Rose crept down the hall with Luna.
"Do you have a plan, then?" asked Rose.
"Harry might be willing to help if we could get him alone, but I don't know if we can manage that," said Luna. "But no matter. If we find the right Gryffindors to help, we'll be all right."
"What do you mean, Gryffindors?"
"It's a school house. I'm in Ravenclaw, but I think I know a couple of Gryffindors whose hearts will be in the right place. The other Ravenclaws might think I was making it up-- they're very smart but not so perceptive. They wouldn't even listen to me about nargles at holiday time. I don't usually mind very much, but since this is so important..."
"So what are we going to ask these Gryffindors to do?"
Luna smiled. "What they like to do best, of course."
* * * *
Madam Pomfrey rushed outside to investigate and followed the continued around the corner, following the loud noises as the receded in the distance down the long corridor. She could see plumes of smoke, in red, yellow, and blue filling the hallway. It didn't look quite so bad as it had sounded, and she turned to go back to the Hospital Wing. Trying to pick up one foot, she found that she couldn't-- it was stuck to a massive swath of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum bubbles. Looking up again, she saw that the direction she'd come from was now blocked by a large Licorice Wand fence. A prank! And just when she had a mysterious patient to examine. Pulling out her wand, she attempted some dissolving charms on the gum, but it only made the sticky substance change colors. She continued her attempts to banish the gum, with little success.
Around the corner, two tall red-headed boys grinned as they slapped high-fives. "We must remember to thank Luna for the idea," said one of them. "I've been wanting to test out our Sweet Snare."
Rose burst into the Hospital Wing, and, seeing the Doctor stretched out on a bed, rushed over to him. She swept his unconscious frame into a tight hug.
"No prizes for squeezing me into a pancake," said a sleepy voice.
Rose pulled back, a huge smile spreading across her face. "Oh, Doctor, I was so worried! They zapped you with that stick and you didn't move, even when they floated you in the air."
She pulled him close again. He slowly lifted one arm to hug her back, while stroking her hair with the other hand. "It's all right, Rose. I'm here and ok."
"But I thought we were on Earth-- how could they zap you like that then?"
"I'm not sure-- I haven't exactly had time to poke around. Perhaps we've stumbled into a sort of cult with advanced technology." He sat up straighter. "We should get moving, in case they come back."
"We've got a little time. I found some help to get them out of the room for a while."
"Fantastic." He swung his feet around the side of the bed and stood up. Almost immediately, he started falling over again, and Rose stepped closer to hold him up.
"It's all right-- just have to get land legs again. That floating you mentioned seems to have thrown off my equilibrium." Gingerly, he took a few small steps. "There we are. Good to go. Now, how do we get out?"
"Luna's going to take us back to the door."
"She got some friends of hers to make a distraction so I could get in here. We didn't want to confuse you right off with another new face, so she's waiting outside."
"Let's not keep her waiting, then."
Scooping up his belongings from the table, he smiled. "Hope I confused them with this lot. Doesn't look like anything's missing."
He began walking to the door with a spring in his step. "See? Just needed a moment. All better now."
As they reached the door, Luna peeked around the doorframe. "They're coming back. We need to go-- if we run into Professor Snape, he'll be angrier than a nargle without its mistletoe."
The Doctor nodded gravely, and the three hurried down the corridor. They stopped at a statue of a one-eyed witch, and Luna tapped it with her wand, saying, "Dissendium." A passageway opened up behind the statue, and they dived inside moments before four figures walked past.
"Feeling better, Madam Pomfrey?" asked Dumbledore.
"Yes, but those Weasley twins will be the death of me."
They stopped at the entrance to the Hospital Wing. The doors were open, and the room appeared empty, with the exception of an owl. It flew over to Dumbledore, offering him the letter tied to its talon.
"He was passed out cold a moment ago-- it shouldn't be possible for him to have recovered enough to make a run for it," said Madam Pomfrey.
"What does your letter say, Professor?" asked Harry.
Dumbledore looked up, lost in thought. "It appears that Mr. Crouch is indeed at Azkaban and completely soulless. The man who was here could not have been him."
"Could he have been Polyjuiced to look like Crouch?" asked Harry.
"No," sputtered Snape angrily. "I saw him for more than an hour straight. It would have worn off."
"So he was just a confused Muggle?"
"It appears so," said Dumbledore.
"There's just one other thing, Headmaster," said Madam Pomfrey. "When I went to examine him, there was something very strange about his physiology. The diagnostic charms were acting very strange, so I went to take his pulse the Muggle way-- and I would swear I felt two distinct heartbeats from either side of his chest."
"That's impossible," said Harry. "I mean, with Muggles and wizards, neither has two hearts, so what could he be? An alien?"
"Quite a fanciful explanation, Harry. Sometimes life is unexplainable by science or magic. We may never know, but I wouldn't be terribly concerned. It's much more likely that either Madam Pomfrey, despite her skills, made a mistake or that our visitor had some sort of health condition that gave the appearance of two heartbeats." He walked over to the window and stared at the sky. "Still Harry, as you have discovered, anything is possible."
"Rose and I, we can't thank you enough," said the Doctor.
"You needed help. And Rose seemed very trustworthy."
"How did you know that? We could have been a couple of nutters; I might have been taken away by those people for a good reason," said the Doctor.
"It was her aura and her protectiveness of you. Those who exude evil rarely care about the safety of another, even an ally. They just want something from them. Rose could easily have stolen whatever possessions of yours she wanted and not woken you up at all. But she didn't even notice your things; I saw her face from the doorway. As soon as you woke, she looked as though someone had handed her the world."
Hearing Luna's unselfconscious description of her reaction to the Doctor, Rose felt a blush creeping over her cheeks. Luna continued, "You can't hide evil, but you can't hide love either."
By now, the Doctor was fidgeting as well. "What do you mean by her aura?"
"The contrast in nature. The Bad Wolf who fights to be good."
The Doctor's eyes widened at that revelation, but Rose softly touched his arm and whispered, "It's ok; don't worry about it."
Clearing his throat, the Doctor said, "All right, lovely to escape from captivity with you, but we'd best be off. Will you be all right, Luna?"
"Oh, yes. We're not a fortress here or anything. It's just a school; they've got hundreds of students to keep track of-- no one will even know I helped."
"Right then, we'll be off," said the Doctor.
They turned to walk back to the TARDIS through the muddy field. Rose stopped and looked back, but Luna had already gone.
"Maybe this next school will be easier-- no people zapping you with sticks or acting all crazy," said Rose.
"Either way, we'll work out a plan together. Don't want you to have to rescue me too often," said the Doctor, putting his arm around her shoulders as they walked. "Might get too routine. Let's vow never to get boring."
"Oh, I've just remembered."
"We never did ask about their chips."