NOTES and DISCLAIMERS: Harry Potter, etc is the intellectual property of JK Rowling. I'm making no money here and have no intentions to do so ever. Thanks to kel for the idea, thanks to Mare, kel, Mosca and Jess for betas. All suckage is mine. The title comes from a quote by Samuel Johnson: It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.
ALL ARGUMENT IS AGAINST IT
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about," Sirius had said. "Not the foggiest."
And Lily had said, "All I know is that someone has been pulling pranks on the first year Slytherins for two weeks now and tonight, both of the first-year Gryffindors dormitories are covered in some sort of mixture that's making all of them sneeze and, Sirius, if you just stop, I won't report you or give you detention."
And this was how Remus found himself plastered to the wall, scared out of his mind-though trying very hard not to show it, which might've been kind of stupid since he was alone now-waiting for Peter to go get the others.
Nothing but darkness, complete black everywhere, two voices laughing from nowhere Remus could see, distance unknowable. The others were sure to come, Remus told himself. Any minute now.
Peter was clearly taking his sweet time and it took a while till Remus heard James's voice and their collective, and awfully loud, approaching steps. Then he heard James say, "Evans, Evans, Evans, you are the prettiest girl in the world," and Sirius making loud gagging noises. He wasn't safe, but at least he didn't have to be scared alone.
Every wizarding family had their stories they passed down. In the Lupin family, they were all about how nothing ever went right for them, for centuries, as near as Remus could tell from his mother's tales. Remus's mother poached stories of bad luck from other families and grafted them onto the family tree so they'd have one more thing to add to their bucket of woe.
Remus's mother only told her story about the Founders of Hogwarts one time before he turned eleven; she didn't like to talk about Hogwarts because she thought he'd never go there. But the story was long and involved and Remus was eight and just wanted her to finish and give him a biscuit. She made the very best biscuits.
So Remus at eight looked up only towards the end when she was talking about Gryffindor and Slytherin and what constant companions they were, and how they cared about each other and Remus said, "They were married, then?"
His mother started and stared at him. She said, "Oh, no. Not married. Not really." She frowned.
Then she sighed and moved on to the part where Gryffindor and Slytherin argued and Remus went back to wanting a biscuit. The Founders had fought and fought and everyone hated each other, especially Gryffindor and Slytherin. Their love was ruined, his mother said and Remus wondered again what she meant. At the end, before Remus got anything to eat, she sighed and looked sad and said, "All that fighting and everything destroyed. Nothing ever went right for this family." Remus looked away from her and mouthed the words as she said them. She ended every story that way.
"Definitely a ghost, maybe two, right?" Remus said, rubbing his head. There had been impenetrable darkness but the only thing they had been able to see in the midst of all of it was two forms. Ghosts, absolutely. Prankster ghosts, even. Maybe. And definitely voices, though only Remus had heard them.
But the word 'definitely' had set off Lily and Sirius into what looked to be a never-ending argument. It might have been easier to participate and end it if they had both stuck to one position, but that was too much to ask.
Lily started off arguing that in their patrol they had not seen enough to say ghosts were committing the prank war while Sirius, out of sheer annoyance, thought it had to be anything else. Then Lily suddenly said it might indeed be a heretofore unseen poltergeist or a particularly clever student and Sirius was immediately wedded to the ghost idea.
Peter had sat down and was nodding off every other minute only to snap awake when Lily or Sirius screeched particularly loudly. Remus wondered if anyone would notice if he simply walked away. Then James waved his wand and a loud snap went off. Lily and Sirius both glared at him.
"Now, both of you. It's dawn! I want to sleep. We're done." He grabbed Lily's hand and pulled her away.
She shook off his hand and said, "You don't just get to decide that."
Peter said, "Can I? I'm exhausted. We were walking around school all night and I was scared half to death by the darkness and those things which were ghosts, thank you very much, and now I want to sleep." He stood up. "You two, three argue all you want, I am off to bed."
Remus nodded and walked off behind Peter. He heard the others arguing still, five paces behind them all the way to the portrait hole.
Once Remus got into Hogwarts -- "blessed day," his mother called it and put up three identical pictures of Dumbledore she'd got from chocolate frogs -- his mother told him more stories of the Founders. At eleven, Remus had a better idea of what she was saying. According to his mother and apparently according to her grandmother, Gryffindor and Slytherin had both been married, but they outlived their wives and their children. They both only had one child each, and everyone, including Remus's great-grandmother, hinted their family was descended from those two children.
Or maybe, Remus thought, only parents who had been in those two houses. His mind wandered during her stories, still, and he pictured other boys in other houses, maybe with sofas that had less nicks, listening to the stories of how they were almost definitely descended from Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. It was more interesting. He also thought about hiding a book under the table.
There was even more detail in the story then, though she always ended the same way. Sigh, sad look, nothing ever goes right for this family. But when Remus came home from Hogwarts there was now Gryffindor and Slytherin, living in the same wing of Hogwarts that they built themselves, they were so powerful. They wrote books together, sadly now lost or hidden away. They put on dueling demonstrations that ended in scone fights. Remus liked that detail, but it made him hungry for a good scone. And that had to wait until the sigh and sad look and the nothing ever went right for the Lupins.
Remus mercifully slept through the resolution of the argument. Sirius came around to the ghost idea reluctantly and Lily decided they all needed to research the issue. In Transfiguration, Sirius muttered to Remus, "Really, it was just that I was so tired. She wore me down. I still think she's wrong."
Remus thought Sirius always thought Lily was wrong. His head hurt and he slouched more over his parchment.
But they all ended up in the library anyway.
"Everything I look at says something different." Lily slammed her hand into the table. "Ghosts shouldn't be able to do that, ghosts can do that, only certain ghosts can, none can. This is all mental."
"You found something, at least." Sirius grimaced. "I've got ghost stories, no facts at all. There's this incredibly boring story about ghosts here at Hogwarts that implies that all four Founders are haunting the school every one hundred years for no apparent reason at all."
"My mother told me that one." Remus looked up from his stack of books. "Gryffindor and Slytherin, they were practically married or something." He looked back down. "Or so I thought when I was young. And there was something at the end about hauntings. Having the same old arguments over and over again."
"Founders stories are a category unto themselves," James said. "And they're all made up from whole cloth and contradict each other and are, frankly, completely worthless." He shrugged and glanced at Remus. "Sorry, but it's true."
"I agree," Lily said. "But I also agree with Remus, it might be helpful to, to think about the idea of it. Maybe that's what's going on, right?"
"And then we can ask the Sorting Hat to clean the lake and marry the squid." Peter laughed. "Tell us a story, Sirius. It passes the time before another night chasing darkness around the castle."
Madam Pince walked by and glared at them until they stopped laughing.
"Every hundred years," Sirius whispered. "The four Founders roam the halls, still arguing and carrying on about the same things they fought about all those years ago. That's the whole story. It's rubbish."
Remus stared at the others. No one said anything until Peter looked up. "But how does that actually help us? I don't think we can, what, solve their problems now? And I think, maybe, we're really still at square one, right?"
Cocking his head, Peter added, "Why are we just accepting that these ghosts are, er, the Founders? Maybe it's some other set of ghosts."
Dawn found them roaming the halls again but with no sightings, no pranks, no darkness spotted. They were all exhausted. And when they got back to the common room, all of the walls were pulsing with blood. Three scared first-years were huddled in the middle of the room. "We didn't see anything!" Lily walked them up to their dormitory.
"This is very complicated," Peter said, sighing. He had his wand out but he was looking at Sirius and James, waiting. "Why don't we get a professor again?"
"Because they're all convinced it's you lot." Lily looked exhausted. "McGonagall basically told me just to put you four in detention and watch your every move when you're not and it would be over. So we need to prove otherwise."
"Oh, hell. Can't we wait until we've had some sleep. It's just mucking up the carpets now, no one's hurt." Sirius shook his head and marched up the stairs and Remus decided that was the wisest move as well. He wanted sleep. He wanted this to be over.
Remus's father didn't tell stories. He read books and went to his dull job at the Ministry. But when Remus was made Prefect, he'd actually smiled and broke out the firewhiskey. "Your mum might think you're too young, but we'll just leave her out, all right?"
Remus nodded. Two glasses later, his dad was talking. Not about his own life, but to Remus's surprise, another Founders story. Remus wondered idly if his parents had met at Hogwarts in the history section of the library. Maybe they were both reaching for the lone remaining copy of Hogwarts, A History.
This story wasn't so different from his mother's. But his dad said simply, "Oh, they were in love. When they were old buggers," he said smirking, "and their wives were dead and it was all about who remembers you when you were young. Who really sees you. I don't imagine there was all that much actual buggering, of course, but it was a marriage of the minds even more. That's why those last arguments were so huge they couldn't get over them. Because it had all of that behind it. That's why it won't ever end, that's why they come back, I hear, to keep up all that fighting."
Remus nodded again and wished they would talk about scones. Or biscuits, it had been so long since his mother had made biscuits. Stories about the Founders made him right hungry. Remus never felt that moved by stories from so long ago that were just the same arguments he heard all about him.
Blood gone, the prank against the Slytherin first-years at lunch dealt with, and when evening came Sirius announced he had a plan. "You think it's ghosts, Evans, I'll show you ghosts. I've got just the right spell for it."
Lily said, "You always have a spell, never need to do any research, do you?"
"Of course not, it's been in the Black family for years."
"And this is a good idea how?" Lily crossed her arms. Remus silently agreed but he knew better than to try to stop Sirius. Especially when Lily was right there to do it.
Milling students who saw Sirius draw his wand with a flourish quickly scattered. Even first-years knew it wasn't a very good idea to be around for what he might be about to do. Sirius flicked his wand and said a long string of words Remus didn't even recognize.
Everyone stepped back as a loud clap sounded and pearl-white smoke filled the air.
Remus stared at the coalescing smoke, slowly forming into two distinct shapes. Two people, men. In robes. Everyone else but the five of them and the two ghosts were the only ones in the hall.
Near-panic written on his face, Peter said, "Maybe that was a mistake." His voice squeaked.
Grey robes on old, old men, who were staring at each other, suspended in a circle of smoke cast a filmy light on the hall and their faces. Lily said, "Sirius? Now what?"
"That's right," Sirius said. "Now we do something. The spell gives me limited power over them, not the ability to get rid of them." Sirius almost laughed. "I actually didn't think that would work. So, I guess it's up to you now." He looked at Lily. James glared at Sirius but nodded.
James said, "Hullo. Who are we addressing, here?" He smiled weakly.
"I am Godric Gryffindor," said the one on the right.
"Salazar Slytherin," said the one on the left. "Which one of you knew this spell, it's quite advanced. Not what I'd expect of the riffraff in the school these days."
"Sirius," James said, glancing at him. "I don't think - er, it was Sirius who cast the spell and as such, should be addressing you."
"That's, that's, thank you, James." Sirius grimaced. "So, right. Why are you, you two are the ones casting these spells and attacking the first-years?"
"Ugly, incompetent first-years." Gryffindor glared at Slytherin. "Weren't you about to say, Professor Slytherin?"
"Perhaps, Professor Gryffindor." Slytherin stretched out his arms, testing at the thin bubble of smoke. It ebbed but didn't break. Peter backed up two more steps, eyes wide, sweat beaded on his brow.
"I think it would be best if you two stopped," Lily said loudly. She took a deep breath and stared at both of them.
"Dear girl, you must be in my house." Gryffindor smiled. "Brave, indeed."
"Ah, ah, so I take it's that's a no? You're going to keep up this, er, battle of pranks?" Sirius said.
"I would not call them pranks. I would call it messages. Toughening up for coddled students." Gryffindor glared at Slytherin and didn't look down at the students.
Sirius said, "I think it's worth noting that the pulsing blood room? We considered that, in our fifth year. Discarded the idea, decided it was bit too over the top."
Peter bleated, "Did we?"
"James and I did," Sirius said quickly.
"Too over the top?" Slytherin turned again and stared at Sirius.
"A bit, don't you think? Like a slaughterhouse, sure. But no one really gets hurt or humiliated, and really, what's the point? Scare a few little children that would be just as easily scared by the wind or a professor in a bad mood." Sirius put his chin up a little, trying to look dismissive.
Slytherin stared for a long moment. "You. You look vaguely familiar. Your family is?"
"Black." Sirius clenched his jaw. "My mother would be so happy you said that."
"I heard," Peter said quietly, "that you too argued about, about which students should come here. A secret chamber, all that. From my mum." Remus thought about adding what his dad and mum had said, but he kept quiet.
"Well, that, too. It was one of those things that seemed very important back then. Everything seemed very important back then." Slytherin shrugged. "It was all the same fight."
"Oh, you say that now." Gryffindor wasn't glaring, though. For once, he just looked tired. "The same fight. If you'd done this and I'd done that and Helga hadn't been quite so loud at breakfast with her chewing and her slurping, we'd all be happy now, wouldn't we?"
"Helga Hufflepuff ate loudly?" Remus said. He'd have to tell his mother.
"Yes, she did." Gryffindor snorted. "Slurp, slurp, slurp."
Lily muttered, "Great. We're really making progress."
Remus said, "And if she hadn't, things would have been different, right? You should hear Peter at breakfast. At any meal. He chomps. It's bleeding awful. Many a morning I've wanted to smack him."
Gryffindor peered through the film at him. "You look unwell. Are you ill?"
"No, not really." Remus sighed.
"She was a very loud eater. And it had been years and it just got worse. She'd lost most of her teeth and she still managed to be louder than a herd of hippogriffs. One morning, I pointed that out. Professor Gryffindor objected to my pointing that out." Slytherin shrugged again. "Things went south from there. Our final argument. I imagine they write about it much differently."
"The slurping doesn't come up, no." James said.
"They leave all the good stuff out," Gryffindor said. "All the meat and the vitals and guts. Slurping breakfasts, the way this infernal castle used to smell in the afternoons --"
"The smell, that rank awful smell." Slytherin shuddered. "Brilliant, invention of plumbing, quite stunning. Bless the Muggle that thought of that."
Lily blinked. "I thought you hated Muggles."
"Maybe I did. But it's been a thousand years, as you mentioned. One does forgive, occasionally."
"Occasionally," Gryffindor said. "Very very occasionally, apparently."
"Well, other people don't haunt me in my eternal rest and drag me along in their pathetic attempts to recreate something that wasn't very good to begin with."
"Yes," Gryffindor said. "It wasn't very good at all. And I'm hardly attempting to recreate anything. We were never like this when we were alive."
"Do you even remember?" Slytherin hissed.
"Of course I do. I remember all of it. You ate very quietly."
Remus glanced at Sirius and Sirius blinked. James glanced at Lily. Peter stepped forward one small step.
Slytherin said, "You, on the other hand, always had food stuck in your rather ugly beard."
"You say that now." Gryffindor grimaced.
"I believe I said it then."
"Sometimes." Gryffindor turned suddenly and pushed at the film surround them. "Your spell is weakening, young man."
"Yes," Sirius said. "But I think. I was thinking. That perhaps you might use this time to continue your conversation. You have, I would guess, another ten minutes trapped together like this." He swallowed.
Gryffindor said, "It is amusing. Watching you just stand there."
"The spell only lasts, what? Thirty minutes? I can tolerate a half hour in your presence. Who else remembers Rowena's delightful pronunciation?"
"She had a lisp. And then she lost more teeth and it was increasingly pronounced." Gryffindor stared at the ceiling. "What a thing to remember and value. But I forget, you were driven out of Hogwarts because of Helga's way of eating pudding."
Slytherin said, "It was a scone and that was merely the final thing I could not bear about your dominance of this school, this place we built. Your ideas and thoughts and all of that." He drifted as high as he could, the picture of nonchalance.
"I had nothing to do with Helga's scones or her method of eating them."
"No, you didn't. It was, as always, everything else. And apparently I was rude." Slytherin rolled his eyes and drifted back down to Gryffindor's level.
"You were unspeakably rude."
"Well, some of us call it charm."
"No one calls it charm, that's just the excuse rude people use," Lily said. James stepped on her foot and she took a step back.
"The girl is right," Gryffindor said. "It was not charming."
Slytherin yawned. "Yes. So I was made to understand. Along with my place and my level of understanding and how things would be."
"You are always very trying," Gryffindor said. Peter took another step back, moving slightly away from the dissipating film of smoke.
"But charming." Slytherin actually smiled at that. Peter tugged at James's robe and James glanced at him. He also backed up a step. And touched Lily's hand as she did the same thing.
"Not as much as you thought." Remus and Sirius both stepped back at the same time.
Sirius tucked his wand in his robe as he walked over to other three. Remus was only one step behind him. They all retreated slowly away from the ghosts. The film was nearly gone.
As they watched, the two ghosts drifted together until there was just one column of gray. Then the film of smoke disappeared completely and the hall was completely clear of anything but the five of them, staring.
Remus decided against telling either of his parents any of it.
Back to StoriesSend feedback to k. All files copyright 2003 k. Whoo!