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I suppose I ought to be ashamed of myself for prompting inflicting this bunny -- and, no less, upon someone who seldom commits HP fic (the only other time I’m aware of was a Snupin drabble for last year’s birthday, come to think of it). But, dudes. She put in the Squid and the Willow and Snape... she knows me way too well.

Oh, and Luna/Bess? Instant femslash OTP. ♥ ♥ ♥

Bestest birthday ever.


Title: The Secret Of The Giant Squid
Author: swooop. Posted here with her permission (please do not archive or repost).
Beta: apis_mellifera
Rating: PG
Words: 7,300
Pairings/Warnings: Look, if you’re reading this, clearly you can handle a bit of a mystery. ;-)




“Nancy, I don’t think I like the idea of you taking this case,” Hannah Gruen said with a worried frown. “It sounds very dangerous.”

“And very mysterious,” Nancy Drew twinkled, her titian hair flashing in the sun. She and the motherly housekeeper were enjoying lemonade and some of Hannah’s homemade cookies on the front porch of the Drew’s large, lovely home while waiting for Nancy’s two best chums, Bess and George, to arrive and be filled in on the case.

“And you say you have to fly to England?”

“I’ve flown before, Hannah. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“You’ve never flown in a flying car!” the housekeeper snorted.

“But it’s my own car, Hannah. And you know I’ve been taking flying lessons at River Heights Airport. I just need to solo to get my license, and I’ll be doing that later this afternoon.”

“To fly an airplane. It’s not the same thing,” Hannah insisted. “And how are you going to get your roadster to actually fly?”

“There is a Mr. Weasley coming later today to perform an enchantment on it. Hannah, please don’t worry. I’m sure it’s all perfectly safe.”

“Enchantments,” the housekeeper repeated. “This I’ve got to see.”

Just then, a modest sedan pulled into the Drew’s circular driveway and an athletic brunette with a boyish haircut jumped out of the car, followed more sedately by her blonde, plump cousin.

“Hi Nancy! Ready for a bewitching adventure?” George Fayne called.

“You bet! Come have some lemonade and I’ll tell you girls all about it.”

Nancy was soon filling them in. “Dad got a call a few days ago from a Professor Hagrid at a place called Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“Witchcraft and wizardry!” Bess shivered. “Sounds spooky.”

“Sounds keen,” George said. “Go on.”

“This Professor Hagrid is the games keeper at the school and teaches the Care of Magical Creatures classes. He told Dad that they have a Giant Squid living in the lake that has been acting mysteriously lately, and he’s very perplexed about its behavior. He thinks there’s something going on that needs investigating, and wanted Dad’s help. But Dad’s tied up on another case right now, so he thought we could look into it.”

“Nifty,” George nodded. “But Nancy, do we know anything about Giant Squids?”

“George, have you forgotten that I volunteer at the River Heights Zoo? I know we don’t have any Giant Squids there, but I can’t see that there would be that much difference between a Giant Squid and a regular-sized one.”

“Except a Giant Squid could eat us,” Bess chimed in. “It doesn’t sound very safe to me.”

“You’re just a big coward, Bess. Although you’d sure make a tempting snack, seeing that you could stand to lose five pounds.”

Hannah reminded Nancy that her final flying lesson was in an hour. “I must hurry and get ready, girls, so that I can fly us to Hogwarts. Can you be ready to leave tomorrow?”
“We can if we get cracking right now,” George grinned. “Hypers Nancy! I can’t wait to practice my judo on a Giant Squid.”
“Great. I’ll pick you girls up around 8 in the morning.”

***


The man who appeared suddenly out of the Drews’ fireplace was unlike any man that Hannah Gruen had ever seen. What was left of his red hair was graying under the pointed hat that he jammed back on his head after bowing in a very formal manner to Hannah. He wore rather battered emerald green robes that were open to reveal the green and yellow plaid pants topped by a purple sweater that definitely could use a darn near the neckline. His feet were encased in what appeared to be old-fashioned penny loafers, but there were odd looking, bronze pieces of metal inserted into the slits instead of pennies.

“Miss Drew? I’m Arthur Weasley.”

Hannah backed away a step or two. “Ha—how did you? You just…oh!”

“We had you hooked up to the Floo Network. Bit much, to apparate across the ocean. I’m sorry to say,” he continued, wringing the hemline of his robe onto Hannah’s newly polished floor, “that it was a bit, er, damper than I expected. But it’s such a long flight on a broomstick…” he trailed off.

“You just…you came through the fireplace?”

A look of understanding suddenly appeared on Arthur’s face. “A Muggle, of course! How delightful. I was given to understand that you’d been told I’d be traveling by Floo Network and would arrive at 5 p.m. You seem rather astonished to see me.”

“Because I thought you’d be arriving through the front door, Mr., uh, Mr…”

“Weasley. Arthur Weasley,” he repeated, sweeping his hat off his head and bowing low again. A bit of seaweed clung to his left ear. “Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, Ministry of Magic.”

Hannah explained that she was not Miss Drew, and offered her guest a chair and a glass of lemonade. Arthur was delighted to try a Muggle drink and to nibble on Muggle cookies while he looked around brightly at the various gadgets in the Drew living room.

“A lightbulb, you say? And it produces light when it’s attached to this, which is plugged into your wall with this cord. I collect plugs, you know. Yes, I’m sure it’s more complicated than that. But where does the power come from? The electric company? How very generous of them to provide you with power. And what, pray tell, is this charming object?” he asked, examining a butane lighter kept on the fireplace mantel.

“Hannah? Hannah! I’ve done my solo!”

“Excuse me,” Hannah said, hurrying into the foyer, where she found her employer’s daughter shrugging out of her coat. “Nancy,” she hissed. “There is a very strange man here. He came out of the fireplace!”

“Oh, Mr. Weasley is here already? Wonderful!” she smiled, kissing Hannah’s cheek and heading into the living room to greet her mysterious guest.

***

At promptly 8 the next morning, Nancy and Mr. Weasley appeared in the Fayne driveway to pick up Bess and George. Soon they were headed, still on the road, toward the coast.

“We won’t actually fly the car until we get to the ocean,” Mr. Weasley explained. “We don’t want to attract the attention of the Muggles any more than necessary.”

Nancy was practically shivering with the anticipation of flying her car to England and visiting a school devoted to wizardry. George’s eyes were sparkling in the back seat, but Bess seemed nervous, an observation that was borne out when they finally reached the secluded beach and Nancy prepared to shift the car into flying mode.

“Nancy, we must be crazy! This car won’t fly. It’s a car. We’re all going to be killed, I just know it.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure, Bess?” George prodded her.

“Back in my bedroom, fast asleep. This is…aaaaahhhhhhh!”

And they were in the air.

***

Nancy landed the car smoothly just inside the gates of Hogwarts. She’d found the flight exciting, and her eyes sparkled from the experience.

“Jeepers, Nancy, that was great. The only way to fly!” George enthused. Even Bess, once she’d gotten over her fright, had enjoyed the ride.

“Well done, Miss Drew. Now, I am to take you the guest quarters first so that you can refresh yourselves, and then take you to meet Hagrid. It’s half-term and most of our students are away, but there are a handful still in school.”

Mr. Weasley led them through the imposing front door of the castle. “I would advise you to remain on the ground floor during your stay,” Arthur began when a figure sitting cross-legged floated into the hallway. He was wearing an orange bowler, and the suspenders holding up his pants were pink with tiny red hearts on them. Bess screamed.

“A g-g-ghost!”

“It’s just Peeves,” Mr. Weasley replied with a nonchalance that made even George do a doubletake. “Go away, Peeves. We don’t want you here.” He whispered to George as an aside, “He’s a poltergeist. A frightful nuisance.”

“Muggles in the castle! Muggles in Hogwarts! Did you bring the Muggles, Weasley?”
Peeves zoomed around above their heads, making Bess scream again. “Filch will hear about this, Filchy Wilchy Yes He Willsy Filch Will Killsy!”

Peeves sped around a corner. Bess sagged against a wall, her shoulder dislodging a painting of a hunchbacked goblin who was counting thick-looking, odd-shaped pieces of metal in what appeared to be a dungeon. “Careful!” the painting hissed at her, causing her to jump.

“This place is haunted. Oh Nancy, I’m not staying here!” she wailed, trying to pull the massive door open.

“Please, Miss Marvin. Our world will seem strange to you, but I assure you no stranger than your world appears to us. Now, as I was saying. I advise you to remain on the ground floor. The staircases move, you know. The Great Hall is through there. The House Elves put on a great feed. And this door leads down to the dungeons,” Arthur continued in a conversational tone.

“Dungeons?” George mouthed to Nancy, who grinned back.

“You probably want to stay out of there as well. It would be best to not cross Severus’ path. He’s been a bit, uhm, crosser than usual lately. Ah, here we are,” he said, standing in front of another painting.

Nancy and the girls watched in amazement as Mr. Weasley muttered to himself for a minute before exclaiming “River Heights!” at the painting. They were even more amazed when the painting swung open to reveal a doorway.

“Come, come,” Mr. Weasley beckoned. “Dumbledore insisted that we give you these accommodations. They’re quite comfortable. But then, he’s very fond of the Giant Squid. Ever since the merpeople told him the Squid has been sulking and weeping in the lake, he’s been most concerned.”

The girls stepped through the doorway and into a large room furnished with comfortable armchairs and a large green velvet sofa. Up a few stairs and through another doorway was a bedroom containing three four poster beds surrounded by curtains. The girls placed their bags on the floor, located the bathroom to freshen up, and then rejoined Mr. Weasley in the sitting area. “We’re ready to meet Professor Hagrid, Mr. Weasley,” Nancy announced. “Can you tell us how to get to his rooms?”

“Oh Hagrid lives on the grounds, near the Forbidden Forest. We pass the lake on the way to his hut. I’ll take you to him, and then he will look after you. I’m afraid I must get back to work. I’m behind with my paperwork.” He gestured to the doorway, and followed the three girls out into the hallway.

As the painting closed behind them, he reminded them to say “River Heights” to open the door to their quarters. “Dumbledore changed the password to make it easier for you to remember,” he noted. He lead them out into the grounds and down a gentle slope. “Hagrid will no doubt offer you tea and rock cakes. I advise against the rock cakes. They’re rather hard on the teeth,” he explained

As they continued down the the slope, Bess asked if he was also a professor at the school.
“Dear me, no. No, I’m with the Ministry of Magic. Department of Muggle Artifacts. We’re working on a most perplexing problem at the moment. Someone has bewitched all of the lifts in Harrods, the big Muggle shop in London. They now all travel sideways instead of up and down. Most distressing to the owners, of course, and the customers aren’t too keen to have to use the staircases. But I did go to school here. Wonderful place, Hogwarts. I met my darling wife here.”

“What kind of tree is that?” Nancy interrupted suddenly, pointing to a large tree with limbs as thick as a retaining wall and spiny, bulbous growths on the ends. She noted that one of its limbs was encased in a sling and that much of its bark looked scorched.

“That’s our Whomping Willow. I’d advise you to steer well clear of it. It’s rather, er, protective of its surrounding area. And it was injured recently in a bit of a mishap, so it is understandably a little leery of strange people. And this is the lake,” he hurried forward, “where the Squid lives.”

Nancy studied it carefully. It seemed to her to be completely normal. She walked a way around its perimeter, studying it from various aspects.

“What are you looking for?” George asked.

“I was wondering if there was some biological cause for the Squid’s distress, George. But everything here seems to be normal. Although I’m no expert on the biology of a lake in the middle of enchanted grounds. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a clue here,” she said, disappointed.

“We just got here, Nancy. I’m sure we’ll find lots of clues. Why, you’ll probably trip over one in the next few minutes!”

“Girls! I think I’ve found something here!” Bess called excitedly. Nancy and George hurried over.

“Look at this funny stick,” Bess grinned, waving it in front of her. Red sparks shot out of the tip.

“Oh dear,” Mr. Weasley said, picking up the wand where Bess had dropped it with a squeak. “Now I wonder how that fell out of my pocket?”

“What is it?” Nancy asked.

“My wand. We wizards use them when doing magic.”

“Can not-magic…Muggles…make a wand do magic?” Nancy asked.

“No,” he said, eyeing Bess speculatively. “Miss Marvin, would you mind…”

Bess took the wand and tentatively waved it again. Again, a few sparks flew from the tip.

“Most incredible. I must talk to Professor McGonagall about this.”

“But what does it mean?” Bess asked anxiously.

“Perhaps nothing. But most likely, you have some untapped magical blood in you.”

“Can I try?” George asked. She took the wand from Bess and waved it. Nothing happened. “Darn.”

“You’ll have to stick to judo, George,” Nancy chuckled.

“You try, Nancy.”

Nancy took the wand from George’s hand and studied it carefully. “This is beechwood, isn’t it Mr. Weasley?”

“Yes, with a unicorn hair.”

“You have unicorns here?” Bess sighed dreamily.

“Indeed, they live in the Forbidden Forest.”

“I’d love to see a real unicorn,” Bess sighed again.

“You’ll want to stay away from the forest, Miss Marvin. It’s definitely not safe, even for most wizards.”

Nancy, meanwhile, had continued to examine Mr. Weasley’s wand. Suddenly, she swished it to the side, then flicked it forward. Mr. Weasley shot ten feet backwards, landing with a thud on his back.

“Oh! Oh dear, I’m so sorry, have you been hurt, Mr. Weasley?” Nancy cried, rushing forward.

“Not a hospital job, Miss Drew. Nothing to worry about. My goodness, though, you have some magical blood in you.”

“We’ve always said Nancy was a witch,” George laughed. “We didn’t realize it was really possible to actually be a witch, though!”

Nancy handed the wand over. “I think you’d better hang on to this,” she smiled. Mr. Weasley absent-mindedly tucked it into a pocket in his robe. “Come, we must get to Hagrid’s. That’s his hut, just ahead.”

***

Bess had become so accustomed to all of the very strange things around her that the sight of man with hands the size of trash can lids and a tangle of wild hair and beard didn’t even startle her.

“Bless his heart, the poor thing,” the giant was saying. George was eyeing the enormous dog that slobbered apple-sized gobs of drool on her slacks. “Fang, get off Miss Fayne. She don’t need yer hangin’ about now. He’s so friendly, Fang is. Loves ter make new friends, he does.” Hagrid sipped his tea. “The merpeople spoke to Dumbledore…great man, Dumbledore…about the squid, and he turned the problem over to me. Haven’t been able to make heads nor tails out of it. He just kind of floats along, looking all mopey-like.”

“Can you think of any other information, Mr. Hagrid, anything that might be a clue?”

“I’m afraid I can’t. Dumbledore had a word with the lake people, but they haven’t been too helpful. They did say he wasn’t eating much, and me and Professor Sprout…she teaches Herbology…had a look ter see if there was maybe something wrong with the food supply, but it’s just as it should be.”

“Well, you haven’t given me much to work with,” Nancy said thoughtfully, “but I’m sure I can solve this case. We’ll just have to dig up our own clues. I do have a question, though. Is it safe to swim in the lake? Are there other, er, creatures in there that could harm us?”

“Oh the lake’s full of things ye shouldn’t come into contact with. Not unless yer knowin’ how to deal with them magically.”

“That lets that out, then,” George said. “Maybe we could use a boat, though?”

“What if that giant squid knocks the boat over?” Bess asked practically.

“Oh, he wouldn’t’ do that,” Hagrid answered her. “Bless him, he’s a gentle thing, for something 24 feet long.”

“So we could take a boat out? We’re all experienced sailors,” Nancy added.

“I know a few students who could come along to help with any magic needed,” Hagrid said thoughtfully. They ought not need anything harder than a 4th year can handle.”

***


“Nancy Drew, this is Harry Potter. And Luna Lovegood, Ron Weasley, and Neville Longbottom. Kids, this is Miss Drew. And her friends Miss Fayne and Miss Marvin.”
“You can call us Nancy, Bess, and George,” Nancy smiled, shaking hands around.

Luna was looking at Bess Marvin like she’d seen a crumplehorned snark. All through the lake expedition, she seemed unable to take her eyes off of Bess, admiring her long blonde hair, dimples, and giggle. Harry had never seen Luna so, so struck by anyone before. Usually people were struck by Luna, and not in a good way.

The boat ride was uneventful, even though all the passengers eagerly scanned the waters for clues. They saw no sign of the squid.

“Ron, can you turn us more toward the shore? I’d like to look around the shore to see if there’s something we missed. We only got to examine one small area of shorefront yesterday, and it was too dark last night to carry on.”

Ron obediently waved his wand in the direction of the rudder on the boat, which began going backwards instead of turning to the port side, as it should have. Harry pulled his wand out of robe sleeve and corrected the direction with another wave. “Sorry,” Ron said sheepishly. Harry had noticed that he had spent most of the ride staring at Miss Drew instead of looking for clues to the squid mystery.

For himself, Harry thought these three women, although not much older than himself, seemed to be yonks older than him and his friends. He liked them all, particularly the one with the short brown hair. She had effortlessly helped him put the boat into the water and had admired the simple charm he’d performed to make the boat magically seat all seven of them comfortably. She seemed like someone you could count on in a pinch. The blonde girl had certainly gotten Luna’s attention.

Suddenly he heard the blonde cry, “Nancy, look at that!” He turned his head in the direction of the shore. The Whomping Willow was visible at the top of the rise, whirling its functional branches around maniacally. A man with long shining black hair, dressed all in black, pointed his wand at the branches to still them, then disappeared beneath the tree.

“Who was that?” Nancy asked Harry.

“Professor Snape. Potions Master.”

“He looks creepy,” Bess said. “Like a bat or something.”

”He is,” Neville spoke up from the back of the boat, where he’d been sitting quietly. “He scares me to death.”

“Oh I don’t think he’s that bad,” Luna smiled.

“Yeah, but you’re barmy, Luna,” Ron shot back.

“There’s something kind of romantic about him, don’t you think?” Luna said, turning to Bess and staring with great intensity into her eyes.

“If you think bats are romantic,” Bess shuddered. Luna looked disappointed.

Nancy, meanwhile, was eagerly looking at the shoreline through a pair of omnioculars borrowed from Ron. “Girls, I think I see the squid, over there by that shrub. Let’s get closer!”

Ron waved his wand again, muttering something in what sounded like Latin that the girls couldn’t understand, and, miraculously, this time the engine obeyed and the boat shot forward. As they approached the overhanging shrub, which was covered in peculiar purple flowers with blood red spikes growing out of the center, something very large indeed began to sink below the surface.

“Oh no! It’s getting away!” Nancy cried. Prying off her shoes, she made a perfect dive into the lake before anyone could stop her.

“Nancy! Come back before that, that thing eats you!” Bess screamed.

“It won’t eat her,” Luna said calmly. “Everyone knows that giant squids are vegetarians.”

George understood now why Ron thought Luna was barmy. Because Luna was barmy.

“Harry, can’t you do something?”

“I wish I could, Miss Fayne, but I don’t have what I need to be able to go after her. One of us could run up to the school, though, and fetch Dumbledore. Neville?”

“I’ll go,” Luna said. “Miss Marvin can come with me. Ron, move the boat closer to shore. I don’t have my swim fins with me.”

Luna and Bess clambered out of the boat. In her haste, Bess slipped and fell headlong into the water by the shore, dragging Luna with her. They climbed up the shorefront, dripping with lake water, and hurried up the hillside. Harry noticed that Luna had grabbed Bess’ hand.

“Look at that,” George shouted suddenly. A large tentacle was sliding out of the water near the shore. It had a rock curled into the fist it made at the end of the tentacle. Would it throw it at Bess and Luna? Everyone in the boat tensed, then breathed a sigh of relief when it laid the rock down on the shore.

“That’s strange,” Ron said. “I’ve never seen the squid do that before.” He urged the boat forward a bit. He imagined the very pretty Miss Drew all wrapped up in giant squid tentacle and shuddered.

“Look, there’s a whole bunch of rocks right there,” Neville said suddenly. Ron pushed the boat over to the shore and the boys climbed out, followed by George, who pulled the boat carefully up a bit out of the water to prevent its drifting off.

“Nancy would know what to make of this,” George said after studying the rock pattern for a minute. “And why hasn’t she surfaced yet? And where are Bess and Luna?”

***

Bess and Luna were explaining their dilemma to Professor Snape, who had emerged from beneath the Whomping Willow just as they were running toward it.

“Very well. You two,” he said dismissively, “need to go dry yourselves off. You stink of lake water. I shall see to the problem. There is no need to disturb Professor Dumbledore. He’s had a very trying morning with that idiot Fudge.”

“See, I told you he wasn’t bad,” Luna said. “People are so prejudiced against him because he’s different. I just think he’s very lonely.”

Bess, who had thought Snape was downright terrifying with his soft, menacing voice and pale skin, looked after his retreating figure. His robe flapped behind him as he strode toward the lake. “Come on Luna, I’m freezing. And starving.”

Luna led Bess into the castle and up several staircases. “Where are we going?” Bess asked nervously.

“Third floor bath. We can boil ourselves in there.”

As they entered the bathroom, Bess gaped at the magnificence of the tile and marble fixtures, the multiple taps, and the size of the tub, which was like a small swimming pool. Luna pulled her damp wand out of her robes, swish and flicked it around while uttering a command that Bess did not understand, and every tap opened to pour forth scented water. The rushing of the water and the heady scent of roses caused her to relax for the first time since they’d arrived at Hogwarts. Turning to Luna to express her admiration, she was shocked to see the younger girl standing behind her, completely nude.

“You’re not going to wear those clothes in, are you?” Luna smiled, stepping into the water and sinking with a sigh into the heat. “Come on, it’s lovely and warm.”

“Er.” Bess’ eyes were fixed on the lovely curve of Luna’s hip disappearing into the foaming water.

“I won’t look. Or you could go behind that screen over there.” Luna cooperatively shut her eyes and leaned back to rest her head on the edge of the bath. “Bring your wet clothes out. I know a charm to dry them. Mmmmm, this is so nice.” Her hair, darkened by the water, floated around her head. She looked, Bess thought as she hurried behind the screen to strip out of her soaking clothes, like a very bizarre sort of mermaid.

Tentatively, she poked her head around the screen. Luna seemed to asleep, and Bess, now completely frozen, decided to stop being a prude and get in the steaming, deliciously scented water. Carefully she stepped in and slid down until the water was up to her neck. She let out a stifled groan of pleasure as the warmth spread over her and through her.

“Nice, isn’t it?” Luna said quietly. “You’re very pretty.”

“Oh, thank you, Luna. You’re, uhm, very…” Bess wanted to say “strange” but she didn’t want to hurt the younger girl’s feelings. She couldn’t be more than 13 or 14. “You’re going to be quite a beauty yourself some day.”

“I wish now was some day,” she said earnestly, again looking at Bess with that disconcertingly intense gaze.

“It will come soon enough,” Bess said, feeling completely off balance in the conversation. Fourteen or not, Luna seemed older, somehow. Dignified, despite ber clearly different outlook on life.

Luna leaned back and closed her eyes again. Her shoulders were being lapped by the warm water. She wiggled comfortably, eyes still closed, letting her arms and legs float freely.

“Do you believe in love, Bess? I didn’t used to.”

“I didn’t believe in ghosts until yesterday,” Bess pointed out reasonably. “You can only believe in what you’ve actually experienced.”

“Yes. I see that now.” She edged herself closer to Bess. “Are you warmer?” she asked.

“I feel much better, Luna. Thank you for bringing me here.” She reached out to grasp Luna’s hand in the water. To her surprise, Luna turned her head slightly and kissed her mouth, her hand coming out of the water to tangle in her damp hair.

“Oh. Oh Luna,” she said, realization coming to her in a flash even as her mind thought meltingly soft lips. “Oh, no. Luna, I’m sorry…”

“It’s okay,” she said, hunching over. “Loony Luna, you know. That’s what people call me,” she added defensively.

“No, it’s not okay, and you’re not loony.” Bess touched her shoulder gently, then put an arm around her. Her skin was smooth, the scent of roses rising from it. She shut her eyes, imagining for just one moment, then stopped herself with a silent reprimand. “It’s just…I wasn’t expecting…I…”

“Don’t love me.”

“I don’t know you.”

“We could get to know each other, Bess.” Luna played with her damp hair, tracing paths through the bubbles with it.

“And I’m at least four years older than you.” And I wish to God you were four years older, she thought suddenly. It might be easier to explain this. And give into it. Her finger traced a small circle at the nape of Luna’s neck without thinking. Why do I suddenly feel very confused about so many things? “And leaving here in a few days, probably. It won’t take Nancy long to figure out what’s wrong with the squid.”

“Well, I will at least have this for a memory. It will be something to cherish,” Luna said with a smile, sliding like an eel out of the bath and wrapping herself in a large towel that she seemed to conjure out of the air. She performed a charm with her wand to dry their clothes, conjured a second towel, then stuck her wand saucily behind one ear. “I’ll wait for you outside the door.” In a flash, she was gone, leaving the magnificent room much chillier in her absence.

***


Snape came flapping up to the lakeshore just in time to hear Harry suggest one of them should go into the lake to look for Nancy.

“Potter! You will stay out of the lake. Your friend,” Snape drawled to George, “should not have gone in after the squid. Most likely she won’t ever come out.”

“Nancy can take care of herself,” George said stoutly. “And she’s an excellent swimmer. Why, she’s won all sorts of medals back home.”

“Was she racing against a giant squid?” Snape snapped. “And just how long has she been in the lake now?”

Neville admitted it had been a good twenty or thirty minutes.

“Then she’s probably been eaten. Or attacked by Grindylows. There’s nothing else for you to do here. I suggest you return to the castle.”

“I’m not leaving Nancy behind!” George cried, her eyes flashing.

“Then stay here and wait, you foolish Muggle.”

“I say, Professor Snape,” Ron began.

“Weasley, I cannot be bothered with this nonsense. The girl is gone, I tell you.”

“No, Professor, she’s not,” Harry said, pointing.

Nancy Drew was swimming casually toward the group on the shore, followed by several merpeople. Thanking them, she climbed up on the bank, then waved to them as they disappeared beneath the surface.

“Oh George, I’ve spotted the squid! It was unbelievable!”

Snape seemed surprised to see her standing there in one piece. He cleared his throat.

“I beg your pardon. I don’t believe we’ve met,” Nancy held her hand out politely.

“Severus Snape. Potions Master. Miss Drew, do you mind telling me how you survived an encounter with the giant squid?”

“I believe the squid is really very shy, Professor. When he saw me swimming toward him, he dove into a rock cave to hide. I could only see the very tips of his tentacles. George, where is Bess? And Luna?”

George explained that they had gone for help and fallen into the lake.

“I sent them to clean up,” Snape added.

“Miss Drew, we think we’ve found another clue,” Harry added, pointing to the rock formation and explaining how they’d seen the squid adding a rock to it.

Nancy studied the pattern carefully, walking around it to look at it from every angle.

“Yes,” she said, finally. “It does seem to fit.”

“What?” George asked.

“It’s only a hunch, George. But I believe the squid is trying to communicate with someone or something that doesn’t live in the lake.”

Snape laughed. “How ridiculous. It’s a giant squid. And those are random rocks that have just piled up here. I’m sure Potter and Weasley imagined what they saw. They have been known to tell rather vivid lies.”

“But I saw the tentacle, too, Professor,” George chimed in.

“And just because it’s a squid doesn’t mean it can’t have feelings, does it?” said a soft voice. Luna had reappeared, with Bess right behind her. “Lots of people you’d suspect had no feelings whatsoever actually have so many they have to hide them all in order to keep them under control.” She smiled at Bess, and Snape, staring at her, felt his face grow suddenly warm. He had lost control of this entire ludicrous situation.

“Luna! You’ve just given me an idea about my hunch. But I need more proof.” Nancy looked thoughtful. “Anyone up for a bit of midnight spying tonight?”

“Students,” Snape began pompously, “are not allowed to wander the grounds at night.”

“But it’s half-term,” Ron began to protest.

“You will follow the rules, Mr. Weasley, or it’ll be points from Gryffindor, half-term or not. I must go back to the Willow. But I warn you, I will be watching for any…funny business tonight.” Snape turned on his heel and flapped back up the hillside toward the Whomping Willow. A gurgling sound in the lake distracted them, and a rock flew out of the water, striking the retreating professor on the back of his head. He turned around to glare at the group before continuing toward the tree, whose branches were not so much whomping anything as they were poking half-heartedly at thin air.

“He’s in a bit of a mood today,” Harry said, watching the retreating black figure.

“He’s just sad,” Luna observed. “No one treats him with any respect, you know.”

“Well, he ought to try treating others with respect,” Ron retorted.

Nancy wasn’t listening to this, however. She was staring at Snape’s slim black figure thoughtfully, and then went to examine the rock formation once again.

“I definitely want to come back here to watch here tonight,” she announced. “Who’s coming with me?”

***


Nancy, Bess, and George all expressed admiration over Harry’s Invisibility cloak. “I could certainly use one of those for sleuthing!” Nancy exclaimed, examining the silky material.

“It’s been very useful,” Ron grinned. “Makes sneaking around this place at night much easier.”

“Will all of you fit under it?” George wondered.

“Easily,” Harry grinned. “Of course it helps that Neville didn’t want to come. He’s trying to catch up on his Potions homework. Snape is always giving him extra inches to do because he’s just so bad at Potions.”

“I don’t think Neville is bad at Potions, Harry,” Luna shook her head. “I think he’s so scared of Professor Snape that he’s convinced himself he’s no good at anything.”

“We should go,” Nancy said. “I don’t want to miss any excitement.”

Harry, Ron, and Luna disappeared beneath Harry’s cloak and the six adventurers set off for the lake. The night was cloudy and seeing the path was difficult. Bess tripped several times before finally falling flat on her face. “Oww, oh!”

“Alright, Miss Marvin?” came Harry’s disembodied voice.

“Yes, I think so. It’s just so dark.”

Three voices said lumos at the same time, and three disembodied hands appeared from beneath the cloak. Each hand held a wand that was lit up at the tip, much like a flashlight. “If you see anyone,” came Harry’s voice again, “each of you take a wand so that we can disappear.”

“How clever! Really, there’s something to be said for all this magic,” George said in awe.

We think so,” Ron chuckled.

The group reached the lakefront with no more mishaps, and the kids threw off the cloak to reappear. “George, why don’t you and Ron sit at the top of the rise to keep watch there,” Nancy suggested. “Harry and Luna and Bess and I will stay here. If you see someone coming, or something, hoot like an owl.”

“Sure thing, Nancy. Come on, Ron. Let’s go watch for spooks.”

“Harry, can you bring your wand this way? I want to examine that rock grouping again.”

Harry looked at George’s retreating figure and wished not for the first time that he was actually Ron. Then he stepped forward.

“Bess, why don’t you and Luna circle over that way a bit and see if there’s anything over there.”

“Sure Miss Drew. Come on, Bess.” Luna waved her wand eagerly.

Harry and Nancy walked slowly around the lakeshore.

“Do you know what happened to the Whomping Willow, Harry?” she asked suddenly.
“Sure. You saw how it can move its branches around, right?”

Nancy nodded. She paused to listen for a moment, but could hear nothing except the water lapping gently against the shorefront.

“Last fall, a kid here named Draco Malfoy found out that there’s a passage under the willow that leads to a building on the outskirts of Hogmeade that we call The Shrieking Shack. Draco is…well, he’s mean, and his family are dark wizards, and he’s always up to something. He apparently decided that the Shrieking Shack would make a good hideout for him and his goons when they wanted to plot something.” Harry paused.

“Most kids used to avoid the Shack because we all thought it was haunted, but last year the truth about that came out. That’s not really important though. Anyway, Malfoy couldn’t get to the doorway under the willow because, well, it whomps anything that tries. There’s a charm, though, that only some of the professors here know that will cause the willow to stop flailing around. Draco snuck around until he discovered the charm, and he tried to perform it on the willow.”

“And it didn’t work?”

“He almost killed it. Instead of stopping the branches, the tree caught on fire, and it tried to put itself out.”

“Oh, I see. That must have been terrible for the poor tree!”

“Well, that thing can smash a hippogriff up. You can imagine what it did to itself.”

Nancy nodded, gazed at the tree, silhouetted against the watery moonlight, and then over at the lake. “So did your Herbology teacher manage to cure the tree?”

“It’s been a long process, I guess. Professor Sprout spent all of the fall term dealing with it, and it still needs a good bit of care. We’ve all been told to stay well away from it. Not that we really need to be encouraged. I’ve had a run-in or two with it myself. But Professor Sprout was called away recently to tend to her mother, so Professor Snape is handling its treatment now. He seems to know what he’s doing, though.”

“Professor Snape?” Nancy drew her eyebrows down and stood looking thoughtfully from the lake to the tree. “When did he take over, Harry? Do you remember?”

“It must have been about a month ago, Miss Drew.”

“It fits, yes.”

“What fits?”

“Just a hunch. Come on Harry, let’s find those rocks!”

Another minute brought them to the place they’d discovered earlier. Nancy was looking at the now completed message when she heard footsteps behind her. Bess and Luna had turned back, having found nothing on the other side of the lake.

“Yes, well, look at this. Luna, will you run and get George and Ron, please? The case is solved.”

“Solved!” the others chorused.

“Let’s wait for Ron and George.”

***


Ron had been very disappointed to not get to stay with Miss Drew. Being with Miss Fayne on a romantic, kind-of moonlit night was sort of like hanging out with Harry. Not that Ron didn’t like hanging out with Harry, but it wasn’t the same. Not at all. Especially since Miss Fayne was more interested in Harry than him.

“Is your friend a very great wizard?” she’d asked. She made polite noises about Ron’s prowess at wizard chess and seemed disinclined to talk about quidditch, even though he explained all of the rules to her in detail so that she could understand the game. Hphm. It was a relief when Luna appeared suddenly on the rise.

“Miss Drew wants you to come now. She says the case is solved.”

Luna, Ron thought, might be barmy, but she at least appreciated a good quidditch match.

***

“So what have you found, Nancy?” George asked excitedly.

“Look George. I was right about the squid trying to communicate.” Nancy pointed to the rocks on the ground.

“They look like rocks to me,” Bess said, inching closer. “I don’t see…wait. Is that?”

“A heart,” Nancy confirmed. “A heart. And this?” she pointed.

“It looks like a snake,” Harry said, leaning in.

“The squid hearts Slytherin? That’s stupid,” Ron said.

“What’s Slytherin?” George asked.

“One of the school houses. Their mascot is a serpent.”

“Not Slytherin,” Nancy smiled. “Can’t you guess?”

“I can,” came Luna’s quiet voice. “That’s not a snake. It’s an S.”

Ron and Harry looked at each other. “The squid hearts S. That’s even stupider.”

“Not ‘hearts’, Ron. Loves. The squid loves S.” Luna smiled dreamily.

“But what’s S?” Ron complained. “I don’t see how this solves anything. S could be another squid. It could be a salamander. It could be…” his voice trailed off. “No! It can’t be!”

“Severus Snape!” Harry said, his mouth dropping open.

“And all three of you are in very big trouble,” said a quiet voice coming from the darkness behind them.

“Professor Snape, I’m so glad you’re here,” Nancy smiled. “We have a message for you.” She explained quickly.

“Absurd,” Snape snapped at her after she’d finished.

“I don’t think so, Professor.”

A tentacle had slowly snaked out of the water behind the lanky man to tentatively touch the back of his robes. A second one reached up to take his hand…

***


“It was the story you told me about the Whomping Willow, Harry, that solved the case. The squid is in love with Professor Snape. He didn’t know that, though, and so he wasn’t paying any attention to it.”

“I don’t understand how anything can be in love with Snape,” Ron shook his head.

“He did used to spend a lot of time down here, just staring across the lake,” Harry noted. “But since he’s been looking after the willow, he hasn’t been here much.”

“That’s it exactly. Hagrid said the squid was moping and not eating. Those are clues that someone’s in love. And then, when Professor Snape got involved in caring for the tree, the squid became jealous. It threw that rock at him yesterday, for example, because he was going back to tend to the Whomping Willow.”

“I knew you’d solve the case, Nancy. You’re the greatest detective!” George enthused.

Nancy laughed. “Right now, I’m mostly just tired. It’s late and we should all be in bed.”

***


After a scrumptious breakfast the next morning, the girls gathered their things together to fly back to River Heights. Nancy stood chatting to Hagrid on the lawn in front of the castle, while Harry and Ron helped George with their bags. Luna and Bess stood a short distance away, talking quietly.

“How long have you known, Luna?” Bess asked gently.

“That I’m ‘different’? I guess I’ve always known that, Bess. How long have you known?”

“Oh since I was about your age. But don’t say it like that, Luna. Being different is beautiful. And so are you.”

“I wish I were older. And I wish you didn’t have to leave.”

Bess reached out to touch her cheek. “You can look me up in four years. In the meantime, embrace yourself. You’re worth loving. There’s no reason to hide what makes you special.”

“Thank you, Bess. I won’t forget you, ever.”

“Nor I you, Luna.” Bess folded her into a friendly embrace. “I think Nancy is ready to go. You take care of yourself now.”

Bess climbed into the car and glanced back at the younger girl. She was smiling in that loopy way she had that made her utterly charming. She continued to wave long after the car had climbed high and far enough to leave Hogwarts and its students as small dots far beneath them.

“Well girls, another successful mystery solved! I’d like to go back there someday,” Nancy said wistfully. “To see if I really can do magic.”

“I’m sure you’d be great at it, Nancy,” George said stoutly.

In the back, Bess smiled a very tiny smile to herself. She’d found her magic, even if she’d have to wait four years to see if she could make it work.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
dakiwiboid
May. 19th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
This is so totally cool!
I love it very much! Thank you for writing it!
dichroic
May. 21st, 2007 12:01 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you've been having such a good birthday week. Just wanted to let you know I haven't forgotten - have just been drowning in guests lately, not much time to think about anything else.
bronze_ribbons
May. 22nd, 2007 02:11 am (UTC)
Totally understandable, and I don't want my day to be a source of angst or guilt for anyone!

Besides, as I was telling another friend, I like unbirthday attention too. :-)
marginaliana
May. 22nd, 2007 08:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is delightful! I love Bess finding someone to appreciate her (that's one of the things that's always bothered me about the original), and Nancy's very silly logic that always seems to end up being right in the end anyway. :D You've captured the mood of it really well. And Squid/Snape! Brilliant!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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