A/N: Thank you so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, favourited and followed. A special thank you to zuperankie for your interest in this story :)
Five: Ghosts Busted
Albus, Rose and Dathan stared at Dorian's excited, wide-eyed face.
"What? What have you found?" Dathan asked his brother.
But apparently Dorian was too excited to tell them, and he rushed off back towards the castle at breakneck speed. The three hurried after him, trying to keep up. They followed him through the Entrance Hall, up several staircases, until Dorian had to wait for one of the staircases to come back into position, having stranded a group of Hufflepuffs a few floors below them. Dorian was trying to catch his breath.
"What's going on, Dorian?" Albus asked, gasping.
"We were... (gasp)... looking... (gasp) ... around the castle... (gasp)... and we found something!"
"What? What have you found?" Rose said, getting impatient.
The staircase snapped back into place, and Dorian rushed up again. They were going higher and higher; Albus lost count at ten staircases, and they eventually reached an ancient, rickety corridor, and Dorian rushed over to a shadowy doorway, leading up a spiralling stone staircase. Albus thought they must be as high as they could go now, as it was as cold and damp as the dungeons. They reached a trapdoor overhead, and Dorian struggled with the rusty latch.
"How did you ever come across this place?" Rose gasped.
"Just looking," Dorian mumbled, as Dathan joined him, and together they pushed the heavy trapdoor open.
Everyone climbed up, and into a large, light room. Albus scrunched his eyes as he tried to adjust to the bright light. The room was round, and made mostly of windows. It was obviously the top room of a very tall tower, and offered an amazing view of the Scottish countryside round about.
But that's not what caught Albus' eye.
Elegantly gliding around the room, lighter than the sunlight, were a large cacophony of ghosts.
Rose quietly murmured to Albus that she recognised a lot of them – the House Ghosts were all here; as was Moaning Myrtle, a spectacled girl who was supposed to be haunting a toilet; an ancient ghost with a beard as long as his body sat snoozing in a corner, whom Rose identified as their History of Magic Professor; and above them all, looming in the rafters, was Peeves, a poltergeist who was busy throwing chalk at Moaning Myrtle's glasses.
"I found the ghosts!" Dorian said with a flourish, grinning from ear to ear.
They all stared in amazement. A moustachioed ghost wearing a rather large ruff around his neck swooped over to them, wearing a strained smile.
"Ah, hello there," he said. "First-years, are you? Welcome to Hogwarts!"
"You're Nearly Headless Nick!" Rose blurted, her eyes wide.
"Sir Nicholas, if you don't mind," the ghost said proudly.
"But... what are you doing all the way up here?" Albus asked. "Aren't you the Gryffindor ghost?"
"Yes, indeed... er... are you all Gryffindors?"
"We are," Dathan said, gesturing to Albus. "Why aren't you in Gryffindor Tower, Sir Nick?"
"Uh... we've... we've been admiring the view," Nick said, gesturing to the scenery outside.
"All of you?" Dathan said dubiously.
"Y...yes..." Nick faltered.
"You're all scared; I heard you talking earlier!" Dorian insisted. "They're scared of something in the castle."
Albus turned to look at all the ghosts congregated in the room. "What are you scared of?"
"Yeah, nothing can hurt you – you're dead!" Dathan said bluntly.
Nick straightened his ruff pompously.
"We may be dead, but there are some things in this place that could terrify anyone, even him," said the Fat Friar, gesturing to the Bloody Baron, who was perched in a corner, glaring at the children.
"Tell us what it is!" Dorian ordered.
Sir Nicholas snorted. "Slytherin, no doubt," he muttered to the Friar.
"Have you told the Professors?" Rose asked, trying to ease the tension. "Have you spoken to Professor Commonwealth?"
"We're not going down there, child," said a beautiful ghost, who headed over to Rose from the window. "There are things occurring in this castle; terrible things. You would do well not to wander."
Rose stared up at the lovely, translucent woman. "You're The Grey Lady, aren't you? Helena Ravenclaw."
Helena glanced at Rose's tie, noticing the Ravenclaw colours, and her features softened. "Stay in Ravenclaw Tower, my dear," she whispered. "Do not wander the corridors alone."
"DO NOT WANDER THE CORRIDORS ALONE!" came a screech from the rafters.
The children jumped, and looked up to find Peeves the Poltergeist tittering to himself.
"Do not wander the halls alone,
Don't sneak around at night!
You tiny little first-year pests
Will surely die of fright!"
"Peeves!" warned Sir Nicholas, but Peeves ignored him.
"There's something lurking in this place,
Something ancient and dead.
It wants to be free, wants revenge,
So hide under your bed!"
"PEEVES!" A gravelly growl from the corner echoed around the room, and the whole place fell silent. The Bloody Baron was glaring up at Peeves with fire in his eyes. Peeves, looking fearful, whipped his belled hat from his head, wringing it in his hands.
"So sorry, so sorry," he muttered.
Albus could feel the blood draining from his face. The dreams he'd been having, the voice he'd heard in the dungeons, was that what Peeves had been singing about? He exchanged a brief glance with Dathan, who seemed to be thinking the same thing.
"Er... we'd better be going," said Rose, pulling on Albus' sleeve, having seen the Bloody Baron's glare turn to them.
They all headed down the spiral staircase to the main corridors, tripping over their shoes in an attempt to make no noise. They kept glancing over their shoulders, trying to convince themselves that the shadows they saw were meant to be there.
"What's going on in this place?" hissed Dathan.
"Did you see anything when you were looking for secret passages the other night?" Albus asked him quietly.
Dathan shook his head. "Nothing like what Peeves said."
They hurried down a staircase, and were just heading round a corner to the next one when
The group bumped into a solid wall. They screamed.
"Hello there," said the solid wall in a kind voice.
They looked up to find the Headmaster, Professor Commonwealth, smiling down at them. His long, scruffy beard was braided in several places, and was tinted blue for some reason. Albus heaved a sigh of relief.
"Professor," he said. "There's... there's..."
"What's the problem, Mr Potter? Why are you four this high up in the castle?"
"Sir, we found the ghosts," said Rose. "They're all up in the tower over there." She pointed back up the way they came.
"They said they're afraid of something," Dorian told the Headmaster.
"What are they afraid of?" said Commonwealth.
"Peeves tried to tell us, but the Bloody Baron wouldn't let him," Albus said.
Professor Commonwealth's face turned serious at that comment. "I will go and speak with them this instant," he told them. He swooped past them, heading towards the tower.
"Professor!" Albus blurted.
Commonwealth turned, regarding him. "Yes, Mr Potter?"
"Is something happening in the castle? Is something... here?"
The Professor smiled, amused. "What kind of something, Albus?"
Albus really didn't know how to answer that. "I... I don't know, Sir."
Commonwealth's smile widened, lightened up his whole face. "Fear not, my young friends. There's nothing wrong at Hogwarts. You are perfectly safe here." He turned to leave again.
"Hey, Professor?" Dorian called.
The Professor slowly turned again. "Yes, Mr Davies?"
"What happened to your beard?"
Professor Commonwealth chuckled. "Oh, a little mishap with the third-year Potions class, nothing to worry about." With that, he disappeared down the corridor.
Albus was on his own once more, clad in his pyjamas and dressing gown, making his way down the dark, stone corridor. He knew what would happen by now, he had been here too many times for it to be a surprise, but it still terrified him when he heard the whispery breath ahead of him: "LET... ME... OUT!"
Rather than give way to fear, he ran – Gryffindor lion or not, he knew the difference between bravery and stupidity – he ran all the way back out of the corridor, into the main school. It was still dimly lit, obviously night time. Albus vaguely remembered Dathan using a simple spell to illuminate his wand, and suddenly his own wand was lit, showing him the way.
Albus found himself nearing the library. It was quiet and empty – the Librarian, Madam Dennison, wasn't there, and the whole place was lit by a singular candle on one table near the far wall. Albus made his way carefully over to it. The silence was deafening as he tiptoed over to the table, and found the candle illuminating an ancient, leather-bound tome. There was no visible lettering on the cover, but in the candlelight, Albus could make out the embossed image of a picture frame.
At that moment, a breeze passed over Albus, making him jump. It blew out the candle on the table, and made the book flip open, the pages flapping. Albus held up his wand to the book, and saw, on the open page, a moving photograph of a witch painting a portrait. The witch in the photograph turned slowly to stare at Albus, then the wizard in the portrait she was painting turned to stare at him too. Albus jumped back, and turned to leave the library in a panic. He screamed as he found himself face to face with someone stood behind him. Dathan.
"Al," he whispered.
"AL! WAKE UP!"
Albus groaned. This was becoming all too regular – someone having to wake him up from a weird dream like this. Dathan was leaning over him, shaking him awake. Albus sat up in bed, rubbing his hand over his eyes. What is happening to me? he wondered blearily.
"Come on, breakfast," said Dathan, eyeing Albus dubiously.
By breakfast that morning, news that the ghosts had been located had spread across the whole school. Each of the four tables were buzzing with interest. What Albus found out was that Commonwealth had tried to convince the ghosts to come down into the school, but they had all refused, apart from Peeves, who had promised to resume his rioting and mayhem in the upper floors of the school.
"Wonder what's got into them?" said Kyle Hammond, a tall kid with a ponytail from James' year.
Albus watched James shrug and continue to eat his porridge, uninterested.
"I heard that they're scared of something in the dungeons," said a fourth-year girl.
James glanced at Albus. Albus had asked him a few days prior if there was something hidden in the dungeons. Albus knew that James was wondering now.
Albus yawned into his pumpkin juice. Dathan elbowed him in the side.
"You okay?" he asked, concerned.
Albus nodded sleepily. "I keep having bad dreams," he muttered.
"Maybe you're just missing home," Dathan suggested.
Albus nodded again, not wanting to tell him that he'd been having the dreams long before he'd come to Hogwarts.
"I don't believe it!"
James stormed down into the common room in a rage. He kicked a table leg, scattering Wizard Chess pieces around, and threw himself down in an armchair in front of the fire. Albus stared at his brother in amusement. He'd never seen his brother mad at anything or anyone except himself.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
James glared over at his little brother. "My map! Someone's stolen my bloody map!"
Albus frowned. "What map?"
"My Map!" James glowered.
Understanding dawned on Albus – the 'Map' as James called it, was an ancient empty piece of parchment, one of their father's prize possessions, which James had stolen last Christmas. Fortunately for James, their father kept his 'prized possessions' locked away in his study, and rarely needed them anymore. He hadn't noticed James had taken it.
"You mean Dad's map?" Albus corrected with a smirk.
"Did you take it, you little creep?!" James snarled.
"No, I didn't!" Albus denied adamantly. "What would I want that mouldy old thing for?"
James just muttered something under his breath, stood up, and began turning the common room upside down, searching moodily for the raggedy parchment. Albus rolled his eyes, and decided to leave the room before James turned his temper back to him.
Albus found himself making his way towards the Library. He never thought in his wildest dreams that he would be going to the Library on a Saturday, but his latest dream kept coming up in his mind, and he found himself wanting to look for that ancient tome with the witch artist.
He made his way up into the Library, offering a weak smile to Madam Dennison, who glanced at him snootily over her cup of tea. He wandered the cavernous room, wondering just where to begin. All of the tables were pristine and empty, except one, at the far end of the room. Where the candle had been in his dream.
His heart speeding, he headed closer, to find the candle still lit, and, studying by its light, was none other than Scorpius Malfoy.
Scorpius looked up as Albus approached, no smile on his lips, but interest in his eyes. "Potter," he greeted. "Getting ahead on your homework already? Good for you."
"I'm not here for homework," Albus muttered. He leaned over, trying to casually look at the book Scorpius was reading.
Scorpius noticed, and showed Albus the front cover. 'Hogwarts – A History, Vol.2.' Albus sat down on the edge of the table, slightly disappointed. "My cousin Rose is always telling me to read that," Albus mumbled.
"Smart girl – it's an interesting read," Scorpius agreed in a bored tone. "There's a lot you can find out about this place."
"Oh yeah?" Albus' interest was piqued. "Like what?"
Scorpius smirked, and closed the book. "School's not like that, Potter. You've got to do the legwork yourself." He stood up, and straightened his robes. He stepped over to Albus, and pressed the book to his chest.
"Consider it a gift from me, Potter. You might learn something."
He let go of the book, and Albus had to grab it to stop it falling onto his foot. He watched Scorpius fight a smile as he walked calmly away.
Scorpius turned, and raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
Albus' confidence faltered, and, feeling stupid, said, "My name's Albus, not Potter."
Scorpius regarded Albus appraisingly for a moment, before nodding. "Albus." He turned and left the Library.
A/N: Thanks for reading, please review if you enjoyed the story.