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New Fic: Ghost Story

Ghost Story
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rated: PG-13
Category: Gen, Angst.
Spoilers:  None per se. Set in PoA and then much later.
Summary:  Most ghost stories are spawned from a seed of truth.
Disclaimer:  Accio, Copyrights! Oh, darn. Wand backfired. Well, it was worth a shot.

---

Wizarding children don’t tend to go in for ghost stories. They also don’t generally celebrate something as silly as the Muggle holiday of Halloween. They know far too much about real spirits and actual magic and the like to believe in bogeymen and monsters who arise from the ground once a year on All Hallow’s Eve.

But in Godric’s Hollow, it’s different.

In Godric’s Hollow, when their parents aren’t listening, children whisper amongst themselves about the horrors that took place there on October 31, 1981. The older children tell the younger ones early, and only the very newest residents of the village don’t know about the Potters.

None of the children know the whole story, of course, even with the monument in the center of town and the burned-out house still laying in ruin, and that makes things worse. They embellish and exaggerate what little they have heard from hushed parental conversations and scare each other witless on long dark nights. They tell a thousand versions of the tale and add to the story as they go.

The most common variant adds a chapter the adults have never heard.

It is the story of the man in the graveyard.  The hunched over and half broken man. The ghastly ghoul emerging from the earth in a decayed and bloated body for an annual night of freedom on Halloween.

The children say this beast can steal your soul if you look upon him. They say he can kill with only a thought and turn you into stone with his breath. He is the most evil creature they can imagine. Many of the children think that the monster may even be He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself.

They do not say how the ghoul first appears suddenly with a loud crack just after nightfall and then looks first to the sky and then to the ground before he kneels and bends his face to the dirt. They never see him straighten again and disappear the same way he came, as by then they are long since asleep in their warm, safe beds. They only see the silhouette of the kneeling man as their parents hurry them by the cemetery if they are caught out after dark at the end of October, and it terrifies them. Their parent’s insistent hand-pulling and urgent whispers of “don’t stare” only add to their fears.

And so they tell their story.

They tell it all year at birthday parties and sleepovers, but they especially tell it on Halloween.

They continue to whisper it when they grow old enough to leave home and attend school. They become the stars of their common rooms every fall, when classmates beg them to tell it again. And so even the halls of Hogwarts know the tale. It has leaked into the very walls of the castle, and it is impossible for any man, woman, child, ghost, house elf, or portrait to exist in Hogwarts without learning of it.

New professors are no exception.

And so it was that Remus Lupin, virgin Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in 1993, heard the tale four days before Halloween. He overheard Hermione, of all people, telling it to a group of first years in the library. He would’ve thought her far too sensible for such a thing, but there was no denying his ears.

There was also no denying his reaction. He left the library immediately, his quest forgotten.

That night, Remus would drink himself into a stupor, something he rarely did. He’d mumble and rant and carry on all by his lonesome about monsters and fate and unfair judgments. He’d break two cherished pictures and cut a gash in his hand. And in the morning, bedraggled and bleeding, he’d find a note from Severus Snape attached to a bottle outside his door. He’d drink the potion gratefully, repair the damage he’d done to his office, and teach his lessons as if nothing had happened. If any students were curious about the bandage on his hand, none dared ask about it.

Remus would whisper a quiet “thank you” to Snape at dinner that night, and Severus would reply with only a nod and an equally quiet “I knew it was only a matter of time.”

That was the end of it. Remus would hear Hermione’s story countless times over the next few days, and he would completely ignore it. He’d react to it no more than any other student banter.

But three nights later, as the students were climbing into their beds and the story had reached its annual fever pitch, he’d leave the castle. He’d be halfway to the iron gates when a voice would stop him in his tracks.

“Still going then?” asked Dumbledore quietly from behind Remus.

Remus turned and faced his headmaster with a sad grin.

“Wouldn’t want to disappoint them.”

Dumbledore closed his eyes and nodded slowly.

“I understand,” he said. “I’ll lift the apparition barriers tonight for your office alone, if you’d like.”

Remus nodded his assent and turned away without a word. Dumbledore watched him sadly for a moment, then turned away himself and returned to the castle.

Later that night, as he had done for twelve years, Remus Lupin knelt over two graves and updated their occupants on the past year’s events. From where they watched and listened not so very far away, Lily and James Potter were indeed not disappointed.

And neither were the braver children of Godric’s Hollow, who looked upon their ghoul and did not die after all, but instead continued to tell their story. And in the great tradition of oral histories, their tale was retold for ages - until long after its origin was lost to time.

In this way, the children of Godric’s Hollow unknowingly remember Remus Lupin to this day.

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