Prologue: Stolen Away In The Night
The Knight Bus appeared with a loud BANG at the corner of the darkened street. The woman lowered her wand and stepped into the large purple bus, clutching something to her chest. The conductor tipped his hat to her as she passed quickly by him to sit on the edge of one of the beds. The bus looked completely empty save for her, the young conductor, and the driver. The conductor noticed right away that the young woman was shaking horribly. He approached her slowly.
"S'cuse me, miss," he said, "It's fifteen Sickles for the bus—or seventeen fo' some 'ot chocolate if ye'd like."
The woman lifted her head slightly, looking at him blankly for a moment, and then reached into her pocket to pull out a Galleon. She quickly pressed it into the conductor's hand. He gave her a smile, "So, would ye like a cup o' 'ot chocolate?"
"Actually," the woman said softly, "would it be possible to get some warm milk instead?" She shifted her hold on the bundle in her arms, making the conductor take a closer look at it.
A small pale hand reached up and grabbed at the air as the bundle began to fuss. A baby, the conductor realized. He smiled again and nodded. "Not a problem 't all ma'am."
The woman smiled back and gently rocked the baby as he walked away. Very softly, she began to hum a lullaby to try and soothe her. Soon, the baby stopped fussing and settled back down. The woman lifted the edge of the blanket to peer down at her baby's little face. The baby looked right back up at her, bright blue eyes wide and staring. The woman ran a gentle hand across the baby's forehead and cheek, still humming the soft tune. "It's going to be fine, my precious one," she whispered, tears filling her eyes. "It'll be alright." Whether she was trying to convince her baby or herself, she wasn't sure.
A moment later, the conductor returned with the warm milk. When he offered it to the woman, she was surprised and delighted that it was in a baby bottle. She took it, thanking him quietly, but sincerely.
Once the baby was fed and burped, the woman found that she was struggling to stay awake. The conductor passed her once more, asking her where she needed to go. He raised an eyebrow when she replied that anywhere was fine, just as long as it was far away from where they'd picked her up. He stared at her for a moment, but then nodded his understanding. "Are ye in some kind o' trouble, miss?" he asked.
"You could say that," she replied.
"If I might ask, ma'am," he said cautiously, "does it have t' do with the little one?"
The woman looked up at, startled. Then she nodded once and looked down at the floor. The conductor gave her some peace and walked back to the front of the bus. A few cold tears ran down her cheeks and she lay on her side in the bed, her arm curled protectively around her baby. It was only a few minutes before her eyelids grew too heavy. She soon followed the child into sleep.
An hour later, the conductor gently shook her awake. She sat up and rubbed her eyes, trying to wake up completely. The baby slept on, unaware of her mother rising. The woman looked out the window and that they were approaching a tiny little village she'd never seen before. The conductor smiled at her surprise. "Ye asked for someplace far away from where we found ya," he said. "I know 'bout three people who know 'bout this little town. I think it'll serve yer purpose."
The woman looked at him gratefully and gathered her baby in her arms again, being careful not to wake her. "Thank you," she said, eyes glistening again. The bus came to a stop at the edge of the town and the driver opened the doors.
"Could I ask yer name, miss?" the conductor asked her as she stepped down.
She smiled up at him. "It's Christine," she said.
"Well, Miss Christine, me name's Milton and this 'ere's Ernie." The driver lifted his hat to her. She nodded to him and then smiled at Milton again.
"Thank you for your help," she said, apologetically, "I can't tell you how much I appreciate this."
"Anytime, ma'am," Milton told her, blushing a little. "Ye call on us if yer ever needing to be someplace else."
"I will," she promised, a tinkle in her eye. Almost reluctantly, the doors closed and the Knight Bus disappeared before her eyes. Glancing down at the sleeping baby in her arms, she sighed. "We're free now." She looked up and down the street she was on, chose a direction and started walking.
Back on the Knight Bus, Milton was sitting on the first bed behind the driver's seat, head leaning against the window. "What cha think 'er story was, Ernie?"
The driver just grunted and shook his head.