Disclaimer: Yes, I'm well aware of the fact that all the characters and situations from Harry Potter do not belong to me. Although I'm probably the only person who's characterised the Bloody Baron as I have done here so maybe… What am I thinking?! Everything in the HP fandom has been written and thought of before.
Author's note: Yes, my characterisation of the Bloody Baron is probably very off but I do think there is more to him than mysterious blood stains. And we don't know all that much about him anyway. Yes, Malfoy is scared of him. Yes, he's the only one who can control Peeves. But Malfoy's scared of everything and maybe he can control Peeves because he has his respect.
You know how all these stories start off. 'It was a normal night... or as normal as it ever was at Hogwarts' as a direct plagiarism from the Harry Potter books. This is not one of them. On this night many completely unnatural and unsuspected things were happening and were about to happen. Normal is not relevant for today. Not even the Hogwarts kind of normal.
Outside the castle a continuous sleet of unseasonal rain fell from the dark sky.
Inside the castle messengers were running from one wing to another and not a single occupant was still in the peaceful throes of sleep.
Outside the castle an army of dark-clad men and strange, vicious creatures were walking in step, ignorant of the rain.
Inside the castle one room was colder than ice or even the frozen wet of the sleet hitting and chilling the window-pains.
Outside the castle a man stepped forward and knocked on the huge oak doors and the act mocked those inside.
Inside the castle a fierce and panicked silence reigned as students ran and teachers steadied their selves for battle. Except in the coldest room. The occupants in that room ... were cold.
All the dead occupants of the castle were gathered together - even those who had long faded from memory and the sight of the living. Sir Nicolas moved forward another step from his place at the front of the room; he was the one who had called the meeting. But the other ghosts weren't even bothering to listen to his pleas that they should help the living occupants of their castle. It was their castle but it didn't matter if the living were fighting ... It wasn't anything to do with them really, was it? The living would always go on. And their own deaths would go on forever, regardless as to whether or not the castle was even still standing.
The Lady Elsbeth floated higher so that she could be heard as she spoke the thoughts of most "What could any of us do against a living army? We cannot fight! And why should we ally ourselves with them at all? Their concerns do not concern us. What of the living can touch us?"
There were nods of agreement from around the room but through the wispy movement of the ghosts the Bloody Baron stirred and there was such a look on his face that any who turned to see him bearing down on them scattered (and those that froze in position he simply moved through without noticing that they were even there).
He floated high above the floor and looked down on all the ghosts assembled below. Any who had been floating higher felt his wraith focused on them and sunk lower in shame.
There was silence.
A young girl who had died of fever in 1564 swished her skirts restlessly and her mother grasped her hand to hold her still.
When the Baron finally spoke it was in little above a whisper but all could hear him clearly.
"This isn't about us."
There were sighs from around the room and the moving noise started up again as the ghosts of the ages agreed.
"This is about who we once were."
The silence returned deeper than before.
"Once we walked amongst the living, being gay and feasting when the times arose; looking after our children, our families or even our pupils. We could understand danger and desperation and from that we had fears … but also hope. People stick up for one another. People come to the aid of those they don't even know. People know in their hearts what is right and what is wrong. Are ghosts so lost to the world without the literalness of a heart that we don't know how to do the same?"
The ghost all tried to back away from the shame that they felt at his words but not even the shadows could really hide them.
The Baron sought out individuals in the crowd. He looked at the mother with her young daughter. "Maree DeVough?" She nodded slightly and others turned to look at her face. "You stayed by your child till she died regardless of the risk of catching the fever yourself?" There were tears in her eyes as she nodded once more. "And so you died: Your own life for the chance of nursing little Emma till the end. You did not have to do this but you did so for hope and for faith." She nodded yet again and pulled her daughter into her arms, hiding her face in the soft, ghostly hair.
The Baron turned from her and sought out another face from the ghosts of the castle. "Captain Benjamin Hall." The ghost of 300 hundred years dressed in well-used mail and armour pulled himself straighter. "You were one who died in the last siege of this castle? Refresh the memories of these folk."
"Milord? Surely you could...?" The Baron narrowed his eyes in reminiscence of the glares that the student population lived in fear of and the Captain started again. "It started mid the month of December. The castle was so cold that your breath froze in the air as you marched the corridors, but no fuel could be spared for fires. The students of the school had all been sent back to their homes although a few of the boys had remained in defiance, wanting to prove themselves in battle. We were under the command of The Baron MacKeown," The faces of naive ghosts looked with new respect at the Bloody Baron with his stains of silver, ghostly blood, "and hordes of badly organised Muggles were our attackers. They had found out about our magic and decided that we were unnatural and the world had to be saved from our defiling presence. If they broke through our defences we knew that all inside the walls would be slaughtered. But the Baron insisted that we were to only scare them, not slaughter, and we were not to use magic so as to prove their accusations. At one point, after many scuffles, they managed to breach the walls of the east wing – that was were I myself fell and so did the majority of the trained soldiers of the castle. I did not know any more for many days."
The Baron's voice was cold as he continued the tale. "After the Captain and his guard were slain I was left with only a few men and most of the boys – who after seeing the reality of their first battle wanted none of it, not for glory nor valour. Our armament was low and there was not much hope for victory. Two mornings later a battering ram destroyed the grand-doors regardless of its magical strengthening. We could leave none in reserve as we strove to keep the doorway. Most were slain, myself included. After I fell the remains of our defence fled and barricaded themselves in the Great Hall. The Muggles perceived themselves as to have won and so they had. There were only a few of the boys left and they did not know how to make war nor even how to shave. Sir Samuel Fletcher," he nodded in respect at the ghost of an old man, "who was then 17 and not yet knighted was senior and took command of the defences. They were planning a final stand which, no doubt, none would have survived when Lord Malfoy came to their rescue with a thousand men and drove away the offenders."
There was a heavy silence that not even the youngest would have dared to break. The Baron spoke again.
"Sir Samuel? Would you have died before your time if not for Lord Francis Malfoy?" He just gave a curt nod in agreement. "Did you fight in later battles?" He nodded again. "Did you ever forget those who saved you from peril or death in that first battle or others?"
This time the answer was an earnest 'No!'
"And in those times when you were saved or you saved another, did those being saved deserve a future? Did you deserve to live for another day? Did that soldier deserve your servitude and help?"
There was silence in the crowds of ghosts and if a living person was present they would have felt not only the chill of the ghosts but also the frozen suspense of the air and tension between this inquisitor who was judging his fellows who were still below him.
"Can we determine if these students within our walls deserve to live or die? The wizards and witches who are their teachers? Even those who advance on this castle as enemies?" He floated lower till he was no longer higher than all those around him. "Are we supposed to try? Are we supposed to help those who joke and laugh with us - or at us - in the Great Hall at the Halloween feast? Are we supposed to let them die? Or are we supposed to help the enemy by doing nothing?"
"We have to try… Do something…" Said the wavering voice of the Hufflepuff Friar.
"Hogwarts can't die because then we will all really be dead." And surprisingly enough it was the sound of Peeves, the only Poltergeist among them.
"But it has to be all of us or none of us!" said a young sounding voice from the depths of the crowd of hundreds. "Who here is too lazy or selfish to help these children who are in need?"
There were murmurs from around the room and some of the more timid ladies who were so ancient as to almost be forgotten tried to fade out of sight.
The Baron floated back up to his height of power looking down on the shifting crowd where currents of dissent moved. "Rupert Binns." The Professor looked slightly afraid of being singled out like this from all the ghosts. "You have the most contact with the living. Tell me about your first year students. Are they eager to learn everything they can and put it to good use? Do things that elders would think mundane fascinate them? Do they pretend to each other to be braver and stronger and smarter than everyone else? Do they laugh at funny jokes and are unable to stop? Are they children like we were parents to? Like we once were ourselves?"
The professor just nodded, feeling the power and meaning behind the words rather than understanding what was said. Some more of the ghosts around the room straightened up in readiness for their part in the battle for the living in Hogwarts.
The Baron spoke again. "Myrtle White." The girl who had been standing in the shadows so that neither herself nor her spots could be seen jumped at being found by such a figure as the Bloody Baron. "You are the youngest here and closest to the living. It was barely 50 years since you joined us. And you are one like the students whose lives may hang in the balance of our discission. The leader - the Lord – who is marching towards us was once the boy who killed you through his foul creature. Do you think that we should sit in shadow and not concern us with his foul deeds?"
Myrtle looked up at him in fear and confusion but shook her head, no.
"Hear this those who would not oppose this demon of men! At 16 he did not respect the lives of others, even young and faultless girls like Myrtle here. You can not think that opposing him would be a wrong deed."
There was a potent silence. The decision had really already been made.
"And maybe with this deed of charity those of us who are bound to this earth will be set free."
There was an intake of breath that sounded as a gasp in the silence.
"We go to war with our fellow man! Beside the right and against all wrong."
And the ghostly numbers flowed from the enclosing room in all directions – through the walls, floor and roof. Only one remained of the wraiths.
The ghost of Myrtle White hovered for a moment near the floor before she swooped downwards in a plummet to the Entrance Hall where the first of Lord Voldemort's minions were crossing the threshold.