Luna dozed fitfully in her soft white bed, turned over, plumped her pillow, closed her eyes and opened them again. Moonlight was slicing though a gap in the curtains, etching a line across the floor. She threw back her coverlet and padded over to the window. A full moon was sailing across a cloudless sky. The trees on the grassy slope near Royal Crescent were of polished silver, their shadows velvet black. Whenever she felt troubled, Luna talked to the moon. Her parents had called her after its Roman name, which gave rise to relentless teasing from the ruder Hogwarts students. They nicknamed her ‘Loony Luna’. ‘Loony’, she had discovered, was muggle slang for a mad person who gibbered at the moon.
She had never attended a Junior Wizard School. Her mother had taught her to read spell-books and to charm toys across the floor. After her mother’s death, her father was her only teacher and companion. They spent each day together; he scribbling controversial articles for The Quibbler, she sitting by his desk with her nose in a book. When he rode out on his thestral, Brimstone, she followed on Treacle. When he travelled the world in hopes of finding undiscovered flora and fauna, she was in charge of the expandable trophy bag her mother had woven from snagglevine and named “The Dumpty”.
Looking back on her first years at Hogwarts, she understood why her fellow students left her on her own. She did not fit in. She had no idea how to make friends until, in her fourth year, she met Harry Potter, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and the rest of the lively, argumentative gang who formed Dumbledore’s Army. They became her companions-in-arms, training in secret to defend themselves against the Dark Arts, fighting shoulder to shoulder against Voldemort’s Death-eaters and mourning together over those who died. Now the fight was over, would they need her any more?
‘What will become of me?’ she asked, gazing up at the moon. The moon made no reply. Cold air from the open window drove her back to bed, where she lay, sleepless, while a distant church clock chimed the hours.
Whump! Something soft and heavy landed on the bedroom floor. Luna sat up and reached for her wand. ‘Lumos!’ she hissed. The flare from the wand-tip fell on something like a giant Swiss roll which unrolled itself across the floor and turned into the old hearth rug from the drawing room.
Faded, wine-stained, freckled with scorch marks where burning coals had spat sparks, the rug was out of place in a bedroom with pink silk bed-hangings and rosy wallpaper. Once upon a time it had hung on the wall in the great hall of Pengryphon Castle, but Luna’s grandmother had taken it down and spread it over the stone-flagged floor by the hearth. Little Luna had crawled on its crusty surface and spilled her junior pumpkin juice on it. Her small fingers had tugged at its knotted fringes and her Little Witch Wendy party shoes had danced on it. That was over ten years ago. Her mother, Mrs Elspet Lovegood, was heir to Pengryphon Castle, but she died before her time. Great Uncle Hector, the only remaining Pengryphon, moved to Bath, leaving the castle to crumble.
Neville’s jeans had sprinkled the hearth-rug with flakes of Fung-jello and Trevor’s toady footprints were round its edge. In the light from her wand-tip, Luna could make out a familiar shadowy pattern of fig-leaves and birds with white-ringed eyes.
‘Mummy’s carpet,’ she whispered. She slipped out of bed, feeling for the carpet’s prickly surface with her toes and settled herself, cross-legged, in the middle.
‘Hello carpet! I’m Luna.’
The carpet lifted one corner and flapped it down again.
‘I’ve not sat on you since mummy died. Great Uncle Hector and Daddy don’t like each other.’
The carpet sent a wave from corner to corner.
‘I don’t remember you going up and down like that before. Can you do other magic?’
The carpet quivered, as though wakening after centuries of hibernation. Corners rose and fell. Waves grew bigger. Finally, with a mighty effort, it heaved itself up from the floor and began to float about the room. Luna found she could make it go up or down by raising or lowering her wand: she could also direct it forward, backwards, sideways and in a circle. She tried spirals and triangles and the carpet responded. Hey! this was something else, as Ron Weasley would say.
The bedroom door swung open of its own accord and the carpet slipped through, turning up its edges to avoid the door frame. It carried Luna down the main staircase and up and down the hall passage. Faster and faster it went, regaining skills that had lain dormant since the far-off day when doughty crusader Sir Peregrine Pengryphon had plundered it from a market stall in Constantinople, brought it back to Cornwall and hung it on his castle wall to keep out the draughts. The carpet had been old, even then.
Luna and the carpet drifted into the drawing room. Her wand illuminated the new hearth rug, bright with peach blossom and Chinese pheasants, which had been delivered that morning from Pride of Place Furnishings. ‘Is that not delightful,’ Mr Pengryphon had exclaimed, pointing with his amber-knobbed stick, ‘if disgracefully over-priced!’ In the blink of an eye, the rug had acquired a SOLD ticket and, moments later, had landed heavily on Neville’s shoulder in the kitchen of Eleven and a half, Royal Crescent.
No money had changed hands. The Pengryphons had always been far too grand and far too mean to pay for anything. Their family coat of arms bore the motto Blood and Plunder. Mr Hector Pengryphon would not have dreamed of shedding blood. Indeed, he turned squeamish at the thought, but he was happy to honour the family tradition of plunder and carried his mistletoe wand concealed in his walking-stick.
Luna’s father did not pay for food, clothes and other necessaries either, because he fervently believed in existing only on what Nature provided. Had the tough Quibbler owls not had insisted on cash on delivery, his business would have gone bankrupt in a week. Every knut they brought back in their leg pouches went on supplies of paper and printing ink. Luna had been astonished by her first glimpse of Diagon Alley shop-windows with their tempting array of goods. She had no idea that every toy she played with as a child had been plundered by her mother’s skilful wand. Elspet Lovegood had remained a Pengryphon at heart.
The wooden shutters at the drawing room windows were bolted tight. Luna wafted over and whispered through the cracks, where rays of moonlight were filtering into the room.
‘Am I a Pengryphon, Moon, or am I a Lovegood? Or am I somebody else?
The silent moon went on shedding its cold light
She turned the carpet with her wand and floated down the back stairs to the kitchen. The moon was too high to be visible from the basement window that looked out at stone steps leading upwards to the pavement. Moonlit railings showed black and white like a picture in a book. In this kitchen, Niblick had refused to tell her what she urgently needed to know, though it seemed he was eager enough to talk to Neville. ‘We’re buddies, Niblick and I,’ Neville had said and she felt a pang of envy. All is going up in smoke, Mr Neville, Niblick had written and Neville had been quick to blame Cook’s burnt scones. But Luna knew that Cook had left years before, because Mr Pengryphon ‘forgot’ to pay her wages. Niblick did the cooking now.
‘What is Neville keeping from me, Moon? Friends shouldn’t have secrets.’
The moon showed no sign of listening.
Now, the carpet was bearing her swiftly up three flights of stairs to an attic room stacked with items that Great Uncle Hector had plundered and grown tired of. Niblick had labelled them all: Sideboard, walnut,Chippendale;Armchair, wing-back, crimson brocade;Bathtub, enamel, slightly chipped;Taps, pair, gold-plated, in shape of gryphons couchant.
The moon was shining through the skylight.
‘I’ve got to find daddy, Moon,’ said Luna, ‘but what will happen to me when I do? I want to go back to Hogwarts, but he will want me to stay at home. Please tell me what to do!’
The moon had no solution to offer and sailed away behind a trail of cloud.
The carpet carried Luna back to her room, tipped her into bed and rolled itself up beside her silver sandals.
‘Fabulous kippers, Mr Pengryphon!’ said Neville.
‘Have another, dear boy! I am obliged to confine myself to bacon and waffles with maple syrup. My ancestors detested moderation, but my muggle doctor advises it.’
‘Couldn’t manage a third kipper. Sorry.’
‘No matter!’ said Mr Pengryphon, flicking a fragment of crisp bacon from his quilted silk dressing gown, ‘I shall donate the remaining kipper to the poor. I consider that to be generous, considering the poor never donate anything in return.’
Neville could think of no polite response. He bit into a triangle of buttered toast and gazed upward at the new chandelier hanging above the dining table. Each delicate crystal was in the form of a crescent moon. ‘Bet that cost a sickle or two!’ he thought.
Ever since yesterday, he had been wondering whether Luna had asked her great uncle whether he knew where her father might be. She had been decidedly distant after their lunch in the garden, which was a bit unfair, considering the trouble he had taken to make friends with Niblick. He decided to put the question himself. ‘Keep it casual!’ he thought.
‘By the by, Mr Pengryphon, have you seen Luna’s dad around anywhere?’
‘Happily, no. Paltry fellow, Lovegood! Why do you ask?’
‘She hasn’t heard from him recently.'
‘He’ll be off on one of his mad expeditions to bag a Pimply Pumpkinhead or some such beast.’
‘It’s odd he hasn’t even sent her an owl.’
‘I don’t give a muggle’s fart, dear boy, as long as he does not send one to me. It would be returned without its tail feathers.’
‘You wouldn’t pull them out!’
‘Merlin’s beard, no! I would instruct Niblick to pull them out. Ah! my niece is up at last. Luna, my dear, help yourself to waffles and syrup!’
Luna slumped into a chair.
‘Don’t feel like breakfast,’ she said. ‘Is there any tea?'
‘Niblick shall brew you a fresh pot.’
Luna shook her head, poured the dregs from the silver teapot into a cup and drank them in two gulps. Mr Pengryphon frowned and said, ‘You wearing those dreadful yellow trousers again. Where is your pretty blue frock?’
‘And what have you done to your hair?’
‘I’m visiting the Sunday Antiques Market this morning. You cannot accompany me, looking like a canary in a tangled wig.’
‘I’m going somewhere else anyway, to talk to Hermione Grainger. She’s a friend I can trust.’
‘You can’t apperate into Hogwarts,’ said Neville, huffily.
‘Hermione will be at The Burrow with Ron and the Weasleys. She goes every weekend.’
‘Why not talk to me instead?’
‘Might as well talk to the moon,’ snapped Luna. She banged down her tea-cup and, with a sharp crack, she disapperated.
‘When will you be back?’ Neville shouted, but it was no use.
‘She could at least have combed her hair,’ said Mr Pengryphon.
‘What did that stuff about talking to the moon mean?
‘A muggle saying, dear boy, indicating that the moon has no ears and cannot hear a word.
‘But I have ears. What’s got into her?’
‘She’s a female, dear boy. Whatever it is, she’ll get over it. I must make ready to leave for the Antiques Market before the best pieces have gone. I am in dire need of a new mahogany wardrobe.
Anticipating the unexpected delivery of a heavy piece of furniture covered with knobbly carving, Neville muttered something about going for a morning stroll. Mr Pengryphon had a better idea.
‘You shall accompany me, Mr Longbottom; wearing your new leather jacket.
Neville wished he had kept quiet. He spread more toast with Puddicombe honey and munched it gloomily under the twinkly chandelier while Niblick cleared the dishes from the sideboard
‘Humungous chandelier, Niblick!’ Neville said
‘Indeed yes, sir! It was delivered late yesterday afternoon. Niblick is particularly admiring the moon motif.’
‘Hundreds of moons and not an ear between them! What was that verse again? Breathe not one word to living ear of secret matters thou shalt hear … Niblick, I know you can’t tell secrets to living ears, but you can tell them to something with no ears at all, can’t you?
‘In such a case, sir, Niblick would be committing no breach of the House Elves’ Code of Conduct.’
‘I’m going to stand outside the dining-room door while you talk to the chandelier. If, perchance, I accidentally overhear any secret matter you might, inadvertently, happen to mention, I give you my word not to tell where I heard it.’
‘With respect, Mr Neville, Niblick is not trusting the word of a wizard, sir.’
‘Niblick,’ said Neville, reproachfully, ‘you can trust a Longbottom.’
‘Niblick is wishing to express his gratitude for the honour of trusting a Longbottom, sir.’
‘Never mind the gratitude! Get on with it before your master comes downstairs!'
Neville sprinted for the door and stood outside, leaving it slightly ajar. Niblick tilted his chin towards the ceiling and spoke.
‘O Moon-decked Chandelier! Niblick is speaking of a secret matter which, as thou knowest, thou hast no ears to hear. At mid-winter, two thestrals is bringing Mr Xenophilius Lovegood to my master’s house, in a dumpty bag woven from snagglevine. He is dishevelled and in a distressed condition. Niblick is reviving him by the kitchen fire with tea and Firewhisky. Mr Lovegood is babbling of a great explosion at his property and of his daughter who is nowhere to be found. Niblick is greatly fearing that Miss Luna is hurt and is apperating at once to the said property, finding only dead wizards in the wreckage. He is reapperating to reassure Mr Lovegood that Miss Luna is safe, but Mr Lovegood’s mind is sadly turned and he is saying over and over, “Oh my Luna! She is lost for ever.
‘Day after day, O moony Chandelier that shines so bright, the aforementioned Mr Lovegood is continually repeating, “Alas, I can remember nothing!” Niblick is ordering the Seriously Loyal and Ancient Volunteer Elves Society to repair, restore and refurbish the ruined mill in time for Miss Luna’s return from school. Alas! Niblick is failing to keep an eye on Mr Lovegood and is returning one day to find him gone and his thestrals with him. Upon the kitchen table is a message, written in honey, revealing Mr Lovegood’s intended destination to be .….
But, at this crucial moment, Mr Pengryphon rang for Niblick to tie his bootlaces. Niblick hastened upstairs, leaving Neville grinding his teeth with frustration.
The Sunday Antiques Market shopping dragged on and on: Mr Pengryphon adored chatting with muggle dealers. At two in the afternoon, he casually flicked his walking stick in the direction of the wardrobe of his choice and a ‘SOLD’ notice materialised on one of its massive doors. They returned to Eleven and a half Royal Crescent just in time to see Niblick heaving it up the stairs.
Realising that it might be some time before luncheon was served, Neville nipped down to the kitchen for a snack. Luna was sitting at the table, tearing bits off a loaf and dipping them into the beehive pot of Puddicombe Wild Flower Honey.
‘Hello Neville,’ she said. ‘Had a nice morning, shopping with Great Uncle Hector?’
‘Sooner take a bath in Fung-jello. What about you?’
‘I apperated into the Weasley’s garden and peered through a window. They were all there; Harry and Hermione and Ron and Ginny, laughing and crying and drinking mugs of tea and talking about Fred. His funeral was only a week ago. It didn’t seem the right time to knock on the door and ask for Hermione. I waited around for a bit, but it began to rain, so I came back here.’
‘Best thing, really.'
Luna pushed the loaf across the kitchen table towards him.
‘Sorry I was grumpy at breakfast,’ she said. ‘I didn’t get much sleep last night. When I saw the Weasleys trying to put their lives together again, I realised I wasn’t the only one who had troubles.
‘Yeah,’ said Neville, ‘it’s been tough.
Luna pushed the honey pot towards him. A label had been tied round its neck
For the Attention of Mr Neville Longbottom, sir
Neville turned the label round. The other side read:
Miss Pomander Chubb
Hedgerow Harvest Trading Company
‘Cunning old Niblick’s left us a clue,’ said Neville. ‘You and I are leaving for to Dartmoor tonight, Luna. We need to have a word with Aunty Pom.’