Disclaimer: All of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, including the dubious case of Cormac McLaggen.

Part of the this chapter is quoted from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

A/N: Why did JKR introduce the Supersensory Charm in the Epilogue? An incredibly useful charm that might have saved a lot of people's lives, and it was never so much as mentioned during the war? How does that not break the story?


Chapter 51

The following weekend, Hermione, Harry, and Bill were back, digging through the Room of Requirement again. Hermione was dividing her time between that, Apparition lessons, and her meeting with Septima, so it was a busy day; and then, there was her discussion with Snape. After conferring with him, she decided to let Septima in on that conversation, with the understanding that she believed Hermione was merely trying to find a way to block the Killing Curse.

"I find myself surprised, Miss Granger," Snape said. "It appears your…hunch was correct. An animal killed with the Killing Curse does not twitch when exposed to electricity."

"Really?" Hermione said. "So it attacks the entire nervous system, then?"

"That is a likely hypothesis."

"Okay, I understand this is an important finding," Septima said, "but is it really that surprising."

"It's not where I would have expected the magic to draw the line between life and death," Hermione said. "It's also a difference that a muggle coroner would be able to detect if they knew what to look for."

Septima's eyebrows shot up: "I thought the Killing Curse was undetectable to muggles," she said.

"Using normal techniques, it is," Snape confirmed. "The most curious feature of the Killing Curse from a muggle perspective is the lack of a discernible cause of death."

"But a muggle who knew where to look would notice something was up," Hermione said. "With the right equipment, they might even be able to figure out…well, whatever it actually does. I don't know—maybe it destroys the ability of the nerve cells to conduct electricity?"

"Fortunately, such an event is unlikely and easily dealt with," Snape countered.

Septima nodded awkwardly: "I suppose so. And you were right about one thing, Hermione: that will definitely make it easier to analyse the arithmancy—and I suppose it explains why it the curse only works on animals."

Hermione's head snapped up. "Does it?" she asked. "Does it work on sea sponges? Or jellyfish?"

"Jellyfish?" Snape said incredulously. "Is there a point to such an inane experiment, Miss Granger? Contrary to popular belief, I do not enjoy using such dark magic, even on animals."

"Well, not as much as the electricity test, but it would clarify the limits of the spell. Jellyfish have a nervous system, but no brain. I might be able to find a more useful test, though. I can get back to you later."

"I see. I will consider it, Miss Granger," Snape said reluctantly, "but I suggest you apply yourself to more practical matters."

"I'll take that under advisement, Professor."


"Happy birthday, Ron," Hermione said.

"Yeah, thanks."

"Is something wrong?" she said worriedly.

"It'd be happier if they hadn't cancelled the Hogsmeade visit," Ron grumbled.

"It's too dangerous, Ron. Frankly, I'm a little surprised the school is still able to operate."

"Yeah, I guess. But that's not even the worst part."

"It's not?" Hermione said. "What is?"

"With Harry gone, I'm the new Quidditch captain."

Hermione blinked in confusion: "Um…are you feeling alright, Ron? How is that a bad thing?"

"Oh, it's great—except I have to be fair in replacing him."

"So? Was Ginny not good enough? Or did she not want to play Seeker?"

"Neither. Guess who was the best Chaser to replace Ginny?"

She thought for a minute, but she wasn't familiar with who in Gryffindor were good Quidditch players who weren't already on the team. "Who?" she asked.

"Cormac McLaggen."

"Ohhh…" she said. All the girls in Gryffindor knew McLaggen—and not favourably. "Sorry. I guess he is an arse. But I'm sure you'll do alright in the match. Anyway, I got you this." She handed him a wrapped package.

Ron opened the wrapping to find an unfamiliar book with a rocket ship pointed at Earth on the cover. "What the heck is this?" he said.

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein," she explained. "It's a muggle story about fighting a revolution on the Moon. I know a lot of it doesn't apply to us, but it has a lot of interesting thoughts about strategy and such that I think would be up your alley. If you get confused by anything, just ask Dean."

"Oh, sure, stick me with him," Dean spoke up from down the table, but he laughed just the same.


It was still having that book and the problem of communication on her mind that led her to consider again the methods she had to send messages securely. And while she didn't have any new ideas, Hermione realised there was one particular area where she was lacking.

"Arthur," she said one evening, "could you help me with something? I've realised there's some spell-work I've been neglecting."

"There is?" he said. "I'll help if I can, Hermione. What are you working on?"

"Could you teach me how to send messages with the Patronus Charm?"

He smiled at her: "Of course. Honestly, you probably should have learnt it already if the Order were still functioning properly. It's a clever little modification of Dumbledore's. Look here." He drew his wand and waved it in a way that wasn't obviously different from the regular Patronus Charm. "The incantation is Expecto Nuntium."

That makes sense, Hermione thought. "I await a messenger" instead of "I await a guardian."

"Once you cast the messenger spell, you just need to focus on the message you want to send and whom you want to send it to. You don't have to say it out loud, although it helps."

Hermione practised the incantation a few times and successfully cast the Messenger Charm. It produced the same spirit otter she still produced every night for practise, but instead of frolicking around her, it watched her intently, waiting for a message.

"Er…Tell Mrs. Weasley, 'The eagle flies at midnight,'" she said.

The Patronus flew off to the kitchen. A moment later, there was a brief shout, followed by Mrs. Weasley's voice calling, "Oh, honestly, Hermione."

Arthur laughed. "I think you've got it, Hermione," he said. "You can also send the same message to multiple people if you need to."

"Really?" Hermione said in surprise. "Can you cast multiple regular Patronuses, too?"

Arthur tilted his head an thought for a minute: "Well, I suppose you could, but it's usually not necessary against dementors if you can fight them off at all."

Hermione remembered back to when she'd seen Dumbledore cast a Patronus against an army of dementors. That had been one Patronus that could repel them from a long range. You'd only need multiples if you needed to herd them somewhere singlehanded from some reason, which would be pretty unlikely.


"I found something," Bill announced.

"You found the horcrux?" Harry said hopefully? He and Hermione rushed to his side.

"No, but I think I might've found what Malfoy was working on in here. And even if it's not, it's dangerous to have around here." He motioned to a large wooden cabinet in front of him.

"This?" Hermione said. "What is it?"

"It's a Vanishing Cabinet," Bill explained. "It's an obscure way to connect two locations—sort of like the Floo network, but it can only connect two specific locations. The important thing is, it's nearly impossible to ward against—like your mirrors, Harry. There's a good chance Hogwarts' wards won't block it. They're too rare to bother with."

"So someone could sneak into Hogwarts from anywhere?" Harry said worriedly.

"If they had the other cabinet, yes."

"Then this must be it," Harry said. "When Malfoy went to Borgin and Burkes, he said to hold onto the other one. What if he was trying to let Death Eaters into the school?"

"Wait—Wait a minute," Hermione said. "Bill, how do you know this is what Malfoy was working on? If he had this, why wouldn't he have done it before."

"He couldn't. It's broken. I think he was trying to fix it. Look." He ran his finger across the exposed top of the cabinet. It came away nearly clean. "Almost no dust. It's been handled recently. And the runes show signs of amateurish repair work."

That made it quite a bit more convincing, Hermione thought. All the pieces fit, and it would have been a devastating attack if the Death Eaters had been able to catch Dumbledore by surprise in his own school, where he had to protect his students. In fact, it still could be.

"Does anyone else know about this?" Harry said, echoing her thoughts. "I mean, Borgin knows something. And…when I overheard Malfoy, he said Greyback was in on it. Maybe we should get it out of here in case someone else tries to fix it."

"But why would they?" said Bill. "The only targets here were you and Dumbledore, and you're both gone now."

"There's plenty of reasons, Bill," Hermione said. "Kill all the Order members in the school."

"Get rid of McGonagall and put the Death Eaters in charge," Harry suggested.

"Take the school hostage and demand all of You-Know-Who's enemies surrender," she added.

"Okay, okay, I get it," Bill said. "Yeah, it would be safer to get rid of it. But if we do, and someone is trying to repair it, they'll know we've been in here."

Hermione deflated. "Oh, right," she said. "We can't risk what we know about the Room getting out."

"Can we smash it and make it look like an accident?" asked Harry.

Bill looked around at the piles of junk. "We could try, but it's risky…" he said slowly. "It might be better to watch it from week to week. I doubt a student would be able to repair one of these that fast."

"Malfoy was spending all his time here, though," Harry pointed out.

"I'll keep an eye out with my Map," Hermione said. "Not many people come down the corridor outside. It won't be hard to see who comes in here daily."

"Good. Do that," Bill said. "If you see anyone, we'll take more action."


The Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff was the next morning, and the trio (though it was officially the duo) went out to the pitch to watch in solidarity. It was rare to have guests for a Quidditch match, but not unheard of. Professor McGonagall let them up into the staff box, giving a pointed look to the empty space where Harry was standing as she did. Hermione wondered if she had heard him or was just guessing he was there. Snape glared in their direction too, but didn't say anything.

There was one other student in the staff box today: a familiar, dreamy, blond girl.

"Hello, Hermione, friends," Luna said, looking at all three of them in turn.

Hermione sighed. Did everyone know Harry was here today? "Hi, Luna. What are you doing here?"

"Professor McGonagall asked me to commentate on today's match."

Hermione turned and gave McGonagall an incredulous look. She had a feeling the Headmistress would regret this.

McGonagall shrugged her shoulders. "Miss Weasley recommended her," she said. "And I'm sure she'll be an improvement over Zacharias Smith."

Hermione remembered that match. Smith had spent half his time at the microphone insulting Harry. She supposed Luna would be better, but she couldn't help but wonder if Ginny was playing a prank on the school.

Down on the pitch, Ron shook hands with the Hufflepuff Captain, and they took to the air.

"And that's Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle," said a dreamy voice, echoing over the grounds. "He did the commentary last time, of course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think probably on purpose, it looked like it. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor, I expect he regrets that now he's playing them—oh, look, he's lost the Quaffle, Ginny took it from him, I do like her, she's very nice…"

Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow and stared at Luna with an uncomfortable look on her face. Clearly, she was already having second thoughts. Hermione could hear Harry trying not to laugh beside her.

"…but now that big Hufflepuff player's got the Quaffle from her. I can't remember his name, it's something like Bibble—no, Buggins—"

"It's Cadwallader!" said Professor McGonagall loudly from beside Luna. The crowd laughed.

Hermione smacked her forehead. Luna might be…entertaining, but she clearly didn't have a clue what she was doing. At least she knew all of the Gryffindor players' names. Katie Bell and Demelza Robins were good, but Cormac McLaggen was the weak link on the Chaser Squad—not because he was a bad flier—Hermione had seen enough Quidditch in her time to know he was a quite good one—but because he was a piss-poor team player. He berated Ginny for losing the Quaffle and missed an easy interception himself. He tried to tell everyone else how to do their jobs, and he spent a lot of time arguing with Ron. Hermione caught a snippet of their quarrel when they flew by.

"—should've switched positions with me, Weasley. Just because Potter made you Keeper—"

"I'm Captain now, and I say you're on Chaser—"

Hufflepuff was soon winning on points despite Zacharias Smith being a mediocre player himself. Not that many of the people in the stadium could figure that out. A sports enthusiast Luna was not, and she seemed to think the crowd would be more interested in studying the clouds or the possibility that Smith was suffering from "Loser's Lurgy".

Most unfortunately, Ron took this last remark to be a hilarious joke, and at the same moment, McLaggen, who was trying to tell Peakes how to hit a Bludger, mis-hit the iron ball and sent it flying straight at Ron. Ron, who was more accustomed to having to catch balls rather than dodge them, was caught by surprise and almost took it straight in the chest, but he turned aside at the last moment and took it in his left arm instead. Even with his Keeper's padding, Hermione could hear bone breaking from where she sat.

"Ron!" Bill yelled.

"Foul!" she shouted. "What happens if you foul your own team?"

"I dunno. No one's been stupid enough to do that at any game I've seen. Is he alright?"

Ron was still on his broom, but he called a time out. The team flew down to the ground, where a brawl quickly broke out between McLaggen and Ginny, who tried to hex him. Peakes and Coote pulled them apart, but it quickly turned into a four-way shouting match between Ron, Ginny, McLaggen, and the rest of the team about what to do next.

"They're gonna want Ron to leave," Bill said. "Gryffindor can still win if Ginny's fast enough."

"Ron probably wants McLaggen out instead," Harry whispered. "Wouldn't be a great loss, either."

"You don't just send someone off in Quidditch, though," Bill countered.

As the time out ended, however, it finished with a stare-down between Ron and Katie. Finally, Katie used her wand, which was allowed on the ground, and cast a spell that, from Ron's cry of pain, must have mended his broken arm. Then, all seven of them took to the air again, although Ginny gave McLaggen an audible warning that she'd hex him into next week if he stepped out of line again.

"Well, that was exciting," Luna said cheerfully, prompting some uncomfortable laughs from the spectators.

"The stupid, stubborn idiot," Bill grumbled. "That won't be mended properly. He's gonna break his arm again and put himself in the Hospital Wing doing that."

"Oh, you can bet your arse on that, Mr. Weasley," said an angry Madam Pomfrey. "I have half a mind to give Miss Bell a detention for going along with that."

"Our Mum'll have a fit if she finds out."

"I won't tell her if you won't," Hermione told him, and he nodded. If Ron let it slip on his own, she thought, he'll have made his own bed.

With Ron injured and McLaggen on notice, Gryffindor was even less effective, and Hufflepuff ran up the score. Luckily, Ginny was nearly as good a Seeker as she was a Chaser, and she caught the Snitch at the last minute, giving Gryffindor a win at 220 to 210.

However, Katie's amateur fix had failed by the time Ron got back, and sure enough, he wound up in the Infirmary with a magically-aggravated broken arm afterwards. Hermione, Bill, and their invisible friend visited him before they left for the day.

"Sorry about your arm, Ron," Hermione said. "At least you won, though."

"Yeah. But I'd like to eliminate that McLaggen," he growled.

"Well, you're the Captain. You can kick him off the team if you want."

"Oh I'm already gonna do that. I meant eliminate out nearest airlock," he said with a fake Russian accent. "Isn't that what Mannie would do?"

Bill was confused, but Hermione giggled: "You've been reading the book I gave you?"

"Yeah. Slow, though. I barely understand a lick of it, but what I do understand is pretty cool."

"I'm glad you like it. Maybe I can introduce you to something a little easier later. I've just been thinking a lot about space lately when I've had time."


Comet Hale-Bopp continued to draw nearer in March. It was climbing higher in the sky at morning, now nearly a hand-span above the horizon at dawn, shining at second magnitude in Cygnus. She'd begun to hear wizards murmuring darkly about it from day to day, the foreboding increasing further. For Hermione, however, it had the opposite effect. Unfettered by superstition (however much the late Professor Trelawney claimed it was justified), she was entranced by its cold beauty, especially viewed through her telescope. She'd taken to rising early in the mornings to watch it from Muriel's garden. It felt like the closest thing she had to an escape from the war.

The comet was bright compared with most comets, which rarely even became naked-eye objects, but it was set to become far more spectacular soon. It was headed for a perihelion on the first of April, after which it would swing around to the evening sky and quite possibly become the brightest comet in her lifetime.

But there were still limits to what she could see. The night sky was never what one could call bright. Not for the first time, Hermione cursed her human eyes as she gazed up at a moonless predawn sky one chilly March morning. They were just too inefficient! It took half a dozen photons to get a response out of a rod cell in the eye, and that was under ideal conditions. And worse, basic physics said you could never actually make the night sky brighter. Otherwise, you could focus light back on its source at a higher intensity than the source itself and add energy to it, which violated the laws thermodynamics. She'd been heartbroken when, some years ago, she learnt that it was physically impossible to see the beautiful colours and shapes in astronomical photos as anything more than pale reflections, no matter how large her telescope.

But Comet Hale-Bopp had renewed her determination to find a loophole in the laws of thermodynamics. She'd had a taste of it before when they drank Night Vision Potions in Astronomy class, but she wanted to do better. Therefore, she took a small break from her regular projects to pay a visit not to Septima, as usual, but to Professor Sinistra, to outline her problem.

"I'm sorry, Miss Granger, but the Night Vision Potion is really the best we have," Sinistra told her. "Believe me, it's disappointing, but there's not much you can do—not for the faint end of things like you want."

"But what about Supersensory Charms, Professor?" she asked. "Those sound like they could help."

"Well…yes, I suppose it would provide a small advantage, but not for what you specifically want it to do. The Supersensory Charm is really misnamed. It doesn't enhance your senses; it enhances your perceptions—increases contrast, draws your attention to things you wouldn't notice, like faint noises behind you or objects in your peripheral vision. But it doesn't increase your sensitivity. Otherwise, you'd be blinded and deafened trying to use it in daylight. It's an incredibly powerful spell—magic you'd expect to need a potion for—but it will only make the stars you can already see appear brighter and clearer. It won't help you see fainter stars."

"Oh…" That wasn't completely useless, but not quite what she wanted. "Well, I was afraid of that," she said, "but I had an idea of my own, Professor. You see, the way light behaves…well, you're up on muggle astronomy. Are you familiar with photons?"

"I'm not sure I'm as knowledgeable as you are, but yes, I know what they are."

Hermione outlined her idea to her. It turned out Sinistra didn't know the minutiae of how the eye worked, but as she explained more of it, the woman became more and more amazed.

"So that's it, Professor," she said. "I just wasn't sure if it would work or if I'd need to use a potion or something."

"That's…that's really brilliant, Miss Granger," Sinistra answered. "And I…don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. But this is out of my league. You'll have to talk to Flitwick and Vector for this—and probably Madam Pomfrey for the testing."


"I want to take advantage of the fact that the human retina is basically wired backwards—the light-sensing cells at the back. I've already done quite a lot with altering the optical properties of various media. What I want to do is change the retina into a frequency-dependent nonuniform refractive medium that funnels all of the photons down the nerve axons like optical fibres, directly onto the photopigment molecules so that none of them are wasted. Normally, only about ten percent of photons at best are actually detected by the eye. Ideally, this will increase it to near one hundred percent, improving night vision tenfold."

Septima, Professor Flitwick, and Madam Pomfrey were all speechless when Hermione finished. It would be hard and would need all three of them. A charm that was meant to have such a fine, detailed effect on the human body would need more than arithmancy to get right. But it really sounded like it would work.

"Merlin's beard!" Flitwick broke the silence. "That really is ingenious, Miss Granger. I do believe it would be possible, though extremely difficult. I haven't seen a charms puzzle this complicated in a long time. Definitely worth a paper. I would need to see some of your other optical charms to determine where to begin."

"If you want to do that for all four photoreceptors in the eye, you'll need four separate spells for the different wavelength ranges," Septima pointed out.

"I'll start with the rod cells," Hermione said. "It'll be black and white, but those are the most important. Madam Pomfrey, what do you think? Can we make it work?"

Madam Pomfrey continued to study the equations and diagrams on the blackboard. "You may want to talk to a professional Healer, Miss Granger," she said. "If I understand these optical spells correctly, I don't think it would harm the eye directly, but exposure to bright light could cause serious damage."

"Well, that's not surprising, but not a problem. So do you think we can make this work? I'd really like to have it ready by the end of April, considering the observing opportunities."

"Hm, that would be a bit tight," Flitwick said, "but if you're prepared to put in the effort, I think we can make it happen so long as nothing catastrophic between now and then."

The bulk of my work is stalled until we find the horcruxes anyway, Hermione thought grimly. "I think I can find the time," she answered.


"George?"

"Yeah?"

"Your birthday is coming up, and I know you and Fred have a big sale planned for April Fool's Day, but I was wondering if you'd like to go out on a breakfast date before the shop opens—you know, go out and watch the sunrise. My treat."

"A breakfast date?" George said in surprise. "Huh, that's different—never been on one of those before…Yes, I'd love to, Hermione."

Hermione squealed girlishly and kissed him.


When the first of April rolled around, however, George was singing a different tune—mainly because of the hour of the morning. "You said breakfast date, Hermione," he grunted. "You didn't say traipse out onto a deserted moor before daylight."

"I said watch the sunrise," she told him. "I wanted to surprise you with this. Have you seen Comet Hale-Bopp yet."

"I think I'd heard there was a comet," he offered. "Normal people don't get up this early."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I wanted you to see it. It's probably going to be the brightest comet since Comet West in 1976. And today's a special day. It's at perihelion today—you know, when it's closest to the Sun?"

George stared her with an uncomfortable look that made her nervous. "So…you got me up at five in the morning to see a comet?" he said slowly. "Is this an April Fool's prank? Because this is one of the weirdest things you've ever done."

"Excuse me?" she said indignantly. "I burnt my eyebrows off with thermite. I made a whole book of spells on rearranging molecules. I taught my muggle parents how to make potions. And this is weird?"

"Um, yeah. Comets are bad omens, Hermione. I didn't take Divination, and even I know that. Why would you go out of your way to see it? I don't know that I'd bother going out in the evening to see it after we both took five years of Astronomy Class."

Hermione opened her mouth and shut it again. She turned away, wrapping her arms around herself. She felt a hollow feeling in her chest. She'd so wanted to make today special for him, but now, she realised too late she'd designed the whole date around her own interests. She felt so stupid.

"Hermione?" George said worriedly, but she didn't answer. "Hermione, what's wrong…? Look, I'm sorry. That was harsh." He walked up behind her and laid his hand on her shoulder, but she jerked away. "Hermione, please talk to me."

"I'm sorry," she said softly.

"Huh?"

"This was stupid. This was my dream date, not yours. I should've known you wouldn't…" She choked off again.

"Hey, it's not that bad," he assured her. He wrapped an arm around her, and she let him this time. "I've got you. And I've got Fred and all the mayhem we could want back at the shop. I can tell you wanted this to be special. I just don't get it."

"I…" she started, still not looking at him. "It's been a long time since I've felt this much culture shock with the wizarding world, George. As much as Professor Sinistra tries to bridge the gap, we see astronomy so differently. I've told you, muggles don't believe comets are bad omens anymore. They're too easy to predict and track. We just think they're pretty. And most of us never take an astronomy course either, so we like going out on our own. We don't worry about aspects and star signs anymore, and I still don't, whatever Professor Trelawney said. I just like to watch the stars. To muggles, going out to an isolated place to look at the stars is romantic, especially if there's something special like a comet or a meteor shower going on."

George turned her around and kissed her, holding her close to his chest. "I'm sorry, Hermione," he said. "I didn't mean to upset you. You set all this up for me, and I went and accused you of pulling a prank. It's wonderful that you did all this. I just didn't understand."

"But I meant what I said: it's your day—"

He cut her off: "And I can't think of anyone I'd rather spend it with. So tell me about this comet."

She grinned and pointed it out to him, low in the eastern sky. This was about the last morning it would be easily visible. She'd packed her telescope and Omnioculars in her handbag so they could get a closer look. Unfortunately, it wouldn't have been good viewing conditions for her Night Vision Charm even if it were ready—too close to dawn plus the third-quarter moon near its apex. Still, there would be some very good conditions in the evening around new moon in about a week and again in a month's time.

Hermione was excited to talk about something non-magical that she nonetheless could really sink her teeth into, although she noticed George's eyes started to glaze over as she waxed poetic about the science of comets—what they were made of, how their shape arose, why Comet Hale-Bopp had two tails, and things like that. She blushed when she saw she was starting to lose him and stopped. "Sorry," she squeaked. "I guess this isn't a very romantic subject for you."

"Well, it's kinda weirdly interesting, but I'd be lying if I said it was romantic—but I love seeing the light dancing in your eyes when you talk about it."

Hermione blushed much harder and kissed George for lack of other options.

"So is that another muggle thing?" he asked when he recovered. "Getting so excited about astronomy?"

"No, more like a scientist thing—er, an arithmancer thing, you might say. I'm an arithmancer, but in muggle terms, I'd be a scientist, and scientists can get like that…It's hard to describe…I expect it's kind of like you feel when you invent new pranks."

"Ah," he said with a smile. "Something we don't get to do often enough together. So that's how you feel about…" He waved at the sky vaguely.

"More than that: about figuring things out," she clarified. "It's hard to understand if you're not steeped in it from a young age, even for muggles. A lot of people don't think it's romantic at all."

"I don't think that," George said quickly.

"No, but most of my other friends probably do. It's a cultural thing…You know, Carl Sagan wrote something a few years ago that explains it better than I could." She cleared her throat and tried to emulate Sagan's slow, even tone: "'It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works—that white light is made of colours, that colour is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset—' Or the sun-rise—" She motioned to where the sky was growing bright in the east. "'—to know a little bit about it.'"

George was staring at her in surprise by the end of that speech, like he was seeing her for the first time. Then, he snapped out of it. "Wait, the sky is blue for the same reason the sunset is red?" he said.

Hermione smacked her forehead, shaking her head, but she laughed just the same.

"I'm kidding," he grinned. "Sounds like that Carl guy really knew his stuff. I think I understand why you did all this a lot better now."

"Thank you, George," she said. That was one of the things she liked most about him. Even when he didn't understand something, he was adaptable and quick on the uptake.

"Come on. Let's watch the sunrise, and you can tell me all about it," he said. She leaned against him, and they sat on a conjured blanket on the grass. "Say, when did you say that Comet West thing was?" he asked.

"1976."

"See? It was a bad omen! That's when Percy was born!"

"Oh, George."


Expecto Nuntium: Latin for "I await a messenger."