The Sugar Quill
Author: Ananke  Story: In the Bathroom  Chapter: Default
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In the Bathroom

(Great thanks to my beta-reader, Suburban House Elf, for taking the time necessary to read this, for her many corrections – and, above all, for her encouraging remarks!)

 

 

Colloportus!”

The first person in his life to preach the virtue of constant vigilance had been his fourth-year Defence teacher – the memory still smarted. Father later told him that the man hadn’t really been the Auror, but a Death Eater escaped from Azkaban, and that the incident had been really due to the man’s hatred for those of Voldemort’s cohorts who had avoided the prison, and, by extension, their families – but he couldn’t really present that as an argument, could he? Of course, at the time, he had ignored the old man’s ramblings, they had seemed of no use to him – but circumstances changed. His circumstances changed. The family’s circumstances changed. And so, he couldn’t really ignore Aunt Bellatrix’s teachings, even if he had wanted to – and he hadn’t. She taught him a lot.

She taught him how to stay in control of his own mind, and how to keep up the proper appearances. He was surprised that she would know that, of all things; she had never shown the slightest inclination to follow her own advice in this matter since she had returned – but then again, obviously, there was no need for her to hide her true convictions. She taught him how to keep up appearances – and also, because she knew that however willing, he was but a novice to the fine arts of misdirection – she taught him what to do when he could keep up the appearances no more. And her first lesson was – to make sure that he was alone if he found he had to relax his guard. Completely alone. Keeping up the appearances in public wouldn’t be for him simply a matter of dignity; it would be a matter of survival.

And so, it was only now, after the door to the prefects’ bathroom closed with the peculiar noise that accompanied the spell, and after he cast the other spells to reinforce the fastening, and made sure that the mermaid of the portrait would not wake up, and that no one outside the bathroom would hear any unusual noise, that he could loosen the control he now held over his thoughts and feelings. It almost became second nature to him now. He didn’t really usually have to concentrate to keep his mental shields up – but after what happened today…

 

She was watching the boy curiously from her vantage point near the ceiling. She guessed easily what the poor thing was doing – she remembered how she herself used to escape to the bathroom whenever Olive Hornby felt like teasing her about her glasses, or her face, or her looks in general – this was, after all, the reason she died. But she paid Olive back for her taunts – oh yes, she did.

The boy was now sitting on the edge of a bath, his back turned against her, his shoulders sagged. She wondered for a moment why someone would bully him – he wasn’t really ugly, and didn’t wear glasses. Of course, he wasn’t as handsome as the one that so frequently visited her bathroom a couple years ago, the one she later met right here, in this bathroom – but he wasn’t ugly, either. But then, she decided, he didn’t have to be; people didn’t really have to have a reason to bully you. If it wasn’t glasses, then it was something else. They always found a reason.

She drifted for a moment, undecided whether to leave the boy to himself – whether to talk to him; he clearly did not want anyone to see him in his state, after all, and perhaps she should just return to her own bathroom. Nobody ever talked to her in this wretch of a school when she was alive – oh, they teased her and laughed at her, but nobody ever talked to her. And sometimes, when she was in the bathroom, crying, she felt that what she really would like would be to talk to someone. To a friend. Could she and the boy become friends? Perhaps she could help him; she could haunt whoever was bullying him. That would be even fun.

But boys were different than girls. They didn’t cry, and if they did, they didn’t want to be seen crying. This one –

And then, she heard it: muffled sobs, coming from the figure hunched at the edge of the bath; and amongst the sobs, a word. That decided the matter.

 

He was lucky, he supposed, that the Gryffindor did not die. If she had, there would be a full-scale investigation launched, and one of the Aurors would probably eventually wise up to the Imperius Curse Mulciber cast on Rosmerta. And the clerk would be questioned about the necklace. And the money would be traced to its source in the Malfoy vault. And, in the end, everything would point to him. And he didn’t yet have Father’s influence in the Ministry to hush things up.

As it was, the rumours would probably calm down after a few days, and the investigation would never be launched; while he had the perfect alibi of serving McGonagall’s detention. Still, it was a close cut. He should not repeat such mistakes.

Of course, the reason why he had committed the error still remained. He had managed to repair the Cabinet easily – but he was having trouble with restoring the magic previously cast on it. He was becoming desperate, and his was the blunder of a desperate man. This would not happen again. He would fix the Cabinet, and conclude his mission – he certainly didn’t need Snape’s help in this – because otherwise –

otherwise

Then, through tears, he saw the ghost of an incredibly ugly, fat girl in very thick glasses float down from the ceiling.

“Hello?” she said.

 

The boy’s face tensed into a mask the moment he noticed her, even before she spoke; and for a moment, she wondered if she had done the right thing. But she had already started – and, anyway, if things went really wrong, she could just leave. There wasn’t much he could do to her now. She was already dead, after all.

“What are you and what do you think you are doing here?” the boy asked. He was on his feet now, his wand pointed at her. He now looked completely different than before – his whole body was tense and taut, coiled like a snake ready to spring at its victim. She somehow felt that the only reason he hadn’t hexed her yet was because he didn’t quite know what hex to use on a ghost.

“I’m not a what, you know. I’m Myrtle and –”

He interrupted her, quite rudely – she was liking him less and less by the minute. “Myrtle? Oh, so you are – Moaning – Myrtle… I’ve heard Pansy and the others talk about you. Say –” he smirked, then continued on in a lazy drawl – “did anyone, by chance, ever tell you that you are fat, ugly, miserable and pimply for someone who is actually dead?”

The tears flew out of their own accord, as they always did. “You just think you’re so original, don’t you? Fat – and ugly! Dead – and miserable! Well, I wasn’t the miserable one here, the one moping here just a moment ago! And here – here I thought you were actually different! I thought you were nice! And sensitive! But you aren’t! You aaaareeeen’t!” The tears weren’t merely flowing anymore – they were gushing in a torrent.

“Nice?” The boy crooked his head slightly, as though he couldn’t believe the stupidity of what he had just heard. “Whatever gave you the idea that I was – nice? And –” he sneered – “sensitive?”

“Well,” she said, blinking in a hopeless effort to stop the flow of tears, “you were here, crying, weren’t you? You must have felt hurt, someone must have hurt you. And you were thinking about your mother–”

“My mother?” The boy’s eyes narrowed. “What do you know about my mother?”

“Nothing… Only – only – that you said “mother” when you were crying. You must really love her, don’t you?” The tears were, miraculously, drying up.

“That is a matter between my mother and me. You would do well to keep your ghastly nose out of it.” There was a hint of menace in the boy’s voice, but the taunt appeared half-hearted, at best, especially when compared to the previous broadside. She drifted around him to the edge of the bath and seated herself as best as she could – it was quite hard to keep concentrated enough not to pass through the thing.

“I will – if you want. But can’t she help you?”

“Help me?” It was obvious that the question startled him. He also moved in the meantime, so that he was facing her again; but at least, she noted, his wand was down.

“Yes – against the people who’re bullying you and making you come here and –” she finished, not sure of how to end the sentence, at last settling for a vague, all-encompassing move of the hand – “do these things? I mean –” her thoughts were gaining impetus again – “my mother couldn’t, but perhaps yours can? Can’t you write to her or something?”

He laughed mirthlessly. “I rather think she believes she already had.”

“Oh.” That rather killed the idea. Then, remembering her previous scheme, she perked up. “Perhaps I can help?”

“You?” He eyed her incredulously. “And what could you do?”

“Haunt them. It worked on Olive Hornby, you know.”

The boy was visibly amused. He dropped next to her on the edge of the bath, and said, “I’m afraid it wouldn’t work in this case. Although if you could haunt Potter –”

This time, it was her turn to be surprised. “Potter?”

“Oh, you must know him. Everybody knows Harry Saint Potter, Dumbledore’s pet and the celebrity of Hogwarts. Green eyes, black hair, hideous scar on his forehead – oh no, I bet you are one of those fluffy-headed idiots who are completely smitten with him –”

“I’m NOT smitten with him!” she declared, the emphasis in her voice due in no small part to the fact that she was actually trying to convince two people about this. But she didn’t want to disappoint the boy – she could not remember when was the last time she actually had such a long, civil conversation with anyone – especially anyone living. She was happy to know that her initial feelings about the boy were correct. He really was nice. Of course, he did insult her – but he was feeling bad at the time. She could understand this.

And, anyway, Harry Potter didn’t deserve her good opinion. “I know who he is. But I don’t like him. He isn’t nice at all! He and those friends of his once occupied my bathroom for a month, making some stinking potion on a toilet. And then, he left, and didn’t even come to visit, only to get that book, and then to ask me how I died, but that was just because he wanted to play hero and save that redhead. And two years ago, I met him here by chance, and I helped him, and he promised me that he would come and see me, but he never did.” The words were flowing out of their own accord, just as effortlessly as the tears that had flown before. “No, I don’t like him at all!”

She could see that the boy was somewhat confounded by her tale. “Stinking potion?” he asked cautiously at last, when he could finally be sure that she had finished.

“Yes. I couldn’t get the smell of it out of the bathroom for months!”

“Do you know – what it was called? What it did?”

“Oh, I know that very well, I was there when it happened,” she said; it was easily the most amusing thing she had seen in years. “He and that freckled boorish friend of his just changed their appearance, they looked like two other boys. But that girl that was with them – she got changed into a cat! Not completely, which was even funnier – she just grew a tail and cat’s ears – and she had fur on her face – and her eyes grew yellow – oh, she looked dreadful, really. Dreadful. Served her right for laughing at my looks behind my back,” she concluded darkly.

 

As the ghost concluded her chaotic story, he couldn’t help but smirk. So, Granger messed with the Polyjuice Potion and got partly turned into a cat for her efforts! Oh, if he had only known it at the time – but what time was that, precisely? He raked his memories, trying to find some period of comparable peace from her insufferable toadying to the teachers, but he could not. Second year, perhaps? He was rather excited then with the possibility that Snape could well become the Headmaster – and so, perhaps, he let pass by such prime mocking material. Just his luck – he had to become transfigured to a ferret on the eyes of the whole school, while the Mudblood got turned into some sort of a – a ridiculous human cat, from the sound of it, and still managed to avoid notice. And yet – he consoled himself – he may well have trouble repairing the complicated magic of the Cabinet, but at least he knew to be sure whose hair he gave to Crabbe and Goyle.

Some of his feelings must have shown on his face, because the ghost shuffled her feet, and coyly asked, “Are you feeling better now?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered to placate her. To think that in all these years, he had been unaware of such prime source of incriminating information on Potter!

“That’s good,” she continued, in the same small voice.

“It is,” he answered brusquely – what did she expect, gratitude? He rose. “And now, I must go. Otherwise someone will start to think that I was hexed on the corridors – or something.”

“Oh.” Her face contorted, and for a second he was afraid that she would start crying again. But she managed to overcome the tears – from what he had heard, a rare feat for her – although there was a palpable trace of a sniffle in her voice as she asked, “But we will see each other again? You know where my bathroom is? You will always be welcome there.”

What a ridiculous invitation. And yet, he would be glad to hear something more of that story of how Granger turned into a cat – and who knew what else the ghost had seen in this school? Perhaps one day, when he felt bored, he would drop by. He did his best to hide the disgust he felt, and smiled. In his most proper voice, he said:

“Of course we will see each other again. Thank you for the invitation, I will certainly come. I’m not like Potter, you know –”

He finished, almost to himself, “No, most certainly I am not.”

 

She watched him unmake the spells he had cast on the bathroom’s door; it was only when he cast the last spell that she realised that throughout the whole conversation, she didn’t manage to learn the boy’s name. But – name or no name, she knew that – this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

Alohomora!”

//
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