Xenophilius Lovegood and William Greengrass had never comfortably got on, but the drink was easing their social congress to some degree whilst their girls played in the garden. Neither wizard spoke, both preferring to listen to their daughters' laughter rather than speak of the reason for their meeting. At last, however, Xenophilius broke the relative silence.
"They seem to . . . be taking things well."
"Yes," replied William.
Xenophilius pressed on. "I'm, I mean, are you . . . ?"
William drank the contents of his glass and held it up to be refilled by the bottle of spirits hovering nearby. Gazing at his host with near steadiness, he again emptied the glass.
"No," Xenophilius agreed, "I'm not, either."
The gnome issued her a two-fingered salute and stalked off under the tomato plants. Not long after, a shower of shredded hat and clods of dirt rained out from beneath the fruit.
Astoria laughed, her tone almost entirely unforced, before glancing in the direction of the house. "Do you think it's working?"
"Daddy says that smiles can bring happiness, so it stands to reason that laughter can bring joy," said Luna, spreading her hands over the sets of tiny clothes before her. "And Mummy says, Mummy said that joy is the only cure for sadness."
Astoria picked up a tiny boot, one that neither one of them had been able to persuade a gnome to wear, and remarked, "Your parents are odd."
"I didn't mean to be rude," Astoria explained.
"I didn't think you did."
"It's only that my parents never, Mother didn't . . . ."
"Say things like that?" Luna asked.
"She was kind," Astoria replied, "but never . . . silly."
Luna smiled kindly. "Is your daddy silly?"
Astoria, as if on cue and with one fat tear rolling down her cheek, laughed again before answering. "Not anymore."
"I'm very sad, too," Luna told Astoria, after issuing a carrying laugh of her own, "but I hope to feel happy again." She reached out her hands towards Astoria, who took them. "I know! Let's promise to be silly together."
"What? All the time?"
"No, Astoria, just whenever, just because we can."
"Just . . . because of joy?" Astoria asked.
Luna nodded, Astoria squeezed her friend's hands, and both of them looked in the direction of the open window.
"Shall I bring Astoria around again next week, Xenophilius?"
"Da—Daphne, as well, if you like."
"Oh, my eldest needs her Nanny right now, I think."
Xenophilius frowned in concentration. "Her grandmother?"
"Oh, no. Woman's long dead. Same affliction as her . . . ."
"Who's Nanny, then?" urged Xenophilius.
William blinked sleepily at him. "Oh, er, her favourite house-elf."
Luna nodded, biting through some thread. "Bound to, one of them. Have you been singing her the song?"
In answer, Astoria hummed a tune familiar to them both.
"Good." Luna looked appraisingly at her hat. "Tiny white pebbles, one fine feather, and fairy dust! Just the thing for a well-dressed Gernumbli."
Astoria giggled. "I don't believe they wear the hats—or any of the clothes we make for them."
"Then why do they take them into their home holes?" asked Luna.
"To keep us from trying to make them wear them?"
Luna laughed. "It's still fun to make the clothes, though, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes. Silly, too," added Astoria, before beginning to sing, "How'd'you solve a problem like a nude gnome?"
In answer, Luna sang, "How do you get him in a suit of clothes?"