Or, Twenty-One Letters to the Order of the Pretty Purple Penguin
Letter Sixteen – "Mm, sandwich."
Late that first evening, everyone gathered once more around the rock that held the sandwich platter to eat and discuss their day.
Despite all the other food from the kitchen being missing, the sandwich platter had still been continually topped up throughout the day. No one really suspected Molly, as Kingsley's precious plain cheese sandwiches had made an appearance, but it was unknown whether it had been the Headmaster, another member of the Order, just part of the rainforest spell, or perhaps a house elf.
"Speaking of house elves," Ron said suddenly through a mouthful of sandwich, "has anyone actually seen Kreacher this summer?"
There was silence as everyone exchanged startled glances.
"I remember seeing him the first week back from Hogwarts," Hermione answered. "Just once or twice, wandering from room to room. But I haven't seen him since."
"It has definitely been a few weeks since the last time I remember seeing him as well," Remus added. "Though I will admit, I have caught his not entirely pleasant scent more recently."
"Well, at least we know he's still around," Bill sighed. "I'd imagine we'd all smell something if he had just up and died in a closet somewhere."
Conversation drifted towards the state of the house. There were no distinct rooms, though there were still different floors discernible only due to the staircases.
"And because there are no rooms, we don't have anywhere to sleep," Tonks said. She seemed rather disgruntled, and had done since returning to the group. "I really don't want to sleep on a pile of leaves."
"You're just worried about those giant beetles," Kingsley said with a grin. He was sitting cross legged with a pile of cheese sandwiches on his lap and hadn't stopped smiling since finding them on the platter.
"Giant beetles?" Fred asked brightly.
"Oh, do tell," George added, leaning forward eagerly.
Tonks glowered at them, then at Kingsley, and refused to speak.
Albus cleared his throat, hoping to derail any and all arguments, at least for a few moments. "I wouldn't worry too much about sleeping arrangements, my dear. I suspected the house may remain this way for a while."
Luna snickered. Severus narrowed his eyes at her, scowling.
The Headmaster raised his wand and conjured eighteen squishy purple sleeping bags, just like the ones Hermione remembered from when Sirius had broken into Hogwarts in her third year. With another wave of his wand, the sleeping bags floated over their heads and drifted gently into their laps.
Kingsley quickly moved it from atop his sandwiches, and stroked one gently. Everyone pretended not to notice.
Severus was eyeing his sleeping bag with extreme distaste. "Was the colour truly necessary, Albus?"
"Oh yes," the older man replied cheerfully. "It's such a lovely colour, Severus."
Charlie stood and shook out his own, kicking off his shoes and climbing in. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I've had a very tiring day."
For the most part, the others followed his example. Kingsley remained sitting long enough to finish the last of his hoarded sandwiches. Severus was poking his sleeping bag with his wand in attempt to change it to a more palatable black or dark green, with little success.
Hermione leaned back onto Crookshanks, using him as a giant, warm, furry pillow. He didn't seem to mind, and she felt she would be safest from monkeys, birds, and giant beetles with a tiger on her side.
Albus, Minerva, Molly, and Arthur had conjured themselves some tea, and stayed up drinking it and chatting quietly well into the night.
The next morning, Hermione woke up with a start when someone screamed.
She sat up quickly, and was horrified. Tonks, who was still screaming, was covered in beetles almost the size of her head. There were more of them scattered amongst the rest of the group, everyone now awake and noticing them.
One beetle started toward Hermione, but when Crookshanks growled from behind her it retreated. Hermione scratched behind his ears in thanks.
Luna, on the other hand, was quite excited. "Quick!" she exclaimed, holding a hand out behind her and not looking away from the nearest beetle. "I need a safari hat and a magnifying glass!"
Everyone paused momentarily, even Tonks, who was in the middle of being rescued by Moody.
After a few seconds, Luna huffed impatiently and wiggled her fingers. Albus obligingly conjured her required items and levitated them into her waiting hand. "Thank you," she said primly, placing the hat upon her head. She then dropped to her stomach, leaning on her elbows and using the magnifying glass to examine the beetle she had been watching more closely.
Severus gave the Headmaster an odd look. Albus just gave a serene smile, at which Severus rolled his eyes and lost interest. "Cat. Giant beetles or dastardly camel?"
Crookshanks looked to Hermione and seemed apologetic, then turned towards Severus hopefully. "Oh, go on," she sighed. "I'm sure I won't be eaten by giant beetles while you're gone."
Severus seemed pleased as he led Crookshanks out of the clearing.
Ron shared a look with each of his siblings, resulting in each of them grabbing a handful of sandwiches and once more giving chase.
Hermione spent the next two days alternately helping Luna track beetles and joining Neville's plant discovery expeditions, which was made far easier when the two paths coincided.
They'd taken their sleeping bags along with them, camping wherever they felt sleepy and returning to restock on sandwiches when they ran out.
Most of the older group were still staying around the former kitchen table. Even Severus was returning of a night, as evidenced by his sleeping bag sitting innocently in the pile under a tree. It was a single shade darker than the others, a result of a good two hours of work.
On the second day, just before returning for dinner, Hermione felt inexplicably sleepy. Judging from Neville's yawn and Luna's beetle commentary degenerating into sleepy mumbling, she wasn't the only one. All three of them chose not to fight it, instead crawling into their sleeping bags. They were out within moments.
The next morning, Hermione woke up in her bed. Glancing about the room, she saw that both Luna and Ginny were also waking up.
"Aw, the beetles are gone," Luna said sadly.
"Don't worry," Ginny consoled, "I'm sure there are still one or two wandering around."
Luna blinked, then smiled. "Oh, good point."
Hermione sighed. "Breakfast?"
The three of them were almost the last to arrive in the kitchen, where Molly was frying eggs and bacon and cooking toast. The sandwich platter was nowhere to be seen.
The last person to enter the kitchen was Kingsley, who paused in the doorway and stared at the table in horror. "No sandwiches?"
Molly turned and fixed a decidedly vicious glare upon him. "No. No sandwiches. There will be no more sandwiches. Even if it means me never leaving this kitchen until September, everyone in this house will be eating proper meals three times a day!"
Kingsley sulked, but even he seemed to know better than to argue with Molly Weasley and instead he merely took a seat and helped himself to some breakfast. Everyone pretended not to see him placing a fried egg and some bacon between two slices of toast.
The kitchen was mostly silent up until Hedwig's entrance, which elicited a startled growl from the back of the kitchen. Hedwig dropped Harry's letter on Arthur in fright, swooping over the table for a rasher of bacon (and leaving several white feathers drifting into everyone's breakfast) and straight back out the window.
Hermione turned and stared into the shadows, sighing when she saw that Crookshanks was still a tiger. "I suppose I should have expected that."
Severus suddenly looked more cheerful. Remus elbowed him harshly. "Stop thinking about camel hunting."
"One day I will take that beast down," the potions master vowed.
Arthur coughed to gain attention. "Would anyone like me to read this?"
"Oh no, Father dearest," Fred began, feigning great shock. "That won't be necessary!"
"It's not as though we're curious," George continued. "Or as though we've been waiting for it-"
"-or any of Harry's other letters-"
Arthur just rolled his eyes and opened the letter.
I think Hubert is still growing. He's definitely gotten bigger lately. Or maybe he's just getting fatter. He has been eating a lot of chocolate lately, we seem to suddenly have far more than usual.'"
"Because Dudley's in the bottomless pit and therefore is no longer being a bottomless pit," Ron said wisely.
Minerva didn't speak, merely giving Albus a poisonous glare. The Headmaster's ever-present twinkle actually dimmed in fear.
"'I think I'm going to go and make myself a cheese sandwich. Since my birthday, I've kind of developed a taste for them. Thanks, Kingsley.
"Perhaps I should go check on Harry," Kingsley said. "Make sure his cousin is still above ground, see whether he's completely off his rocker?"
"No." Everyone turned to stare in shock at Molly. "Not that I don't still believe that the boy ought to be checked on, but I know full well that you just want a cheese sandwich, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and I won't stand for it!"
"Also, I am certain that Harry is just as mentally sound as I am," Albus said reassuringly.
"I am in no way comforted by that," Kingsley sighed.
Wolfie is beginning to suspect Dear Order might be finished by the end of the year (though, of course, she could be wrong).
Also, Wolfie would dearly like to thank each and every one of you for reading, and a special thanks to all the reviewers. Wolfie loves you all ever so much.
Now Wolfie is going to continue writing. Hope you liked it!
Love to all,