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A strong gust of wind slammed Draco Malfoy and his broom mercilessly against a sturdy pine tree, making him lose sight of Aurora whom he saw hovering ominously above the snow-covered tree tops of the Forbidden Forest.

“Argh!” he cried as he doubled over the ground in pain. His arm felt broken. “Aurora!” he shouted as his struggled to get right back on his feet. “Sweetheart, where are you?!”

Another draft blew past and served as a frigid and cruel reminder that his robes, although lined with the most expensive livery, was not enough to keep him warm.

“Aurora!” he called again. But really, he doubted if the child could hear him above the din. His thoughts went back to Hermione and how he was right to lock her in the Infirmary.

“Yeah but she’d know what to do now, won’t she?” he muttered to himself. With the blizzard upping the ante and his broom barely holding up against the wind, he wondered if he should’ve listened to Madame Pomfrey and waited for the faculty to get Aurora.

He looked around swirling white environs. He wondered also, where they were at the very moment.

Suddenly, the blizzard’s strength dampened. The trees only whisked their branches gently now. The angry whistling of the wind had disappeared. And somewhere in the distance, he heard Aurora’s familiar gabbing and post-tantrum whimpering.

Draco didn’t have to think twice. He jumped in the nearest copse of trees that was part of the greater forest. “Aurora!” he cried. “Where are you? Make a sound! Any sound!” He stopped short when he reached a clearing. “Aurora?”

But a low, guttural sound, a bit like a growling wolf’s was not the sound he was hoping for. It seemed unusually near, too. Slowly, he took out his wand. His mind started running through possible anti-werewolf spells he learned. There was none. That was Auror business. “You’d think I’d learn something of the sort from Lupin,” he muttered.

Then, then storm rose up again. It kicked up the snow and leaves on the forest floor and billowed up Draco’s robes around him, covering his head.

“No!” he yelled as he fought to keep his robes on his sides.

The animal gave a cry of frustration, which sounded more human this time. The ground trembled from both the gale and bounding body of the animal.

Draco got his wand arm free. "Stupefy!" he shouted as the wand shot the defensive spell through the opening.

There was a whining sound but the animal didn't stop. Instead, Draco felt huge and sharp cold claws graze the left side of his body as it reached him.

He howled in pain and crumpled to the ground. Above him, thunder rumbled. But the blizzard was losing strength once more. The wind died down again, this time, almost completely. Only gentle falling snow was left.

Draco looked down his left shoulder and saw that his robes were shred almost to pieces. Underneath, half of his pyjamas were in tatters.  Bright red blood oozed from his lacerated shoulder and entire left leg. There was no pain but he felt a great throbbing towards his injuries. Although the slashes were plentiful, they appeared shallow. He waved his wand weakly.

“Ac-accio… acc-io broom... broom... stick…” he moaned.

Almost immediately, there was a zipping in the air. He sighed gratefully. But as the sound got nearer, he noticed that it didn’t come from just one broomstick but several. He weakly raised his head.

“Bloody hell,” said the redhead who led the flyers. “Malfoy, is that you?”

A pair landed right next to him, another redhead but a girl, and a dark-haired, bespectacled lad.

“That’s him alright,” said the boy. He was holding a piece of parchment in his hand.


This other voice was shrill, and Draco could’ve sworn he heard it just a couple of minutes ago. Or was that hours ago? He blinked his eyes a couple of times and saw that the last flyer landed and was using his broomstick.

“Hermione,” he whispered, “you were actually on a broom?”

“Oh you daft, silly, bludgeoned, wannabe hero!” she cried again as she knelt down beside him. “What happened to you?”

“I think I was a-attacked by something.” He winced. “Aurora, did you find her?”

“No. Just you and your broom.” Ginny Weasley answered. Her eyes flitted vigilantly about the clearing. “She’s not on the map.”

“We’ll explain later,” Ron said when he saw Draco’s inquisitive gaze. “Well, when you remember. Which hopefully you won’t.”

“You should’ve brought me with you!” Hermione yelled at Draco. She was charming his robes with a darning spell.

“You wouldn’t have,” Draco smiled meekly back.

She grinned through her tears. “I wouldn’t.”

“I’m sorry for---“

“Oh Draco,” she interrupted. “You know we’re both too proud for sorrys.”

“Thank Merlin you remember,” he nodded, looking relieved. “You wanna kiss on that instead?”

“Really not the time, you two,” Harry said. He was looking nervously at the parchment in his hands.

“Check again, Harry! Aurora couldn’t have gotten far.”

“I did, Hermione. But she’s really not on the map. I… I can’t make head nor tail of it.”

“Maybe it has something to do with her being Gifted?” offered Ginny.

“Look,” Harry said with finality, “I can’t find her. The most we can do is get Malfoy back inside Hogwarts before these X’s start moving again.”


“That’s what the map is calling them. We don’t know what they are, Draco,” Hermione said. “But there are about four of them scattered about the forest.”

“Make that five.”

“And we think that extra one attacked you.”

Draco frowned. There was definitely something more they were unaware of with regards to this Gifted business. Individuals that cannot be identified with their magic, individuals not like them… just like Aurora. “Maybe… she’s one of them? The Xs? That’s why we can’t see her.”

“More Gifteds?” Hermione exclaimed. “Then what are they doing here?”

“Just like what Professor McGonagall said,” Draco said. “They’re taking her home.”

“Then why do they want to hurt us?”

Unfortunately, there was no answer for that last one.

Ron whistled lowly. “You lot better continue this inside. The blizzard’s completely stopped now. We should go.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Harry muttered. He showed them the parchment.

Draco saw a tiny drawing of a clearing where all their names were in the middle. From the north were five dots labeled Xs coming towards them.

“They’re too fast,” Ginny realized. “We have to… stay. And do what we can.”

Draco struggled to his feet. “If this is the only way to get Aurora from those… things.”

Ron and Hermione helped him up while Harry and Ginny flanked their sides, their wands aimed towards north.

It seemed like an eternity passed but finally, the group heard their footfalls. Some were heavy, others nearly too light to be heard. And among their footsteps, they heard a baby gurgling contently.

Four figures emerged from the thick woods but they stayed in the shadows, hardly giving a hint to what they really looked like.

“Professor, I think we found them,” said a voice which seemed to belong to a cool, controlled gentleman.

The students froze as one of the figures, a bald man in a hovering chair approached them.

“Good,” he answered. He smiled at them, baring a perfect set of teeth in the little moonlight. In his lap sat Aurora, rosy and well as can be.

"Aurora!" cried Draco and Hermione in sync.

The baby shrieked and laughed and clapped her hands. "A-a-a-a..." she pointed at them.

"You must be the child's babysitters," the bald man said in a voice that was suprisingly reassuring. "Professor Dumbledore told me so much about you."

"Wish we could say the same about you," muttered Draco.

Hermione nodded. "You're the Gifteds?"

"That we are, in your world's terms." He nodded at Draco. "I would like to apologize for what happened young man. It was difficult to see in that blizzard and I'm afraid one of my colleagues injured you."

"Out of instinct," one of the figures in the shadows said in a low, gruffy voice. "He got me, too. But I managed to control myself when I realized you were a student."

Draco nodded. "The cuts are shallow enough." Then almost like an afterthought, "Thank you."

"I think we best sort this out inside the castle? Albus is waiting in the Infirmary for the five of you." The bald man looked at Ron. "And yes, Mr. Weasley. He is quite cross that the Gryffindor Head Boy should be involved in  your little search party."

Ron's eyes widened. "Blimey. You read minds!"

"Gifted," nodded Harry.

The bald man smiled again. "Now please Mr. Weasley. Perhaps we can get on your headmaster's good side again if he sees the Head Boy on the forefront. Kindly lead the way."

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