A/N: Action-filled chapter for yous! Enjoy!
"Hope, did you say your name was?" asked the red haired man.
Hope nodded. "Hope Stewart," she said, without thinking. "I mean... I guess I'm... Weasley..."
"I'm Bill," he said. "Bill Weasley."
"Do you know someone named Ginevra?" Hope asked.
"Yes. She's my sister."
So this Bill Weasley was her mother's brother, which meant that he was her uncle. There was so much stuff she wanted to ask, she couldn't get her mouth around all the words. She studied his face, which was riddled with pock marks and scars. There was something wolfish-looking about him, and the way his eyes sometimes seemed a little yellow in the light of his wand. She wondered what sort of creature might have attacked him to disfigure him so.
Bill whispered something, and the light on the end of his wand went out, plunging the room into darkness once more.
"How come they didn't take your wand off you?" Hope whispered.
"They did. But I stole it back when they were dragging me in here. Not very smart, those Death Eaters," he said, and Hope's mouth twitched into a smile.
She saw his dark silohuette stand up, and she followed, wincing at the prickling sensation that shot up her leg.
"We better get out of here before they realise it's gone," he advised.
Bill cut her off, putting a finger to his mouth. "There were only two guarding the door when I came in..." he muttered to himself, and crept towards the door, pressing his ear against the wood. Hope could see his mouth curve up into a smile as he did so. He looked back at her. "Snoring," he whispered.
Then he pointed his wand at where the bolt was assumed to be on the other side of the door, and whispered something that sounded like "Aloha", which Hope was sure was a greeting in another language, but nevertheless, she heard the sound of the rusty bolt sliding out.
Bill opened the door, which creaked horribly, and Hope prayed that the Death Eaters would stay asleep. He motioned for her to follow and crept out the door into the corridor. As Hope tiptoed after him, she realised that both guards, who were slumped in chairs on either side of the door, were still asleep. One, a big beefy man, was making sounds akin to a volcano erupting, and Hope was surprised it did not wake the other, who was drooling slightly.
Tiptoeing down that corridor was excruciatingly hard, and every step seemed to echo a thousand times louder than it normally would. It wasn't until they got round the corner did Bill turn around and whisper to her.
"We're on the seventh floor! I recognize Dumbledore's office," he said, pointing to a large stone gargoyle. It was riddled with pock marks, and one of its ears was completely blown off, as if someone had tried to get inside – without success.
Hope had no idea who Dumbledore was, but there was no mistaking they were on the seventh floor. The corridor was deserted, and she felt a tingly chill in the back of her neck that reminded her of the Dementors.
"I've never been here before," Hope commented.
"I bet this is why," he told her as they rounded another corner.
Hope looked at him questioningly; there was only a stretch of blank wall. Bill did not reply to her look, but merely started pacing back and forth in front of the wall, muttering something under his breath. Hope looked on, intrigued. To her amazement, a highly polished wooden door appeared, looking as though it had always been there.
"Welcome to the Room of Requirement," Bill said, and opened the door with a flourish.
Hope gasped as a gust of chilled air hit her.
"What the -?" Hope saw the grin slide from Bill's face as he looked into the room. With a sense of dread,she looked in after him. She gasped.
It was a large room; almost as large as the Great Hall. Icicles of ice hung from the ceiling, like stalactites in a cave. Mist obscured most of the room, as thick as fog. The temperature just standing outside was below freezing, and Hope was sure that were she to enter, she would freeze up instantly. But it was not just the cold that made her shudder. That familiar sense of dread, of hopelessness, feeling like she would never be happy again, was back. Images of her worst memories flashed in front of her eyes, memories she thought she had long forgotten: being taken away from her home ...seeing the poverty in which people lived ...watching innocent people getting killed one by one... her mothers death... This could only mean one thing: Dementors. And sure enough, as the mist shifted, she could make out the outline of a dark, hooded figure. Except there was something wrong. The Dementor suddenly bent down, its body shaking as if caught in racking sobs. Beneath it's hood, something was emerging. Hope watched in horror as a fleshy sack covered in slimefell to the ground with a 'splat'. The mysterious sack, as big as her head, was pulsating slightly.
Hope hardly noticed that Bill was no longer standing next to her, but was a few metres into the room, going through a pile of things she had not noticed were there before. She could not pull her gaze away from the scene ahead. Her eyes got wider as the mist shifted again, exposing more of the fleshy, slimy, pulsating sacks scattered about the room, all different sizes, the biggest one as big as... well... a Dementor. There were more Dementors, bent over, regurgitating their own share of the mystery parcels.
"Put these on," said Bill, shoving a pair of dragon-hide boots into her hands.
"What? Why?" Hope blurted out, suddenly shaken out of her memories.
Bill's face was deathly pale, and beads of sweat dotted his brow. She knew the Dementors must be getting to him too. Hope bent down and pulled the shoes onto her feet, and to her surprise, they were a perfect fit. She struggled with the straps a bit (it had been a while since she had worn shoes) and stood to find Bill waiting for her out in the corridor, a pack slung over his shoulder and holding his wand. In his other hand was a sword incased in a leather scabbard.
"Get the brooms." Bill indicated behind her, and as Hope turned, she saw two brooms laid side by side on the ground.
She picked them up and hurried over to him, glad to put distance between her and the Dementors. Bill grabbed a broom from her and handed her the sword. It was surprisingly light despite its size, but before she could get a closer look at it, a voice echoed down to them from around the corner.
"You let them get away?"
"Lets go," said Bill, running down the corridor. Hope followed, running after him, her feet feeling odd incased in shoes.
"Oi!" called the voice from behind, but Hope did not turn around to see who it was, her panic making her legs work faster.
She sprinted down the corridor, legs pumping, avoiding jets of light that were now being fired from the Death Eater behind, who she could hear running after them. They turned a corner and Bill raced in to an open room. He hurriedly shut the door behind them, muttering a few words while pointing his wand at the doorknob. A light shot out the end, making the whole door glow for a few seconds.
"That should keep him busy." He turned back to face her. "Can you fly?"
"What? Um - no."
"Well you're gonna have to learn in about two seconds. When we jump out that window - " Bill indicated towards the large, open window, "- just pull the handle up. Got it?"
"I - I think so," Hope stammered, still unsure. She didn't know how to fly! What if the broom was faulty? What if she fell? What if -
But there was no more time for what-ifs. Bill was already at the window, pulling the pack on properly, and tucking his wand into his robes. Hope followed his lead and attached the scabbard onto her belt that held up her too-big pants that she wore under her robes. She could hear the Death Eaters pounding footsteps rapidly drawing closer. Hope gasped as Bill leapt out the window, dropping from sight, but then appearing a second later hovering outside the window.
Hope came hesitantly towards the window and looked out into the night. The glowing moon was a crescent, and a cool breeze blew through the trees. Then she looked down, and regretted it immediately. The height was staggering and the snow below seemed to swirl beneath her, making her stomach churn. She backed away from the nauseating sight.
"Come on! What are you waiting for? You can do it, Hope."
Hope jumped. The Death Eater was trying to get inside. She gulped and returned once more to the window, determined to do it this time. She clambered out, perching awkwardly on the window sill while holding the broom with one hand beneath her, and gripping the side of the window with the other.
Her hands were sweaty, and her heart was pounding like a beast within her, wanting to get out. She squeezed her eyes shut.
Hope jumped. Air whistled around her ears as she fell, down, down, down... She heard Bill's voice cut through the screaming of the wind. "Pull up! Pull up!"
She yanked the handle with all her might, and the broom obeyed, flying upwards. Wind ruffled her hair as she flew upwards, away from the caslte, away from her childhood home, away from the place of all her misery. The only two people in her life she cared about were gone, and there was nothing holding her back. Michael was still alive, at least. But his mind was gone, tortured into madness most probably. But he was still there. I promise I'll come back for you, Michael, she vowed sliently. I promise.
"This way!" Bill called to her, and she flew towards him.
There was a small hut up ahead, but it looked as if it hadn't been inhabited in quite a while. It's curtains were drawn, and the wood looked old and rotten, as if it would collapse at any moment. Further from that was the edge of a dark forest. Something about it gave Hope the chills, but it looked as if that was where they were heading.
A jet of light suddenly flew past her ear, just missing her. It hit the tail of Bill's broom which promptly exploded into flame. She heard Bill cry out and saw smoke billow out the end of it as his broom started to fall. He was above her, and was descending down quickly. Bill rolled off the side of the flaming broom, and landed with a heavy thunk onto the back of hers. She heard him groan.
She felt her broom pummel down; the weight was too much. It couldn't hold two people all at once. Her insides felt light, suspended in mid-air as they fell. The roof of the hut drew closer and closer. They were going to crash!
"Left!" Bill yelled into her ear. "Pull left!"
Hope yanked the broom left, and they swerved, just missing the hut. They were now headed towards the forest. The trunks of the trees loomed closer.
Hope leaped off, landing heavily on the ground. Bill rolled a few metres ahead of her, the pack on his back lessening the impact. Jets of light rained down on them, and Hope scrambled up and ran towards the safety of the trees. Her legs sank into the snow with each step, drenching her pants and slowing her down. Bill was already in the cover of the trees, beckoning to her. She finally stepped into the gloom of the forest and looked back at the castle. She could just make out the figure of the Death Eater at the window and see his head of pale blonde hair.
"We have to keep going. Before he sends more people," said Bill, and they set off into the darkness.
There was hardly any snow here; the canopy of the huge trees caught all the flakes, but it was just as cold. Hope could see her breath puff out in little clouds as she panted, already exhausted from the run but ploughing on anyway, desperate not to be caught again. She carefully picked a path among the tangle of roots, wending her way deeper into the shadows. Up in the branches, an owl watched as they scrambled over roots and foliage.The sword at her hip caught onto a bush, and she yanked it out. She still had no idea why Bill had given it to her, but decided to wait and ask later; she could hardly breath, let alone talk.
Her lungs burned with pain, and it felt like her legs were on fire, but still she continued to stumble along the path. Suddenly, she felt herself falling, her leg caught on a particularly big root. She went hurtling foward and was slammed into the back of Bill's pack. Hope's fall was cushioned with the pack underneath her, but Bill fell with a 'umph'.
"You're right, we do need to stop for a bit, but you could have just told me," he joked
"Sorry," she said, too exhausted to say anything else.
Hope plopped herself down on the root that had tripped her, but shivered in the cold. She watched in amazement as Bill pulled two, thick winter cloaks out of the small pack. She took one gratefully, and wrapped in around herself.
"Do you think they're going to come after us?"
Bill nodded. "Definately." He pulled a loaf of bread out of the pack (it seemed to have everything they needed), and tore a large chunk off and handed it to her.
"What were they doing, those Dementors?" Hope asked, chewing the bread slowly.
Bill's face looked grave. "Breeding."
"So they just vomit up their young?"
"Well, yes, in a way," he said, but Hope got the feeling that he was not telling her everything.
"So why did you show me that?" she went on.
"I didn't. At least, it wasn't supposed to be there. That was the Room of Requirement. It gives you what you need. I guess they were using it before us, so when we came, we kind of clashed with the other users. But it still gave us what we needed," he added, pointing at the pack.
"That's probably why the room gave me a sword," Hope realised. "Because I can't use a wand."
"You can't do magic?" Bill asked, startled.
Hope shook her head. "We weren't allowed wands."
Bill shook his head in disbelief. Hope undid the scabbard at her belt and drew the sword. It was a glittering silver, and the hilt was heavily encrusted with rubies. Along the side were the words Godric Gryffindor.
"Godric Gryffindor," Hope read.
"That must be Gryffindor's sword." Hope looked blank, and he explained. "Gryffindor was one of the founders of Hogwarts."
"Oh." Hogwarts had been the name of the castle, before the Death Eaters had overrun it.
"So you lived there all by yourself?" Bill inquired.
"No, I lived with my mum, but she -" Hope stopped, her voice choked with emotion. Tears sprang up at the memory she had so forcefully pushed away. Bill seemed to understand her sudden silence, and he nodded sadly.
"So why did they have you locked up?" he asked, changing the subject.
Hope shrugged. "One of the Death Eaters seemed to recognise me, but I've never seen him before." She took another bite of bread.
"Yes, well, you do look so much like Harry."
There was a pause, and then Hope asked, "so why did they lock you up? They usually just throw in any outsiders with the others."
"They captured me when they found me lurking outside the school. I guess they found out I was a Weasley. Weasley is a dangerous name now, you know. You-Know-Who found out that the Weasleys had a very strong connection to Harry Potter. My guess is that they locked me up to interrogate me later."
"You're from the outside?" Hope asked, surprised.
"Are there others like you? Other people that haven't been captured by the Dark Lord?"
Bill sighed, and with his grey hair, he looked older than ever. "Yes, but they're in hiding all over the country." Bill rubbed his hands together to warm them. "Wish we could light a fire, but we can't risk them seeing the smoke."
Hope pulled the cloak tighter around her shoulders.
"We better keep going in a bit. When we're further away from the castle, I can probably Apparate us away."
Hope polished the rest of the bread off in a few big, quick bites and gulped down the skin of water Bill pulled out of the magic pack. She tried to marshall her thoughts and everything that had happened tonight. She sighed and leaned back against the trunk of the tree. An owl hooted somewhere off in the distance. There was a silence between them, but it was not an uncomfortable one.
Hope finally worked up the courage to ask politely, "if you don't mind me asking, but... what happened to your face?"
Silence. Then, "Werewolf."
Hope gasped and her eyes widened. She shrank back from Bill.
He laughed. "Don't worry. I'm not a werewolf. He bit me when he wasn't transformed. The only thing thats changed is that I get a little moody in full moons."
"Oh," said Hope, instantly ashamed of her reaction. She scrabbled for the something to say, and asked, "so where are we going?"
"You'll see," was all Bill said, and he leaned back against the tree opposite hers and closed his eyes.
Hope stared into the depths of the darkness between the looming trunks of the huge trees that surrounded them. If tonights events were a sign of things to come, then she could predict her future was going to be very hectic.
Thanks for all the great reviews! Hope you all liked this chapter, because I really enjoyed writing it. Tell me what you thought of it.