Author's Note: This story covers all seven Harry Potter books, though some in more detail than others. The plot is centered around my original character, Samantha, but takes place at the same time as Harry's adventures. Samantha interacts with nearly all of the main and key characters and participates in many key events in the story. Some events in the books change due to her presence. I tried to work her into the HP universe as best I could, but there will be some jumping around since Samantha isn't seen very often by Harry or his friends until Prisoner of Azkaban. I will try to summarize what goes on when Samantha isn't present, but it won't be very detailed. You'll just have to reread the books if you want to put in all the details. ;-) Please note that I am NOT trying to belittle the achievements of Harry and his friends, this story just has a different focus than J.K. Rowling's brilliant masterpiece. Enjoy!
Harry tore down the dark hallway, Ron, Hermione, and Neville at his heels. The room with the three-headed dog was behind them…but so was the caretaker Filch, who would be more than happy to drag them up to the Headmaster's office demanding their expulsion. Filch must have given up cursing at Peeves and now he was back on their trail. Harry had been willing to risk expulsion over death when faced with the monstrous dog, but now that they were out, he wanted to avoid being sent back to the Dursley's, if at all possible.
"Keep…going…" he panted. "Almost…there…"
The three of them turned a corner and slammed into a blank stone wall.
"You led us the wrong way!" Hermione hissed, bushy hair flying everywhere, brown eyes furious and afraid.
"That's it," Ron groaned, running a nervous hand through his red hair. "We're done for."
Neville could only pant, eyes wide with fear.
Harry turned around, ready to face Filch's gleeful wrath. He could see the light from the lantern bobbing closer and closer.
Suddenly, a soft voice spoke from the darkness, making them jump. Hermione smothered a scream.
"Running from Filch?" the voice asked.
Harry stared up at a young woman who seemed to materialize from the shadows. He had only a quick impression of wide blue eyes and pale gold hair before she swirled a long cloak in front of the breathless students, pressing them against the wall.
"Stay silent and don't move," the woman said in a low undertone. Then she raised her voice, saying, "Mr. Filch? Is that you?"
Squished next to Neville and pressing Hermione and Ron against the wall, Harry held his breath as he heard Filch's footsteps come closer and stop.
"Why, Miss Samantha!" said Filch, sounding both respectful and surprised, which was a rather unusual combination for him.
"Yes, it's me," said the woman Samantha. "Making the rounds, are you?"
"Yeah, well, I was chasing some students a moment ago…"
"Students?" Samantha said, sounding surprised. "I haven't heard anyone stirring all night besides Peeves. Where did you see them?"
"Here on the third floor, near the forbidden corridor," Filch answered, positively gleeful. Harry could almost see the gnarled little caretaker rubbing his hands together in anticipation of a capture and expulsion. "Before Peeves distracted me," he added with a snarl.
Samantha's voice was concerned. "Near the corridor? That's not good. They didn't go into the corridor…did they?"
"Ah, no, I don't think so…"
"Perhaps you should check again," the woman said. "I'll keep searching here, if you'd like. I'd hate for any students to be injured under our watch. Professor Dumbledore would be most upset if that happened."
"The Headmaster is too soft on rule-breakers, he is," Filch muttered.
"Perhaps," Samantha agreed soothingly, "but I don't think death is a fitting punishment for being out of bed at night. In any case, it's not our decision; only Professor Dumbledore can decide these things."
"True," Filch replied, "but they'll still wish they'd never been born when I catch them. Let me know if you find them, Miss Samantha."
"Of course," she replied. "Good night, Mr. Filch."
The woman waited for what seemed like an eternity after Filch's footsteps faded away before stepping away from the wall. "Are you four alright?" she asked.
"Yeah, thanks!" said Harry. "I thought we were toast!"
Neville looked up and stuttered out his own thanks as well.
Hermione looked slightly suspicious. "Who are you?" she asked, "and why did you help us?"
"Hermione, don't be rude," Ron said. "Who cares why she helped us; the point is that she did!"
"But we are out after hours!" Hermione protested. "We're breaking the rules! Any teacher who finds us is supposed to—"
The woman held up her hand. "Ah, but that is where you are mistaken. I am not a teacher here."
Hermione stopped in mid-tirade.
Harry looked up at their rescuer, finally able to get a good look at her. She was tall and slender, and rather young; she couldn't have been any older than twenty. Her pale golden hair was thick and long, hanging down to her waist. Most of her long bangs were pulled back out of her face in a flat ponytail, save for one unruly piece that fell into her light, sky blue eyes. Her skin was very pale and her face was gentle and kind, with a mouth that seemed naturally curved in a slight smile, like she was always mildly amused by something. But there were some subtle differences about her, something that set her off from the rest of the staff Harry had seen at Hogwarts. The robes she wore where cut differently, more like a long-sleeved black tunic with tight sleeves and a high collar combined with a black skirt that reached only to her calves. Instead of shoes, she had tall, comfortable-looking black boots. The long cape she'd used to shield them from Filch seemed somehow out of place with the rest of her attire, something added on rather than being part of the outfit. Plus, her eyes, though they had a gentle expression, seemed strangely blank and she wasn't looking directly at any of them, but at a point slightly behind them or over their heads. And she wasn't carrying a wand, not even in the black belt around her waist.
"Who are you?" Harry asked curiously.
With a smile, the woman bowed. "Yes, I have not properly introduced myself yet, have I? My name is Samantha Halfward. I work as a maid here at Hogwarts."
"A maid?" the four chorused in unison.
Samantha looked amused. "Yes, a maid. You didn't expect all the cooking and cleaning to be done by itself, did you?"
Harry thought of all the food that appeared in the Great Hall every day. "You do all that…by yourself?"
Again, Samantha smiled. "No, I'm not the only one who cooks and cleans. But come. The corridors are no place to be at night and if Mr. Filch returns, I do not think I can throw him off the scent a second time." She started to turn away, but Hermione's voice stopped her.
Samantha turned back, head cocked to one side, expression blank.
"Aren't…aren't you supposed to report us to our House Head?" Hermione asked.
"Hey, are you trying to get us into trouble?" Ron hissed.
"I see no reason to inform Professor McGonagall of this incident," Samantha replied serenely. "Now come on. I'll take you back to Gryffindor Tower."
Samantha led them unerringly through the dark halls. Every now and then she would pause, as if to listen, before motioning them onward. In almost no time at all, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville found themselves outside the painting of the Fat Lady, returned from her evening stroll.
"Goodness gracious, dears!" the Fat Lady cried, seeing their disheveled appearances. "Where in the world have you been?"
"It's alright, they were with me," Samantha said softly. "No harm was done. Pig snout, if you please."
"Well, that's fine then, as long as they were with you…" answered the Fat Lady, obligingly swinging open the portrait door.
"Now, off to bed with you," Samantha said. "I'd advise you against any more nighttime travels, but I doubt that will stop you."
"Thanks again for helping us," Harry said.
She smiled. "Not at all. Oh, and Mr. Neville Longbottom?"
Neville looked up, startled. "Y-Yes?"
"If you ever find yourself locked out again or forget the password, just tap the wall, speak my name, and I will come."
"O-Okay," said Neville. "Th-thanks. But…how'd you know my name?"
Samantha smiled. "I make it my business to recognize all of the staff and students in Hogwarts." She bowed. "Miss Hermione Granger, Mr. Ron Weasley, Mr. Harry Potter, I bid you all good night." With those parting words, she straightened from her bow, turned around, and disappeared into the darkness.
"Well, that is unusual!" the Fat Lady chuckled as the foursome clambered through the portrait. "Samantha doesn't normally show herself to students, even first years!"
Before Harry could pursue that particular train of thought, Ron interrupted with frantic musings about why on earth anyone would keep a humongous three-headed dog locked up in a school. Hermione's scathing replies ("Didn't you see what it was standing on? It's guarding something." "I'm going to bed before either of you think up another clever way to get us killed, or worse, expelled!") didn't exactly help him concentrate. Soon, Harry, Ron, and Neville were safely ensconced in their beds, and the sheer exhaustion that comes after a near death experience put away his questions about the mysterious Samantha Halfward until another day.