* H *
Molly looked astonished, and Arthur's mouth had dropped opened. After several awkward seconds, he cleared his throat. But before he could utter a sound, Molly did. "Speak to him? Xeno? Why on earth, Hermione?"
Feeling like an unbearable weight bore down on her chest, Hermione still couldn't explain all the reasons why she wanted to visit Xenophilius. "It's private, well, confidential."
Seeing the shocked expression on Molly's face, Hermione raced on to explain, "Work related, that is. One of the parchments Harry sent me-" She motioned her hand towards the study and the pile of papers and mail that had accumulated there on her desk, as if that explained everything. "I'll be returning to the Ministry now, and I urgently need the counsel of another Runologist. A specialist such as Lovegood is invaluable, vital-as he has dealt with cryptic runes his entire life. Remember The Quibbler?"
She gave a small smile to reassure Molly and Arthur. "Also I didn't thank the man properly for saving Hugo."
"Oh, well, if that's it," huffed Molly, visibly relieved, "Then, well, you'll need Crumple-Horned Snorkack to dispell the first, outer ward-"
"And Billywig propeller for the second inner one," chimed in Arthur. "Mollykins, why don't you throw in some muffins and crumpets for Xeno-"
"Oh, yes. Although Xeno is quite a chef himself. I'll never forget those Dirigible Plum scones he made for us." Molly started to flitter around the kitchen, finding and wrapping some freshly baked goodies for Hermione to take.
While Hermione collected her parchments with her runic calculations and notes on the repetitive contents of her dreams, Arthur gave Molly a peck and Flooed off to the Ministry. Checking everything twice, Hermione grabbed her wand and a canvas rucksack, packed her parchments and the pastries, gave Molly a hug and set off, calling back, "If Harry and Ginny bring the children back before I return, could you send me a Patronus?"
Molly had her usual concerned look, but Hermione saw it was etched with another emotion that she couldn't quite identify at the moment. It seemed like Molly gave her a forced smile, saying, "Don't worry, dear. Visit as long as you need. "A melancholic look briefly passed over Molly's face as her mother-in-law added, "Perhaps it'll do some good for both of you."
* H *
Out of sight of The Burrow, Hermione experimented with her renewed magical force she felt coursing through her veins. She Apparated herself short distances, from spot to spot until she found herself standing in front of where Lovegood's home should be. The wind was blowing briskly, and she moved a tress of hair from her eyes and tucked it behind her ears as she peered keenly around her. The storm last night... What a tempest! It was dark and raining so hard, I didn't get much of a detailed look. For she stood in front of a cliff-like wall of white stone. Looks like a natural barricade...
She waved her wand, saying, Crumple-Horned Snorkack, disspelling the first ward. An oval-shaped entrance revealed itself to her, and she took a deep breath and walked through it immediately casting Billywig propeller at the other inner ward. An odd octangular house was then seen; the bottom storey consisted of high walls made of stone and the upper level of wood, blending into a thick thatched roof. But is it blended with actual tree tops? Hawthornes?
As she walked towards a small enclosed groove in the stones, assuming it was the front door, suddenly it wasn't her troubled dreams or runes or Arithmancy at the forefront of her thoughts. She remembered what had happened last night after touching Xenophilius' wand and how intensely he had said, ‘It was you!'...Upon entering the stone alcove, she pulled a cord dangling before her. It was spelled with something connected with me, but how? Why? As if I haven't enough to handle!
Focus, Hermione, focus! You're here to first ask for his help as a Runologist... and more about the Deathly Hallows if it's connected... Then we can deal with other things...
She gasped softly as the door opened, and her eyes fell upon a surprised looking Lovegood.
It appeared that she had caught Xenophilius at an inopportune moment, for he was shirtless, his sinewy, muscular form, smudged with dirt and glistening from sweat. She couldn't think of what to say at that exact moment as one object caught her eye, hanging on his chest. The Deathly Hallows!
He was panting, as if he had just sprinted, and said, "Forgive me, Ms Weasley. You've caught me in the middle of feeding time."
"Feeding time?" She asked following his gaze towards the wards. Hermione blushed, casting her eyes about to avoid looking at the way the silver pendant glistened on his skin, and said, "I'm sorry for interrupting you-"
"No, no; it's quite all right..." He glanced back behind him, mumbling under his breath, "Runespoors, Firigawls-but however did you...?" He looked again towards the barrier of rocks in front of his property where the wards were.
"Molly and Arthur gave me the counter-charms. I-I didn't mean to be an inconvenience. It's just that... I need to talk to you."
Xenophilius gave her a concerned look, considered something, and then straightened up to his full height. Gazing at her curiously, he finally replied, "Of course you're not an inconvenience. But where are my manners? Come in. Please, come in Ms Gran-Weasley." He gracefully waved for her to enter. "Would you mind following me out to the garden? The Fwoopers are in dire need to be fed. They get rather irritable." After a second thought, he added, "And very loud. And we wouldn't won't that, would we?"
She followed him through the spacious oval-shaped room. Now seen in the daytime, the colourful array of furniture and objects was complemented by the sunlit walls, reinforcing the coziness and relaxing atmosphere of the space. And no Puffskeins in sight from last night!
"Excuse me for my appearance, Ms Weasley. Feeding Nogtails can be a bit messy. I have a couple that I'm attempting to domesticate; however, their love of wallowing in the mud is something I am still adjusting to, as they seem to quite luxuriate in it, particularly around their watering place."
Hermione struggled not to be distracted about how lean and muscular the man's form was. "Oh, you're fine-it's fine; I mean, I perfectly understand. Again, I'm so sorry to interrupt you in the middle of your tasks. I had no idea."
"Not at all. Only I must finish." Lovegood led her directly ahead. As they passed through a broad, circular alcove, Hermione noted a statue of Rowena Ravenclaw wearing her Diadem in front of a stained-glassed arched window. She smiled at the reminder of one of the founders of Hogwarts and stepped out through the open French doors into the sunlight.
She stopped in her tracks and gasped softly. What she saw was extraordinary.
"Mr Lovegood-" She abruptly became speechless, taking in the scenery.
Gurdyroot plants, flowers, butterflies, and a menagerie of fantastical magical creatures were before her. All around her. She found herself in an exotic landscaped garden of sorts.
Standing on a pebbled path, she spotted a Knarl in a patch of wild daises just below her to the left where the cultivated lawn and flower garden ended. The daisy patch extended all the way left to a high white wall of cliffs, which curved and seemed to go on for as far as she could see, intersecting with a thicket of trees in the distance. On her right, a high hill sheltered the garden, making a natural boundary down to and all around a pond below them, creating a narrow cavern before also sloping downward, joining the copse further on.
Lovegood has quite an incredible, sheltered nook! She noted that there were enclaves of Hawthorne trees, which seemed to mark particular areas of the land. I feel like we're in the secluded recesses of a... At that moment, she couldn't find the right word, for she saw a Moke climbing on the rocky edge of the hill directly above the pond where a small waterfall trickled down in a small stream. It was then that her eyes caught sight of a large creature standing underneath the waterfall in the shadowed part.
She gasped as she took a few steps in the direction of the creature. "Mr Lovegood, that isn't-tell me that isn't a Re'em? They're classified as XXXX by the Ministry. It shouldn't be here." Before she could think twice, she blurted out, "Do you have a permit?"
"Are you here on official Ministry business?" he asked mulishly.
"I rescued this noble oxen from Dark smugglers on the black market." His eyes shone with intensity as he added, "They were skinning the poor beast alive while draining its blood in order to procure it at its most vital level for Dark magic."
The mention of Dark magic triggered something in her, and Hermione turned to look at him directly, giving a fleeting glance at the symbol he was wearing, and a dull ache went through her temples, causing her to remember her nightmares.
Xenophilius straightened up, the Deathly Hallows glittering on his chest in the sunlight, and stated very clearly, "This is a sanctuary. For all magical creatures who need or seek refuge and protection."
He took a step toward her. "I know you are a servant to the Ministry, Ms Weasley, but I would ask you-"
"I'm not here as a Ministry official, Mr Lovegood. I'm here on private matters." This isn't the time or place to even think of reprimanding him about legal or illegal possession of fantastical creatures!
"Then may I ask you to wait here while I finish my rounds." He motioned to a grassy knoll under a large leafy Hawthorne tree directly right of them beside the main garden path. "Um, just a moment." He waved his hand, and a garment flew from where it hung on a bush and swiftly landed on top of the grass. "Please have a seat in the shade, and if you'd like, there's some morning tea still."
As a tray laden with a teapot and cups floated gently out of the house and down to beside her, Hermione reflected on his wandless magic skills. Living alone for so long, he's probably concentrated on developing doing things more without a wand... Her fingertips felt the cloth she was sitting on. Is it...? It's his tunic top!
Surrounded by summer fragrances of sweet grass and flowers, Hermione gave a gentle sniff at the content of tea and recognized the scents of honeysuckle and mint. She took the liberty to pour herself a cup and watched Lovegood as he sloshed in the shallow pond in his wellingtons, gently nudging the large Re'em out of the water and toward hay that had been placed on the bank for feeding. She then saw him disappear into a shallow cave before emerging and going into a stall-like structure in a Hawthorne grove on the other side of the pond.
Hermione turned her focus from him momentarily and gazed at the cumulus clouds drifting by. The sound of a Fwooper was faintly heard, then silence, and then the whirl of a cloister of Billywigs fluttered by safely overhead. Sitting here in Lovegood's fantastical refuge, surrounded by magical Rowans and flowers of all kinds, it was difficult for Hermione to recall her night terrors; all worries, negativity, and irrational fear seemed suddenly non-existent.
She took a sip of the aromatic mint and honeysuckle tea and sighed. All she wanted to do at that exact moment was lay back in the cool grass and let the warm wind flutter around her. He may be a while with his duties, she thought languidly, lying back on Lovegood's tunic. She could detect his scent mixed in with the sweet grass and flowers. It had a calming effect on her, a very relaxing one.
A bee buzzed by, and Hermione struggled to go through her mental list of each topic to discuss with Lovegood. For her thoughts drifted back to yesterday, and she couldn't get pass remembering how they had held each others gaze and how she wanted to clutch him and thank him for saving Hugo's life... and how she was so sorry that she had Obliviated his memory so long ago... and her nightmares... and her fears... her fears for her children, of Malfoy, the obscure curse, returning to work... feeling exhausted, and why Xenophilius and the Deathly Hallows had appeared in her tortuous dreams...
* X *
"Ms Weasley? It's fresh, another cup?"
Hermione blinked groggily and slowly sat up. "What-what happened? Did I fall asleep?"
"Merely a brief doze." He smiled gently at her. "Are you feeling well?" Lovegood was holding out another cup of tea, and he had a concerned look.
Hermione saw that his hair was tied back, and he had a clean tunic on. But the Deathly Hallows symbol on his necklace chain could clearly be seen, reminding her of why she was here. "Yes, I-well, I've had very little sleep recently." She couldn't suppress a small yawn. "So sorry."
"Not at all. I'm glad you could relax a wee bit. My apologies for being so long. Perhaps a pinch of Gurdyroot? It's very invigorating."
Remembering the bitter, disgusting taste keenly, she quickly responded, "No, thank you. I'm fully awake."
He seemed to remember something very important. "I believe the good Molly told me that you very much enjoy my blend of mint and honeysuckle that I sent her?"
"Oh, that's yours?"
"Yes, from my garden... down near my Dirigible plum orchards." He motioned toward beyond the Hawthorne tree grove. "I've developed a keen hobby of Herbology. It's become quite a productive and lucrative activity, I daresay."
As he handed her the saucer and cup filled with his freshly ground mint leaves and essence of honeysuckle, Hermione saw that his hand trembled slightly.
An awkward silence suddenly fell between them.
Silence ensued further as they both sipped and gazed at the tranquil pond with only the gentle thrum of the waterfall and birds' chirping heard.
Hermione sipped slowly, breathing in the refreshing herbs, and went through her mental check list again; this time more clear-mindedly and thinking that she just needed to be blunt about things.
However, it was Xenophilius who abruptly broke the silence. "May I be so bold as to speak first, Ms Weasley?"
Hermione nodded, relieved.
"Concerning last night, the spell on my wand." A heaviness filled the air as he struggled to say what he wished to say, for he seemed to have to force himself to continue. "That day during the war...that inevitable, horrid day... The day you came with Potter and your-"
Xeno gave a curt nod and swallowed hard before continuing. "You see, they had taken my Luna. I was out of my mind. Couldn't tell anyone or they would kill her... They threatened to bring me her fingers, one by one." He stopped and clenched his eyes shut for a moment. "Completely, irretrievably mad... myself, the entire situation." Lovegood rubbed his forehead in concentration. "They took my Luna because of what I had been writing... When I had betrayed you and was forced to climb the stairs to prove to... Voldemort's followers that you were there-"
"I would have done the same," Hermione heard herself whispering aloud. She shook her head as if to clear her thoughts and gave him a direct look. "Whose to say I wouldn't have done the same for my child? For my children?" For she remembered Xenophilius in minute detail; how he had miserably chosen to sacrifice Ron, Harry, and her in exchange for Luna. A desperate man, pushed over an edge of no return. A father desperate to save his child held hostage. Forced against his principles. Blind to reason. Indeed, they had all been victims of the circumstances that Voldemort had dictated and subject to the specific ransoms he demanded.
Hermione recalled the look of a man riddled with guilt. But even more, Lovegood's desperation was something that clicked a switch inside her, lit the same dire recklessness and distress that she felt about Hugo and Rose in her night terrors... and in her awake life. The feeling was truly maddening.
On impulse she reached out and placed her fingers on his forearm. His skin was damp and hot to the touch.
"I understand, Mr Lovegood."
Xenophilius gave her a long, steady look, as if reading her every thought, her every move, each blink and breath. "I believe you do, Ms Weasley." His silvery-grey eyes seemed to burn with cold fire as he uttered, "And for that, I am so very sorry. I wish that you didn't understand. But can you ever forgive me?"
"Forgive you?" Hermione froze, needing time to think how to answer. On reflection, she thoughtfully answered, "The war was an insane time; the world had gone irretrievably mad, not you. You were forced to do what you did. How could you have acted any differently with Luna being held for ransom?"
Xeno shook his head vehemently, shaking off her hand from his arm as if it had scalded him. "You didn't want us there, but we were determined not to go away. We stayed and pushed for information; by the time the Death Eaters arrived-"
"No, I betrayed you, all of you, Harry Potter-"
"You tried not to, Mr Lovegood. The temptation would have been too much for anyone under the circumstances. Even in your miserable dilemma, you tried to help us."
"Did I? I can't remember!" he suddenly whispered fiercely, staring at her, a tormented look in his eyes. "You don't know what it means to doubt yourself-"
Hermione made to speak, but he cut her off, insisting, "No, someone such as you, who has never ventured down doubts way-has never been a victim of doubt."
"Mr Lovegood, if you only knew how much doubt has consumed my entire life, causing me to always try and prove myself, and now... it's suffocating me."
Xenophilius' eyes filled with confusion, confessing, "I don't understand. Did you not come here today to confront me about my wand's spell, about last night?"
"I came here for many reasons." She bit her lip, suddenly flustered. Now was the time to press him for more information, but she was suddenly afraid that her questions would bring back those frightening memories that she had sought to erase.
In her hesitation, Lovegood explained, "I had spent years developing a spell that would identify my attacker-the person who Obliviated my memories... I could not imagine that it had been you. Potter, yes. Your husband, yes. But you?" He looked at her curiously. "If it is not about my wand's spell, then what?"
"Because of that." She stared at the Deathly Hallows symbol. "And runes."
"Runes? The Deathly Hallows?" he asked, touching the symbol lightly. He looked at her gravely. "But you implied that you are not a Quester?" He was confused but intrigued at the same time. "It doesn't relate to my wand's spell?"
"No, not directly... But rather indirectly to Voldemort, the Deathly Hallows, and, yes, also you."
Lovegood gave her an incredulous look.
"We... we came to you that day," explained Hermione carefully, then she paused, wondering whether to risk sharing with him some of the truth and which part. Yes, I trust him. For here in his sanctuary, she felt disarmingly comfortable and safe. "Because we needed to know more about the Deathly Hallows. You were very informative, but that symbol reappeared to me just last night in a most unusual way."
"Did I help you?"
She nodded her head and paused again, thinking on how much she could reveal without revealing too much. Because the Deathly Hallows exist!
He seemed to sense how difficult it was for her to discuss further and offered, "It's comforting to know... If some good came out of my actions that day... Beyond the physical pain, the psychological pain from that day... afterwards."
He look away from her as if hiding a hidden wound and whispered fiercely, "I can't remember. I couldn't remember!" She saw he clenched a fist as he shared, "There are gaps and voids of that treacherous day. Wheels within wheels of torturous memories... nightmares of the most devastating kind, thoughts that hold no sane reason, no comfort. I remember you, you three, but the blanks-I grasp for understanding and am left with a dark void, again and again."
She reassured him, "Mr Lovegood, you don't seem to be forgetful at all."
"I've regained my senses, well, some of them," he commented with a bittersweet grimace. "But my loss of memory... that I had excused, at first, to the Cruciatus curses which the Death Eaters Selwyn and Travers tortured me with, or the mind-numbing kicks and blows when I was too convulsed to respond from their curse. Then there was Azkaban, the Dementors... They stripped what little cohesive, cognitive awareness was left to me, slowly, day after day. And there was Lestrange. Bellatrix Lestrange's visits to me whilst in prison..."
At the reminder of what he must have gone through under the hands of Bellatrix and other Death Eaters, she realized, And he still suffers keenly! Hermione felt a lump in her throat. He needs to know!
She cleared her throat. "I had to rapidly wipe part of your memory-what the three of us had discussed with you. I had to do it. If the Death Eaters knew why we had come, if they had even a small inkling and told Voldemort, it would have been detrimental to everything. But I also needed to help save Luna-"
He seemed quite stricken as she divulged, rattling out quickly, "That's why I blasted a hole through the floor, so that the Death Eaters would see that Harry was indeed there. I'd hoped that neither you nor Luna would be further punished. Letting them see us, letting you attack us-I thought it would save Luna, protect you. Voldemort would know that you hadn't lied to them!"
Xenophilius became very still; the information seemed to overwhelm him, and yet he managed to ask, "But the Deathly Hallows? What harm-?"
"It was imperative that Voldemort did not find out that we discussed them; can you imagine what would have happened if he of all wizards knew about and began to desire them? If he actually attained such powerful, magical objects?"
"Then you do believe in them, Ms Weasley?"
Hermione stared at Xenophilius. Long gone were the days when she was dismissive about beliefs that lacked physical evidence. Images of Harry's Cloak of Invisibility, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand flew through her mind. She knew all too well that the Deathly Hallows existed and whispered, "Yes."
"Ah," sighed Xenophilius. He gave her an odd look, saying, "I shan't ask why you had wished to know of the Hallows. I can only conclude that it was a delicate matter."
Hesitating, Hermione offered him a partial explanation. "While in hiding, we'd come across the names of the Peverell brothers and other fragmented, perhaps related, information, that seemed linked, but I couldn't understand what the symbol actually represented. I remembered you were wearing a necklace with the sign on it at Fleur and Bill's wedding... We were in dire need to know what it truly symbolised, other than being associated with Dark magic and Grindewald-anything else about it, any further knowledge that could possibly help. Desperate times, Mr Lovegood."
This seemed to satisfy Lovegood on some level, for he gave her a calmer look, saying, "Yes, I was told... Well, the belief was that the Elder Wand, the Wand of Destiny, had indeed been found and used. In fact, it is said to have been used in the final duel between Harry Potter and Voldemort... but that Potter destroyed or discarded it forever. Such an anomoly, a wizard who had the strength to resist its temptation is rare indeed. A true Gryffindor's strength."
Hermione gave him a small smile and nodded, agreeing, "Yes, that's what I have heard as well. Harry perhaps wished to save others from it, not to use it for his own personal gain, but to end the vicious cycle of violence associated with it." She knew she was on delicate ground when she added, "Personally, I am relieved that none of those highly powerful objects are accessible to anyone."
"Well, some still hope, Ms Weasley, and believe that they can be used for good." Lovegood looked wistfully at the sky. "There were even further rumours of the Resurrection Stone in circulation but... Ah, Pandora!" He abruptly stood up and took a few steps away from her towards the pond.
Like a lightening bolt, Hermione understood at that instant why Lovegood sought the Deathly Hallows, why he so desperately believed in them, needed to believe, have hope. He wishes for the Resurrection Stone; he would bring his wife back! Like Cadmus Peverell who wished to be reunited with his lost love...
Hermione set the tea down on the tray and rose slowly to stand beside Xenophilius, both staring into the distance, before saying, "I Obliviated part of your memory that day," she swallowed hard at the distasteful memory, saying clearly, "because it was what I had to do. And I'm so sorry. When I came to your home, it wasn't my intention to violate you in any way."
"I forced you to do it, Ms Weasley." She looked up at Xeno and saw that a tear had rolled down his cheek. She instinctively took his hand and held it; he seemed startled by the act as he made to pull away, but she held it firmly and repeated, "I had to do what I had to do. It was horrid, but I tried to save all I could as much as I could within my means... It was all too dangerous, for everyone."
Something in Xenophilius seemed to snap, and she felt him squeeze her hand as if in gratitude, repeating his adage from the night before, "Quisque facere debet, quod ab illo factum oportet, Ms Weasley."
"Yes, Mr Lovegood. And you also had to do what you had to do. I understood how desperate you felt then." She held his hand tighter. "I understand still, in fact more than ever."
"Can you forgive me?" she heard him ask, his voice husky and low with emotion.
"Of course I forgive you." She felt something release from within her. "Can you forgive me?"
"My dear lady," he gazed at her as if thunderstruck. "Anything to be forgiven was forgiven long ago, in fact, immediately afterwards. While I lay in Azkaban, I prayed with what I thought were my last breaths that Luna would be saved and that you three could find a way to understand, to forgive me... But I always felt that something vital to full forgiveness was lost along with my memories that were Obliviated. When I was kept alive, only to be tortured, Lestrange, she would mock and jibe at me-torture me to retrieve those memories... but they were gone. No amount of Cruciatus or Legilimency could evoke anything from within me. I simply couldn't remember. I couldn't remember you..."
Xenophilius gave Hermione an alarmed look. "Thank Merlin for that. Who knows what Bellatrix Lestrange would have done to you?"
Hermione flinched as Bellatrix's face full of hatred flew through her mind, and she touched the scar on her throat where Lestrange's knife had cut it.
"But knowing that the information I gave you perhaps helped to thwart Voldemort-" Xenophilius suddenly stopped, seeing Hermione still and pensive. "Knowing that all of it was not in vain, and that you, dearest Ms Weasley, can find it in your heart to truly forgive me."
He turned to her, his tall, lean figure leaned in towards her as she looked up into his eyes, shining with some renewed warmth and fire, snapping her out her thoughts about Bellatrix. "And now, you said you came here because you needed to talk to me. How selfish I have been. You must tell me now how I can help you."
He was giving her such a look of ardent admiration that she felt a tingle go through her, head to toe. She slowly released his hand and took a few steps back, holding his gaze, before saying, "Yes, my rucksack, I have my notes here. Oh, and Molly sent something for you."
Lovegood looked thoroughly intrigued as he watched Hermione rummage through and pull out her parchments. She handed him the wrapped pastries, their fingertips brushing each other's briefly. Xeno untied and placed the muffins and crumpets on the tray, but he then remained standing tall and alert, watching her every move with an admiring regard.
As she unrolled the parchments and placed them on the hill's grassy incline, she felt a slight chill run through her even as her cheeks flushed warm. It intensified as she felt him stand beside her. She didn't look at him as she pointed to the parchments, saying, "It might be better if you first look at the notes I've taken; then I can explain more in detail."
Xenophilius took one parchment and began to study it, his eyes darting here and there, reading and rereading, while Hermione continued, "As you can see, I keep repeating certain Arithmantic formula-and certain runic symbols keep reappearing."
Hermione noted that Lovegood had gone slightly pale as he took and continued to look through all of her parchments. As he said nothing, she slowly offered some context for him. "I've been having these dreams, well, night terrors actually. The nightmares are the same, repeatedly, with each night a bit more added. That is until last night. Then certain things have appeared that have startled me, confused me even more."
Xenophilius stopped looking at the parchments only to turn to her with an odd, intense expression. He asked, his voice hoarse, "Did something out of the ordinary occur recently? Something that you believe could have triggered your night terrors?"
Hermione took a deep breath and looked down at the ground, embarrassed, steeling herself to meet his eyes before saying, "You."
"Me?" Xenophilius seemed aghast.
Lovegood's features became grim as he asked, "Lucius Malfoy?"
Hermione nodded, and he contemplated something before asking, "You say the night terrors have grown worse? Had you a lethargic sense of your magic weakened more and more?"
"Yes, at least, that was until last night."
"What changed? What happened?"
"You did." He raised his eyebrows, nonplussed, and Hermione hurriedly added, "And the Deathly Hallows symbol and runes."
"Ah, yes," he murmured, shuffling through her parchments again, "The em wah and the eh waz symbols equated to partnership, friendship, and death are repeated in your formulae." He concentrated his gaze upon one particular parchment before sharply asking, "How did this all come about? How long ago?"
His abrupt tone startled her momentarily. "I, well, these dreams, nightmares... The children have been having them, and I as well. But-" She realized she wasn't answering his question but suddenly felt a compulsion to blurt out, "It was at the Ministry, about three months ago; he was given a pronounced adjourned judgement on the case-how could Special Advisor Doge even side with Malfoy?"
Xenophilius listened stoically while Hermione continued vehemently, "We had a confrontation outside the Wizengamot, and Malfoy mouthed a curse at me-but I can't prove exactly what it was! At the time, the most obvious thing was I blacked out. And it seemed that that was that. I mean, I was medically checked, and all that was found was that I was, um, severely upset, ill, and needed a break... from everything. Not a severe nervous breakdown, but... my magic was affected." Her voice had grown quiet and she felt ashamed. "I was overwhelmed. After Ronald's death, it became more and more difficult to keep everything and everyone under control. Myself included. My run-in with Malfoy seemed to push me..."
Xenophilius seemed to sense her discomfort, and she heard him sigh heavily and then say, "I understand, Ms Weasley." Then she felt him touch her hand. He ever so gently held hers in a supportive way, saying, "But you don't believe it has been merely that which has instigated your night terrors?"
"No." A tremble ran through her.
"What do you believe?"
No one had asked her this simple question. In all this time, no one had asked her-rather everyone had seemed to avoid it. They had all seemed to dismiss her lethargy, insecurity, and nerves as separate to what had happened outside the Wizengamot that day. No further mention of Lucius Malfoy was entertained.
"I believe," she took a deep breath and then firmly said, "that these nightmares were induced somehow by him from whatever, however, he cursed me that day. The restlessness, the recurrence has grown over time and increases-I believe my magical powers were sapped from me because of him, depleted temporarily." Tears were running down her cheeks.
She raised her head defiantly, "But I'm back! Last night, when I awoke, I felt more clear headed, more afire with magic than ever before, more like my old self again. As if something had broken through this dark muddledness that's been weighing down upon me all this time, enhanced by the horrid visions of that triangle, Lucius Malfoy appearing, my children lying as if they were-"
She wept, but it was tears of relief. Xenophilius had moved closer, and she allowed herself to weep freely on his shoulder.
After a while, she heard him softly say, "The Intimatus Tam curse. Dark magic of the most insidious kind."
* H & X *