Chapter 25 : Deals with Horsemen
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“What did you do to Al?” James continued to shout as we were being escorted in this caravan of centaurs. James, Fred and I found ourselves in the dead center of their circle and for some reason, James just didn’t understand the circumstances we were in. He seemed to believe that shouting at centaurs was a good idea, when instead it actually wasn’t.
I nudged James for the hundredth time, since we became the centaur’s prisoners, but he ignored me – for the hundredth time.
“What did you do to him? Tell me!” James demanded, now.
Great, I thought as the centaur who took us into custody snapped his head toward James. Anger the already angry centaurs. Way to go James. I doubt James even remembered that Albus came here months ago and currently Albus was probably all snug in his bed. Meanwhile, I was going to get shot with an arrow or two because dear new James seemed braver than dear old James when it came to centaurs – maybe braver wasn’t the word for it…I guess dumber would be a better way to put it.
While James had a somewhat menacing staring contest with the centaur I noticed the centaurs in front of us began slowing and I started to look around for a sign that we were near their leader. Even in my first school days with the Marauders I had never been this deep into the forest. The first James had on one occasion to get Lily, because she had seen us leave the dorm sixth year and well one thing led to another, but after our run in with centaurs our first year, James and I decided secretly never to go in that deep again, unless we had to. We decided not to involve Remus in our deal, because his mothering at the time was annoying and we didn’t want an ‘I told you so,’ from him.
The forest didn’t look like it changed that much. The trees were larger and the light was dimmer, but the centaurs’ torches lit the surrounding area. Even though most of the trees didn’t have leaves anymore because of the season, I couldn’t see the sky. It was almost like the branches molded together so that no light would come through at anytime, day or night.
The soil beneath my feet moved easily and appeared to be soft and loose. I also saw more broken arrows and even movement in the distance, which I was accounting toward the approaching centaur population, at least that’s what I was hoping.
“Fintan!” A centaur appeared out of nowhere and the centaur who was having the staring contest with James looked up.
“What is it?” Fintan sneered.
“Firenze is expecting you, I’m here to take the humans directly to him.” The centaur had a dreamy look in his eyes and a sing-song voice. “We all know what happened last time you were in charge.”
Fintan glared, but didn’t say anything. Fintan began to follow the dreamy centaur and we followed him. The rest of the centaurs remained behind.
“What happened last time!?” James shouted at the Fintan.
Fintan looked back to James. “We shot at a human, but he was protected. So he was given free passage into the forest.”
James looked murderous, but Fintan’s words grabbed my interest. First off, centaurs don’t typically grant passage into their land to just anyone. Second, what protected Al? Third, how many times has Al been into the forest exactly?
I decided to go with the second one, before James could shout anything else at the centaurs.
“What protected him?” I asked Fintan. Fred pulled my robe, trying to get me to take back what I just said. Fred apparently wasn’t as dumb as I thought, because he at least realized the situation we were in and opted to remain silent for the first time since I’ve met him.
Fintan now looked at me and didn’t glare as hard. “The Aodh.”
“The Aodh?” I asked.
“Yes, that is what we call it.” Fintan confirmed and looked straight ahead once more.
James was silent once again and continued to glare at Fintan.
“What exactly is the Aodh?” I asked. I had never heard of anything called Aodh.
“The Aodh is the Aodh.” The dreamy centaur chimed in, obviously overhearing our whole conversation. “It is nothing more or less. Just as a tree is a tree.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.” James’ temper was rising again.
“It makes perfect sense and no sense at all, because there is none to be had.” The dreamy centaur sang to James.
“What does the Aodh look like?” I decided we weren’t getting anywhere with the last question.
“It takes the form of itself.” The dreamy centaur wasn’t giving us anything. I groaned.
“What does the name mean?” Fred spoke up now. Fred had been silent until this point, which was an eerie thing for Fred and meant the situation at hand wasn’t a joking matter. This silence wasn’t shared by his cousin, whom just resorts to shouting at death threats.
Fintan was the one who answered this time instead of the dreamy centaur. “Fire, humans might call it fire.”
Fintan and James now looked at each other once again. James still seemed angry, but Fintan had a sympathetic look on his face.
“It was fire that saved the human, he was chosen by it. Only that human was worthy to tame the fire.” Fintan told James. “The fire is a gift, if you see the human, make sure he isn’t misusing it.”
Fintan now looked ahead as we walked and James looked to me, he seemed a little less mad and more calm now.
“What do they mean fire saved Al?” James asked me.
I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe it was the Phoenix that we saw last time?” Fred mumbled to us.
James and I turned to Fred. “What?” We said together.
“Remember our first trip into the forest, I saw something so we followed it?” Fred whispered to us. We nodded, that was when James found a Phoenix feather and tied it onto his broom. The next day I discovered that he was using the Polyjuice Potion to play Quidditch like the git he is. I wasn’t about to forget that. “Sirius, you told us that Phoenix’s only show themselves to worthy people. Maybe Al was?”
I thought about it for a moment. It made sense for some reason, but my initial instinct was to reject this conclusion because it was coming from Fred and it was possibly the most intelligent thing I’ve ever heard him say.
I slowly thought about it again and nodded.
“We did see burn makes, and centaurs respect all the powers that Phoenix’s possess.” I said slowly. We were now falling a bit behind Fintan and the other centaur. “Al, might have been saved by a Phoenix and might currently be the partner of one.”
This would be ironic. Albus Dumbledore was the last person Fawkes responded to. Now Albus Potter? Who would have thought…
“Partner?” James and Fred asked.
“Phoenixes aren’t really pets, but they choose people they like and wouldn’t mind being with. Partner is the term they use in books.” I explained.
“So…Al has a Phoenix?” James said slowly.
“Possibly?” I shrugged, still uncertain.
“Why wouldn’t he tell me?” James frowned, now apparently his angry was directed at his brother. Oh, James…you’re going to be the second death of me…
“Maybe he wanted you to go pick a fight with the unhappy centaurs that live in the woods?” I glared at him.
“That one horseman isn’t unhappy.” Fred pointed to the centaur leading us. “Just this Fintan horseman.”
“The correct term is centaur, Fred.” I corrected him. “You would do best to remember it. Especially, when they have the sharp and pointy weapons.”
Fred looked at me and frowned. “Horseman describes them better.”
I rolled my eyes and looked ahead of us. The centaurs didn’t seem to want to harm us, but instead we would be taken to ‘Firenze.’ Hopefully, Firenze was as nice as the happy centaur and not like Fintan. I had a feeling that our fate rested in Firenze’s hands and hooves.
After another minute, there was a bright light ahead and we were brought into what appeared to be a centaur village. There wasn’t much there, except for about a hundred or so centaurs and a few fires in which the centaurs gathered.
As soon as we were led into the village, all noise came to an abrupt silence and all eyes were on us. James finally realized the seriousness of the situation and retreated a little closer to me, Fred meanwhile, had a death grip on my arm and wouldn’t let go no matter how many times I told him too.
Fintan and the dreamy, sing-song centaur continued forward into the heart of centaur camp, the centaurs around parted in a wave as soon as we came within a meter or two, but all seemed to gravitate toward us, just maintaining the two meter radius they established. I moved Fred, James and I – both Fred and James now had death grips on me – closer to Fintan and his company. I also felt a fresh wave of worry and decided that it would be best to stay closer to them.
Eventually, Fintan and the nameless centaur came to an abrupt halt and we almost ran into them. Beyond them there were a group of centaurs that appeared very important looking. Why? Well, for starters we were stopped in front of them and they didn’t seem to be moving away. In fact, one made his way toward us and Fintan and the other centaur stepped aside for him.
“Is the one chosen by Aodh here?” The centaur asked Fintan. Fintan shook his head and remained silent. The important looking centaur came closer to us and smiled. “What are your names?”
James was the first to speak, although I want to noted he was cutting off the circulation to my right arm.
“That’s Fred Weasley,” James pointed to his cousin. Fred waved. “Sirius Lee,” I nodded. “And my name is James Potter.”
The important looking centaur froze and looked at James. Before he could speak James spoke up once more.
“My brother was here a few months back and Fintan tells us that he was shot at and then saved. Could you tell us why and what he was saved by?” James actually sounded respectful and not angry anymore. “Fintan tells us it was the Aodh, but we are debating on what that is.”
The centaur smiled. “What is your brother’s name?”
“Albus.” James answered. The centaur smiled more.
“Fitting then, the last to be chosen by the Aodh was also an Albus.” Important centaur informed us. My eyes widen. “Albus Dumbledore to be exact. Those chosen typically have certain qualities and we always grant them access to our forest.”
“Is the Aodh also known as a Phoenix?” I asked.
Important centaur nodded and the line of other important centaurs all shared a look. Another important centaur stepped forward to the first one.
“Firenze, they know too much.” The second important centaur told the first – Firenze.
“Be silent, Bane. The children are fine. Any sons of Harry Potter are welcomed in our forest. We shall also extend the offer to the children that are friends of this James and Albus Potter.” Firenze told second important centaur – Bane.
“Do you think it’s wise to extend your hand to these humans?” Bane looked at us. Firenze followed his gaze.
I heard a grumbled and something that sounded like ‘typical’ come from Fintan, but Bane just looked at us and nodded. “Very well.”
“May I speak now?” James said suddenly. I was surprised at how he actually asked and waited.
Firenze nodded and smiled. “I encourage it.”
“Why was my brother attacked? You’re on friendly terms with humans, right? You even know my father.” James let go on my arm now and I could feel the blood rush down to my fingers.
Firenze frowned now. “I’m truly sorry for that. I ordered all the centaurs to be on watch for suspicious humans in the forest, they were to be brought to me, but young Fintan here went a step too far, sadly.”
“Suspicious humans?” I asked.
Firenze turned to me now. “Yes, there have been incidents. Last year more than this year.”
“What kind of incidents?” James asked now.
“Lone centaurs on patrol being poisoned.” Bane spoke up now. “Memories erased, no creatures in the Forest could be responsible, so we decided to increase the patrol numbers and find the human that had been attacking us.”
“What does the human look like?” I asked.
“We don’t know.” Bane said.
“Then how do you know it’s a human!” James shouted. “Albus could have died because you just decided that all on your own.”
“You would be wise to hold your tongue, human!” Bane shouted back.
“Bane, enough.” Firenze said in a very calm, but scolding voice. Bane glared at James, but turned around and joined the line of other important looking centaurs.
I was impressed with the level of command and leadership Firenze had over all the centaurs. My only other dealings with centaurs were years back with James, Remus and Peter. This seemed to be going better despite how rude James the second was being to them. Firenze fortunately, either ignored this or didn’t mind it. Hopefully, whatever relationship Firenze had with Harry, will be strong enough to get us all out of the forest alive.
Firenze turned back to us after a moment and spoke up again.
“Once again, James Potter, I am truly sorry for the acts we committed against your younger brother. I hope that won’t tarnish your opinion of us, but I do take full responsibility.” Firenze gave James a sad smile.
James nodded and stepped forward to Firenze. “My father told me about you. He holds you with the highest regard…”
“I am honored to be still known by Harry Potter. Our meetings we shared were so long ago I was afraid that he might have forgotten me.” Firenze smiled brightly now. “I hope you will greet him for me. That is, if it doesn’t cause you trouble.”
James smiled too. “I think I can relay the message when my mum’s not around.”
James sighed. “I’m sorry about my temper before. I didn’t mean to be rude to any of you. I just care about my brother…even if I don’t tell him all the time. I worry and I don’t want anything to happen to him. I’m sure you understand with these recent attacks on the centaurs–” Fred mumbled the word ‘horsemen’ from next to me. James took another step forward, “Which is why I will help you.”
I froze. What did James just say?
“I will find the person who poisoned some of your centaurs and I will bring them to justice.” James said heroically. I, on the other hand, groaned internally at this new task James has given himself. And by himself I mean me. “I will expose them to our headmistress and they will never hurt you again. Does that sound fair?”
Firenze looked at James with a smile on his face. I saw Bane give something that might have been an approving nod and Fintan looked at James with an impressed look on his face. The other centaurs all began to murmur to one another and Fred had a wicked expression, telling me that he was excited.
Firenze turned to the other important looking centaurs and then back to James. He took a few steps forward until he was in front of James. He towered over James by more than just a few heads but James met his eyes looking up without any fear.
“James Potter,” Firenze said in a serious voice. He reached out his hand. “I believe we have a deal.”
James grinned and shook Firenze’s hand.
“Why, James?” I grumbled when we finally left Fintan in the burnt clearing. “Why?”
“I just thought it was the right thing to do.” James shrugged as we continued walking to the outskirts of the forest. We had just been given full clearance of the whole forest. Firenze told us to come see him if we needed to go into the northwest borders though. Apparently the acromantula nested there and we should only go with a centaur escort, unless we want to die. James thinks that’s the best place to start, of course, because like I said, he’s going to be the second death of me.
“I personally, think it’s a great idea, James.” Fred smiled at the thought. I rolled my eyes. Fred never believed in great ideas. He believed in the bad ones that sounded fun. For example, it was his idea to go back into the forest and we almost got killed by centaurs. Only luck was on our side and the centaur leader was a Harry Potter fan. Okay, that wasn’t the best way to describe the situation, but still, I maintain that there will be no good that comes from this.
I groaned as we traced our tracks back through the forest and to the castle. It was completely dark out and even with our wands lit I managed to trip and fall over something.
“Are you okay Sirius?” James asked making his way over to me and offering a hand to help me up.
I sat up and leaned back on my hands to rest and wake up from this nightmare.
“Yeah, I’m fine…what the?” My hand landed on something smooth, but pointed. I picked it up and held a bright green, but rather small stone. I held my wand up to it and saw that there was a crack and then etching in the middle of the stone. I think I could make out a triangle and a circle.
“Sirius?” James said impatiently to me, still holding out his hand to help me up.
I quickly pocketed the stone and grabbed James’ hand.
“I’m not allowed to rest?” I grinned at him, but then that grin fell once I remember I was put out with him at the moment.
“Nope, we have a list to make before we go to bed.” James informed me.
“A list?” I asked.
James and Fred nodded like they both already planned this.
“Of suspects, of course.” Fred said cheerfully.
I groaned again.
When we finally got out of the blasted forest Fred insisted that we use the Map now. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it only worked on magical creatures so I handed it to him. I also didn’t think that admitting I was an animagus would help my case with people thinking I was Sirius Lee and not Sirius Black.
Fred dubbed the halls clear and somehow we made it back to the Gryffindor dorms without anyone catching us. I wanted to say it was a miracle, but I also think it was because I was leading us through all the correct secret passageways that only those who have seen the Map know about. Fred was too busy checking the Map to realize I was leading and James, for some reason, didn’t question me.
As we gave the Fat Lady the password and entered the dorm, I thought we were all clear. Just as we reached the stairs to the boys dorm I heard an irritated voice behind us.
“And where have you three been?”
James, Fred and I all jumped and turned around. We relaxed when we saw who it was. Dom and Amelia were sitting by the fireplace with Victoire. Dom was glaring at us and gave us an all knowing look.
“That’s none of your business, Dom.” James glared back at her, but he had a joking tone to his voice. From my time with the two of them I’ve realized that the only one more hardheaded than James was Dom and the only one that liked fighting with Dom was James. They particularly like doing this during Christmas break when Dom didn’t have to pretend to be nice to him in front of her ‘friends’.
I heard Victoire laugh at the two of them. “Leave them alone Dom, they are just coming back from Quidditch practice.”
“At midnight?” Dom raised an eyebrow at her sister.
Victoire shrugged and winked at us.
“Why are you so relaxed?” Dom turned to her sister. “Your boyfriend was Head Boy, shouldn’t you be reporting them or something. I thought you were a good girl, Vic.”
“Dearest sister of mine, if I reported them for being out after hours I would be a hypocrite.” Victoire smiled at her sister. “Besides I’m not exactly down here to make sure all the rules at Hogwarts are upheld. I have a few rules of my own to break tonight.”
On cue, the fireplace flashed and I saw a face appear in it.
“Vic, is that you?” I heard the floating head in the fireplace ask.
James and Fred grinned.
“Teddy!” They said together running over to the fireplace.
“James, Fred! Be quiet!” Victoire pushed them aside and sat by the fireplace. She turned to Teddy’s floating head and smiled sweetly. “I missed you, Teddy.”
“Aww, isn’t that cute, Jamie-boy.” Fred gagged.
“Quite, Freddy.” James rolled his eyes and turned to Amelia and sat on the arm of the chair she was in. “I missed you so much my dearest Icky-Vicky.”
Amelia laughed and James’ face broke into a boyish grin. I even saw a little bit of red come to his cheeks. I took a seat next to Dom, who glared at me in return.
“I’m not calling you any pet names, Lee.” She told me and I rolled my eyes.
“Princess, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” I leaned back and watched Victoire shoot glares at both cousins, whom just started making kissing noises at her.
“Shove off,” She told them. “I want to spend time with Ted.”
“Actually, Vic, I can’t stay long. There’s an important meeting I’m attending tomorrow.” Teddy told Victoire. I grinned. See you there, Teddy. I thought. “I’ll see you tomorrow though. I’m coming with Harry and Ginny to see the Quidditch match.”
“Aww, Teddy. You’re coming to see me play?” Fred pretended to be embarrassed. “I’m so flattered. You’re going to make me blush.”
I saw Teddy roll his eyes at Fred. “I’m also coming to see James and Sirius, Fred.”
“But I’ll know the real reason you came is for me.” Fred joked and then looked over to James and myself. “Gents, I think it’s time we make our list.”
James nodded and I groaned. Dom looked at me curiously.
“What list?” She asked me as I got up.
“It’s a list of reasons why I’m still friends with your cousins.” I told her as James nudged me forward. “So far it’s blank.”
Dom frowned as we left the commons, saying our goodbyes to Teddy. When we got to the second year dorm Fred and James jumped on my bed. James summoned a quill and parchment as Fred put charms around my bed to keep the noise contained to my bed alone. The other second year boys in the dorm were asleep and all the lights were off. James lit his wand as I sat down by them. Fred and James nodded to me.
“Okay,” I finally said giving up all hopes of sleeping tonight. “Where should we start?”
James grinned at me and together the three of us started discussing all the possibilities well into the night and didn’t stop until early the next morning. A part of me wanted to go to sleep, but another part was just as excited about this as they were. When the two of them finally went to sleep – James on my bed and Fred on the floor – I tucked the list in drawer next to my bed. I then reached into my pocket for my wand and found the stone I picked up in the Forest earlier. I put the stone in with the list we just made and then left the room for Neville’s office.
Today was going to be a long day.
(A/N) So what do you think? Well, tell me in a REVIEW!!! Thank you to everyone that has done so, so far!