Thread: In Need, Indeed
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Old October 4th, 2012, 8:24 am
Melissa_Potter  Female.gif Melissa_Potter is offline
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Join Date: 11th October 2002
Location: Canada
Age: 31
Posts: 256
Re: In Need, Indeed

Marianne bit her lip and took a cautious half-step away from the three, palms raised in surrender. It was plain what Hermione was intending to do, and Marianne knew that she stood absolutely no chance - not against the brightest student Hogwarts had seen in nearly a century. Investigating the noise now felt like an incredibly stupid idea. Her natural flight impulse had been asleep, her curiosity completely overriding it. This rare moment of nerve wasn't at all satisfying.

Marianne tightly closed her eyes, bracing herself for the spell, but Hermione's wand stayed at her side. "I can't," she whispered back to Ron.

Marianne guardedly cracked one eye open. She couldn't tell whether Hermione's reason was on moral grounds or not, but then again, any spell that was cast would wear off eventually and wouldn't stop Marianne from telling a teacher. The four of them had now reached a standstill, waiting on eachother to do something and react appropriately. The air crackled with tension, but no one made a move.

Grabbing everyone's attention, Harry stepped forward and took the cloak from Ron. Without a word, he draped it over his friends, taking one last look at Marianne and staring at her above his glasses, a question evident in his expression.

"I-I won't tell, I promise," Marianne answered him, the words spilling out like she'd been bullied into saying them - but she knew she shouldn't have been letting them go at all. This was against the rules! They were going to get themselves in trouble if they were caught. Why couldn't it wait until tomorrow? And what about the Dementors? Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to have remembered them. Everyone did.

Harry was the last to vanish under the cloak. Marianne took one step towards them, a warning ready to launch from her throat, but Harry stopped her by holding her firmly in his sight.

"I wouldn't ask you to do this if it wasn't important," and with that, he ducked and was instantly out of sight. His voice was not begging or pleading, but there was an underlying urgency in his words. Marianne didn't know what to make of it.

She lowered her hands, defeated, watching what she imagined to be their retreating backs. Their soft footsteps faded and Marianne was left alone again. It was a different solitude than what she had known before. This was a new breed, a hollow and helpless kind. There was no time to find a teacher to stop them, they would be long gone by then.

And then realization hit her like a Bludger out of nowhere. Filch was patrolling the halls tonight.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione would get in big trouble if a teacher was notified, and it wouldn't be any better if they accidently ran into Filch. All the scenarios Marianne could think of led to the same end: every dependable adult in the castle had authority, and Marianne didn't want to get the trio punished. Not to mention that if the three were caught and points were taken away from Gryffindor, it meant being blacklisted. No way would it be a secret that it was Marianne who turned the rule-breakers in. Not to mention the ridicule that was sure to be directed at all four involved.

Then again, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had concealment on their side. Did that mean that the cloak stopped them from being solid or muffled noise as well?

But they could get seriously hurt going anywhere by themselves at night. Or if the Dementors...Marianne didn't even want to finish that thought. It shook her to the core.

She had some means of support before, but now, in this moment, there was none. The professors, her parents, her brother, none could help, and she felt stranded. Without the reassuring thought of somebody to rely on, she was lost and couldn't do anything but stand rooted to the spot. Being trapped between two decisions was a disorienting limbo; so much so that she couldn't even feel the frigidness of the room as the sun sank lower. An ugly pressure was building in her chest, like her body wanted to split right down the middle; one half wanting to follow and warn the trio, one half pulling to return to the safety of the dormitory and leave them to their own doom.

The room gave silence as it's answer. Marianne grimaced, closing her eyes tightly.

Oh, Ormond's going to kill me!

Instantly opening her eyes, she sprinted away from the common room entrance, concentrating on adrenaline to do all the work before her brain could even comprehend what was happening. Her mind began protesting fiercely.

Turn back! Turn back! You're going to get caught!

Marianne followed the direction she heard Harry, Ron, and Hermione heading, her legs almost working of their own accord. There was no determination in her mind, no heroics, just fear. Fear of the concequences. But the Fat Lady's portrait was still getting smaller and smaller.

But I won't forgive myself if I had the chance and never warned them.

It's their fault, anyway. Why drag yourself down, too!


A staircase appeared around the corner. Marianne descended it so fast that she was almost gliding.

I'll just let them know, and then go straight back to the dormitory.

Would they do the same for you?


Marianne slowed down as she jumped the last two steps and reached the entrance to the seventh floor, mind now suddenly becoming a lot more clear. The question echoed in her head, and for a moment she hesitated on reaching the door. Would they?

Walking through the archway and into the empty seventh floor corridor, she pondered the question and was now beginning to have serious second thoughts. By no means was she their friend, she wouldn't be fool enough to think so. No, they probably wouldn't do the same.

Too distracted by her dilemma to notice the door, it closed behind her a little too hard. The click that came from it brought Marianne back to reality with dread. Locked! And her wand was still missing; a simple Alohomora was impossible. Even worse, by stopping and letting her mind clear, she was able to realise one very crucial detail...how do you find that which is invisible?

After-hours in the school felt so much different than during lessons and meal times, even when the corridors were empty. The stone walls, the tapestries, the suits of armour, everything was exactly the same, but now the familiarity felt sinister, for Marianne knew no student was supposed to be there. Everything within sight was unwelcoming. It was so easy to picture a teacher or Filch hiding behind any one of the corners up ahead. She felt as if just taking one step would trigger some sort of alarm.

Time was wasting, but Marianne just couldn't find the will to move. There was no going back now, though.

Be like Ormond, he wouldn't hesitate. Come on, steely resolve, she encouraged herself.

Steely. More like tin foil. But it would have to be enough. Besides, Ormond wouldn't have been dumb enough to get himself into this situation in the first place. He would have put his foot down the moment that Hermione appeared out of nowhere.

Marianne took a shaky step forward and waited. No alarms, no teachers. Good, very good. She took another step. The breeze whistled through a window, but nothing else stirred. More relaxed, though still on her guard, she marched uncertainly. Getting further down the corridor made her feel like she was pushing her boundaries, practically spitting in the face of authority. It didn't make her feel daring or exhilerated, just very distressed, but she kept walking despite the half of her that was now begging her to wait until someone came by and opened the door.

You´ve come too far now, she thought, trying to fight the urge, I have to go get them.

Even in her head, the words weren't confident at all. It was Imagined Ormond's cue for his stern disapproval to break through the fog.

You're just saying that because you're locked out. Go wait by the door, Marianne, you have no idea what you're doing.

That was absolutely true. How did she expect to actually find Harry, Ron, and Hermione? The trio didn't need her help. Yet there was a pull deep down in Marianne's gut, and it seemed to have now taken command of her body despite what all logic and reason was saying. She was completely in control of herself, she could stop that pull at anytime and turn back, but for some reason, she didn't seem to want to. As if to mock, the actions she wanted to carry out were disobeying her logical side's commands.

The deserted corridor had a spooky appearance to it that set Marianne on edge. She held out her hands as if she were the undead, trying to feel for a solid patch of air but feeling ridiculous in doing do. Having to plan on the spot wasn't ideal, and the gesture looked completely silly, but it was the only method she could think of.

Should she risk calling their names? No, not now, not when it wasn´t clear who could be sharing the halls with her. Besides, it was doubtful that Harry, Ron, and Hermione would be even answer.

The was a quick movement in the corner of her eye. Shocked into fright, Marianne whipped sideways and found herself face to face with a startled someone else. After a terrifying split second, she recognized the person as herself. Her reflection stared back with round, grey eyes, and eyebrows practically shot up to the hairline.

A mirror. Relief settled in her reflected image and her shoulders lowered. After the past two days, Marianne's nerves were completely shot. She held a hand to her forehead in an effort to soothe them.

No more adventures after this, she promised, I can't take it. She'd be sending herself to the hospital wing on a daily basis if she attempted half the things that her fellow Gryffindors did - if their stories were to be believed.

Marianne's face fell in the moment of clarity. The Sorting Hat got it wrong; perhaps she wasn't a Gryffindor at all and it was just a misunderstanding. The rumours alone of what Harry did when faced against You-Know-Who was enough to make Marianne's backbone liquify and turn her into a blubbering puddle. She had all the admiration in the world for Harry's brave defiance of the Dark Lord, and of Ron and Hermione who stuck steadfastly by their friend.

Honour and duty swelled in Marianne's chest, straightening her spine. It was uncomfortable, as she always tried to bend inward in an effort to look smaller - Mrs. Wilford lamented her daughter's poor posture - but it was a new, glorious kind of hurt. She owed the trio. She owed each one of them her best effort, for they always did theirs.

Careful not to be have her reinforced mission's objective blind her, Marianne still tried to maintain a level of stealth, but it had a driving purpose behind it now. If anything, it made her even more cautious. She couldn't afford to risk messing up this chance.

The corridor was now turning sharply to the left. Marianne stuck close to the wall, crouched near the floor, and looked around the corner. Nobody. Standing again, she continued walking crookedly, weaving along the width of the corridors to try and bump into an invisible something, but, like it always did, the air behaved by it's natural definition. The trio wasn't there. Anxiety was beginning to tie a knot in her stomach.

Without warning, a ghost of an old man with a pointed nose and a small, square jaw floated in through a wall across Marianne's path, making her immediately halt having no time to react. The ghost saw her, there was no mistaking their eyes meeting. Her body seized, afraid.

It was no secret that the ghosts of the castle were sometimes used as informants to teachers. Every possible excuse was flooding Marianne's brain, but a believable one was difficult to conjure when she was put on the spot. Each alibi kept jumbling together with the next until they became an incoherent string of nonsense.

Oh, is it curfew? I had no idea-I must have been sleepwalking-I got locked out-Professor McGonagall summoned me-Someone played a prank on me-I'm on my way to serve detention-I thought it best to get to Astronomy class three hours early-I lost track of time-It was too hot in the dorm, does it feel warm here to you? Oh no, of course it wouldn't, you're dead. Sorry! I meant since you're a ghost and all, and-

The specter grinned sweetly, pushing his sagging cheeks away to show only three teeth. His wrinkled hands were laced together in front of him. It took Marianne a couple panicking seconds to notice that the ghost was subtley pointing with one extended finger towards a particular suit of armour that stood a small distance away from them, standing at the corner just before the corridor turned again. If the old man's figure wasn't so transparent, nobody from behind him would've been able to see the small gesture.

"Over there," he mouthed, not a sound spilling from his lips.

Marianne, inconspicuously as she could, leaned to her left to view the axe-wielding armour but there was nothing to see there. Of course there wouldn't be, would there?

"Thank you," she whispered genuinely. Of all the luck!

The old man politely nodded, smile in place, and clasped his hands behind his back as if he were out for a pleasant stroll, floating by. She turned to watch him go the direction she had just come from. The old man didn't look back.

Marianne quietly made her way towards the suit of armour, raising her hands upfront again. Out in the open, she was likely to have already been seen by the invisible trio; it would be pointless to slink against the walls and sneak up on them. Besides, if the ghost had been correct at their location, then Marianne would be able to hear them if they walked away. The sound of their footseps had been very clear back at the portrait of The Fat Lady.

Marianne didn't even reach the suit of armour before Hermione appeared in an instant, whipping the cloak off her bushy hair like a hood. Her eyes were large and frantic, and she immediately lifted a finger to her lips. Marianne froze to the spot. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to do as Hermione was now shaking her head sharply and fanning her hand towards the wall behind her. A circle of light was growing on the wall opposite the suit of armour.

Marianne suddenly understood that Hermione was directing her to get against the wall. Most ungracefully, Marianne got down on the floor and scrambled towards Harry, Ron, and Hermione's half-visible feet. The orb of light was growing bigger, bobbing against the walls so luminously that the outlines of each stone could be seen. Marianne wasn't sure she had a heartbeat anymore, she could've sworn it stopped.

She closed her eyes tight, wishing now more than ever in her life that she could turn back time, or even make a juvenile attempt at Disapparition. Splinching was easy for Madam Pomfrey to fix, right? It was preferrable to getting expelled for being caught here, right? She would just tell Madam Pomfrey that she...fell out of the Gryffindor tower window or something. A clear picture of the Gryffindor common room formed in her mind's eye.

The orb of light stopped expanding. From the other side of the corner was a harsh wheezing, and then the light began to shrink. Dimmer and dimmer it got until it almost faded. For the next many seconds, nobody even flinched; they may as well have been decoration in the castle.

Nothing could make Marianne move her stiff limbs for fear of making a single sound. Even Harry, Ron, and Hermione waited before they turned on Marianne who was rather occupied by being in a cross between relieved and embarassed; the latter caused by her premature plan of Apparition. In the state of completely losing her head, she realised stupidly that first of all: she didn't even know the first thing about Apparition, and second, no one could do either within Hogwarts grounds.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione's feet all pointed towards her. Timidly, she slowly glanced up and met their not-so-welcoming eyes.

"Marianne, what are you doing here?" whispered Hermione. Harry risked one eye around the corner, but evidently saw no one when he didn't hush his friend.

Marianne stood up so as to speak to them more closely. "I...I...umm..."

Oh no, no, don't get tongue-tied now, Marianne, came her scared inner voice.

The trio stared, waiting for a reason as to why she almost got them caught by Filch. Marianne had rehearsed her explaination from the second she followed them from the Gryffindor entrance, the words were right there in her head, but they were now scrambled and refusing to come out.

Her throat felt so thick, like trying to push through glue. "I-I was - Filch - I heard him and Snape - I w-was going to warn you-,"

"A lot of good that did now, don't you think?" whispered Ron bluntly.

Marianne's stomach curled in shame. She certainly hadn't expected herself to swing in, save the day, and be heaped with praise along with Special Awards for Services to the School, but she did think that maybe the trio would somewhat appreciate that she tried to look out for them. Even just the thought of doing a good deed for someone else would've been an exceptional reward. But she got there too late. This was not the way this was supposed to go.

Every inch of Marianne's body tingled with resignation, begging for the whole incident to be over and disappear. Perhaps the trio really was as high on the pedestal and unreachable as she previously thought. There was no room for another in their friendship, especially not for her.

See what happened? Imagined Ormond chastised, Why didn't you listen to what your own instinct was telling you?

But I wasn't looking to gain friendship, I was just trying to do the right thing, her own inner voice countered.

"We don't have time for this," Harry cut in when Marianne didn't answer them back. She couldn't even look the three of them in the eye anymore, she felt so awful. Keeping her face down and hidden by her hands was as close as she could get to trying to be as far away from this moment as possible.

"Hey now, it wasn't her fault," Hermione spoke up, trying to keep her voice minimal.

"Shhh," Harry hissed. He hadn't been talking about Marianne at all.

Unnoticed by all four of them, the dim walls were growing brighter, and before long, the circle of light appeared and was growing once more. Harry, Ron, and Hermione pressed themselves tightly against the wall again. Marianne was forced to snap out of her self-pity; it would have to be dealt with later.

"Filch has a barricade on the staircase, and he's blocking it" whispered Harry. Filch's lantern wasn't close enough just yet. "We'll try and sneak around him. Marianne, just...just go. Go back the way you came".

A command was exactly what Marianne needed because her body was too numb to take direction from herself. She turned to go upon hearing the whoosh of the cloak. Then a thought occured to her. She swivelled back, knowing she shouldn't be talking out of turn, but concern still bubbled up.

"Those corridors are narrow, though," she said softly, "If Filch doesn't bump into you, then Mrs. Norris could sniff you out."

"That's a risk we'll have to take," Harry answered even more quietly as the light steadily grew. He turned to her then, his green eyes so intense that Marianne felt like she was going to melt under them. "I ask you one more time, do not tell anyone. I know you don't understand why, but it is a matter of life or death. You would understand, wouldn't you?"

Just like back at the portrait of the Fat Lady, Harry didn't wait for an answer. He was concentrating, getting ready to time himself just right to slip by.

Marianne didn't know what Harry, Ron, and Hermione were so bent on, but Harry's pleading struck a chord. He had all the reason to lie to her in order to get what he wanted, but that urgency she heard before was there again, only now more intense. She had no choice but to trust the boy's judgement, thin and breakable as it was.

Before Harry, Ron, and Hermione could even register what was happening, Marianne grabbed the hem of the cloak and threw it over the three, concealing them all. Hermione hastily poked her head out.

"What are you doing?" she whispered in alarm.

"Get ready," warned Marianne, ignoring her. In a flash, she ran to the wall across, into the darker area of the corridor.

Ron had now emerged from his cloak as well, jaw hanging open. "Are you crazy?" he said as voluminously as he dared, but Marianne didn't look back. She placed her hands on one of the suits of armour forming a line against the wall. With a heaving grunt, she pushed it, making it teeter squeakily and then topple to the ground in a tremendous crash.

"Oh!" Marianne unintentionally shrieked, gritting her teeth at the sound of the plates breaking loose on impact and clattering noisily over the floor. After hearing little over silence for the past hour, the sound seemed loud enough to wake the entire school plus Hogsmeade.

"Who's there?!" called Filch's gruff voice. The light was now bobbing madly and got brighter in a hurry.

The shriek had worked to Marianne's advantage. Filch may have possibly thought that an actual person was really there as opposed to one of the ghosts just messing around.

Marianne signalled Ron and Hermione to get back under the cloak by waving her hands. With no other choice than to leave her, the two did so, and in suddenly looking like she was alone, Marianne realised that she hadn't thought this far ahead. Terror gripped her as she took a step back. Filch's hurried footsteps were well within hearing range now. Marianne backed away into the dusk.

Hurry! Hide!

Her thoughts spurred her into action, and she spun on her heel and ran. Her mind blanked, thinking of nothing but pumping her legs. She bolted away from the dismantled mess, making to reach the door to the Gryffindor tower. Was it still locked? She didn't know and had second thoughts about the time she would waste in order to open it.

Almost completely missing the turn and careening into the wall ahead, Marianne was thrown off balance but managed to right herself. The Gryffindor tower door was now in sight, all the way at the end of the corridor. There were no footsteps behind her, no lantern light anywhere.

I made it, whew, I made it. That was way too close...

At the halfway point was the tapestry of the wizard addressing the torch-carrying goblins, but before Marianne could reach it, she stopped dead. At the bottom of the tapestry where it couldn't quite touch the ground was a thin, moving slit of light. Dread gripped her like an icy hand. Trapped! Backing away with no where to turn, she spotted a wide open door to an unused classroom.

Marianne didn't even think, she automatically ran through the doorway, barely swooping in before the tapestry rustled. Once inside, she frantically darted her head to find a hiding place. Many desks were haphazardly piled in a corner, the only objects within the room. Their legs were sticking out everywhere in a jagged display. Now was certainly not the time to be picky, especially when Filch's lantern light was brightening the large slit of the door.

Marianne practically dived under two desks that formed a tent shape opening at the bottom of the pile. She army crawled in, taking great care not to jar any one of the desks out of place; she did not want to get caught by needing someone to dig her out of a wooden avalanche. There was a large enough clearing in the center where she could turn around and watch the opening.

The door to the classroom squeaked on it's hinges, and the triangular opening Marianne had crawled through was now illuminated. She lay on her stomach, curling her legs and trying to shimmy as far backward as she could, hoping against hope that it was far enough in that Filch wouldn't be able to see her through any angle. Yet, if he decided to look into the hole, she was done for.

Filch's wheezing cut through the air and he stepped rhythmically into the room as though he were trying to intimidate whoever was in the classroom. Marianne seized up when she saw his feet walk past the triangle, and immediately pressed her hand to her mouth. It had been too much to hope that she would be so lucky again. What she had done was just corner herself into a convenient little space. There was no other spot in her hiding place to crawl into. The opening was just big enough for a student to fit into, there was no doubt Filch was going to look in there.

The caretaker continued his thorough lap around the room.

"Show yourself," he growled, startling Marianne and nearly making her smack her head on the protruding desk leg above.

The wait was torture, seemingly worse than finally being found. The awful anticipation was turning Marianne's insides to lead, just waiting for the punishing discovery. Marianne could picture Filch bending his knees and then his face appearing in the triangle.

"Reow."

"What is it, my sweet?" Filch murmured.

Mrs. Norris skulked in through the doorway, tail in the air, imploringly looking at her master. Then she turned and walked back out.

"Ahh, found something, have we?" Filch said in delight, practically tasting his words. He followed the cat out of the classroom, the lantern's light fading and fading until it was completely gone.

Marianne stayed absolutely still for another minute, listening. When silence, and darkness now that the sun had already set, was all that greeted her back for a long time, she shut her eyes and flattened her forehead and nose to the ground. Sweet relief, oh the sweetest relief she had ever felt in her entire life! Her body couldn't stop buzzing with it, it felt so good. Was this what invincibility felt like? Because Marianne was sure she could do backflips for days, or walk through walls.

She stayed lying on her stomach for several minutes, eagerly drinking the feeling all in. It was a foreign sensation, one she rarely had, so she allowed herself to soak in it.

She never thought she'd say it, let alone even think it, but she could have kissed Mrs. Norris. Hah, Filch's cat as her saviour, Ormond would never believe it.

Then again, it probably would be best for his sister's sake that Ormond never heard about this little episode. At least until he graduated from Hogwarts.

No sun meant that it was getting late, Marianne reminded herself. Cautiously crawling out of the hole, looking both ways before emerging, she almost considered skipping to the door but thought better of it, not wanting to push her luck. Peeking through the classroom door and seeing nothing, she raced to the entrance to the Gryffindor Tower. Luck upon luck, the door was unlocked!


***

What was I thinking!

Yesterday's overcast skies had cleared, allowing the next morning to be bright and sunny. Marianne stormed through the castle, rushing to get to the Hospital Wing. If the gossip around Gryffindor Tower was to be believed, Ron was now being treated there, having been admitted late last night.

It's my fault, it's my fault! she fretted, I shouldn't have let them go! I knew something bad was going to happen, I just knew it! I'm so stupid, so thick-headed.

Once the sobering dawn had arrived, she understood just how reckless she had been last night. Again, it happened again, she just couldn't see her actions until reaching hindsight.

She apologized automatically as she side-stepped several students to get to the Hospital Wing. Upon reaching the double doors, she unceremoniously pushed through them, immediately spotting Ron's bright red hair like a beacon guiding her. It was as if all those times Marianne couldn't find her voice had built up and now had burst like dam. She couldn't keep control, it was unstoppable.

"I'm so sorry, I'm so so sorry!" she squeaked before she even reached the bed. Harry and Hermione whipped around and stared for a moment in surprise but then relaxed once they saw who was coming towards them. "If I had known what was going to happen, I would've stopped you! I would never have forgiven myself if something worse had happened to you all!".

"Marianne, Marianne, shhhh," Harry said soothingly, "it's alright, we're fine."

"Honestly, if anything, you did us a huge favour last night," Hermione added.

"But-but you all could have-"

"Yeah, distracting Filch for us? Pretty gutsy," said Ron with an appreciative nod.

"That's no excuse!" countered Marianne hysterically, "What could've happened-"

"Shhhh," said Ron, "Madam Pomfrey might kick you all out if you're too loud."

They were taking this too well. Marianne listened and forced herself to quiet down but was still quite wound-up. "I'm just...so happy that you're all okay. I hope it didn't hurt too much," she told Ron, wincing at his bandaged leg.

"What, this? Nah." Ron lay back on his pillow. "Barely felt it at all."

Hermione distinctly coughed, though it sounded like a disguised snicker. Genuinely glad that they were all in one piece, Marianne smiled. Between yesterday and today, this was a new smiling record not set for a long time.

"Is it true that you cast a full Patronus?" she asked Harry shyly, nervous that this sudden good mood between the four of them could easily burst. After all, she was still the outsider.

"Er, yes, I suppose I did," he answered, modestly rubbing the back of his neck.

"That's incredible," she said with admiration. She felt so forward by having a casual conversation with them, but it felt wonderful to talk with people again. The fact that it was tripled at the moment made her slightly on edge and anxious not to say something silly, but the conversation flowed so naturally that it was hard to keep it bottled in.

"And how about you?" asked Ron, inclining his head to Marianne, "What happened after you knocked over the suit of armour?"

Once again, all their eyes were on her. Instead of cowering under their stares this time, Marianne bashfully smiled.

"Oh no, honestly, it was ridiculous, I had no idea what I was doing."

"Oh, go on, tell us" implored Ron eagerly.

Harry and Hermione nodded their assent as well. Marianne's resolve crumbled easily, lasting all but a second. She told them everything that happened after they had last seen her, every detail down to Filch taking a short cut through the tapestry, to her uncoordinated scurrying under the desks. They even chuckled at her joke of owing Mrs. Norris a can of tuna.

"...and then I got back into the tower," she finished.

"And you did that all for us?" Hermione asked.

Marianne nodded, suddenly overcome with shyness again. She kept her eyes concentrated on the untucked sheet on the corner of Ron's bed.

"Thank you," Hermione said sincerely.

Marianne acknowledged the gratitude but felt strange accepting it. Knocking over the suit of armour was something she did on the spot. Was an impulse still worthy of saying that she thought of it in her right mind?

"Why did you go after us in the first place?" asked Harry curiously.

"Ermm." This was where Marianne got tongue-tied. Now this was a harder story to tell, tougher to explain than just retelling events.

However, she didn't get the chance to say a single word because Madam Pomfrey's office door flew open. She marched swiftly over to the four, motioning her hands.

"Out, out, out," she said briskly, "You're going to upset the patients, they need their rest."

Harry and Hermione made their way to leave but Madam Pomfrey held out an arm.

"Not you, you two can stay, but she can't," she said, pointing to the odd-girl-out. Marianne supposed three was a crowd.

She shuffled towards the double doors, embarassed that she had to be shooed out while in front of the trio but it wasn't as intense this time. It was as if being with people she liked somehow dulled the effects of actions that normally distressed her.

"Actually, I should go, too," said Harry, jogging up the doors and then looking back at his friends, "I have somebody to see."

He swiftly walked past Marianne, pushing open the door. She followed him out, watching his retreating back when an idea came to her. If someone yesterday had told her that she was going to do this, she would've checked them into St. Mungo's herself.

"Harry?" she timidly called, motivation providing a spark of nerve.

"Hmm?" He turned to face her.

Marianne wished she hadn't called him now, this was too silly a thing to say, she should just say never mind. He looked at her expectantly.

"I was just thinking, if...if you, or Ron, or even Hermione, need any help with your History of Magic homework, I'm...always free." In spite of herself, she managed to cobble together a coherent sentence. Her words hung in the air between them, and when Harry didn't answer right away, she suddenly wished she could suck them all back in.

"I-I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to, but-"

"Oh right, you're really good at History of Magic, right?" said Harry.

Marianne paused. Was a blush forming in her cheeks? Because Harry looked amused.

"I s-suppose it's my best subject," she modestly managed to spit out. Flattery - this was new. It felt just as good as the relief of not being caught by Filch. She almost couldn't look Harry in the eye, she was so ruffled all of a sudden.

"I'll take you up on that offer sometime," he said, "thanks. Sorry to leave, but I've kind of got to find somebody right now."

"Oh, yes, yes, of course," Marianne said hurriedly, hoping that she wasn't making him late.

"Bye," he waved over his shoulder.

"Goodbye." Marianne waved back even though Harry couldn't see it.

Then there was absolute silence, something she was familiar with and greeted like an old friend, but this time it wasn't as stifling as before. Flashes of the last twenty-four hours kept replaying in her head in disbelief. If anything, she was now grateful for the quiet because it gave her a chance to plant her feet firmly on the ground. She was as light a feather, feeling like she could float away at any moment from exhileration. Last night was completely reckless, she promised herself to never ever do it again, but the reward at the end of it was insanely gratifying.

Mirroring the ghost of the old man's gesture, Marianne clasped her hands behind her back and casually walked down the corridor, not really needing to be anywhere on a Sunday morning. She just allowed her legs to take her anywhere they pleased because her mind was positively buzzing with good feelings, too busy to concentrate on where she was going. At least her eyes still worked.

She was so lost in her musing that she couldn't even recall the names of her former friends. Tiffany? Or Tanya, was that it? Marianne supposed it didn't matter now, she felt free to move on. The thoughts of her friends coming back had kept her chained to them all this time. They probably were never going to come back, and Marianne understood. She kept no bitterness towards them, not even hurt anymore; what was done was done. She was ready to let go.

Despite the warm sunlight streaming in through the windows, it still felt rather cool in the castle. Marianne rubbed her arms. A while later, she found herself on the seemingly empty fifth floor until she turned a corner and nearly walked right through the Bloody Baron.

"Oh!" she cried, "I-I'm sorry." She stepped to the side to tactfully walk around him.

"Hrmph," he replied gruffly, "You again."

"I'm sorry?"

Marianne immediately regretted uttering anything when he looked down at her with his soulless, black eyes. Defensively, she held up her hands.

"Your act is getting tiresome," The Baron said in his low, gravelly voice.

"I don't have any idea what you're talking about," said Marianne as steadily as she could through her trembling. She backed away slowly, more uneasy by the second. The Bloody Baron followed her with his eyes.

"You don't, do you?" the ghost said, unconvinced. He glided closer. "Perhaps it is necessary to scare it out of you, then."

Marianne shielded her face with her arms, and stepped back. "Please, stop."

"What's going on here?" asked a light voice.

Marianne peeked one eye out to find the Fat Friar gliding into the corridor. Gratefully, she ran and stood behind him. Though his transluscent body was as durable a shield as mist, she found comfort in the fact that somebody else was there. The Fat Friar shifted his eyes between the two.

"Must we go through this again?" he asked exasperatedly to the Baron.

The glowering ghost pointed a finger accusingly at Marianne. "This cannot keep going on, she will have to learn."

"Learn what?" Marianne asked hesitantly, "I really don't-"

"Do not pretend to me, girl," the Baron said so low that it made Marianne shiver. His bloody visage was so intimidating that her knees were actually shaking. Before she could stop herself, tears clouded her vision. She had unintentionally incurred the wrath of the most frightening ghost in the whole castle, and for what, she didn't know.

Accidently letting one tear spill suddenly triggered a waterfall. Marianne turned her face away, not wanting the ghosts to see how frightened she was. She glided through the wall behind her and disappeared.

The Fat Friar sighed. "Sir, please" he pleaded sadly, "She is but a child. She does not know any better."

"She has been dead for near two hundred years," The Baron intoned gravely, "It is time that she learned she is not a student anymore."

Satisfied, he turned his back to The Friar and hovered in the direction to the Astronomy Tower. The Fat Friar solemnly watched.

"They don't call her Marianne the Muddled for nothing," he muttered to nobody but himself, and then floated away to comfort the poor girl once again.


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A/N: I wish I were talented enough to say that this story just poured out of my fingertips and onto the screen...but I'd be a bold-faced liar. This was a hard one to finish because I had zero confidence in my writing, kept derailing along the way (Writer's Block like crazy!), and then making heaps of changes on what was already done. I only managed to get all the chapters out in this much time because I had started writing each one months ago.

But I'm so glad I got everything worked out in the end! For being so short, this one gave me trouble because it was kind of hard to plan out. I never realized how many times people sigh, their hearts beat, or how much their organs work until I actually had to write a character who functions without them! I was afraid that because Marianne never had a racing heart, or took a breath, never got tired, and never ate was going to make her less able to connect with readers. I even questioned if I should have given her a sense of smell! And I can't tell you how many times I wrote "Marianne took a deep breath..." or "She sighed" and then I had to backtrack.

If you've read this far, thank you so much! If my writing is dry, overly-dramatic as heck, worse than detention with Filch, let me know. But it's not over, stay tuned! There's an epilogue coming up that will, hopefully, answer many questions.


Feedback, comments? All here http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=131573


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