Chapter 15 The Hunters Become the Hunted After their first class with Dumbledore, Claire, Ande, and the boys were still getting chills at just the thought of their professor’s words, “The world needs you.” It was a lot to absorb in a short amount of time. As soon as they stepped out of the classroom, a few of the students vowed to never return, while others peeked around corners expecting to see the enemy leap out at them. “Wow, that was kind of an eye-opener,” said Ande breathlessly. “Yeah, tell me about it,” replied Sirius, “And does anybody else feel like the world is going to end if Dumbledore puts us in charge of its care?” Claire patted him on the shoulder. “You ought to have more confidence in yourself. You weren’t half-bad during the summer.” “That was before I gave you a horn to use against me and the only thing that left me without a gaping hole in my stomach was Potter’s mum,” he snickered. “So give yourself the horn next time and the tables will turn,” she answered with a smile. Defense classes continued every Sunday for one hour. After the first class, which was just to tell them of their goal, they then jumped right into basic defense spells and charms. Each session left James and the others limping or bruised, though Dumbledore assured them this was just simple review. The shield, blocking, and reflective spells were indeed rather simple; the problem were the curses that they had to defend against. Each person had to go against Dumbledore himself and try to defend against whatever he threw at them. The weeks passed, and the load of saving the world on their shoulders did not lessen. The burden of Mahedeo did. Since his little interview to Jackie Sparrow, another teacher or ghost was required to oversee his classes. He, in turn, became more sane (as much as he could), and most of the incredibly hard potions were wiped from their syllabus. Claire and Ande were also happy because they were getting top grades in all of their classes, and were even squeezing decent marks out of Transfiguration, which they wrote about in their frequent letters to their father. They rarely got a reply, but it was understandable, and even his brief letters on the weekends were filled with warmth. Henry made sure to not discuss his business in his letters, even if his daughters asked him about it. And he continuously warned them about strangers and the dangers of listening to corrupted reporters in the Weekly Watchdog. The girls did not stop reading the papers though, although they relied on more accurate information from what their friends could send them by private mail. One morning though, the fears of the entire school came to be at last. With the arrival of the Daily Prophet, front page headlines sent waves of horror through the crowd. Death Eater activity was up and werewolf attacks, which had been a predominantly American problem, were now increasing in England and parts of Western Europe. Panic and confusion were taking hold because now even the daytime wasn’t safe anymore; a few attacks had been in broad daylight in public streets. And although the Death Eaters had been spotted with the monsters, they were still taking credit for every maiming and injury. Fortunately though, no one had been killed yet. While James, Sirius, and Peter were eager to lean how to defend themselves against the forces of evil, Remus wanted the ability to protect himself for different reasons. He was worried not only for himself but for the people around him. Since no one was positive what was causing the unfortunate transformations, he was afraid that he would lash out at them at any moment. The renewed surge of attacks in England had once again made him a nervous wreck. He constantly lived in fear of being found out for what he was. He seemed to think that everyone was waiting to catch him off-guard and then jump him. His wand was always in hand and he started to eat less because of nerves. At this point, any person listed on the Werewolf registry was placed under arrest and taken for questioning and testing. No one had been taken to Azkaban, but no one had been released either. The thought of being strapped down on a table and prodded and poked by Ministry officials made Remus’ blood run cold. Sirius’ attempt to cheer his friend up backfired. He said that if Remus ever got arrested, they would go into the Forbidden Forest, get bitten by a werewolf themselves, and then they could all be together again. Although Sirius was clearly being sarcastic and was just trying to lighten the mood, Remus didn’t take the remark lightly at all. “You don’t get it do you!?” he had screamed at them one night in the common room. “You don’t know what it’s like dreading that one day in every month, not knowing if someone will accidentally get in my way, or if I might eat some innocent bystander. What if one of you slips up and becomes human around me when I’m still dangerous? You know as much as I do that wouldn’t hesitate to kill each and every one of you.” Luckily the other Gryffindors had gone to bed hours ago and were not around to hear Remus’ little speech. Claire watched Remus storm up the stairs and then glared at Sirius. “What?” he asked innocently, “Was it something I said?” The month of October started warm, but colder weather came all in one weekend. Sunshine became a rare gift and every morning the ceiling in the Great Hall was clouded with grey. No one thought of going out on the grounds without a coat, or even around the school between classes for that matter. It was hard to concentrate during Care of Magical Creatures when it was only forty degrees outside and frost was on the grass. But one minute of running away from Gordon the Graphorn at top speed warmed them right up. And every student could look forward to a warm, crackling fire in the hearth when they reached their common rooms at the end of the day to beat off the chills. The crisp weather couldn’t dampen their spirits, however, for one of the most wonderful holidays of the year was fast approaching: Halloween. James and Sirius couldn’t stop themselves from drooling all over the floor at just the mentioning of the feast and the first Hogsmeade visit of the year. All the talk about chocolates and butterbeer was enough for Claire and Ande to conclude that they had a lot to look forward to. When the first Hogsmeade visit rolled around at the end of the month, James was hoping that it would be a good distraction for Remus. The entire castle was decorated for Halloween when they went down for breakfast that morning. Orange and black steamers were coiled around the banisters and they slithered and squirmed as if they were actually snakes rather than paper. The two girls marveled at the care that was put into decorating Hogwarts. Their mouths hung slack when they entered the Great Hall. “Look at that ,” Claire gasped, pointing upward, “They even have live bats flying around the ceiling.” Sirius rolled his eyes. He was used to such extravagant decorations so he thought the twins’ awe was sort of silly. Indifferent to the fantastic embellishments, he continued to chew hungrily on his meal. “And there’s Zonko’s, which is a must-see destination, especially since I need to stock up,” James said with excitement, continuing a conversation he had been having with his cousins. Ande chuckled, “Your mom would be so pleased to know that you’re spending your allowance on dungbombs and cheap jinxes.” “What else would I be doing with it, putting it away in a vault for my future children to use? I don’t think so...” The girls laughed, finished their orange pancakes with black frosting, and then moved over to sit with the Ravenclaws. It was then that Peter noticed Sirius was looking down. Nudging his friend in the shoulder, he asked, “Padfoot, what’s wrong?” Sirius washed his hashbrowns down with some pumpkin juice and sighed. “It’s not that I don’t want to go to Hogsmeade or anything, it’s just that we’ve been there before and it’s getting a little old. I mean, Zonko’s hasn’t updated its inventory in awhile, and there’s only so many times I can look at the Shrieking Shack. I think I speak for more than one person on that account. “ Remus looked up but did not respond. James continued to shovel food, but still managed to ask, “So what do you have in mind?” Sirius smiled, “Gentlemen, what say you to a little rule-breaking to spice up our visit?” The weather was no nicer at Hogsmeade than it was on the grounds of Hogwarts. The wind whipped at their cloaks and stung their eyes and faces, giving them extra incentive to get inside. The boys led the twins around to every store and shop, although they made the mistake of letting Claire and Ande wander into a small clothing store, which they stayed in for nearly an hour. James’ cousins were fascinated with the different gag gifts at Zonko’s. They browsed the wide selection but when they left the shop they found that one of their number was missing. A moment later Sirius appeared with a small bag in hand and with a mischievous smile on his face. When the Peter asked him what he had purchased Sirius simply shook his head and told him that they would all have to wait and see. It turned out that the real excitement came with a little trip to the local post office. Unaware of Sirius’ intentions, his friends looked around for a bit, while the girls mailed a few letters to friends and their father. Suddenly, chaos reigned throughout the building. Sirius ignited a number of filibuster fireworks and let them fly into the rafters where they exploded in a cloud of smoke and sparks that sent a shockwave through the office. In a heartbeat, a roar of screeching blasted through the room as hundreds of owls took off in a panic, feathers and birds clouding their vision. The workers began blasting stunning spells at top speed as other students screamed and ran out into the cold outdoors to avoid being clawed or pelted with terrified animals. James and his friends and cousins burst out of the post office laughing hysterically. Peter was coughing up feathers and the girls were plucking down out of their hair. They could still hear the screeching even outside in the wind. “That was excellent!” James exclaimed giving his best friend a hearty pat on the back. Sirius puffed his chest out proudly. Peter slugged himself a few times in the chest, “I think I swallowed an owl,” he choked. “It will make you wiser, dear Wormtail,” Sirius snickered. “Well, as enjoyable as that was, my fingers are starting to go numb,” said Claire. “Ah, it feels good to cause some good old fashioned mayhem once again,” Sirius sighed. Then the sound of angry postal workers met his ears and Sirius added, “Let’s say we clear out until this blows over though, shall we?” The others agreed and they made their way to the Three Broomsticks to warm up. Butterbeer was a new drink to the girls and when they had finished, they sat with smiles and warm hearts. This happy feeling was, unfortunately, not to last long. While the group of teens sat languidly at their tables, the butterbeer warming their stomachs, they overheard a very unpleasant conversation. Seated next to them were a group of older witches and wizards who were having an animated discussion about the topic of the month: werewolf attacks. “Yes Hazel m’ dear, I always make sure to look around the corner when I go out these days. You never know when one of those stinkin’ monsters might pop up.” “I quite agree Anthony,” the witch named Hazel replied with a click of her tongue. “In my opinion the Ministry should skin those vile creatures any time they come across one.” “Why wait until they’ve transformed,” another witch joined in, “I say they take a look at the Registry and throw every one of ’em into Azkaban before they even get a chance to harm anyone else. Those Azkaban guards would know how to properly dispose of those abominations.” The entire group vehemently agreed with this position, nodding their heads vigorously. The group of teenagers, however, were horrified by what they heard. They turned to Remus to see how he was reacting. Understandably, he was not taking it well at all. His eyes were wide with horror and his face was ashen. James and Sirius each grabbed one of his arms and escorted him outside. This did not do enough to separate Remus from revolting discussions about the best way to “deal” with werewolves. It seemed that everywhere around them people were talking about it, letting the harsh words fall upon Remus’ mortified ears. “Er, maybe we should go somewhere a little more out of the way,” James suggested. “I know just the place!” Sirius shouted almost instantly, as if he had been just waiting for any excuse to go anywhere out of bounds. Everyone shrugged their shoulders and decided to follow him, having no other idea where they could go. They went on to the outskirts of the village until they reached the base of the surrounding hills. Dry leaves blew at the base of those dark hills, and a cold air of forboding blew about them, making them shudder. “I don’t know,” said Ande, “It’s getting pretty late and I want to be back in time for the feast. Plus, I can’t feel my feet.” Sirius and James looked at the girls and began clucking loudly to get them angry; it worked. The girls, their faces red from the cold and anger, stomped passed the clucking boys and made their way beyond the outskirts of the cozy village. They sneaked away without being noticed. After a long walk over rocky, rolling hills they made it to a path. The dark path was cold and cumbersome, but Claire and Ande refused to show any sign of weakness to avoid being ridiculed by their cousin and friends. The four boys climbed after them, quite unaware of where they were going as they continued the ascent. The weather sank deeper into their skin as the elevation rose, and everyone was nearly willing to quit the exploration and turn around when Sirius sprinted passed them on the slope and disappeared into the rocks. A moment later, he reappeared and beckoned them toward him. Upon arrival, they could all see that he had discovered a large cave cut out in the side of the mountain that was hidden fairly well by the dense brush. Once inside, they discovered that the cave was actually fairly roomy and since they were out of the wind, the atmosphere was comfortable. “Lumos,” said James, holding his wand ahead of him. The soft light illuminated the cave, allowing Sirius to construct a small fire. “Wow,” he said as he gazed around, “You could come out and hide here in these hills and no one would ever know you were here.” James muttered the counter spell to put out his wand once the fire was crackling and this allowed the teenagers to remove a couple of their outer layers. After the frost had stopped escaping from their mouths and they were all relaxed, Sirius started eye-balling his potential audience. “Okay,” he began, “Who’s ready for a ghost story?” The others moaned loudly but he continued as if he had not heard their protest. “Okay, it was a dark and gloomy night. The wind was howling and the cold could eat you to the bone...” Claire and Ande pretended to yawn, but Peter was sneaking closer to Remus since he was the once sitting the closest to the cave’s mouth. “It was just me and my buddies, sleeping peacefully in our dorm, blissfully unaware of the hidden danger. A floorboard squeaked, and I was immediately awake and on guard to the evil that was around me. The room was dark and the rain was pounding on the windows-” “Was it raining before or did it just start?” interrupted James. “It was raining before-” “You didn’t say it was raining before-” “Let me finish or else I’ll give you something to really be afraid of!” Sirius warned. He cleared his throat and continued, saying, “Anyway, the rain was pounding on the glass, and I could hear the creature breathing in the room. His shadows slid in the darkness as he stalked me in the night. His stench was overpowering and his eyes glowed like lit torches. Ready to defend my sleeping comrades to the death, I whipped out my wand and illuminated the beast for what he really was!!! It was a werewolf!!! And as I-” “Man,” groaned Remus, “That was two days ago when I got up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water off of your night stand and you jumped me as I went back toward my bed.” The others sighed in disappointment and gave scolding looks in Sirius’ direction. He glanced at them nervously and muttered, “Hey, it was pretty real. I mean the stench thing was real-” Remus threw a stick at his friend jokingly while everyone laughed. For at least another hour, the group of Hogwarts students huddled around the small fire, telling each other stories of old teachers that they loved to hate and what they planned on doing after graduation. Everyone except Peter and Sirius seemed to know what they wanted as their future occupations. Lupin wanted to teach (getting a “pansy” from Sirius), James had his heart set on Champion Seeker of the world, while the girls wanted to take over the family ideals by being stewards of their hippogriff farm and presidents of a pro-werewolf organization. Just as they were getting warmed up, Remus jumped up from his seat in the dirt as if he had seen ghost, making everyone else jump in surprise. When they looked over at him they saw that he was staring at watch and he yelled, “Bloody hell! If we don’t get going we’re not going to make it back to the feast with everyone else in time!” Everyone scrambled to get their things and put out the fire. Once everyone had pulled their cloaks and scarves back on, they cleared aside the brush and rushed back into the cold. The sun had sunk extremely low into the horizon and only faint hints of light were showing themselves above the trees around them. A few minutes of running down the steep terrain while trying not to be blown off courses by the freezing gusts of wind began to take its toll. James was in the lead, holding his cloak tightly around him, when he was tapped on the shoulder. When he turned he saw that it was Claire. “You know it would be a lot faster if we transformed,” she said. “Are you crazy? You may have no problem with it, but you forget that we are unregistered animagi who could be arrested. And plus we have Remus. Unless your sister wants to carry him the rest of the way-” James let the words hang as he slid down a few feet. Claire was about to follow after her cousin when her Zonko’s bag burst. Ande, who was just behind her on the hill, stopped to help her. “You guys go ahead, we’ll just catch up in a minute,” she said. The four boys scrabbled down the dangerous cliffside while the two girls hastily packed all of Claire’s things into Ande’s bag. Though they did not take long in repacking, the girls soon lost sight of the boys in the dim evening light. Quickly they slid the rest of the way down to level ground and followed after the sound of the boys’ footsteps. In a moment they caught sight of someone when they rounded an out-jutting boulder. It was not, however, their friends. At first, the girls feared that they had been caught red-handed by a teacher. But then four more cloaked figures appeared from out of the rocks and forest. A rustling behind them drew their attention to where they had just come, allowing them to see the five others sneak up from behind. The sun had disappeared, leaving them in darkness and unable to see the faces of the newcomers. It was then that they realized they couldn’t see their faces because masks were concealing them. Claire and Ande clutched onto each other, too startled for the moment to call for the boys. The figures approached slowly from up and down the mountain, closing in every second. The lead figure suddenly drew his wand and the everyone else followed suit. This was enough to snap the sisters to their senses. “James!” Claire screamed. Before the hooded figures could react, the four boys had returned. They had only been a few yards ahead and came back in a flash when they heard Claire. With their wands out as well the six teens huddled close together. “How did they know we were here?” Ande stammered over the wind. “They must have followed us,” Sirius growled, his grip tightening on his wand. “What are we going to do?!” cried Peter. “We have to call for help! We have to-” “Shut up, Peter!” said Sirius suddenly, his eyes darting to their attackers warily. “We’re to far away for anyone to hear us or see a signal. We’ll have to fight.” Remus’ eyes were wide and unblinking. “Do you think they know about me?” he whispered. “Be quiet,” said Ande hissed harshly. The ring of figures closed in around the students, their mocking masks grinning maliciously at their prey. They formed a barrier as their noose ever tightened, forcing the teenagers to stand back to back. James took one step forward, much to everyone’s surprise, and Sirius wasn’t far behind. With his free hand he waved at them politely, “Fellas, the least you Death Eater guys could have done was send us an owl telling us about this. But we have to go meet our classmates and-” “You won’t be going anywhere,” said a dry, emotionless voice. The warning echoed among them eerily. “This ends here. Though the Dark Lord only gave us orders to take out those too sniveling girls, we will be more than obliged to be rid of you all as well. We know you saw us at the edge of the forest and we can’t have that happening again, now can we?” “Awe, come on mate,” laughed Sirius nervously, “You blokes don’t need to worry yourselves about us. We’ll take your secret to the grave.” The figured chuckled cruelly, and hearing the laugh without seeing any lips move due to the stationery mask made it almost unreal. “That you will, but maybe a little sooner than you thought.” There was a moment of silence and then an eruption of spells all in the same second were thrown in every direction. Bodies hit the dirt to avoid the curses that were zinging overhead and inches from their faces. Amidst the heavy swearing and yelling, they could hear Peter whimpering on the ground, and Claire and Ande screaming at each other to stay together. James rolled on the ground and fired a curse of his own, narrowly missing his target who shot a jinx at Sirius’ head. The were greatly outnumbered, but James and Sirius were making up the equivalent of four fighters. Claire and Ande were throwing some wicked spells out as well, blowing Death Eaters off their feet and into trees. Remus went flying as he took a direct hit in the chest and landed with a thump in the dirt. In a moment though, he had three attackers on him, and his wand was only a secondary tool when it came to his fist and feet. Sirius shot a freezing curse at a tall and nimble figure and made a hit. The masked figure fell crippled to the ground were he slowly curled into a ball, twitching. The Death Eater, under this illusion, felt like his own flesh was being slowly frozen from the inside-out. Just as Sirius was about to turn around, another man tackled him from the back and slammed him into the ground. A Death Eater had blasted his way through Claire’s magical barrier and thrown himself at her, pinning her to the sharp rocks. He held her arms above her head and struggle as she might, she couldn’t break his grip. His sleeve was torn and she could see the dark mark branded upon his brown skin. She stared into the holes of his mask and tried to see his eyes but only gaping holes glared back at her. He lifted his own wand and began chanting when a bone-crunching kick met his side, throwing him away from her. Claire scrambled to her feet, anxious to see what kind of powerful curse her sister had unleashed, only to see a powerful mare rearing before her. The horse neighed loudly and charged into battle, her hooves thundering over the rocks as she began her own assault. James was blasted in the back by a hidden Death Eater and felt his flesh grind into the rocks. He was suddenly grabbed roughly from behind and his head was slammed into the dirt. He cried out and clutched his forehead but his attacker did not relent. James was hit by a Cruciatis Curse, leaving him writhing on the ground. He was at the mercy of the monster when an inhuman snarling broke his screams. Another Animagus had joined the fight. James pried open his swollen eyelids to see his attacker fighting off a golden fox who had its jaws locked around the man’s throat and was clawing at his robes and arms. Peter had actually pulled himself together and gone to Remus’ rescue, although the most he did was draw the attention away from Remus onto himself. As he screamed in a very high-pitched voice and ran at top speed down the road back toward town, he began firing sparks into the air and over his shoulder in desperation, coming close to hitting both foe and friend alike. But so far, only one Death Eater had been put out of action, and it seemed the others were just getting warmed up. James crawled to his knees and looked about him as people were running around him, firing curses at each other that could surely decapitate someone if they made a hit. Amidst the dust and darkness blanketing the mountain side, he could still see his friends and cousins fighting for their lives and knew they had to flee. In desperation he screamed, “Run!” Remus broke free and ran towards the others. Claire released her grip on the man’s jugular and Ande was all ready making her way from the hillside, being pursued by Death Eaters and their curses. They ran as if the wind was carrying them, but Ande, the last to escape despite her size, was having the most trouble. While everyone else was smaller and more nimble, able to leap among the rocks that were scattered across the ground, Ande’s broad hooves and awkward bulk made it difficult to canter down the dark and rocky slope. Realizing it was futile to remain in this form, Ande reverted to her human form. Two Death Eaters fired equally venomous curses at her retreating form and cackled when the spells hit her from behind. In a high-pitched screamed of pain, Ande crumpled on the earth in a cloud of rocks and dust. Remus turned and, seeing her down, ran back toward her. Ande was covered in lacerations and her blood was smeared across the dirt. Remus fired spells at the Death Eaters who were still pursuing them, stopping their advance for a few moments. He tucked his wand into his robes and placed both hands on her shoulder to try and heave her up. The injured girl groaned and struggled to her feet, although her knees were wobbling dangerously as she tried to support her weight. “You have to move!” he screamed, “If they catch us we’re both goners!” Ande began to stumble forward and Remus supported her by holding onto her shoulder as they hurried away. The curses lost their bite as the six friends were able to put more distance between themselves and their attackers. It seemed like hours, but over one more hill, the lanterns and lamps of Hogsmeade could be seen glowing brightly in the evening twilight, twinkling on as if all was well. All of the students had recently headed back to school so the streets were bare. The beaten group longed to jump into one of the inviting shops but they knew that they could not. They had to get back to the school and warn Dumbledore. The villagers eyed them curiously as they passed by but the six teenagers refused aid from the few who offered it. However, frightened that there had been more werewolf attacks and that the students might therefore transform to attack them as well, most locals shut their doors hastily. Ignoring the frightened whispers, the sixteen year olds resolutely continued forward until they made it over the grounds to the castle. Professor McGonagall was one of the teachers on hand and nearly choked when she took in their beaten states they were in. “What happened?” she gasped. All it took was the words “Death Eaters” to set panic through the crowd of students who were still trying to get into the school for the feast. Ande staggered forward, Remus holding gingerly to her bloodied back. Claire emerged from the form of the fox and everyone could finally see that she had also gotten the worst of their encounter. Her left arm was covered in blood and she could not support herself easily on one leg. She collapsed onto the ground without making a sound, holding her arm tightly to her chest. Remus felt Ande sink to the ground at his side with a painful groan. Ande’s head flopped onto the ground with a thud, although she continued to watch them for a few more moments. It was as if everything was getting quieter, and even her vision was getting hazy. Professors were crowding around them, and the stars were shining above in the blackened sky. She could see everyone’s mouth moving and though they appeared to be screaming, no sound met her ears. And then all became still and silent. Authors' notes: Whoo! That was a long chapter, but we really enjoyed writing it. Aren't you glad that we finally got some action in there? Anyway, thank for reading and we hope you leave us a review with your comments! Thanks! Next chapter will come as soon as possible!!!
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