Professor Flitwick's classroom was a whole lot brighter than Snape's. Windows took up most of the wall behind the teacher, silhouetting him and his oversized podium. Tables built like stalls sat against the left and right walls, allowing the Slytherins and Gryffindors more of a chance to glare at each other, and a table hosting small clothing buttons had been set up in the centre of the room.
Nestled just above the entrance doorframe, I watched as fourth-year students stabbed their wands at the air, shouting spells as though sheer volume alone would make them work.
I hadn't previously thought much about spellcasting. From what I'd seen, all a wizard had to do was flick their wand and maybe say a word or two and the magic would happen. I guess the whole 'school of witchcraft and wizardry' should have been a hint that there was a little more to it. The snicker that rattled through me at the constipated looks of concentration was lost in the semi-determined cries from below.
One wizard that I took particular enjoyment in watching, was the young red-head who'd stumbled into Hagrid's hut the night before. Ron, seated between Harry and another boy I didn't recognise, looked bored out of his mind. His wand hung loosely between his fingers as he chanted half-heartedly under his breath. While his eyes were pinned to his designated maroon button, the way his eyelids rested half-closed across his pupils amused me to no end.
It was like he was inviting me to mess with him.
Not one to disappoint, I swooped down to hover invisibly above the table of buttons, my stomach centimetres from the sea of colour. I could feel the mischief lighting up my face as I lowered my hand in preparation, fingers grazing my targeted clothes fastener.
Ron twisted his wand in his fingers as he yawned, eyes narrowing as his free hand flew to cover the gaping hole that was his mouth. When it passed, he dropped his head into his hand and gave his wand the slightest of waves.
The force the button hit his forehead left an instantly blooming scarlet imprint. Too stunned to even complain, Ron stared down at the button on his desk like it was the most incredible thing he'd ever seen.
"Ron, did you just…?" the boy I didn't recognise whispered, eyes also fastened to the small maroon disk.
"I… I did it," he declared as though the words would somehow prove it to himself. His face lit up. "Bloody hell, I did it! Harry, I actually did it!" His hand shot out to grab Harry's arm, fingers wrapping around the fabric of his robe. The look of surprise on Harry's face was as comical as Ron's excitement.
"That's… amazing," he blurted when he regained control over his voice. It wasn't long before the whispers spread across the room and everyone knew about Ron's sudden apparently uncharacteristic success.
"Extraordinary, Mr Weasley." Flitwick clapped his hands from his podium, looking a little bit like one of those wind up monkeys with clashing cymbals. "I don't suppose you could do it again, for the class?"
Ron paled under the teacher's ferret-like gaze, looking back at the table as though it were likely to bite his hand off if he tried his luck again. Eyes setting in a determined glare, he lifted his wand, arm stretched forward like he was pointing a sword.
As soon as the spell left his lips, a second button found itself attached to his cheek. Flitwick whooped, excited by the concept that one of his previously struggling students had managed such an achievement.
The only person who seemed to have the slightest inkling that there was something else at play, was Hermione. Her narrowed gaze was flitting around the classroom as though she expected to see something, someone, that shouldn't be there. My grin deepened.
Ron's face was something I'd remember for a long time. His expression was a cocktail of awe, shock and overall glee. A certain sparkle had found its way into the blue of his eyes and I leant forward, eagerly awaiting the emotion I felt sure would come next.
"Hey, Hermione! Who's the underachiever now? Haven't seen any buttons flying in your direction." There it was. Hermione's gaze fell to the boy who'd twisted in his seat to gloat at her. She raised an eyebrow, quickly followed by her wand which she pointed at the button I'd last thrown.
"Accio button," she said, her voice clear and strong against the hush of the class. Without any assistance from me, the button lifted and shot effortlessly into her outstretched hand. She held it there a few seconds for effect before lowering it onto the table. "Sorry, I thought I'd forgo the facial bruises. But well done."
I wasn't the only one to snigger that time. Sensing a spike of embarrassed anger in Ron's mood, I slowly floated to Hermione's table, not caring this time if she felt my presence.
"Accio button!" Ron shouted. Nothing happened. I sank my teeth into my lip as his eyes widened. His cheeks turned pink as he felt the eyes of the entire class on him. He tried again.
The button lifted from the spot on Hermione's desk but rather than rushing into Ron's face a third time, it simply hovered in place, held up by invisible fingertips. His face fell into an incredulous frown. All attention was on the floating scrap of wood as it began to sway.
In a heartbeat, I was zooming around the classroom, bouncing from the ceiling to Flitwick's podium, before charging into the rows of startled students. Several pupils screamed as the 'possessed' button danced around their heads.
Flitwick was quick to action, firing any spell he could think of that might save his students. I dodged each shot, putting up the occasional invisible barrier so that my fun could go uninterrupted.
"Way to go, Weasley! We all knew you were incompetent, but this is ridiculous."
That voice. I spun to face the same, platinum-blonde boy I'd attacked with a Blast-Ended Skrewt days ago. The same kid that had apparently launched his own hunting party for me. His face was twisted in a cruel smirk that, unfortunately for him, reminded me an awful lot of Snape. The way his arms folded over his chest, like he was sat back watching a comedy show on a fifty-five inch screen TV caused a flicker of irritation to spark in my chest.
I glanced down at the weapon in my hand.
His smirk died the second the button made contact with his pointed nose. He didn't get much of a chance to recover as it quickly bounced back and hit his chin. He squawked and tried to swat the missile as it found its way into his hair, tapping his skull hard enough to irritate, but not enough to leave any kind of mark.
The side of the classroom that hosted the Gryffindors quickly forgot all about their previous distress as laughter rippled through their ranks. This just set Draco off even more, his shouts becoming increasingly agitated. It was a few more seconds before I backed off, giving is forehead one final tap goodbye as I flew back across the room to Hermione.
She knew I was there. The way her eyebrows quirked upwards told me she wasn't impressed. Or at least she was trying to hide that she was. This only worked to energise me further and I felt my grin expand as I waved the button in front of her. The smallest of hint of amusement pulled at her lips, which I took as an instant victory. I pressed the button lightly against her cheek.
Finally, I began to move as slowly as I could without getting a blast from Flitwick, back to Ron's desk. A small laugh escaped my lips as I took in his look of absolute dread. His face was now entirely red, eyes unblinking as he watched cursed object advance. He'd dropped his wand a while ago, eager to let Flitwick know that he wasn't the one causing the destruction. I got the impression from the teacher's frustrated frown that he already suspected as much. My pranks had become notorious within the ranks of the teaching body – there was no way the guy didn't realise it was me.
I dropped the button on the desk. As it made contact with the wood, Ron flinched. Harry's face held a small smirk that told me Hermione and Flitwick weren't the only ones who'd caught on.
"I think you just got the Zacharias Smith treatment," the dark haired wizard whispered, giving his friend a sharp jab with his elbow. It took a few seconds for Harry's words to sink in, but as soon as they did, Ron's eyes shot up to stare through my invisible chest.
"That bloody… I'll kill him," he growled.
Zacharias Smith was that kid I stuck all those worms to about half a week before. I was somewhat surprised that they'd managed to link the prank back to me, but then, there wasn't a whole lot these guys did that didn't surprise me.
With the show over, Flitwick was quick to call the class back to attention. For the remaining ten minutes of the lesson, the students were unable to stop buzzing about the bizarre event they'd witnessed. Naturally, everyone blamed Ron. Apparently his history of struggles with charms and spells meant that it was completely believable he'd mess up something like a Summoning Charm.
Ron, for his part, spent the rest of the class griping about injustice and glaring at the button he still hadn't touched. He didn't try casting the charm again, afraid that if he did, the havoc would simply restart and he'd lose any remaining credibility in the eyes of his fellow students. For my part, I went back to resting on the doorframe, feeling the pride of a job well done.
When the class was finally released, Ron marched straight out of the room and made a break for the castle exit. Harry and Hermione were quick to follow and I couldn't help but find myself tagging along behind. It didn't take too long for Ron to find a secluded part of the woodland next to the lake. As soon as he was sure he'd found a spot out of sight, he turned and glared back at his friends.
"You can come out of hiding now you, bloody, flaming demon."
At that point, I let go of all the laughter I'd been holding back for what felt like forever. I dropped my invisibility, curled into a shaking ball of giggles as I took in his affronted expression.
"Demon? Really? That's the best you can come up with?"
"Why? Why? Why would you do that?" he chanted, ignoring my dig.
My laughter calmed and I gave a light shrug.
"Hermione suggested that I check out one of your Charms lessons," I answered, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Check out, not terrorise. I'm never going to live this down." He waved a frantic hand back in the direction of the school.
"Now you're just being dramatic," Hermione chided, adjusting her school bag and peering out at the surrounding trees. Ron's head shot to face her, eyes bulging.
"You're taking his side?"
The witch gave a tired sigh.
"I'm not taking anyone's side. I'm just saying that in a week's time no one is going to think twice about a flying button. Fred and George pull stunts like that all the time and no one thinks any less of them."
That sparked my interest.
"Fred and George?"
"My older twin brothers," Ron grumbled as though they were the last people he wanted to talk about.
Something in my brain clicked. Flitwick had called Ron 'Mr Weasley'. Wasn't Weasley the name Peeves had mentioned?
"Weasley's Wizard Wheezes," I murmured, mostly to myself. I'd forgotten all about them after I'd got the announcement that I'd be working with Snape.
"What?" Ron probed, all previous anger replaced with surprise. It took me a while to realise that the trio were staring at me once again. I blinked before pulling myself into a cross-legged sitting position a meter from the ground.
"Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Something Peeves mentioned. Uh… What was it? Custard creams turn wizards to canaries. Toffees make the tongue grow?" I scratched the back of my head thoughtfully as Peeves' voice rattled through my mind. "Any relation?"
"You're friends with Peeves?" Harry asked, incredulous. I pulled a face.
"I'm not sure friends is the right word. More like… people with common goals. But, I mean, if you knew about the Zacharias Smith trick, you've got to have guessed we were working together." After all, it had been Peeves that had tipped the bucket of worms.
"We guessed you'd had something to do with the sticky green stuff," Ron admitted, rubbing his arms as the cold of the outdoors began to hit him. "We just thought you'd found Peeves' with the worms and decided to get involved."
"I didn't realise working with Peeves was even possible," Harry added, shoving his hands into the pockets of his robes.
"Eh. He's… enthusiastic." He was also the only ghost in the school who didn't hate me, so I gave him points for that. "More importantly, Fred and George. They're pranksters?"
For whatever reason, Harry and Ron gave out unflattering snorts of laughter.
"You could say that. Yeah. Mum says they were born pulling tricks on people."
"The Weasley's Wizard Wheezes are their newest project. They want to set up their own prank shop and spread the joy of mischief. Or something." Harry shrugged, but the smile on his lips told me that whoever these people were, he was fond of them.
"Sounds like a noble cause," I complimented. Fred and George Weasley. I'd definitely have to look them up. Hermione was quick to pick up on my thoughts and narrowed her eyes.
"OK. Enough of the networking. It's not safe for us to be talking in the open like this."
Taking a quick scope of the area, I couldn't help but begrudgingly agree. We were too close to the school and I knew for a fact that the lake tended to be a favourite spot amongst students seeking an outdoor escape. I frowned.
"Yeah, but where exactly is safe? There's a ban on the dormitories that I don't really wanna break and it's not like you can just visit Hagrid's all the time. It'd just arouse suspicion." I didn't think I could bare just hanging around them invisibly for the next few weeks. Especially knowing that Moody could appear at any moment and blow my cover.
I didn't realise I'd hit the floor until Hermione's face appeared above me.
"We'll find somewhere," she announced, softly. "You just need to be more patient."
Not something I was particularly adept at. I forced a smile and pulled myself up into standing.
"I can do patient," I lied, gazing out into the trees on the lookout for any looming students. "Anyway, it's okay. I have a session with Snape in an hour so I should probably go… prepare myself, I guess." I grimaced at the thought, drawn between wanting to stay and talk for longer, and not wanting to over-impose. The last thing I wanted was to push the students away by being as irritating and overbearing as Peeves.
"Have you ever been in the Great Hall at dinner?" Ron asked suddenly, pulling me out of my thoughts. I turned to stare at him.
"Uh… no. Since Moody hates me, and I'm pretty sure that weird eye of his can see me when I'm invisible, I've found that any place he has a chance of turning up is wise to avoid."
"Moody hates you? Blimey. If there's one person you don't want to be on the bad side of..." Ron squirmed slightly at the thought, remembering things I doubted I'd like to know.
"Yeah, I'm getting that impression."
"But it's not like you're not allowed in the school, right? There's nothing he could do to you for just being there," Hermione reasoned. I thought about it for a few seconds before shrugging.
"I suppose. Why are you asking?"
"We were going to go down to Hagrid's after dinner for a visit so I was thinking if you joined us in the Great Hall we could go down together," Ron suggested, his voice holding a note of something I didn't quite recognise. "You said you liked astronomy, right? There's this enchantment on the ceiling that makes it look like you can see the sky – I think you'd really like it."
There was something else. I could see it in his face – the slight sideways tilt of his head and the hint of a crinkle under his eye. As awesome as that enchantment sounded, I felt an eyebrow lift.
"Uh-huh. And what's the catch?"
Ron shrugged, struggling to hide the smile pushing its way onto his face.
"There's no catch. Not really. I was just thinking that, since you like terrorising people so much, maybe you'd like to focus your efforts on more deserving victims."
My eyes narrowed, conspiratorially.
"I'm guessing you have particular someones in mind."
"Ron, I don't think encouraging him is-"
"Come to dinner tonight and I'll point out Fred and George," Ron proposed, cutting Hermione off. The scowl that appeared on her face was almost frightening but I was too focused on her friend to pay her much attention.
"You're setting me on your brothers?"
"It's not like they don't deserve it," Ron confirmed. "The amount of pranks they practised on me before now… Plus, you owe me for the stunt you pulled in Charms. I'm surprised Flitwick didn't slap me with a detention then and there."
A fresh snicker escaped me as I folded my arms. "Yeah. I wouldn't worry about that. Pretty sure Flitwick knows exactly who's to blame."
"Is that why you're doing it? To get back at the school for keeping you here?" Hermione asked suddenly, knocking the smile from my face. Saying it like that made me sound like some petulant child.
"You think I'm that spiteful?" I scoffed in an attempt to bury my unease. The witch gazed at me skeptically for a few painful seconds before shrugging and turning to watch for possible eavesdroppers.
"I just think that playing tricks on unsuspecting students isn't the best way to convince the Ministry you're harmless."
"I'm fifteen and I'm a ghost. The dead gotta get their entertainment somewhere."
From the shared looks of unease between the trio, I must have said something wrong but before I could backtrack, a sound from the trees caught my attention. Someone was coming. Without warning, I turned invisible, lifting myself into the air so as not to disturb the fallen leaves under my feet.
"We have company," I alerted my companions, eyeing up the trees. "Listen, I'll see you guys tonight and I'll consider dinner."
The only goodbyes I got were nods of the head as the trio prepared themselves for a sudden invasion. A warm sensation blossomed in my chest as I watched them. I'd never been good at making friends – Sam, Tucker and Valerie were pretty much the only people in school who even bothered speaking to me (bar Dash and his constant insults and occasional beatings). The idea that within the space of a day there were three people who were actually willing to make an effort to visit me was…
I squirmed at the sappiness that was flooding my mind. This place was seriously messing with my head. I gave myself a little shake as I flew from the trees. A giggle from below drew my gaze and I smirked as I realised that the intruders were a Hufflepuff and a Ravenclaw taking a romantic, hand-in-hand stroll along the lake.
It was in that same moment I realised, for the first time in a long time, I felt happy.
AN: I actually seem to have gotten the hang of this updating thing. Who would have thought it possible? Not I.
This chapter was so unbelievably fun to write and I hope you folks enjoyed it as much as I did!
So I was thinking, since I appear to be on somewhat of a roll, I'm going to try and set up a monthly update system. By that I mean, if all goes well, I will post a new chapter every month on the date of the 17th. That way, if I write more than I was expecting, I'll be able to stock up on chapters that I can then use if there is a month or two where I'm unable to produce anything. (Also, it'd give you guys something to look forward to?) What do you guys think? That way, hopefully it prevents me from disappearing off the face of the Earth for a year? Not that I... ever do that... heh...
Proposition out of the way, thank you all for reviewing, favouriting, following and most of all, reading. I keep watching the views on each chapter and just being flawed by how many of you guys are actually reading this little child of mine. I love each and every one of you!
Til next month!