DANE

                                                                     ACT 1.1

          "I really don't feel like being expelled tonight, so remind me again why we are out here?"

          A thick braid of hair whipped through the air and hit the speaker in the face as the girl in front of him turned back to look at her friend, snapping her teeth as she did so.  "We're out here because we want to see him, remember?  We have to know if that second year was telling the truth, and Ernie asked us to look into it.  Besides, it's not like we'll be expelled if we get caught.  Just a little detention."

          Zacharias Smith put a hand to his stinging cheek, and glared a bit, knowing that his partner in crime wouldn't catch it in the dark. "Watch your hair, Bones."  Both students looked furtively around the corner of the hall, before making a dash to the third level's main balcony area.  Susan Bones led the way, her tall and lanky frame outlined by the faint lamplight as she leaned up against the double doors to the outside world.  Zacharias placed himself against the doors facing her, gaze firm as he removed his wand from his robe and met her eyes.

           "Maybe you won't be expelled by our glorious new Headmaster," he said, "but I certainly might, since I'm not the favorite niece of Her Majesty Queen of Magical Law Enforcement.  Ready?"

          Susan raised both eyebrows at him.  "Don't talk about my relative that way.  And yes, any time now."

           "Good."  The blond boy grinned and whispered a spell they didn't teach in school: in moments the huge wooden doors that supposedly kept students safe from the upper level balconies after sunset trembled, creaked, and fell open a crack.  The two teenagers pushed with all their upper body strength and moved the ancient slabs outward.

          The night beyond lay foggy and dark, with no moon and few stars.  It was the perfect situation for a good scare, and the Hufflepuff pair shuddered in unison as they remembered they'd come looking for exactly that.  Steadfastness was their reputation, however, and so both teenagers grasped their magic wands and marched forward onto the balcony.

           "I never though it would be quite this quiet," Susan muttered, touching the stone wall and peering over for a view of the Hogwart's grounds.

          "It's the height," Zacharius said.  "Do you see anything?"

          "Nothing.  It's like it always is, only dark."

          "You're not into poetry much, are you Bones?"  He lit his wand with a light spell and began to walk the line of the chest-high balcony wall, peering into the long darkness.  Susan lit her own wand and swung it around to face the castle wall, examining the flat, broad stones for anything interesting. 

           "Not my style, you know.  Not all of us have a life dream that consists of talking our way out of said life by charm alone."

          "Now that hurt," he replied, clutching his chest in mock pain and letting his voice take on a nasal whine.  "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were calling me, a fellow Hufflepuff, lazy.  And here I thought you were classier than that."

          "I'm as classy as they—"

          She had stopped talking, and her wand was pointed at the ground, held loosely in her hand.

          "As they what?" Zach prodded, gaze still on the fields over the balcony edge.  When she didn't respond, he turned around fully, looking for her.  "Bones?  Susan?  Susan—what are you—"

          She shushed him emphatically and gestured for him to approach.  When he was standing beside her she pointed one trembling finger onto the turret above them.  A wraithlike vision swirled in the air over the turret, deep colors swirling together like dark oils mixing.  The form would flutter in and out of prominence—sometimes a hand, sometimes the edge of a robe, sometimes a set of shoulders bowed as if under a great weight.   The students stared like wild rabbits, eyes bulging and limbs shivering.  They had seen many, many spirits walk the halls and lands of Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but never had one appeared so dark and malevolent as this one, so reeking in bitterness.  As they watched the wraith strands took the solid shape of a face, eyes opening to release white light that, for one brief moment, illuminated the balcony, the sky, and the form of the spirit itself.  Then the eyes closed, and everything winked back into the empty blackness of a moonless night.  The two young wizards realized they were clutching hands, looked at each other in awe.

          "So it's true then," Zacharius whispered.  Susan bit her lip and nodded.

          "That was Dumbledore's ghost, and he is not pleased to be here."

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Author's Note: It might become clear to some people very soon what I'll be doing with this fic, and that's great if it happens, but if it does, I ask you NOT to post extreme ending spoilers in your reviews.  I'd like at least one reader to be surprised by the time they get there, if possible.  Other than that, please comment comment comment!  I'll try to update this very soon.