Hollow Smile

It during Halloween that Theodore Nott's reputation as a clever Slytherin loner is always ripped to shreds. For him, Halloween has always been scary.

The thought that's always prevailed is that this isn't the Muggle world, where all Halloween is is dress-up and candy and fake, cheap attempts at being spooky. This is the wizarding world, where there's that added aspect of magic—

(It is here in this train of thought that Theo tries not to imagine carved jack-o'-lanterns, with spiky grins and fiery eyes and their souls and insides taken out to make something hollow and empty walking after him, lurching and grasping, and spiky dark smiles open wide and gaping to bite out his insides and his soul too, while their creators are praised by how original and spooky they were with the carving and the faces.)

Theo always stays far, far away from jack-o-lanterns, especially the giant ones that Hagrid grows and uses to decorate the castle during Halloween; those are the ones that watch him the most, just waiting for the right moment to pounce on him and rip out his soul with those poison-edged grins.

Sometimes Theo thinks that maybe that's how the costumes on Halloween originated, for would-be victims to disguise themselves in such terrible masks and guises, so that the jack-o'-lanterns would run away, their sharp jaws parted to scream and not to devour.

(And it is during this train of thought that Theo knows it backfired, that now the costumes are just as frightening as the soulless, hollow jack-o'-lanterns they intended to scare away. Because in the wizarding world, the five-year-old dressed as a vampire with cheap fake fangs can transform into a real vampire, those plastic fangs turned sharp and white and all too real, and if Theo is his escort, his thin neck will suddenly look so appealing...)

Theo does not dress up in costumes for Halloween. He does not want to walk under dark nights illuminated by a full moon and suddenly realize he is not Theodore Nott, but is twisting and screaming and howling and hairy and clawed and a werewolf. He does not want to see his friends and even people he hates writhing on the ground as their too-obviously-fake costumes bubble and steam and melt into their bodies, becoming part of them, because now that Gryffindor is actually the Dark Lord Voldemort; that stupid Mudblood is now Darth Vader, who sounded much stupider when the Mudblood simply described him; and now Tracy is a hag who's pouncing upon the first and second years with filthy fingers that have dirt under the sharpened claw-fingernails—and most of all, Theo does not want to be part of it, not knowing what's happening and just effortlessly becoming whatever he dressed up as and never knowing he was actually the Slytherin Theodore Nott.

Theo will not change into a creature that kills and claws and howls. Theo will not become soulless and empty because he was too slow for the spiky-smiled, maliciously cackling jack-o'-lanterns. Theo will stay Theo, who knows Halloween isn't something that's light and happy and cause for a feast, but something scary where nothing is definite and anything can change under the light of the much-too-big-and-bright full moon.

("What are you so scared about?" Blaise says, laughing, for Blaise is flamboyant and sees Halloween as an excuse for elaborate and colorful costumes.

Theo shudders and resists the urge to shout, "Confringo!" at the little pumpkin that soon won't be an innocent pumpkin that Blaise has on his bed.

Nobody understands. Halloween is scary.)


Written for the Reviews Lounge Halloween challenge, because challenges are all I seem to get inspiration from these days.