Chapter 28 - Thrall
Having finished the first section of the book, the one that described the method to become a ghost upon dying, Bellatrix started to read the second section of the book. It was toward the end of the second section and the beginning of the third section that she exclaimed:
"Something like this was possible?! By Morgana, that's...beyond evil!"
Due to the fact that the book was written in Latin - it was at least 800 years old - she decided to double-check it and re-read the section again. As a Senior Unspeakable and a researcher of magic, she was required to know how to speak, read, and write Latin and Ancient Greek perfectly. Depending on what they specialized in, other Unspeakables were fluent in Egyptian and Ancient Aramaic instead. That being said, as unlikely as it was for her to have made a mistake in translating the meaning of the Latin words she had read, she decided to go over it one more time. (1)
Though all attempts at artificially creating poltergeists had ended up in failure, it has been noted that negative feelings and chaos do lead to their birth into this world. As such, Dark Lady Rutilia (Sicily, 153-330 AD) tried to create such an environment on purpose by sacrificing 50 slaves, thinking that their resentment towards their unjust deaths would act as a source for the birth of a poltergeist. To her dismay, a poltergeist did not spawn despite all her efforts. However, she made a rather intriguing discovery [...]
"What happened next?" Harry asked.
"It turns out that one of the slaves that she sacrificed was a wizard. And it came back to haunt her as a ghost," Bellatrix said. "The Wizarding World at large has always been kind of helpless in how to deal with ghosts and poltergeists. That dark witch Rutilia didn't know how to expel ghosts either. But after several years of torment, she finally created a spell that could cause pain to spirits as well."
"Don't tell me... the Cruciatus?"
Bellatrix shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. The book doesn't say its name. But it does say that Rutillia went on to become a Dark Lady after she found a way to forcefully bring back as ghosts the people she killed. She called them Thralls."
"This is very obscure stuff. I've travelled the world for more than a decade and encountered all kinds of dark wizards and dark magics. But I've never heard of something like this before," Harry said. The Voldemort of his past life may have been evil but after killing someone he was done with them. He wouldn't bring their ghosts back and continue to torture them.
"It gets even worse. Those ghosts that she had enthralled not only were completely under her command, but she could even use their resentment as catalysts for curses and rituals."
"You mean to say-"
"Yes. That's why we couldn't find any cursed artefacts, that's why we couldn't find the physical object that served as the anchor for Voldemort's Jinx! There was no physical object in the first place! He had used a ghost's, a Thrall's resentment as the source of power for his Jinx. My money is on the ghost of the girl that he had murdered when he opened the Chamber of Secrets! Moaning Myrtle!"
She had finally found the solution to the problem that nobody had been able to solve for decades! Her normally pale cheeks were slightly flushed and her violet eyes were shining. Her face was radiating with victory.
"That's fantastic!" he said, also sharing her enthusiasm. He let out a long sigh of relief as the worry that had been weighing on his mind since the start of that school year finally vanished.
"But there's just one little problem," Bellatrix said. "I'm not sure how to get rid of it."
"You mean the ghost."
"Yeah. The book doesn't say the actual names of the spells that Dark Lady Rutilia used to enslave the souls of the people she murdered."
Harry groaned. "So we're back to square one?"
"Oh come on, don't be such a downer! At least we know what's the problem now! Everything is going to be fine!"
"No, it's not fine! It's not fine at all! We don't know any spells that can affect ghosts. At least I don't. How do you kill off a ghost? You can't! Damn it."
He sat up from his chair and started to pace around Bellatrix's office.
"Back in my world, my DADA professors ended up killed, with their memories wiped completely, their souls sucked by a Dementor, or ravaged by a herd of centaurs... shit! This is bad, only two-three months left..." he swore and brushed a hand through his hair, making it messier than it was already.
As far as Harry knew, there were no spells capable of killing a ghost. That was the actual tragedy of a ghost's existence: they were unable to die or disappear, no matter how much time passed. With the passing of centuries, many ghosts started to second-guess themselves, to regret choosing this form of existence due to their fear of death. But there was no turning back from it. That was the price they had to pay for defying the natural order of things, for choosing to become a ghost rather than pass on. Now, they were stuck in a grey life, devoid of warmth, pleasure, and happiness for eternity. That being the case, how would the Jinx be stopped? The only other way he could think of was to kill Voldemort but that was impossible at the moment.
Melodious piano notes could be heard on the fifth corridor of the castle, from the half-open door of the Music Classroom. It was a rather popular keyboard composition created by the Muggle composer Johann Bach, Prelude in C Major. But music had no borders. Even purebloods with their sense of superiority acknowledged the genius of Muggle composers such as Bach.
The person currently playing the piano was far from being as good as Bach. Proof of that was that they suddenly hit a wrong note and then stopped.
"Don't sweat it. It's okay to make mistakes. Just take it from the beginning," a woman's voice was heard.
The pianist started playing from the beginning but he soon hit a wrong note again.
"Concentrate, Harry. This isn't a difficult song. Once you memorized it, it should be easy because the rhythm doesn't change on every bar. With your Occlumency, memorizing a sheet shouldn't be that difficult."
Harry started playing again but he made another mistake and stopped, for the third time.
"Sorry. I can't relax. I can't focus. I can't play the piano right now... do we even have time for this?"
Bellatrix came next to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Worrying and being stressed out continuously won't help with anything. You need to calm down. Just take a moment and relax. Forget about the Jinx. Forget about your problems. Just enjoy the moment. Enjoy the music."
Saying that, she led him to sit on a chair to the side and then she sat on the piano stool alone. He was briefly startled by the unexpectedly joyous notes that she started to play but as he watched Bellatrix putting her heart into it, he could not hold back his smile. The song she was playing was Vivaldi's Four Seasons - Spring.
'That's so like her. Always passionate, always with a teasing smile on her face, always full of life.'
She turned her head to grin at him and Harry chuckled. Seeing him laugh, she began to play with even more enthusiasm than before.
"Who's there? No use in hiding, I can hear you! Come out!" the scared voice of a girl echoed in the large and empty bathroom.
"Didn't mean to scare you," a boy replied and his body magically became visible for the girl to see him as well.
"Well, what did you come here for? You're here to poke fun at me like everyone else?" the girl replied and came out of her toilet booth. Floated would be a better word because the girl in question was not alive. She was a ghost.
"I wanted to talk to you. I'm curious about something. How did you become a ghost?"
The ghost girl's expression suddenly became brighter.
"Why are you asking? Do you want to become a ghost too?!" She giggled and looked at him from head to toes. Her smile became even wider and she floated closer to him. "You know, if you do become a ghost, my toilet's doors are always open for you."
Harry barely suppressed a snort at Moaning Myrtle's not so subtle insinuations.
"I don't want to die anytime soon. But I'll keep your offer in mind," he said neutrally. "What makes me curious though, is how did you become a ghost? You're the only child ghost at Hogwarts... and the only child ghost that I've ever seen too. It's strange."
Myrtle sat on a sink and she swayed her legs as she started to speak about the day she died. She seemed to be in a great mood, enjoying the way Harry was giving her his undivided attention. It turned out that her story was no different than that of Myrtle from his original world. She was crying due to being bullied in the toilet when she heard a boy's voice in the bathroom. When she opened the door to chase the boy away, two large yellow eyes was the last thing she saw. She had been killed by the Basilisk's death gaze.
"And you became a ghost after that? Just like that?"
"This isn't normal."
"Well excuse me, the way I died wasn't normal either!" Myrtle bit back, starting to get annoyed.
"Look, someone doesn't become a ghost just like that. Otherwise, if all the people that died with regrets became ghosts, there would be millions of ghosts in this world. You have to leave an imprint of your soul in this world in order to become a ghost. There is a ritual that you would have to do for that. You can ask Nearly Headless Nick if you don't believe me."
'I guess this verifies Bellatrix's theory. Come to think of it, was Myrtle from my old world brought back as a ghost in this manner too?' he thought.
Even as he was speaking to the ghost, Harry had discreetly cast several charms for detecting dark magic but nothing came up.
"Say, Myrtle, have you ever thought about passing on?"
"Can't say I haven't. But it's impossible, Lady Grey told me so."
"What if there was a way, would you want to pass on?"
Myrtle floated closer to him again and looked at him curiously.
"I guess I would?" she said, unsure of the answer herself. "I mean, why wouldn't I? I don't have any friends, and nobody talks to me either...I often get lonely."
The bathroom sank into silence.
"There might be a way," he said, breaking the silence.
Myrtle looked at him sceptically.
"I'm not 100% sure but it's worth a shot. You've ever heard of the Veil?"
"No," she shook her head and said. "What's that?"
"It's a gateway to the afterlife."
"Such a thing exists?!"
"Yes. I saw someone dying with my own eyes. Whoever passes through the archway, through the Veil, dies. Nothing is left of them."
"But if this is real, how come none of the ghosts have ever mentioned it? I've been a ghost for decades! Others like Sir Nick or the Bloody Baron have been ghosts for centuries!"
"It's a very big secret of the Department of Mysteries. You can count the people who know about it on the fingers of one hand."
"Then how do you know about it? You're just a little boy!" Myrtle said, her eyes narrowed at him.
"My caretaker is a Senior Unspeakable. She knows everything. If you want, she can arrange for you to try it out."
Myrtle gnawed at her lower lip.
"I don't know, this is so sudden! What's in it for you anyway? Why are you suddenly so kind to me?"
As someone who had been bullied her entire life both as a human and as a ghost, Myrtle had all the reasons to be suspicious in regards to someone showing kindness to her out of the blue.
"You look like you died when you were around my age. I just thought that maybe you would like it if you could go with your parents in the afterlife too... I know I'd want that if I were you. I'm an orphan and I've always missed my parents. I can only imagine how much you're missing them after not seeing them for so long."
The girl teared up at his words and translucent, silvery tears started to roll down her cheeks.
"I'll let you think about it, okay?" Harry said in a gentle voice. "I'll come to ask you for your answer in one week. But you need to promise me one thing: don't talk to anyone else about what I told you or my caretaker would be in serious problems and they could even wipe my memory too."
Myrtle wiped at her eyes with the sleeve of her blouse and sniffed but nodded seriously.
"Don't worry, I promise. I would not cause you any problems after how nice you've been to me."
"Thank you, Myrtle. I will leave for now. Good night."
As he turned to leave, the ghost girl called out for him.
"Wait! You've never told me your name!"
"Harry. I'm Harry Potter."
"Thank you for talking to me, Harry," Myrtle said and waved her hand in goodbye. "Good night!"
He smiled at her one more time and then left the defective bathroom. But once he was out in the corridor, his face abruptly lost all the warmth and gentleness from before. Leaving Moaning Myrtle's bathroom behind, he started walking at a brisk pace towards the second floor of the castle. He only stopped when he arrived in front of the office of the DADA professor. After knocking two times, he waited for Bellatrix's confirmation before entering.
"You're back already. How did it go?" she asked from behind her desk. She was in the middle of grading some test papers.
"I gave her one week to think about it. Chances are that I managed to convince her... but we should prepare to go on with our plan B in case she doesn't want to."
Bellatrix momentarily put aside the papers and looked at him seriously. After several days of brainstorming, the two of them got the idea that maybe the Veil of Death could be used to kill ghosts. It was only a theory on their part, but it was the only thing they had. With that thought in mind, they came up with two plans: the first was to convince the ghost to willingly step into the Veil. The second, the so-called "Plan B", was to force her, to throw Myrtle into the Veil regardless of whether she wanted it or not. Bellatrix did not agree with Plan B for multiple reasons.
"I don't like your plan B. It's immoral. And the worst part is that it's way too dangerous."
"I'm a Parselmouth. There is no danger for me."
"I just don't like it! This is taking it too far. Blimey, I'll just quit my job as a professor if worse came to worst. In the first place, I've never intended to stay at Hogwarts for more than one year. I only came here for you; but since I know you don't need me to look over you any longer, I don't see a reason to stay next year too. I belong to the Department of Mysteries."
"Listen, Bella. I've done many things in my past. Some of them were terrible, things I'm not proud of but things that were necessary. Things that I'd do all over again if I was faced with those situations. Breeding a Basilisk is far from my bottom limit. As for Myrtle? She should've been dead a long time ago. This is the world of the living. We are family, I'd do anything to keep you safe. I'm sure you'd do the same for me."
Bellatrix became silent. She was seeing a dark side of Harry that she had only seen once before, when he executed in cold blood the unconscious Death Eater by beheading him. It reminded her that under the exterior of a cute and small green-eyed boy, there was a dangerous and vicious man, a war veteran that had no qualms about getting his hands dirty if it meant achieving his goals.
'But he's doing it all for me.'
Every time she got to see that darker side of him, it was because of her sake. Someone that was willing to do anything for the sake of his family - how many people could honestly say they hated such a man? She did not hate him either. Far from that. She had never forgotten her promise to him that she would never give up on him. She accepted him as he was, both the good and the bad.
AN: I loved your reactions to the previous chapter. It's so awesome to see the readers brainstorm over what had actually happened. Now, as you have seen, Myrtle is not a Horcrux. The only Horcrux that has appeared in this fic so far is the Diary that Narcissa had given to Bellatrix during their Christmas reunion. Moaning Myrtle is a Thrall in this story. Someone who was killed and whose ghost was brought back against her will. Voldemort used Myrtle's existence as the anchor for his Jinx and her resentment at her untimely and unjust death as its source of power. A nasty piece of Dark Magic and Necromancy.
(1) Most scholars still used Latin to write their books in the Middle Ages. Latin didn't suddenly die out after the Roman Empire's fall. It was still being used even 1000 years later.