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House of Paper - A Place for the most Rare of Loves
Find it in the Room of Requirement

Boca. posting in A Gift Exchange for HP Rarepairs
User: hprare_exchange (posted by msqu)
Date: 2007-10-17 23:31
Title: House of Paper
Security: Public
Tags:hermione, hermione/luna, luna, slash
Story for: fated_addiction
Title: House of Paper
Pairing: Hermione/Luna
Rating: PG
Summary: Two girls meet at a café in Berkeley. Each knows why she is there, and neither knows the whole story.
Additional Notes: First: apologies for the setting; I chose what I know. Second: thank you, fated_addiction, for giving me such a great set of prompts. I know I didn't choose your first prompt, but somehow this particular topic really resonated with me, and I hope you enjoy what came out of it. And third: special thanks to Marie for the extension. Transcontinental moves are very difficult, as is starting graduate school while still in the middle of one, so I greatly appreciate your patience. And fourth: the title does make sense. Sort of.



"I know you," the girl said, with a serene smile that, for some reason, irritated her. "You're Hermione Granger." The girl had an English accent, and her protuberant eyes were sparkling.

Hermione was startled, and dropped the bills for her coffee. "Beg pardon?" she managed.

And yet the girl, with her long blond hair and bright eyes, did look familiar.

"We went to school together," the girl said. "For five years."

"I.... Did we?" Hermione managed.

The brightness began to fade from the girl's eyes, and Hermione was saddened by this; she knew, somehow, that this particular girl was supposed to be serene and cheerful at all times, no matter what was going on.

"You don't remember me?"

Hermione shook her head, then became aware of the long line of caffeine addicts behind her. She grabbed the fallen bills and pushed them into the cashier's hands, eager to escape. "Here," she said briskly, and walked away without even thinking about the return change.

She waited by the side of the queue for her drink, unable to keep her eyes away from the blond girl for very long. The girl, however, continued taking orders as if the encounter had never happened. But when the line was dwindling down to only a few peple, capable of being handled by one cashier only, the girl wiped her hands, said something in Spanish to the barrista, and emerged from behind the counter just as Hermione's drink was delivered, a far too convenient coincidence.

The girl took her by the elbow, gently took the hot paper cup full of the best mocha on Southside away from her, and steered her to the outside patio, away from the other customers.

"Luna," she said as she handed Hermione back her mocha.

"My name's Hermione," Hermione said.

"My name," the girl said, "is Luna. Luna Lovegood. We went to Hogwarts together."

Hogwarts.

Hermione sat on the wooden bench. Luna sat opposite, in a folding metal chair. The tree above them scattered green acorns as a squirrel ran along its branches. One landed between them, and Hermione addressed her response to it.

"I don't remember you," she said. "You can't be real."

There was silence. When Hermione looked up, the girl was cocking her head to one side, smiling faintly.

"But I know your smile," Hermione said, puzzled.

"If you know my smile," the girl called Luna said, "then you must know me. Why don't you remember me?"

"I don't know," Hermione said. She drank some of her mocha. It was mostly whipped cream on top, sweet and cold. She took the plastic lid off, picked up the tiny wooden stirring stick, and folded the white into the brown before taking another sip. Now it tasted like mocha.

"We've been looking for you," Luna then said. "Me, and Harry and Ron, and Ginny, too. We've missed you. You went to get your parents from Australia and never came back."

"Australia?"

Luna nodded.

"Australia... but that's not real... They all said it wasn't real..."

Hermione felt fractured. It was nothing new; she'd felt that way for years. But now, with another person, a living, breathing human being, telling her things she'd long given up as unsubstantiated fantasy, she felt less uncertain. Or was that more certain?

Then a jolt of pragmatism shot through her so powerfully she actually jerked. "Look," she said briskly, "who are you? Why are you telling me things like this? You should be working inside, not sitting out here with a random customer--"

Luna was shaking her head. "The line can wait. This is more important," she said placidly. "You've been missing, and now I've found you."

"Missing? Missing from where?"

Luna tsked with her tongue. "You've forgotten a lot. We thought you might have, but no one could figure out why or how or indeed where. I feel very lucky indeed."

The faint smugness in Luna's tone bothered Hermione, and that same pragmatism strengthened its grip. "I'm sorry, but you're not making any sense. I'm here in Berkeley with my church group, and I'd best get back to them. Thank you, er, Luna, for your interesting conversation--" She made to stand up, but Luna held her arm.

"Don't go," she said, quietly and urgently. "Please. Talk to me a little longer."

Hermione made the mistake of looking into the girl's eyes, and couldn't look away. She found herself sitting down obediently, like a schoolgirl.

"After the war," Luna began, and Hermione took a shaky breath, scared but not knowing why. Something dark was tickling at the edges of her brain. She opened her mouth to speak, but Luna waved a hand at her and Hermione fell silent.

"After the war," Luna repeated, "you went down to Australia to find your parents. You'd modified theirmemories, you told us, and you needed to restore them. By sending them to Australia you'd kept them safe, which was why you were able to go Horcrux hunting with Harry and Ron."

Horcrux hunting? But Hermione couldn't speak--her tongue felt glued to the roof of her mouth.

"You said you'd be back in a few weeks at most, and said you didn't need help, though Ron wanted to come." Luna shook her head sadly. "He's missed you so much, you know. He'll be so happy to hear I've found you!"

With immense difficulty, Hermione pulled her tongue free and blurted out, "Who's Ron?"

Luna seemed incredibly surprised at this; not, Hermione realized, at the question, but at Hermione's speaking. "That was a powerful jinx," Luna said with a frown. "Maybe I cast it wrong."

"Jinx?"

"You'll remember eventually," Luna said, suddenly cheerful. "Especially if you could break the jinx. This makes everything much easier! Come," she commanded.

"Where?"

"My apartment. Come on, we should do this out of sight of Muggles. Berkeley Muggles are little more perceptive than most, so it's extra important to keep hidden here, even if they are tolerant. Still, the Secrecy Act."

"The what?" But Hermione found herself standing up nonetheless, picking up her drink, and following Luna out the patio and down the slight hill of College Avenue away from the campus.

Maybe it was those dark, tickling fingers of half-hidden thoughts that made her follow, maybe it was some strange voodoo compulsion; however, Hermione found herself thinking more of the lovely fall of yellow hair that dangled down the girl's back, and of the girl's pale eyes, wide and startled and yet glittering with secret knowledge.

It was the secret knowledge, Hermione decided, that made her want to find out more. Her memories were so uncertain. Memory itself was indeed an uncertain thing for her, that a girl with such conviction of truth about her was bewitching.

They walked the blocks to Luna's apartment in silence, passing the high-rise student dormitories, the fraternity and sorority houses with their Greek symbols prominently displayed, and the uniquely beautiful Berkeley brownshingles, their yards carefully neglected.

They soon arrived at a nondescript student apartment, of the type with a garage full of parking below and stairs leading to the apartments above. Its outer walls were stuccoed brown, and the paint on the flimsy metal stair railing was flecking off. Luna pulled out a key, unlocked the door, and gestured Hermione inside.

Hermione's faint expectations of grand, unusual things, things such as would fit this odd girl whose words promised so much, faded as she spotted the rather mundane used sofas and the battered television set sitting on an equally battered television stand.

"Tea?" said Luna, following her inside and dropping her keys on a little table just inside. "I remember you preferred coffee, though you've still got your mocha."

Hermione stared down at the cup in her hands, past which she could see the kind of institutional carpet preferred by student apartments, the kind which never looked dirty nor clean. Her mocha, she noticed, was stone cold. "I forgot about it," she admitted.

"Sit down," Luna called from the kitchen area, which was painted brown and looked as though it was hardly ever used. "I'll make you some coffee, better than Strada's."

"Er, sure, thanks."

There were noises of coffee being measured, and water being poured, but Hermione never heard the anticipated click of a coffee maker or the thunk of kettle or pot on the stove. In less than a minute, Luna emerged with a thermos and two cups on a tray.

Behind her floated the milk jug and a little bowl of sugar cubes.

Hermione raised an astonished finger to point. "Er..."

"Hm?" Luna turned around, following Hermione's pointing finger and aghast expression. "Whoops, sorry about that. Shouldn't have startled you with magic so soon, I suppose."

Magic?

A bread knife is blurred with activity, slicing a round loaf into equal sections. On a wooden chopping board, onions peel themselves before yet another knife chops them into fine dice. A kind-faced, plump woman says, "Ron, Harry, set the table. Hermione--

"No," Hermione said, as the therapists had taught her, as the drugs had told her. "No, it's not real."

"It's all real, I assure you," Luna said gently.

"Not that." Hermione pointed at the hovering jug of milk and cup of sugar cubes.

"Then what?" Luna sat down on the sofa next to Hermione.

Hermione shook her head, trying to discard the memory that, like so many similar ones, was tinged with soft, warm light and persisted in its unreality. "Just my imagination."

Then Hermione gestured to the floating sweetener. "How are you doing that?"

"Magic, of course. I'm a witch. So are you." A wave of Luna's hand, and the milk and sugar floated onto the coffee table.

Hermione is eleven. A letter on parchment, written in green ink, arrives in the mail with no stamp. An extraordinary woman, severe like a teacher usually is but wearing a tartan witches' hat, sits on a sofa in Hermione's home explaining about a school called Hog--

"NO!" Hermione buried her head in her hands, struggling to ward off the images. They were not real; they could not be real. The therapists had told her, her parents had told her: these images were merely a construct of her imagination as it tried to cope with the--with the what?

Luna had put her arms around Hermione, and though Hermione wanted to shake them off, part of her forced her body to stay still, to accept the comfort. Familiar comfort.

"My body knows you," she confessed. "I know your smile, and you hugging me is something very familiar."

"It should be," Luna said. "We supported each other during the war." Luna's hand came up and began gently stroking Hermione's hair. Unconsciously Hermione leaned into the hand as it smoothed tangles.

"Hermione." Luna's voice was a pleading whisper. "Come back to us. You must remember."

Hermione's throat was constricted; her eyes felt hot and heavy. "I'm not supposed to."

"Says who?" The indignant note was gently placed on a bed of the kindest concern and worry.

"Everyone," Hermione choked. "Mum, Dad, the therapists, the doctors, the church group--"

"Not everyone," Luna corrected her. "Not me. Not Ron, or Harry, or Ginny will. You must remember. You do remember, and you're blocking it."

A long stick of wood, everything about it familiar and comforting and empowering, is in her hand. Her lips form words, unusual, exotic words, and the magic comes.

Magic. "Magic?"

"Yes," said Luna in a whisper. "Magic. You're a witch." Her hand was still running through Hermione's hair. "Tell me what happened when you went to Australia."

"I don't know, I don't know."

"What happened when you came back from Australia, then?"

Hermione took a shaky breath, answering as if compelled: "We took an airplane back to England. Mum and Dad were furious with me. I have no idea why, now. But they were completely furious and wouldn't let me explain--" Hermione broke off.

"Yes?"

"It was for their own good. I told them so." Hermione put her hand up to her mouth, uncertain how she'd known that.

"You told us, too," Luna said. "You modified their memories and sent them to Australia."

But the moment was gone. The blackness had returned, and Hermione buried her head in her hands. A wail of anguish had built up inside her, but all that came out were hiccups and strangled sobs.

Luna said, sounding far more upset that Hermione knew she ought to, "I wish Ron were here. You'd know him. You'd recognize him and then everything would be all right. Don't cry, Hermione, please don't cry."

But she couldn't stop. "Why don't I know my own life?" she burst out.

"Clearly you've blocked it," Luna said, sounding very practical and thoughtful. Hermione looked up at her and couldn't duck in time to avoid the kiss coming at her.

Luna's lips pressed gently against hers and retreated before Hermione could do or think anything.

"If I knew how Ron kissed," Luna said, "I could fix it, I could fix everything. Let me try again."

To her surprise, Hermione let her.

After a while--one minute or ten, she didn't know--they broke apart. "I think that was pretty close," Luna said, her eyes bright.

Hermione's head felt strangely expanded and light; her eyes were heavy, as if she'd just woken up. "Was that magic?" she asked.

"Of a sort. I've always wanted to do that to you. Do you remember anything more?"

Then, suddenly, the metaphorical floodgates opened. Image after image came pouring into her head: faces, hands, clothes, colors, buildings; and with the images came snippets of sound, voices, words, phrases; and intertwined within this streaming ribbon was the knowledge, the utter conviction, that it was all real.

"I went to Australia," Hermione blurted, "to get Mum and Dad, to give them back their memories. I did, and told them why I'd done it, and they were so furious at me. They bought plane tickets back to England and tried to get a doctor to tell me that everything I remembered of the last seven years was nonsense--"

Luna inhaled sharply, angrily.

"--but the English doctors said they couldn't do it, so we came to America. Mum and Dad paid a lot of money to put me in therapy, in a hospital. Then there were the drugs..."

She remembered the injections. Every time she had tried to explain that she wasn't delusional, that she was perfectly sane, the nurses had jabbed a needle in her arm and soothed her as she fell into a sick nightmare.

"I just got so tired of fighting it, of fighting them, and fighting my parents... so tired. I gave in; it was the easiest thing to do. Everyone said that my memories were false. What else could I do but believe them? There was only my own memory, my own account of such extraordinary things, of the kind you only read in books. What else could I do but believe them?"

Tears were falling down Hermione's face; through them, she could see Luna's face, hopeful.

"And how did you come here?" Luna asked.

"With the church group." Hermione laughed a bitter laugh. "Mum and Dad signed me up; they said the sense of community would be good for me. But all they did was tell me, whenever I mentioned magic, that witchcraft was evil."

"Witchcraft itself isn't," Luna said somberly, "but some of its users can be. Do you remember now?"

"Oh, yes," said Hermione with a bitter smile. "Yes, I remember everything. Horcruxes, and Voldemort, and Harry and Ginny and Ron, and you--"

"But you're sad." Luna leaned her head forward so that their foreheads touched.

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Ignorance can be bliss, you know."

Luna looked shocked and pulled away. "I completely disagree," she proclaimed. "Sometimes knowledge leads to greater pleasure." She smiled serenely. "Let me show you. I don't think Ron will object much. He'll be too happy to have you back."

As their lips met again, Hermione had to agree.

~fin~
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Boca.: love hearts love hearts
User: msqu
Date: 2007-10-18 06:09 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
Keyword:love hearts love hearts
Such an intriguing tale. I'm really angry with Hermione's parents right now, even though this is just a small piece. But still. Gah! -angsts at them- I guess that just shows how well you wrote this. It was interesting to see these characters in a different setting for me, even if it ends up being off-putting to others. It made the story seem much more real, and yet Hermione and Luna were still who they're supposed to be.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-10-18 19:02 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
Thanks very much! Yes, I wanted her parents to be clearly in the wrong.

Luna is so difficult for me, so I'm glad you liked her.
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c.: the director's wife in a start
User: fated_addiction
Date: 2007-10-18 06:20 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
Keyword:the director's wife in a start
Oh, man.

Thank you mysterious person-author-person - it's late, that kind of day - but, oh man.

I love how you handled the idea of Hermione and the choice she made regarding her parents; there's obviously no answer of really what happened, but I like how it's not happy and it's not perfect and her parents reacted in such a way because we know nothing about them

Also, I love your Luna. I love how steady and certain she is, but she's still, after all, Luna and that instantly connects her to an obviously struggling Hermione.

Beautiful and brilliant, thank you very much. ♥
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-10-18 19:03 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
You're so welcome. It was completely my pleasure to write this for you, and I was really worried it wouldn't fit your specifications. Your reaction was exactly what I was going for, so that really thrills me!
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merlins_babe
User: merlins_babe
Date: 2009-02-18 22:18 (UTC)
Title: (no subject)
This story has been rec'ed at
The Golden Seeker
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Pining for...
March 2008