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2012 Writer's Duel: A New Kind of Love by HPFF United
Format: Short story collection
Chapter 15: Loving Lovegoods by The Claw of Raven
Xenophilius Lovegood sulked across the cluttered living room to the chair opposite his daughter, Luna. He plopped down, looking weary and defeated. “It’s done,” he said with as much enthusiasm as a deflating tire.
“No Papa, you can’t be serious!” cried Luna. Her usually shimmering hair had grown coarse over the summer.
“It’s as good as done!” barked Xenophilius. “I’ve made the call. We won’t be running any more issues of The Quibbler.” It was unlike him to be gruff with his daughter, but as the summer wore on his mood sputtered like a car engine on the final days of its life. His hard countenance weakened and he added softly, “They threatened me. I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”
Luna stared at her father implacably. “He needs us, Papa,” she said airily. “He needs to know he isn’t alone.”
Anger again boiled through Xenophilius’ veins. It was an anger fuelled not by hatred, but by frustration and desperation. “This boy – Harry Potter – is he really worth dying for?”
“Yes,” said Luna simply. “He really is. You mustn’t stop. Not now.”
Xenophilius contemplated for several moments. “Suppose I do call Humphreys and tell him it’s back on,” he mused. “Then what? I surely can’t contradict everything the Minstry’s been saying. They’ve made it quite clear! Harry Potter is the most wanted wizard in all of Britain!”
“And what is he wanted for?” asked Luna, knowing perfectly well that the question was unanswerable. Finally her gaze shifted to the nearby window. She glanced out at the lush hills just beyond her backyard. “It’s so nice outside,” she said in a dreamlike voice. “It’s peaceful, really.”
“Nature’s tranquility in times of war has always perplexed me,” marveled Xenophilius.
“But it will not be like this for long,” said Luna whimsically. “Soon it will be gone. Poof. Taken away. The very beauty will warp into something wretched. Our lives will no longer be full and flourishing. We will yearn for these days. Unless –“
“Unless the boy succeeds,” interrupted Xenophilius.
Luna nodded slowly. “He is the chosen one …” her voice trailed off until only the docile sound of crickets could be heard from outside.
Tears trickled from her father’s widened eyes. “I swore to protect you when your mother died,” he croaked. “How can I willingly put your life in danger?”
“Life will not be worth living if Harry Potter fails,” argued Luna. “We must help him.”
Xenophilius looked more defeated still. He sunk lower in his chair. He was trembling noticeably. “And if I do, I mean to say, if I were to publish more articles proclaiming Harry Potter’s destiny and greatness, where would you go? You must hide surely.”
“Hogwarts will be the safest place still,” said Luna.
“With Snape as Headmaster?” goggled her father. “He’s a known Death Eater!”
“There is still good at Hogwarts,” said Luna. “I will always feel safe as long as I am inside the castle.”
“My brave, brave girl,” whimpered Xenophilius. He cried yet he was beaming.
“I love you, Papa,” she said seriously, gazing once again into her father’s eyes.
“I love you too, darling,” he reciprocated. “Be careful and safe. Stay vigilant. If I am to do this, you will be in grave danger.”
The next morning, Xenophilius escorted Luna to King’s Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express. He bent down and embraced her affectionately. He had an odd feeling that this would be the last time he would hold his daughter. The red toy-like train bustled into the station and in mere minutes Luna was gone. She arrived at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that evening without complication. All was well.
Xenophilius returned home determined to complete the task Luna had demanded of him. Being in control of a popular magazine, The Quibbler, he had the power to influence the public’s perception of Harry Potter and earn him some of the respect he deserved. However, when he sat at his desk, quill in hand, a sudden wave of despair washed over him like a tsunami. He collapsed to the ground and sobbed relentlessly. In the deepest part of his soul, he knew that writing another issue of The Quibbler in support of Harry Potter would result in his daughter’s death. He had seen her only today; he did not have the heart to kill her. He would wait until tomorrow.
Tomorrow came and passed. In fact, all of September rushed by while Xenophilius spent most of his days coiled on the floor of his bedroom, speaking only to himself in incomprehensible gibberish. He was adamant about not writing another word for The Quibbler. Furthermore, he had not yet spoken to his publicist, Humphreys, whom he was sure would be unwilling to renegotiate a deal in these troubled times.
In the middle of October, Xenophilius received a letter from Luna wondering why there had been no new editions of The Quibbler. He responded after some deliberation, saying he had fallen far too ill to write an entire issue singlehandedly and that Mr. Potter would have to wait until he recovered. This was only partially a lie; for in his state of depression, he was in some sense very sick indeed.
The very next day, an owl flew through the open kitchen window. Tied to its gangly foot was a scarlet envelope. Shaking heavily, Xeonophilius took the letter and unsealed it. The envelope became lifelike at once and soared out of his hands. The flap that he had torn open took the form of a mouth and Luna’s determined voice emanated from it: “You listen here, Papa. We are at war. You cannot seek to appease the enemy. Be courageous. I will die for this cause. If I do, at least I will see Mum again. So much can be accomplished with words. Write boldly, swiftly, and meaningfully. Make me proud.” The letter again became inanimate and fluttered down into his outstretched hands. He gaped and sank onto the floor.
“I will,” he said aloud. “I will make things right. Mark my words. I vow to make my daughter proud.”
Unfortunately, it was now dusk, and the draining experience of hearing his daughter’s scornful voice made Xenophilius fatigued. He would wait until tomorrow. In his bedroom, he drew the curtains tightly shut and sealed the door completely; not a photon of light could enter. And so, for many days Xenophilius remained in utter darkness unable to face his destiny. “It is still night,” he said repeatedly to himself in madness. “I will start tomorrow.”
Having drunken only a bit of water produced by an aguamenti charm, Xenophilius was malnourished and dazed when he heard a commotion in the kitchen. He sprang to his feet and dashed out of his room. The light stung his eyes. He squinted, but could discern only the outline of two men in his kitchen. One appeared to be bending over fetching something off the floor.
“Thieves!” croaked Xenophilius in a hoarse screech like the voice of a goblin.
“Calm yourself, Xenophilius,” said the shorter, plumper man. “It is I, Arthur Weasley, and this is my son, Bill.” As he spoke, Xenophilius’ eyes adjusted and the two men shifted into focus. Both men had lurid red hair and astonishingly similar facial features. The one speaking bore deep creases beneath his eyes, and had a sallow, but resolute countenance. The other, his son, was tall and muscular; he would have been very handsome if not for the deep scars gashing his face. Xenophilius had taken Luna to Bill’s wedding only three months ago. The Weasleys resided on just the other side of the hill.
“It’s polite to come barging into people’s homes these days, is it?” said Xenophilius coldly. “Don’t bother knocking no more. And smash my things while you’re at it.” He had noticed the source of the banging; Bill was holding the remnants of a shattered plate.
“We did knock,” said Arthur incredulously.
“And banged and yelled and summoned,” added Bill. “And the plate was an accident. I’m sorry.” He extracted his wand and waved it gracefully. The pieces of the plate stuck back together as if by glue.
“Why have you come?” demanded Xenophilius. “Is it Luna? Is she alright?” A sudden panic struck him.
“Luna is absolutely fine,” assured Arthur.
“Well if you consider getting beaten up by the Carrows fine then –“
“That’s quite enough, Bill!” snapped Arthur.
A puzzled look dawned on Xenophilius’ face. “Well what is it then?” he asked, more curiously than angrily.
“We’re here on official Order of the Phoenix business,” said Arthur. His gaze shifted from Xenophilius’ eyes to his own feet. Then he spoke more quietly. “You must continue writing in support of Harry Potter.”
“No!” cried Xenophilius. “I can’t! Luna! They’ll hurt her. They’ll kill her!”
Arthur looked up. He and Bill pointed their wands at Xenophilius’ face. Their demeanor was positively frightening. “I’m afraid we must insist,” said Arthur sternly.
Xenophilius gawked at them for a moment before producing his own wand hurriedly. “Stupefy!” he shouted, but both Arthur and Bill were too quick.
“Protego!” yelled Arthur, deflecting the jet of red sparks towards a kitchen cabinet. The wooden door exploded into kindling.
“Locomotor Wibbly!” shouted Bill at the same instant. Orange and yellow sparks erupted from the tip of his wand striking Xenophilius square in the chest. Xenophilius’ legs gave way, and he collapsed to the ground causing his wand to jerk out of his grip; it rolled to Arthur’s feet. Xenophilius tried repeatedly to stand, but his legs were like jelly; he kept toppling back down.
“What dark magic is this?” he cried. “Preposterous! I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“You’ve done nothing at all!” spat Arthur. “That’s precisely the problem.” He bent down to pick up Xenophilius’ wand. “I think I’ll hang on to this for a while.”
“In here, Dad!” called Bill who had wandered from the kitchen.
“Not my office!” bellowed Xenophilius. “Don’t go messing around in there. You have no right. I swear I’m going to –“
“Silencio,” interjected Arthur calmly, pointing his wand at Xenophilius, who continued to move his lips but fell silent at once.
“Here we are,” beamed Arthur, stepping out of the kitchen and into the room Bill had found. There was a large oak desk with several pieces of paper, quills, and inkbottles occupying its surface. The floor was messy as well, covered with previous editions of The Quibbler and some scraps of Xenophilius’ past meals.
“Let’s get started,” said Bill, extracting a glittery pink quill from his robes. “We’ve got an entire magazine to write.”
“It will be a long night, no doubt,” agreed Arthur. “But first, what was that enchanting curse you used back there, locomotion wobbly, or what was it?”
“Locomotor Wibbly,” said Bill, enunciating grandiloquently. “It turns the victim’s legs into jelly. Fred and George showed it to me this summer. I’ve been dying to see if it actually worked.”
“Those boys,” said Arthur shaking his head scornfully. “And how long will it last?”
“Only a couple of hours,” reassured Bill. “Or so they said …” His voice trailed off unconvincingly. “Should we put him to sleep?”
“No!” barked Arthur. “We need his signature on the final product. Remember, it’s absolutely essential people think it’s he who’s writing it. Otherwise it will lose all credibility.”
“What a funny world we live in,” scoffed Bill. “Loony Lovegood is our most credible resource.”
In a week’s time, the newest issue of The Quibbler was available at every wizarding store across the country. It was the first bit of news opposing the overly authoritative Ministry of Magic since Albus Dumbledore’s death the previous spring. Luna first saw the issue in the hands of a second year Ravenclaw boy. He was scurrying to bury it in his bag when Alecto Carrow walked passed; naturally, Hogwarts had banned the issue. Luna demanded he hand it over and the boy acquiesced at once. She gasped. Her father had gone too far. On the cover was a cartoonish image of the Minster of Magic, Pius Thicknesse, arm-in-arm with the white ghostly figure of you-know-who. In bolded red letters was the title Ministry Unveils its Newest Ally.
Luna’s face was as white as Voldemort’s. There was no subtlety in her father’s message whatsoever. The Ministry of Magic was sure to reprimand him and deliver on their threat to kill her. In a panic, she confided in her most trustworthy friend, Neville Longbottom.
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” assured Neville after hearing her ominous tale. “They won’t get you at Hogwarts.”
“But then Papa!” she exclaimed. “They’ll go after him instead!”
“He did this to himself,” reasoned Neville.
Luna shifted uncomfortably. “It’s my fault,” she said finally. “I did this to him. I forced him to write in Harry’s defense. I didn’t think he’d go this far.”
“So what can you do?” inquired Neville considerately.
After a moment’s thought, Luna replied, “I’ll write to him at once. He’ll tell me what I am to do.”
But Luna’s letter never reached her father. In fact, all of Xenophilius’ means of communication had been severed. His house was under strict lockdown by the Ministry of Magic and he was trapped in his own home like a rat in a cage. His numerous attempts to contact his daughter had been thwarted. He yearned to tell her the truth; it was not he, her loving father, who wrote her death sentence.
Hogwarts served as a physical sanctuary for Luna over the next several weeks, but emotionally, she had never been so vulnerable. Thoughts and dreams of her father tormented her constantly. No one had any news of him; she knew something was awry. Thus, despite Neville’s objections, when given the chance to return home for Christmas break, she could not resist. Her concern for her father led her to abandon concern for herself. On December 20th, Luna Lovegood boarded the Hogwarts Express, but she never reached Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. She was arrested on the train for alleged treason against the Ministry of Magic. The basement of Malfoy Manor was to be her new home.