The Sugar Quill
Author: Cassie M. (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Silent Specter of Hogwarts  Chapter: Chapter Two: A Surprise in Time for Quidditch
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Chapter Two: A Surprise in Time for Quidditch

Not one of the students dared speak a word until prodded by a decidedly irate Snape.

“Have we suddenly all gone deaf or is one of you going to admit you made it up?”

“We didn’t make it up,” Harry replied, the only one brave enough to confront Snape. “She drifted past us this afternoon, just after Herbology.”

“Convenient that this mysterious phantom is visible only to fifth year Gryffindors.”

“Now, now, Severus,” Dumbledore reproved mildly. “Let’s give it all a listen before we cast aspersions.”

The story came out haltingly, as each student added their piece to the tale. Dumbledore was very pointed in his questions about the ghost’s appearance and her manners throughout the sighting. And as the questions finished, Harry thought he detected yet another gleam in the Headmaster’s eyes.

“Nothing to add Mr. Longbottom?”

As usual, Neville quailed under Snape’s derisive attention. “No, sir.”

“Why is that?”

“I kept my eyes closed, Professor.”

Snape gave a surprised bark. “At least you’re honest.”

Ron sent Harry an expressive glance. It was the closest thing to a compliment Snape had ever offered one of them.

“It seems Hogwarts has provided us with yet another denizen,” Dumbledore said. “Never a dull moment in this castle.”

“You believe this drivel, Headmaster?”

“Oh yes, there is much too much detail in their description to be false. You will find, Severus, that occasionally the castle will reveal yet another of its mysteries when least expected. Why I once discovered a most incredible bathroom during a full moon in mid-Winter. I’ve been haunting the corridors ever since, but have never stumbled across it again.”

Snape rolled his eyes away from a smiling Dumbledore. The ghosts took this as an opening.

“I must protest the inclusion of an unregistered ghost at Hogwarts,” said the Fat Friar. “I’ll have the registry stripped from me if it got around!”

“That registry is for simpletons and amateurs,” replied the Bloody Baron. “Nevertheless, Headmaster, it is suspect of a spirit to purposely remain unacquainted with the rest of the castle residents.”

“Until this mysterious young woman becomes aware of her own predicament, there is very little we can do,” was the sage reply.

For several days, students crept around corners and were caught conducting midnight séances in the hopes of contacting the mystery ghost. Fred and George earned the greatest number of deductions when Flitwick was floured and egged as he set off one of their booby traps. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were quite careful to stay out of trouble, as each house received detentions and point deductions with each escapade. Never before had the trio been so interested in homework.

“Think we’ve all gone daft?” Ron asked as he concocted yet another gruesome death for his Divinations homework. “Here we are with a true mystery in our hands and we’re doing homework. This is all your fault, Hermione.”

“Mine?”

“That’s right. You’re the one obsessed with homework. Must be rubbing off.”

“Honestly,” Hermione replied without a trace of rancor as she turned back to Arithmancy and refused to rise to the bait.

Harry watched the play of expressions on Ron’s face. He suspected that whatever fancy had struck both his friends at last year’s Yule Ball hadn’t dissipated. If anything, Ron was determined to keep Hermione’s attention even if it meant picking arguments and doing homework. Ron certainly seemed disappointed with Hermione’s quick dismissal and was already searching for something else with which to needle her.

“Are you still sitting here?” Harry glanced up at Fred as he marched in with his nefarious twin. He and George were already dressed in their Quidditch robes. “Come along, Harry, tryouts are going to start any minute.”

“That’s right,” George replied with a suspicious twinkle in his eyes. “We’ll be conducting impromptu broom inspections.”

The twins exited the common room with a last word for Harry to hurry. Harry turned to a red-eared Ron.

“Probably bewitching brooms,” Ron muttered.

“Which makes getting there late so much safer,” Harry replied with a grin. “Are you still coming?”

Ron smiled grimly and nodded. Harry cuffed him on the shoulder for encouragement and hoped that all of Ron’s summer practice won him Oliver Wood’s now vacant Keeper position. Ron hadn’t mustered the courage to tell his brothers that he wanted to be Keeper. And Harry wasn’t sure Fred and George would make Ron’s tryout easier or harder.

Ron, impatient and nervous, left for the Quidditch field before Harry was ready. Harry waved him off as he searched for his gloves in his trunk and went ten minutes past the hour before he took off for the field at a run.

And came to a dead stop just before the castle doors.

She was back. That beautiful ghost for whom everyone was searching was again drifting silently up and down the staircase. Harry could feel his heart hammering as he watched her and realized something about her was different. She was staring at her hands as she walked and running them over and through the stairwell’s banister, frowning every time her amorphous hand passed through the wood. Not one to be frightened into immobility, Harry was still unable to look away from the woman, even when her head snapped up and she stared directly at him.

Her eyes did that familiar dance between his face and his scar. As recognition dawned in her expression, he suddenly realized that not only was she aware of him, she knew who he was. She knew the legend of Harry Potter. He watched her lips form his name but heard nothing and frowned at her.

“I can’t hear you,” he said.

She tried again, stretching her arms out to him and drifting closer, her lips forming a multitude of silent words. Harry stumbled back and away, his blood now rushing past his ears in a deafening roar.

A look of terrible sadness crossed her face as he backed away. Her arms dropped and crossed over her chest. Harry immediately regretted his own actions, without fully understanding what it was about her that frightened him. She backed away from him, her eyes never leaving his, and began to disappear from sight.

“Wait!” Harry screamed, reaching out to the fading figure as if to hold her. She gave him a semblance of a smile before she disappeared completely, her lips twisting in an expression he saw in the mirror everyday.

She was as lonely as he.

It was several more minutes before a downcast Harry made it to the Quidditch field. A smattering of students from each house sat in the stands, watching as the Hufflepuff team took to the air on their brooms.

“We drew last for the field,” Fred whispered as Harry sat with the rest of the Gryffindors. “Keep your eyes on the winners for each team. Gives us a head start on the competition.”

“Watch their brooms too,” George grinned. “Might be a surprise or two.”

Just as he spoke one of the Hufflepuff’s brooms dive bombed twenty feet before the bristles at the end popped open, making for an odd sort of parachute that broke the freefall and allowed the screaming student to drift ignobly down to the ground. There was a roar of laughter from everyone but the Hufflepuffs on the field and in the stands. Harry, himself, did not feel like laughing as he remembered, as they did, that Cedric Diggory had been their Seeker the year before.

He tried to tell himself that he had done all he could. But that empty sense of guilt stayed long after the eyes of several Hufflepuffs drifted away from him and back to the playing field. He could hear both Ginny and Hermione chiding the unrepentant twins for their lack of sympathy and ignored them all.

Instead he scanned the students for a familiar profile and found who he was looking for in the stands below him. The sight of Cho Chang still had a way of twisting his stomach in knots. As if she sensed his gaze, her head turned toward him. Her eyes met his unerringly. Harry could not smile at her, could not move at all as he waited for any acknowledgement. She seemed to sigh and gave him a small smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes. Then she turned back to the field and the rest of the Ravenclaw team.

Harry released the breath he had been holding. It was more than he had expected. Whatever people thought of him after last year’s debacle, Cho did not seem to blame him for Cedric’s death. He kept his eyes on the Ravenclaw girl even as he felt Ron squirm as Hermione moved to a seat next to them.

“What took you so long?” Hermione whispered.

“Couldn’t find my gloves,” Harry replied. He could feel Ron’s nervousness increase as the Slytherins took the field with their applicants. He badly wanted to talk to his friends about the strange meeting, but knew it would break Ron’s fiercely guarded concentration on the try-outs. It would have to wait till dinner.

He absently watched as would be athletes took to the skies, only sharpening his gaze as Cho swept past him during the Ravenclaw session. Soon it was time for Gryffindor to take the field. Many students had already cleared the stands as their house teams finished. A few enterprising players from Ravenclaw and Slytherin stayed to watch if Harry’s team would falter without Wood’s leadership. Not surprisingly, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle remained in the stands, taunting the Gryffindor team as they entered the field.

“That has to be the oldest broom I’ve even seen,” Malfoy jeered amid the laughter of his fellow Slytherins. “Did you borrow your dad’s broom from his schooldays Weasley? Or did you find that relic in a garbage dump?”

A Bludger swished in the air just shy of Malfoy’s head. The Slytherins quickly ducked as the ferocious ball swept past them and turned back to the field.

“Oops,” George said as he brandished his Beater’s stick, “careful with that gigantic head, Malfoy.” He turned to his brother and nodded toward the three goals on the other end of the field. “Show them what you can do, Ron.”

Ron grinned as both his brothers took positions across from him and Angelina, Katie, and Alicia swung into place. A few more Gryffindors joined them as part of Ron’s team and the fight for Keeper’s position was on.

Harry was kept busy directing some of the younger players as they tried to wrestle the balls from the three experienced Chasers. Alicia, Angelina and Katie were having a grand time passing Quaffles between them and swooping between unseasoned, unsuspecting players. Fred and George were just as fierce, batting one Bludger after another toward Ron and the Keeper on the other side of the field, forcing them to dodge and catch every throw that came their way.

Harry could see Ron wince as a he caught one of Alicia’s throws right in the stomach. But his friend held tight to the Quaffle and managed to toss it to another team mate and away from the grinning Chaser. The other Keeper, Dorothea Marsh, was a third year with a Nimbus 2001 and rather good as she deftly swung in a neat circle and punted a ball back to Katie with the bristle end of her broom. Ron’s Cleansweep wasn’t as nimble. But it was plain that the Gryffindors were ready for another Weasley on the team, because they bombarded him with enough bone breaking force to prove to every onlooker that Ron was more than equal to the position.

Finally, it was over. Ron looked exhausted and grim. He was glaring at the Gryffindor team as they drifted back to the ground. He stiffly grabbed his broom and without a word, walked off to the locker room.

Hermione ran down to the field to stand next to Harry. “Ron’s furious.”

“He got a good beating on the field.”

Fred and George were unabashedly laughing. “He’s not bad.” Fred said. “He’ll be black and blue for weeks, but he’ll survive anything the Slytherins could throw at him.”

“How did you know?” Harry asked the twins as they left the field. “I thought Ron was keeping it a secret.”

“There are no secrets in the Weasley house,” Ginny said as she joined them. “And besides, who do you think Ron’s been practicing with all summer?”

“I do hope he’s all right,” Hermione worried.

Harry grinned suddenly, hoping that there was at least one secret still to be found among the Weasleys.

Ron didn’t snap out of his snit until Dumbledore congratulated him and the other new Quidditch players at that night’s feast. In fact, his ears turned red as fire as Lavender and Parvati moved to sit a little bit closer. Hermione’s eyebrows rose as the other girls congratulated Ron but she only opened a textbook and began to read.

Harry wasn’t able to tell his friends about his ghostly encounter until much later in the common rooms. Ron was making a great deal of noise to Hermione about his painful ribs and it was all Harry could do to talk to them between Ron’s moans and Hermione’s concerned clucking. He steered his friends to the chairs by the fire, well away from the nosy, noisy twins, telling them quickly of the mysterious lady.

Ron’s eyes widened, “She knew you?”

“It looked like she said my name,” Harry replied glumly.

“Well, you know what this means, don’t you?” said Hermione. She sighed at the blank looks Harry and Ron threw her way. “It means she couldn’t have died more than fourteen years ago.”

“How’d you figure?” Ron asked. “Nearly Headless Nick knows all about Harry and he kicked the bucket ages ago.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Sir Nicholas has always been aware of everything around him, before and after death. This woman, whoever she is, doesn’t seem to have realized she’s a ghost until recently. That means she had to have heard about Harry before she died.”

The idea had merit, Harry had to admit. “If that’s so, there must be some record somewhere.”

“Bugger,” Ron said with a sigh. “We’re going to be spending time at the library again, aren’t we?”

//
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