You've Been Cordially Invited...
Time passed, the air grew cooler and soon enough it was the end of October. For the past few weeks the Hospital Wing has been busier than normal with students and staff that has caught the flu that has been going around Hogwarts. It seemed you couldn’t walk down a corridor without seeing someone smoking at the ears from Madam Pomfrey’s Pepperup Potion. Percy bullied Ginny into taking some when she had been looking rather peaky. With her flaming red hair, the steam pouring out of her ears made her seem like her whole head was on fire.
The only things that didn’t change were my new sleeping habits and Wood’s dedication to defeating Slytherin and their Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones with grueling training sessions, which was why Harry and I could be found a few days before Halloween trudging our way back to Gryffindor tower soaked to our bones with mud and sweat. Even without the stormy weather it hadn’t been a very cheery practice session. Fred and George had been spying on the Slytherin Quidditch team to see for themselves how fast the new Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones could go. They said that the Slytherin team were no more than seven greenish blurs, shooting through the air like missiles.
As we squelched down a deserted corridor, hoping to avoid Filch, we came across someone else who seemed as preoccupied as we were. Nearly Headless Nick was staring resentfully at the rain pinging against the glass window, muttering under his breath, “ … don’t fulfill their requirements … half an inch, if that…”
“Hello Nick,” Harry and I said to our House ghost, startling him out of his thoughts. “Hello, hello,” Nearly Headless Nick replied, looking around. “You look troubled, young Potter,” said Nick, folding the transparent letter that was obviously troubling him and tucked it inside his doublet. “So do you.” I replied.
“Ah,” Nearly Headless Nick waved his hand carelessly, “a matter of no importance, Miss Longbottom. … It’s not as though I really wanted to join. … Thought I’d apply, but apparently I ‘don’t fulfill requirements’––” Despite his casual tone, he couldn’t hide the look of bitterness on his face. “But you would think wouldn’t you,” he said suddenly, pulling the letter back out of his pocket, “that getting hit forty-five times in the neck with a blunt axe would qualify you to join the Headless Hunt?” Harry and I exchanged a glance. “Oh, um –– yes,” we stammered, as we were obviously supposed to agree. “I mean, nobody wishes more than I do that it had all been quick and clean, and my head had come off properly, I mean, it would have saved me a great deal of pain and ridicule. However––” Nearly Headless Nick shook his letter open and read furiously:
“‘We can only accept huntsmen whose heads have parted company with their bodies. You will appreciate that it would be impossible otherwise for members to participate in hunt activities such as Horseback Head-Juggling and Head Polo. It is with the greatest regret, therefore, that I must inform you that you do not fulfill our requirements. With very best wishes, Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore.’”
Nearly Headless Nick angrily stuffed the letter back into his pocket. “Half an inch of skin and sinew holding my neck on! Most people would think that’s good and beheaded, but oh, no, it’s not enough for Sir Properly Decapitated-Podmore.” Nearly Headless Nick took several deep breaths to collect himself and said calmly, “So –– what’s bothering you? Anything I can do?”
“Not unless you know where we can get seven free Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones for our match against Sly––” the rest of my sentence was drowned out by a high-pitched meowing coming from somewhere near my ankles. I looked down and saw Mrs. Norris, which meant that Filch was nearby. Ugh, stupid cat. “You’d better get out of here, Mr. Potter, Miss Longbottom,” Nearly Headless Nick said quickly. “Filch isn’t in a good mood –– he’s got the flu and some third years accidentally plastered frog brains all over the ceiling in dungeon five. He’s been cleaning all morning, and if he sees you dripping mud all over the place––”
“Right,” I nodded, slowly backing away from her accusatory gaze, but not soon enough. Following the scent of his beloved cat, or however it is that he knows wherever she is, Filch suddenly burst through a tapestry to our right, panting heavily, eyes wild searching for students breaking the rules. “Filth!” he shouted, pointing at the muddy puddle dripping from our Quidditch robes. “Mess and muck everywhere! I’ve had enough of it, I tell you! Follow me, Potter, Longbottom!” Harry and I reluctantly followed Filch into his office. I had never been inside Filch’s office before. It was cluttered with confiscated items and dozens of cabinets that contained details of every student Filch had ever punished. I bet Fred and George have an entire cabinet to themselves. A collection of chains and manacles hung on the wall behind Filch’s desk. Everyone knew that he was always begging Professor Dumbledore to let him suspend students by their ankles from the ceiling.
Filch grabbed a quill and began searching for spare parchment, muttering under his breath. “Dung, great sizzling dragon bogies … frog brains … rat intestines … I’ve had enough of it … make an example … where’s the form … yes …” He found some parchment, dipped his quill into the ink pot and glared at Harry. “Names … Harry Potter and Callalily Longbottom. Crime … befouling the castle.” I rolled my eyes and scoffed, “It’s just a little bit of mud.”
“It’s only a bit of mud to you, but to me it’s an extra hour of scrubbing!” Filch shouted, which caused a cough attack. Once he caught his breath, he picked up the quill that he dropped. “Suggested sentence …” he paused to glare at us, sniffing loudly to contain his runny nose. Just as he lowered his quill, there was a great BANG! “PEEVES!” Filch yelled. “I’ll have you this time, I’ll have you!” Without a backward glance at us, Filch hightailed it out of his office on his search for the troublemaking poltergeist.
Harry and I before awkwardly looking around. So, do we stay or do we go? Harry sighed and sunk into a moth-eaten chair next to Filch’s desk. I guess that answers that. Harry grabbed a purple envelope off of Filch’s desk after a quick glance at the door to make sure that Filch wasn’t on his way back. I was about to do some snooping of my own when Harry mumbled something in confusion. “What?” I asked out of curiosity. “Kwikspell. A correspondence Course in Beginners’ Magic.”
“Oh,” I mumbled softly, walking towards the desk. “I know what that is. It’s a remedial class for Squibs to try to learn basic magic. I overheard Gran and Uncle Algie talking about it once. They thought that they might have to sign Nev up for them before he showed his first bout of accidental magic. You should probably put that back before Filch gets back. While I’d love Nev whether was magical or not, most of the magical community doesn’t feel that way.”
Harry nodded and put down the letter. Just in time too, because not even a second later did we hear the sound of shuffling footsteps outside before Filched opened the door looking victorious. “That vanishing cabinet was extremely valuable!” he said elatedly to Mrs. Norris. “We’ll have Peeves out this time, my sweet ––” His eyes fell on us near his desk then darted to the Kwikspell envelope that Harry put on the opposite side of the desk. “Have you –– did you read?––” he stuttered.
“No,” Harry lied quickly. I closed my eyes and sighed. Oh Harry, you’re such a horrible liar. Filch’s entire face began to turn red, instead of just his nose. “If I thought you’d read my private –– not that it’s mine –– for a friend –– be that as it may –– however ––” I’ve never seen Filch so mad and by the look on Harry’s face, he hadn’t either. “Very well –– go –– and don’t breathe a word –– not that –– however, if you didn’t read –– go now, I have to write up Peeves’ report –– go ––”
You don’t have to tell us twice! I thought as we ran out of his office, not believing our luck. It was nearly unheard of to escape Filch’s office without some form of punishment. “So, did it work?” Nearly Headless Nick asked, startling me, appearing out of nowhere as ghosts do. Okay, so he came from the classroom we were passing next to Filch’s office; I just didn’t expect him to pop into my peripheral vision. “Was that you?” I asked. “Yeah, it worked. We didn’t even get a detention. Thanks, Nick!”
“Yeah, I wish that there was something I could do for you about this Headless Hunt.” Harry said. Nearly Headless Nick suddenly stopped without warning and I walked right through him. It made me shiver all the way into my bones. Ugh, I hate when that happens. “But there is something that you can do for me,” Nick said excitedly. “Harry –– would I be asking too much –– but no, you wouldn’t want ––”
“What is it?” Harry asked. “Well, this Halloween will be my five-hundredth deathday,” said Nearly Headless Nick, hovering a little higher with pride. “Oh, right.” Harry said, unsure whether he should look sorry or happy about this. “Happy early deathday Nick.” I said figuring that Nearly Headless Nick was the type of ghost who liked to celebrate his deathdays just like he celebrated his birthdays. Now Moaning Myrtle on the other hand…
“Thank you, Miss Longbottom. I’m holding a party down in one of the roomier dungeons. Friends will be coming from all over the country. It would be such an honor if you could attend. Miss Longbottom, Mr. Longbottom, Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger would be most welcome, too, of course –– but I daresay you’d rather go to the school feast?” He watched Harry with bated breath. “No,” Harry said quickly. “We’ll come ––” Well Ron won’t be happy when he hears about this… “My dear boy! Harry Potter, at my deathday party! And” –– he hesitated, “do you think that you could possibly mention to Sir Patrick how very frightening and impressive you find me?” Harry and I glanced at each other. “Of –– of course,” Harry burst out. “Especially since you intimidated us into coming with your terrifying ways.” I added, winking. Nearly Headless Nick beamed back at us.
Unsurprisingly, Ron did not share his enthusiasm. “A deathday party? Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they died? Sounds dead depressing to me…” said Ron, who was grumpily finishing his Potions homework when we joined everyone in the common room. “Oh stop it Ron, I bet there aren’t many living people who can say that they’ve been to one of those –– it’ll be fascinating!”
“Won’t we miss the feast?” Nev asked looking up from his own Potions homework that I suspect Hermione was helping them with. Thanks, Hermione. Ron dropped his quill and eyes widened, “What? No…”
By the time Halloween came around everyone, but perhaps Hermione, was regretting Harry’s rash promise to go to the deathday party. Unfortunately for me, I woke that morning not only sweating from a nightmare, but probably a fever as well as congested as most of the student population with the flu that was going around.
Ron thought I got it on purpose just to miss the deathday party and was upset that I didn’t include him in my “plan” but that’s classic Ron for you. He and Harry coughed a few times saying that they may be catching it too, but Hermione wasn’t fooled by it. She said, “A promise is a promise. You said you’d go to the deathday party, so you’re going to go and Callie is going to go to the hospital wing to get a Pepperup Potion.”
Although, I didn’t plan this, I can’t say that I’m horribly upset that I have to miss the deathday party. The Great Hall had been decorated with the usual live bats and there were rumors that Dumbledore had booked a group of dancing skeletons for the entertainment for the Halloween feast. Luckily, it’s Saturday so after breakfast I went to the hospital wing and asked Madam Pomfrey to let me stay in my own bed instead of staying in the hospital wing. I spend enough random trips to the hospital wing as it is, that I try to avoid it whenever I can. I probably caught it from when I was in the hospital wing the other day when I sprained my ankle tripping down the stairs. I’ll just stay in bed today and hope that I feel a bit better by dinner. If I don’t feel well enough to go to the feast, maybe I’ll go to the kitchens… I heard that the house elves are making a pumpkin pie that’s to die for.
The day passed slowly. I did some studying, but eventually even my mind needed a rest so I went to the kitchens to grab a quick lunch to take back to the dormitory. I sat on the windowsill with my journal and my sandwich. I know I should probably have soup, but I never really liked soup and I do like sandwiches. I decided to draw the view of the Quidditch pitch. I saw a few green blurs and figured that the Slytherins were having Quidditch practice. I drew Malfoy with his stupid Malfoy smirk chasing after the snitch only to get hit on the head with a bludger and fall to his doom…The End. Pshhh… I wish… About an hour later I decided to take a nap hopefully to dream about one hundred and one ways to make Malfoy’s life a living nightmare only to wake up to one of my own.