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Chapter 17 : The Centaur Village
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The weeks after Dumbledore’s death were mostly filled with classes and DA meetings. Professor McGonagall had cancelled all the other extracurricular activities, including Quidditch. It wasn’t a popular decision, but understandable.
Dumbledore’s Army now met almost daily in the Room of Requirement and their practices were harder than ever. As a consequence there were more accidents too. Madam Pomfrey was visited regularly by DA members.
It was after such a meeting that Harry and Ginny found themselves alone in the Room of Requirement. Ginny had noticed that Harry was working harder than ever during the meetings, but when he wasn’t busy with classes or the DA he often grew quiet and shut himself off from the others. Ginny sighed when she saw her boyfriend looking into the fire with a haunted look in his eyes. She sat beside him on the couch and took his hand.
“You really miss him, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
Harry jumped out of his deep thoughts. He looked at Ginny’s worried face and gave her a reassuring smile.
“Yeah, I do. It’s just… He always knew what to do or what to say. It’s so weird to realize that he’ll never talk to me again. That he’ll never give me advice anymore…”
Ginny snuggled close to him. Harry put his arms around her small body and hugged her tight. “When it just happened… I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to go on without him, that I would fail to do what I have to do without him beside me. But he always made me believe in myself when he was alive. He made me trust my own powers and taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to. And I’m not planning on disappointing him.”
“You won’t disappoint him, Harry.” Ginny said. “You have become a very powerful wizard.”
Harry smiled wryly. “I’m still not as powerful as Voldemort.”
“Maybe not. But that’s the difference between you and Voldemort. All he has is power, he has nothing to fight for. You do. You have so much worth fighting for. That will make the difference when you’re facing him.”
“We’ll be outnumbered.” Harry said, thinking about the battle that was approaching. “He’ll come after us with everything he has.”
“And we will be ready for them.”
May came to an end and still there had been no news from Voldemort. No one had heard anything about him or his Death Eaters since the night of Dumbledore’s death. It gave Harry an uncomfortable feeling. It was as if they wanted to give them a false sense of security.
On the first day of June, Harry was hanging out by the lake with his five friends. They were just enjoying the nice weather and savouring what might be their last moments of peace before all hell broke loose.
“Harry, I have been thinking…” Hermione suddenly said.
“Sure, you have.” Harry said lazily.
His best female friend gave him an exasperated look before she continued. “You said Voldemort would probably have a whole range of dark creatures with him to fight his battle. Like Dementors and Inferi.”
“Yes…” Harry said slowly.
“Well, what if we do the same?”
“What? Use dark creatures?”
“Of course not dark creatures.” Hermione said. “But there are a lot of creatures living in the Forbidden Forest that would be a valuable asset in battle.”
“Really? Like what creatures?” Harry asked. “I don’t think Aragog will let us use him for our benefit. Although he would like the fresh meat.” he added as an afterthought.
“Don’t talk about that ugly beast.” Ron shivered. “And how would you plan to ask them. They would just eat you on sight.”
“Acromantulas would actually come in very handy!” Hermione said. “But they’re far too uncontrollable. I doubt that even Hagrid would be able to cope with them.”
“Believe me, he tried.” Ron grumbled.
“I was more thinking about creatures like the Hippogriffs. And the Thestrals.” Hermione said, ignoring Ron.
“What are Thestrals?” Ginny asked.
“They’re those weird horse things that pull the carriages.” Ron said. He was still taking Care of Magical Creatures with Hagrid.
“What horse things?” Ginny asked. “The carriages are pulling themselves, aren’t they?”
“No, they’re pulled by Thestrals.” Ron said. “You can’t see them because they are invisible except for when you have seen someone die.”
Hermione was looking at him proudly.
“But then how come you can see them?” Ginny asked.
Ron quickly looked at Harry worriedly. It was because of the death of Sirius that Ron was now able to see the Thestrals. Ginny seemed to realize that now too. “Oh… I’m so sorry, Harry.”
“That’s alright.” Harry said quickly. “So Hippogriffs and Thestrals? I’m sure they’d help us if Hagrid asked them to, but how do you plan to convince him. He wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.”
“I’m sure he’ll understand that it is for the greater good.” Hermione said softly. She seemed to hesitate for a moment before she said: “I think you should ask the Centaurs to fight too.”
Harry, Ginny and Neville were looking at Hermione unbelievingly, while Ron burst into a laugh.
“You’re not serious, are you?” Ron asked. “Did you forget what they did with Firenze when he accepted the new Divination position at school? They were furious about that and you expect them to fight for us?”
“Not for us. With us.” Hermione said. “This war concerns them too, however they may think otherwise. If the school would fall into the hands of the Death Eaters, what do you think would happen with them?”
“I think you’re right.” Luna spoke up. “Centaurs are very intelligent creatures and great warriors. They would definitely be helpful in a battle.”
“But how would you convince them?” Harry asked.
“Like Luna said, they are very intelligent creatures.” Hermione said. “I’m sure they must have already realized that this war can have consequences for them too. But I don’t really know how you should approach Centaurs. Their customs are completely different than ours.”
“We could ask Hagrid.” Harry offered.
“Yes, we should.” Hermione said, already standing up.
“What? Now?” Ron asked.
“Of course now. We don’t know how much time we have, Ron!”
As always, Hagrid was happy to see his favourite students. “And you brought Neville and Luna with you, I see. Come in, come in.”
After Hagrid had offered them all giant mugs of tea and they had talked about one thing and another, Hermione brought up the actual reason for their visit. Hagrid nodded when she talked about the Hippogriffs and Thestrals. “I thought about it myself too.”
“You mean you would be okay with that?” Harry asked surprised.
“Well, yeah.” Hagrid said. “Would be a shame of course if some of them gave their lives, but people are risking their lives too.”
Harry nodded, looking at his friends. They were risking their lives willingly to fight with him. He didn’t have a choice, but they did. But he realized that choice had been made a long time ago.
When Hermione brought up the Centaurs, Hagrid was less optimistic. “Yes, they would be very helpful if they agreed to fight, but I can’t see that happening to be honest.”
“But if we would just talk to them. Surely they realize this war will affect them just as much as us.”
Hagrid nodded. “I’m sure they do. But you remember Firenze, right? They don’t get along that well with humans.”
“They do with you.” Harry rebutted. Technically Hagrid wasn’t fully human, but he chose to ignore that fact.
“Well, yes.” Hagrid said. “Because they have to. I’m the gamekeeper.”
“Couldn’t you talk to them, Hagrid?” Hermione asked. “Try to convince them?”
“Oh alright.” Hagrid said. “But you’d better come with me, Harry.”
“Me?” Harry asked surprised. “Why me?”
“They know all about you. Even among centaurs you are famous.” Hagrid said with a proud smile. “They know you are an important figure in this war. I heard them talking about you a few times. Discussing the ‘role you have to play’ or something like that.”
Harry quickly looked at his friends before he answered. “Alright then. When do you want to go?”
“Let’s do it tonight.” Hagrid said, looking at his clock. “Meet me here at nightfall. They’re most approachable at night, them Centaurs.”
Harry felt slightly anxious as he was walking through the forest with Hagrid that night. He had only had contact with Centaurs once before in his life and it hadn’t been a very nice experience. He remembered how Bane had been furious with Firenze for saving him from Voldemort, yelling that Centaurs didn’t help humans and he wondered if he was being stupid trying to convince them to fight in a battle.
“Just stay calm, Harry.” Hagrid advised him as he made his way through the bushes. “Don’t let them think you are nervous. They’ll take that as a sign that you’re hiding something or that you aren’t speaking the truth. And that won’t go down well with them.”
“Okay.” Harry said slowly.
“Be polite.” Hagrid continued. “He’ll value that very much. Especially because you have never met him before.”
“Oh yes, Magorian. He’s the leader of the Centaur herd here in the forest.” Hagrid explained. “He’s a nice enough bloke. Where almost there.”
Harry nodded. After about five more minutes Harry noticed that they were descending. He got an ominous foreboding when he thought about the valley where Aragog lived with his offspring. But then he saw that they were approaching a small village build of wooden huts. From above, they could see that the village was surrounded by a high wooden wall.
“Alright, we’re here.” Hagrid said softly as they were almost at the gates that closed of the village from outsiders. “Remember, be polite. And whatever you do, don’t sit down when you are talking to a Centaur. They’ll take that as a terrible offense. Oh and don’t shake hands. They don’t do that.”
Harry nodded. “Okay. Let’s go.”
They walked towards the gates that were guarded by two Centaurs, armed with bow and arrow. “Good evening, Abaccus, Zebedee.” Hagrid said friendly, nodding at the two Centaurs.
“Good evening, Hagrid.” Abaccus said. “What brings you here?”
“First, let me introduce you to a good friend of mine.” Hagrid said, motioning to Harry. “Harry Potter.”
Harry saw the familiar look of recognition in the Centaurs’ eyes, but they merely bowed their heads to him. Harry nodded back politely.
“It is an honour to meet you, Harry Potter.”
“Likewise.” Harry said.
“May I ask what the purpose of your visit is?” Zebedee asked. He sounded a lot less friendly than Abaccus and he watched Harry suspicuously. “We are not used to humans visiting our village. In fact, it is highly discouraged.”
Harry didn’t know what to say, but Hagrid came to his aid. “Mr Potter would like a private meeting with Magorian, leader of the Centaurs. If you would please ask your leader to take his request into consideration?”
Zebedee seemed to be even more suspicious now, but Abaccus nodded. He opened the gates and motioned them to follow him into the village. He asked them to wait and approached a younger looking Centaur and talked to him for a few minutes. Then the younger Centaur left and Abaccus returned to Harry and Hagrid.
“Breman will meet Magorian with your request, but I cannot promise you anything. It could be that you will have to return on another day.”
Harry and Hagrid nodded and thanked Abaccus elaborately for his help. The centaur nodded approvingly. It took Breman fifteen minutes to return, but he told them that Magorian was waiting for Harry Potter in his hut.
“You go talk to him, Harry.” Hagrid muttered. “I’ll wait here for you.”
“I will escort you to Magorian’s hut, Harry Potter.” Abaccus said. “Breman, take my place at the gates until I return.”
Abaccus guided Harry to the centre of the Centaur village. They attracted quite some attention along the way. The Centaurs weren’t used to humans visiting their village.
“Magorian.” Abaccus said respectfully when they reached the biggest hut they had encountered so far.
Waiting at the entrance of the hut was a tall, chestnut Centaur. When he saw Abaccus and Harry, he looked at the Centaur and said: “Make sure that we are not disturbed.” Then he turned around and entered his hut without saying another word.
“You can follow him.” Abaccus said when he looked at Harry’s confused face.
“Harry Potter.” Magorian said when Harry entered his hut. “It is an honour to meet you.”
“It is an honour to meet you too, Sir.”
Magorian’s face darkened and Harry immediately realized he had said something stupid.
“I’m – I’m sorry.” he stammered. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
Magorian looked at Harry severely for a few seconds, but then his face softened. “We Centaurs do not use such words to address one another. We take that as a sign of coldness and restraint.”
“I am sorry.” Harry repeated.
“I realize that you must have little experience with Centaurs and as a human you do not know anything about our world. Therefore I will not take offence for what you said. You can call me Magorian.”
“Okay, Magorian.” Harry said, trying his best to hide his nervousness.
“So Breman told me that you wished to speak to me about something?”
“Yes.” Harry said. “It is about the war that is currently going on in the wizarding world. We are quite certain that the fighting will soon reach Hogwarts.”
Magorian nodded. “We Centaurs have known for a long time that evil will strike the school. The greatest evil this school have ever seen.”
“Indeed.” Harry said. “Therefore, in the name of the protectors of the school, I would like to ask you for your help.”
“Our help?” Magorian said. His face was inscrutable. “Centaurs do not help humans, Harry Potter. You may not know much about our kind, but I am certain that you must know that.”
“I do know that.” Harry said quickly. “Maybe I did not express myself clearly.”
“I understood you quite clear.” Magorian interrupted him. “You want us to fight in your battle.”
“Yes, I do.” Harry said. “But it is your battle too, Magorian. This is not about wizards against wizards anymore. If Voldemort takes over this world every human, Muggle or wizard, but also every creature will suffer from the consequences.”
“That is absolutely true.” Magorian agreed. “But have you asked other creatures to fight too, Harry Potter? You cannot expect the Centaurs to meddle in a war when no other kind than the humans do.”
“The Hippogriffs and the Thestrals will fight too.” Harry said.
“Those are animals.” Magorian said. “I am talking about House-Elves. Goblins.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. He was sure the House-Elves would fight if they were asked to, but he didn’t want to think about what Hermione would say if Harry proposed that. And the Goblins were certainly not likely to fight.
“We have not yet discussed it with House-Elves or Goblins.” Harry admitted.
“Do you plan too?”
Harry thought about it for a minute. “Yes. We plan to.”
Magorian nodded. He remained silent for such a long time that Harry began to wonder if he should leave. “Alright, Harry Potter. I shall take your request into consideration. For now, this is where our ways part. I will know how to find you when I have made my decision.”
Harry nodded gratefully. “Thank you for considering my request, Magorian. I highly appreciate it.”
Magorian nodded approvingly and walked out of the hut, with Harry in his wake. “Abaccus will escort you back to the gates.” he said. “Good luck, Harry Potter.”
“United we stand, divided we fall.” – Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers)
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