Author: Shadow Rebirth
Warnings: language, adult themes, spoilers
Word Count: 3,961
First Written: August 6, 2008
Last Edited: August 9, 2008
Posted: August 9, 2008
Summary: Owls, cauldrons, and pointed hats? Harry Potter was not amused. And he still wasn't entirely sure that his human trafficking theory had been wrong. Warning! Features a very cynical Harry. AU, no pairings.
Searching for Disaster
The Forest Disaster
No longer live that life
You should have learned by now
I'll burn this whole world down
--"Had Enough" by Breaking Benjamin
As Harry trudged through the forbidden forest a dark scowl was set firmly on his face. Ahead of him was Hagrid, Fang, and another first year Hufflepuff named Zacharias Smith who Harry vaguely remembered as being one of his roommates; he'd never spoken to him before. All three of them--Fang in particular--sensed Harry's dark mood and as such were walking rather quickly while glancing nervously back at him every now and then. Harry just ignored them while he contented himself with glaring at the ground in front of him.
Harry was beginning to wonder why he hadn't turned around and ran back to his dorm room the moment Filch had led him outside. Or at least he told himself that he was beginning to wonder; in reality he knew exactly why he was plodding along through the forest, despite his reservations.
He'd like to say that it was because he was curious about the forest. Or that it was because he didn't want to leave Hagrid and Zacharias to some horrible fate. But the truth was nothing "noble" like that.
Harry just didn't want to be sent to Dumbledore. And he knew that McGonagall would do so if he ditched. Don't get him wrong, it wasn't about getting into trouble or anything, he just found the man undeniably creepy. He hadn’t actually met him yet--thank Merlin for that--but he always seemed to be smiling at him. Always.
Harry was even researching some locking charms that he could put around his curtains at night, just in case.
And so, even though Harry had resigned himself to their trek through the forest, he was not happy with it. Especially not since he'd been told that they were looking for a creature that drank unicorn blood. At that point Harry's mind had gone completely blank. They were sending a group of fairly defenseless people--including two /first years--/into the forbidden forest after a dangerous dark creature.
Makes perfect sense.
The only good thing about the whole situation was that he'd have a lot to tell Johns about. Harry couldn't wait to see the look on Dumbledore's face when he read the article in the London Wizarding Post
"So, what'd you do?" Zacharias asked quietly.
Harry glared grouchily at him. He'd thought that he was going to be serving this detention alone, but as soon as he and Filch had approached Hagrid's hut they'd found that Zacharias was waiting with Hagrid. Harry was sure whether he should be annoyed or relieved that someone else besides Hagrid was with him.
"...I was 'rude' to a teacher," Harry replied grudging. "You?"
"Feh, I was caught out of the dorm after curfew. I still can't believe that they gave me detention for that. Bloody Nazis."
Harry quirked a surprised eyebrow at the boy. What had Zacharias of all people been doing out late at night?
Before Harry could even open his mouth to ask, Hagrid suddenly stopped. Harry and Zacharias peeked around the large man and found that he was staring at a small pool of silvery-blue liquid.
"Unicorn blood," Hagrid explained quietly, and even Harry could hear the reverence in his voice. "The unicorn can't've gone far if it's this badly hurt, an' then we'll be able ter-- GET BEHIND THAT TREE!"
Hagrid seized Harry and Zacharias and hoisted them off the path and behind a towering oak. Harry gagged and rubbed his throat once Hagrid had let go. He glared at the man; they could have moved on their own had he actually given them time to do so!
Harry's thought were cut off by the sound of something slithering over dead leaves nearby. It almost sounded like a cloak trailing along the ground. Frowning, the young wizard poked his head around the tree. Hagrid had been muttering things about werewolves and other beasts, but that had sounded more like a human to Harry. And really, that made the most sense: Who could harm a unicorn better than a wizard?
Hagrid was squinting up the dark path, but after a few seconds, the sound faded away.
"I knew it," he muttered. "There's summat in here that shouldn' be."
Fortunately the rest of the evening passed without any other unusual encounters. They were beginning to head back to edge of the forest when, suddenly, in a clearing ahead, something definitely moved.
"Who's there?" Hagrid called. "Show yerself--I'm armed!"
And into the clearing came a centaur with red hair and a beard. Harry and Zacharias gaped at him, shocked.
"Oh, it's you, Ronan," said Hagrid in relief. "How are yeh?"
Ronan didn't reply. Instead he stared straight at the large man, his face solemn. Hagrid shifted uneasily in the silence, but the centaur didn't seem to notice.
"Mars is bright tonight," Ronan said finally.
"Er, yeah," Hagrid replied while glancing up at the sky. "Listen, I'm glad we've run inter yeh, Ronan, 'cause there's unicorn bin hurt--you seen anythin'?"
Again Ronan didn't answer immediately. Instead he flung his head back and spent nearly a minute staring up at the stars.
"Mars is bright tonight," he repeated. "Unusually bright."
Hagrid twitched, clearly impatient. "Yes, but have yeh noticed anythin' strange?"
Harry sighed inaudibly and rolled his eyes. It was clear that they weren't going to get anywhere with this centaur. He was just spitting out riddles and repeating himself, as if reluctant to say anything else. Before Ronan could even open his mouth to reply to Hagrid--doubtlessly with another comment about Mars--Harry decided to cut in.
"Why is Mars bright?"
Instantly everyone's attention swung around to him and Harry found himself staring into a pair of dark eyes. The centaur studied him for a moment before his lips lifted up into a small smirk.
"The planet speaks," Ronan told him.
Harry couldn't help but stare. The planet speaks? Well the hell was that supposed to mean? Fine then, two could play at that game.
"And what does the planet say?"
"The planet speaks," Ronan reiterated. "It speaks of darkness and danger. It speaks of death. Warnings unto you, young wizard. The sign of the grim falls upon you."
Harry stared blankly at the centaur. Sign...of the grim? Seriously? He knew that wizards put a lot of stock in divination and other such hocus pocus, but it seemed to him that Ronan was just taking some perverse pleasure out of telling him that he was going to die.
Actually, that would make a lot of sense, Harry thought. From what he'd seen so far centaurs enjoyed confusing people and talking circles around them. Maybe they didn't actually take any stock in these "speaking planets", but just used them get people to stop bothering them. It was sort of like what Harry did with the whole "Vlad Tepes" thing.
Finally, after a minute of silence--and Hagrid staring in horror and pity at him, much to Harry's annoyance and Ronan's amusement--Harry shrugged. "Right then, I suppose we should get going," he said. "I still have a letter to write tonight and it's pretty clear that we aren't going to find that unicorn. Whatever was hunting it had probably already killed it or something."
Hagrid's look of horror increased, but Zacharias nodded in agreement. "We have classes tomorrow," the other first year commented, "And it's already really late. I'm going to be dead tired in the morning."
"Afternoon, you mean," Harry said with a smirk. "I won't be getting up any time before noon, no matter was the professors say. It's their fault for having us go out and traipse around the forbidden forest anyway, so they can't really complain."
Zacharias hesitated, but eventually agreed. The two of them turned around and began walking back through the forest. Thankfully they were already close enough to Hogwarts' grounds that the path was wide and clear. Harry glanced back over his shoulder as they left the clearing and found that Ronan was nowhere to be seen and Hagrid was hurrying after them, a look of confusion on his face.
"What did you mean before, about the letter?" Zacharias asked Harry several minutes later in low tones. Hagrid and Fang were several paces ahead of them, leading them back to the castle.
Harry smirked wickedly. "I know someone who might be...interested...to hear about this detention. Sending two first years out in the middle of the night to look for a creature that's killing unicorns is really disgusting. Plus, the authorities really should be notified about this so that they can take care of it. They're the ones who are trained to do this sort of stuff anyway, right?"
Surprisingly, Zacharias returned his grin. For an eleven year old, the boy had a rather malicious spark in his eye.
"Let me know if there's any way to help," Zacharias said passionately. "Detentions are one thing, but sending us into that forest seemed almost like an attempt to harm us. Surely it's illegal or something. We didn't even have a fully trained wizard with us!" The boy's voice dropped even farther. "Hagrid was expelled from Hogwarts, you know. His wand was snapped and all so that he couldn't do magic."
Harry nodded seriously. "All we had with us for defense was Hagrid's crossbow and Fang. It'd be one thing if we were sixth or seventh years, but we haven't even completed one year of schooling yet."
"Here we are," Hagrid said suddenly, even as Zacharias opened his mouth to reply. The two Hufflepuffs glanced up and found to their surprise that they were standing before Hogwarts front doors. "Go on up to bed now, both of yeh."
Harry and Zacharias glanced at each other and shared a firm nod.
The moment that Albus Dumbledore woke up he knew that he should stay in bed that day. But, like most people, he immediately pushed the feeling away. After all, it wasn't like much could go wrong in his school. And even if it did, he was still the most powerful wizard in Great Britain, perhaps even in all of Europe.
And so, despite all of the warning signs telling him to go back to bed, pull the covers over his head, and spend the day in hiding, Dumbledore got up with a twinkle in his eye.
By the time Dumbledore got down to the great hall for breakfast, most of the students were already there and were whispering animatedly, often in groups. Dumbledore frowned worriedly then and when he saw several students passing a paper amongst them he wondered if there was something in the newspaper. When the headmaster opened up the Daily Prophet however, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. And so he shrugged off the students actions, passing it off as gossip.
The next warning that something was wrong was when McGonagall started acting strangely. Nervous even.
Finally Dumbledore sighed exasperatedly and turned to his deputy headmistress. "Minerva, whatever is the problem?" he asked kindly.
McGonagall jumped--actually jumped!--at the sound of his voice. Her eyes flittered around the hall for a moment before resting back on him.
"Albus," she whispered hesitantly. She paused before picking up the newspaper in front of her and handing it to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore frowned in confusion when he noticed that the paper was not the Daily Prophet, but rather the London Wizarding Post. Unfortunately, before he could even read the front headline, multiple gasps of shock from both the students and his staff caught his attention. He glanced up and then immediately froze upon seeing that a group of half a dozen Aurors had walked into the great hall.
As the Aurors approached, Dumbledore stood up, pasting a welcoming smile onto his face. On the inside, however, he was nervous, confused, and swearing violently. What the hell were they doing here?!
"Welcome!" Dumbledore boomed when the Aurors had stopped a few feet from the staff table. "Welcome to Hogwarts. What can I do for you gentlemen?"
The Auror Captain at the front of the group bowed politely to him. "Sir. We would like to have a word with you...In private, if you don't mind," he said while glancing at the wide-eyed students.
Dumbledore nodded jovially. "Of course, of course," he replied. "Please follow me. McGonagall, if you will?"
McGonagall jumped in surprise at being addressed. For a moment she just stared at him and then she quickly realized what he meant, leapt up from her seat, and quickly hurried to open the door that was tucked in one corner of the hall, behind the staff table. Dumbledore made a sweeping gesture with one hand, motioning for the Aurors to follow him.
Once they were all comfortably seated in the room behind the great hall Dumbledore turned to the Aurors with a twinkle in his eye. "Now, what can I do for you?"
"Thank you for the accommodations, headmaster," the Auror Captain said formally. "I am Charles Silverstein, Auror Captain 2nd Class. We were sent from the Ministry of Magic to do a formal inquire on the unicorn kill in the forbidden forest. We'd like your permission to do a scour of the forest."
Dumbledore blinked in surprise and immediately wondered how the Ministry had found out about the unicorn. From his side, McGonagall coughed politely and then pushed the newspaper--which she'd apparently brought with her--to him.
The elder headmaster did a quick glance over at the article and then promptly winced. It was about the unicorn, he saw, but not just that. Rather the focus of the article was on two students who had apparently been sent into the forest in the middle of the night after this "unicorn-killer". The article questioned both the safety of the school grounds and the school's punishment methods. Dumbledore gulped slightly, knowing that this was going to hit the school hard.
What really caught his attention, however, was that one of the students had been Harry Potter. Shocked, Dumbledore's eyes quickly flickered up the McGonagall. Again she was looking distinctly nervous.
He hadn't known about this! He'd known about the unicorn's death, of course, but he'd thought that only Hagrid would be looking for the unicorn, not two first years as well! That one of them was the Boy-Who-Lived only made things infinitely worse; the wizarding world would be crying out for blood.
Silverstein had apparently noticed what Dumbledore was looking at because a smirk flashed across his face so fast that the headmaster wasn't even sure whether he'd seen it or not. The Auror Captain straightened in his seat, looking distinctly amused.
"Ah, yes," he said. "Another Auror unit will be coming by later today to do an enquiry on this school's detentions. Now, about the forest?"
Dumbledore quickly cast around for something to say to divert the disaster that was coming, but it seemed that he'd been backed into a corner. His shoulders slumped ever so slightly. He'd been backed into a corner and all he could do was attempt to find out what'd happened.
"Of course you have permission to enter the forest," Dumbledore said gravely. "If you need any assistance from me or my staff, please don't hesitate to let me know."
As the Aurors filed through the door at the back of the great hall, Harry couldn't help but smirk openly. This had turned out even better than he'd hoped! All around him students were whispering loudly, gossiping about what'd happened and why the Aurors were there.
Slowly the rest of the teachers left and then the students began to disperse. As Harry himself stood and began to walk out of the hall, he heard Malfoy talking loudly to the other Slytherins.
"See," the blonde was saying, "Even the Ministry has finally caught on to Dumbledore's incompetence. I bet that within the week he'll be fired from his post. Good riddance, I say."
"Oi!" an angry voice called through the crowed. "Don't say things like that about Dumbledore!" Harry's--and everyone else's--head swiveled around to watch as a pale boy with Gryffindor robes pushed his way towards Malfoy. Seamus, Harry thought his name was, but he couldn't be sure. "He's the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever had!"
Malfoy sneered at the boy and retorted with something that Harry couldn't hear--the whispers around him were starting to get too loud. Whatever it was seemed to start a row between the boys however and it only took a moment for spells to start flying.
"Shit!" an older boy next to Harry yelped as he dodged a stray spell. Everyone began backing off, giving the two some room. Of course it was only a couple of minutes until a few Prefects broke through the crowd and attempted to stop the fight.
Harry wasn't entirely sure what happened next. One moment he'd been watching a sixth year Prefect yelling at the two boys and trying to break them up, then a spell was sent flying off course. It hit a table and exploded, causing a chunk of wood to break off and sending splinters flying everywhere. Harry could remember a sharp pain on the side of his face even as everyone quickly moved away from the table. Harry moved back with everyone else, but his attention was still on the two first years. To his amusement the Prefect was now screaming at the boys, who at least had the decency to look sheepish.
"Harry!" a first year Hufflepuff girl in front of him suddenly gasped. She was pointing at his face while her other hand covered her mouth in shock. "You're bleeding!"
Harry blinked, surprised. He lifted a hand to his face and wiped away the blood that was trailing down his cheek from a small cut on the side of his face. He glanced at the stunned kids around him and instantly a wide smirk came onto his face. This was perfect.
Slowly Harry raised his blood covered finger to his mouth and licked him. "Mmm, tasty," he said, his eyes shining with amusement.
The other students drew back, shock written across their faces. They began whispering madly amongst themselves and a couple even backed away.
"He really is a vampire!" Harry heard from amongst the crowd. The young wizard held back his snickers, but knew that if he didn't leave soon he'd burst out into laughter. He turned around and walked out of the great hall as quickly as he could. The crowd parted before him, clearly afraid.
Harry finally let his snickers escape his throat once he was alone in the hallway. Playing with people's minds had always amused him, and wizards were so easy trick!
"A little dramatic, don't you think?" a dry voice commented from behind him.
Harry glanced back over his shoulder and saw that Daphne was leaning up against the wall. One of her eyebrows was raised questioningly, but she looked just as amused as he did.
"Maybe," Harry replied with a shrug. He made a strange face. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go wash the taste of blood from my mouth."
The next few months passed mostly without incident for Harry. The exams came and Harry took all of them, including Potions. His hope was that if he failed badly enough, Snape would be recognized as a horrible teacher--which was true.
From what Harry had heard, the Aurors had indeed searched the forbidden forest. They found the unicorn's corpse, but there'd been no sign of whatever had killed it. A week later another Auror unit had come and spoken to Dumbledore, although no one knew about what. Harry had noticed that the headmaster had been acting strangely ever since then though.
The afternoon of June 4th found Harry and Zacharias walking through Hogwarts' dungeons. Their last exam, History of Magic, had been earlier that day.
"Why are we down here again?" Zacharias asked curiously. "Almost everyone else is outside, relaxing."
"I'm bored, so I'm looking for Daphne," Harry replied without looking at the other Hufflepuff.
"Bored?" Zacharias snorted. "Of course. We just finished exams and already-- Wait, what?" Zacharias blinked, surprised. "Daphne? As in Daphne Greengrass, the Slytherin?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "/Yes/, the Slytherin," Harry snapped. "That would be why we're in the /dungeons./"
Zacharias opened his mouth to reply when they were suddenly interrupted by the sound of screaming. The two first years stopped in the middle of the corridor, surprised and confused. They shared a glance before looking back over their shoulders, where the sound was originating from. Moments later a group of terrified students came tearing down the hall.
More students followed the first few and soon the sounds of shouts, roars, and explosions could be heard. Finally getting fed up, Harry grabbed the arm of a passing girl, jerking her to a halt.
"What's going on?" Harry growled. The girl tried to tug her arm free, not even noticing who he was.
"Dragon!" she said, panicked. "There's a young dragon that got loose in the castle! The teachers are trying to capture it, but it's gotten into the dungeons!" The girl finally pulled her arms from Harry's grip and then dashed away down the hallway.
Harry and Zacharias shared another look, horrified.
The next thing Harry knew there were numerous bright spells flying through the corridor. A screeching roar reverberated through the area and suddenly a large green dragon, about the size of a horse, flew into sight. It looked both angry and scared as it did a loop close to the ceiling, dodging spells as several teachers ran after it.
"I've alerted Dumbledore!" McGonagall yelled to the other professors as she came running around the corner. In one hand she had her robes gathered and held above her knees while her other hand held her wand out at the dragon. "But he'll take too long to get back her from the Ministry of Magic! We have to capture it before it does anymore damage!"
One of the spells managed to hit the dragon and sent is crashing into the wall with a pain-filled roar. Stones cracked and went flying from the collision, forcing Harry to duck and cover his head with his arms. He and Zacharias went stumbling backwards, attempting to seek refuge behind a nearby suit of armor.
With yet another roar, the dragon drew itself up, opened its mouth, and then let out a stream of fire, causing the professors to throw themselves out of the way. Snape rolled into a crouched position and then yelled out a spell over the sounds of the battle. The red spell bounced off the hard ridges on the dragon's shoulder and hit the floor instead. Instantly the stones exploded, sending debris everywhere.
"Bloody--!" Zacharias yelped in surprise.
Harry growled in frustration, only to suddenly cut himself off when he noticed that the suit of armor was toppling. "Move, move, move!" he yelled while pulling scrambling backwards.
Zacharias, however, was frozen in place, staring up at the falling metal in fear. Harry swore under his breath and lunged forward. He latched onto the boy's robed and dragged him backwards away from the suit of armor just as it crashed to the ground. He continued walking backwards until all of the sudden a jolt of shock ran through his body as his foot met air instead of stone.
Harry's head twisted around, his eyes wide, and saw that behind him was a hole in the floor where Snape's spell had destroyed the stone. He let out a strangled shock and let go of Zacharias' robes even as the stone beneath his other foot crumbled, plunging him into the black depths of the castle.
A/N: Thanks for all the reviews for the last chapter. It's always so interesting to see what different people think. And about the lyrics in the beginning...honestly I was listening to Breaking Benjamin while writing this chapter, so figured, why the hell not. They kind of fit the chapter...ish...Okay, not really, but it does sort of fit the disaster theme.
The whole centaur-aren't-actually-into-diviniation-but-do-it-to-piss-off-wizards-and-keep-them-off-their-backs thing literally popped out of nowhere while I was writing this chapter. I think it's an interesting concept and haven't seen anything like it before though, so I'll be keeping it for now. Maybe even go a little further with it eventually...