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Entry #1

Discussion in 'Q2 2021' started by Xiph0, Jun 21, 2021.

  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    Ghosts of Hogwarts
    Or: A Stumble before the Finish Line ​


    May 2nd, 1998.

    Harry dashed out of the Room of Requirement, the corridor beyond populated by a few stragglers set for the Great Hall to hear McGonagall’s battle speech, but it was Ginny’s words that were ringing in his ears. Ron and Hermione must have realized that there were basilisk fangs still in the Chamber of Secrets, and the cup and the snake and what they hoped to be the diadem remained of Voldemort’s horcruxes. Ron and Hermione would need his help to get inside, though, he would need to be quick because he also had to –

    “No running in the corridors!”

    The voice came from such an unlikely source that Harry was skidding to a halt before he could catch himself, turning angrily to face Moaning Myrtle. The ghost of a fat young witch with thick, opaque glasses low on her nose, Myrtle was eyeing him over them with enormous smugness.

    “You know what I’m here for?” Harry panted; his emotions suddenly as collected as though put under a Freezing Charm.

    “I was hiding in the Come and Go Room when you arrived,” Myrtle admitted without preamble, “I heard you set out for Ravenclaw’s lost diadem with the Loony girl.”

    “It’s Luna, and we didn’t find the diadem.”

    “Mmm.”

    “But that’s not all that I’m here for.”

    Somehow Harry couldn’t quite catch his breath, he could feel his heart pounding like it knew it was running out of time as he stared into Myrtle’s eyes. She was squeezing on an oversized pimple on her cheek and staring back at him with the utmost concentration.

    “You know what I’m here for,” Harry repeated, the enormity in the decision he had made looming over him like one of Hagrid’s fire-breathing pets. There would be no turning back afterwards, which of course was the whole point…

    “I can help you,” Myrtle said, finally giving up the pimple as a bad job and rubbing her hands together in an almost nervous gesture. Her voice was filled with glee, however. “Yes, I think we’ll be able to help you.”

    “And the diadem?”

    “Do I look like Helena Ravenclaw to you?”

    “Helena –? Wait a second, you mean…?”

    Myrtle cackled at him and began floating off through the corridor. Harry had to jog to keep up.

    “Rowena Ravenclaw’s sister is a ghost?”

    “Daughter,” Myrtle said, “I was listening at the door when the Bloody Baron unburdened himself about his love for her to that portrait of Freud they keep tucked away in dungeon number twelve. He convinced a wizard to jump out of the Astronomy Tower, you know, so he’s not quite safe. Titus Whimple he was called, I was there on the ground to meet him, tried to convince him not to Go On, but alas…”

    “There’s a ghost here who’s the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw?” Harry interrupted her and braced himself with a hand on the corner they rounded, his fast steps hurling echoes ahead into the stone corridor.

    “Yes, keep up, will you,” Myrtle said. “I bet she’ll know all about that diadem of yours. Why do you need it, anyway?”

    “It’s a long story,” Harry hissed, his breaths were beginning to feel like knives against his ribs. “I need it badly, and I need basilisk fangs, and I need this great big snake that Vol–”

    “One thing at a time.”

    “I wish there was more time,” Harry said, “but you see, it needs to be me, and it needs to be now.”

    “It needs to be you that kills him,” Myrtle said, and for once she did not sound like she thought he was a badly landed joke.

    “He’s here to kill me, and he won’t stop until… He’ll kill so many innocent people if I can’t… If we can’t…”

    “I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded.” *

    “What the –?”

    “You have until midnight.” *

    Voldemort’s voice pierced through to the bone and Harry stared open-mouthedly at Myrtle, who in turn looked simply delighted.

    “Oooh, that was loud! I wonder if any of our lot will turn against you and try to hand you over?”

    “This is serious, Myrtle,” Harry said, but Myrtle had just winked at him, and in the ensuing queasiness he rather lost his train of thought.

    Then, the plump, translucent shape pressed itself into the nearest door and disappeared.

    Harry grabbed hold of the metal ring in the door and wrenched it open and stepped in after her. He was met not just by Myrtle but also by Nearly Headless Nick.

    “I did say that if ever it’s ghostly services you require, you should always come straight to me,” Nick said reproachfully as Harry greeted him.

    “I remember,” Harry said, steeling himself, “that’s why I’m here.”

    “He’s just told me how badly he needs a chat with the Grey Lady,” Myrtle said loudly, and this was followed by one of the most awkward silences Harry had ever participated in. The whole day had been filled with absurdities, dragons and Polyjuice and Dumbledore’s brother and Neville’s brand-new self-confidence, not to mention this coming fight for life and death, and so you might argue that it made perfect sense for Harry to find himself squirming underneath the spirited disappointment of a 15th Century spinally challenged ghost of a nobleman, even as he counted the minutes until his own demise.

    “It is well known to all of us who spend our eternities dwelling within these walls that help need always be given to those students who ask for it... It is not always that we can do much. We ghosts are mere shadows of ourselves, portraits even less as a rule… Sometimes you get one amongst the living, a professor perhaps, one who truly understands…”

    “Like Professor Dumbledore?” Harry asked. He found that the bitterness he had felt towards the grand old wizard was disappearing. The anger had subsided a long time ago, the anger about not having been told the plan, about the information that had been kept from him… Had there ever even been a plan?

    “Yes.”

    Harry nodded, and wondered if this maybe had been the plan all along. Was this where Dumbledore had thought he would end up, looking for answers? Had Dumbledore known who he'd talked to, the places he had gone in search of answers, years ago, when his heart was first torn asunder by grief?

    “Professor Binns showed me where to find it. If you’re certain? If you’re ready?”

    “I am,” Harry said and drew his wand. He heard Myrtle suck in an excited breath, and then Nearly Headless Nick gestured for him to come forward, to step up to the teacher’s pulpit where some items were laid out.

    It was a blur, afterwards.

    Everybody was ready to fight with him, for him. The students had most all been evacuated, and he had never seen so many adults inside the school before. The battle begun; the Death Eaters were attempting to break in from outside the walls.

    He did not see much of the fighting himself. He felt pity after speaking to the Grey Lady, elation when he saw Hagrid again. Fang left spittle all over his face. He watched Aberforth Dumbledore join the fight, much as he’d sneered at them and their mission before. Augusta Longbottom shook his hand but perfunctorily, she was much too busy acting out a newfound pride in her grandson. Long afterwards Harry could feel her cold, bony fingers and the strength they’d carried as they gripped him.

    The Room of Requirement was almost empty, and yet he still hadn’t found –

    “Ron!” he shouted, relief flooding him when he found his best friends again, he barely even registered the basilisk fangs strewn over the floor, nor that he had interrupted them mid-kiss.

    “Ron’s just reminded me of the house-elves,” Hermione said breathlessly at the same time as she pushed the shards of a cup with golden handles into Harry’s hands.

    “Snogging him reminds you of house-elves?” Ginny asked innocently as she marched past, Tonks in tow, both grinning despite the obvious anxiety that had settled like dust in the air. Harry gazed after her, quite unaware of what Ron shouted after her, because she had winked at him as she passed.

    He wished there had been more time, any time at all.

    “I know where he hid the diadem,” Harry heard himself saying, having to forcibly turn his head to stop staring, facing Ron and Hermione once more, “he did it the night he came here to ask Dumbledore for the job. He thought that the castle thought he was special. He thought that the castle showed him secrets nobody else would ever see. He found the Room of Requirement, and much like with the Chamber of Secrets, he thought he was the only one who could ever visit.”

    “What a knobhead,” Ron said dazedly, “it’s dead easy to get into the Chamber too, once you know where it is, you just impersonate an angry snake and Bob’s your…”

    “The diadem’s in here?” Hermione cut across him, gesturing, but the door was gone.

    “Ginny and Tonks must have been the last ones in the Room. Ginny was supposed to wait, she promised –”

    Harry’s heart ached at Ron’s words, but he walked and turned, walked and turned, and he did not let himself think about anything but the room where all things where hidden. Walk and turn. The room that had been used by hundreds of students, the secret that was barely a secret at all.

    The large, highly polished door appeared for them one more time, and Ron pulled it open. Harry followed him inside and heard Hermione shout “Accio horcrux!” behind him.

    It wasn’t that easy, it never was in Harry’s world, but they got it in the end. The absurdities didn’t stop, either, and Harry had some seconds to reflect on this as his broom soared above flames that were tall as monsters, the slender arms of Draco Malfoy wrapped around his body in the most unnerving of embraces, an ancient tiara bleeding a thick, gloopy substance over his hand and the dying screams of Vincent Crabbe echoing in his ears. Then, he crashed into the wall opposite the burning door of the Room of Requirement and gave himself whiplash.

    His friends weren’t supposed to die, the explosions around them were too loud, and he knew he was taking too long to get it over with. The snake, though, the snake…

    He watched Ron cradle the lifeless head of Fred while George clasped a pale, freckled hand and he was pushed aside by Ginny, her face scrunched up with tears and anger.

    “Rookwood!” Percy snarled, he set off at a run with his wand held high, but before George or Ginny could follow, Ron had stopped them, had turned on Harry with his wand in one hand, basilisk fang in the other.

    “Look into his mind,” Ron grunted, and Harry found, suddenly, that it was easy, that all he had to do was close his eyes and feel…

    “He’s in the Shack,” Harry said quietly. “He’s there with Nagini and Snape. But you can’t just –”

    “I think you’ll find that I can,” Ron cut him off. “How can you expect us to go on unless we… Anyway, I would have thought that this was our number one priority now?”

    There were people gathering all around them, and George was helping Professor Sinistra and Padma Patil with transferring the body onto a magical stretcher.

    “I’m coming, too,” he said, and Ginny nodded fiercely from beside the stretcher, she was using her sleeve to mop up some blood from Fred’s temple.

    “We’ll take one each, just in case,” Hermione said, she was handing round basilisk fangs and both George and Ginny took theirs without questions. Harry accepted his and swallowed the reasons why this was a bad idea.

    The way to the Whomping Willow was very long and edged with dangers. They stumbled over emeralds from the Slytherin hourglass which had shattered onto the floor like so many prophecies. Professor Trelawney was flinging crystal balls around like a mad woman, and Hagrid’s Acromantula were spinning webs over everything indiscriminately. Near the tree, they were almost outfought by a gang of Death Eaters but escaped when Grawp the Giant loped past and made several of the enemy one with the lush green lawn.

    When the dementors showed up Harry found that he did not have the strength to continue, but a shiny bright horse joined the otter and the terrier and fought them off. Harry could have sworn that he saw the ghost of Fred Weasley watching them from Hagrid’s pumpkin patch, but then he had to jump into the secret passageway after George. Running folded over to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling demanded most of his focus and besides, he would be joining the gang of the dead all too soon, wouldn’t he?

    Snape was dying when they arrived, and Harry could feel nothing but hatred as he watched the man’s feeble attempts to communicate with him. His mouth was spilling over with blood and not a single word came through.

    Ron and George and Ginny were taking turns stabbing the snake with the basilisk fangs, and Hermione had turned away from them all. Harry thought he heard her sob.

    He could almost see the spirit of Severus Snape as it left him, an otherworldly white haze around his wasting body. Harry soon found that he’d rather not watch. Leaving Snape in his ever-growing pool of blood, Harry sneaked around the Shack on his own, looking through the dusty, decaying rooms. Voldemort was not there anymore; he had already concluded this as he put his hand on the last bedroom door in the Shrieking Shack.

    “You have fought valiantly. Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery. Yet you have sustained heavy losses. If you continue to resist me, you will all die, one by one. I do not wish this to happen. Every drop of magical blood spilled is a loss and a waste. Lord Voldemort is merciful. I command my forces to retreat, immediately. You have one hour. Dispose of your dead with dignity. Treat your injured.”

    “I speak now, Harry Potter, directly to you. You have permitted your friends to die for you rather than face me yourself. I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest. If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences. This time, I shall enter the fray myself, Harry Potter, ad I shall find you, and I shall punish every last man, woman and child who has tried to conceal you from me. One hour.” **

    “Harry?”

    The voice was far away. Harry’s hand shook on the doorknob, and he couldn’t immediately answer.

    “He must’ve gone back!” Hermione’s worried voice rang from downstairs. “Quick, we need to catch up with him before he does something stupid!”

    She had guessed, both of them had guessed, even though he had made a point of not telling them. Harry listened to the thumps of bodies jumping, then of the trapdoor in the floor snicking shut.

    He leant his back against the door and closed his eyes because they were prickling with hurt. He wondered how many people had died during the execution of this plan of his. Had it been unavoidable? Had it even worked?

    Had Dumbledore had a plan for this? Would it have led to less casualties? Would there have been a way to avoid this?

    It had to be him because of what lived inside him. It had to be him because nobody else could kill him.

    He had one hour.

    With trembling hands, he undid the knot on the mokeskin pouch he carried around his neck. His last possessions and they felt woefully inadequate now; the map of a castle that was burning down, all the labelled dots in it surely dying. Malfoy’s wand instead of his own, special, trusted one. A piece of a mirror whose blue eye had been explained in such a mundane fashion that it had rather lost its wonder. From within the pouch Harry took the golden snitch, Dumbledore’s last gift to him. I open at the close.

    “What does it mean?” he whispered with his lips against the round, golden ball, perhaps finally a new level of understanding dawning, but it was interrupted by a quiet, miserable sob.

    Harry kicked open the door, he was digging for his wand and mistakenly sent the snitch flying like a grenade into the room, the same room where he had first met his godfather in.

    “What are you doing?” a boy whispered, but when Harry looked closer, his wandarm stretched taut and arrested in thin air, he saw that it wasn’t a boy at all. It was one of the only people it really made sense to meet in the Shrieking Shack, only he was no longer made of flesh and blood.

    “Professor Lupin?”

    Lupin smiled a little, then he patted the worn bit of mattress next to him on the fourposter bed.

    “I woke up and couldn’t remember where I was, so I found my way here,” Lupin said. “The pain… I figured it must be nearly moonrise.” His voice was a strange mix of upbeat and shy that Harry had never heard from his lips before, but at the same time there was something soothing about the familiarity Lupin’s eyes betrayed as they watched him. Like he was family.

    Harry sat down next to him.

    “Are the others coming?”

    “I’m so sorry, Remus,” Harry began, but Lupin shook his head and smiled more broadly, see-through hand raised to stop him.

    “You never have to apologize to me, none of you do. I don’t know where to begin to thank you for what you’ve done… And I never fail to be amazed when any of you show up to keep me company. Just seeing your face has made my night, you know. The pain just… It’s late, right? You should probably turn soon. Promise me we’ll stay indoors, though, I know you and Sirius think it’s fine, but I don’t want to risk it when there’s just one of you to keep the wolf in check.”

    “Remus,” Harry said, “I’m really sorry to have to be the one to tell you. You’re… You see, it’s all my fault, if I’d just been quicker –”

    “Remus?”

    Harry hadn’t even heard anyone approaching, but now he aimed his wand at the door, a spell ready on his lips.

    “Dora?” Lupin said softly, and Harry glanced at him, saw the deep furrows in his temple, heard the abrupt change in his tone of voice.

    “I can take it from here, Harry.”

    “I’m so sorry, Tonks,” Harry said, his heart truly in his throat now. Tonks was just as translucent as her husband, and she glided over the floor without stumbling.

    “It’s alright, and it’s really not your fault,” she said, and Harry got up and watched her take his place.

    “It is,” Harry insisted, but husband and wife didn’t seem to be aware of him anymore, they were attempting to grasp each other’s hands, laughing as they slid through without gripping. “You don’t understand…”

    He reminded himself that he only had an hour left until the senseless killing would start again, that he mustn’t dawdle now that the horcruxes had been killed, that there was nothing he could do to help here, anyway. He refused to look back as he hurried downstairs, skipping the last three steps, running past the corpse and all that lurked in the shadows, and he cursed the long and desperately uncomfortable passage to the Whomping Willow.

    He caught himself wondering if everyone would be dead once he got to the other side. Fred was dead, Lupin and Tonks were dead. He had spent so much time in the Shack that he knew nothing of what had happened, maybe Voldemort had only pretended to give them an hour’s respite? Maybe he would come out through the roots only to find the lawn covered in the bodies of everyone he had ever cared about.

    The lawn was dark and empty and wet, the sun had set, and he could hear crying in the distance. When he looked up to the castle, he could see lights burning in the windows to the Great Hall. He stared and he stared, every fibre of his being wanted to join the others there. He needed to know, but there was no time.

    Harry turned away from the castle and began walking towards the Forbidden Forest.

    “I won’t let you do it, Harry,” a voice said in the dark, then Harry was wrestled to the ground.

    His body was screaming with tiredness and lack of nourishment, his wand wrangled out of his hand just as he tried to fire off a stunning spell, but then a lividly spiralling branch from the Whomping Willow hurtled into them. With a grunt of pain, Harry’s attacker released him, and he scrambled for the wand and for the mokeskin pouch at the same time as he rolled away from the lethal tree.

    “Neville! Did you find him? Are you alright?”

    The voice was Hermione’s and Harry swore and pulled out his Cloak of Invisibility from underneath his shirt, then he began to run into the darkness.

    He had one horcrux left to kill. Well, Voldemort did, but he didn’t know it, yet.

    The realization had hit Harry in stages over the past year. Before, when he had still been mourning, he hadn’t been as bothered by the strange visions from Voldemort’s mind, but once reality hit again, he had begun to wonder. He hadn’t known for sure, not until they got their hands on the locket horcrux. His body had recognized his brother, and this thought still drew a shudder from him. His body, the one that had accommodated them both quite peacefully for all these years, but now… He would have to let his body go.

    It took everything he had to keep walking, and at the same time it was the easiest thing he had ever done. He thought he could hear whispers coming from the trees around him, he thought he could feel dead people watching him, following his progression. He was coming to them, and he wondered if they already knew why.

    All that was needed now was good timing.

    He could hear real voices now, could see a moonlit clearing straight ahead. He walked on quietly until there was just the trunk of a grand old oak between him and them. He removed his Cloak quickly, stuffed it back underneath his jumper, but even so Voldemort must have heard him.

    “Is that Nagini?” he hissed, and Harry sucked all the comfort he could get out of the worry in his adversary’s voice.

    “It’s me, Riddle,” Harry said and stepped out from behind the tree with his wand pointing straight at Voldemort’s heart. There was a beat of silence, and then their voices sounded in chorus:

    “Avada Kedavra!”

    The green beam from Harry’s wand got bent, overpowered. It signed the grass between them, and Harry had just enough time to understand that his plan had failed him before the green light from Voldemort's wand hit him straight in the chest.

    It wasn’t the end, of course it was never going to end like that. Harry rose again, shocked to the core, because he had truly meant to kill Voldemort, but his wand had failed him. His wand, Malfoy’s old wand, lay useless on the ground by Harry’s corpse. The tip looked burnt.

    Voldemort’s gleeful shout was lost in the commotion from the trees all around the Death Eaters. A hundred arrows were fired all at once and house-elves brandishing meat cleavers and kitchen knives, most of them with pots and pans or colanders protecting their heads, attacked from another side and Harry’s friends from a third.

    “Voldemort!” several voices shouted, many of Harry’s brothers and sisters in arms all attempting to get his attention, attempting to be the one, and Voldemort’s magic soared this way and that, so many toppling over, all the way until Voldemort turned to face Neville.

    Harry could not believe his eyes when he saw it, the green light that seemingly turned in on itself, that shot straight back into Voldemort. He could not believe it, and yet there was no mistaking the roar of triumph all around him, the renewed efforts that saw the Death Eaters crumble, just like their master’s body had. Pallid and old and mouth gaping unflatteringly, Voldemort had died a mortal’s death.

    Ron and Hermione were both fighting to get to Harry’s body, and Harry backed in between trees, overwhelmed and so terribly lost. He had thought, for years now, that it had to be him…

    “This way, Harry!”

    Harry turned and saw the Fat Friar and Nearly Headless Nick either side of a gnarled beech, both beaming at him and waving eagerly for him to get a move on.

    “Well done, lad, well done!”

    “It wasn’t me,” Harry said numbly, but the Fat Friar was still talking and neither ghost appeared to have heard him.

    “We’ve collected the little ‘uns,” he said eagerly, and showed Harry a ghostly bundle he was carrying. Within it, a four-headed transparent baby lay wrapped up, slit-like nostrils flaring on their flat noses as they cried despairingly in unison.

    “Great, but where’s –?”

    “He went towards the castle; we need to catch him quickly before he can do more damage.”

    “He looked frightened,” Nick said smugly.

    “That figures, the one thing he is truly scared of is death,” Harry said.

    “Yes, I think you were right to identify that he would never Go On by his own initiative,” Nick said. “We’ll just have to help him and these little offshoots on their way, and then we’ll be rid of him forever.”

    “Right,” Harry said. He realized that he was gliding rather than walking now and he looked down at what he had been left with. His hands were marred by the half-healed burns from the dragon and his muggle clothes were in worse condition than anything the Dursleys had ever made him wear. So this was the last imprint he would leave on earth.

    “Ah, will you look at that?” the Fat Friar asked contentedly.

    Two ghosts Harry had no problem recognizing as Colin Creevey and Fred Weasley were dancing gleefully around a much less easily identifiable shape.

    “Only one thing that can hold onto a ghost, of course. Between you and me, it was a happy accident that Fred Weasley died,” Nick said quietly to Harry. Harry wanted to baulk at the words, but he found that he was still curiously devoid of feelings. “Peeves has never taken orders from anyone except for the Bloody Baron, and I was worried about how the Baron would feel about… Well. He was a Slytherin, after all.”

    “Yeah.”

    “But this has worked out to everybody’s satisfaction,” Nick continued as they watched Peeves, who was holding the ghost of Voldemort in a headlock, put his other hand on Voldemort’s belly and tickle him. Piercingly high screams rang out into the night, and yet they were not nearly as loud as the triumphant singing and cheering that was coming from the clearing they had just left.

    “Where is the – uh, where is Peeves going to put him? To force him to Go On?”

    “There is the dais, at the Ministry, but we decided that it’s too risky to move him all the way to London. Peeves’s attention span… Well, you know what he’s like. In the end, the Merpeople and their chieftainess Murcus agreed to put in a good word for us with the Giant Squid,” Nick said, and noticing Harry’s confused expression he continued: “The Giant Squid used to be a Ferryman in an earlier… life.”

    “I don’t understand what that means.”

    “Neither do I,” Nick admitted uncomfortably. “Death is… Death has always remained a bit of a mystery to me.”

    “You told me there would be a chance, once we’ve dealt with him, to Go On.”

    “And there will be,” Nick agreed, but he was beginning to look ill. “We think, given the circumstances, that the Squid will be accommodating to us all.”

    “I’m staying,” the Fat Friar said jovially, he was leaning back on his heals with his hands clasped over his belly, still watching the spectacle playing out in front of them on the lawn (Voldemort was hanging upside down, Peeves’s hands tight around his ankles as he swung to and fro like a children’s swing, making retching noises that were still unlikely to culminate in an accident, all things considered.)

    “Good man,” Nick whispered, and he sounded much cheered by the words.

    “Here they are, now,” the Fat Friar said as a guttural call came from the lake, quickly followed by some splashing.

    “We need to lift the spell!” Harry suddenly remembered, and he made to dig through his pockets for his wand.

    “Already did,” Nick said gently and patted him on the shoulder. Harry felt nothing at all.

    “Nick told me you lot needed someone alive to reverse a spell preventing the dead from dying,” Luna Lovegood’s voice sounded from behind Harry. Harry turned with new ghostly grace to face her. She looked completely undamaged from the battle, and she stared back at him with undisguised fascination in her pale, protruding eyes.

    “Thank you.”

    “You’re quite welcome, Harry. Do you still feel like Harry?”

    Harry, who thought he felt nothing like anything anymore, was saved from answering when there was another loud call from the Black Lake.

    “It’s time.”

    They all walked down towards the dark, calm lake. There were more and more of them, Harry noticed, not just Fred and Colin and Lupin and Tonks. Every last one had died because of him. Every last one had been unable to Go On because of him. Soon, he hoped, this second of his two burdens would be lifted from his shoulders.

    In the craggy shallows by the beach of the lake, the chieftainess with her long green hair was waiting for them, and although majestic she was dwarfed by the Giant Squid who was idly lifting some rocks and looking underneath them with one of its many eyes. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of a mutual language, although Nearly Headless Nick, who had taken the lead when they neared, did shout something gurgling and nonsensical at the pair, and finished off with a very low bow.

    “Weee! Dark Lord coming through, mind you don’t step on his poor tattered little soul…”

    Peeves soared past Harry, holding Lord Voldemort in a fireman’s lift, and during a brief second Harry caught the look of resigned loathing on his old enemy’s face.

    “Give him hell, Peeves!” Fred Weasley shouted, his ghostly face so freckled it had almost turned opaque; he was racing Colin Creevey to the beach, they ran straight through a scowling Professor Snape, and as they overtook Harry they both grinned triumphantly at him. Colin gave him a thumbs up.

    Looking further, Harry could see that it was not only silvery ghosts behind him now. The survivors were beginning to emerge from the forest in the distance, their wands alight and held aloft forming a frontier of golden stars against the darkness. The cheering had stopped and Harry knew that the next words would carry. Had things gone to plan, he thought he might have spoken, but now…

    “Good riddance!” Neville Longbottom’s voice rang out over the grounds, and the jubilation that followed seemed to echo from the very mountains around them.

    Harry’s voice caught in his throat, he averted his gaze, and his eyes, once more, caught Voldemort’s. Voldemort’s spirit was trembling, like he actually was still able to feel. Harry watched as the ghost was tossed by the Poltergeist into the air, then caught deftly by a gigantic, squishy tentacle. The Giant Squid’s mouth opened wide, reminding Harry horribly of dementors. He kept his eyes wide open, and he took in every note of Voldemort’s last shriek.

    “Right, who’s next?” Fred shouted joyously, turning to the ghost of Lavender Brown next to him. “How about you, love? Fancy a go on the tentacle merry-go-round? Or you, sir?” Fred bowed pompously to the middle-aged ghost of a man Harry did not know. “Not you, though, bet you’re too much of a coward!” The ghost of Vincent Crabbe scowled at Fred.

    It did not take long. The crowd of ghosts began surging forwards, some forming lines, others running straight towards the squid. It must have looked odd to the living, breathing beings watching them, but Harry felt it too. For the first time since death, he felt It. Just a hint of emotion, of life, but there, emanating from the Squid, was the tangible, piteous human feelings that he had already begun to miss just as much as he knew he would miss Hermione and Ron. Ginny.

    He turned to look back, because soon he knew this would not be possible anymore. He could not tell which brightly burning wand was one of theirs. Nobody was approaching them, a respectful, irrevocable distance between them, even Luna had gone back to the other side.

    He looked to the water again, saw Tonks whoop as the squid tossed her into the air and caught her in its accommodating mouth.

    “You know, sometimes I regret what I told you after Sirius Black died.”

    “Don’t. I was desperate for answers,” Harry said to Nearly Headless Nick, “and you had some. Not the ones I was looking for at the time, of course.”

    “No, you hated hearing that there was no way of becoming a ghost once the person in question had already Gone On.”

    “But then you told me that you could have helped me if I had asked you before Sirius died,” Harry said. “That there is a way to keep souls from passing on, only you have to perform the spell before they die. Tricky, that.”

    He watched Fred, who was one of the last ones left, accept the bundle of helpless, babyish abomination from the Fat Friar. Fred pulled a funny face at him, but Harry could tell that he was thinking of someone else. His smile almost died as he stared up at the crowds at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, hundreds of people he was about to leave behind. One in particular that mattered like nobody else ever had, and Harry could see how difficult it was to walk away. He thought he heard a shout, and he saw that Fred had heard it too. With one last laugh, Fred stepped up to the squid and was swallowed whole.

    “From all of us ghosts,” Nick began, as though he had forgotten what Harry now was, “I would like to thank you, Harry Potter, for ridding us and our living brothers and sisters, of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

    “I did the groundwork,” Harry said uncomfortably. “Me and Ron and Hermione. Neville actually killed him.”

    “As you say.”

    “Would you mind telling Ron and Hermione about what I did? What the two of us did. About this spell and why I had to die.”

    “It will be an honour,” Nick said, straightening his back so suddenly that the head on his partly severed neck quivered alarmingly, “although… Although, of course, you could do it yourself?”

    “If I spoke to them now, I’m not sure I’d ever have the strength to Go On.”

    “Yes, I quite understand. But I thought maybe you’d like to become one of us?”

    Harry looked at Nick and then at the ghosts behind him, the Fat Friar and the Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron, Moaning Myrtle, Professor Binns and Peeves the Poltergeist, the ghosts of Hogwarts, standing tall and united with their ruined castle smouldering in the background.

    “Thank you, but I’m done,” Harry said. He made sure to sound certain, especially as the nearness to the Squid made him long for friendship and love, made him feel that nagging doubt that had never been laid to rest because he still did not have all the answers.

    He turned his back on it all and he walked to the edge of the water. He wished he could have said he grew more resolute with each step. A tentacle took him, the first physical thing he’d felt since the Killing Curse.

    Albus Dumbledore was waiting for him inside of the Squid’s belly, which looked an awful lot like the interior of a carriage on the Hogwarts Express.

    “I’m sorry, Harry. This wasn’t how I’d planned –”

    “Was there ever a plan?” Harry demanded.

    Dumbledore looked torn between laughing and crying.

    “There was, yes. It backfired on me, on you… On Voldemort, of course.”

    “Neville killed him.”

    “Yes. You see the Elder wand, which Voldemort was using, aligned itself with you after it abandoned Mr Malfoy, but then, I’m afraid to say, Mr Longbottom overpowered you at a rather crucial moment. A quick tussle underneath the Whomping Willow I believe?”

    “What?”

    “How much do you know about wandlore, Harry?”

    Harry gave the old wizard a blank look.

    “Ah, how about the Deathly Hallows?”

    “Never heard of them,” Harry said.

    “I see,” Dumbledore said regretfully, “I see. Maybe take a seat, I’m sensing this might be a long train journey.”



    * Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling, page 490. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 2007.

    ** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling, page 529. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 2007.
     
  2. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    How-to-Vote
    1. Leave a 200+ word review for each story (in the story thread)
    2. Distribute 5 points between the stories as you see fit (in this thread)**
    3. Authors must vote but cannot vote for themselves
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2021
  3. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    Just wanted to single this bit out as a line or two that made me chuckle quite a bit.

    While I do get what you're going for, I'm not going to lie, it did make me think for a moment that Fred's body had kind of exploded, leaving limbs scattered everywhere.

    Should be singed, unless you're going for a weird poetic touch.

    More generally...
    The first half or so feels a bit rushed. That's not entirely a bad thing, given the context, as it does lend a little emphasis to the general air of panic and fear that you'd expect from a battle sequence, but at the same time, it also feels like you're skimming through quite a bit of canon rehash in order to get to the meat of the story. Some of the battle summaries could easily be replaced with a scene cut, and it wouldn't dramatically effect the feel of the story, to my mind. I'm also not entirely convinced by Myrtle's charactisation here, but that's not too big an issue.

    The bit in the Shack between Tonks and Lupin is, for me, the highlight of the story, easily the most emotionally effective bit; the second half the story generally is where it really comes together, moving away from canon-ish rehash to something much more interesting. The scheme that Harry and the various ghosts put together is genuinely quite clever. That said...unfortunately, given the overall lack of fine detail, it feels...not quite a deus ex machina, but a little out of nowhere, particularly given the hints that Harry has been planning it all in at least some way for about two years. And given that implication, a lot of it seems to fall into place at the last minute, which is at least true to canon - Luna stepping in at the last minute, the random discovery that the Squid is a 'Ferryman', for a couple of examples. But all told, it's an intriguing idea, and I do like the irony of Voldemort, whose great fear is death, being ultimately defeated by the dead.

    Writing is solid if unspectacular, but other than the bits pointed out above I didn't notice any errors. Good use of the prompts, too.
     
  4. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    Hmmmm. I'm a little conflicted about this entry, because in terms of technical writing skill it's good.

    On one hand, the basic premise is that Harry never learns about the Deathly Hallows and therefore his plan (such as it is) is entirely different. That's good! But on the other, what seems to be the deciding factor is actually that Neville wrestles Harry to the ground. Which I don't like.

    I think you'd have been far better off without that middle part. The entire section where you're just kind of retelling canon feels weak to me. Yes, Ron and Hermione kiss, lovely; yes, Snape dies and Harry mentally shits on his corpse, excellent, but what did it actually add?

    Just have it so Harry never confronts Draco between the death of Dumbledore and the Battle of Hogwarts and it works just as well, without the thing about Neville somehow finding Harry in the middle of a pitched battle and Harry managing to escape through unclear means. Maybe even just start at Harry rising as a ghost? I don't know. The more I think about it, I wish Neville hadn't been the one to kill Voldemort at all, just have him bodily dragged to the next life by the ghosts or something.

    In the final bit, dying is portrayed as this sort of joyous thing where the dead are laughing and cheering as they're devoured by a Giant Squid. I think this is tonally extremely bizarre? Tonks just lost her ability to see her child grow up or ever meet her parents again, and she's going "whooo fuck yeah time to ride the Kraken Express straight into Hell, baby! Fuck yes!"

    I just don't think the plot or the tone works for me. 2.5/5.
     
  5. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Little bit of a strange premise, and it wasn't very well executed.

    This story poses the question, "What would've happened if everyone at the Battle of Hogwarts briefly became ghosts before they died?" And the answer it gives is: "Not that much, honestly."

    Harry doesn't really have any meaningful conversations with anyone. The characters don't impart many memorable last words or interesting information. And the ghost characters don't change canon in any meaningful way.

    The biggest change, of course, were the moments with Neville. But I ultimately found this difference more distracting than interesting or compelling. The whole story felt very rushed.

    In many ways, this battle story was a more slap-dash version of JKR's battle. Not just in the ways that the author rehashed certain scenes, but even in the way that the author resurrected the dead at the end of the story, just like JKR briefly did. And I definitely prefer JKR's version of Harry's conversations with his ghostly loved ones — a scene which is, I kid you not, only two pages long, but which has vividly stayed with me in the 14 years since I first read it.

    The moment of this story that I found most compelling was learning that the Giant Squid was actually a kind of Ferryman in a Hogwarts-esque River Styx. I loved this idea and was ready to headcanon it, but the execution — ultimately people just jumping into its mouth — wasn't very poetic, and I was pretty disappointed.

    You might argue that I'm criticizing this story for being glib when maybe that was the whole point, that the story was crafted to be a little tongue-in-cheek. However, the author was constantly writing dramatic moments all the time, and if this was meant to be crack, then they needed to pick a tone.

    But, yeah, ultimately I'm not going to be particularly receptive to Battle of Hogwarts crack, which was probably my biggest issue with this story.

    EDIT: I've thought about it a little more, and I didn't give enough acknowledgement to the moment between Lupin and Harry in this story. I admit that it's strong (arguably even stronger than the canon scene with Harry and Lupin after Lupin died), and I need to give credit where credit is due. There are moments in this story that are poignant, like when Harry thinks "he heard a shout, and he saw that Fred had heard it too." But the characters, for the most part, just take on an attitude that's a little too carefree for the situation, and I think that makes it difficult to appreciate the emotional moments.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2021
  6. Zerg_Lurker

    Zerg_Lurker Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    The most simultaneously striking and jarring aspect of this entry is the tonal inconsistency. Or perhaps I’m thinking of the pacing. Initially it presents drama and tension in line with the climax of Deathly Hallows but then everything blurs into a summary/rehash of events after the conversation with the ghosts. Then it slides into absurdity with the comical scenes of Trelawney and the house elves getting involved in battle. There’s also the imagery of Fred’s head and hand no longer being connected to his body that got a giggle out of me. What ties together the ridiculousness is the giant squid consuming the dead souls and Peeves yeeting Voldemort’s abomination into its gaping maw.

    One glaring problem, physically, is the lack of line breaks between scenes. It’s a small oversight but my eyes just glazed over and I read it all as one long disjointed sequence. On that same note I’d definitely like some transitions between scenes, bookends to mark where the narrative shifts. Otherwise there's the common problem of telling rather than showing, especially with internal monologue and Harry's motivations.

    As for plot itself, Neville wresting control of the Elder Wand is an interesting twist. Still, despite being properly foreshadowed, that plot point combined with Nick and Harry discussing unnamed ghost spell comes across rather contrived. A bit like firing Chekov’s gun at the end then assembling it and retroactively placing it at the beginning.

    That last line really encapsulates the tragicomic quality.
     
  7. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    This was enjoyable enough. It had strengths and weaknesses, and a high concept. I can't fault you for ambition.

    It felt a little frenetic, and I think that while your characters were strongly HP in tone and recognisability, I didn't quite land the emotion. Like Harry after his death, it felt like their should be emotions but there was just distance. I'd love to read something from you that was in the HP world, because your use of Myrtle, your description of Peeves, Lupin, and Neville. Trelawney throwing crystal balls, and Harry's way of speaking most importantly, are all pretty damn good. You fall far closer to canon tone and whimsy than the vast majority of fiction.

    In terms of story beats, it's very clear what you're going for with a bit of thought. You can see how it all ties together, and plays off canon to get this result, but it's just a bit rushed at the start and a bit underwhelming at the end. I think that the idea of the squid as ferryman is great, but the depiction less good, and the conversation with Dumbledore is more 'here's what should've happened'. We know that, but I'd rather it be something that ties it all together. Does Dumbledore care for the sake of his plan's own worth? No. He should either be sad for Harry, for his loss, or happy for Harry for his success. Preferably both. It should be an emotional ending.

    Ultimately though, I liked it the most of the entries and I'll give it the win.

    Your writing techinically, is fine, as far as I noticed. I was able to pay attention to the story, not the words. That's my cut off.
     
  8. Shouldabeenadog

    Shouldabeenadog Order Member

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    I wanted ghosts. I got ghosts. I am happy.

    The writing is engaging and evocative. You have done a good job of integrating the canon story into your own. There are a few places where you were rushing and things aren't quite clear. Peeves and Creevy and Fred is a notable example. You lost me with the pronouns.

    I will say, I was getting disturbing vibes from the initial bits with Myrtle; were you intending to do a fake out? because it was written like it was going to go into bad smut territory, and I was reluctant to continue until they left the corridor.

    I wanted to get more from Harry meeting Dumbledore. You led with a great line, “was there ever a plan?” and we get a slight glimpse of Dumbledore's emotions, but harry is completely blank. You even describe him as giving a blank look. Harry has been showing emotion throughout the whole story, and here, right at the end, we have nothing.

    One thing worth mentioning is that you stuck the landing with the funeral. It feels like the conclusion to a longer story, and the weight is really nice. I especially liked the indistinctness of the living with their wands lit.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2021
  9. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

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    Well, this was interesting, if a tad too long.

    Now usually I don't mind words, but what they accomplished here is not what you want. Between the canonic events that you mentioned, and the whole Myrtle thing at the beginning, I couldn't figure what actually mattered to me, a reader. The subplots and (as I found out later) irrelevant detail wrestled my attention back and forth so much that I started skimming through that Remus/Tonks bit, and a few other sections. And what I worse, I lost nothing in the terms of conclusion and plot as I did so. Which kinda renders that part useless. And I'm sorry to say that.

    The real deal, the ghosts, the train leaving (nice detail), Neville's triumph, were done well, but between everything else, they came off as chaotic, and because of it, the feel of conclusion - the great revelation - the satisfaction - was not as huge as it had the potential to be. You see, with everything you've included, it almost gives a feeling that you're rushing towards what you actually wanted to write about, and that, in retrospect, gives me the feeling of running as I read through your story. It's just bang bang bang. Something canon - A great random detail - A bit of dialogue - Something that's (maybe?) Important. And like that until the end of the story. It's almost contradictory that it's somehow both rushed and too heavy on words. Weird.

    The thing I liked the most was the casual, canonic tone that you've managed to capture. Hogwarts, ghosts, characters all feel like they should. Harry is very Harry and I appreciate that.

    Thank you but I'm done. Brilliant. I'd actually love it if you could polish this a bit, expand some parts and retract others, and then publish it. There's potential here. A lot. Would've been a waste otherwise. Good work nonetheless.
     
  10. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION

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    Your beginning is a bit confusing, because it does not set the story at any given moment (despite the very unnecessary date at the beginning). Harry does not go back to the Room of Requirement after McGonagall’s speech, and neither does he speak to Ginny alone as far as I recall, so I’m a bit lost which scene exactly your opening is meant to be continuing from. In fact, I’m pretty sure it's incongruent with Canon, which is a weird charge to lob at a fanfic but not one such as this, where it is presumed events are canonical up until the point the story starts. Re-read the appropriate sections and make sure your scene fits, would be my advice.

    At the end of the day, I understand you wanted to tell the story of what would have happened if Dumbledore’s rather convoluted plan had not worked for a variety of reasons (including Neville tackling him to the ground, which makes me wanna say bad things), but unfortunately for you, the answer is a rather narratively unsatisfying. While the Remus/Tonks scene is touching I simply don’t get why everyone and their mother becomes a ghost after they die, when that is simply not the case in Canon, much the opposite in fact. Everything in general feels a bit rushed (particularly just the summing up of the battle) and rather poorly explained and it's not like you were stretching the world limit to begin with. The ending is just a jumbled mess, from the moment Harry dies to that whole squid thing which I simply do not like. You somehow make Harry’s sacrifice a farce (he casts a killing curse which fails) and Voldemort’s defeat something out of a comedy, with Peeves pushing him off into the great beyond and house elves appearing from stage left in the final moment like the riders of rohan. I suppose this is as good a time as any to say that Myrtle feels completely out of character in her few lines of dialogue.

    Stylistically, and though I know it's going to make me sound like a bit of a cunt (although maybe it's a bit too late), there are a few things that don’t work for me. Your similes are awkward and mostly unnecessary (‘the enormity in the decision he had made looming over him like one of Hagrid’s fire-breathing’) pets’). Your narrator also starts commentating at one point (‘you might argue’ [...]) which is very jarring when you thought the whole thing was written by a third person limited narrator as it is in Canon. You also have this tendency to capitalise after ellipsis, which is not always correct (consult a style guide for further details).

    Ultimately, whether intentionally or not, you manage to turn Harry’s sacrifice, which is amongst the most touching/poignant elements of the whole saga into a parody of itself, and I’m sorry to say that even if it had been technically perfect, I simply would not have liked it.

    Minor things below.

    He’s clearly not all that collected if he’s panting. It’s also a bit of a weird phrase I’m sorry to say.

    Either do, or do not. There is no try. (Don’t use ‘almost’).

    You are, of course, aware that Myrtle has been dead for at most 50 years, and that the Bloody Baron died hundreds of years before Freud was even born.

    See, this is what confuses me. This has already happened as per your own version (it happens right after the McGonagall speech in canon).

    What is this. Why is the narrator suddenly springing into life and addressing the reader and making jokes such as ‘spinally challenged ghost’? It’s not in keeping with tone, narrative styles or, dare I say, common decency.

    heart torn asunder - is that something Harry would say or think?

    Is this a sitcom? Character enters stage right just in time to make a quip?

    I don’t think crashing into a wall gives you whiplash. Maybe a broken neck.

    I don’t think this conjures the image you want to conjure. Some children of the corn shit going on here.
     
  11. sirsavagethe21st

    sirsavagethe21st First Year

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    I was a bit confused by the beginning and Myrtle felt so out-of-character it was a bit jarring to read at first. However for the most part, the writing is technically strong, and has that whimsical feel that Rowling set for the first couple books. Unfortunately I felt that this humor take/tone was out of place for a part that was meant to be the climax of a series. Another thing that I didn't like was how the whole thing felt a bit rushed. You went ahead and hit the canon points (Ron and Hermione's kiss, Voldemort dialogue, etc.) but didn't fill in the bits in between in my opinion. The ending was a jumble, I think in part because of this.

    One more thing I didn't like was how Voldemort was taken care of. The whole Peeves taking Voldemort off to the end, and how Voldemort had an expression of "resigned loathing" just felt ridiculous. Although I suppose that may have been the point...

    Anyways, I applaud the ingenuity of your concept (especially the Giant Squid as the Ferryman, that was something that I would never have even thought of in a million years kudos on that), and the story definitely had its strong points (i.e. Remus and Harry's scene), but overall I felt that it fell flat and despite the creative take on the Ghost prompt it was used rather inappropriately for lack of a better word.

    Props on writing more than the other two entries combined.
     
  12. Majube

    Majube Order Member DLP Supporter

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    There are bits in here that are really quite good. But it's overshadowed by the fact that this story is rushed. Plot is haphazard, jumbled and confusing.
    I liked the aside about freud, but a lot of the story after that is confusing. Harry meets Myrtle, and Nearly Headless Nick, they meet with the gray lady amidst a timeskip and a bunch of other things. They head back to the room of requirement.

    “It was a blur, afterwards.”

    Very apt words.

    There’s too much going on but somehow there’s also too little. By that I mean you’ve told and not shown a lot in this story, while adding in too many asides. More flavor than substance, it’s giving whip-lash vibes.

    I like the hints early on of the important twists. The ghost of Fred, the death of Snape while not giving the info Harry needs.

    The moment with Remus was touching.

    Harry dying and then dying again was also great. Bit more focus could’ve been given to that though imo, the scene before the second death of his I mean, the sacrifice of not choosing to stay a ghost. Overall, if you added more in general and cleaned up parts like the beginning and cut out (or added) to the rush of battle scenes in the middle, this story would be a lot better. It's a nice one shot idea though the theme about ghosts is basically shoved in the reader's face but since this is a comp that makes perfect sense.
     
  13. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Good start - Immediately into the action and I know precisely when/where we are and what's going on. I'm drawn in, well done.

    ROFL @ the oversized pimple. FFS I can see this, nice. Good dialogue there too, with Harry assuming a sister when it's a daughter, etc. Flowing naturally as they talk, more or less, and keeping up with good technical details like Harry's hand pushing off the wall as they run. Myrtle doesn't really feel like herself - and ghosts probably don't 'grow' - but so what? AUs are fine, so long as it's consistent and especially if it's fun to read (like this is).

    "One of the most awkward silences Harry had ever participated in." Okay, that made me smile. Again, well done.

    So far this is an interesting retelling of this night in canon. It doesn't read like a canon rehash at all, and yet it sort of it. It's just that you've focused on all the bits you've written that weren't in canon and summarized the parts that were (escaping the RoR, Fred's death, etc.). You've a deft touch at this.

    Colin and Fred became ghosts? I guess I can see that, given how young they died, they might feel they had things they couldn't let go of. Bit jarring for it be both of them compared to none in canon though, when none of your AU changes appear to have involved them. Unless there are just more ghosts in general now? I'm reading this AU as "what if the ghosts decided to help Harry in the Battle of Hogwarts" exercise though, which is a great idea, but doesn't change things for Fred/Colin. Nice touch about him teaming up with / commanding Peeves though.

    A spell to 'keep souls from passing on' sounds like a form of torture designed to force someone to become a ghost whether they want it or not... that or a cheat code to cheat death, which seems like it would be more well known if so. But I love how this worked out, honestly. And the Squid was a great touch - previous Ferryman? Awesome.

    I've always felt - from the first time I read DH - that Harry should have died at the end of it. Actually died, not fake-died b/c shenanigans. As such I found this to be a VERY satisfying ending.

    This is the clear winner in my opinion. Part of that is my bias from enjoying the story and especially the ending. Part of it is the competition and feeling this is the best story.

    But I also feel the need to say that this isn't a 5/5. I never really started skimming but it was easy to skip little bits here and there where things slowed down or I didn't see a reason to care or I just wanted to get to the next really interesting bit. I'd probably give it a 3.5 and round up to a 4, but with a bit of polish and work it can easily become a 5/5 story in my opinion.

    THe problem I have with feedback here is that I can't really pinpoint things to fix. I don't see anything I can point at and say "work on this bit" because all the things I normally look for aren't there, you're already good at them. But something is keeping this from truly gripping me, for all that it could with some work. Wish I could help more.
     
  14. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye DA Member

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    Ghosts of Hogwarts

    Or: A Stumble before the Finish Line


    Harry dashed out of the Room of Requirement, the clock was ticking closer to midnight but there was no sleep in sight for him. Not unless you counted that type of sleep.

    Harry felt goosebumps emerge on his arms. He had made his decision: if all else failed he’d have to do it, and he’d need to ask for help to get it done, find the person who’d originally given him the idea. Or, well, not exactly the person, but the –

    He swerved past a couple of students clearly headed for the Great Hall and McGonagall’s battle speech, both of whom gawped at him, familiar whispers of ‘is that really him?’ following the patter of his worn tennis shoes into a new corridor. A sarcastic voice in the back of his head suggested he stop to savour it, just this once. Might be his last opportunity to do so.

    He had to find Ron and Hermione, what Ginny had said indicated that they had headed to the Chamber of Secrets, and they’d need his help. Clever of them, he hadn’t realized it himself but of course there would be basilisk fangs in there, and basilisk fangs would do just as well as the sword. They could use them to get rid of the cup and the snake and what he still hoped might be the diadem. And if it wasn’t the diadem… Voldemort, was coming, Harry could feel it. He would die tonight, that was what Harry had decided, be that with or without his horcruxes. There would be no more needless death, after tonight. He hoped the last unknown was the diadem, though, because the thought of leaving his friends with a mystery object to track down felt too unfair.

    If only he had been quicker.

    “No running in the corridors!”

    The voice came from such an unlikely source that Harry was skidding to a halt before he could catch himself, turning angrily to face Moaning Myrtle. The ghost of a fat young witch with thick, opaque glasses low on her nose, Myrtle was eyeing him over them with enormous smugness.

    “You know what I’m here for?” Harry asked; annoyance gone when he realized she was actually one of them, his emotions suddenly as collected as though put under a Freezing Charm.

    “I was hiding in the Come and Go Room when you arrived,” Myrtle admitted without preamble, “I heard you set out for Ravenclaw’s lost diadem with the Loony girl.”

    “It’s Luna, and we didn’t find the diadem.”

    “Mmm.”

    “But that’s not all that I’m here for.”

    Myrtle was busy squeezing on an oversized pimple on her cheek, the look of utmost concentration on her face, and she didn’t respond.

    “You know what I’m here for,” Harry repeated. One whole year chasing Dumbledore’s plan and he had failed, he was barely any closer than when he started and certainly more confused now than then; the odds and ends given to them in Dumbledore’s will and the old mentor’s sketchy past coming to light, the sword in the lake… But Harry did have a plan B, and unlikely as though it seemed, his plan B might end up involving Moaning Myrtle.

    “I can help you,” Myrtle said, finally giving up the pimple as a bad job and squinting up at him. Harry wanted nothing more than to turn and run when he saw the excitement in her grow, her smile widen, her eyes moving all over him. “Yes, I think we’ll be able to help you.”

    “And the diadem?”

    “Do I look like Helena Ravenclaw to you?”

    “Helena –? Wait a second, you mean…?”

    Myrtle cackled and began floating off through the corridor. Harry had to jog to keep up.

    “Rowena Ravenclaw’s sister is a ghost?”

    “Daughter,” Myrtle said, “I was listening at the door when the Bloody Baron unburdened himself about his love for her to that portrait of Freud they keep tucked away in dungeon number twelve. He convinced a wizard to jump off the Astronomy Tower, you know, so he’s not quite safe. Titus Whimple he was called, I was there on the ground to meet him, tried to convince him not to Go On, but alas…”

    “There’s a ghost here who’s the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw?” Harry interrupted her, he was running out of breath and he braced himself with a hand on the corner they rounded.

    “Yes, keep up, will you,” Myrtle said. “I bet she’ll know all about that diadem of yours. Why do you need it, anyway?”

    “It’s a long story. I need it badly, and I need basilisk fangs, and I need this great big snake that Vol–”

    “One thing at a time.”

    “I wish there was more time,” Harry said, “but you see, it needs to be me, and he knows I’m here which means it needs to be now.”

    “It needs to be you that kills him.”

    “Yeah. He’s here to kill me, and he won’t stop until… He’ll kill so many innocent people if I can’t… If we can’t…”

    “I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded.” *

    “What the –?”

    “You have until midnight.” *

    Voldemort’s voice pierced through to the bone and Harry stared open-mouthedly at Myrtle, who in turn looked simply delighted.

    “Oooh, that was loud! I wonder if any of our lot will turn against you and try to hand you over?”

    “This is serious, Myrtle,” Harry said, but Myrtle had just winked at him, and in the ensuing queasiness he rather lost his train of thought.

    Then, the plump, translucent shape pressed itself into the nearest door and disappeared.

    Harry grabbed hold of the metal ring in the door, which he recognized as his old History of Magic classroom, he wrenched it open and stepped in after her. He was met not just by Myrtle but also by Nearly Headless Nick.

    “I did say that if ever it’s ghostly services you require, you should always come straight to me,” Nick said reproachfully as Harry greeted him.

    “I remember,” Harry said, steeling himself, “that’s why I’m here.”

    “He’s just told me how badly he needs a chat with the Grey Lady,” Myrtle said loudly, and this was followed by one of the more awkward silences Harry had participated in. The whole day had been filled with absurdities, dragons and Polyjuice and Dumbledore’s brother and Neville’s brand-new self-confidence, not to mention this coming fight not so much for life as for death, and despite Nick’s disappointed glare he found his mind wandering, wondering, wishing he had planned this properly because he didn’t know enough, he hadn’t told Hermione or Ron, nobody had researched this… He was leaving himself completely at the mercy of Nearly Headless Nick and whatever knowledge he had retained from beyond the grave.

    “It is known to all of us who spend our eternities dwelling within these walls that help need always be given to those students who ask for it… It is not always that we can do much. We ghosts are mere shadows of ourselves, portraits even less as a rule. Sometimes you get one amongst the living, a professor perhaps, one who truly understands…”

    “Like Professor Dumbledore?” Harry asked. He found that the bitterness he had felt towards the grand old wizard was disappearing. The anger had subsided a long time ago, the anger about not having been told the plan, about the information that had been kept from him… Had there ever even been a plan?

    “Yes.”

    Harry nodded, and wondered if maybe this had been the plan all along. Was this where Dumbledore had thought he would end up, looking for answers? Had Dumbledore known that he had gone looking for answers, years ago, when he’d first experienced true, all-encompassing grief?

    “If you’re certain? If you’re ready?”

    Love. That was what Dumbledore had preferred to call it.

    “I am,” Harry said and drew his wand. He heard Myrtle suck in an elated breath, and then Nearly Headless Nick gestured for him to come forward, to step up to the teacher’s pulpit where some items were laid out.

    *******

    Everybody was ready to fight with him, for him. The students had most all been evacuated, and he had never seen so many adults inside the school before. The battle began; the Death Eaters were attempting to break in from outside the walls.

    He did not see much of the fighting himself. He felt pity after speaking to the Grey Lady, joy when he saw Hagrid again. Fang left spittle all over his face. He watched Aberforth Dumbledore join the fight, much as he’d sneered at their mission before. Augusta Longbottom shook his hand but perfunctorily, she was much too busy acting out a newfound pride in her grandson. Neville found him and wrung his hand, looked him steadily in the eye and said: “We’ll fight with you till the very end.”

    Harry felt number and number but he had to keep going. Back where he’d come from, back to… The Room of Requirement was almost empty, and yet he still hadn’t found –

    “Ron!” he shouted, relief flooding him when he found his best friends again, he barely even registered the basilisk fangs strewn over the floor, nor that he had interrupted them mid-kiss.

    “Ron’s just reminded me of the house-elves,” Hermione said breathlessly at the same time as she pushed the shards of a cup with golden handles into Harry’s hands.

    “Snogging him reminds you of house-elves?” Ginny asked innocently as she marched past, Tonks in tow, both grinning despite the obvious anxiety that was settling like dust in the air. Harry gazed after her, quite unaware of what Ron shouted after her, because she had winked at him as she passed.

    He wished there had been more time, any time at all.

    “I know where he hid the diadem,” Harry heard himself saying, having to forcibly turn his head to stop staring, “he did it the night he came here to ask Dumbledore for the job. He thought that the castle thought he was special. He thought that the castle showed him secrets nobody else would ever see. He found the Room of Requirement, and much like with the Chamber of Secrets, he thought he was the only one who could ever visit.”

    “What a knobhead,” Ron said dazedly, “it’s dead easy to get into the Chamber too, once you know where it is, you just impersonate an angry snake and Bob’s your…”

    “The diadem’s in here?” Hermione cut across him, gesturing, but the door was gone.

    “Ginny and Tonks must have been the last ones. Ginny was supposed to wait, she promised –”

    Harry’s heart ached at Ron’s words, but he walked and turned, walked and turned, and he did not let himself think about anything but the room where all things were hidden. Walk and turn. The room that had been used by hundreds of students, the secret that was barely a secret at all.

    The large, highly polished door appeared for them one more time, and Ron pulled it open. Harry followed him inside and heard Hermione shout “Accio horcrux!” behind him.

    It wasn’t that easy, it never was in Harry’s world, but they got it in the end. The absurdities didn’t stop, either, and Harry had some seconds to reflect on this as his broom soared above flames that were tall as monsters, the slender arms of Draco Malfoy wrapped around his body in the most unnerving of embraces, an ancient tiara bleeding a thick, gloopy substance over his hand and the dying screams of Vincent Crabbe echoing in his ears. Then, he crashed into the wall opposite the burning door of the Room of Requirement.

    His friends weren’t supposed to die, the explosions around them were too loud, and he knew was taking too long to get it over with. The snake, though, he had to get to the snake…

    Fred was dead, he’d died laughing, and Ginny was crying, they were all crying. What would be left for the living if it continued like this? Harry’s knees were weak and he thought he was seeing things. Shadows of people who had been, moving through the corridor, shadows of people who no longer were –

    “Rookwood!” Percy snarled, he set off at a run with his wand held high, but before George or Ginny could follow, Ron had stopped them, had turned on Harry with his wand in one hand, basilisk fang in the other.

    “Look into his mind,” Ron grunted, and Harry blinked and looked away from the shadows, he found, suddenly, that it was easy, that all he had to do was close his eyes and feel…

    “He’s in the Shack,” Harry said quietly. “He’s there with Nagini and Snape. But you can’t just –”

    “I think you’ll find that I can,” Ron cut him off. “How can you expect us to go on unless we… Anyway, I would have thought that this was our number one priority now?”

    There were people gathering all around them, and George was helping Professor Sinistra and Padma Patil with transferring the body onto a magical stretcher.

    “I’m coming, too,” he said, and Ginny nodded fiercely from beside the stretcher, she was using her sleeve to mop up some blood from Fred’s temple.

    “We’ll take one each, just in case,” Hermione said, she was handing round basilisk fangs and both George and Ginny took theirs without questions. They did not need to know why, and Harry found himself wishing that he were the same.

    The way to the Whomping Willow was very long and edged with dangers. They stumbled over emeralds from the Slytherin hourglass that had shattered onto the floor like so many prophecies. Professor Trelawney was flinging broken crystal balls around like a mad woman, and Hagrid’s Acromantula were spinning webs over everything indiscriminately. Near the tree, they were almost outfought by a gang of Death Eaters but escaped when Grawp the Giant loped past and made several of the enemy one with the lush green lawn.

    When the dementors showed up Harry found himself struggling, but he didn’t have to worry. A shiny bright horse joined the otter and the terrier and fought them off. Harry could have sworn that he saw the ghost of Fred Weasley watching them from Hagrid’s pumpkin patch, but then he had to jump into the secret passageway after George. Running folded over to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling demanded most of his focus and, besides, he would be joining the gang of the dead all too soon, wouldn’t he?

    Snape was dying when they arrived, and Harry could feel nothing but hatred as he watched the man’s feeble attempts to communicate with him. His mouth was spilling over with blood and not a single word came through.

    Ron and George and Ginny were taking turns stabbing the snake with the basilisk fangs, and Hermione had turned away from them all. Harry thought he heard her sob.

    He could almost see the ghost of Severus Snape as it left him, an otherworldly white haze around his wasting body. Harry watched until it all became overcome with darkness, until he needed a time-out, a break from Death closing in on all sides. He left noiselessly, he sneaked around the Shack on his own, looking through the dusty, broken rooms. Voldemort was not there anymore; he had already concluded this as he put his hand on the last bedroom door in the Shrieking Shack.

    “You have fought valiantly. Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery. Yet you have sustained heavy losses. If you continue to resist me, you will all die, one by one. I do not wish this to happen. Every drop of magical blood spilled is a loss and a waste. Lord Voldemort is merciful. I command my forces to retreat, immediately. You have one hour. Dispose of your dead with dignity. Treat your injured.”

    “I speak now, Harry Potter, directly to you. You have permitted your friends to die for you rather than face me yourself. I shall wait for one hour in the Forbidden Forest. If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences. This time, I shall enter the fray myself, Harry Potter, and I shall find you, and I shall punish every last man, woman and child who has tried to conceal you from me. One hour.” **

    “Harry?”

    The voice was far away. Harry’s hand shook on the doorknob, and he couldn’t immediately answer.

    “He must’ve gone back!” Hermione’s anxious voice rang from downstairs. “Quick, we need to catch up with him before he does something stupid!”

    She had guessed, both of them had guessed, even though he hadn’t told them about the scar. What the connection meant. Neither of them could possibly guess what his final plan was, though. They still had faith that he would figure out what Dumbledore wanted him to do.

    They didn’t know that he’d already irrevocably set his own plan into motion.

    Harry listened to the thumps of bodies jumping, then to the trapdoor in the floor snicking shut. He leant his back against the door and closed his eyes because they were prickling with hurt. He wondered how many people had died during the execution of his plan. Had it been unavoidable? Had it even worked?

    Would Dumbledore have known of a way to avoid this? Fact remained, it had to be Harry because of what lived inside him. It had to be Harry because nobody else could kill him. But that also meant that neither could live, neither would survive. ***

    He had one hour.

    With trembling hands, he undid the knot on the mokeskin pouch he carried around his neck. His last possessions and they felt woefully inadequate; the map of a castle that was burning down, all the labelled dots in it surely dying. Malfoy’s wand instead of his own, special, trusted one. A piece of a mirror whose blue eye had been explained in such a mundane fashion that it had rather lost its wonder. From within the pouch Harry took the golden snitch, Dumbledore’s last gift to him. I open at the close.

    “What does it mean?” he whispered with his lips against the round, golden ball, perhaps finally a new level of understanding dawning, only to be interrupted by a quiet, miserable sob.

    Harry kicked open the door, he was digging for his wand and mistakenly sent the snitch flying like a grenade into the room, the same room where he had first met his godfather in.

    “What are you doing?” a boy whispered, but when Harry looked closer, his wandarm stretched taut and arrested in thin air, he saw that it wasn’t a boy at all. It was one of the only people it really made sense to meet in the Shrieking Shack, only he was no longer made of flesh and blood.

    “Professor Lupin?”

    Lupin smiled a little, then he patted the worn bit of mattress next to him on the fourposter bed.

    “I woke up and couldn’t remember where I was, so I found my way here,” Lupin said. “The pain… I figured it must be nearly moonrise.” His voice was a mix of upbeat and shy that Harry had never heard from his lips before, but at the same time there was something soothing about the familiarity Lupin’s eyes betrayed as they watched him. Like he was family.

    Harry sat down next to him.

    “Are the others coming?”

    “I’m so sorry, Remus,” Harry began, but Lupin shook his head and smiled more broadly, see-through hand raised to stop him.

    “You never have to apologize to me, none of you do. I don’t know where to begin to thank you for what you’ve done… And I never fail to be amazed when any of you show up to keep me company. Just seeing your face has made my night, you know. The pain actually disappears. It’s late, right? You should probably turn soon, and better go downstairs, we don’t want a reprise of the antlers caught in doorway debacle... Promise me we’ll stay indoors. I know you and Sirius think it’s fine, but I simply don’t want to risk it when there’s just one of you to keep the wolf in check.”

    “Remus,” Harry said, “I’m really sorry to have to be the one to tell you. You’re… You see, it’s all my fault, if I’d just been quicker –”

    “Remus?”

    Harry hadn’t even heard anyone approaching, but now he aimed his wand at the door, a spell ready on his lips.

    “Dora?” Lupin said softly, and Harry glanced at him, saw the deep furrows in his temple, heard the abrupt change in his tone of voice.

    “I can take it from here, Harry.”

    “I’m so sorry, Tonks,” Harry said, his heart truly in his throat now. Tonks was just as translucent as her husband, and she glided over the floor without stumbling.

    “It’s alright, and it’s really not your fault,” Tonks said.

    Harry got up and watched her take his place.

    “It is,” he insisted, but husband and wife didn’t seem to be aware of him anymore, they were attempting to clasp each other’s hands, laughing as they slid through without gripping. “You don’t understand…”

    He reminded himself that he only had an hour until the senseless killing would start again, that he mustn’t dawdle now that the horcruxes had been killed, that there was nothing he could do to help here, anyway. He refused to look back as he hurried downstairs, skipping the last three steps, running past the corpse and all that lurked in the shadows, and he cursed the long and desperately uncomfortable passage to the Whomping Willow.

    He caught himself wondering if everyone would be dead once he got to the other side. Fred was dead, Lupin and Tonks were dead. He had spent so much time in the Shack that he knew nothing of what had happened, maybe Voldemort had only pretended to give them an hour’s respite? Maybe he would come out through the roots only to find the lawn covered in the bodies of everyone he had ever cared about.

    The lawn was dark and empty and wet, but he could hear crying in the distance. When he looked up to the castle, he could see lights burning in the windows to the Great Hall. He stared and he stared, every fibre of his being wanted to join the others there. He needed to know, but there was no time.

    Harry turned away from the castle and began walking towards the Forbidden Forest.

    “I won’t let you do it, Harry,” a voice said in the dark, then Harry was wrestled to the ground.

    His body was screaming with tiredness and lack of nourishment, his wand wrangled out of his hand just as he tried to fire off a stunning spell, but then a lividly spiralling branch from the Whomping Willow hurtled into them. With a grunt of pain, Harry’s attacker released him, and he scrambled for the wand and for the mokeskin pouch at the same time as he rolled away from the lethal tree.

    “Neville! Did you find him? Are you alright?”

    The voice was Hermione’s, and what was more there was the sound of multiple people approaching. Harry swore and pulled out his Cloak of Invisibility from underneath his shirt, then he began to run into the darkness.

    He had one horcrux left to kill. Well, Voldemort did, but he didn’t know it, yet.

    The realization had hit Harry in stages over the past year. He hadn’t known for sure until they got their hands on the locket horcrux, but after that... His body had recognized his brother, and this thought still drew a shudder from him. His body that had accommodated them both quite peacefully for all these years, but now… He would have to let his body go.

    It took everything he had to keep walking, and at the same time it was the easiest thing he had ever done. He thought he could hear whispers coming from the trees around him, he thought he could feel dead people watching him, following his progression. He was coming to them, and he wondered if they already knew why.

    All that was needed anymore was good timing.

    He could hear real voices now, could see a moonlit clearing straight ahead. He walked on quietly until there was just the trunk of a grand old oak between him and them. He removed his Cloak quickly, stuffed it back underneath his jumper, but even so Voldemort must have heard him.

    “Is that Nagini?” he hissed, and Harry sucked all the comfort he could get out of the worry in his adversary’s voice.

    “It’s me, Riddle,” Harry said and stepped out from behind the tree with his wand pointing straight at Voldemort’s heart. There was a beat of silence, and then their voices sounded in chorus:

    “Avada Kedavra!”

    The green beam from Harry’s wand got bent, overpowered. It singed the grass between them, and Harry had just enough time to understand that his plan had failed him before the green light hit him.

    It wasn’t the end, of course it was never going to end like that. Harry rose again, shocked to the core, because he had truly meant to kill Voldemort, but his wand had failed him. His wand, Malfoy’s old wand, lay useless on the ground by Harry’s corpse. The tip looked burnt.

    Voldemort’s gleeful shout was lost in the commotion from the trees all around the Death Eaters. A hundred arrows were fired all at once and house-elves brandishing meat cleavers and kitchen knives, most of them with pots and pans or colanders protecting their heads, attacked from another side and Harry’s friends from a third.

    Harry felt rooted to the spot even though he should have been light as air. He felt nothing, but he was compelled to watch, his great plan slipping through his see-through fingers… Unless –

    “Voldemort!” several voices shouted, many of Harry’s brothers and sisters in arms all attempting to get his attention, attempting to be the one, the chosen one, and Voldemort’s magic soared this way and that, so many toppling over, all the way until Voldemort turned to face Neville.

    Harry could not believe his eyes when he saw it, the green light that seemingly turned in on itself, that shot straight back into Voldemort. He could not believe it, and yet there was no mistaking the roar of triumph all around, the renewed efforts that saw the Death Eaters crumble, just like their master’s body had. Pallid and old and mouth gaping unflatteringly, Voldemort had died a mortal’s death.

    Ron and Hermione were both fighting to get to Harry’s body, and Harry backed in between trees, overwhelmed and so terribly lost. He had thought for years now that it had to be him…

    “This way, Harry!”

    Harry spotted the Fat Friar and Nearly Headless Nick either side of a gnarled beech, both beaming at him, gesturing to him to get a move on.

    “Well done, lad, well done!”

    “It wasn’t me,” Harry said numbly, but the Fat Friar was still talking and neither ghost appeared to have heard him.

    “We’ve collected the little ‘uns,” he said eagerly, and showed Harry a ghostly bundle he was carrying. Within it, a four-headed transparent baby lay wrapped up, slit-like nostrils flaring on their flat noses as they cried despairingly in unison.

    “Great, but where’s –?”

    “He went towards the castle; we need to catch him now before he can do more damage.”

    “He looked frightened,” Nick said smugly.

    “That figures, the one thing he is truly scared of is death,” Harry said.

    “Yes, I think you were right to identify that he would never Go On by his own initiative,” Nick said. “We’ll just have to help him and his little offshoots on their way, and then we’ll be rid of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named forever! Doesn’t even seem as though you have to do this yourself, Harry!”

    “Right,” Harry said. He should have found it upsetting to hear that, he thought. It didn’t have to be him, after all. After everything he’d done, after everything he’d sacrificed. Everyone he’d sacrificed.

    He realized that he was gliding rather than walking now and he looked down at his body. His hands were marred by the half-healed burns from the dragon and his muggle clothes were in worse condition than anything Aunt Petunia had ever made him wear. So this was the last imprint he would leave on earth.

    “Ah, will you look at that?” the Fat Friar asked contentedly.

    Two ghosts Harry had no problem recognizing as Colin Creevey and Fred Weasley were dancing gleefully around a much less easily identifiable shape.

    “Between you and me, it was a happy accident that Fred Weasley died,” Nick said quietly to Harry. Harry wanted to baulk at the words, but he found that he was still curiously devoid of feelings. “Peeves has never taken orders from anyone except for the Bloody Baron, and I was worried about how the Baron would feel about… Well. He was a Slytherin, after all.”

    “Yeah.”

    “But this has worked out to everybody’s satisfaction,” Nick continued as they watched Peeves, who had the ghost of Voldemort in a headlock and was using his other hand to tickle Voldemort’s belly with. Piercingly high screams rang out into the night, and yet they were not nearly as loud as the triumphant singing and cheering that was coming from the clearing they had just left.

    “Where is the – uh, where is Peeves going to put him? To force him to Go On?”

    “There is the dais, at the Ministry, but we decided that it’s too risky to move him all the way to London. Peeves’s attention span… Well, you know what he’s like. In the end, the Merpeople and their chieftainess Murcus agreed to put in a good word for us with the Giant Squid,” Nick said, and noticing Harry’s confused expression he continued: “The Giant Squid used to be a Ferryman in an earlier… er, life.”

    “I don’t understand what that means.”

    “Neither do I,” Nick admitted uncomfortably. “Death is… Death has always remained a bit of a mystery to me.”

    “You told me there would be a chance, once we’ve dealt with him, to Go On.”

    “And there will be,” Nick agreed, but he was beginning to look ill. “We think, given the circumstances, that the Squid will be accommodating to us all.”

    “I’m staying,” the Fat Friar said jovially, he was leaning back on his heels with his hands clasped over his belly, still watching the spectacle playing out in front of them on the lawn (Voldemort was hanging upside down, Peeves’s hands clasping his ankles as he swung to and fro like a children’s swing, making retching noises that were still unlikely to conclude in an accident, all things considered.)

    “Good man,” Nick whispered, and he sounded much cheered by the words.

    “Here they are, now,” the Fat Friar said excitedly as a guttural call came from the lake, quickly followed by some splashing.

    “We need to lift the spell!” Harry suddenly remembered, and he made to dig through his pockets for his wand.

    “Already did,” Nick said gently and patted him on the shoulder. Harry felt nothing at all.

    “Sir Nick told me you lot needed someone alive to reverse a spell preventing the dead from moving on,” Luna Lovegood’s voice sounded from behind Harry. Harry spun round. She looked completely undamaged from the battle, and her pale, protruding eyes were taking him in with undisguised fascination.

    “Thank you.”

    “You’re quite welcome, Harry. Do you still feel like Harry?”

    Harry, who thought he felt nothing like anything anymore, was saved from answering when there was another loud call from the Black Lake.

    “It’s time.”

    After one last backward look at Luna, Harry followed the rest of the ghosts as they all walked down towards the lake. There were more and more of them, Harry noticed, not just Fred and Colin and Lupin and Tonks. Every last one had died because of him. Every last one had been unable to Go On because of him. Soon, he hoped, this second of his two burdens would be lifted from his shoulders.

    In the craggy shallows by the beach of the lake, the chieftainess with her long green hair was waiting for them, and although majestic she was dwarfed by the Giant Squid who was idly lifting some rocks and looking underneath them with one of its many eyes. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of a mutual language, although Nearly Headless Nick, who had taken the lead when they neared, did shout something gurgling and nonsensical at the pair, and finished off with a very low bow that saw him swiftly having to readjust the ruffle around his neck.

    There was the soft crackle of a flame being lit: the squid had rubbed two rocks together to make it. The flame floated like yet another ghost for a while, curiously green-tinted, and then the squid caught it inside a lantern so large it could have roomed Hagrid.

    “Weee! Dark Lord coming through, mind you don’t step on his poor tattered little soul…”

    Peeves soared past Harry, holding Lord Voldemort in a fireman’s lift, and during a brief second Harry caught the look of resigned loathing on his old enemy’s face.

    “Give him hell, Peeves!” Fred Weasley shouted, his ghostly face so freckled it had almost turned opaque; he was racing Colin Creevey to the beach, they ran straight through a scowling Professor Snape, and as they overtook Harry they both grinned triumphantly at him. Colin gave him a thumbs up.

    Looking further, Harry could see that it was not only silvery ghosts behind him now. The survivors were beginning to emerge from the forest in the distance, their wands alight and held aloft forming a frontier of golden stars against the darkness. The cheering had stopped and Harry knew that the next words would carry. Had things gone to plan, he thought he might have spoken, but now…

    “Good riddance!” Neville Longbottom’s voice rang out over the grounds, and the jubilation that followed seemed to echo from the very mountains around them.

    Harry’s voice caught in his throat, he averted his gaze; his eyes, once more, caught Voldemort’s. Voldemort’s spirit was trembling, like he actually was still able to feel. Harry watched as the ghost was tossed by the Poltergeist into the air, then caught deftly by a gigantic, squishy tentacle. The Giant Squid placed the spirit into the lantern, which, for a fragment of a second, turned bright green. Harry kept his eyes wide open, and he took in every note of Voldemort’s last shriek.

    There was a moment of dead silence afterwards, only interrupted by a breeze in the treetops and the cluck of the waves and creaking from the lantern. Looking more closely at it through his ghostly glasses, Harry saw that it appeared truly ancient, like something dug up from Roman times or before.

    “Right, who’s next?” Fred Weasley shouted; he was looking around with a glint in his eye. “I bet we all fancy a go on the tentacle merry-go-round?”

    There was some laughter amongst the ghosts, some sour looks, and for the first time since dying Harry felt close to human. It might have been something emanating from the lantern the squid was holding, he realized, it really seemed as though something almost forgotten, something almost lost, something he used to hold very dear indeed, was wafting from it like a heavenly smell, only it was a feeling. Feelings. All of them.

    Lavender Brown had stepped up to the squid and it had rolled down a tentacle to her like a red carpet. She looked over her shoulder just once, and Harry could tell that she was scanning the survivors by the edge of the forest. How alone she must feel, leaving her best friend behind. But she would be able to feel, now, Harry saw it hit her face, her eyes. Then she turned and was gone, the lantern sending a green light up towards the stars above.

    It did not take long, because all the ghosts could feel it. Harry stood back and watched them, he let everyone pass him. It must have looked odd to the living, breathing creatures watching them, the ones who had survived it, the ones who had been left behind to rebuild, to continue, to forge a new society in the wake of the destruction Voldemort had left. Nobody walked down to the dead gathered underneath the light from the lantern, a respectful, irrevocable distance was kept between them.

    Harry was glad of it, because they were making it easy for him. Easier. He would need to accept that he had done his part, that he had done enough. His plan, flawed as any of the ones he’d concocted during his school years, had still sort of worked. Not the way he had expected it to, but the necessary outcome had been reached. Voldemort was dead, and all of the little pieces of his soul –

    He watched Fred, who was one of the last ones left, accept the bundle of babyish abomination from the Fat Friar. Fred pulled a funny face at him, but Harry could tell that he was thinking of someone else. His smile almost died as he stared up at the crowds at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, hundreds of people he was about to leave behind. One in particular that mattered like nobody else ever had, and Harry could see how difficult it was to walk away. He thought he heard a shout, and he saw that Fred had heard it too. With one last laugh, Fred stepped up to the squid and was swallowed whole.

    “You know, sometimes I regret what I told you after Sirius Black died.”

    “Don’t. I was desperate for answers,” Harry said to Nearly Headless Nick, “and you had some. Not the ones I was looking for at the time, of course.”

    “No, you hated hearing that there was no way of becoming a ghost once the person in question had already Gone On.”

    “Yeah. That you could have helped me if only I had asked you before Sirius died,” Harry said. “That there is a way to keep souls from passing on, an ancient ritual that Professor Binns rediscovered.”

    “It was in the library,” Nick said with an elegant shrug. “Tucked away between two books on goblin rebellions. Anyone could have found it, but I suppose few professors or indeed students spend quite as much time in the library as our Cuthbert did, back in the day. Dumbledore had the book removed, of course, when he became Headmaster. Wise man. It’s dangerous magic.”

    “But you still helped me do the spell.”

    “You asked for help,” Nick said pompously, he was puffing out his chest and looking around, as though making sure the other ghosts were still paying attention, “when a student asks for help within the walls of this castle, it is our duty to do so. The castle has many ancient enchantments, most of them forgotten, but they do find their way to work, regardless. And, before I forget…”

    Nick cleared his throat, Harry saw that both the Grey Lady and Professor Binns had nudged him to spur him on, urging him to get to the point.

    “From all of us ghosts,” Nick began, as though he had forgotten what Harry now was, “I would like to thank you, Harry Potter, for ridding us and our living brothers and sisters, of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

    “I did the groundwork,” Harry said uncomfortably. “Me and Ron and Hermione. Neville actually killed him.”

    “As you say.”

    “Would you mind telling Ron and Hermione about what I did? What the two of us did. About this spell. I think they know why I had to die, but I never told them about what you told me when Sirius died.”

    “It will be an honour,” Nick said, straightening his back so suddenly that his head on his partly severed neck quivered alarmingly, “although, of course, you could do it yourself?”

    “If I spoke to them now, I’m not sure I’d ever have the strength to Go On.”

    “Yes, I quite understand that. But I thought maybe you’d like to become one of us?”

    Harry looked at Nick and then at the ghosts behind him, the Fat Friar and the Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron, Moaning Myrtle and Peeves the Poltergeist and Professor Binns, the ghosts of Hogwarts, standing tall and united faced with a way to escape, to Go On, the burning lantern in front of them and their ruined castle smouldering in the background.

    “Thank you, but I’m done,” Harry said. He made sure to sound certain, especially as the nearness to the Squid’s lantern made him long for friendship and love, made him feel that nagging doubt that had never been laid to rest because he still did not have all the answers.

    He turned his back on it all and he walked to the edge of the water. He wished he could have said he grew more resolute with each step. A tentacle took him, the first physical thing he’d felt since the Killing Curse.

    *******

    Albus Dumbledore was waiting for him inside of the Squid’s lantern, which looked an awful lot like the inside of a carriage on the Hogwarts Express. Dumbledore had been looking at a Chocolate Frog card which somebody had left behind, wedged between two seats, but when Harry sank down opposite him, holding out his suddenly unmarred hands in front of him and marvelling at the smooth skin on them, Dumbledore dropped the card like he’d burnt his fingers.

    “I’m sorry, Harry. This wasn’t how I’d planned –”

    Dumbledore’s voice died in his throat, something Harry had never heard happen in life. His old headmaster’s bright eyes were made brighter still by unshed tears, and Harry couldn’t fathom how he’d ever been cross with him, how this could be the man he’d almost grown to hate. How often hadn’t he wished he could grab Dumbledore by his richly embroidered robes and shake him, until the answers he was looking for fell out?

    “Was there ever a plan?” Harry asked, wondering as he did whether he had, once upon a time, vastly overestimated Dumbledore. Maybe he’d been just as lost, just as desperate as Harry, scrambling for answers?

    But Dumbledore smiled, that familiar serene one that almost wiped the sadness from his eyes.

    “There was a plan, yes. It backfired on me, on you… On Voldemort, of course. My masterplan.”

    Dumbledore leant back in his seat and looked wistfully out of the window. He reminded Harry of Uncle Vernon’s father, who’d sat just like that, staring out the window on the fourth floor of the hospice he’d lived in.

    Mr Dursley had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the late 70s.

    Harry looked out the window, too, but he could not see where they were going. He grabbed the Chocolate Frog card instead and turned it over.

    Harry Potter (31.7.1980-2.5.1998) was the wizard who famously helped Neville Longbottom in his ultimate defeat of Lord Voldemort. Originally thought to be ‘The Chosen One’, Harry Potter is still credited with Voldemort’s temporary banishment in the 80’s and 90’s, and he was also known as ‘The Boy Who Lived’. He is thought to have been one of the last members to be inducted into the Order of the Phoenix before Dumbledore’s demise. Potter met his end at the hands of Lord Voldemort in the final stages of the battle of Hogwarts.

    Harry Potter was known for his bravery and for his skills on a broom. He remains the youngest Seeker ever to be invited to join the Gryffindor Quidditch Team.

    “Neville killed him,” Harry said. He pocketed the card out of habit, for a split second he even thought about giving it to Ron for his collection.

    In his fresh new robe pockets, he found a pair of specs, just a little bit nicer than the ones he’d owned. Round.

    He realized he’d read the text on the card without needing them.

    Dumbledore was looking at him, nodding, going all soft around the eyes. But there was nothing of the demented senior about him anymore.

    Harry looked straight back, knowing as he knew that Dumbledore would be able to read it all. Hurt, but not that hurt anymore. Not actually that jealous that someone else had gotten to do the honours. Maybe just a bit. Not the chosen one anymore, but still just as confused. Mainly just a young man who would be at peace, once he had his answers.

    “Yes, he was able to kill him. You see, the Elder wand, which Voldemort was using, aligned itself with you after it abandoned Mr Malfoy. Then, I’m afraid to say, Mr Longbottom overpowered you at a rather crucial moment. A quick tussle underneath the Whomping Willow I believe?”

    “What?”

    “How much have you discovered about wandlore, Harry?”

    Harry stared blankly at him.

    “Ah, how about the Deathly Hallows?”

    “Never heard of them,” Harry said.

    “I see,” said Dumbledore regretfully, “I see. Well – it might be time to lean back and put your feet up, Harry, I’m sensing this is going to be a long train journey.”



    * Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling, page 490. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 2007.

    ** Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling, page 529. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 2007.

    *** page?
     
  15. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye DA Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2020
    Messages:
    163
    Location:
    Away with the fairies
    Not sure if this is allowed here, but I'd like to thank you all for your comments, it's been great fun to read through them! Agree with about 95% of what's in them, and all contained plenty of useful things for me.

    Yes this was written in a bit of a hurry and I did not have time to edit it properly. I would apologize for sending in something like this, but since only two other people wrote stories for this I don't think I will :) Above is an edit from about a week ago, I'll probably do one more but it's unlikely it will be anything major.


    Haha yes this is not what I was going for and I've now tried to make that whole scene a bit more poignant. It's a very powerful scene in canon and it's probably stupid of me to attempt it in any way, but it's still here. Thanks a lot for checking for grammar and language mistakes, I appreciate that a lot! I was expecting there to be loads more so this is a win for me.

    Your whole comment pinpoints a lot of what's wrong with this fic which I agree with, but I'll single this bit out. I think you're right in saying this would have been a better story if I had made up all new scenes for Harry and friends preparing for battle, but this would only work if I actually managed to write all characters just the same as they feel in canon, and I think, given all the Myrtle comments, that if I'd tried this I would instead be getting shit on for some/all of them feeling ooc. It was a conscious decision for me to include so many characters in this, partly because they appear in the canon battle scene and partly because it was more fun for me to write it like that and partly because I think it gives the story the right vibes. More focus on Harry, to my mind, would make this more boring.

    The Snape scene being cut I disagree with, it's in here because it carries two different plot points (Hermione turns away and doesn't watch, Harry doesn't understand that it's memories floating out of Snape and so Harry never gets that piece of the puzzle OR are they not memories at all, are we just witnessing Snape turning into a ghost). Other than that, yes, you're right, and it was interesting for me to see how strongly many of you feel about canon rehashes. I've not really read fics that feature them before and I doubt I will write any that feature them in the future :)

    I'm sure it is, yeah. The original ending for this story, which I was very excited to write, was that someone other than Harry performs the ghost spell without his knowledge. He sees hints of this when others die that he conveys to the reader, then he fights Voldemort, something goes wrong and he can't quite work out why everyone's so sad, he continues fighting. Eventually Harry and the reader realizes Voldemort's killed him and he's become a ghost.

    After a bit of writing I realized there was no reason for anyone but potentially Harry himself to want to perform this spell so I had to change it, got a bit depressed because I had no good ending now, wrote depressing scenes like the Lupin one and then came up with a new ending. Got excited again, tried to fix all of the plotholes, ran out of time, uncorked some wine and wrote through the night to have something to hand in. I absolutely should be apologizing for not making more of an effort, I should have started writing on this earlier, but I did finish a story for you to read (and get annoyed by), so again, I won't.

    Part of this is no doubt the lack of editing and me not giving this enough time. That's all on me. Part of this is simply my style of writing, I like whimsy, I like gallows humour, I like being crude, I like horror and romance and failure and big feelings, but only a tiny bit and then I break it off into something else before I think it gets cringey. I'm firmly in the camp of 'write what you wish a better writer had written for you', and my stories will first and foremost be to my taste.

    A lot of you commented on it lacking the emotion/wrong type of emotion/not landing in the right place etc, so ultimately I'll have to concede that I've written it all wrong this time. No clue if the edit has fixed any of this for you, I hope it has, but if it hasn't then I don't know how to fix it and the fault is in me and in how I read this story.

    This (along with the editing) was drunk Lucy's contribution and it's been a huge surprise to me that the idea was well received. This was absolutely something I was prepared to clean away in the edit. I've let the squid be but re-written the scene to make it less slap-stick.

    Another of drunk Lucy's contributions. She caught it for the typo it is in her questionable 2 am edit work, then decided since she's a weird poet she will leave it in. Sober Lucy agrees with you and has fixed it.

    This warmed me no end, thank you! You're my favourite.

    You're completely right. Dumbledore deserved better, Harry deserved better, the story deserved better. This comment inspired me to edit this in the first place, it made me feel awful about how I'd left it and how I didn't even realize how unfeeling the ending was at the time. Having said that, it still doesn't have an amazing ending. I'm starting to realize that the few times I have written scenes with Dumbledore, I've always played up the comedy, it's never really been a straight scene. Don't think I can do him justice, but at least I've tried properly, now.

    I found two places that felt sort of natural for me to add them, feel free to let me know where/if you'd add more!

    It absolutely is, yeah. Can't really think of a way to fix it without rewriting the whole plot, and I'm not invested enough in it to do that. There are plotholes throughout if you think about it too hard.

    See, the vibe I get from canon Myrtle is that her thighs get sticky with ectoplasm everytime she sees Harry. If I managed to convey that for you, then I'm happy. Harry is not supposed to reciprocate these feelings, though, if that's what you got from the scene then I've done bad.

    Yep, good catch, my bad. Have attempted to fix this.

    Thank you! Little comments like these mean a lot. I do agree with the rest of your comment, I think you've pinpointed a lot of what's wrong with this story.

    The wrong date in fact, thank you for bringing this to my attention. Battle is on the 2nd, but of course this story starts before midnight.

    This is not correct, unless the order of something's been changed in later editions. In this fic we meet Harry after he's returned with Luna from Ravenclaw Tower and realized Ron and Hermione are gone. Myrtle and Nick scene happens when everyone canonically gather in the Great Hall.

    This is sort of the plot for this fanfic. I get that you skimmed most of it, and obviously that reflects very badly on me as a writer. I will say that you've written a surprisingly thorough review of something you've maybe not grasped the entire plot of.

    But I love cunts! Warm, squishy, delicious, deserve worship from everyone they encounter... You sure this is you? :)

    Agreed. I'm in the 'fake it till you make it' crowd, and I'm nowhere near making it. Annoyingly I agree with all of your contributions to where my language is shit and I think most of them have been cleaned up in the edit.

    Oh I didn't see this before but this is a great point! Think I've just had an epiphany as to why the tone apparently is wrong. Thank you!

    Thanks for noticing :)

    This is another good point, I'll see if I can add a bit more there.

    You're being very kind about this, thanks! This was how I saw it too before I saw most of the other comments. Different strokes, I suppose.

    This I'd cleaned away in the edit but I've re-added it after seeing you comment :)

    Agreed. I'm glad you liked the ending! Thanks for writing such a positive comment, it worked really well as the last one for me to read.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2021
  16. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2018
    Messages:
    174
    This was a good rewrite. I really appreciate that you were able to look at all this feedback as a whole and judge how to best improve the story.
    Lol I really relate to this. I'm very glad you didn't give up.

    Congratulations on your win, and I hope you keep writing for the comps.
     
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