Notes: I don't really have a good excuse why this took me so long. I used to write at work and I've been working from home. There are a lot of distractions at home.
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE
GHOST PARTY CRASHERS
A red light came out the tip of my wand. I used the light like a Muggle highlighter and carefully traced the text I wanted to remove. Once I was done, the sentence glowed a faint red.
"Exemplum Illud," I cast and a translucent copy of the text floated off of the page and attached itself to the end of my wand. I carefully moved my hand to the other sheet of blank paper on my desk and pointed my wand near where I wanted the text to go. I made sure to focus on the small space between the sentences. "Pono Illud."
The text jumped from the end of my wand and wiggled onto the page. The rest of the text shuffled to make room for the new sentence.
"Make sure you have room for the new text on your parchment otherwise the text will move off the paper onto your desk," Hermione explained.
I looked up from my borrowed school desk. Hermione had procured several unused school desks for the Spell Club meeting. Honestly, I was impressed. She had found a way to get us to revise homework during our Spell Club meeting. She also looked like an actual professor teaching in front of a class with all of us sitting at school desks. I think she was getting some kind of dorky high from it.
"Can this put text on things other than paper?" I asked curiously.
"Yes. However, it's limited to the medium you wrote with. For instance, a pencil will transplant the graphite, and a quill would transfer the ink," Hermione explained and then narrowed her eyes. "Don't use it to write on people."
"Too late!" Oliver called out from the back of the fake class.
Anthony (who had been sitting in front of Oliver) instinctively checked his back.
"Do you know the Auferat Illud spell too? Father uses it when he edits the Quibbler," Luna asked curiously from her desk at the front of the room.
Last week, I'd asked if she could join and we voted her in after she promised Anthony that she wouldn't go around sniffing people. I guess there had been a Ravenclaw common room incident involving her going around sniffing people? She seems to be getting along with everyone so far.
Hermione walked over to Luna. "No, what does it do? The only other editing spell I know is Extermina Illud that erases text. I thought three spells might be a bit too much for one class."
"It removes text and lets you place it somewhere else. It's very useful when laying out a magazine. It works the same way as the copy spell and it even has the same wand movements," Luna explained.
What? Do my ears deceive me? Am I going to learn cut, copy, and paste today? The holy trifecta? The Microsoft Word gods have smiled upon me across the gap between dimensions.
Hermione's eyes lit up. "Oh, that's brilliant! Thank you Luna!"
Luna smiled shyly back.
Unfortunately, most published books had built in counter spells so they couldn't be copied this way wholesale. They needed to figure out how to allow people to copy chunks without copying the whole thing. That would have made doing homework research so easy. Apparently, attempts to tamper with the copying counter spells can make the book you're messing with burst into flames. Madam Pince would frown on that I bet. I wonder if the counter measures would notice if you photocopied it at a Muggle library...
We practiced the spell for a several more minutes until the conversation came around to my brand spanking new Siren's Song t-shirt. It was neon green and purple and I had even artfully ripped the sleeves. I won't say I was the coolest person in the school, but I was definitely the coolest person in the room.
It unsurprisingly took about three sentences of explanation for Oliver to jump onboard the glam rock sea shanty party boat with me.
"I'm in." Oliver nodded decisively. "Is there a fan club? Where can I get a t-shirt?" Oliver's eyes seemed to sparkle for a moment. "Do you want to get tattoos?"
Hannah dragged her school desk over and plopped down next to us. "Ugh, do you realize this band is for old people? My mom likes this band. She's got a tattoo of their logo."
I rolled my eyes. "Stop bragging about how cool your mom is."
Neville nodded in agreement with Hannah. "She's right though, my gram likes them too. Although, she likes the one with the full orchestra."
"My dad likes them as well and he's the biggest dork on the planet." Anthony made a face that might have been pity. "They're very uncool."
Hermione gave up all pretense of working on the spell and walked over to us. I guess we're basically done with the club meeting for the day.
"Are they even real? They don't make any sense. Ghosts can't change their appearance. They're stuck in whatever form they died in. And they can't play real instruments either because they can't touch anything. At most, ghosts can affect the passage of water and even then minutely," Hermione lectured.
I guess she doesn't want to give up Professor-mode quite yet.
Luna shrugged. "That's what makes them interesting to me. No one knows."
"I think they're poltergeists," I declared. I'd given this a lot of thought. Probably too much thought.
Hermione frowned. "But poltergeists are invisible?"
"Peeves isn't. Peeves is like... the spirit of childhood mischief made manifest right? So what if they're the spirit of like awesome musical bands made manifest? And they're pirates because it all started with catchy pirate shanties?" I theorized.
"OooOOoooh," Oliver echoed sounding a bit like a ghost himself.
Peeves has always weirded me out. He's this unique seemingly sentient creature; a spirit who had never been alive. Shouldn't he be studied? He's really freaking weird right? In fact, let's just shove him into the Department of Mysteries so he can't drop dung bombs in the hallways anymore.
Hermione's left eye twitched. "That's an... interesting theory. I suppose it could be worth testing someday."
If you think it's a shit theory, then you can just say so Hermione.
"It's not that implausible. Dementors seem to be the manifestation of negative emotions like grief and fear," I elaborated.
Hermione crossed her arms. "That's a fringe theory."
Dementors first appeared in an evil wizard's invisible torture castle where he did horrible things to people for decades. The torture castle later became Azkaban prison. It seems logical to me considering the history. The negative emotions in that horrible place smooshed together and became something else. Although, I can't remember if the torture prison history is common knowledge or something I've gleaned from my world.
Heck, maybe ghosts aren't souls anymore either, but just strong impressions left at the moment of someone's death. Do Dementors eat ghosts? Has anyone ever checked?
Luna tilted her head like a curious bird. "Or it might be a giant illusion. No one's managed to jump on stage. Someone tried at their last concert at Black Bird cove, but they were pushed back by a wall of water."
"We should go see them someday and test it," Oliver suggested excitedly.
"Yeah, I like that idea. It's something fun we could do together after we've left school," I added in feeling a little melancholy. Assuming all of that Voldemort business gets solved, what will life be like after school is over? I hope it's not lonely. Maybe one of my friends would want to travel the world with me?
"They're going to be in Wales next summer," Luna informed us.
Oliver dramatically gasped.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "How do you know?"
"They have a set schedule. There are twelve coves around the world that they always go to in order. Wales is next on the list," Luna explained.
"WE HAVE TO GO!" Oliver practically yelled in his excitement.
"Yeah!" I pumped my fist dramatically in the air.
"It would be fun to meet up with everyone over the summer," Neville admitted with a smile.
"I'll go if everyone else is going," Kevin said.
Hermione's face fell. "Is it something my Muggle parents could get to?"
"The girls could have a sleepover at my house the night before?" Luna suggested with wide hopeful blue eyes.
"Oh! A sleepover?" Hermione asked looking startled.
Luna looked unsure. "It's okay if you don't want to. No one has ever said yes before."
Hermione blushed. "I wasn't saying no! Of course I want to go! I just... have never been to a sleepover either. We could play trivia games? Or I could bring study flash cards we could go over the night before? That would be fun."
"Oh no honey." I patted Hermione's arm. "Just... no."
Hermione frowned at me.
"Kevin's dad will bring us!" Oliver suggested.
Anthony chucked a wadded up piece of paper at Oliver's head. "Don't volunteer other people's parents!"
"I met Kevin's dad when I got school supplies this year. He's WAY cooler than your dad," Oliver declared with zero shame.
Anthony threw another paper wad at Oliver.
"My dad won't mind," Kevin added in smiling.
"Would other ghosts know if the band is made up of ghosts or not?" I wondered out loud.
"Some ghosts like to visit each other so maybe?" Anthony paused in his paper wad war. "My great great grandfather Yehuda Goldstein does anyways. He's our family ghost."
"Oh!" Neville perked up. "We could go to Nearly Headless Nick's Death Day Party next week on Halloween. That's bound to be full of all sorts of ghosts. We could ask around about the band."
"Miss the feast?" Anthony scrunched up his nose.
"We can be ghost party crashers," I declared trying to psyche myself up for missing a bunch of food.
"He's really nice, I'm sure he'd let you come if you-"
Oliver interrupted Neville mid speech. "Ugh, don't make this lame Nev! It's much cooler if we're crashing the party."
I nodded in agreement.
Neville looked unsure, but then shrugged.
"I think you've got some kind of skewed perception of ghosts from Muggle media. They're boring. Grandfather just repeats himself all the time. He constantly complains about my hair over and over."
Oliver threw a paper wad at Anthony's head. "You know you're going to decide to come eventually."
Anthony threw the paper wad back at Oliver.
We settled on a meetup time before the party and then everyone started to gather their stuff up. Except for Oliver and Anthony who were flinging paper wads at each other with magic.
Oh wait! I nearly forgot!
I cleared my throat. Everyone looked up.
"I almost forgot. We voted in Luna last week, but I didn't ask if anyone else wanted to bring a new person in?" I looked around.
Neville stood up, dodged the now full on paper wad war between Oliver and Anthony, and raised his hand. "I'd like to ask Harry and Ron if they want to join."
"No!" Hermione and Kevin said together. Hermione I expected, but quiet Kevin was a surprise.
"Why not?" I asked Kevin curiously.
"That stuck up little twat caused us to lose the House Cup last year," Kevin explained and looked like he'd swallowed something sour. "He got points for things the rest of us would have gotten expelled for. He seems really full of himself."
Neville frowned. "He's not like that."
"Eh, I have to agree with Kevin. They both seem like pricks. I got caught in one of their pranks last year. The bespelled paint balloon ruined my Charms homework. I had to redo the whole thing and it was a pain in the arse. They're nearly as annoying as fourth year red headed twins," Anthony added in pausing in his paper wad war.
"Fred and George are Ron's brothers," Hermione explained.
Kevin wrinkled his nose. "Figures. Their mum must buy howlers in bulk."
"I wouldn't care if they were just pranking the professors, but leave us regular students out of it," Anthony said.
"They pranked the Slytherin common room. It scared my turtle," Daphne spoke up unexpectedly.
"If Harry and Ron join, I'm out," Kevin stated with finality.
"Well then." I looked around the room. The only person who seemed to be pro-Harry and Ron seemed be Neville. The rest looked ambivalent at best. Hannah's crush must have evaporated completely when we lost the House Cup. "Then Harry and Ron won't be joining."
Kevin nodded with satisfaction as Neville wilted a little. The rest of our group finished gathering up our things including Oliver and Anthony's small mountain of wadded up paper.
I wonder if Harry and Ron know about the negative reputation they're getting?
You could be really brazen about not taking notes in History of Magic class. And by really brazen I mean ignore the professor completely and have books that aren't even tangentially related to class laid out in front of you. Professor Binns hasn't even glanced in my direction or even paused in his lecture. Before my time at Hogwarts is over, I'm going to have to try just walking out and see if he has any kind of reaction at all. I think I could get away with it.
Eloise was openly taking a nap beside me. The puddle of drool leaking from her mouth was getting kind of close to me actually... I scooted my chair, notebook, and enchanting books further away from her.
"The last full Goblin Rebellion occurred in May 1940 which was exacerbated by the troubles the Muggles were having at the same time. This particular rebellion mostly concerned import and export taxes of Goblin made goods but also extradition rights between..." Professor Binns droned on and on...
My next step in the 'deck myself out in protective enchanted objects like it was Defense Against the Dark Arts prom' was to make myself a couple of rings. Metal made the best long lasting enchantments. The best metal was Orichalcum, but unfortunately Orichalcum could only be mined in the Goblin Underground and the goblins went to extreme measures to keep any raw ore or un-smelted bars from getting out. You could un-enchant an already enchanted Orichalcum object and smelt it down, but since Goblins consider anything they made as always their property and only on loan you'd be in some deep shit if they found out.
"As you know, goblin social hierarchy and common standards are quite different from normal Wizarding views of ownership and law. The Concord of 1940 attempted to rectify this with..." Professor Binns droned.
Gold and silver were the next tier. Even if I hadn't had a ridiculous amount of money, gold and silver rings were really cheap in wizarding catalogs. One high-end wizard jewelry store had non-tarnishing silver. I might go with that since I like the look of silver better than gold. I'd have to send an owl and ask if the silver content was still high. I suppose I could get something pure silver, but then I'd have to waste an enchantment on keeping it from being delicate.
Technically, I could put as many enchantments on the ring as I could fit on it. However, the more enchantments you shove into an object the weaker and less stable those enchantments come. Seven is the max you can have without a steep decline in effectiveness and three is the most stable. Three and seven are super special numbers in Arithmancy for some reason. I'd gotten that much out of the super confusing Arithmancy textbooks I'd tried to read.
So six enchantments and two rings... One ring I think I'll dedicate to protection from the elements. The Flamma Glacias spell is a non brainer inclusion. I keep getting set on fire for some reason. Next, I'll need to find a good ice/cold protection spell. And the third... could be... lightning protection?
I started making a list.
"The largest point of contention of the 1944 Accords was the resolution of the Goblin Blood Feuds. Goblin Blood Feuds for those that are unaware, is the rare occurrence where the Goblin Council declares that the entire Goblin Nation will declare vengeance upon a single person and five generations of their family. This was considered the goblin's highest form of punishment for their enemies. Victims of a Blood Feud would be ruthlessly hunted down even if it took decades. There was no time limit on a Blood Feud. The 1944 Accords attempted to..."
Or would acid make more sense? Do wizards get electrocuted more or melted?
And the second ring should have protection from falling, suffocation, and sharp objects? Or should I make it "anti-bleeding to death" protection because spells could make you bleed without cutting you? And is claw damage the same as knife damage to a spell?
I started to make a list of "ways I could be killed" as well and tried to rank them under likelihood and then sketched a few of the likely runes I'd need.
Oh! And something to keep myself from being disarmed... maybe that needs to be a separate ring? Would I look weird wearing three rings at once? I do know that if I'm wearing one on every finger, then I'm going to look super suspicious.
I started to make a list of pros and cons of various enchantments.
"While the Accords of 1944 were successful at creating a compact between goblin and wizard to halt any future Blood Feuds, the following outstanding Blood Feuds were still in effect: Gregory Smithson, Nassau Henderson, Nikita Mears, Vopni Reysson, Shkut Isaak Grigorievich, and Alice Viatorium-"
My pen skidded to the edge of my paper.
"There were many methods for execution used in a blood feud such as beheading..."
Five generations definitely counted a great granddaughter.
I felt my stomach clench into a knot.
"Bloodletting which was considered the 'most humane'..."
But it didn't matter because she definitely wasn't my grandmother...
I felt a bead of sweat run down my shoulder blades.
"Eaten alive by piranhas..."
That's unnecessarily creative!
I don't even know what that means!
"And what the goblins referred to as 'to the pain'. To the pain, per the following quote from a man who did not survive it, is as follows..."
I listened in horror to the unnecessarily graphic and weirdly reminiscent of Princess Bride description of one poor's man's ten year long slow and agonizing death as told by his ghost.
"All of which are now considered to be deceased, although no body of Alice Viatorium was ever found. The Accords of 1946 focused solely on tariffs of-"
Don't just stop there! What the hell!
"During the Accords, the talks broke down when Muggles released bombs overhead of the meeting chamber. The goblins present blamed the wizards who were of course, blameless. The next set of Accords in October of 1945 were more successful and were led by..."
But of course, he DID stop there.
It's fine. I'm not related to her so no big deal? Sure, that crazy elf thought I was, but he definitely had a few screws loose.
Can the goblins tell if you're related to a Goblin Feud person?
I'd have to go to the library after class to see if I could find out any more information about this just in case. Not because I thought Shivy's mad ranting had any validity. Because it didn't. Definitely...
I added to my list of protections, 'Protection from Goblins'.
I leaned against the cool stone wall and glanced out the window. The sky outside was a dark midnight blue and rain was coming down in sheets. I could vaguely see in the distance the tops of the trees swaying back and forth in the wind. The weather had been cruddy the past week. Going to Herbology had felt like getting dunked into a pool even with my umbrella spell.
There was a spat of flu going around as well. While a Pepper-Up potion worked wonders, it still took a few hours to work. Eloise was currently lying in bed in our dorm room with steam rising from her hair looking as if her head was on fire. Hannah stayed behind too claiming she had to "watch over her" but she clearly wanted an excuse to get out of the ghost party. I have no idea where everyone else is. We were supposed to meet ten minutes ago. I'm starting to think I've been stood up by literally everyone.
The library didn't have anything else about Goblin Feuds. It seems that Professor Binns was reading word for word a passage from a book called "The Last Goblin Rebellion" by Professor Jig. There was literally no additional information. The only reason we know anything concrete is that the goblins made a helpful list of the ways they'd kill you if you stole from them and the occasional ghost retelling the story of their gruesome death.
As a way to kill time, I pulled off my hair scrunchie and sat it on the window sill.
I might as well get in some summoning practice while I wait. Okay so... I need to not try so hard. I have to pretend like I don't care that much if the scrunchie flies to my hand. I've got to be tsundere towards the scrunchie.
I don't really care if you come to me or not sempai. It doesn't matter to me.
"Accio scrunchie!" I called out.
The scrunchie wiggled a little bit.
My shoulders slumped.
I didn't really want you anyway, scrunchie baka.
I tried a few more times to get the spell to work to no avail. Just as I was about to give up and go to the party by myself, Neville and Hermione came briskly down the stairs.
"I'm so sorry we're late," Hermione said breathlessly once she reached the bottom. "There was this feather and tar incident in the common room and we had to get cleaned up."
Tar and feathering huh... I wonder if that was Fred and George or Harry and Ron. Maybe the two groups were competing against each other. I'm glad they're not making messes in my common room.
Neville followed closely behind her. He waved and held his side as he tried to catch his breath. After a few deep breathes he looked around curiously. "Are we the only ones that showed up?"
"Nope!" Oliver answered him as he came bounding down the opposite staircase taking two steps at a time. Luna followed him at a more sedate pace.
"Oliver was trying to drag Anthony here," Luna explained serenely.
"Anthony was being laaaame," Oliver drawled out his Irish accent a little thicker than normal. "He said he'd rather go to the feast. I think he's all spoiled on ghosts because of his ghost granddad."
"Eloise doesn't feel well and Hannah is being lame too." I pushed myself away from the wall. "Ready to go in?"
We descended the stairs as a group. We walked passed the Slytherin common room entrance, past the Potions classroom, and even past the kitchen entrance. Long black candles with eerie blue flames lined the hallways casting ghastly shadows.
It got colder as we walked. The chill sunk into my bones and I could see my breath. I'm glad I wore my hoodie.
We came to two large wooden double doors draped with black velvet. Screechy wobbly music emanated from the wide open doors. Our group looked at each other, shrugged, and strode in.
Floating chandeliers cast eerie blue light across a large open space. A sickly sweet smell mixed with a faint burnt sugar emanated from the far side of the room where the ghost buffet was laid out in all its rotten glory. The blue light and shadows whirled around the white shimmery ghosts dancing above the ballroom floor. Ghosts from vastly different eras of time waltzed to the wobbly music. Ancient Roman soldiers dipped Victorian maidens. A Dark Age priest twirled around a flapper. Two knights in full plate armor waltzed. A wild ancient looking woman dressed in furs twirled by herself ignoring the music entirely. It was beautiful and chilling. And not just metaphorically, this many ghosts together made the room feel like stepping into a walk-in freezer.
"We should spread out and mingle?" I suggested.
Everyone agreed and we fanned out. I wandered over to the edge of the dance floor so I could ogle the dancers a little more. The iridescent ghosts overlaid upon each other and reflected the candle light. It really was beautiful, but it also filled me with this faint sadness.
I tore my eyes away and looked around for someone to talk to. I made small talk for a while with a few ghosts, but most of them didn't seem that interested in talking to me. Eventually, a ghost woman with wild flowing curly hair floated towards me. Her medieval dress would have dragged the floor if it wasn't sinking slightly into it. She seemed as good as anyone else to try to strike up a conversation with.
"Excuse me Miss, I was wondering if-"
"AAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!" she screamed right in my face.
I jumped back.
"What the hell was that for?" I asked angrily with a hand over my rapidly beating heart.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" she screamed again, smiled, and then serenely floated away.
"You've been wailed on by the Wailing Widow!" A ghost wearing a top hat and wizard robes exclaimed as if I'd just brushed proverbial elbows with a celebrity.
I regarded the top hat wearing ghost. His robes looked like they were trying to evoke the idea of a fancy suit with coattails while still adhering to the standard wizard bath robe esthetic.
"Oh, wow," I replied and tried to sound impressed that I had just been screamed at for no reason.
"She came all the way down from Kent you know," Top hat Ghost declared with enthusiasm. He smiled at me. "I am Sir Alfred Blythe. Who might you be? You don't see many live ones at death day parties."
"I'm Kasey Thompson. My friends and I decided to crash the party. It seemed interesting," I admitted. I stuck my hands in my pockets. My fingers were starting to get numb from the cold. "Do you know what band is playing?"
"The Singing Sawbones! Quite excellent aren't they?"
"I've never heard anything like them," I answered honestly. Weird wobbly jangly sounds still emanated from the stage. Does it sound different to a ghost? "The only ghost band I'm familiar with is Siren's Song. Do they ever show up for parties?"
Alfred scratched his chin. "Hmm, I have heard of them but they've never shown up to any parties I've been to not even the pirate ghost celebrations." He straightened his ghostly robe and preened a little. "I get invited to most death day parties you know. I died at a party." He looked wistful. "It was the best party I'd ever been to. A lady jumped out of a cake. You don't see that much these days. Witches think jumping out of cakes is below them."
My eyebrows rose to my hairline. There were pirate ghost parties?! Whoa.
"No one wants to jump out of a cake anymore because the last one bloody well got cooked in it accidently! Would you want to spend eternity with burnt icing in your hair? Poor Gertrude," a middle aged looking ghost woman commented. The side of her head was caved in with the imprint of a horseshoe. "It is a bit odd Siren's Song never shows up to parties, isn't it? I saw them when I was alive once. They put on quite the show."
I tried not to stare at the horseshoe print on her head.
"They could be locked!" What looked like a ghost monk floated next to us and joined the conversation. He wore a rough looking monk robe tied with a rope cord. The top of his head was shaved.
Alfred leaned towards me and whispered, "Here we go again."
"I was locked once," The monk intoned mournfully. I realized with a start that the monk's head was on backwards, "It was jolly good at first. After I'd been killed by Vikings… Strong buggers they were and they stole all of the Abbey's wine! Have I told you the story before? Anyways, I digress. I had such a nice dark, dank, and dreary stone abbey. And then those blasted Muggles partially tore down my old abbey and put that horrid freak building in its place. If only they'd torn it down completely, Then, I would have been free to roam. But no! They kept part of it and called it a "food court"! It was madness! It was full to the brim with Muggles and they all had wheels strapped to their feet and they'd roll around in circles over and over while lights flashed all night. And the music! Banshees have uttered more musical notes!"
Uh, was it a roller skating rink?
"How horrid!" The caved-in woman looked like she might faint even though she was already dead.
"If the Department of Ghost Affairs hadn't shown up to unlock me eventually, I don't know what I would have done," the ghost monk moaned and wiped his dry eyes.
Alfred sighed. "There's no understanding Muggles."
The ghosts nodded sagely to themselves as if that settled matters. The monk and smooshed head woman floated away. Sir Alfred gave me a small wave, turned around, and started to float away. He had a large carving knife sticking out of his back.
Hold on. I've got an idea. It was a long shot but it can't hurt to ask.
"Um, excuse me?" I called out and Sir Alfred halted. "I'm curious, is there anyone who died from a Goblin Blood Feud here? We just learned about them in class. You seem to have your finger on the pulse of the room." I winced. "Err metaphysical pulse of the room."
Sir Alfred ignored my slip of the tongue and looked excited. "Oh yes! I saw Mortimer just a few moments ago! He's the only Goblin Feud Ghost in England you know. You're in for a treat! Hold on just a moment."
He floated away rapidly and came back a few moments later with... holy shit.
A ghost covered in piranhas.
Ghostly, still trying to bite him, PIRANHAS.
Chunks of the man were missing and what was still there was covered in small piranhas with razor sharp teeth. Piranhas hung from his ragged robes. Piranhas hung from his wet limp long hair. Piranhas dangled from one intact earlobe. One even hung from the loose skin underneath his right eye. They were all still wriggling.
I stared in horror.
"How did the piranhas become ghosts?" I blurted out after staring for a solid five seconds.
Piranha guy shrugged. "The same way I became a ghost?"
I blinked stupidly at him and then shoved that thought into the now rather crowded corner of my mind reserved for 'magic stuff that doesn't make sense'.
"It's nice to meet you. My name is Kasey Thompson. I heard you were the victim of a Goblin Blood Feud?" I stared at him awkwardly. "I'd uh, shake your hand but I uh... can't."
Lame Kasey. Lame.
If he doesn't want to talk about it I suppose he can just float away. There's nothing he can do to me. Piranha guy, however, seemed quite enthused to talk about how he died. I'm sensing a theme here with ghosts.
"Quite alright. It's custom amongst us dearly departed to simply wave." He waved at me with his right arm. Three fingers were missing. "I'm Mortimer Serralmus. It's a pleasure to meet you Miss," the ghost introduced himself.
I waved. "Why did the Goblins come after you? And why man-eating fish?"
"Oh, the fish were my doing. They gave me a choice at my "trial". It was a complete kangaroo court of course. My goblin defense attorney was reading a magazine the whole time." He shook his head sadly and then seemed to perk up. "But I was given several choices for my demise. Oh they had the usual sorts, beheading, pressing, vivisection, being pulled apart by cave trolls, defenestration... I wasn't even sure what that last one even meant. I thought I'd have a fighting chance with some mere fish!" He flicked the ethereal fish dangling from his eye. "I was wrong."
I gulped. "What did you do that made the goblins come after you?
Mortimer puffed up proudly. The motion caused the piranha dangling from his eye to bounce. "I stole a bar of Orichalcum."
"A single bar?!"
Mortimer nodded proudly. "An entire bar! Quite impressive wasn't it? Not only was I daring, but I was quite the cutting edge alchemist in my day. I was going to break down the alchemical formula and figure out how to create it for myself. Why should goblins have the sole ownership of the most magical element in the world?" He slumped and looked sad. "But they found me before I was able to complete my experiment."
A single bar... A vault full of gold hidden inside a goblin bank stronghold is much more impressive than a single bar...
A chill ran down my spine that had nothing to do with the cold.
"Did any aurors try to rescue you?" I asked quietly.
Mortimer looked proud again. "The Ministry started a war for me! It was the last Goblin War before all of this ridiculous treaty business got started. They used to call it The Alchemist's War. Named after me you know. Not many ghosts can say they have a war named after them." He stopped and peered at me. "You wouldn't happen to be a budding alchemist would you? I still remember the information I was able to gather with my initial experiments! I keep trying to tell Albus, but he keeps acting like he's suddenly gone deaf."
I stepped back cautiously. "Nope, no budding alchemist here. I got to uh, meet up with my friends now. Bye!" I whirled around and booked it across the room before Mortimer could throw horrible forbidden knowledge my way.
I found Oliver and Hermione conversing with a headless horseman near the rotting buffet table. I say "a" headless horseman, because I could see several milling about the room. Wasn't there some kind of ghostly headless horseman fraternity in the books?
"If what you say is true, this Muggle Washington Irving fellow owes me royalties of some kind," the headless horseman mused. The hand holding his head bobbed his head back and forth as if he was nodding.
"Petitioning a Muggle court might be difficult for you," Hermione replied looking very hesitant.
The horse was a ghost too. How do animals become ghosts? It makes no sense... Whoa, hold up. That means the pirate ghost parties could have GHOST PARROTS.
"Hey guys. Did you find out anything?" I asked nodding in greeting at the headless horseman. I got the impression he was perturbed with me that I didn't gasp in horror or anything. At this point, I was becoming literally and figuratively numb. Hermione looked relieved to see me.
"Oh yes, it was quite informative," Hermione said.
"There are ghost horses!" Oliver enthused.
The headless horseman cackled manically, tossed his head, and then looked at me meaningfully waiting for a reaction.
"Ghost animals are super weird right? Don't you have to make a conscious choice to become a ghost?" I wondered out loud.
"Maybe they're not actual ghost horses, but just ghost accessories? They must be able to take some things with them or they'd all be floating around naked," Oliver theorized.
The headless horseman tossed his head and had his horse rear up dramatically. None of us paid him any mind.
Hermione scratched her chin. "That would make sense. I suppose I was wrong about ghosts not being able to play instruments as well. They could play ghost instruments. I saw a ghost looking at a pocket watch earlier."
Another headless horseman walked over and the two started juggling their heads.
"We can talk about this later. I'm freezing. I saw Luna and Neville over by the band. Let's pick them up and then give Nick our condolences or congratulations or whatever we're supposed to say and get out of here."
The headless horsemen stopped juggling, glared at us, and walked away in a huff.
"What's their problem?" Oliver wondered out loud.
We walked over next to the stage where the band were taking a break and chatting animatedly with Luna and Neville. The band consisted of two flappers playing the Theremin, a trio of medieval peasants playing metal saws, and one scraggily wizard dressed like a hippy with a tambourine.
"I'm going to get Theremin lessons," Luna announced without preamble when we approached.
I bet her roommates are going to love that.
"Cool?" I replied because she looked too excited about it for me to discourage her.
Nearly Headless Nick floated nearby and was having a stilted conversation with the Headless Horseman leader guy. He looked like the Ghost of Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast if he'd been beheaded at the end of the movie. I don't remember his real name, but I do remember he was an asshole. From Nick's current expression, Ghost Gaston was in full-on asshole mode. I walked up boldly and interrupted their conversation.
"Great party Nick! We had a really interesting time. Thanks for inviting us!" I exclaimed as enthusiastically as I could.
"Oh I invit-" Nick coughed. "Oh yes! I remember now. The best parties have a variety of people after all. I'm glad to see you had such a wonderful time."
Headless horseman guy glared at me. Bullies are the same in death as in life I guess.
"I even got wailed on by the Wailing Widow!" I added in because the Horseman guy was annoying me.
Nick gasped and The Headless Horseman guy actually looked jealous.
"You did a wonderful job on the decorations," Hermione said next to me. She seemed like she was picking up what I was trying to do.
"They were so spooky I nearly peed myself," Oliver said next to me. I couldn't tell if he was joking or not.
"The music made me feel like I was dead too," Neville said with a straight face. He's come so far. I'm so proud.
"Oh yes. The wackadoodles must have had a wonderful feast with this many blue colored items in one room," Luna said dreamily.
Everyone looked confused for a moment.
I jumped back into the conversation hurriedly not wanting to drag this out any further with a long explanation of whatever wackadoodles were. "We're freezing. There's just too many ghosts here. You're a victim of your own success. We're going to head out. Have a great night, Nick! Bye!"
I power walked out of the party without waiting for his reply. The rest of our groups said their goodbyes quickly to Nick and followed behind me. Everyone else must have been feeling the cold too because we didn't dawdle. We power walked. I walked with the group to the staircase, said my goodbyes, and then backtracked to the Hufflepuff common room.
The common room still had a smattering of students, but everything was starting to wind down. I stuffed a few snacks into my mouth from the infinite snack table so I wouldn't be too hungry and then walked back to my dorm room. When I got back to the room, my roommates were already asleep. Eloise's head was still steaming. Her black curls had frizzed into a crazy Medusa-esque mass. Susan was snoring softly. Hannah was sideways on her bed.
Quietly, I snuck into the room and walked into the bathroom to get ready to go to sleep. I washed my face and then, on a lark, I sleepily tried summoning my toothbrush to my hand. My toothbrush shot towards my hand. I was so shocked I didn't even try to catch it and it bonked me on the head.
My toothbrush clattered to the floor.
I reached down and picked it up. It was encrusted with dust and some kind of mystery goop that had been on the floor.
I was tempted to try summoning it again, but decided I'd rather go to sleep on an up note. I finished getting ready to go to sleep, quietly snuck back to my warm bed, and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I dreamed of piranhas.