Chapter 1 : Waldorf the Great
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November 10, 1941
“And what have you to say for yourself?” Headmaster Trout demanded at the top of his lungs. “Chalk sticks in the matron’s nose! How do you account for chalk in Miss Natterby’s nose, young sir?” He adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses, looking utterly windswept. Without question, he had never faced a more difficult pupil than the boy sitting before him, the boy who was gazing back complacently as though this meeting was a tea party and he was having the time of his life. He was wearing an orange bow tie and a hat with a little bell sewn on top. Really, what sort of lad who wasn’t seventy shades of mad would wear such preposterous articles of clothing?
“Blowing bubbles in the holy water during mass,” Trout continued. “Locking the caretaker in a cupboard with a beehive.” He wiped his forehead with the back of one hand, exasperated. “A beehive? Waldorf, where did you even get a beehive? Your outdoor privileges were revoked six months ago.”
Waldorf Peeves, who had been sitting very quietly in the little round-backed chair that faced Mr. Trout’s desk, gave a sly grin in response to the last statement, which infuriated Mr. Trout beyond repair.
“Oh, you think this is amusing, do you?” His hands shook with anger as he continued shooting off accusations made against the unassuming teenage boy, going on down the list. “Greasing candle wicks with petrol. Telling the other boys nasty stories about a rabid half-gorilla, half-refrigerator swamp monster who attacks children when he smells that they’ve been eating mint chocolate.”
Waldorf snickered, causing Trout’s eyes to flicker up at him in annoyance. “Reworking the entire plumbing system on the third floor so that when people flushed toilets, all of the waste came back up in the bathtubs. That –” He paused, rereading the last claim to himself. “Well, that’s pretty impressive, to tell you the truth, but still.” He laid the list of charges down on his desk and folded his hands over top, expression stern. “And to top it all off, this morning I received word that you tried to throw a sandwich at the back of Davy Martin’s head, but missed and got Sister Beekman right in the face.”
“No, I definitely aimed for Beekman,” Waldorf corrected breezily. “I thought about catapulting some peas instead, but I rather like peas. That horrible concoction this cesspool of an institution calls ‘beef’ wasn’t particularly to my liking, however. I think Beekman should have appreciated the gesture. Lord knows she’s got enough cow in her to be spirit sisters with the sandwich.”
“You cannot throw food at your superiors!” Trout raved.
“All right, all right, it was just the bread that hit her!” Peeves cried. “All the meat fell out! I swear!”
Trout rubbed his brow with his hands, looking down at his papers just long enough to miss the glint of undying joy in Waldorf’s eyes that was always aroused whenever he was irritating the living daylights out of someone. “Mr. Peeves, how many times have you been to my office this year?”
Waldorf’s eyes roved around the walls and ceiling, half-crazed. A loopy sort of smile was forming on his face. In a sing-song voice, he responded, “If you have to ask me these questions, then maybe you shouldn’t be Headmaster. Your memory isn’t very tip-top.”
“Peeves! Humor me by answering my question. Now, how many times have you been to my office this year?”
“I’ve been collecting bees that fly past my window for the last four years,” Waldorf informed him with a conspiratorial smile. “Plucked them right out of the air while they were flying. Took forever to get a beehive of that size. You think it gave you trouble? You have no idea, Salmon. It’s hard work, getting your hand in there to scoop some honey out. It isn’t going to drizzle itself across the classroom chairs, now, is it?”
“Twenty-six times!” Trout barked. “And don’t call me Salmon!”
“I haven’t called you,” Waldorf insisted mildly, gesturing to the telephone hanging on the wall. “I’ve been sitting here the whole time. Also, please do not call me Salmon. My name is Mr. Peeves.”
“What the devil are you going on about?”
“You said,” Waldorf replied slowly and deliberately, as if trying to convey a point to a young child, “’don’t call me, Salmon,’ and I was merely countering with the fact that I’ve never called you. Not once in my very short life. Really, sir, you ought to get your head checked.” He tapped his skull. “Tip-top.”
“You’re starting to grate on my nerves,” Trout threatened, strongly desiring to reach over his desk and pummel the boy. “You’re lucky I’m a tolerant, God-fearing man, Waldorf, or else I would have –”
“Mr. Peeves,” Waldorf corrected with emphasis. “And have I ever told you that I’m the one who filched your spectacles two years ago? Traded them to Mickey Lark for a water balloon. Such a lovely time, really. I remember you kept going round with your arms out like this, all wobbly” – Peeves paused to demonstrate – “and all the kids were shouting, ‘MR. TROUT CAN’T SEE ACROSS THE ROOM. LOOK AT HIM TALKING TO A BROOM. MR. TROUT IS SUCH A BLOOMING LOON. HIS MOTHER IS AN UGLY PRUNE!’”
“Such fond memories…classroom unity…”
“That is quite enough!” Trout looked exceptionally shaken by this point, completely thrown for a loop by that horrible chant Waldorf had invented and spread around to the other boys…
“Oh, dearie me, I’m truly sorry,” Waldorf chirped in syrupy tones. “Did I make a faux pas? Perhaps we should talk about your retirement instead. I’ve heard that you’re thoroughly disappointed with your pension and that you’ll have to take out another mortgage to pay for your ex-wife’s extravagant holidays in Brazil. Why do you think she goes to Brazil so often? You reckon she’s got a boyfriend there? You should learn to check all your lines on the telephone to make sure no one’s listening in, you know. Anyone at all could be eavesdropping.”
“Stop talking!” Trout held out both hands, closing his eyes. His face had gotten quite red since the beginning of their conversation and he wasn’t entirely sure whether or not he even had enough surviving brain cells to continue talking. He decided to take another approach. “Listen to me very carefully, boy. You have been expelled from six different schools, one of them an all-girl’s institution that I frankly have no idea how you managed to get into. This place, St. Brutus’s, is your only hope. If you get expelled from here, your education is over.”
“Really?” Waldorf’s eyes brightened. “It would be that easy? Well, sod it all! And here I thought that I was going to have to paint Beekman’s false teeth green while she was sleeping, when all you have to do is say the word and I’m out of this place! All right, Tuna.” He folded his arms behind his head, smirking expectantly. “Don’t be shy, now. You know you’ve always wanted to chuck me out of here. You can even make a speech if you like.”
“You are ahead of yourself,” Mr. Trout replied darkly, his eyes glittering. This should have risen some concerns in our young friend Mr. Peeves, but it sadly did not. “While your expulsion would certainly cause your education to come to an end, we cannot simply send you out into the streets on your own with nowhere to go.” Neither party mentioned it here, but both knew very well that if thrown out on his backside, it would take Peeves about six minutes to find a new place to terrorize. He was resourceful in that way, and infinitely clever. “After all, you’re only seventeen. You’re underage, my dear boy.”
Waldorf’s intense glee faltered slightly. “So what?”
Mr. Trout had been waiting for this moment. He’d been looking forward to the day when he could point at Waldorf Peeves and shout, “I HEREBY BANISH YOU TO THE DEPTHS OF THE UNDERWORLD!” But since he could not do this, being a respected and devout Catholic who had even met the Pope once (it was raining and they were both trapped under the same shop awning, waiting for the weather to pass, and the whole time Trout just stood there gawking and couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say; except much later in bed that night, of course, he thought of all kinds of meaningful, memorable doctrines he could have recited to impress him), he settled for exhaling through his nose and saying in an even tone, “Unless, of course, you’re counting Hogwarts.”
Peeves said nothing, but Trout could tell he was listening intently. Something about the name of the place, with obnoxious words like ‘hog’ and ‘warts’ combined into one glorious ultra-word, probably appealed to the boy.
“In a magical, faraway land,” Trout rattled, barely able to contain his sniggers, “there is a beautiful castle with lakes and forests and towers. In this land, filled to the brim with impressionable, vulnerable young students who will do anything anyone tells them to do, you have the opportunity to be of actual use. This can be your way of giving back to society, and expressing your thanks to the fine people of St. Brutus’s, the ones who haven't quit yet, that is, for exhausting every possible angle of trying to make you fit for human companionship.” And also to thank us for not sticking your head in a vat of wet cement, he mentally added. "As it so happens, your true calling is elsewhere. My prayers have been answered.”
Trout then examined an embossed letter that had been sent to him by a man called Dippet several months ago; Trout had held out hope that he could reform Peeves himself, despite the fact that Peeves had been formally labeled as ‘incurably criminal’, but could no longer entertain such foolish fantasies. Peeves could not be reformed. It seemed that the time had come for Trout to finally answer Dippet’s letter and surrender Peeves to the stranger and his request to meet the troublesome lad.
"I’ve heard of Mr. Peeves’s many incredible talents through the educational grapevine, and, with a bit of guidance and the right kind of influence, I believe that he could become invaluable to me and my school."
Trout had very little idea who ‘Armando Dippet’ was and what sort of place Hogwarts really might be, since it surely couldn’t be a school of magic, but he did know one thing: Peeves was no longer his concern. “So it is with tremendous satisfaction that I bid you adieu, forever, and I wish you all the luck in the world in all of your future endeavors of making as many lives across the world as miserable as you can manage. Send my sincerest regards to all your victims. It is my deepest wish that one of them will be a minor, so that they may give you your due in karma without fear of legal repercussion.”
They exchanged a handshake of mutual loathing. “Don’t worry, Sushi, this isn’t the last you’ll see of me.”
“Oh?” Trout raised his eyebrows, unable to conceal a smirk. He’d done it. He’d won. He was finally rid of the meddlesome youth and could now go back to dealing with the more predictable boys and their penchants for boxing each other in the ears with their lunch trays. “I must disagree with you there.”
“Really, you expect so little of me.” Peeves shook his head, grinning a mile wide. “No, I’ll surely come back to haunt you at some point in my career.” He then inclined his bell-tipped head in a low bow and sprang away. As he sprinted through the corridors, he could be heard shouting obscenities in Latin at the other boys and blowing loud raspberries.
Trout remained smug, but after sitting in his chair for a little while longer, dwelling on Peeves’s disturbing last words, he came to the conclusion that one could never underestimate a person like Waldorf. He just might come back to haunt me, he thought with a nervous jolt. Being a rather superstitious man, he couldn’t imagine a worse fate than having someone like Peeves following him around. It was ridiculous, of course. Trout was so much older than Peeves, and unlikely to outlive his former pupil. But I wouldn’t put it past him to figure something out…
He laughed. “Oh, well. I’ll just get a poltergeist.”