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Chapter 4 Hermione rolled to her side, hugging her soft pillow closely. The blankets and sheets felt so warm and delicious with the help of softly glowing sunrays seeping through the material. Her half conscious mind half registered the unfamiliar feel of her position and the knowledge that her bed was not usually quite as comfortable as this. A slight frown appeared on her forehead at the strangeness of it all. Now that she had woken herself from that blissful slumber, her wide brown eyes fluttered open to observe the surroundings. Odd, since when did she have bed curtains placed around the bed? And since when was her bed this big? Hermione’s eyes widened as a rush of memory inundated her mind. Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of scuttling feet only a few feet away from where she sat. Heart in her mouth, Hermione drew the curtains so see what awaited her on the other side. ‘Miss is finally awake!’ Squealed an energetic female house elf. Several tiny figures rushed up to greet Hermione, all holding different assortments of paraphernalia. ‘We brought clothes-’ ‘And some food-’ ‘And a hair brush too!’ Different elves offered, all seeming eager to please. Hermione was at a loss for words. This was certainly a surprising start to the day. And where was she? ‘Ah, listen, thankyou dearly for all of this but exactly where am I and how did I get here?’ Her last memory had been of sitting frozen on the hard wooden floor of the luminous veranda. She did not recall passing beyond the threshold or even moving for that matter. For some moments there was no response. All the elves looked at each other for support until finally they all turned their gaze to the elder looking elf in the centre of their cluster. He soon realised what was expected of him. ‘Me? Oh all right then.’ The elf looked fretfully at Hermione, it’s ears drooping and eyes widening for effect. ‘We snuck out of the castle to bring you in this morning. It was little before dawn and Master had retreated to his bedroom.’ Hermione was absolutely horrified. ‘I’m IN the castle? And you say that your master is unaware of my presence? Oh no.’ The elves looked worried. ‘Do not be dreading your stay here miss, no harm will come to you.’ ‘We have a feeling the Master will be more than happy to have you here, after we have a talk to him-’ One elf began to say but he stopped when he realised that the others were glaring at him threateningly. ‘Ooops.’ It said. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about but I insist that you show me the way out immediately. I need to return to my own home.’ Hermione rose and began heading for the door. The elves quickly followed her, blocking the door. ‘What are you doing?’ Hermione asked, a little frustrated with the creatures. Why wouldn’t they allow her to leave? The female elf smiled brightly up at her. ‘Will Miss be leaving her apartment without even dressing?’ Hermione glanced down at her clothes, realising that she was only wearing a simple nightgown. She didn’t even want to think of how that got on her. ‘Well perhaps I will change first but then I am not hesitating to leave. And I won’t have you stopping me.’ She said firmly. They all nodded briskly, a few twitching and grinning with too much force that it became obvious there was something going on that Hermione did not like the feel of. The last thing she wanted to happen was to be delayed and possibly encounter that horrible creature from the previous night. ‘Don’t stand there and watch me!’ She said when none of them made a show of moving. Perhaps if they left she would be able to sneak away undetected. That is if they did not hide behind her door. That seemed to shake them off for the moment. She looked about the room for the riding clothes she had arrived in but they were nowhere to be seen. How strange. Those silly elves had probably stolen them. Oh well, maybe the large polished cupboard had some clothes in it. Hermione observed that the room was definitely beautiful. The furniture was well preserved and spotlessly clean. Now that the sun shone brightly in the sky, even the castle property from the window’s view seemed lovely. Only the grass needed cutting but apart from that it was quite stunning. From what she could gather, Hermione realised that this particular room faced the back of the castle, overlooking a great valley and numerous crowded gardens that once would have been magnificent. Hermione gazed at the sight in awe. Why was it not being cared for? There was definitely a mystery to this place and she felt a curious itch to unearth it build up inside her. But no, she must not think of such things. Her aim was to leave this place for good and keep far, far away from it. Warning people of it’s existence would be wise because unwary people could easily find themselves in dangerous situations such as the one she faced herself. Mind made up, Hermione strode determinedly to the cupboard and opened it easily. Her jaw dropped with intense incredulity, eyes sweeping over the contents inside. Dresses and gowns of every colour hung elegantly inside, invitingly shiny and soft. Hermione had never seen such fabric nor such intricate designs. These clothes had obviously never been worn and all looked like garments one would wear to a ball or fancy party. The doors shut with a little slam. She shouldn’t have seen those, now all she could think of was what she would look like dressed in one of those. ‘Wow.’ She muttered. ‘Is Miss dressed yet?’ Said one of the elves, poking it’s head through the door curiously making Hermione jump. ‘No, sorry. I wasn’t able to find any normal clothes.’ She replied, short of breath. ‘Your morning dress is already hanging by the dresser Miss.’ The elf replied bashfully. Hermione glanced over to the other side of the room and saw a much plainer dress hanging loftily. ‘Thankyou.’ The elf smiled before exiting. She knew it would be reporting to the other elves. Examining this new dress, Hermione couldn’t help feeling a little deflated. It was blue and white and probably made from linen with a little blue bow at the top. It was designed like a strapless dress but had two very thin straps that held it in place. The dress fell down to just below her knees. Looking in the mirror Hermione had to agree that though it was not her style, the dress certainly looked good. Do I look thinner? She examined. Next moment all the little elves entered hurriedly. Hermione was pushed into a chair, one elf grabbing a comb, another placing bottles of gel, moose and hairspray onto the bench. ‘What are you doing?’ Hermione cried in exasperation. ‘Please just relax Miss, it will make our job a lot easier.’ These were certainly the most bossy elves Hermione had ever encountered. ‘I don’t want you to do this, I just want to get out of here!’ But it was no use. The elfs held her firmly in place and worked on her hair. It felt weird and she had no idea what they were doing. Half an hour later and the busy elf that had been working on her hair gazed at her happily; it’s hands shaky and skin perspiring. Hermione couldn’t help feeling a slight pity toward the creature. Most people would have given up on her hair. Her hands were snatched by two others and she found herself being carried into another room that led off from her own. Inside was a lavish bathroom with a grand mirror. Hermione stared at her reflection, unable to speak. ‘What have you done to my hair!’ She shrieked. It was short and tangled with wiry looking stuff and stuck out here and there. ‘Wait!’ Said one of the elves. He climbed onto the sink under the mirror and began to pull things out of her hair. Slowly, and to Hermione’s immense relief, bits began to fall back into place…only, this time it looked completely different. ‘Oh.’ She gasped at the sight. Long tendrils of golden brown locks flowed gently down her back. Not only was her hair curly and shiny, it was no longer a bushy puff. The elves stared admiringly at her reflection making numerous sighs. One elf even began to sniff and it’s chin wobbled. Hermione didn’t know what to say. ‘Thankyou.’ She mustered. ‘It was our pleasure Miss.’ Said the elves. ‘Will Miss be wanting her breakfast now?’ Hermione’s mind snapped back to reality. ‘Oh no, I have to leave.’ The elves exchanged alert glances. One particularly nervous elf stammered, ‘Buy you must stay! Master…has ordered it.’ ‘What?’ Hermione filled with dread. That monster knew she was here already? ‘He says you must stay and meet with him and see the castle.’ Chipped in another elf. ‘Do I have any choice?’ Hermione asked, fearing the answer. Predictably, all the little heads began to shake simultaneously. Hermione sighed. ‘Very well.’ Though she did not like the thought of what lay ahead. The monster wanted to see her? Probably in the kitchens where she would quickly become it’s lunch. What ever happened, she must stay alert and fight for her life if it was necessary. She wouldn’t be taken without a fight. OPPOSITE END OF THE CASTLE ‘Will Master be served breakfast in the dining room this morning?’ ‘Just bring it here.’ The beast replied to the anxious elf in the usual bored tone. ‘Yes Master.’ It gazed expectantly at two other of its comrades who were waiting in the corner for orders. They came forward hesitantly. ‘We was wondering sir, why you scared away the lady.’ Said one brave elf. The beast’s eyes rested scrutinisingly on the little creature. ‘I didn’t scare anybody away Bardy, they choose to fear me.’ ‘Master please pardon my nosiness but it seems to me that you could have been friendlier.’ Replied Bardy boldly. ‘How do you expect me to react when someone breaks into my home!’ The beast growled. Bardy, whom was the only servant in the castle that could speak to the master in such a manner and get away with it, continued to argue. ‘Think of what you is saying sir. Of course you realise anybody would have done the same in such circumstances.’ ‘What does it matter anyway, huh?’ The beast said grumpily. The elf looked up gravely. ‘Has master already forgotten about the curse?’ The beast bared it’s teeth. Of course he hadn’t forgotten about the stupid curse that had ruined his life. ‘Is that what this is all about? You want me to invite the woman in and fall in love with her?’ The watching elves became suddenly hopeful. ‘And we Master would finally be free again!’ They squealed together. The beast let out a harsh roar of laughter but quickly stopped and eyed the creatures menacingly. ‘I hope you fed her to the wolves!’ ‘We did not feed her to the wolves master, because though you seems to want to be trapped here until you dies, the rest of us do not want to watch. And when you dies what will happen to us?’ Bardy said with firm resolution. The beast ignored the comment, leaning backward languidly onto his bed. ‘It doesn’t matter anyway, she would be long gone by now.’ The elves exchanged knowing glances that were not undetected by the master. He eyed them suspiciously. ‘What have you done?’ ‘N-nothing.’ Said one stammering elf. Bardy was not afraid of the beast’s reaction. ‘She is in the castle, probably eating breakfast.’ ‘WHAT!’ Bellowed the master. He jumped out of bed immediately and began pacing the room. ‘How could you let this happen? Nobody enters my abode without my permission!’ ‘We did it for your own good sir. At least I know I am tired of waiting for a chance that may never come again. THIS is your chance.’ Bardy turned to him, holding up a towel and a huge suit. ‘What’s this?’ The beast growled again, taking one brief glance at the garments. ‘These are your clothes sir, for you to wear when you introduce yourself to the lady.’ The elf replied. ‘But what is it?!’ Bardy looked puzzled by the question. ‘Just a simple shirt and slacks.’ ‘Exactly how do you expect we to fit into these pieces of garbage?’ ‘Mabby (the knitting elf) made these for you quite some time ago. It is now time to wear them.’ Bardy placed the clothes neatly onto a stool and with a quick gesture to the other elves, headed for the door. ‘Oh and sir, where shall I take the lady to meet with you?’ Said Bardy, hiding a cheeky smile. He knew how to deal with the master having lived with him since the day he was weened. ‘To hell.’ Grumbled the master. ‘The gardens it is.’ Said Bardy before exiting the room. The garden, which Hermione was led to, stood nearest the castle. It wasn’t very large or beautiful because of the dead grass and lack of flowers but it held a certain beauty to it. Within seconds Hermione had formed a tiny strategy in which she could easily remodel the entire area and make it alive again. For surely it had once been well looked after, the remains clearly revealed this detail. A sudden noise behind made her jump with fright but it was just the little elf that had followed her. ‘I beg your pardon Miss, I was not meaning to frighten you.’ Said the elf apologetically. Hermione smiled kindly at it. These elves certainly had better speech than any other she had ever met. They even almost had formal English accents, meaning their masters would have been extremely noble and high class. That was no surprise considering where they lived. ‘May I ask your name?’ Hermione asked. The elf relaxed. ‘My name is Lediny. What is yours?’ ‘My name is Hermione. This place is very beautiful.’ She said awkwardly, not really knowing what else to say. ‘It is indeed, though it used to be much more lovely before…it happened.’ Hermione was suddenly confused but the little elf hastily changed the subject. ‘I was born in this house about ten years ago and raised by my father, Bardy. I don’t have many duties anymore, I manly dust and polish.’ Hermione began to take a liking to Lediny. ‘Bardy.’ The elf said proudly. ‘He is the oldest servant of the master.’ Hermione’s stomach filled with nerves, remembering whom she was waiting for. ‘What is your master like?’ The elf looked at her thoughtfully. ‘It is hard to say. He keeps to himself a lot but daddy is quite fond of him. He says although Master is angry sometimes it is only because he is sad.’ Hermione was confounded by this answer. ‘Why is he sad?’ The elf looked a little worried by the question. ‘I am not sure I am allowed to say.’ ‘Oh.’ Hermione felt another surge of curiosity, for the mystery of this place grew deeper by the minute. For indeed there was a great mystery here that seemed to be waiting for someone to unlock it. ‘Master will be arriving shortly, I must leave you.’ The elf didn’t stick around to hear Hermione object. She groaned inwardly, not especially wanting to meet the frightful monster on her own. She had been told enough however to know that she was not in immediate danger but still there was reason enough to be careful. At the same time she reminded herself that just because something looked different did not mean it was bad. She had learnt that lesson after having been friends with Hagrid at school. Those were the good old times. Except for the constant fear of Voldemort of course. At least he wasn’t around any more. ‘So’ said a deep low voice, dragging Hermione from her thoughts. She spun around to see that dreaded figure that had only hours ago had glanced at her with deadly eyes. Now, although it did not look pleased with her, she had the impression that she was causing it almost as much unease at it was she. ‘You are the one who broke into my home.’ It said. ‘I didn’t break in, it was unlocked and I had no choice-’ ‘Humph.’ The beast stared at her grumpily. It looked quite ridiculous standing there with tight fitting clothes that were not suited to a beast. This caused Hermione’s fear to lessen. ‘What do you think of the garden?’ The beast asked. ‘Uh, well it needs some weeding and watering but apart from that it is quite lovely.’ Hermione forced herself to speak strongly, not wanting to show her uneasiness. Though they say that dogs can sense fear. But this was no dog. ‘I think you’ve had enough of a look.’ He said, for he was clearly male. ‘I don’t like being outside.’ Hermione followed him back into the castle where he called for an elf. ‘You, Mabby, lead us through the castle.’ ‘Certainly sir.’ Said Mabby looking delighted. ‘Mabby is the dressmaker. She made the dress you are presently wearing.’ ‘Oh, it is lovely indeed.’ Hermione said politely. The elf beamed. ‘I have made many more for you to wear.’ ‘Oh thankyou but I won’t be staying very long.’ The elf looked puzzled. Before she could speak however, the beast interrupted. ‘You won’t be able to leave the castle for some time.’ He said tightly. Hermione could have slapped herself for saying that out loud but now it was too late. ‘But I mustn’t stay here, my father doesn’t know where I am and he will be awfully worried.’ ‘It is too dangerous to leave the gates now. The wolves will hunt you down.’ ‘But surely they only hunt at night.’ Hermione tried to reason. ‘Not these ones. They know you are here and will stay close by until they give up.’ The beast replied. ‘And how long will that be?’ Hermione’s voice was rising beyond her control. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t stay here! ‘I don’t know.’ Replied the beast. ‘Here is the main lounge and the fireplace.’ Hermione observed the lounge room with great admiration. The ceiling was ever so high, like the ceiling at Hogwarts in the Great hall. Mabby led the two through many areas of the castle and they were now coming toward other sleeping compartments. Grand staircases led to different rooms and the walls were decorated with marvellous paintings and semi-precious stones. Yet Hermione’s mind was restless at the thought of being trapped in this place. ‘Could I possibly be able to send a letter to my father telling him that I am safe?’ She compromised. ‘And how will you be sending that letter exactly?’ The beast mocked. Hermione faltered but realised that this place was obviously connected to magic seeing as the servants were elves and decided to risk it. ‘Do you have any owls?’ The beast gazed at her curiously, almost as though he saw familiarity in her face. ‘What did you say your name was?’ ‘Hermione.’ She said slowly, realising she couldn’t make up a name after revealing it to the elf outside. Curse her stupidity. Almost as though what she had said was a curse, the beast stepped back drawing in a sharp breath and looking violently alarmed. ‘What’s wrong?’ She asked anxiously. ‘Nothing.’ He snapped. ‘I have to go, if you want you can continue wandering with Mabby. I will send a letter to your father.’ Hermione stared in bewilderment as the beast paced away. Why had he reacted like that to her name? ‘Would you like to see the Green rooms?’ Mabby asked, distracting Hermione from her thoughts. ‘Oh, sure.’

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