Chapter 4 : For Malarky
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It had not taken particularly long to find the kitchens, as Hugo had been, for all seven years of his Hogwarts career, a notorious biscuit-thief. A thief has to know his way around a castle when it is the object of his raids, but things are admittedly changed up a bit when one is dragging a ghost around the place.
For one, a ghost is a rather difficult thing to grab a hold of. Hugo did not know what had happened to Cedric in the afterlife but it seemed that all his worldly knowledge had slipped out of that ghosty brain, and he had not had any idea where the kitchens were. Hugo had tried to lead him without grabbing hold of his arm, but it was difficult to do this, as Cedric was reasonably stricken by awe at the imperial majesty of the darkened castle. At every new corridor he would peek around the corner, passing each suit of armor he would stop to stare, which would spark a conversation, often unfriendly.
The armor was getting feisty in its old age, Hugo supposed, shrugging a bit, reaching out to grab hold of Cedric’s ghost to pull him onwards. It wasn’t too far to the kitchens, only five floors or so--Hugo was proud to say that after he and Scorpius had made friends back in fifth year, he’d mastered the layout of the castle, if only with the older boy’s help. But this was when he realized, looking back behind him and noticing that Cedric was about to crash down his fist on a suit of armor’s head, a ghost wasn’t something one could just pull along.
So he had had to think of another plan, but as anyone could readily attest, thinking was not his strongest suit and the idea of having to think up something in a hurry often stumped him before he could begin to formulate any kind of thought. At this moment, however, he understood that something vital was on the line--hunger isn’t just a child’s game, he thought solemnly. This is serious business. Besides, he was snatched up right from eating a bowl of cereal! Tragic stuff, this.
“Cedric,” he said, though Cedric had proceeded to pummel the suit of armor thoroughly before Hugo’d been graced with the impulse to speak. “Ghost Cedric, please follow me to the kitchens.”
For such a volatile apparition it was surprising that simple courtesy would be the thing to incite the transformation, but yes, as it happened, ghost Cedric stopped hammering his ghost fists down upon the suit of armor and looked curiously in Hugo’s direction. Hugo dare thought that it may have even been a sparkle of hope in the ghost boy’s eye. Cedric floated over to Hugo and stood at his side, looking at him expectantly.
“Okay, just follow me and we’ll get there.” Hugo watched the ghost out of the corner of his eye, still wondering at how this situation had been redeemed with such simple words, but he didn’t have much time to think on it, because at that moment there was a great resounding of bells throughout the castle and if they were going to make it down to the kitchens without being caught it was going to take a lot of running.
“Quick!” he said to the ghost boy, whose head was tilted much like a dog’s, and much like Hugo’s in equally confusing times for him, although Hugo himself was not quite aware of this habit. “Quick, we have to get to the kitchens quickly!”
“Why are we running?” the ghost boy asked with a slightly mournful tone. Wow, he can really feel a whole lot of emotions for a ghost, and change through ‘em quick, too.
“We’re up past curfew,” Hugo said, panting a little, speeding ever on.
Hugo did not know such things, mostly because he had no idea who the ghost boy was, but in Cedric’s time at Hogwarts there had never been such a thing as a curfew bell. If he had not been wandering about in that tremulous ghost-space somewhere between present life and after-life, he should have known that in recent years the students of the Hogwarts population had been sneaking out after hours and funneling regularly through the last-standing secret exit way from the castle into Hogsmeade, where they had a monthly contract drawn up with Aberforth Dumbledore, who traded his secrecy for the business these late-night students brought him. Aberforth was no stranger to making deals with the Hogwarts populace, of course.
In due time, the rickety old caretaker, Mr Filch, and his aging tabby, Mrs Norris, had discovered telltale signs of regular use around the opening of the secret passage and these midnight trysts with butter beer and fire whisky (for the daring, you understand) had been put to a brutal end. Some students said that after he had reported the nefarious acts to the Headmaster old Filch could be seen walking the halls of the castle at night, twisting his evil hands together and cackling madly, and never the twain shall meet.
Other students might focus on the more pertinent details of consequence, such as the nightly curfew bells and the immediate rounds of the prefects thereafter. Hugo might not be one of these students himself, but he did know that the sounding of these bells were followed by the scouring of those few students who fancied themselves the protectors of justice, although that allure had rather worn off after a few weeks of rounds, and the prefects were not altogether worthy, these days, of such lofty praise. Hugo knew this because, as I said, he was a notorious biscuit-thief. As it were.
At the current moment Hugo found himself racing through the corridors at a speed worthy of a prize cow, which is something amusing to behold at first thought but upon careful consideration or perhaps more aptly direct contact with a cow full of fury at having lost to a less-likely, inferior breed at the local wizard fair, becomes a very considerable comparison. Ghost Cedric was having a rather hard time keeping up, as in most of the time he had spent in the ghost land he had been sitting upon rocks and crags, contemplating his next bowl of cereal. (Additionally, there was, of course, that troublesome mind washing which had cleared out any and all knowledge he had of the layout of the castle, although there is something to be said of the stairwells, which were fond of shifting in their spare time.)
It took them approximately five minutes to reach the kitchens after the curfew bell sounded, and when they reached it both boys, ghost and human, were panting and sweating thickly, although it can be said that for the human boy this perspiration owed more to excitement at thwarting implemented structure than the physical journey. For the ghost boy, not so much can be said, as he had been in his human life a devout worshipper of justice, and not even the death of his more earthly form could strip him of such loyalty.
Hugo had been about to reach up and tickle the giant, green pear and gain entry to the vast and aromatic kitchens when a screech from behind stopped him in his tracks.
“HUGO WEASLEY! YOU HAVE NOT HAD YOUR CHOCOLATE TONIGHT!”
“You were running from the chocolate woman?” the ghost boy said after a moment of contemplation. Hugo, not answering,with a little gasp and a burst of adrenaline, reached up to scratch the fruit’s belly, thinking that he had just enough time to get inside and have the house elves blockade the door before the matronly healer had made her way down the corridor with her large block of chocolate and small chisel, but Cedric, ghost-boy, was not having much of that. Even to a ghost it is plain to see that running from a woman with ten pounds of chocolate cradled in her apron is pure foolishness.
Hugo saw with much dismay that Cedric was headed down the corridor they’d just tore up in their haste, and he turned quickly, trying to grab hold of him. Cedric turned, having felt the invasion of a hot and sticky paw through his midsection, but met only with a pair of wide, crazed green eyes and a mop of brown hair. “Why are you running from the Chocolate woman?” the ghost demanded, looking cross. Hugo cowered for a moment before him. Running from the chocolate woman had never before seemed so disagreeable. “I want to know.”
“She’ll take me back to the dorms and force-feed me sweets!” Hugo replied, turning and scratching the pear. It chuckled loudly and Cedric turned, the gasping of the chocolate woman a background track of his astonishment at the laughing fruit. “Come on, inside,” Hugo said when the portrait had swung forward to reveal a vast and glorious, miniature empire. Hugo was never one to scorn at somebody’s surprise and delight upon a first witnessing of this miniature, positively shining landscape of wood-burning stoves and tea-cabinets full to the brim with golden plates and goblets and cutlery and most of all the tables there stacked high with cream puffs and biscuits and crisps and bacon and all good things of the culinary world--but at the moment, the awe was going to have to stuff it and wait, they were in dire straits here!
With the aged gasps of the old healer closing in on them quickly, Cedric soared inside the kitchens towards a pile of ham and Hugo slammed the portrait shut after them. He fell back against the wall with his eyes pressed closed and allowed himself and unmanly gasp or two before putting his ear to the back of the portrait, a shiny gold door with various hinges and clasps, through which he could hear the muffled protests of the old healer and the echo of her fists against the canvas. All and all, he figured he should probably, under usual circumstances, be quite nice to her as she had saved his best friend’s skin a couple years ago and had always kept a very important secret for him and Professor Neville and of course, Scorpius, but these were special circumstances.
Content for the moment that she would not be able to get in as he slid the set of chain locks closed (Flitwick had had them installed to keep students out but the elves were very fond of night-time wanderers with empty stomachs and never used them), Hugo turned back to the scene in the Hogwarts kitchens.
It was not a wholly unusual thing, to have ghost guests in the kitchens, because, as you all well know, Hogwarts’ four resident ghosts do enjoy a bite or two themselves, but having been accustomed to centuries of hunger they did not often venture to such brightly-lit places as the kitchens, where the elves would convince them mercilessly to eat more than their fair share and more than could actually be comfortable for a ghost who had not eaten in six-hundred years. Finding, then, the ghost of Cedric Diggory amongst them was one of the happiest occurrences that any of the Hogwarts elves ever recount to their offspring, or anyone who has the presence of mind to ask them.
When the ghost boy was comfortably seated on a rock-shaped seat (ghosts somehow have a penchant for sitting on rocks), Hugo sat down across from him, tossing a cream puff to and fro, watching him.
“Why were you running from the Chocolate Woman?” Cedric pressed, gulping down his ghost food with specific fervor.
Hugo sighed. “It’s not that I didn’t want chocolate, because it’s actually the very good kind,” he said earnestly. “I’m just not too happy to be force-fed things; It’s not all that manly to be forced by an old, weak, woman to eat something, even if it is delicious. It’s not good for my repetoir as Quidditch captain,” Hugo said, patting the small badge on his chest, which was silver and emblazoned with an ornate “C.”
“Not good for your what?” Cedric asked between bites of cereal. Hugo wondered why he was so hungry if none of the other ghosts really ate that much. Maybe because he was a growing teen. Mum often excused him for eating too much at family gatherings because he was a growing teen, and that’s when Nan Weasley often said that if he grew too much more he wouldn’t be able to come into the house for being so tall. Hugo wasn’t sure if it’d be worth it to be so tall as to not be able to get into buildings.
“My repetoir,” Hugo repeated. “How people see me, you know, but not with your actual real eyeballs. Seeing in the mental kind of way. But no the bad mental kind of way. I never knew anyone who was real bad mental, except Mum and Dad say that one of their old teachers was mental and you could tell the way they said it they did not mean he just thought a lot, but that he’d actually gone and lost his mind. In the bad way.” Hugo stared at the ghost as he plowed through another bowl.
“I may have forgotten my way around the castle,” the ghost said, slurping some, “but I have not forgotten basic vocabulary.” He straightened up, then his eyes widened slightly. “No offense, of course!” he said hastily, putting his ghost bowl down on one of the tabletops. An elf came and used a feather to float it into a shelf. “The word you mean to use is reputation.”
“Ah!” Hugo said, smiling serenely. “That is the word.”
At that moment Hugo could have continued to stare at the ghost boy curiously, hoping that the ghost food had indeed cured his bout of melancholy, but the chain locks snaked their way noisily out of their positions at locked and gave way to whoever was on the other side, wanting to come in.
“Oh, no!” Hugo said, leaping up and prancing around in a panic, “I’ve never been caught in the kitchens before!” It wasn’t so much the catching in that moment as the fact that Hugo had no idea where to hide. He dove underneath a table, covering his head, and in his panic cast a bubble-head charm on himself in place of a disillusionment spell.
The door opened and Filius Flitwick strode into the room, immediately locating Hugo Weasley hiding underneath one of the golden tables with a giant bubble around his head. The headmaster rolled his eyes and guided old Madame Pomfrey into the room. She immediately proceeded to clunk the block of chocolate onto the table and strike it with a small chisel and hammer, breaking off a generous piece.
“Mr Weasley,” Flitwick said in a jovial tone. “Please extricate yourself from underneath that table.”
Hugo slowly made his way out from underneath the wooden beams and held himself a little shamefacedly before the Headmaster and the outraged healer.
While the Headmaster and Healer discussed the necessity and healing powers of chocolate in dark and depressing times such as these, the ghost of Cedric Diggory decided to take a look around these glorious premises. There was such a great extent of human food that he mourned never having discovered this place in his corporeal life, and was just mourning it with particular anguish, staring into a plate full of treacle tarts, when he heard a shriek and an awful thud somewhere behind him. He turned around to see the familiar faces of Filius Flitwick and Poppy Pomfrey, each looking shocked in their respective manners, to see him there, quite, in the way that he was, alive and well.
a/n: all hail rudyard kipling as the originator of the phrase "and never the twain shall meet" !
hi there! it's been a while since I updated, and I know this chapter isn't too much action, but I thought that it was still a necessary installment nonetheless--the plot is on its way to becoming thick! thank you to my usual encouragement, you're invaluable to this grueling writing process!
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