Neville Longbottom is a quiet, pale, thoughtful man, with very little charisma, but he's kind and he's caring and he makes a good cup of tea. "There," he says, gently, "drink that and have a bit of a sniffle and then you can tell me why you're throwing documents out of the window."
Hermione sniffs and drinks the tea. She's picked up the pieces of paper and smoothed them out and stapled them back together. "It's not really because of," she begins, and stops. "I mean. He's gone, hasn't he."
Neville raises an eyebrow and touches the Land Registry headed notepaper. "I know, Hermione, and I think it's terrible, but that's not their fault, surely?"
He's honest, at least, and Hermione gives him a watery smile. "Well, no. But they aren't helping."
Neville looks seriously at her, and she reads out: "There are seven – brackets, seven – points to this requisition. Please note that this application will be cancelled on June 15 2012, if you do not learn to walk on fire, do your washing-up straight after dinner and get home before seven sometimes so your boyfriend comes back to you before then."
"I am absolutely sure that it doesn't say that." Neville is smiling. He hands her a biscuit. "I can't help with – with the other thing. But they have portal services now, did you know? Dedicated to each firm and government department. You should give them a ring."
Hermione blows her nose. "I will."
"Hello, Land Registry Weymouth, Customer Team 2."
"Hello?" Hermione tries. "Ah, Land Registry?"
"That's us," says the voice on the other end of the phone. It's a woman's voice and she sounds amused. "How can we help?"
"Er." Hermione takes a deep breath. "I'm registering a freehold transfer to a charitable trust, and, and, it's come back with so many requisitions…."
Hermione straightens out the document again, fingers lingering on the creases. She takes a deep breath, and she pulls herself together. "NGL73992."
"Ah." The voice still sounds amused. There's the sound of someone typing. "More than one transferee. Needs to be signed by all parties and not just the transferor."
"Because of the declaration of charitable trust," Hermione says, surprised. "I know, it was."
"The charity is a corporate body and signed it by an agent. We need…"
"A certified copy of the power of attorney," Hermione supplies. "I'll get one. Thank you, you've been very helpful."
"No problem. Have a nice day."
Hermione reaches for her pen, then thinks of the attendance note. "What's your name?"
"Luna Lovegood," says the woman.
Hermione writes that down. "Thank you very much," she says, formally, and hangs up. A helpline – her interior monologue berates her for pointing out the obvious – is helpful. She wonders why no one has ever thought of it before.
"But that's ridiculous!" Hermione bursts out. "You can't demand I do an RX3 to remove the restriction! It's an equitable proprietorship restriction!"
"All restrictions, standard form or otherwise," says Luna's quiet voice, "need to be either withdrawn or cancelled using an RX3 or RX4."
"But" – Hermione grabs the transfer out of the envelope and flips through it half-dementedly – "it says, it says on page twenty-three, look, the Transferors transfer all legal and equitable interest in the Property to the Transferees! Legal and equitable…"
"Nevertheless, in the absence of known severing of tenancy-in-common..."
Hermione is momentarily too angry to be articulate. "That is just the most, ah, ridiculous, pedantic…"
Luna says, "You need a certificate of beneficial ownership as well."
"Well!" Hermione says, speechless, and Luna laughs, affectionately, and hangs up.
"Land Registry Weymouth…"
"You're not," Hermione says, furiously, the instant she recognises the voice. "You're not Her Majesty's Land Registry, you are a cabal of common criminals."
Luna sounds like she's having a wonderful day. "Ms. Granger, how can I help you?"
"Where is my 1819 conveyance for value, you conniving thief?"
Hermione gives it to her, still fuming. "Registration has been completed, it says. No further documents will be sent to you. Where…"
"All originals must be accompanied by a certfied copy if you want them to be returned."
"It was!" Hermione yells. "It was!"
There's a pause, and some shuffling of papers. "The correct form of wording, which is…"
"Excuse me, stop right there." Hermione breathes in, breathes out. "Everyone?"
The room goes quiet for a minute, the buzz of conversation dying down. Lee Jordan is coming through, holding a pile of papers for binding; over in the corner Neville and Hannah seem to be unloading every deed packet in their office. The early evenings are drawing in so it's dark beyond the window. They're all peering at Hermione expectantly.
"The wording," Hermione repeats. And when no one responds, begins: "I hereby certify that…"
"...this is a true copy of the original, examined at our offices on this day the fifteenth of June 2012."
The chorus is lively and startling. "You see!" Hermione says into the phone. "I know I got the wording right."
"You need to sign in your own name, not in that of your firm," Luna says.
Hermione takes a very deep breath. "Did you destroy my 1819 conveyance?"
"It's beautiful," Luna says dreamily. "I love the hand-coloured plans."
"Oh, my God," Hermione says.
"Lodge the complete root tomorrow," Luna says, very gently, "and it'll be in tonight's DX."
"Promise," Luna says. "I hereby promise" – and her voice is like honey. Hermione has to drop her deeds, and sit down.
Your search has been cancelled for the following reasons:
The plan was not to scale. Rural area plans can be Land Registry compliant at 1/2500.
"Luna," Hermione says, "the plan lodged at that scale would be eleven metres by nine. It would be larger than any commercially available printer."
"And thus – wait, what?"
"That's ridiculous," Luna repeats. "I'll get that sorted for you. Let me call you back."
"Oh," Hernione says, vaguely, standing there. "Oh."
"Explain it to me again," Luna says.
"Mr Jones is dead now," Hermione says. "He was the former freehold proprietor. He had absolute title subject to two legal charges. After Mr. Jones died intestate, his estate escheated to the Crown. And I understand that when the land vested in the department of bona vacantia the freehold title was extinguished. But you see, our client has a puisne mortgage, and the charge was over the freehold."
"Oh," Luna says.
There's a long pause. Hermione can hear people talking in the corridor, dim background murmurs down the phone line. Weymouth is by the sea, she remembers; she wonders if they're near the beach somewhere, looking serenely out over tides and foreshore and the continental shelf falling down into the water.
"Oh?" Hermione repeats, as the silence stretches.
"Oh, that is a beautiful problem," Luna breathes. "Oh."
Hermione's suddenly grinning so broadly her jaw aches. "Isn't it, though?"
"Let's go through it again," Luna says. "The land has escheated to the Crown."
"Yes," Hermione says, tucking the phone between her shoulder and her ear. "The freehold title has been extinguished…"
"Hermione," Neville says, putting on his coat and scarf as he leaves the office, "really, it's time to go. It’s Christmas Eve, it's five o'clock, we're done."
"One more thing, and I will," Hermione promises, and picks up the phone.
"Land Registry Weymouth, Customer Team 2."
"Really?" Hermione asks. "You're really in Weymouth? The calls aren't routed somewhere else or anything? I mean – it's not far to drive. And they must let you off work in an hour, the lines close."
"Ms Granger… Hermione?" Luna sounds surprised. "Was there something I could help you with?"
"I'm going to come down," Hermione says, quickly, before she loses her nerve. "Are you…"
"Yes, we're in Weymouth. You don't want to, to, consult the daylist?"
Hermione breathes in, breathes out. Inside her head, the things she wants to say evaporate into smoke. "Form AS1," she says, very quietly. "I need help."
"You're dealing with the death of a registered proprietor on Christmas Eve?"
"Luna," Hermione says, almost pleading. "Luna, may I come down and see you?"
Down the phone, Hermione can hear Luna breathing. "Yes," Luna says, at last. "Hermione, I, er – yes. I, ah."
"Luna," Hermione says. "Do you…"
"Assent. Yes." Luna laughs. "Yes. Yes."
Hermione hangs up the phone, very gently. She gets her coat, she gets her gloves and hat and scarf, she leaves the building. On the way to the car, she's aware of the sky above her head, clear, blue-grey, and after every step she takes, of the ground beneath her feet.