39 Deathday Party
"A deathday party?Why would anyone want to celebrate the day they died?" said Ron, who was halfway through his Potions homework and grumpy. "Sounds dead depressing to me..."
"Seriously, why would you go to the deathday party, it's on the day of the Halloween feast. Are you saying that you are willing to give up a good meal for a sketch party?"
By the time Halloween arrived, Arth did indeed hesitate on whether or not he should go to the deathday party. The rest of the school was happily anticipating their Halloween feast; the Great Hall had been decorated with the usual live bats, Hagrid's vast pumpkins had been carved into lanterns large enough for three men to sit in, and there were rumors that Dumbledore had booked a troupe of dancing skeletons for the entertainment.
In the end, however, his curiosity got the better of him.
So at seven o'clock, Arth and Hermione walked straight past the doorway to the packed Great Hall, which was glittering invitingly with gold plates and candles, and directed their steps instead toward the dungeons. Ron and Harry split up from them while shaking their heads.
"Bloody insane I tell you. Do you even reckon they will have food for the living? Isn't it just a gathering of ghosts?"
Ignoring their remarks, Arth and Hermione continued along.
The passageway leading to Nearly Headless Nick's party had been lined with candles, too, though the effect was far from cheerful: These were long, thin, jet-black tapers, all burning bright blue, casting a dim, ghostly light even over their own living faces. The temperature dropped with every step they took. As Hermione shivered and drew her robes tightly around herself, Arth heard what sounded like a thousand fingernails scraping an enormous blackboard.
"Is that supposed to be music?" Arth asked while frowning.
They turned a corner and saw Nearly Headless Nick standing at a doorway hung with black velvet drapes.
"My dear friends," he said mournfully. "Welcome, welcome...so pleased you could come..."
He swept off his plumed hat and bowed them inside.
It was an incredible sight. The dungeon was full of hundreds of pearly-white, translucent people, mostly drifting around a crowded dance floor, waltzing to the dreadful, quavering sound of thirty musical saws, played by an orchestra on a raised, black-draped platform. A chandelier overhead blazed midnight-blue with a thousand more black candles. Their breath rose in a mist before them; it was like stepping into a freezer.
"Shall we have a look around?" Arth suggested with a sparkle in his eyes.
"Careful not to walk through anyone," said Hermione nervously, and they set off around the edge of the dance floor. "It might be taken as a sign of disrespect."
They passed a group of gloomy nuns, a ragged man wearing chains, and the Fat Friar, a cheerful Hufflepuff ghost, who was talking to a knight with an arrow sticking out of his forehead. Harry wasn't surprised to see that the Bloody Baron, a gaunt, staring Slytherin ghost covered in silver bloodstains, was being given a wide berth by the other ghosts.
"Oh, no," said Hermione, stopping abruptly. "Turn back, turn back, I don't want to talk to Moaning Myrtle —"
"Who?" Asked Arthur.
"She haunts one of the toilets in the girls' bathroom on the first floor," said Hermione.
Arth raised an eyebrow.
"Yes. It's been out-of-order all year because she keeps having tantrums and flooding the place. I never went in there anyway if I could avoid it; it's awful trying to have a pee with her wailing at you —"
As if realizing what she had just said, Hermione blushed a furious shade of crimson.
However, Arth was too distracted to notice
"Is that... food?"
On the other side of the dungeon was a long table, also covered in black velvet. On it was an assortment of very unappealing cuisine. The smell was quite disgusting. Large, rotten fish were laid on handsome silver platters; cakes, burned charcoal-black, were heaped on salvers; there was a great maggoty haggis, a slab of cheese covered in furry green mold and, in pride of place, an enormous gray cake in the shape of a tombstone, with tar-like icing forming words.
SIR NICHOLAS DE MIMSY-PORPINGTON
DIED 31ST OCTOBER, 1492
Arthur watched, amazed, as a portly ghost approached the table, crouched low, and walked through it, his mouth held wide so that it passed through one of the stinking salmon.
"Can you taste it if you walk though it?" Arthur asked him.
"Almost," said the ghost sadly, and he drifted away.
"I expect they've let it rot to give it a stronger flavor," said Hermione knowledgeably, pinching her nose and leaning closer to look at the putrid haggis.
"Hmmm, Do you reckon that it's possible?"
Arth had barely turned around to ask another question, however, when a little man swooped suddenly from under the table and came to a halt in midair before them.
"Hello, Peeves," said Arth.
Unlike the ghosts around them, Peeves the Poltergeist was the very reverse of pale and
transparent. He was wearing a bright orange party hat, a revolving bow tie, and a broad grin on his wide, wicked face.
"Heello Arthy, Nibbles?" he said sweetly, offering them a bowl of peanuts covered in fungus.
"No thanks," said Hermione.
"Heard you talking about poor Myrtle," said Peeves, his eyes dancing. "Rude you was about poor Myrtle." He took a deep breath and bellowed, "OY! MYRTLE!"
"Oh, no, Peeves, don't tell her what I said, she'll be really upset," Hermione whispered
frantically. "I didn't mean it, I don't mind her — er, hello, Myrtle."
The squat ghost of a girl had glided over. She had the glummest face hidden behind lank hair and thick, pearly spectacles.
"What?" she said sulkily.
"How are you, Myrtle?" said Hermione in a falsely bright voice. "It's nice to see you out of the toilet."
"Miss Granger was just talking about you —" said Peeves slyly in Myrtle's ear. "Just saying —"
"Just saying — saying — how nice you look tonight," said Hermione, glaring at Peeves.
Peeves just let out a maniacal giggle.
Myrtle eyed Hermione suspiciously.
"You're making fun of me," she said, silver tears welling rapidly in her small, see-through eyes. "No — honestly — didn't I just say how nice Myrtle's looking?" said Hermione.
"Don't lie to me," Myrtle gasped, tears now flooding down her face, while Peeves chuckled happily over her shoulder. "D'you think I don't know what people call me behind my back? Fat Myrtle! Ugly Myrtle! Miserable, moaning, moping Myrtle!"
"You forgot pimp-"
Arth decided that now would be an optimal time to stop Peeves before things got out of hand.
Peeves grabbed his throat and struggled to set himself free.
Seeing the indignant look on Peeves' face, Arth let out a sigh.
"Stop looking at me like that, I'll tell you something interesting.
Peeves stopped and gave an indication that he was listening.
"Professor Lockhart absolutely loves his books and looks. He would be devastated if someone did something to his books."
As if inspired by Arth's information, Peeves gave a salute before zooming off to god knows where.
Arth didn't forget to release Peeves from his spell.
"Did you just set Peeves loose on a teacher?"
"I never told him to do anything a Hermione. What are you talking about?" Arth said with a mischievous smile.
Hermione returned and equally naughty smile.
"Oh! I see, your right. You are innocent."
Arth glanced at the sight of pale figures dancing to screeches and pondered before turning towards Hermione.
"My lady, do you care for a dance?"
Hermione blushed red before replying happily.
"It would be my greatest honor, my lord."