The doors swung open as Harry used his enormous mits to their full potential. Following behind him were the others, and the massive form of the ogre hid the sight of the shouter from them... at least to begin.
Harry, however, didn't get his wish fulfilled.
The... thing sitting on a throne-like chair at the other end of the hall looked... it was... just looking at him was difficult, it was as if your eyes wanted to avert themselves.
At the very first glance, you would see only an old man, and you'd... believe that was it. You'd look away and your mind would fill in all the details until you were convinced that he was just an old man. But then you'd begin to doubt your memory of him and you would dare another furtive glance...
And you would not see the old man, but a very old, very knobbly tree.
But that didn't make sense either, so the third time, you saw the signs of what had made you think old man, and what had made you think old tree, and suddenly you would realize that he was both, and none.
For sitting in the throne, rooted to his spot and sprouting branches and leaves and withered, tiny things was old O'Lantern. He was neither old man nor old tree, but a little bit of both, and more, his apple-red cheeks making him look like the caricature of an old forest troll, branches on his head heavy with silver-grey leaves, his beard a tangle of silver roots mingling with the hair. His nose was long and knobbly, curved like a sickle and most definitely hollow, because when he laughed there came a strange echo from it.
And laugh he did.
Old man O'Lantern laughed so much that the halls shook, that the crowd of people, of which there was a lot but not many, grew hushed, wary looks on their faces, and the blue lights in the chandeliers and candles and lanterns and everything else flickered to the point of almost vanishing.
It was the sound the giants made when they cheered at each other's tall tales, it was the laughter of the forest as the woodsman lost his way and froze to death in the night. It was the mirth of a river bringing life to everything around it asking only for a firstborn every few years in return.
It was the laugh of a man utterly off his rockers.
"My, aha, a-humbled guests, arriving at last!" His hands suddenly snapped from the armrests (they had been indistinguishable from the rest of his robes, knobs and the chair) and he clapped his hands three times in a loud, loud way. "Indeed, the... TRESpassers, I believe! The servants of the fair folk all a-lost, unserving and undeservingly a-squatting in my back yard!" He spoke in a high-pitched, very nasal tone, and every time he paused there was just the faintest echo of his words from his nose.
"Come in my children, come in my brethren and sister, come all and explain to me, explain to US, why you would conduct such a DREADFUL sin?" He cackled at his own clever words and snapped his fingers, another branch-thin creature scurrying up to him and refilling a glass with some amber liquid that foamed something dreadful. He drank it greedily, losing at least half of it on the way to his mouth.
"I am here, O'Lantern." came suddenly a voice behind them, as cold and serious as O'Lanters was warm and mirthful. The underlining threat was the same, however. The woman that had brought them here was standing in the doorway, arms crossed. "You called for me, what do you wish of your groundskeeper?"