The Sugar Quill
Author: Luminous Marble (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Grant Me One Wish  Chapter: Default
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Grant Me One Wish

by

Luminous Marble

 

A soft hum.

Light.

Snap. Twigs?

Zip.

'Good morning, Neville.'

Neville blinked sleepily at Trevor, who was sitting on his chest. Since when did Trevor speak in such dulcet tones?

'Breakfast soon.'

Wait. Trevor's mouth hadn't moved, and there had been no telltale ballooning around his neck.

'Neville, are you awake? Neville.'

His blankets and sleeping bag were snatched roughly from his body. It was awfully cold without them, and he felt goosebumps race across his skin. His Heating Charm had worn off during the night. Gran had always said there was no excuse for failing to bundle up, and--

'Goodness. Sorry, Neville.'

Neville came fully awake and analysed the situation.

Location. Tent.

Speaker. Luna Lovegood.

Nightclothes. Absent.

*

Shivering, Neville fumbled through his satchel for a pair of underpants. Once he'd dressed (adding a second pair of socks for good measure) and tucked Trevor away in a pocket of his cloak for safekeeping, he turned to business.

Reflection Journal, Day 2
7:48 a.m.
Made camp too late on day 1 to assess terrain. Is bitterly cold. Do not expect to find quarry today. Will merely record impressions.

There. That should cover him in case there were questions. If he managed to warm his hands enough to write anything else, there would be a better report. He could always fake something later.

'Breakfast,' came the cheery call from beyond the tent flap.

Maybe not.

Luna was crouched near the fire with a flat-bottomed pan in one hand and a spoon in the other. Instead of transferring the eggs to the plates balanced on a nearby rock, she was staring fixedly at the soft, puffy clouds she created with each exhalation.

'I wonder if dragons realize that other things can't always see their own breath,' she said, waving her spoon through the lingering vapours and then using it to serve. 'It's a lovely trick, even if it isn't smoke. Hungry?'

She seemed to have forgotten the nakedness. Good. 'Famished,' Neville replied, taking a plate of toast and eggs. 'Thanks for cooking breakfast. I'll do the washing up.'

'Oh, don't worry about that. You have an important mission and I'm sure you'll want to prepare.' Luna chewed thoughtfully. 'Do you have a strategy?'

'Er, no.'

Really, Neville couldn't see the point. The strategy was to look around. A lot.

When Professor Sprout had sent him the grant application ('Hurry and submit it! It's the perfect opportunity!') he hadn't read it carefully. He hadn't noticed that, in the fine print, The Quibbler would be the sponsor of his expedition to scour the French Alps for the rare Brugunder Mistletoe. And the large print hadn’t said anything about having the editor's daughter for a personal escort.

She'd turned up out of the blue with camping equipment, a pair of Portkeys, and a retired Herbologist who promised to watch the shop while they went, as Luna put it, on holiday.

*

Reflection Journal, Day 2
9:47 p.m.
Nearby are several streams, a meadow, a sort of rocky valley, and a forest area that extends all the way to a cliff. The top of the cliff is worth checking out, but it would be more than a day's hike to go around to the hill behind and come down. Exhausted from walking everywhere. I'd note the location and ask for a Portkey, but it seems that we've failed to pack a map. Still cold.

'Neville? Are you wearing underpants?'

Neville laughed nervously and pulled the tent flap aside. 'I'm still dressed.'

Luna poked her head in. 'Too bad Dad could only afford Muggle tents, isn't it?' She pursed her lips and blew out a stream of air. 'No cloud. Your tent is warmer than mine is.' As Neville watched, bemused, she Summoned her sleeping bag, blankets, three pillows, and various other items, which rapidly filled up exactly half of his tent.

Underneath her cloak, Luna had on a high-necked, ruffled flannel nightgown and a pair of fuzzy slippers. 'I've already changed, of course,' she said, crawling into her sleeping bag. 'But I'll avert my eyes if you wish to remove your underpants again.'

'Er, thanks, but I was a bit cold last night. Warming Charm didn't work so well here as it does at home.' Neville decided that he'd be fine sleeping fully dressed. He wasn’t entirely certain that he wanted a repeat of yesterday’s alarm. Transferring Trevor from his cloak to his sleeping bag, he removed his wand from the hook on the roof of the tent. 'Nox.'

'Neville, do you dream?' Luna asked in the darkness.

'Sometimes. Not always. I don't think I snore or talk in my sleep,' he finished hurriedly.

'I dream. I dream that I'm riding a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. I've never seen one.' Luna was quiet for a long time. Just before he fell asleep, Neville heard her whisper, 'I'd like to see one.'

*

Reflection Journal, Day 3
10:17 a.m.
Nothing in or around the streams.

Reflection Journal, Day 3
12:43 p.m.
Nothing in or around the meadow.

Reflection Journal, Day 3
8:36 p.m.
Nothing in or around valley. Bleeding cold.

Neville put down his journal and stared into the fire. Luna had heated a tin of stew for both of them, but only eaten a few bites before she’d nodded off and Neville sent her to bed.

The honest truth, which he was now ready to admit to himself, was that he'd been wrong. The Brugunder Mistletoe didn't grow in the wild anymore. It was only a rare magical hothouse plant now that real mistletoe had taken over its habitats.

He hoped that Luna's dad wouldn't be too angry with him. For all of her dottiness, Luna was the best companion he could have asked for. Loony Luna didn't even hint that he was on the wrong side of sane. It would be awkward if he didn’t get on with her father.

It might be nice to talk to her sometime when his nose wasn't running from the chill.

*

Reflection Journal, Day 4
11:11 a.m.
Nothing in the forested area.

'We can't go home yet. It isn't Thursday, and the Herbologist taking your place doesn't have to be in Bath until Friday. Also, there aren't any cliffs in Diagon Alley, so you might as well explore that one since it's right there.'

It was hard to argue with Luna Lovegood's logic.

Neville couldn't. He simply didn't know how. He trudged through the trees to the rocky area at the cliff's base so that he could check it off of his list of failures. Once completed, he could go home and work on some other mishap. The thought was almost cheerful. London in December...long walks through the rain to his shop in Diagon Alley...being wet through because he had never perfected the art of Apparation.... At least it would be marginally warmer. None of the flora interested him here, but a part of the fauna did.

'Luna,' Neville asked, 'what do you think that is?' He pointed at a four-legged creature that was staring at them from across the clearing. It was one of the stranger things he'd seen. It had hooves. It was shaggy. It had the head of a dog, the body of a goat, the teeth of a shark, and strangely twisted horns. Its coat was a pale violet colour.

Luna's silvery eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in surprise, which was an oddly nice look for her, in Neville's opinion. He'd never seen her look surprised before, not even when he'd accidentally shot Stinksap all over her once on the train to Hogwarts. 'You found a Crumple-Horned Snorkack,' she breathed. 'A real Crumple-Horned Snorkack! It's said that they only live in Sweden, but I knew they'd need a wider ranging area--'

'It's, er, coming right for us.' Neville took Luna's arm and then a step backwards because it was not only coming right for them, it was bearing all of its pointed teeth. 'What do you think a Crumple-Horned Snorkack eats?'

The Snorkack growled.

'I think they're man- and woman-eating,' Luna said matter-of-factly as the Snorkack lowered its head and prepared to charge.

'Run!' Neville commanded. The only place that was away was behind them, so he swung Luna around and sprinted toward the rock face. He pointed his wand over his shoulder and missed. Instead of Banishing the Snorkack, he sent Luna hurtling through the air and onto a narrow ledge against the cliff.

'Fabulous idea!' Luna drew her wand as Neville scrabbled frantically at the rocks below. 'Wingardium Leviosa Neville!' In another second, Neville's heels were just beyond the Snorkack's snapping jaws and the second after, he was teetering on the narrow ledge.

There really wasn't enough room for the both of them. When Luna wrapped her arms around him, Neville couldn't object--not just because it felt less like they were about to push each other over the side. With the Snorkack grumbling at the foot of the cliff, they were safe enough for the moment, and Luna had very pink lips. And pink cheeks. Neville wondered if his were as pink from the cold and fear, if Luna could feel how fast his heart was beating...

'Well,' Luna said, 'nothing to do but wait here until it gets bored.'

The Crumple-Horned Snorkack yawned, folded its legs beneath itself, and settled in. It didn't take its eyes off of the pair balanced precariously just beyond its reach.

*

Reflection Journal, Day 4
4:39 p.m.
Dusk rapidly approaching. Still stuck on cliff. Crumple-Horned Snorkack drools each time it catches sight of us.

Neville held onto Luna's shoulder with one hand while he tucked his journal into a pocket of his cloak. He'd stopped feeling his feet an hour back and once dark fell...well, in Neville's opinion, their chances of making it through the night were very slim. The clouds were threatening snow, the Snorkack was threatening to chew slowly, and there was no solution in sight.

But Neville had one in mind.

'Listen, Luna. Listen carefully. You've got your dream. The Crumple-Horned Snorkack exists and it's going to be an amazing story for The Quibbler.' He swallowed. 'When I was younger, I didn't believe in having dreams. I tried to forget them. I thought I was forgetful enough to push them out of my mind.'

Luna nodded, her expression serene. 'Dad will be excited about the Snorkack. I heard a story once about Malfoy stealing your Remembrall--'

Neville cut her off. 'You have your dream. When I...when the Snorkack comes after me, after I jump down...I want you to jump too. I want you to run, Luna, and don't look back.'

'Why?' Luna asked. 'We're fine here. We've got a cliff of our own, and I think I've got a Chocolate Frog or two in my pocket, if you're hungry.'

Neville, for the first time in his existence, seriously contemplated the meaning of the word throttle. 'It's going to snow, and we're going to freeze here if we don't move soon.'

'Snow. Oh,' Luna said, her dreamy gaze focused on a spot above his head. 'Do you think so? If you're going to jump off, you might as well kiss me first.'

Blinking, Neville tightened his grip on Luna's arms. He'd expected an argument, actually. 'O-okay,' he agreed. In fact, that sounded quite good. It would add a few seconds to his life span.

He leaned forward as Luna tilted her head up, bumping his slightly crooked nose hard against her forehead. 'Sorry, sorry,' he mumbled, squeezing his eyes shut. Eyes shut for kissing, right? But how did one match everything up in the dark?

Icy hands guided his head forward and he felt lips touch his. Cold, slightly dry--softer than his own, which were chapped from the wind. After a moment, it didn't matter. His head turned to the side naturally; his mouth figured out what to do. He could feel his toes again. They were tingling.

It was awfully nice. Maybe he could add a few hours to his life span like this.

When Luna pulled away, Neville opened his eyes reluctantly. Her face was inches from his, out of focus from the closeness and their condensing breath. 'Luna, I want you to know--'

'Duck.'

'What?' Luna was an odd one. Neville didn't understand at all.

'Like this.' Luna put her hand on Neville's head and pushed down as a horrible belching noise came from somewhere overhead and he felt, rather than saw, something go flying past his scalp. Slimy balls of hair were pouring out of the cliff above and splattering on the ground below. Entranced, the pair watched the Crumple-Horned Snorkack gobble up the hairballs and then, swaying slightly because of its distended belly, wander off.

'What--what was that?'

'What was that?' Luna laughed. 'Nargles, silly. Haven't you ever seen them before?'

Neville shook his head. 'No. How'd you know they were there? That the Snorkack would eat them?'

'I didn't know about the Snorkack. But'--she pointed at a narrow crack above and behind Neville's head--'it's often infested.'

Neville shuffled his feet until he was turned around. In a narrow crack that was just within his reach, a clump of mistletoe was growing on a tiny, gnarled branch despite all appearances that neither would survive there.

Carefully, Neville separated a part from the rest. A shiver ran down his spine. This mistletoe was not Brugunder Mistletoe. It was covered in tiny thorns and the undersides of its leaves were a shiny purple. He prodded it with the tip of his wand and a blue light crackled over the plant. 'It's magical. And it's a whole new species!'

'Congratulations, Neville!' Luna patted him on the back. 'You'll get to name a plant after yourself.'

'But you found it, Luna. I could kiss you,' Neville babbled on.

'You could,' Luna agreed solemnly. 'Maybe we should go back to camp, though. This ledge is crumbling a little,' she said as a few pebbles broke loose and rattled to the ground.

'Right,' Neville said, suddenly feeling let down. 'And then we'll have to go back to London.'

'It will be cold in London. Did you know,' Luna said, slipping her hand into his, 'that I know how to reset a Portkey?'

Neville managed to turn back around without causing major damage to their perch. 'I could kiss you,' he repeated.

Luna smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck. She started to rise up on her tiptoes but a deep, strangled sound made her pause. 'Duck!' she exclaimed.

'No, toad. I think we squashed Trevor,' Neville noted ruefully.

*

Reflection Journal, Day 5
3:18 p.m.
It's quite pleasant here in the Bahamas. The Goodlove Mistletoe seems to like it, too. Trevor has forgiven us and given his blessing. When our holiday is over, I’ll ask for Mr Lovegood’s, too. Call me old-fashioned. Luna thinks that he’ll be so happy about the Snorkack article that we might be able to persuade him to sponsor another expedition.

Someplace warm, next time, with bathing suits. I think I’d like to discover a new tropical plant.



For Cynthia Black; it was lovely being your secret Santa.
Thank you to Zsenya, whose beta questions tied up a few loose ends!
//
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