Chapter 7 : The Grey Lady
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Beta Read By: PhoenixStorm and Jessi_Rose
Title: The Grey Lady of Ravenclaw
Rating/Warning: 15+ (substance use/abuse)
For the Staff: Thank you, staff, past present and future, for giving me a
jolly good romp through the Harry Potter universe. It is a wondrous,
diverse and multi-facetted world you have created for us, and you've given
this old housewife more fun-filled hours than she has a right to at her age.
Also, thank you, Dobby101 & Elf ears13 for the invitation to join this happy project.
Croeso cynnes i chi . . . a warm welcome to you.
Oh . . . dear child! Shh . . .please donít be startled. Why, youíve seen ghosts before, surely? At the Feast earlier this evening, remember?
Yes, I was there . . . I was one of the many spirits flitting about the Great Hall. We Ďflit aboutí quite well, donít you think? It was I, hovering just to your left when you were Sorted into Ravenclaw . . . and . . . yes, that was me, the ghost lady.
Yes, youíre right, I did wake you. I do apologize, but I thought you and I should have a little chat. May I sit on your bed? Bless you . . . yes, thatís much more comfortable. Of course, comfort to a ghost is a rather relative thing. So is sitting for that matter. What? No, donít worry about the others, they canít hear me if I choose it. They shall not invade on our privacy, for this little talk is just between you and I.
Let me extend my congratulations. Youíve entered a noble House, steeped in the finest traditions of learning, scholarship and intelligence. You should be proud! Youíve met your Prefects and your Head of House, Professor Flitwick? Iím sure you will find him an accomplished and kind advisor.
Youíre settling in well, are you? Ahhh, most excellent . . . really well done! I can see you are an intelligent, capable child, and I think you and I shall get along famously here at Hogwarts.
I? Why, I am The Grey Lady, the official ghost of Ravenclaw House. I like to visit this Tower late on the first few nights of each school term, to make sure that all is as it should be. New students may have a difficult time adjusting to their new surroundings, and I, well . . . a dweud y gwir, I like to help ease their way.
I also have a special reason . . . a personal mission, if you will. You see, I search every new child coming into Ravenclaw, looking for that special little something, that spark that may set them apart from the others. I like to single out these students, you see . . . single them out for special devotion and care. I become their mentor, their private teacher, counselor and confidante. Itís my little way of contributing to the success of this institution.
This year, I have chosen you.
You seem surprised! How did I choose you? Oh, there are a thousand and one clues to look for, if one cares to take the time. And of course a ghost has all the time in the world . . . and beyond it, for that matter. For instance, I noted the heavy satchel dragging upon your shoulder as you entered the grounds. You refused to leave it with the rest of your baggage, unlike the other students. You even took it to the Feast with you. Books, Iím assuming? Yes, I thought so. And you tried to engage your fellow students in conversation about . . . what was it? . . . yes, a comparison of Flordisiís theorems of magical origination with Lotrangleís. You met with a fair amount of blank stares and stony silence, didnít you?
Well, my dear, you are learning one of the harder lessons of the gifted. Not everyone cares to help slack our thirst for knowledge. We are rare folk, you and I, so Iíd like to help you on your way here at school, and make your time here a pleasant one. You will learn wonders here, oh yes, things your imagination dared not dream of. Of course there will be the mundane to muddle through, but that exercise in itself is a valuable learning tool as well.
Name?! Why I. . . well, my goodness! No one has asked that question of me for . . . letís see . . . nearly a hundred and twenty-five years, at least! Oh no, you mistake me -- I am not offended. Far from it! I am just surprised, and for a seven-hundred year old ghost to be surprised is no small thing!
In life, I was Eirian ferch Brynmore Llwyd. Quite a mouthful, isnít it? Why do you think Iím known at The Grey Lady -- much easier to pronounce. Thatís the Welsh for you, long on names and even longer on tales.
My tale? Oh no, you really donít want to know all of . . . really?! You do? Let me see, it was so long ago; even a ghostís memory fades a bit over time. But first, settle in . . . there, thatís cosy, isnít it?
I was born in the year1386 at my Fatherís estate, just outside the village of Morabry in western Cymru; thatís Wales to you, dear. Not familiar with this part of Wales are you? Morabry lies close to the Afon Tywi, the River Towy. Iím sorry, but youíll find I tend to slip from time to time into my native cymraeg -- the welsh, especially when I am reminiscing. It annoys the ruffles off Sir Nicholas, the Gryffindor spirit. ĎLady Eerie,í says he, ĎI donít know why you must revert to that dreadful tongue!í
Have you never been to west Wales? Ah, Cymru -- hen wlad fy'n nhadau, Land of my Fathers! Youíre missing a sight, then: the gentle green hills and valleys, the wooded gorges, and the tangy smell of the sea near the cliffs and sands. Thatís where our house stood, on the limestone crag over-looking the great docks. It was a tortuous climb up from the beaches; it was no wonder that the only ones living there were magical folk, for how else could you get there but by broom or Apparation?
Of course, by Ďhouseí, I really mean it was a small castle. Only the Muggle peasants and the low-born actually had Ďhousesí then. Nothing so grand as Hogwarts mind you, but it was fine by the dayís standards. Grandfather Llwyd ap Talfryn moved the family there, to the site of a long-decayed Roman-Wizard settlement, and it was he who orchestrated the teams of builder wizards in constructing the castle. Cracks used to appear regularly in the walls from the settling ruins (I think he skimped a bit on the stabilisation spells), but he just patched things up on his own -- never let anyone help. Thatís one of my earliest memories of him; stalking about the stone walls well into his ninth decade, his wand at the ready, muttering ďReparo!Ē under his breath.
Oops -- you are quite right. Iíve gone and floated to the ceiling, havenít I? Happens sometimes when I lose my concentration. There . . . back onto the bed. Now, where was I . . .?
Father was Brynmore ap Llwyd, a great warrior wizard in his own day. He was a general in the Great Goblin Wars of 1370, you know, quite a renowned hero. He returned from battle a titled and rich man, married a young witch fabled for her comeliness as well as her quick wit, and settled upon his fatherís estate, which was his due as the eldest son. There he spent his days hawking hippogriffs (he raised a prize herd) and drinking mead. He was no drunkard, mind you; just . . . merry. He died three years before I did, in an unfortunate accident separating two broody female hippogriffs.
My Mother, Morwenna ferch Arvel ap Talfryn, was daughter to Grandfatherís cousin, and as I said before, a legendary beauty. She had little patience for that however; if a visiting bard or poet began to wax poetic about her Ďcelestial azure eyesí or the Ďwillowy graceí of her figure, she used to sniff and say, ďHow tiresome,Ē before abruptly leaving the room. No, her passion was learning and knowledge of almost any kind, and she used to drink it as my Father devoured his kegs. Mother would send to the far kingdoms and invite scholars and learned wizards and witches to her side to discuss any number of topics. I believe it was at her knee that I began my life-long love of learning and the written word.
Interesting, really. For it was, after all, my love of books that killed me.
As I was saying, I considered myself lucky. My Mother taught me to read early, in an era when young girls were pushed to learn embroidery spells before learning their letters. She had amassed a great library at our home, and it was there I spent the majority of my childhood. Iíve often wondered what happened to that library after we all died.
My two brothers, of course, took after our Father, and since they were older than I by several years, they were off and away to the Wars almost before I could remember them. Cefin was the eldest; he fell to an especially nasty curse accidentally hurled by one of his own men at the Battle on Magical Rock in 1402. Aled succumbed to the Black Death, as did my sister Meinir, and both of their young families the following year.
And here we come to the personal tragic part of my story, my own death. Oh no, I donít mind speaking of it -- youíll find we ghosts are strangely rather fond of speaking of our own demise. ĎTis owing to our morbid sense of humour, I suspect.
Youíve heard of the Black Death, I suppose -- the Bubonic Plague the Muggle scientists now call it. It swept through great portions of Europe throughout the fourteenth century and beyond, killing nearly a third of all people, Muggle and wizard alike. No one knew how The Great Mortality was spread in those days, though there were many theories. Some thought tíwas brought about by evil demons roaming the land, casting the spell of Pestilence upon any they met. Some thought it came from dreams sent by the Devil during sleep, and still others believed it the wrath of God.
Whatever it was, whatever the cause, it took my Mother in autumn of 1404. One moment she was walking about, overseeing the work of the house-elves at their tapestries (our tapestries were known across the breadth of Cymru and beyond; some survive to this day and hang in the halls of the Ministry for Magic), and the next she succumbed to a host of dreadful fevers and spasms throughout her body, and by the next morning she was dead. Within an hour of her death, the house-elves began to fall where they stood, one by one, like tiny little saplings in a spring storm. We had a number of servants, and they ran off or Apparated away within days of Motherís death for fear of the Plague The hippogriffs flew off and, Iím assuming, became feral.
So there I was, a fortnight later, completely alone and rattling away in the empty ancestral Talfryn Castle, exactly like the spirit I was to become.
Sad? Well, yes, I have some memory of being sad -- Iím sure I was, given all that had happened. You should understand, my dear, that a ghost rarely experiences or even remembers the strong emotions of their past life. They are detached things, no longer a part of me, like a faded dream.
Anyway, some weeks before The Great Mortality reared its diseased head on our shores, I was expecting the arrival of a parcel, a very special book that I had obtained through a purchasing agent located in the North Country. Through a series of Motherís connections (and no small amount of Fatherís gold) I had arranged for The Black Book of Muraurum . . . yes! My! You are a clever child! I see that you know that this is the book containing the early history of none other than Merlin himself.
As I was saying, the Black Book of Muraurum was purchased from a Muggle shopkeeper, who insisted on sending the book by his own bonded journeyman. Very tedious, I know, but you must remember the time: the Plague was loose about the land, lawlessness abounded and highwaymen were everywhere. An anonymous scrap of parchment left at the front gate informed me that the journeyman had reached Morabry.
I donít know if you can imagine my excitement. Have you ever wanted something so bad, it occupied your every waking hour? I think the thought of that book was all that was keeping me sane during that wretched time, all that I had to look to the future for. But something else kept me from leaping upon my broom and sailing down to the village.
The great docks near Morabry were an important embarkation arena because they were on the ferry routes across the Tywi and Taf to Pembrokeshire and hence to Ireland. Pilgrims passed this way to St Davids, and important holy place for the Muggle faithful. I remember taking walks as a child with Grandfather along the craggy heights above the port, peering down as the ships disgorged their flocks of white clad pilgrims, occasionally dotted with the brown home-spun robes of the religieuse escorting them. ďYou stay away from the likes of them, Eirian,Ē warned Grandfather, ďour kind and them -- we donít mix.Ē Rumours already abounded in the village about us, of the clan of witches living in the castle on the rocks, and the religieuse who passed the cliff base would wave the talismans about their necks in our direction and avert their eyes. Grandfather told me what these pious people did to other Muggles suspected of being witches, and it gave me nightmares several nights hence.
I can see by the trepidation in your eyes, young one, that you have guessed what happened next. Yes, I did overcome my fear, and venture down to the village to retrieve my book, and yes, I did encounter a crowd of angry, frightened Muggles, driven quite mad with their grief and fear of the Plague. As most people do in times of great turmoil and peril, they looked about for the most convenient scapegoat to blame for the Black Death that swept their numbers, and then I strolled down the main road. I was surrounded before I knew it and overcome.
How, you ask, did a group of ordinary Muggles overcome a true witch? I would like to say that I fought bravely, standing my ground to the last, spinning spells and curses about like a fierce gale. But to be brutally honest, it was a well-aimed brick contacting with my skull that brought the encounter to its unfortunate end.
I woke later, groggy and disorientated on a damp, stone floor. A gruff voice said, ďYou will remain here, witch, until we decide what to do with you.Ē I looked up and beheld a scraggly group of Muggles at the door, a single flickering torch illuminating them from behind so that I was unable to perceive their faces. ďAnd here . . . take your Devilís Book. Itíll do you no good here!Ē And one man flung out his arm and an object flew at me, landing with a slap by my hand. There was a rumbling of laughter and growls, the slam of a heavy door, and the men were gone.
Fortunately, they left the torch behind them, stuck in the bracket on the wall outside of the cell, for indeed, that was what I was in. Unfortunately, I recognised where I was. This was a cell in the dungeons below my own home, Talfryn Castle. And of course, being the dungeon created by a wizard and expected to hold only wizarding folk, it was warded with charms and spells to imprison those with magical abilities.
In other words, I was stuck.
I donít know what happened to the rabble who placed me there, for I never saw them again. I perished some days later, of thirst and hunger, the precious book I had risked my life for clutched to my breast. The true irony? I was only able to read a few pages; the torch sputtered out within an hour of my imprisonment.
Biti ynte neu dyna bite. What a pity!
You now know the true nature of my existence, such as it was. I do not haunt the halls of Hogwarts merely because it is my old school. My haunting is because of that book, The Black Book of Muraurum. Wherever it goes, I follow. It was my last great obsession in life, and because of it, I was consigned to oblivion.
After passing through a number of hands, the Book was acquired by Headmistress Dilys Derwent and brought here to Hogwarts and along with it came the incorporeal me, The Grey Lady. Seems the Headmistress was installing ghosts to the four houses and I was the last to arrive, right after The Fat Friar. Of course, I took an immediate and dim view of The Friar, given my previous unlucky encounter with other religieuse, but heís such a jolly good fellow, no one can remain aloof from him for long.
So I became part of the fabled ghosts of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Of my installation into Ravenclaw House, I am most pleased. With its traditions of learning, scholarship and intelligence I find a comfortable niche. In fact, I often fit into a comfortable niche, right beside the fireplace, should you ever have need of me. It has been a good afterlife, I must say. The other spirits here are a varied and colourful lot, and our community is both dreadful (in the best sense of the word) and stimulating. The Bloody Baronís manners are atrocious, of course; I donít know how many times Iíve been run-through with that pig-sticker of his. Peevesís little tricks (Iím sure you will encounter him soon) can be a tad tiresome, but even he has his endearing moments.
I also enjoy a pleasing and mentally challenging relationship with some of the living staff, and I can often be found in either the Library or in the classrooms, so do give a wave as you pass by. Itís very pleasing to a ghost to be acknowledged by the living. I suppose it all comes down to respect, doesnít it, my dear? The professors demand it of the students, and we see no reason why the dead shouldnít share the regard enjoyed by the staff. Remember, a ghost never retires. We contribute to and maintain the ideals of this great institution, and will continue to do so for eternity.
And now I see your eyes growing heavy, child, so I think our conversation must conclude for the night. There will be plenty of time later for more questions; after all, a spirit has nothing but time!
So settle in, little one, and rest safe in the knowledge that while most of Hogwarts sleeps, there will be one looking after you who never slumbers.
Good night . . . Noswaith dda.
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