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Chapter Five: Never Question a Haruspex

Harry was in the Owlery, attaching a letter to Hedwig's leg. She wanted Hermione.

"I'm such a coward," she said to Hedwig, who hooted softly at her. "Why can't I face this evening alone?"

For it seemed clear to her that Severus Snape was not interested in her, and Charlie and she had said their goodbyes earlier in the day. She did not regret having done so, but that left the results of her inexcusable behavior toward Professor Snape to deal with, and she was not certain if she could face the Potions master again. Sirius and Remus were staying away because of that evening's full moon--their weak excuse for not coming no doubt concocted for them by Molly Weasley--so she hoped Hermione would be able to leave off her research and join her. She decided to go back to her room and freshen up before dinner.

Hermione was sitting on her bed when Harry reached her chambers.

"How in Merlin's name did you do that?" Harry asked.

"I'm a haruspex, remember?"

"You were reading entrails about me?"

"I've expanded the profession to include other portents, Ree."

"Hermione. Whose entrails were you examining?"

"The entrails of an unfortunate rat that young Percy inadvertently disemboweled three weeks ago. It had died of natural causes, you know, but he wanted to bring it back to life. I'm not sure what spell he attempted, but when I found it split open and him crying his eyes out, there was enough left of it to know you weren't going to become Mrs. Charles Weasley--among other things."

Harry decided that the "other things" could wait. Hermione had become a powerful 'fortune lady', as her son called her, and her auguries always came to pass.

"Ron would have been proud of his son for trying to save the poor creature," she offered.

"Yes, Ron would have been," Hermione agreed briskly. "Fred and George, on the other hand, see it as an opportunity to cater to the two- to five-year-old demographic. They've been attempting to develop an exploding toffee rat ever since this happened."

Both women laughed. The joke shop run by the twins had been amazingly successful, and they had regularly sent Harry money to repay her "investment," as they referred to the start-up funds she'd given them. She used the money to support various causes, including Hagrid's rare animal preserve he'd begun on the grounds of Beauxbatons where his wife delighted in indulging his passion for dangerous creatures. "'Eee vill 'ave them," she would say, smiling adoringly at Hagrid.

"Thank you for coming, Mione. I'm . . . I'm sorry about not marrying Charlie."

"Well, I forgive you, but you still have to face Molly."

"Don't remind me."

"I won't have to. Now, let's turn our attention to your attire."

Harry stood nervously before the doors to the Great Hall. She was wearing a long flared dress of old gold velvet that boasted a modest scooped neck. As she moved, the faintest shimmer of green winked from the cloth. The effect of the cut and fabric of the dress was to tastefully display Harry's charms without offering an inappropriate invitation to observers. The long plait of hair that usually fell ignored and straight down her back to brush her calves had been coiled up on her head like a crown. Using magic, Hermione also had wound green and scarlet ribbons through the braided circlet before arranging them to fall as streamers over the remaining loose tresses of Harry's burnished hair.

"Oughtn't you to be in the Hall gettin' introduced instead of out here holdin' up dinner?" Filch asked, walking through the doors before Harry could respond.

Mrs. Norris trailed the caretaker without sparing a glance for the young woman.

Harry stuck out her tongue at the "cat." Mrs. Norris, who actually did sport one magical eye in the back of her head, made a rude gesture with her tail.

"Do you want the students to starve?" Hermione asked, popping out the doors and favoring Harry with an expression of amused impatience.

"I can't face him."

"Frog balls," Hermione replied equably.

"What did you say?"

"Frog balls," Hermione repeated. "Percy again, I'm afraid. It's what he says to indicate displeasure, disbelief, and disgust. He's simply in love with the phrase."

"Frog balls."

Hermione laughed. "I don't remember reading about them in Care of Magical Creatures, either."

"Oh, Potter you rotter. Frog balls, you're a daughter!" squealed Peeves in delight.

Hermione spun in Peeves' direction and snarled, "I will banish you if you even think about interfering with Ree this evening." Alarmed, the poltergeist sank through the floor without another word. And the Bloody Baron, who had been lurking nearby, glided past the young women to wink at Hermione.

"Are you ever going to tell me how it is that you do that?" Harry asked as she followed Hermione into dinner.

"No," her friend replied primly.


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