Authors Note: Hello all! Before you read my story, I feel the need to inform you of some things first, so here goes:
Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs solely to J.K. Rowling…not me. Just needed to get that out of the way.
This story is AU, meaning that it does NOT follow the books exactly. Dumbledore and Sirius are still alive in my world, so some things are going to seem inconsistent and mixed around a little bit. Sorry if that's confusing to anyone!
This is my first story, so I am really nervous about it! Reviews would be greatly appreciated, and constructive criticism would be ok too.
Well, I think that's it…I hope you all like it, so read and enjoy!
Fear. Unrelenting, overwhelming terror. This was all she knew, felt, and saw as she ran blindly through the dense, suffocating woods. Even the trees seemed to close in on her as she flew by at breakneck speed, reaching out to grab her in their clutches while she only just managed to elude them.
She sucked in air in irregular gasps, ignoring or possibly not even feeling at all the pain caused by the many gashes and bruises covering her aching body, covered by a long coat made unrecognizable with scorch marks. She didn't know how long she had been running. All she knew was that she had to get as far away from the horror behind her as she could force her legs to carry her. She must. Any fate she met here in these unfamiliar, nightmarish woods would be better than…
No, she must not think of it. She had to keep running. She had to. It was life or death. Life or death…the words she kept repeating in her mind. Life or death. Hours seemed to pass…or were it minutes? Life or death. The words seared themselves into her brain over and over and over again. Running…don't stop. Life or death. The last words she thought before she felt herself collapsing to the ground. Life or death. The last thing she thought before the thick darkness claimed her.
Harry was glad to be back at Hogwarts after a terrifically boring summer, which seemed to drag on forever in his small room at the Durseleys. It wasn't much fun being at the beck and call of three truly horrible human beings.
And yet another part of him was feeling a bit apprehensive as he walked with his good friend and teacher Rubeus Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest a ways behind Hagrid's humble shack on the Hogwarts grounds. Hagrid had asked Harry if he would help him put out some food for some unseen creature living in the forest that Hagrid had taken upon himself to befriend and take care of. Harry wasn't sure what the creature was, and he also wasn't sure he wanted to find out, yet he was always willing to help his friend Hagrid, no matter how crazy some of his notions were.
The forest seemed foreboding as they crunched through the floor of dead leaves, even in the daylight. And yet that wasn't why Harry was apprehensive. Walking alongside the towering man beside him who was absentmindedly humming a tune, Harry was lost in thought. It had never failed that every year something horrible or dangerous would find itself in Harry's path at Hogwarts. He never seemed to catch a break. With each year he got older, Harry learned more and more that something evil was brewing in the world of magic, and he also knew that, whether he liked it or not, he would play a crucial role in whatever resulted from it. Especially when it came to Voldemort.
Harry absentmindedly lifted his hand to rub his scar as he thought of the Dark Lord. Each day Voldemort was getting stronger. Harry knew it, but couldn't really understand why. Sometimes he would have horrible nightmares, some of which relived the night his parents were murdered. And always he would spring up from his bed drenched in a cold sweat, his scar throbbing. He just knew.
He also knew that Voldemort wanted him dead, and would do anything to see it through. His past encounters with the Dark wizard had told him that much, at least. One day, Harry knew he would have to face him once and for all…and defeat one of the most powerful wizards in the world.
He didn't want to think of it, but he knew he must. Dumbledore had warned him that the day would come when it would be just him against Voldemort, and no one else. It was the prophecy. That was why Harry had been training non-stop for the past year or so. Honing his skills with his wand, as well as that of the sword, taught to him in secret at Hogwarts by his godfather Sirius Black, which was the reason why Harry had arrived at Hogwarts early this year. He was given special permission from Dumbledore, and as a result of his hard training he had definitely improved in both subjects, and had become truly skilled in magic for his age.
But that uneasiness never left him, no matter how good he got or would get. Voldemort was out there, and he was coming for him.
Harry was thankful to have his thoughts interrupted by Hagrid, who had stopped unexpectedly, peering into the dusky light of the forest.
" 'arry, wait 'ere. I think I 'ear Rocky in that clearin' over there. I 'ope he isn't eatin' those mud bugs again. Filthy little buggers, they are…" Hagrid muttered as he made his way over to a clearing a little ways away beyond some trees.
Rocky, Harry realized, was the creature that was the cause of this outing. Harry was slightly relieved that Hagrid hadn't asked Harry to come with him. He had had enough close calls with Hagrids "pets" in the past, and he didn't feel like being attacked or eaten by anything today.
Harry sighed and ambled slowly forward, keeping the clearing in his line of sight. He couldn't stand still, so he thought moving forward a little wouldn't do any harm. Hands in pockets with his eyes fixed to the ground, Harry's mind began to wander again.
He was wondering when his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, would get here. They had spent the summer together and had been dating ever since last year. They had told Harry that they would most likely arrive at Hogwarts with the rest of the students in a week or so. Harry smiled. He wasn't surprised. Those two had been joined at the hip ever since—
He stopped abruptly as he caught sight of something red out of the corner of his eye…blood red.
He turned and took a few tentative steps towards what appeared to be a dark red sleeve of a coat outstretched from behind a large tree. Harry swallowed hard and slowly rounded the tree. Immediately he saw that that sleeve contained an arm, and that arm was attached to a body…a girl's body.
Harry gasped and flew to her side without a second thought, landing hard on his knees. She was sprawled out in an awkward position, her form covered by a thick coat looking worse for the wear with its numerous scorch marks and bloodstains. Harry had a feeling of dread creep over him that wasn't helped by the fact that this situation seemed all too familiar, as he had found the body of Barty Crouch in these very woods in this same manner last year.
The girl was covered in scrapes and bruises, and, thankfully, as far as Harry could tell, she was still alive, though barely. He swept a few strands of her long, dark brown hair out of her face and winced at the sight of a large gash on her forehead.
Something in common already, he thought grimly.
She looked like she was around his age and even with her face covered in dirt and bruises he could see that she was very pretty. He briefly wondered if she was a student, but quickly dismissed the thought as he would surely have noticed or met her before, seeing that she was most likely in his year. Besides, something about her and this situation seemed very different, almost foreign, than what Harry was used to.
The feeling of dread and foreboding grew bigger in the pit of his stomach. This was not good. He was only slightly aware of calling for Hagrid, as many thoughts and questions whirled through his head. So much for a quiet year…
Harry had insisted on carrying the girl back to Hagrid's cabin, where they agreed they should take her until further instructions from Dumbledore (who Hagrid had immediately sent for) as to what they should do with her.
For some reason, Harry felt responsible for the girl and protective of her as he held her small, almost frail body in his strong arms. Maybe it was because he had been the one to discover her, or maybe it was something else…All he knew was that he needed to get her help, and soon.
Hagrid looked warily at the small figure Harry was now laying gently on his monstrous bed.
Harry turned and saw the look on his friend's face and immediately scowled.
"What?" Harry said, a little too accusingly.
Hagrid's expression changed quickly as he shifted his glance from the body of the young girl to the dark face of the young wizard. He shifted uncomfortably.
"S'nothin 'arry, it's just…well, we don't know anythin' 'bout this girl or 'ow she got 'ere in the first place. S'all very suspicious ter me. We 'ave ter be careful, s'all."
Harry looked incredulous.
"What are you saying? This girl is half dead and you're worried about her being dangerous? She looks no older than I am! I mean, look at her Hagrid! Something or someone horrible did this to her. She's not the one who is a threat!" Harry yelled.
He was angry, that was for sure. He knew Hagrid was only trying to be cautious, and rightly so with all of the attacks and emergence of more and more Death Eaters recently, but something about this girl screamed innocence to Harry. For God's sake, she still had a lingering look of fear on her face, even in her unconscious state. No one deserves this, Harry thought with a glance at the girl's bloodied face.
Hagrid looked down in shame. "Yer righ' 'arry. I'm sorry. It jus' seems strange tha' we'd find 'er in the forest like tha'. She doesn' look like a student, and there's nothin' around these parts for miles. Jus' wonderin' where she came from, I guess."
Hagrid looked over at the girl, who looked even smaller in his enormous bed. "Poor thing…" he said sadly.
"No, I'm sorry Hagrid. I shouldn't have yelled like that. It's just this whole thing makes me so angry." Harry said while pacing back and forth in front of the bed, every so often stealing a glance at the girl. "Who could have done something like this to her? And why? She seems so innocent…" He trailed off, once again staring at her face.
Hagrid shook his head, looking grim as he said, "Don' know, 'arry. But somethin' tells me it ain' good, whatever it is. Those scorch marks look like they came from a powerful blast o' magic, if yer ask me."
Harry frowned. She couldn't be a Muggle. Not this far into the magic world. But then why wasn't she a student? She could've been from one of the other schools, but it seemed strange that she was found so near to Hogwarts. All of the other schools were a great distance from here. Something very odd was going on here, that was for sure. He just wished he knew what it was.
Before he could ponder it some more, Hagrid's door flew open to reveal the tall form of the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore.