Neville Longbottom can’t do anything but stare. He’d been practising his introduction, and even with the practise, he doubts he would have gotten it all out smoothly, but- he hadn’t even said one word.
Besides this, how exactly does one even respond to such a question in the first place?
“Um, no. Miss Lovegood, I’m N-Neville Longbottom. Your private nurse?”
“I only ask, because, werewolves used to be real. I don’t know if they still are, or if they were all wiped out. Some cultures believed epilepsy meant a person had a connection to wolves. Others believed it was a sign of demonic possession. I don’t believe I’m possessed, but I might be wrong.”
Running away is not the correct response to this.
Taking a deep breath, he studies her.
He’d seen pictures, but Luna Lovegood is even tinier than they showed, and her pale silver-grey eyes are even bigger and more transparent. Her frizzy blonde hair is held atop her head in a messy bun, and she’s wearing an oversized tan jumper with streaks of paint on it, a black miniskirt, and pale blue leggings. Her toenails have dirt under them, and her fingernails are each painted a different colour. Her watch is odd-looking, and her earrings are tiny sterling silver owls.
This was obviously a horrible idea. He should have never let his mate talk him into taking this job.
“Would you like to come in? I’m about to make a chai latte, but I have other things to drink. Is there something in particular you’d like?”
He doesn’t know what to do but follow her inside, and just like the outside, the inside shows she has a definite artistic side.
“I’ve been told I should work on not being so trusting. I’ve noticed you’re quite talented at growing plants, and an untrustworthy person would use such talents to cause harm to others, especially if they believed someone might not be fully human. Though, perhaps, in such a case, they would have done such a thing not out of malice but a sincere desire to protect innocent humans.”
“Okay, um, some of that makes sense. I suppose. Sorry, how do you know- I’ve always liked plants, and I love gardening, but how did you know?”
“Abductive reasoning. I think you’d find it quite dull, but I’ll explain, if you’d like.”
“No, you’re probably right. You’re- did you pick up such skills from your work as a police artist?”
“Somewhat.” She sips her latte.
“I promise, I’ve never poisoned any of the food I’ve grown,” he offers.
She hands him a paper, and seeing it’s a list of her medications, he tries to figure out where exactly the paper came from.
“Some of the greatest artists and philosophers were epileptic, and so was Julius Caesar. Many of them didn’t take medicine, but my parents were always afraid I’d die if steps weren’t taken to control mine.” Her eyes turn sad. “I promised my father shortly before he died I’d always try to continue doing so.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. I know it’s not the same, but my parents died, too. They were both soldiers, and they died in the line of duty when I was only three. My gran raised me.”
She nods, and he gets the feeling she’d already pieced this together.
“Would you like to see your room?”
“Yeah, that’d be nice, thank you,” he answers.
After she shows him his room, they go outside, and he feels his breath catch.
He grew up in a flat in London, and he knows he likely would have hated growing up in the country, but he can’t deny it’s absolutely beautiful out here.
“You’re free to plant anything you want here, though, I’m afraid I won’t be of much, if any, help. My mum had an herb garden, but my dad and I could never keep anything we managed to grow alive for very long.”
“Do you know what sort of herbs she grew?”
“Mostly sage, rosemary, and mint. She was particularly fond of French tarragon, but there was never as much of it as there were the others. We used to have aloe plants, too.”
Sudden police sirens make him jump.
“It’s alright.” Squeezing his arm, she pulls out her mobile with her other hand. “My mobile lets me do individual ringtones.”
On the one hand, this is a clever, logical way of minimising the risk of her missing a call from the police when they need her.
On the other hand, he has a surge of empathy for all those people who’ve gotten scared and uneasy when someone from the police called her whilst she was in public.
“Hello, this is Luna speaking. I’m doing fine, thank you. How are you and your son doing? That’s good. Yes, my nurse arrived today. I’ll be there as soon as I can. The buses won’t-”
Feeling awkward at the fact he’s more-or-less openly eavesdropping, he nevertheless waves his keys in front of her, and then, motions to where his car is sitting.
“Oh,” and there’s a tinge of surprise to her voice, “I have a car, now. Or Nurse Longbottom has a car, and it’s part of his job to drive me to work and home.”
After he makes sure all her medicines are packed, they go to the police station, and inside, they meet a pretty, bushy-haired woman.
“Hello, Luna,” she greets in a polite tone that he knows means she’s had her issues with Luna before.
“Hermione, this is Nurse Neville Longbottom. Neville, this is Dr Hermione Granger. She’s a psychiatrist who works with victims of trauma, and her husband is DI Ron Weasley.”
They shake hands.
“It’s nice to meet you, Nurse Longbottom. You’ll need to fill out some forms and get signed in. This way, please.”
Once he gets started filling out the papers, Hermione asks, “Luna, could I talk to you privately?”
They move a few feet away, but the station’s quiet enough he can hear when Hermione says, “We think our witness might be an immigrant, but we haven’t been able to get her to speak at all. She does appear to understand us, however. Please, be careful what you say, Luna.”
“I will. Do you have any idea where she might be from?”
“No. Really, there’s no indication-” Hermione trails off.
“You’ve always had good instincts about people, Hermione,” Luna kindly says.
Going to an interrogation room, they find a bespectacled officer waiting for them.
“Yes. Hello, Harry. Neville, this is DI Harry Potter, Ron’s partner. Harry, this is Nurse Longbottom.”
They shake hands.
“Will DI Wealsey be joining us?”
“Oh, no. Sorry,” Hermione says. “Ron’s mother is sick, and he’s visiting until she’s out of hospital.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“My mother-in-law hasn’t finished seeing her grandchildren grow. She’ll get through this.”
Opening the door, Harry motions for them to go in.
Once inside, he realises that he has no idea what this witness is a witness to.
The curiosity falls away when he gets a good look at her with sympathy and horror taking its place.
At first glance, he can easily imagine she’s a uni student who’s gotten herself in some minor trouble. Chubby with brown hair cut above her ears, hazel eyes, acne on her face, there’s nothing particularly notable about her one way or another.
The scars on her wrists and arms tell a different story, though. They aren’t from self-harm, and they aren’t from trying out bondage ill-prepared. She’s been heavily, painfully restrained for long periods of time.
Luna sits down, and he doesn’t understand the soft, pretty words she speaks. Then, he realises she’s speaking what sounds to be Gaelic, but it could be Welsh.
Slowly, with a scratchy, hoarse voice, the woman starts to respond.
He goes to get a canned tea, and when he gets back, it takes Luna some time to coax her into drinking it.
Once the woman does, her words come easier. During their talk, he hears his name along with others. At one point, Luna pulls something from her skirt, and to his amazement, he sees the skirt has several pockets. They blend in so well, however, a person would have to know to look for them.
Luna shows the woman pictures of what he recognises to be Mr and Mrs Lovegood.
Finally, she turns to them. “Her name is Fiona Clarke, and you were both right and wrong, Hermione. She’s from Ireland, but she never wanted to come here. She was kidnapped by traffickers. She can speak English, but right now, she prefers Irish.”
“Damn it,” Harry mutters. He shoots Fiona a sympathetic look. “Sorry. Look, I’ve got to go make some calls.”
“Go on, Harry,” Hermione says. “I think Ms Clarke will be fine. We’ll stay with her.”
By lunch, he’s already exhausted, and he knows there’s still a long day ahead.
Luna, Harry, and Hermione firmly want the best for Fiona. Some of the other people, however, are less concerned, and the ones most focused on finding the people who did this, he can somewhat understand; he’d never be able to reach that level of compartmentalisation, but the fact they’re relentlessly trying to get some sort of justice is extremely admirable. The ones who are clearly all about politics, however, he can tell Harry and Hermione would both like to punch these people, and he can’t blame them.
When it’s time for one of Luna’s injections, Harry lets them use his office.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a skirt with pockets.”
She lifts up said skirt, and he sees her leggings have pockets, too.
“When I was little, my mum made pockets on all my clothes. She never did like or understand the fact feminine clothing so often doesn’t have sufficient pockets. After she died, my dad found a seamstress to do it for me. I tried to learn how to sew, but much like gardening, it’s a talent my mum didn’t pass to me.”
“Well, if you ever need anything sewed up quick, I can probably help.”
She looks at him with interest and curiosity.
“Stitches. Once you learn how to mend together human flesh, sewing cloth is a breeze.”
Smiling, she nods. “Yes, I can see how it would be.”
“Did you learn Irish in school?”
“No. My mum was from Ireland, and she grew up speaking it, English, and Gaelic. She emigrated here when she was eighteen, and she met Dad when she was twenty. Two years later, they got married, and shortly after she turned twenty-five, she became pregnant with me.”
Her expression turns thoughtful. “I had a seizure once when I was watching CCTV footage with Harry and Ron. Harry always worries it’ll happen again.”
“If you want, I’ll explain to him you aren’t photosensitive.”
“That might be helpful, thank you.”
At ten p.m., it’s decided Fiona’s going to be transferred to an embassy.
“Hermione’s going with you,” Luna tells her. “She’ll call when you get there.”
“Thank you,” Fiona says. “Will the sketches be on the news?”
“Not right now. I’ll text you if I find out they’re going to be.”
Putting the phone in her jacket pocket, Fiona walks over to talk to Harry and Hermione.
“I hope she’s going to be alright,” he quietly says.
“I often wonder if the people who hurt her and others were the ones who destroyed all the werewolves.”
For his own well-being, he’s going to assume this is her way of expressing condemnation towards the traffickers.
They stop at a pub for tea, and Luna goes to the bathroom.
Fifteen minutes later, he has one of the female workers go inside to check on her, and it turns out, she’s not in there.
The bartender, a sandy-haired blond man with an Irish accent, gives him a sympathetic look. “That’s rough, mate. Could I get you a drink?”
“She wasn’t a date. She’s a police artist with a medical condition, and I’m her private nurse.”
It’s only been his first day, and he’s already literally lost his client, but he doesn’t need to tell the bartender that much.
“What, seriously?” The bartender studies him.
“Yeah.” He starts to get out his wallet.
“Look, mate, she’s already paid. Now, I’m even sorrier. If I’d known- She slipped me the money and a note to give to you. Here.”
Neville, I’m sorry to slip out like this, but I know where the other women are. I’ll call you once I get them somewhere safe. Luna.
“Yeah, unless you get killed or worse.”
Realising he said this aloud, he takes a deep breath.
“Not my night.” He digs out enough for a large tip. “Thanks.”
Going outside, he calls Harry’s private extension, and miracle of miracles, Harry answers.
“DI Potter, this is Neville Longbottom. Luna slipped out of Hog’s Pub about twenty minutes ago. She left me a note saying she knows where the other women are.”
“Of course, she did,” Harry sighs. “Why would I expect- Sorry. Look, Nurse Longbottom, are you still there?”
“Stay there. I’m sending officers over. And by the way, I doubt you were properly warned about Luna before you took this job. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, thanks.” He hangs up.
Obviously, he knew this morning Luna was eccentric, but this is downright mental. What exactly is she planning to do? So many things could go wrong, and even if she does manage to free the fifty or so imprisoned women, what’s her plan for getting them somewhere safe? Where is somewhere safe?
Looking down at his mobile, he suddenly realises: Her mobile might have GPS enabled.
If it does, there are some ethical considerations, not to mention questions of legality, to tracking her, but he knows it’s going to take time for the police to arrive, and it’ll take even longer for them to possibly find her.
Going back inside, he waves the bartender over. “Look, um, just to let you know, I’m aware how m-mental this going to sound, but I need to see if I can find my client by GPS. Do you have a laptop or something I could use?”
He’s not surprised by the look on the bartender’s face.
“Hey, Shay,” a black man comes over.
“Hiya.” The bartender gives the man a quick kiss.
The man sits down. “Sorry for not calling. My mobile is absolutely refusing to charge. I had tentative plans for you and a new girl in my class, Luna, to meet tonight, but-”
It can’t be, but on the small chance it is- “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but Luna Lovegood? I’m Neville Longbottom, her private nurse.”
“Oh, Luna’s here? Cool. Yeah, she’s told me about you. She’s in a sculpting class I teach. I’m Dean Thomas, and this is my boyfriend, Seamus Finnigan.”
Quickly shaking the hands, he digs out his ID. “Again, I understand, completely mental, but Luna’s possibly got herself into a dangerous situation, I called the police ten minutes ago, and they’re still not here, and so, if you two could help me see if I can track her phone-”
Even to his own ears, he sounds like an absolute nutter.
Studying the ID, Dean groans. “Oh, for God’s sake. What’s she done this time? Shay, get your computer. Luna, she’s a sweet girl, incredibly talented, but when she told me she was getting a private nurse, I felt sorry for the poor bugger taking the job. No offence, mate. But honestly, I thought it’d take, at least, a week before she did something utterly insane.”
Luna’s good at seeing things others don’t, he’ll admit, but even without her epilepsy, he’d hope no one would ever let her be a proper police detective on the grounds of: She is terrible at stealth.
Pulling into a field, he first spots her hair shining in the moonlight, and then, he sees she’s carrying a spade.
Getting out of the car, he calls, “Luna!”
They meet, and she says, “Hello, Neville. I’m very sorry, but I thought you might try to stop me. I need to get all of the women to various embassies. Oh, speaking of, Hermione called. Fiona’s safe.”
He takes several deep breaths. “Okay. That’s good. First of all: Why do you have a spade? I mean, no, you know what? Where are these women?”
“There’s a portable building somewhere near here. I just need to find it. You should go, Neville. This is private property, and alarms have already been triggered. I once accidentally broke my leg with a spade.”
“Is that why you have- Give me the spade, Luna, right now.”
“Alright. Now, we just need to find these women, and then, figure out what in the hell to do afterwards.”
No, he thinks. Trying to get the painful beating of his heart to settle, he tells himself, This is absolutely not happening. I’m not doing this. I’m not about to die or be killed or kidnapped or anything else.
Memories of Fiona’s scars flash through his mind, and it makes the sickness in his stomach worse, but- he has to do this. If there’s any hope for her and the others, they all need to be got somewhere safe. Hopefully, somehow, the evil people who’ve taken them will end up paying.
“My mobile has a torch function,” she says.
“Let’s use it, but I’m holding onto the spade for right now.”
They start walking, and he asks, “Do you know who took them?”
“Yes. He owns this property. His name is- Oh, here it is.”
The building, he notices, is doing a better job at staying hidden than she was and he probably is.
They try to get in, and he feels stupid, because, of course, a building containing human traffick victims isn’t going to be one with unlocked and/or easily breakable doors.
“I have an idea, but I doubt you’ll like it.”
“I don’t like any of this, Luna.” He takes another deep breath. “What is it?”
“There’s a window that we should be able to break with the spade. After we do, if you’ll lift me up, I can manage to grab hold of the sill and pull myself over inside.”
“We can try breaking the window, but if that works, I’m going through it.”
“You can’t. We’re both too short to reach it, and I don’t think I have the strength to lift you, Neville.”
He can’t help but let out several curses. “Let’s go to the window.
They do, and using their combined strength, they break it.
As hopeful he is that none of the innocent people inside were hurt by the glass, he’s also grateful it didn’t break down on them.
“Alright. T-take your skirt off, Luna. And uh, yes, I know how that s-sounds, but- We’re going to try our best to protect your hands and head.”
Sometime when he was getting the words out, Luna had already taken it off.
After they tear it into strips to make sure her sleeves hopefully stay over her hands and wrap several around her neck and face, he finds himself trying not to buckle under the weight of her standing on his shoulders.
There’s a sickening thud, and then, “I’m in, Neville!”
“I’ll go around to the front door,” he calls. “Uh, are you alright?”
Soon enough, he’s inside, and he desperately wishes he weren’t.
It probably isn’t good he’s deliberately looking away, but- “Do you think we could use the spade to break the restraints without hurting them?”
“I think I might have some bobby pins in one of my pockets,” she says.
He’s struck by the dullness in her voice when she continues, “Other than this, we can’t do anything else until the police come. They learned after Fiona escaped.”
Listening to the clicks of her unlocking the restraints, he checks each woman for signs of having a bad reaction, and he wonders if his relief that, at least, none of them are little girls, makes him a terrible person.
The sound of a man’s throat clearing makes him tense.
Turning, he sees a tall, blond man with eyes the same colour as Luna’s, but whereas hers are a combination of warm and sparkling, this man’s are cold and sharp.
He grabs the spade, but before he can move more than a few steps, Luna’s hand is on his arm. “Don’t, Neville. This is Lucius Malfoy, the owner of the property. He’s been trafficking everything from drugs, exotic animals, and people since before either of us were born, but when the police come, he’ll have a story explaining how he had no idea his property was being misused by others.”
Luna stares straight into the Malfoy’s eyes with a placidity that makes him think, I’ve never met someone so brave and so mental.
Mostly though, he’s never met someone so fearless.
“I’ll do more than that, Miss Lovegood. I’ll have you and this man charged with-”
“No, you won’t,” she airily declares. “You want to scare him, but I won’t let you. Neville,” her hand slips into his free one, “don’t be scared. These women are going home. We might be in some trouble, but as the two people who saved these women, we won’t be facing any serious charges. And you’ll get to go home, too, Lucius Malfoy, because, you’ll use your connections to certain politicians to keep this covered up.”
“Some day, Miss Lovegood, you’re going to cross someone who will take great pleasure in putting you out of their misery,” Malfoy declares.
Tightening his grip on the spade, he reminds himself of all the reasons taking a swing at this evil human being wouldn’t be a good idea.
“I believe spirits live on after the body dies. Empires, however, can’t be rebuilt after they fall, Mr Malfoy, and there’s never been an empire yet that hasn’t eventually fallen. I don’t believe yours will be the exception. Even if it happens after your death, you’ll still know. And that will bother you, but when I die, I’ll see my mum and dad again.”
Scoffing, Malfoy turns on his heel.
Back at the station, Harry finally stops pacing.
“I can’t say you did the right thing. Either of you. Because, you didn’t. I just can’t. That being said-” He exhales. “Thank you both for helping us find these women. I truly appreciate it.”
“However, if either of you ever do anything like this again, I will personally throw you in our cell with the leaky roof for as long as I can get away with. Do you both understand? Especially you, Luna? Do you understand this- you helped these women, but there is a right way to do things.”
“We understand,” they reply.
Shaking his head, Harry walks away muttering something that sounds like, “No wonder Hermione wanted to murder me and Ron. Definitely owe her an apology.”
It’s proper morning by the time he takes Luna to her house.
Once showers and breakfast are done, she puts a plastic plate and bowl containing a slice of bread and some milk on the porch with the explanation, “It’s something I promised my mum.”
In her room, he gives her the injection she needs before she goes to sleep, and he tries not to squirm at the painted portraits of her parents on the ceiling.
“Lucius Malfoy and his family have never pretended to be trustworthy. I knew soon after meeting Fiona he was behind it. I’m sorry for putting you in danger.”
“What’s important is, hopefully, she and the other women are going to be able to have lives. Maybe, they’ll manage to be truly happy again some day.”
She tugs on his wrist to get him to lie down beside her.
“It’s one of the important things. Lucius is very dangerous, Neville. Your best hope for safety is to resign and find a client who isn’t so- People have so many different words for me.”
He’s unable to repress a yawn. “We’ll talk about it in the morning. Or well, I mean- Later.”
She flips the switch next to the bed, and the lights go off. “Sleep well, Neville.”
Telling himself to get up, he finds himself dreaming instead.
The first thing he sees when he wakes up is Luna, and he just barely manages to repress a groan.
This is extremely bad.
He has on a nightgown, and she has on a nightdress, but sleeping on a client’s bed, especially with the client also in it, is inappropriate on so many different levels.
Turning her head, Luna smiles, “Hello, Neville.”
“Hallo, Luna.” He sits up. “Sorry for falling asleep here.”
“I don’t mind. After everything, we were both so tired it was hard to move.”
She gets out of bed, and with the sun hitting her legs just right, he notices they’re unshaven. Tearing his eyes away, he looks at his watch.
They listen to the radio as they eat.
“There’s nothing about the women.”
“If Lucius Malfoy can help it, there won’t be,” Luna responds. “He has several politicians in his pocket.”
“But this big of a thing, what does he have the Prime Minister himself?”
“He might. For all his campaigned otherwise, Cornelius Fudge doesn’t like Jewish people, people like Dean and Seamus, and writers like my dad was. He and Lucius Malfoy share many views. Whether he’s been bribed or blackmailed, however, I don’t know.”
He knows he’s going to be meeting police and the like for some time in regards to all the women, but he could still try to get a different job. There’s no requirement he stay with an eccentric person who ditched him like a bad date and is more-or-less an arch-nemesis to an extremely powerful, evil man.
“I can’t believe I’m about to say this. Look, Luna, I might regret this. In fact, full, total honesty, part of me already does. But I didn’t decide to try my hand at private nursing for the money. In hospital, you help people when they come. I want to help someone with serious medical problems live the best life and be as healthy as they can be.”
“And Malfoy utterly scares me. But I did more than just help you control your epilepsy yesterday. I helped Fiona and 48 other women. So, if you still want me to be your nurse, I’m in.”
A beautiful smile crosses her face. “I’d really like that, Neville.”
“But you can’t ditch me like that again. Okay? If you know where- if you need to go somewhere dangerous to help someone or solve a case, you’re going to take me with you.”
She nods. “I promise.”
“Good. I’m going to do some shopping today, get some stuff for the garden.”
“What will you be planting?”
“I was thinking...”