A/N: Thanks for those who reviewed and for those who alerted or favorited me!! I hope you like this chapter, I wrote it faster than I have written any of the others. Some parts feel sticky still, but...let me know what you think. : )
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. If I did, I would be traveling the world and wearing expensive clothes.
Recap: Standing and trying hard not to feel like a coward, Echo grabbed her bag with all of her belongings and went off in search of a broom cupboard.
Echo's second night in Hogwarts was no better than her first. And the same could be said about her third, and fourth. Every evening, after dinner and the students were expected in their dorm rooms, she hid behind a convenient statue or suite of armor until the hallways were clear enough to break for the cupboard. She dodged prefects, ran from Mrs. Norris, and learned, after one particularly unpleasant encounter with the Bloody Baron, not to walk through the ghosts. The never ending nights in the shadows of the cupboard taught her that she was afraid of the dark.
One spell made her particularly grateful for her wand, lumos, but she couldn't maintain it. The light died every few minutes, plunging her into blackness until she could make it work again.
Her mornings weren't any easier. She snuck into the dorm rooms before the sun rose and showered, leaving before anyone woke. The one spell that never failed her was the shrinking one; and she imagined that was because her need of it was so great. The warm black blanket kept the chills at bay in the dead of night and proved to be a wonderful tear absorber whenever she needed it.
Classes proceeded as they had begun. She sat alone and when partners were required she felt rather like the nerd who was always picked last for sports. Echo lacked the concentration for charms class and hated Herbology for no good reason. Transfiguration with Prof. McGonagall continued smoothly and Echo had been pleased to learn that only Hermione's match had surpassed her own on the first day's lesson. History with Professor Binns had been exciting for a few minutes upon first entering the classroom and learning that they would be taught by a ghost. Then he had opened his mouth and now it was her constant struggle to stay awake. Defense against the Dark Arts was fun in theory and absolutely terrible in practice. Prof. Quirrell's classroom reeked which was, Echo tried to convince herself, the reason none of her spells worked.
Friday heralded her first Potions class and her first owl post. Two letters greeted her that morning, one from Hermione and one from her parents. Hermione's letter was short.
Thank you for clarifying. I'm sorry for assuming the worst about you. How has your first week of school been?
Satisfied that the entire matter with Hermione was now settled, Echo pocketed her parent's thick letter to read after Potions and crept out of the Great Hall. The only way, as Echo had learned, to find the correct classroom was to follow a group of students from the house that Slytherin shared the lesson with, at a safe distance of course. She had tried following Pansy and Daphne to Herbology the day before only to discover the joys of a fat lip when Pansy turned sharply around a corner and tripped her as she hurried to follow. Pansy thanked Echo politely for providing a place to wipe her feet, and stepped on Echo's back, scraping the mud from her shoes onto her robe.
Today, Echo followed two Gryffindor boys at a safe distance as they walked deeper into the dungeons of the castle. She was happy with her stealth when a voice startled her.
Echo turned around, coming face-to-face with Hermione.
"Hi Hermione." Echo said, and after a pause continued uncomfortably. "I just got your letter. My week has been fine, how about yours?"
That was all the prompting Hermione needed and soon Echo had heard everything from her absolute disgust with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley (although no mention as to the cause besides the words 'irresponsible' and 'pig headed'), to her pleasure in Transfiguration and hopes of winning the Gryffindor House Cup. As they entered the Potion's room Hermione looked questioningly at Echo.
"What happened to your lip?" She asked quietly.
"I fell." She half-lied and then smiled. "I forget to watch where I am going."
"You-" Hermione was interrupted by the bang of a door and the entrance of Professor Snape. Hermione scooted to the front of the room and Echo found a seat at the back, the only empty one, next to Blaise.
As soon as it became clear that Prof. Snape and the rest of the Slytherin students were focused on tormenting Harry Potter and the Gryffindors, Echo's shoulders sagged and she let out a sigh. The actual subject of potions might not be her favorite but the class itself certainly would be.
After listening and taking notes, Prof. Snape set them loose on a potion and Echo and Blaise went to work.
"So, er, how has your first week been?" Blaise asked quietly over the bubbling cauldron.
"Fine, thank you." Echo replied and continued to crush snake fangs.
"We haven't seen you in the common room." He said.
"Oh, been waiting to ambush me?"
His face went red. "No, that's not what I meant."
"Its fine Blaise, you don't have to apologize to me." She tossed the snake fangs into the pot and began to stew the horned slugs. Blaise picked up and weighed the dried nettles, apparently deep in thought. After several minutes he spoke again.
"I am sorry. Both for my behavior and for the behavior of our housemates." He met her gaze steadily. "I'm not the only one who is sorry." His eyes shifted and she followed his stare to the back of a white blonde haired boy who was currently being praised by Prof. Snape for his potion.
Green smoke filled the air accompanied by a hiss, saving Echo from having to form a response. The potion from a Gryffindor's cauldron was seeping across the floor. Echo followed Blaise's example and stood up on her chair. Snape cleaned it up and began a tirade, first against the boy who had been responsible, and then against Harry Potter. When he had finished, the students settled down and Echo and Blaise spent the last hour of class silently completing the potion. As always, when Snape dismissed them, Echo packed up her things exceedingly slowly. Pansy was gone when Echo started for the exit.
She pulled the door partially open to leave when an arm crossed in front of her and shut it again, firmly.
"Wait here a few moments Miss Sarassen." Snape commanded.
She turned to face the classroom again and realized that Draco and Blaise had not left. Snape turned on his heel to glare at them meaningfully.
"What's going on?" She gripped her wand tightly, stuck out her chin, and quaked.
Blaise stared pointedly at Draco who shifted and cleared his throat.
"I-uh-how has your week been?" Draco asked.
Silence fell. Snape coughed once, then twice and then spoke.
"If you take a right outside the entrance to the Slytherin common room you will find a portrait of Salazar Slytherin. That is an entrance into the closet next to the bathrooms. The password if pureblood."
"May I go Professor?" She asked. He nodded. Without looking at either of the two boys, she turned to the door.
"Drakie there you are! I was waiting!" Pansy shoved Echo out of her way and went to him.
Echo read the letter from her parents. They sent her a muggle newspaper and chocolate that wouldn't jump out of her mouth. The letter was everything she expected, filled with encouragement and love.
She spent the rest of the day outside walking around the edge of the Black Lake and peering curiously into the Forbidden Forest while contemplating the secret entrance. If she used it she would certainly worry less. Crossing the common room was treacherous. On the other hand, it could be a trap. Thankfully, she was distracted at that moment by the arrival of Hermione.
They plopped down on the grass and, for several hours, practiced transfiguring. At the same time, Hermione shared everything she knew about wizards (which was a considerable amount). This discourse only required minimal input from Echo, who was content to listen.
Several weeks passed in this manner. Echo slept in the broom cupboard, woke early to shower and eat, attended classes, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading or practicing and studying with Hermione. She didn't try the secret entrance as tempting as it was. Dinner was spent in the kitchens, more often than not with the company of Fred and George, and sometimes even with a few of their friends, Oliver Wood and Katie Bell. She was included in their easy camaraderie, and although she rarely spoke, found happiness by listening to their banter and joining their laughter. Peeves became a nightly visitor and excelled at distracting Filch while Echo ran to or from her broom cupboard. Packages and letters arrived weekly from home and she gladly received them. A new necklace, a stuffed animal, and many other items became excellent practice for her and Hermione to transfigure.
Moments of torment had been few and far between, and whether this was because she had been forgotten or because something even more dreadful was coming, Echo didn't care to speculate. Overall, life at Hogwarts was settling into a routine.
The Halloween Feast sounded almost good enough to make Echo go to dinner. Almost. Next year, when she had finally mastered a way to defend herself, she would go. So instead Echo sat in the kitchens, eating delicious food alone, and when she was finished she wandered down to the dungeons. She wound her way around, past paintings and suits of armor, until she found herself facing the portrait of Salazar Slytherin. His cold mien reminded her of Prof. Snape.
Echo wanted to go into the dorms while everyone was at the feast. She wanted to use this portrait to discover the truth about the supposed secret entrance. And she wanted to use it now because if no one was inside, it couldn't be a trap.
Straightening her spine, Echo approached the portrait and forced her voice to remain steady when she spoke the password. Salazar lifted an eyebrow and swung open. With more courage than she felt, she walked into the back of the dark closet and reached for the door.
The portrait behind her slammed shut and the instant her hand touched the door knob a sticky sensation washed over her fingers. The knob wouldn't turn, and the door wouldn't open. Disappointed, Echo moved to leave. Her hand wouldn't let go of the door. Turning back, eyes wide, she brought out her wand and lit it.
A thick, green gel covered her hand and the door knob. Struggling to free herself, Echo grabbed at the green gel with her other hand. For a moment the ooze receded, allowing Echo to hope, and then it surged forward, engulfing both her hands and her wand.
She tugged and pulled until her arms and hands were sore and chafing. The light in her wand extinguished and Echo sank to the floor on her knees. Something furry scuttled across her calves and she screamed and kicked. Neither a single beam of light came through the door nor a single noise.
It took thirty minutes for her arms and hands to go numb. Not long after, panic set in. The cold dark crept in around her and she couldn't even open her bag to retrieve the blanket. Squeaks and the scurry of rodent feet over her legs became more frequent. A tiny, annoying voice in her head insisted on telling her that if she wasn't found, she would starve and be eaten alive by rats. She refused to hear the other voice, the one that said it would be worse to be found.
Two hours later, tears dripped down her cheeks. Blood covered her knees in vein-like lines, brought out when she scraped the stone floor in multiple attempts to find comfort. The door knob to which her hands were attached was too high for her to sit cross legged. A deep ache filled her shoulders and her voice was hoarse from periodically yelling. Her back creaked when she shifted.
A well of despair rose up inside Echo. She screamed, flailed, pulled and twisted wildly, fighting her helplessness to no avail. Sobs wracked her chest.
The door jerked open violently, dragging Echo with it, scraping skin off her legs. She blinked, unaccustomed to the light, and tried to see her rescuer. Black shapes stood around her. Students.
"I'm stuck." Echo croaked, her mouth dry. Shrill laughter filled her ears. One of the black shapes moved closer and bent down.
"I know." Pansy smiled. "It's about time."
A/N: So, now is your time. Liked it? Hated it? Review s'il tu plait.
Also, I think I should give everyone a heads up, I am leaving for Turkey this Friday so I won't be updating again until I get back, around the end of August. Thanks again for reading, and for reviewing, it makes me happy.
P.S. Sorry if the spacing on this chapter, or any chapter, bothers you, i have been having a hard time getting the website to do what I want with the paragraph breaks etc.