6) Trust

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Now even less confident than the minute before, Liz approached the fireplace tentatively and stared at the coat-of-arms. What should she do now? Touch it? Well, she had to try. Slowly, slowly, she stretched out her hand and touched the emblem with two fingers.

At once the fireplace transformed into a huge doorway. Two massive, black doors opened in front of her, revealing what was behind them. Ugly, brown- red flames broiled and flared, blocking a narrow stone passage.

Liz' breath caught in her throat and she hesitated. The moment stretched till it wsa eternity and still she did nothing. "The keys to deliverance are kindness and courage, that will bring the powerless through this passage." She whispered. "Let's see if that's true!"

With that she flung herself forward and into the flames. She hoped that they were only some sort of barrier and that she'd get to other side quickly. Something quite different happened:

Something wrenched her away and up, swinging and twirling her through lightless space till she passed out

When she came to, she was sitting on an armchair. It was the only comfortable piece of furniture in the gloomy and chilled room. On the stone walls around her hung weapons and torturing instruments. On the wall opposite stood a chair with shackles that were positioned to hold the ankles and wrists of the one sitting on it. Its seat and back were covered with sharp spikes that were about two inches long.

Beside the chair was another instrument. A hook hung down from a solid wooden frame. A prisoners' hands could be tied behind his back and to the hook. Then the hook was pulled upwards slowly till the prisoner hung completely on his hands, his arms twisted upwards behind his back.

A little to the right stood a massive table with shackles to hold down the prisoner who was to be tortured. Beside it stood another, smaller table, covered with little knives, scissors, tongs, pins, saws and files. Horrified, Liz wanted to turn away. Just then, somebody pounded onto the door to the room loudly.

Without deciding to do so, Liz said, "Come in!" In a voice that was not hers. It sounded more like. like the BLODDY BARON himself! She wanted to look down and examine what she looked like, but that was impossible.

Instead, she watched without blinking as two guards with cold eyes and ruthless mouths dragged a spent looking man into the room.

"On the table!" Liz ordered in a cruel voice, or didn't, for the voice was that of the Bloody Baron and the decision was his, too. all she could do was watch, trapped inside his body, she couldn't even shut her eyes, she had to watch.

She did not know how long she was in the room. Time passed so slowly, it turned into eternity. Maybe it sometimes even stood still, while the Baron's victims uttered blood-curdling screams and pleaded for mercy.

After the first victim had died, the guards pulled in the next. This one they seated on the spiked chair. Liz watched, nausea washing over her, as he was strapped more and more tightly onto the chair, till blood oozed out of the holes in his body and dripped to the stone floor.

And yet she laughed the Bloody Baron's dry and gleeful laugh. Oh, how she hated him, then! It had been bad enough to see his memories, but to be here, in his body, and feel the blood on her hands and how it felt as he cut at one of his victim's fingers.

There was no way she could escape and through the Bloody Baron she turned into a murderer. She killed twelve people while they were in the stone room and she smiled at each death. During that time, she nearly turned crazy. Desperation gripped her in a vice-like grip. When would this end? Could she ever wash al this blood off her hands?

In her heart, she screamed, while he tortured his prisoners, the Bloody Baron tortured her too, twelve times over, and she couldn't die. Finally, it was over. With a satisfied smirk, Liz/the Bloody Baron kicked the last corpse that lay on the floor before him.

"Burn it!" Was all he ordered, then he left the room and again Liz was wrenched away into nothingness.

She screamed. She cried, she rubbed at her clean hands, trying to wash off the guilt. Why hadn't she stopped the killing? She buried her face in her hands in despair and sobbed convulsively.

When she was dumped onto a stone floor, she crumpled over, flooding the ground under her with tears. She didn't know how long she lay there, sobbing on the cold stone floor, with the dark covering her.

There was a time when she had no tears anymore and she stood up. All around her it was pitch black and she didn't know where she was. Reaching out with her hand, she felt cold stone walls on either side of her. Slowly, sadly, she began to walk, step after tired step. What further horror awaited her?

Walking down the dark and icy cold passage, she thought about the Bloody Baron again. She remembered all too clearly how much fun he had had during the torturing and killing. He didn't deserve to be helped! He was such a brute! His cruelty deserved to be punished forever!

"Ha! In dubito pro reo!" She exclaimed. "There is no doubt anymore! He is a horrible man!"

Then again, she remembered the sadness in his eyes while he looked the projections of his memories. It had been the only real emotion she had seen in his face during her time with him and she was sure it was genuine.

"Maybe he deserves a chance, in spite of all." She murmured. "And anyway, I'm just as cruel as him if I don't save his soul and give him a chance of redemption. It's not lie I just give him a free and easy ticket to salvation, he still has to do enough good deeds to make up for his bad, and I bet THAT'll take ages!"

Suddenly, a bright light appeared in the passage before her. She stumbled forwards, eager to reach the end of this dark tunnel, where the cold dug into her. By and by, it got warmer and she stopped shivering. She reached the opening and all at once, letters appeared in the air before her.

"You are willing, that is why you are here, But consider once more, what awaits you and fear: In the body of a victim you'll experience pain, You will be cruelly hurt again and again. So think it over, don't rush your step, For once you are there, pain you must accept."

Liz took a deep breath. The warning was clear. Now she would be tortured, trapped in the body of one of the Baron's victims. She shuddered and gulped. Shall I, shan't I? She chanted in her head. "Well, I've come so far, I won't give up now!" She finally decided. "Didn't I just say that the Baron deserved a chance?"

Later, Liz had nightmares reminding her of those few hours she was tortured expertedly by both the Baron and his men. The wounds they inflicted on her were painful beyond description, but never deadly. Sometimes she didn't even bleed when they stuck a pin into her, but she never forgot the pain.

She passed out, the last thing she saw the glinting eyes of the Baron, who watched her draw her last breath with a contented smile. Again, anger and hate flared up in her, but she shook them off. He had not done it to her, he had done it in his past life. He would do better now, and try to make up for his sins.

She repeated this mantra in her head while she was swept away from the place in a mind warbling motion. This time, she was faced by the ghost of the Bloody Baron. He hovered before her uncertainly. Curious, she looked him over.

"What happens now?"

He just smirked and waved his hand. Peeves appeared.

"Hey! What are you doing!" Liz shouted, as she saw him fade.

"You have done what I wanted you to do, now Peeves may have you."

"I don't think so!" Liz shouted angrily. "I helped you, now you help me! You promised to help me out of here, you won't leave me here with PEEVES!"

She spoke in anger, but also with confidence. She was in the right. All at once, a white light flared before her and she heard a booming laugh.

"The muggle girl thinks you will keep your promise, Baron! I wonder why she trusts you so much, but it doesn't matter. My curse is broken and I don't even care."

It was then that Liz realised how lucky she was. Had she worded her protest only slightly differently, she would have failed, but she hadn't. This person who had cursed the Baron had interpreted her angry words as trust and so the curse was broken. Well, she really HAD trusted the Baron to keep his promise, why, she didn't know.

With a thump, she landed on the floor of the chamber where her adventure had started. In front of her wavered the silvery form of the Bloody Baron, a small, thin smile on his face.

"You succeeded." Was all he said.

Liz nodded.

"I thank you." Pompously, the Baron bowed before her.

Liz grinned cheekily. "It was my pleasure." She answered, bowing with great flourish. "If you get me out of here, will I be able to come back once in a while and see how you're getting along?"

The Baron nodded. "I will cast a spell on you that nullifies the Hogwarts blocks."

"Is that so easy?"

The Baron looked definitely smug. "Not if you helped raise them."

"Then go on!" Liz urged. "I bet my family's very anxious, I've been away much too long."

He nodded. "Good Bye!" He whispered, and waved his hand twice in front of her.

At the second wave, the world around Liz began to swirl. She had just enough time to call out "Good Bye!" to him, then she was away, standing on the meadow facing Hogwarts.

A grunt behind her made her start. Fearfully, realisation dawning slowly in her mind, she turned. The bull faced her, scraping the ground with one of his front hooves.

"Darn!" Liz cried and ran. This time to one of the fences facing away from Hogwarts and she vaulted it just in time, for only seconds after she'd jumped over it, the bull crashed head first into one of the planks.

Liz stuck out her tongue at him. "You have to be faster than that to catch me!" She told the bull triumphantly, and strolled off, back to the where she was sure her family waited for her.