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In Need, Indeed



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Old July 16th, 2012, 5:00 am
Melissa_Potter  Female.gif Melissa_Potter is offline
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In Need, Indeed

Story Summary: Takes place during Harry's third year. Marianne is friendless, gutless, and wandless. Her friends have abandoned her, and her brother has no time for her. Day to day gets pretty lonely.
Then one night, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione sneak out, Marianne is compelled to do what only a friend would do.

My first fanfic posted on here since I was 13 It's been a while. Back then we had different Mugglenet forums, rather than the CoSForums we all know now. During the switchover, my old story got purged. It was for the best, it was horrible

Anyway, I decided to try Harry Potter fanfiction again, and this is what came of it.

Please enjoy!

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It hadn't always been this way. There was a time when Marianne had a friend that would be by her side, but not for some time now. She walked briskly through the crowded corridor, side-stepping several students to make it to History of Magic before she was late.

There was a sharp chill hanging in the air, possibly from a crack in the stone walls. Marianne shivered to create some warmth in her body but it was useless. The cold within the castle seemed to be constant these days, and she hoped that a well-fed fireplace would be waiting for the Gryffindors by the time they returned to their common room.

Marianne's white-blond hair flew behind her as she quickened her step even more. Spotting the classroom door, she slipped through it just in time for the bell. At first she was pleased with herself, but was suddenly uncomfortable as her fellow third-years turned to look at her. The stares were merely reflex in seeing who entered the classroom, rather than interest in Marianne herself, yet she still felt self-conscious as she lowered into her usual seat in the far back corner. Immediately, her classmate's attention drew back towards their conversations as if nothing disturbed them.

Marianne wistfully glanced at the swirling wood patterns of her desk, wishing that she could be a part of their conversations. Anyone's conversation, really. It felt so long since there was someone to talk to or confide in. Finding a way to keep friends always seemed to be out of reach. As time passed, they would gradually fade away and Marianne would rarely find them again. Were they purposely avoiding her? Even her brother, Ormond, didn't see her that often; however, she understood that his position as Head-Boy, and the fact that he was a seventh-year, left him distant. He spent most of his time within a bundle of friends and admirers anyway.

Interrupting the chatter, Professor Binns chose that moment to glide in through the chalkboard, his notes and books already prepared on his desk. The Gryffindors had barely composed themselves before Binns started speaking. Parvati and Lavender shared one last giggle before turning forward.

"Last lesson, we began the chapter on goblin serial killers," he said in his dry monotone, "can any of you tell me the most famous of them?".

Marianne and Hermione's hands both promptly shot up into the air.

"Miss Graham," their teacher said, inclining his head towards Hermione.

"Yardley Platt", she answered easily, not bothering to correct the professor on her name.

"Very good." Binns looked down at his notes, the lull already setting in. "Born in 1446..."

Marianne lowered her hand, feeling deflated. Professor Binns did not ask questions often, but when he did, Marianne would know the answer. Unfortunately for her, Hermione would too, and she would usually be called upon. Marianne didn't feel any bitterness towards the other girl, but she did feel disappointed. History of Magic was the only subject she truly excelled at. Historical dates and names came more naturally to her than wrist movements and incantations; though she still wished her wandwork would improve. She felt no pride in that aspect.

Her classmates all took out a piece of parchment and had their quills prepared for taking notes. Marianne made to reach into her bag at her feet when she felt nothing but air. Her stomach lurched unpleasantly as she realized that in her hurry to reach the classroom, she had completely forgotten to take her bag with her. She shut her eyes tight, mentally scolding herself for easily forgetting something so simple. Swivelling her head, she desperately looked to the nearest person.

"Erm, Lavender?" Marianne whispered timidly, leaning towards the girl, "could I borrow an extra quill and parchment from you?".

"Haven't got any," Lavender said plainly, without looking up.

Marianne blinked, confused. There was a schoolbag at Lavender's feet, the plume of a quill poking out of a pocket. "I-I think I see one there," she tried again.

"I said I haven't got any," Lavender grumbled, her voice hardening. Parvati, who was seated beside her friend, raised an eyebrow. Marianne wasn't entirely sure, but she could have sworn that Lavender whispered, "just ignore her". Parvati lightly nodded and focused on her textbook again. Neville stole a glance Marianne's way, but quickly turned back when she made eye contact with him.

Marianne shrunk into her seat, embarassed. She didn't think she said anything out of line, but judging by Lavender's reaction, she must had done something wrong. She made no attempt to ask someone else. The classroom became quiet, except for Professor Binns' lecturing.

Reluctantly, Marianne determined that she would have to memorize the majority of the lesson, then catch up on the rest from the textbook later that night. It could have been as easy as asking Professor Binns for permission to leave and retrieve her things, but she couldn't quite work up the nerve to walk to the front of the classroom and interrupt him. Her limbs just stiffened at the very thought of her classmates stares.

A few minutes had passed and, already, some of the students had now propped up their heads in an effort to pay attention, or were taking the opportunity to rest their eyes. If magical history hadn't interested Marianne so much, she would have been doing the same. Binns' dry and reedy voice kept going at it's steady pace, neither rising in excitment at opportune moments, or lowering at ominous descriptions of Yardley Platt's methods.

Marianne clasped her hands into her lap in a show of interested learning. It was her dream that one day she could become the History of Magic professor at Hogwarts, but it was highly doubtful that Binns would give up his profession anytime soon. Death certainly hadn't stopped him, and most people could think of very little that would. Marianne figured she would have to settle for being a Magical Historian if finding a teaching position was impossible. Still, she clung to the hope that if she taught History of Magic at any point in her lifetime, she'd make an effort to be more animated in her approach. Hopefully she would have found some way of getting over her fear of being in front of an audience when the time came.

"In 1500, Platt amassed a small gathering of like-minded wizards..."

Marianne made to memorize that date as Binns droned on.

Her ears suddenly picked up whispering coming from nearby. Distracted, she followed the direction of the sound, her eyes settling on Harry, Ron, and Hermione, sitting a table over. She couldn't hear anything specific that they were saying, but instantly found herself feeling unhappy at the sight of them. Her mood wasn't caused by them disrupting her, more the fact that they were usually inseperable. Their camaraderie was something she had always found very admirable. Before she could control herself, her heart felt empty from the memory of her last friend abandoning her without so much as an explaination.

Harry was speaking feverishly in hushed tones. Ron and Hermione would each contribute briefly before Harry took the conversation again. He was either concerned or agitated, Marianne couldn't tell. Whatever it was, there was a sense of urgency in his hand gestures and eyes.

Probably forgot to study for the upcoming exams, she reasoned.

Her sight was still trained on them but her eyes grew distant as she remembered past friends whom she studied with. A smile tickled the corners of her lips as details surfaced. As she recalled, there was much laughter, not much studying.

Before she could collect herself, Harry's eyes darted and spotted the pale-blond staring at them. Immediately, Marianne snapped out of her reverie and turned away fast but not fast enough. Harry had seen her in what looked like eavesdropping. She couldn't decipher a single word they said, but still felt as if she'd been caught in high-profile espionage.

After a few tense seconds, at least on Marianne's end, Harry went back to his whispered conversation. She didn't dare face them again in case they were suspiciously aware, so spent the rest of the lesson concentrating on Professor Binns, filling her head with prolific figures and dates to make herself appear busy. It was hard to really commit to looking occupied without parchment and a quill, though.


***

The lunch bell echoed throughout the school. Dean Thomas snorted as he jerked awake from the sound. He used his sleeve to hurriedly wipe the drool off his desk, smearing some of the ink on his short notes in the process. There was a rumble as everyone gathered their supplies and rose from their seats.

"You are all assigned a fifteen-inch essay on Yardley Platt," Binns said tonelessly, "due this Friday."

Hermione tucked her roll of notes into her bag and rushed to catch up with Harry and Ron, both whom had stood and left the room as soon as the bell sounded.

Marianne stood up as well, waiting for Lavender and Parvati to leave so she wouldn't have to pass them; just in case they'd say anything to her again. Once the gossiping pair were almost out, she trudged slowly to the door, not really needing to be anywhere in a hurry. Passing by Harry, Ron, and Hermione's vacated desks, she spotted a book on the floor. It's corners were frayed and there was a large blot on the spine; possibly belonged to the library. Considering how many books Hermione was usually surrounded by, Marianne guessed that it must have been hers.

The classroom was now empty and Hermione didn't seem to be coming back for it, so Marianne bent down and picked it up. It was only right that she should return it. She ran out into the corridor, looking from side to side, trying to find the book's owner. Near one of the suits of armour lining the walls, she spotted brown, bushy hair.

"Hermione," Marianne tried to call, but her voice caught in her throat from it hardly being in use. She cleared her throat. "Hermione!", she said a little louder, and dashed to catch up to her fellow Gryffindor, holding the book up high. Her throat tingled from the near-shout. It made her feel uneasy and very aware of herself.

Hermione stopped in her tracks and looked around to see who was calling her name. Harry and Ron paused, looking at her curiously. They all turned around as Marianne reached them. Marianne suddenly felt a chill, one that wasn't caused by the frigid castle, and she slowed down as she came closer. Their stares were turning her into stone, they must have been, because her feet sure felt heavier.

"Erm, you-you left your book ba-back in the classroom," Marianne blurted, jerking her thumb behind her. "Here."

She awkwardly thrust the book under a startled Hermione's nose. All three pairs of eyes on her all at once were making Marianne increasingly nervous. She would have felt much more comfortable if she were only speaking to one of them at a time.

"Oh," Hermione said as she accepted the book, "thank...oh, Harry, this is yours."

"Oh," was all Marianne could say, now incredibly flustered. Her eyes flicked to the title and she realized it was a book about Quidditch. Of all the books Hermione studied from, Marianne didn't think she ever saw anything Quidditch related. According to Hermione, they "had no academic quality".

Harry took the book from his friend's hands and looked at the cover. He nodded to Marianne and was about to turn around when Hermione held his shoulder and swung him back.

"Harry..." she said in a warning tone, and pointed with her eyes to the girl who returned the book.

"Uh," he mumbled, "thanks...erm...". He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to think.

"Marianne," Hermione said.

"Marianne," Harry repeated, relieved, "yes, thank you, Marianne. I...I appreciate it. Really."

He nodded politely again, then steered Ron and a pleased Hermione along. Ron looked over his shoulder one more time before following his friends.

Marianne stood rooted to the spot, absorbing what had just happened while watching them go. Once she got a sense of where she was again, a flush of embarassment creeped up on her, making her squirm. Although, somewhere underneath it was a spark of exhileration. She spoke to someone...and they kindly spoke back. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to start all over again, after all.


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NOTE: Even though this is the first chapter, I'm worried whether I'm making Marianne able to have a connection with the readers. Constructive criticism is VERY welcome. I encourage it, I'm always willing to learn! Honestly, I'm my worst critic when it comes to writing.

This will be a short story, just so you know, around 7 chapters or so.

If characters from the Harry Potter universe seem out of character, let me know and I'll correct it right away.

Yardley Platt, the famous goblin serial killer, is from the mind of J.K herself but I made up the part about him starting a group of fellow goblin haters in 1500.


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Wand: 12", Hickory, Unicorn Hair, Steady
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  #2  
Old July 29th, 2012, 9:07 pm
Melissa_Potter  Female.gif Melissa_Potter is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5462 days
Location: Canada
Age: 28
Posts: 256
Re: In Need, Indeed

Marianne barely slept that night, opting instead to spend most of it on searching for her schoolbag. She tried first in the girls dormitory, but Parvati and Lavender took much offense to her rustling and shuffling things around in the very late hours; none too kindly, they told her to take her search elsewhere. Marianne hastily dodged a flying Standard Book of Spells (Grade 3) and ducked through the door, deciding it was safer to continue in the common room. Her eyes surveyed the room whilst she descended the stairs. Empty. The dying fire didn't leave much heat, or much light, so moonlight would have to be depended on for the heavily shadowed areas. The furniture seemed like a good place to start, considering they were the focus of the whole room.

Marianne frustratingly stood up, dusting off her hands and knees after scanning the underbelly of a sofa. All she managed to remove was a fuzzy clump of dust. Walking up to the nearest wall, she took a chance on lifting the portraits; just in case there was a hidden nook behind them. While lifting one of the paintings, the movement managed to shake the portly, white-haired wizard with mutton chop sideburns within it. He awoke with a startled snort and his eyes darted madly.

"Do you mind?" he cried indignantly, once he spotted the culprit.

"Oh! Pardon me!" Marianne squeaked in surprise, sheepishly mumbling apologies several more times as she gingerly placed the portrait back against the wall and then held up her hands as if the frame burned them.

The portly wizard grumbled, shifted in his large armchair, and closed his eyes again. His look of annoyance was still etched on his face. Marianne stood in her arrested stance a few seconds longer, making sure he wouldn't reprimand her further. She tip-toed away to the opposite corner of the room once his snores were steady.

***

The morning dawned blustery and grey, and the schoolbag was nowhere to be found. Every available space within the common room had been searched thoroughly - twice. The sky was alight when Marianne reluctantly gave up. Noticing the overcast sky and the rippling trees of the Forbidden Forest outside the window, she frustratingly pinched the bridge of her nose. A whole night spent looking. Text books, her wand, two and a half quills, and a quarter-finished Potions essay had been left in the bag. Since it was Saturday morning, she still had a weekend's grace, but come Monday...

Panic started to rise from the pit of her stomach. What if it's been stolen?, she thought fretfully, wringing her hands, or taken as a prank?

Her imagination ran rampant, ranging from people selling her possessions for pocket money, to tossing them into the lake for the Giant Squid to enjoy. She forced herself to pause and calm down, but her thoughts kept going in circles. She began rubbing her forehead in an attempt to think clearly, then started pacing. It was also possible that it was simply left behind in a classroom, or somewhere in the castle.

Yes, yes, that is probably what happened, Marianne convinced herself hopefully, If I post a note on the Gryffindor's bulletin board, my schoolbag might turn up eventually. And by eventually, she was hoping soon. However, her solution did nothing to raise her spirits and she frowned. As much as Marianne hoped that her carelessness was to blame, she painfully remembered that she was no stranger to being a target.

A thump from the boys dormitory stairs interrupted her. She started, looking towards the top landing. Quidditch practice? Marianne's mind went blank and she instinctively fled the common room before the boys could reach the bottom. Once out of the portrait, she sullenly sat on the floor near the wall and groaned.

Ugh, what am I doing? All I want to do is interact with people. A smile, a nod, an acknowledgement, anything, she thought, frustrated. She tried to convince herself that she ran out of the common room because she was finished searching it anyway, that hiding places would be inaccessible because too many people would be in the way. But ridicule had built a reflex within her to avoid crowds, and she knew that no matter how many excuses she made, that was the truth. Fellow students probably didn't give a single lasting thought to her, but Marianne still somehow felt judged when noticed. How she was ever able to make friends before, she'd never know.

The portrait chose that moment to swing open, amid The Fat Lady's complaints of being disturbed. The Gryffindor boys didn't even see Marianne as they trailed out. They were too busy discussing Quidditch strategy and breakfast. The corridor felt cavernous once the Quidditch players were gone, their echoes still ringing in her ears.

There were no classes for the day, Marianne didn't feel at all hungry to go down to breakfast, and had no means of writing a note for the bulletin board. She forced herself to stand up, finding determination in the need of a quill, ink, and piece of parchment. Much more preferable than wallowing, at least. The library could be a good place to start...

***

The students who would be awake at dawn to study on Saturday was, unsurprisingly, few. Upon entering, Marianne spotted an older male Hufflepuff and a small Slytherin girl, both at seperate tables. The Hufflepuff was poring over three open books, alternating between reading and writing notes. The library was so silent that Marianne could hear the scratching of his quill. Strolling in, she had almost reached the Hufflepuff to ask if he could lend some supplies, but stopped when she saw his concentration. He looked relaxed, occassionally brushing his black hair out of his eyes, though focused on his work. Marianne felt guilty for wanting to disturb him. Perhaps it was best to look elsewhere.

Not making a sound, she turned around and passed the Slytherin girl who was reading a single book, completely engrossed in its pages. The girl jumped and emitted a squeaky gasp when she glanced upwards at who had walked in front her. Not loudly but audible enough to shatter the silence and disturb the Hufflepuff, making him turn in a flash to face both girls. Marianne was frozen to the spot, eyes wide as saucers, looking back and forth between them.

"You scared me," the Slytherin girl said, her hand rising to her chest.

"I'm sorry, I-I didn't mean to," Marianne whispered as steadily as she could, the room's heavy silence compressing her voice. The Hufflepuff raised an eyebrow. "Sorry for interrupting, I was just leaving." and she spun around so fast that her hair brushed the other side of her face. Their stares still prickled the back of her head, even when a considerable distance was put between herself and the library.

Marianne's frustration began to emerge again once she was within the safety of the empty corridors. Trying to walk off her embarassment, she wove aimlessly through the castle. Once, she came upon the Fat Friar who smiled, nodded his head politely and then floated away, but she didn't see anyone else.

It shouldn't have been so hard to find stationery in a school,even without having to run into anybody. Perhaps the staff at Hogwarts should have thought of implementing a Lost and Found. If her mother found out she lost - her mother! Marianne slapped her forehead. It had been ages since her parents received a letter fom their daughter. Now she had two jobs to take care of. Hopefully, her parents wouldn't be too busy to send a reply this time.

Her wandering was now on auto-pilot. The letter was in the middle of being mentally composed when she passed an empty, dark classroom. Stopping dead in her tracks, she backed up and stuck her head in through the doorway. Weak sunlight from the overcast sky was bleeding through drawn curtains. The entire room was very dim, save for the block of light coming in from the open doorway. Looking over her shoulders to the hall and seeing no one, Marianne slipped inside, thinking the chances were good that there were some discarded supplies in there.

***

The Great Hall was bustling with chatter as most of the students were now awake. Marianne cruised past them, carrying herself with a rarely experienced sense of satisfaction, the smell of breakfast not the least bit tempting. She proudly held in her hands a tarnished pot of ink, a rather ragged but still sharp quill, and two jagged sheets of parchment. Sitting down on the bottom step of the Entrance Hall staircase, she opened the ink pot. A shallow pool sat at the bottom but it would be more than enough. The quill dipped and ready to go, Marianne composed her notes, starting with...

Lost
One faded grey messenger bag. Frayed shoulder strap, hole on bottom right corner.
Contents include a 9 inch cherry wand, third year text books, and stationery.
If found, please return to Marianne Wilford.


A group of Ravenclaws were descending the stairs as the note was completed. They stared at Marianne with cocked eyebrows before continuing on their way to the Great Hall.

The second letter began...

Dear Mother and Father,

Very sorry for not writing in a long time. I know you told me to write at least twice a month, but I haven't much new to tell. Ormond making it to Head Boy this year has really kept him busy. I'm missing him more and more, like I lost a friend. I know I never tell him how much I appreciate being his sister (please don't tell him I said that! I will never hear the end of it).


Despite it being the largest scrap of parchment Marianne found, that didn't mean much. The bottom of the sheet was inching closer, but there was still so much that she was desperate to say. How she was now more lonelier than ever, how much she wished that her parents could comfort her in person, how her History of Magic grade was stellar while her other subjects were suffering. But she would have to compromise; combine all of her feelings into a small amount of space, which was about as easy as shoving a quaffle through a keyhole. Thinking for a bit, she dipped the quill again and held it just above the paper, pausing for several seconds.

Everything is fine. I would love to hear from you both again soon. And Mother? If you could please knit me another jumper, I will write twice as much! Hope it is warm where you both are.

Love always,

Marianne


Keep a stiff upper lip, her parents would say in their driven way. But Marianne wasn't like her parents.

Achilles Wilford worked in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, which sometimes took him to the opposite side of the country, and occasionally, even being called to travel beyond the border to help in foreign incidents. Despite the hazardousness and general filth of the job, Mr. Wilford donned fine robes when he was off duty, looking sleek and refined. He had tremendous pride for his job, though his usual demeanor was so stoic that many found it difficult to tell. A lifetime of hard, physical work had made him a modest man in mind and spirit, but not in finery.

Tristeza Wilford followed her husband wherever his department assigned him, filling out the official Ministry paperwork that Achilles was required to hand back to his superiors. Often, she would even accompany him while he was on a mission (though at a safe distance, wand at the ready).

It was a crime to say that Mr. and Mrs. Wilford didn't love their children, but to put aside time to spend with them was another matter entirely.

Marianne couldn't even say that she and her brother were best friends, their interests and the company they kept being so different. Still, they got along. Usually. Ormond, always the more charming of the two, found it easy to attract people towards him. This had afforded him much popularity throughout his school years, pushing his sister further into the background. Ormond only seemed to talk to her when his friends weren't around. While Marianne could somewhat understand - he was older and had his own agenda, afterall - it still felt like a puncture to her heart when his friends came first.

Marianne pulled herself up from the step, smiling a little. Anticipation for a letter from her parents put a new spring in her step. In fact, she could already feel it starting in her feet. Hopefully, this time, she'd receive a reply. If Mr. and Mrs. Wilford were traveling at the moment, the owl would have a longer journey ahead of it.

She walked swiftly, almost skipping, to the entrance of the castle, and gratefully slid through the double doors (Hagrid having opened them and strolled in at just the right moment). Standing outside, Marianne craned her neck to the overcast sky. The clouds were so thick and grey that it was hard to tell where the sun's exact position was; it's light was spread so evenly. There was a hint of a chill, carried by the breeze. Marianne huddled within herself. It wasn't freezing, but the absence of sunlight, in addition to the wind, left the air feeling cool.

The Owlery stood tall in the distance, it's pointy roof looking like it could penetrate the cloud blanket overhead.


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A/N: I'll admit that this isn't my favorite chapter. I know it looks like a bunch of nothing is happening right now, but every single scene is building up to the ending, I promise. This is more of a setting up kind of chapter to build the mood.


Feedback is welcome! http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=131573


__________________
House: Ravenclaw
Animal: Snowy Owl
Wand: 12", Hickory, Unicorn Hair, Steady
Favourite Subject: Charms
Quidditch Position: Keeper
Patronus: Polar Bear
Pottermore: Ravenclaw / 14 and 1/2'', Hornbeam, Unicorn Hair, Solid

Last edited by Melissa_Potter; August 10th, 2012 at 8:06 am.
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  #3  
Old September 2nd, 2012, 5:18 pm
Melissa_Potter  Female.gif Melissa_Potter is offline
Second Year
 
Joined: 5462 days
Location: Canada
Age: 28
Posts: 256
Re: In Need, Indeed

Maybe for Christmas I should ask for my own owl, Marianne thought as she crossed the uneven terrain to the Owlery. Luckily, she was able to keep an even footing by watching her step. After a long trek, she finally caught up to the looming tower. It's stairs were empty, and no one was entering or leaving through the door. It was a relief that there were no other visitors at the moment. A relaxed ease encased her.

Leaping two steps at a time, Marianne was soon on the landing in front of the door. She tucked her arms in tightly, keeping her letter close to protect it against soiling from above. Once she passed the threshold, however, the owls erupted into a frenzy. Many screeched irritably, some flapping their wings so hard that feathers fluttered down to the white-splattered stone floor. Marianne crouched and covered the back of her head, out of reflex rather than for preventative measures; her new position would do practically nothing to protect her from falling remains or outstretched claws.

"Sorry, sorry!" she called over the racket, "I'll be out of here soon, sorry for barging in!". Marianne felt silly for apologizing to the owls but hoped that they would respond well if they heard a voice that meant no harm. Their indignation brought forth a need to defend herself.

The school owls were always easily spooked and not very reliable. Several of Marianne's letters had been lost in transit, and she would only find out weeks later when the post never arrived. It was if they forgot what their job was in the magical world. Trying to send mail was always a struggle.

She dared to look upward, risking an eyeful, and saw little bits of the grey sky peeking through glassless windows. A set of stairs hugged the wall of the circular building and spiraled up to the second floor. A Great Horned owl, resting on it's perch within a groove in the wall, stared imperiously down at the intruder.

The noise wouldn't cease and it began to grind in Marianne's ears. Noticing something at the bottom of her vision, she looked down at her feet and spotted a tiny burrowing owl hopping across the floor. Smiling, she crouched down and stuck out her hand, clicking her tongue, hoping to entice it.

"Hey there, little guy," she cooed with an inviting grin, brandishing the letter in her hand, "mind helping me out?" It stared back at her with blank eyes, then screeched sharply, extended it's wings and flew up to the beams in the ceiling. "Hmm...," Marianne huffed, swatting a feather away from her face, "must've been a girl."

Not wishing to have come all the way for nothing, she determinedly made her way to the stairs while pressing her back and spreading her arms against the wall. While the steps were wide enough to safely climb, the tower's serious lack of railing made her nervous and her head began to feel light.

"Keep to the wall, keep to the wall...," she coached herself breathily.

Delicate and precise footing took her up to the second floor, which was just as littered as the ground level. Wanting to be far away from the hole in the floor that she just emerged from, Marianne pushed away from the wall and daintily walked to the center of the floor. She nervously looked over her shoulder one more time so as not to have a nasty fall take her by surprise.

"Anybody?" she pleaded, waving her letter in the air. A loud screech came from behind her, and for the second time, Marianne instinctively ducked and covered her head, not even feeling the letter crushed in her hand and pressed against her head. It was suddenly snatched right out of her fingers. Once Marianne felt it escape her grip, she frantically looked upward to see a barn owl circle the room and then fly out the window, rolled up parchment held in it's talons.

A smile appeared on Marianne's face. It felt strange and unnatural, like she was somehow out of practice, but it was genuine. Had it really been that long since she had a reason to smile?

Her relief quickly turned to uncertainty as she remembered how the owl got it's delivery, and her hand flew to the back of her head, making sure the bird didn't take some scalp with it. Her head felt fine and she relaxed, though wondered if her parents would also recieve a few blond strands with their mail.

***


The Gryffindor common room was buzzing with after-dinner chatter. Marianne stood silently by the bulletin board, just in case anyone came forward with her schoolbag. She had posted her Lost and Found note earlier that morning, upon her return to the common room. Throughout the day, she checked in regularly, and was dismayed every single time to see that it went unanswered.

She hovered around the area of the board, waiting. There were just too many students to really move anywhere else. She couldn't even zero in on what anyone was saying, even if she wanted to. She wouldn't even have been able to find her own brother if she was truly looking, but Ormond rarely hung around the common room anyway. Marianne could easily picture him strolling somewhere in the castle or the grounds, surrounded by friends and admirers, completing his story with a punchline that sent them all into hysterics.

Bitterness started to froth in the pit of her stomach and she bit her lip to quelch it. She hated whenever this ugly feeling came around, because she knew that Ormond deserved everything good that came to him. He was bright, responsible, and fair; Head-Boy material in every way.

He wasn't unkind to his sister, but it was his unavailability and indifference that hurt the most. She wasn't even sure if he was aware of her current problem, and if he would be sympathetic if he knew.

Then again, why would he? Besides familial obligation, Marianne knew they didn't spend much time together at all. Whenever they did meet, there was always the necessary sibling mockery and then he'd ruffle her hair with a laugh and catch up to his friends, swinging back into a conversation that was more important than his little sister.

With a heavy heart, Marianne realised that she hadn't always been the best sibling to him, either. When she was occupied, she barely acknowledged him, too.

"Hey, you!" called a stern voice that immediately made Marianne's thoughts vanish with a pop. She jumped and darted her head around to find who it belonged to. A prefect stared her right in the eyes. He meant her?

"Me?" she mouthed uncertainly, pointing to herself.

The badge pinned on his chest glinted brightly in the setting light coming through the window. Marianne went wide-eyed and froze to the spot, his air of authority making her tremble on the inside. She didn't know what she had done wrong, she never got in trouble.

"Yes, you," he said, walking up to the bulletin board. Marianne was already against the wall but still backed up into it, shrinking under his imposing height. "You're not supposed to be in here."

In addition to her nervousness, Marianne was now confused. "B-but...I'm a Gryf-"

"Didn't I just tell you the other day? Out," he ordered, a little more loudly than necessary, pointing to the portrait.

"But I - huh?"

He had done no such thing. Marianne was sure of it. She had no recollection of ever being asked to leave her own common room, and was about to tell him that he must have mistaken her for another student (her eyes even flickered down to her robes to make sure she didn't accidently grab a Ravenclaw uniform), but her voice died in her throat.

Students in the surrounding area began to stare. Marianne looked back to the prefect to avoid the curious onlookers, but could still feel the burning stares that pinned her to the wall. Being forced to face the prefect wasn't any better. He looked at her expectantly, making Marianne's protest of innocence be pushed further and further down her throat, as though it were too bold to say. His eyes moved to the bulletin board and spotted her Lost and Found note. Without a word, he plucked it off and tore it in half.

Wanting to keep from making anymore of a scene, Marianne swallowed her defense and obediently did as he commanded. She kept her gaze firmly planted on the floor, and blindly shuffled through the portrait entrance, absolutely mortified. Only one thing was on her mind - be as far away as possible. Physically and mentally.

Emerging from the Gryffindor tower entrance into the seventh floor, she brushed through Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The words, "...sneak out tonight" were heard clearly, but Marianne payed them no mind. Not even wanting to be near the tower, she walked with the intention of putting considerable distance between them. The farther away she got, the farther away the unfairness would be - at least that's what she told herself. But the massive castle wasn't big enough, and the spectacle played out in her mind's eye in a constant loop. The more she tried to forget it, the more clear the picture became.

Overwhelmed, she slowed down and stopped in front of a tapestry depicting a wizard on a platform who was making grand gestures with his hands, while addressing a crowd of angry goblins. At least, they looked angry since they were all carrying burning torches.

Marianne sat down against it, grateful that this particular corridor was empty, and propped her head up on her hands. It happened again. Someone had walked all over her, and she allowed it. But it wasn't as though she knowingly did. It was hard to recognize it as it was happening. Only in hindsight was she able to see when she failed to defend herself.

Ormond's chastising voice pushed it's way into her head. It was easier to imagine her brother lecturing her, because Marianne rarely would for herself. She was more obedient to him, fabricated or not, than to her own insight.

I can't always be there to bail you out, Marianne...

Don't you think I have better things to do than look after you?

Get a grip on yourself.

You are a Gryffindor. Act like one.

It's not that easy,
she would answer defensively to the imagined Ormond, I am not like you.

Her jaw stiffened. It wasn't the first time that phrase would resonate in her head. Every time, it was said with regret. I am not like you, I am not like you, I am not like you...

Marianne knew she could never say it to his face, for he wouldn't accept it as an excuse. Within the safety of her mind, she could see herself be more outgoing, speaking with and gaining friends with complete ease. However, when it came time to put dream to action, her nerve would wither and die every single time. It wasn't as simple as just willing yourself to change.

A gruff meow broke through her thoughts, making Marianne's head snap upwards. Yellow, lamp-like eyes were peeking at her from around the corner. Mrs. Norris then stalked forward, eyes focused intently on the student sitting on the floor. Marianne braced herself, uncurling her legs and sticking them straight out, hoping the cat would take it as a sign to stay away.

If it came to it, Marianne wasn't going to actually kick her, but Mrs. Norris didn't have to know that. Although, if his cat was here, then Filch certainly wasn't far off. If he saw any physical threat against his pet, detention would be painful. And hazardous.

But Marianne didn't have to do anything. Seemingly done with the inspection, Mrs. Norris turned her scrawny body around, sticking her tail in the air and going back the way she came. It wasn't after curfew, but a run-in with Filch was always unpleasant, in case Mrs. Norris was going to fetch him. Marianne sprang up onto her feet, knowing it was inevitable to return to the Gryffindor common room. A bead of dread was steadily growing in her stomach for having to, but there was nowhere else to go.

Feeling forced to move, she reluctantly trudged forward, practically dragging her feet. There was a temporary comfort in taking the long way back.

In the midst of strongly praying that the Gryffindor prefect was the early to bed type, and even wondering if the whole debacle was a trick pulled by Parvati and Lavender, voices stopped Marianne dead in her tracks. They echoed off the walls, accompanied by footsteps. Panicking, Marianne scurried behind a statue of a plump-cheeked Healer, having barely tucked her foot in before Snape and Filch walked into view.

"-have it on good word that the Ministry will not remove the Dementors," Filch said. Mrs. Norris was at his feet, loyally matching his pace.

"The students are safe within the grounds," Snape firmly assured, but then his face turned sour, "However, there are still those who think themselves above their limits. It is imperative that you patrol these halls tonight".

Their hasty stride had already brought the two to the far end of the corridor, almost reaching beyond Marianne's hearing range, but she continued to stay absolutely still. It was rumoured that both Snape and Filch could actually hear movement. At a moment like this, she completely believed it. Both men disappeared around the corner, their voices gradually fading.

"Any student fool enough to sneak out will-" Filch began to say, but now all Marianne could hear were unintelligible sounds. She leaned out from behind the statue as far as she dared, straining her ears to make sure they were gone. There was an echoing click of a door and then absolute quiet for a long minute. She stayed in place, in case Snape and Filch came back, but not a sound could be heard.

Cautiously, she stepped out from behind the statue, looking both ways. The coast looked clear. Without a single glance back, she bolted to the staircase to Gryffindor tower.

Snape and Filch were long gone, but Marianne could still feel their presence, and that made her feel like she was being watched. Soon enough, The Fat Lady came into view and the prickling feeling at the back of Marianne's neck became less intense.

She slowed down before reaching the portrait, tentatively staring at the sleeping figure within it.

Probably not a good idea to wake her, Marianne reasoned, I can wait outside for a little while.

The portrait's beauty sleep was not what concerned her. Nonetheless, Marianne made herself comfortable in a corner. After several quiet minutes, a relaxed feeling overtook her, and she entertained herself by watching the sky turn orange outside the window. A few surviving clouds that remained from the overcast morning lazily drifted by.

For a while, Marianne was even able to let her mind go blank and peacefully admire the view, forgetting why she was cold and sitting on the floor in the first place.


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"And then what happened, Professor Wilford?"

Marianne dramatically paused, staring her students in the eye, using the silence to her advantage. Her eyes scanned the entire room. Every single one of the children sat in rapt attention, posture rigid in anticipation, imploring her to go on.

"And then," Marianne breathed, sure that every word dripped with suspense, "Sir Fitzroy, having fallen down the valley and into their nest, found himself staring down five Ukrainian Ironbellies!"

The bell suddenly rang, making half of the students jump and wildly look around, not having realised the time. Groans swept the entire room as the children grudgingly gathered their things.

"But did he live?" asked one wide-eyed student.

Marianne winked. "He couldn't have personally written his autobiography if he hadn't." She then addressed the whole class. "Over the weekend, your assignment is to read the rest of the chapter and write a twenty inch essay on Sir Fitzroy the Ironhearted."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The calm was broken when the portrait swung open. Marianne's far-off, daydream smile vanished as she tensed and tucked her legs in, trying to melt into the wall. Strangely enough, there was nobody exiting the opening, and the portrait swung back into place.

Marianne stared curiously. Suddenly feeling rather defenseless in a sitting position, she slowly stood, not making any sudden moves. The air was still again.

"Ouch, Ron!"

Briefly.

Marianne jumped and stumbled back into the wall, stifling a yelp. The abrupt sound was what scared her more than it coming from nowhere (in a castle with many ghosts, one usually expected an unexpected voice).

"Sorry," mumbled a second, sheepish voice.

Marianne's eyes widened as a disembodied foot appeared out of nowhere, shaking vigorously, and then slid out of existence again. Her cowering transitioned into confusion, and she raised an eyebrow. Was she staring at an invisible wall? Is this some quirk from the castle, like the trick steps?

She cautiously edged forward to test the wall theory. Not wanting to find it with her face, she held out a hand to feel for anything solid. Was there another side to it?

"Careful!" hissed a harsh third voice.

First, out of thin air, Hermione appeared in the middle of the room. Then Harry right in front of her. And...only half of Ron's backside? Marianne watched as his visible hands grabbed where his head should have been, then clenched his fingers and pulled. The rest of Ron came into view and a silvery fabric materialized in his hands, pooling on the floor under his foot.

"Guess we're out of practice," he said meekly, stepping off the cloak.

Harry turned to check the portrait in the hope that they didn't wake The Fat Lady. Instead, he came face-to-face with their alarmed witness, her hand outstretched in the air towards him. Ron and Hermione immediately stopped bickering once they spotted her as well, both looking like they'd been caught by McGonagall.

Once again, Marianne had all of their eyes locked on her, and she didn't like it any better than the first time. It was the same feeling as yesterday: being the odd one out; the intruder. By being outnumbered, it felt like she had been the one caught in wrongdoing.

All that could be heard in that suspended moment was The Fat Lady's snores. Marianne stiffly lowered her hand, the first movement in what felt like minutes.

"You...have an invisibility cloak," she said in quiet astonishment. Even then, it felt too daring to talk through the tense silence. Her instinct screamed at her to pretend she saw nothing and walk away.

Ron, and Hermione exchanged uncomfortable glances.

"Er, yes, I do," Harry finally said. There was no point in trying to explain when the evidence was lying on the floor. Ron scooped the cloak into his hands.

"Look," Harry pressed on, his voice clipped, "this really isn't a good time. It's really important that we go. Now."

"But it's after hours," Marianne said in spite of her inner-objections, concern marring her forehead.

Hermione's grip on her wand tightened, a gesture that wasn't missed by anybody. Whatever small flicker of forwardness Marianne had within her was immediately snuffed out. Her throat went thick, and her voice was retreating so far down into her chest that it threatened to never emerge again.

"Do it," Ron mouthed silently from beside Hermione.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------


A/N: A Ukrainian Ironbelly is a dragon, just in case anybody doesn't know what that was. The dragon is from The J.K. Rowls, but I made up Sir Fitzroy and his rather unfortunate predicament

Comments and reviews here Feedback is welcome! http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=131573


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Last edited by Melissa_Potter; September 2nd, 2012 at 11:04 pm.
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Old October 4th, 2012, 8:24 am
Melissa_Potter  Female.gif Melissa_Potter is offline
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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.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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.


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