Disclaimer: I don't own any of the recognizable characters and settings in this story. They all spring from the wonderful imagination of J.K Rowling. I'm just toying with them for a while. I'll put them back when I'm finished with them.
This story begins during late summer after Book 4, Goblet of Fire.
Is A Picture Worth 1000 Lives?
1. Artistic Pursuit
The scared young woman looked over her shoulder in panic. She couldn't see them pursuing her, but she was sure that they were still behind her somewhere. After all the damage they'd done so far, she couldn't see them giving up too easily. How could she escape them? What made her decide to take a walk at this time of night anyway, and why did everyone in this benighted village have to close up their shops so blasted early? Why, whenever you needed help was there no one around and no place to go, she thought to herself as she ran down deserted street after deserted street with her heart pounding heavy in her chest. Suddenly a blast of red flashed by her to ignite a call box at her side. Petrified, she dove awkwardly behind a trash bin and covered her head with her shaking hands to avoid the broken glass. Oh gods! They'd finally caught up to her. What was she going to do now? Desperately she skittered down an alley on her knees, scrambled up and ran, only to be stopped short by a tall smooth wooden fence.
Damn! There was absolutely no way she was going over it. Climbing had never been one of her talents, a fear of heights tended to get in the way. She pulled out her wand, took a deep breath, and tried to calm herself down enough to use a levitation spell, but she was shaking too badly to think straight. Okay, something simpler…she looked around her and spotted a door in the wall. Hopefully she grabbed the handle…locked. Typical of the way this night had gone so far.
She waved the wand that she still clutched in her trembling hand. "Alohomora." Okay, good, door open…inside…door closed. Now what? Time was running out; she had to keep moving. They had to be getting close, and she didn't want to think about what would happen if they managed to get their hands on her.
"Lumos." Her wand tip began to glow, and she looked around to find herself in a storeroom. Hoping desperately that she hadn't trapped herself, she moved quickly across the room, opened another door, and stepped through. An art gallery! She stepped towards the nearest wall as she heard the door to the storeroom explode behind her. Four large robed and masked figures burst into the gallery showroom a moment later and looked around in confusion to find the room empty of all but themselves.
Rosmerta hummed a little tune to herself as she wiped down the tables for the night at the Three Broomsticks. It'd been a long day she thought to herself as she gave the last table a flick with her rag. She knew she should have her staff help with the final clean up of the night, but after all the noise and company of the evening, she always relished the solitude of setting the place to rights by herself. Finally finished, she flopped down in an easy chair in front of the dying fire only to leap to her feet again when the flames shot up bright green, and an unsteady figure stepped out of the fireplace.
"Mercy! You gave me a fright, sweetie! It's a bit late for guests. The pub's closed for the evening," she said to the slight figure, who was still struggling a bit to regain her balance.
The young woman turned to Rosmerta with huge eyes and swallowed hard before breaking into a rather disjointed speech. "I'm sorry to be troubling you so late, but this was as close as I could get. I was too shaken up to apparate, and I remembered you couldn't anyway. So when I found the floo powder, I thought, great I can use that, only I wasn't sure if that would work either, it's been so long since I was there. But I remembered the Three Broomsticks so I thought, yes, a pub surely they'll have a fire even in summer. It's often cold in Scotland in summer after all."
She gasped deeply and locking frightened eyes with the pub keeper, she pleaded, "Oh, please, you must help me. I'm in terrible trouble, and I need to get to Hogwarts. I need to see Professor Dumbledore right away!"
Rosmerta could see that her unexpected guest was trembling fearfully. Certainly she was talking like someone in shock. The pub keeper stepped over to the witch and guided her into one of the easy chairs by the fire, making soothing noises to try to calm her down. "There, there, lass, relax, you're going to collapse if you don't calm down. Now you take a deep breath and pull yourself together, while I get you something to drink. You just wait right here, and I'll be right back. Then you can tell me all your troubles, and we'll see what we can do about them together, okay?" She patted the woman's hand comfortingly and looked into her frightened green eyes for a response.
The young woman shook herself slightly, looked up into Rosmerta's eyes, and nodded her head hesitantly, though her trembling never ceased. "Good girl," exclaimed Rosmerta warmly. Somewhat reassured, the older witch straightened up and moved over to the bar. She returned almost immediately with a glass full of warm butterbeer, which she handed to her visitor.
The woman accepted the glass with a grateful nod and took a long sip from it as she tried to force her body to stop trembling and to calm down a bit. Rosmerta sat down in the other chair next to the fire and took stock of the scared figure huddled in front of her. The stranger was slender and of medium height with haunted green eyes that broadcasted her fear with every glance. Her thick reddish brown hair was extremely untidy at the moment. A cut oozed blood on her forehead, and she had a large bruise on her left cheek. Her distress was still apparent in her shaking hands, and she was wearing torn dirty Muggle clothing. Whatever she'd gone through had obviously been extremely upsetting to her. The intensity of her anxiety was palpable.
Rosmerta smiled a comforting smile at the witch, to try to reassure her, and said, "Will you let me have a look at that cut on your forehead? It should be cleaned and bandaged up."
Surprised the scared witch put a hand up to her forehead. "I didn't even realize I'd been cut," she said in a faint voice as her fingers came away with blood on them. "It must have been the broken glass." A weary ragged sigh escaped her lips as she looked dazedly at her blood covered fingers. "I'm really, okay, just tired. I need to get to Hogwarts as soon as I can. I'm sorry to have troubled you." With that statement, she abruptly put down the butterbeer and began to get up from the chair.
Rosmerta was quicker though and with a firm hand guided her back down onto the cushions. "That doesn't seem like a good idea to me, sweetie," she said with a warm smile. "You're obviously exhausted and injured. It's the middle of the night. They're probably all asleep up at the school at the moment. You shouldn't go stumbling up there in the dark in your condition anyway. I can give you a room here for the night. You can go up first thing in the morning after you've had a bit of a rest and cleaned yourself up."
The green eyes widened and pleaded with the pub keeper while she shook her head emphatically. "Oh, no, I can't stay here. What if they catch up to me? You'd be in danger, too."
Rosmerta frowned in concern. "Who's chasing you, sweetie? Why would they hurt you, or me, for that matter?"
The woman stared uncertainly at Rosmerta. Putting her fears into words would simply make it all too real. She just couldn't make herself do it. Not here, not to this woman, as kind as she was. It would simply be too much of a risk. There was only one person she could talk to about this. So she sighed and licked her lips nervously. "I don't really know. I might've thrown them off my trail for now, but I'm not sure. I don't want to put you in any danger. If it's what I'm afraid it is, then the only place I'll be safe is with Professor Dumbledore."
Now it was Rosmerta's turn to sigh. "Lass, I don't know if Professor Dumbledore is even up at the castle at the moment. It's summer term after all. It's also closing in on three o'clock in the morning, and you're in no condition for a hike up to Hogwarts in the dead of night. So, it seems to me we'll have to hope that you did indeed elude your pursuers for the moment. The most sensible course of action would be for you to let me fix up that cut on your forehead and then for you to get some rest before heading up to Hogwarts after the sun comes up. Now, no more arguing."
Admitting defeat in the face of Rosmerta's logic, the woman nodded hesitantly. Daylight would be here in only a few more hours. She'd just have to wait and hope that she'd truly shaken them off her trail. It was likely after all. They certainly couldn't have followed the way she'd come. So reluctantly she allowed Rosmerta to take gentle hold of her arm and guide her out of the armchair and up the stairs to the bedrooms over the pub.