Chapter 1 : The Agreement
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Disclaimer: I own nothing related to HP except the plotline of this story
Companion piece to Harry Potter and the Unspeakable—if you haven't read that story, please do so!
It was the night before Halloween, and Harry found his stomach was rumbling as he tried to study for his potions exam that was held on Monday. It was Saturday night, and tomorrow was Halloween. Harry knew everyone in Hufflepuff was excited to attend the Halloween feast and the party afterwards. His friends, Hannah Abbott, Justin Finch-Fletchley, and Cedric Diggory wanted to go trick-or-treating at Hogsmeade. Because Cedric was a fourth year, he could escort the three first years to the village, with permission from Professor Sprout. Sprout had just agreed, and all the other three could think about was the tons of sweets they were sure to get.
Harry, however, recalled that tomorrow was the anniversary of his parents' deaths, and while he couldn't remember them, he didn't want to forget about their sacrifice. So he had written a letter to Severus Snape, who was both an Unspeakable and Harry's godfather, asking if he could visit Godric's Hollow again to place flowers upon the Potters' grave, light a candle, and say a prayer.
Severus had replied, telling Harry he would pick him up tomorrow afternoon, and that would fulfill Harry's need to honor the memory of his parents. Then Harry could relax and enjoy his first ever Halloween at Hogwarts with his new Housemates and friends. Along with Severus' note had come a small package from Tobias, Severus' Muggle father who was an architect. Clever Tobias had made him a haunted house from sweets, small Cadbury chocolate bars, jelly beans, licorice, Sweet Tarts, lemon drops, lollypops, caramels, sugar buttons, marshmallow ghosts and chocolate pretzels.
"Oh, that's lovely, Harry!" Hannah had exclaimed when he opened it.
Justin's eyes bugged out. "And that's made without magic, right?"
"Yes. Toby's a Muggle, and he builds houses. Of all kinds," Harry grinned. He pulled off a lolly and began to suck on it. "Mmm. Strawberry."
"That's wicked, Potter," Cedric said. "Mind if I have a taste?"
Harry generously allowed his three friends to choose a sweet off the house. "You can help me eat it all tomorrow," he promised. "If I tried to eat all this I'd throw up." He'd have to remember to tell Severus to thank Tobias for him tomorrow.
Now, however, he was thirsty, and wanted to get a cup of warm milk with honey. It would soothe his growling stomach and help him sleep. He wanted to be well rested for tomorrow's activities. So he left the cheerful Hufflepuff common room, with its soft suede brown couches and golden harvest scenes upon the wall and leaf patterned magic carpet (the carpet changed scenery with the season, right now it showed autumn, with colorful oak trees, a pond with a palomino pegasus drinking, and a pumpkin patch with a scarecrow and some corn stalks), and headed to the kitchen.
The kitchen was right next to the Hufflepuff portrait hole, and all Harry had to do was tickle the pear next to the door to open it.
He gently did so and the door swung open. Harry breathed in the sweet yeasty aroma of fresh bread baking, as well as sweet pumpkin filled pasties, and sighed in longing. Several house elves looked up as he entered.
"Good evening, young Master Harry Potter," said Quigley, the head chef. "What would you be needing, sir?"
Harry smiled shyly at the elf, who wore a Hogwarts crest tea towel and a tall white hat, indicating he was both head chef and a freed elf. "Just a glass of warm milk with honey, please." Justin had said he didn't need to say please and thank you to the elves, as their job was to serve the wizards, but Harry felt odd not being polite.
"Right away, Master." Quigley clapped his hands and a large earthenware mug appeared on the long table in front of Harry. "Would Master Harry Potter like to try one of Quigley's freshly baked pasties? Or a slice of cranberry bread with butter?"
Harry's mouth watered. He knew he shouldn't eat before bed, that it might give him indigestion or nightmares, but he couldn't resist the offer. "Yes, please."
Quigley twitched his nose and a plate with a warm pumpkin pasty and a slice of warm bread dripping with melted sweet butter appeared next to the mug. "I hope Master Harry Potter enjoys it."
"Oh, I will, and thanks!" Harry quickly took his treat and scurried out the door.
He paused before entering the portrait hole with his feast. He hadn't thought to bring anything back for Justin or Hannah, and he felt guilty eating in front of them. So he decided to eat his snack in the hallway, and then go back and study. He hoped that Potion Mistress Amalthea's exam was not that difficult.
He sat down on the lefthand side of the portrait hole, and began to eat, interspersing bites of bread and pastry with swallows of milk. He had finished half of his snack when a bodiless head popped through the stone wall and cried, "Mwahhahaha!"
Harry almost jumped out of his skin.
"Scared, Potter?" giggled Peeves the Poltergeist. He waggled his long tongue and made his eyes stretch out from his head like a crab's. "Did I almost make you lose your appetite?"
"A little," Harry admitted. The poltergeist was the bane of most students, and Harry wasn't fond of him because once Peeves had squirted him with water and soaked his homework assignment for Transfiguration.
Peeves snorted. "Liar. You almost peed your pants, admit it."
"No, I didn't." Harry continued eating.
The poltergeist, who looked like a shadowy young man in his twenties, dressed in a tunic and trousers with a hooded cloak at the moment, glided from the wall and stood looking down on the small firstie. Peeves let out a loud groan, but not one that was intended to scare the boy.
Harry looked up. "What do you want, Peeves?"
"What do I want? I want to be able to take a breath of fresh air again, I want to be able to feel the sun on my face. I want to be able to taste cinnamon and sugar pastries, and to swallow a draft of ale. Do you know how long it has been since I've been able to do that?"
"No." Harry stopped drinking and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "Since you died?"
"Yes! It's been over a thousand years since I became a ghost, and oh, how I long for just a few hours to be mortal again. I was raised in a monastery, you know, an abandoned orphan left on the doorstep. Much like yourself, Potter. The monks took me in out of charity."
"Did you like it there?"
"No. I was bored out of my mind. They had plenty of food and I was given a new suit of clothes every year, but in return I had to learn Latin and read and write and help scrub the monastery and go to prayers all day long. And the wretched monks had no sense of humor. I used to draw silly faces in the hymnals and once I swapped the holy water with gin and got all the brothers drunk at Mass. Abbott Pericles was a stiff, told me I was a wicked blasphemer and beat me." Peeves sniffed. "But I got him back for that. I threw his best shoes down the latrine, so he had to give Mass in his old boots, ha! Brother Murdoch tried to blame me, but he had no proof, and I shaved him bald while he slept for being such a prat. But finally I got sick and tired of all the rules there and I ran away when I was eleven. Good thing too, because that's when I found out I had magic. The good old Abbott would have burnt me for being a warlock if he'd known."
"Because back then Muggles thought anyone with magic was possessed by the devil and should be killed." Peeves explained.
"Oh. What did you do then?"
"Oh, a little of this and that. I did tricks on the street corner for money, picked a few pockets, until old Salazar found me one day and brought me to Hogwarts. I had a fine old time here, played pranks on all my mates and even the professors. Oh, the feasts we used to have! They were ten times better than the ones today." The ghost sighed in longing. "Roasted venison with gravy, suckling pig basted in honey, swan, carp in lemon butter, frumenty, marzipan squares, plum pudding and gooseberry tarts." He smacked his lips together loudly. "I remember all those things and yet never again shall I taste them. Nor feel the warmth of a crackling fire or snuggle 'neath a downy tester. Instead I am cold and alone, never to know warmth or light again."
The ghost let out a mournful wail, like a child sobbing.
Harry winced. He began to feel sorry for the poltergeist. "Hey, Peeves. If you don't like being a ghost any more, why don't you just . . . cross over?"
Peeves stopped crying and glared at Harry, his face turning an unhealthy green shade, like old puke. "Oh, you think it's that easy, do you, Potter? Ha! You're pathetic! Cross over, like it's as easy as stepping across a stream. I need a guide to show me the way, or else I could get lost between for eternity. Or worse, dragged down to hell by demons. You'd like that, huh? Good old Peeves, going to roast in the fire with Lucifer!"
"I never said that!" Harry objected. "Why would you think you were going to hell? Is that why you became a ghost? Because you were afraid?"
Peeves stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry. "Of course I was afraid! I was never what you'd call a good person. I was a rogue and a rebel, I played cards in The Hogs Head on Sundays. Matter of fact, that's where I died, right on the barroom floor, in the middle of the best hand I'd ever had in my life. And I wasn't even cheating . . . well, not much."
"Did somebody stab you or something?"
"No, that would have been too easy. But somebody slipped poison into my ale. Killed me in two minutes. Only I refused to stay dead. So I became a ghost, but not one of those namby-pamby spirits, like the Fat Friar or the Gray Lady. No, I became a poltergeist, because I was furious at having my life cut short by a bloody opportunist like Thorne Damodread. And so I have haunted Hogwarts ever since."
Harry nibbled some more on his pasty, thinking. Clearly, Peeves felt cheated, and perhaps that was why he delighted in tormenting students and staff. Misery loves company. Harry recalled that whenever Dudley was mad at Petunia for not getting him some toy, he used to find Harry and beat him up, because it made him feel better. "That's too bad."
"I don't need your pity, Potter!" the ghost snapped. Then he bent down and sniffed the piece of bread longingly. "Oh, to taste bread once more. To smell it."
"I wish there was a way you could eat a piece," Harry said compassionately. He knew what it felt, watching others eat while you were forbidden to taste even the crumbs.
Peeves sighed. "Do you truly mean that?" the poltergeist asked, surprised.
Peeves floated until his face was inches from Harry's own. "Actually, boy, there is a way . . . but no one is ever willing to do it . . . no one cares that I've been starving for a bite of bread, a taste of honey, for centuries."
"I care. What are you talking about?"
"Just this. Once a year, on the eve of Halloween, I can become mortal again, temporarily. If I find a wizard or witch who is willing to switch places with me for a time."
"Switch places with you?" Harry repeated. "You mean, you would become me and I would become you?"
"In a manner of speaking. I would borrow your living essence and become mortal, as I was centuries ago. And you would become a ghost, like me."
"For how long?"
"Oh, not so very long. About half a day."
"Twelve hours? Then we would switch back?"
"Well? Would you be willing to trade places with me, Potter? Let me have, once more, a taste of mortal sweetness?" Peeves asked, looking wistfully at Harry's bread.
Harry hesitated. "Um . . . I'd like to help you out, Peeves, but . . . I'd have to be back to normal by noon. You see, that's when I'm supposed to visit Godric's Hollow with my godfather, Severus Snape. Uncle Sev would have a fit if I wasn't here and he had to look for me."
"Oh, don't fret. I'll make sure I'm back before then." Peeves assured him airily. "Well? Will you do it?"
"All right. What do I do?"
"Simply let me take your hand." The ghost said, holding out his spectral palm. Then it closed over Harry's.
Instead of passing through him, Harry felt icy cold needles stab him. He cried out, feeling the cold race up his arm and through his entire body.
A moment later, he found he was floating above the floor, and he could see through himself. "Peeves! I'm a ghost!" he cried, amazed.
"What did you expect? Halos and trumpets?" snorted the young man now sitting on the floor. He had brown hair down to his shoulders and shifty blue eyes and a sly smile. He picked up Harry's discarded bread and butter and bit into it. "Ahhh! Delicious! Thank you, Potter." He devoured the bread and then finished off the milk as well. Then he jumped to his feet, stroking the wool of his cloak and the smooth cotton of his tunic. "I can feel again!" He stamped a foot down on the floor. "Solid!" He pirouetted about the corridor, giggling like a drunken sailor. "Oh, to dance again! Enjoy your ghosthood, Potter! Ta ta!" Then he sped off down the corridor, doing cartwheels.
Harry watched him leave, feeling a bit uneasy. He felt odd and somehow ill at ease in his new ghostly being. He wondered what his friends would think of him, and if they could see him or not. Could he become invisible? Or make things move, like Peeves did? Maybe he could play a prank on Malfoy? Pay him back for ruining his potion last week?
He gave a ghostly chuckle. This was going to be fun. He was going to scare Malfoy and go places in the castle he never could as a student. Let Peeves enjoy his time as a human again, eating, drinking, and making merry. After all, it was only twelve hours, and Harry planned to make the most of being a ghost till then.
This is my annual Halloween story. Hope you all enjoy it! A new chapter will be posted tomorrow, this will probably be about 4-5 chapters long.