Miss Moony would like to dedicate this chapter to Yana5 for being the first reviewer.
Miss Moony would also like to thank The elusive shadow, The Sleeping Creature, Sparkly Red Slippers, evil-sami-poo, Elwyndra, The Artistic Fool, Willa1317, Christina-Marie-35, DarkBombayAngel, Hiddensoul38, Rori Potter, PrincePotter, .Rose, animaluvr123, Potterdownthestreet, Darkfire The Phoenix and animeangel088 for reviewing.
Chapter warnings: Time travel, slash, incest
Chapter summary: A Care of Magical Creatures lesson takes Harry into the Forbidden Forest, where he meets the centaurs.
------- I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good -------
Chapter 16: Reading the Future in the Stars
It was in mid-March and just approaching the Easter holidays when Harry was surprised to come across Hagrid as he gathered near the gamekeeper's cottage with his Care of Magical Creatures class. He was wandering slowly towards the small group, looking pleased as he listened to the words of Professor Kettleburn, who was walking at his side.
'Class!' Kettleburn called out, securing the attention of all the students who had not already been staring at the unlikely pair. 'We will be heading into the forbidden forest today, so I've asked Mr. Hagrid to accompany us. I expect you to treat him as you would treat me.'
He finished off with a warning glare towards a gaggle of Slytherins who were lingering apart from the rest of the group, muttering discontentedly amongst themselves. Harry shared a glance with Lily and Alice, who had been put in a group with him – as well as Peter Pettigrew – during their first class of the year. 'Hagrid is Professor Kettleburn's assistant,' Alice told him quietly. 'And he's the gamekeeper as well. Dumbledore will probably have Hagrid take over from Kettleburn when he retires.'
Harry nodded, and smiled at her in thanks, though of course he already knew Hagrid's story far more intimately than Alice did.
'We'll be meeting up with a small group of centaurs from the herd which resides in the forest,' Kettleburn continued once there was silence, 'and I'll remind you only once to mind your manners with them. Centaurs are highly intelligent creatures, and this particular herd are not, on the whole, all too fond of humans. They've done us a great kindness by agreeing to meet with us, and I'll be downgrading any student who acts in a way to make them regret it.'
Ripples of malcontent moved through the group almost like something tangible, and Harry bit his lip to hide a laugh, understanding the centaurs' opinions on witches and wizards well enough to know that they would probably be offended by a student who breathed too loudly. Such meetings would probably not be arranged for the younger years.
Lost in thought for a moment, Harry was startled when a cool hand touched his arm. Lily met his eyes curiously, and tilted her head towards Alice and Peter, who had begun to move into the forest with the rest of the class. 'Penny for your thoughts?' she said quietly to him as they jogged to catch up with their friends.
He smiled at her, but shook his head. 'It's nothing,' he said.
There were three centaurs who met them a few yards into the forest; two burly red-haired men with chestnut flanks, and an elderly, grey-haired woman. They introduced themselves as Colm, Lorcan and Aine, respectively, and Harry was surprised by their manner with the students. One of the red-heads stood stoically by Aine's side, but the other greeted the class with a welcoming smile.
Of the three of them, it was the friendly Lorcan who did the most socialising, though Colm seemed to have a semi-regular stream of giggling girls (Harry regarded him curiously for a moment, and then decided that he did seem rather handsome, if one ignored the fact that half of him was a horse). Aine however, did not speak at all, instead choosing to linger further away from the main body of students, and observe them silently.
Harry did likewise, once his group had chatted with Lorcan for several minutes. Lily and Alice had hurried off to talk to Colm afterwards, and Peter seemed to be trying to get as far away from Harry as he could, which suited Harry just fine. He took a moment to search out Peter in the small crowd, but he'd only just started looking when he was forced to abandon his search, hearing somebody approaching him.
It was Aine. She halted a couple of feet away from him and regarded him silently for a long moment, while Harry squirmed, disquieted by her stare. 'Is there something I can help you with?' he asked eventually, hoping that she would either answer, or leave him be.
For a little while longer, she did neither. But just as Harry was about to repeat his question, she spoke. 'Much time has been spent,' she said, 'to bring you home, Far-Traveller.'
Harry started, and gazed at her in mute disbelief until she spoke again. 'The man you would have become has died under a black moon, and everything you once knew is lost forever. This cannot change.'
He swallowed twice, trying to think of a response, but she moved away before he could find the words.
Lily and Alice both left the castle again for the Easter holidays, though most of the other students who were going home were in the lower years. Harry had accompanied James to Hogsmeade station to wave them off, and then headed back to the common room, wondering whether they'd have sorted out their issues over Frank by the time they got back – and particularly since they would both be spending the holidays with his family, preparing for the wedding.
James was unusually quiet as they trundled back to the castle in the rain, and half of Harry wanted to ask him if he was okay, but since his conversation with Eir, he hadn't really been sure how to speak to James. But as it would seem, his glances asked the question for him.
James had noticed him staring, and he hung his head slightly. 'I talked to Lily last night,' he said, sounding tired. 'And she said she thought we needed a break.'
Harry didn't respond, but he must have made some kind of reaction, because James said, 'You don't seem surprised.'
'I don't know,' Harry said, stopping in his tracks and looking up at the sky. 'Part of me thought you'd end up getting married, or something. But, no, I don't think I'm all that surprised. Did she give you a reason?'
James stopped as well, and sighed. 'She said she didn't think it was fair for either of us to stay together when we both had feelings for someone else.'
His eyes met Harry's, and he stared intently for a long moment, as if waiting for some profound reply, but Harry could only look away.