WARNING: This is a slash
story, which means it contains male/male erotic
content involving consenting adults. If you're not
of legal age or are offended by such material,
find something else
TITLE: Mortal Coil
PAIRING: Snape/The Bloody Baron
SUMMARY: The Bloody Baron can't figure out how to
frighten a particular someone, and he wants to know
DISCLAIMER: All Harry Potter related characters and
concepts are copyrighted by JKR and Warner
Brothers; this is for non-profit, entertainment
NOTES: This is a ghost story in the tradition of
"The Canterville Ghost" and "The Ghost and Mrs.
Muir", written in response to the Snape Fuh-Q Fest
challenge, when I asked for a tricky pairing and
drew the Bloody Baron.
It really was most
Someone within the walls of
Hogwarts whom he couldn't frighten? Inconceivable!
He was the Bloody Baron, the most fearsome of all
the castle ghosts. Even Peeves was intimidated by
him, and the Headmaster treated him with unfailing
respect. For someone -- a *child* no less -- to
refuse to cower in fear, moreover to blatantly
*ignore* him, well, that was not to be
The situation began on the
night the child arrived. After the Sorting Ceremony
and the banquet in the Great Hall, the prefects had
led the first years down to the Slytherin
dormitory, and the Baron had decided to welcome
them in his own way. His usual method -- fading
slowly into sight in the corridor as the group of
already-nervous first years approached -- never
failed. He didn't have to resort to amateur
theatrics as some of the others did, such as
groaning or rattling chains, to induce fear. No,
all he had to do was materialise and stand there,
silvery bloodstains shimmering in the dim
torchlight, a forbidding glower on his face. The
first years, of course, screamed and scattered,
with the prefects bounding after them in a
desperate attempt to round them up before they got
All save one.
A thin, black-haired child
kept walking to the entrance of the Slytherin dorm,
passing directly through the Baron without so much
as blinking, and the Baron was so shocked by the
effrontery of the lad that he couldn't even muster
a blood-curdling wail.
Without the password, the boy
couldn't enter, and so he stood and waited by the
portal. Disgruntled, but not daunted, the Baron
stalked toward the boy, his pale lip curled in a
fierce snarl, reaching out as if he intended to
wrap his spectral hands around the boy's
The child's gaze went right
through the Baron, as if he didn't even see the
otherworldly menace advancing on him. The Baron
threw the little idiot one last look of pure
disgust before disappearing and wondered how such a
blind, oblivious child had got itself sorted into
But after centuries of
existence as an apparition, the Baron had learned
to appreciate novelty, and someone who didn't flee
in terror at the mere sight of him, who appeared
not to see him at all, certainly qualified as that.
In life, the Baron had loved a good challenge; the
more difficult his quarry, the sweeter the hunt. In
death, his competitive streak had not diminished by
much, and he considered the child's stubborn
determination not to be frightened a personal
affront. He had a reputation to uphold, after all,
and if it got out that the Bloody Baron had failed
to reduce one small, rather ugly boy to a
quivering, spineless heap, he'd never hear the end
Thus he launched his own
personal campaign, ignoring his general haunting
responsibilities -- unless, of course, he was
needed to curtail Peeves' rambunctiousness -- to
focus on trying to frighten the young
The Baron appeared at the
foot of the boy's bed, his moaning and wailing
ghastly enough to put a banshee to shame. The boy's
roommates squeaked and dove under their covers, but
the boy merely complained of a draft and closed the
The Baron glided over the
boy's sleeping form and pressed down on his chest,
suffocating him until the boy awoke, coughing and
vowing to speak to the head of Slytherin House
about the oppressiveness of the air.
The Baron remained invisible,
sneaking up behind the boy as he took notes during
Transfiguration class and trailing icy fingers up
and down the boy's neck in hopes of inducing
shivers of fear. The boy idly brushed the Baron's
unseen hand away and muttered about needing a
It was enough, the Baron
thought, to make one considering haunting a nice,
secluded monastery where the brothers had taken a
vow of silence. Thus one would have a reason for
not being able to make anyone scream, and there
would be no intractable children who refused to
acknowledge one's presence.
Finally, when dripping
silvery ectoplasmic blood on That Boy's homework
failed to produce any greater effect than an idle
question about leaks in the roof, The Baron, whose
silence was part of his menace, couldn't contain
himself any longer.
"You are the most impossible,
infuriating child I've ever known!"
"You're not the first to say
It took the Baron a moment to
realise what had happened, and when he did, he
rounded on That Boy, who had spoken so calmly. "So
you *can* see me after all," he said accusingly,
and the child lifted his eyes from the parchment,
his expression bored.
"Of course I can. I'm not
"Then why have you been
ignoring me?" the Baron demanded, growing even more
angry now that he knew it wasn't that That Boy
couldn't see him, but was indeed deliberately
"Because I refuse to act like
a ninny every time you appear, like the rest of
this school does."
"Why aren't you afraid of
"Why should I be?"
"Because I embody fear
"I'm not afraid of
When an appropriately
scathing retort failed to spring to mind, the Baron
did the only sensible thing he could do: he
disappeared and left That Boy alone.
Time passed. Like all ghosts,
the Baron was marginally aware of it, but given he
had an entire afterlife stretching out before him,
time had little meaning. He kept up with the
passing seasons, which were marked by festive
celebrations in the Great Hall which he attended
solely to cast a pall over. The concepts of days
and years, however, meant little to him now.
He made no more attempts to
frighten That Boy. He knew now it would be a wasted
effort, time and energy he could spend on more
fruitful pursuits, such as catching up on his
running tally of how many people he could cause to
faint. He and the Thing In the Dungeon of Glamis
Castle had a friendly wager going, and he had
gotten behind while letting himself be distracted
by That Boy. The Baron had a castle full of
students, but the Thing had tourists, who were
Muggles to boot and far more susceptible to nasty
shocks that led to fainting fits.
That Boy changed, got taller
and less ugly, or perhaps he simply grew into his
nose, making it look less obviously too big for his
face and more regally hawkish. He was still thin,
though, and spent most of his time working with
potions. Many was the night that the Baron made his
rounds in the dungeon only to find That Boy hunched
over a bubbling cauldron, his expression one of
intense concentration. Often, the Baron watched for
a while, sometimes tempted to knock a knife off the
worktable, or to hide one of the ingredient bottles
just for old time's sake, but he never did
Then one night, the Baron
went to the cramped dungeon workroom That Boy had
been given to conduct his experiments, and it was
cold and dark and empty. All the equipment was
gone, and a quick search of the Slytherin dorm
showed there was no sign of That Boy anywhere. He
must have finished his studies and left. The Baron
wasn't certain whether to be regretful that he
would no longer have the opportunity to find what
might frighten That Boy, or to be relieved that his
one failure was no longer there to mock him.
Time passed, and the Baron
was pleased that his scaring success rate was back
up to one hundred percent; no one before or since
That Boy had proved so difficult, not even the
And then one night as the
Baron drifted along the empty corridors, he turned
a corner -- and saw That Boy.
Older, yes, and gaunt now
instead of merely thin, his hair long, unkempt and
greasy, a sickly cast to his sallow skin, his
cheeks hollow. That Boy's dark eyes were haunted,
and the Baron wondered what could have succeeded in
putting that look in those stubborn eyes, when he
had failed so miserably.
At the Baron's appearance,
That Boy jerked his head up, a light of
apprehension in his eyes, but when he saw the
Baron, it faded.
"Oh, it's you," That Boy
said, and the Baron noticed the change in his
voice. Manhood had given him a smooth, deep voice
that the Baron imagined could be quite effective if
he used it properly. "What are you doing
"I live here." The Baron drew
himself up and replied in his frostiest tone. "What
are *you* doing here? I thought you had
That Boy spread his hands and
laughed mirthlessly. "The prodigal has returned.
Are you going to try to frighten me again?"
"Would it do any good?" The
Baron heard the note of defeat in his own voice and
"Why aren't you afraid of
"Why should I be?"
"Because of what I am!" The
Baron lifted his transparent arms as if to display
his supernatural form better.
"There are Earthly beings far
more frightening than you."
Once more finding himself in
the untenable position of having no response handy,
the Baron shot That Boy a furious glare and
However, his wrath didn't
keep him from being curious about why That Boy had
returned, and if he would be staying. The rumour
mill, however, was remarkably quiet on the subject.
He wasn't the only one to have spotted That Boy,
whose name he finally learned, roaming the halls
intermittently. But while there was plenty of
speculation, there were no facts, and the Baron was
left to wonder about That Boy's odd comings and
goings, most of which occurred in the dead of
night. He even took to loitering in the entrance
hall on the chance that he might spot That Boy
slipping through the doors, looking pale and
haggard, but with the same stubborn gleam in his
eyes as always.
Then suddenly everyone was in
an uproar over that dark wizard being defeated, the
one who had been Tom Riddle and then took to
calling himself by some ridiculous anagram in what
was an obvious ploy to make himself sound more
menacing. Amateurs, the Baron snorted. In his day,
evil overlords didn't change their names; they just
went out and pillaged a random village to make sure
the rest stayed in line.
But the pretentious upstart
was gone, and there was much rejoicing among the
living and the dead alike at Hogwarts. The Baron
even chose to forego his usual mirth-quelling
appearance at the victory celebration and hovered
near the ceiling, just watching instead. That Boy
was not among the revelers, which surprised
Indeed, for a time it seemed
that That Boy was gone for good, which was, to the
Baron's surprise, something of a disappointment.
Nights weren't nearly as interesting now that he no
longer had his "Spot the Sneak" game to amuse
Seasons changed, and rumours
of a new Potions Master coming to Hogwarts began
flitting around the castle. The Baron listened idly
and wondered where That Boy had got off to this
time. The answer to that question came with the
beginning of the new school year, when he showed
Yes, That Boy, back *again*,
looking far older than his years, lines of care
cutting grooves on either side of that prodigious
nose, dressed all in black, and scowling around the
place as if he wanted to compete with the Baron
himself for title of Most Scary, or at the least
"What are you doing here?"
the Baron demanded, materialising out of thin air
in the middle of That Boy's workroom in hopes of
startling him enough to ruin whatever vile
concoction he was working on.
"I live here." Was that a
mocking tone being turned on him? The insolent
"Why have you come back this
"Not that it's any of your
concern," That Boy said, turning away from him to
focus on chopping up some little wriggling thing to
be sacrificed to the potion, "but I happen to be
the new Potions Master. I'm also the head of
Slytherin House now." He cocked his head at the
Baron, lifting one eyebrow. "I expect we'll be
seeing quite a lot of each other."
The old question still hung
between them, still unanswered to the Baron's
"Why aren't you afraid of
me?" he whispered hoarsely.
"Why should I be?"
"Because of what I
"There are worse fates than
This time, however, the Baron
didn't disappear in a fit of pique. He had seen
enough both during his life and his afterlife to
know the truth of that statement very well. It
still seemed as if That Boy were skirting the issue
-- if he simply didn't find the Baron frightening,
why did he never just come out and *say* so? -- but
at least that answer wasn't insulting.
After that, he didn't feel
quite so inclined to keep his presence
Sometimes, just to get
attention, he removed things from That Boy's
worktable, but it always ended with That Boy
snapping, "Put it back, Baron," in his most
impatient tone, and the Baron sulkily returning
whatever it was that he had taken.
Once, he wrapped his
invisible arms around That Boy and whispered in his
ear, "Why do you not fear the chill of my
"It's always cold in the
dungeon," came the pragmatic reply. "I hardly
notice a difference."
Sometimes he slipped through
the walls and into That Boy's bedroom. The first
few times, he was apprehensive, wondering if he
would see another form lying in bed next to That
Boy, snuggled close, perhaps with an arm draped
possessively over him. But night after night, the
Baron found a solitary body curled up beneath the
covers, and he began to wonder if That Boy simply
took care of his needs elsewhere, or if there was
something wrong with him that prevented him from
ever taking a lover to his bed.
One night, the Baron drifted
over to the bed and gazed down at the still form
and peaceful face. This, he thought idly, is how he
will look when he is dead.
He ran his transparent
fingers through the spill of black hair on the
pillow. If he concentrated, he experienced a faint
sensation almost like touch; it was the most
spirits could interact with the living, but it let
him feel the silken wash of hair twined around his
It let him feel enough to
keep him returning -- until the night he walked in,
expecting to find That Boy asleep and alone as
usual, only he wasn't. The Baron didn't stay long
enough to register who was with him. The sight of
That Boy's face suffused with pleasure, the gleam
of candlelight on his bare skin, the clean lines of
his exposed throat as he threw his head back -- all
these were enough to make the Baron flee the
dungeon and refuse to return. He avoided it so
thoroughly that Sir Nicholas started making jokes
about how one of the other ghosts would need to be
assigned to Slytherin, as it seemed the Baron had
retired. Only Peeves using the Baron's absence from
the dungeon to his advantage and causing mischief
brought the Baron back to his former favorite
He began patrolling the area
again, assiduously avoiding any room associated
with That Boy, ignoring the little urge he felt
when he saw the workroom door standing open and the
telltale whiff of acrid fumes filled the air in the
corridor just outside.
That Boy, however, seemed to
have as strong an aversion to being ignored as the
Baron did. A short time after the Baron began
including the dungeon in his nightly prowling
again, he was interrupted.
"You've been avoiding me."
That Boy stepped out of the shadows and into the
Baron's path -- as if it would do any good. The
Baron could, if he wished, keep walking right
through That Boy and ignore him. It would, he
thought, be a nice bit of symmetry, but he didn't
do it. "Why?"
The Baron regarded That Boy
with cold, unflinching dignity. "I have been
"You've never been too busy
to pester me before."
"My afterlife does not
revolve around you."
"Since when?" That Boy shot
"We both have other duties to
attend to," the Baron replied evasively. "We should
get on with them."
"Your duties," That Boy said
as coldly as the Baron had spoken a moment before,
"include haunting the Slytherin dormitory, and you
have been remiss in that duty for several weeks.
The students are quite disappointed."
"Fine!" he spat. "I'll give
them such a hair-raising fright, they won't sleep a
wink for the rest of the night. Will that
"It will do for a start."
That Boy turned away, his tone dismissive. "I
expect to see you down here regularly from now
The Baron went away,
seething. How dare that insolent mortal tell him
what to do? He was the Bloody Baron! He answered to
no one, dead or alive, and he would not be spoken
to in that way!
He unleashed Peeves on That
Boy's bedroom, and remained conveniently out of
sight and hearing when people began searching for
him to help get Peeves back under control.
That, it seemed, settled the
matter. The Baron was assiduous about haunting
Slytherin House, and That Boy no longer spoke to
him in such a rude tone. Tom Riddle rose and fell
again, and That Boy was involved somehow, although
the Baron wasn't quite clear on the details. The
world outside of Hogwarts mattered little to him,
and he didn't bother to ask for clear
In truth, the world outside
the dungeon was starting to matter little to
Oh, he made public
appearances at school events in the Great Hall, and
he continued to make rounds of the entire castle,
but his thoughts were turned more and more often to
the dungeon, or, more specifically, to the person
who haunted it just as much as he did. He began
visiting That Boy's workshop again, remaining
invisible until one night when That Boy informed
him irritably that he could feel the Baron staring,
so could he please simply materialise instead of
skulking behind the convenient veil of
He had, that night and every
night following. Sometimes, That Boy stopped
working to talk to him, and their conversations
lasted late into the night. He had even,
eventually, ventured back to That Boy's bedroom to
watch over him while he slept and sometimes to
touch his hair or his cheek, but nothing
And so it went. The seasons
passed, students came and went, and That Boy grew
older and earned a reputation for being nearly as
frightening as the Baron himself. The Fat Friar
had, upon one occasion, told him that the students
were convinced the Baron was somehow in league with
That Boy, both of them forming an unholy team all
the better to enact their reign of terror over
anyone who ventured within their domain. He
mentioned the theory to That Boy, earning a rare
bark of laughter in response.
"We do work well together,"
That Boy said, holding out his teacup so the Baron
could experience the essence of the tea before he
"We do indeed." The Baron
paused, considering his next remark carefully. "But
is it wise?"
A puzzled frown marred That
Boy's brow. "What do you mean?"
"You're one of the living.
You should spend more time with your own
That Boy let out a derisive
snort. "Don't be ridiculous," he said.
That was clearly meant to
signal the end of the discussion, and the Baron
allowed it, out of selfishness rather than
deference. Possessiveness had been what got him
killed in the first place, and old habits died
hard, so to speak.
The Baron was elsewhere when
the inevitable happened. If he'd known it was
imminent, he would have been there, but That Boy
had been cranky, insisting that he was fine despite
the difficulty with breathing and the pain in his
left arm he'd had all day, and that the Baron
should go discipline Peeves as he'd been asked to
do. When he returned, it was too late.
He left the room as the
living began making preparations for the shell. It
was over. The Baron was alone again.
He glided down the corridor
to That Boy's workroom. Everything was as That Boy
had left it, the shelves stuffed full of potions
texts and innumerable jars and bottles of salves,
liquids, herbs, and arcane ingredients that the
Baron couldn't identify. The cauldron still sat in
its usual place, all the knives, ladles, and other
equipment laid out neatly, everything in order.
Soon it would all be cleared away, and he had no
idea where it would go or what would happen to it.
Such was the way of things among the living.
"Missing me already?" A
familiar voice drifted out of thin air, followed by
the sudden appearance of a shimmering silvery
That Boy. Returned to
Hogwarts one final time. The Baron would never be
rid of him now, and he had no complaints at
A brush of lips, ectoplasm to
ectoplasm, made the Baron shiver for the first time
"Why weren't you afraid of
me?" he asked, gathering That Boy in his arms. He
really would have to remember to start using his
name; he couldn't very well call him "That Boy" for
the rest of eternity.
"You know why."
"Yes, I suppose I do."
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