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The thudding of Tabitha’s heavy footsteps on the hard stone of the corridors echoed through the castle. Her feet seemed to know where they were going before her head did. She was leaving. She didn’t know where she would go but she knew she couldn’t stay here anymore. Before long, she had reached the Gryffindor common room.

 

 

She panted “Tartuffe” to the Fat Lady and clambered inside.

 

In her dormitory, she grabbed only the essentials. There wouldn’t be long before Professor Wilmot sent someone looking for her. She packed a small knapsack, shoving The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts on top of her clothes, and collecting her warmest cloak as she headed out the door. Her foot had only just hit the bottom step of the dormitory stairs when she collided with a small figure.

 

“Oh sorry,” a voice squeaked. Tabitha looked up to reply and was met with Sophie’s innocent eyes.

 

“Sophie, what are you doing here?” Tabitha said, abruptly.

 

“I forgot my Charms book, so Professor Flitwick let me come and grab it.” Her eyes flashed to Tabitha’s bag and cloak. “Are you, going somewhere?”

 

“Oh this?” She held up the cloak. “This is ... for potions. It’s a bit chilly in the dungeons today.”

 

Sophie’s brow furrowed in a questioning expression. Tabitha had to leave, soon. Every second longer, she risked being caught.

 

“Well, I should go.” She moved passed Sophie, making her way to the door.

 

“Where are you going?” Sophie’s question stopped her.

 

Tabitha’s head fell. “I can’t tell you.”

 

“Why?” Sophie’s voice was soft.

 

“I don’t want anyone coming after me.”

 

“But why are you going?”

 

Tabitha’s heart thumped. Part of her was asking the same question. “I can’t explain it.” She turned back to face Sophie. “I just can’t stay here anymore.”

 

“But...” Her words trailed off. She ran to Tabitha and wrapped her in a hug, her tiny head barely reaching Tabitha’s chest.

 

“I’d better go.” The two separated and Tabitha hurried out the door, giving Sophie a small smile as she did.

 

Outside the common room, she stopped. What now? How was she going to get anywhere? She didn’t own a broom, and even if she did she was no good at flying anyway. Apparating or using a Portkey were both out of the question, and the train only ran on holidays. She thought of the train and remembered the strange creatures that pulled the carriages from the platform. Thestrals. They could fly anywhere.

 

A plan forming in her head, she hurried down the stairs, ducking through tapestries, avoiding other students or teachers wherever she could. After only one run in with Peeves, where he told her six distasteful knock knock jokes, Tabitha made it through the Entrance Hall and out of the castle. The Threstrals had to be somewhere on the grounds.

 

Standing in the pleasant mid-day breeze, she balanced her wand across her open palm.

 

“Invenies Thestral,” she uttered.

 

The wand spun furiously in her hand. As quickly as it had started, it drew to a halt, the tip pointing to the forest on the distant edge of the lake. Gripping her wand, she took off towards the trees.

 

Her footsteps crunched across the twig and leaf debris of the forest floor. As the trees grew closer together, she stopped to check the direction with her wand. It still pointed forward, into the dark, thick undergrowth. She pushed through, low hanging branches snapping at her from every direction.

 

“Diffindo.” She whispered, clearing a path for herself through the quiet forest.

 

Stepping around a particularly wide oak tree, Tabitha encountered a spacious clearing, twinkling with light as the sun flickered between the trees. Resting in the warm glow of this light, was a small herd of gaunt, black Thestrals.

 

They turned to Tabitha, instantly aware of her presence, only to bow their heads gently in response. Tentatively, she inched forward, navigating around the clearing towards them. They had never shown a penchant for violence, but their eerie appearance suggested a sinister side to these creatures. She chose to approach one on the fringes of the group. It was of medium build compared to the others, she could somehow tell this was not the alpha of the herd.

 

Slowly, Tabitha raised her open palm towards it. It stared back, with its cloudy white eyes, unblinking. With each step closer, she prepared herself for it to pounce, to lash out at her, but it stayed motionless. Squeezing her eyes shut, she placed her hand onto the pointed, beak-like tip of its face. Its skin was cool and leathery. She could feel its steady breath against her hand.

 

Opening her eyes, Tabitha gently moved her hand along the Thestral’s body. She could feel the shape of every bone that protruded from its thin skin. As she reached its back, she placed her other hand onto its spine. Intuitively, the creature bent its back legs into a sitting position, lowering itself for Tabitha to be able to climb on.

 

It was extremely uncomfortable. Bones jabbed into Tabitha, and its skin was slick, causing her to almost slide off immediately. She found that the best position was to lock her legs just behind its wings, and grip her arms around its neck. She held tightly to the Thestral, but it did not move. Tabitha still didn’t know where she was going, or how to make this creature take her there.

 

Doubt flashed across her mind, but she quickly dismissed it. She couldn’t stay there anymore, just to be tormented for the actions of some blood thirsty monster. Those piercing red eyes shone more brightly than ever. Swinging her bag into her lap, she pulled out her textbook. She flicked through the pages until she was greeted by that pale creature.

 

While Vampires are known to live within the Wizarding community in isolated colonies, under the stipulation that they adhere to the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, and answer to the Being Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, they are native to the Transylvanian region of Romania.

 

Tabitha read from the chapter’s introduction. She needed an explanation for her mother’s murder, even if that meant going right to the source. The Thestral seemed to sense Tabitha’s new resolve, stretching its wings in preparation.

 

Leaning forward, she whispered to the creature, “Can you take me to Transylvania?”

 

Without hesitation, the Thestral lowered itself towards the ground before shooting upwards, rocketing through the branches of the canopy and into the sky. The speed pressed Tabitha into its bony body, the force keeping her stuck to its back. Wind whipped passed her ears. It grabbed at her shimmering hair, dancing and twirling it through the air. Although the howling wind was nearly deafening, Tabitha almost thought she could hear a noise in the distance, someone calling out to her from far away.

 

“Tabitha! Tabitha!”

 

She tried to turn back to look for the sound, but the wind lashed her hair across her face, despite her best efforts to move it. The Thestral flew at a breakneck pace, and they had already travelled out of sight of the castle. With a tap to the Thestral’s head, it knew what Tabitha wanted. As it steadily tucked in its wings, they glided gently towards the ground, landing with a bump in a grassy field.

 

Tabitha dismounted, scanning the skies for any sign of someone. At first, there was only the grey sky dotted with clouds, until she noticed the tiniest speck in the distance. Slowly it grew larger as it moved closer. Tabitha’s stomach dropped. The speck was someone on a broomstick, flying right toward her. She had been caught.

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