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Halfway To Infinity by Eponine
Chapter 7 : Chapter Six: The Somber Spirit
 
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Author's Note: I hope you all like this chapter! And I hope you all will join me in wondering what I would do if I didn't have TheBird and Deanine. My stories would make absolutely no sense, that's what. So woot for them!

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Chapter Six: The Somber Spirit

Weeks passed faster than Lottie would have imagined. Never having been in school, all she had for references were the old stories her mother used to tell her of her grandparents’ experiences in old boarding schools, all of which were destroyed by the Death Eaters long ago. Since she was only a first year, she had time to relax in the common room after she had finished her homework, unlike the upper classmen who spent nearly all of their free time hunched over books.

She took a great liking to a game called Gobstones. It was very similar to marbles, which she used to play with her old friends, except that each Gobstone squirted sticky goo at the unfortunate loser. It was a very entertaining pastime, though she could only play it about once a week, as to not use up too much of her limited soap supply.

September quickly turned into October, and the weather got much colder. Lottie was suddenly very thankful for the sweaters and scarves the school provided. The first years had finally started learning actual magic in Charms and Transfiguration. Lottie was now able to turn a match into a needle, but she was still behind her Charms class and had not yet succeeded with the spell, Lumos. According to Professor Stainthorpe, her thoughts were not illuminating enough while she tried to light her wand.

She excelled, though, in Potions, where she was always the first to finish her concoction, and always had done it the most accurately. By late October, she was getting special tutoring to be ahead of the class.

The Wednesday of Halloween, Lottie had been shocked to see what a festive mood everybody was in. Halloween at the Camp meant Death Eaters going on rampages and destroying everything. Often people would walk down the streets on November first to find bodies piled on the streets, mangled and wide-eyed. This day, though, she walked into the Great Hall to find pumpkins decorating every table and all of the red vested prefects in flimsy bat-shaped masks.

Lottie sat down next to Julianne who smiled at her, halfway through a bowl of extremely sugared oatmeal. “The Maeliorics have a half-day today,” she informed Lottie. “They don’t have to go to any of their classes after lunch! We’ve still got Occlumency and Legilimency, though. Palmyitor says it’s too important for us to miss a day.”

Lottie groaned. “Everything is too important for her.” She stole a glance over at the Maelioric table, where Colm was there to return a smirk. “But everybody knows that the Maeliorics are just the ones who didn’t have enough skills to do anything else.”

Julianne shrugged and continued to pick at her food. Lottie sighed and a sipped her orange juice in response. Julianne was nice company, but she wasn’t very fun to talk to and had become close friends with the other Palmyitor girl, Sophie. Andrea didn’t get along with anybody, so Lottie found herself without a close friend. She had been getting along fine without one, though, and decided that it was very possible to go through all seven years the same way.

The bell rang, forcing Lottie to gulp down all of her orange juice before running to Transfiguration. Having now mastered their first Transfiguration, the first years were now forced to sit through the theory and explanation of new spells before they were allowed to go to their next class, History.

At first, Lottie was looking forward to History. The Palmyitors were in a class all by themselves, and although it was still History of Magic, it had added emphasis on war and spying tactics. After two classes, though, the subject proved to be extremely dull. Students were first forced to memorize a series of wizard wars, who the spies were, what their strategy was, whether or not they succeeded and why. After, they memorized the same sequence of questions with goblin wars. Lottie had already began to dread each class. Not only was it boring, but she had to pay attention and take notes or else fall behind.

After an exam on two sets of goblin wars and another set of long notes in Occlumency and Legilimency, the students were finally released to enjoy the rest of the holiday.

A group of Maeliorics laughed as Lottie trudged by. “Shut up, will you?” she snapped at them. “It’s not my fault that your classes are so simple that you can miss as many days as you want and not be behind.”

Colm Scrivener, the most annoying Maelioric, laughed out loud. “Oh you’re just bitter because you have to go to extra classes. No need to take it out on us. We’re a month ahead of schedule, which is why we get the day off.”

“You’re ahead of schedule,” Lottie snarled, “because all you learn is how to shoot sparks at targets.” She smiled in a falsely sweet way and stomped back to her common room. Lottie turned the hands on the clock to read seventeen minutes after four (the time changed every few weeks) and crawled through it, though she had more trouble pulling her bag full of books inside the thin passage.

“Well you look happy to be here,” remarked a bat-masked Stanley. “What happened today, Rowe?”

Lottie sighed and fell onto the couch. “The stupid Maeliorics got the day off. They’re just rubbing it my face.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said with a wave of his hand. “They always get half of Halloween off. Maelioric claims it’s because they’re ahead of schedule, but really he just loves Halloween too much to deal with his students.”

Lottie was comforted by this thought and made a mental note to tell Colm Scrivener next time she saw him. “Besides,” Stanley continued, “We’ve got a feast tonight! No need to look so grim. The Halloween feast is always the best.” Lottie didn’t want to tell him that a feast probably would have been more fun with a friend, so she just shrugged in response and opened her history book to start some homework.

“Ah, come on now, Rowe.” Stanley shut the book. “Who does homework on Halloween?”

“Well it’s due tomorrow, isn’t it?”

“None of the teachers care if you’ve got it done or not. They don’t really expect anybody to do the homework on Halloween. That’d just be stupid, don’t you think? Today’s supposed to be fun!” He threw her book back into her bag. “Go on and put that stuff upstairs. Langley is sneaking some food up here for the evening!”

Lottie smiled at him and swung her bag over her shoulder. “Alright,” she said and ran to the stairs. “Be right back!”

Downstairs in the dormitory, she found Andrea sitting on her bed, her nose in her history book. “Stanley says that nobody actually does homework on Halloween,” Lottie said loudly as she dropped her bag on her bed. “They’re going to have a party in the common room.”

“Yes, well, I’m going to sit here and finish my homework.” Andrea shut her history book and pulled out her book for Potions.

“Oh, you just need to finish the extra essay Dyer gave you for your dreadful Potion last week.” Lottie ran out of the room, shouting, “Have fun with your extra homework!”

Up in the common room, Stanley’s friend Langley was sitting in the best armchair with his duffle bag on his lap. “C’mon, Langley, where’s the food?” Stanley demanded. “I’m not keeping my part of the bargain if you don’t keep yours.”

“I’m offended,” Langley said, slapping a hand to his chest melodramatically. “You think I wouldn’t get you food like I promised? After I go through so much personal risk to bring this to you, all you can think of is the food. Nothing even close to a ‘thank you Langley.’ All you do is take! Take, take, take, take--”

“Oh shut up, Fungus!” Stanley playfully hit him over the head. Nobody had ever told Lottie why everybody called Langley Fungus, but she assumed it had to do with the time he used up all of his soap months before he was going to get another bar.

“Fine, fine, but maybe next time you could thank me.” Langley laughed and opened up his duffle. Bottles of pumpkin juice were stuffed in along with large loafs of bread, bags of chocolates and potato crisps.

“Oh excellent!” Stanley said, grabbing one of the bottles. “Good job, Fungus. Knew I could count on you.”

Lottie sat down on the couch and dropped a few of the snacks on her lap. “Where’d you get this food anyway?” she asked through a mouthful of potato crisps.

“I’m sure I’ll be long gone when you find out,” Langley said. “Off serving my purpose as a noble spy in the war, and whatnot. You know how it is.”

Lottie laughed, suddenly wishing she was older and could make friends with Langley and Stanley and all of the upperclassmen. They made such better company than all of the first years. She enjoyed herself very much, listening to their complaints and stories about their own years at Alsemore before Stanley announced that it was about time to head down to the Great Hall for the feast.

The Great Hall was even more decorated than it had been in the morning. Giant spiders hung from webs on the ceiling and the pumpkins had now been carved into jack-O-lanterns. Lottie took a seat next to Stanley on the bench before her empty place setting. She had been getting an uncomfortable feeling that he wanted to be a mentor, not a friend, but couldn’t find it in his heart to leave a friendless first year all alone. He was a prefect, after all.

Clynalmoy stood before the chattering students and waved a hand. Silence slowly crept over the Great Hall. “I hope that today was more of a relaxed day than the last month,” he said with a smile.

Hurriedly, Palmyitor stood up, and added, “Because it is not going to get any easier.”

Maelioric cut in the students’ complaints with, “But for tonight, dig in!” He clapped his hands and food piled up before the students, but Lottie noticed the extra sweets dispersed across the table.

She piled her plate with potatoes, steak, and vegetables, but also with brightly wrapped candy and chocolate cakes. “Want to see if you can kill the house-elves?” Stanley asked, eyeing the amount of food on her plate. Lottie wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, so she just muttered something incomprehensible through a mouth of food.

Her plate was still half full when she heard it. The noise was faint, but Lottie could make out a moaning sound. It sounded like a very far away and old building’s support squeaking, or maybe a dying cat. “Do you hear that?” she asked, turning to Stanley.

“What?”

“That noise. Listen!”

He closed his eyes and furrowed his brow, apparently listening hard. “No, I don’t hear anything. It’s probably just some sort of scary decoration you’re hearing. A prank or something.”

Lottie frowned and kept eating, though she was distracted through the rest of the feast by the noise. Finally when all of the students were beginning to leave for the comfort of their dormitories, Lottie was able to creep away from her House-mates and follow the sound of the noise.

The sound grew louder the more stairs she climbed. Lottie was nearly out of breath from trying to find the sound, but she was thankful it wasn’t moving. After climbing five sets of stairs and going across seven corridors, the noise was ear splitting. She must have been close, but there was no door in sight, only three paintings and a tapestry.

Suddenly struck by an idea, Lottie pushed aside a tapestry, and gasped when she saw what was behind it. It looked like a girl, maybe a little older than her, but she was transparent, colorless, and it looked like she was floating.

The girl turned around. Lottie screamed and stumbled backwards, through the tapestry. The girl glided easily through the wall and shouted, “Who are you?!”

Lottie stuttered, but couldn’t find an answer to the question. “Wh-what are you?”

“What? Have you never seen a ghost?” The girl sniffled. “Or am I just so ugly that you can’t tell?”

Lottie’s mouth was wide open. “I--I--what? You’re a ghost?”

“Well of course I am,” the girl said huffily. With a dramatic sigh, she added, “I died, didn’t I?”

“You’re dead?!” Lottie’s legs were shaking. “When did you die?”

“I don’t exactly know, anymore,” the ghost said wistfully. “When you’re dead for so long, you start to lose count of years.”

“Why are you here?” Lottie asked, now leaning on the wall for support. “Do--do you haunt the school?”

“Haunt this school?” The ghost seemed amused by the idea. “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know. That’s what ghosts do, isn’t it?”

“I used to haunt a school, but I had to leave because of that horrible Riddle boy. You know, he is reason I’m dead in the first place.”

“Riddle? Riddle killed you? Who is Riddle?”

Tom Riddle,” the ghost said, gliding until she was inches from her face. “You know, the Dark Lord, as they call him these days.”

“You--You were killed by the Dark Lord?!”

The ghost giggled, and floated through the wall Lottie was leaning on and emerged on the other side of her. “Ooh yes,” she said delightfully. “It was positively miserable.”

“Why did he kill you?” Lottie was beginning to lose her fear of the ghost. She had never seen one before, but this girl wasn’t very frightening.

“Well I don’t know. Why do people do anything? Why did Riddle become evil? Why did Harry decide to fight him?” She sighed and began to drift down through the floor. Seeing Lottie’s puzzled expression, she added, “Harry Potter? The Chosen One. The Boy Who Lived?”

Lottie bit her lip. “I’ve heard of a Chosen One before… just in reference, though. Who was he?”

The ghost now had lost all signs that she had been crying. “How do you not know of Harry Potter?” She almost sounded offended. “Everybody knows about Famous Harry Potter.”

“Well, I don’t.” Lottie was beginning to get annoyed with this moody ghost. “Who was he?”

“He was the Boy Who Lived. When he was just a baby he survived one of You-Know-Who’s attacks.”

“But that’s impossible!”

The ghost squealed in delight. “Well that’s what Riddle thought,” she said. “He thought he was invincible, but Harry put him out for over a decade.”

“How? How did the Dark Lord come back?”

“Well, nobody knows, do they? People thought he had died before the battle at the Ministry of Magic.”

Lottie didn’t really understand what she meant by Ministry of Magic, but nodded anyways, desperate not to get the ghost worked up again. “And Harry tried to fight him?”

“He was destined to fight him,” the ghost corrected. “We all thought he would win, but Riddle attacked before he was ready. And Harry died, left this mess behind, and never came to see me again.” She was beginning to tear up again.

“Well he died, what did you expect?” Lottie asked.

“Well I died, didn’t I?!” the ghost shouted. “And I’m still sitting here and talking to you.” She coughed faintly through a sob. “He could have at least had the decency to come and say goodbye.”

Lottie hurriedly changed the subject. “But why are you here now?”

“I had to leave Hogwarts.” She sniffed loudly and wiped away a silver tear. “With all of those terrible Death Eaters who laugh at me… But I always will miss my toilet.”

Lottie didn’t want to ask what Hogwarts was, and she didn’t like this ghost very much. “I’ve got to go,” she said, turning to leave. “Erm… I’ll see you!” Before waiting for the ghost to respond, she began to run down the stairs she had come up to the Great Hall.

Once at the ground floor, she stopped and turned to run down the familiar pathway to the common room. She tried to run as quietly as she could, so as not to get caught by a professor. She had spent too much time with the ghost, and was now out of her common room far too late.

The grandfather clock was in sight. She picked up speed, and got to the clock just in time. Just as she was reaching up to get the hands--

“Rowe!”

Lottie froze. She turned around and felt her stomach drop when she saw a very cross looking Professor Palmyitor standing before her. “What do you think you are doing out this late?”

“I--I was just…” Lottie decided that the truth would be better than trying to think up a complex lie, and then having to defend it. “I heard crying during the feast, so I went to see what it was, and--”

“Miss Rowe, in these dangerous times, you don’t go parading about the school if you think you hear something funny.” Palmyitor narrowed her eyes for a moment, and stared at Lottie. Suddenly, Lottie was reliving her meeting with the ghost. Palmyitor began to speak, and the image suddenly dissolved. “You inform a professor who can--”

“It wasn’t anything dangerous, though!” Lottie felt her face going red. Her head suddenly hurt. It was as though somebody had shaken her in search of something. “It was just a ghost who was crying! She said she came her from--er--Hogsomething.”

Palmyitor raised an eyebrow. “Hogwarts?”

“Yes! That was it! She had to leave Hogwarts because of the Death Eaters.” Lottie took a half step backwards. She suddenly didn’t feel so comfortable being alone with Palmyitor. “And she told me about er--Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, and about--”

“Where did you find this ghost, Miss Rowe?”

“Erm… it was up a lot of stairs. Nearly at the top of the school.”

“Alright, Rowe, get to bed right away.” Without another word, Palmyitor trotted off in the opposite direction.

Trying to repress a smile, she clambered through the clock into the common room. It was nearly deserted when she got there, except for Andrea sitting on the bed with her huge Potions book on her lap.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“Getting myself out of a week’s worth of detention,” Lottie answered with a laugh. “And discussing history with a ghost.”


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