Disclaimer: All characters
except Madame Coco are the property of J. K. Rowling
Nearly Headless Nick floated into his Gryffindor Tower hideout, behind
the fourth door on the left side of the sixth-floor hallway. The room itself changed from day to day, but
counting the same number of doorways and landings every time was soothing to
the ghost’s orderly soul. Settling down
in a magnificently carved chair (which had been a quilted and tasseled close
stool yesterday, to Nick’s displeasure), he stretched out his legs and relaxed,
only to have his head flop over. With an
irritated grunt, he pulled it back. As
he did, he noticed the package lying on the tooled leather surface of the desk,
awkwardly wrapped in parchment and tied with a red ribbon.
Nick groaned. This was the tenth
package in two weeks. He opened it, and
the odor of rotting perch drifted to his nostrils. He knew who it was from. Somehow, in spite the disparity of age and
historical era, she’d developed a…a…crush
on him. He’d caught glimpses of her
following him about, peering around corners as he drifted through the
Gryffindor hallways. He knew what she
wanted; the Halloween Ball was in a few days, and, surely, she was getting up
the courage to ask him for a dance. Nick
felt sorry for the girl, truly he did.
Kind-hearted as he was, he’d worried about her refusal to adapt to being
a ghost, and her desperate attempts to hold onto the physical world she’d left
years ago. Now, it seemed, she wanted to
adapt, but Nick fervently wished Myrtle had chosen someone else to adapt with.
Her sobs were echoing off the walls of the bathroom. He
despises me, I know he does, thought Myrtle, and let out a long,
self-indulgent wail. The Halloween Ball
was that evening, and Myrtle knew that, again, she’d be sitting in a corner
while all the other ghosts, dressed in lovely outfits, would dance the night
away. She was sure Nick would spend most
of his time with that beautiful Elizabethan ghost from Ravenclaw. “I’m stuck here, in glasses and a frumpy
dress, doomed to spy on live boys, forever,” she sobbed.
“Nonsense, girl. Stop that
sobbing and let’s get to work.” Myrtle
let out a surprised squeak and, opening the door to her stall, peered out.
A small, thin woman stood there, tapping the manicured nails of one
hand impatiently against the sink, while the other was playing with her strands
“Wha- what?” said Myrtle. “I –
who are you?” Myrtle began to sob
again. “I can’t work, I’m a ghost. I think it’s dreadful for a grownup like you
to remind me-“
“I’m a ghost,” snapped
the woman. “And Merlin knows they’ve got
me busy enough. We’ve been watching you,
girl, and it is time you got used to being dead. None of us like it at first, but we learn to,
eventually. You’ve got a ball to attend
“Ye- yes, Miss, er Mrs.,
The woman dropped her pearls and began to rummage through a large bag,
after first lifting out a growling white poodle. “You may call me Madame Coco. Now, let us see-“ She stepped back and scrutinized Myrtle, who
hunched her shoulders and stared at the floor.
“Stop that,” Madame Coco snapped.
“Posture, my girl, stand tall, shoulders square. Although if I faced spending eternity in that
outfit, I’d be sulky, too. And those
glasses have to go.”
She reached out and plucked them off.
“Wait,” Myrtle protested. “I
“And that outfit. Fine for
everyday wear, but you need evening clothes.”
Evening clothes reminded Myrtle once more of the ball, and the lovely
Elizabethan woman, and Nearly Headless Nick, and how he didn’t seem to notice
her at all….
A pair of hands was placed on Myrtle’s shoulders, and she looked up,
sniffling, to see the sharp eyes of the woman soften as they looked down. “My dear child, it happens to all of us,
alive or dead. Tonight, he will notice
you, and you will have a lovely time. I
Myrtle rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “But- but nobody even likes me-“
“How can they, when you spend your days sobbing in the toilet? We’ll find something for you to wear, and
you’ll go to the ball, and you will not sob.
You will talk to people, and let them find out who Myrtle really is.” She rummaged through her bag and pulled out a
swatch of soft fabric. “Yes, this is
A flash of light made Myrtle wince, then slowly open her eyes,
smoothing the soft, gray silk over her arms in a gesture of wonder. “See what a decent dress will do for
posture,” Madame Coco said, touching Myrtle’s shoulder approvingly, and guided
her to the full-length mirror.
“Oh,” breathed Myrtle, catching sight of herself. “Is that-“
She raised a hand to touch her face.
It was her. Me, thought Myrtle. That’s me. The tall, pretty girl, standing proudly in a
beautiful dress, was her. She twirled
once, scarcely believing it, and the silver threads in the fabric glittered,
even in the dim light of the bathroom, as the silk swung around her legs. Nick,
Please notice. Please.
Madame Coco was standing behind her, a satisfied smile on her
face. “Ah yes, that is much better, the
dress and the Muggle contact lenses. But
the hair needs work.” She snapped her
Myrtle paused before the door to the dungeon’s ballroom. Despite her improved appearance, the thought
of walking into a roomful of other ghosts made her nervous. She momentarily considered poking her head
through the wood to see who was there, but Nick was a stickler for etiquette,
and not using the door on a formal occasion was frowned upon.
To quiet her nerves, she took a turn around the hallway. As she neared the darkened niche at the end,
she felt herself pass through someone.
“Oh, excuse me,” she mumbled, backing away. “I didn’t mean-“
“It’s all right,” said a familiar voice. “I’m new at this, and didn’t want to go in
just yet. I must admit, I’m a little
nervous.” Myrtle squinted into the dark,
trying to see who it was.
She gasped as Cedric Diggory stepped out of the shadows, impeccably
attired in dress robes, looking even more handsome than he had when she’d
watched him dress for the Yule Ball.
“I didn’t know you were here,” Myrtle said, catching herself just in
time from wringing her hands. “I’d heard
you, er, you know-“
“Died?” Cedric said, something between a grin and a grimace on his
face. “Yeah. I haunt the area underneath the Quidditch
stands. That way, at least I’ll get to watch games.” He sat down on a bench and examined the
velvet trim of his sleeve with great care.
“I miss Quidditch.”
He doesn’t know who you are,
Myrtle thought, remembering the times he’d chased her out of the prefect’s
bathroom. Disappointment caught at her
throat and she wanted to start wailing, but forgot about herself when she saw
the look in the Cedric’s eyes as he glanced up at her.
“Does it get any – I mean, do you get used to this, after a while? Do you miss anything?” he asked. Myrtle sat down next to him and propped her
chin on her hands.
“I haven’t tried to get used to it, I’m afraid. I miss Chocolate Frogs. They don’t even spoil very well.” Myrtle’s face got slightly grayer. What a
stupid thing to say. He must think you’re an idiot. You are an idiot, Myrtle, dress or no
dress. She waited for him to
get up and go into the ballroom, to run away from her, but instead, he laughed
and held out a hand.
“You know, I haven’t laughed since – since it happened. I’m sorry if I scared you, lurking around
back here. That’s a lovely gown; you
looked like a lost princess as you wandered towards me, and I forgot to move
out of the way.”
Myrtle blushed again. “Thank
you,” she whispered.
“Shall we go in, Myrtle,”
he asked, still holding out his hand for her to take.
Nick froze in the act of eating some spoiled haggis as Myrtle walked into the ballroom on
Cedric’s arm. It wasn’t the dress or the
hair, but her happy expression that made his heart leap. The murmur that ran through the room over the
improved appearance of one, and the first appearance of the other, soon died
away, and Elaine, the Hufflepuff ghost, came forward to shake Cedric’s
hand. Nick watched with ever-deepening
satisfaction the glow in Myrtle’s eyes as she danced, and the young man’s smile
as other ghosts enthusiastically welcomed him.
Finally Nick got up and walked over to the pair, and held out his hand
to Myrtle. “May I have this dance, young
She looked up at him, friend to friend.
“Of course, you may.”