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Title: Anatomy of a Pest
Author: [info]iulia_linnea
Pairing: Implied Scorpius/Rose
Rating: G
Word Count: 1705
Summary: Scorpius finds himself with a Horklump-related concern and takes steps to see to it that he isn't the only one put out by it.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: Thank you, [info]shiv5468, for beta'ing.



Mr Scorpius H. Malfoy
Slytherin House
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Hogsmeade, Scotland

1 September 2022

Minister Cecilia Yaxley
Pest Advisory Board
Beast Division
Office of Misinformation
Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures
Ministry of Magic
London, England

Dear Minister Yaxley,

The Ministry of Magic's current designation of the Horklump as a Class X (Boring) creature is irresponsibly misleading, and I write to urge you to reclassify it as a Class XXXX (Dangerous) creature. Because the Horklump was not recognised as an animal until Newt Scamander published Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them in 1927 and some people persist in believing it to be nothing more than a common magical fungus and garden pest, it is critically important that the public be educated about the more malign aspects of the Horklump for their own safety. The Horklump is not, in fact, boring; it is a venomous creature that can, in rare cases, cause an allergic reaction in some individuals that can result (and has resulted, as I will detail) in death. To illustrate how the public has been misinformed about the Horklump, I will provide you with an overview of the creature and its history, and provide several examples of its uses and dangers.

Horklumps: A History

Native to Scandinavia, the Horklump was "discovered" in 1712 by the notorious French Chef Antoine Fournier (the man responsible for the ghastly Parisian "delicacy" of Gnome Tartar) while on a gastronomic holiday in Norway. Fournier introduced Horklumps to his restaurant's garden upon his return and added several Horklump-based dishes to his menu. It took him several weeks to persuade one of his patrons to try a dish containing Horklumps; however, the night he was successful was his last one as a restaurateur because the patron in question fell ill and died by morning, and Fournier was jailed as a poisoner. News reports of the time indicate that authorities assumed Fournier poisoned the beau of a witch in whom he was interested, but that was most likely an unfortunate coincidence. Horklump stew, the dish into which the supposed poison was introduced, is common throughout Scandinavia (and in certain parts of France) today, but chefs familiar with its preparation understand, as Fournier did not, that Horklump parts must be processed in brine to remove any trace of their venom before being used in cookery.

Fournier died in prison, and his celebrated garden, neglected after the closure of Chez Fournier, was stripped of its more colourful denizens and plants by local residents. The Horklump (believed by many to be nothing more than a fungus, one assumes) was among the creatures that were transplanted into other French gardens; it spread from those gardens across Europe, where it thrives. All efforts to eradicate the presence of Horklumps in English kitchen gardens have failed, some more miserably than others. In 1802, a giant African snail with a colour-changing shell called a Streeler was introduced to the Ministry Gardens, and while the Streeler's slime did kill the Horklumps, it also disintegrated most of the rest of the Gardens (Streelers are now considered Class XXX {Vexatious} creatures because of their caustic slime and the fact that they have no natural predators outside of Africa). It was not until Head Gardener Frederick Banks introduced garden gnomes to the Ministry Gardens that its Horklump infestation was controlled. Today, gnomes are the only known and accepted form of Horklump control in all of Magical Britain.

The Anatomy of a "Pest" and Some Non-Culinary Uses for It

Because of the Horklump's poor reputation, efforts to study it have been rare. Many people, including herbologists, continue to persist in the assumption that, because the Horklump resembles a mushroom, it is not an animal, no matter its entry in Scamander's Beasts. Perhaps if that gentleman had been more thorough in his treatment of the creature the need for further education about it would not be an issue. I will attempt to remedy Scamander's failure here by providing information about the Horklump's anatomy, reproduction, locomotion, feeding behaviour, excretion, and uses in brewing.

The Horklump has a bulbous, pinkish-white and black-bristled head (referred to as its "cap"). Its thick, columnar body (referred to as its "stalk") terminates in a foot (the plural form of which is "foots"). The Horklump uses its foot to anchor itself to the earth. Growing just above the foot of the Horklump are serpentine appendages (referred to as "tentacles"), which the animal uses as aids in both eating and locomotion. The Horklump does not have eyes; it "sees" with the use of visually imperceptible sensing organs (referred to as "hairs") on its cap and stalk. No organ for hearing or tasting has been observed in the Horklump. Horklumps reproduce by budding; the buds are referred to as "fungules." Fungules typically appear at the base of the stalk above the tentacles, but they have been observed on the caps and, rarely, on the tentacles of Horklumps living in particularly worm-rich environments. Fungules absorb their nutrition from their parents until their bristles grow in, and then they snap off to seek earth of their own. To move, the Horklump pulls itself from the earth with its tentacles and balances its foot with them as it walks. The "bristles" on the Horklump's cap are actually proboscides. The Horklump searches for food with its tentacles by digging into the earth around its foot for worms; when it secures one, the Horklump pierces the worm upon a proboscis, injects a caustic venom into the worm, and then sucks the worm's liquified organs into itself through its bristle. Horklump excretion takes place through its foot; its sandy waste, expelled through an orifice referred to as its "toe," provides nutrition for the soil, but its dung, like its venom, is considered a skin irritant.

The Horklump's properties of irritation have made it a subject of interest to at least one member of the International Guild of Potions Masters. In his article, "Unusual Caustic Agents and Potions," which appeared in the March 1983 edition of The Crafte of Brewing, Severus Snape discusses three applications for the Horklump's venom. The first application is something of an irony; Mr Snape finds Horklump venom an acceptable base for corrosive poisons, one of which, when injected into the flesh of Streelers, disintegrates them from the inside out without harming their colourful shells. Mr Snape has also found that Horklump venom, when processed with Doxy blood, serves as an excellent cauldron cleaning fluid; he patented this formulation as "Clumps' Cauldron Cleaner" in 2003. Further, Mr Snape has demonstrated that Horklump venom can be used to process other, more caustic potions ingredients towards rendering them more effective in brewing. In addition, Mr Snape is currently experimenting with the combination of the Horklump's venom and its pulverised flesh towards producing an effective but innocuous glue.

The Harmfulness of Horklumps

The typical reaction of an individual to Horklump venom and dung is a rash that fades after an approximate 24-hour period of redness and itching. For those more allergic to the venom, however, the effects are rash, boils (both internal and external), and suffocation as the boils swell inside the throat and lungs of the afflicted person. Such was the unfortunate fate of Fournier's patron, who suffocated after ingesting Horklump venom, and such was almost the fate of Miss Rose Weasley, who resides at the Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole, Devon, England, on 5 July of this year.

On the morning of the fifth, Miss Weasley and I were collecting Horklumps in her family's garden on behalf of her grandmother, who, by virtue of having a competent French chef in the family, is in possession of a safe recipe for Horklump Stew. We were carefully de-bristling the Horklumps when a gnome leapt at and startled Miss Weasley, and she was pierced by a proboscis. An angry welt appeared on her finger, her hand began to swell with the redness radiating up her arm, and she became short of breath. I raised the alarm as boils appeared on her skin, and Miss Weasley's mother and grandmother examined her to discover that boils were also developing in her mouth and throat. If not for Mrs Molly Weasley's immediate efforts with the anti-inflammatory potion, Hives-Behind-Me, and Mrs Granger-Weasley's subsequent employment of a systemic anti-inflammatory spell, Miss Weasley surely would have suffocated to death.

Before this incident, none of us was aware of the threat that Horklumps pose, and we find the Ministry's Class X (Boring) designation of it to be irresponsible at best, and criminally misleading at worst. Having scanned "Illnesses and Injuries of 2021," the annual report published by St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, I have discovered that last year, there were 27 incidents of Horklump-related rash and two near-suffocations that can be attributed to the creature's venom. Such statistics give me pause; what would have happened to those individuals had they not been able to go to St Mungo's? Surely these incidents, Miss Weasley's Horklump encounter, Mr Snape's research, and the historical account of Fournier should be enough to persuade the Pest Advisory Board to investigate the matter of the Horklump before recommending to the Office of Misinformation that it be reclassified from "Boring" to "Dangerous."

Because I understand that serving on the Pest Advisory Board can be a challenge given its sad tradition of being underfunded, I am available to discuss remedies to that situation. Indeed, in the spirit of being useful, I shall be mentioning this issue to Mrs Skeeter-Lockhart, Assistant Editor of The Daily Prophet, when she interviews me and Miss Weasley on our first Hogsmeade weekend about Miss Weasley's brush with death. I am certain that Mrs Skeeter-Lockhart will have no problem publicising the Horklump issue, and that she will be eager to discuss it with you. Further, I expect that her article will excite the public's interest in the function of the Pest Advisory Board, which may have some bearing on its future funding.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you feel that I may be of further use to you with regard to this matter, and thank you for your Ministerial service. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Sincerely,

Scorpius H. Malfoy