Written for: delphipsmith
Length : 1100 words
Character(s): House ghosts
Author's Notes: Thanks to H. for the beta and a very merry Christmas to delphipsmith!
‘Well, I think that went very well.’ The Fat Friar leaned back in his chair and considered the glass on the table before him. The wine was a deep, rich red, a red that whispered to him of promises to come. Almost – he licked his lips around the word – seductive. A half-remembered quote came to him. I have looked upon the wine when it is red. Indeed.
Helena tapped a dainty slipper on the floor. ‘A toast?’ She tilted her head to one side and raised her glass. ‘To friendship.’
A slight contretemps as Nick copied Helena’s tilted head and overshot. The Fat Friar stared politely into his lifted glass, watching the wine sparkle in the candlelight, while Nick fumbled with the lace collar of his best jacket. But not before catching the Bloody Baron’s eye. The Baron’s face was expressionless but the Fat Friar knew what his companion was thinking. Fellow’s drunk too much. No class.
No head for drink, one might say. The Fat Friar suppressed a smile.
It was hard to blame Nick, though. It wasn’t as if any of them had much opportunity to overdo the wine.
Helena coughed behind her handkerchief. Looking up, he saw that Nick had managed to rearrange his head.
‘To friendship,’ the Friar said again, and the ghosts drained their glasses.
In the privacy of the staffroom, he let himself sink into the deep cushions of his favourite sofa. So long – well, a year, of course, or just under. And such a year! Worse to come, he thought, shifting his buttocks on the corduroy. Young Longbottom was one term into his sixth year and sometimes the Friar doubted whether the child would make it to the end of any given day. Not a Hufflepuff, perhaps, but the Friar owed it to Pomona to see Longbottom safe. And a more gifted herbalist I have not seen, not for a generation. But –
But. And there were other things in the air at Hogwarts. He had ignored them with a resolve that startled him for the last eleven and a half months, but now it was New Year’s Eve and the Fat Friar had choices to make.
He ran an affectionate finger down the neck of his port bottle. Then he got down awkwardly onto the staffroom floor and prayed.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. Except he hadn’t. Not much a ghost could do, really in that department, although at Christmas, of course – He gave a delicate shudder. A mixed blessing, Christmas, for a ghost. Was that a heresy? Had he, in fact, sinned? Hastily, he made the sign of the Cross.
He’d seen the looks the Bloody Baron was shooting at Helena Ravenclaw, but the history between them wasn’t exactly in the poor chap’s favour. She would almost certainly be annihilating Nick at poker at this very moment. Poor fellow hasn’t got a hope.
He wasn’t sure whether the ‘poor fellow’ was the Baron or Nick.
However, he was evading the issue. Was this the year…? He had served his time, served it and more as a Hogwarts ghost. Tonight, if he wanted, that time could come to an end. He could move on.
It would be Heaven, surely? A place of infinite bliss. He had tried very hard to imagine a place of infinite bliss, but it was not easy and it became less easy as the years went by. More and more, he thought, Heaven was starting to resemble a corduroy sofa.
A place where I can eat and drink every day of the year. Now that was an attractive option. The Fat Friar patted his tummy. Infinite bliss, indeed! And never the slightest prospect of indigestion.
On the other hand, would he end up taking such a blessing for granted? The Twelve Days were special for ghosts precisely because there were only twelve of them. Twelve days of smell and taste and touch – enough to tantalise the senses, not to jade them.
Enough to remind him of what he had given up. And shall be given to me again, through the Glory of our Lord and through Christ the Redeemer.
The clock on the mantelpiece chimed the half-hour. Thirty minutes to make his choice. How should he spend his last thirty minutes at Hogwarts?
I should look in on young Longbottom. But Longbottom had gone to his grandmother’s for the holiday. Pomona… but Pomona would be in The Three Broomsticks, drinking and dancing with her friends. Saying goodbye to the other ghosts would be a monstrous breach of etiquette. They all had a choice to make on New Year’s Eve.
He wondered, as he did every year, how many of his companions would have passed on when the New Year dawned. They were down to about twenty now; when he had arrived at the castle there had been more than a hundred. But I have a nasty feeling there will be new ghosts very soon. The Fat Friar shuddered. You could never tell what choice a person would make when push came to shove. I’m damned if I’m spending eternity with Pansy Parkinson. Oh dear. Ten Hail Marys, I think, for the word and the uncharitable sentiment behind it.
It would be nice to move on. He was ready, he knew; whether or not he was worthy was not his concern. He had been a faithful and friendly House ghost. Neither frightening not aloof, and proud of his relationship with his Hufflepuffs, who liked to seek him out and tell him their problems. Oh dear, that’s pride. I’ll need to watch that. But isn’t false modesty just as bad?
They’d need a new House ghost. But that too was not his concern. Maybe it would be a change for the better. New blood and all that.
For the first time, he was not afraid. What was I thinking, he mused, so many years ago? Why was I so scared?
What was I holding on to?
So it’s decided, then. This year. He clambered stiffly to his feet, using the arm of the sofa to pull himself up. Four minutes to twelve. He let his arm brush the worn corduroy.
And yet –
If I pass on, who will care for them?
Pomona. The Hufflepuffs. Longbottom. The other ghosts. Helena. The Baron. Nick. It would be hard to describe any place without them as a place of infinite bliss. One day, he knew, they might pass on without him. And then I’ll follow. But for now –
And there were other considerations. From what he’d heard in the Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts was going to need all the help it could get. And that includes me. Us.
Six days left, and a case and a half of this excellent port still to go. We’d better get a move on.
He picked up the bottle and headed for the door. His friends would be waiting.