Selene Lovegood loved her job.
She loved to tinker and tweak spells and charms, always with a mind to make them safer, more effective and affordable.
She was very good at what she did. The royalties from her previous projects would keep her husband, Xenophilius, in paper and ink for the rest of their very long lives.
Xeno's avocation, the weekly Journal of Disputed Fauna invited debate, both friendly and heated, from every corner of the magical world. With tongue firmly planted in-cheek, he had recently re-named his beloved journal the Quibbler, as it, and he, along with his growing readership, lived for the debate.
Spell-crafters typically don't commute. Working from home gave Selene both quantity and quality time with Xeno and Luna, their precocious, gregarious, almost nine-year-old daughter. Both parents schooled Luna for three to four hours every weekday morning, then, on Saturdays, father and daughter would deliver the Quibbler, by way of Floo. The Lovegoods had worked out a system: Luna would call out the address, toss a pinch of powder into the flames, Xeno would follow through with a banded copy of the journal. Once the fireplace deliveries were completed, Luna would load her red cart with two bundles of the Quibbler for local delivery.
Either Xeno or Selene, usually both, would walk with their daughter into Ottery Saint Catchpole, a quasi-magical community, where mages and muggles lived side-by-side. Luna would carry the Quibbler to a subscriber's door, knock or ring the bell, and either hand the subscription to whomever was home, or leave it on the doorstep.
More often than not the lady or man of the house would be there to greet the popular, vivacious little paper girl. Mrs Hudson almost always had a fresh batch of cookies to share.
Once the Quibblers were all delivered, Luna and parent or parents would do the weekly shopping, load their purchases in Luna's delivery cart, then head home by way of the local ice-cream parlor.
Samhain was a special time in the Lovegood household, not only did the family celebrate the Sabbat, but Luna's birthday as well. This year, Samhain fell on Saturday, and Selene sent her husband and daughter off by themselves while she prepared the family room for the combination celebration.
Some of the other magical families, the Weasleys, Diggorys, and Fawcetts, always celebrated Samhain with the Lovegoods, bringing baked treats and small presents for the birthday girl. Ginny Weasley, the closest girl to Luna's own age, always brought fresh ginger biscuits. The Diggorys liked to bring cider, rendered from their own apples. The Diggory's were locally famous for their orchards. Sarah Faucett never missed a chance to be near Cedric Diggory, who was two years her senior and a fellow Hufflepuff at Hogwarts.
With Luna and Xeno out of the way, Selene was able to set up the festivities post-haste. Isn't it often the case that one person can often be more efficient than three? She loved her family, but sometimes, when they tried to be helpful, they were anything but…
Being alone also freed Selene to work on her latest spell-craft project.
Quantifying the magical energy released when an object was disenchanted.
She wrote in her Journal:
The laws of conservation of magic state that magic can't be created or destroyed, only converted. It takes magic to conjure something, dissipating or disenchanting a magical construct releases magic - usually into the ground.
The magic comes from the Earth, and goes back when it's done.
The tricky part is measuring it.
For that purpose, Selene had constructed a simple conduit that would offer the least path of resistance to magic as it made its way back to the ground. The amount of time it took the magic to flow through the conduit would be directly proportional to the amount of magic involved. The measuring device was a simple stop watch.
Selene started with small enchantments, household charms mostly. The readings, however, were hard to interpret, passing through the device in less than a second, and therefore of little value.
She needed something bigger.
She looked up at the single tall tower that was their home.
Scratching furiously in her journal she wrote:
I've got it! If the energy from the tower's ward-stone could be tapped, directed to ground, I should get a good reading. I'd better hurry and get it done before Xeno gets home. If he finds me fiddling with something that powerful I'll never hear the end of it.
Nothing to do but to do it.
And so, Selene planned to tap into the structural ward-stone for their rook-like tower in order to bleed magic into the ground, thereby making a definitive, quantitative measurement of dynamic magic.
Xeno and Luna met all three Fawcetts in the market and decided to walk back to the Lovegood home together.
As they topped the hill they could see Selene moving something back and forth on the tower wall. Passing through the garden they got close enough to see that she was trying to loosen a stone.
Xeno went white as he saw what she was fiddling with.
"Selene, no! Don't touch the ward stone!"
Startled, Selene Lovegood turned just as the stone came loose.
She looked at Xeno, then Luna.
She held the powerfully magically charged artifact in one hand, and the conduit in the other.
She was still looking at Luna when the stone released its magic. Tragically, the shortest path to ground was through Selene's body.
Luna could only watch in horror as she heard a frizzle and a pop, and watched her mother's body go rigid, her eyes grew unnaturally wide as an inconceivably massive magical bolt tore through her.
She tried to run to Mummy.
But Daddy held her tight.
It took almost ten seconds for the magic to dissipate.
Selene Lovegood was dead after the first three.
Her hair burst into flame after six seconds, then her skin and clothes.
The tall, straight tower, robbed of its structural ward, leaned precariously, then settled crookedly as the torch that had been Selene toppled forward.
Everyone stared in horror at the smoking lump that had, moments before, been a living, breathing witch.
Will Fawcett held his wife, Sandra, who buried her face in his chest. Daughter Sarah fell to her hands and knees and retched.
Only Luna could see the agitated cloud of golden motes as they danced. First in the air above her mother, then away from her and into the Earth.
Molly Weasley was nice. She and Ginny came to visit every day.
Good thing she did, otherwise neither Xeno nor Luna would have eaten anything. They were automatons, simply going through the motions.
Anne Diggory, Sandra and Sarah Fawcett came in as well, Mrs Diggory handled the funeral arrangements, Sarah picked out the clothes for Xeno and Luna to wear. Will Fawcett shined their shoes for them.
Arthur Weasley and Amos Diggory had been through the wars, both had seen the "thousand yard stare." Both watched Xeno very carefully.
After the funeral service, closed casket, of course, Xeno seemed to be coming back to himself. He greeted all the mourners and thanked them from the bottom of his heart. Especially Molly and Anne for their generosity of time and spirit.
He invited the neighbours into the house for a toast.
Arthur Weasley remained behind after everyone else had gone.
Xeno didn't seem to notice. He moved about, picking up, putting dishes and goblets into the charmed sink. He poured one last goblet of elf-made wine, then headed upstairs.
The little blonde girl, who had been drifting from chair to chair, seemingly fascinated by something only she could see, was startled. She hadn't seen Arthur.
"Be a dear and run up to your father's room. Then come back and tell me what he's doing."
She ran up the stairs. After a few minutes she walked down.
"He's sleeping, Mister Weasley."
"He took a sleeping powder, he took a lot of sleeping powders…"
"Dear God and The Goddess, no!"
Arthur ran up the stairs and, indeed, Xeno was lying there, surrounded by waxed-paper envelopes, each one a standard dose of sleeping potion, but this was much, much too much. Arthur Weasley, father of seven, knew many emergency healing spells. If a child accidentally swallows poison, a parent knows three quick treatments. Induce vomiting, purge bowels and bladder, replace blood, if necessary.
Selene, good mother that she was, had all the potions right where Arthur could find them.
As he gathered the vials he was going to need he looked at the girl, the same age as his own daughter, cast a mild compulsion charm, and said, "Luna, sweetie, why don't you see what Ginny is doing right now?"
The highly suggestible girl nodded and walked away.
As soon as she'd left, Arthur forced the first of the three potions down Xeno's throat.
Suffice it to say, the next several minutes were unpleasant.
After an hour or so, and a shower and change of clothes for Xeno, the two men sat at the kitchen table.
"It's my fault, you know. Distracted her."
"And offing yourself is gonna make it all better, eh?"
"Better, yeah, better off without me."
Arthur sighed, "The only reason I'm not hexing you into the next millennium is that you'd probably enjoy it, figure it's your due."
"Maybe it is, but tell me, how is killing yourself going to help Luna?"
A single tear traced down Xeno's cheek. He had no answer.
"You want to do penance? Here's the deal. I sentence you to life. You will spend the rest of your life being whatever Selene's daughter needs. A teacher, a guide, a friend, a playmate and most of all, a father. You will convince her that she is special and worthy and everything her mother was and more, do you understand?"
Xeno, weeping, nodded.
Arthur shook his head, "Uh, uh. On your magic. Swear on your magic, no, sod that. Swear on the life of your daughter, Luna."
Two girls, one ginger, on blonde, sat in the vegetable garden watching the "gnomes" pull back and forth on a large carrot.
Luna frowned, "They're not really gnomes, you know."
"Yeah," Ginny said, "Bill met a real gnome, said it was like a chubby little elf. They do all the banking in Zurich in Swiss-land."
"These little uglies are more like tiny little trolls."
"You mean, like troll dolls?"
Both girls took on identical mischievous grins, "Fred, George!"
The Weasley twins, home for the weekend, for the Lovegood funeral, were in their first year at hogwarts.
"What can we…"
"…be doing for you, little ladies?"
Ginny smiled, "Could you petrify two, no, four garden gnomes for us please?"
"…what do you want…"
"…with petrified gnomes?"
"We're gonna dress em' up!"
The twins, of course, thought that was brilliant, and set about petrifying half a dozen hapless little uglies. And that was just for starters.
All four children had fun dressing and posing the misshapen little creatures, the garden gnomes, not so much.
When it was time for dinner Molly came out to the garden, drawn to the sound of children's laughter.
What she saw had her running for the family camera.
Up and down the stone garden wall, gnomes were reenacting the Battle of Hastings, and the Fourth and Fifth Goblin Wars. Gnome archers, gnome pikemen, and gnome foot soldiers stood in neat little rows.
In a far corner two gnomes were getting married before a gnomish vicar.
The expressions on the toad-like little grey and brown faces were priceless.
The Weasleys learned a valuable lesson that day. Pitching gnomes will keep them out of your garden for a day, mortifying them will keep them away forever.
Luna looked back and forth, between the garden and the yard and back again.
Ginny asked, "What is it, Luna?"
"I only just noticed, but garden gnomes have, um, nargle-like lights."
Fred shook his head and asked, "Who, what-sis?"
Luna looked up from the wedding scene. "We all have nargle lights, you, me, Ginny, Mister and Missus Weasley. They dance around us, like a cloud of gnats, only you can't hear them, or touch them. When you take a deep breath, you breathe them in, but breathe them out again when you exhale.
"Goats don't have them, chickens don't either. Cats and dogs don't have em', but kneazles and crups do. Some people in town have one or two, while we have lots and lots."
Looking back down at the 'little uglies,' she said, "These have just a few."
The twins and Ginny looked at each other as if to say, "Okay, a little loony, but maybe it'll pass."
Molly took two more photos and announced, "Dinner!"
Luna returned home carrying a good sized casserole for Xeno's dinner. As she closed the door her father knelt before her, took the dish, set it aside, then gathered his daughter into a tight hug.
"I'm so, so sorry…"
Luna, content to be held, finally asked, "Sorry for what?"
Xeno thought for a moment, then seemed to reconsider, saying, "For not spending the day with you pumpkin, did you have a nice time with the gingers?"
"Yes, we played dress up with a whole lot of garden gnomes."
"That sounds like fun."
"Is it okay to see something if no one else does?"
"Does what you see hurt anyone in any way?"
"No problem then." His brow furrowed for just a moment as he thought of something else, "You might not want to tell people what you see if they can't see it, though. They might get worried about you."
"Okay." She picked up the casserole and put it up on the kitchen table, "Now eat."
Luna took her father's advice to heart, kept her observations to herself, but never let a chance go by to see who and what had 'nargelites,' as she had come to call them.
Some trees and plants did. Rosemary, for instance, did, but pine didn't. Anything enchanted did, the stronger the enchantment, the more nargelites danced around it. Dormant runes didn't, but active runes, those in use, such as shielding or warding, did.
Nearly all people did. The non-magicals in Ottery Saint Catchpole had one or two, where witches and wizards had lots. Oddly enough, non-magical children had as many nargelites as magical children did. Did that mean everyone had the potential to do magic at some point?
The nice old vicar in town had lots, and he wasn't a wizard.
The two aurors who came to interview her and her dad had lots, but they weren't very nice. They seemed to think her daddy had done something wrong. He was very upset when they'd gone.
In December, articles in the Quibbler started to get more bizarre, stories centered around plots within the ministry and the minister.
Rare and magical animals were pushed to page two.
Subscriptions dropped off.
By late November, Luna only carried one bundle of Quibblers into town. Mrs Hudson met her at the door with a mug of hot chocolate and a pan of fresh-out-of-the-oven ginger biscuits.
She looked a little sad, "Mister Hudson and I will be out of town until after the Yule, Dear."
"No worries, Mrs Husdon, we can resume delivery after the first of the year if you like."
"Let's just leave off delivery for a while, Dear."
Luna didn't cry, but she felt that, if they lost all the Mrs Hudsons from their subscriber list, then there wasn't much point in keeping the Quibbler going.
Walking back from the market she came to a decision.
"Daddy, why don't we go exploring? Maybe look for snorkacks again. I have a really good feeling that we'll see them this year."
Xeno's eyes lit up at the mention of his favourite disputed fauna. Indeed, the Quibbler had been founded on a heated snorkack debate between him and Selene's great aunt, Arabella Figg.
"Oh, if I could just bring back a photo, or even a footprint, that would put paid to that old argument!"
"Maybe we can get Auntie Arabella to come with us?"
"To Sweeden? Never happen. She'd never leave her kneazles."
"Well, we'll just have to bring the snorkack to, um, where does she live now?"
"Little Whinging, on Wisteria Walk."
"We'll have to bring the snorkacks to Little Whinging!"
Such was Luna's enthusiasm that Xeno booked a portkey for the following Thursday.
Yule morning, Arabella Figg answered the door to see her favourite niece's husband and daughter. Both had red cheeks from the bitter cold and warm smiles, face splitting smiles, ear to ear, toothy grins.
Xeno handed her his latest copy of the Quibbler, at which Arabella rolled her eyes, and motioned them inside.
"Front page news Auntie, read it and weep, oh you who doubts!"
The banner headline read, "Snorkack Found!"
Below was a grainy photo of a rock, in the snow.
"Photographic evidence Auntie!"
"This is a picture of a rock, Xenophilius."
"Turn to page two."
She opened the paper and saw four more photos.
"It's the same rock, dear."
"Isn't it brilliant? It's why they've never been seen before, now look closely."
The rock blinked.
Xeno laughed, "Did I tell you? Luna saw it, she said, 'take a picture of the snorkack, Daddy,' and I said, 'that's just a rock, dear,' and she said, take the picture, Daddy, before it moves again.' And I did and it moved, just like she said it would.
Xeno opened his suitcase and pulled out a bottle of brandy.
"I'll get the glasses!"
"Oh, my bag, Daddy, it's on the steps. I'll get it."
Luna opened the front door to pick up her bag and came face to face with Harry Potter.