Chapter 4 : The Others
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I never knew it would be possible to have my body contradict itself so absolutely. My mind was numb. Everything was a dream in the swirling nightmare of foggy morning. A solid wall of blankness filled my mind, trying feebly to block out emotions, but every one of my senses was on high alert, ready to detect the slightest whisper of an attack. The only sound that could be heard was the crunching of our feet on the crisp leaves, frozen from the early morning, and every small cloud of mist that came from my mouth when I breathed felt like a beacon, drawing unseen forces toward me. The world was a vast, echoing land of hellish demons, taking the form of cloaked figures, hiding in the trees and concealed by the heavy fog. The sun could have risen, and we wouldn’t have known. Trees shot up on every side of us, sturdy and unchanging in the world that was slowly being consumed by evil. We were foreigners in this land of peace and beauty. It could have been magical and fantastic, but it could never be, for horrid terrors were going to take place in this tranquil place today.
We were on a mission, every single one of us. We were known as the Protectors, and we were a diverse lot, full of Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins. Former enemies united, all fighting to destroy our one common foe; the Others. Many of us liked to think we have information on the Others, and that we have knowledge on the way Their mind works. I know it’s not true. I know it’s a lie. I could only look on the situation in a logical way, and I would not waste my time searching for some hidden hope just so I could pretend we had a chance.
The Others aren’t predictable, and They certainly aren’t human. No being will ever be able to understand Them completely. We know They conceal their faces and their figures with black cloaks. The way They move is human, but the way They fight is not. The trick to fighting one of Them is never to leave your back uncovered, and never drop your guard for an instant. They look for gaps; small weak points that if They find, They will strike, quickly and effectively. The Others jump impossible distances, landing on their victim. So quickly that you can barely see, They stick their poisonous needle like fingers into you, and within a few seconds, you’re gone from this world. They are the product of dreadfully accurate breeding between many creatures. We know of none for certain, and yet we have our own guesses. Dementors, Acromantula, Tebo…it could be a number of things. Whatever the combination, it was deadly and spreading fast.
“Hermione,” the whisper came from my left and I saw Luna gazing around with her orb-like eyes. She turned her wide eyed gaze towards me. “I think They’re invisible. They’re hiding in the trees, watching us.” She began focusing on specific spots in the trees with her perturbing eyes and I shuddered slightly. Luna had grown on me over the years. Normally I found her strange ways of thinking humorous. Now it made me uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but feeling as though she was right, and I felt the piercing gaze of sharp eyes on me, watching as I tucked a curl behind my ear, or clenched my frozen fingers around my wand more tightly. I felt Them analyzing the way we moved, calculating their attack and the most efficient ways to strike.
“I know,” I replied softly after almost a minute of silence. And I did know. I knew that we were out of time, and that we couldn’t just keep walking around in this forest that stretched endlessly on. They were here, and we had to fight. It was time to try and make a difference.
As this realization came on I slowed my walked reluctantly, and heard the many feet following me stop as well in confusion. I waited for a minute, staring down at the leaves, breathing in short bursts as a wave of panic swept over me. I was twenty-two. I was not ready to die. I had barely lived, for God’s sake! Taking a deep breath I tried to put back up the wall in my mind, but this time I couldn’t. Danger was staring me straight in the face, and it was time to confront it.
Ever so slowly, I turned to face the small crowd gathered behind me. They all looked at me with wide eyes, confused but also scared, and I knew they understood that the time had come. And as I took in all their faces, the scene changed. No longer did the clearing seem empty and forlorn. Here were bright pinpricks of hope, love, and reason. These people were the reason I was doing this. They were the reason I was here, fighting for what may very well be a lost cause. But then I realized it didn’t matter, because even if my life had to be given to protect our race, I would do it. This was what was right. Mothers, only slightly older than I was, would be clinging to their newly born children, frightened half to death and just wondering how long they had left with their child. Families were huddled in their homes, waiting in fear, wondering when and not if their time would come. And that was the reason I was doing this. People, all the people I had ever known and some I never would, were the reason Harry, Ron, and I had created this team. Humankind was the reason I had signed up to die. I had made a promise. And Hermione Granger does not break her promises. So I stood up straight and looked around at all the people that had gathered there with me today.
“We all know that this very place is full of Them,” I began, not bothering to speak quietly. They knew we were here now. “And do we have a chance? I see many of you shaking your head, and I just have to say you’re wrong, the lot of you. A good friend of mine once told me that we have something They don’t: something worth fighting for. I’ve found mine, just looking over the faces here. Have you?
“Look at all of us that are gathered here today. Pansy, you and I used to absolutely hate each other. After Voldemort was destroyed and They were created, we found that there actually was something in each other that we could relate to. Blaise, with you as well. Hannah, I never knew you very well either, but here we are. Cho, Luna, Neville, Ginny, Seamus, Dean, we’re all here, fighting for our race. And there are more of us out there at this very moment too.
“So will we back down now? Will we fail our friends and family? No. We will all be brave Gryffindors, wise Ravenclaws, loyal Hufflepuffs, and determined Slytherins. We will fight for what we know is right, and not once back down. We are Protectors, and the time has come to earn our name once more.” I swept over the familiar faces, and slowly saw the fear being replaced with determined expressions.
“Protectors: formation,” I said, giving the final command. Quickly after much practice, we moved into a tight circle, our backs facing towards the center. I tensed as I looked at the trees surrounding the small clearing we had stopped in, and gripped my wand until my knuckles turned white.
Gradually, They became appearing, materializing in spaces that were empty before, and confirming my thoughts that They could turn invisible at will. I stared around as They made a larger, looser circle around the one we had made, and though I couldn’t see behind me, I had a feeling there were fewer of Them than us.
My thoughts shifted to Harry and Ron. Each was leading their own group of Protectors in different locations over the world. I thought of their courage; of Harry’s ability to love practically anybody, of Ron’s ability to lighten the mood of any situation, and I smiled ever so slightly. I would fight for them.
My heart felt like it was swelling with the pride I held for all of us. We’d come so far, and we’d worked so hard. I would not let all of that go to waste.
And so it was me. As the first of Them leapt at me, it was I who shouted the first curse. And it was I whose voice would echo through the trees the most today. I swore on my own life, it would be me.
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