I was lying on a cold, dirty floor, paralyzed. I shifted my eyes back and forth, trying to see where I was. The room was chilly and cast in shadow, and I could feel that my face was damp from tears. My chest felt constricted as I struggled to get air into my lungs, the heavy air weighing down on me, choking me. I heard a loud crack coming from somewhere behind me, it echoed around the room as if bouncing off the walls of a cave. I begged my body to move, but it was as if I was bound by millions of thick ropes that squeezed me like snakes. I then heard footsteps moving slowly across the floor toward me, a certain smugness in the stride. More tears ran down my cheeks as I realized I could not get away. The footsteps stopped right beside me, and I could feel a small waft from the person's robes. Then he leaned down and breathed in my ear with a wicked hiss. "You cannot hide from me, girl. I know everything about you. Your thoughts and your fears." His breath was hot on my neck as I saw small eyes glowing from across the room. They slithered nearer across the dirty floor, baring their enormous fangs. My heart raced as they shifted into thousands of spiders, scurrying around my body and clicking their pincers in hunger. Hot tears boiled inside my eyelids as I tried to keep them tightly shut. Then the spiders piled together and formed the shape of a body. Shaggy black hair was matted in blood, and two lack luster brown eyes stared lifelessly into mine. I wanted to scream as Sirius lay dead in front of me, but my voice would not pass my lips. The man behind me stood up as he gave a malicious chuckle, and strolled toward Sirius's body, giving it a nudge with his foot. "Oh, now look what you've done. You've killed this young man," he said, his face hidden behind a large hood. "Well, actually I killed him. But he died because of you. He didn't stand a chance!" A craze seemed to enter his words. "You should have seen him, begging me to spare his life. By the time I was finished with him, however, he practically begged for death. Naturally, being the accommodating person I am, I honored his last request. Pity, he would have been a nice addition to my following." He kicked him again as he came closer to me. He lowered his hood and a pair of red eyes pierced through me, as a searing pain shot through my body. Inside, I was writhing in pain, but I still lay motionless on the floor. "I will know what you know. And after I do, I will kill each person whom you hold most dear, and then I will kill you. It will be slow, and painful, and very satisfying." He smiled at me with malicious content, with teeth as sharp as daggers. He laughed maniacally as the pain continued to singe across my body, as if I was being doused in acid.
"Marilyn!" A female voice resonated through the air as the man continued to cackle. It was sweet and soothing as it rested on my ears. He seemed oblivious to it as he taunted me hysterically. The voice came again, louder this time, drowning out the crazed laughter as the room faded around me. "Marilyn, wake up!" My body jerked forward and I was met with a concerned Lily, red hair framing her troubled face. The bed sheets were wrapped around me awkwardly and the other girls sat up in their beds, peeking warily to see if I was still in a craze. I struggled to untangle myself and felt my body soaked with sweat.
"I think I was having a dream," I said, feeling like it was almost too real to have happened inside my head.
Lily smiled sleepily at me. "And a nasty one, at that. Here, take a drink." She grabbed a small glass from her bedside table and pointed her wand at it, filling it up with water. I pressed the glass to my lips and gulped it down, not realizing how thirsty I was.
"What time is it?" I asked, my heart beginning to slow down to a normal pace.
"About two in the morning. I tried waking you for ages," she said as she draped the covers over her. After seeing that there was nothing more exciting going on, the other girls did the same, and pulled the curtains closed around their beds. "Well, goodnight then." She turned over on her side and, within minutes, was breathing slowly with sleep. I lay awake for a while, studying the grooves and patterns of the domed ceiling, making shapes and faces out of the cracks. My eyelids grew heavy, but I was too afraid to let myself fall asleep again, for fear that those red eyes would meet me again. Deep sighs filled the room as they all slept peacefully, unburdened by visions of death and suffering, their slumbers untainted by the evil that lurked right outside the castle. My mind began to wander away from the ceiling as I thought about Sirius and quidditch and Animagus lessons. 'Maybe I'll be a dragon. I'd like to see him try to hurt a dragon.' I smirked as I imagined a large, green dragon with spikes across his back breathing fire, setting Voldemort's robes ablaze, and with that thought, I drifted back to a dreamless sleep.
The week's lessons went by in a blur. I had no interest in sleeping draughts and repelling vampires, or conjuration and turning vinegar into wine. I watched the snowflakes fall as the wind blustered, sending them zooming by the window. I wanted so badly to be outside, bundled up in coats and scarves, walking along the lake frozen over like glass, the cold air biting my face. Every now and then, Sirius would elbow me, jerking me back to reality to listen to the monotonous lecture inside the stale, boring class room.
"Are you going to see Dumbledore tonight?" Sirius asked as we left Defense Against the Dark Arts, our last class, on Friday afternoon. He laced his fingers with mine as he walked closely to me.
"I'm supposed to go see him right now, actually," I sighed, wanting nothing more but to spend my time snuggled up by Sirius in front of the fire. He squeezed my hand tightly.
"Well, let's go then." He said as we headed across the castle to the Headmaster's office. We approached the gargoyle, and before I could mutter the password, it began to move revealing the spiraling staircase as Dumbledore came walking down the steps.
"Oh, there you are," he said, with a hint of surprise in his voice as if he just remembered he was expecting me. "I was just about to go sneak some ice cream from the kitchen, but that can wait. Mister Black, I would like you to join in on our conversation today. Better than you sitting at the bottom of my staircase, plotting more imminent mischief." Dumbledore's eye twinkled as he gestured Sirius to come up to his office. We stepped into the large room, the paintings on the wall yammering to each other from their frames, then quickly hushing as Dumbledore strolled behind his desk. He waved his wand and a fluffy red loveseat appeared in the middle of the floor. Sirius and I sat, sinking down into the cushion and pressed up against each other.
"Well, Marilyn," he began, clasping his hands together, "last night, a death eater by the name of Nott was apprehended at the Ministry. A few others that were with him Disapparated quickly, but he is now in Azkaban awaiting trial. All thanks to you, a few innocent lives were saved." I breathed a sigh of relief. I had doubts that my information would be of help, but now that people were being arrested before any real harm was done, I was feeling more satisfied with the help I was giving. "Before we continue with your information however, I have a couple of things I wish to discuss with the both of you. A Hogsmeade weekend will be coming up in a few weeks, and I implore you both to stay at Hogwarts." I heard Sirius breathe heavily, exasperated but not willing to argue. "I understand how you feel, and I am deeply sorry, but it simply is not safe for you, Marilyn, to be outside the castle. And Sirius, I need you to protect her." I scoffed with disbelief.
"Excuse me, sir, but I can protect myself. I can hold my own—" Dumbledore held up a hand to silence me.
"I do not doubt your abilities. I simply would be more comfortable if you had more than just your own wand keeping you from harm." I sat back in the chair, my arms crossed in frustration. Sirius put his hand on my knee. "Next, I would like you to continue your lessons."
"I've been practicing the Occlumency, Professor," I said, remembering the past few nights spent in this office, trying to block my thoughts as Dumbledore penetrated my mind.
"I don't mean Occlumency. I mean your Animagus lessons." Sirius's and my eyes widened. How did he know everything that was going on inside the castle? He gave a small chuckle. "You are not in any trouble. I find that it will come in handy in the days ahead of us." Sirius looked down at his lap, trying to hide a smile as he wrapped his fingers around my knee and squeezed. "Now, I would like to know more about this Harry Potter." I looked over at Sirius as he met my eyes.
"You can't tell James. Promise me you won't say a word," I said to him softly. His eyes glimmered, but he did not reply to me, as if he was debating whether or not to agree. "This is serious! Promise me you won't say anything to him about this!" Sirius nodded reluctantly, and I turned back to Dumbledore as Sirius sunk deeper into the chair. "Harry is James's son." My mind raced, trying to figure out the easiest way to tell the story. "Voldemort killed his parents when he was just a baby, and then tried to kill him too, but it backfired on him." Sirius gave a small yelp as I said this. His face became tense as he imagined his best friend being slaughtered. I grabbed his hand and continued. "Voldemort returned while we were at Hogwarts, but Harry got away from him every time. I think he's the one who has to defeat him, in the end." Dumbledore was quiet for a moment. Then he stood up and walked toward Sirius, putting his hand on his shoulder.
"Let's hope that we can keep all of that from happening," he said quietly. Sirius nodded as he stared straight ahead. "I want you two to go have some dinner, then have a nice evening. I think that is enough for right now." Sirius stood up quickly and sped out the door. I followed quickly behind him. As we exited the staircase and entered into the corridor, he put his face in his hands.
"My best friend is going to die?" He said loudly and upset. "My best friend!" His face was distorted with fear and rage. I put my hands around the back of his neck and looked him in the eyes.
"We can stop him, Sirius. We can stop him from killing a lot of innocent people. We have the advantage right now. You heard what Dumbledore said about that Death Eater being arrested. That's because I told him when and where they were going to be! We will save James. I promise." I saw Sirius's eyes glass over as I pulled him into a hug.
"I won't lose him." He said wetly as he pressed his face into my hair. I rubbed my hand on his back as determination welled up inside me. I was sent to this time for a bigger reason that just changing my identity. I was sent here to change the course of time, and I planned on changing it for the better.
"Are you hungry?" I asked softly as he pulled away from me. He shook his head and grabbed my hand tightly and forcefully.
"No. We've got work to do right now." He said as he pulled me down the corridor toward the staircases and up toward the seventh floor corridor where the Room of Requirement waited for us with baited breath.