"This place is boring and we want to go home." The author sighed and considered smacking herself in the head but settled for glaring at a few loudly talking freshman. Again the cacophony of voices: "It's dark in here and we're terribly cramped."

" It's my job, it's a library and we're staying here until my shift is done." The author shifted on her stool and looked at the clock, which had frozen at eleven thirty and refused to move. She took a sip of soft drink to calm the tickle in her throat. They shut up, at least for the nonce.

A disgruntled looking man stormed up to the counter. "Look here, miss, I tried to use the self checkout and it said my card is blocked. You have to unblock it right now, because I must have these books!"

She looked at the huge stack of books he'd slapped down at the desk. " Did it say why your card was blocked, sir?"

He huffed. " Something about a fine. You don't understand, I need these books right now!"

"Archie comics? Four hundred ways to prepare Spam? The complete works of Bulwer-Lytton?" Saying nothing aloud, she ran his card and checked to see the fines he was raving about. She raised an eyebrow, opting to explain that she couldn't give him the books until he paid the fine.

" I can't check you out until you have no fines but you only owe--"

"Theta's absurd! This is obviously a deliberate slight directed at me and only me. Did you lay awake all night trying to find a way to make me suffer, you vindictive, badger faced book troll!"

" Sir, I've never seen you before, and the correct term is library assistant. If you'd like to talk to my supervisor you could come back--"

"Dear lady! Are you going to let him talk to you like that ?"

She jerked. "Mr. Malfoy, this is not a good--"

"Perhaps Lucius has a viable point. Surely you can put a little of the –forcefulness—you so effectively employ at home into preventing this situation from escalating?" Rudolphus drawled from somewhere near her left frontal lobe.

She nodded and cut the man off mid rant. "Sir, I cannot help you until you have paid off the fine."

The man pulled himself up to his full height. " Listen here, you ink stained hell-cow, you will remove the charge from my card or face the consequences."

"I will not." From somewhere in the deep recesses of her brain, she felt Narcissa stir. "What are you waiting for? Employ your cunning." She smiled sweetly at the enraged and now very confused man.

"Surely we can resolve this without undue bother, Mr." She looked at his student card " Specheul". Specheul, slightly mollified, waited for her to give in.

" I don't want to get in trouble with my supervisor, though, so why don't you wait over there and I'll give you the signal when it's all clear."

The voices stilled. " All right, now all you have to do is slid me ten cents and I'll make it all go away."

He carefully palmed her a dime and she typed in a code. The machine deleted his fines and he took his books, exclaiming happily that "Now my Bulwer-Lytton/Archie fan club's annual potluck will be really special!"

"Special's the word, all right." She murmured to herself, taking another large swallow of soft drink and vowing to give it all up and farm lima beans.

" Really, Madam, I'm disappointed. You let him off with so little, after the way he treated you? Shameful." Malfoy the elder actually did feel sort of appalled at the whole thing. He'd been looking forward to watching her verbally eviscerate the fool.

"That's just it, though. That was his full fine. He pitched a huge fit over ten cents. Not to mention, now he'll think I did him some kind of favor."

Silence. "That's…almost Slytherin of you, dear lady."

She smiled. "Thank you, Lord Voldemort. I do try my best."

She felt the disgusted squirm from her brain stem and then Bella's strident crow: "All my influence, you know."

She clutched her sweater more tightly about her shoulders. The library was so awfully cold. Her head was beginning to hurt and her throat felt scratchy and dry. " Guess I must have a bug."

"Or perhaps, if you hadn't gone gallivanting all over town at night, you would feel fine."

"Thank you, Madam Malfoy. It must have been a whole ten minutes since you last reminded me."

Narcissa gave an offended sniff. The characters were still quite incredulous she'd actually gone off alone, and were attributing every possible misfortune to that fact. Had a large rhinoceros burst in and caused mayhem, Narcissa would have helpfully pointed out that the creature was clearly attracted to the nasty smell of the place the author had been, and if she'd stayed inside like a nice girl, then she wouldn't have gotten trampled.

The author was really feeling awful. Luckily her shift would be ending soon. After closing she walked slowly back to her dorm, to the great relief of all those crowded into her head. They spread out, finding accustomed places around the little hole she called home.

"You don't look well at all, Madam. Perhaps you should write a little and then get some sleep."

She rolled over and unburied her head. "Can't write. Muse isn't saying anything."

From her other side, Draco broke the sulk he'd been cultivating for days and said huffily "If you'd only take my ideas about what should happen next--"

"Draco, all your ideas involve some variation on Harry being eaten by the squid while you singlehandedly win the House Cup."

He nodded. "So what's the problem?"

"I think it's self aggrandizing B.S. Let me sleep, okay? I'll write tomorrow."

She got up long enough to bring a massive bottle of " Sleep 4 U" out of her medicine cabinet. They stopped and stared. "What is that?"

"Medicine. Make me go to sleep."

Bellatrix snatched the bottle and inspected it, gave a snort. " No wonder you're sick. Not a single magical ingredient. Might as well drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest."

They all looked at her for a moment. "Don't have any magic. Medicine's as good as it gets." She took a big slug and promptly fell asleep.

The characters were quite at a loss. " Shall we play charades?" Pettigrew, human again, finally said. No one dignified that with the hex it deserved.

A knock came at the door. Harry jumped up and answered, only to be faced with the usual man in black robes, along with a stranger.

"But she's signed for us! We can't leave her high and dry."

"You aren't. We're just trying something a little different, and she needs some space to adjust. Besides, this room is crowded like it is."

They filed out, while the second person took the clipboard and went to the snoring author. "Madea? Wake up, Madea." She rolled over and opened one eye. "Mmmffhhmm?"

"Sign here."

"The Muse?"

The stranger nodded. " Sign on the line, okay?" She scrawled her name.

"Why d'you look like Hannibal Lector?"

The Muse shrugged. " Some people need…convincing." The Muse made a wet slurping sound and the author shuddered. Then she passed out again, and didn't wake until the next afternoon.

. When she woke the watery light was high on the wall. She stretched. And promptly hit something soft with her foot. "Oi! Be careful, would you?" She sat up and then, moaning, fell back again.

After a second she ventured another look. Nothing had changed. "Why? Why always me?"

"Are you going to get up? We're hungry."

Sitting at the end of the bed were Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter, both clad in pajamas and looking, to say the least, rather grumpy. That wouldn't have been so bad. Except, of course, the fact they looked all of eleven years old.