Characters: Harry Potter, Kreacher, Luna Lovegood
Warning (highlight to view): For a plaguey cheese, and its requisite ick.
Word Count: 1304
Summary: There were advantages to sharing Grimmauld Place with Luna, but receiving her "gifts" wasn't one of them.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction 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 fan work.
Author's Note: eaivalefay prompted me with Harry and Luna (gen or het, at your preference); cheese, meridian, vigilant. Thank you, shiv5468, for beta'ing. Cross-posted to aunt_meg.
Luna, on assignment in Derbyshire, had owled him that morning to look out for a gift at the meridian, so Harry wasn't particularly alarmed when a large ball—yes, a perfect sphere—of "Magical, Magnificent" Stilton, or so its wrapper proclaimed, popped! into existence above his head around midday. Except for being globe-shaped, the cheese didn't appear anything out of the ordinary, so Harry felt no need to be vigilant in its presence as he plucked it from the air and carried it into the kitchen. Kreacher's reaction to it was a surprise, however.
"Master brings the cursed cheese into Kreacher's kitchen!" he shrieked, leaping back and scowling.
Puzzled, Harry set the cheese down and rummaged through a nearby drawer for a knife, but before he could question Kreacher, the cheese flew back up into the air, knocking him hard on the chin as it regained altitude.
"Vanish it! Vanish the cursed cheese, Master!"
"Kreacher, it's just 'magical' and, er, 'magnificent'," he said, peering at the cheese's label, "if a bit lively."
"Foolish wizard," muttered Kreacher, before smacking himself for his insult.
"Hey!" Harry exclaimed, both at Kreacher's action and the cheese's.
He'd tried to seize it again, but the Stilton had simply slipped through his fingers and floated higher above his head—coming down once to bonk him on it before settling into a peaceful hover.
"Right, Luna sent it. Perhaps there is something off about the cheese. Kreacher, I—"
Harry looked around. Kreacher was gone. He shook his head.
Clearly, there was something odd about this cheese, but there was no way he could ask Luna about it; "Derbyshire" was the only direction she'd given him, and she didn't like being contacted when hunting creatures.
"What was she looking for, again?" Harry murmured, stepping onto a chair and reaching again for the cheese.
The ball of Stilton quivered a bit, and then "charged" him, knocking Harry to the floor.
"Damn it! Fine, I won't eat you."
That seemed to calm the Stilton, which came back down to rest on the benchtop. Cautiously, he closed the silverware drawer. The cheese didn't move. Harry took a tentative step towards the benchtop. Still, the cheese didn't move. Harry's stomach grumbled, and forgetting his caution, he dived atop the cheese, clutching it to his chest—only to release the Stilton as it squelched and began to emit a nephelosphere of vile stench.
"What the hell?"
To Harry's horror, he found himself covered in . . . something bloody awful, and the cheese, he discovered, had broken out into buboes. He barely made it to the sink before sicking up.
"You see?" demanded Kreacher. "Cursed!"
"Leave . . . it. Leave it . . . alone!" Harry insisted, while he finished retching. As he straightened up, Kreacher spelled him clean, and then they both turned their widened eyes back to the diseased Stilton.
"Plague? Luna's 'gift' has plague? Is that even possible?"
"Master knows best," Kreacher snapped, from wherever it was he was hiding.
"Try to, er, contain it," Harry told him, as the dripping cheese started to hover again.
Kreacher zapped the cheese with some sort of house-elf magic. There was a fizz, and then . . . .
A wave of revulsion rolled through Harry as he lay on the floor, trying not to think about what now coated him, his house-elf, and his kitchen. Above him, the Stilton loomed, menacingly, Harry thought. He quickly rolled out from under it and was just pushing himself up off the floor when he heard the familiar fwoosh! of the Floo.
"Luna! For Merlin's sake, get in here and deal with this cursed cheese!"
The sound of footsteps met his ears, footsteps, and Kreacher's dark mutterings.
Harry looked from Luna around the kitchen to the cheese and then back again. "Would you please," he said, wiping himself off with an unbesmirched square of shirt sleeve, "please tell me why in Merlin's name you thought I'd want a genuinely plaguey ball of Stilton as a gift?"
"It's not for you, silly. It's for the magical wing of the British Museum. Didn't I say? Perhaps I didn't, but I'd hoped that you'd understand not to eat it. Stilton isn't customarily sold in spheres."
Harry made a hand gesture that he hoped, among other things, conveyed his desire for additional information.
"It's not legal, you see, to remove artifacts from the Eyam archaeological site, so of course I had to find another way of getting him out."
"'Him'?" Harry asked, eyeing the Stilton warily as he spelled himself clean.
"Well, not so much a him as a collection of his memories. They're very powerful ones, filled with despair—that isn't surprising, considering how he died."
With the ease of having been Luna's house mate for several years, Harry forced himself to remain calm in the face of her so-called explanation. "I've never heard of memories having a personality. Are you saying that you hid them in that cheese?"
"You understand perfectly." Luna beamed at him.
"No, I really don't."
Luna swished, flicked, and twirled her wand, setting the kitchen back to rights before taking a seat at the table. Harry joined her. Kreacher, he noticed, had stopped muttering; his raspy breathing, however, had grown more pronounced.
Luna continued. "So, what I think is that, being isolated—the people of Eyam made a pact to remain quarantined when they became a plague village—this man drew out his memories so they wouldn't, well, plague him while he pretended to be a Muggle, and all his negative emotions corroded the stopper of the phial in which they were being kept. That's how I discovered it behind the wall in the inn at which I was staying. I don't think the house was always an inn."
"You don't say?" Harry asked.
Missing the rhetorical nature of his question entirely, Luna replied, "I just did, Harry. In any case, I thought it best to turn over an important historical reference to the appropriate authorities before it had entirely leaked out its miserable information. If I'd left the phial in the wall, who knows how it might have affected other guests?"
"You said something about a dig site?"
"Oh, well, the inn's very close to the site, so close that I thought the people in charge of it might be too interested in the phial for me to take it away."
"But how would they have known?"
"The Whisperwills might have told them about it. The inn was infested with them."
"If you're very disappointed about the cheese, I could fetch a proper Stilton for you. I know a lovely recipe for Stilton Tomato Puffs."
Harry's stomach threatened him in a very clear manner about what it would do should he dare to partake of any form of dish involving Stilton. Compressing his lips, he shook his head.
"Oh, then in that case, I'll just," Luna said, flicking her wand at the cheese ball, which was considerably smaller now as it hung loosely in the air, a phial protruding from its disgusting mass, "take the phial and go—but I should be home for dinner."
"That's . . . great, Luna. Sadly, I think I'll be down the pub tonight."
"Well, don't eat anything pickled there. I've reason to believe Tom's using enchanted brine, and—"
"Not to worry. I, er, had a big breakfast. I might not even want dinner."
Luna shook her head at him. "It's not healthy to avoid meals, you know."
When she'd gone, Harry looked at Kreacher to find him staring at him. "Let's just forget about this, shall we?"
"Yes, Master. Kreacher will forget this as Kreacher forgets all the things that Master's Luna does to pla—vex him!"
As Kreacher left the room in an explosive burst of sound, Harry sighed. There were advantages to sharing Grimmauld Place with Luna, but receiving her "gifts" wasn't one of them.