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Chapter 5 : And Another Plan
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And Another Plan
“Mr Diggory!” Flitwick exclaimed. He placed a small hand on top of his heart as if to make sure that it was still beating. So much could not be said for Madame Pomfrey, who had still the expression of a fish out of water plastered to her face, her lips flapping open and closed without uttering a sound, and she slowly but surely sank to a sitting position on the shiny wooden floorboards, holding on tight to her block of chocolate as if it were a life vest.
“Er--Hello, Professor,” the ghost boy said, looking sheepish, and emerging slowly from the pantry he had been examining. Hugo began to notice a cloud of hot air gathering around his head. It was very unpleasant, and not unlike having a head cold. He tried not to think about it as he watched the scene before him unfold. It was like watching a film; he didn’t understand it any better than one, anyway.
“I--I had no idea you chose to remain as a ghost!” Flitwick suddenly said, seeming to break through a sort of mental dam. Hugo thought he had never seen the Headmaster in this state, all earnesstness and no jolliness about him. His blue eyes were sparkling but not with happiness, that was for sure. His skin was white and taut around his forehead and mouth, looking paper thin and glazed with a thin film of sweat.
Hugo took a moment to mull over things while the three others stood still and two of them gawked shamelessly. Ghost Cedric had called Flitwick Professor, something Hugo hadn’t ever heard anybody call him. Flitwick was looking very pale and sick-like at the sight of this ghost and Hugo knew that wasn’t because he had never seen a ghost before. (Obviously, since he had been holding the annual Nearly-Headless Hunt each Christmas for five years now!) He tried to come to a conclusion like Rose would right now, or even Marjie--
But Marjie! She would know who Ghost Cedric had been when he wasn’t a ghost! She had even said to him, once, when she started work at Dervish and Banges, What’s the use in working at a bookstore if you’re not going to read the books? She’d read every book in existence, Hugo was sure, many of them even more than once. She’d have to have stumbled upon his name sometime or other, and she hardly ever forgot what books held what information. He’d have to write to Marjie to help him figure out who this boy was and why he made Headmaster Flitwick and Madame Pomfrey look ill.
“Well, I didn’t quite choose, did I?” ghost Cedric asked testily. He looked very close to beating down upon one of the golden cabinets. Hugo kept a careful eye on the ghost boy as he continued. “Last I knew of myself in Ghostlandia, I was sitting on a rock by the sea eating Ghosted Flakes. Then I turned up in the plumbing of the prefect’s bath--and I have to say, I like what you’ve done to the place--and then I ran into Hugo here.”
“It’s nice, isn’t it,” Flitwick began, looking up with a particularly contemplative expression alighting his features, “that they’ve invented ghost food recently?” He seemed to regain a sense of appreciation for ghost Cedric’s presence, then, his face darkening considerably. “But, my boy, these are quite strange circumstances! I’ve never known a situation like yours. In fact, it seems almost--beyond circumstance,” the headmaster said, with a strange look in Hugo’s direction. Hugo felt confused. He certainly didn’t have anything to do with ghost Cedric coming back from Ghostland!
At least, as far as he knew. He reached up to scratch his head and his hand was blocked by a smooth surface. “Hey!” he shouted, poking the surface again. “What’s going on here? Why can’t I touch my head?”
“You’re wearing a Bubble-Head Charm, Hugo,” Flitwick answered, looking amused. It didn’t seem to be a surprise to him that this information was a total revelation to Hugo who, at the moment, was attempting to remember the termination spell, but whose determination was not so staunch as to refuse to acknowledge such distractions as Madame Pomfrey falling over in a dead faint onto the shiny wooden floorboards.
“Er--” he said, forgetting about his Bubble-Head Charm predicament and falling silent and still. “Should we--”
“My dear boy!” Flitwick interrupted, but he appeared to be addressing the ghost boy. Ghost Cedric looked surprised to be addressed so, but stood still--or rather, hovered rather limply a few inches from the ground. “Why, I’ve just thought of something!”
It seemed too good a coincidence to pass off as such, Flitwick thought to himself, that he had been chasing down students for the past hour and a half attempting to feed them chocolate to subdue the pain of realizing that the tournament was not to take place, and then suddenly, the ghost son of the very man who had refused to allow the tournament to happen had shown up in the very castle ridden with casualties of the horrible news. No--there had to be some divine reasoning to these occurrences, Flitwick was positively certain of it. To give himself some time to think of a reasonable plan, he pulled out a scrap of newspaper from his pocket and decided to read its contents aloud.
“Ahem,” Flitwick began. Hugo looked up at him interestedly, and Flitwick could hardly hold back a jolly chortle at the sight of his head encased in the Charm and the heightened ecstasy of his newest revelation. “If you’ll listen to me, please, Cedric.
“It seems that a heart can only be too weary, a brain only too forewarned, because this lone reporter in a bleary, mildly uninteresting and vastly disappointing small village, has just received news that attempts to go through with a certain Event, slated to occur over the course of the next three school terms, has been an utter flop, and, in the wake of this news, it seems that pain and anguish are completely new experiences, unique to this sorrow, and this only.
"Because it seems that only to the populace of the Host School in question this event is a mystery, and the Headmaster respectfully wishes it to remain so, I dare not to give the esteemed event a name, but I feel no guilt in imparting certain details to the general public, especially as the status of the Host School’s readership is questionable, if not certainly entirely absent. (One does not know if one may blame dwindling interest in the goings-on of the world outside of restricted sections or illegal nightlife throughout the castle’s corridors, or else some flaw in the general education of the young witches and wizards of this humble island.)
"What once looked like the wax seal upon the peace treaty between the Ministry of this country and that of Greenland has globbed into a red-hued mess at the feet of four specifics, whom shall, for the time, until that passion for truth and justice blossoms in the hearts of the masses, remain unnamed--and Yet let it be known that these foreign dignitaries and ministry members have not completely abandoned hope for this Event.
Yours truly, reporting with as much candor as backwards politics shall ever allow, Rose (19) of the Burrow.”
Flitwick cleared his throat and looked to Hugo, to make sure the boy had not, at the sound of the reason for his melancholy, launched into another fit; but he was simply tilting his head in a curious manner, and Flitwick guessed suddenly that he was most likely attempting to interpret his elder sister’s verbiage. Flitwick then turned to Cedric, whom he fully expected to appear less confused, unburdened as he was with the task of interpretation, but who, to Flitwick’s dismay, was looking equally puzzled as his quite human companion. Flitwick smoothed the scrap of newspaper in his hand and waited for some kind of response. In the meantime, he had thought of a plan.
After a while with no response, Flitwick decided that breaking the silence himself would be the best course of action. “This was published three days ago,” he said. There ensued, then, a very pregnant pause, in which Hugo finally perked up and seemed to regain life. He didn’t say anything, however, and
“You’re at war with Greenland?” Cedric finally asked.
“Now, it’s a long story, m’boy,” Flitwick said as he led Cedric’s ghost and Hugo Weasley through one of the underground passages into Hogsmeade, “but the war with Greenland is more of a Cold War, so to speak. It began with, quite literally, a spark,” he said. Cedric nodded and Hugo’s face bore no more recognition or confusion than it did at regular intervals, although he hadn’t been able, yet, to remember the counter-incantation to his Bubble-Head Charm. Flitwick had refused to help him under the guise of it being for the boy’s own good to have to remember the spell himself, but, truth be told, it was all simply amusing.
“A spark began a cold war,” Cedric repeated, to indicate that he understood. Always such a clever lad, Flitwick thought, sighing reminiscently for the War Days of his relatively-speaking younger years, and then continued.
“Yes, it did. You see, the Minister for Magic--” and he paused here, deciding it might not be best for his plan if Cedric was privy to the identity of the Minister quite yet. “The Minister wanted to employ some of the Greenlandic elk--you know, cheaper than reindeer these days, what with the sinking economy of the North Pole and then Nicolas having to let go quite a few of them lately, so it just wouldn’t be decent to offer them less than they’re worth, if you understand--to offer the public a legal alternative to Magic Carpet racing. You know, in recent years the betting’s been quite popular on the contraband, and as the Greenlandic elk can fly as well as reindeer or carpets--”
“The elk can fly?” Cedric asked, looking confused.
“You know, the air up there is quite magical, there were bound to be casualties,” Flitwick said offhandedly, flapping his hands through a spiderweb. “Come on, boys, almost half-way there by now!” he called behind him. He noticed Hugo had been lagging a bit behind, pointing his lit wand at every spider he passed by, muttering things about someone he thought might have been Malika. There were no students named Malika, so Flitwick didn’t quite know what he was talking about, but either way, Hugo responded to his call obediently, and the three continued on their way.
“At any rate, the Greenlandic Minister thought that it was a good plan--they could use the gold, after all, and his elk were always in need of a little extra exercise. So they arranged a tea, which went splendidly for the most part, except for a little trinket from the D.O.M.--Department of Mysteries, mind you, one can never quite be sure how much a ghost brain retains of one’s former life, can one--where was--oh, yes, a trinket came waddling into the conference room and hopped up onto one of the Minister’s prize elk’s backs. It was a quaint little thing, I’ve come to learn, something that resembled a rubber duck, but it burst into a great spark as soon as the Minister of Greenland went to pick it up, and set his elk’s hide on fire.”
“Fire?” Hugo asked, his green eyes wide, looking quite impressed. “Uncle Percy didn’t say it was a real fire! He said a couple sparks! And here we were, thinking of all the ways to make fun of the Minister from Greenland for being such a big baby.” He looked up to the flagstone ceiling of the passageway in wonder, and Flitwick shook his head. Ron had such a way with children.
“At any rate, the Minister of Greenland took great offense, looked at the whole thing as a personal attack, and decided to bar us from his ‘extensive trade-route.’ I have no idea who else he’s trading elk with, but apparently, there are more countries interested in flying elk than one would think. Your--” Flitwick paused abruptly, and then continued, appearing slightly ruffled, “your Minister was of course appalled at such a reaction and went on to explain that he had no idea what that small thing even was, much less where it came from and why it decided to light fire to one of the elk, but the Greenlandic Minister wasn’t hearing any of it. He was simply inconsolable, even though our Minister was gracious enough to pour a whole pot of tea onto the elk to put out the fire, though it quite ruined his best chaise.”
“And so…you’re at war.” Cedric seemed unable to comprehend this situation. “What about You-Know-Who? He doesn’t have anything to do with it?”
“Ah,” Flitwick said. “But I’m sure the ghost libraries are full of history books,” he reminded the ghost boy kindly. “As sure as I am that you know that Harry Potter defeated Voldemort in the years following his--his resurrection.”
Cedric nodded. “You’re quite right,” he said, seeming apologetic. “It’s difficult for me to remember, at times, that war does not revolve around You-Know-Who in every case.”
“Understandable, understandable,” Flitwick said comfortingly, and promptly hit his head on the trap door he’d been aiming for. “Ah!” he exclaimed, looking jubilant. “We’re here!”
"What I still don't understand, though," Cedric said, "is how the elk have anything to do with the Event of that article, and how the peace treaty with Greenland ties into all that."
"All in good time, Mr Diggory," Flitwick said, and turned around. He tapped his wand on the circular door and it flipped open into the other room, which looked like a cellar of some sort. It certainly wasn’t the way one normally entered Hogsmeade from underground, Hugo thought, climbing nimbly up the ladder after Flitwick and ghost Cedric. It was much more secretive, somehow, even though it was a secret the normal way, too, through the Room of Requirement into the Hog’s Head.
When he emerged into the dusty, dark room filled with cobweb-ridden shelves, he recognized where they were immediately--no other place in Hogsmeade smelled quite so good as this. They were, for whatever reason, in the Honeydukes cellar, and there huddled in a corner with a blanket pulled over her head was--
“Marjie?” Hugo asked, confused. But it was Marjie, plain to see, and as she brought the blanket down from around her face she looked quite pleased to see them.
“Hallo, Headmaster,” she said, shaking Flitwick’s hand.
“Miss Barrows, hello!” Flitwick said. “Thank you for meeting me here on such short notice!”
“It’s no problem to me, Headmaster, I was having trouble sleeping anyway,” she said modestly, scratching the back of her head. She’d allowed her hair to grow out since the last time Hugo had seen her, and he almost didn’t recognize the spark of mischief colouring her features.
“Hello, Hugatron,” she said to Hugo, walking over to him and giving his shoulder a pat. Hugo was too pleased, it seemed, to speak, so he gathered Marjie up in a tremendous hug that brought her feet up from the ground.
“Ugh!” she exclaimed, worming out of Hugo’s arms, but there was a smile on her face nonetheless. “You’re always doing that! Stop growing, it’ll be less painful for me when you give hugs!” Hugo grinned dumbly in response.
“And…” Marjie continued, walking over to Cedric, who was looking very shy. “You must be Cedric.”
“Well, I suppose--I mean to say--yes, I am,” he finished lamely. Hugo couldn’t help but think that Marjie’s smile had rather fixed itself in place, but she attempted to shake his hand anyway. It was a rather awkward affair, but she weathered it well. Cedric simply cleared his throat and brushed his hair back.
Marjie turned back to Hugo and Flitwick, smirking, the light from Hugo’s wand dappling her face in patches of shadow and light. “Rose and Mr Percy should be here any minute now,” she said, looking quite satisfied.
“Rose? Uncle Percy?” Hugo peeped up, quite apparently confused. “Are we having a party?”
Marjie and Flitwick exchanged looks. “Of sorts,” Marjie said, and then turned and walked back to her corner. “In the meantime,” she said, and Flitwick couldn’t help but notice that Hugo looked much more excited than one would expect at the prospects of partying with Percy Weasley, “I’ve done the research you requested, Headmaster.” She proffered him a page of scribbled notes.
She paced back and forth while Flitwick read over the parchment, speaking out loud, though mostly, Hugo thought, to herself. “I found an article that explained three main reasons. Now, I could only find one article about Ghostland, which is, apparently, a sort of limbo. There aren’t many ghosts there, from what I understand. In fact, there shouldn’t really be any, since you're only there for a little while, waiting to come back to earth,” she said, and then turned to Cedric, who had been following her motions, looking a little dazed. He shook his head slightly, and his eyebrows shot up into his ghost hair when Marjie addressed him.
“In your experience,” she began, and Cedric pulled at his collar, “were there many ghosts in Ghostland?”
“Well,” Cedric said, looking up at the ceiling to concentrate, “well, no, there weren’t. There was me, and one tenant at the sea-side inn, but he’s the only other ghost I can remember seeing there.”
Marjie nodded, having expected such an answer. “Now, were you in Ghostland for a very long time?”
“Well,” Cedric began again. Hugo moved closer to hear him better. “Now that you mention it, I don’t suppose I was. Only long enough to buy a bowl of Ghosted Flakes from the inn and find a spot on a rock to sit and eat.”
“As I suspected,” Marjie said triumphantly, and she began to pace again. “If my understanding of your situation is correct, you were--and I’m sorry, this won’t sound very sensitive of me--but you were murdered by one of Lord Voldemort’s right-hand men, weren’t you?”
“Yes,” Cedric said. “I was with Harry Potter.”
“In a graveyard, if the records are correct,” Marjie asked, and Cedric nodded. “Good,” she said, apparently satisfied. Flitwick conjured three stools from thin air and they all sat down to listen to Marjie’s explanation. Hugo had no idea what she was explaining, but most things that Marjie said were interesting even if he didn’t understand them. “Now, as I said, there are, from what I’ve been able to find on such short notice, three main reasons that somebody deceased will, if you allow me, come back from the dead. Of course, you can’t become alive again, not even magic can create life, but it can impress life, and that’s what ghosts are, after all, aren’t they? Imprints of departed souls?”
“Yeah,” Hugo affirmed, though it was mostly just to be supportive, because he didn’t actually know. Marjie nodded, and continued.
“The first reason, I find for you, Cedric, is most probably out of the question, so I won’t bother explaining it. However, I can’t know enough from your biographies whether or not it’s the second or--”
“Excuse me,” Cedric interrupted. “I have biographies?”
“Yes, you were well-loved by your peerage,” Marjie said, smiling kindly at Cedric, who looked extremely pleased. “But, as I was saying, I can’t tell whether or not it’d be the second or third reason. Second reason is usually because a person has unfinished business that’s come to a head after his death, and he needs to help sort it out. Third…”
And she paused here, seeming to figure how best to word it. “Third is more complicated. Third involves relatives, and debts. It’s complicated because they don’t have to be actual relatives, just people who are kindred spirits who need your help. Now, where debt is concerned, there are a number of circumstances, but it usually involves somebody who either saved you, or whom you saved, during your earthly life. You can become imprinted as a ghost to collect a debt, or to pay one. In reality this should really probably be two separate reasons, but somehow the debt and the relative aspects are combined. I haven’t had enough time to think on it to figure out the intricacies of it, but it’s an ancient text, and I believe trustworthy enough to, for now, take the third reason for what I can understand it to be.”
She stopped talking abruptly and came to stand in front of ghost Cedric, who was looking nervous again. “Do you have any idea whether or not it was the third reason? Or, the second?”
Cedric thought for a moment. “No,” he said after a while. He looked extremely apologetic. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
Marjie didn’t look disappointed. “Don’t worry yourself!” she said, noticing that Cedric looked very melancholy. “I would have been extremely surprised if you had an idea. It’s all new, though, for you, being back on earth and such.” She nodded to herself and went to pick up her blanket again, wrapping it around her shoulders. It was quite puffy, and looked very warm. Hugo was a little jealous.
“Oh, Hugo, you’ve got a Bubble-Head Charm on, did you know?” Marjie said, pushing up her glasses and looking at him inquisitively.
“Yes,” he said, having forgotten it was there. “I can’t remember the counter-incantation, though. I didn’t even know I cast it on myself! I meant to do a Disillusionment Charm, but no luck.” He shrugged sadly, hoping perhaps if he made puppy-dog eyes, Marjie would help him.
“Don’t try that with me!” she said, leaning back from him and beginning to pace again. “It’s good for you to have to survive on your own, you know.” She stopped in front of him, and seemed to take pity. “Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” she said, and brought out her wand, tapping it against the Bubble and vanishing it.
“Thanks, Marjie!” Hugo said, running his hands through his curly hair.
She looked at him from the corner of her eye in what didn’t escape Flitwick’s notice as a semi-affectionate gesture. “At any rate, why were you trying to Disillusion yourself?”
“Because Madam Pomfrey was chasing me with a block of chocolate,” he said.
“Oh, dear!” Flitwick exclaimed. “I suppose we left her there, didn’t we? On the kitchen floor?” He looked very concerned for a moment, and Marjie stared at him, but then he settled back into a contented smile and said, “Well, the house elves will take care of her, anyway.”
It looked like Marjie was about to protest, but at that moment there were loud thumps on the staircase to their left, coming down from the store. A couple seconds later, Rose appeared, bright-eyed and bundled in a coat and scarf. Percy Weasley was only a few steps behind her, looking apprehensive but resigned.
“So,” she said, sounding as if she had a bad case of allergies, but her excitement was clear nonetheless. “Have we got ourselves a ghost to kidnap, or what?”
a/n: HALLO! so i've returned to the land of the living to procure this chapter. i'm very sorry for the long wait. i can understand if you have questions at this point, so feel free to ask them in a review if you like, although many of them i hope to answer in the coming chapters.
"imprint of a departed soul" is, of course, something you should recognize as belonging to JKR and stemming from the brain of the ever-amusing Ronald Weasley.
thanks for reading! x
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