H & X
As he spoke, a slight chill coursed through her as she was being held in his arms, comforted by him.
Trying to ignore the minute trembling, Hermione sniffed and looked up into Xenophilius' eyes. "The Intimatus Tam curse?" She shook her head slightly, searching her mental inventory of spells. Blinking at him, perplexed, she said, "I don't know that one."
His silvery eyes glinted intensely as bitterness etched his features. "I would pray not."
Something about the way he replied made her slowly step back from him. Concerned, she asked, "You? You have been cursed with it?"
Lovegood made the smallest of nods.
She looked him up and down, not knowing what she expected to see, but regardless, she searched for some blatant sign, hesitantly asking, "When? Are you all right?"
As if more to himself than her, he uttered, "Once touched by such darkness... Even an Obliviate spell would not remove its malignant spread. Such a one as it can never be erased."
"I don't believe that."
Xenophilius turned his back to her, staring up towards the clouds as she heard him say, "Don't you?"
"No. I have seen-I have witnessed, experienced horrid Dark magic, and have known those who have overcome it."
He turned and gave her a bittersweet look. "Have you indeed?"
"As well as you, Mr Lovegood. You are a survivor." Hermione huffed. "There must have been a counter-curse, for you no longer suffer from it? How did the curse's effect end?"
"It ended with Bellatrix Lestrange's life ending. The good Molly Weasley seeing to that deed done."
Hermione blinked and took a deep breath, needing clarification. "Are you saying I would have to kill-to murder Lucius Malfoy to break this curse?"
"No. I'm saying that his life force must end." Xenophilius had a grim look on his face and an odd glint flashed in his eyes as he pointed out, "That could be done by anyone." He paused before pedantically continuing, "In order for the curse to end, one must understand that this curse is intertwined with his life essence. Or-"
He looked away from her again, but Hermione took a step closer to him, pressing, "There is another way?"
"Perhaps. Theorized, but not proven. At least, not that I know of. But... it is of a dubious, even insidious nature, possibly. Some would say." He swallowed hard. "My exploration of the Dark Arts has primarily been focused on other areas since my release..."
"Dark Arts, Mr Lovegood?"
"With Lestrange's death, I was freed from her direct influence, from her tentacles of allurement and captivity. Though she left permanent stains, imprints, let us say, within me." His features hardened.
He was tortured by her repeatedly in Azkaban-Arthur said... A thrum went through her, and she asked impulsively, "What did she do to you? What did the Intimatus Tam curse entail?"
A bird chirped and the summer breeze was felt in a heavy silence that befell them.
Xenophilius was gazing pensively towards the Hawthorne groves in the distance, and after apparently making a decision, he turned to her and began to slowly but steadily explain, "From my research after Azkaban, I eventually connected that its origination was a Voldemort creation, an esoteric one at that, of which, it seems, his closest Death Eaters were gifted with the knowledge and skill... The Intimatus Tam Curse causes a person's already vulnerable state to become susceptibly infiltrated by, connected with, the spell caster's will, magical force... A fluent connection is formed, initially, and then most deeply rooted in the victim's psyche when he or she has allowed the windows of their soul to be connected with the curser's-"
Xenophilius abruptly broke off, gazing into Hermione's eyes for several seconds before continuing. "It is consciously gained, then unconsciously rooted, deeper and deeper, proliferating into all darker areas, in particular, when the victim is asleep... Slowly, its possessive nature manifests itself in one's waking life, initially erratic, then slowly progressing at different intervals, different levels. And you are rendered helpless, a submissive minion of sorts to the wizard, or in my case, the witch's will."
"Like a repeated, continual Imperio curse?"
He nodded slowly. "My evolution into becoming a servile agent of Bellatrix Lestrange occurred much more rapidly, no doubt due to my already fragile state in prison and the frequency of her visitations, her access to me, which was daily, haptically, excruciatingly intense..." Xenophilius had a faraway look in his eyes. "She broke me... utterly."
"How?" whispered Hermione.
"Ultimately, she unearthed what I held most sacred and defiled it, had me defile myself... my beliefs, my emotions..."
He slowly looked up and down her face as if searching for something, and then softly, but bluntly asked, "You loved your husband more than life itself?"
Hermione blanched and stammered, "What? Yes, of course-why do you ask such a thing?"
"I, too," Xenophilius touched his chest above his heart, causing a gleam from the Deathly Hallows to shine out from the tunic's loosely tied opening, "My Pandora... Bellatrix entered me, possessed me, sheathed me within her... forced me to... consummate a union with her..."
Hermione heard her own voice whispering, "Sexually?"
Xenophilius did not look at her directly. "Physically, mentally... even emotionally... She would enter my gaol cell, and eventually, at a snap, I would crave her... in anyway she wished..."
"It is an Unspeakable, a derivation, an Imperio curse of sorts," whispered Hermione aloud, quickly followed by, "I am so sorry, so sorry..." Her voice trailed off in a hush, shocked at his vulnerable confession.
Xenophilius straightened his stance and serenely gazed at her, saying, "Do not be. As you have so rightly pointed out, I am a survivor, Ms Weasley. It is what is to be done about your predicament that we must address our attention and energies to-"
Hermione shook her head, unable to speak.
They stood together in silence, the heaviness of his past along with the present situation crushing her chest. Her thoughts were in a whirl.
"I have made you even more uncomfortable; it was not my intention for telling you."
Hermione took a deep breath, raising her chin slightly. "Mr Lovegood, we're adults, and we've both survived tragedies, undergone abuse that no one else can quite understand... Both been at the mercy of madness, victims of Unspeakable curses..."
Xenophilius slowly reached out and gently moved some locks of her hair covering her neck; she felt his gaze on her scar.
She gulped and nodded.
"When you were taken to Malfoy Manor and tortured? Crucioed?"
Her heart began to pound harder the more he gazed at her sympathetically; she found she could only nod at him. Then suddenly she gasped, "Malfoy!"
"He-he violated you there?" His voice was barely above a terse whisper.
"What? No, no. He-I'm dirty to him, a Mudblood," her nostrils flared, "beneath him-why would he curse me with such" she hesitated, "an intimate curse?"
"The Intimatus Tam curse is not solely for physical, sexual, purposes-it is primarily for affording the wizard an exsanguination source."
She felt herself grow faint as he blinked reflectively and added, "Or sources... thus, Hugo and Rose."
At the thought of her children being targeted, her blood curled and then began to boil. She felt herself shake, demanding, "You spoke of a theory, a counter-curse...How or why did you discover one if Bellatrix' death broke your spell?"
"Lestrange had tortuously teased me with glimpses of my cure, let us say, during our times together-things that would be impossible for me to attain or to remedy... and thus she prolonged my suffering with the futility of what she dangled before me..." Xeno took in a deep breath, seeming to monitor if what he was saying was appeasing Hermione or not. "But after my clearance and release from Azkaban, I found in the dark moments of the night that I burned with inquisitiveness about what I had been taunted with... I was irefully curious!" Incongruously, he gave Hermione a small smile though his eyes burned deeply with bitterness. "The Ravenclaw in me, I suppose."
He breathed in deeply through his nose and out for a few seconds, his semblance slowly becoming more relaxed as he reflected aloud, "Knowledge is Wisdom. Wisdom is Power. The power to take back one's life again. Draw oneself up out of the lower depths of... madness and turpitude, at least, on some levels. I wished to understand fully and be armed for prevention if in the future-" He broke off abruptly, huffing, "The twisted irony of life-for it seems my mania to research something that should have been bygone, a closed chapter in my life, has not been in vain."
Even in her tenacity, Hermione felt flustered and said, "I'm sorry I am the cause for it being reopened."
He gave Hermione a direct look. "Don't be. Only... there is no guarantee that true help could be derived and achieved-most likely Bellatrix' visions of the elements of the counter-curse were all cruel lies, merely to taunt me with and gloat over my desperation to believe they were truths ... The ways of the Dark Arts are treacherous. Deceptive... I know of no one who has been in need of its cure, nor the success of its tentative counter-curse..."
"But one does exist?"
"Again, theoretically, but not proven."
Hermione said in a small voice, "I loathe Malfoy and all that he represents-what he has done to me and others in the past, the possible unspeakable things he wishes to do in the present, but... I will not, can not murder Malfoy-"
"His death would be a boon to society."
Hermione shook her head. "I will defend myself and my own as best I can. As you said, with knowledge. Tell me what you know of the possible alternative, share with me, for I could not-"
"When you see your children mutilated, laying deathlike by his intentions, placed in that triangle of conjuring death, molested and drained of their blood to the near, very last drop from his sorcery, perhaps then?"
Hermione gazed at him, mortified. "Why do you say such things?"
"I do not wish to," he said in low voice, etched with pain. "But you have seen it-in your dreams."
A fit of contrary denial came over her in the second, a confused but defiant obstinacy as she raised her chin. "They are mere dreams-"
"Do not gull yourself, Ms Weasley. No pretending that that which is merely speculated to exist does not then truly exist on some plane of being. You have seen too much, experienced too much to deny the possibilities of how evil may manifest itself."
This time, it was Hermione who turned away, too flustered to reply.
Xenophilius pressed on, "I say these things now because I must, to not do so would be a disservice to you. You have come to me for help-and I'm afraid that only the truth, may it be painful or divine, will be the means to an end to this curse. You can not deny that Voldemort and his Death Eaters invented and pushed Dark magic into the darkest depths... Voldemort resurrected himself through the very blood and bones of others... The sacred nor the ideal have no place in their ideology... Death Eaters have an innate wish to suborn others as chattle..."
Fiercely, Xenophilius held up the Deathly Hallows symbol from his chained necklace. "It is duplicitous, mercurial in its manifold beguiling ways, this symbol. In one form, we have the allure and enticement of the path of cheating death, recalling our loved ones, but like a Metamorphagus, it changes to become the ensorcelling channel for taking force from those that have gone before us, the good and the evil. Their celestial energy bottled up or freely flowing...."
Xenophilius was relentless, spelling out, "The triangle in your dreams, it is an ensorcelling triangle. The Arithmancy formulae denotes this. The Runic combinations are... for communicating with the dead."
"How do you know?" Hermione felt her entire body was thrumming from what he was saying.
"I have tried similar ones-some the very same..." He gave her an odd look, seemingly mixed with both shame and defiance. "For the very same purpose: to communicate with the dead. To explore if the dead may cross over and share any energy, any power, any emotion, enlightenment, with the living."
"Necromancy?" Hermione felt light-headed, staring at him as if seeing him for the first time. "Necromancy, you? ... How could you? Mr Lovegood?"
Xenophilius' voice trembled with emotion, saying, "You judge me and well you should. It matters not. My past transgressions affect you not, except that my first experience, my first enlightenment of necromancy came while I was under, like you, the Intimatus Tam Curse."
Hermione felt as if all the breath had been sucked out of her and backed away until she felt the slant of grassy earth behind her and shakily sat down.
Xenophilius apparently saw her level of distress and ever so slowly countered her, sitting down, but not too near, placing her parchments between them.
As she didn't speak, Lovegood slowly, calmly initiated, "We have established it is for summoning the dead. Malfoy wishes to conjure the dead or the power of the dead. It would not be the first time he has put faith and energy in the foulest depths of the Dark in order to obtain or hold position and power from it, from whom he calls forth, or crave knowledge of the future."
"The Hall of Prophecy," she whispered softly. Images of Lucius Malfoy emerging from the shadows of the Department of Mysteries' chamber with other Death Eaters, ordering the deaths of her and her mates, demanding that Harry turn over his prophetic orb, flashed through her mind.
A million thoughts whirled around, and she stared at Lovegood, all her previous preconceptions about him gone, replaced by a grey fog of a stranger.
But Xenophilius seemed determined to keep things business-as-usual somehow and had taken up her parchments again, analyzing them, as she tried to breathe through the dull dizziness she felt from the whirlwind of information being considered. In between her hodgepodge of thoughts, she voiced, "But why me?"
"The blood, the life force of a true enemy, is always the richest current to be used for Dark magic."
"You know this?"
Without a second thought, he quipped, "Of course. And the blood of innocents, your children, Rose and Hugo."
"An ensorcelling triangle such as depicted for the purposes denoted in your notes requires the blood of three."
As he continued to study the parchments, Hermione watched him, conflicted, in awe at his unflinching determination and directness, but still resisting confiding more. And yet, she felt a tug and need and belief that she could trust him. I need him. Need to trust him further as he has me, revealing so much to me...
She took a deep breath and took the plunge. "Ron's image appears and disappears, usually above me... in my dreams...," she began quietly.
Xenophilius looked up from the parchments, simultaneously lowering them. He locked eyes with her, giving Hermione his undivided attention.
"I claw at darkness... like a wild animal. I grasp in vain. I have the sense of falling, surrounded by infinite dark space."
As Lovegood watched her intently, her eyelashes fluttered as she recalled, "I'm spellbound in a large triangular area with jagged rocks placed in a circle." Hermione trembled slightly. "I know it's to conjure the spirit of someone, something, into the physical..."
The wizard raised an eyebrow in speculative thought.
"I feel a nauseaous sensation; Malfoy is above me. I feel a force. The runic symbol of the em wah appears. Then I'm bound in the top corner of the burnt, earthen triangle; there is pain-as if I'm bleeding. Hugo and Rose appear, lying still, each in a different, remaining corner of the triangle. Malfoy is closer, closer... "
Hermione gave Xenophilius a soft look. "But you appear... Yes, you're in my dreams." She gulped, holding his gaze. "The em wah symbol appears... then the eh waz... The symbol morphs into a triangle and circle and is joined with a third-a wand-like line."
"The Deathly Hallows."
"Yes, the Deathly Hallows... For some reason," she actually gave him a small smile, "It seems they've led me here to you."
Xenophilius breathed in deeply as Hermione asked, "Tell me what the possible counter-curse is, Mr Lovegood, no matter what it seemingly entails, however dubious the visions Bellatrix conjured for you... For whatever it is, it seems I need you to help me, if only to instruct me. If we can forgive one another, surely we both can trust each other? Shall we? If it involves Dark magic," she gulped again, "surely we can help each other to not go too deep?"
Xenophilius looked away for several seconds before quietly saying, "Ms Weasley, you have given me much to think about... I will surely share with you everything I have discovered possibly relevant, real or seemingly unreal-all that is known to counter the Intimatus Tam curse and similar derivations, other than ridding the world sooner than later of the likes of Lucius Malfoy-"
Xenophilius broke off and rose taking a few steps away from her, again pausing as he seemed to struggle with something in deep contemplation.
Suddenly, he turned around to her. "I would ask that you give me this evening to collect my notes as well as my thoughts-could we perhaps meet again tomorrow afternoon and consult further then?"
Hermione felt giddy with relief. "I start back at the Ministry tomorrow in my position as a chief Interrogator in the Magical Law Enforcement department." She took a deep breath and gave him a hopeful look. "My first day back-I could stop on the way home, if that's convenient, or perhaps later, after the children have settled down."
"I shall be here afternoon or evening for you."
As Hermione gazed up into his eyes, a slight chill went through, and then, the sensation was followed by a warmth, pulsating sporadically. The clashes of energy caused her to tremble slightly, and she momentarily attempted to cover it up, saying nonchalantly, "Well, then, until tomorrow."
"Your magical energy is fluctuating against the curse, his energy." Xenophilius had seen her slight quiver; his facial muscles clenched in concern. "It's a milder symptom of the curse, but not a debilitating one-at least, it wasn't for me, merely a constant nettlesome reminder. Please, wait. First," he decisively took off the Deathly Hallows and laid it on the ground.
Accioing his wand, he proceeded to do a Gemino spell on the necklace and chain.
Hermione watched with curiosity as the duplicate lay before them, gleaming.
Xeno paused and asked, "A catch phrase of your choice. Ms Weasley, one that you could easily use for a Protean Charm summons."
"To communicate back and forth?"
He nodded, waiting for her.
She looked at him and said bluntly, "I need you."
Xeno tilted his head, focusing and spelling both necklaces. Finishing, he slowly bent down and picked up the copy, and just as slowly came and put it around her neck. "Wear it in good health-if and when you need me, related to the night terrors, Malfoy, or anything else you may feel you need, either say or mouth the words and I shall come."
He picked up and placed back his own necklace as a spark of reciprocation went through Hermione, who asked, "And you? It is a Protean charm, is it not? If you need help, or-or to tell me something important, you can communicate with me, yes?"
Xenophilius straightened up to his full height and his facial muscles softened to a smile.
As she looked up into his eyes, he gently said, "I shall also say the same words if I need to call for you, Ms Weasley. But do not worry; I shall not use the charm unnecessarily."
He's so considerate, kind and thoughtful towards me... She suddenly didn't want to have to leave. "Between now and tomorrow, anytime, necessarily or not-"
She broke off, for he was giving her such a warm and inviting look, his height and grace hitting her. She wanted something more from him. "Shall we be friends, Mr Lovegood? True friends? For I feel we are already that and much more, in some ways. I've told you things that I've never told anyone else-"
"As have I, Ms Weasley."
She determinedly stuck out her hand to seal the deal.
He took her proffered palm in his, but suddenly, she felt Xenophilius bend his head lower and place a gentle kiss on her forehead.
As he raised his head and stepped back, he said. "Friendship. A friend in need is a friend indeed. "
At the old Muggle proverb, Hermione couldn't help herself and broke into a broad grin. "True. But I don't think the creator of that adage had us and my predicament in mind as a byword."
"Yes, for it seems he or she would then be a soothsayer, no doubt a magical creature of formidable means."
* H & X *
Hermione arrived back home to find that Harry and Ginny had brought her kids back, along with theirs, and Molly and Arthur had prepared a celebratory meal of sorts for the entire family.
She felt a level of peacefulness and hope from her visit with Xenophilius, and soon found that she could not help but be distracted by thoughts of him and her predicament throughout supper as the domestic and social chatter bounced around the table.
She could feel the Deathly Hallows' necklace cool against her skin. It had a continued calming effect, and when her thoughts flitted from Xeno to Malfoy, the Intimatus Tam curse and its potential counter-curse, she had to keep pushing them aside to focus on everyone asking her about going back to work the next day, or Rose possibly entering Hogwarts' newly established pre-school programme in the autumn, and whether a private tutor for Hugo and his special needs should be considered as well.
Unlike his sister and cousins who were whooping and chasing each other around the house, Hugo had climbed onto Hermione's lap and was enjoying playing with her locks of hair and relishing being held tightly by her. As she amiably nodded and tentatively agreed to consider this or that speculation from her in-laws, Hugo suddenly pulled out her charmed necklace, cooing loudly, "Shiny!"
All conversation came to an abrupt halt as all stared at the triangular emblem gleaming in the late afternoon light.
"Where the hell did that come from?" The heated remark came from Harry, and as Hermione looked at him, she saw his eyes were as dark as his tone.
"It's nothing. Just a gift."
"A gift, dear?" Molly asked, concerned. "From Xeno?"
Hermione nodded, only to hear Harry snarl, "Take that off-take it off now!"
"I will not, Harry!" huffed Hermione defensively.
"How dare you wear such a thing-and it's from him, loony Lovegood?" sputtered Harry. "What did he do to you?"
"Don't talk to me as if I were a child, Harry. He didn't do anything to me; we had a very informative, productive visit together."
"About what exactly?"
Hermione gave Harry a stubborn look. "None of your business, Harry."
His face flushed red, pained, but he managed to tersely utter, "Hermione, let's talk privately. Now. Please?"
"Yes, why don't we take the kids outside a bit to burn off some more of their energy after such a wonderful meal, Mum?" suggested Ginny, sensing Harry and Hermione's urgent need to hash out his concerns.
Arthur swooped down and took Hugo in a playful bear hug from Hermione and herded the other grandchildren out towards the orchards as Molly and Ginny gave her and Harry worried glances before going out.
Hermione marched directly to her study; Harry followed her and barely waited until they were inside, behind closed doors, before exploding, "What is all this about, you visiting Lovegood?"
"Harry, what are you upset-"
"Molly said you needed to visit him regarding some urgent material I had sent you for the department-" Before Hermione could explain, he continued, "Which I played along with, not to worry, as we would not want to upset Ron's mum, would we-but now, you're wearing a bloody Deathly Hallows necklace, Hermione?"
"Harry, it's nothing," stated Hermione again as calmly as she could, for she truly felt under the façade she was trying to maintain in a muddle with all the information she and Xenophilius had shared; she wanted time to sort things out. She did not want at this moment, nor have the energy or clarity, to include Harry.
"Hermione!" He pushed his spectacles back, visibly upset. "I can't believe I actually have to say this, but what is it that Xenophilius Lovegood, of all people, can help you with that I can't?"
Hermione stayed mum, sighing. Several seconds ticked by with them glaring at each other before she offered, "I'll tell you when I'm ready, Harry. For now, it's nothing-"
"You trust Lovegood more than me? When did this happen?" pleaded Harry in a stricken voice.
"Harry, it's not like that-"
"Then what's it like?"
She couldn't answer him.
"Besides Lovegood and our past with him," Harry motioned his fingers between them, "Hermione, since working in the Ministry, as an Auror, I know things about Lovegood, confidential things from files kept after the war, Azkaban testimonies-just-" Harry looked like he was in agony. "Just stay away from him."
Hermione crossed over and sat down by her oldest childhood friend. They stared at each other, both holding back yet trying to appease the other.
Harry moaned, "And for fuck's sake, take that thing off... The Deathly Hallows symbol, really, Hermione?"
It was too early to include anyone else; and between a mixture of doubt, need, and inexplicable shame at that very moment, she offered, "Harry, I just went to pay Lovegood a visit and ask him about some runic references-and also, he saved Hugo's life-"
This seemed to spark off another issue that Harry was ruminating. "Yes, Molly told me all about it. Which is another thing, what happened, Hermione? Why weren't you watching the children-"
"How dare you, Harry. It was only for a second!"
"Yeah, a second's all you needed for your son to nearly drown and some lunatic to save him!"
They both froze, huffing at each other. Hermione started counting to ten silently, hoping not to explode and remind him of all the times incomprehensible accidents had happened to his children on his watch.
Harry was the first to speak. "I'm sorry. Forgive me. I'm-I'm worried about you, Hermione. I vowed to take care of you and Rose and Hugo. After Ron's death... You and I have been closer than a brother or sister could ever be, and yes, more than that at times, it seemed... I cannot not be overly concerned, overly protective about you. Whatever the hell this is-I mean, how can you feel you can't come to me if something is bothering you? If you need help about anything?"
"It's complicated, Harry, at the moment. I'm not a hundred percent certain about all my information yet-"
"You don't need to be with me. I worry about you. I care. I love you. Rose. Hugo. Anything that affects any of you affects me."
"Harry... Harry, I just need a few days-just a few days to get back into the rut of the department work, revise all of the current cases, past cases, cold cases-really, Harry. Just a few days. Please. Just let me get my head around things again and focused."
She took his hand and squeezed it tightly; they held each other's gaze, and all of the closeness of their past and present surged through and between them, causing Harry to give her a sigh of resignation as he took in her determination and strength of will. "Very well. But the next time you feel an urge to go to Lovegood's, I go with you-"
She began to protest and he cut her off, saying, "It's not just to escort you; coincidentally, we, the Ministry, have a legal matter to discuss with him."
"Harry, what is it?" Is it about his illegal magical creatures?
"I was going to wait until tomorrow at the department to brief you, but well, there's a final list of witnesses for charges that have never been pressed, and so, no statute of limitation applicable, and with them we can prosecute and nail Lucius Malfoy, Azkaban, once and for all. Can't wait for his slippery solicitor, Lester Qualmsick, to try and slide out of this one. Third time's a charm, right? He'll get life."
Hermione's heart began to pound harder at this news, memories of the last time she was in court flooding back to her. "What does Xenophilius have to do with Malfoy?"
"Not him, Luna." Suddenly, Harry looked uncomfortable and shifted in his seat. "It's about the goings-on at Malfoy Manor with the treatment of prisoners during the war, when the Manor was being used as one of Voldemort's headquarters. Luna..."
Hermione frowned in remembrance. "I know, she was one of the first kept there along with Dobby, us, Mr Ollivander-tortured, Crucioed. The Snatchers did not discriminate-"
"It not just about the Snatchers-Scabior, Greyback and those other thugs. I've asked Luna to testify about her treatment, her torture... specifically related to Lucius, and well, sit down, Hermione. As you know, wizards were murdered-Mudbloods-"
Hermione felt exasperated, listing further, "And purebloods, blood-traitors; wizards and witches tortured with Unspeakables, mutilated, raped-"
"What are you saying, Harry?" Her brow furrowed. "Luna? We know she was held the longest, physically tortured and used as bait by Voldemort, but... No. She was a year younger than me-"
Hermione felt nauseated, shaking her head. "No, Harry, no."
Harry had centred himself, speaking calmly and gently, "She won't testify unless her father allows it; she feels strong enough to deal with and confront and endure a trial against Malfoy, but she fears her father will react... unpredictably. She said he was delicate, whatever the hell that means."
Hermione had reached her brink; she felt overloaded with unforeseen information pouring down upon her. "Oh, Harry... I need time, time to think-yes, we have to proceed carefully; the Lovegoods have been through so much... Please, by all that you care for, do not approach Xenophilius yet about this? Promise me."
Apparently Harry saw that she was being deeply affected by a multiple number of things known and unknown to him and nodded, staying silent for a few seconds, before daring to lighten the mood and slightly tease, "Xenophilius is it, not Lovegood? That must be one hell of a spell he whammed you with-"
Relieved Harry had softened and seemed to respect her wish to be patient and wait, she gave him a smile. "Harry, he did not spell me. He's a good man, that's all. An incredible wizard, misunderstood-he and Luna have endured unbelievable things-"
"You admire him-don't deny it. Hermione. I know that look."
Hermione wasn't going to get into it with Harry, stating simply, "He's quite misunderstood."
Harry's eyebrows raised in disbelief.
"Quite." Her grin broadened as she saw Harry's reaction, and she could feel her pushy tendencies taking over. "But for now, Harry Potter, I need you to back off. I need a few days to put all my ducks in a row."
Harry made some clucking sounds before leveraging, "I will give you forty-eight hours. And then, I can't help myself, Hermione. I will badger the truth out of you like nobody's business."
"Truce. Well, a forty-eight hour one, that is."
Hermione threw her arms around and hugged her dear friend close. "Thank you for understanding, Harry."
"But I don't, Hermione. I don't."
I don't either, she thought to herself, for this heated discussion with Harry had caused her to feel an even stronger yearning to see Xenophilius as soon as possible.
H & X