Harry prepares for his journey, and he meets some new 'friends'.
“Amazing!” Harry was flabbergasted by what he saw in Hagrid's wardrobe mirror. Years of wearing Dudley's over-sized, worn-out, double-patched, out-grown clothing, was a cross that Harry had had to bear while living with the Dursley family. Not once had he ever shopped for clothing for himself. Never had he shopped for a new pair of anything. If it weren’t for the necessity of buying new Wizarding Robes and Quidditch gear each year as he outgrew the last set, or the new sweaters that Mrs. Weasley had knit for him each Christmas, Harry to this day would not know what new clothes were. Those days were gone, he told himself. Never again would he wear old clothes.
“These feel great,” he gushed for the third time.
He stood in front of the mirror, decked out in all new clothing. Harry had blue denims that were still stiff as a board, fresh from the factory. He had “white” underwear, tops and bottoms, for the first time in his life. New socks that fit snugly on his legs and feet. Harry had new shirts, long sleeves and short, in several colors. A new, medium weight, jacket was laid out on the bed next to him, water repellent and wind resistant and charmed to camouflage the wearer when needed. Looking at himself with a smile, he thought he looked two years older.
“Johann, thank you so much!”
The smile on Harry's face said it all, Johann thought.
“It's my pleasure, Harry,” he said as he walked around Harry, eyeing up the fit. Johann had done the shopping for Harry via OWL post and had them delivered overnight to Hogsmeade. He knew what most students wore and thought Harry would need some good, durable, outdoor gear for the journey. He didn't want to tell Harry right now how important, good, durable clothing would be.
“Go ahead, bend and flex a bit; get used to how they feel.”
Harry bent over at the waist, then back up again. He put his arms out to his sides and turned and twisted his torso. He then waved his arms about, as if swimming, to stretch them.
“Any tightness anywhere?” Johann asked.
“No, none at all.”
“Good!Then I have something else here that you'll need.” Johann walked over and withdrew from the very bottom of the large drawstring bag, a good-sized cardboard parcel. He turned and handed it to Harry to open.
Harry took the box, feeling the heft of whatever was inside. He thought back on all of the Birthdays and Christmases in the Dursley household, when “Dudders” had been given dozens of presents, and Harry would receive something trivial like a wine cork, or a used toothbrush.
“Go ahead and open it, Harry,” Johann spoke, intentionally interrupting whatever thoughts were darkening Harry's expression.
Returning to the present, Harry sat down on the stool next to the wardrobe and untied the string holding the two halves of the box together. He then lifted the lid and put it aside. Brushing away the layers of tissue paper inside, Harry revealed a brand new pair of leather hi-top Hiking Boots.
Harry sat speechless for a moment, looking down into the box. With both hands, he slowly reached inside and took hold of each shoe. Lifting them upwards, he let the box fall to the floor. A thud sounded as a small kit of cleaning and care items for the shoes tumbled out.
Johann reached down and grabbed the kit, while Harry began to put the boots on.
“I've already treated the leather once with a softener and a water repellent,” Johan said as Harry was lacing up the first boot.
“The leather feels great,” Harry commented. “These boots are awesome, Johann.”
Johann sat back and watched Harry lace up the second one.
Harry stood up after tying off the second lace. He took a few steps about the cabin.
“They feel a bit big,” Harry said as he twisted and turned his feet about. Looking a bit doubtful, he asked, “Did I tighten them enough?”
“I wasn't exactly sure of what size to get, so they may be a bit loose.” Johann walked over to his walking staff and took hold of it. He turned and said, “Walk over here, Harry.”
Harry began to walk slowly. Johann took hold of his staff vertically between both hands and began to roll it clockwise in his palms, whispering a small incantation.
“Whoa,” Harry gasped at the sudden tightening of the shoes. Johann rolled the staff counter-clockwise a small amount and stopped the incantation.
Wiggling his toes and flexing his ankle, Harry smiled and pronounced them,“Perfect!”
“Just let me know if they need adjusting after we start hiking.”
It suddenly dawned on Harry that this journey was going to be on foot. He had thought they might Apparate or travel by some other magical means. “/No wonder I've got all this new stuff/,” he said silently to himself. “Still, they're so much better than my old clothes and shoes. So what if I have to walk for it?”
Johann took a few minutes to ensure Harry knew how to properly take care of the boots, and how to use the cleaning compounds and water repellent.
Finishing up, Johann stowed the kit away in one of the two backpacks. He placed the empty drawstring bag in the other.
“Wait a minute, Harry. Do you have anything in the pockets of your old clothes?” He pointed to the pile of cast-offs sitting on the floor.
Harry bent down and picked up the pile. He turned each pocket inside out and found nothing but pocket lint.
“What should I do with them?”
Johann pointed to the large hearth and to the fire within.
Harry picked up the pile, old shoes included, and chucked them into the fire. “Out with the old....” He paused a moment, watching as the clothes were consumed. “Out with the old Harry, in with the new,” he thought, with a satisfied smile on his face.
“C'mon, let's take these out back, and I will give you a brief rundown of the contents of the backpacks.” He handed Harry the first one and took the second one for himself.
Just as Harry turned to move to the back door, Johann called out, “Oh, and I want to introduce you to some 'friends' of mine.”
Harry turned, a question on his face. “Friends?”
“Umm, just don't be too surprised, Harry. They're...safe.”
As Harry moved closer to the doorway, he realized that he had not seen Hagrid in many minutes, or Fang. He also realized how quiet it was outside. No loud cawing from the usual flock of ravens.
Stepping through the doorway, and down onto the first of two steps, his knee began to buckle at the surprise in front of him.
Out on the grass beneath one of the larger trees casting shade on the ground, two immense bears rested on their sides, next to each other, sound asleep. In between these two massive mounds of golden brown fur, snored Hagrid. His head and back reclined against the stomach of one bear, and his feet and lower legs were propped up and over the back and side of the other. Fang was coiled up on his side next to Hagrid.
Harry caught himself and simply stared. Each bear was as large as Hagrid.
“Friends?”, was all he could say to Johann.
“You really drill holes into teeth, Dr. Mrs. Granger?” asked Arthur Weasley, of Hermione's mother. The two sat next to each other in the compartment, along with their spouses, and Bill Weasley and his bride-to-be, Fleur DelaCour.
“Please Arthur, just call me Anya.” Arthur had glimpsed the Dental /Orthodontia Supply catalog in her possession while they were settling into their seats aboard the train. The innocent glee on his face was contagious to Anya, as she turned the colorfully illustrated pages for both of them to see, enthusiastically talking about the tools of her trade.
Across the aisle, Reginald “Red” Granger, was holding Bill's head at a slight tilt, examining his teeth. Molly Weasley, Red, Fleur and Bill had been discussing Bill's new facial features, courtesy of Fenrir Greyback, the Werewolf. Fleur was carefully holding her illuminated wand at an angle to shed light inside Bill's mouth. Molly was trying to unobtrusively peer over Red's shoulder.
Letting go of Bill, Red leaned back into his seat. He took out a small notebook and pen, then made some notes and sketches.
Bill rotated his jaw, trying to loosen the cramp that had been forming in the muscle. He had been attacked only a few days earlier. Despite Madam Pomfrey's excellent healing skills, it would take some time until the dull ache and the lingering effects of the trauma to his body were gone completely.
“So what's the verdict, Red?”
“Well, as I think everyone realizes, your body will be adjusting over the next few weeks, which means, of course, that so will your teeth and jaw. However, when everything does stabilize, Bill, I don't see why cosmetic surgery would not be a viable option, if magical healing doesn't get the job done.” Red paused, removed his glasses, and slid them into his shirt pocket.
“That's so good to hear,” said Molly, still not comfortable with the fact that her oldest son’s good looks would never be completely restored.
“Only time will tell, Mum,” said Bill.
From outside the compartment, the loud sound of running footsteps and doors banging open and closed could be heard.
The door was suddenly opened and Ginny poked her head in.
“Oh good, we found you!” she announced, breathing heavy. Ginny stepped back and turned to her right, calling out, “They're here!”
Quickly, Hermione and Ron joined the six adults, and Ginny, inside the cramped space.
“What is going on with you three?” Molly asked. “And where is Harry?”
None of the parents, staff members, or even the few Ministry Officials aboard the train, had noticed that Harry had not boarded at the station. Everyone was so busy looking for external threats, they had not thought to do a head count. Of course, Ron, Ginny and Hermione did know, but they wouldn't have told anyone.
“Mrs. Weasley, does this mean anything to you?” Hermione held out the parchment, with the huge paw print turned upwards.
Molly took hold of the message to examine it.
“Where did you get this, Hermione? And where is Harry?” Molly asked quietly, a strange look upon her face.
Ginny reached forward over Bill's lap and lifted the edge of the message, showing her Mum the handwriting underneath.
Molly read the message quietly then reread it aloud to everyone.
“Oh, Arthur, my love, he's back!” Molly's eyes were moist. She reached out to hold hands with her husband.
Everyone was quiet. The three students expected the adults to react but not like this. Molly and Arthur looked at each other, seemingly communicating by some unspoken method. The Grangers had no idea what was going on. Everything that they knew of Harry and Hagrid they had learned from their daughter. They weren't sure if they were supposed to be worried, or cool headed.
“Well, someone say something!”, cracked Ron anxiously.
Pausing one more moment, Arthur finally commented, “We wish you had told us Harry wasn't aboard.”
The three looked at each other briefly, with Ron finally, resignedly, looking apologetic. “You know Harry, Dad.”
“Mr. Weasley, do you know who this “Johann” is?”, asked Hermione. “Is he a... a Werebear?”
“Oh yes, we certainly do, Hermione. And no, he is not a Werebear.” Arthur looked at all three of his children. “He once saved mine and Charlie's lives.”
Outside Hagrid's Cabin
“It's okay, Harry, don't worry,” Johann said as he nudged Harry forward so that he would clear the doorway. He followed and stepped down onto the grass. Smiling, he walked over and petted both of the bears on their snouts. They didn't even twitch.
“Geez, guess they really needed the rest.” Johann slid his right hand into the left side of his jacket and removed a small wooden flute. He blew some lint free from the holes, then put it to his lips.
A crystal clear note came forth from the instrument, sweet and pure. Harry thought he could see a magical manifestation of the wonderful sound rise into the air. He moved his head, following its ascension. Johann's fingers moved to new positions, changing the notes, creating music. Harry closed his eyes. His mouth opened slightly and the tip of his tongue came out. The smell of honey tickled his nostrils. Then the taste of honey, thick and sweet, golden and delicious, teased his taste buds.
A deep rumble brought Harry out of his trance. One of the bears was now awake and beginning to roll onto his feet. Hagrid awoke with a start, which startled the other bear. Johann stopped playing the flute and stowed it.
“Blimey, Johnny, ya coulda' woke me firs'.”
Both bears were now up and shaking off the effects of their nap. Hagrid placed his big hands on each of their backs and helped himself up, then prodded his sleeping dog with his foot. “C’Mon, Fang, get yer sack'a bones up!”
Fang ignored the shove in his rump from Hagrid's boot. Then one of the bears stepped over and nudged him a few feet with his snout and a grumble. Fang jumped up onto all four feet, looked around a bit, barked twice at the bears, and meandered back inside the cabin.
“Well, I think introductions are now appropriate.” Johann stepped between the two bears. “Harry, this is Maulg,” indicating the bear on his right, “and this is his brother, Kitch.”
The bears stood on all fours, their heads at the height of Johann's chest, or Hagrid's midsection. Harry didn't think that Johann would be able to wrap his arms around either of their heads. Each of their front legs was as thick as a human leg. They were easily wider in the chest than Hagrid was in his black overcoat. Harry noticed that Maulg had an old scar below his left eye.
“Guys, this is Harry Potter.”
“Go on, Harry, jus' like I taught ya.”
Harry cautiously stepped forward, made eye contact with Maulg and bowed. Maulg chuffed and swung his head up and down. Harry repeated his presentation to Kitch, who responded by stepping forward and licking Harry's face.
“Good job, Harry!”
“Go ahead and pet them if you'd like, Harry,” said Johann, his hands on the back of each bear.
“I've never seen such large bears before. What kind are they?” reaching upwards, Harry was now vigorously scratching each bear beneath their jaw, which they seemed to enjoy immensely.
“Golden-backed, Mountain Browns, they are. Johnny saved 'em and raised 'em from cubs,'e did.” Hagrid was proud of his knowledge of magical and/or mysterious creatures. Maulg and Kitch belonged to a near-extinct species. “Yer never gonna see a bigger bear than these, Harry.”
“You helped, too, Hagrid,” Johann added, proudly smiling at his friends.
Both Maulg and Kitch knew they were being talked about and, being inclined to enjoy all of the attention focused on them, began their own personal dialog about the humans.
“There they go, talkin' 'bout us, mos' likely.” Both Harry and Johann started to laugh, as the antics of the two brothers became quite humorous.
“Hagrid, would you mind feeding Maulg and Kitch? I need to go over a few more things with Harry concerning the backpacks and gear.”
“Oh, I think I can fin' sumthin' for 'em. C'mon you two, follow me!” Both bears got up and followed Hagrid, who set out towards the forest. “Fang! C'mon, boy,” he shouted from beneath the tree cover. Fang trotted out of the cabin after a moment and disappeared into the trees also.
Johann started showing Harry the contents of the two backpacks. Cooking supplies, food, extra clothing, rain gear, a camping ax, rope and a good sized first aid kit, were just a few of the items they packed. Harry felt comfortable with all the basic items. Special attention was given to the first aid supplies.
Of special note, though, was a heavy leather gauntlet, which looked to be well used.
“Is this for Falconry?”
“Yes it is, Harry.”
“Do you have a falcon?” Harry affinity for birds and flying creatures was very evident.
“Actually, I have a friend that is a hawk, named Skreeyah.”
“Will I get a chance to meet Skreeyah?”
Looking up into the sky, Johann answered, “She's flying somewhere above us this moment, scouting our path. You'll meet her this evening, most likely.”
“You have interesting friends, Johann.”
Turning back to the task at hand, Harry asked about the use of magic during their trip. Johann explained that he wanted to use as little as possible, to avoid unwanted attention from “certain people”. Harry understood this to mean Death Eaters.
Each of the sleeping bags was unrolled and examined. Johann had Harry repack the two packs so that he would know where everything was in case of an emergency. Harry decided the two packs must be magical, as all of this gear fit inside too easily.
Soon, everything was put away and cleaned up. Harry realized the sun was well into the late afternoon sky already. Johann told Harry to relax for a few minutes while he summoned the others. Harry sat down on the steps and placed his pack in front of him, leaning up against his legs. He leaned back on his elbows and watched Johann play the flute again. Knowing what was going to happen, he was able to ignore the effects of the magic with little effort.
Harry started thinking of his friends, wondering what they were doing this moment. Surely, the train had reached London by now and they must all be on their way home. Would the Grangers be going to their own home? Would everyone be gathering at the Burrow? Harry began to feel the usual painful, post-school year, tug on his emotions: loneliness, because he was away from his friends, and fear, because his future always looked so dark and uncertain, when he was away from Hogwarts. This time, though, the pain was more acute. Dumbledore was dead, gone and buried. Never to be there again for Harry or any of the other students. Fawkes was gone, maybe forever, hopefully not dead. Then there was Ginny Weasley, the girl he had just pushed away so that he could protect her. “/The girl, who could save me/,” he told himself. “/The girl I love.” /If only he could save her. If only he could keep her away from himself, then he could save her. So that, someday, she could save him. “Ginny, please stay away!” He couldn't bear the thought of Ginny getting hurt on account of him. “Don't come near me.”She had been hurt once already, Harry thought, by Voldemort. “You can't have her, Riddle!” Hurt by Lucius Malfoy, Death Eater. Stay away, Ginny, please stay away! I won't let them get you! Ginny, save me, please, save me! Mom, Dad, where are you? Help me!!! Someone, anyone, help meeee....”
A green, grassy field, with wild flowers in full bloom, filled Harry's thoughts suddenly. Butterflies drifted and flitted about everywhere, under a sky so clear and blue, he could taste it. The soothing sounds of a babbling brook nearby enticed his senses. The feeling of the sun on his face was warm and soft as he gazed upwards.
“Harry!”A voice called out to him. /“Harry, my love!” /Harry stood, as a woman with a golden halo around her head ran towards him.
“Mom, is that you?” Harry called out. He began to run towards her. “Mom?” /Suddenly the woman was in his arms, throwing her arms about him. Joyfully, Harry picked her up and twirled about. Ginny's face was glorious in the golden afternoon sun./“I'm here, my love.”
“We're here, Harry, we're here!!” Harry laughed as his parents wrapped their arms about him and Ginny. “We'll always be here! Always....”
“I think 'e's' awake now, Johnny,” Hagrid gave him another shake.“Harry, Harry, you okay?”
Harry awoke from his dream, seeing the faces of Ginny and his parents, only to find the visage of Hagrid's face, up close. His body shuddered, as he moved away.
“Ha-Hagrid, wha-why-what's the matter?”
“You fell asleep, Harry,” replied Johann. “You were having avery bad nightmare.” Johann decided not to tell Harry what he was shouting out loud.
Backing off, then stepping up into his cabin, Hagrid went to pour a cup of tea for Harry. “I knew ya'd bin 'aving nightmares before, Harry, but this was a doozy.” He returned with the ceramic cup that Harry had been using before. “Here, drink this.”
Harry drank deeply from the cup.
“As soon as you sat down, you leaned back and closed your eyes,” explained Johann. “I went on to call Hagrid and the bears back so we could get going. I finished and turned, finding you thrashing about there on the steps. I immediately cast a tune to calm you down.”
“That's when I woke ya, Harry.”
“Thanks,” he said, half-heartedly, his eyes downcast into his cup. Then, realizing he was being ungrateful, Harry looked up and made eye contact with Johann and Hagrid. “I'm sorry. Thanks, Johann. Thanks Hagrid.”
Hagrid patted him on the shoulder, stood up and walked into his cabin.
”When's the last time you've had a full night's sleep?” Johann inquired.
Harry thought for a moment. “I'm not sure,” he mumbled.
Hagrid walked back out with a plate of food for Fang. He stepped down and set it on the grass near the door. Fang smelled it and got himself up. He meandered over to the plate and sniffed the food, looked up at Hagrid as if to say, “I had this last night,” and then turned back and began wolfing down the meat.
“Well, tonight, I guarantee, you'll sleep well.” Johann stood up and extended his hand to Harry.
Taking the offered hand, Harry let himself be pulled up into a standing position.
“Ready to go?”
Looking at the failing light as the sun began to set behind the trees of the forest, Harry asked, “Isn't it too late to start now?”
“Normally yes, but we are on a tight time schedule, I'm afraid. So, we'll knock off a few leagues tonight before we sleep.” Johann turned around and started picking up his gear.
Hagrid walked over and helped Harry with his backpack. “Now, you be sure 'n lis'n to Johnny, Harry. You'll do jus' fine.”
“Thanks, Hagrid, I will, don't worry.” He reached up grasped Hagrid's arm for reassurance.
“Don'ya worry about anythin' else. Hermione an' Ron gotcher stuff an' the Weasleys know who yer with. If I don' see'ya when ya get back, then I'll see'ya a' the weddin'!”
Harry stepped back as Johann approached. He let himself be handled, as Johann checked the tightness of the straps holding the pack on his back and all of the fasteners and zippers. “Looks good, Harry.”
Turning, Johann offered his open hand to Hagrid, saying, “It's been good to see you again, Hagrid!”
Hagrid sniffled, ignored the hand and pulled him into a hug. “It's been too long, Johnny. Take care of our Mr. Potter! You an' the bears, an' Skreeyah too, better come back an' see me soon.” He let Johann go and stepped back, wiping at his tears.
Johann smiled and turned to Harry. “Ready to go?”
“Got your wand?”
Harry smiled. “Yes.”
“Onwards then, Mr. Potter!”
The Forbidden Forest, eastward bound
Harry and Johann were walking steadily, deep in the darkness of the forest. The sun had finally set behind them, hours earlier. Their path was now brightly illuminated by a small lantern that hung from the head of Johann's staff. Harry had watched earlier as his companion had magically extended the length of the wooden walking stick, so that it was now longer than its owner was. The two hikers were engaged in conversation, while Maulg and Kitch were following at a distance off to the side, where the light would not interfere with their night vision.
“You've never flown on a broom?”
“Can't, I have an inner ear problem,” Johann admitted. “Get me more than a couple of yards off of the ground, my equilibrium goes all wonky.”
“Wow, I can't imagine not being able to fly.”
Johann had been asking Harry to talk about himself, hoping it would make the time go by quicker for the novice hiker. Reluctant at first, Harry started to open up when the subject of Quidditch came up.
“I understand you are a very competent seeker for your House team.”
“People seem to think so. I mean, I like it... a lot. Professor McGonagall says I have good hand-to-eye coordination and quick reflexes.”
“Your father did, also. He learned to juggle pretty early in school.”
“Juggle?”, Harry asked. “No one has ever told me that before. I know he used to play with a snitch quite a bit.”
“Ah, yes, I remember that. Used to carry it around everywhere. Tried a few times to charm one, as I recall.” Johann thought back. “He almost got banned from playing Quidditch because of it, too.”
“How well did you know my Dad?”
“At the time he was in his fifth year, I was often stopping at the school to see Dumbledore and Hagrid, usually on business for the Order.” He paused a moment to re-tie a shoelace, then continued. “Over the years, you see, I have been a substitute teacher on a few occasions. I've taught Potions, Herbology and Magical Creatures.”
“Hagrid had mentioned that you were a student at Hogwarts for a year for advanced studies.”
“Yes, that's true, Harry. I spent a year, what you would call your sixth year, at Hogwarts.
“Which House were you in?”
Johann laughed. “Umm, actually, I was in “Hagrid's House”.”
“It's true. Although I came to Hogwarts as an older student, I was still subjected to the Sorting Hat. When they placed it on my head during the ceremony, it turned around and called to the Headmaster, engaged him in conversation, then turned back and loudly pronounced “Hagrid's” House. The whole place was shocked.”
Harry smiled at the strangeness of the image in his mind.
“So, I stayed with Hagrid. We are both the same age and shared a passion for magical creatures. Hagrid, of course, had been expelled in his third year. He was working as the Gamekeeper. Being in advanced studies, I was always busy doing special projects, so I had no time for traditional House activities, anyway.”
“Were Maulg and Kitch with you back then?”
“No, I found them much later.”
They both walked in silence for awhile. Harry was enjoying the time he was spending with Johann. He began to consider what his grades would be like if he had teachers like Johann at Hogwarts.
Johann broke the silence, telling Harry, “I have a very eclectic educational background. I have studied at many schools, in many countries.”
“Did you study at Beauxbatons and Durmstrang?”
“Beauxbatons, yes. Durmstrang, no. I had no interest in specializing in the Dark Arts.”
“What did you study at Beauxbatons?”
“Alchemy and Potions.”
“Why not study that at Hogwarts? Professor Dumbledore was supposed to be one of the best at Potions and Alchemy.”
“Two reasons: He was already Headmaster by the time I was going to school, and secondly, Nicholas Flamel!”
“You mean, Nicholas Flamel was your teacher?”
“Indeed he was. He was amazing. I'll always treasure my studies with Nicholas and his wife, Perenelle. I think you would have liked them very much, Harry, had you the chance to know them.”
“Did you ever see the Philosopher's Stone?”
“No, never did. Plenty of people knew of it, of course. I mean, he was more than six hundred years old.” He turned and looked at Harry, and said, “But you have seen it, haven't you?”
“Yes, I did.” Harry went on to relate the abbreviated version of his first year adventures.
After finishing his narrative, Harry turned quiet. Johann let him, figuring fatigue might be setting in, They were no longer traveling as quickly as they had when they started out.
A sudden, loud, screech broke the solitude of the forest. Harry stopped, as did Johann. Once again, his flute came out, and he played a quick selection of notes. He was answered by another screech.
“Our campsite for the night is close by, Harry.”
“Was that Skreeyah?”
They walked into a large clearing, surrounded on two sides by a thick wall of tall pines. In the center of the clearing, proof that others had camped here before was evident. A shallow fire pit had been dug, possibly years earlier. Johann set down his pack next to a fallen tree that spanned one other side of the clearing. He placed his staff against his pack, removing the lantern, which he placed atop a large rock. Harry followed his lead and did the same with his own backpack.
“Last time I was here, there was a supply of firewood already put aside,” said Johann, as he moved over to a large, drooping pine branch. He grasped it and lifted it, revealing a tidy pile of wood underneath.“I'll go ahead and start the fire. Why don't you go ahead and break out a tarp, the sleeping bags, and some food. We'll eat light tonight, then eat hearty in the morning.”
“Will we sleep on the tarp, or beneath the branches?”
Johann looked up to the sky overhead, getting a feel for the weather.
“We'll sleep in the open, on the tarp.”
“Okay,” answered Harry. He quickly began untie and remove the two sleeping bags and the tarp from the frames of the packs. Unfolding the tarp, he spread it out, clearing away any rocks from the ground beneath it. He tossed the two bags onto it, then unpacked the other smaller items.
Johann gathered the wood and started the fire, muggle style. When Harry commented on this, Johann reminded him that he would prefer to use as little magic as possible. Soon, a roaring fire was burning, permitting Johann to extinguish the lantern.
“Is that lantern magical?” asked Harry.
“No, some new, intensely bright, non-magical lantern. Just picked it up for this trip.” He touched the metal casing, which elicited an immediate gasp of pain. “Merlin's beard, it's hot.” He blew on the fingertip, trying to alleviate the pain.
Producing the first aid kit from his pack, Harry opened the case and extracted a small foil packet with burn medicine. He tore open the corner for Johann and handed over the packet.
“Thanks, Harry.” He applied the clear compound and felt the effects immediately.
With a low rumble, both Maulg and Kitch came shambling through the undergrowth, into the campsite.
At the same time, it's feathers and wings fully extended in a braking maneuver, a large hawk swooped down into the clearing, finding perch on a big tree branch.
“Skreeyah,” said Harry, quietly, almost reverentially.
“Indeed, my friend. She's a Mithril-Headed Hawk. An animal that is very rare and that has never been reported by a Muggle, as far as I can tell.”
Harry approached the tree with small steps, gazing up at the bird. Skreeyah's body looked to be a dark, charcoal black. Her wing feathers, which she was proud to display for Harry, were tipped either in a bit of white, or maybe light blue. He couldn't tell for sure in the poor light. Her most prominent feature, however, was the silvery head and neck feathers, which reflected glints of the reddish-orange firelight. Her eyes were also exquisite in their clarity.
“Aye, that she is, Harry, that she is...”
The two of them returned to setting up the camp and to preparing a light meal for themselves.
Harry climbed into his bedroll after having finished his trail meal, which they had heated up in it's own foil bag. He still wasn't sure what it was, but it had been hot and filled his belly. They each had their own bottles of water to wash it down.
Each of the bears had laid themselves down beside the sleeping bags. Harry found himself reaching out and softly rubbing Kitch behind his ear, which produced a soothing rumble from the big bear. He listened peacefully to the sounds of the night; the snapping of the wood burning, the light breeze in the trees, and the distant chatter of some nocturnal insects.
Rolling onto his back, looking upwards, the last sight Harry had, before he put his glasses away, was of Skreeyah, underlit from the dim light of the banked fire, looking downwards, directly at him.
“Goodnight, Johann. Goodnight Maulg.” The bear rumbled his reply to Harry.
In a softer tone, “Goodnight, Kitch. You too, Skreeyah.”
Harry rolled over towards Kitch and pulled the bag up over his shoulders. Closing his eyes, he called out silently, “Goodnight, Ginny.”
And in his mind, came the thought, Goodnight, Harry!”