But of course, no one ever listens to good advice. Especially not Hermione Granger, who, contrary to popular opinion, was not nearly smart enough to know that when dead people say 'leave well alone,' they mean leave well alone. So, as soon as she got the chance, she went into the boys dormitory and started looking for the tape amongst his stuff.
"If this bloke – this bloke who happens to be dead, now – said 'don't watch the tape'," Ron said to her, "then maybe you shouldn't be looking for it."
"If there is a tape and it has something to do with his death, Ronald," Hermione replied – the full name used when she was really annoyed – "then it's my duty to find it and give it to Professor McGonagall."
"Yeah," Ron said, "but I know that look. You're thinking of watching it."
"Don't be silly Ron," she said, smiling slightly. "Where would I watch a videotape in Hogwarts?"
And then, she found it, a small black tape amongst a pile of notes, all, apparently, something to do with the selfsame tape – a diary that she ignored, and pictures – all of the little girl. All moving, wandering around. Obviously, no indication of the personality of the real one, but still, the restless wandering seemed… what?
Of course, there was a place you could watch a videotape in Hogwarts. The Muggle Studies classroom was perfect for such an end.
She sat down in front of the tape player and TV, and started the tape.
A ring of white light. Hermione actually felt like she was craning her neck to look at it.
Blood in water.
Comb through hair. Hermione almost – almost – felt as though the comb was going through her hair, and she raised a hand to touch her hair as if in reflex.
A woman combing her hair, visible only in a mirror. Then the mirror jumped to the other side of the screen, and a little girl -the little girl – stepped backwards. Then it cut to the woman again. She was smiling.
A man, looking down on her, from a window. She felt the vaguest sense of unease.
A sea view – from the top of a cliff. A fly wandered around at the top of the screen, right on the camera lens. She felt an absurd urge to pluck it from the screen.
A vomiting mouth.
A face, struggling against a black plastic bag. Hermione raised a hand to her mouth, as if to check she could still breath.
A crescent moon.
A burning tree.
The nail, impaling a finger. Hermione actually gasped, and looked at her hands. Intact. Don't worry, some part of her mine told her.
People, writhing like maggots. Some part of her almost laughed at the insinuation.
A chair, being pushed back from a table – by a giant centipede.
A three legged… something, wandering behind a door.
A horses eye.
Crescent moon, again, but closing up, slowly.
Fingers severed, twitching in a box.
The burning tree, again, but this time, the tape seemed to be knackered, and it warped even as she watched.
The face struggling against the black plastic again.
And then the woman from the mirror was turning around, looking at the camera – no. At Hermione, more like. It felt like she was being judged. Judged. But by who? What for?
The window was empty, abandoned, like her. Hang on – where had that thought come from?!
The chair was suspended, spinning.
A dead horse, against a sea shore.
The woman again – falling from the cliff. Rather than feel sympathy, Hermione felt a curious sense of… justice? Relief?
The ladder, falling.
The crescent moon turned into the ring of light.
The ladder fell, hitting the ground with mundane finality.
A well, in front of some woods.
She stared at the static screen for some time, expecting more. What was this? What did it all mean? It was like…
She started, then looked at the phone over by the wall. She walked over, and without thinking, picked it up.
"Hello?" she said.
The voice that replied chilled her to the bone.
She blinked. It was mad, absolutely mad, absolutely terrifying, why was it terrifying, why was she scared, what the hell was this?
What were the answers she sought?
Perhaps the notes would be helpful, but there was only so much even she could learn from a book.
No; there was, however, something that could help. Someone who loved messing around with this Muggle stuff.
"Could you say that again, and say it slower this time?"
Alan Munro was, to all intents and purposes, Arthur Weasley with brown hair and more of it. He didn't know Mr Weasley, except by reputation, but had often consulted his office for advice on Muggle artefacts. He was also a keen horror movie fan, because, oddly, he found them amusing.
"This tape," Hermione said to him, holding up the tape so he could see it clearly, "is cursed."
"Oh," the Ravenclaw said ,putting his glasses on and studying the item clearly. "Ah, right. And…?"
"And it kills people," Hermione said. By now, the news of the dead Gryffindor had been delivered by Professor Dumbledore, and Alan's eyes widened.
"This is the thing that I think did it," she said. "He made all sorts of notes regarding it, and he seemed to think it would kill him."
"Huh," Alan said, and he smiled. "and you want me…?"
"And I want you to watch it, yes," Hermione said, starting to get a little exasperated. "I need someone's help, I don't want to get Harry or Ron involved, and this is right up your alley."
"What are we waiting for, then?" he asked.