Morning, second day
The smoky scent and crackling sound of bacon cooking in a frying pan is guaranteed to awaken anyone sleeping out in the open. Of course, so is the pressure from a full bladder, after having slept for seven solid hours.
Harry awoke to these exact conditions. He quickly found his way free of the sleeping bag, donned his boots, and ran off to find a tree to disappear behind.
Johann kept his eyes on the pan of meat as he poured egg mix into another. A third container, with cornbread baking in it, was suspended over the fire. A large pot of heated water, yet to reach boiling, was also near the fire.
Harry returned and before he could begin dressing himself, Johann called out, “There's a stream about fifteen yards tot he north. Why don't you go ahead and get cleaned up. Breakfast will be ready when you get back.”
“Okay.” Harry dug into his pack, pulled out his kit and wand, and headed northwards into the trees. It didn't take him long to find it, especially since Kitch and Maulg were already there, munching on fresh caught fish.
Both bears were too busy with their meals to say much in reply.
Harry quickly washed himself, the cold water very bracing. Twenty-four hours ago if someone had told him that, just one day later, he'd be bathing in a cold stream in the middle of the forest, he'd have thought him or her “bonkers”.
Finished, he walked back to the campsite. He dressed himself, organized his kit and pack, and opened up his sleeping bag to let it air out, as Johann had instructed him yesterday. Then he walked over to the campfire.
“Morning, Harry. Sleep well last night?”
“Like a log. It's kind of nice to have a big warm bear next to you when you sleep, isn't it?” he said, with a mischievous grin on his face.
Johann chuckled, “As long as it isn't flea season!”
Harry grimaced as a shiver ran along his spine.
“That water is hot enough for tea. After, we'll use it for cleaning. Grab a plate; the bacon and eggs are ready, as is the corn bread.”
Harry retrieved two plates, one for each of them, and started serving himself. Finding a comfortable place on the fallen log, he straddled it, using it as a table and a seat. Johann joined him shortly afterwards, both of them then attacking their full plates with gusto.
“Ummm, thish ish really good,” Harry managed to say around a full mouth. Swallowing, he then commented on the eggs.
“I never go anywhere without my peppers,” answered Johann, acknowledging the compliment. “I also found some wild onion and few other things yesterday on my way to Hagrid's cabin.”
They both returned to enjoying their meals, even going back for seconds, in Harry's case. Soon, all of the food was consumed. They sipped their tea quietly, listening to the forest. Kitch chose to return to the campsite after a few minutes. A bit later, Maulg shambled into view.
Finishing their tea, they set to cleaning up.
“One of the few muggle skills I seem to have is in the kitchen.” Harry went on to explain about the duties he was expected to fulfill in his Aunt's kitchen, while they stowed the cooking gear.
“Learning how to cook properly is a valuable skill, Harry. Like any other skill, the secret is to keep at it and be open to new ideas.”
Soon, all the sleeping bags were rolled and stowed, followed by the tarpaulin.
“One last thing to do is to replace the wood we used for the fire. I like to actually leave a bit more than we found.”
“I recall seeing a fallen tree down by the stream.”
“Good choice. Let me grab the axe so we can break it up.”
Having a sudden idea, Harry said, “I'll grab some rope, so we can tow the bundle behind us, instead of trying to carry it.”
“Now that's using your head!”
The two set out to gather the firewood, the two bears following along dutifully.
An hour later, they walked back into the campsite, towing a large bundle of wood behind them. Or more specifically, Kitch, with the coil of excess rope clasped gently between his teeth, pulled the bound bundle into the campsite. They quickly replaced the firewood and re-stowed the axe and rope. A quick policing of the grounds turned up no debris. The made sure the campfire was truly extinguished, covering any remaining coals with dirt.
“Let's be on our way, Harry. We have a lot of ground to cover today.”
“You're awake early, dear. Did you sleep well?”
Ginny moaned as her eyes cracked open. “What time is it, Mum?”
“Shortly past six.”
“Wha---why did you wake me?” she cried out, indignantly.
Molly finished putting away the early morning laundry and turned to her youngest. “Ginny, you know that I would never wake you this early on your first day back home.”
Ginny moaned again and rolled over, only to realize that certain necessities needed her immediate attention. She jumped up, donned her robe and her fuzzy slippers, and then made her way to the bathroom.
Returning a few minutes later, just as Molly was finished straightening out the tangled covers of her bed, Ginny fell, face first, back onto her bed and said softly, but clearly, “that bacon smells wonderful.” Then she started to softly snore.
Molly, hands on her hips, could only stand and gawk at her daughter. “Bacon?We don't even have any bacon in the house.” Then she walked over to the bed, removed her daughter's slippers and robe, and tucked her legs in, pulling the covers over her again.
“I love you, Harry,” was the sleepy acknowledgment that froze Molly in her tracks.
The trail, second day
The Forbidden Forest eventually gave way to light-density woods. They walked steadily on as the sun climbed overhead. Occasionally, Skreeyah would call out, communicating with Johann, that they were, indeed, on the track he wanted to follow.
Frequently along the way, Johann would pause to show Harry some wild vegetable, mushroom, berry, or herb, which he considered suitable for human consumption. He would often collect a handful of these plants or fungi, stowing them promptly in a pouch.
Other topics of conversation included information about the different types of trees and shrubs that they encountered. Harry was thoroughly enjoying all of these impromptu lessons about Herbology and Forestry. He realized it was one thing to learn about the plants in the controlled environs of the Hogwarts greenhouses, but to encounter(some) of them in their natural environment and to see how they lived in relation to other plants, was a whole new experience.
Later in the afternoon, their path left the woods behind and began to incline. Harry could see the tall hills and mountains to the east, now that they were out in the open. He had often stared off to these mountains from the windows in his dorm room, back at the castle. It was always a treat to catch the warm colors of the sun on the western face of the mountains, late in the day. The fact that these very same windows, and indeed all the dorm turret windows, were deliberately placed to catch the first rays of dawn, in order to awaken the students, escaped Harry.
Pausing for a late afternoon snack and break, Harry finally asked a question that had been stewing about in his head since Hagrid had first described his friend to Harry.
“Johann, Hagrid told me that you don't consider yourself a Wizard. Is that true?”
“I guess you could say that was accurate, Harry. The fact is that, as I said earlier, my education has been very eclectic. Besides attending Beauxbatons and Hogwarts, where you will find your traditional classifications of Witches and Wizards, I have also sought out and been taught by Druids, Bards, Forest Rangers, Priests, Shamans and Monks.”
As they started hiking again, Johann continued to talk about some of his travels and experiences. “I've been very fortunate to be able to travel as much as I have. Places like Stonehenge, Sagarmatha, the Temple of Kukulcan, Shiprock, and, to what the Cheyenne and Lakota call, “Bear's Lodge”. All of those places are very powerful places of Magic. The lessons I learned from my experiences at those places are as important to me as the lessons learned at Hogwarts or Beauxbatons.”
They walked on in silence for awhile, as Johann relived in his mind some of the special times he had spent in those places.
“What you may not realize, Harry, is that what you learn at Hogwarts is basically only one type of magic, with hints of others. Often, it is referred to as “Western” magic. You should realize, though, that there are many types of Magic in the world, and there are specialized practitioners of these kinds of Magic. An example; Druids are known for being masters of Nature Magic. Bards practice the art of using musical instruments to focus and manipulate Magic. They are also masters of language, and when combined with their musical abilities, can truly be a force of influence on a large scale, as well as individuals. Priests, Shamans and others, manipulate and control Spirit Magic. There is an ancient Chinese Magic, practiced by certain Monks, that some have dubbed “Monkey Magic”. In Central and South America, there was an ancient culture that manipulated the energies that they channeled from the metals that they smelted. Of course, they also offered up human sacrifices as a way of magical manipulation.”
They walked in silence for awhile. This time, it was Harry that was reflecting on all of the information that Johann was giving him.
“Why don't they teach us about this in school? Why haven't we heard of these magical places that you spoke of? I mean, sure we've all heard of Stonehenge, and I've seen a program on the television concerning Shiprock in the United States, but Sagarmatha? Bear's Lodge?”
“Well, Harry, in most cases, it's hard enough for a teacher to get the basics into their students' heads, let alone advanced studies. What you do learn about, are the basic courses you need to begin to function as a contributing member of the society you live in.” Johann paused for effect, then said, “At least, that's the ideal educators strive for. However, it's one thing to listen in class, to do homework and to pass the tests; it's another to have the wisdom to apply what you learn, to the real world. If you can't apply those lessons wisely, then there is no use in trying to teach students about more advanced ideas, or other cultures that practice magic.”
“I think I know what you mean. I've heard something like that before from Professor Dumbledore. Even Hermione has said that she knows a lot of “book learning”, but that applying that knowledge is something that she felt lacking about herself. Of course, she said that years ago...”
“Harry, it's very rare for anyone your age, or even in their twenties, to begin to have “wisdom”. Wisdom and maturity tend to go hand-in-hand, along with life experiences, which accumulate with age. A strong sense of responsibility also factors in. In certain cases, and this pertains to you to some extent, when a young person has experienced a lot in their early years and taken on serious responsibilities, then maturity and wisdom can come sooner.”
“You think I'm wise and mature?”
“I think you have wisdom and maturity beyond that of your typical sixth year student, Harry. That's why I am telling you about other forms of Magic. That is why I will teach you about things you would never hear about in Hogwarts. Now, do I think you wise? Well, all I will say is that one strives to become wise all of their life. It's a never ending journey!”
Harry walked along, thinking about what Johann had said. As ever, self-doubt began to rear its ugly head.
“I wish I felt mature and wise.”
“I would say that it is natural for you to feel that way, Harry. Think about it; you grew up in an environment where the family you lived with didn't love you, nurture you, or even have the decency to tell you the truth about who you were. Professor Dumbledore told me you never had friends, never had the chance to play organized sports or join in any reindeer games.”
Harry chuckled appreciatively, responding, “Professor Dumbledore said THAT?”
“Well, I added the part about the reindeer games, actually.”
“Hagrid said they barely fed you. Then, on your eleventh birthday, out of the clear blue sky, your whole world is changed. You learn the truth about your parents, you find out about your magical heritage, and then, you're told that there is some evil maniac out there trying to kill you, because he is afraid of you! He's afraid of an eleven year old boy!”
Harry listened closely to Johann.
“Then you come to Hogwarts, where you meet new friends and gain new enemies. You find yourself in the middle of a war, one that has been raging off and on for decades. A war, where many people have died, and even more have been terrorized. Every year, for the past six years, you report to school, to find new obstacles have been placed before you. Yet, you have found a way to get past them.”
“All I feel these days is fear and uncertainty, Johann. I know what I must do, but I don't know how, exactly. Professor Dumbledore and I talked about it a lot and there are certain things I must do to try to weaken Voldemort.”
“Listen to me.” Johann stood in front of Harry, getting his full attention. “Many of us have been through this already, Harry, but you haven't. This is your first time around. A normal young man your age would have broken a long time ago, but you keep fighting. You keep living, learning and loving.”
“A lot of us who are working against Voldemort, now, did so before you were even born. Before the night he tried to kill you, as a baby.” Johann paused to let his words sink in. Then, in a whisper that Harry barely heard, he said, “Do you think the prophecy about you and Voldemort was the only one concerning Voldemort, in that room?”
Startled, Harry didn't know what to say. He'd never taken the time to really think about any of this. He'd been so focused on his prophecy, the Horcruxes, on what Dumbledore had told him, and on everything that had happened to him, that he hadn't even considered such a possibility. What also surprised Harry was that Johann knew so much about the prophecy.
In a voice just as quiet, he asked, “You mean, you...”
Johann shook his head negatively. “Not me. But how many other prophecies were in there?
“I don't know. Hundreds, I guess”
“Try more than ten thousand.”
Harry was shocked. “I didn't know there were that many Seers.”
Still talking in a whisper, Johann told him, “Voldemort and his Death Eaters killed many of them the last time. That's another reason why Professor Dumbledore protected Professor Trelawney the way he did.”
“Do you even know why the “Room of Mysteries” is really named so?” asked Johann in a louder voice. “When I was in school here, many people thought it was because “it's a mystery to the Ministry what to do with all that junk”!”
Harry laughed, and then laughed some more.
“Everything that has happened to you and to those around you, are like the pieces of some huge jigsaw puzzle, my friend. So far, you've been putting the pieces together as best you can. But don't think for one second that you have, or know of, all the pieces. Professor Dumbledore had pieces, some of which he shared with you. The Ministry has a set of their own puzzle pieces. The Order of the Phoenix has been gathering pieces for decades, Harry. There are some pieces that only Voldemort has.” Johann paused to let Harry process the information. “So far, from what I have been told, you, AND your friends, have done an excellent job with what has been handed to you. Perhaps more than anyone else, besides Albus Dumbledore. There's just one thing about jigsaw puzzles, though. You're never one hundred percent sure about how, or where, every piece fits, until the very end.”
Harry nodded as he acknowledged to himself the lesson Johann was teaching him. The jigsaw puzzle analogy was a good one, he thought. It seemed like all that he and Ron and Hermione, and now Ginny, did, was try to put together a huge jigsaw puzzle. Then Harry realized it wasn't much fun to put a puzzle together alone. It took too much time.
That night, as he lay once more in his sleeping bag, his belly full of good food, and with the body warmth of Maulg next to him, he pondered all that he had been told that day. “Johann is a good teacher.”
Then, as a welcome distraction, he began to think of Ginny, and of her strawberry-blond hair and the rosy blush on her cheeks. He thought of his hand entwined with hers. In his mind, he spooned against her back and whispered in her ear, that he loved her.
“I love you, too, Harry!” was the distinct reply in his sleepy mind. “Goodnight!”
The trail, third day
The next morning, finished with the campsite meal and chores, the five adventurers set out once again. Skreeyah, who Harry had taken quite a liking to, took to the sky early. Maulg and Kitch followed, sometimes close, sometimes at a distance.
The leagues melted away steadily, as Johann kept Harry's mind occupied. Harry continued to soak up lessons in history and magic, far beyond what he ever learned at Hogwarts. He began to ask pointed questions about a variety of topics and Johann answered as a mentor would. His supply of answers was seemingly endless. Harry learned more about Forestry and Outdoor survival. Johann taught him about tracking and gauging weather signs. There were no discussions of Voldemort or Death Eaters.
That night, Harry was able to coax, with Johann's coaching, Skreeyah to perch upon his protected arm. In no time, Skreeyah had allowed him to carefully touch and stroke her plumage. Johann was very impressed, knowing how independent she is.
“You're the first person, besides myself, to be permitted by Skreeyah to do that.”
“I love birds and magical, flying creatures.”
“Even dragons?” Johann chuckled, knowing about Harry's adventure during the Tri-Wizard Cup Tournament.
“Well, maybe not Horntails, as much.”
Johann laughed out loud.
As Harry groomed her, he could not help but think of Fawkes, Professor Dumbledore's Phoenix. Secretly, Harry wondered if he would ever see him again. Fawkes had saved his life twice in the Chamber of Secrets.
Skreeyah chirped softly, then spread her wings. Harry lifted his arm and she flew up to a high branch in a tree, to perch for the night. Johann helped Harry remove the heavy leather gauntlet and gave his shoulder and neck a rub.
“Get some sleep, Harry. We have one more day on this trail together.”
Harry walked over to each of the bears and spent a few moments rubbing and scratching them behind their ears. He told them goodnight and retreated to his sleeping bag. He lay back with his arm behind his head, gazing up at the stars.
The stars were so bright tonight. The Milky Way was a wide path across the sky, guiding Harry, as he reflected on his journey to date.“Johann has taught me so much. I wish all of my studies were like this.” A deep sense of satisfaction calmed Harry. “I wish you were here, Ginny. This is better than OWL classes, hands down. I have so much to share with you when I come home. Home to the Burrow. Where you are. Where your family, and my friends, are.”
The gentle feel of an invisible touch on his scar helped Harry cross over into a deep sleep.
The trail, fourth day
Mid-afternoon of the next day, the four arrived at a wide stream. The two bears jumped in immediately and began to catch fish for their meal. Harry, filling his canteens, looked closely into the water to see large schools of trout everywhere. Johann sat his pack down, watching his two friends, as he removed his two empty water containers. As he knelt down to fill them, Harry finished refilling his.
Overhead, Skreeyah was gliding silently on a thermal, gently circling the group below. The warmth of the early summer sun on her body and wings felt good. As she flew, her extra-sharp eyesight was constantly sweeping the ground below and the sky around her.
A sudden movement in the trees off to her right grabbed her attention. A simple muscle twitch changed her flight direction, aiming her towards the disturbance. Flying directly overhead of the trees, she can clearly see what the cause is. Skreeyah lets out an incredible screech.
The loud, piercing screech stopped Johann in his tracks. He gazed upwards trying to see Skreeyah, then outwards, away from the group, trying to see what the cause of the warning was. He then stood up and closed his eyes, leaning against his staff.
Harry could only wonder what was going on.
Gazing down through Skreeyah's eyes, the first thing Johann notices is the heavily swaying branches. Then, as he focused the eyes, the large bulk of a Giant, walking steadily towards the stream, and the group, was clearly visible.
Johann opened his eyes and turned towards Harry, saying, “Giant!”
“What should I do?”
“Take your pack off and get behind that big tree over there. Put on your jacket and activate the camouflage charm. By the way, Giants are quite resistant to magic!”
As he followed Johann's instructions, Harry recalled the night on the Astronomy tower during his OWL test, when several members of the Ministry tried to subdue and capture Hagrid, who was rebelling against the tyrannical Dolores Umbridge. Their spells had simply deflected from Hagrid's body. The Giant ahead of them would be no easier to deal with, he thought. As he donned his new jacket, Harry began to go over various options he might have to help Johann.
Watching Harry, Johann took stock of the contents of his own coat pockets, both inside and out. He leaned his walking staff up against his pack. Seeing that Harry had the jacket on, he called out, “Put the hood up and zip it up. Otherwise the Camouflage charm won't be effective.”
Harry did as he was told, zipping it up to his neck, making sure the flare of the hood was extended. He then squeezed the special charm attached to the end of the zipper, and said, /“Delta Chameleonus.”/As Harry watched, the jacket began to shimmer, then take on the appearance of the tree and foliage around him. That is, except his hands, legs and feet.
While Harry was taking cover, both Maulg and Kitch stopped their antics in the water. They both grew silent, heads and snouts lifted to smell the air. Smart as they both were, and as well trained as they as they had become over the years, they both recognized Skreeyah's warning. Kitch reared up on his heavily muscled rear legs, trying to better sense the danger. He chuffed loudly and turned his head to Maulg, growling softly. Maulg answered back and stood up also. Both of them swayed back and forth as they scanned left and right, trying to see, and smell, the danger.
As the bears began to alert to the danger, Johann reached into the left side of his buckskin jacket and withdrew a miniature horn, attached to a leather lanyard. He placed it in his left palm and waved his right hand over it. The horn quickly swelled to a size slightly larger than a Flugelhorn. Instead of the normal three valves, this horn had five and a special lever. Placing it to his lips, Johann set his fingers on three of the valves and on the lever.
Suddenly, the loud snap and crack of wood breaking gets everyone's attention.
As the Giant broke through the cover of the trees, he tilted his head forward, took a deep breath, and blew.
Harry, poking his head out around the edge of the thick tree trunk, suddenly felt a deep vibration in his feet and legs. It traveled up his body, into his chest. His teeth started to chatter and his eyeglasses began to migrate down his nose to the edge, before he quickly reseated them. Looking about in confusion, he noticed motes and small bits of organic matter fall from the trees and shrubs around him. Fallen leaves on the ground were bristling with the vibration. The trout and other fish in the stream were reacting with frenzied twitching, causing the water to ripple and churn. Birds and insects took flight all around. Maulg and Kitch fell back down to all four legs as the sub-sonic barrage from the horn radiated outwards, growing in intensity.
The Giant, which Harry can now see clearly, stood forty yards away at the edge of the trees across the stream. Both of his huge hands were covering his ears and his knees were wobbling. He had been holding a large rock in one hand and a long tree trunk club in the other. Both of these items were now on the ground where he had dropped them.
The blast dissipated as Johann ran out of breath. After sucking in a few lungfuls of fresh air, Johann told Harry that his spells will work against any weapon that the Giant uses, be it rock or tree. Harry's eyes widened as he had not considered that tactic. He signaled his acknowledgment.
Johann placed the horn to his lips again and sent forth a higher pitched Call-to-Arms. He swept the horn, and his head, from the left side to his right, and back again. The notes pierced the air clearly, sending a shiver up Harry's spine. His heart began to beat faster, pumping adrenaline through his system. A heightened sense of awareness allowed Harry to feel the gathering of magic in the atmosphere around him, as Johann continued his tune.
Unconsciously responding to the magical energies, Harry stepped out from behind the tree. He watched as Maulg and Kitch, their golden neck fur bristling brightly in the sunlight, enhanced by tiny drops of water in their fur, began to move to the far side of the stream. He then became aware of hundreds of birds of all types and sizes as they gathered, flying in orbit around the Giant. Without looking, Harry knew that Skreeyah would be directly overhead.
The Giant was bewildered by the sonic barrage and then by the frenetic flight of all of the birds. He recognized the two bears, which he knew could be a threat. Then he registered Johann and his shiny metal horn. He knew it was that 'one', the 'shiny man', who was hurting him. He began to hate the 'shiny man'. With a loud bellow, he picked up the rock he had dropped and readied to throw it.
Harry was anxious for any reaction from the Giant; he had been waiting for it. With his wand held securely, he stepped forward with his left foot, and focusing on the rock, shouted, “Wingardium Leviosa!”
Unlike what happened to the Troll's club in the girl's bathroom their first year at Hogwarts, Harry's spell force is such that, as the Giant releases the rock towards Johann, the rock immediately changes direction and flies off away from the combatants. The Giant doesn't realize that something had happened to the rock, until he wondered why the shiny man is still standing.
Harry began to cast the /Evanesco /spell, causing whatever tree or rock within the reach of the Giant to disappear. Soon, an open clearing between the far side of the stream and the Giant was all that remained.
Johann had stopped playing the horn as Harry had begun his assault on the Giant, carefully studying his use of magic. He was very impressed. This fight, though, was far from over, he told himself. He walked forward, resuming his call to arms. He moved up beside Harry and then passed beyond, stepping down into the water.
Harry followed at a few steps behind and to the right.
Johann stopped on the far side bank, flanked by his two very anxious friends. With the closer view, he saw that the Giant had blood seeping from his ears and nose. The bewildered expression on the Giant's face changed to rage, as Johann made eye contact.
Dropping his horn, letting it swing on its lanyard, he called out, “This is it, Harry. He's going to charge, so stay back and wait!” He slapped the rear flanks of Maulg and Kitch, growling out a command.
The Giant began to charge at Johann.
Maulg and Kitch both let out angry roars and ferociously charged the Giant..
Johann retrieved the horn, filled his lungs, and, aiming directly at the Giant's face, blew a new note.
Instantly, a beam of pure sunlight blasted downwards from the sun and struck the Giant squarely in the face, blinding him. The Giant covered up and fell to his knees, howling in pain.
Harry watched as the hundreds of birds that have been circling the area, sweep in from all points of the compass around the Giant, attacking with their beak and claws. The cloud of frenzied feathers almost hid the thrashing Giant from sight. Arms swung left and right as the Giant stood again and tried to find a target, but little damage was done to the fast and nimble birds.
Suddenly, with a loud screech, the birds flew away. Skreeyah swooped down at the Giant, razor-sharp talons extended fully. The distance closed rapidly and Harry held his breath. It was then that Harry realized the 'coup de grace' was coming. Just as Skreeyah's' claws raked his scalp, Maulg slammed headfirst into the vulnerable mid-section of the Giant, while Kitch pounced upon his left leg, sinking his fangs deeply into the left knee.
The Giant buckled under and fell flat onto his back. He attempted to roll over, trying to free himself of the more than three thousand pounds of angry Mountain Bears. Soon, all Harry and Johann could see was a cloud of dust and the massive mounds of fur and muscle inside it. For many minutes, the sounds of jaws snapping, claws raking raw flesh and fists pounding, emanated from the scrum.
Johann resized his horn back down to its travel size. Stowing it away back inside his jacket, he pulled out a flute from another inner pocket. He began to play a lighter, but sad, melody. Slowly, over a period of several minutes, the mayhem lessened until it dissipated.
Harry could feel the tension draining from the atmosphere around him. He watched as the two bears disengaged from the Giant. Harry couldn't tell if it was dead or alive. Judging by the way that the bears were falling back, constantly glancing over their shoulders to observe the Giant, he thought it was probably alive. He turned towards Johann, who had stopped playing the flute, and asked, “Do you think it's alive?”
“I don't know, Harry. It's probably heavily injured.” Johann watched for signs of life. “It will certainly have lost a lot of blood. That scalp wound, alone, can be a heavy bleeder.” He didn't need to say that any of the other wounds could be serious, too. “It may just be passed out.”
“Are we going to go up and check it?”
“I am, you are not,” he said firmly. “Besides, I'd like for you to check on Maulg and Kitch.” Johann walked back to where his backpack was, opened it and rummaged around in it for a few minutes, pulling out a few items. With his hands full, he returned to the stream, waded across it and back up onto the other side.
Harry saw that his arms were full with what seemed to be a large folded piece of fabric.
“For bandages. I think he'll need a lot,” he said, meaning the Giant. He walked onwards, toward the Giant.
Harry watched him as he did so, his hand on his wand. As Johann reached the body, he dropped the armful of supplies on the ground.
“He's alive,” he shouted from beside the Giant. “He's out cold.”
Harry waved and relaxed. Harry was secretly glad they had not killed the Giant. The thought that kept going through his head was, “What if he was a friend of Hagrid's or Grawp's?”
Both bears were now back at the stream bank, making straight for the stream. Their fur was covered in dust caked blood and bits of grass. They plunged into the water, submerging as much of their body as possible, including their head. Harry could see blood, bits of debris and flesh rinse free from their fur. As the debris floated downstream, fish began to swim to the surface to feed. Maulg and Kitch wasted no time in grabbing a few snacks for themselves.
Harry deactivated the camouflage charm and removed his jacket. He placed the jacket on the near bank in a safe and dry spot. He waded back in to check on the bears. He slowly ran his fingers through Maulg's coat first, careful not to touch any open wounds. He did note three bad scratches that he thought might require attention, along with a swelling on his left shoulder area. Maulg allowed Harry to check his paws for stones or open sores. He was even brave enough to check his teeth and ears. Of course, a good rub behind the ear was Maulg's reward.
Kitch sat and watched Harry attend to Maulg. He also ate six fish while doing so. Harry found him licking his forepaws clean. Harry approached easily, making eye contact with Kitch first, to get permission to check him. Kitch was very passive, watching Harry with interest as he was administered to. Harry paused a few times to scratch the underside of his snout or rub behind his ears. A small bone, probably from one of the trout, was found lodged between two of Kitch's teeth, but Harry had no problem with removing it. Other than a cut on his upper lip and a pair of scratch marks on his left side, upper fore leg, which might have been caused by Maulg, Harry thought Kitch looked fine.
Johann returned from the Giant, who Harry now thought looked like a giant Mummy. “He lives. Hopefully the bleeding is stopped now and he will recover enough to limp away. I had to splint his left leg heavily, as Kitch seems to have removed his kneecap.” Johann bent down to the water and rinsed blood and dirt from his hands and arms. “I had to use that entire sheet to bandage him.”
“Looks like it from here!”
“What is really important here, Harry, is that never in many years has a Giant wandered down from the mountains this close to Hogwarts. Remember, Hogwarts is only two days away from here, if you take giant steps!” Johann sat down on the bank and relaxed. Harry could tell he was tired.
“Professor Dumbledore warned Fudge that Voldemort would try to recruit the Giants to return and fight on his side, once more.”
“Hagrid did tell me about his visit to the Giants and of his failure. It may be that there is a 'handler' in the area.”
“A Death-Eater?” Harry asked.
“It wouldn't surprise me.”
Harry went on to tell Johann about Maulg's and Kitch's condition. Johann took the time to examine each scratch and laceration.
“Thank you for examining these two.”
“They didn't give me the slightest problem.”
“That's a reflection on your character, Harry. Kitch and Maulg know who to trust and who not to trust, believe me.”
“Well, we better camp here for the night. Originally we were going to finish up the last few leagues and stop, but I think it is best if we stop now, eat a good meal, get to bed early and rise early. I want to keep an eye on his nibs over there just to be sure that when he leaves, he goes back home.”
“Shall I get some wood?”
“Yes, please do. Oh, and Harry, I think it best if we resume keeping the magic use to a minimum, again.”
Two large fillets of Trout cooked in the big fry pan over the fire. Harry chopped a few roots and herbs, adding them to another pan of veggies. Biscuits heated in another.
“I relieve you, Harry! Why don't you go and get out of those wet things and into something clean and dry. That way you can wash and hang dry the wet things after dinner.”
Harry was feeling a bit squishy. A dry set of clothes sounded almost as good as a hot meal. “Good idea!” He stripped off the wet clothes, washed himself, and changed into dry ones. His boots received a good cleaning and a new application of the water-repellent rub. As he finished, Johann called him to supper.
The two served themselves and sat down. They ate quietly, enjoying the evening sunlight before it went down below the western horizon.
As they finished, Johann spoke up. “You did a good job, back there, during the fight, Harry. Your spell selection was spot-on.”
“I hope I can do as well when it comes time to face Voldemort,” he responded, softly. Then, to himself, he thought, “When the day does come, I hope I can have strong friends about me, as Johann does.”
Then the realization of what he had just thought dawned on him, and almost overwhelmed him. “What have I been doing to myself? To my friends? Why have I pushed Ginny away?” Harry's eyes begin to moisten at the thought of all frustration and angst he has put himself through. “ That damn prophecy! All those bad dreams and sleepless nights.” He sank his head down into his folded arms, feeling stupid and a hundred other things about himself.
Just as he began to teeter over the edge of self-loathing, a wet snout poked his arm and head. Harry looked up to see the scarred face of Maulg, as the bear began to swipe his thick tongue over his tear-stained cheek. A poke at his back told him where Kitch was. Harry couldn't help but feel better. He turned and wrapped his arms around Kitch's head first, whispering his heartfelt thanks and returning the unrequited feeling of love that only a furred animal can give. With a soft growl, Maulg voices his displeasure at being left out. Harry broke his hug of Kitch and laughed, turning back to give Maulg a hug, too. “Never again will I push my friends away!”
“Are you okay, Harry?”
Embarrassed because he had forgot that Johann was next to him the entire time, Harry managed a small smile, and as he rubbed Maulg under his snout, replied, “I am now. I am now!”
They spent the rest of the evening washing clothes in pots of heated water, hanging them to dry afterwards, and in thoroughly cleaning the cooking gear. Johann re-examined the bears' wounds, actually using thread and needle to sew a few wounds closed. Harry was reminded of the time Mr. Weasley was attacked by Nagini, Voldemort's snake, ,while on watch outside the Dept. of Mysteries, inside the Ministry of Magic. He had almost bled out from the wound. A Healer inside St. Mungo's had used a controversial new method of healing to try and stop the loss of blood. Arthur had been “Stitched”.
As Harry readied himself to turn in, Johann walked over to him, staff in hand. “I'm going to check on the Giant.”
“Are you taking the bears with you?”
“Maulg and Skreeyah are coming. I'm going to ask Skreeyah to stand watch through the night over him. Any twitch he makes and Skreeyah will alert me.”
Harry acknowledged Johann, then dragged his sleeping bag next to Kitch.
“Don't wait up, Harry. Kitch will awaken you if necessary. You have a big day tomorrow!. Get some sleep.”
“Goodnight, then, Johann.”
Harry slid in, took off his glasses, and closed his eyes. He was asleep within a minute.
Harry walks silently through an old Graveyard, bathed in the light of a full moon. Step-by-step, he approaches a tall, granite tombstone, upon which is an inscription of the names James Potter and Lily Potter. Harry kneels down to hug the tombstone, telling his Mom and Dad how much he loves them and misses them. A sound behind causes Harry to stand and spin about, wand instantly in his hand.
Lord Voldemort stands, not four yards from him, his wand clasped delicately in his claw-like hand, aimed directly at Harry. Harry's wand flies from his grasp as Voldemort's silent casting of 'Expelliarmus' slams into him, forcing him back against the tombstone. Harry seethes with rage and silently casts 'Accio Wand'.
Annoyed, Voldemort says out loud, “Thiss iss it, Potter! Ssay goodbye!”
As Voldemort begins to cast the Death Curse, Maulg and Kitch both slam headfirst into Voldemort's tall, frail, body. Harry can hear bones snapping as Voldemort cries out, collapsing like a sack of potatoes. Kitch swipes at Voldemort's head with a paw bigger than his head. His claws, fully exposed, sever the head messily at the neck. The head flies upwards in an arc, then lands on the ground at Harry's foot. He looks down, staring at the lifeless face of evil....
“Harry, wake up!”
Startled, Harry awakens with a shudder. He looks about wildly. “Where's Voldemort?”
“Harry, wake up! You're having a bad dream.”
It is then that Harry notices Johann kneeling at the bottom of his twisted up sleeping bag, shaking his foot.
“It's okay, everything is safe.”
Harry falls back, relieved. He looks up, noticing the deep blue-blackness of the night sky overhead, with a full moon now three-quarters of the way down to the western horizon.
“What time is it, Johann?”
“Almost three am.”
“Ugh'” was the simple retort. Harry got up from the sleeping bag, unzipping it fully to straighten it before rolling it up. Noticing the sweaty smell coming from it, he frowned.
”Don't worry, Harry. That was the last night you'll be spending in it this trip.”
Harry had never actually asked how long the journey would take, or even where they were going. He had been so fascinated by the novel experience of someone new in his life, mentoring him in so many things about the world outside of Hogwarts, and especially, outside of 4 Privet Drive. He moved his hand up to scratch at an itch on his chin and realized he had a light growth of facial hair.
Johan smiled and called out from where he was pouring the last of the heated water into two mugs, “Looks like someone did a bit of growing up, this trip.”
Feeling a warm flush on his cheeks, Harry called back, “Yeah, I guess so.”
They both broke out in a chuckle and had a cup of tea.
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