Title: Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously
Character: Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley
Summary: Luna Lovegood had a strong suspicion that the card catalogue in the Hogwarts library was sentient.
Author's Notes: Thank you to oddnari and Joc for looking over the fic!
Luna Lovegood had a strong suspicion that the card catalogue in the Hogwarts library was sentient. It loomed over the side of the library, near the Fs in fiction and by a few desk tables that no one but her ever used. They were a dull bronze copper color, with neat little labels on each drawer and runes etched into every inch of the material.
Occasionally, when Luna went exploring, she'd hear them groan and murmur to each other, having conversations as they dealt with the constantly shifting floor of Hogwarts.
One time she said to Ginny, "I think the card catalogue is alive."
They were eating breakfast, way earlier than most of the students, and Ginny was perched on a seat at the Ravenclaw table. Every once in a while she'd glance to the door, checking for something. Luna figured that she'd probably be martyred if a Gryffindor saw her at another house table, but the jam was always better at the Ravenclaws' table.
At first Ginny looked a little upset, as she buttered her toast. "Has it spoken to you, or anything?"
"No," Luna said. "But sometimes I see it grinning."
Ginny laughed at her, then, in the way she had, and Luna grinned back. Ginny never really believed the things Luna said, but she listened with kindness and behaved with tolerance and her amusement had no malice. Luna always thought that the first step in expanding your mind was a willingness to get along with people you disagreed with.
Luna knew Ginny had practice with death and with evil and with opinions that, while charming, were different than you thought anyone's should be. If Luna was forced to guess, back before she really knew Ginny, she'd have figured Ginny's experiences would have made her hard and persistent, unable to compromise. But no – Ginny knew exactly what it was like to feel something different, as much as she denied it.
There was beauty in that – Luna could see it, even though everyone else was blinded by the way Ginny glittered in nice clothing and her cute button nose.
"The Hogwarts library is creepy, but not that creepy," said Ginny.
Luna admired Ginny – but in this case, she was wrong. The Hogwarts library was more frightening than anything else Luna could imagine. In retaliation for the wrongness of Ginny's words, Luna stole half of her sausage.
Next, Luna told Lisa.
"Lisa," she said. "I think the library card catalogue is alive."
Lisa was working on some sort of essay, her quill scratching across the parchment. She had very neat handwriting, and very small.. From a distance, it looked like a geometric design or some sort of trail, like there was a little animal dancing across the parchment. Luna didn't like parchment, much – she thought it felt too much like petting a hairless cat not that, of course, she has ever petted a hairless cat. But it was quite like she imagined a hairless cat to feel, and Lisa's handwriting looked like there was an advanced civilization of tattooing fleas.
Lisa glanced up and rolled her eyes, just a little. "Don't be absurd, Luna."
Absurd, adj. utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false. "The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth"--Albert Camus.
Luna made a habit of collecting definitions and quotes about the word absurd. She heard it a lot from everyone, but it was Lisa's favorite. Everything that Luna did was absurd, was crazy, was mad. Loony Loopy Luna Lovegood, off on one of her tangents.
"You can feel it watching you. And, the level of magic that it has around it is truly epic and totally irrational for a card catalogue. Besides, have you ever seen anyone use it?"
Lisa looked at the card catalogue. Luna could feel it look back and she could almost hear it snicker, muttering to itself. Lisa only snorted.
Absurd, adj. the quality or condition of existing in a meaningless and irrational world.
Her fellow Ravenclaws would probably be delighted with her for memorizing definitions. They got upset with her poor arithmancy grades, the way she would sometimes skip the house studying sessions for a walk in the woods or an expedition into the library. She wasn't a very good Ravenclaw, or so she's heard.
Luna watched Lisa's quill dance like ticks on the back of a hairless cat for a few more seconds, and then left.
"So," she said, then paused. The card catalogue didn't do anything; it was being clever.
"You're alive, aren't you?"
She was a good five feet away. For some reason, the card catalogue felt almost malevolent, as if it was being sullen toward her. Nothing overtly aggressive (a totally still cabinet has difficulty being overt, in general), but Luna had a feeling.
Luna trusted her feelings. She didn't think it made sense to practice magic and then pretend the world was rational. Her father once told her that the best witches and wizards were always called totally mad – only they really understood magic.
And, judging by the low whine the cabinet gave out, before surging forward with a i crash /i , this hunch was right. The card catalogue wasn't a friendly beast.
Luna was kicked out of the library and thus, further dragged her house through the mud.
The next day she tried poking it with a stick. It didn't like that, either, and she was kicked out again. Terry Boot began looking more than a little strained.
The time after that, Luna brought a picnic. The card catalogue was out of the line of sight of the reference desk, so she could spread a red gingham cloth down on the floor and a pillow she'd taken off her bed and sit down. Unfolding the food she brought from the wrapped cloth, she took a bite of a sandwich before she arranged it on the napkin. Peanut butter and honey, her favorite.
There were a few bottles of butterbeer and a pear, which was still rock hard.
She had stolen a couple of Jaffa Cakes from a muggle-born first year named Chris. She loved those things; she'd peel off the chocolate and do her best to lick up the jam, savoring the smashing orangey bit.
While eating, she watched the card catalogue and spoke to it.
"You don't seem to like me very much," she said at first. It seemed to startle at the sound, shifting in place. "To be fair, though, I clearly am revealing your secret. But I don't understand why you want to hide? It is fun to have friends, to have people to talk to you and to touch you."
It made a clinking noise and seemed to settle, still shifting a little bit, but definitely more sedate then it had been a moment ago.
"I'm fairly sure you don't speak English. Or – at least I know you don't i speak /i English. I'm not as sure you don't understand it. In fact, you might. Considering, of course, you are a card catalogue in a library, you might have picked it up."
Luna finished her sandwich and took a swig of butterbeer. She wiped foam off of her upper lip and then set the bottle gently down. It clinked, despite her best efforts.
Standing, she watched the cart catalogue closely for any sign of discomfort. It was still, though it seemed tense, as if the very metal was stretched out too thin. Luna hummed underneath her breath, like she did to the Thestrals when she went to visit them, like she did to her father's cat which had seen the Great Glubbering Glorm-beast underneath the sink once and now was a shivering wreck, like her mother used to hum to her.
The card catalogue seemed to tolerate her, so she started to approach. Every step was careful, considered, taken one by one. The hard soles of her shoes clinked against the floor, sounding like the bottle of butterbeer.
"Please don't hurt me," she crooned. "You unlikely thing, you."
She was close enough now to touch it if she wanted to. The metallic surface was glossy and shining in the low light of the library; she could see herself in it, a blob in a dark robe, with a startling light above her. Luna was pale, pale, pale and she could see herself in the quivering card catalogue.
She reached her hand out, achingly slowly, and before she even rested her palm against it, something twisted up in her stomach, thrilled. It felt cool against her skin, like a real inanimate object might, surprising her. She had expected it to feel warm, like an animal. She had even half-expected the slow in out of breath.
Curling her fingers around the handle for the drawer with the index card reading Aa – Ad, she pulled. It squeaked just a little and the card catalogue shivered. The open drawer pressed against her hand like the head of a cat, begging for attention.
Luna understood. The card catalogue had gone feral; a formerly useful member of the library driven away by its own frankly terrifying sentience. It really was no wonder that students avoided the card catalogue that moved when they could just cast a spell and find the book they needed. Luna wondered if even Madam Pince remembered it was here.
She took out a card and the card catalogue was purring to itself, swaying slightly. She giggled even as she ran wondering fingers over the paper. This particular book was for Tisanes and Infusions from the Parts of African Animals by Aaron Aardvark. As she touched it, a rune flared up behind the neatly written text and she felt a tug underneath her breast bone, urging her out into the stacks.
She smiled, but she didn't need to know anything about African animals at the moment, so she put the card back.
"I wonder what got you like this," she said aloud.
As if it had been waiting for that, the card catalogue rolled away, rearing back so that Luna could see behind it. There was some writing in the stone – oh, Merlin.
Luna backed away slowly. "Stay here," she said. "I'll be right back."
Once she felt she was far enough, she started to run.
"The card catalogue is alive," Luna said, still a bit breathless.
Ginny glanced up, looking startled, before sinking down into a pleasant expression. She had been enjoying her breakfast, with a book open in front of her. Luna craned her neck to see – it wasn't a textbook.
"What?" Ginny said, but Luna wasn't really listening to her any more. She grabbed the book and checked the cover, thumb expertly keeping the page where Ginny had been reading.
Luna examined the cover.
Magical Modes of Money Making. Luna didn't really care about the title, though. She stroked the rune on the spine of the book, though, with gentle fingers – she felt the magic purr to her, answering the call of the card catalogue that still echoed through her.
"The card catalogue is alive."
Ginny smiled fondly at Luna, but made a face. "I thought we already talked about that."
"Last time, it was a theory, now I know." Luna gave her back the book, which Ginny took quickly with a faint flush, noting the page and tucking it underneath her arm with the cover into her body. She was probably embarrassed, but Luna didn't care. "Come on. I want to show you something."
Ginny took a big, really unladylike bite of toast, stuffing themarmalade-covered slice into her mouth. There was a little bit of the spread on the side of her lip that the milk she washed her breakfast down with, didn't manage to wipe off.
Luna reached up and removed it with her thumb, licking it after to retrieve the sweetness. "Come on, then. Let's go!"
Ginny followed. That was good of her.
They tramped to the library, Luna running her fingers along the wall. She liked the way the stone scraped at her, leaving her fingers tingling, and she liked the way there was always a heart of coolness, no matter hot she was.
Slipping into the library, she smiled at Pince and the librarian smiled awkwardly back, faint suspicion at the back of her eyes. Ginny followed, her hand hot in Luna's, and they went over to the card catalogue.
"Here," Luna said, resting her hand on the surface. It was hot and it shifted uneasily, with a creaking groan. Ginny looked alarmed, but Luna tried to reassure her, gently dragging her closer. Luna pressed Ginny's hand against the card catalogue, next to her own. Ginny jumped, startled, but Luna held here close.
"What--" she yelped.
"Shh," Luna crooned, releasing Ginny's hand finally to stroke the cabinet, trying to sooth both the creature and her friend. "Look at the runes written on the surface."
Ginny looked, but Luna had seen them before, so she didn't bother; instead, she watched Ginny. Her friend's face was soft with wonder and she was starting to grin.
"Luna, you're mad, but you were right."
The card catalogue groaned again, shifting, and Ginny let out a little sigh. "This is so cool!"
"Hey," Luna said, pressing gently against the card catalogue, guiding. "Move along."
It shuddered away from the pressure, swinging out wide so they could see the back. The mark that Luna had found before was still there, over a niche in the wall. There were things hidden in the niche; what looked like a journal, some fake wands, and several broken tea cups. The sea of parchment stuffed in there swelled at the movement, as if it was about to spill out. In the corner, there was a jam doughnut, covered in dust, but looking perfectly fresh. Luna marveled at the quality of the preservation spell.
"Wow, this is--"
"It's even cooler than you think," Luna said. She pointed to the mark and then looked away, watched Ginny again.
"James – Oh my god, how did you find this?"
"I looked," Luna said. "Go on, read the rest of it."
The text meandered and it was in a bad hand, with countless differently sized letters and lines that weren't straight. The etches were also of vastly different depths, like occasionally the author slipped and gouged a deep hole in the stone.
These belongings are the property of James Potter, esq, placed here to avoid the snooping of the Marauders. And everyone else, for that matter, bugger off.
PS-- don't hurt Rupert. He took a lot of work and I've grown rather fond of him.
"Rupert?" Ginny said.
The card catalogue made a little chirping sound, vibrating in its position behind them, careful to give them enough room to exist comfortably. Luna grinned.
"Whose a good little Rupes? You are! You are!"
It gave a great long chirp and Ginny burst out laughing; it was a big, unattractive laugh, with a lot of teeth and scrunched up face. It was a real laugh and Luna loved it. She let Ginny just laugh for a moment, before speaking.
"You should show Harry," Luna said. "I think he'd really like it."
"You think?" Ginny said, in between remaining giggles. "But why didn't you just--"
"I'm Loony Luna. Besides, he'd appreciate it more from you."
Luna watched Ginny, like she always did, like Ginny was too good to comment on. Her pretty red hair and cute little nose-- round face, scrunched up laugh. She saw her like no one else, but Ginny was looking elsewhere.
She petted the card catalogue. It purred. "Besides. I have Rupert."