True to her word, Luna was awaiting her older friend at "their spot" in the library after classes had ended the next day. Hermione smiled softly to herself as she watched the little blonde from across the room. Luna was slowly removing all her books and notes, arranging them neatly all over the table. Neatly, like how Hermione preferred. The eccentric girl usually appeared to have no real order to her things that the brunette could tell.
But today was different. She was trying to appease the older girl's more organized mind. Clutter tended to frustrate Hermione, though that seemed to be how Luna worked. Surrounding herself in a mess, pushing parchment here and there, a book open and buried, another with some strange stain that more than likely came from something the little blonde was snacking on during a particular read through, random little drawings and nearly illegible scribbles that were supposed to be "notes"...
Today was not about Luna though. She had said she'd assist her friend with potions and that's what she intended to do. Hermione's mind worked differently and she was far less flexible with it than the younger girl, so Luna took it upon herself to be the one to adapt to the other's way of thinking. She figured that by accommodating the brunette, the girl would be more willing to listen and find it easier to learn from her.
Though, this would probably be easier said than done. Luna had a tendency to be vague and speak in a round-about way. It was something that Hermione didn't always have the patience for. Hermione liked blunt, solid answers that left no room for questions. Luna liked open, fluid answers filled with possibilities.
Once the smaller girl had finished setting out her things, she stopped to study it a moment with her brows just barely furrowed in thought. She appeared to be pleased with it as a small smile graced her lips that caused Hermione's own smile to grow. The older girl had taken to simply watching her friend from afar as of late. She couldn't quite explain why, but it... made her happy. Just watching Luna do simple things, watching the subtle shifts in her expression that went along with the girl's ever changing train of thought. She felt like she could better appreciate the younger girl that way. It's then, when watching her without the girl's awareness, that Hermione really got to see how grand Luna is.
For Luna, her thoughts and emotions ran through her eyes more than anything. A brightness as an idea hit her, a tiny narrowing as she grows frustrated or irritated, the way they relax showing calm enjoyment, the way they just slightly close showing pride in herself. Hermione never would have noticed those things if she had never started watching her friend this way. When she simply watched her without the girl's knowledge, Luna appeared so... normal. All of her oddities didn't seem so strange anymore. In fact, it actually made her seem more... interesting. Like a puzzle meant to be solved. 'What is Luna doing now? Why would she do that? What could it mean? What could she be thinking? What do her eyes say at the moment?'
Hermione had learned that while the blonde may have a sometimes confusing and vague way of wording things, the girl's actions are always quite deliberate. Luna never did anything on a whim, she always had a reason. Though the older girl didn't always understand whatever reasons her friend had, it didn't make her any less admiring of it. Hermione liked things to be sensible and the things Luna did always made sense to Luna if no one else. The brunette had used to think the airy girl was guilty of flights of fancy due to her particular way of speaking and the general way the girl presented herself. She now felt something like respect for her friend knowing she had been wrong. Luna's actually very analytical and ponders her actions and possible outcomes before doing something, even more so than Hermione herself.
That thought brought the older girl back into the moment, realizing that Luna had more than likely spent a great deal of time planning for this study session. She felt a little guilty now. She would like to do better in potions yes, but it wasn't necessary for the smaller girl to have gone through so much trouble for it. The mock lesson hadn't even begun and Hermione was already certain that her friend took it very seriously when Hermione herself had simply made up her "problem" on the spot. She hadn't been lying per se, but she had exaggerated a bit.
It warmed her heart to know that Luna was so eager and genuinely wanted to help, though that simply made her feel even more guilty. She mentally told herself that even if the younger girl started to become confusing or irritating as she talked, Hermione will remain a good student with an even temper. She owed the girl that much.
Looking up from her work, Luna finally noticed her friend standing at the end of one of the many bookshelves near "their table". She smiled instantly and warmly at Hermione, causing the older girl's face to flush slightly as she awkwardly smiled back. She had been caught staring again and hoped that the blonde won't question it. Her mind went blank as soon as she saw the other girl's smile directed at her and she wouldn't be able to come up with a proper excuse. It was a particular smile that was only ever directed at herself, always causing Hermione's brain to go on the fritz.
Needlessly adjusting the strap to her bag, Hermione braced herself and began walking over towards the table. She needed to clear her head and stop thinking so intently about her friend. She worried that it would show on her face, that Luna would be able to tell. The little blonde has this bizarre ability to simply know things that made Hermione uncomfortable at times. With just one look, Luna could go on and on describing a person's basic personality, current mood, and sometimes even guess at what they may be thinking about without ever even having met the person. She had guessed at what the brunette was thinking on a handful of occasions and it was very unsettling to her. After Hermione snapped at her for it once, the younger girl stopped. But just because she stopped voicing it, it didn't mean she couldn't still read the older girl.
Luna appeared to do it unconsciously, she just looked at someone and saw more than the average person. It was part of what caused her to be teased so much before the war. She didn't realize how much it bothered people to be told and asked such personal things. They often lashed out against her because of how vulnerable they were left feeling after she spoke to them. That combined with her odd beliefs, she was an easy target for bullying. She made people uncomfortable. She still did to an extent, but she had learned to rein it in a bit as the years rolled on.
The only person she truly made feel uneasy anymore was Hermione. The brunette couldn't always even rationalize what it was her friend was doing that left her feeling that way, so she tended to try to brush it off. It wasn't like Luna was actually doing anything that she needed to be reprimanded for. Like right now, she was simply smiling at the older girl, yet it stirred an odd feeling in Hermione that she didn't fully understand and didn't entirely like. She felt... foolish.
She imagined that she may have looked a bit foolish as well, Luna's smile had widened as she watched her. Vaguely nodding her head to the seat across from her, the blonde spoke easily and cheerfully, "Hello, Hermione. You may sit you know, I've been eagerly awaiting your arrival."
Face flushing, the brunette grit her teeth and quickly pulled her chair out. Was she standing there for long? It was apparently long enough for the other girl to notice the strangeness of it. Practically ripping her messenger bag off, Hermione sat down and cleared her throat.
"Yes, hello. I'm... sorry if you were waiting long. I was... lost in thought," the brunette said awkwardly.
Lightly humming, the younger girl's tone was understanding, "I know, I could tell. I didn't want to disturb you until you seemed like you were back. I quite dislike having a thought disrupted as it can be difficult to recall again later. If you'd like, you could take note of it," she said, holding out a small blank piece of parchment, "so you can come back to it again."
Chuckling faintly, Hermione shook her head, "Thank you, but that's not necessary. It wasn't all that important really."
"Are you certain?" the blonde asked, lowering her hand that still grasped the offered parchment, "It looked awfully important to you if your expression is anything to go by."
The older girl bit her tongue as she felt hot all over. She felt irritated and wasn't exactly sure why. She was also nervous, had she been figured out that quickly? Did the other girl know that she had been staring again? Did she-
"I apologize," came the quick response from Luna, cutting off the brunette's train of thought. She immediately withdrew her hand and placed the parchment down on the table.
Hermione furrowed her brow in confusion, slightly startled by her friend's sudden change in demeanor. When Luna looked at her face again, the younger girl soon broke out into a smile and shook her head as if realizing something. Hermione wasn't mad.
"You looked uncomfortable," the younger girl said, her voice light once more, "That was not my intention."
"I know," Hermione's voice came out steadier than she had expected, "It's never your intention, that's why I forgive you time and time again," she smiled lightly and nearly whispered, "It's really nothing to worry about Luna, though I thank you for trying to be helpful."
Luna's smile warmed once more as she looked at her friend across from her. The older girl had to look away as that smile tore at her heart and caused her brain to malfunction. She couldn't handle that right now, her nerves already a little on edge. As peculiar as Luna was, she was an extremely kindhearted person. To the point that such kindness hurt her, that people abused that kindness. Hermione tried her best not to hurt her, knowing that she probably has on more than one occasion. That she probably will again from time to time. She didn't want to as much as Luna didn't want to make her uncomfortable, but it was bound to happen every now and then. She just wanted to try and move past it as quickly as possible.
"Sooo," Hermione dragged out as she looked around the table, taking in the sight of all the clearly written notes mixed in with the occasion drawings. Luna really had gone out of her way with this, and the brunette wanted to show how appreciative she was, "Where do we start?"
Eyes instantly lighting up, the little blonde's smile became excited as she spoke, "By throwing out nearly everything the book has taught you."
"What?!" came the immediate response, the older girl sitting forward in her seat.
Luna shook her head, amusement evident in her voice, "It will be fun, I assure you. A lot of the basics like what ingredients are and what they're used for should be kept exactly as they are in your memory. Though that is subject to change if you wish to engage in serious experimentation... But I'm getting ahead of myself."
Hermione stared at her in disbelief. She couldn't be serious. Luna wanted her to just forget what her text book said. How could she...? That's just ridiculous. Perhaps she is a bit mad, that "Loony" had been a cruel, but fitting name.
But she knows how brilliant the girl is. Mad or not, Luna was bloody brilliant. She must know what she's talking about to be the head of her class in potions... The bookworm would simply have to take her word for it, at least listen and try it her way. Then she could decide whether or not she agreed.
Sighing and gentle rubbing her temple, Hermione sounded a tad exasperated as she said, "Alright, Luna, fine. Consider it forgotten. Now what am I supposed to do?"
"Open your mind," the little blonde stated easily.
Squeezing her eyes shut and clenching her jaw, the brunette refrained from fussing at her friend's vagueness. Her tone was still slightly irritated though as she said, "I don't understand what you mean."
"Just that. Open your mind, think for yourself. Consider your books as guidelines, not literal instructions. Here, look," the younger girl said, placing her own text book down on top of her notes on the table.
Still a little frustrated, Hermione leaned forward to look at the book to where her friend was pointing. Her stomach dropped as she saw what the girl's finger was positioned above - sopophorous bean. She knew what Luna was going to say, remembering Harry's copy of Advanced Potion-Making. Or rather, Snape's old copy. She felt uneasy as she glanced up at Luna's face, the excitement clear in the other girl's eyes.
"The book tells you again and again that you should cut sopophorous beans to collect their juices, though it's quite difficult isn't it?" she asked, looking back at Hermione. Her excitement began to wan as she took in the brunette's expression, unsure of what was wrong. She moved back to sit more fully in her chair again, removing her hand from the book. Continuing more softly, she said, "You don't get much juice that way either, squeezing it in your hand. The bean itself is too hard. It's much easier to crush it with a tool of some sort. It depends on personal preference, though I typically use a mortar and crush it just once. It collects the juice that way and I can then simply pour it in my cauldron when it's needed."
"That's a really good idea, Luna," the older girl said, her voice shaking slightly. It brought up thoughts and feelings she didn't want to deal with. Everything that was Severus Snape. Who he was, how he came to be. A man wandering the dark, though ultimately on the side of light all the while. The horrible things he did in order to do the right thing when it mattered. The horrible things they thought about him as he was trying to protect them the whole time. She'll never have the chance to thank him or apologize now. He was as brave as any Gryffindor, though his cunning determination is what truly marked him a Slytherin. He was willing to go to lengths that the average man would never have the nerve to in order to achieve his goal - avenge someone he loved and keep her child safe. He wasn't even so much a "hero" as he was an avenger. But if not for him and his role, they more than likely would have all died a long time ago.
It also made her think of Harry. They write to one another, though they've both been so busy that she doesn't get to talk to him as much as she'd like. She'd really much prefer seeing him as it's been months. Both of them being only children growing up, the closest they had to a sibling was each other. Harry was easily her best friend and she missed him dearly. She wanted to talk to him about Luna, hoping that he'd make more sense of her strange behavior lately. She had grown a lot more attached to the little blonde than she thought possible. Her feelings for Luna were now practically on par with her feelings for Harry, making the girl like her best friend. Though it was different in a way she couldn't quite grasp. Harry was like a brother to her, and Luna was... she didn't know. It was just different.
When thinking of Harry, she couldn't stop her mind from wandering to Ron. They had had... "a moment" during the great battle here at Hogwarts, though it quickly fizzled out. There was just too much to deal with. They had been attracted to each other, sure, but it was something else entirely to actually be together like that. They were too different and had too many personal things they needed to attend to than to try and begin a relationship. Hermione was trying to get back into school, worrying about her parents, trying to figure out a career... She was concerned with her future, her own future. She cared very little if she had a special someone in it or not, so long as she was successful and happy. Ron had his own family and future to worry about and the loss of Fred had hit them all pretty hard. There are still days in which Ginny may not talk as much as usual. They both agreed to let it go, saying that they may try again someday, though not for a long time.
She felt bad that she now felt a little awkward when it came to Ron, not writing him as much as she wrote Harry. It made her regret ever kissing him. It felt like the right thing to do at the time, believing it was highly likely that they were going to die. She honestly didn't think much about what would happen if they lived. Now that the war had been won, it seems to just continue on with all the damage it's left behind. And now her friendship with Ron was damaged as well. They weren't angry or resentful or anything, it was just difficult to talk to each other now. It was simply awkward.
"Hermione?" the younger girl called softly.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, the girl in question smiled faintly, though it didn't reach her eyes, "I'm sorry, I zoned out on you again. It seems my mind isn't exactly here today."
"It's quite alright," Luna replied, reaching a hand out across the table towards the other girl, "Is there anything troubling you that you'd like to discuss?"
Quickly taking the offered hand in her own, Hermione smiled more easily now, "I'd like to discuss potions. I'd like more examples of what you're talking about. I think I might understand, though I'm not completely certain what you mean by 'guidelines' yet."
Glancing down at their joined hands, the blonde shifted hers to grasp the other's more firmly and comfortably, a light pink hue coloring her pale face. She nodded, deciding not to push and went on to say, "Yes, I told you this will be fun. It's a bit of experimenting, and a bit of logical thinking. I'm sure you'll enjoy that."
Gently squeezing the other girl's hand, Hermione grinned, "Certainly. I must ask, logical how?"
Slipping her tongue out to quickly wet her lips, Luna's eyes shot down to their hands at the briefly added pressure, then shot back up to the older girl's face. She was getting harder to read and it made the blonde uneasy.
"Like how it makes more sense to crush the bean than cut it," she began, "If you think on it, there is a better way to prepare most ingredients than how it's stated in the book. Some potions tend to have a small, almost unnoteworthy side effect that can be a tad loathsome as well. If you think on it, there are often times an ingredient that counteracts that exact thing. Then, it's just a matter of figuring out whether or not it would be worth adding to the recipe. If it will cause no harm, then it's on to figuring out the best amount. Amounts of an ingredient added to a potion is a good thing to experiment with anyway. Sometimes the book calls for more than what's truly needed. Other times, a potion becomes more potent if just a small amount of the right thing is added. It's all a matter of fully understanding the ingredients and how they interact with one another. Once you have a complete grasp of that, the book becomes a bit... irrelevant. You can figure out any recipe on your own and you can figure out how to improve any recipe you read. The possibilities become endless."
Hermione sat there, a little in awe of her friend. Luna was right, it was logical. She felt a little silly for never thinking that way. Of course, a potion is nothing without it's ingredients. For your potion to turn out better, you must be better with the ingredients.
"Luna, that's brilliant! It's so simple, yet it makes all the difference in the world," she practically gushed.
The younger girl smiled from such praise, her blush intensifying, "As you said, it's simple. It's not all that grand of a thought."
"But it is!" Hermione happily argued. She laughed lightly before continuing with, "Oh, Luna, you were right. I do believe I will enjoy this. What are all these notes you've brought?
Looking down and placing her free hand on the parchment, the blonde's face remained quite flushed. Her hand was steady and her voice was clear despite the coloring of her cheeks as she said, "Everything I know about all the ingredients that will be used in the potions on the upcoming exam."
"Luna!" the brunette exclaimed in a slightly worried tone, "How long did it take you to write all this?"
Shaking her head vaguely, the girl simply said, "That's not important," she looked up at Hermione again and smiled lightly, "I set them all out so you can choose which you'd like to start with. I wrote each ingredient on separate pages and left enough room so you can add anything you'd like. Once you've retained the information about the ingredients themselves, I'd like you to try to create the potions we've learned recently without the use of the book. We can try that tomorrow if you'd feel confident in your knowledge by then. I want to see what you come up with on your own, though I'm more than happy to explain how I prepare the potions myself after your first attempt. We could experiment together and perhaps come up with an even better way to create some of them."
Opening, then closing her mouth, the older girl decided to nod. She really wanted to know how much time Luna spent doing all this for her, but the girl didn't seem like she wanted to tell. It confirmed in her mind that her friend probably spent most of the night on it. Sure, Luna more than likely had all these notes written down already, though they were written the way she typically writes them. She rewrote all of it neatly and organized just for Hermione. There were drawings of the ingredients themselves and diagrams depicting the different methods of preparing them depending on what was needed from them. It was clear and easy to follow. It was all... written like a text book.
Luna did that for her.
She suddenly felt rather emotional, so she cleared her throat and tried to focus. She just now remembered how they were still holding hands and wanted to pull away, though she didn't think she had the heart. Instead, she pulled one of the sheets of parchment closer to herself and said with a slight tremble in her voice, "I suppose I'll start with valerian."
"Alright," the blonde said softly. Hermione was sure the girl heard how she sounded, could tell something was off, though she said nothing of it.
They sat fairly quietly for quite some time as Hermione studied and admired Luna's work, neither one letting go of the other's hand. The older girl made a mental note to try and do something in return for her friend. While Luna may not think it a grand gesture, it was to her. She wanted to do something for her too. She just wasn't sure what yet.