She cried, and had just a vague feeling as to why she was.
She struggled to bring her mind back to the most recent events, while she kept being badgered by the memory of her mother’s last letter.
Under pressure... Fudge’s suspicious... the work’s at risk... don’t you worry.
Don’t you worry.
As if it was easy, Marietta had thought, tearing the parchment apart in a rage.
When she had calmed down, she had given her a cold, blunt and absolutely untrue reply. She had told her she wasn’t worried, that she was doing her best not to bother Umbridge, and that everything was going to be okay.
Marietta had betrayed her trust, and she knew it. Her mother had spent the whole Christmas holidays sending her little subtle messages as to how important was for her to be in good relations with that old crone.
And she had found herself at a stall.
She had given her word to Cho and to all the DA’s members, but shoes kept falling at the Ministry, and she was worried the next one could be her mother’s.
So she had talked.
She had confessed everything, crying, sure that everything was going to be fine and that the guilt would’ve been erased by the knowledge of having done the right thing, of having acted for her family, to have some much desired peace.
Then that man with a deep voice and the kind face had gotten close to her. And there was nothing. The last thing she could remember was to having found herself into the Headmaster’s office, with tears streaming down her horribly disfigured face.
If she closed her eyes, she could still see Potter’s glare, the furious eyes of professor McGonagall and the disappointment in everybody else.
She couldn’t be too proud of herself. But she had felt the desire to do something to help her mother, to grant her safety, before understanding she shouldn’t have meddled in things bigger than herself.
Even more when she couldn’t have foreseen the consequences.
And as a result she had slowly destroyed whatever good she believed she could’ve done.
Her DA’s fellows would’ve hated her, all of Hogwarts’ students would’ve, believing her responsible for the appointment of Umbridge as Headmistress. And after all, Umbridge wasn’t going to be too happy either for her lacking of facts to accuse Potter of something.
Marietta had never felt so alone.
She wouldn’t have wanted to snitch.
She shouldn’t have been a part of DA.
There were too many things she wouldn’t have wanted, and all of them had brought her to that lonely bed in the infirmary, with the sole companionship of her tears, her confusion and those regrets that could barely surface.
“Never heard of such a thing!”
“How dared they?”
The ghosts were chit-chatting. They were all eager to comment on what had just happened, and everyone tried to weigh in on it. When the Fat Friar arrived, everybody turned toward him, asking for details about the face-off into the Headmaster’s office.
The ghost shook his head, in a serious mood. He told them all he knew, even though he couldn’t give them too many details. Indignation grew, while he tried to tone down who was already talking about rebelling to such ignominy.
“No, no, I’m sure professor Dumbledore wouldn’t want us to persecute that woman, he’d want us to be calm and to keep the students in check. They need it for sure, we can’t let them unarmed with her!” he pointed out, quite wisely to his mind. Sir Nicholas shook his head, more out of depression than negation.
“I’m at a loss for words to describe what happened. They’ve been cowards, not much more to say. Even though none of this would’ve happened, hadn’t it been for that girl, right?” he insinuated, glancing at the Grey Lady, who stayed aside, listening to the argument without taking a part in it.
The Fat Friar sighed and intervened, decided to avoid the fight that, he was sure, was about to follow.
“As a matter of fact I’m headed to the infirmary to talk to her. I don’t think she’s proud with what she has done, don’t you think? I mean... we shouldn’t go after her, anybody can make a mistake!” he told Nicholas, quietly and slightly begging, but the other one shook his head. To speak next, nonetheless, was the Bloody Baron.
“The girl has been silly, there’s no doubt, even though she’s acted for her sake only. But do you really think she deserves some comfort?” he asked, raising his eyebrow in an expression of mockery.
“I didn’t say I was going to comfort her.” he rushed to specify, but then was quick to go away before being reached by his fellows’ condescending looks.
They knew, as he did, that it wasn’t altogether wrong to think that he was going to soothe Marietta, even though she didn’t belong in his House, even though the facts clearly showed how wrong she had been in revealing to Umbridge the countermeasures Potter had taken against her... he couldn’t help but being the devil’s advocate, punctually, following that part of his nature that didn’t allow him to stay put in the face of human mistakes.
When he arrived in the infirmary and saw the girl, he couldn’t help but being startled. Moaning, she went under the blankets, covering hastily her face. The Fat Friar sighed, and got closer to the bed.
“Chop, chop, silly girl! I’ve seen far worse, come out!” he ordered, trying at the same time to keep his tone as comforting as possible. From the rim of the sheets, he could see Marietta’s watery eyes.
“What do you want?” she muttered, with a whiny voice deaden by the blankets.
“Hearing your side.” the ghost answered, with a kindness that was totally unexpected for Marietta. Slowly, she sat back on the bed, uncovering her face; it presented, along the bubbles forming the word ‘spy’, a diffident expression.
“And what do you care? You’re Hufflepuff’s ghost, not Ravenclaw’s.” she said, as if she was accusing him. The Fat Friar sighed, again.
“My child, what does it matter? I just want to help you, so don’t think that...”
“I don’t need no help!” she protested, crossing her arms and leaning violently against the bed frame, biting her lip. “I’ve done nothing wrong... I think.” she added, less sure. The ghost smiled to her, condescending.
He had seen Kingsley Shacklebolt modifying the girl’s memory, but he had no intention of telling her. Had she made a mistake or not, was she feeling guilty or was convinced to have done the right thing, he didn’t want to meddle.
And yet, he said to himself, she had to need a sympathetic ear, whatever she might think.
“Alright. You don’t need any help.” he crossed his arms behind his back and went to the wall. “For sure I won’t force you to talk, if you don’t want to. I’ll stay here, just in case you might need something.” he told her, showing a false indifference, while Marietta squinted and stared at him.
They stayed still for a long time, probably both waiting for the other one to talk.
“Did you see any of my housemates in the hallways?” grumbled her in the end, as if she didn’t actually care about the information.
“Yes, I’ve seen some.” the ghost confirmed, with the same nonchalant look. Marietta couldn’t take it anymore and lost it.
“I bet they were talking about me, weren’t they? I bet they’re all saying it’s my fault if Dumbledore is gone!” she said, shrill. The Fat Friar raised his eyebrows, vaguely amused.
“Actually, I’ve seen Miss Chang talking to your housemates, and it looked like she was defending you.” he contradicted her, leaving her with her mouth hanging open. It took a few more seconds before Marietta spoke again.
“I... I snitched.” she murmured, pointing at her face, disgusted.
The ghost sighed.
“Oh, my child! You’re not the first one to make a mistake, you know? You told to professor Umbridge what you shouldn’t have, you did it because you were under pressure and you thought it was the right thing to do. Don’t think for a second that your friend doesn’t know it. Sure, the others don’t and they won’t justify you for it. But do you really thinks it matters? Tomorrow, the day after, three days from now or in a week it’ll happen something else that’ll catch their attention, and they’ll forget about you. Those bubbles will disappear and you will be the only one to remember, don’t you think so?” he told her, with that resolute and determined tone he so rarely used. He felt strangely sure of what he was telling her, he honestly thought that the girl’s mistake was bound to be forgotten soon, that it wasn’t the end of the world.
He saw her smiling timidly to him, and shook his head.
She was young, and he wished he could’ve explained to her how ephemeral human memory actually was. He had lived among Hogwarts’ walls since time immemorial, and he had lost count of all that had happened, of all those events that in the eyes of the kids looked like genuine tragedies, but that were destined to burst like bubbles at the first wind blow.
He walked away from the girl’s bed, going toward the door of the infirmary without adding another word. He was about to disappear, when he was stopped by a voice behind his back.
“Thank you.” she hadn’t screamed, it was the mere whisper of who thought nothing could soothe her, and instead had found out she wasn’t completely alone.
The ghost barely nodded, before leaving the room.
It was true, he had comforted her just like the Baron had predicted.
But it made him feel better than any of his fellows could’ve imagined.
While he went toward the Hufflepuff’s dormitory, he heard screams coming from the hallway, and smiled. Something was already happening, someone was writing new pages into the story of that place, where nothing ever stood still.
All became history the moment it happened, and those young minds, who couldn’t understand the meaning of time and actions, would’ve soon noticed.
He was a ghost, and he comforted them precisely because, as a ghost, he knew completely the meaning of time.
In his own small way, it made him feel important.