The All-Allows Inn
Author’s note: I’m sorry it’s late – I waited a bit before sending it to my beta, Yolanda (to whom I thank and say hello!). It’s a simple, rather unoriginal, but I hope you’ll like it anyway, because it was a lot of fun to do. Yeah! :o)
The All-allows Inn
~~ A Hallowe’en fic by Belphegor ~~
At the Slytherin table, Severus Snape jumped a foot in the air as a big, live bat flew from his goblet right into his face. Quite a few people laughed until he got over his surprise and glared around, his cold, black eyes flashing. That seemed to chasten most students – but many heads turned automatically to the Gryffindor table, where sixth-years James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew were either snickering or working hard to keep a straight face.
"Good one, that was," said Lily Evans. "A Soaring-Rocket, I suppose?"
"A Soaring-Rocket Spell, commonly called a ‘Jack-in-the-box’ – an idea worthy of a true genius – me!" Sirius replied with a cheeky grin and an all-knowing air which caused James to smack the back of his head.
"Cut it out, snotty. That was my idea, and you know it."
"Why do you always have to snatch the glory from me when I’m the only one who can carry it off?"
Uninterested by the conversation, Lily turned to Remus with a smile, "Why don’t you just say it was your idea, Remus?"
"Because I only thought of the bat," Remus answered, smiling slightly as he glanced to the other two, still mock-fighting. "They thought of the charm, and Peter came up with the idea of it coming from his goblet."
"Yeah, I love team work," chimed in Peter. His grin revealed a couple of large front teeth, which never failed to give him an innocent air. Lily had learned to not trust his looks – he was just as bad as the others were.
The five of them were silent for a little while as they stared at Snape stalking out of the Great Hall down to the dungeons and the Slytherin common room. The same grin, which they hardly tried to hide away from the teachers, was printed all over their faces.
They finally left the table and set off for their dormitory. "Fair is foul," Remus said at the entrance to the Fat Lady, who beamed.
"– And foul is fair," she replied with a very mysterious smile. "Tonight is a very special night, you know."
"We know," said Peter, shrugging. "It’s Hallowe’en. There’s nothing so ‘special’ about it, except a feast and decorations all over the Hall."
"Hallowe’en is a very particular occasion," the painting insisted. "When I think of the way we used to celebrated it in my younger days – we would move over to other paintings, talk, share stories with the ghosts – it’s their night mostly, isn’t it? Scary stories, obviously," she added with a smile, and what looked frighteningly like a wink.
That did sound rather interesting to Lily who would never have guessed this side of their common room’s guardian’s youth – she never even imagined the Fat Lady could have been young at one time! But, she could almost sense Sirius’s impatience. So she took one step to the door and put on a wide, if a little phoney smile. "That sounds nice, and quite interesting – we’ll sure think about giving it a go. But could you open, please?"
The Fat Lady gave a sigh, but did not have time to make the panel revolve. The five friends started as one as a pale, see-through head popped in through the door. In six whole years at Hogwarts, none of them truly did get past the eerie feeling of a ghost waltzing in through the door they were about to open.
Nearly-Headless Nick offered them an apologetic apologising smile. "Oh, terribly sorry – I hope I did not frighten you."
"Not at all, Nick, it’s alright," said James, and Lily snorted discreetly – everybody had been startled somewhat, but it looked like nobody wanted to admit it. Typical.
"Sir Nicholas!" exclaimed the Fat Lady, delight in her voice. "Do you know, I’ve just had an idea –"
"Hope it didn’t hurt too much," whispered Sirius. James gave a chuckle.
"Padfoot, you’re just being mean here. That’s not you."
"Oh, you think so? Well, I –"
"It would be so nice of you – but maybe it’s asking a bit – if you would be so kind as to tell these youngsters a story. You know, a Hallowe’en story – any one you know. These young ones seem to have precious little idea of the feeling of the Hallowe’en spirit, if you excuse my saying so."
James and Sirius stared at each other, while Peter and Lily turned a puzzled frown at the Fat Lady. Remus looked surprised.
"Well …" said Nick after a moment’s silence. "I suppose I can tell you a story – that is, if you are willing to listen, of course."
"We are," said Remus immediately, only to be nudged in the ribs by four elbows. He winced, but as he glared at them there was a definite curiosity in his eyes – a curiosity that Lily was starting to feel as well. What sort of story could Nearly-Headless Nick possibly know?
They all walked – and floated – into the common room. The five students curled up into comfortable armchairs and Nick sat in front of them, as if on an invisible chair.
"Very well," he murmured to himself. "What shall I tell you about? The Barguest? Anna of the Boulby Cliff? Or maybe …" He stopped, and nodded, a contented look about his ghostly face. "I know. Have you ever heard of the All-allows Inn?"
Five heads shook. None had.
"This is the Muggles’ idea of the story. It all begins what seems ‘long ago’ to living ones, when a Muggle named Roderick Longdale rode through the Yorkshire, to visit a friend in Scarborough. He had been riding since dawn, and as dusk set down on the moors, he began searching for some place where he could eat, rest, and warm himself up. It was the last night of October, and cold winds blew about him."
Nick stopped a few seconds, and they all could hear the wind actually hissing and howling behind the high windows. Peter shuddered slightly.
"The night was all around Longdale when he eventually discovered something. It looked like a very old, wind-beaten inn, low and built in stones and wood; on a sign above the door the words ‘All-allows Inn’ were carved. The place didn’t look homey and welcoming at all, but Longdale had no choice. He entered.
"There were few people in the room, scattered about at crumbling tables, who stared at him as he came in; they looked gloomy and sour-faced, without a tad of colour about them. As if they didn’t exist at all.
"The inn-keeper went to Longdale, and said, ‘Good evenin’, mister. An’ a happy Hallowe’en to you. Ask anythin’ ye desire and the All-allows Inn will provide it to you.’ Then he stressed, ‘Anything at all.’
"Longdale wondered what the inn-keeper was meaning by ‘anything’. So he asked, ‘Thank you – for the moment I shall have a room, and a dinner. Can someone show me the way to the stables for my horse?’
"Later into the night, while lying in bed, Longdale pondered the words of the inn-keeper. What if that was true – could he really get whatever he wanted? If so, how come this Inn was not famous for it all over the country?
" ‘I desire,’ he said out loud to nobody in particular, ‘the best horse of the county.’
"A moment passed in silence; and then, Longdale heard the sound of hooves on stone and a neigh. Looking out the window, he saw a magnificent stallion stomping on the Inn’s doorstep, all saddled and reined, tied to a milestone just beneath his window. The horse certainly hadn’t been there before – it had seemingly appeared from thin air.
"Still not daring to believe his luck, Longdale conjured up thus a grand supper, enough riches to fill up the Tower of London, and two beautiful, exotic women. In the end – it was almost midnight – he looked at all he had been given, and thought, Well, in just a few years I shan’t be able to enjoy all of it. I will be old, and wrinkled, and shrivelled, and then I will die.
"That cannot happen! I won’t have enough time –
"And then, an idea came to him, and he called loudly, triumphantly, ‘I desire – eternal life.’
"At that moment, the hands of the clock stopped on midnight.
"All of a sudden, everything – the women, the gold, the food, the stallion stomping at the door – disappeared, and Longdale found himself sitting on a hard chair, in the cold entrance room. He tried and tried to rise, but was incapable to move.
"The inn-keeper bent to him with a large smile. ‘ ’Ave you enjoyed yer time ’ere, mister?’
" ‘Much, thank you, now I would like to go back to my room’, replied Longdale, struggling to get up. ‘I’d very much like to rest before setting off tomorrow morning.’
" ‘Don’ worry about rest,’ said the inn-keeper. ‘You’ll have plenty from now on. That’s how you will pay yer debt.’
" ‘My debt? What debt?’
" ‘You didn’t think everything was for free here, did ya? You’ve ’ad your share o’ pleasure, now ye pay.’
" ‘How?’ Longdale wasn’t very rich, but he was very miserly.
"But the inn-keeper just walked off wordlessly.
"When Longdale, furious, looked down at his hands, he realised with a shock that they were as white and see-through as the other ‘customers’. And, much later, he realised also that the Inn had granted his wish somehow. He had had eternal life – in death."
Nearly-Headless Nick looked at James, Lily, Sirius, Remus, and Peter in turn, the noise of the wind filling the silence again. "No living person ever heard of Roderick Longdale again. His horse was found wandering around the Derwent River, alone. The All-allows Inn seemed to vanish from the surface of the earth." He gave a sly smile, "In fact, every ghost knows this story. The Inn only shows up on Hallowe’en, to trick too-greedy wanderers – some say it is located in Yorkshire, some place it in the Midlands – I even heard once one saying he had seen it near Newcastle. But nobody knows for sure."
The five friends looked at each other with unsure expressions. Peter’s was almost wary, but Lily was enthusiastic.
"It was very nice, Nick – you’re a wonderful story-teller!"
"Why, thank you so much," said Nick, a distinct silver shade appearing on his cheeks. "It is only a tale ghosts like to entertain themselves with … I know of many like this one … Would you like to hear another?"
There was a short silence, as the five swapped questioning looks. Despite their first reluctance, it was clear that James and Sirius had enjoyed the story. Eventually, the two boys nodded. "Yes, please, Nick," said James. "I guess we’d all like to hear another."
"I’d love a scarier one," added Sirius with a wink at Peter, the most easily frightened. To everybody’s surprise, Peter nodded, and smiled, an assured look about him.
"Yeah, me too – tell us the scariest you’ve got in store, Nick – after all, it’s Hallowe’en!"
Remus took his wand and reduced the lights to the fire in the hearth and the torches on each side of the fireplace. Lily moved in to James’s armchair and snuggled up next to him.
"Once upon a time …"
Happy Hallowe’en to you! :o)