Second chapter! Yes, I didn't think I'd get this far at first. :P This chapter is also an entry in Singularity's "Trust me, I'm the Doctor." Challenge.
"I've gone too far. Is this it? My death? Is it time?"
-The Tenth Doctor (Season 4: Episode 16, 'Waters of Mars')
I could hear Donna peppering the Doctor with questions while we picked our way through the rubble with me leading the way. They were clearly worried, partially of my sanity and partially on the world they had landed in. As for me, I was having difficulty wrapping my mind around… well, everything.
Hogwarts was grey in the distance, clouded in ashes that never settled and fog that never cleared up. It was where we were heading, hoping for some life form, anything, there. Donna was able to see the castle, so whatever it was that had happened must be bad enough that Hogwarts’ anti-Muggle perception charm vanished. I wondered where my family would be now, if they were safe, if they were even alive.
No, don’t think like that, Hugo. They’re alive and well and as soon as you’re in Hogwarts, you’ll ask the staff where they are. Everything’s going to be fine.
I hated the fact that I didn’t really believe my inner voice. Unwilling to worry about it any longer, I began guessing which building used to be which as a distraction. The memory of Hogsmeade was vague, though, filled with grey spots around the edges. After all, I had only been here once before when my parents and I would check up on Rose when she had first started studying at Hogwarts.
“Is there anything else you’re not telling me?” Donna then asked with scorn.
“Afraid so,” the Doctor replied, halting to a stop. His voice was lowered when he addressed the two of us, “This is a wizarding village, yeah? So why is there a man, presumably a Muggle, pointing a gun at us?”
Turning around, I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun.
My vision blurred with tears soon enough, a scream hanging by the tip of my tongue, but I didn’t let anything out due to the paralysing fear threatening to pull me under.
And I didn’t want to pass out. I needed my consciousness.
The thought of Mum, Dad, and even my annoying sister Rose returned and the tears started to flood my eyes. What if I died here? They’d never know. Maybe I shouldn’t have opened the door. Maybe I should have asked the Doctor to bring me back at once. Maybe I should have gone where I was supposed to be—by the river with Lily, pointing out every fish that swam past in the clear water.
An assuring squeeze on the shoulder from the Doctor only did so much to calm me down. “No one’s going anywhere, not today.”
“I’ll be the judge of that, thank you,” the Muggle growled, patting my pockets in search of something.
“Harm him in any way and I’ll… I’ll break your sodding hands, Mr. Wusspuss!” Donna said angrily. Despite the uneasy feeling that crept up my spine in tremors, I raised my brow at Donna’s statement.
Donna, a defenceless woman fighting against an armed man who was at least ten years younger than her?
The idea would have been hilarious had it not been for the situation.
“Mr. Wusspuss?” the Doctor repeated in an undertone.
Donna crossed her arms and bobbed her head in a that’s-right-I-said-it-got-any-problem-with-that kind of way. I started to believe they always bickered, even (and especially) in the middle of life-threatening events.
“Aha!” the Muggle exclaimed, pulling out my wand from my back pocket.
I paled. He smirked, but there was something in his eyes, hidden under the surface: surprise? Confusion?
“Curious, really, that you came out of nowhere without setting off the alarms. It mustn’t be Apparation. But then again…” Twirling the wand between his fingers, he stared at us strangely.
Open the watch.
Open the watch.
Open. The. Watch.
“Sorry, what?” the Doctor and I inquired at the same time. When nobody spoke, I asked again, “Did somebody just say something?”
“Hugo, Doctor, nobody said anything,” Donna answered.
The Muggle in front of us tensed. There was a glint in his eyes that I didn’t find particularly comforting. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he had heard it too. Clenching his jaw, he decided, “Take them away.”
As more of the Muggles showed up, the Doctor spoke slowly and quietly, “Now might be a good time to… RUN!!!”
In the short moment of frozen surprise that followed, I managed to snatch my wand back before running like I had never been before.
The Doctor pulled out a gadget that looked thicker, shorter, and more futuristic than a wand then pointed it at the men chasing after us. It produced a high-pitched buzzing sound, the light at the tip shining green. Enraged, they raised their guns and rested their fingers on the triggers, poised to shoot.
I knew what would happen then, I had seen those things on the films from Mum’s telly. Metal cylinders with pointed edge would fly out of the gun barrels, strong enough to sear through skin. It was worse than the Killing Curse if you didn’t hit the right organ, leaving you bloody and in pain like that until you either receive medical attention or get a nice, killing shot. If you didn’t receive medical attention, you would either die from lack of blood or get an infected wound.
Which was absolutely brilliant.
Never thought I’d end up dying like this, lost in a foreign time.
“I've gone too far,” I gasped through panicked breathing and hot tears, paranoia settling in. “Is this it? My death? Is it time?”
“I wouldn’t count on that if I were you,” the Doctor reassured.
Time seemed to go on slowly as I watched them pull the triggers behind my back.
The guns clicked, but they didn’t shoot out bullets. They didn’t shoot out anything, in fact.
Holding back a relieved laughter, I demanded, “Just what in the world did you do?”
“Oh, just a teeny-weeny titanium shrinkage, concentrated heat transmission causing the firing pins to—“
“Just nod and act like you understand what he’s saying,” Donna concluded.
“But he was genuinely curious!” the Doctor protested with a pout.
“Well, you could have just told him that your sonic screwdriver can do things!”
“What sort of things?” I cut in.
Donna looked at me like I had just unleashed Voldemort and Grindelwald back from the darkest pits of hell.
Someone behind us bellowed out of nowhere. The faded hanging sign of Honeydukes above us swayed dangerously as the sound of something hard hitting wood rang in my ears.
Looking up, there was a knife stuck to the Honeydukes sign, right in the middle of it.
I thought Donna screamed expletives at the Muggles after that, but the Doctor clapped his hands over my ears so I wouldn’t be able to hear. The term ‘mentally disturbed hooligans’ did slip, though.
“Where should we go now?”
In response, the Doctor tugged at my hand and led me into the sweet shop, dirty from years of abandon.
“Doctor, this isn’t the time to have a snack! Plus, I think we've left Donna outside.”
“Do you reckon food here ever expires?” he wondered distractedly.
“N-no, I suppose not, every magical snack is charmed, but it is quite dusty in here, so…”
“Why charm only snacks?” He pulled out a Jelly Slug from a small wooden barrel on the counter and examining it curiously before munching it as if he hadn’t eaten in days. Catching me giving him an odd look, he rambled on, “I love jellies, mainly jelly babies, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to make do. Would you like a Jelly Slug?”
“To answer your first question, I think it’s because snacks can be left uneaten for a long time while the real food are usually cooked straight up. And no, I wouldn’t like a—“
“Unbe-bloody-lievable!” Donna interrupted, barging in. “You two left and nobody bothered to tell me?”
“I smelled jelly,” was the Doctor’s defence. “And a secret passageway to Hogwarts in the cellar. Here, have a Jelly Slug.”
Disregarding the outstretched barrel of Jelly Slugs, I all but squeaked, “There’s a secret passageway to Hogwarts?”
He frowned. “No, not a passageway. Passageways. Didn’t your uncle tell you that? Or your father, for that matter? I’d understand that your mother wouldn’t, but your father, I mean, come on—“
“You know my parents as well?”
After contemplating the answer and taking another Jelly Slug, he only said, “Wishy-washy, flim-flam thingy. It’s complicated and irrelevant. Now come on! We still have a horde of angry people out there eager to cut our heads off!”
True to his words, the commotion got louder and louder the closer they got to us. I hurriedly opened the back door and waved the two adults in. When we just stood there awkwardly at the top of the stairs, I said, “What? No sonic screwdriving?”
“It doesn’t do wood,” he admitted.
“Oh, it doesn’t do wood?!” Donna yelled disbelievingly.
“But that’s rubbish!” I cried.
“Oi! My screwdriver isn’t rubbish! I love my screwdriver!”
I rubbed my forehead, sighing. “Move over. Wingardium Leviosa.”
A nearby cardboard box floated in mid-air right away. I moved the box so that it rested right behind the door.
“That should do it.”
“Sheesh, Hugo, it’s like you have a machine gun and all the Doctor has is a chopstick.”
The Doctor and I rolled our eyes at the same time.
“So,” he resumed, clapping his hands together. “Let’s find the entrance, shall we?”
We began with the shelves, pulling every out-of-place book and pushing every brick on the wall that could lead to a secret path. When there was nothing on the walls, we started moving the boxes littering the room in case one hid a hole beneath it. But still, there was nothing. The Muggles were pounding on the door now; we didn’t have much time.
“Doctor!” Donna called exasperatedly. “There’s nothing here!”
The Doctor held up his index finger to her as he searched the floor and she threw her arms in exasperation. He knocked the ground twice, which emitted a solid thud. He moved forward two steps and knocked again. This time, a hollow echo followed the knocks.
“Here it is.”
He used his sonic screwdriver again for whatever it was that needed to be sonicked. Smiling victoriously (almost smug even), he knocked again on the floor tile and it crumbled into dust under his touch.
“Less dangerous than a Blasting Charm, eh?”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever, spaceboy. Let’s go. And ladies first!”
As soon as Donna slipped inside the hole, the door gave way.
“Listen to me, Hugo,” the Doctor said urgently as their thundering footsteps got closer. “Block the pathway.”
“What? How? You’re not coming?” I felt myself getting alarmed at the prospect of leaving the Doctor. What would happen to him? What if he got killed?
With a mischievous grin, he whispered to my ear, “Bombarda.”
I was still confused even after I was with Donna, running down the dark passageway. I could tell she was as puzzled as me, but she didn’t ask any questions. Maybe she knew what the Doctor had to do, whatever it was. She definitely appeared calmer than me in this situation.
“They wouldn’t kill him, would he?” The question that had worried me to no end slipped out just like that.
Donna actually laughed at my question. “Don’t be silly, he isn’t going to die in their hands. They might not even kill him, really. We’re just going to have to trust his decision in everything. Well, not everything. Most things.”
When we reached the bottom of a flight of stairs, I did what the Doctor had asked me to do. Figuring that ‘bombarda’ was some spell, I pointed my wand at the ceiling and uttered the incantation. The ground shook and groaned with the explosion, the first bits of rocks falling to create a barricade one by one. No way back now.
“Are you crazy?” Donna snapped through a fit of coughs caused by the ashes from the falling rocks. So much for being calmer than me. “A little warning would be nice, thanks!”
The rest of the walk was spent in relative peace with Donna telling me all about her adventures with the Doctor, our occasional boisterous laughs echoing along the never-ending corridor. I could tell she was very fond of him despite constantly calling him names and that she was always worried about him when she wasn’t with him. Like a mother, she was.
But she always hated him when he left her behind.
Bonus points if he left her in a difficult predicament.
More bonus points if he left her in a difficult predicament without telling her how to solve said difficult predicament.
At long last, Donna and I arrived at the end of the tunnel. Emerging from the One-Eyed Witch’s back, I soon recognised the third floor corridor albeit covered in broken pieces of the castle. Donna opened her mouth to speak, eyes wide in excitement, but then a figure appeared around the corner. Their footsteps reverberated in the silence, dirt clinging to their tattered robe.
The figure stopped a few feet from me, and for a moment, I thought the silence would go on forever. Until…
“Hugo?” the figure called hesitantly.