Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Harry Potter. My stories are purely for entertainment value. I do not make profit out of them in any way.
This story was written for the Ghost in the Light writing contest on MNI, where we had to choose one of the Hogwarts House ghosts and write about them - in the time they were still alive.
I hope you enjoy reading my entry!
Softly muttering to himself, a squatted young boy was looking at the muddy ground in front of him. His eyes squeezed into slits, he concentrated hard. He put his little hands in the earth, and smiled softly when images popped up in his head. He still wasn't sure what his final destination would be, but now he had more of a clue where to go.
He ignored the maid's calling in the distance, and continued his search. He had no time for whatever she needed him for right now. He had found some interesting tracks leading into the woods, and he wanted to find their owner before it fell dark.
Her voice was a mixture between annoyance and worry. He knew that not answering would only lead to a rough beating. The boy wasn't ready to give up on his target though. Whatever she needed, he would make sure he'd provide quickly, and get back here as soon as possible. He turned around with a grumpy expression on his ten year old face.
"Yes Mary, what is it?" He yelled back at the castle. It took her forever to appear.
"You'll have to get ready for dinner, Master Ruman. Your parents insist you will look handsome for the company we are expecting tonight."
She smiled softly at the angry looking child at the back of the garden. She had been taking care of him since the day he was born. Even though his character was well known to her, it still amazed Mary that he could look at her with the refined temperament of an adult. Some children were naturally happy, others were born depressed. But Ruman was born with an energy that suggested nature had played a cruel trick on him, by letting him be conceived. It was as if every cell in his body was programmed to fight.
At times she wondered if he would ever grow out of his tantrums. She sure hoped so, because so much negative energy in a man's body, could be potentionally fatal. There were times his fury frightened her so badly that she was afraid he might hurt her.
She never let her feelings interfere with her job though. The boy needed to wash up and appear at the table like a perfect gentleman in two hours time, and that is exactly what would happen. She put her hands on her wide hips and stared him down. The boy knew he had not lost yet. Nothing, not even Merlin himself, would keep him away from the forest tonight.
Ruman had a hard time keeping his patience. His dear mother and father were welcoming the guests, and he was ordered to stand beside them.
It had annoyed him greatly when he had noticed that the pale, dark haired lady was carrying a baby. His mother loved to have more children, but for some reason there had been none after him. To Ruman, this meant that he would inherit both the family fortune as well as his fathers title, but to his mother it meant emptiness and a house deprived of cheerful children's voices. She grew up in a big family and all she ever wished from life was to be a mother of many herself.
The pale woman and her husband shook hands with his parents. "Welcome Mr. and Mrs. Ravenclaw!" His father smiled at them. Mr. Ravenclaw was shorter than his wife, but he looked very dapper. He smiled back and spoke with a husky voice.
"Thank you Baron Rochester, Baroness." He nodded at Rumans' mother politely. "Rowena and I were delighted when we received your invitation." His eye fell upon the young boy with the bored expression on his face.
"How do you do?"
Remembering the etiquette, Ruman nodded at the two adults in front of him and returned the question.
Mrs. Ravenclaw approved of his manners, he could tell by the twinkle in her eyes. There was something about this lady that he could not grasp. It was like she knew his soul just by looking at him. Strangely enough, that didn't make him feel uncomfortable. It intrigued him.
The brooms were left outside, and the small party moved towards the dining room. They sat down. Mary took the baby with her to the kitchen, where the other maids would take care of it while she was serving dinner.
Ruman saw his mothers' longing look when Mary took the baby into her arms and caressed it's cheek. It jabbered some incoherent words, softening all the adults. Ruman did not understand the attraction of the helpless bundle of bones. Frankly, it irritated him quite a bit that he wasn't the centre of attention whenever it was in the room, so he was glad that it was taken away.
"Well young man." Dinner had past quicker than anticipated, and suddenly Ruman felt the bright brown eyes of the lady witch rest upon him. He looked up. "I understand that you'll be eleven soon. If I asked you if you would like to get an education, what would you say?"
A jolt of excitement passed through him. He loved to learn. He had gone through every single scroll they owned already. And he knew that his parents could only teach him so much. They were good wizards, but he was certain that they were not as brilliant as Morgan le Fey or Alberic Grunnion had been!
He was careful not to show his feelings though. He didn't know the witch, and he didn't know her game. "I'd think that would be an interesting option, Mrs. Ravenclaw." He answered cautiously.
The witch nodded with a little smile on her lips, and he knew that she wasn't fooled by his demeanour. She turned towards his father and told him that she was one of the founders of a school called "Hogwarts." Both of his parents leaned forward and within a matter of seconds, the adults were talking about the subjects given at the school.
Ruman felt torn. However much the conversation intrigued him, he also really wanted to continue following the tracks he'd found earlier that day. He decided that if his parents were so interested, he would most definitely hear more about it, but the track might not last very much longer. He cleared his voice.
"May I please be excused?" He asked in his most charming tone. His father nodded and continued the conversation about the art of Potion making. Ruman quickly disappeared from the table.
Ruman almost bumped into one of the maids on his way out. She looked flushed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He passed her, but then she called him back. "Master Ruman, could you please help me out for a moment?" He stopped and took a look at her. He recognised her as the maid who always joked with him when it was her time to bathe him. The others never spoke and always evaded his eyes. Although he was in a hurry, he did have a soft spot for the woman, so he waited to see what she wanted.
Before he knew it, he was holding a bundle of cloth. Looking down, he realised it was the baby.
The maid had vanished from eyesight. "Right," He thought grumpily, "That's the last time I'll ever do her a favour!" He had no idea what to do with the baby. He couldn't just bring her on his track hunt, could he?
Ten minutes later, Ruman was standing at the edge of the forest. The baby was heavy in his youthful arms, but at least it was quiet. The forest looked dark, unfriendly. It was as if it was conquered by an evil force. He looked down at the last track he had found. The trees in front of him were as familiar as his own body, yet tonight they seemed different. He knew there was a creature hiding there, most probably something dangerous. He admitted that he was scared. But in order to become the greatest track hunter of all time, he had to continue his journey.
He softly muttered the words of the spell he invented, in case he might forget them at the face of danger. Although he had never successfully cast it, he felt confident that in time of need all the pieces would fall together, and this spell would safe his life. He held the baby close to his chest, hoping that the feeling of another human being would make him feel less scared. With his right hand he clung to his wand. Then he took a step forward into the woods.
The boy concentrated on the forest ground. He quickly discovered fresh tracks, and he became excited again about facing the unknown creature. It occurred to him that the baby was a burden and he looked for a safe place to hide it, so he could continue his search on a faster pace. Ruman soon found a tree with a hole in the bark, which looked comfortable enough for the baby to wait in.
"Shh .." He whispered at it when it opened it's eyes and made a protesting noise. "I will be right back. Be a good baby now." He slowly backed away, keeping eye contact until the last moment. Then he turned and continued his search.
The hint of guilt he felt was quickly forgotten when he found even fresher track marks, and he soon felt on top of the world.
The feeling faded though.
Within minutes he felt afraid and alone. He shivered. It was cold. His pace had turned into a slow walk, unsteady and weak. The Rochester heir regretted going into the forest, he couldn't think of one good reason why he had been so foolish. Ruman felt more miserable than he could remember feeling in his short life. He wanted to sit down and die, right then and there.
Then, there it was, right in front of him. The creature he had been looking for.
It was tall like a man, floating inches from the ground and covered in a dark cloth. It was faceless, but he could see it's eerie hands. They were skeleton-like and evil-looking. This must be Death for sure, he thought.
It took him all the strength he had left to turn away and run. He knew that Death was on his tail. Ruman was desperate, he had no idea how to escape the One Who Ends Life. Deep down inside he felt a spark though, a spark that told him he wasn't ready to die. Not without a fight. He ran as fast as he could, but it wasn't fast enough. The faceless blackness past him, it's bone-like hand forced him to stop.
"Please, no .." Ruman begged quietly.
But his words were useless. The creature strengthened it's grip on him and Ruman felt the last straws of hope disappear from his feeble body.
Suddenly he was thrown to the ground. In the distance he could hear an annoying, high pitched noise. Death was flying fast towards a tree. It took Ruman a moment to realise that he was saved by the baby's crying.
The black creature took the baby out of the bark and put it close to it's face. The baby stopped crying, but the lack of sound was more deafening than the hysteria moments before. Ruman knew that Death was about to take the babies' soul and that was something he could not allow to happen. He got up quickly and pointed his wand towards the threat. He yelled the spell that was supposed to protect him.
Tears of frustration ran down the boy's face. He knew that when Death was done with the baby, he would be next. There was no way to outrun that fate. He closed his eyes and remembered his parents, those wonderful evenings when they would sit in front of the fireplace and tell stories. How they, with a patient smile, would wait for his tantrums to be over. He remembered Mary. How they always jumped in puddles after the rain. How she would hug him after she had smacked him for being a bad boy. The memories made him glow inside. If this was his last minute on Earth, he would go down with a fight.
He opened his eyes and pointed his wand at the evilness again. With all the conviction he felt, he uttered the spell.
A silvery hound found it's way out of the tip of his wand and flew towards the enemy. Death let go of the baby at once and fled, followed by Ruman's Patronus.
Ruman hurried towards the baby, who lay still on the ground, in a cradle of leaves. He softly touched it's forehead. The baby moved and made a babbling sound. It was then that he realised that he had held his breath. The baby was safe. When he picked it up, he noticed a bracelet with the babies name. He smiled.
"It's all right. The bad is gone." He didn't fight the urge to kiss the infant. He softly caressed her cheek and whispered. "Nothing's going to harm you, Helena. I promise."
He looked at the road ahead. He had faced Death and survived. No matter what happened next, no one could ever take that away from him.