Chapter 8 : Hallowe'en.
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With the year’s first Quidditch match over, thoughts started to turn to Hallowe’en.
Albus couldn’t wait. Hallowe’en was one of the most exciting times of the year at Hogwarts and he would finally get to experience it instead of just reading his brother’s letters or listening to his parents’ stories.
“There’s usually entertainment,” he explained to Derek. “Last year, they’d this Veela band. James said they were excellent.”
“Veela?” Derek sounded confused.
“There’re like really beautiful women, except they’re not fully human at all really. My cousins – Victoire, Dominique and Louis – their great-grandmother was a Veela. It’s why Victoire and Louis are so good-looking. Poor old Dominique got the Weasley genes. Anyway, James was utterly enchanted with the band. Mum said he’s just like Uncle Ron. She sounded annoyed.”
Albus shrugged. “I’ve no idea. My mum has six brothers. With a family that size, there’s a story about everything. You just learn to go with it.”
“It sounds like fun. All those cousins.”
“Sometimes it is. Other times, well, it just feels as if whatever you do, somebody’s beaten you to is. You know? And God help you if you mess up! It’s not just Mum and Dad I’ve to answer to, but Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Hermione and often Teddy as well.”
“He’s…sort of an honorary big brother, I guess. His parents died in the Battle of Hogwarts. His dad was my grandfather’s best friend. My other grandfather, who died when my dad was a baby. And my dad is Teddy’s godfather. It’s all a bit complicated.”
“It sounds it. You must know just about everything that’s ever happened at Hogwarts.”
Albus laughed. “Yeah, pretty much. Someone in my family was here for most things.”
“I wish I’d even one relative who went here. It was so weird starting here, knowing absolutely nothing.” He sighed. “I can’t believe we don’t get a half-term.”
“Well, Muggle schools get a week off half-way through each term, to break it up and give us a bit of a rest. It’s a long way until Christmas.”
It was. Much as Albus loved Hogwarts, he did miss his parents, his sister and his home. It would have been nice to go home for a week.
But not if it meant we missed out on Hallowe’en,” he pointed out. “Honestly, Derek, wait until you see the Great Hall. It’ll be beautifully decorated and…”
“I’d still rather a week off classes. Learning magic is cool and all, but boy do we work hard. They could at least give us Hallowe’en off, when it’s such a big deal here. But no, it’s classes as usual.”
The classes weren’t quite as usual. A holiday atmosphere pervaded the school and most of the teachers didn’t even try to continue with the normal curriculum.
In Defence Against the Dark Arts, Professor Jones told them how in ancient times, Muggles believed spirits could pass through to our world most easily at Hallowe’en as it was the time the spirit world was closest.
“You mean like ghosts?” Rasmus asked. “Are Muggles afraid of ghosts?”
“Well, we’ve a couple of Muggleborn students here.” Professor Jones gestured towards Derek and Angie. “Why don’t you ask them?”
“Do they?” he asked.
Derek raised his hand awkwardly. Usually Professor Jones was pretty strict about hand-raising, but that day, the rules seemed to be relaxed.
“Go ahead Derek.”
“Well, some of them do, but a lot don’t even believe ghosts exist.”
There was a sharp intake of breath among the other students. It was hard to imagine people not believing in ghosts.
“Hey, they don’t believe in witches and wizards either, you know.”
“That’s because of the Statute of Secrecy,” Professor Jones said.
She tapped the board with her wand and the words “Statute of Secrecy” appeared on it.
“Who can tell me what that is?”
Rose raised her hand.
“It’s the set of rules that keep our world secret from Muggles.”
“Very good. Five points to Ravenclaw. Do you have something more to add?” she asked Derek, whose hand was raised again.
“Well, I was just going to say some Muggles even think witches are evil. Not wizards so much though.”
“That’s probably because they don’t understand,” Professor Jones said seriously. “People often fear what they don’t understand. In our world too. That’s something else we’ll be discussing, later this year and in more detail next year. How do we distinguish between creatures that are really evil and those we simply have a troubled history with? There has been a lot of debate about giants lately for example – whether it is truly in their nature to be violent or if it’s simply due to the way they’ve been treated by wizards and their exclusion from our society.”
Some of the Slytherins rolled their eyes. Albus glanced over at Scorpius. Surprisingly, he merely looked thoughtful.
“I realise many of you have grown up with a very fixed idea of giants, but views about them are changing. It’s probably too late though. Who can tell me why?”
Rose’s hand went up again.
Professor Jones glanced around the classroom, apparently hoping somebody else would know.
“Yes, Rose,” she said finally.
“They’re dying out.”
“Yes, there are very few giants left in the world today. Of course, a lot of people would say that’s a good thing.”
“Do you think so, Professor?” Dora called out. She didn’t bother raising her hand.
“It isn’t very polite to interrupt,” Professor Jones scolded, but mildly. “I think it’s a pity we didn’t make more effort to see if giants could learn to live in our society. Of course, it might not have worked and the outcome might have been the same anyway, but that’s something we’ll never know. We’ve created quite a few of our own enemies.”
Tentatively, Scorpius raised his hand.
“Um, is it true there’s a giant living by the Forbidden Forest?”
To Albus’s surprise, he didn’t sound scornful. He seemed genuinely interested.
“Yes, that is true Scorpius. His name is Grawp and while he generally remains apart from wizarding society, he has a very good relationship with Professor Hagrid and when he does choose to interact with wizards, he is now perfectly appropriate. He’s one of the reasons why some people believe all giants could have integrated into our society, had they been given the opportunity.”
Scorpius nodded, as if satisfied.
“I know that class was meant to be ‘a break’,” Derek said afterwards. “But I actually learnt quite a lot.”
Albus nodded. “It was really interesting. I wish Professor Jones would tell us more stuff like that and about her time in the Order during the war.”
They hurried to Potions, where Professor Slughorn had prepared a quiz.
“Ravenclaws versus Slytherins,” he said. “Forty points to whichever house wins.”
With Rose, Rasmus and Nathan, who excelled at theory, all in Ravenclaw, their house won easily.
Nathan was ecstatic.
“I wish class was always like that and we never had to actually make the potions. I’d do all right then.”
A few of the Slytherins glared at them.
“It’s not fair, putting us up against the brainbox house,” Abric Fletcher muttered in annoyance.
He hadn’t managed to answer even one question.
“At least you do actually know the theory,” Rose whispered to Nathan. “I don’t think Abric knows anything at all.”
“Except how to steal,” Dora put in. “I’d say they can’t leave anything down for a minute in Slytherin with him around.”
“Ah, Abric’s all right,” said Albus.
“So long as it’s somebody else he’s stealing from,” Dora muttered.
Albus didn’t bother arguing. She had a point, he supposed.
Transfiguration began with Professor Blackburn turning their textbooks into bats.
A gasp ran around the classroom. She laughed and turned them back into textbooks.
“Will you teach us how to do that?” Angie asked in amazement.
“If you continue on with Transfiguration to N.E.W.T. level, you will eventually learn spells like that, but I’m afraid it would be a little beyond your ability at the moment.”
“Do it again. Please.”
She waved her wand and the textbooks started to flap their wings again.
Fionnuala screamed and skidded her chair backwards as the bat flew towards her.
Professor Blackburn raised her wand again. The bat turned back into a book and landed gently back on her desk.
“Sorry Fionnuala. Are you all right?”
“Yes, Professor.” Fionnuala started to giggle.
Albus suddenly realised how amusing the situation was and began to laugh as well. Soon the whole class was laughing.
Once they calmed down, Professor Blackburn demonstrated how some other classroom items could be transformed into Hallowe’en decorations.
“It’s like Cinderella,” Angie commented.
“Cinderella?” Dora stared at her in confusion.
“Yeah, you know, the fairytale. Except it’s the other way ‘round in Cinderella. The fairy godmother transforms the pumpkin into a carriage. My little sister loves that story.”
They began comparing fairytales.
“I must get a copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” Angie said. “My sister’d love them. That’s if she hasn’t grown out of fairy tales by Christmas.”
They continued talking as they headed to Herbology. Neville always allowed a certain amount of chatter and it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the upcoming feast.
“I wonder what they’ve planned for entertainment,” Rasmus said. “Hilda says somebody usually finds out in advance, but I haven’t heard anything. Have any of you?” He glanced around the greenhouse.
Albus bit his lip. “James says he heard there wasn’t going to be any. I think he was joking, but…”
“Please pay at least a little attention to what you’re doing,” Neville called, but he was smiling.
As they left, he beckoned Rose and Albus over to him.
“Looking forward to the feast tonight?”
“Definitely,” Albus said.
Neville smiled at them. “It should be a good one. I know you’ve been particularly looking forward to it, Albus. Your dad was telling me how you used to play at Hogwarts Hallowe’en feasts back when you were little and Teddy was here.”
Albus smiled at the memory. “They always sounded so much fun.”
“Well, go on, now. You’d better not be late for your last class.”
Albus wasn’t sure he’d have minded being late for History of Magic. He doubted Binns would even notice.
Unlike the other teachers, Binns didn’t even seem to realise it was Hallowe’en. He treated them to an extremely boring lecture on wizard-goblin relations which felt about as long as all their earlier classes put together.
Albus didn’t think he’d ever been so relieved to have a class end. It was almost time for the feast to begin.
He was so excited, just getting to the Great Hall seemed to take forever.
“Come on Rose.”
“Albus, it’ll start when it starts. Rushing won’t make it start any earlier. It just means we’ll be waiting in the Great Hall instead of Ravenclaw Tower.”
“Ah, Albus,” Nearly Headless Nick interrupted before he could answer. “Heading for the Hallowe’en feast?”
“Yes, aren’t you?” He was puzzled. The ghost seemed to be going in the opposite direction.
“Not this year, I’m afraid. It’s my five hundred and twenty-fifth Deathday and we ghosts are having a party in the dungeon.”
“Oh, my dad told me he was at your five hundredth.”
“He was indeed. As were your parents, Rose.”
“Yes, Mum told me. She really enjoyed it.”
“So the ghosts aren’t providing the entertainment this year?” Albus asked.
He really hoped James had been joking.
“Oh, I think they’ve something a bit more original than formation gliding planned.”
“So you know what it’ll be, Sir Nicolas? Oh, please tell us.”
Nick smiled. “My lips are sealed. You’ll find out soon enough. Now go inside and prepare to enjoy yourself.”
“Enjoy your party.”
“I intend to.”
The Great Hall was decorated in orange and black. Candles lined the tables, lighting up the room and thousands of bats swooped overhead.
“I wonder whose textbooks they were.” Rose giggled.
“What’s so funny?” James appeared behind them.
“In class today, Professor Blackburn turned our books into bats, so we were just wondering if those were once books too.” She laughed. “Fionnuala did scream when the bat flew at her.”
“Oh, to be back in first year,” James said. “Once you get to third year, there’ll be no time for fun classes like that.”
“Yeah, because you’re working so very hard,” Rose said sarcastically.
“Well, no,” James admitted, after a moment’s thought. “But I’m supposed to be.”
“Don’t mind him,” Rose told Albus. “I doubt they did much more today than we did.”
He didn’t really care. Third year was ages away.
He took his seat at the Ravenclaw table and filled his plate from the food that magically appeared.
Once they’d eaten, a ghost appeared at the top of the room, dressed in a top hat and suit and carrying a cane.
“Good evening boys and girls. My name is Sammy the Spook.”
He tossed the cane into the air.
Some of the students started cheering already, obviously familiar with Sammy.
“That’s the spirit,” he called. “Or rather I’m the spirit.”
A groan ran around the Hall.
“Not too fond of that one, eh? Would you rather hear how I met my untimely death?”
He launched into a long story involving an band of angry trolls, a Manticore, and an Acromantula.
“And then,” he concluded, “I fell off my broom.”
The students laughed.
“I was trying to do a somersault. A piece of advice, do not try this at home. Just standing up on the broom is difficult enough.”
He glided up into the air and placed one foot in front of the other, as if trying to balance on something very narrow.
They laughed again.
“And the broom wobbling beneath me.”
He extended his arms and swayed slightly from side to side.
“So I crouched down and then…the broom shot out from under me.”
He jerked backwards and tumbled to the floor, landing on his head.
The routine continued for quite a while before Sammy finally stood up and took his final bow.
“And now I wish you all a very happy Hallowe’en.”
“Happy Hallowe’en,” they called.
“A ghost comedian,” Derek said. “I think I’ve seen everything now.”
“No wonder Nick knew what was happening,” Rose said. “Sammy was probably calling in to his party first.”
“I hope they’d as good a night as we did,” Albus said.
His first Hallowe’en at Hogwarts had definitely lived up to his expectations. The feast had been fantastic and all of his classes except History of Magic had been fun. It was a pity they weren’t like that every day.
The following day, they were back to normal. Professor Jones even told them to “settle down. Hallowe’en is over now, you know.”
“Anything else happening between now and Christmas?” Derek asked hopefully after class.
“Just Quidditch matches and stuff.”
“Well, at least, that’s all that’s expected,” Albus said. “But this is Hogwarts. You never know what’ll happen here.”
He described the Triwizard Tournament and other events that had broken the monotony of school life over the years.
“So you just never know,” he concluded.
On Saturday, Nathan arrived into the common room with a message for Albus.
“I found this just outside,” he said. “Someone must have dropped it.”
He tore it open.
My dear Albus,
I hope you enjoyed the Hallowe’en feast. I’m planning a little post-Hallowe’en/pre-Bonfire night breakfast party myself for tomorrow morning. I do hope you’ll be able to attend. And Rose too, of course. Hope to see you both in my office at 7:30 Sunday morning.
Professor H. Slughorn.
P.S. Congratulations to Ravenclaw on winning our little quiz last Tuesday.
After reading, he passed it to Rose.
She stared at it for longer than he would’ve expected.
“Don’t you think it’s a little odd?”
“What?” he asked.
“7:30 in the morning. So far, all the Slug Club meetings have been in the evenings.”
“So maybe Slughorn’s got plans for tomorrow evening. Or maybe it’s ‘cause we’d have to get up for class the next morning.”
“Never bothered him before. Anyway, he could have had it tonight. Or last night.”
Albus shrugged. “He didn’t think of it until today? You know what Slughorn’s like; he seems to decide these things at a moment’s notice.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. It just seemed odd, that’s all. Are we going?”
“Suppose we’d better.”
He wasn’t particularly enthusiastic. The Slug Club parties were pretty boring and getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning for one wasn’t exactly his idea of fun, but it was a bit late to refuse the invitation now and Slughorn wasn’t always the easiest person to refuse anyway.
“Do you want to?” he asked Rose.
She shrugged. “Don’t particularly care. We might as well.”
The dormitory was silent when Albus woke the next morning. Rasmus was still asleep, he noticed. He wondered if he should wake him. But then, he didn’t even know for sure he was invited. Albus just assumed he was because he had been to all the others. Maybe he hadn’t wanted to give up his Sunday morning lie-in. If that was the case, Albus didn’t blame him. He wished he’d been brave enough to just ignore the invitation. Now that he thought about it, he could probably have just pretended he hadn’t got it. After all, whoever’d been supposed to deliver it obviously hadn’t done so.
He pulled on his robes and headed, sleepily, for the common room, where Rose was waiting for him.
“Rasmus not coming?”
“Doesn’t look like it. I was wondering if I should wake him, but then, Slughorn didn’t actually say it was the whole Slug Club, did he? Or maybe Rasmus just didn’t want to get up this early.”
“It’s not all that early, Albus. I’m often up at this time.”
“You’re about the only one.”
It did seem that way. The school corridors were quieter than Albus had ever seen them.
“This must have been what it was like when our parents were sneaking around the corridors at night when they were at school,” he whispered.
“Um, why are you whispering? There aren’t any dormitories around here.”
“I don’t know. It just feels like I should.”
They reached the corridor where Slughorn’s office was.
She pointed at the wall near Slughorn’s office, where letters a foot high were daubed.
Albus hurried forward and gaped at them in horror.
Mudbloods beware. The Dark Lord is returning.
The words themselves were horrifying enough, but what really made Albus’s blood run cold was that they appeared to be written in blood.
Happy Hallowe'en to everybody reading!
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