Mercy by hogwartsbookworm
Summary: If you knew that the consequence of doing the right thing might be torture, or even death, would you still do it?

This story was inspired by something Neville said in passing. “…And then Michael Corner went and got caught releasing a first year they’d [the Carrows] chained up, and they tortured him pretty badly…”

This is the untold tale of an unsung hero: Michael Corner.
Categories: Dark/Angsty Fics Characters: None
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 1758 Read: 1850 Published: 11/27/10 Updated: 11/28/10

Story Notes:
The quote in the summary is from Deathly Hallows, p. 575.

1. Choices by hogwartsbookworm

Choices by hogwartsbookworm
Author's Notes:
This is for Elene, who encouraged me to lengthen this from drabble to one-shot.

...

Michael shivered beneath his blankets, staring at the ceiling. Though fully dressed and covered by a thick comforter, he could not seem to get warm. Thoughts of what he was planning to do filled his head, sending cold adrenaline through his veins, chilling him.

He didn’t have to go. He didn’t have to sacrifice his sleep and safety. He didn’t have to creep through shadow- and fear-filled corridors, down to dungeons that stank of pain and despair. He didn’t have to care about the little Hufflepuff. She wasn’t a friend of his, she wasn’t related to any friend of his, she wasn’t even in his house! She was just a tiny thing with yellow braids. She should have no possible claim on his loyalty.

But she did.

Because she was another person, capable of thought and emotion, just as he was, caught alongside him in the frightful mess that Hogwarts had become. Because she didn’t deserve to be punished; she hadn’t done anything wrong.

Hannah Abbot, her round face red with anger, had told him the little girl’s alleged ‘crime’ as they had watched her being taken away to the dungeons. The little first year, it seemed, had complained to one of her tiny classmates that “Professor Carrow shouldn’t be forever giving Slytherin points for no reason.” A fair complaint and one that Michael remembered saying often to own classmates about Snape in happier days. But now she had been dragged away to the dungeons and to who knew what horror awaited her there for it.

Michael could not just watch such injustice without taking action. He could not passively observe as a fellow human being was dragged away “ her shrill voice screaming her innocence, pleading for mercy, tears streaming from her eyes “ and then duck his head and pretend it hadn’t happened. He could not. It went against everything that seventeen years of choices had made him.

He had once heard that important actions were decided in the mind long before they were performed physically. He hadn’t understood it when he had heard it, but now, lying in his bed, contemplating this rash mission of mercy he had assigned himself, he thought he understood.

Because of the many insignificant choices he had made in his life “ the choice to get out of bed and study on a Saturday morning in his second year a month before the exams when his dorm mates were still drooling on their pillows; the choice to offer to tutor a clueless classmate in Transfiguration in his third year; and then the choice to meet every week, without fail, with that rather unlovely personage “ had molded him into the man he was: a man who could not allow such injustice in his beloved school; a man who knew that watching and doing nothing was just as bad as declaring his support of what he saw.

Michael shivered again. If he was caught out of bed at this hour, trying to rescue the little Hufflepuff, he would be lucky if all he received was a few minutes of torture. With the punishments increasing in number and intensity as the Death Eaters tried to squash the students’ rebellion, being caught now could mean permanent disfigurement, or even death. He hadn’t had time or opportunity to discuss this little escapade with any other the other D.A. members. If he died in the dungeons, who would know?

Once more the thought crossed his mind: I don’t have to do it.

But if he didn’t, he would be denying the person he had become, ignoring the true Michael Corner.

Steeling his nerves, Michael threw back the covers and jumped to his feet. He hesitated by his bedside a moment, then, after taking a slow, shaky breath, he crossed the dorm, opened the door, and descended into the night.

Michael’s pulse thudded in his ears. He pressed himself against the wall, trying to stifle the sound of his breathing. There was a slight scuffing noise as Amycus Carrow shifted his position. Michael inched sideways and peered around the corner. There was a small flare of red light as Carrow took a long draw on his pipe.

It was the noxious smell of it that had alerted Michael to the Death Eater’s presence in this corridor. For a moment, Michael felt intensely grateful for the so-called Professor’s nauseating pass-time. Had it not been for the unique smell of burning socks that issued in such copious amounts from Carrow’s pipe, he might have walked around that corner completely unaware of the menace lurking at the end of it.

There was another shuffling footstep, a wheezy sigh, and then Michael heard the Death Eater begin walking down the corridor toward him. Trying to keep his own footsteps as quiet as possible, Michael dashed away from the sound of Carrow’s approach. Just as the dark outline of the squat Death Eater turned the corner, Michael slid through the open doorway of an unused classroom. He stood there, his face hot, his hands very cold, waiting to be caught.

The seconds ticked past. A spider crawled past on the floor by his feet, just a shade darker than the darkness that surrounded him. Michael breathed again.

She was whimpering. Her blonde hair was no longer in braids but straggling loosely around her face. Her arms were stretched high above her head, manacles digging into her wrists. She could not stand on the flats of her feet because of the enforced height her hands were chained at. When Michael approached her, she cringed into the wall, a hoarse cry escaping her throat, “Don’t! Please! Please!” And she relapsed into tearless sobs.

“Shhh, it’s alright. I’m here to get you out. It’s alright… Er, what is your name?”

“M-Mercy… Mercy Peterson,” she whispered. Michael felt a surge of anger as he looked up into her delicate face and saw that it was puffy and red, her eyes swollen. He brushed her inflamed cheek with the tips of his fingers and the little girl, Mercy, shuddered.

“Sorry,” Michael muttered, revulsion rising like bile in his throat. What kind of person could do this sort of thing to a child?

Remembering his mission here, hastily he raised his wand and pointed it at the manacles.

Alohomora!

The manacles sprang open and little Mercy crumpled to the floor. Michael crouched beside her.

“Can you walk?”

Mercy struggled to sit up, then groaned, “I”I don’t think so.”

There was a pattering sound from out in the corridor and Michael jumped and craned his neck to look at the dungeon door. After a full minute of silence pressing on his ears and thumping heart banging against his ribs, Michael decided that he had imagined the noise. He bent over the first year Hufflepuff once more and, with a grunt, hoisted her tiny frame over his shoulder. She stifled a cry and bit her lip.

“It’s alright, Mercy. You’ll be alright. You’re going to be safe soon.”

Michael hoped he was telling the truth.

Michael jogged through the corridors, slipping from moonlight to shadow to moonlight again as he passed a row of windows. Mercy, now unconscious, bounced on his shoulder, free of the fear that was strangling her rescuer. Michael’s breathing was fast and shallow, not because of his tiny burden, nor his pace, but from the chill on the back of his neck, the unshakable feeling that someone was watching.

Heaving the little Hufflepuff into a more comfortable position, Michael quickened his pace. He couldn’t afford to be caught. Not now.

He was just breaking into a run when there was a loud meow, and Filch, accompanied by his mangy cat, Mrs. Norris, emerged from the shadows to block the way. Michael skidded to a halt, his heart thudding in his chest. No!

Gulping for air, adrenaline and fear racing through his veins and setting him trembling, he stared at the caretaker.

How could he have been so stupid? How could he have been arrogant enough to believe that he could save her? He was just another student, nothing special, he was not Harry Potter or Neville Longbottom or Ginny Weasley. And now the tiny girl folded across his shoulder would receive every punishment that was in store for him. He felt her stir slightly, and he squeezed her thin legs, as much to give her courage as to comfort himself. She was so tiny, so frail.

Mrs. Norris circled her master’s feet, mewling. Filch’s red-rimmed eyes bored into Michael’s face. Michael felt his legs shaking. What was the man waiting for? He had him cornered!

Filch drew in a wheezy breath then said in a gruff voice, “Used to be fun. Listening to the troublemakers get their rewards. But this”” Filch’s eyes traveled over the tiny body thrown over Michael’s shoulder. “That child…” Filch’s mouth, set in a grim line, twitched. There was a long silence then, “Get out of my sight before I change my mind and turn you in.”

Filch turned away.

Michael, hardly believing his good luck, ran forward and passed Filch. He paused at the end of the corridor and looked back. Filch was staring at the floor, a silent figure in the dark. Mrs. Norris was watching Michael with large yellow eyes.

“Thank you,” Michael whispered. Filch’s shoulder jerked upward once, and then he hobbled away, slowly, head down. Unable to believe his luck, Michael set off up the new corridor. He was almost to the new entrance to the Room of Requirement when he heard the sound of shuffling footsteps in dark.

“Well, well, well… a Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff. Looks like Slytherin really is the only house with any sense.”

Michael froze.

The pungent order of burning socks grew stronger as Amycus Carrow walked forward. There was a nasty smile on his face, and Michael knew there would be no mercy for him, or for the tiny Hufflepuff of that name.

He was so close to his goal. The Room of Requirement was just around the corner! But if he ran… Carrow had a wand. Michael knew that either he or the little girl on his shoulder were guaranteed to get cursed, and then they would still have been caught.

“I’m sorry, Mercy,” he whispered. A lone tear slid down his face.

End Notes:
I've never done Dark/Angsty before. What did you think?
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