Hello everyone! This is my first fanfiction in years! Its more of a tester really! If its good enough, ill continue, if not, I will try again! So please, if you like it and want me to keep writing, let me know! - Rena

I do not own anything from Howls Moving Castle

Chapter One: More than a Chance Meeting

As she looked through the soot covered window to the darken skies above, Sophie sighed deeply. She sat there in the backroom of their tiny, dimly lit hat shop, quietly sowing away while listening to the hum of the trains outside. It was late night by the time Sophie had finally finished sowing the last embellishments on the hat for Mis. Collaway. The largely women demanded earlier today that the hat to be finished by 7 am sharp and by how very little business the shop had been getting recently, Sophie was in no position to deny her. With such slow business, it was becoming more and more obvious how close the store would be to shutting down.

With a big yawn, Sophie glanced up at the clock which hung on the wall, glaring at her with huge numbers. 3:04am. Another late night, for another few dollars. It was saddening to think all this hard work will be in vain. There was just no way Sophie can keep this business up and running while her frugal-less mother went around spending what little profits to be had on new dresses and the finest of shoes and accessories. Sophie was surprised how many things her mother could buy with such little money...it seemed very suspicious to say the least.

There had to be another way of getting money, Sophie thought to herself as she laid the newly decorated hat on the stand and blew out the candle beside her. Dawning her old, brown leather coat, the brown haired girl slumped to the front of the dingy hat shop, exiting through the main door.

The cool crisp air greeted her almost immediately, taking every bit a warmth she had, leaving a shivering Sophie to quickly lock the shop and made her way up the cobbled street. The city was truly beautiful at night, as well as a little creepy. The tall buildings being silhouetted by the shining of the full moon. The stars glowed, like embers of a white fire. The once busy town bazaar now laid dormant until sunrise.

Pulling her the coat a little tighter around her neck, Sophie turned down a small ally way. Sophie began to think about how sad it was that she had to move from her lovely house with her mother, to a shabby old apartment across the other side of town. A feeling of guilt began to form a lump in her throat. Mother...she was a wonderful lady...but her boyfriend was less than be desired. After a few months of getting to know Richard Stiffe, that's when the true nature of this wizard came to light. Mis. Hatter started showing up with mysterious bruises. When Sophie asked, silence was always the reply. Until one night when Sophie was aroused from her sleep by a loud thud against the wall.

Sophie cringed, grabbing her bruised side. The memories of that night were even too much for Sophie to think about this late at night.
Soon her path started to narrow down into an even smaller ally way, where she had to turn sideways just to fit properly. This path she knew well since she traversed it everyday for the past few weeks, but something caught her eye. At the very end of the narrow path, a shadow was blocking the light of her street. It stood at least 8 feet tall and just the very sight Sophie paused, holding her breath, eyes widen.

It stood there, a feathery, large figure, facing directly at her. Fear began to consume her body as she recalled the story the local baker was telling her about the women disappearing all over town. She assumed he was just blowing smoke, like most people in this fluffy town did.

The sound of its heavy breathing echoed through-out the ally way. Unsure of what to do, the girl slowly began to back up, her shaky hands held the close wall. What is that thing?! In a world such as this, odd looking creatures were common, but something about this being showed it was more than just some wizard magic. Perhaps this thing is a demon.

Silently, the creature pushed its way into the narrow spaces, its body squished. It was coming after her, without a doubt.

Panicking, she took off in a dash. She could hear its skin, and what she assumed as its feathers, scratching the stone walls as it too sped up to match her pace. "Leave me alone!" Sophie cried, of course to no avail. As soon as she arrived back into the larger ally, she took off in a full blown run. The creature let out a low, powerful growl that crept up her very spine, sending endless chills through out Sophie's small frame. It almost sounded in pain, but she didn't want to turn and find out.

Sophie burst out on to the main street, hoping to see at least one soul out at, but alas the stone city stood cold, and lifeless, her heart sank. The creature billowed out behind her, now only a few feet away, she could almost feel its warm breath cut threw the cold. She dare not stop to look at it. The shop was in sight, just a few more blocks. She fumbled around in her pocket, feeling for the key. As she pulled it out of her pocket, she felt the touch of the creatures surprisingly soft feathers brush her neck, but also left a cold almost wet sensation. This freaked the poor girl out even more.

She finally reached the stoop of the store, but before she could shove the key into the door, a loud crashing noise came from the creature. It fell. Sophie thanked whatever gods she could as she opened the door, slamming it behind her. Her breath was so heavy, and her heart rate was so rapid, she'd almost pass out, had the fear not over-ridden her other senses. She had her back to the glass door, bracing it just in case the creature tried to break in. But to her surprise, nothing. No banging, no pushing.

Mustering up what little courage the timid girl had, she glanced outside. There in the street did not lay a horrid creature from the dark, but a man. He was a man of tall built, skinny, in tattered clothes. The moonlight made his hair shine ever so bright blonde. Her first instinct was this man was a victim of that horrid creature! She needed to help him! Realization soon set in...perhaps that man was the creature. But why would he be chasing her? Was he the traitorous wizard that everyone was talking about? Surely that wasn't Howl. Besides, he only chased pretty girls. But then again, he didn't seem like he was chasing her out of lust...no...almost out of pain.

Sophie contemplated for a moment, her face pushed slightly against the window, peering out at the lifeless man who laid ever so still. What if it isn't Howl and he was actually the victim? With the need to help, she opened the door cautiously. She peered up and down the street, fearful she might see it again, but nothing. Everything looked still as it had before.

Quickly, with everything she had inside her, Sophie darted down the stairs and ran quickly to the man. Her hands gently turned the man on his back. She couldn't help but to pause for a moment to take in his features. He was absolutely stunning. His face, though covered in dirt, was that of a rich, courted man. His jaw line so slender, and his lips so perfect. She blushed realizing she was gawking, almost forgetting the horrible creature that could still be lurking around.

"Sir? Wake up please!" Her pleads did nothing. He was out cold.

Fear once again returned as she quickly grabbed the man and hoisted him up on her shoulder. She groaned. The man was heavier than he looked. Steadily, she climb each stair till they were both safely inside.

She locked the door securely, even braced it with a few chairs. What ever that thing was, she didn't want any chance of it coming back. She had pulled the man to the back room, laying him on an old blanket her now deceased father had given her. Sighing, Sophie watched the man. "And what am I going to do with you, stranger?" Sophie's life was already hard enough with her families failing business, abusive mother's boyfriend, now some beast chased her and a man is lieing passed out in her floor.

Glancing up at the giant clock once again, 4:09 am, it read boldly. Exhaustion kicked in. This was the 3rd night of no sleep, her body was aching with pain, and she was riddled with sweat. She knew she couldn't keep this man laying here all night. What would her mother think? Probably be happy she found a man. Sophie snarled at the thought. Her mother always pushed her to find a nice man...or a man period. But Sophie herself wasn't a very out there kind of girl, not like her sister Lettie, who every man couldn't keep their hands off of.

Sophie pulled off her coat and placed it over the man. She lit a candle and processed to the bathroom to wet a cloth. Nothing good ever happened to Sophie, it was her destiny to live a boring existence. Thoroughly wetting the rag, she returned and knelt down beside the man. He really was almost like a piece of art.

As soon as the cold cloth touched the mans face, crystal blue eyes fluttered open. A small groan came from the man as he turned and stared directly at Sophie. This surprised the brown haired girl.

"You...you are Sophie Hatter?" His voice sounded smooth, but was full of effort.

"Y-yes, how do you know my name?" She questioned uncertainly as she pulled the rag away from the now conscious man. Sophie couldn't help but to admit how stunning this mans eyes were. She felt as if he saw right through to her soul, which scared her a bit.

His face turned serious, "I have been looking for you for quite sometime. You were very hard to track down. Do you know who I am, dear?"

Sophie looked at him dumbfounded, "Am I suppose?" She asked questionably. Who was this man? She was beginning to think this wasn't a chance meeting.

A cute smirk played across his lips, "Ah. I figured she wouldn't have told you so soon. Today, Sophie, is a big day for you." The man grunted a little as he sat upright.

"How so?" Curiosity now plagued her. What is this stranger talking about?

"Your mother had contacted me awhile back. Such a nice lady she is, but she has such a thirst for things she can't have. You see, my dear Sophie, your mother wanted wealth. But no way of getting it, she found me." The man now stood up, towering a good foot of Sophie's small frame, "My name is Howl, a pleasure to meet you, ." He bent down, with some effort, and grabbed Sophie's hand, planting a light kiss upon it.

A million thoughts raced though her head, blurting out the first one that came to mind. "What does this have to do with me?"
He looked down, almost pitifully at her, "You are the very thing your mother traded with me. You are mine now, Sophie." He spoke tenderly.


Cliffhanger! So let me know what you think please! I would really love feedback! 3 Rena