Since I lost my outline for Dane and right now that fic looks to be permanently gone barring some miracle, I decided what the hell, might as well dig up an old idea and go at that instead: scary halloween fic! Unfinished from last year of course. Revised and posted to for the first time.


Protège-Moi


1

In six years many things at Hogwarts had frightened young Mr. Potter: the monolithic chess pieces laying in wait to cut limbs and smash bones in a game his ancestors played for sport; the roaring jaws of the cerberus beast Hagrid called Fluffy, dripping and foul. It was if each year required some new nightmare, like the brush of rancid cold that followed each dementor like a cloak or the water closing in around him when he believed his friend would be the cost of losing the Triwizard Trial. And more subtle than all of those, the abject horror, however momentary, that accompanied the first vision of blood dripping down his hands to bleed on pages of his own writing.

Of all the terrors and nightmares this place and this world had dealt to Harry and his childhood companions, this night on the first day of the eleventh month of the year of our Lord 2004, marked the first night when Harry feared the very castle itself.

Every shadow lied, and every corner he turned brought him places he shouldn't be. At first he'd thought it a trick of the ghosts-- play a prank on the famous Potter boy, use the inane little holiday as an excuse. Jolly laughs to be had, happy bets to be won. Kidnap him as he sleeps and leave him in a boarded-up classroom no one had used in decades. Watch him scream and kick at the locked door till his voice bleeds away and his body shudders. Relish the silence as he gives up and cries. Chuckle when he finds the potions stashed in a box in the furtherest corner of the supply closet, and murmur when he realizes he has the exact ingredients and quantities necessary for explosion enough to blow the door out, and a small vial of smelling salts-- not a drop or shredding more.

How's he faring, the Potter boy? He panicked, such a pathetic sight, but he found the way out in time. Jolly laughs indeed.

It was a pretty good joke, Harry believed at first. A proper balance of fear and embarrassment, but now that he was out and the dusty oak door lay in splinters he'd be able to laugh too, undoubtedly. A great story to entertain your friends, of course leaving out the crying bit and focusing on the resourcefullness. A hazing into the rank of upperclassman, perhaps. Well, Harry had lived eleven unhappy years without a wand and like all boys his age had paid unusual attention to the pyrotechnics chapter of 5th year Potions class; he would survive this prank and come out raging for a fight. Everybody knew he had seen worse.

When young Mr. Potter stepped from the classroom to look down on the back of a child in a Ravenclaw cloak, and observed that his feet and his hands and the head which stared glassy-eyed up at him had been turned one hundred and eighty degrees at each joint, he knew this was not a joke.

It was ten minutes and two floors later before Harry stopped running. Feet stumbling to a halt, almost tripping himself, he bent over and sucked in great gasps of oxygen. His chest swelled and flattened, but his breathe made little noise. He leaned against a nearby painting—an un-talkative landscape, thankfully—and ran both hands over his scalp. The base of his palms pressed into his eyes, desperate to blot out the image of the boy (small enough for a first-year, freckled and tan) with limbs like a broken doll's and head turned around like a mannequin. His stomach churned, and for a few horrible moments Harry thought he might retch, but he suppressed it.

His skull reverberated with loud screeching thoughts, each more panicking than the next. How could something like this be happening here, at Hogwarts?

Why hadn't someone noticed the boy was missing and moved the body?

Was it the same people that locked Harry in the room?

If so, why would anyone do something as tame as lock him away, and then leave so cruel a sight for him to find right outside the door?

Was it a warning?

Did another student do it?

Was the same person still out there, waiting for him?

Looking for him?

Where was Filch, or the professors?

Harry's hands jerked away from his eyes at the thought. He hadn't seen any sign of Filch or any adult of authority all the time he'd been running. Shouldn't there be someone patrolling the halls? What if there were, and the same thing that got the first year had got them as well? The urge to sink down onto the floor and cower there was almost overwhelming, but the part of Harry's mind that was used to being in stressful situations was shouting in a voice that sounded like Hermione's that if anyone or anything came while he was puddled on the floor he might as well be dead now. Another anxiety—had he run far enough yet? It was so hard to tell; the corridors seemed unusually dark, the torches set farther apart than he remembered. And the flooring was different in this part of the castle than he had ever seen before. Where was he-- the castle wasn't that big. How would he find his way back now, with someone out there, murdering students and leaving them like Christmas presents on display?

A double wave of both guilt and renewed revulsion hit him, and he wondered if maybe he should have tried to move the boy's body. Harry hadn't even been paying attention as he ran; what would he tell everyone when he described how he'd found it? Or worse, how it had been left for Harry, in full view right outside the door of the very room Harry'd been imprisoned in.

He shook his head emphatically and ran his hands through his hair again. No way was he going back there. He never wanted to see another sight like that, not ever. He looked down, and took deep breaths to quell the nausia the memory evoked.

As he saw that his bare ankles were touching the stone wall, Harry realized with abrupt clarity that he was cold. His bare feet and the ankles exposed by the shorter-than-normal pant legs of his sleeping clothes were itchy and chilled, and he didn't have his Gryffindor robe to warm his arms and neck. On either side of him the corridor stretched, with no recognizable features to lead him back to his House dorms. He rubbed hands that wouldn't stop shaking over his arms and elbows, trying to massage some energy back into them. It could be a while, he was beginning to comprehend, before he could acquire warmer clothing. Or his wand.

"Best to keep moving," he spoke to the lonely hallway, eyes sending a final darting glance back the way he came.