A/N: This story is written using the plot of Harry Potter up to The Order of the Phoenix. Sixth year occurred with little incident, and seventh year… well… you'll just have to see, won't you?
Disc: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Muggleborn Hogwarts student Beth Green was sitting alone on the marble staircase in the Entrance Hall, doing her Transfiguration homework.
She was a third year, but she didn't feel like going to Hogsmeade. She'd gone the last time and had got bored after going to the sweet shop and the book store – and besides, Hogsmeade always involved a lot of walking. Exercise was her one true hate. Her classmates told her she was mad to miss out on the opportunity, but they called her mad anyway. At least she was going to get her homework done before Sunday evening, and it was peaceful out here on the stairs.
Describe three ways in which switching spells can be applied to substitute for continental Transfiguration. Beth sighed and pushed her hair behind her ear, and it immediately sprang back again. She hated her hair. It was brown and springy and constantly getting in the way.
One of the doors to the Entrance Hall started to creak open. Beth looked up, quickly, thinking it must be the students back already. Had there been some accident? An attack? Or maybe it was one of the teachers, back early to mark some papers?
It wasn't either. In the doorway, holding tight onto the heavy oaken door as if for support was… a creature. It was the height of a man, and had two arms, two legs and a head like a man, but it was so wild and overgrown and altogether frightening that Beth grabbed her books and made to run.
"Wait –" the thing croaked.
Beth stopped, hardly daring to breath, and turned to face the thing that had spoken to her. It did not speak again, but took two shuddering steps forward… and collapsed. The door closed with a clunk behind the fallen figure. "Um… hello?" Beth whispered. There was no answer. Leaving her homework, quill and ink on the stairs, she got up tentatively and took a few timid steps towards it. "Are you okay?"
The thing stirred. Beth carefully stayed out of reach as the thing looked up at her. As its eyes met hers she gasped and took a step back. It had matted, tangled hair that looked black but it was impossible to tell beneath the dirt and it almost reached to his waist. Beth knew it was a man because a scraggly beard covered his mouth area and chin and reached to his collarbone. There was a cut on his forehead that looked infected – pus oozed from it, and there was blood streaking down one cheek. He was wearing what looked like well-made robes – they were blue silk and untorn although obviously soaking wet. He was holding one hand in the folds of the garments, and the area around them was soaked in something red…
Beth held one hand to her mouth and looked back up at the creature's face. The eyes…
There was nothing extraordinary about the eyes. They were dark grey and seemed to see right through her, but they were neither red, nor gaping black holes, either of which she might have expected. One was surrounded with thick white scars. This somehow shocked her more than if she'd seen something horrible.
"Hermione?" the wild man croaked.
Beth took another step back as the man squinted. "No," he said, his voice still hoarse and ragged. "You're too young. What's your name?"
Beth did not know why she answered, but she did. "I'm Beth," she said, quietly, walking slowly backwards towards her things on the steps
"Please…" said the wild man. "Come back…"
Beth ran. Grabbing her bag and stuffing her parchment and quills inside it, she hurtled up the marble stairs as fast as her plump legs could carry her. Panting, she took another stairway and turned sharply right. Only one teacher, barring the Headmaster and Professor Trelawny, had remained in Hogwarts while the others went to Hogsmeade – Beth knew because she'd watched them all leave. Her Charms Professor was here, though… somewhere…
Finding the office at last, Beth pounded on the door with her fists. Professor Granger opened it. "Miss Green?"
"Professor!" Beth gasped. "Professor, I –"
"Miss Green – Beth, are you all right?"
"There's a… man… downstairs…"
"It's horrible, he…"
"Take me to him." Professor Granger grabbed her cloak and closed the office door behind her as she led Beth out into the corridor. "You did the right thing to come and find me, Miss Green. Did this man say anything to you?"
"He didn't want me to leave – he looks really beaten up," she added. She was still out of breath but felt better now they were at normal walking speed. "And…well…"
"And what, Miss Green?"
"Um, he called me 'Hermione'. I think he thought I might be you, Professor."
Professor Granger stopped in her tracks. She looked at Beth as though seeing her for the first time. "Hurry," she said suddenly, and sped up. Oh not again, Beth groaned inwardly, but started running again to keep up with the older woman's stride.
The man lay collapsed in the centre of Entrance Hall – he'd obviously crawled a little before giving up. Professor Granger did not stop; she merely came within five metres of the fallen wild man, pulled out her wand and levitated him, gently. As he rose into the air, his arms fell to either side of his body, revealing a hand missing two fingers, one of the stumps oozing pus and blood, making Beth feel sick. The Charms Professor also seemed sickened, but only before she noticed the fold of cloth that had fallen aside with her spell. The blue robes were decorated in one corner with a silver snake curling around a large letter M.
"What the…" Professor Granger knelt by the levitated figure to examine the delicately embroidered crest. Standing up, she looked at the man's tattered face, standing still for a few minutes without saying anything. There was the steady drip… drip… of… of what? Beth noticed for the first time that the man's robes were soaking wet. They dripped muddy brown water onto the floor.
Professor Granger jumped as though she'd forgotten anyone was there.
"Should we take him to the hospital wing?"
"Yes," her teacher said, absent-mindedly. "Yes, that's a good idea. Miss Green, please go and fetch Professor Dumbledore and Professor – oh no, they've all gone to Hogsmeade, haven't they?"
"Professor Dumbledore is still here," said Beth, helpfully.
"Really? Oh, good. Go and fetch him for me, would you please? The password is 'Ice Mice'. And when Professor Snape returns, ask him if he would care to join us in the hospital wing, as well."
"Professor Snape?" Beth disliked the greasy Potions Master and did not fancy the idea of asking him for anything, even if it was for another teacher.
"Yes, Miss Green, Professor Snape," said the Charms Professor, switching into authoritative teacher mode. "I will be escorting our guest to the hospital wing. I will see you there."
"Yes, no doubt we will need an errand runner. Go, now!"
A runner, thought Beth, as she sped up the stairs, this time leaving her bag in the Entrance Hall – she could return for it later. More running – just great. The most exciting thing that's happened to me for ages and it has to involve running.
She had to stop to breath and ease a stitch every so often, but somehow she made it to Dumbledore's gargoyle. "Ice Mice!" she panted, and the gargoyle sprang aside, allowing her to climb onto the moving staircase. Thanking Merlin for the wizarding equivalent of escalators, Beth caught her breath until she reached the top and she could hop onto the platform and knock on Dumbledore's door. She'd only been here once before and it had been for something she hadn't even done – thankfully she'd been let off and had stayed resolutely away from Professor Snape for a long time afterwards.
"Do come in," said a cheery voice. Beth entered.
The old man was sitting behind his desk, working his way through a mound of paperwork. He motioned to it as she came in. "Dear me. Parchment seems so thin when it's a single sheet, but pile it up in numbers of a hundred or so and it suddenly becomes so daunting. May I help you, Miss Green?"
Beth had already gotten over Dumbledore's innate talent for knowing the first and last names of every single student in the school, so she answered without surprise. "Professor Granger says to come quickly. There's a man she's taking to the hospital wing."
"Ah," said Dumbledore, standing up. "Lead the way then, my dear."
Beth was fairly sure Dumbledore knew the way to the hospital wing, so she walked beside him instead. Gratefully, she noticed that Dumbledore shortened his steps so that she could keep up with him. She was tired of running.
"Do you know the man's name, Miss Green?" Dumbledore asked as they walked.
"Um… no," said Beth. "But he looks like a tramp, really. I bet he's just some Muggle that…" then she stopped. "But he knew Professor Granger, I think."
"Really?" mused Professor Dumbledore, apparently not expecting an answer.
By the time the hospital wing came into view, Beth had filled the headmaster in on everything she had seen. When Dumbledore opened the door, Beth slipped in behind him and closed the door, trying to be helpful so he wouldn't send her away.
Professor Granger was standing behind the bed which now held the unfortunate man with the missing fingers. She looked both puzzled and agitated, and held her wand quite tightly in one hand.
"Oh, Professor, thank goodness!"
Dumbledore stepped over to the man and leaned cautiously over him. "Curious."
"He was just lying there in the Entrance Hall! Beth said he just walked on in."
"Yes, I was informed of the situation on the way here."
"But sir – no one can breach the wards around Hogwarts unless they have the proper clearance!"
"I realise that, Hermione."
Professor Granger calmed down slightly at Dumbledore's firm voice.
"Who is he, I wonder?" Dumbledore mused, his forehead creased as though he was trying to remember something.
"Well, there's this," said Professor Granger, flipping over the man's robe to reveal the silver 'M' embroidered in the corner.
The headmaster's eyes widened. "A Malfoy?"
"Doesn't exactly fit the persona, does he?"
Beth looked at the man again. He certainly didn't look like a Malfoy, from what she'd heard about them. They were all in hiding now, of course, except when they attacked people. She balled her fists. Death Eaters had killed her uncle and cousins. Everyone in the school had been affected by them in one way or another. If word got out that there was one in the castle, there'd be a riot.
"Has he said anything else?" Dumbledore enquired.
"No sir. And I stunned him, just to make sure he wasn't faking. I don't like this, Professor."
Dumbledore sighed. "One day we will live in a world where strangers can be trusted at face value."
"I don't think I'd trust him anyway," said a voice. With surprise, Beth realised it was her own. The two Professors stared at her. "Well, I mean – look at him…" she continued, lamely.
"Appearances can be deceiving, Miss Green," said Professor Granger, eventually.
"Where is Poppy?" Dumbledore asked.
"In her office, getting supplies. We might even recognise him if he's cleaned up a bit. However, I don't think it's wise to wake him up without Professor Snape present."
Dumbledore looked surprised.
Beth suddenly remembered her second duty. "I'll – just go and see if he's back yet," she said quickly, and vacated the hospital wing.
Professor Snape wasn't back. The rest of the students were milling around, making it hard for her to get anywhere, let alone all the way down to the dungeons, but she managed to walk past Professors Sinistra and Sprout just as they were talking.
"Have you seen Severus, Sally?"
"Not, ah, recently, my dear. I believe he stayed in Hogsmeade… on his own business, I'm sure."
"Blast it. I was going to ask him if he could whip up some grogsweed deterrent – the shop was all out again…"
Beth groaned and turned around, resisting the urge to tell Professor Sprout that even if Snape was here, the last thing he'd be doing would be stinking up his dungeons with weed killer.
When she re-entered the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey was waving her wand over the wild man's body. Dumbledore and Granger looked up at her expectantly. "He's… not here…" she panted. "Didn't… come back… with the others…phew."
"We should wait," said Professor Granger. "Remember last time?"
"I'm never fooled by the same trick twice," Dumbledore pointed out. "But Severus will be displeased if we start without him. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning, Hermione. Leave Severus to me."
Professor Granger looked uncertainly at the man on the bed. The once crisp white sheets beneath him were slowly being stained brown from the water that soaked slowly out of his robes.
"He'll last the night here," Dumbledore reassured him.
"Stunned," Madam Pomfrey confirmed. "Your work, Professor?"
Hermione nodded. Then she noticed Beth, standing by the door. "Don't you have homework to do, Miss Green?"
Beth realised that her books were still sitting in the Entrance Hall, along with all her Transfiguration notes. "Rats!"
She fled. The two Professors followed her.
On the bed, the young man dreamed.
His head hurt. A lot. He cracked open one eye. It didn't help. The place was as dark as the bottom of a well, except someone had forgotten to add the hole at the top. He groaned.
He vaguely remembered being hit on the head… then dragged down a tunnel… He must have passed out somewhere in the middle because he certainly didn't remember coming in here.
Was I really, really drunk?
No. He hadn't drunk anything because Ron wanted to drink, and he knew that if both of them got pissed then they'd never be able to find their way back up to the castle before… light…
He sat up. It was difficult. Something metallic and strong was holding him to the wall.
This was it. He'd been waiting for this for seven years and boom, here it was. It would have been nice to have been conscious for more of it, but you couldn't have everything. At least he still had his glasses, in more-or-less one piece, it was hard to tell.
The dungeon room was small and about as plain as it was possible to get. It was too dark to see much, but he could tell there was no furniture, and there was a door made of thick iron bars placed so close together it'd be difficult to stick a hand through. Everything else was stone.
He examined the chains that held him to the wall, one on either wrist. They too were iron, and snaked around to a thick, heavy ring set into the stone wall on the far right side. They were long enough for him to kneel, but not to stand up, and he could lie down but only with his arms above his head.
There was the sound and the smell of the sea.
I feel you should know that I do have a soundtrack to this story, though I cannot disclose the whole of it just yet because it would give things away. I can, however, give you the songs that represent the story as it progresses. Enjoy!
1. Theme – Flown Away - Lene Marlin