"So you've lived here 300 years?" Hair asked eagerly, leaning over her plate on the kitchen table.
She and Scar watched him curiously, though Girl, Surly, Loud, and Harridan didn't seem to be paying much attention. Dave was glad Hair and Scar were here. Man and the Uptight one were at work — apparently, the Ministry was busier than ever — and Rebel, the French One, and the Adventurer wouldn't be coming by until later.
The Adventurer — Charlie — was as smart as Dave remembered, and had wisely chosen to sleep at his brother's place instead of his awful mum's while he was in town.
"Just about," Dave told Hair.
They were eating lunch — their third together in a row — and one thing he'd learned is that Hair had a lot of questions. He might find it annoying — he wasn't quite used to so many questions (or any questions… or talking, really) — but she was the only wand carrier he'd ever met who actually seemed interested in answers from a non-wand carrier, so in truth he found it sort of charming.
"Because From Ghouls to Goblins said that ghouls only live 100 years," she said in a rush, "though it honestly didn't have all that much information."
"Books written by wand carriers rarely do," Dave informed her, taking a bite of his potatoes. Harridan was an awful creature, but she sure made up for it with these potatoes.
Surly eyed him warily. "How many books have you read?" he asked, rather rudely if you asked Dave.
"How many have you?" Dave shot back. Dave had lived in the boy's garishly decorated room for nearly a year. Books didn't seem to be a particular pastime of his, and the ones he did have had dust all over them.
Truth be told, it was Dave's favorite part of the room. Sure, it was an infernal color, but at least it was messy, the way a proper room should be.
Surly gaped at him, his ears turning red. "More than you," he muttered angrily.
Loud snorted. "He's lived 300 years, Ronniekins," he pointed out.
"How can he read them?" Surly retorted. "He'll get his slime all over them! You can't even turn the pages with those hands!"
"I turn them with my toes—obviously," Dave sniffed. Honestly, wand carriers knew nothing about ghouls.
Hair nearly popped out of her seat, looking like she had about a thousand questions about ghouls' appendages. Loud was eyeing his slime in a way that made Dave wary.
"That's really fascinating," Loud said insincerely. "Tell me, about how much slime do you make in a day?"
Dave shrugged. "Probably about as much spit as you make in a day."
Loud's eyes lit up, and Dave remembered how he and Louder had routinely visited him in his attic to steal his slime. This one had to be watched.
Harridan turned red.
"Well, honestly," she exploded, angrily plopping potatoes on her plate, "people are trying to eat. That's enough about slime and spit and whatever other gross bits and bobs you can think up."
"But gross bits and bobs are our bread and butter, mum," Loud said cheekily. "It's like you've never even been in the store."
He turned his head to the left, as if waiting for a witty rejoinder, but his smile faded when he saw Girl cutting up her chicken, not even paying attention to the conversation.
Dave understood. Girl didn't put him in a particularly good mood, either.
Loud looked down, unconsciously touching where his ear should be, before taking a big gulp of water.
"Well," Harridan said loudly, clapping her hands. "There's a lot to do this afternoon. The gnomes are getting restless again."
Surly groaned, but Loud nodded resolutely. "We'll take care of it, mum," he said.
"It'll be fun," Girl said brightly, smiling widely.
"What do you know about it?" Surly muttered. "Mum never made you help."
Girl shot him a dirty look. "Who, exactly, do you think got rid of the gnomes all by herself the year you lot were all at Hogwarts and I was here by myself?" she asked snidely. "Maybe all that throwing is why I'm better at quidditch than you."
Surly scowled. "Right. A half-dozen throwing sessions seven years ago is exactly the same as a lifetime of tossing gnomes like George and I have done."
Girl might have had a reply, but both she and Surly shut up quick when Dave interrupted them.
"I hardly think you could call what you do 'getting rid of them,'" he noted, not looking up as he cut up his chicken. "They're only gone for a day or two. I barely have any time to get a proper run in."
"You exercise?" Hair asked eagerly.
"How do you think I stay so fit?" he responded.
"You're not even usually up during the day," Surly pointed out. "And all you do at night is clang on the pipes and interrupt my sleep."
"Well, you all interrupt my sleep," Dave pointed out. "And most of that clanging is just me doing pull ups on the pipes. Which I wouldn't have to do, by the way, if the garden wasn't overrun with gnomes and I could exercise like a normal ghoul."
Girl and Loud looked confused. "How else would you get rid of gnomes than throwing them over the hedge?" Girl asked.
Dave popped a piece of chicken into his mouth. "Just pour a bit of sugar in their burrows," he answered. "That'll attract sugar mitts, and gnomes hate sugar mitts. You'll never see them again."
"Hang on," Surly said, his voice raised, "are you saying I've been tossing gnomes for years and I didn't have to?" He turned toward his mother.
"Well," Harridan said a bit anxiously, her voice higher than usual, "Gilderoy Lockhart's Guide to Household Pests says—"
"Are you saying we've been tossing gnomes because Lockhart said so?" Surly thundered, looking surlier than usual. "He tried to wipe my memory. He almost got Ginny killed!"
Dave wasn't sure who this Lockhart was, but he didn't seem to like Surly and Girl all that much either. Maybe he was the git potions professor. Or You-Know-Who! Dave would love to know who the You-Know-Who character was.
Whoever this Lockhart fellow was, he couldn't be that bad, even if he didn't know a thing about gnomes.
"That doesn't mean Lockhart doesn't know what he's talking about with household pests," Harridan shot back.
"Well apparently not if even the ghoul's got a better idea for how to get rid of them," Surly retorted. Dave shot him and his condescending attitude a nasty look.
"The ghoul has read a book or two," Dave sniffed. "Better books than you, apparently."
"What are sugar mitts?" Hair asked loudly, shooting Surly a warning look before turning to Dave, giving him an encouraging smile.
"Cute little things," Dave answered. "They're sort of like fairies, only their wings and hair are made of fire."
"I've never heard of them!"
"Of course not. They don't like wand carriers — I doubt any wand carrier has ever even seen one."
Hair's eyes got comically wide. Scar grinned.
"So you're saying there are magical creatures wizards have never seen?" Girl asked. "Luna will be thrilled."
"Are crumple-horned snorkacks real?" Scar asked, shooting Hair a playful look. She narrowed her eyes, but smiled softly at him anyway.
Dave frowned. He hadn't thought Scar was an idiot.
"Have your brains been addled or something?" he asked. "What the ruddy hell is a crumple-horned snorkack? Just because there are creatures wand carriers have never seen doesn't mean you can just go about making up whatever creatures you want."
"Sorry," Scar said, and he seemed sincere about it, so Dave decided to drop it. Hair seemed to like him, so he really wanted to give this one a chance.
Hair looked triumphant and Scar smiled at her. It was warm and sweet and none of the others seemed to notice it at all.
"Well then, maybe we should try the sugar method," Hair announced briskly.
Which is how Dave found himself sitting in the shade of a tree wearing a pair of Loud's sunglasses — he'd smiled mischievously when he handed them over, so Dave was half certain there was something wrong with them — watching Hair, Scar, Surly, and Loud pour sugar in the holes in the garden.
Hair approached the task eagerly, precisely measuring out the exact amount Dave had told her. Scar was less exact, and Loud and Surly were downright haphazard in their approach, occasionally tossing handfuls of sugar at each other.
Girl and Harridan were still in the kitchen thankfully. Soon enough, Scar wandered over to Dave.
"You all right?" Scar asked.
"I'm not a huge fan of the sun," Dave replied. Ghouls normally only went outside at night.
Scar sat down next to him, watching Hair, Surly, and Loud go about their task, occasionally pulling at blades of grass. Dave surveyed him. He seemed like a reasonable sort, even if he did ask nutter questions about snorkacks.
"Can I ask you a question?"
Scar eyed him warily, but nodded.
Whatever Scar had been expecting, it wasn't that.
"Voldemort," he replied flatly. "He was an evil wizard. He's dead now."
As far as ghouls were concerned, there was a very thin line between evil wand carriers and the regular ones.
"How'd he die?"
Scar hesitated. "I… sort of killed him," he said. Dave must have looked surprised because he added, "Well, not really. He kind of killed himself when he was trying to kill me. It's complicated."
"Why was he trying to kill you?"
"There was this prophecy," Scar said. "It's a long story, but he tried to kill me a bunch of times and… well, it never really stuck."
Dave found he was glad about that, and so he told Scar that. It was Scar's turn to look surprised, so Dave reasoned, "You and Hair are two of the better wand carriers I know."
"I didn't know her name at first," Dave admitted. "It took me awhile to figure out Hair was the know-it-all" — Scar scowled at that — "and Hair was shorter to say."
Scar eyed him curiously. "Have you given us all nicknames?"
Scar grunted. "Can't you just call me Harry?" he asked.
Dave shook his head. "That won't do. Hair and Harry — the names are too close. It would get awful confusing. Do you not like Scar?"
"It's a bit of a stupid nickname. And it's sort of what I'm famous for —" he broke off uncomfortably.
"I could call you the Immortal One," Dave suggested helpfully, "since you're so hard to kill and all."
Scar shook his head. "Well that's no better."
"The Nice One?"
"A bit damning with faint praise, isn't it? If the best character trait you can come up with for someone is nice?"
Dave didn't think that at all. Nice was a very rare trait in wand carriers in his opinion.
Dave eyed the man with the messy hair, lightning bolt scar, and bright green eyes. "Well, I'd call you Hair, but we've already got one of those," he said. "Glasses, maybe?"
Scar considered that. "I suppose Glasses is all right."
"The Uptight One has glasses too, though," Dave muttered, wondering if the nickname was satisfactory. "It's not exactly distinctive."
Glasses snickered at that. "Well, it's not like Hermione is the only one with hair, is it?"
He had a point.
"Yes, but she has so much of it," Dave mused. "And it's all tangled and messy."
"It's just curly. Lots of girls have curly hair."
"How do your hands not get stuck in it when you're — what do you call it? Snogging? If you were ghouls, the slime would help glide your hands out. But you don't have any slime — pity."
Glasses turned red.
"Er, you know about that?" he asked, turning a bit red.
"You spend half the nights you spend here — my usual daytime, if you remember — glued to her lips," Dave retorted. "It's sort of hard to miss."
"Right. Could you, er, not mention that to anyone? We haven't told anyone yet, and Ron and Ginny might get mad."
Surly, mad? Surely not! Dave wasn't sure what they had to be mad about, but he shrugged his agreement anyway. He'd rather side with Glasses than them any day.
"Oi!" Loud called from the garden. "Are you two going to help?"
Glasses stood sheepishly, and Dave followed. Girl was out there with them now, and he was determined to be at least as useful as her.
"—don't know what you're so mad about, Ron" Hair was chastising as they approached. Their backs were turned, so they didn't see Glasses and Dave. "He gave you this fix, which makes your life a whole lot easier. You should be thanking Dave."
"What kind of name is that anyway?" Surly muttered. "It's a stupid name for a ghoul."
"It was my uncle's name," Dave informed Glasses loudly, who nodded back.
Surly turned, and Dave saw his ears were red. "I just mean, I wouldn't expect a 300-year old ghoul to have a name like Dave," he said.
"I always called him Morgorloch when I was a little girl," Girl mused stupidly. "It sounds like a ghoul's name."
Dave gaped at her. "It sounds awful."
"She named my owl Pigwidgeon — she's dreadful at names," Surly informed him.
"And you named Percy's rat Scabbers," Ginny shot back.
"Only because Fred and George dared me to!"
Loud laughed. "Percy was more peeved at that than anything we ever did to him," he reflected, a proud, nostalgic smile on his face. "It was beautiful. You best work, Ron, honestly. And besides, Gin, Scabbers turned out to be a murderous traitor so he deserved a stupid name."
"How was a rat a traitor?" Dave asked, confused.
"He was actually a wizard pretending to be a rat," Girl explained, clearly thinking she was clearing things up, but Dave only had more questions.
Why was a wand carrier pretending to be a rat? And why would he choose to spend any more time with the Harridan than he had to? Sure, Dave stuck around all these years, but that's because it was the principle of the thing — she wasn't going to drive him out of his own house.
"Well, I think Dave is a good name," Loud declared, shooting Dave a conspiratorial glance before adding, "Even if I keep wanting to call you Ron."
"He was only pretending to be me for a minute!" Surly exclaimed.
"And he was very good at it," Girl informed him, smiling slyly at Loud. Surly missed that exchange, but Dave didn't.
"The wand carriers all thought I was you," Dave joined in, feeling something warm in his chest as he did. "I was a brilliant Ron."
"They thought you had spattergroit," Surly muttered. "They barely went near you."
"He still did a very good job," Girl complimented Dave. "It was like you never left, Ron."
"Better than, really," Loud added. "He didn't leave his socks around everywhere."
"Because he doesn't need socks!" Surly yelled. "After all, how would he read if his toes were covered up?"
Dave smiled at Surly — for the first time ever, he seemed to be trying to understand ghoul culture — but that just made Surly scowl more.
"He's not a better Ron than me," he muttered, shaking his head as he walked off.
Girl eyed Loud, her eyes sparkling. "You were right," she whispered. "It really is too easy to wind him up."
Loud put his arm around his sister. "I've so much to teach you little one."
There was still a sadness in his eyes — Girl was no Louder — but at least he'd found a kindred spirit.
"You two really shouldn't be so mean," Hair chastised.
Girl put her hand on Hair's shoulder. "It's all right, Hermione, honestly," she said. "This is just how siblings communicate. You and Harry didn't have siblings, so you don't know what it's like."
For some reason, Glasses turned red at that.
Dave still didn't like Girl all that much, but he reflected on her words later that day when he retreated to his bedroom. Maybe she had a point. He wasn't sure he'd call Loud and Girl siblings — the age difference was much too weird — but he still felt that nice feeling in his chest hours later. Strange.
And Surly had proven he'd listened to a thing or two about ghouls. Maybe even he was trying?
Dave took off the sunglasses, and caught sight of himself in the mirror. There were large dark rings around his eyes.
Dave smiled. How thoughtful of Loud to try to make him feel more comfortable by dirtying him up a bit. Maybe he wasn't so bad. Maybe Dave would offer him a bit of his slime — he seemed very interested in that for his gross bits and bobs, and Dave certainly liked gross bits and bobs, too.
There was a commotion downstairs, and a high-pitched voice floated up to him.
"I 'ave brought steak for dinner — my mother's recipe," the French One's voice floated up to him. "Eet eez not full of fat like the foods you are used to. Eet eez very good."
Dave grinned, picturing the look on Harridan's face at that.
He'd better get downstairs to his family.