It was with a tone of outrage that Hugo Weasley fell from his seat at the bench in the Great Hall, no matter who would tell one otherwise. With complete control over his motor-related faculties he propelled himself onto the ground, flailing madly, with a cry of anguish so abject as to strike sorrow into the stoutest hearts.
Headmaster Flitwick was amongst those present at the time of these particular happenings, and it was with a heavy heart that he observed the torture of the news he had just relayed. As it happened, the entire Hogwarts congregation was present as these proceedings as well; having been drawn there specifically for the purpose of receiving the news that had sent poor Hugo Weasley into such rolling fits.
Flitwick had known in his heart of hearts that convincing the population of Hogwarts that he had made a mistake in assuming the Tournament would be a go would be the most difficult of his trials; he had arranged a meeting with the Greenlandic Ambassadors to explain the elk hiring situation; and Rose had promised to publish a very angry, blame-riddled errata (although, of course, Flitwick had thought, chuckling to himself, nobody really put it past him in his old age). But presenting this difficult information to the whole of Hogwarts--including the staff--was always going to be the most difficult part, and he was quickly discovering the details as to, exactly, why.
There was Hugo, of course, rolling around on the floor and gasping, as if the idea of canceling the tournament was causing him physical pain; the Slytherin seventh-years brandishing their dinner knives murderously; the Hufflepuffs burying their faces in their arms and their shoulders shaking; the Ravenclaws looking so ruminatively concerned that Flitwick worried they may have erased from their memories the entire seventeenth chapter of Law and Literature
. The staff, though better able to hide their outrage thanks to the gentle tutelage of Passing Time, were not making any considerable effort to submit to the hard-earned maturity and were similarly distressed, banging the stems of their goblets together and one, in particular--and nobody was surprised to see that it was Rubeus Hagrid, looking more and more like a beast each day himself--had stood up from his seat to give a mighty, wordless roar that shook the hall and returned the students to their seats, looking dumbstruck.
It was Hagrid who spoke first, and his voice was hindered by considerable anguish. “Headmaster, yeh got ter understand what news like this is going’ter do teh people! Wha’ about our ‘earts? Wha’ abou’ the holes in our ‘earts?” He placed a giant hand over his chest with an expression equally measured in profundity and sincere sorrow.
Flitwick’s face slipped into a mournful gaze as his eyes traveled over the general populace: no, he had not expected this. Outrage, indignation, insurrection, yes--perhaps even a primordial effort to form an occupation movement. But sorrow, and grief, and sheer sadness had not been on his list of things to expect. Pulling out this list from his pocket to be sure, he checked it and noted with a slight alarm that he had not made provisions for a wide-scale onset of depression around the castle. With exams looming in the distant future Flitwick’s institution could not suffer from a hearty bout of melancholia.
One hated to admit it, but there were ratings to be got from those tests, and the Wizangamot was not feeling particularly friendly towards Hogwarts since Flitwick had accidentally brought five unicorns under the school’s provision. But, to be fair, Flitwick hadn’t any idea that unicorns could be so impressionable. How was he to know that one little stint out of their natural habitat would lead to what it had?
Flitwick’s thinking of unicorns was not completely off-base for the current moment. Such affable coincidence was product of Hugo Weasley’s wailing. The unicorn that had adopted him as surrogate mother came trotting, then, into the Great Hall, followed by the school nurse, who had used it as a pack mule for the transportation of several pounds of Honeyduke’s finest.
“Headmaster, I believe some chocolate is in order,” she called as she began to pass the golden packaging down the house tables. Flitwick was quickly becoming very alarmed; the students vaguely poked at the wrapped bars as they passed by, sometimes dripping them with a few tears off the tips of their noses.
The rest of the feast passed in a mournful silence, like a memorial to the spirit lost this dreadful night.
Hugo Weasley had just sent his unicorn back to the stables and, his eyes still swimming from the bright silver of its hide, was moping around a corner, his shoulders slumped to resemble twin peaks of a mournful mountain. His footsteps echoed dimly across the flagstone floors and the walls full of tapestries and portraits. One of the portraits, a flaxen-haired Edwardian dandy, proffered a tissue in Hugo’s direction consolingly, but Hugo blundered on, stupid and numb.
He found the side of his face pressed up against the cold and wooden door to the prefect’s bath. It seemed to sense his distress and swung open at the choked-up utterance of the password of a yesteryear, and so then Hugo’s face made its way to rest upon a brightly golden tap at the edge of the giant ceramic basin. He fiddled with it for a moment before deciding that it would probably be easier to end his miseries in a bath that did not smell so sweetly as to prolong his life with pleasure, so he declined to spin the lever and instead began to fill the bath with water. It did not take long, but he could only manage to skim his fingers across the warm surface, having laid himself down, stomach pressed into the warm floors, alongside the edge.
“You’re not a prefect, are you?” a voice asked, resonating slightly in the large room.
“No,” Hugo responded, not turning his head. He sighed. He was used to that question. “Quidditch captain.”
There was a pause. “I see,” the voice said, sounding a trifle sad. Hugo understood sadness. He nodded as though to signal this. “What team?”
“Gryffind--” Hugo began, but quickly snapped his head around to see who could possibly be asking him what House he led. It was with a jolt that he realized it was not a person at all, but a ghost; a boy who looked about his age with dark hair, light eyes, and very pronounced cheekbones. Hugo thought he recognized him from somewhere, but given the circumstances, could not understand how this was possible.
“Who are you?” he asked the ghost, who looked very sad. Hugo thought they could probably be friends in their sadness; sadness buddies, sadness friends. Something Rose might have said was “suitably ironic.”
“My name is Cedric Diggory,” the ghost said, and Hugo knew he had heard the name Diggory before--it seemed to him very important as a name he might know, but he couldn’t place it exactly. “Until about an hour ago, ghost time, I was sitting on a rock by a sea-side inn eating Ghosted Flakes. But now I’m here, and I’m still hungry.” Cedric Diggory’s handsome eyebrows drew together in the middle of his forehead and Hugo dragged himself up to pat the boy on the shoulder. It was cold. Hugo wondered if he should offer him a jacket, or maybe some cereal.
“Is that why you’re sad?” Hugo asked. “I could get you some food from the kitchens. They keep it for the ghosts now,” he said.
“It’s very nice of you, thanks,” Cedric said, looking a little brighter. “It’s a nice invention, ghost food. I’m so glad they developed it in the recent years. Being a ghost and being hungry isn’t the most desirable of life-states.”
“I can imagine that,” Hugo said, although he couldn’t. He couldn’t imagine what being a ghost felt like because they were cold and they could walk through things and Hugo, except for when he lost his foot in the vanishing step or the thing wasn’t really a thing at all, hadn’t done either.
“Why are you
sad?” the ghost boy asked. “I have no idea why I’m here, but it might be to make you feel better.”
“Wait,” Hugo said, holding out a hand, something occurring to him. “The afterworld has rocks? And sea-side inns?”
“Unfortunately,” Cedric answered with a touch of mystique. Hugo supposed that ghosts were allotted their share of mystery. They were
ghosts and all that.
Hugo sat down and prepared to untie his shoes so that he could flop himself into the great bath, which was full by now, but ghost-Cedric laid an icy hand on his head and said “You don’t happen to be Hermione Granger’s son, do you?”
Hugo’s head whipped around in a manner that seemed to him very much of its own accord; his mouth agape and a bit of you-know-what
clamoring to escape. His large green eyes flickered back and forth between open and closed in a pattern that had a tricky habit of moving onlookers to confused sobs, but Cedric was not so affected.
“You know Mum?” Hugo asked, getting up again and looking the ghost boy in the eyes. They were about the same height.
her son,” Cedric said. “Strange,” he muttered, “I hadn’t ever imagined her passing down the copious spittle