Sweat ran on her face, the black cloth around her head stifling the breath from her lungs as she tumbled into a confined space, hearing a metallic slam, an unmistakable closing of a car door- or maybe a trunk.
Marietta- my name is Marietta.
The witch had been hit with what felt like a clumsy memory charm, blacking out her mind as she tried to calm herself, guessing that whatever frightened mind operating the squirming body next to her was making no such attempt. She knew her hands were tied behind her back, but for the life of her she could not remember how they had gotten that way.
I am a Ravenclaw. I wore a red hat this morning.
The body next to her was a boy- a wizard, presumably, though she guessed she really had no idea.
He's probably a student- they wouldn't have kidnapped him- wait, why are they kidnapping me?
She had done her best to wrong no one in her life, and to that end she avoided situations that would force her to wrong one party or the other. Conflict made her uncertain- it was never like the books she had read. Only once had she allowed herself to join into a conflict, a real one, and it had been at the urging of her friend, Cho.
Cho Chang- she was braver than I was. My parents told me I was brave. The Ministry told me I was brave.
Beneath her the vehicle took a sharp turn and her bound form lurched in the confined space, pressing against the wizard before the course seemed to straighten and she rolled back, struggling to breathe in the heat under the black cloth over her head. All at once ideas stole into her mind about where they were going, what their captors intended to do, but at the same time there was a strange sense of immediacy with regard to the trip there. Trying to open her mouth, she guessed she had been silenced, probably as a method of disarming her.
At least I know it cannot be Dumbledore's Army out for revenge. They would have remembered my nonverbal spells.
When she made her choice she made a weak enemy rather than a strong one, but it had a heart that would burn against her with passion, sharp in its contrast with the cold, distinctly bureaucratic regard she might have received from the Ministry. Harry Potter might have the courage to oppose them, but he had no parents, least of all parents in government who had her loyalties on a string. What he did have was a scar, a badge of courage by all accounts, but she wondered if Voldemort gained some cruel satisfaction, seeing a disfigurement on his enemy's face. If he did, it would be a sentiment shared by what seemed to be all the witches of Hogwarts, smiling as they but glanced from the corners of their eye to admire Hermione Granger's handiwork.
So I have no idea who this is and there remains nothing for me to do.
Sleep would be impossible. The boy was still struggling with his bonds, and to her chagrin, he bumped his elbow into her a few times. She supposed he at least deserved the respect of 'wizard', but in the dark, silenced, hands bound, as far as she could reasonably be concerned, he was a boy. As he turned himself over for what seemed like the thousandth time, now reaching over her to get a hold of her bonds, it occurred to her that for all he knew, she was a girl. Marietta wanted to tell him to stop struggling, but she doubted she could keep him from bullheadedly wasting energy even if she could speak.
Stop trying to help me. I don't need your help.
The sound of the door- the lid opening was as painfully evident as the light that came through the black cloth, into her open, but blind eyes. Her mind no longer dwelling on how useless, how non-magical she felt without a wand, she was scarcely able to ignore the taunting words of the men who took her up and out of the trunk.
"Up, lovebirds. Got a ways to go after you two; we need the car back for fetchin' the rest of you. No, it's the Floo network from here on out." The silent wizard grabbed the boy first, muttering what sounded like a threat as he dragged his captive through a door and into some small room, from the feel of it. The young witch followed, certain she would be caught if she tried to make a run for it.
It would be even worse were I not caught. I would still have this thing over my head, no way of reaching my wand if I still have it, and my hands would still be bound.
She imagined for a moment running and readying herself to dodge whatever awful curse was thrown at her, but finding nothing, and realizing why the wizards had absolutely no intention of cursing her. There was no need to do aught but wait for her to turn around and slowly trudge back, if she could even find them. Perhaps they would mock her, perhaps they would similarly decide there was no need.
They don't need to keep me from leaving. They don't need to insult me.
Going through the Floo network herself, she had hoped to hear her destination, but either the wizard had found some way of using it non-verbally or the very suggestion had been a ruse to convince them they were farther away than they actually were, and she was simply to stand in a fire place as a spell was cast next to her, then get out of the same fire place and be none the wiser. Marietta decided it was probably the first one, as people always seemed to underestimate the strategic advantage of nonverbal spells. She felt the intense heat of what she imagined to be emerald flames before gasping for air and tumbling out.
It could still be a trick, but that hardly means it is one. The more complicated solution is not always the right one.
A door closed behind her and in the room there was an odd stillness for a moment as one of the wizards left. The boy was next to her, as she would have thought, but she remained entirely unable to communicate and for a moment worried he would try and work at her bonds again. After a few moments of silence, Marietta guessed he believed they were still being watched, which was most likely by her estimation. Whatever purpose held them there, it was worth the trouble of kidnapping her, especially in such a laborious manner.
Not to mention almost entirely without the use of magic.
She ran through it in her mind, and with the exception of the memory charm and silencing used to stun her, which could have easily been replaced some chemical agent, or worse, hitting her over the head, her captors had apparently decided to do things the old fashioned way. She momentarily entertained the idea that they were worried about spells being monitored at Hogwarts, but whatever authority presiding over the school of witchcraft and wizardry would be faced with a cacophony of alerts and most likely have no idea what to make of it. To her knowledge, no such system existed and it would be an unnecessary and unreasonable precaution to anticipate one.
They could have used a portkey- why did they not?
All at once it occurred to her that the memory charm could really have been some sort of chemical agent- as for her inability to open her mouth she could have suffered nerve damage, which seemed unlikely, but was not impossible. The motive made enough sense, capturing a live witch and wizard, but there remained the question of how they entered the castle entirely, how they found it before even that. Marietta was hardly up to date on all the new Muggle technologies, certainly not through her mother, but she had some inkling through movies that there were always newer and more robust ways of finding people, mostly introduced as plot devices.
No, no, we still need to address the issue of how they got in, even if they found the building somehow. Dumbledore had to have some security measures in place. Intruders, especially non-magical ones, would have no chance of entry.
She remembered in her third year that Sirius Black had overridden that notion, and suddenly she felt foolish. Even if, since Black, the security had been improved, she remembered it being basically at its height, as there was an active threat to the lives of the students and even then he escaped the grounds unharmed. From what she had heard, he possessed no great magical talent apart from being an Animagus, and if a dog could walk into Hogwarts, it was entirely possible the notion of security had been a placebo, convincing the common ruffian that trying to break into the school was not worth the risk, if his trouble. In all probability, none of the incidents that had occurred really should have, and she expected that before Harry Potter attended, the school ran without incident. Matters like giant snake-things attacking people and the Triwizard Tournament being manipulated by a Death Eater were entirely unlikely to the point where she had doubted either of those narratives were aught more than yarns spun by Gryffindors. Even when the actual explanations of injuries, deaths, and disappearances came out, she expected none of them were fully accurate, with Potter and his friends being awarded something of a creative license when they reconciled the facts with their story. Even if they were fully accurate, that Hogwarts had lost only one student in fifty two years, at least to her knowledge, indicated that the faculty and evidently the students could respond to threats effectively, even as they happened.
Of course none of that stopped me from being kidnapped.
The door opened again and she heard a shuffling of feet as what she guessed was another student was conducted to kneel next to her. The witch smelled of butterbeer and some other fragrance, and all at once it occurred to her that she may have been kidnapped when out at Hogsmeade, the most logical place to strike, with the only security measure being an old squib with a chip on his shoulder and some sort of device to detect dark magic, though it was possible that they too, were a placebo. The girl made some attempt to communicate, but gave up after Marietta chose not to respond to the sounds she was making.
We're lucky to only be kidnapped- Katie Bell was hospitalized at St. Mungo's.
Over the next few hours, the room steadily filled with Hogwarts students, at least from what she could tell. The boy had tried to speak as the silencing spell was wearing off, and he was simply silenced again. If she had to guess, he would have been a Gryffindor, or possibly a Hufflepuff.
"It appears almost all of our guests are here." A man's voice began. "Of course, you can't remember where you were or what you were doing. Some of you probably think you were taken out of bed, and I imagine your mind has been hard at work wondering how we got you out of the castle. I'm afraid that this is a trade secret. I expect some of you remember nothing up until we put you into the car, and are currently wondering whether we are even magical at all. I assure you that we are, but we believed it was necessary to prove a point."
"And what was that?" Marietta asked, cursing her own curiosity as she revealed she could speak. They were going to find out within a few minutes anyway. Footsteps approached her. She heard the popping sounds as the man lowered himself next to her, feeling his breath in the otherwise motionless room. Sweat ran down her eyes as she forced herself to remain stock still, reminded of a time she might have hid from monsters by drawing the sheets over her head.
"You are not safe."
The words hung in the air for several minutes as the wizard strode out, daring the muted students to question their validity when the task was plainly impossible. Safety itself had been made to seem like some irrational notion of a child's mind, like chocolate milk coming from brown cows or balloons floating into outer space. The other students were audibly squirming, and it was beyond any doubt in her mind that they were all students from the same school, the same place where they had believed, even after everything that had happened, that they could rest easy under the protection of Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of the age. While Marietta had adored him in her first few years, the Prophet had brought to light much of his inadequacies as the head of Britain's premier magical school. While much of what was said about him was likely sensationalism, it became clear to her that his magnanimity and magical prowess hardly made him the most effective headmaster.
It was also beyond any possible doubt that the men who had taken them prisoner were wizards, despite their methodology. A question remained.
Why are they trying to make us afraid of Muggles?
While Marietta was by no means Muggle-born, she had lived among the non-magical for much of her life, and they hardly seemed dangerous. Conversely, she had believed that given the legal permission, she could have easily made a fool out of the boy who picked at her in grade school, but in some selfless determination to follow the rules, she put up with it by practicing nonverbal magic with a toy wand, preparing for some unlikely scenario in which she could use magic and make it look like an accident.
She never implemented any of her plans, from the elaborate to the brilliantly simple, and for that she was grateful. Though she doubted he remembered her, his bothering had stayed with her for years, and it had only been after getting her letter and going to Hogwarts that she realized he only acted as he did because he had a crush on her, but had not yet been mature enough to voice it. The reasoning behind the rule became abundantly clear to her, and she had never again questioned it or been tempted to bend it while on summer holiday. By virtue of possessing magical power that could slip out if untrained, she posed a threat to innocent people, more so than other children, and it would have been easy to do something she would have regretted for the rest of her life.
"Is there anyone still here?" Marietta asked, turning her head but unable to see. Might as well ask. What are they going to do, silence me again? There was no response, but she knew better than to conclude they were not being watched. It was, however, good enough for the witch next to her, who was happy to find that her silencing had worn off.
"Do you know where we are?"
"No." she answered with caution. Even if I had some idea, I know better than to voice it, stupid.
"Well, I think the Ministry has to know where we are. The Network is being monitored."
"That may be." In reality, watching every use of floo powder is a technical impossibility, and for that precise reason, there's talk of restricting the network, especially with all that's going on. For any regular crime, you are more likely to be caught by the Muggle police than by the Ministry.
"What about the school? Do you think they're looking for us?" You were taken from Hogsmeade, you twit. In all likelihood, that's where I was abducted as well. They will not look for us unless we do not return by nightfall, and by my estimation, we are only a few hours.
"To be sure." Actually, keeping my responses this short is going to start looking suspicious. "Whoever has done this is in way over their heads. They may have succeeded in taking us prisoner, but they will be found by the Ministry. I think they are aware of this, and will release us to better their chances of escape." After her explanation there was an audible shuffling, as if the students expected something to happen. I don't believe they'd actually release us any faster just for my suggesting it, but at least it means I think they may still be listening. If their objective is to have us talk as if they're not in the room, they'll have to do better than this to convince me.
The sound of a door closing interrupted her thoughts and drew her attention. The sound of feet was different entirely; quieter, but carrying more weight.
"You don't like this, do you? Not your idea of a pleasant weekend?" The wizard's voice was low, but not gravely as she might have imagined. "You don't fancy being bound. Something worse, though, isn't there?" He asked, possibly expecting the silence to have worn off. "You feel powerless. You feel like children, silent and kneeling." It was undeniable. Like with an article of clothing, no like a part of her body she had grown to not notice having her wand, but not having it. Like a phantom limb, she might have reached for it had her hands been free. After a few painstaking moments, Marietta guessed he was waiting for a response.
"No. We hate this." She said simply, as though using more words would get herself silenced.
"Magic is a part of our very souls, girl. You have learned you have nothing to fear." He started again, not gloating at all. "I suppose that's true. Without magic, we are nothing. Nothing's out to kill us- or worse."