I'm sorry to have to tell you that the bundalarf infestation has spread from dad's study to the rest of the house . . .
Affection, not unmixed with shame, surged through Hermione. Working together in the library of the house in Grimmauld place and frustrated at Luna's apparent contempt of order, she had once told her that untidiness attracted bundalarfs. She had herself invented the creatures and named them for her mother's saying that 'if you bundle everything into drawers and piles, soon enough you'll find half the house is missing'. Luna, being Luna, had immediately created a 'Bundalarf Sanctuary' under her desk. In all the years since, Hermione had never found the courage to confess.
. . . however I can now tell you that they are very like doxies in appearance only pink. I have just found your letter in the vegetable rack; unfortunately along with a sample of Neville's latest project which appears to be particularly voracious. Naturally, we would be delighted to lend you any material we might have but the onions ate your list.
That was ok. Hermione had known Luna for a long time and had another copy. Right now her struggle to write the definitive account of 'The Voldemort Wars' was threatening to relegate the events themselves to an also-ran. While a book about Voldemort by Hermione Granger would sell whatever its merits, its very popularity would count against it in some quarters. To avoid academic disgrace her work would need to be truly exceptional. Unfortunately, no one who actually knew anything wanted to talk and Hermione had been reduced to hoping that a search through back–issues of the Quibbler would turn up something.
Don't worry about infected parchment - this bit came from Hogwarts. While the school would appear to support ideal conditions for bundalarf infestations, there are none; Professor McGonagall was quite definite about it; so I can only assume that they must have effective countermeasures. Anyway, why don't you all come and stay for the weekend? The builders have finished repairing the west wall and Simon will be home from Hogwarts. I'm sure he's been missing his favourite 'cousins' and Ron can talk to him about Quiddich while we hunt through the archives.
Hermione sighed. Luna's father was astonishingly disorganised, and it would probably take all weekend to find what she had asked for. Well, the children would enjoy their stay, she decided. After the last time, they should have learnt their lesson about staying out of the greenhouses. She wandered to the door of the study and opened it. 'Ron,' she called, 'Luna and Neville's this weekend?' Shrieks of childish joy and a grunted affirmation came from the kitchen. Hermione scribbled and dispatched the family's acceptance.
Bundalarfs, thought Hermione as she sat down and rested her head in her hands. She really had to confess. She considered the scruffy and stained bit of parchment that was Luna's letter. Then she turned it over and considered the writing on the reverse: not Luna's but instead the dense copperplate of a Quick Quotes Quill. Curious, she began to read.
Something the quill had been unable to make out.
'Luna Lovegood? Loony Luna Lovegood? You don't say?' Hermione smiled.
'Well, I'm sure you think it was very clever of you to charm a Quick Quotes Quill to translate Parseltongue but I'd actually rather you hadn't bothered. Go away.'
Well that certainly was ingenious, thought Hermione. What she was holding was the transcription of one half of a conversation with a snake.
'Only a Ravenclaw could come up with something so inventively and monumentally stupid. Of course not.' Briefly, Hermione wondered what that might have been. Some of Luna's ideas were inspired in their strangeness.
'Entirely for your information. I loathe the name Nagini. . .
Nagini! Hermione felt her heart jolt and then begin to race beneath her ribs. It hadn't occurred to her to talk to Nagini. These days no one remembered that Neville's lazy and overly large familiar had once belonged to the Dark Lord.
'. . . and I suggest, for the sake of your own wellbeing, that you stop using it and leave right now. You're starting to annoy me.'
'Actually, I'd rather you didn't call me anything at all.'
These days the snake was called Selene. Not that she answered to it. Hermione forced herself to take deep, calming breaths and returned to her reading.
'I could eat you, you know? No one would ever suspect.'
'You do know that I ate Neville's other pet? Trevor was it? And whilst eating you probably would cause me indigestion, after a while you'd stop bothering me.'
'Don't use that name.'
'Because He called me that.'
Voldemort. Even now Hermione's heart sunk at the name. Her book, whilst she'd never admit it, was in part defiance.
'A foul creature. How did Riddle ever get like that? Ugh. And the smell. Not good 'off' like a nice bit of carrion. Bad 'off'. Not right at all. He knew it too. I'd have hated Riddle if he'd let me.'
'Imperius.' Weren't you supposed to be bright? If strange.'
'How could any intelligent being even begin to tolerate abuse like that? How do you imagine you'd feel?' Hermione shuddered. 'Go away. Surely there must be someone else you could harass?
Oh now that is better; the temperature drops so rapidly at night at this time of year.'
'Look, even if you could arrange to have someone do that regularly, I still don't think I want to be interviewed. I'd rather everyone forgot that Nagini ever existed. And anyway, if most people won't believe it; what's the point?'
'All right, you win. Warm up the stonework properly first so I can get comfortable.'
'Ah, that is so very good. All right, perhaps I should begin by saying something about Harry Potter; and I'm aware that this mightn't be a popular opinion, Saviour of the Month and all that, but he totally freaks me out, even before he opens his mouth.'
Hermione blinked. Harry bothered Nagini?
'Seriously? What about those bizarre glass eye covers? And Potter is treacherous, sly and deceiving. I know we shouldn't expect black and yellow stripes but it's the way he creeps around like a mouse. It's all wrong. Anything as dangerous as he is should give fair warning'.
Probably fair comment, she decided. Mild mannered Auror Harry Potter frequently went unrecognised until he was actually required to do something. Ginny was the one who attracted all the attention.
'No. I did not try to eat him. I told you he gives me the creeps.'
'I don't like talking to him. Actually, I hate listening. The thing is: Potter sounds like Him.'
'Never being warm enough. Always being hungry. Being kept without food for so long I'd eat whatever I was given. Losing my mind whenever He got bored or . . . I don't want to remember. I was a tool: something Riddle used as he saw fit.'
'Soiled: the more so for being coerced to "love" the thing responsible for my degradation. Strange how keen Riddle was to demand something of which he was himself incapable.'
Nagini - no Selene – she'll need careful treatment. Hermione wondered if she could persuade Luna to help her talk the snake round.
'As soon as the pink fog lifted, I fought back. Just as well really. I don't know where Potter got the idea that I was a Horcrux but, if he hadn't changed his mind, it could have been unfortunate. Slughorn might have got away.'
Slughorn: another crooked pillar of the establishment, thought Hermione, trading influence and recruiting for Voldemort. Reminiscent of Pettigrew in his toadying to the most powerful in his circle until he found himself, instead, trapped in Voldemort's dark orbit. It should have been so bloody obvious.
As Luna's pink splotched familiar finished the owl treats, hiccoughed and flew off through the open French windows, Hermione wondered what they'd been experimenting with this time. Lovegood and Longbottom Laboratories were known not only for new and improved plants and potions but also for providing regular employment for local builders.
And then, with a sudden, cold shock, she knew: Luna had known.
Luna had sent a potion stained owl with a letter twitting Hermione about the pinkness of her imaginary creations. The girl who'd worn radish earrings had probably only ever pretended to believe Hermione, who was now wondering if the voracious onions weren't equally mythical.
This left the Nagini transcript. Frantically, Hermione skimmed through it, searching for evidence of authenticity or otherwise, pulling up sharply at the mention of her husband's name.
'I'd have to agree with Ron Weasley about spiders. Big ones anyway. He told you about what happened when he tried to persuade the Slytherins that Slughorn had turned that bloody great Acromantula into an inferius?'
'Yes they did. And they had the tree as well as the tutu. I was almost inclined to feel sorry for Ronald.'
Hermione had heard about Ron's attempt to persuade the Slytherins that they were in danger from their own Housemaster. He'd actually been relieved whenwhat was left of Aragog climbed out of the Common Room fireplace. He hadn't mentioned Nagini though.
'I decided that getting involved would have been unhelpful so I stayed where I was in the pipe-work. Anyway, it took some time to sort myself out. Trust me on this, you can't slither and laugh at the same time. I was only just in time to bite Slughorn before he could escape with the final Horcrux. "Services to the School" my arse!'
'I did, and he was liquefying quite nicely, and then Snape returned. A crafty one, that Snape, I never suspected him at all. Such a devious and extraordinarily flexible mind. Wouldn't let me have Slughorn, though, even though I was starving. If I'd eaten Slughorn, I'd never have been tempted to try those jars in the Potions Office. I didn't half feel peculiar after'.
'And then Potter tried to make Snape treat me for it.'
That would have been interesting, Hermione thought, if true and then she realised, marvelling at her own stupidity, that she could ask Harry.
Even if the transcript was Luna's idea of a joke, Harry could talk to Nagini. Or she could find some other means of questioning the snake. Hermione laid the parchment gently and reverently onto her desk. Luna had gifted her with an original and informed source and, as the famous (or infamous) Hermione Granger, not one she'd need to reveal if Selene was determined to retain her privacy. (Not that an enormous snake was likely to have much of a problem anyway). And no one was likely to contest the accuracy of her account. Not if it were accurate. She picked up the precious document, unsurprised to discover that her hands were shaking with excitement.
And she owed it to Luna.
Luna would want something for her father's newspaper, but that was to the good - a reminder of the first time she's gone to the Quibbler with the truth in the dark days of the second war. Hermione returned to her reading and snorted with laughter.
'Put it this way: there was no way I was going to let either of them administer a laxative. A decent meal worked just as well and was infinitely more enjoyable. Decent of Neville to make the suggestion under the circumstances but I'm not a bit sorry about Trevor. Neville, unlike those damned Weasleys, deserves something better than a snack item as a familiar. The rat used to go on and on and on about them. All the time. As I understood it, they were argumentative, prone to the pursuit of suicidal careers and possessed of an inordinate fondness for explosions. I couldn't understand the attraction.'
Get Simon to keep Ron out of the way, Hermione noted, absently.
'Actually, I did eat Pettigrew. Well, he was a rat at the time and I was hungry. I was permanently hungry. It's much better here at Hogwarts. I wouldn't mind at all if you were to talk Neville into accepting the Herbology position permanently. In fact it might be safest.'
'Bellatrix Lestrange is dead.'
'Quite sure and no, I didn't eat her. I think you should know that I was only ever made to eat people when Riddle could be quite certain they hadn't been poisoned in order to get at me.'
'Yes, someone did that. I was extremely unwell and He was extremely displeased. They didn't find Bellatrix because one of Neville's experiments found her first. I haven't the faintest idea what it was. I can't say I tried to investigate that closely. Some unlikely looking hybrid: all tentacles and razor sharp leaves and a very messy feeder. If it helps, I think he named it after his grandmother: "Polysomething Augustii". I made damned sure it couldn't get out and after a while, when it had run out of food, it went to seed.'
'How should I know if the seeds were fertile? Perhaps you ought to be speaking to Neville. Preferably before he gets into trouble sending someone out the wrong thing. His memory doesn't seem to be getting any better. Last week he took me to his grandmother's with him and forgot to tell his uncle I was there. Silly bugger crept into the greenhouse looking for something and got quite upset when he tripped over me. I can tell you it was very cold and drafty in that greenhouse until they got the glass repaired.'
'Why would Neville do that'?
'What's so special about Blackpool Pier?'
'I see. Luna, I really would prefer it if you didn't have any of this printed. I just want to eat and sleep and bask and not think about anything for a while.'
'I'd appreciate that. Could you warm up the stone again before you go?'
'It was just a frog. Luna, what on earth would anyone's familiar be doing wandering around here at this hour?'
'Yes. Well. Trevor deserved to get eaten.
Hermione sighed and angled the parchment towards the light. It seemed genuine enough. She turned back to Luna's letter on the reverse.
Please say you'll come. We don't see nearly enough of you. I'm hoping I can talk Harry and Ginny into a visit too.
Your friend, Luna.
"Your friend, Luna." Hermione smiled ruefully.
Thanks to Luna, instead of fumbling through ancient records and third hand guesswork, she'd be discussing events with a keen intellect that had, for most of the war, been at the Dark Lord's side and unregarded; at least from the point of view of telling tales. And she was off the hook with regard to bundalarfs.
Hermione opened her desk drawer, pulled out the kind of telephone muggles had thought modern a century before and put the earpiece to her ear. 'Hello, Operator? I'd like to speak to Harry Potter.' Fondly, she smoothed tattered parchment onto the gleaming wood of her desk. Now she had two days to work out what Luna had done to the quill or, and preferably, discover some method of her own of interviewing the snake.
She loved an intellectual challenge.
This was written for hpholidaygen on live journal (link in profile).