"I don't have the energy for a party," Ginny said, and stood.
"You're coming to your birthday," Hermione told her. "If I have to drag you. If you need to lie down first, then go and do it. Besides, it's for Ron's birthday too, and he'll want you there."
Ginny shrugged. "All right."
Hermione paused, unsure of whether to say what was on the tip of her tongue. "And I'm sure Harry will want-"
Ginny winced. "No, don't." She peeled off the white mediwizarding coat she'd been issued, and draped it over her The Lewis House 85 страница arm. "But you're right, I need a shower and a nap. I'll feel better when I don't smell like dragons and hospitals. See you tonight."
Hermione followed her into the corridor, but Ginny was walking very fast and obviously wanted to be left alone.
Shifting from one foot to the other, Hermione tried to stop herself from carrying out the thought in her head. They can handle it alone, she thought to herself. I told Ron we should stay out of it and I still think we should stay out of it…
She checked her watch. Half The Lewis House 85 страница past four. There really was no point going straight home to Lupin Lodge – Ginny would be in the shower and didn't feel like talking anyway. If she happened to Apparate to the Notch in hopes that Ron might leave work early, and if Harry just happened to be there, well, he was her friend, wasn't he? And he needed someone to talk to just as much as Ginny did - if she could even convince him to talk. She had failed with Ginny.
But she knew Harry better. Hermione drew her wand and Apparated into The Lewis House 85 страница the front room of the Notch.
"Hey! Heard of knocking?" The voice came from the couch, where Harry was sitting, still in dragon gear. He held an odd-looking and colorful package on his knee, and it contrasted with the grim expression on his face.
"Sorry," Hermione said. "Mind if I sit here?" Without waiting for an answer, she sat on the opposite end of the couch, pulled a leg under her and faced Harry, who continued to look ahead.
"Ron's not home," he said.
Hermione shrugged. "Well, maybe I just came to see you."
Harry let out a short laugh The Lewis House 85 страница. "Right," he said, still not looking at her.
Hermione felt something snap inside her. She knew that he felt closer to Ron than to her in many ways, and she'd come to terms with it. And perhaps it was strange for him to see her and Ron really together now, in the way that they were. But she and Harry had shared so much together – didn't it count for something?
"Don't you dare try that stuff with me," she said angrily. "Are you suggesting I've never taken an interest in you personally The Lewis House 85 страница? Perhaps I'm not Ron, but you don't have to act so surprised if I decide I want to come over and chat for a bit in the afternoon."
"You haven't in a while."
Hermione was surprised. "I was trying to mind my own business," she said honestly. "I thought you'd be pleased."
Harry was silent.
"Well if you want me here, I'm here, so talk to me. I never see you anymore. You're always asleep, or out walking about, or working, or reading…" She smiled. "Not that I mind the reading part– it makes me The Lewis House 85 страница happy to see you pick up a book – but I don't even feel like I know what's going on with you anymore, and I used to know pretty much… everything."
He glanced at her. "I'm sure Ginny's told you."
"Ginny won't tell me anything. When I asked if you'd had a row, she only said that it wasn't a row. I asked what it was and she said she didn't know." Hermione watched Harry's eyes flit down to the package on his knee. He looked uncomfortable. "If it wasn The Lewis House 85 страница't a row, then what was it?" she prompted.
Harry traced a finger along the side of the funny-looking package. "We're… taking a break from each other," he mumbled.
Hermione felt a stab of worry. They'd broken it off. "Why?"
"Ginny said we should."
"Why?" she asked again, not sure she believed him. That Ginny would voluntarily choose to take a break from Harry didn't seem quite right. There had to be more to it.
Harry wasn't offering any further information.
"For no reason?" Hermione pressed.
He shrugged as if to say he The Lewis House 85 страница didn't know, and Hermione crossed her arms. He knew - he was just being stubborn. She was about to interrogate him further when he lifted the package off of his knee and put it on the couch between them.
"I'm sorry I haven't been around," he said, pushing up his glasses with one finger. Hermione noticed that they were smudged - and his hair was a mess, and he looked rather lost. She felt as though they were back at Hogwarts, and she was about to help Harry with a particularly difficult spell. "I've just been… busy. You The Lewis House 85 страница know. I know you have too, with your parents and Culparrat stuff, and… stuff."
Hermione had to smile a little. For such an acutely observant person, Harry could be very unaware. "Yes, there's a lot going on," she said, deciding not to tell him about her father until things were all sorted out. He'd only blame himself for that too, and she was glad to have something else to concentrate on, for the moment. "I've been spending some time with Sirius as well."
Harry looked interested. "I've hardly seen him lately. Are you helping him with The Lewis House 85 страница research?"
"No - he thinks that the spell that I developed for my parents might help destroy the Dementors. So I gave him a copy of the spell to work with, and he's been muttering over it for the last two weeks."
"Good," Harry said, with surprising vehemence. "When will it be ready?"
Hermione looked closely at him, surprised by his eagerness. She supposed she shouldn't be – of course Harry wanted the Dementors destroyed; he worked with them every day, and if his appearance was anything to go by, they were certainly wearing away at him. He The Lewis House 85 страница still had white hairs, which disturbed her very much.
Harry waited for her answer.
"I… don't even know if it will work," she said gently. "I've Thought on it, but like any spell, it would need to be tested on a small scale until it's perfected. And I can't think of anything to use as a test that would be equivalent to a Dementor."
"What about a Dementor itself? Is it something I can test for you while I'm at work?"
"No!" Hermione said, shocked. "You sound like Sirius. Of course a Dementor The Lewis House 85 страница would be the best thing to use for a test, but the principle of the spell I've thought up is for it to be massive enough to destroy all of the Dementors at once. I think that's how it would have to be done. Because we know they can rejuvenate each other. I can't quite figure out how to condense it and still get it to work, so I don't think it's a good idea to rush out to test anything yet."
"A Boggart then."
Hermione shook her head. "The properties of a Boggart are entirely different The Lewis House 85 страница. Riddikulus is one thing, but this would work on the actual physical being of the Dementor, and that can't be tested on another creature."
"Are you sure?" Harry was starting to look like himself again. Interested. Focused. "What does the spell do, exactly? What happens to the Dementor?"
"There's no way to tell. What we'd hope, actually, is that the souls would return to their owners. If their bodies are still alive, that is. I don't know what would happen to the dead ones. It could be destructive – it's definitely dangerous The Lewis House 85 страница, and it's still too early."
Harry frowned. "But aren't most of the soul-sucked people…"
"Criminals, yes. Or supposed criminals."
"You don't think the souls could really be put back?"
Hermione shrugged. "Sirius suggested it was a possibility. I think he's taking things a bit far. But we won't know unless we try, I suppose."
"Then why not let me try it?"
"Because there's nothing to try." Hermione gave him a very serious look. "I'm telling you, Harry, if you do anything stupid and get your soul sucked after everything we've come The Lewis House 85 страница through, I'll kill you."
"Is that what would happen?" Harry asked, looking startled.
"If something goes wrong with a spell that affects their physical form? I don't know what would happen - they might retaliate, they've been out there without food for so long that they must be starving."
"They are," Harry said grimly.
"Well then wait until I have a chance to work it out - and I'll do it as soon as I can. Don't let Sirius go out there to do any experiments."
"All right," Harry promised. "I won't." There was The Lewis House 85 страница an awkward silence.
"What's that?" Hermione asked, pointing to the package that sat between them. It was tall, conical, wrapped in purple, and very glittery, and it reminded her of something that Gilderoy Lockhart would have liked. Several brightly-colored ribbons stuck out at playful angles from the top, and Harry reached out to bat them back and forth with his fingers.
"This?" he asked. "It's, er… it's a present. For Ron, you know, for his birthday."
"Ron's birthday was two weeks ago and you gave him a Sneakoscope. Which I still don't understand."
Harry The Lewis House 85 страница looked at her as though she wasn't too bright after all. "He's never had a really good one," he said. "And it might help him decide who's innocent - you know, in court."
"Those aren't allowed in court!"
Harry rolled his eyes.
"And this present isn't for Ron." Hermione went on, ignoring him and tapping the conical thing. "Purple isn't really his color, and quite honestly, if you gave him something covered with glitter, I'm not sure he'd ever speak to you again."
Harry reddened. "We're celebrating his birthday tonight, though, aren The Lewis House 85 страница't we? At the Snout's Fair?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes.
"It's for Ginny, all right?" Harry gave the ribbons another fierce bat. "But I'm not sure I want to give it to her."
"I'd worked that bit out, Harry," she said, scooting closer to examine the package. "I just wanted to hear you say it."
He pushed it towards her and crossed his arms. "What is it with girls and wanting to hear things?" he asked. "I just wanted to hear you say it," he mimicked in a falsetto. "If you knew, why did I have The Lewis House 85 страница to say it?"
So that was part of the problem. Hermione held up her hands in mock defense. "Because saying things can make us realize their form and power. The words used in our spells and charms are only words when uttered by someone with no magic, and yet, the magic wouldn't work without the words." She was quoting from A Standard Book of Spells, and she was quite sure that Harry wouldn't know it. "You may know that this package is intended for Ginny Weasley, and I may know it, but until you say it, the The Lewis House 85 страница fact remains a question, and – "
Harry was half smiling. "You're annoying," he said, but the words were friendly and had no sting. "It's a hat. And I want to hear what you think of it."
"A hat? For what?" Hermione picked up the package and turned it over. From its shape and size, it appeared to be a standard Hogwarts formal tall pointed hat. She looked at Harry. "Did she say she needed a hat?"
"You don't have to need a present," Harry said, tight-lipped. "When we were at Faeryland for New Year, she The Lewis House 85 страница said she liked it."
"Well, I can't give my opinion unless I look - so can I see it?" Hermione asked, wondering if she was going to be able to hold in her laughter. "I promise to wrap it back up." When Harry didn't answer, she put the package back down on the sofa and said, "I'll just do a quick Revealing Charm, okay?"
Hermione pulled out her wand and muttered the spell, and nearly choked when she saw the pink, fairy princess hat in front of her. Silver glitter covered it, and the base was surrounded by The Lewis House 85 страница cheap, fuzzy pink fur.
"It's not good, is it?" Harry asked.
"Er, well… " Hermione tried to choose her words carefully. "Pink isn't really a good color when you've got red hair?" She sighed. Harry didn't care about things like that; it was his fault that Ron owned two different orange caps. "Harry, why on earth would you think Ginny would want this hat for her birthday? What she'd really like is just for you to be there and talk to her."
"Did she say that?" He narrowed his eyes.
"No!" Hermione gently The Lewis House 85 страница kicked his foot. "I told you she didn't tell me anything - and when have I ever lied to you?"
Harry was quiet.
Hermione smiled and patted his arm. "I'm not ganging up on you with Ginny. I'm just telling you as a friend, and… and as a girl… that this hat would only make Ginny happy if she were five years old."
Harry opened his mouth to respond, and then closed it. He was still quite red.
"Do you want me to help you think of something else?"
Eyes on his knees, Harry slowly shook his The Lewis House 85 страница head. "I… have something else," he said, very quietly.
Hermione waited without pressing him. If he had mentioned it then he wanted to show it - all she had to do was sit and give him a minute.
Sure enough, a minute later, Harry pulled a rumpled, folded piece of parchment out of his pocket. "I wrote her a letter," he mumbled, curling a corner of it back and forth with his fingers.
That was a good sign - or not. Hermione frowned. She'd received letters from Harry. Her favorite had been the summer in-between fourth and fifth year: Dear Hermione The Lewis House 85 страница, How are you? I'm fine. The Dursleys are gits. Dudley's fat and stupid too. Wish I could do magic. My scar doesn't hurt, thanks for asking. ~Harry
"Well?" she asked.
Harry looked up. "Well, what?"
"Are you going to let me read it, or not?"
"No!" Harry stuck the letter back into his pocket and looked at her in horror.
Hermione laughed. "Well, fine! I was going to help you, but I'm sure you're capable of saying how you feel on paper, and I'm sure Ginny will love it."
Harry mumbled something The Lewis House 85 страница unintelligible.
"What's that?" Hermione asked, holding a hand to her ear.
"I said it's not finished, I can't give it to her. Look – " he looked desperate " – I can't give her this letter, but I can give her the hat."
Hermione held out her hand. "Harry," she said, "as I once promised to protect you, I cannot let you give Ginny that ridiculous hat."
Harry scowled at her.
"Come on, Harry, let me help. It will be like doing our homework together again."
He didn't look convinced.
"And besides," she added, "who else are The Lewis House 85 страница you going to ask? I'm a girl, I'm your friend, I've had a lot of letters, and I know what's good. And I'm a better writer than you are, and I'll never, never tell."
His expression relaxed. "All right," he said, pulling the letter back out of his pocket and handing it to her.
Hermione opened the letter, which hadn't even been sealed. She could see, without reading it,that it was going to need a lot of help. There were several scratch-outs and a few ink blots. It started, Dear Ginny, except The Lewis House 85 страница that "Dear" was crossed out.
"Get a quill, Harry," Hermione said, holding the letter up closer to her face. "You need to rewrite this."
He stared at her blankly. "I thought you were going to help me?"
"I'm not going to write it for you, Harry. I'm going to give you helpful suggestions. For starters, it's okay to say Dear Ginny. That's the proper way to address a letter to anyone."
"If you're going to make fun of me, forget it," he said, reaching to snatch the letter out of her grasp.
Hermione held The Lewis House 85 страница her hands over her head. "Get a piece of parchment, Harry," she said.
He looked annoyed, but Summoned parchment, ink and a quill, which all landed on the table in front of the couch.
"Right," Hermione said and looked at the letter in her hands. It read:
Sorry about all that stuff I said the other day.
Love, Sincerely, Yours,
She handed the letter back to Harry, trying so hard not to laugh that she could feel herself turning red. "Save that letter," she instructed, when she was sure that her voice wouldn't crack The Lewis House 85 страница. "Save it for ten years from now, when you can laugh at it. What did you say to Ginny, anyway?"
"I – she really didn't tell you?"
Hermione let out a pained, gusty sigh. "Between the two of you, I've heard next to nothing. You had a row, you've taken a break. How bad can it be?"
"Dunno." Harry shrugged. "Bad. She won't talk to me."
"I'm…" He absently crumpled the letter in his hands. "I'm… she told me to sort out how I feel," he said, almost inaudibly.
"How you feel about The Lewis House 85 страница her?"
"Yeah." Harry's face was nearly scarlet now.
"Don't you know, Harry?" Hermione asked softly.
He hesitated, then shook his head, and Hermione bit back another sigh. All this indirect, hidden emotion was somewhat foreign to her. She wished that, after all this time, Harry would just break down and let her in. She was suddenly grateful that Ron was loud and obvious. It made things so much simpler.
"Try telling me what you feel, then," she said. "And write it down. Write something down. Write Dear Ginny on that piece of parchment."
Harry unscrewed the top to The Lewis House 85 страница the inkpot and dipped his quill. Hermione folded her hands together and waited until the scratching noise of quill against parchment had stopped.
"Now what?" he asked, not looking up.
"Well… your feelings come next."
Harry made a quiet noise that reminded Hermione of an animal trapped in a cage.
"It's not as difficult as you're making it. You do like her. Don't you?"
There was a pause. "She's'mazing," Harry finally mumbled, so quickly that the words almost didn't make sense.
"Write that down!" Hermione ordered. "You're amazing. Write The Lewis House 85 страница that."
They continued in that vein for a while, until Harry had composed a whole string of favorable adjectives to describe Ginny. Amazing. Smart. Brave. Fun. Pretty, he'd finally told her. Soon, Harry was writing on his own. Hermione sat back, pleased, and waited for him to finish.
Finally, he looked up. "Can't I just give her the hat?" he asked.
"The hat's rubbish, Harry."
Harry sighed, scratched something out, crumpled up the parchment and started writing on a new piece.
"How do I sign it?" he asked, after several minutes.
"However you think is best," Hermione said, dying The Lewis House 85 страница to see what he'd written. When he finally placed his quill on the table, Hermione held out her hand for the new letter. She gave a little sigh as she read the contents. It read a bit like a school essay, but the underlying sentiment came though clearly.
Happy Birthday. I got you a present, but it's so stupid that Hermione says I can't give it to you. She says I should just talk to you but I don't know what to say.
You're amazing. I don't know anyone else who The Lewis House 85 страница is as smart, brave, fun and as pretty as you are. When I'm with you I feel like everything is okay, except for when I make you ill.
You wanted me to tell you how I feel. I feel horrible for that row. I feel like an arse writing this letter. I'd feel better if we weren't on a break.
"I can't give it to her," Harry said.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione said, reaching out to squeeze his hand. "You have to give it to her."
He shook his head, folded up The Lewis House 85 страница the letter and slid it into his pocket. "Later," he said.
"Tonight then," Hermione stood and stretched a bit. "You can give it to her at the party. I suppose Ron's going to the Snout's Fair straight from work after all. I've got to go home and get ready for the dinner. Are you going to change?"
"Yeah," he said, standing up as well. Hermione pulled her wand and prepared to Disapparate, but Harry grabbed her arm.
"Look…" He ran a hand through his hair, making it stand up even more than usual. "I'll go tonight The Lewis House 85 страница, for Ron, but… " He stopped. He looked suddenly angry. "I'm not giving her anything. So keep it to yourself."
"No. But I'm -" He met her eyes. "I'm really glad you came by. Don't ever think that I don't care about you as much as I do about Ron."
Hermione stared at him. In all the time they had known each other, he'd never said anything like that. Perhaps it was good that Ginny was forcing him to think about his feelings. It was… really nice to hear that.
"Thank you," she said, touched The Lewis House 85 страница. "And don't worry, Harry - it'll work out." She gave him a hug and stepped back. "You're halfway there. Besides, I already warned Ginny that an average Harry quarrel lasts at least a month, so I think she knows what to expect."
Harry's eyebrows went up. "What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded.
Hermione only laughed and Disapparated. But as she got ready for the party in her own room at Lupin Lodge, she wondered if it had been wise to talk to Harry after all. It hadn't seemed to sway him in the end The Lewis House 85 страница, and she had a bad feeling that he would be as stubborn about this row with Ginny as he'd ever been about his other quarrels. She hoped he'd prove her wrong at the Snout's Fair, and she walked into town with Ginny, trying to keep the conversation light.
But at the party Harry proved only that Hermione knew him very well; he kept his eyes off Ginny and gave her nothing - not even the stupid princess hat. And if the distant look in Ginny's eyes was anything to judge by, even that hat The Lewis House 85 страница might not have been such a horrible idea after all.
"Reducto!" Bill shouted. The air in front of him did not shimmer. "Abrumpo!" There was no tension that he could see, no break in the enchanted field. "Dilabum Obex!" Nothing happened. "Effracto Moenius!" "Perfringum Maledictio!" "Solvo Murus!"
Bill glanced over his shoulder and his heart leapt into his throat for the tenth time that morning. He felt like a kid. Fleur sat in the grass in the middle of the field where he'd learned to fly, her arms wrapped around her knees, her chin tilted up, her The Lewis House 85 страница expression full of quiet amusement. The mid-April sun touched her face and made her eyes look like little bits of sky.
"The spell is finished," she said quietly, a smile touching the corners of her mouth. "You cannot break it."
"Oh can't I." But there was no real challenge in his voice. He gazed down at her, forgetting for awhile that he had a job to do, and she gazed back with equal admiration. It was like it had been before. There was no embarrassment between them, and no fighting. They had seen each other The Lewis House 85 страница nearly every day for over a month, and though Fleur continued to refuse to see him after work, Bill knew it wasn't out of malice. She was simply taking things slowly this time, making sure of him and of their friendship.
He had to admit he didn't blame her. He had tried to tell her what he had discovered about veela, but she had put a hand to his lips and stopped him, saying it wasn't important and that she had been wrong, too. It was the most physical contact they'd had. Bill almost wanted The Lewis House 85 страница to bring up the subject again, just to feel her fingers brush against his mouth.
"What's going on out there? Is something wrong?" Penelope's voice carried across the field. "Is it working?"
"It's solid," Bill called back, not taking his eyes off Fleur. "Just taking a rest."
"Let's have lunch then!" Penelope and Hermione rolled up their maps, gathered their workbags and began to walk back to the Burrow, heads together, talking animatedly.
Bill put out his hand. "Lunch?"
It didn't surprise him that Fleur shook her head. Usually she ignored his hand and got to The Lewis House 85 страница her feet on her own, but this time she didn't even do that; she stayed where she was, and shifted her gaze to the woods. "I would like to stay out 'ere for a little while," she said. Her voice was very quiet.
"Do you…" Bill hesitated. "Do you want company?"
"Non." Fleur gave him a very brief smile and looked back at the woods again. For the first time all morning, her clear-eyed expression clouded over and her posture slumped a little. She looked as if she were struggling with a thought she couldn't The Lewis House 85 страница stand, but couldn't get rid of.
Bill knew the feeling. It came over him every once in awhile, as well. But he left his hand out and tried again. "You have to eat."
"I am not 'ungry."
"Even if you are not 'ungry." He laughed a bit, and was happy to see her bite her lip on a smile. "Come on. Eat a little, just to make Mum happy, and then you can come back out here on your own - I'll keep Hermione and Penny inside if you need some time to yourself. All right?"
Fleur gave The Lewis House 85 страница him a grateful look and, breaking recent tradition, she slipped her hand into his and let him pull her to her feet. "Thank you," she said, keeping her eyes low and trying to pull her hand out of his as soon as she had her balance.
Bill held fast. He didn't want to lose contact. He wanted to hold her hand and walk with her to the house.