This Means War (Part 1 of 2)
‘Guess again, Filchy!’
The ghost of Fred Weasley zoomed off down one of the many corridors at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, razzing his tongue at Argus Filch, the long-suffering caretaker. Filch shook his fist in a futile gesture of rage as the apparition of the former Gryffindor disappeared around a corner. It was bad enough having to deal with Peeves the Poltergeist, but having Fred Weasley’s ghost adding to the castle’s spectral shenanigans was driving Filch very much to distraction. He’d complained, at length, and on numerous occasions, to the Headmistress, Professor Minerva McGonagall, but to no avail. She had simply told him that she had no control over which ghosts decided to take up residence in the castle, and that Filch should count himself lucky that the ghost of Thomas Marvolo Riddle, better known as the late Lord Voldemort, was not roaming the halls instead.
Still, Filch disliked the ghosts almost as much as he did the students.
‘Someone call my name?’ said an all too familiar voice behind Filch’s right ear. The caretaker jumped, spun around, and sagged as he stared viciously into the milky eyes of Peeves.
‘Sod off, Peeves,’ said Filch, bitterly. ‘I’ve got enough of Weasley’s mess to clean up without you sticking yer oar in.’ Filch stormed off to fetch his broom, leaving Peeves floating silently in mid-air.
Weasley again. Peeves had found himself several times since Fred Weasley’s ghostly arrival to Hogwarts at a loss for the new-comers pranks. For as long as Peeves could remember it was he who was the proud bane of Argus Filch’s existence, but now? Now his position was being challenged. Now Weasley was trying to muscle in on his turf. A wicked grin spread across Peeves’ face.
‘Well played, Weasley,’ he said, in his usual mocking, sing-song voice. ‘Well played indeed.’
* * *
Fred Weasley loved being a ghost. He missed being alive, of course, but the scope for mischief when you could fly through walls and vanish at will was indescribable. He’d died during the now famous Battle for Hogwarts, and was considered, by many, a hero, amongst the others who had fallen in the fight against Lord Voldemort. Moody, Lupin, Tonks, all now lionised as martyrs to a great cause, which was all fine and good, but Fred was not about to spend his afterlife resting on old glories. He’d found out quite quickly, after he’d died, that you get a choice of where you go in the afterlife, and once he’d remembered the glee with which Peeves seemed to live in constantly while playing up the students and staff at Hogwarts, there was no other choice for Fred. He’d asked to be sent to Hogwarts as a poltergeist, and he was loving every minute of it.
He got on well enough with the other ghosts, although he knew to avoid the Slytherin ghost, The Bloody Baron, but he’d done enough of that when he was alive, so that was practically second nature to him. The other ghosts seemed to regard him as a breath of fresh air, after however many centuries of having to put up with Peeves’ antics. He’d admired the poltergeist’s handiwork while he was alive, and would often commend him to his twin brother, George, but now that he too was a poltergeist, Fred had started to find that perhaps he and Peeves were a little too alike for comfort. Their senses of humour ran almost parallel to one another, and, as time wore on, they found each other getting in one another’s way. Fred would discover Peeves setting up a trick that he himself was planning for later that day, or Peeves would hear a ruckus caused by Fred and be robbed of some mischief.
Put simply, Hogwarts wasn’t being enough for the both of them.
The castle had played witness to both entities – Fred and Peeves – go from delighting in tormenting Filch and ribbing the students, to playing an increasingly destructive game of one-upmanship, much to the chagrin of the school caretaker, for it was he who had to clean up after them. Shattered windows, dismantled suits of armour, ripped tapestries: nothing seemed sacred as Fred and Peeves battled it out throughout the classrooms and corridors. That is, aside from Professor McGonagall’s office. Fred and Peeves might have been rambunctious, but they weren’t stupid, and messing with Minerva McGonagall was just something you didn’t do, alive or dead.
Anything else, though, was fair game.
And the game was getting rough.
* * *
‘This really won’t do, Headmistress.’
Madam Pomfrey stood with Professor McGonagall in the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts. They were not alone. Sat on the bed in front of them was a timid-looking first year student, with a bloodied nose.
‘How did this happen?’ asked McGonagall, directing the question at the student.
‘I…,’ began the first year.
‘I was walking to my Charms class when… when…’
‘Yes? Go on, child.’
‘When something flew out of an empty classroom and hit me in the face.’
‘Hmmm.’ Professor McGonagall went silent for a moment, while she thought the situation over. It was not uncommon for a student to get a knock or two when in the path of a wayward spell, but Minerva McGonagall was a shrewd woman, and she could tell what, in Madam Pomfrey’s opinion, wouldn’t do.
‘I tell you, Headmistress, it’s that dratted Peeves again!’
‘Poppy.’ McGonagall turned to face the Matron.
‘Or that Weasley! I’ll stake my career on it!’
‘Poppy, without proof…’
‘Hang proof!’ shrilled Madam Pomfrey. ‘It’s one of them, I know it! It was bad enough when it was just Peeves, but to add Weasley to the mix? I’ve enough to do with Quidditch injuries alone without tending to the casualties of their silly little games!’
‘Poppy, please.’ McGonagall’s tone was calm but resolute. It said that now was not the time to discuss such matters, especially in front of a student. Madam Pomfrey caught sight of the look in Professor McGonagall’s eyes and quieted her tirade.
‘I’m sorry, Headmistress,’ she said, rather sheepishly. ‘But something really must be done about those two. It really should.’
‘Anyway,’ said McGonagall, turning again to face the student with the bloodied nose. ‘What’s your name, young lady?’
‘Wiggin, Headmistress. Nellie Wiggin.’
‘Well, Nellie, what was it that hit you in the face?’
‘An inkwell, Headmistress.’
‘And, did you happen to see who sent the inkwell flying out of the classroom?’ Madam Pomfrey made to speak, but Professor McGonagall raised a hand and silenced her.
‘Um, no, Headmistress.’
‘I see. Poppy, a word, please.’
‘Am I in trouble, Headmistress?’ asked Nellie.
‘What? Oh, no. Of course not. Thank you for telling me what happened, Nellie. If Madam Pomfrey has seen to you then you may return to your common room.’
‘Yes, Headmistress. Thank you.’ Nellie slipped off of the bed and scurried out of the Hospital Wing, wiping the last of the blood from her nose with a handkerchief as she did so. Professor McGonagall knew that Madam Pomfrey could have seen to the girl and had her on her way in next to no time, but she had insisted on summoning the Headmistress.
Once the door of the Hospital Wing had closed, Professor McGonagall turned again to face Madam Pomfrey.
‘I tell you Peeves is to blame!’
‘Or Weasley. I…’
‘Poppy!’ Professor McGonagall raising her voice was more than sufficient to quieten Madam Pomfrey again.
‘My apologies, Headmistress.’
‘I understand and appreciate your concerns, Poppy,’ said McGonagall, diplomatically. ‘But without proof I cannot go around simply accusing Peeves or Weasley of something that they might not have done.’
‘As Headmistress, I have a duty of care to all within the castle walls, alive and dead.’ The finality in McGonagall’s voice suggested that this was the end of the matter, and Madam Pomfrey knew better than to push the issue any further.
‘So, I shall see you at dinner then, yes?’
Professor McGonagall nodded a goodbye to the school Matron and left the Hospital Wing, bound for her office. She did not get far, because she was almost instantly run into by a very flustered looking Madam Hooch.
‘Headmistress!’ said Madam Hooch, breathlessly.
‘Why, Rolanda, whatever is the matter?’
The Quidditch Mistress was so out of breath, and clearly overcome with rage, that she could barely get the words out.
‘I’m sorry Rolanda, but you’ll have to slow down if you want me to grasp what it is you’re trying to tell me. Take a breath and start again.’
Madam Hooch stared daggers and composed herself as best she could. After a few deliberate breaths, she tried again.
‘Headmistress, the Quidditch pitch has been vandalised!’
‘Yes! In the most brazen and shameful way!’ Madam Hooch was shaking, she was so angry.
‘Well, I’d better come and see.’
‘There’s no need to!’ spluttered Madam Hooch. ‘You can see perfectly well from up here!’ She gestured pointedly to a nearby window, silently urging Professor McGonagall to approach it. Somewhat unsure, the Headmistress walked calmly over to the window and looked out into the grounds of the school.
‘Oh,’ she said.
From the window, Professor McGonagall could see all too clearly what Madam Hooch was on about. Scorched into the pristine lawn of the Quidditch pitch, in fifty-foot long letters, were these words: