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TO THE ADMIN: When i first tried to upload this chapter it was refused but i can't see why. If again it is unaccepted, could you please let me know the reason so i can correct it? Thankyou! TO THE READERS: I realise it must be confusing with all the deleting and posting I’ve been doing and so I apologise but the truth is I wasn’t too happy with my story. So that’s why I’ve gone back and rewritten it from this point. It’s only two chapters, though still inconvenient. I hope you agree that the story is better with the changes. This way I can also see a clearer path with where the plot is going. Before I was fighting writers block but now that I am more focused (school being finished) I can see where this is going. Again I apologise but hope you enjoy the chapter. AN/ Thankyou to everyone who has stuck to this even through the rough patches. CHAPTER 5 Mystery, oh history, pray speak your name, Unlock your riddle and end the game Things are happening, it’s so befuddled Mind is swimming, just so muddled. There was no doubt about how Hermione felt. She was confused, tired, afraid, apprehensive, and curious…but above all, she was completely and utterly surprised that the entire affair surrounding her was not indeed a horrible dream. Oh no, it was very, very real. Many unanswered questions plagued Hermione’s mind; For one, where the hell was she? Secondly, how did she end up here, a place never heard of? And how was she going to get away? Thirdly, why had she never learned of such a creature as the apparent “master” of the castle? Also, there was obviously some sort of magical involvement concerning the situation for the elf with the strange markings on his chest had spoken of a curse. What curse? Trying to think logically, Hermione grabbed a quill and ink and began scribbling on a piece of parchment. CLUES TO THE MYSTERY That seemed to be a fitting title. So what were her clues so far? INVOLVEMENT OF A CURSE- EFFECTS KNOWN: CREATED MOVING CLOCK ON ELF’S CHEST. DON’T KNOW THE MEANING OR SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS. Hmmm, that won’t be enough to help. What else? WHAT I’VE BEEN TOLD ALREADY: THERE WERE APPARENTLY MANY MASTERS LIVING HERE ORIGIONALY THIS LEADS TO THE UNUSUAL LANGUAGE SPOKEN BY THE ELVES. THEY SPEAK MUCH BETTER ENGLISH THAN OTHER ELVES I HAD EVER ENCOUNTERED. OBVIOUSLY, THE MASTERS HAD TRAINED THEM TO BE LIKE THAT AND WOULD HAVE THEMSELVES BEEN POMPOUS AND WEALTHY PEOPLE, APART FROM THE OBVIOUSE FACT THAT THE CASTLE IS VERY OPULENT… THE WHOLE STORY ABOUT THE WOLVES OUTSIDE IS A BIT FISHY. BY THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE ELVES, IT SEEMS THEY WANT ME TO STAY FOR WHATEVER REASON. MY MAGIC DOESN’T WORK THOUGH THIS PLACE IS HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY MAGIC. WHAT COULD BE THE REASON? DOES IT ALSO LINK IN WITH THE CURSE? LEDINY SAID SOMETHING PERCULIAR THIS MORNING…‘It is indeed, though it used to be much more lovely before…it happened.’ WAS SHE TALKING ABOUT THE SECRET CURSE? WHAT ELSE COULD SHE HAVE MEANT? THE MASTER IS APPARENTLY SAD, CAUSING HIM TO BE GRUMPY. WHY IS HE SAD? WHEN QUESTIONED ABOUT IT, LEDINY REFUSED TO ANSWER SAYING, ‘I am not sure I am allowed to say.’ That was not the first time a question has been dismissed, Hermione mused. Could the beast’s sadness also be related to the curse? One more thought entered her mind and she quickly wrote it down… THOUGH THE MASTER (WHO REMAINS UNNAMED (?)) APPEARS IN THE SHAPE OF A LARGE BEAST, IT IS PERCULIAR THAT HE SHOULD ACT WITH SUCH HUMANLIKE MANNERISMS. WAS HE ALSO TRAINED BY OTHER MASTERS? BUT WHY IS HE THE MASTER NOW? Hermione dropped the quill and read over the sheet of parchment. There was far too little information to begin a solid theory but she wasn’t known as the cleverest witch that had ever attended Hogwarts for nothing. Words began to spring out of the page. CURSE >SAD >HUMAN With a trembling hand, Hermione shoved the piece of parchment under her pillow. It wasn’t time to be concentrating on such a complex puzzle. Obviously her mind was tired and therefore creating silly imaginative conjectures and theories. How asinine to think that for a moment she almost believed the beast could be human. What a ridiculous prospect. Ha! She laughed at herself, dismissing the idea from her mind. She tried to be a little too clever sometimes, trying to solve life’s wonders. Well she had to be careful not to let her mind travel too far. No, she would wait until the morrow before continuing her quest. With the knowledge that she was trapped in the castle for who knows how long, looking for clues would be the perfect way to spend her time. And if she was lucky, maybe something positive would come of it all. After all, everything happens for a reason. Maybe she could even help cure the beast of his depression. Because although she felt afraid of the creature, there was something about him that was…different. Something about his energy projected feelings that were difficult to discern. It was almost as if his soul was searching for something. But what? Yawning, Hermione extinguished the candle beside the bed. She practiced a few breathing techniques in order to rid herself of all these crazy thoughts. -- ‘Master, what is the matter?’ Asked the loyal house elf Bardy, his expression showing consternation for his master. He was right to feel concerned, for the beast was pacing to and fro across the flaming hearth unable to sit still and be calm. ‘Nothing’s the matter.’ The beast snapped in his usual manner. It was now quite late at night and the beast had not set foot out of his spacious bedroom. This was not unusual but he rarely seemed so troubled about anything. ‘Bardy is aware that master is not telling the truth. Come now, master can surely tell his problems to his faithful servant?’ The intelligent elf said coaxingly. The beast sighed and ran his paw-like hand through the matted fur on top of his misshapen head. ‘If you’re so wise then perhaps you can guess what is bothering me.’ ‘It is the lady?’ The elf predicted. The beast’s eyes narrowed and a soft growl escaped the tight chasm that was his mouth. ‘You guess correctly. It is the girl.’ The elf shook his head bewilderedly. ‘What could possibly be the matter with her? She is kind natured and good looking, at least from the perspective of a humble elf. Is it that you are afraid of love perhaps?’ ‘No! It is that I know her and she knows me. At least, she knows the old me.’ The beast said savagely. The elf’s eyes widened. ‘But surely that is a good thing. It will make your task easier!’ ‘You don’t understand, we went to Hogwarts together. She was the friend of my enemy, and furthermore, a muggle born. There couldn’t have been a worse person to have come here, don’t you see? This won’t work!’ The beast continued pacing fiercely, eyes blazing in concurrent accord with the intense flames that illuminated part of his hideous face and cast the other in shadow. The elf gazed gravely at the beast, ready to give his advice as he had always done. ‘Master, your school days are past and both you and the Lady have matured. If you cannot forget your asinine prejudices that were once forced upon you by your parents then everything is failed and perhaps it is your right to suffer the consequences. I am sure that by acting appropriately, the Lady will forgive you for she has a good heart. If you are too weak to cast aside your ego, then by all means, let yourself plummet into the darkness of death. It is your choice. I am not entirely sure of how a human’s mind works, but to an elf, life is much more sacred.’ The beast had stopped by now and was staring intently at the hearth, listening to the wise words of the old elf. He tried to feel defiance toward Bardy but could not disregard the truth in his words. Life was in fact quite precious to the beast and even the task that lay before him was preferable than dying. He must forget his old feelings toward Hermione, though it ground at him. All he had to do was make her fall in love with him, not that he would fall for her. Then the curse would be lifted and he would never have to see her again. ‘You are right my old friend.’ The beast said after a long pause. ‘Why waste my life because of a silly obstacle that could be easily overcome.’ ‘You will let her remain then?’ Bardy asked, already knowing the answer. ‘Of course. She must remain here until the curse is lifted and she will be treated like a proper guest. Make her feel welcome and homely so that she will enjoy her experience. Then she will easily fall into my trap.’ The beast said with an awkward grin that exposed two top pointed teeth. Bardy bowed low and left the room silently to allow the beast time to think. He only hoped that the Lady would respond to the master’s charm and quickly fall in love with him. The plan would have to be quickly wrought out, for only three red luscious petals remained loosely attached to the cursed flower. The following couple of days were surprisingly splendid for Hermione. The weather was perfect but she hardly spent any time in the sun. Her mind was well spent on her task. She hadn’t found much to satisfy her thirst for knowledge but she did manage to add a little more to her clues list. Upon encountering the elf that had the strange chest markings, Hermione had found difficulty in acquiring any specific information. All she could decipher from his mumbling tones was that the clock was a reminder of TIME, which was running out or something. His words were very confusing to understand and shortly the nervous fellow had, again, disregarded her questions and made some excuse to take his leave. Apart from that incommodious encounter, Hermione had spent an unanticipated amount of time with the beast. It seemed he truly wanted to make her feel like a welcome guest and his peculiar mood from their first talk together was quickly placed at the back of Hermione’s mind. It isn’t to say she had forgotten about her real life or her despair of being away from home and not knowing when she was to return. She was still wary of the beast and his servants, though they were on constant good behaviour. But she had to adjust to her surroundings, as she had no other choice. So while in the company of others, she acted merrily and unsuspiciously, enjoying the comforts that were offered to her. But in privacy, her own investigations and curiosity were unleashed as she sunk deeper into the mystery. -- ‘You must go outside sometimes, especially in this glorious weather!’ Hermione said cheerfully. The beast grumbled and stepped away from the light that was entering in from the window in the dining room. Two elves disappeared into the kitchen with the breakfast dishes, leaving the two alone at last. ‘I don’t like it.’ ‘Why not?’ Hermione asked. ‘Because, it’s too…happy.’ He said lamely. Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ ‘You ask too many questions, you know that?’ Hermione hid a laugh. ‘I do not.’ ‘Do too.’ She was about to reply with another ‘do not’ but stopped herself when a vision of her and Ron bickering entered her mind. In was rather childish. ‘I am going for a walk this morning if you care to join me?’ She offered. He raised his eyebrow. ‘Now you sound like you’re the master of this castle.’ ‘Is that a yes?’ With a final moan of resignation (though it hadn’t taken much persuasion) he agreed to take a brave step into the sun. ‘Argh, it’s hot.’ The beast huffed. ‘It’s lovely. I suppose all that fur must feel like a winter coat.’ Hermione replied sympathetically. The beast nodded but Hermione could tell that he was uncomfortable talking about his condition, for whatever reason. So she changed the subject. ‘If only these gardens were being cared for, they would look absolutely splendid!’ She exclaimed. It was rather a shame to let it all go to waste. ‘As you probably know, elves are not accustomed to garden life and I certainly don’t spend time here. If you want it looking nice so badly, it’s yours to rescue.’ He said in an almost bored tone. This gave Hermione a slight rush of elation at the prospect of yet another challenge. She loved challenges. ‘Thankyou.’ ‘Well look, it isn’t all that bad. There are flowers already growing in some areas.’ He pointed to a few clusters of green where flowers were indeed growing. ‘See there are…those pink ones…and the yellow ones too.’ ‘Rhododendrons and day lilies.’ Hermione corrected. ‘Yeah. Those.’ ‘Oh! Winter jasmines.’ Hermione rushed over and picked a stem of these flowers and smelled them with pleasure written all over her face. ‘Have you smelled these?’ The beast stepped away. ‘No, they’re just flowers.’ Hermione let her jaw drop. ‘Just flowers?! How could you mean that?’ But then, upon seeing his expression, another thought came to mind. ‘Oh wait, you can smell can’t you?’ His eyes widened with surprise at her assumption. ‘Yes, of course I can smell. I just don’t really care about flowers. They are a girl thing.’ ‘A girl thing?’ Hermione couldn’t believe her ears. This beast reminded her of young boys who hated pink and believed in “girl germs”. It struck her again how curiously humanlike the beast was. She walked straight up to him. ‘Here, smell them.’ He paused before taking a tiny sniff of the flower, only to please the demanding girl. All of a sudden he began huffing and puffing. Hermione was stunned and didn’t know what to do. ‘Are you all right? Oh, no! Are you allergic?’ All at once he too a huge breathe in and let out a huge sneeze. ‘Bless you.’ Hermione said, almost in relief. It was only hay fever. The beast practically recoiled at her words. ‘Please, I don’t need blessings.’ He was about to say more but was cut off by another fit of sneezes. ‘See why I don’t go outside?’ He said grumpily. Hermione giggled as she followed the beast back inside. What a whinger! You can see why she acted comfortably around the beast; he was completely harmless. He behaved more like a grumpy old man than a scary monster. The reason he lived in hiding was obviously because the rest of world would see him as evil and be afraid of his looks, and probably kill him. At least, that’s what Hermione assumed. And so it was, everyday the beast treated Hermione to a wonderful time. When in her company he continuously had to fight back the knowledge of who she was and remind himself that things were different now. He hated his father and the cult of evil worshippers that he had belonged to. He hated everyone, good or evil. So it made no difference what girl had ended up at his castle, just that this was an awful coincidence. But despite their differences, the beast realised that he too enjoyed her company. He also realised just how different Hermione had turned out to be. Instead of being the snobbish “know-it-all” girl from Hogwarts, she was kind, gentle spirited and genuinely trying to be friendly to him even though he must look completely hideous. He even found himself warming to her looks. Not that it meant anything; it was only natural to take in account a person’s looks. Another thing that kept him in better spirits than he had been in for a long time was the fact that he felt a friendship forming. Not only was it a foreign sensation to have a genuine friendship, but he realised this was the first step to his ultimate goal. Was it really possible for her to fall in love with him?

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