Hark, hark, the dogs do bark;
The beggars are coming to town.
Some in rags and some in jags,
And one in a velvet gown.
She first felt the pounding in her head and the cold, wet surface underneath her. She moved against what she recognized as hard stone, her body struggling against its own stiffness. She blinked, but no sight returned to her; the room was perfectly dark. There was a faint dripping sound in one corner and a gentle weeping in another. Here and there, the scratch of clothing against stone confirmed her suspicions that she was not alone in what she assumed was some sort of underground location, perhaps a dungeon or cellar of some kind.
All these conclusions came to her with ease, but how she came to be in such a place was a complete mystery. She tried to remember the last thing before the darkness, but it only increased the pain in her already throbbing head. She cradled it with a cool hand and pulled herself upright, wondering if she should speak into the darkness to her companions. She opened her mouth and closed it again. She could just imagine something lurking in the pitch blackness, waiting for her to speak, mimicking pathetic noises in a trap. It was a wild imagination she knew, but, then again, being locked in a dungeon was pretty wild too.
The incessant dripping of the water made her thirsty and she swallowed, finding her throat felt like it was full of hot sand. Scooting carefully on her bottom—she had no idea how tall the ceiling might be—she inched towards the sound of the water, licking her lips.
Just before she reached it, a burst of light flooded the small room. There were cries and groans of discomfort. She shielded her eyes, waiting for them to adjust. The large, black boots of a man were visible at the top of a set of stairs. For a moment, they waited there.
She knew enough to be uneasy, to watch the other girls clinging to each other with tearstained faces, drawing their knees up, whimpering. She knew these boots were trouble. Slowly, they began to make their way down the wooden steps that led into the small cellar she had taken for a dungeon. The jingle of keys at his side made her certain they were locked in, though for how long or why she could not guess.
At his other side, he carried a very thin, peculiar sort of flashlight. It looked like a stick with a light at the tip. When he held it at eye level, examining the contents of the cellar, she could see that the man was hideous. She tried not to grimace, but she was unable to look away. Their eyes locked. He moved towards her.
He pivoted quickly and grabbed instead the shoulder of a terrified blonde girl in the corner, then lunged forward towards his original target. She evaded his large hand and looked at him, puzzled. Before he could anger, she stood up a little and came closer to him, making it clear she intended to follow him peaceably. It was his turn to look surprised, so did the others daring to peek out from behind their hands.
Wherever they were headed was obviously undesirable, but she was already sure there was no other escape from the cellar, so the best chance she had at surviving was to emerge into whatever awaited and calculate her situation. Emerging unbound would be even better for her chances. He did not seem particularly bright and allowed her this. She tried not to show her own pleasure, keeping her face blank and empty.
When they reached the top of the stairs, the light did not increase drastically as she expected. The air altered only a little. They appeared to be in a shop of some kind that stocked antiques. She saw some old jewelry, furniture, shrunken heads. A rather grey, hunched man examined her with critical eye, removing a stick with no light from his pocket. He flicked it in the air and she felt a light breeze against her skin. She touched her face to find it feeling suddenly clean. As he sniffled around her and blonde, changing their clothes and cleaning them up with a flick of his stick, the blonde seemed unsurprised though a little more weepy.
She, however, only just managed to keep her jaw from dropping. Instinct gave her a strong feeling she should never allow her face to show surprise before these characters. Ever. Even if she could barely think the word aloud: wands.
The older man talked to the dumb one in a British accent, some area London she believed, insisting she be bound before they exited. She thought about darting for it then, but the path to the only visible door was blocked. Her hands were bound with rope by magic and she followed the dumb, ugly man towards the door. The grey one smiled wickedly at them as they passed.
"Help us." The blonde pleaded to him, but if he heard her cry he ignored it.
The bigger one simply bumped against the stuff in his way, knocking it askew. She sized him up—he was dumb perhaps, but also over a foot taller than her and about twice as wide. Plus, she was pretty sure his stick constituted a weapon.
Wait for the best chance to escape, she told herself. Be patient.
For the time being, that was the plan. Though where she would run, she had no idea.
They were led into a narrow alley. He squeezed through first, entering a slightly wider alleyway filled with people in robes. The sky above showed it was afternoon; the rooftops suggested London; the crowd blocked the exits and was entirely focused upon a small, wooden platform she and the other girl were now being forced upon.
They were meet with cheers and jeers by a mob of stick-carriers, some looking very aristocratic and wealthy in velvet and gems. These were for the most part quieter, but fingered their purses and fixed their eyes with a dangerous hunger. The others were rough, rugged, and rather dirty looking. Some were drunk, some old, some crippled, and some with horrendous teeth. Their clothes were mismatched or bore moth holes and patches.
She watched the crowd as carefully as they watched her. She had little time.
The smaller, blonde girl was pushed forwards first. She trembled and cowered as the crowd laughed, some of them rushing forward in excitement and being shot back by some unseen force to the guffaw of onlookers.
There were but two promising candidates among the rabble, she observed. The first was a rich man; in fact, he appeared to be one of the richest. He had blonde hair, was reasonably handsome, and looked about her age. His father at his side looked like a harsh man and unnerved her, but the boy—he could be manageable. She could make him fall for her.
The other hope was the neatest of the poor. He was an intelligent-looking man who leaned on the wall near the back. He was older than she, perhaps old enough to be her father, and remained quiet. He was dressed in a suit that was aged but well-kept. Something about his face, though scarred and sad, seemed gentle and kind compared to the others. Looks could be misleading. But she was good at reading people.
The moments were ticking by as the men raised their hands and coin purses and sticks to indicate their interest in her companion. The rich boy bid on the blonde girl several times. The noise of the crowd grew in ferocity for a while as the bids climbed.
She struggled to keep her face expressionless. It fell nearly silent as three then two men locked in battle over the girl. Back and forth they went, holding everyone's attention, even hers because one of them was the blonde boy and if he got the first girl, it was unlikely he'd want to stick around for her too.
But he did not win. His father whispered something in his ear, and his hand stayed. The other man, partial balding, waited, breath-bated, until the announcement was made, then smiled widely, shaking his fists in joyful victory. The young man scowled in response, but eyed his father who seemed pleased. Perhaps the blonde would not wish to go home empty handed. Perhaps going home with someone so bitterly disappointed would be unwise for her though.
She stepped forward as the blonde was pulled from the stage. The poor girl was still now, almost catatonic. The rich, balding man was stroking her hair, but the little blonde was staring wide eyed into the brick walls.
Knowing it was now her turn to be bid on, she made a quick decision. She slouched, kept her face devoid of emotion. She flipped her long, dark hair behind her to hide the often complimented feature. She averted her eyes somewhat, trying to conceal their brightness. The crowd paused a moment, seeming to deliberate her worth. It was working.
The man behind her poked her with his stick. "Look pretty," he commanded in a deep, dumb voice. She straightened a little and her eyes fell directly on the blonde. The first bid was cast.
For a while, her fortune was tossed among the crowd so wildly she could not keep track. She just stood there awkwardly above them like a cow at auction. As the bids grew, the number of voices decreased. She ignored the numbers; they made little sense anyway.
As the voices dropped to two, one of them the blonde boy, a new one joined. The poorer man she had eyed earlier was staring at her. They made eye contact. Another quick decision. She struggled to communicate with her expression a need she could not verbalize even mentally. She felt he somehow heard her.
Only the blonde and the older man remained in the running. She prayed the weaker one succeeded, but did not know which one that was. Not knowing who to route for, she looked to the sky and a couple of pigeons flying overhead and let fate play out as it would.
Each time the annoyed blonde increased his bid with an air of frustration, she felt a terrible lurch of fear in her stomach that the other man may not be able to match it. Every moment he did, she felt another lurch at the idea of becoming his young plaything and held her breath for the candidate closer to her own age to return out of stubbornness. For a long while, he did.
Finally, murmurs led her to believe things were getting truly ridiculous. It certainly seemed to her she had been standing a long time, but she supposed that may be so, as the tension mounting below her was almost palpable. What's more, the two men seemed to recognize each other.
"Really, Lupin!" The rich blonde boy's snobby father spat, spinning to face the other man through the crowd. The horde parted. "As if you could afford such a price." His voice was soft, delicate with its carefully placed insult.
The other man sort of smiled, a sad smile, and she spied a scar along his face. "I've been saving up."
"That the only way you can get a woman, by buying one?" The boy sneered, looking less attractive. The crowd was looking at the poorer man now with distrust for a reason she could decipher until the boy continued. "Guess it puts some women off, knowing you're a werewolf."
She demanded her lungs remain stationary. No sharp intake of breath could give away her shock. Or fear. The golden eyes of the man called Lupin darted to her, looking for a reaction. She gave no indication she had heard.
If this man was a werewolf, and the scars somehow seemed to indicate that might be so what with all the wand-waving going on in this neighborhood, he may be the more dangerous choice. On the other hand, if he was a werewolf, then the pale, young man and his father could possibly be vampires, and she thought those harder to handle than wolves.
"All the more reason for you to let me have her." Came the calm reply. "I'm sure there is more to come worth your money. You'd hate to spend it all on the first toy you came across and have none left for the thing you really want, like a foolish child." The boy and his father were not the only ones to stiffen at the insult. The pair exchanged a few harsh words in hushed voices.
"Have her." The father said, turning on his heel and striding away, robe billowing. His son followed, nearly pouting.
So that was that. She thought for a moment of crying out to the rich men now leaving her to the beast-man. She bit her tongue. It was done.
Money was exchanged, and she was hurried down the rickety stairs into the arms of the waiting purchaser. They were surrounded by jealous glares. A few groping hands and brandished fists.
"Hello, there. I'm Remus Lupin. Well, we'd better get out of here I think. Hold onto me tightly." His voice was full of a false cheer that she did not like, and she hesitated to clutch the stranger as tightly as he might otherwise like. He squeezed her upper arm uncomfortably. "Tight." He emphasized in her ear. She dug her fingers into his shirt and felt a sharp pull in her gut as she was launched forward at high speed, her vision blurring, and tumbled bewildered to the ground upon a much softer surface: a dusty carpet.
A/N: Thanks for giving this a chance! Please take a minute to leave a review.