Chapter 2 : This is Halloween
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Twilight coloured the high windows of Hogwarts, as the evening approached. Huge pumpkins floated along the corridors, their weird faces shone with merry candlelight. Creepy noises echoed within the ancient walls.
“I wish the old, headless spook would stop clinking with those chains – he’s doing it all day. He earned me a migraine,” Remus sighed weakly, as he tried to keep pace with James and Sirius. Peter stayed behind, trying to rid himself of a heavy, sticky cobweb.
As if he was given his cue, Nearly-Headless Nick, floated through the wall next to them.
“Whoooo! Beware of the Mighty Ghost of Halloween!” Nick was positively in his best mood. Instead of his usual, pompous garments this time he was wearing ragged, dark witch’s clothes and huge chains around his ankles. For some reason there were flames here and there burning his body.
“What’s that supposed to be?” Sirius barked irately. He had serious things to discuss with his friends and the appearance of a tastelessly masqueraded ghost was absolutely not among his plans.
“Whoa! A llllittle more respect for the old, condemned witch, may I ask! By the way, do you like it? It’s an auto-da-fé!” he said passionately, throwing out his chest. That moment huge flames erupted from his clothes, which made him look like a burning scarecrow. He definitely did not resemble a vixen on the bonfire.
A short silence followed.
“Excellent Nick!” James exclaimed, clapping his hands, “That sure is horrific! First years will love it!”
Sirius looked at him aghast, and then suddenly he joined the applause.
“Yeah, I have actually seen a nice bunch of them on the third floor corridor, before the smoking gargoyle. They seemed to be lost, since we disguised the doors. I think your great moment has come, Nick!” he slyly added.
“Really?” Nick looked deeply inspired. The flames froze on his back. “Great, great!” he mumbled and disappeared through the ceiling, leaving a nasty, smoky stink behind.
“Whatever!” Remus waved dispiritedly, “Boys, don’t you think we went too far mixing up those doors? The Snake Hatching room could be dangerous.”
“Oh, Moony! We are providing them high-quality practical education. Look at it that way,” Sirius snapped, “What is much more important at the moment is that we’ve found nothing in the Prophets so far.”
“Yeah, nothing,” Peter huffed, as he finally cleaned the web off his face, “no murder in Hogwarts, but the one we already know about.”
“No deadly accidents, as well,” Remus shook his head.
“Head up! This means nothing!” James said bracingly, “We know that if they want something to be kept secret, they keep it secret. And this case must have been considered secret for some reason. Who knows, the girl might have been the daughter of a minister or something.”
“What about the Hogwarts archives?” Remus asked hopefully.
Prongs sadly shook his head.
“There was no murder registered; I found nothing suspicious. But then again, I had very little time to search, for the teachers keep circling around the place like vultures after plague, and they are particularly sensitive when they see me, you know. Bloody Halloween!”
“And you, Padfoot?” he added.
“Had no chance to get in Filch’s office, yet. It’s detention boom time; every silly, little first year thinks he can make fireworks or a booby-trap without being caught. Amateurs! Now they fill Filch’s office. We’ll have to wait till the party starts. By the way, you can help me to make the coast clear. Alright?”
“Fine!” Remus nodded, “Prongs?” he turned to see James slightly change colour.
“I was planning to meet Lily at the party. Perhaps she won’t recognize me in my Halloween outfit and she will dance with me.”
“What Halloween outfit?” Padfoot asked, suspiciously eyeing his friend.
“Well, I thought… I’ll be a Hungarian Horntail…”
Sirius stared at him with a blank expression.
“A Horntail,” he finally said.
“Yep, a Horntail,” James patiently acknowledged.
Sirius sighed, “You are hopeless, Prongs. Well, Moony, Wormtail! I’m counting on you. By the way, where is that smuggled firewhisky of yours, Prongs?”
Suddenly they heard footsteps running in their direction. It was Carlito, a hyperactive second year, who had the tendency to be always in trouble for other people’s deeds.
“Hey, have you seen it? In the Great Hall, right above the door! It’s Mrs Filch! Filch’s mother! She’s pretty scary! Merlin! Does she swear! Professor Flitwick was unable to remove her! He upset her; you should hear it with your own ears! She’s the best I have heard so far, though my grandma has a talent, as well.” He told this in one go without taking a breath. A second later he darted off to be the first to inform the others.
A satisfied grin appeared on Sirius’ face.
“That Moor is a great man!”
Everyone, but Remus agreed.
“Let’s go! I want to see it, before Dumbledore removes it!” James boomed and they flied off for the Great Hall.
Midnight was approaching and the party was at its full peak. The Great Hall was hardly recognizable; the marble floor was covered with a thick layer of colourful autumn leaves, a huge full moon decorated the sky on the ceiling, frogs croaked to the music and heavy clouds of mist roamed the place.
The usual candles were replaced by Halloween lamps and lanterns.
Instead of pupils all kind of creatures filled the hall; pirates, skeletons, ghosts and deadly tree-spirits, but there were also Muggle firemen and bank managers in the bustling crowd.
The only Hungarian Horntail was sitting in a corner with glassy eyes. He was surrounded by a huge Baskerville hound with fluorescent hair, a pale vampire with big empathic eyes and an overweight bat, who insisted that bats do have long tails.
“I tell you, Prongs, give up on that girl. A man should never make an idiot of himself, not even for a pair of pretty green eyes. Come, have a drink, before Wormtail empties the whole bottle,” the Baskerville hound tried to comfort the desperate dragon.
The huge bat with a long tail sewed clumsily to his costume reached out a bottle of what looked pumpkin juice.
The Horntail took a long sip and then unpleasantly coughed. “Thanks!”
The dog looked around and cautiously lowered his voice.
“I’m going,” he said, scratching behind his hairy ear. “Peter will look out by the door; you two use the Marauders’ Map and make sure no one comes near while I’m in. Questions?”
They shook their heads. The Horntail sighed.
“Fine! I’m off then. And Prongs, hide that bottle for Merlin’s sake! Though they are teachers, they are not totally dummies. If you get caught for drinking whisky, while you’re supposed to watch the Map, I’ll skin you alive, and I don’t mean the dragon skin,” Sirius growled.
“Relax, Padfoot,” the reptile replied with a sad grin, “Everything will be alright.”
Sirius was not relaxed at all, and even less did he think that everything would be alright, for his friend was obviously incapable of any mental activity, let alone self-pity. Women, he thought. His mood did not improve by the fact that he was looking for Snivellus Snape the whole day in vain. His burning desire to set his Vampire Hunter Bat on that slimy git was not satisfied, and that was no good.
With Peter tailing him, he made his way for the doors and soon they disappeared out of sight.
It was no challenge to break into that office; it simply became a mere routine.
The room was chilly, as the window was left open. Dirty curtains danced in the cold breeze.
Okay, he had to work systematically. He pulled the picture out of his pocket. The blood congealed on its surface. Sirius gently touched it with the tip of his wand.
The blood disappeared, but the letters carved into the paper remained. Sirius looked around in the room and somehow he started to feel slightly lost.
“Now, where can I find you, if I don’t even know your name,” he mumbled, and looked towards the sleeping room, hoping that those rotten leftovers had been cleared away.
Well, anyway, the work had to be done - he thought, and ruffled his shiny hair.
Half an hour had passed, since he stared his frantic search. All kind of old papers and files were piling on the floor in chaotic disorder and Sirius was on the brink of loosing faith. It seemed totally impossible to find anything related to that unknown girl, while he had no idea what he was looking for. He did not know her name or the time, when she lived – he had practically no information about her.
It was impossible.
Bitterness crept into Padfoot’s stomach; they were chasing a mirage. What a pity! Damn that photograph, he thought. He lazily made a sweeping move with his wand and the tottering piles of papers carelessly jammed themselves into the cupboards.
He was just about to leave, when he heard shuffle behind his back.
Like a frightened grasshopper, Sirius leapt across the room, pointing his wand at the source of the noise.
There was a girl standing in the shadow of the curtains.
“Who are you?” Sirius asked in a voice that was intended to sound confidently.
“Please,” the girl weakly squeaked, “don’t tell them I’m here!”
That was crazy. Definitely crazy. How did she get in there, while Wormtail was supposed to guard the door? Did he fall asleep after all the whisky he had mopped up? She hadn’t been there just a few moments ago…
Sirius’ eyes slid to the window. Perhaps. But that was weird anyway.
“What are you doing here?” he fired off, hoping to ask it before she would.
The girl stepped forth into the light.
Sirius goggled at her in disbelief, and then he burst with laughter.
“What’s this? Did you mean to scare Filch out of his pants? Your outfit is really cool.”
The girl looked down at herself. She was wearing a man’s shirt, muddy and moist and man’s dirty boots. She had no skirt or pants on. Sirius could only guess if she had knickers beneath that hideous piece of garment. Her hair was wet and tangled, it was impossible to tell its colour and she had bruises and haematomas on her face and body. She offered a ghastly view.
“I don’t want anyone to know that I’m here.”
The scene lasted a bit long for Sirius’ taste. There was not enough light to observe the girl’s features, but he could tell that she had dark shadows under her eyes. It wasn’t funny at all. Sirius hated to admit but the girl freaked him out. And why was she looking at him like that? He wished he could vanish. Yes, that was exactly what he would do. Vanish.
“Loved to chat, but gotta go. Duties, you know. Bye,” he said carefully backing to the door and not lowering his wand for a second.
Suddenly the door burst open and it painfully collided with Padfoot’s back. The air left his lungs for a long moment that seemed to last forever.
When Sirius finally came to his senses, after a short pause of gasping for air, he faced a rather smug looking Severus Snape. He could tell by the slimy git’s face that he was having the time of his miserable life, catching his enemy in such a compromising situation.
“Well, well, well! What do we have here? Romance is blossoming at this beautiful time of the year,” Snape drawled. His black eyes flashed with utter amusement, as he threw back his hair.
“Where’s Pettigrew?” Sirius finally managed to growl.
“Oh, he got a bit tired, yes, tired… after I hexed him. He won’t run away, don’t worry. You will have the chance to curse him for sure. But before that… we’ll have a little fun. Fun worthy of a Marauder. What do you think, Black, will you like it? Being on the other side?”
Snape’s lips curved into a cruel smile.
Sirius slightly lost his balance. His wand flew across the room. If only he hadn’t drunk that much whisky… he also wished he had his Vampire Hunter with him. It would love this lifeless, pale creature, called Severus Damned Snape. But none of his wishes came true and he had to face the harsh reality. He was wandless against his worst enemy.
Nevertheless Padfoot was not the one to give up; he straightened himself, pulling to full height, looking slightly drunk, but dignified. He venomously glared at Snape, who watched him with delight.
“Oh, that’s more like it! What did you say? What is my favourite curse? Well, I’d be pleased to show you. You’ll love it!” Snape purred. Suddenly his eyes met the girl’s. “What are you staring at? Get out! And don’t dare to tell a word about this, or I’ll find you.”
The eyes of the girl widened in horror; she slightly trembled, as she stepped between the two boys. Her moves were slow and hesitant, as if she was sleepwalking. Padfoot’s handsome features reflected disbelief.
“Are you nuts?” Snape roared, “GET OUT, I say!”
“I need help,” she whispered, “I really need help. They’re after me!”
Now she was close enough for Snape to make out her features and wounds. Though they looked real, it was Halloween night; every other girl or boy had a knife in their back or bleeding wounds across their chest. This girl had done excellent work with her masquerade, that was all, Severus concluded. And that she had beautiful legs. Yes. It was a good point leaving them exposed.
“Yes. And I’m the Santa Claus, I know. Nice try, but it didn’t work out. Go!” Snape smirked.
“Yes, dear,” Sirius added, “it’s between me and Snape, you go. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. Go!”
The girl did not move.
“You speak as if you know me, though you don’t. Just a minute ago you wanted to flee this room and leave me here alone,” she replied.
“What’s this bullshit?” Snape grunted impatiently. He stepped menacingly to the girl and wanted to push her aside. The girl turned her huge eyes to him and he jerked his hands away from her.
“I’m cold. So cold! I need clothes. I cannot stay here; they’ll be looking for me. I mustn’t be found. Yes, I mustn’t be found,” she repeated machinelike.
“Black! Who’s this?” Snape barked. This turn of events threatened to spoil his fun. Damn that sexy-legged freak. He pointed his wand straight at her throat.
Sirius stared as if he woke from a dream. He needed his wand and that turmoil was just what he needed. What was he waiting for then?
“Don’t have a clue, she just appeared out of nowhere,” he said, trying slowly to back off.
“Why don’t you ask me instead?” the girl softly inquired. Shivers ran down her body. She kept staring at Snape, who started to feel uncomfortable in her close presence. He threw her an ugly look, but she didn’t react.
“So, who the hell are you and why don’t you just piss off for your own sake?” Snape finally squeezed through his teeth. He felt like cursing the girl with an Unforgiveable – the worst Unforgiveable, for instance – but something in those helpless eyes stopped him. Perhaps the innocence that radiated from the girl, or her vulnerability. A moment ago, when he touched her, she was as cold as a marble sculpture; she was really freezing.
“My name is Michelle,” she said in a colourless voice, “I need help.”
“Now, look Michelle, I’ll explain you the situation,” Snape started with pretended patience, “Mr. Black here is a bad person…”
“Says who, Mr. I-love-the-Dark-Arts-and-I-hate-people!” Sirius growled.
”Watch your mouth, Black, or I’ll have to wash it! So, where was I? Yes. I don’t really like Mr. Black…”
“It’s mutual, Michelle,” Sirius butted in, backing away inch by inch.
“Yes, now Michelle knows that it’s mutual. Thank you. So, what I’m about to do is to punish Mr Black for the bad things he did and is going do. And you, Michelle, are in my way, you see. So either you just vanish, or I will have to make you to. Is it quite clear or do you need further explanation?” Snape drawled, getting really nervous, and the more nervous he got, the slower he spoke. That was the way it worked with him.
The eyes of the girl suddenly darted to the door. Her pupils dilated with panic.
“A tall man is coming,” she breathed.
Both boys shifted uncomfortably. The situation was nasty enough without Filch.
Snape was still doubtful about the girl. Either she was an excellent actress and was desperately in love with that Narcissist blood-traitor, desperately enough to risk her safety for him, or she was really in trouble. Or perhaps she was simply mental.
He could not decide, which the case was, but there was no time to decide. If Filch was really coming they had to act fast.
“ACCIO BLACK’S WAND!”
Snape caught the wand with an agile move. He backed to the door, apparently intent to leave the pair behind, when the girl gripped his wand with the speed of a snake. The shadows beneath her eyes reflected desperate fury.
She tossed him roughly onto the corridor, and Sirius used the chance to get out of the place, immediately. He snatched his wand from Snape, who was trying to tear his hand from the girl’s strong clutch in vain.
A dark figure loomed at the end of the dimly lit corridor.
“Run!” she breathed, and dragged Snape with her.
“MOBILICORPUS!” Sirius raised Peter’s limp body that lay like a huge heap of robes on the floor and run after the girl.
A/N: I strongly hope you liked it! If you did, please leave a review!
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