It is a most difficult ordeal to run through a forest under the moonlight. There are roots, random holes, thorny weeds, trailing branches, poison ivy, and prickly, sticky bushes galore to scratch and trip one plenty of times. Still, Rowan kept running despite the scratches and bruises from painfully sprawling onto the forest floor from evil tree roots. Rather bruised and exhausted at this point, she just kept jogging forward trying to make it back to Hogwarts before dawn.
Holding her now bruised waist, Rowan winced as she steps into a clearing. To her surprise, she freezes at the edge at seeing the man-horse, or better yet, a centaur. To the waist, a young man, with red hair and beard, but below that was a horse's gleaming chestnut body with a long, reddish tail. Quickly stepping back behind the tree trunk, she finds herself desperately hoping that they didn't have the senses of an actual horse.
"Ronan?" A more masculine voice called out.
"Mars is bright tonight," Ronan dreamily said. "Unusually bright, Bane."
Peeking just around the tree trunk, Rowan sees the second centaur. Black-haired, muscled, and wilder-looking than Ronan. Nodding in approval of the well-toned young body, she pulls back to listen.
Glancing up at the stars, Bane says, "Yes, Mars is rather bright tonight." The two of them stare in silence up at the night sky for some time, before trotting back from whence they came.
Rowan waited for what seemed ages before peeking back around the tree trunk with a soft sigh. Emerging cautiously out into the clearing, she glances around before pausing to look up at the night sky. "Huh, they're right," Rowan mused out loud. "Mars is really bright tonight."
Shaking her head ruefully, Rowan hurries forward to almost crash into a teenage boy-, rather a teenage centaur. Jumping back the youthful centaur with white-blond hair and a palomino body stares in utter surprise right back at her. The centaur youth had astonishingly blue eyes like pale sapphires.
"You should not be out here," the young centaur observed.
"No, but yet here I am," Rowan drily replied.
The centaur youth took a step forward as Rowan took one back. Glancing up at the stars, the youth eyes them very carefully. "Yes, the flow of the stars has changed again," the centaur mused. "An unseen force has forced the rivers of the heavens to diverge."
The centaur youth is silent, before seemingly making up his mind. "Come, I shall return you back to Hogwarts," the centaur youth said as he lowered himself on to his front legs so that Rowan could clamber onto his back. "My name is Firenze."
"Thank you," Rowan said. "But I do believe it would be considered rather rude to ride you."
"I am offering," the pale centaur said with no trace of anger.
"Thank you, then," Rowan said as she climbed onto the back of Firenze.
"Your welcome," Firenze said as he surged forward.
The two are quiet until Rowan asks, "I have always wondered, but what is it like to live in a centaur colony? I'd hate to make the stereotypical comparison, but is it a bit like a horse herd?"
"It is not rude at all to ask," Firenze answered as he carefully stepped around a random hole on the forest ground. "I suppose in a way it is and it is not. We are closer to druids in that we live and die in nature."
"I see," Rowan muttered as they fell into another lapse of silent, before Rowan said, "And will you not get into trouble for this? I do believe most centaurs believe it is shame with very good reason to carry a human or in my case a witch on your back?"
"If only I'm seen," Firenze wisely said with a bit of mirth in his voice.
"You'd done well in Slytherin," Rowan privately thought to herself. But then again, maybe in Gryffindor too. After all, he once did go against everything centaurs believed in to defend a certain scarred boy. And eventually was even welcomed back with pride back into the centaur fold.
They must have been quite deep in the forest for it was dawn when Firenze stopped at the edge of a path. "Follow the path out, it'll lead you straight to Hagrid," Firenze said as Rowan slid off is back.
"Thank you," Rowan sincerely said as she studied the young Firenze before her.
Firenze nodded at her and turned to leave when Rowan said, "Firenze, it is not a crime nor is it shameful to help another, whether centaur, magical creature or human alike. In time, I believe that those beliefs will be proven right." Firenze lips twitch into a shy smile as his horsetail flickers with delight, before galloping back into the forest.
Turning back onto the path, Rowan hurries as dawn fades and the sun begins to steadily rise. Some half hour later, she burst out behind Hagrid's hut with a tired sigh. "I'd never thought Hagrid's hut would look so beautiful," Rowan muttered to herself as she staggered over to knock at the front door, but not before casting a cleaning spell onto herself. It wouldn't remove the sticks and leaves out of her hair and clothing. But at least it would get rid of the mud and grime.
Knocking one, the door only once there was quickly heard footsteps as the door was pulled open. "Good morning, Hagrid, I've come for a bit of tea," Rowan said as she didn't wait to be invited in and stepped right in.
"Er, alright," Hagrid said with a bit of surprise. "Jus' 'ave a seat, I was making a bit of egg's with some kippers."
"That sounds just lovely, Hagrid," Rowan honestly said as she found that she was absolutely starving.
From under the bed, Fang bounded out with tail wagging leaping up to lick at her. Rowan wrinkled her nose and gingerly petted the drooling puppy's head on her leg. Already quite large, Fang was going to be huge as before when he was done growing.
"Ya look tired Rowan," Hagrid observed as he poured her a cup of tea. "Didn't ye get any sleep last night?"
"I'm afraid I was kept wide awake," Rowan mumbled as she gratefully accepted the strong cup of tea and took a sip.
"Eh? Well, 'ere happens to the best of us," Hagrid mumbled as he eyed the leaves and twigs in her hair. "I too waz kept up by dozens of spiders fleeing from the hut! Strange though, they later came back."
"Mm, this tea is quite strong," Rowan said in approval. "It really wakes one up."
"Er, yes," Hagrid stammered as his cheeks turned rosy pink at the compliment. "Ah, cripes!" Hagrid said as he rushed over to the eggs having started to smell something strange as they started to burn. Quickly scrambling the eggs, he manages to save them just in time.
Rowan suddenly found a giant plate before her filled with eggs and kippers. Glancing at the size, she tactfully glances over at Fang and slides half of it into the waiting pups open mouth below. With a happy slobber, Fang eagerly curls up at her feet as Rowan begins to chew on the slightly rubbery eggs. It needed a tad bit of salt and pepper but overall still edible.
For some time, the kitchen is filled with clinking until Rowan says, "Hagrid, I was just curious, but you attended school with a Head Boy by the name of Tom Riddle, did you not?"
"Er, yes, why?" Hagrid blinked rather innocently as Fang sniffed at Rowan's scarf to only let out a low whine and curl up against Hagrid's giant feet.
"I've been trying to track members of the Slug Club for Professor Slughorn, I wasn't able to find anything about him after his leaving Hogwarts. There wasn't anyone that he was close to or anyone that might have even disliked him enough to keep tabs on him?" Rowan carefully asked.
"He was quite popular, a model student," Hagrid quietly said as he poked at his eggs having lost his appetite. "A shame dat he's now thought to be a murderer. But I guess ye really can't tell, can ye?"
Furrowing his brows, Hagrid finally sighs after some time, "I really can't think of anyone, Rowan."
The light in Rowan's eyes dim down, when suddenly the light can be clearly seen Hagrid's eyes. "Ah! Charlus Potter Jr. asked me the same question more than ten years ago!"
"Charlus Potter Jr?" Rowan blinked not knowing who that even was.
"Aye, a good lad," Hagrid fondly remembered. "Waz rather sad to hear, he died ten years ago from some dark curse."
"I see and who exactly did you mention to him, Hagrid?" Rowan eagerly leaned forward.
Hagrid scrunches his forehead trying to remember. "T'was some Ravenclaw boy. What was his name? T'was rather funny az I recall." Hagrid bites his lip until he jumps to his feet.
"Yes! I remember now, Fogey Artemio!" Hagrid beamed with pride at having recalled the name.
Rowan repeats the name in her mind and asks, "And just what was so special about Artemio Frobisher?"
"Ah, well, Fogey never liked Tom," Hagrid admitted as he took a seat. "Dem other Ravenclaws use to ah, tease 'em mighty fierce. But after poor Myrtle." Hagrid paused and cleared his throat rather violently. "After dat, they just left 'em alone."
"And what happened to him?" Rowan quietly asked.
"Poor Fogey died from a tentacula bite only a month after graduating. Apparently, the gift giver confused the potted plant with dat of another and it killed 'em in his sleep," Hagrid sadly said as he took a sip of his herbal tea.
"And you told, Charlus Potter Jr. about this?"
"Aye, I did, Rowan. He was mighty curious about good old Tom too."
"Of course, he was," Rowan whispered to herself as she connected the missing portion of the found library journal to the now-deceased Charlus Potter Jr. It wasn't just a coincidence that the only person that was wary of Tom Riddle simply died a few months after graduation. Nor the fact that the second young man who looked into him died from a random dark curse. Someone was tidying up any possible loose ends.
"Thank you, Hagrid," Rowan said as she rose to her feet. "This proved to be a most enlightening meal."
"Your welcome, Rowan!" Hagrid said rather pleased about himself. "Ye can stop by any day."
"Well, I best be off then," Rowan said as she walked out of the door and shook leaves and twigs out of her clothes and hair. Crossing the glistening dew filled dawn, Rowan shivered in the morning chill as she was surprised to find that it was. She hadn't noticed that it had been all night.