When ordinary 11-year-old girl Rowan Frost finds out that she has been invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, her life takes an exciting turn. Soon she finds herself locked out of the castle with a killer on the loose. How is Rowan going to get out of this one?
Nestled amongst the pine trees in a dip between two hills was a crooked white-bricked house, one that looked as if it had been taken from the pages of a storybook. A winding stone path led to its front door, weaving through the close-cut grass and slicing a way through the bursting flowerbed, full of an assortment of brightly plants that were spilling out onto the lawn.
The door looked as if it had seen better days, for it was leaning slightly to one side, a split zigzagged across one of the panes of well-scrubbed glass and the black paint was starting to peel. In fact, the whole house looked a little worse for wear. The gutters were clinging onto the three remaining brackets, a couple of slates had slid from the roof and were now lying shattered on the ground, one of the wooden pillars holding the front porch up was rotting and the chimney was stained with thick grey soot.
The inside of this old and crumbling cottage also seemed as if it had been stolen from a fairytale. The small family that lived there had no heating, instead a merry-fire that crackled away in the living room, warming the entire house. There was no telephone to been seen, but instead a grubby pot of peculiar grey powder. In the kitchen, a brush covered in soapy water was washing the dirty pots and pans all by itself. A feather-duster was dancing over the many strange ornaments that lined the mantelpiece, and in the corner came an odd, click-clacking noise as a pair of needles began to knit a scarf.
The soft breathing of the sleeping family drifted under the doors and crept down the staircase. A dark-haired man was sound asleep in bed beside a delicate woman with river of golden hair. In the room next door, a small boy lay wrapped in blankets and duvets. His eyes were closed, but he was not asleep.
The little boy was straining to hear a high-pitched noise that was being blown in through the cracks in his bedroom window. It sounded as if it was the whimpering of an animal in pain, yet it was so full of human emotion. The boy, being as curious as he was, wanted desperately to find out what it was that making such an anguished noise. As quietly as he could, careful not to wake his parents, he slipped out of bed and began to make his way down the staircase.
Fortunately, the carpet muffled his footsteps, but it was not thick enough to hide the loud groaning creak of a loose floorboard. The boy cringed as he heard his parents stirring, but it came to nothing, as they promptly fell back to sleep.
Now wary of where he placed his feet, the boy hurried silently along the corridor and quickly slipped into a pair of mud-splattered wellie boots. He pulled on his raincoat and stepped outside into the darkness of the night.
His breath came out in clouds as he followed the pitiful sounds into the forest and icy tendrils wrapped themselves around him. He shivered and pulled his jacket more tightly around him in an attempt to keep out the cold.
As he reached the edge of a clearing, now well into the heart of the forest, a sorrowful wail broke out from amongst the bracken. The blood-curdling howl raised the hairs on the back of the little boy’s neck, and he wanted nothing more than to run back to the safety of his bed, but he just couldn’t leave this thing, whatever it was, to suffer.
Fighting his way through a clump of bramble bushes, he finally emerged into the clearing. The first thing that he saw was a pair of large yellow eyes, staring out at him from the shadows. They were like pools of amber water, and the boy found himself drowning in them. They were the eyes of an experienced beast, something wise that had seen things that he should not have seen, and they were so sad and lonely...
The great grey being shifted from its spot and stepped out of the bracken, so that it was just an arms-length from the boy. Now that it was in the light of the full-moon, he could see clearly what it was. With its dog-like body and scraggily silver fur that stuck out in tufts, its slender grizzled, muzzle and sloping back, there was no mistaking this creature. It was a wolf. Yet, the boy still had his doubts. It was so big, it looked almost afraid and the way it held itself, it looked almost human.
The wolf-creature lifted its head to the moon that was showing clearly through the branches of the trees and gave another aggrieved scream.
The boy felt his heart pounding in his chest as he took a step closer to the beast. As much as he was curious, he was kind and he felt the unstoppable to need to comfort this sad, lonely creature. Somehow, he was certain that it was not going to hurt him. This animal looked different from any wolves he had seen in books or the television.
Just as his fingers brushed the wolf’s, it stopped howling and looked down at him. Its yellow eyes bore into the boys for a long while before it curled its lip to reveal razor sharp teeth, dripping with saliva.
Before the boy could move, the wolf lunged, knocking him over with a single blow. The boy desperately tried to push the creature off him, but it was so much bigger than him, so much stronger. A growl rumbled from deep within the wolf’s throat and completely helpless, all the boy could do was lie there, pinned to the cold ground, fear gripping his chest.
Leaving no time for the small boy beneath its massive paws to take his next breath, the beast swooped down and grasped his arm in his jaws, piercing his skin with his jaws and shaking him savagely. After a moment, the wolf pricked his ears and, hearing something, dropped the boy and disappeared into the undergrowth.
The boy hit a nearby bramble bush. He did not even feel the thorns as they dug into him, shredding his already ruined clothes; all he could feel was the unimaginable ache in his arm where the wolf had bitten him. Pain ran through his veins like poison.
The boy was left alone in the forest, broken and covered in blood, his agonized screams piercing the otherwise silent night.
Chapter One - Hogwarts ExpressEdit
To any passer-by, Rowan Frost would have appeared to have been lost, fighting back tears as she searched desperately for a familiar face, or perhaps a group of friends. It was true; she was lost, but since she knew nobody, the only thing that she was looking for was an empty seat.
Rowan peered through yet another window into a compartment that was full to bursting with chattering girls. To her, it looked as if they were all best friends, having known each other all of their lives – though it was likely they had met only a few moments earlier. With a pang of regret, she realized that if she had arrived here ten minutes ago, perhaps she would have been sitting amongst them, joining in with their conversation and feeling perfectly at ease.
Instead, Rowan was hovering outside of the sliding door, wondering whether or not to ask to join them. Lingering there a moment longer, she decided against the idea of interrupting them and turned away, entering the last carriage.
As Rowan passed down the narrow aisle, she began to feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach. What if she had to stand for the whole of the journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? What if she didn’t make any friends? What if the Headmaster had made a mistake and she didn’t really have any magical abilities?
With this swirl of questions came a wave of dizziness and she had to reach out for the wall to steady herself. Most of her fears were already coming true; there was only one more compartment left and it was very likely to be full, she hadn’t spoken to anybody yet and she had never even heard of Hogwarts until last month.
Taking a deep and calming breath, Rowan blinked the wetness away from her eyes and forced herself to move forwards. She was shaking by the time that she had reached the last door, trying to look anywhere apart from through the window. Finally plucking up the courage, she slid the door open and braved a glance inside.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Rowan was glad to see that the compartment was very almost empty. A small boy that was sitting beside the window looked up as Rowan entered. His face was pale and tired; the dark bags beneath his eyes gave her the impression that he was ill. As the sunlight touched his golden hair, she saw small patches that were tinged grey. His blue eyes bore into her as if he were waiting expectantly for her to say something.
“Y-you don’t mind if I sit here, do you?” Rowan stammered, shifting from side to side in the doorway.
The boy’s eyes had widened and he was staring at Rowan in surprise, as if horrified that somebody had dared to ask such a question. After a couple of moments of silence, Rowan turned away, obviously unwanted.
“W-wait!” the voice was so quiet that she almost didn’t hear it. “O-of course you c-can sit h-here!”
The boy was smiling shyly up at Rowan, though he still seemed shocked that somebody had chosen to sit beside him. She managed to return a weak smile, sitting down opposite him. Rowan's stomach was still knotted with worry, even though she now had somewhere to sit and somebody to talk to. Forcing herself to relax, she tried to push her troubles aside and kept herself busy by attempting to start a conversation with the boy.
“I’m Rowan Frost,” she told him. “What’s your name?”
The boy jerked his head upwards, as if taken aback that Rowan was trying to speak to him. He sat there, staring at her for a long while before he seemed to process what she had just said and realized that she was looking for a response.
“Umm...” he stuttered. He paused, words apparently failing him. “I – I’m R-Remus L-Lu-Lupin.” A slight redness crept across his cheeks.
Rowan felt a stab of sympathy for this boy; he was obviously very shy. Nevertheless, she pressed on;
"Is this your first year too?"
"I - I'm kind of nervous," he admitted. Rowan smiled kindly but she knew that nobody could be as nervous as she was. Not even this small stuttering boy who was sitting alone at the back of the train. He at least knew a little about the school, Rowan realized as she noticed the book lying open on the bench beside him; Hogwarts: A History.
"I know how you feel," Rowan assured him. Remus looked slightly relieved but didn't say anything more. Instead, he turned around and resumed gazing blankly out of the window, seemingly lost in though. Rowan was startled by his sudden loss of interest; a moment ago she had thought he was going to say more.
There was a few moments of awkward silence as Rowan wracked her brain for something else to say before the door slid open.
"Anything from the trolley, dears?" asked an older lady with a tight grey bun. She was wearing an apron and smiling kindly.
Remus shook his head whilst Rowan looked past the woman to the cart, wondering whether she could buy a packet of Maltesers. Instead, she found that it was full to bursting with multi-coloured sweet packages, none of which looked to have been created by Mars.
Getting to her feet, Rowan wandered over to have a closer look, gazing at the selection of different sweets in wonder. There were Berty Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Liquorice Wands, Pumpkin Pasties...
"Can I have a... chocolate frog?" Rowan queried, handing the woman a couple of strange bronze coins. Knuts, she remembered vaguely as she was handed a little blue box. Thanking her, Rowan returned to my seat.
Careful not to rip the flimsy cardboard, she opened the dark lid and peered inside. Just as she had expected, a chocolate frog sat on the tinfoil wrapping, but to her astonishment, it was moving. In her surprise, Rowan dropped the box on the floor and watched in amazement as it leaped across the compartment and out through the open door.
"Woah!" Rowan exclaimed. "Was that frog real?"
Remus looked up, shaking his head. There was the trace of a smile on his lips, but there was no sneer in his voice; only kindness.
"N-No," he assured her. This time when he spoke, he sounded a little less painfully shy. Though his voice was still barely above a whisper and was qivering slightly, he appeared to gain confidence as he carried on. "I-It's just been charmed t-to look as if it's al-live, but since the spell used on it is-n't great, they only have one decent jump in them."
Rowan nodded, although she was still completely bewildered. "Do you know any spells?" she asked.
Remus nodded. "Only a few very simple ones."
Genuinely curious as to how he knew so much about magic - and pleased to see a half-smile slowly lifting up the corners of his mouth - Rowan continued to ask questions. "Are your parents wizards too?"
"You'd better be in Slytherin," Severus Snape told Lily Evans.
He was pleased to see that he had managed to cheer her up at least a little bit. A hint of a smile now turned up the corners of her rosy lips and the usual sparkle had returned to her emerald green eyes. He opened his mouth to continue; to tell her about the amazing food that they could feast on each day; about the beautiful scenery crawling with all sorts of wonderous magical creatures; the adventures that they could get up to; how they could stay up every night and just talk, never having to worry about Petunia eavesdropping or about getting in trouble because it was way past their bedtime.
He would tell her stories about after they had finished Hogwarts; she would be a doctor, just like she'd always wanted to, and he would be a Potion's Master. They would live in a little house in Godric's Hollow, with a big garden for their children to play in. They would grow old together, surrounded by their grandchildren and -
One of the boys sharing the compartment, who had shown no interest at all in Lily or Severus until that point, looked round at the word. He was slight, black-haired and was quite obvously very spoilt, Severus observed distastefully.
Great, a Potter.
"Who wants to be in Slytherin? I think I'd just leave, wouldn't you?" Potter prodded the boy sitting opposite him with his trainer.
"My whole family have been in Slytherin," the boy replied. He was unsmiling, his pale face very serious. His black locks brushed his shoulders, his brown eyes were framed with thick dark lashes and his long legs were stretched out in front of him. There was no mistaking that he was very handsome. There was also no mistaking that he was one of the Black family - his words had just confirmed it.
A Potter and a Black in the same room together. This'll be good.
Severus sat back on his bench and got ready to watch them fight.
"Blimey!" Potter exclaimed. "And I thought you were all right!"
To Severus's utter disbelief, Black broke into a wide grin.
"Maybe I'll break the tradition. Where are you heading, if you've got the choice?"
"Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart! Like my dad."
Severus could not quite suppress a snort. Potter turned on him instantly.
"Got a problem with that?" his voice was challenging, but the smile that played with his lips revealed that he wasn't being very serious. His eyes sparked with lauhter; quite like how a father's eyes would spark after his children had just told him that they wanted to be dinosaurs when they grew up. It was as if he was looking down on Severus.
That's what annoyed him at Potter. Not his goofy grin, not his too large glasses that kept slipping down to the end of his nose, not even the way he kept running a hand through his already messy hair. It was Potter's air of condescendence that really got under Severus's skin.
"No," Severus sneered. "If you'd rather be brawny than brainy-"
Potter caught him off with a roar of laughter. Severus had to try hard not to punch him in the face.
"Come on, Severus, let's find another compartment," Lily tugged at his sleeve. He turned to see that she was already standing up, shifting impatiently from side to side. Her ears were almost as red as her hair as she glared at Potter and Black in dislike.
Severus ignored the way Potter and Black imitated Lily, ignored the way the chant that they gave as he whisked Lily out and into the aisle, even ignored the way that Potter stuck his foot out in a half-hearted attempt to trip him.
"See ya, Snivellus!"
He couldn't hear Lily as she pleaded him to leave them alone, trying to tell him that they weren't worth his time. She was right, of course, but he was too angry to see sense. He threw the compartment door open violently. Words were already pouring from his mouth. A meaningless torrent or insults and swears. He didn't even realise that he was shouting, until he felt his throat burning, raw and sore.
"Looks like you've upset your girlfriend, Snivellus!"
Severus was just in time to see Lily burst into a fresh stream of tears and disappear into the next carriage.
A teary-eyed girl with long, red hair burst into the compartment, throwing herself down beside Remus, who swept his book up into his arms. He hurried to move over to the opposite bench, sitting beside Rowan and looking alarmed.
A second or so later, a lanky boy, already dressed in his Hogwarts robes, joined her, slamming the door shut behind him. He had pale, sallow skin, a hooked nose and long, greasy, black hair.
"I didn't mean it, okay?" he cried. "I'm sorry if I upset you, Lily!"
The girl looked up, her green eyes sparking with anger, mouth opened as if to shoot back a snappy remark, before she sighed and shrank back into her seat.
"No, I'm sorry, Sev," she replied finally. "I shouldn't have overreacted like that." The girl, Lily, suddenly jerked her head upwards and looked at Remus and Rowan as if she had only just noticed them. "Excuse my manners," she continued. "I'm Lily Evans, and this is, Severus Snape." Lily held out a hand which Rowan shook.
"Rowan Frost," Rowan told her. Lily smiled, offering the same hand to Remus, who recoiled slightly, pulling the sleeve of his over-large jumper down before taking it.
"I'm R-Remus Lu-Lupin," he mumbled, suddenly seeming incredibly fascinated by a speck of dirt on the floor. Out of the corner of her eye, Rowan noticed Severus glaring at him, but didn't mention anything of the matter.
"So," Lily chirped. "Which House would you two like to be in?"
"House?" I echoed, confused. Lily brightened slightly.
"Oh!" she gasped. "Your Muggle-born like me!" Rowan looked at her blankly, having no idea what on Earth she was going on about.
"W-w-when you go to Hogwarts," Remus piped up suddenly. "Y-you'll be sorted into whichever House f-fits your personality b-best. G-Gryffindor is supposedly for the brave and ch-chivalrous, Ravenclaw for the qu-quick-thinkers, Hufflepuff for the loyal a-and Slytherin for the c-cunning. Muggles are non-magic p-people." He had spoken so quickly and quietly that Rowan had had to strain to hear him, and now that he had finished, his cheeks were flushed red and he was wringing his hands together anxiously.
"I'd like to be a Gryffindor then," Rowan announced.
"Well," Severus remarked. "I can tell you and your friend aren't going to be in the same House."
Remus blushed furiously and turned to that Severus could not see the hurt on his face.
"Sev!" Lily exclaimed, outraged. "That was mean!"
"I'm going to get something to eat," was his only reply. With that, he left the compartment, sliding the door shut behind him with a snap.
"I'm so sorry about that!" Lily gushed as soon as he was out of ear-shot. "I think those two boys upset him earlier on. I'm sure he didn't -"
"'S okay," Remus cut across her. "I-it really doesn't matter."
"Are you sure you're all right?" Lily fussed. "I'll get him to apologize later on! I'm sure you'd be a great Gryffindor!"
Remus just shook his head and shifted into a more comfortable position. There was a moment's silence.
"Do you think we should change it our robes?" Rowan asked. "We should be arriving soon."
Chapter Two - The JourneyEdit
"Firs' Years! Over Here! Firs' Years!"
As soon as I had stepped off of the train and onto the platform, I had been swept away in a wave of students. I had completely lost sight of Remus, Lily and Severus - who never had returned to our compartment - so it came as quite a relief when I heard the great, gruff voice calling out above all of the chatter.
Turning around, I was startled to see a gigantic man, most of his face hidden by wild, bushy hair. He was standing in the midst of the sea of pupils, the lantern in his hand bobbing up and down well above everybody else's heads.
Warily, I fought through the crowd, glad to see other children of around my own age also making their way over to the man. Once I was about a minute or so away, I stopped, gazing around at the other gathered first year's. Lily, who appeared to have found Severus, was standing by two dark haired boys and looked to be deep in conversation with a girl with short, spiky hair. Across from her, I was the group of giggling girls from the Hogwarts Express and Remus was standing to the side of them, a short, chubby boy beside him, although they appeared to be looking in opposite directions.
"Is that all o' yeh?" the huge man boomed. When nobody replied, he began to move forward. "All righ'! Follow me, firs' years!"
Nervously, I followed him off of the platform and onto a narrow path - though I couldn't be sure, as it was so dark, I had to squint to see more than an arms-length in front of me. The damp earth trail curved steeply downwards and tree roots jutted out of the ground on either side. I stumbled and slipped a couple of times, but was able to keep my balance - unlike the spiky-haired girl that Lily had been speaking to, who managed to fall flat on her face at least twice.
"If yeh all look round this nex' corner, yeh'll be able to see Hogwarts," the giant man told us.
As I continued onwards, the trees began to thin and the path gave way to a large lake. The starry sky was reflected perfectly onto the great stretch of twisting black water and at the other side, on top of a mountain cliff, was a huge castle. Light poured through its arched windows and its many turrets and towers reached high up into the air.
Ooh`s and aah`s broke out on either side of me as other people caught a glimpse of the magical school, and the crowd soon burst into a excited babble.
"Four to a boat!" the man yelled above the noise. "Hurry along now! All o' yeh," he added to the two dark haired boys that I had seen earlier on. The one with the curls leaped down from the tree that he had been attempting to climb, grinning sheepishly.
I followed everybody to the edge of the lake where there was a jetty. Beyond that was a cluster of small, wooden boats. By the time I got to the edge of the platform, there was only one boat left. Nervously, I stepped into it, grabbing onto the side as it lurched violently. Remus, who was already sitting down, reached out for my other arm to steady me. I smiled at him gratefully, walking carefully over to the bench and sitting down beside him. We were soon joined by the two dark haired boys.
"Righ' then," the man, who seemed to have taken up a whole boat all by himself, hollered. "Everybody ready?" There was a few scattered nods. "FORWARD!"
The two boys who I still did not know the names of, hurriedly grabbed an oar each and began to row forwards. Meanwhile, I looked on in amazement as all around me, people glided over the glimmering, dark liquid, heading towards a gaping hole in the rock face of the cliff. Out little boat was sailing smoothly, despite how rickety it looked, until;
Startled, I turned to see the bespectacled boy with the messy black hair leaning over the side of the boat. It wasn't until saw the oar that he had been holding floating in the water did I realize what had happened.
"Here!" the other boy cried, tossing the oar towards him. I gasped, ducking down as it flew over my head. "Use this to get it back." The boy with the glasses nodded.
"Good thinking, Sirius," he responded, once again leaning over the side. A moment later I heard a faint plop and he cursed under his breath.
"James!" the one who I assumed to be called Sirius said slowly. "Please tell me you didn't just drop that?"
"I didn't just drop that," James replied. When Sirius gave a small sigh of relief, he added, "Now how are we going to get it back?"
I glanced up to see the others slowly disappearing through the ivy curtain by the mountain, far up ahead. Remus and I exchanged an anxious look.
“Wait!” Sirius warned as James made another attempt to reach the oars which, by now, were making their way up to the castle without us. “I’ll try and get them! You’ll probably fall out!”
James shot him a glare, but sat down without protesting. Sirius got to his feet, causing the boat to sway dangerously. He took a step forwards and I slid down the bench as Remus was almost thrown overboard.
“Stop!” I cried before he could move any further. “I’ll get them back!”
As I was lighter and closer to the edge, I managed to clamber over easily. Getting the oars back, however, proved to be a lot more troublesome.
Though I was lighter than Sirius, I was quite a bit smaller, meaning my arms weren’t nearly as long as they needed to be. I had to lean much further out of the boat than I would have liked to before I was able to grasp my hand around the slippery handle of the oar. I heaved it partly out of the water and pulled it back to my stomach. Pausing for breath, I reached out again, making sure to keep a tight hold of it with both of my hands. Rescuing the other one required a lot more effort.
As it had been dropped a while ago, it had been carried right out into the centre of the lake – much unlike us. Stretching out as far as I could without falling out, I began to scoop the second oar back towards us. It was just inches away from being within easy reach when a wave passed underneath the boat.
I flew forwards, feeling my grip on the oar loosen and gave a startled cry. I would have almost certainly tumbled into the lake if arms had not wrapped themselves around my waist, dragging me safely back into the boat. The oar that had still been in my hands fell to the floor with a clatter and I flopped back onto the bench, my heart thumping in my chest.
“Thanks, Remus,” I managed to gasp out, realizing that it had been him that had saved me from falling into the icy waters. Remus smiled faintly, shrugging his shoulders in a modest reply.
“Got it!” I looked up to see James, who was waving the second oar triumphantly in the air. “Well done, err...” He looked at me pointedly.
“Rowan,” I told him.
He nodded and began to help Sirius row us to the edge of the cliff. Within moments we were passing through some kind of tunnel that seemed to have been built right underneath the very school. Its walls, shimmering with acrid water, arched high above my head.
It didn’t take long before we reached the other boats and, I saw with a sigh of relief, the other first years and the giant-man waiting for us.
When the boat had reached as far as it could to the edge of the lake, I climbed out onto the rocks after James, waiting for Remus to catch up before hurrying over to everybody else.
“Are yeh lot all righ’?” the giant-man asked us gruffly. “Didn’ fall in, did yeh?”
Sirius shook his head.
“No,” he replied. “We just had a slight incident with the oars.”
“And it was not at all my fault,” James added quickly.
The giant-man shook his head vaguely before turning and leading us the rest of the way through the stone passageway. As our footsteps echoed around the cave, I was suddenly glad to be in the middle of the crowd and hurried to keep up with them, anxious not to fall behind again.
After ascending a large flight of stairs, I stopped behind a magnificent pair of tall, oak double doors. I gazed at the giant-man in awe as he raised his humongous hand and knocked loudly three times. At once the door opened to reveal a stern-faced woman with dark hair tied up in a tight bun and robes of a deep blue.
“Professor McGonagall,” the giant-man addressed her. “Sorry we’re a bit behind schedule.” The woman shook her head.
“Not at all, Hagrid,” she assured him. “You may leave us here.” Turning to us, she continued, “Welcome to Hogwarts. Please follow me.”
Chapter Three - The Sorting HatEdit
"When I call your name, you will put the hat on your head and sit down on the stool to be sorted!" Professor McGonagall cried. "Abbott, Henry!"
A boy with masses of curly brown hair and a very red nose stepped forwards and sat down on the stool. The moment Professor McGonagall placed the hat on his head, it shouted;
The table that was furthest left cheered loudly and Henry Abbott ran to join them, while I gawped in astonishment.
A small, rosy-cheeked girl with wavy brown hair moved hurriedly to the front of the room, her blue eyes flashing nervously.
Sirius stepped out from in front of me, tripping on his robes as he stumbled across to where Professor McGonagall was standing. He managed to regain his balance before he fell and flopped down onto the stool, taking long, shaking breaths and muttering something to himself quietly. As I hadn't ever imagined him to be shy, I was startled, even if I hadn't known him for more than half and hour.
Sirius grinned widely, despite the fact that his applause was noticeably quieter than everybody else's, and went to join the Gryffindor table. The list went on and on. Alexandria Chase was sorted into Ravenclaw, Lily and Alice Fortescue to Gryffindor, while Morris Elmes was placed in Hufflepuff.
I could feel myself shaking. My knees were wobbling so much that I felt sure that I would lost my balance and embarrass myself in front of the whole school. The distance between where I was and Professor McGonagall seemed to increase by about a mile as I ploughed onwards, finally sitting down on the wobbly three-legged stool. As soon as the Sorting Hat was put onto my head, an earsplitting voice cut through my worried thoughts.
"A Frost, eh? I've only ever had one of you before," it said. "Your loyal, yes, there's no doubt about that, but you don't seem to be a Hufflepuff as she was. Oh no, no, no... Your far too cunning, and what's this? A definite thirst to prove yourself. How peculiar; a Mudblood Slytherin."
I glanced out towards the Slytherin table and a flash of fear shot through me. I didn't want to be one of them. I wanted to be with Lily and Severus.
"You'd like to be a Gryffindor? Yes, I can see it all here; bravery, courage, chivalry... My, you are difficult to place, Miss Frost. You would be perfect for Slytherin, yet you seemed to be destined for its rival house. What a shame."
The voice stopped and suddenly, the Sorting Hat bellowed;
With a small sigh of relief, I leaped to my feet to join Alice Fortescue and Lily, who beamed delightedly at me. I wass able to relax at last as I watched David Gudgeon being sorted into Ravenclaw. Lucy Halt and Deborah Jacks went to Hufflepuff.
Remus and James joined Sirius, as did a stumpy boy named Peter Pettigrew. Professor McGonagall continued to call out name after name until she came to,
"Zabini, Undecided!" who was placed in Slytherin house.
As soon as Undecided Zabini had settled down, an old man roses from his seat. He had a long white beard, robes of dark purple and piercing blue eyes which he gazed out at us with over the top of his half-moon spectacles.
"Welcome to Hogwarts!" he announced. "Before we get too befuddled with our meals, I have a few start of term notices. Professor Bud would like to inform everybody that she has planted a new tree near the Great Lake. Very dangerous plants, are Whomping Willows, so I would advise you all to stay well clear of it. Secondly, our caretaker, Argus Filch, has asked me to remind you that magic is not to be used in the corridors, and lastly, the forest on the grounds is, as per usual, strictly out of bounds. That is all! Pausing, the man who I guessed to be Professor Dumbledore - the Headmaster - clapped his hands. "Let the feast begin!"
Instantly, a wide variety of different cuisine appeared inside the empty platters and bowls that lines the lengths of each of the four tables and a delicious smell filled the air. The whole of the Great Hall erupted into a joyous blabber. I looked around in wonder, taking everything in, before piling my plate high with food. From across the table, I heard Sirius speaking;
"Pass the mash will you, Angus?"
"That's my name."
"Huh's your name? I thought you were called, Angus?"
"No! My name is Remus!"
"Are you sure?"
I smiled to myself, plunging into a conversation with Lily and Alice Fortescue, knowing that I had finally found a place where I fit in and looking forward to the year that lay ahead.
NOTE: More detail on the appearance of the Entrance and Great Hall. Perhaps the School Song could be added at the end (Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy, Warty...).
Chapter Four - Defence Against the Dark ArtsEdit
Th next day started with a lesson in Defence Against the Dark Arts. As Hogwarts was so large, it had taken me quite some time to find the classroom. With the hundreds of moving staircases, the many unnecessary rooms and the very unhelpful ghosts, it was almost impossible to find my way around the castle. After taking a wrong turn on my way out of the Great Hall, I had asked an older student for directions and had ended up at a cupboard with a pond and several ducks inside.
After helping Alice Fortescue and another girl named Marlene McKinnon out of the Owlery, I finally made it to the Defense Against the Dark Arts room.
"Turn to page three of your copy of Defence Against the Dark Arts for Beginners," Professor Mahenrie, the teacher, snapped.
I quickly sat down beside a wavy-haired girl, Katie Anderson, pulling my book out of my bag and quickly opening it.
Professor Mahenrie stalked up to the front of the room, his narrowed blue eyes glaring out at everybody. As they rested on me, I felt a small shiver run down my spine and looked down at the old, wooden desk that I was sitting at.
"Why are there two empty seats?" Mahenrie barked.
"James Potter and Sirius Black aren't here yet, sir," a boy that I didn't recognize squeaked after a moment of silence. MaHenrie walked briskly over to the boy's desk and continued,
"Where are they?"
"I- I don't know, sir," the boy stammered, trembling under the Professor's icy gaze.
"They were still in the Dormitory when I left."
I looked up in surprise as Remus spoke confidently and calmly. His voice was still quiet and it quivered slightly as he neared the end of his sentence, but he didn't sound nearly as shy as yesterday. As well as this, he didn't seem almost as ill and tired as earlier.
"This is a lesson, Mr Lupin," Mahenrie growled in response. "You shall address me as Professor or Sir." Remus sank down into his chair as he went on, "My name is Professor Mahenrie and we are beginning the year with a project on basic defensive spells. Please read the page in front of you."
Hurriedly, I looked down, my eyes scanning the crisp, white paper. The passage was about a disarming spell that, if performed correctly, would deprive the opponent of his or her wand. Just as I was finishing the last paragraph, the door flew open.
"Sorry we're late, Professor!"
James and Sirius stood inside the classroom, sounding very out of breath, their hair sticking up at odd angles.
"Where have you been?" Mahenrie demanded, his voice deathly calm. James shifted awkwardly, running a hand nervously through his already dishevelled hair.
"Well," he began. "We kind of slept in... And then we got lost."
"Then perhaps you should get a map," Mahenrie responded coolly.
"We asked a ghost for directions," Sirius went on. "But he sent us up to Dumbledore's office!"
"Professor Dumbledore," Mahenrie said sharply before James cut across him.
"He told us how to get here, but we must have turned right instead of left because we ended up at McGonagall's Transfiguration class as they were starting a test. She wasn't very pleased and-"
"All right!" Mahenrie interrupted. "Sit down! Ten points will be taken away from Gryffindor, from all three of you."
"Ten points?!" James exclaimed, outraged. He opened his mouth but quickly paused, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion. "Wait, three? Only two of us are late!
"Do I look like I'm blind, Mr Potter?" Mahenrie hissed. "Of course there are only two of you! But I'm going to have to take points away from Mr Lupin as well. He should have woken you before he left."
"What?!" James cried. "You can't do that!"
"It wasn't Angu-Remus's fault!" Sirius agreed.
"Sit down!" Mahenrie growled.
James and Sirius shot each other a lot but sat down without any further complaint. Mahenrie's lips twisted into a smirk.
"That's unfair!" I blurted before I could stop myself. The Defence Against the Dark Arts professor whipped around, his eyes blazing blue fire. I heard Remus's muffled groan from across the other side of the room and, ignoring it, proceeded to hold Mahenrie's gaze defiantly.
"I was not under the impression that it was your place to decide how I can and cannot teach, Miss Frost," he said tartly. "This matter does not concern you." When I did not reply, he continued, "It doesn't look as if Gryffindor is having the best of days; I'm going to have to take another ten points away from you for telling me how to teach my own class."
"I wasn't telling you how to teach your class," I replied without thinking. "I was merely stating the truth."
"Detention, Miss Frost! You will come to my office next Tuesday afternoon, and I suggest that you learn to hold your tongue if you do not wish to make it more than three days." With that, he stormed up to the front of the room and went on to tell the class about the Expelliarmus spell, leaving me gawping after him.
★ ★ ★
"I never would've thought you had it in you," Sirius told me as we walked through the doorway after the lesson had finished.
"Had what in me?" I snapped. Sirius raised his hands in surrender.
"Easy," he cautioned. "I was only complimenting you on how you stood up to Mahenrie."
"I lost Gryffindor ten points and got myself a detention!" I exclaimed incredulously, allowing myself to be swept into the fast moving crowd.
"All on your first day!" James agreed, appearing by my side. "You've just lost me two Galleons!"
"Excuse me?" I asked, ducking to avoid being hit in the face by somebody's book bag.
"Sirius and I had a bet, you see?" James explained. "I said I'd be the first to wind up in detention, Sirius bet I wouldn't." Rolling my eyes, I looked down at the map on the back of my timetable. The Potions classroom was down in the dungeons, and to get to the dungeons, I would have to turn left at the end of the corridor.
After being separated from James and Sirius in the sea of students, I made my own way to our next class. It was rather hard not to lose my way; with all of the people, every corridor looked the same. Fortunately, when I entered an open door, I found myself in a deserted passageway. It was lit gloomily with a few lamps that stuck out of the wall and cobwebs hung, thick and dusty, from the ceiling.
Instantly, I was given the feeling that I should not have been there. I quickly consulted my map, but because I could not find my whereabouts, no matter how hard I looked, I continued warily forwards. My heart was thumping so loudly in my chest that every few moments, I spun around, mistaking it for footsteps.
Once I had climbed down a fleet of stairs and had followed the path around a sharp corner, I began to hear faint voices drifting towards me from up ahead.
"Do you really think we should be doing this?" I guessed the person to be a man.
"If we don't, then he'll come after us, Cygnus," came the response. "Mary and Sean too."
"I know, but surely we can get it another way?"
"There's no reasoning with Dumbledore once he has made up his mind, you and I both know that."
"What if something goes wrong? What if Dumbledore doesn't give in and we have to - have to... Kill her?"
"That won't happen. Even if we have to keep her for more than a day, the word will get out and Dumbledore will have to give it to us."
"If you're sure. But suppose he doesn't realize that it's us taking his students?"
"Trust me, Cygnus; this plan won't fail. Now come on, we better get a move on. We'll meet here again on Wednesday at 10 O'Clock."
Footsteps sounded and I realized with a jolt that these people, whoever they were, were moving towards me. Careful not to make a sound, I hurried back the way I had come and ducked behind a stiff door, wincing as it creaked open. Not daring to breathe, I pressed my ear against the door, unable to relax until I heard the people pass by.
"Rowan! Where have you been? We're going to be late!"
- NOTE: Detention is on Wednesday night, Rowan was on her way to Potions the next day.
Chapter Five - Disasters and DiscoveriesEdit
Without sparing a second thought to the conversation that I had just overheard, I sprinted down the stairs after James and Sirius. Luckily, when we burst through the doors, the class was still standing at the front of the room and we were able to slip in unnoticed.
"I've tried to mix you up as much as possible," the teacher was going on. "But I'm afraid that because we have more Gryffindors than Slytherins, you will not all be paired with somebody from a different House." Pausing, Professor Slughorn shuffled through his notes until he came to a long sheet of paper. "Sirius Black and Severus Snape, Alice Fortescue and Richard Avery, Marlene McKinnon and Gordon Goyle, James Potter and Lily Evans..." I tuned our as the list went on, looking up only when Slughorn said, "Remus Lupin and Rowan Frost." He gestured to a desk that was near the front of the classroom and I quickly made my way over to it, Remus following closely behind.
Once everybody had setted down, Professor Slughorn pulled over an old blackboard. On it, he had written, Pepperup Potion and beneath a long list of what appeared to be ingrediants.
"First of all," Slughorn began. "Does anybody know what the Pepperup Potion does?" A few hands shot up across the room. "Lets see... As, Miss MacDonald, perhaps you could tell us?"
"Isn't that the potion you take when you have a cold?" asked a tall girl with long dark hair.
"Right you are, Miss MacDonald," the potions master agreed. "And today we are going to attempt to make it. You will work in pairs and the two that are able to produce the best potion will earn ten points each. I have taken the time to write up the instructions, so all you will need to do is follow them as accurately as you can. You may begin."
Eagerly, I placed my cauldron onto the desk while Remus pulled out his dried Mandrake roots. We worked in silence, cutting the roots up into equal chunks and adding the snake scales. It was only when we began to stir it together did wew realize just how awful at Potions we both were.
"Its supposed to be red," Remus told me, looking down at the green sludge that stuck to the bottom of the pot.
"And I highly doubt that it's supposed to move," I added, moving back a few paces as the sticky mixture twitched.
"Well," Remus eyed the pewter cauldron warily. "I don't think we're going to get those ten points." As the potion crawled across the table and slid down onto the floor, he leaped up onto a nearby stool. The green sludge then slithered over to my leg. Yelping, I jumped up onto the desk, pulling my knees up to my chin so that they were well out of reach.
"In fact," I said. "I think we could even lose points."
Remus brandished his wand from his pocket and directed it at the blob, truing to keep his hand as steady as possible.
"Mr Lupin, I don't remember telling you to use that spell," Slughorn scolded, his eyes never leaving the paper in front of him. "Though I may admire your knowledge on levitating, this is not a Charms class." Staring in horror at the live Pepperup Potion that was now floating in mid-air, I opened my mouth to protest. Before I could say anything, a high-pitched scream came from the lips of Marlene McKinnon. She was standing to the side of our desk, her blue eyes round and terrified.
"What in the name of Merlin is-" Slughorn broke off as he glanced upwards. A hushed silence filled the room as the class, which by now were all gawping at Remus and I, waited for the professor to make his next move.
Slughorn sprang to his feet, his chair falling to the floor with a clatter. Pulling a jar from his desk drawer, he warily reeled the creature towards him.
The failed potion wriggled and squirmed, but before it could free itself from the spell, he had it captured inside of the jar, making sure that the lid was securely shut.
The whole room, which seemed to have momentarily frozen, suddenly sprang to life. An excited chatter broke out amongst the students and a few of the bravest actually ventured up to Slughorn's desk and tapped on the glass of the jar. I let out the breath that I hadn't realized I had been holding and climbed down off of the table while Remus stepped from his stool.
"Well," Professor Slughorn told me, catching my eye. "That was certainly an extraordinarily ... unique creation - though, perhaps not one that should be made again. I think it may be for the best if you and Mr Lupin step to the side while I finished the lesson."
Obliging without protest, Remus and I hovered by the door as Professor Slughorn announced the winners of the ten points, Lily and James, and began to lecture the class about the potion that we would be learning about next week. He was cut short when the bell rang.
"Right," he finished hastily. "Class dismissed! Have a good afternoon everybody!"
★ ★ ★
"Ugghh!" Lily growled, slamming her book down onto the table. "I hate him!"
"Hate who?" Alice asked, flicking through the pages of her Transfiguration assignment absentmindedly.
"James Potter, that's who!" Lily snapped. She seemed ready to start tearing her hair out. "Why did Professor Slughorn have to pair me with that prat?" Lily pulled out a sheet of parchment from her bag and began to write, pressing her quill down so hard that I was sure she was going to rip a hole in it.
"What did he do?" Alice sounded half concerned, half amused. During the two days that we had been here, Alice and Lily had become very close. Part of me longed for such a strong friendship, but as Lily rambled on about what `That Git James Potter` had been up to, I began to re-think.
Trying to ignore what was now being said about the importance of paying attention in class, I continued to write up my Transfiguration essay.
"Oh no!" Lily's voice dropped to a whisper. "There he his! Quick! Let's go, Alice!"
Lily leaped from her chair, collected her work and marched out of the library, Alice following closely behind. I was left alone at the table. That is, until Remus joined me half an hour later.
I glanced up to see him staring down at a book that was sitting unopened on the table, his eyes unmoving. Worry lined each of his features and his lips were set in a slight frown. His hair was a mess and his robes were disheveled, as if he had run all of the way here.
"Are you okay?" I asked him after a moment.
Remus jerked his head upwards to look at me, startled. His blue-grey eyes burned into mine and he sat there for a long while, not moving an inch. He seemed to be contemplating whether or not to tell me what was making him so anxious.
"I- I was on my way here," he began finally. "But I had to go past the dungeons to.. Well, um... To ask, uh, P-Professor Slughorn something." Remus fidgeted uncomfortably, but I did not pursue him to find out what exactly he had been doing. "A-Anyway, I kind of overheard something..." he trailed off.
"What did you hear?" I prompted. Remus bit his lip, glancing around nervously, but took a deep breath and ploughed on.
"They were stealing from Professor Slughorn's store," he told me. "Professor Mahenrie and two others that I didn't recognize, that is. Th-They were saying something about taking somebody and a we-wizard called... Um, called, Fe-" Remus shuddered, but the motion was so slight that I couldn't be sure, "F-Fenrir Grey-Greyback. But one of the men that I didn't know, he saw me when he opened the door and then they were surrounding me. Professor Mahenrie had me pinned against the wall and was... he was telling me to repeat what I'd heard. I- I couldn't - not with - Mahenrie - so I just - I just ran for it."
Suddenly I remembered the dark and dusty corridor that I had been walking through when I had eavesdropped on the two men. It sounded to me as if they were the same people that Remus had seen with Professor Mahenrie, though I couldn't be sure as I hadn't caught so much as a glimpse of them.
"That's strange," I said after a while. "Earlier on, when I got lost on my way to Potions, I heard two men speaking. They were going on about getting something from Professor Dumbledore and I think they might have mentioned a girl too..." Remus gazed at me evenly, his eyes sparking with curiousity, as I tried to recall the conversation between the two men. "Yes, they were talking about taking a girl to get something that they wanted - something that they needed. They said that they'd meet again at the same place tomorrow night to discuss the details."
"Then we should go too," Remus suggested. "We could find out what they're planning and stop them. Its obviously not going to be anything good; they're sneaking about in the dark and kidnapping children after all."
I nodded eagerly, before remembering the punishment that Mahenrie had given me.
"I can't," I told him. "I've got detention, remember?"
"Then I'll go by myself," Remus decided determindly.
Chapter Six - From the Broom CupboardEdit
The following night, I made my way up to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom as planned. Remus has already gone down to the dungeon corridor to wait for the two men, even though it was only 9 O'Clock. As all students had to be in their common room by half past nine, he had decided to go down early so that he wouldn't get caught and that he would be there if the people decided to meet early.
I entered the classroom, ascending the small flight of spiral stairs to Professor Mahenrie's office and knocking on the door. A few moments later, it was pulled open, but to my surprise, it wasn't Professor Mahenrie that had answered it.
A skinny old man in a ragged brown dressing gown and a pair of slippers that looked as if they were close to falling apart stood in the doorway. His hair stuck out in wispy tufts and his glasses were askew.
"Oh," he mumbled. "You, ah, must be Miss Snow. I think, oh yes, Victor told me about you. You've come to help Horus, haven't you?" I blinked.
"Err," I stammered. "Professpr Mahenrie sent me up here for detention." The man beamed, nodding his head.
"Well done," he smiled. "Good for you! Here's your list!"He turned around and disappeared into the office, leaving me standing bewildered on the landing. When he did not return, I, once again, knocked on the door and peered inside.
"Umm..." I began awkwardly.
"Oh yes!" the man cut across me. "Your list! Here!" He stumbled over the the large desk that was opposite the door and handed me a slip of paper. "Have a lovely night! We're going to be studying from a book tomorrow!"
I hurriedly took the paper and rushed out of the classroom. Only when I had passed down a corridor and turned a few corners did I open it out. On it, it read;
Dear Miss Frost,
- Professor Mahenrie told me about your detention, and, as he will be away for a couple of days, asked me to keep you busy. As it so happens, despite the fact that I am very disappointed in you, I have a rather enjoyable task for you to do for me. Somebody has broken into my store and turned it upside down - personally, I suspect it to be the doing of one of my rather exuberant sixth years. It would be very helpful if you could arrange the shelves in the order that I have written on the back of this page.
Professor H. Slughorn
Turning the slip over, I glanced at the long list of potion names and ingredients, sighing. It would take me all night to get through it all.
As it so happened, it took me until twelve O'Clock to get to the last shelf. My eyes refused to stay open long enough for me to read the last list and I had to squint just to make out the word `Sleeping Draught`. Blearily, I reached out for the few remaining bottles in front of me, but all that I could find was a flask labelled `Polyjuice Potion` and one of `Veritiserum`. Impatience took over and I shoved them onto the nearest shelf, no longer caring about what order they were supposed to go in.
Getting to my feet, I left Professor Slughorn's store and began to make to the common room, longing to get back to the warmth and comfort of my bed in the dormitory. Before I could get much further, however, somebody grabbed my arm and pulled me through a door.
Startled, I turned to find myself crammed into a broom cupboard with Remus. A mop leant against me, covering my red hair with unpleasant smelling cloth and possibly a thousand spiders, if not a lot of cowebs. I shook it off.
"What are we doing in here?" I demanded.
"Keep your voice down," Remus warned me. "They're still out there!"
"What?" I exclaimed. "They've been talking for two hours?"
"Of course not!" Remus hissed. "They've only been here for about forty minutes!"
"So you've been sitting here waiting for the last two and a half hours?" I asked incredulously.
"I was doing homework," he replied shortly.
Though still unsatisfied, I fell quiet and slid to the dusty floor, pressing my ear against the door. For a while, I heard nothing but a faint shuffling from the room across the hallway. It sounded like footsteps. After a moment, I picked up a low mumbling noise. For a few seconds, I couldn't place it, but I then realized that it was the noise of somebody speaking. Shifting closer to the door, I strained to make out the individual words, but it was no use. To my surprise, Remus was crouched beside me, his head tilted slightly to one side, seemingly listening intently.
"You can hear that?" I whispered. He nodded, but clicked the door open a crack so that I could make out the conversation too.
"-We can't do it until the Christmas holidays."
"Why? Can't we just get it over with?"
"Dumbledore will be able to hush it up until then; there's no point."
The voices dropped to whispers and once again became inaudible. I seethed with frustration.
"Why don't you sleep?" Remus suggested softly. "I'll wake you when they're gone and tell you what they said tomorrow." When he uttered the word `sleep`, I suddenly remembered how tired I was. Remus scooped the bucket and mop towards him, allowing me some more space. I gladly filled it, dropping onto my side and curling up into a ball in an attempt to keep warm.
Remus's soft breathing, mixed with the low drone drifting in through the door, lulled me into a light doze.
★ ★ ★
Somebody shook my arm gently, pulling me from my slumber.
"Rowan!" the voice sounded muffled and faraway, as if it were coming from the far end of a tunnel. I wrenched my eyes open, but they were so blurred with sleep that I couldn't focus on anything for a long while. When I could finally see, I found myself in a small space, crushed against the wall and another body. A slither of sunlight filtered through the door of the cupboard, just bright enough to illuminate half of Remus's face.
"What time's it?" I asked groggily, my words slurring together.
"Half past seven," Remus replied. It took a couple of seconds for me to process what he had just said, but when I did, I sat bolt upright.
"We've been in here all night?" I gasped. Remus chuckled softly.
"I tried to wake you, but your a very heavy-sleeper," he explained. "And I was too tired to really try." it was then that I realized just how pale Remus's face was. The dark circles beneath his eyes were even more prominent than they had been on the day that we had met and he was shivering slightly.
"Are you all right?" I asked, concerned. "Your not ill, are you?" Remus quickly got to his feet and pulled the door open.
"We better get to breakfast," he told me, ignoring my question all together. "I don 't think it would be a good idea to be late for Herbology." I nodded in agreement and clambered up and out of the small cramped space that I had been lying in. Before he left, Remus reached into a rusty bucket and pulled out his bag which was full to bursting with textbooks and foot-long lengths of parchment.
"You really were just doing homework!" I exclaimed. "But how come you've got so much? I thought we only had to write an essay for Transfiguration?"
Remus did not reply but anxiously shifted from foot to foot. Unable to help myself, I reached into his bag and pulled out a Potions assignment on the bezoar. After studying it for a moment, I realized that that was what Professor Slughorn had said that we would be looking at next Tuesday. I opened my mouth to question Remus on it, but quickly closed it when I saw the almost pained expression that he wore, his eyes flashing with the fear that he seemed unable to hide.
Feeling a stab of guilt for going through his belongings, I quickly put it back.
"Sorry," I muttered. "Shall we go to the Great Hall?" Seeming relived that I had changed the subject, Remus began to make his way up the stairs beside me. "So, what did you hear last night?"
"Not much," he responded. "I found out their names though; Cygnus and Arcturus. Their family seems to be in some kind of danger and that's why they need this... thing that Professor Dumbledore has." I nodded; when I had heard them, one of them, whether it was Cygnus or Arcturus I was unsure, was reluctant to be a part of whatever it was that they were doing. In fact, the other one didn't seem to be over the moon about it either. They must both be rather desperate if they were resorting to kidnapping. I also remembered a name that Remus had mentioned earlier.
"You said they were talking about a wizard," I told him. "What was it? Fredrick Redback? Is he bad or something?" Remus froze, turning to look pointedly in the other direction.
"Fenrir Greyback," he corrected me stiffly. "I don't know anything about him."
I had no doubt about whether or not he was telling the truth; he wasn't very good at lying. Deciding that I would look up this man, Fenrir Greyback, in the library later on, I carried on through the double doors and into the Great Hall, Remus trailing behind.
- NOTE: "Are they going to meet again?", "Don't know. They didn't say." Rowan also needs to sound a bit less whiny/demanding - at some parts she seems as if she's harassing Lupin!
Chapter Seven - The SummoningEdit
"You're right, James! This is a much better way to get to class!"
"Of course I'm right! I always am!"
"How very modest of you!"
"James Potter! Sirius Black!"
Startled, I turned around to see James and Sirius hurtling towards me on broomsticks. Their robes billowed out behind them as they flew down the corridor away from Professor McGonagall, who was sprinting after them, looking as about ready to murder somebody. Quickly, I stepped to the side before I was run over.
"If you don't get down here this instant, I'll send you up to Professor Dumbledore's office!"
"Quick! She's gaining on us!"
Chuckling to myself, I turned into the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. Nothing exciting had happened over the last three weeks, apart from James's new-found obsession with Quidditch. Neither Remus nor I had heard anything more rfom the two men; Arcturus and Cygnus, but we would pass down through the dungeon corridor whenever possible. Every few nights, we would take it in turns to sneak out and see if they would meet up again, but they had never returned. Along with this, Professor Mahenrie had temporarily left, apparently because of an important family event, and his position had been taken by Professor Dipper, the old man that had given me my note for detention.
"Attention, young whippersnappers," Professor Dipper began, clapping his hands together. "Today we are going to learn about rubber ducks. Or Grindylows, I can never tell the difference. Right-o, I would greatly appreciate it if you could turn to page twenty-four of your textbooks."
I took my seat beside Remus, by now quite used to the large woolen hat, bumble-bee cloak and sandals that the supply teacher was wearing. Hurriedly, I pulled open Defence Against the Dark Arts for Beginners, only to find that it was missing the correct page. After checking underneath my desk and inside of my bag to check that it hadn't fallen out, I prodded Remus's side.
"Do you mind if I share your book?" I whispered.
When he did not reply, I turned and, to my amazement, found him slumped over his table, sound asleep. Ever since that night we had spent in the broom cupboard, he hadn't looked to be in the best of shape. During the last few days he had been ghostly pale, only ever picking at any meal we had had together in the Great Hall and had even snapped at poor Peter Pettigrew when he had suggested visiting the Hospital Wind. Despite all of this, I was astonished to find him with his head on the wooden surface, snoring softly.
Glancing up at Professor Dipper, who was now going on about apple trees to nobody in particular, I gently shook Remus's shoulder. Gulping in a deep breath, he jerked awake.
For a moment, he swung his head from side to side, as if trying to work out where exactly he was.
"D-did I... fall asleep?" he mumbled, rubbing his eyes. I nodded, reaching for his book at turning it to page twenty-four.
"You know," I began tentatively. "Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to visit the Hospital Wing..."
Before Remus had time to reply, Professor Dipper called for the class to look his way. I was only half paying attention to his speech on Grindylows, figuring that I could always look them up later. Instead, I glanced anxiously at Remus, who was now cradling his head with one hand and clutching his stomach with the other. As he rubbed his temple, the sleeve of his cloak fell down, and for the first time, I caught a glimpse of his bare arm. It was just as pallid as his face, but to my surprise, I saw thin, red scars running up and down the length of it.
Tearing my gaze away, I convinced myself that there was nothing to worry about and attempted to listen to Dipper as he began to compare Grindylows to kitchen utensils.
The lesson dragged on and on, but no matter how much I tried to concentrate, I couldn't seem to hear what Dipper was saying. When at last the bell rang, I was the first one standing, but stopped by the door so that Remus could join me.
By now, we had fallen into a routine; in the morning, we would wait for each other in the Great Hall before making our way up to the first class of the day. During each break, we would take a detour down the dungeon corridor, and when all of the lessons had finished, we would spend time finishing off any homework or discussing Arcturus or Cygnus.
Although we didn't talk as much as most others, we had formed a strong friendship; if possible, stronger even than Alice and Lily's. In just twenty-one days, Remus had managed to memorize everything about me, from the colour of my eyes to my favourite season. I would like to have said that I had been able to do the same with him, but Remus was certainly not the most open of people and though we would chat easily about most things, there was a few subjects that he was noticeably uncomfortable speaking about.
If ever I asked anything about his home life, he would stiffen, and when I so much mentioned the enchanted ceiling in the Great Hall, he would become incredibly touchy. By now, I knew fine well that there was something that he wasn't telling me, I just didn't think it polite to ask what.
"It's Transfiguration next," Remus told me quietly, his hand still wrapped around his stomach, his shoulders hunched forwards. I looked over at him sympathetically, starting down the corridor. There was a slight limp in his step as he followed me, and the moment that I noticed this, I considered forcefully dragging him down to the Hospital Wing. The thought quickly left my mind.
And usual, we turned left, entering the always-open door and found ourselves in a dusty, deserted passageway. However, this time when we descended the stairs, voices drifted towards us from a room from farther ahead. Remus, despite how ill he must have been feeling, threw me a triumphant glance.
"Did all go well?"
"Yes, yes. The Sleeping Draught didn't kick in as quickly as it should have, but nobody heard her."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Positive. I put a Muffliato charm around us."
"Good. Did you manage to get her into hiding all right?"
"Yes. An excellent idea, might I add, to have the entrance only open in the light of the moon."
"Thank you, Cygnus. It was rather brilliant, if I do say so myself."
"When are you going to draw the sign?"
"As soon as Dumbledore calls for a school assembly. If my memory does not decieve me, that should be in exactly five minutes. I think we should be going."
As I heard footsteps approaching, my hand grasped around Remus's wrist and we began to edge towards the broom cupboard. The click of the door was much louder than I would have hoped, but the two men did not seem to notice.
"Shall I wait in the forest?"
"I think that would be wise. Guard the girl."
As soon as Arcturus and Cygnus had left the corridor, Remus and I hurriedly left the cupboard. In all of the excitement, I had forgotten all about Remus's sickness, and, as it had seemed, so had he, but I noticed it again now as he leant against the wall for support. Shivers wracked his whole body and his breath came out long and shaky. Tentatively, I reached out, my fingers brushing gently against his arm.
"You're not cold," I murmured. in fact, I could feel heat radiating off of him in waves. Remus let my hand rest where it was for a moment longer before pulling away, tensing slightly.
"I-it happens sometimes," he muttered, his eyes lowering to the floor. "Anyway, didn't they say Dumbledore was going to call an assembly?" Before I had time to answer, Remus turned and began to walk back the way we had come, leaving me to hurry after him.
As soon as we had made it to the top of the stairs, a booming voice, clearly recognizable as Dumbledore's, seemed to come from inside the very walls of the castle.
"Attention! Would all students and members of staff please report to the Great Hall! An important matter has arisen!"
NOTE: Woah, the lengths of these chapters just keep on getting shorter! Add more into it!!
Chapter Eight - The Minister's DaughterEdit
The Great Hall was bursting with staff and students alike. Bodies were crammed into every space, every corner, and an anxious chatter filled the room as the people of Hogwarts wondered what had happened. When Lucius Malfoy, a third year Slytherin, loudly proclaimed that Dumbledore hadn't called for a whole-school assembly since his father was in first year, the babble only became louder. The question hung heavy in the air, thick as fog; Why are we here? What had been going on that was so important that it had possessed the Headmaster to take us all out of our classes to announce it to us? It seemed even the teachers were clueless.
I grabbed Remus's arm and together, we fought our way over to the Gryffindor table, on which James, Sirius and a stumpy boy named Peter Pettigrew, who they seemed to have taken under their wing, stood. From there, they had a clear view of the Staff Table. Before we were able to ask them anything however, a loud voice broke out over the top of all of the rest.
Almost at once, the noise and hubbub drifted away and everything and everybody stopped moving. It was as if time had frozen.
"That's better. Please take a seat, and I shall explain why I have summoned you all here."
I climbed onto one of the benches, shuffling out of the way as Peter Pettigrew lost his balance and fell flat on his face. He quickly apologized to Professor Flitwick for squashing him before taking a seat between an older Gryffindor couple, successfully sitting on their fingers, which had been interlocked. Despite the tension that as drowning the Great Hall, I giggled quietly to myself.
"Last night, a student was taken," Professor Dumbledore announced once everybody had settled. "The kidnappers are believed to have used a Sleeping Draught on her, as an empty vial was found somewhere in the Gryffindor girl's dormitories. Although I would not like to consider even for a second that any of you would do such a terrible thing to a fellow student, pleases raise your hand if you were involved in this horrific going on."
Nobody moved an inch. I could almost feel both the shock and the fear that was radiating from the other pupils.
"I thought not," Dumbledore continued. "But if any of you has perhaps heard something suspicious, please do not be afraid to confide in me. We need to find the culprits of this horrible crime so that we can deal with them, and, most importantly, bring Miss Amelia Fudge safely back inside the walls of Hogwarts." I felt a shiver run down my spine as the Headmaster peered over the top of his half-moon glasses, his blue gaze resting on Remus and I.
Did he know?
I quickly shook the thought away. It was certainly just a coincidence that he had seemed to address his last words to us. We had been careful not to be caught, and even if we had been found out, surely we would have been given detention for sneaking out after hours.
"For the time being," Dumbledore went on. "You will all go up to your Common Rooms. Tomorrow, you will be escorted to and from each of your classes by a member of staff, and the Head of your House will count you as you go in and out of your dormitories. Nobody will be allowed to enter of leave the castle until we have thoroughly searched the building." He paused, his eyes sweeping across the room. "Mr Lupin, if you would care to stay behind so that I can have a quick word with you about your timetable, the rest of you may leave. Remember, no detours. Pip pip!"
I glanced at Remus to find him biting down on his bottom lip, so hard that he had drawn blood. It may have been a trick of the light, but I was certain that I could see tears welling in his blue-grey eyes, threatening to spill over. Startled, I hesitantly reached out, my fingers brushing the sleeve of his sweatshirt. I could feel him flinch at my touch, but he did not try to shake me off, nor did I recoil.
For a long while, we sat there, drowning in each other's silence as everybody else rushed about around us. The moment was only broken when Remus drew in a long and gasping breath. His eyes moved up to meet mine and blue-grey let ice-blue.
"I- I have something I need to tell you," he admitted, his voice shaking dangerously. I took my hand away, shaking my head slightly.
"It can wait," I assured him. "You're obviously not ready to share. I'll wait for as long as you need." Remus nodded, rising to his feet. For a second, he stood there, gazing into the forever moving crowd in front of him, before turning back to me.
"It might be an idea if you make some other friends, Rowan," he told me. "When you find out what... what I have to tell you, you're not even going to want to stand in the same room as me."
Blinking in both surprise and amazement at Remus's words, I opened me eyes to find that he had disappeared. He did not hear my whispered words as I turned and left the Great Hall,
"Best friends stick together; no matter what may try to pull us apart..."
★ ★ ★
I had returned to the common room to collect a forgotten textbook, only to find the small boy curled up in an arm-chair, staring blankly into the remaining embers yet to burn out. When he had turned around, I had been startled to see tears streaming down his cheeks. His unusually pale face was red and blotchy, leading me to believe that he had been crying for quite some time.
My immediate thought was to comfort him; to wrap him in my arms and to persuade him that everything would be okay. I did not do this of course as I knew from experience that occasionally, when somebody is upset, all they want is to be left alone. There was also the problem that perhaps everything would not be okay; I still did not no the reason that was causing Remus to become so emotional.
"What's the matter?" I asked softly, settling down on the sofa beside him. "What was Dumbledore saying?"
Remus's gaze was steady, despite the shakiness of the rest of his body. He probably would have answered by now if it were not for the sobs that wracked his chest, knocking all of the breath out of him each spasm. As it was, he did not reply but continued with his internal battle of emotions. He, however, was not crying as I had seen my siblings cry. Remus was not like my sister, Bonnie - who wailed loudly and pitifully - nor was he like my brother Aaron - who closed his eyes and tried to pretend that he was not hurt or upset. Remus just sat there, trembling, tears tumbling from his puffy glue-grey eyes. He seemed so defeated, so lonely, that my heart shattered just looking at him.
"I-it's sil-ly," he finally gasped out.
"It doesn't look silly to me," I responded.
"Well yo-ou wo-ouldn't u-understand," Remus tried.
I could tell that he was just looking for excuses not to tell me, but was too worked up to think up any valid answers to my replies. "Then help me to."
For a minute or so, Remus just sat with his eyes closed, bottom lip trembling. He seemed to be wondering whether or not to confess to me. "I'm a b-bad p-pe-person," his voice was barely a whisper. "A m-monster."
I felt a lump form inside of my throat and gently took the hand of the poor, distressed boy. "Don't say that!"
More coming soon!
So anybody reading this; did you like it? If you are wondering what Lupin is upset about, I'm about to tell you - so if you don't want any spoilers stop reading now!
Lupin is homesick. Confused, disappointed, unsure? Let me explain my idea further; Lupin and his parents have all made sure that he transformed nowhere else other than his own garden. His mother and father would always be with him up until the moment that he became a wolf. The last thing he would remember would be there faces, concerned but caring. But at Hogwarts, everything is new. The only thing even remotely close to a parental figure is Madam Pomfrey. He's terrified.
Oh yes, I know what you think is going to happen next! But no, no, no! Lupin is not going to admit to Frost his annoying condition - not yet anyway. Either Madam Pomfrey will walk in and tell Frost to go away, or Lupin will end up telling Frost some lie about his mother... Green Eyes You are a rock, upon which I stand
Right, so as you can tell, this story is all messed up. It's simply not moving fast enough. No, I'm going to be deleting it and starting over again as I actually like this story. All I'll be doing is a lot of cutting, pasting and new sections. You may not hear from this story for a while, but that's only because I have some serious planning to do! :) Green Eyes You are a rock, upon which I stand 09:03, July 21, 2011 (UTC)</option>
<option>"You didn't have to do that for me you know?" Remus mumbled as we left the Defence Against the Dark Arts room. Professor Mahenrie's harsh words seemed to have knocked what was left of his confidence from him. As he spoke, his fingers twizzled anxiously with the ends of his sleeve and he directed his words at the floor instead of at me.
"I know," I told him simply, allowing myself to be swept into the fast moving crowd. Remus dived in after, tripping over passing feet as he tried not to be separated from me.
"So why did you stick up for me?"
Dodging to the side to avoid being hit in the face by a book bag, I turned a sharp corner that led to the Potions classroom. Fortunately the corridor there was very almost deserted and there were no doors, moving staircases or confusing turn-offs. There was just a straight pathway to our destination.
I turned to face Remus.
"Isn't that what friends do?"
I couldn't help but let a small smile slip as Remus stared at me in surprise. His blue-grey eyes were skeptical and his jaw was dropping in amazement, but his expression, although dazed, was full of pleasure. It was obvious that he had a low self-esteem - if low was the right way to put it; it was as if he had been brought up to believe that he was a slug - so I therefore took satisfaction in seeing him happy.
"You... Y-You want to be m-my friend?" Remus spluttered, looking at me as if I had sprouted a second head.
"That's right," I nodded. "Now we better get to class."
A grin spread itself across Remus's lips as he began to walk forwards, a new-found purposeful stride in his step. Having only ever seen him look miserable or nervous, I found it quite peculiar.
The corridor continued onwards for what seemed like miles. From time to time there was a corner, but there seemed to be no doors or windows; only paintings lining the walls. It would have been pitch black if it were not for the burning torches, held up and secured by brackets. I felt a small shiver run down my spine; we hadn't passed anybody in at least ten minutes and we didn't seem to be getting anywhere.
Just as the thought entered my mind that perhaps it would be a good idea to turn back, a door appeared ahead. Remus reached out to open it.
"Lupin, Lupin, loopy, loony, Lupin!" the voice was loud, screechy and successfully caused me to jump out of my skin. "Loopy, loony, loopy, loony, Lupin!"
Remus glanced at me warily but, receiving no response, stepped forwards anyway. He soon disappeared from sight.
"U-um, ex-excuse me?"
A faint clang, followed by a splash resulted in Remus's startled cry. I held my breathe as I waited for him to re-emerge.
"Aww! Is ickle Woopin scared of old Peeves?"
Remus leaped back out into the corridor, dripping from head to toe with water. Throwing me a terrified look, he had just enough time to mouth the word run to me before something white with an almost translucent look to it swooped out of the door.
It was a ghost, I realized with a start as I legged it down the corridor, and it was chasing after us with a bucket of water. With no time to ponder over this strange occurrence, I concentrated inky on putting one foot in front of the other. Judging by the state of Remus u ahead, it didn't look as if it would be very pleasant to have a container of icy wetness tipped over my head.
Flying around another turn, I wouldn't have noticed the squint angle of the portrait in front of us if I had been going any faster. With a quick glance behind me, I grabbed Remus's arm and dragged him with me.
Gripping the picture frame, I began to push with all of my might. Thankfully, it wasn't too heavy - as if it had been designed especially for this particular use - and we were soon both safely inside.
After making sure that the ghost was out of ear-shot, Remus turned to gawp at me.
"How did you know that-that="
"That this was a secret passageway?" I finished. "The portrait was squint. It wasn't covering the hole properly."
Shaking his head and smiling to himself, Remus turned around.
"This must go on for ages," he gasped. "Should we follow it?"
I glanced at the light spilling in through the portrait.
"Well," I said after a moments thought. "I don't fancy being chased by another ghost."
"And I don't fancy having another bucket of water chucked over my head," Remus agreed. "But who knows what may be lurking up ahead?"
★ ★ ★
One minute I was walking through an empty, dark passageway, the next I was colliding with something hard. At first I thought that we had perhaps reached a dead end. When the dead end gave an alarmed cry, I figured maybe not.
As soon as I had left the warmth of the Gryffindor common room, chilly night air wrapped around me like icy tendrils. Shivering, I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my jacket and waited impatiently as Sirius clambered out of the portrait hole. After making sure that the Invisibility Cloak was securely covering the four of us, we hurried along the draughty corridor and down the nearest flight of stairs.
A mixture of fear and excitement tightened my throat as I took the steps two at a time, tripping over my own feet in the process. All of those weeks spent eavesdropping were finally paying off. We were on our way to rescue Amelia Fudge.
I could hear the boys' boots as they thumped down onto the hard stone floor and out of the blue, I found myself wishing that I had worn something a little sturdier than my shabby old slippers. They were no use when running and once we were outside, they would be soaked through within a couple of seconds.
A girl’s life is much more important than practical footwear.
Shaking my head my own ridiculousness, I forced such thoughts from my mind and tried to concentrate solely on the given task.
“Are you sure this plan of yours is going to work?” Remus demanded, stumbling as the staircase suddenly jerked from its place and swung over to the left.
“Positive,” James replied. “It’s flawless.”
“We’ve got it all worked out,” Sirius agreed. “We slipped a touch of Sleeping Draught into Filch’s dinner.”
“While he’s asleep, we can sneak out the front doors. Amelia is being kept in a building on the other side of the Forbidden Forest.”
“We’ll have exactly one hour to figure out the best way to get her back to the castle before Filch wakes up and locks the doors for the night.”
I found myself abstractedly surprised at how thoroughly had planned out our rescue mission and turned to see Remus blinking at me in similar shock. Though, I found myself thinking, their prank on the Slytherin’s must have been just as methodically thought out. It probably took them weeks to create a potion that, when ingested, would turn the consumer’s clothes pink. Even longer to figure out a way to sneak the potion into the Slytherins’ dinner without students from any of the other Houses ending up with strangely coloured robes.
With a new found respect for James and Sirius, I took after them down the hallway, only stopping once the tall, oak front doors loomed over me. Without warning, uneasiness began to creep over me, making the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. Anxiousness was gnawing at my insides, making my stomach twist and turn, and it was all I could do not to gag as I felt rank bile inch its way up my throat. I felt as I had done on the Hogwarts Express when I had been trying to find an empty seat.
Pull yourself together.
Swallowing down the foul taste, I took a few deep breaths in and out. In front of me, James was reaching out a steady hand and pressing it flat against the smooth wooden surface of the door, seemingly unfazed by the dangers that we were about to walk into. Sirius, although slightly shakier, stood confidentially by his best friend’s side, his dark eyes gleaming determinedly. Even Remus, who had paled to an alarming shade of white, did not hesitate before stepping outside. Reminding myself once more why I was doing this, I dragged in a ragged breath and followed them out into the darkness.
The door slammed shut behind us with a clunk.
Feeling dread wash over me once more, I turned around and gave the door handle a tug. As I had suspected, it was stuck in place.
“We’re locked out,” my words were left to hang in the frosty air. .
Despite how carefully they had considered it, James and Sirius’s ‘Flawless Plan’ had got us locked out of the school. Gulping down my fear, I shot them a glare which they both ignored, trying to look innocent.
“I promise,” James said vaguely after a while. “That was definitely not supposed to happen.”
The four of us stood in silence, assessing our situation. We were standing outside in the middle of the night with no way back into the castle. To rescue the Minister of Magic’s daughter from her potentially murderous kidnappers, we would have to cross through the Forbidden Forest. Even if we managed to sneak Amelia from the bothy to the castle, what would we do next? Spend the night outside in the icy coldness? Attempting to catch somebody’s attention by knocking on the front doors wouldn’t work – everybody inside was a sleep. Then when morning came along, assuming we had survived the night, what would happen? Would Dumbledore be so happy that we had saved Amelia that he would not care about all of the school rules that we had broken? Or would he expel us?
With a heavy sigh, I sank down to the ground. The wispy snowflakes that were beginning to fall from the sky were strangely soothing as they landed on me, melting as soon as they had touched my skin. Why hadn’t we just told one of the professors about Amelia and her kidnappers? They could have stopped it before it had even started.
But no, I thought bitterly, we had to go and save her ourselves to earn ourselves a few House Points.
“Let’s go,” Sirius murmured finally.
The sooner we ended this, the better, so I nodded, following the boys who had already begun to move forwards.
It seemed eerily silent as we edged down the slope and headed in the direction of Hagrid’s hut. Even the wind seemed to have died down. I was well aware of my thudding heart, so loud that I was sure that Remus, Sirius and James could all hear it. It came as such a surprise when a twig snapped beneath my trainer, that I lunged forwards, grabbing the sleeve of Sirius’s cloak and clutching it tightly. I could feel his brown gaze burning into me for a moment, until we came to a sudden halt.
Hagrid’s hut loomed in front of us; its wooden walls creaked as the wind -which had already picked up - battered it. Usually light from inside would be pooling through the windows and warmth would be radiating from its walls, but tonight seemed to be different. The windows were dark and dusty, giving the whole house a cold, empty feeling. I edged nearer to Sirius and Remus.
“Maybe he went for a walk,” Sirius suggested, but his voice was so full of doubt that it was hardly comforting.
Just as the words had left his mouth, a series of loud thumps sounded from behind the wooden hut. I flinched away from the building, my heart in my throat.
“Hagrid!” James called bravely, craning his head to look around the corner, trying to see who or what was there. “Hagrid?”
I squeezed my hands into fists, waiting, praying for Hagrid’s familiar gruff reply. But there was only silence. He wasn’t there.
As we stood, frozen to the spot, the thumps came again, but this time from further away.
It felt as if somebody had punched me in the stomach. All of the breath was knocked out of me in a rush. Sweat began to pour down my forehead, despite how cold it was outside. Inside my pocket, I wrapped my fingers tightly around the bumpy handle of my wand.
I could see Remus squeezing his eyes tight shut, his whole body trembling as he attempted to shut the rest of the world out. Sirius was edging slowly closer to his messy haired bespectacled best friend, drawing in rough, shallow breaths. James, with his mahogany wand raised in front of him, was the only one daring enough to take a step forward.
“M-maybe that is Hagrid,” he suggested nervously. “Maybe we should follow him...”
Sirius nodded slowly in agreement. “He never could hear that well,” he mumbled.
I sighed. That was true...
Slowly, I began to follow James and Sirius around the side of Hagrid’s hut while Remus trailed slightly behind. For a few moments it was disconcertingly quiet again. The only sounds were that of the leaves crunching beneath our frozen feet. Then the thumps came again, inside of the forest this time.
I started slightly but marched on, determined not to be spooked. James and Sirius quickened their paces and I chased after them, though always staying slightly behind because of my nervous glances whenever I heard the slightest sound. We soon reached the forest and were swallowed into its smothering darkness.
The four of us were only a few steps into the woods when we realised that there were only three people standing beneath the Invisibility Cloak. Remus stood stiffly by a nearby bramble thicket. He appeared to be rooted to the spot with fear, his hands slowly rising to cover his face, blocking out the horrors that only he could see. Wind tugged at his robes, raking through his golden hair as the snow swirled around him.
I looked behind me to see James and Sirius staring at the terrified boy with similar looks of concern plastered upon their faces, but I was the only who rushed over to his side.
“His eyes,” Remus whispered to me. “I can still see his eyes.”
It was then that the banging noise sounded once more, this time coming from only a metre or so away. Slowly, I turned around and then I could see them too. A pair of hungry, yellow eyes staring out at us from the shadows.
The next thing I knew, I had grabbed Remus’s arm and was dragging him, forcing him to move backwards, away from the man dressed in the ragged grey robes. The Invisibility Cloak gone, James and Sirius were leaping in front of us, wands raised defensively. Then I was tripping over a water-clogged log, falling down a steep drop into a hollow and landing on my back on the cold ground.
My dressing gown was smeared with mud and slush, my slippers lost somewhere in the undergrowth. I tugged one of my hands out of a thorny bush, wincing as blood gushed out of the scrapes along my palm. My other arm was still firmly linked with Remus’s.
As soon as my dizziness had eased, I heaved myself to my knees, grimacing as I realised how beaten up and bruised my body was.
We must have fallen a long way.
Hauling Remus with me, the two of us huddled under the shelter of a particularly large tree root as the footsteps grew closer. The stranger was pulling James by the collar of his pyjama top and was shoving Sirius forwards with his other hand. His lip curled into a nasty yellow grin as he caught sight of the two of us over at the other side of the hollow.
“I remember you,” the man’s eyes bore into Remus. “John’s son, right?”
Remus opened his mouth, but all that came out was a strangled whimper before a sob caught him and he turned his head in the other direction.
“Take it you remember me too,” the stranger said with a bark of laughter. His face suddenly grew deadly serious, his voice dropping to a threatening growl. “Do exactly what I say; exactly when I say it and you and your friends will remain unharmed. But step one foot out of line and I’ll give you another reminder of what I’m capable of.” The man prodded Remus with his tattered shoe. “You hear me, Lupin?”
Remus looked up, nodding vigorously. “Y-yes,” he mumbled, his voice barely audible.
“Good,” the man nodded. “Now get up and follow me.”
The bothy was waiting alone in the dark, snow covered field. It stood tall in front of us, but only just. The old stone walls seemed as though they might crumble apart at any moment and the rusty corrugated tin roof looked ready to cave in on itself. There were two small windows at the front of the cottage, but the curtains had been drawn tightly shut, so I could not see inside.
The building did not have any flowers or a lawn, only untamed yellowing grass and half of an unsteady brick wall. A lone gnarled ash tree jutted from the ground beside the house, its bare branches reaching into the night sky like jagged claws, and a single path cut through the grass to the front door, but apart from that, the glen was as good as empty. A long white stretch giving away to mountains for as far as the eye could see.
I started slightly but did not pull away when I felt Remus slip his hand into my own. Our fingers interlocked and he squeezed our palms together, pressing so hard that I thought for a second that he was trying to hurt me. Then I saw the tears that were threatening to spill from wide grey-blue eyes and the barely concealed trembling of his bottom lip. Pressing close against his side, I stepped inside as the man ushered us through the door, locking it behind us.
“I have to go for a minute,” the man said, flicking the lightswitch on. His yellow eyes glinted at us dangerously. “If you even think of doing anything while I’m gone, you’ll be wishing you were dead by the time I’m done with you.”
The man disappeared up the staircase and I found myself in what appeared to be a perfectly ordinary living room. A TV stood in the corner, three chairs were gathered around a dying fire and the mantelpiece was lined with delicate ornaments and framed pictures. If I didn’t know any better, I would have said that it looked to be the house of a pensioner couple.
Across the room, James sat on a rickety stool. Perspiration was dripping from his face in sheets and his hazel eyes were clouded over and faraway. It almost sounded as if he were drowning as he desperately gulped in frantic mouthfuls of air.
“What happened to him?” I demanded, turning to Sirius who was patting James’s shoulder reassuringly.
“Cruciatus Curse,” Sirius replied simply.
“Cruci... what?” I echoed.
“An Unforgivable Curse,” Sirius explained. “Causes extreme pain to the victim.”
With a heavy sigh of resignation, I flopped down to the carpeted ground, leaning my back against the wall. There was no way that we would be able to escape and that realisation suddenly made me exhausted. The dizziness from when I had fallen into the hollow had returned and was preventing me from thinking straight. My whole body was cold and clarted with mud, my arms and legs laced with scrapes and scratches. My head was pounding and, absent-mindedly, I placed my hand on the back of my skull, only to pull away when I felt intense pain. Yanking my hand back, I looked down at my fingers to see that they were wet with blood.
Emerging from my state of shock, I quickly wiped the sticky wet substance onto my pyjama trousers and looked up.
“Who was that man?” I asked Remus, unable to stop my words from slurring together. “How do you know him?”
Remus flinched away at my question, but opened his mouth to answer nonetheless. I couldn’t tell whether he was swaying or if the whole room was swaying. Blinking my eyes, I tried to concentrate only on my friend.
“He’s F-Fenrir Greyb-back,” Remus stuttered. “He-“
“I was the one who made Remus who he is today.”
I looked up in shock to see the man descending the flight of stairs, two other adults trailing behind him. Cygnus and Arcturus, I thought vaguely before blacking out completely.
I stood back aghast, unable to believe what had just happened. Every single CD in my brother’s treasured collection lay smashed and scattered across the floor. Moments earlier I had been reaching up to the top shelf of the huge unit that had housed Archie’s vast selection of albums. I had known this was forbidden but he wouldn’t have missed just one CD if I had returned it straight away the next morning.
Unfortunately, since Archie was much taller than me, I had had to climb onto one of the lower shelves to reach the disk that I wanted. I had just managed to slide the case from its place when all of the shelves had toppled down on top of me. I was now standing in the middle of 74 shattered CD’s. If I wanted to wake up the next morning, I knew I had to hide – and quickly.
As quietly as possible – though I wasn’t sure that was necessary, considering the loud crash I had just made – I crept out of the bedroom and went straight to the one place in the whole house where I was sure nobody would find me.
Under the stairs was a small cupboard where my mother kept the vacuum cleaner. Behind that were all of the things that we never used, lying in untidy piles and gathering dust. At the very back of this tiny, cluttered storage space was a gap just large enough for me to squeeze into.
It was in no way comfortable, but at least this hiding place would keep me safe until the danger had passed. There was no way Archie would think to look for me in the spider-infested cupboard underneath the stairs.
A while passed before I found a bearable position. I managed to drag an old, orange, moth-eaten blanket out from beneath a smashed china plate and used it as a pillow. Slipping my trainers off, I curled up into a ball and tried to be quiet.
There was a long stretch of silence and I would have drifted off into a peaceful sleep if footsteps had not thundered past my head. The floorboards began to shake beneath me, as if a giant had just passed by.
“Dad?” I heard my brother’s voice, realizing it was just Archie walking past the cupboard. My father grunted in response to Archie. I found myself crossing my fingers in the hope that my brother had not found the destruction that I had left in his bedroom. “Is that an owl?”
“An owl?” my Dad echoed my thoughts exactly. “At 11 O’clock in the morning? Are you sure it’s not just a big pigeon?” I heard him wander across to the window by the front door. “Blimey! You’re right, Archie! That is an owl!”
As quietly as possible, I turned around so that my ear was pressed right up against the wall. I wasn’t sure if I was hearing Archie and Dad right. There couldn’t possibly be an owl in ... in the broad daylight. There were rarely any owls at night around here.
“Do you think it’s all right?” Archie asked, though he hardly sounded concerned.
“Maybe it got hit on the head.” I could just imagine Dad shrugging.
“I don’t know, Archie,” he admitted.
There was a moment of silence before more footsteps sounded as Archie made his way to the kitchen.
“I’m off for a game of footy with Jake!” he yelled as the door slammed shut. I breathed a sigh of relief. If Archie was hanging out with Jake Brown from next-door then he wouldn’t be seen for a while. It was possible that he wouldn’t even return until the morning.
At last I could venture from my hiding place, though I wouldn’t dare to with Dad standing right outside the cupboard door. Sinking back down underneath the piles of unwanted junk, I waited for him to leave the window.
Five minutes ticked by and I still hadn’t heard any footsteps. I was beginning to think that I had missed them when the letter box on the front door clattered. Instantly I was curious. The postman only ever came at 1 O’clock.
“Emm!” my Dad’s loud voice made me jump. “Can you come here a minute?” I forced myself not to cry out as my head collided with the stair above me. There was a dull thump which I prayed my Dad to pass of as a noise coming from the kitchen.
“What is it?” my mother asked impatiently as she walked down the hallway. “I’m in the middle of making lunch.” At the mention of lunch I felt my stomach growl loudly. I tried to ignore it.
“I know this is going to sound crazy,” came my father’s voice. “But there’s an owl outside. And it just posted a letter through our door.” Crazy was exactly how it sounded. My mother obviously thought so too.
“What?” Emily Frost echoed.
“I know,” my Dad replied. “But look at it.” There was a brief silence as my father passed the letter to my mother.
“It’s addressed to Rowan!” my ears pricked at the mention of my name. Was this a dream? Or had an owl really posted a letter through our door in the middle of the day with my name on it? “H-How is this possible?” my Mum continued, slight panic in her voice. “An owl? Are you sure the postman didn’t just come early?”
“Positive – Archie saw it too,” my Dad said. I pressed my ear even harder against the wall. Guilt was squirming in my stomach for eavesdropping on my parent’s conversation but then I reminded myself that they were talking about me.
“I really want to open it!” my mother confessed to my utter disbelief. No way could she be suggesting that they should open my letter.
“We can’t!” my father cried, apparently as outraged as I was. “Its Rowan’s letter – she should open it!”
“Come on!” my mother encouraged. “We have to see what’s inside! Besides, it could be important.”
“Okay,” Dad sighed. “But we’ll have to seal it up as soon as we’ve looked at it.”
I wanted to leap from the cupboard and rip the envelope from their hands, but I knew I couldn’t. Instead, I lay on the ground where I was, struggling to contain the anger that was bubbling up inside of me as I heard the sound of paper tearing.
“Dear Miss Frost,” my mother read. “We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on the 1st September. We await your owl by now later than 31st June. Yours sincerely, Minerva McGonagall Deputy Headmistress.”
For a moment all I could do was stare at the wall, gawping. Then, as I heard more voices, I leant back against the wall.
“-Not what it says, is it?” my Dad’s voice was asking, sounding slightly dazed.
“It is,” my mother replied calmly.
“Emily Frost, please tell me you’re kidding me on?”
“Read it yourself.”
There was silence as my Dad read my letter. Nobody spoke for a long while.
“It’s a joke,” my father declared finally. “It’s some bloody kids playing some stupid joke.”
“It doesn’t look like a kids joke, Will,” my mother said slowly. “Look at the quality of the paper and there’s even a wax seal. Somebody has put a lot of time and effort into this and I seriously doubt that children could write in such an old-fashioned style.”
“Are you actually suggesting that this is all real?”
“I don’t know.”
I didn’t know what to think either. A strong part of me believed my Dad – this was after all a bit to... magical to be real – however, an even more overpowering part of me wanted to believe my mother. If what she had said was true, that made me think that it was unlikely that this was just a couple of kids goofing around.
“Well I know that this is all a loud of rubbish,” my Dad scoffed, wakening me from my thoughts. “I really don’t think we should share this with, Rowan.” I felt my silent anger rise again, but continued to listen.
“Why not?” my mother demanded. “What harm could it do? It looks like just a bit of fun.”
“No Emily!” my father snapped. “We don’t want her getting excited over this. It’ll only end in tears!”
If I could have slapped him, I would. My eyes narrowed at the junk piles and my lip set in an unhappy frown.
“Just looks at what else is inside it,” Mum went on.”It could give us a clue.”
“Okay,” Dad agreed. Nobody spoke for a moment. “There’s just a list of all the books and equipment Rowan would need. Look at all of this stuff! Where are we supposed to get a cauldron or a wand?!” I had to admit, it did sound rather ridiculous.
“There’s still a piece of paper inside.”
I listened closely as my father pulled the paper from the envelope.
“It looks like... directions,” my Dad decided. “They’re trying to get us to drive to... Diagon Alley to buy stuff. I bet the place is made up.” Diagon Alley? I hadn’t heard of it either.
“There’s only one way to find out if this is true,” my mother told us. “Who knows – it could be fun! We’ll soon find out if somebody is playing a trick.
“No!” Dad roared. “This is crazy!”
“Please?” Mum appealed. “There’s no harm in it. We could tell the kids that we’re going on a family outing.” I raised an eyebrow at that one.
“No,” Dad repeated firmly.
“We need to find out!”
I listened while they argued. It took a long time before Dad finally gave in.
“Okay,” he sighed. “I’ll go and round up the children. We’ll see if we can find this so called ‘Diagon Alley’ after lunch.”
The cupboard under the stairs slipped away like grains of sand falling through the gaps between my fingers until all I was left with was thick, heavy darkness. That memory, as well as the family and the house that I had left back in my hometown, seemed very far away now. I wondered whether I would ever get to see Archie and Mum and Dad again. I wondered whether I would ever get to see anything again. The blackness that was pressing down on me from all sides was becoming frustrating. It was as if I was in a windowless room, unable to find the light switch so that I could let myself out. If I could have pinched myself I would have, but my arms were too heavy to move. My nightmare seemed unwilling to lift.
I was beginning to think that I had perhaps died when a crackling sound caught my attention. It sounded like wood burning on a fire. It smelt of wood burning on a fire. Warmth washed over me in a rush, making my fingers and toes tingle pleasurably. I peeled my eyes open to find myself in the same living room that I had been in before I had blacked out.
Pale, milky light peeked through the windows and I could hear birds chirping loudly outside. I guessed that it was sometime in the early hours of the morning. Cold wetness suddenly dribbled down my forehead. Alarmed, I heaved my arm up to touch it, worrying that it was more blood. However, all that my fingers found was somebody else’s hand.
I felt panic flaring in my chest, my heart thumping in my throat. Flinching away from the other person, whoever it was, I tried to run, to escape their grasp, but my body refused to agree to the messages that my brain was screaming at it. It was the man from the Forbidden Forest, I was sure of it now. He was holding me, preparing to kill me just like he had almost certainly already killed James, Sirius and Remus.
“Shhh,” the voice was calming and certainly did not belong to Fenrir Greyback. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.” The soft, gentle words had instead come from the mouth of a man with tousled brown hair. His face was pale from lack of sleep and stubble ran down his lower jaw. All of the fear seemed to lift from my body as I looked up at his clear blue eyes, gazing down at me through the thick lenses of his glasses. I was lying sprawled out on one of the settees, my head resting on his lap as he tenderly dabbed my forehead with a damp flannel. My clothes were now clean and dry, my feet covered with a pair of woollen socks.
“W-what happened?” I asked him, my voice slightly shaky.
“Don’t worry,” the man assured me. “You just hit your head. You experienced some minor concussion and some blood loss, but I fixed you up as best I could.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled. Then I remembered what had happened before I had passed out and a string of questions tumbled out in random order, “Is James okay? Are Sirius and Remus with him? Where is that man – Fenrir Greyback?”
The man chuckled softly, “Your friends are all okay. The Potter boy just went into shock after the Cruciatus Curse hit him – which is perfectly understandable. He and the other two are in the spare room with Amelia.” He paused and looked at me seriously, “And don’t worry; Greyback won’t be back until nightfall.”
Nodding, I relaxed and lay back on his knee, my eyes closing. After last night, all the energy seemed to have been knocked out of me and all I wanted to do was sleep. The man stroked my arm soothingly and I was just about to drift off into a peaceful slumber when he shifted out from underneath me.
“Fancy a cup of tea?” he asked.
“Yes please,” I agreed, sitting up. My throat was dry and scratchy and tea always helped me to waken up.
The man, who I now guessed to be Cygnus or Arcturus, disappeared through a door and appeared a couple of moments later holding two steaming mugs. I took mine gratefully, taking a sip of the scolding hot drink.