She was mute when her eyes opened abruptly. Her head lulled left and right as she tried to dissolve the knots embedded within the muscles of her neck. She winced when she moved too forcefully, screwing her eyes shut as the pain thundered across her spine.
'Easy does it.' Good news is she had feeling of all four limbs, so it made it easier to push her torso off the dirty floor. She withheld another groan as her shoulders protested the tempting pull gravity exerted on her.
She ran her hands across her face, caring less how germ infested they were after touching the floor. She needed to rub away the haze that clouded her eyes. It was perhaps the closest she came to having 'nargles', as Luna put it.
"-Mione? Where are you?" She croaked out, looking left and right. Her friend's name. The first thing she recalled were her brown eyes. Chocolate brown eyes with widened pupils. Why were they wide? Was she scared? Startled?
What scared her? It couldn't be the ice. She didn't see a shred of it anywhere in the cluttered room. Red, on the other hand… that immediately caught her sight.
There. At the corner of her vision. By the bed post.
It was stained all the way there, and a stream trailed accross the parquet, leading to a dainty arm, its owner sitting limp with her back to the wall.
Daphne now began to hear her faintly gasping, gasping at the same pace one would breathe. Perhaps it was hyperventilation. Where that arm was limp, the other was at her throat, trying to stem the flow of blood that would have otherwise gushed out like a fountain.
The person. Her features. Her. Brown hair. So what? More than half the world's population had that. Gryffindor tie? The tie was indistinguishable- any tie at this point would be soaked red all the way through. So, what if that shade of brown eyes could be found on no other person? Coincidences exist, Daphne reasoned, amidst the wheezing that began to fade with each passing second and each droplet of blood that leaked down and added to the crimson puddle forming around the soon-to-be corpse.
No matter what, there's no possible way in Daphne's mind that- there's no way that it's-
"You hear what, Harry?" She ran to catch up to Harry who took off in a sprint amidst the clutter of parchments they were finishing up with for the club, leaving a trail of fluttering paper and feathered quills in his wake, cloak billowing behind him like a cape.
"I think- no, I'm pretty sure I heard Hermione telling me they're stuck in Natsu's hiding spot!"
"And you know where- nevermind, of course you do. That cat is enamoured with you, much like a lot of animals, actually."
"I can imagine they'd tolerate someone who didn't coo gibberish at them and talk instead."
"You still don't think I can talk to animals, can you?"
"Well… Okay, now's not the time for this conversation. We've got a little Gryffindor to save-"
"And a tall Slytherin. Daphne's with her- she signed to me."
With the recent tension between the two, it was no surprise that Cho's eyebrows arched up sceptically.
"I can only hope they're there to make up."
"I'd rather focus on running now and ask them in person!"
"Good point. Ready the invisibility cloak- while it won't completely mask us from the dementors, it should do so partially, considering they have an especially powerful draw to you-"
"Planning on leaving the castle? In such a troubling time?" Both teens yelled out in surprise, turning around to see Professor Lupin with his arms crossed and foot tapping, looking at both students admonishingly, though still harboring that fatherly concern everyone came to know and love.
"W-well, we were- you see, erm-" Cho hated how she couldn't even make up a white lie, even more in front of figures of authority.
"Hermione told us of a new secret passage and we want to try out, promise we won't be out for too long!"
"I wasn't born yesterday, Harry, although I'll give you points for lying convincingly; I would've been fooled if I hadn't known… well, that's in the past. Now please, either tell me the truth or go back to your dormitories where it's safe."
'I guess we have to fess up. Hermione and Daphne might be mad at us for this, but better mad than in danger.'
"Hermione and Daphne are holed up in the shrieking shack because they were fleeing from dementors."
"Th-the shrieking shack!?" No sooner had they said it, that Remus took off in a swift walk, wand drawn as he went through the passageway, needing nothing more than the sight of a tarnished black cloak to yell out expecto patronum.
Harry and Cho, stupefied by the professor's sudden exit and jerky movements, followed suit, taking out their wands and sticking close to the Professor. They were still learning to cast patroni - it wasn't even in their curriculum, last time Cho checked.
Dusk had passed, and all three were shivering from the collective impact of dementors and the evening march chill. At least it kept them on their toes.
Was there anyone else they could get to help? The numbers were overwhelming! It was Cho's initial reaction, until she watched the professor swat them away like mangy flies, so insignificantly, and then she began to wonder exactly how much power Remus Lupin belied under his humble act.
It was certainly humbling for her. She even felt a bit embarrassed she didn't do anything about the occasional jibes her fellow Ravenclaws threw around about his lacking prowess- no one had seen him in action. So powerful and agile, and experienced.
Harry was gazing at the man like his new idol, and Cho had a niggling feeling he was going to search for apprenticeship contracts after- if- this situation doesn't end in shambles.
"There!" He froze the branches, quickly ushering the two inside despite his reluctance from the start to have the two tagging along- he couldn't afford to waste time ushering them back in the dorms when Sirius was alone.
'What would Hermione and Daphne think now? Would they try to attack? Would Sirius defend and harm them? Or worse would he let them end him? Harry! Imagine the shame Sirius would feel if James's son scorned him like the wretched criminal the world sees him as… It would truly be what breaks Sirius, rather than the 10 years of rotting in that cell.
Would he flee once more? And would that escape be from the truth- no, Sirius proved his honesty, if only Pettigrew was here to act as proof, as the missing link.'
The thoughts were whirling around in his head like a hurricane picking up speed, the closer he crept and crawled through the dirt towards the dim light of the shack's entrance. The yelling coming from the inside, served to do nothing but quicken his heartbeat so much it feels like it's been hooked to an unending supply of caffeine, spiked with some cocaine, beating almost as strongly as his werewolf heart.
'Merlin please let everyone be alright, please be alright-' Unfortunately, very few things tend to go Remus Lupin's way.
For the scene inside nearly brought him to his knees.
"What are you two doing here?"
"W-we could be asking you the same thing!" Seamus jumped up from the spot he was leaning on the column, pointing accusingly at the two Slytherins that stood in front of the room of requirements.
Pansy sneered at the irish student, Draco's face not changing much- he's constantly glaring at people nowadays.
Dean remained leaning on his pillar, observing the scene quietly for a tense moment before cutting off the silence as if it had never settled between the tile cracks.
"Cho and Harry asked us to meet them in 5 minutes to finalize the music club plans."
"Music club? That's right… the squirt mentioned to Daphne a couple of times."
"Squirt?" Seamus deflated from an upcoming rant as he squinted confusedly at Pansy.
"Hermione, of course." She considered it as much of a fact as, say, water was wet.
"Since when are you on first name basis with her?" Dean inquired, scratching his chin, becoming just a tad less suspicious and more curious. Pansy relaxed at the mention of the 'squirt', which, in hindsight shouldn't surprise him too much: Pansy was also Daphne's closest friend, and Hermione did have a penchant of making people like her, or want to kill her less, save for You-Know-Who.
"None of your business Gryffindorks." She fired back immediately, which riled Seamus up and made Dean scoff.
"Not worth it, Seamus. Save your anger for beating the drums."
"You? A drummer?" Draco spoke up for once, all eyes turning to him curiously, Pansy's hopefully, even.
"Yeah. Play the Barron. And the normal drums. What's it to you?"
"Anyways, what are you two doing here?"
"Daphne called us to meet with her."
"None of your business."
"We told you!"
"Well we didn't force you to divulge any details- "
"Ha, typical Slytherin cunning."
"Why thank you, we're flattered."
Seamus sneered back for good measure, but unable to stare Pansy down. The girl was known to have a stare as unforgiving as a King Cobra's.
"It seems neither of our parties are showing up on time."
"Daphne wouldn't ditch. This is important." She muttered to Draco, who rolled his eyes.
"To you. I never asked for this."
Dean's ears perked up, and both he and Seamus kept quiet, looking elsewhere; it's not like they were using muffling spells.
"So what? You'd rather turn completely insomniac? Let your mind rot? Let… her, win?"
"Right, and knowing Daphne and how she was influenced by goody little two shoes mudbloo- Ow! Okay okay, Granger, she'll start throwing flowers at her, or better yet, bore her with speeches of goodness and hope. Blergh."
"…Draco, you're even starting to sound like h-"
"Don't you dare finish that. I'm- I'm nothing like that maniac and you know it!" They were hissing, the two Gryffindors not knowing how to react. In their three years of being in this castle, they had never witnessed in-fighting between two Slytherins, especially these two childhood friends who were joined by the hip.
Dean had an inkling of who Draco might be talking about, and so does Seamus. Though the latter more clearly recalled what Dean had been facing against. He never got the chance to confront his friend about that- rather Dean never cleared up the time to talk about it.
Now was a time better than any other, Seamus reasoned.
"…Hey, Dean." He nudged his best friend in the side, snapping him out of his eavesdropping on the other two, standing at the other end of the portrait.
"That day with the boggart."
"Uhuh?" He hesitated, knowing what came next.
"Why a vampire?"
" Can we leave that for another time, and possibly place?"
"…Oh! Y-yeah sure." He noticed Dean side eying the two Slytherins far too into their own business to notice the paranoia coming from Dean. While the trumpet player didn't harbor any intense hatred or even mistrust towards Slytherins, he was a boy who preferred to keep his cards close to his chest. Except when it came to Seamus of course. The latter knowing this made him feel more pleased than he'd thought.
His stream of thoughts was interrupted when an earth shattering scream very nearly burst his eardrum, and those of the rest too, Draco so startled and terrified he severely flinched and dropped to the floor. Seeing the supposed Scion of green react that way would have made the two Gryffindor boys' eyebrows raise had they themselves not been shaken by the screech. They barely glanced at each other before sprinting to the window overlooking the whopping willow, the source of the sound, and search frantically for whoever made it. They were perplexed as to why a herd of Dementors were flying away across the hills, trailing behind a black blur- Dean thought he saw a black dog, but may have been mistaken. Maybe that scream shook up his head more than he thought.
"-Mione No!" She sprung up with a scream that ripped from her thoat so suddenly that the hand placing a wet cloth on her forehead retracted as if it had been electrified.
"A-ah!" The ravenclaw nearly fell off her chair, looking at Daphne like she had grown a second head. And Daphne was starting to look at her like she looks at her pumpkin pie during dinner. Or her viola: a bit too fondly.
"Ch-Cho!" She lunged up to squeeze the girl's lungs with a huge hug, never more relieved to inhale the faint smell of vanilla mixed with old parchment more than now.
"Easy there, tiger! What's with the sudden affection?"
"…Sorry." She eventually loosened the hug, relieved that Cho had at least returned her hug .
"No, don't worry, I liked it, just… unexpected. Why were you yelling for Hermione, Daphne?"
"What do you mean- Mione, where is she!? I had a dreadful nightmare of a hulking black grim, a beastly hound attacking us and- and I saw her and she- she was dying, Cho… I had never been more relieved to know it was a nightmare-"
"Wow you must've hit your head hard. Hermione just went to get you some of your favorite hot chocolate. You know, the one that gets you through migraines or when you attempt a spell and it backfires on you as usual-"
She ignored all the words coming out of Cho's mouth after the girl said hot chocolate. This, didn't make much sense. She then looked around while the Ravenclaw kept talking.
How did she end up in the Ravenclaw common room? The comfortable couch that she began to sink in, the soothing atmosphere of the room lulling her into a false state of ease- she should be more alarmed, she isn't supposed to be here- what- why is this happening? Yet, she didn't react abruptly- no jumping out of her seat or that sort of impulsiveness. Her mind felt stuffed with cotton.
She glanced on the table, seeing four sets of homework, potions essays due Monday. On- liquid luck? Was that part of their of their curriculum?
They had, hadn't they? This must be another dream. What the hell? Why wasn't she snapping out of it!?
"This isn't real."
"And Harry should be here with Natsu any- what?"
"This, the room, you- I'm still dreaming, there's no way it's real. I mean- Hermione, Hermione!" The girl in question entered the room with four hot chocolates with her usual levitating ease.
"How-how are you here? What's going on!? Why aren't we in the shrieking shack!? But wait, you're okay!" She was at the brunette's side so fast it felt like she apparated. Patting a confused Hermione's arms before hastily hugging her and holding the brunette's face with intense confusion.
Has she grown taller or was her mind playing tricks on her? Her hair was longer than she remembered.
"yes… I am? Daph, love, you alright? I could get you to Madame Pomfrey if you feel light headed."
"Love? Wha-no I'm fine- and how is it you would suggest madame Pomfrey, you can't get ten feet near her without sizzling like a campfire"
"Your face is a bit red though- you're sure you haven't come down with a fever? " She gently grabbed a hold of Daphne's face and brought their foreheads in contact with each other, a light frown marring her face.
Although Daphne did feel herself getting a bit redder. What's with Hermione today!? And why was she even embarrassed?
"Not sure what's wrong with her, Mione. Looks like she had a nasty nightmare that shook her up. A lot like the ones Harry has, but at least his are PG rated-"
"Good thing I got all of us your favorite beverage, eh?" She joked and guided the perplexed blonde back to the couch in between the two other girls who acted as if there was nothing wrong.
'There's definitely something up… I mean… the whole thing- the duel… I didn't dream that up right?'
"Us two battling! Don't you remember being mad at me?"
"You'll have to be more specific dear- it's happened more than once- Never to the point of duelling though, surprisingly."
"D-dear? What is it with these petnames… snap out of it greengrass…" She slapped her cheeks a couple of times for good measures, irked with the confusion of this limbo dream state. Even though everything she touched felt so-
"So we're alright then?" She spoke softly, hesitant with her words. If this really was happening, or even if not, she may as well enjoy the peace of the situation.
"Judging by the hot chocolate I figured we would be." Hermione teased her, lightly patting her head before handing her a cup.
It was just as the three clinked their cups when she felt the dreariness in her mind accumulate, clouding her vision again.
"It was real... wasn't it?"
"No!" Harry and Cho had never heard Remus yell so loudly nor cast spells with such urgency until that moment. He somehow 'expelliarmus' ed the huge black dog looming over Hermione and a woman of disheveled appearance to the wall of the shack with such force cracks of the wood were heard.
He couldn't have rushed faster to his fallen student, yelling at Harry and Cho to take Daphne away while he carried Hermione out with speed inhuman, even for one pumped with adrenalin in their veins. They needn't be told, for they were already levitating their friend off the floor, Harry turning back and casting the dog one last shocked look, the shock, replaced by recognition. Before Cho grabbed him and dragged him out.
"Cho- wait that's that's Sirius! That's my godfather! I have to get him back-"
"harry they're getting back up- run!"
"Harry get out now!"
Lupin practically grabbed the boy and threw him outside by his robes before casting a bombarda that collapsed the entrance to the shack, sealing the two occupants inside.
Harry couldn't raise a peep of objection as he landed on the floor in a breathless heap, the only one who was motionless. Lupin had not stopped, casting a patronus and then immediately tending to the fallen Gryffindor, wincing at the nasty gashes on her arm, below her neck and a risky one across her left eye that sent rivulets flowing down across the left side of her face and onto the grass. She could be as good as blinded from her left eye. Her panting indication she depended on magically enhanced strength to hold off the vicious hound's relentless biting and scratching. If he had been a few seconds later…
'Why, Sirius!? Why try to take a life, Damn it? And then, her…'
"Professor Lupin, she isn't waking up!"
"Don't. We need to get her to Madam Pomfrey first. Just check for any external injuries-"
"She has none sir, but what about Hermione-"
"She'll be fine, the gashes aren't deep, thankfully, no worries, it looks worst than it is, a week of recovery and she'll be out without a blemish." He spoke from experience, after all.
Speaking of which, he felt a twinge in his chest. A familiar one that made his stomach sink. No. Not now, any time but now! He looked up to the moon- the full moon- his face paling as much as that accursed planet's color, and looked back at Cho.
"Harry get up! Take Hermione and run back to the castle- Don't look back and don't ask questions, I'll answer them later- go now! I need to hold them of- gg adh"
"P-professor!" He worriedly, rushed to the man who doubled over in intense pain, but was pushed away roughly.
"G-go! Now!" He growled out, imploring Harry to flee with the girl. Cho already levitated her Slytherin companion, waiting for Harry to do the same.
He heard noise from inside the shack, the noise of someone about to break out, but Harry couldn't move. He saw Sirius! Why did Lupin do that!? And then there was Hermione, he had to get her help, but he froze. He couldn't take his eyes off his professor suddenly writhing on the ground in agony and blanched, panic rattling his bones.
Too many things were happening at once- what was he to do? He felt a hand pulling him back by the robes- the scent- it was Cho yelling to follow her. She had already taken care of levitating Daphne besides Hermione and was halfway to the castle. Why did his legs feel like lead? Move Harry- damn it. He just- he couldn't tear his eyes away from the gruesome yet fascinating way the man he knew as his best DADA instructor so far morphed into a grotesque werewolf, howling in agony as his back cracked and limbs arched and stretched, tearing through the fabric of his worn-out clothes. He bet the other three would stare in fascination too if two weren't passed out and one wasn't tripping over herself levitating them to safety.
Though with his huge roar, the other three would already have been gone, which is exactly what he should be doing. But he didn't.
"Sh-shit-" He daren't speak higher than a whisper, starting to shakily pace away, nor daring to look away from the creature looking wildly left and right, its head swivelling as if drunkenly, tongue lulling out. He was sniffing for something, specifically towards the shack whose entrance he all but sealed off- though Harry did hear some thumping and muffled yells. He preferred not to think what was going on inside if he were to survive the night unencumbered by chilling nightmares for months to come.
For once a voice inside whispered- perhaps it was the voice of reason he always hoped existed within his impulsive self- and instructed him to slowly move away, if he wanted to live trough this.
'At least he's distracted by the racket inside. Easy does it Harry, back away, slowly, and no one gets hurt. I need to be there for the girls… But, Sirius… No! I won't risk it! Not like I risked Hermione's life the last time I forced her to break into the vaults with me.'
That, and, no matter how much he yearned for his Godfather, seeing Sirius try to claw his best friend's eyes out wasn't the best of first impressions. He'll deal with that later-
His attempted sneak away was foiled by a tree branch cracking- in a comically loud fashion. Within a split second, the werewolf's ears perked up and he turned his auburn head to glare right at Harry. He snarled at the paling boy, revealing his sharp yellowed canines and promptly turning the boy-who-lived into the-boy-about-to-shit-his-pants.
Now was as good to flee, tail tucked between his legs- pun intended.
"Expelliarmus! The spell repelled him a few meters back and allowed Harry time to propel himself towards the train terminal. There was no way he was leading a werewolf to the castle- and to dementors! It might be a werewolf now but Remus Lupin might be somewhere inside- he had to save him! He really wished Cho was here to guide him through this confusing time as any to run.
'Harry Run Harry Run Harry RUN!' The voice inside him kept hollering, and for once he finally did as it told him. His legs carried him down the hill into the forbidden forest and he weaved through the trees in zig zag formation, not daring to look back. Hearing the growls approaching were motivation enough for him to increase his pace. He frantically cast the spell to speed his pace like Hermione had shown him once, and didn't stop until he reached a lake- there he saw thestrals and was surprised enough to see those creatures for the first time ever that he tripped over his two feet, plummeting roughly before turning around and looking terrified as the rabid creature rushed towards his spot.
He figured now was a good time as any to say his prayers and hope he joined his mother and father soon.
He wanted to screw his eyes shut, but the voice inside refused to quiet. It now sang a different tune, and it went
'fight, Harry, FIGHT!'
And Harry didn't know how- rather didn't want to- it was still Lupin, but he knew if he threw down the wand like this, Cho would never let him hear the end of it. Grasping his wand in a death grip, he cast a protego with all the confidence his spirit could muster.
'PROTEGO!' He doubted it mattered at this point whether he yelled or whispered- he couldn't really find his voice to say much, but his magic had his back. The shield materialised just in time for the werewolf to collide into it and bounce back to the floor, shaking off the rough collision. Fortunately luck was on Harry's side and the thestrals crowded around the wolf, blocking him at least momentarily from Harry, who looked around for a way to keep running, despite the burning protest of his leg muscles.
Somehow, luck again responded to his silent pleas, for despite the thestrals fleeing, and just as the now maddened and scratched up werewolf was about to have Harry as his next meal with just one pounce, a black blur barreled into it out of nowhere, both rolling into the water in horribly loud splashing, grunting and growling. This black creature, a huge dog, bit into Lupin's shoulder, causing the wolf to release a pained howl. Attempting to swat away the dog that now climbed onto its back, scratching and biting like the larger creature was a marinated piece of steak.
That dog- a black grim!
"S-sirius!" His godfather came! He came to his rescue! But how!? He thought they were in that shack- he- he was sure he saw her trying to kill Hermione!? Why is this happening now!?
More importantly, he must help Sirius; Lupin was beginning to get the upper hand in their scuffle.