anything?" hesitantly asked Hermione, unsure if she really wanted to know the answer to this or not.

"It's okay Hermione. I know that you don't believe that any of the creatures I talk about are real, but I assure you they are. And yes, my father and I have found several of these creatures on our travels. It has been quite exciting."

Hermione blinked a few times as she tried to process that. Luna had actually found some of those things? "So… so Nargles and Heliopaths and…"

"Yes. I know it is quite stunning to learn that the world that you thought you knew is not what you thought it was. It makes everything far more magical." Luna said a bit dreamily.

There was that smile again that used to make Hermione roll her eyes but this time she wasn't sure what to do. And that statement… when Hermione had discovered that Magic was real and that she was a witch it had the same effect. Knowing that could she really, with full honesty deny Luna anymore? "Do you have any records of these finds?"

"Oh certainly, what kind of naturalists don't have records of their trips? But don't worry about that right now. I can show you all of that stuff later. How are you doing Hermione? You look like you haven't been sleeping."

"I… I haven't. What is going on Luna? Why won't people tell me what is going on with Ron? I just want to know how he is?" Hermione almost wanted to shake the girl to get an answer but that wouldn't help her case.

"That right there."

"What?" Hermione sat back, clearly surprised and having difficulty following what the girl was saying.

"You are very smart Hermione. Smartest person I have ever met but right now you are being really dumb and I don't know why. It is confusing me. I know there is pain involved and something else, but for the life of me so much of how you are acting just doesn't make sense." Luna focused on Hermione and her somewhat larger than normal eyes almost seemed hypnotic.

"Are you saying you know how I act?" Hermione narrowed her eyes almost in a challenge.

Luna shrugged, her voice still completely calm in that way of hers. "I know how most people act. It's not all that difficult. All you have to do is watch them and it all makes sense. Simple observation really." A waitress came up and Luna ordered mint tea and two royal feast meals. Once the woman was gone she continued. "I knew why you did not believe me in school and that was okay. How you saw the world would not allow it. That was fine and did not bother me."


"No, hold on… You are a kind and considerate person, who loves your friends and values truth. You take people as they are. So thinking about that, you tell me why people won't tell you anything?" Luna was serene throughout all of this, her voice even and peaceful, making the words hit harder because of that.

Hermione thought on that as the waitress returned with two pots of hot water and glasses. The scent of mint was quite rich in the air. Luna poured some of the tea and handed the glass over. "There you go."

With a faint smile, Hermione nodded her head in thanks and took an absent sip. The flavor was lovely and it did help calm her some. She could see what Luna was driving at. Harry and Ginny had pretty much made the same points, though not in quite as logical a manner as the blond. The logic was forcing her to look closer than the emotional approach had. She knew the answer, had known the answer, but had never wanted to share it. "I know I have not been treating Rhonda well… it's just that…"

Luna smiled at her encouragingly, trying to coax the answer out of her.

Hermione swallowed hard, feeling like something was caught in her throat. Tears started to well up in her eyes as emotions she had thought she had hidden came to the fore. All her worries, all her fears came spilling down and it hurt, tearing her up inside. She looked down at the table as she spoke, "I… I know it doesn't make any sense but I lost so much in the War, we all did and this…" she swallowed hard, tears welling up in her eyes. "This whole thing feels like I have lost Ron, like he is gone forever, like I will never get the man I love back. It feels… feels like he is dead."

Luna took the bushy haired girl into her arms and let Hermione cry. The girl shook in her arms, pain leeching out of her. When she started quieting down and the starters had arrived, Luna asked calmly, "You are aware that Rhonda is still Ron… right?"

Hermione nodded, sniffling and wiping her eyes. "I know that, intellectually but it doesn't feel that way. I look at her and it doesn't feel right. The longer it goes the worse this feeling becomes. I feel like I am looking at a completely different person who is living happily while my Ron is dead."

Luna sat there pondering this while eating the food, showing Hermione how to do the same. After a few more bites she said, "Just being around Rhonda is completely like being around Ron. It really is but until you can get that you won't see that. And that means you won't be able to love her for her."

"I tried but it wasn't working." sadly said Hermione.

"Of course not. You have to give up the dead. Only the living can be dealt with like this."

Hermione thought about that, and even though it sounded a bit ridiculous it did make a kind of sense. Maybe she should listen to Luna's advice? Nothing else had worked so far. "I'll give that a try."

"Good. Now dry your tears and have some of this tasty food. We can worry about all that other stuff later. For right now, let's enjoy ourselves."