Chapter 15 : CHAPTER 12: FIGHT OR FLIGHT
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“Despite my plea, you chose to save my life, sacrificing the child that could have grown up to take his or her father’s mantle.” Firenze said sadly. “You also bonded your life to mine and mine to yours thus sealing our fate together.”
“Yet the stars are telling you that we must part?” Susan asked. “Remember that if you die so will I. The same goes to you if I die. It makes more sense for us to be together to protect each other in such a perilous time.”
“You have a destiny brighter than this forest, Susan. Remember that when your time comes. Remember also that happiness, no matter how fleeting it may be is still the sweetest ambrosia of life. Remember that when you are finally faced with deciding between what is easy and what is hard.”
“Harry once chose to face what is hard and looked what happened to him.” Susan said bitterly
“As I have told my kind before: the stars are explicit in their message. I don’t know what it means or how it is possible but Harry Potter era has not yet come to an end.”
Harry and Luna apparated with a soft pop near the center of Hogsmeade Village. Luna has opted not to hide under the cloak while Harry was forced to in cases somebody spotted them arriving. Through the cloak, Harry looked around and sighed in relief. If Luna is right and that Voldemort has taken over the world then the village has so far escaped his wrath. The historical village is the same as Harry remembers it.
Luna coughed, signaling him to follow her. He walked dutifully behind her, glad that it hasn’t snowed yet or else they would be leaving two tracks. As Luna guided him toward a familiar shop, Harry tried to wrack his mind and force it to remember things that Luna said he had forgotten. But try as he might, no memory flooded through him except for those until he reached the end of his fifth year when he and Luna shared a night.
He still can’t believe that that happened not to mention they did it again in her bed to help him regain his memory. Looking at Luna, she is still the same loony Luna he had met in Hogwarts yet he had earned a new profound respect for her. Harry knew that where ever this might lead them, he will always have a soft spot in his heart for her.
Luna looked up at a familiar looking sign of a pig’s head before walking toward the back of the inn. Confidently, Luna slammed her dainty fist twice on the back door. She waited for a few minutes before trying again.
Harry was already losing hope that someone was inside when they heard rustling from inside and light shown through the slit at bottom of the door.
Luna pounded on the door again.
“Wait you bloody fool!” A grumpy voice shouted before the door was yanked open by an obviously newly awakened Aberforth, his wand already out. “I told you before I don’t want any…” He stopped when he saw Luna looking at him calmly though a little bit dazed.
“Didn’t wake up well?” She asked dazedly. “Perhaps a manticoola was buzzing over you while you were sleeping. They tend not to give you a good sleep.”
“I didn’t wake up well because you were stupid enough to come here in the middle of the night.” Aberforth almost shouted. “Do you know how dangerous it is to travel at night at a time like these? As if you didn’t learn enough during your experience before…”
“Can I come in?” Luna interrupted him. “It is after all, dangerous out here.”
Aberforth opened and closed his mouth like a fist out of water, looking incredulously at Luna. Without waiting for an answer Luna stepped forward, forcing Aberforth to step aside. Harry rushed in quickly after her, barely avoiding the door being shut closed by Aberforth.
“What do I owe for this late night visit?” Aberforth asked. “Is your father angling for a scoop on what is going down in the Forbidden Forest right now?”
“What is going in the forest right now?” Luna asked. Harry believes the Hallow is pulling him to the Forbidden Forest because ever since he had regained partial memories, he can’t stop thinking of the forest. What ever is happening there directly affects their plans.
“The death eaters are finally making a move against Hagrid and the centaurs. And with the number I saw Macnair leads into the forest, I doubt Hagrid can hold their ground before the nights end.”
“And where does your allegiance lies, Aberforth?” Luna asked. “You know a lot but you are not there either to protect the centaurs or to exterminate them.”
“I know a lot because the death eaters like to hang out in the Hogs Head, dimwit. They talk when they are drunk.” Aberforth muttered as he prepared food for Luna. “You should eat. You should at least not be hungry at a sad night like this. One by one, the last remnant of Potter’s supporters are being buried to the ground. Tonight, they will be able to do that to one of the biggest Potter settlements.”
“Do you still believe in him? Harry Potter I mean.” Luna asked.
“He is dead.” Aberforth replied sadly, sitting down heavily. “Despite what my brother’s portrait or his followers say, we just need to survive and hope that someday someone stronger come along to challenge the Dark Lord and finally win.”
“Do you believe in him?” Luna asked insistently.
“I believe in what he stood for.” Aberforth looked at Luna. “I believe in what he fought for.”
“Then why are you not with Hagrid?” Luna asked.
“I also believe we have lost our chance when he died. It is foolish right now to stand against the Dark Lord.” Aberforth sighed. “Especially with a dwindling Potter die-hards and a scattered resistance…”
“If we can unite all of the resistance, will you fight with us?” Luna asked more.
“You are dreaming. No one, not even the memory of my brother or Potter’s can unite us all…especially with the Dark Lord’s propaganda machine working overtime.”
“But if we could…”
“My brother and his followers are already planning a last stand…that I know much. But they are foolish. To think they could accomplish anything without a figurehead to unite them. They will be together but not united…” Aberforth finally answered. “But if given a chance…if you could orchestrate another one last stand…if you could provide us with someone to rally on, I’ll stand by you.”
“Then you better prepare food for two…” Luna smiled.
“Why…?” Aberforth’s jaw dropped when Harry pulled off the cloak.
“Your plan is unraveling on you, Dumbledore.” Slughorn muttered as he stared out of the headmaster’s window, wincing as myriad colors fly out of the Forbidden Forest.
“Why so, Horace?” Dumbledore asked.
“The Carrows are on the prowl looking for the DA forcing Roberts and the others to suspend their training. Now, Macnair has launched a full assault on the Forbidden Forest. I doubt if Hagrid will be able to withstand such an assault. Without Hagrid’s people and without the DA…”
“We still have hope Horace.”
“It is over Dumbledore.” Slughorn sighed, slumping on his chair. “Let us accept it. We were just fooling ourselves. Without Harry…the Dark Lord now reigns supreme.”
“Has his death affected you so much?” Dumbledore asked kindly.
“Ever since he died I was force to betray my friends and brew potions to make them suffer.” Slughorn buried his face on his hands. “Most of all, I am helpless as my students are tortured and forced to perform unforgivable curses…so yes, Dumbledore. His death has affected me so much.”
“I did more than that when he was still alive.” Snape sneered.
“I am sorry if I don’t have your fortitude, Severus.”
“Now is not the time to show divisiveness.” It was Phineas Nigellus Black who spoke. “Amando, have you talked to Minerva?”
“Kingsley has already left Rowena’s Nook.” Dippet replied. After Hogwarts, he has retired to the secluded village. As such, he has his own portrait there. “Minerva and the others are preparing to move out as well.”
“It is too early…” Snape shook his head. “Once they secured the Forest, they will need to hole up until we here are ready to declare ourselves.”
“And the snake?” Slughorn asked.
“I have talked to Xenophilius about that matter.” Dumbledore finally spoke up. “He said his plan has come into fruition. He told us not to worry. The snake will eventually be taken care of.”
“Why are we going to a warzone again?” Aberforth asked as they slowly trekked toward the center of the Forbidden Forest. He had been asked to safeguard Harry until he reaches their target. “This is stupid. We can’t lose him now that he is back.”
“Because Harry needs to find someone there.” Luna replied calmly.
Harry walked between them still hidden under his invisibility cloak. Now that he is close, he could feel the pull more strongly now. It is so strong that he wanted to run, to leave Luna and Aberforth behind.
He does not understand this pull or what the Hallows are but Luna says it is important and that he will understand more once he regained all his memories.
“And no one must know he is alive?” Aberforth asked. It was a shock to find out that Harry Potter is still alive. For a moment hope soared through his tired, old body before Luna broke the disappointing news. The boy is in no condition to fight. He has survived death at expense of his memories.
“Only until he regains his memories.” Luna replied serenely,
“Are we certain about that?” Aberforth insisted.
“I already regained some of it.” Harry whispered beside him. “It will only be a matter of time before I recover all…”
They stopped when the earth shook and leaves rained on them.
“We are getting closer.” Aberforth looked around for any sign of death eater stragglers. “Where to, Harry?”
“Left…” Harry replied, feeling the pull getting stronger. “So closed…”
“Susan…” Firenze turned to her as their world is turned upside down. The attack has come just an hour after Hagrid left to check on the sentries. Fires have shot out of the darkness to burn the trees. The centaurs and some of the settlers tried to quench the fires while others rushed on to face their attackers.
To their dismay, they found themselves face to face with dragons and various magical creatures all bent on destroying them.
“You must leave now, Susan.” Firenze said as he shot an arrow at one of the death eaters. “It is no longer safe for you to be here. Somehow Walden Macnair has learned to control these creatures.”
“I will not leave you behind.” Susan said through gritted teeth as she took down a big dog-like creature. “Remember our connection.”
“The stars have predicted this. It also says that your destiny does not lie here amongst the trees.” Firenze spoke calmly despite the madness around them. Not far, a burning tree fell on top of makeshift dwellings.
“There are too many of them!” Hagrid shouted as he run toward them, carrying a wounded Dean Thomas. “There are so many death eaters and rampaging creatures. They over run the sentries before we could warn you lot.”
“We need to evacuate…” Dean said weakly, half of his face is covered in blood. “Half of my team has fallen against the ridge-back green dragon even before we could organize any defenses then came the horde of death eaters surrounded by creatures, some I have never seen before.”
“I agree with Dean.” Hagrid muttered, his face covered in soot. “We need to evacuate now.”
“Then do what you must, Hagrid.” Firenze spoke but he was not looking at the half giant. He has only eyes for Susan who was staring at him too. “But the centaurs will not leave our ancestral land. We will make a last stand. We will buy you time to flee. We could do that much for you.”
“I am staying with you.” Susan said firmly.
“It would be suicide, Firenze.” Hagrid said before Susan raised a shield to deflect an errant spell. “There are far too many of them for you…”
“You better get to it, Hagrid.” Firenze turned toward the outskirt of the settlement where three dragons have just landed. Behind it swarmed a horde of multitude creatures. He spotted Macnair not far behind, dividing the death eaters into groups. “The whole defenses have fallen.”
They heard a horn blows before the ground shook from dozens of centaurs led by Magorian charging toward the invaders. Behind them, some of the settlers tried to catch up firing spells and curses against the dragons.
“Susan, I need you to go check the south side of the settlement.” Firenze turned to her.
“Most of the settlers’ young ones are kept there. Make sure they are given ample protection while Hagrid organize an evacuation. Once they are secure, you may come back here to help me fight these invaders.”
“Be…” Without warning, Hagrid picked and threw her and Dean away as a massive dragon landed in their midst.
“Begone foul creatures!” Firenze, with his front legs raised high, shot an arrow straight into the dragon’s eyes. The dragon roared and was about to breath fire on him when Hagrid slammed his massive shoulder on its side, pushing it away from the centaur, its blast of fire arching into the sky, burning more trees around them.
“Repel these foul creatures!” Bane shouted as his forces collided with the invaders. Many a creature was trampled under the centaurs’ hooves even as some of the settlers struggled with Macnair and his death eaters.
“Must I do all the jobs?” Macnair hollered as he used his axe to fight off the settlers. He evaded an arrow before striking a centaur in the side with his axe. He smiled in satisfaction as the centaur fell on the ground bleeding.
He pulled out a whistle that was hanging on his neck and used it to signal the dragons. The dragons roared in responses, burning more trees.
“Destroy them all!” He shouted. With all the creatures roaring, howling and shrieking, he did not even hear the soft ‘pop’ behind him until it was too late. Macnair’s eyes rolled in its sockets as he fell down unconscious on top of the centaur victim.
“Thanks the stars I didn’t kill you. That is twice I spared your sorry ass.” Ron smirked as he spat on the fallen death eaters before turning toward the dragons. “Anne, you are with me. The rest of you, take them all down!” He and Anne had left Rowena’s Nook two days after they had delivered Kingsley safely. They were also forced to leave Katrina behind to give her time to recuperate. They had spent the last few days gathering their ragtag forces.
Running unafraid toward the dragon, the man whom everybody called Tempest jumped; turned in mid air and disapparated only to appear spread eagled above one of the dragon. Anne could only look in awe as massive chain snaked from Ron’s wand. It wound around the snout of the dragon. Grabbing the chain, Ron used his downward momentum to pull it tight. His wand glowed again, pushing him upward. Still holding on to the chain, he looped around the dragon’s feet.
“Now!” Ron shouted as he landed, rolling not far away.
Anne shot the dragon with a conjunctivitus spell. As expected the dragon tried to attack her only to trip on the chains and fell on the ground. Almost losing her balance as the ground shook from the impact of the dragon’s fall, she run toward the reptile’s neck, her wand raised high, a scythe-like beam projected from it. With a shriek, she jumped high while bringing down the scythe beam on the scaled neck, severing it from its body.
“Two more!” Ron shouted as he run pass her, already starting the same maneuver on the next dragon.
“How I wish the Tail is here instead of me.” Anne rolled her eyes, before swiping dragon’s blood off her brows. She was caked in it as the severed neck was still spraying blood all over her.
“Anne!” Ron shouted as he appeared spread eagled above his target dragon.
“I’m coming!” She shouted back exasperatedly.
Not far from them, Hagrid has his arm lock around a dragon’s neck while its tail has snaked around his waist, each trying to choke one another. Firenze kept firing arrows on the dragon’s body even as he looked around in wonder as more member of the ragtag rebellion came to their rescue. The tide has somehow shifted. Already one dragon is down while a lot of the magical creatures are slowly being pushed back to the edge of the settlement, some are regretfully killed.
“It is not their fault.” He murmured as he watched Hagrid twisted the dragon’s neck with a massive effort, breaking it. Hagrid fell on the ground exhausted, not even bothering to remove the limped tail still wound around him. “Walden Macnair must have found away to control them.”
“Such a waste!” Hagrid huffed as they saw more magical creatures fell. He was about to stand up when Kingsley appeared with a soft pop not far from here.
“What a mess you have here, Hagrid.” Kingsley joked as he surveyed the scene. By his stand, you couldn’t see any trace of the torture he suffered during his brief spell of captivity. “It is a good thing that Poppy has golden hands when it comes to healing. Not to mention how reliable Ron is as second in command.”
“Thanks for the save.” Hagrid finally stood up. “We were already thinking of evacuating, didn’t we Firenze?” Hagrid turned to the centaur but Firenze was not paying attention to them. He was staring where Hagrid had thrown Susan when the Dragon attacked. Dean was there, lying unconscious against a tree.
“Where is Susan?” Hagrid asked looking around, knowing the woman would not leave Firenze behind.
“Perhaps to meet her destiny.” Firenze murmured before cantering off pass Dean Thomas and into the woods.
“What was that all about?” Kingsley asked.
“I don’t understand it myself.” Hagrid replied shaking his head. Much is happening for them to be worried about the unusual paring of human and centaur. “Now, how about you help me throw these bloody blokes off the forest?”
“My pleasure.” Kingsley smiled as he pulled out his wand. “It is payback time!”
disclaimer: everything belongs to jk rowling
next chapter: Unwanted Passion (hope this get pass validation without any problem ha3x)
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