As the Headmaster dismissed the students, Tom shot a look toward Rose. The little Ravenclaw smiled and nodded. As the masses filled out of the Hall, prefects barking orders to the first years of each of their respective houses, Tom slid out the door and up against the wall. A few moments later, Rose also walked out the door. Tom grabbed the little blond by the elbow, “Let’s just wait here till the crowds calm down,” he grinned, “You got the flowers right?”
“Of course I do,” the Ravenclaw replied with a toss of her golden curls. “It’s not like this is our first year doing this or anything.” She grinned, refusing to let any other issues ruin the evening, and wrapped an arm around his waist in a light hug. They were on the precipice of a new year… it was impossible to feel anything other than hopeful at the moment. “Are you ready for all this?” She waved a hand at the students flocking by, indicating that she was thinking beyond the night’s activities.
“Are we ever ready for all this?” Tom laughed, “I mean good lord Rose, we’re starting the second to last year here, and it seems like only yesterday that we were walking this staircase for the first time.”
~6 years ago~
Tom trudged up the stairs. He wasn’t even watching where the rest of the Gryffindors were traveling, and as he hit the landing to the third floor they were no where to be found. He shot glimpses back and forth but couldn’t find anyone.
Rose was sulking. It was unattractive and unproductive… and she couldn’t stop. She wasn’t upset about being in Ravenclaw –being in her parents’ old house was a dream come true– she was nearly in tears at the thought of being in Ravenclaw without Tommy. “Stupid hat,” she muttered to herself. Her words echoed back to her in the alarmingly empty hallway. Looking up sharply, the tiny blonde suddenly realized that she was all alone… and completely lost.
“Stupid hat,” Tom’s grumble echoed against the walls, “Lando’s in Hufflepuff. Danny and Rose are in Ravenclaw, and where am I? Stuck in Gryffindor. I mean sure Céilidh’s there, but she’s kind of a prat.” Tom stopped at a little alcove, sat down, and skulked.
Certain that retracing her steps was a good idea, Rose turned around and began to hurry back down the hall. But since the tiny blonde had been walking aimlessly instead of paying attention, the retracing plan proved to be harder than she’d hoped. “Hello?” she called out tentatively, praying that someone nice was still around. Silence was the only answer. Near tears, she quickly turned down another hallway, hoping to see anything even remotely familiar.
Tom stewing in his alcove, her the “Hello?” echo of the walls.
His mouth opened, “Rosie?”
“Tommy?” Speeding around another corner, Rose wiped her eyes at the sight of her best friend. “Oh my gosh I thought I was lost but now we can…” She paused and gave him a curious look. “What are you doing out here?”
His bottom lip popped out over his upper lip, “I got,” his sniffed loudly, “lost.”
Rose crossed the few remaining feet between them in a sudden rush and wrapped her arms around him. Now she didn’t feel quite so bad. “Me too. I was thinking and walking and stuff and then I was all alone and then I found you…”
“I think I wanna go home,” Tom sniffed again, “I don’t really like it here.”
Somehow, hearing that he was upset made it okay for her to be upset too. “How can we be in different houses? It’s just… not the way it should be!”
“I know,” Tommy grumbled, “I’m all alone and with,” he sighed, “Benny.”
Rose wrinkled her nose. “I’m sorry. I mean, at least I have Danny with me. But you have Céilidh, that’s kinda good right?”
Tom shrugged, “I guess.”
As the two barely first years sat and held each other, two heads popped out of the wall above them, “There you two are.”
“Your houses are worried sick.”
Despite having seen the house ghosts at dinner, Rose let out a little scream and hid behind Tommy at the sight of two figures coming through the wall.
“We got a… little lost,” Tom said straightening himself up a bit.
“How did you get lost?” The Grey Lady fully came out of the wall along with Nearly Headless Nick and floated in front of the kids, “All you had to do was follow the rest of your house mates.”
The Gryffindor ghost, knelt down eye level with the children, “I think there is more to it than that.”
Still hidden behind her friend’s back, Rose sniffled and nodded. “We didn’t mean to, sir. I wasn’t paying attention and Tommy wasn’t either. We were both kinda…” She wiped her eyes and peered out under his arm. “The Sorting Hat was wrong tonight. We’re in the wrong houses.”
Nick nodded as best he could, his head almost falling off, “Why do you feel that way my dear?”
Trying to look anywhere but his neck, Rose wiped her eyes on the back of Tommy’s robes and took a deep breath. “We’re not together,” she answered as if that explained everything.
“We’ve almost always been together,” Tom looked at the two ghosts as if they could fix things.
The Grey Lady’s ghostly eyes seemed to soften a bit, “I know that it can be, disconcerting, but it is a part of growing up.”
“She is right little ones,” the ghost smiled, “You will learn many things in your time at Hogwarts. Including how to make new friends and how to hold on to the people you’re close to even when separated by an entire castle.” He smiled again, seeming to radiate a genuine warmth despite his insubstantial form. “I promise you both, no one wants you to be miserable here. They only want you to grow and thrive.”
“A-are you sure,” Tommy said as his expression brightened.
“My lad,” the ghost smiled as he straightened himself, “in the almost five hundred years that I have haunted these halls, I have seen it time and time again.”
Curiosity overcoming her sadness and apprehension, Rose leaned in closer. “Five hundred? Really? So you probably know everything there is to know about the castle.”
The ghost beamed with more than a little bit of pride, “Not every secret is open to me, but I know several things that have been forgotten to time.”
The tiny blonde looked back and forth between the two ghosts. “But could you teach us? I mean, that would be so amazing. This place is so huge and we’re so new and…” She took a deep breath and smiled at them both, completely forgetting about the lack of Tommy in her house for a minute.
The faintest of smiles graced the Grey Lady’s lips. “Perhaps we should start with simply finding your way to your common rooms.”
Tom and Rose made their way up the staircase toward the same alcove they both had cried in six years earlier. As they turned the corner, they found the other participants in this ritual were already there.
“Prompt as always Sir Nicholas,” Tom smiled.
Rose was smiling too. Giving a graceful little curtsey, she presented a boquet of the most colorful flowers she could find to the Gray Lady. At times it still made her sad that she couldn’t actually give anything to the quiet Ravenclaw ghost, but putting the brilliant blooms in a prominent place where she could see them would have to do… for now. “Welcome to another year, Miss Lady.”
“Thank you my dear,” the female ghost bowed her head to Rose.
“Another year begins my friends,” The ghost said as he bowed low to Ambrosia, “I am so pleased to see you back this year.”
Rose’s smile held a faint touch of sadness. “Nothing could keep me away, Sir Nicholas. I’d miss you both far too much.”
“And we would most definitely miss you,” the ghost beamed, “I can not believe that there are only two years remaining in your tenure here.”
“Is it bad that I don’t want to leave?” Tom grinned.
“Yes,” the blonde laughed as she answered for the ghosts.
The Grey Lady gave another faintly wistful smile. “Indeed. Knowing when to move on is as important as any of your others lessons here.”
“Well we wouldn’t have even made it this far if it weren’t for you,” Tom smiled, “As we say every year, thank you.”
“Thank you,” Rose echoed. Since it felt so strange not to be able to hug someone she felt so much appreciation for, she settled for wrapping an arm around Tommy’s waist as they smiled at the ghostly pair.
The two ghosts looked at each other and then back at the sixth years. If they were not ghosts, Tom and Rose could have sworn they had tears in their eyes. Sir Nick smiled broader than before, “You two are so very, very welcome.”