“But I want to go home,” whispered the girl. “I don’t want to fight anymore” DH p558
Charlotte was dreaming – she was in Transfiguration trying to Transfigure a hedgehog into a pincushion, but for some reason no matter how hard she tried she could not remember the words to the spell. Professor McGonagall stood over her saying in her stern voice that perhaps they had made a mistake sending her the letter and she, Charlotte, wasn’t magical after all – perhaps she was a Squib – everyone knew that one of her parents was a Muggle.
Suddenly Professor McGonagall’s voice changed – it grew to ten times its volume and became, if possible, even sterner. “All pupils must report to the Hall at once. Dress warmly but do not stop to bring any belongings. Prefects ensure everyone in your House is awake and lead them downstairs as quickly as possible.”
Charlotte jerked awake – had that been part of her dream? She looked around her dormitory and saw the six other girls all looking in the same state of semi-consciousness. Before anyone could say anything there was a pounding at the door and a seventh year barged her way in. “Come on, first-years – didn’t you hear McGonagall? You all need to get up and follow me – grab your cloaks and some shoes but nothing else. Charlotte looked around, terrified; she didn’t understand. She quickly decided that the only thing to do was to do as the girl had told her so she jumped out of bed, pulled on a jumper and her thick school cloak and slipped her feet into the first pair of shoes she could see. The other girls in her dormitory began to do the same and in a matter of minutes they were all ready to go. Charlotte’s best friend, Myrtle, grabbed her hand as they left the room.
“Charlie, I’m scared – what’s happening?”
“I don’t know but I’m sure someone will tell us soon – let’s just try and stick together.”
The two girls joined the throng of students piling down the staircase from the various dormitories. When they reached the common room they met the boys and, sticking closely together, the first-years were led through the corridors of the castle to the Hall. Charlotte knew something was wrong just by looking around her. There was a tense atmosphere in the castle and the occupants of the paintings they passed were whispering furiously to one another. Suddenly all Charlotte wanted was to be at home – away from here where everything was scary. She had been so excited to come to Hogwarts especially as she had never realised she came from a magical family. Her mother was a witch, but had given up magic when she married Charlotte’s father. They had only told Charlotte who she really was when she had received her letter. At the time she had desperately wanted to come and learn magic, but her year had been far from enjoyable with the harsh punishments and horrible professors. She sometimes wished she had followed her father’s advice to not come here and to live her life as an ordinary person.
When the Gryffindors reached the Great Hall, they found the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins already there. They were marshalled quickly to their House table and told to sit. A few moments later, the Ravenclaws entered the room and sat at their own tables. No one was talking; there seemed to be a general acknowledgement that it was not the right time for talking. Instead an impenetrable silence fell over the hall, broken only by the footsteps of professors and other adults that Charlotte didn’t recognise arriving to the hall.
Charlotte looked around the hall, taking in the expressions of fear on her fellow first-years’ faces and the grim looks of the older students, many of whom also seemed to show a look of resignation as if they knew what was about to happen. Glancing around, Charlotte saw that everyone was in different states of dress. Some, like her, had put on cloaks and shoes; others wore nothing but their pyjamas and a dressing gown. Some of the older students had prepared themselves even further, dressing in proper clothes with their wands held protectively in their hands. She wondered if they knew something she didn’t. She suddenly thought of her own wand, tucked safely away in her trunk, and felt sick. How stupid could she be to leave her wand, her most important possession, behind? She didn’t know what was happening, but whatever it was, she knew she would feel a lot safer with her wand.
Once all the students had arrived, Professor McGonagall made her way to the front of the hall followed by yet more adults Charlotte had never seen before. She stood on a raised platform and looked out into the sea of students, every one of whom was focused completely on her.
“News has reached us that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is coming to the castle.”
Some of the students screamed, others stood up as if determined to escape as soon as possible, some simply sat motionless in their seats as if unable to process what they had just heard. The older students that Charlotte had noticed earlier looked barely flinched at the news; instead they sat up, looks of determination on their faces. Charlotte herself felt petrified; growing up away from the magical world, she hadn’t grown up with the same knowledge of You-Know-Who as the other students but her experiences at the school, and the stories she heard from other students were enough to convince her that the news she had just heard was not good. She looked up at Professor McGonagall, who was trying to once again to get everyone’s attention over the noise that had broken out after her initial announcement.
“Silence!” she shouted above the noise. “It is important that you listen to what is going to happen. The staff and members of the Order of the Phoenix intend to stay and defend the castle, but we are going to evacuate all the students to a place of safety. You will follow your prefects to a room where there is a passageway that will lead you to a building in Hogsmeade. From there, you will be able to either Apparate or get messages to family who can come and collect you by Side-Along Apparation. Anyone who thinks they will have a problem with this method of travel should inform their prefect and arrangements will be made for you to apparate alongside a senior student. You must not leave the building by any other method. This is vitally important. If you go outside you will activate a charm that will alert some -” She paused for a moment as if trying to find the right word. “-undesirable people to your presence. If you have no home to go to for any reason, again, please inform a prefect and they will sort you out with somewhere safe to stay. The evacuation will be overseen by Mr Filch and Madam Pomfrey. Prefects, when I give the word, you will organise your house and take your charges, in an orderly fashion, to the evacuation point.”
Charlotte was absolutely terrified. She had never travelled by Apparation before and she was almost certain her mother didn’t Apparate, meaning she would have to go with an older student. Next to her, Myrtle grabbed her hand and squeezed it tightly.
“It’ll be okay. My mum and dad will come and get you – you can come and stay with us until we know it’s safe. Our house is well protected.”
Charlotte squeezed her friend’s hand back gratefully. “What about my mum and dad?”
“We’ll get them. My mum will make sure they’re safe as soon as she hears from us.”
Charlotte breathed a soft sigh of relief – she had met Myrtle’s parents at Christmas and they seemed like nice people. They would look after her. Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice from the Hufflepuff table – one of the older students she had noticed earlier had stood up and was shouting up towards the platform.
“And what if we want to stay and fight?”
Some of the older students clapped, but Charlotte shivered. She couldn’t think of anything worse than staying here in the middle of the fighting. But Professor McGonagall’s response reassured her that she would not be expected to stay.
“If you are of age, you may stay”
At only twelve, Charlotte was far from of age. Another pupil, this time a Ravenclaw, called out a question Charlotte herself had been wondering.
“What about our things? Our trunks, our owls?”
“We have no time to collect possessions; the important thing is to get you out of here safely.”
Charlotte felt a wave of nausea wash over her as she thought once again of her wand tucked snugly in her dormitory. She may not know much magic, but the idea of Dark wizards storming the building when she didn’t have a wand was even more terrifying than it would be with one. She felt so sick that she was unable to focus on the events happening in the Hall and it was not until she heard a cold, high-pitched voice echoing around the Great Hall that she snapped out of her state of numbness.
“I know that you are preparing to fight.” There were more screams from around the Hall. Charlotte herself nearly screamed, but she held it in; instead, she clutched Myrtle’s hand even more tightly than before. “Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have until midnight.”
Following this announcement the Hall fell deathly silent until a girl from the Slytherin table stood up and screamed, “But he’s there! Potter’s there! Someone grab him!”
Charlotte turned to where the girl was pointing. She couldn’t believe it – she had heard stories and rumours about Harry Potter, heard him praised as a great wizard, but here he was, a small scrawny teenager. How could he be their saviour? How could he have escaped He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named more times than people could remember? Had people lied about him? Or was this not him at all? Before she could think about it more she felt a movement around her and the Gryffindors stood up en masse facing the Slytherin girl. She felt herself forced up with the wave of students and moments later the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws joined them – all had determined looks on their faces and some began to pull out wands.
Professor McGonagall’s voice carried once again over the mass of students.
“Thank you, Miss Parkinson; you will leave the Hall first with Mr Filch. If the rest of your House could follow.
Charlotte watched as the Slytherins proceeded out of the Hall, shooting dirty looks in the direction of the other students as they went. Once they had left, the Ravenclaws followed though Charlotte noticed that some of the older students stayed where they were, obviously having made the decision to stay and fight. When the Hufflepuffs left, even more of their older students stayed behind and Charlotte couldn’t help admiring their courage as she prepared to leave the Hall with her House. When the Gryffindors began to leave, Charlotte saw that almost everyone in the House who was old enough was staying to fight. She wished that she could believe that she would be brave enough to stay if she could, but she wasn’t so sure.
The Gryffindors were the last to leave the Great Hall and as Charlotte followed the others into the entrance hall, she suddenly felt herself being dragged away from her friends and into a wave of panicked students desperate to reach safety. She struggled to keep her balance as she was shoved from side to side and she looked around frantically trying to find someone she knew. She heard raised voices trying to calm the rush of students, but the people surrounding her seemed to have gone temporarily mad and could only think of reaching safety. The pushing and shoving grew worse and she was shoved violently into the wall. Except it wasn’t a wall – somehow she had fallen through one of the many tapestries adorning the castle wall and had ended up in a narrow corridor she had never seen before. She pushed against the tapestry she had just fallen through, but it had completely solid and there was no way of getting back through. She began to shout at the wall, “Please, help me – I’m stuck, please!” There was no response. Tears began to fall and she sobbed through the wall once again, “Please!” but there was nothing. She was completely trapped and alone.
She decided there was nothing else to do but follow the corridor and see where it led her. She was hugely aware that midnight was coming ever closer and she had no idea what would happen if she were stuck here when it came. Without her wand, she would be completely powerless to help. If only she knew where she was then she could at least try and get back to the Gryffindor tower to claim her wand.
She walked for five minutes, unable to see any way of getting out. Eventually she reached a door built into the wall. She pushed it open and found herself stepping out from behind another tapestry. She looked around, trying to find something she recognised in order to work out where she was, but it was useless. She had no idea. She opened some of the doors leading off the corridor and finally realised she was on the Transfiguration corridor, completely on the other side of the castle from where she had started and far away from anywhere. She didn’t even know where the other students were heading so she had no way of finding them again. She looked at the clock hanging in the classroom she had entered and gasped – it was midnight. It was too late: any minute now, the battle would start and she would be stuck. Sure enough, she heard bangs from outside and flashes of light illuminated the classroom.
She had to get away. She ran from the classroom, desperately trying to remember how to find her way back to the Hall. The staircase she was on began to move and she ended up on a corridor she had never been down before. She ran down it but it seemed never ending and every time she passed a window she could hear the bangs getting louder and see the flashes getting brighter. She ended up on another staircase, but it was not one she recognised and she got her foot stuck in one of the trick steps halfway down. It took her another five minutes to yank it free, and even then she had no idea where to go next. She quickly decided to keep going down in the hope that she would eventually reach the entrance hall. She was disconcerted by the fact that she hadn’t yet met any fighters. Maybe they hadn’t been able to penetrate the walls yet, or maybe they were on the other side of the castle.
The staircase she was climbing down came to abrupt end when it met a corridor branching off to the left and right. She chose the right fork, though she had no idea why and, began to run down it. She felt a stitch in her side and was forced to slow down. She continued along the winding corridor looking for any way out, but she met a dead end and realised she would have to go back. She felt tears escaping her eyes and obscuring her vision. Her breathing became irregular and she began to sob. All she wanted was to go home, but she couldn’t see how she was ever going to get there.
She passed the staircase she had come down before and went down the other fork. This time she found another staircase almost immediately and began to climb down it trying to contain her sobs as she did so. She could hear shouts coming from further down the staircase and she knew she must be getting closer to the battle and to other people. She tripped on a step and found herself falling down to the floor. She managed to pull herself up, but there was a shooting pain up her leg and she felt blood trickling down from her forehead. She tried to close her mind off to the pain and carried on down the next flight of stairs.
As she reached the bottom of the next staircase, she finally realised where she was. She breathed a sigh of relief as she realised she was minutes away from the entrance hall. She turned a corner and collided with a group of fighters. The sight of the wizards dressed in black hooded cloaks battling with her professors terrified her and she tried to run past them without being seen. Just as she was about to turn the corner, she heard a shout and felt a searing pain up her right arm. Looking down, she saw a deep cut running from her shoulder to her elbow. With a huge effort, she kept running, ripping off her cloak and pressing it firmly against the wound as she went. She was beginning to feel light headed from the amount of blood she was losing from both her arm and her head, but she kept going, desperate to see someone who could take her to safety.
She arrived in the entrance hall having failed to see anyone. She looked around wildly. From the Great Hall she could hear the sounds of fierce battles being fought. She thought about heading down one of the corridors, but knew that if she did, she would get lost again and would eventually meet another group of fighters. She looked towards to huge door which led out into the grounds and made a quick decision. If she could get outside and run, then maybe she could reach the castle gates and escape, maybe she could find someone who could help her.
She pushed open the huge door and gasped at the sight – clearly the battle outside was going a lot worse than she had realised. Flashes of light illuminated bodies lying on the ground; dead or injured, she did not know. She could hear screams of pain, shouts and even, somewhere, the sound of laughter. She didn’t know what else to do, so she ran. Within seconds, the pain in her arm and leg and increased to almost unbearable levels. She let the pressure on her arm weaken a little and felt blood gushing out. She tried helplessly to keep putting one leg in front of the other, but it was hopeless and she collapsed to the ground.
A cold, harsh voice behind her caused her to sit up, though the pain was too much to try and stand.
“Pah, is this what the Order of the Phoenix is reduced to – twelve-year-old girls?”
Charlotte looked up into the masked face of the tall wizard and felt terror like she had never felt before. She had no idea out to escape this situation. Every part of her ached, all she wanted was to escape, to go home to her Mummy and Daddy, to get away from the fighting, away from the pain.
“Well aren’t you going to say anything? You could at least get your wand out.”
Charlotte sat, frozen in fear, on the ground where she had fallen.
“Oh, I see. You people make it too easy. Well let’s what happens when you experience a bit of pain.
It was pain like she had never experienced before. She felt as though she were on fire, being burnt alive by invisible flames. She felt her body rise into the air, felt herself being tossed about. She heard the laughter from her attacker, she heard her own scream pierce the night, audible above all the other battle sounds. She heard herself cry out for her home, then felt the solid earth as she was dropped back down to the ground. The masked wizard was laughing almost manically.
“Enjoyed that, did you?”
She said nothing, unsure as to whether he expected her to answer or whether he was just taunting her. She wasn’t sure she even had the energy to speak any more.
“I see. Trying to ignore me are you? Well you won’t be able to ignore me after this.
This time the curse was a hundred times stronger, the pain felt a hundred times greater, and the scream that escaped her was a hundred times louder.
She was going to die, she knew that now. It had been stupid to think that she would ever get out. But why, why did it have to be so painful? She heard herself crying out, begging him to release her. She didn’t know where the words were coming from. She could no longer think – pain consumed her thoughts, poisoning her body and her mind.
After what seemed like forever, she felt herself hit the ground once again and heard the masked figure’s taunting voice.
“I’m sorry!” she sobbed, not knowing what he wanted to hear.
“Sorry?” he sneered. “Sorry for what? You don’t even know, you don’t even know what you’re fighting for. You’re just one of their puppets sent out here to get rid of the so-called bad guys. You know nothing!” He spat on her and raised his wand again. She flinched, waiting for the pain, but nothing happened. She tried to focus on him through her pain and tears and saw him clutch his arm as if hurt. Looking down, he spat on her again.
“You’re lucky this time.” And he walked away.
She lay on the ground unable to sit up, unable to find the energy to even call out. She could feel blood still pouring from the wound. It should have stopped bleeding long before now – what was wrong? Her mind had become so detached that she could no longer even hear the sounds of battle. She wondered if she were going deaf or if the battle had stopped. She could hear the cries of the others injured around her. Then she heard it, the same cruel high-pitched voice that had echoed around the hall so long ago. This time it reverberated around the castle grounds, filling every inch of her mind, intensifying the pain she felt.
“You have fought, valiantly. Lord Voldemort knows how to value bravery. Yet you have sustained heavy losses. If you continue to resist me, you will all die, one by one.”
Charlotte felt herself blacking out; she could no longer make out what was being said. All she could hear were snatches of the cold, heartless voice.
“You have one hour…Harry Potter…come to me…punish…one hour.”
She didn’t understand. She didn’t understand any of it; the masked wizard had been right. She knew nothing about what was happening, but she was going to die for it anyway.
She heard movement around her as people emerged from the castle and began walking among the injured bodies. She tried to call out to them, but no matter how hard she tried, her voice would not come. Instead, she laid on the hard earth, in a growing pool of blood, tears trickling slowly down her cheeks.
She did not know how long she lay there, listening to the activities around her and slipping gradually in and out of consciousness. Finally someone walked close to where she lay and she managed to find the energy to whisper.
It was the smallest of sounds, but whoever it was heard her and turned immediately. Charlotte tried to focus on the person kneeling beside her. She was a girl, a teenager. Charlotte vaguely recognised her, but her memory wouldn’t allow her to focus on who she was.
“Oh Merlin,” she heard the person whisper. “How old are you?”
With a supreme effort she managed to reply, “Twelve”
“Oh!” the older girl exclaimed. “How did you get here? You shouldn’t have been here!”
“Got left behind,” Charlotte managed to gasp through her pain.
“Okay, it’s going to be okay. I’m going to help you.” She watched the girl take out her wand and begin to wave it over her body. She waited, expecting the pain to stop, expecting the blood to stop flowing from her arm, but nothing happened. She looked up at the girl, who was frowning and looking a little worried.
“Mummy,” Charlotte whispered faintly. “I want my mummy. Please”
“It’s all right,” the girl said to her in a soft voice. “It’s okay. We’re going to get you inside.”
No! That wasn’t right; she didn’t want to go inside. Inside was where she had come from. Inside was where it all started. She had to let the girl know that she didn’t want to go inside again.
“But I want to go home,” she whispered in as strong a voice as she could manage. “I don’t want to fight anymore!” Tears still poured from her eyes. She needed this person to understand. She didn’t want to be here; she had never wanted to be here.
“I know,” the girl whispered back and Charlotte saw tears in her eyes. Her voice broke a little as she tried to reassure her, “It’s going to be all right.”
But it wasn’t. Charlotte could already feel her strength fading, could already tell that she wasn’t going to get inside. She tried to communicate this to her helper, but all she could manage was, “It hurts.” Her surroundings were beginning to fade. She was aware of nothing but her pain. As darkness began to take over her mind and everything faded into nothing, she whispered one last time,
“I want to go home.”
A/N Any recognisable lines come from chapters 31, 33 and 34 of DH.
Thanks to the wonderful Colores from MNFF who betaed this for me and to alli_lynn, my PS beta.