“Ah, pets are such troublesome things.”
Or, Twenty-One Letters to the Order of the Catastrophically Confused Cockatoo
Letter Eleven – “Ah, pets are such troublesome things.”
The sand was far more difficult to get rid of than the water had been, and they were still finding scorpions in the strangest of places (including Bill’s cereal and Albus’s beard).
Nevertheless, the atmosphere at Grimmauld Place on the 29th of July was surprisingly cheerful. After all, though they still had a few traces of the desert left, and though Severus was in a remarkably foul mood, and though it was late afternoon and they had yet to hear from Harry, the day itself had been wonderfully uneventful.
Albus, for reasons that no one else could possibly guess at or explain, had decided to hold a vote on whether or not the 29th had been a good day. The results of this had been confusing, as despite Severus’s obvious dissatisfaction with it, the outcome had been unanimous.
After Minerva had counted the vote slips and found one missing there had been a house-wide hunt, as Severus remained adamant that he had handed in his slip voting against the day.
Much later, Ron discovered a much chewed voting slip on his pillow and immediately knew who the culprit had been. However, he chose not to reveal his findings as he realised that Severus would just use it as an excuse.
Severus, of course, knew perfectly well who had been at fault in the misplacement of his vote. Normally this would not especially bother him, as he honestly couldn’t care less about one of Albus’s crackpot surveys.
However, as Severus had experienced four relatively unpleasant days, and as they had all been unpleasant for the same reason, he vowed to do something about it.
Ron, on the other hand, knew perfectly well that Severus would be out for blood (again), and resolved to thwart him at every turn.
As a result, Grimmauld Place was thrown into a chaos that could not have been more destructive if Harry himself were behind it.
By nine o’clock that night, the Order and students had been divided into four factions.
The first of these was led by Severus, and had been named (by Fred) the Anti-Elmer Squad.
Severus had not originally intended to involve any others in his vendetta against the camel that Ron had adopted after the desert incident. But Moody had developed an intense dislike of the creature after it had eaten his toast, and had joined Severus the moment he got wind of the younger wizard’s plans.
As far as Severus could tell, Fred, Ginny and Tonks had merely taken his side in order to cause mayhem.
The second faction, of course, was the Defenders of the Camel. Ron had taken action in recruiting people to his cause the moment he had found the voting slip. Hermione had, as usual, been more than willing to defend an ‘innocent’ being from suffering unfairly, and Bill had developed an affinity for camels during his time in Egypt.
Remus, it seemed, merely wanted to annoy Severus, and George had declared upon joining that he and Fred had chosen to take opposing sides ‘just for laughs’.
The third faction was a neutral party, and consisted of Albus, Arthur, Minerva and Molly. The four of them had seated themselves in the kitchen and were consuming copious amounts of tea, which had led to Moody snarkily dubbing them the Tea Club on his way through the kitchen (none of them had missed seeing the pepper he had grabbed on his way past the bench).
The fourth faction would have never existed if Luna had chosen to take a side in the Great Camel Debacle. As she did not, she began to feel left out of the action and created he own side, the Religious Squirrels, to generate senseless anarchy.
She recruited Neville and Charlie to her cause, despite their protests and initial attempts to remain neutral. After the third explosion (the second caused by the Religious Squirrels), Kingsley had slipped out of the kitchen, abandoning his half-full cup of tea, and joined them of his own free will.
By ten o’clock, the Tea Club were astonished that the house was still basically in one piece, and a temporary ceasefire had been agreed upon by Severus and Ron. The two of them had led their weary teams into the kitchen and begun helping themselves to the tea – though both sides were shooting each other constant suspicious looks as they did so.
Luna and her Religious Squirrel group were nowhere to be seen. Charlie had appeared several minutes after the Anti-Elmer Squad and the Defenders of the Camel had sat down, in order to announce, “The Religious Squirrels have taken possession of the top two floors of the house, and we plan to base our future operations from Mad-Eye’s bedroom, so he and anyone else on those floors might want to find somewhere else to sleep. Also, Neville wanted me to remind Ron to feed Elmer, Kingsley wants a cheese sandwich, and could someone please feed the inhabitants of Luna and Neville’s ridiculously large aquarium room, because it’s on the first floor and that’s Anti-Elmer territory.”
Charlie then proceeded to collapse dramatically on the floor, gasping for breath.
Ron peered at him from the other end of the kitchen. “Elmer’s been fed. Are you all right?”
His brother lifted a hand and attempted to wave reassuringly. It ended with a rather pathetic flop.
“I’ll take care of the fish,” Tonks offered. Ginny choked on her tea.
“Uh, maybe I should take care of that?” the younger girl offered. “No offence, Tonks, but…”
Tonks chuckled wryly. “Good point. I wouldn’t want to have to face Luna and Neville if I damaged any of their precious fish.”
“Especially Severus,” Ginny agreed, eyes twinkling deviously.
“Especially Severus,” Tonks agreed fervently, grinning.
Severus growled a little at the mention of his small blue namesake, but couldn’t muster the energy to complain about the mutinous words of his subordinates.
Silence reigned in the kitchen as the two groups drank their tea and rested. Charlie remained prone on the floor until Molly leaned down and deposited a platter of cheese sandwiches by his nose.
He twitched a little at the scent and his stomach grumbled loudly.
Molly snorted. “Go on, take those upstairs and share them, before Kingsley starts gnawing chair legs. I know how that man can get when he doesn’t get his cheese sandwiches…”
There was a collective shudder. Everyone knew how Kingsley could get when deprived of his cheese sandwiches – and it wasn’t pretty.
Charlie heaved himself to his feet, retrieved the sandwiches from the floor and retreated to the Religious Squirrel’s HQ.
The kitchen fell into silence as everyone drank their tea, besides Molly who was making more sandwiches for the rest of them.
It was at this point, of course, that a rather tired looking Hedwig flew through the window. No one even bothered to move, and Severus allowed her to perch on his shoulder without even a token attempt to shoo her elsewhere.
He didn’t even remove Harry’s letter until he had taken his first sandwich from the plate Molly put in the middle of the table. Chewing slowly, he untied it and fed Hedwig half of it. She seemed unduly grateful.
Being exhausted, he chose to read the letter silently, and no one protested until he dropped it on the table and began attempting to strangle the air in front of him. Hedwig took flight, heading further into the house.
Remus reached across the table and took possession of the letter, and unlike Severus, read it aloud.
Good morning, all!
My Snorkack, Hubert, is a crafty little critter. Very inventive. Loves to dig.
Sorry if this letter arrives later than usual. I’m a little further away than I should be. Don’t worry, I haven’t left Privet Drive. Well, I don’t think I have.
You see, like I said, Hubert loves to dig. He’s digging a bottomless pit in the Dursley’s front yard, and I’m afraid that I’ve fallen in.
Don’t worry, as soon as she’s done bringing you this letter, Hedwig is going to bring me some more rope – just like she brought me this parchment and my quill. I just hope that she remembers to attach it to something first this time…
Ah, pets are such troublesome things. I hope you’re all enjoying the company of all the animals in Headquarters with you.
PS. My birthday is in two days. I expect gifts. Shiny ones. I also plan to celebrate. Alcohol here I come…’”
They were all silent until Hedwig flew past them and back out the window, a coil of thin rope clutched in her talons.
Arthur very slowly placed his tea down on the table. “Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m crazy, but…do you think it’s possible that…he’s serious?”
“Well, he’ll be legally allowed to drink alcohol as a wizard once he’s sixteen, I don’t see any reason he would joke about such a thing,” Luna said from the doorway. “And everyone likes shiny things.”
“I’m sending him a polished spoon,” Ron decided. “That’s shiny.”
“I’ll send him a camel ear,” Severus growled half-heartedly. Ron glared at him feebly.
“Not that, Luna, the Snorkack and the bottomless pit,” Hermione corrected.
Luna gave her a look of genuine surprise, and lowered the cheese sandwich she was holding without taking a bite. “Why, of course he’s serious. I have never known Harry to kid about such a serious matter.”
Not even Hermione had the energy to enter into a debate about Snorkacks with Luna Lovegood that night, and so Luna collected a second platter of cheese sandwiches and a jug of pumpkin juice before retreating once more to, presumably, Moody’s bedroom.