I didn't want to believe it!
"Victoria?" I managed to splutter. My mother gave another wail and buried her head in her hands.
"She's dead," she said through her tears.
"She..." my mother sobbed. "She was alive when we found her...she said she loved us, and loved Benjamin too...and then..." She turned away, not looking at me, and burst into fresh tears.
I stared down at her. She didn't look dead.
"Wake up," I commanded.
"Wake up! This...isn't funny! Wake up!"
"She won't," my mother whispered.
I looked away from Victoria and then at her. "She said she loved us?"
I wondered if I believed it. To this day I wonder if I believe it. After all, when she was...alive...she treated me like dirt.
"He went to make the centaurs pay. Dolores, I want you to go back to the house, now..."
I shook my head. I ran off. I heard her crying once again, but as I ran further away it got fainter and fainter.
I found my father first.
"Dolores!" he said in fury when he saw me. "Why are you here?"
"I..." But I couldn't manage to say anything else.
He did something he'd never done before...he hit me.
"Your sister is dead, isn't she?" he roared. I nodded.
"You've made a big mistake, Dolores!"
He turned away from me.
"I..." I began.
"Go back to the house. This minute."
I knew he wouldn't listen to anything I said, and I didn't have much to say anyway. I could have said sorry...but...well...I forgot. Or something. Both my parents are dead now, and I never said sorry.
I went to find Parath.
I ran blindly through the forest, but I couldn't find him anywhere. I had been sure I'd have been able to find him...but I couldn't now. I looked for my father instead, and I found him in the clearing where Parath had told me about his wife.
"Your mother," he said gravely. "has gone back to the house. She's gone to contact some people we know. They'll be Apparating over here any time now, and we will hunt down the centaurs and we will kill them. I want you to go back to the house."
"I...could help." I said in barely a whisper.
I wonder if he cared if I got hurt or not. I imagined he didn't now.
A few minutes later Arnold Penbury (the husband of our governess) Apparated into the clearing. Then came Jonathan Walker, a close friend of my father's, and then came Benjamin Vance, and his father and his brother. All of them were carrying wands.
"Split up," my father ordered. "If you find them, kill them. Ask no questions, demand no apologies...just kill them."
"Slowly?" Jonathan enquired.
My father shrugged. Simply shrugged. He walked out of the clearing and into the trees. I went in a different direction. As I walked, I suddenly realised I couldn't see my hand in front of my face.
I walked on. What would I do if I did find them? They'd killed my sister. Maybe Rinlen and Parath ought to die. But Malrie...maybe not her.
Would...I...have to kill Rinlen and Parath? Could I? My whole world seemed to have turned upside down. But, I reminded myself, they're centaurs. They're animals. They're like pets. Pets who I like, but even so! And if a pet kills your sister...it should die!
But pets, however, don't usually speak to you...
I didn't know what to think or what to believe. Of course, now I know what I ought to think...but not then. Not when I was a little girl in a dark forest at night.
The light from my wand caught the image of a face in the darkness.
"Who is it?" I whispered, although I thought I knew.
"Have you come to rescue us?" Malrie whispered. She and Rinlen were hiding in a bush. Rinlen had his arms around her. And she was covered in blood.
"I know what you're going to do," Rinlen said in a deadly whisper. "I know. I've seen it in the stars and in your heart and everywhere. Get out of here before I do the same to you."
"You killed my sister," I managed to say.
"And she nearly killed my sister."
I looked at Malrie. Blood was dripping down her face.
"What did she do?"
"Just pointed her wand," Rinlen said viciously. "Just pointed her wand and it cut her skin..."
"It hurt," Malrie said in a small voice.
"Why?" I asked.
"Parath told her to go away, that it was our forest...she said it belonged to her family...he said it didn't...she said that she was a powerful witch and she could go where she wanted...and he jumped at her, only wanting to scare her off...but then she cast that spell at Malrie...maybe she didn't actually mean to hit her, I don't know...and then..."
"He killed her," I said.
"He didn't mean to." Rinlen said quietly.
"It was me," Malrie said.
Rinlen buried his face in his hands.
"He'd hurt her," Malrie whispered, "and she was trying to...she said Avada...and that's the...the k-killing curse...but be-before she could finish it I...I shot her with my bow and arrow..."
"You shot her?"
She burst into tears.
"I helped," Rinlen said defiantly. "I kicked her in the head. So don't hurt Malrie. She's so young..."
He was almost pleading. He was pleading.
"You shot her..."
There was a noise behind me. Rinlen looked away. He held Malrie tightly in his arms.
I turned around. It was Benjamin, running towards me. "Are they there?" he yelled excitedly. "Did you find them?"
He reached me. He looked at them. "You did find them!"
Malrie started crying. "Rinlen...Daddy...Mummy..."
I looked at my own wand and I looked at Benjamin. He was raising his own wand high above his head, a look of glee in his eyes.
I could have stopped him. But I didn't. I...chose not to.
Rinlen held his sister and glared at me, with such anger and loathing. I would willingly forget him and Malrie and Parath and everything that took place here, but I don't think I could forget that.
"Avada..." Benjamin yelled.
I turned and ran blindly.
I ran and I ran and I ran. I didn't think about anything except running. I had to get out of the forest, I didn't know how or why...
I crashed into something. I knew who it was.
He looked at me and I knew he knew what had happened. I stepped back, terrified. Was he going to kill me, now?
Was I going to kill him?
I knew that I wasn't. And that was my second mistake. I stepped aside. I let him go.
He looked at me. Perhaps he was angry that I was letting him live. After all, he had nothing left to live for.
You know...I remember now what colour his eyes were. They were indeed bluish-green. And they sort of had specks of red and brown in them. And maybe tears for his children?
I don't care if there were tears. I don't care I don't care I don't care.
"You could have been so much more than what you've become, Dolores," he said sadly. "You could have been so much more."
Then he turned around and went away. And -thank the heavens- I never
saw nor heard of him ever again.
"It is our choices...that show what we truly
are, far more than our abilities."
-Professor Albus Dumbledore