"You should know better than to bring strangers into our home."
"She would have died out there! I couldn't just leave her. The Bible says we must help those in need."
Bellatrix's eyes seemed glued shut. She was fairly sure she was lying on a bed, but it was hard and lumpy, and could have just been a blanket on the ground. There was a dull, painful throbbing in the back of her head, and her whole body felt itchy and sore.
"That's all very well, but you still shouldn't bring people into our house! There are plenty of places we could have made up a bed for her without bringing her in! If it turns out that she's a…" his voice dropped to a whisper.
Bellatrix moved her fingers, just slightly. They had been woven tightly together and lain over her stomach as though she was praying. What the Hell?
"We don't want anyone to think we have anything to do with her."
She had fallen, she remembered. She had been on her way to Little Hangleton, and had tried to climb up a rock face to find shelter from the rain, and she had fallen. Must have hit my head…
"She was lying there in the rain, Geoffrey! If I hadn't brought her, she would have died out there!"
"Which is why we have stables, Isabel. She would have been fine in them."
Bellatrix forced her eyes open. They were gritty, and her vision blurred. Her neck ached, and she couldn't bring herself to turn it, so she just looked at what was directly above her. There were rotting rafters, and a thatched roof, and Bellatrix could only assume she was inside some sort of cottage. Muggles really are barbaric – can't they even put proper roofs on their houses?
"She's here now, Geoffrey. We can't throw her out."
"Of course we can. She's not awake."
Bellatrix cleared her throat. The talking stopped abruptly, and then a few hurried whispers that Bellatrix couldn't make out, and the sounds of footsteps. Someone leaned over her, and she was smothered with the scent of wet wool and unwashed hair.
"Do you speak English?" asked the woman who Bellatrix assumed was called Isabel. "Latine loqui potes? An bhfuil Gaeil–"
"I speak English," Bellatrix told her, and was overtaken with a fit of coughing.
"Get her a drink," said the man who had been talking, presumably Geoffrey. The woman – Isabel – moved away, and reappeared momentarily. Bellatrix's vision was still blurred, but she was able to make out a cup being held out towards her. She lifted one hand to take it, but her shoulder protested, and Bellatrix dropped her arm with a gasp of pain.
"Here," said Isabel, tipping the cup to Bellatrix's lips.
She sipped tentatively, then spat it out, horrified.
"Is something wrong?" Isabel asked.
Bellatrix sputtered and coughed. "That's repulsive! That can't be water!"
"Well, of course it's not," said Isabel. "Drinking water will make you ill. That's ale."
"Ale?" Bellatrix shrieked. "You're giving me ale? Right, that's it!"
She shoved the cup away from her face, paying mind neither to the putrid liquid splashing across her body nor the searing pain in her shoulder, and grabbed her wand from the holder at her waist.
"First off," she said, sitting up straight and pointing her wand at the couple, blinking to try to clear her vision, "Why am I here?"
Isabel looked helplessly between Bellatrix and Geoffrey. Now that Bellatrix was looking at the couple, she was struck by how odd they were. Isabel was a tiny, bird-like thing, and Geoffrey looked quite ill. Both of them stared, perplexed, at Bellatrix's wand.
"You were outside," Isabel said meekly. "In the rain. Lying on the ground. I brought you inside…"
"How long ago was this?"
Isabel shook her head. "A few hours, I suppose, I don't know…"
"Don't you have a clock?"
"A what?" Geoffrey asked, stepping in front of Isabel and looking at Bellatrix warily.
"A clock!" Just my sort of luck to be found by the most ignorant muggles alive.
"What is a clock? And what, in the name of God, are you doing with that stick?"
The spell caught Geoffrey in the chest and he stumbled, falling backwards into Isabel, who shrieked. Bellatrix lifted the curse, and sighed, feeling much better.
"Right," she said. "So you don't have a clock, you don't know how long I've been here… can you at least tell me where 'here' is?"
"What have you done to him?" Isabel squeaked, pressing her hands over her mouth and looking in horror at Bellatrix.
"I've cursed him, and if you don't answer me, I'll do the same to you!"
Isabel whimpered. "You cursed him?"
"Didn't you hear me, woman?" Bellatrix stood up and advanced, wincing at the pain in her shoulder. "Tell me where I am."
"Our village," Isabel said, shrinking backwards.
"Well thank God for that." Bellatrix sighed, and reached for her throat, closing her fingers around the time-turner.
Her stomach sank.
She lifted it to eye level and stared, horrified, at the tiny hourglass. One bulb was shattered, and only a few grains of sand were still in it.
"Oh, bloody Hell," Bellatrix muttered, closing her eyes. The Dark Lord will have my head for breaking this.
"Will my husband be all right?" Isabel asked tearfully, interrupting Bellatrix's horrified musings.
"He'll be fine," she said, no more patience for this conversation. "Now, tell me how to get to the Riddle House, and I may let you live."
Isabel let out a shriek. "Please, have mercy, good Lady, I mean you no harm!"
"Then tell me where the bloody Riddle House is!"
"I don't know what you mean!" Isabel buried her face in her hands, and Bellatrix thought she heard a mumbled prayer through Isabel's fingers.
"If this is Little Hangleton, then you must know where the Riddle House is! I was told it has been here for generations!"
"That can't be right!" Isabel sobbed. "We only settled this village a few years ago!"
Bellatrix had the sudden, pronounced feeling of having the ground give way beneath her.
"What year is it?" she asked with great trepidation.
"It is…" Isabel sniffled, looking between Geoffrey, still on the ground, and Bellatrix, "It is the year of our Lord 1323."