This Means War (Part 2 of 2)
‘You see?’ shrilled Madam Hooch, painfully close to Professor McGonagall’s ear.
‘Yes, Rolanda. I see.’ Professor McGonagall’s voice was thin and icy. Even Madam Hooch in her indignant fury noticed it. She took a step away from the Headmistress. Professor McGonagall’s eyes stared fixedly at the befouled pitch; her pupils two pinpricks of anger. After a moment’s painful silence, Madam Hooch ventured forward.
‘What…what are we to do, Headmistress?’
‘Fetch me the Bloody Baron.’
‘Because I want to speak to Peeves, immediately,’ said McGonagall, frost caking her every word. ‘And the Baron’s the only soul in this castle who can bring Peeves to me in the speed I wish him delivered.’
‘Um…’ was all Madam Hooch could think to say.
‘Now, please, Rolanda.’ Professor McGonagall said all of this without moving from the spot. Her gaze never left the Quidditch pitch.
‘Yes, Headmistress.’ Against all reason, Madam Hooch felt the need to bob a little curtsey before scurrying off in the direction of the Slytherin dungeons to seek out the Bloody Baron.
* * *
‘But it wasn’t me!’
Peeves’ high voice rang through Professor McGonagall’s office door a second before he and the Bloody Baron floated through it; Peeves looking decidedly put out, and the Baron looking rather perturbed himself.
‘Peeves, Headmistress,’ said the Baron, with an air of disinterest.
‘Thank you, your Lordship,’ said Professor McGonagall, with a respectful nod. The Baron returned the nod, gave Peeves one last withering look and floated back through the wall. As soon as he had gone Professor McGonagall picked up her wand and said a spell so quickly that Peeves could not make out what it was.
‘What was that?’ asked the poltergeist, suspiciously.
‘Just something to ensure that I have your undivided attention,’ said the Headmistress sweetly.
Peeves, normally supremely confident and brash, did not like not being in control. Professor McGonagall could tell he was worried: he had removed his cap and was wringing it in his opaque hands.
‘Sit down, please.’
Peeves bristled at being spoken to as if he were still a student at the school. He hadn’t bent to authority when he was alive and he didn’t see why he should start now. With panic-tinged anger, he flew determinedly at the door, planning to get as far away from the Headmistress as possible…
But it didn’t work.
With a sound like a wet towel being thrown to the floor, Peeves slammed into the heavy wood of the door, causing him to ricochet off of it and float backwards a foot or two. A look of utter confusion crossed his face, and he turned around to look at Professor McGonagall, who remained sitting and perfectly motionless, her cool gaze never leaving his.
‘Wh…what have you done?’ There was a definite quaver in his normally boisterous voice.
‘Oh, a simple incantation to stop you leaving before we are done.’
‘You can’t…’ began Peeves.
‘I can and I have,’ said McGonagall evenly. ‘Now, please, sit.’
Still with fear in his eyes, Peeves floated uncertainly over to the chair that sat on the opposite side of McGonagall’s desk. He settled himself as best he could, but his face told a story of confusion, fear, and anger. Once sat, McGonagall addressed him again.
‘I take it from your protests to the Bloody Baron that I heard before you came in that you know why you are here?’ McGonagall’s tone was dangerously calm. Peeves squirmed uneasily.
‘Yes, but it wasn’t me!’
‘I haven’t even been near the Quidditch pitch today!’
‘Is that so?’
‘Well, you have me at a loss,’ said McGonagall, her voice a steel trap waiting to be sprung. Unless you are trying to tell me that we have another Peeves within our number who just happened to take it upon themselves to scorch their name in fifty foot letters on the Quidditch pitch!’ McGonagall’s voice rose and was brought back under control, but it was enough to disquiet Peeves even further. He continued to wring his cap in his hands, and he had started to avoid the Headmistresses fiery gaze.
‘But…’ mumbled Peeves.
‘But it wasn’t me, Headmistress. I swear.’
‘You swear, do you?’
‘Yes. I don’t like this. I didn’t do it.’
‘You’ll forgive me, Peeves, if I have trouble taking you at your word. I’m sure you’ll agree that your track record to date does not fill me with confidence.’
‘Didn’t do it.’ Peeves was practically sulking when he said this.
‘Then who did?’
A moment’s silence passed before Peeves raised his head and locked eyes with Professor McGonagall.
‘What about Weasley?’
‘Which one?’ said McGonagall, sweetly. ‘There are, after all, an awful lot of them.’
‘Fred Weasley!’ shouted Peeves. ‘He did this! I bet he did! Why don’t you ask him?’
‘I intend to,’ said McGonagall, calmly. ‘But, seeing as it was your name that is now emblazoned on to the pitch I felt it prudent to speak to you first.’
Professor McGonagall looked down at her desk and began writing something. An awkward silence filled the room, and Peeves squirmed some more.
‘Hmmm?’ McGonagall didn’t look up.
‘May I go, please?’
‘Oh, yes.’ McGonagall waved her wand with a graceful flourish. ‘You should have no trouble exiting in your normal way now.’ Peeves visibly sagged with relief, and was almost at the door when the Headmistress spoke again.
The poltergeist froze in mid-air.
‘You have sworn to me and looked me in the eye that you did not do this. I feel it only fair to tell you that I hope, for your sake, that you are telling the truth.’
Peeves swallowed. There was no need for him to, being a ghost, but fear reactions can be hard to shake.
‘Then be on your way.’
Peeves did not need telling twice. He gratefully floated through the door and out into the corridor. He did not like the feeling that seemed to be swelling inside him like a rancid balloon. He had no problem at all admitting to his own antics, but this was the first time he had been accused of doing something that he hadn’t done.
He didn’t like it one bit.
Then the ghost of Fred Weasley emerged from the shadows.
‘Get you good, did she, Peevesey?’ he cooed, mockingly.
Peeves' eyes narrowed.
‘You did this.’
A beat of silence spread out between the two apparitions. Peeves looking at Fred with suspicion and anger, Fred at Peeves with wicked glee.
As soon as Fred uttered the two words he was off, whizzing down the corridor, jeering Peeves to give chase. Sudden hot rage flared up inside Peeves and he shot after him, hurling curses as he went. The ghosts of Hogwarts could do magic, but they mostly chose not to. Peeves, however, now considered the gloves well and truly off, and he fired spell after spell at the retreating figure of Fred Weasley as they scorched their way through the castle.
Pandemonium erupted around the two ghosts as they fought through corridors and classrooms, hallways and stairwells. Fred had begun to retaliate so now there were spells flying in all directions from both ghosts. Classes were disrupted, students knocked out of chairs, desks upended; Hogwarts had become a war zone between Fred and Peeves. The other ghosts tried to intervene, but to no avail. Not even the Bloody Baron could calm Peeves this time; his frustration and fury were just too great. Fred went from fun and games to serious business when he saw how determined Peeves was to catch him with the particularly nasty curses, hexes, and jinxes that he was flinging at him.
The gloves were definitely off.
Through the Great Hall they battled. Across the Entrance Hall, tearing through the Library, and even causing chaos in the kitchens where the House Elves worked. The path of destruction left in their wake was sure to give Filch a month-long headache.
Silence descended upon the castle like a slap in the face. Fred and Peeves hung motionless in mid-air as the echoes of the firm shout died away. Students, cowering from the debris caused by the warring spectres, poked their heads out to see who had managed to put a stop to the mayhem.
It was Professor McGonagall.
She stood rigid as a board and pale as a cold morning. Her mouth was drawn into a thin line of undeniable anger, and her eyes blazed with a fury that would have unnerved Lord Voldemort. A few loose sheets of parchment fluttered down from where they had been blown by this spell or that, but that was the only sound to be heard for what felt like a lifetime.
Finally, McGonagall spoke.
‘You two. My office. Now!’
The Headmistress turned on her heel and stalked off, confident in the knowledge of two things: that Fred and Peeves would be following her, and what she would do to them if they dared to try and flee. As the frightful clicking of her boots on the flagstones began to die away, students began to slowly resume their normal school day, leaving Fred and Peeves floating side by side, alone with their thoughts.
Fred looked at Peeves.
Peeves looked at Fred.
They both smiled.
‘Nice one, Weasley,’ said Peeves, grinning his usual malicious grin.
‘Call that one a draw, Peeves?’ asked Fred, returning the grin with gusto.
The two troublesome ghosts shook hands and floated off, ready to be screamed at by professor McGonagall.
It was worth it.
The game was worth it.
* * *