The Sugar Quill
Author: Tapestry (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: In Chiron's Hoofprints  Chapter: Default
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Untitled Document In Chiron's Hoof Prints

Acknowledgements: Thanks to my beta-reader Aquilla for your general spiffingness! Also, to Juliane and Julie for detailed comments, I know how long that takes from personal experience :) And to the ladies of the SQ Workshop for their encouragement and input. I am following humbly in all of your footsteps.

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter, and the characters and ideas that make up that world, are solely the property of JK Rowling and Warner Brothers. I am merely borrowing them for a brief while and this story is not intended as an infringement upon their rights. Bearach is entirely mine :)

***

Bearach's breath was sharp and hard, a physical thing struggling to burst from his throat with each heave forward. Brambles snatched at him with clawed fingers, ripping at his flanks. Their cruel points drew blood, streaking the dapple gray of his coat with crimson, but he plunged onward through the thicket, oblivious.

The forest had always been his home, his friend, but today it was his enemy. It fought him, holding him back, slowing him down when he needed to race free and fast, as fast as lightning, as fast a hoof smashing down, as fast as the herd turning on one of their own.

Bearach stumbled, crashing into a tree as his hooves tangled in the underbrush. He bellowed in anger and shoved away from the tree, kicked out at the vines until he was free. If he were bigger, if he were just a few years older and not hemmed in by the awkward gangly legs of a colt, he could fly through these trees.

He galloped faster, ignoring the sting of leaves and limbs slapping his face, the pain in his chest from too little air. He had to find Hagrid and he had to find him now. Please great Chiron, let Hagrid be visiting his pet. If Bearach was wrong, if he was heading the wrong way, there would never be enough time to reach Hagrid's cabin.

Ahead he saw the trees thinning, saw emptiness where thick elms had stood before. They lay now like bent and broken statues, their bark dry and gray-white in the filtered light of the forest. There was a movement just over the small rise and Bearach slowed, cautious. He did not want to stumble upon the giant unawares; he had no desire to find himself twisted and broken as easily as those trees.

"Hagrid!" Bearach bellowed, knowing he had no time for stealth. Even now Firenze might be lying under a storm of hooves. "Hagrid, Firenze has need of you!"

The movement up ahead stopped and then, praise Chiron, Hagrid shambled out of the shadow of a tree and stared at him. Bearach cantered forward and slid to a halt just before the groundskeeper, sending a shower of dirt and debris raining over the man's massive boots.

"Hagrid," he panted, breathless and trembling now that he'd reached him. "It is Firenze. The others are going to kill him. Please, you must come at once. You must stop them."

Hagrid stared at him dumbly for a moment. "Here now, wha's tha'?"

Bearach stamped, twigs snapping beneath his hooves, and slashed the air with his tail. There was no time for this! "Firenze is going to die while you are asking questions. Follow me and I will tell you on the way, but we must go now," Bearach insisted, his voice curt. He spun around and cantered a few steps before looking back over his shoulder. Hagrid was following but not quickly enough.

"Hurry!" Bearach yelled, anger surging through him. The man was twice the size of a normal human and that long stride could certainly eat up distances much faster than he was moving now.

"Jus' where are we hurrying to?" Hagrid asked, increasing his pace slightly.

"Do you know what your Dumbledore has asked of Firenze?" Bearach shot back at him.

"Aye, he's ter be teaching up a' the castle. We're in sore need o' a new-"

"Then, do you also know," Bearach cut him off, "that it is a betrayal of our laws for a centaur to undertake such a task? By agreeing to this servitude, Firenze has turned his back upon his herd. They will kill him for it."

"Tha's madness. They're no' going ter kill him jus' for agreeing ter teach."

"They are killing him as we speak, Hagrid. When I left, Bane and Magorian were gathering the herd. If we do not hurry, they will stamp him to death until his blood mingles with the dirt of the forest floor."

Hagrid's large feet shook the ground as he broke into a run and came abreast of Bearach. A fierce smile broke across Bearach's face and he let his legs stretch out into a full gallop. Finally, the man understood. They wove in and out of trees, the only two entrants in a mad steeplechase.

"How'd the others learn abou' Firenze?" Hagrid asked, the words exhaled on a harsh breath. "Dumbledore wouldn' a gone striding in among the herd ter ask 'im."

Bearach snorted. "He did not have to. Firenze spoke of the appointment to me and Bane overheard us. That brainless carthorse, that stupid son of a mule, went raging to Magorian and demanded Firenze pay with his life for the betrayal."

"Dumbledore can' have known they'd act like tha'" Hagrid panted.

"Then he is a fool," Bearach said, shaking his head fiercely and redoubling his speed.

"Don' you insult-" Hagrid bellowed.

Bearach shot in front of him, cutting the man off so quickly that he stumbled and had to grab a tree trunk to stop from tumbling to the ground. The tree swayed ominously but held firm.

"Quiet," Bearach hissed. "We are almost there and they can not know that I have brought you. If we are discovered, Firenze is not the only one that will die this day."

Hagrid closed his mouth grudgingly, but continued to glower. Bearach flicked his tale and stared up at the man Firenze had told him so much about. Was he mad to have brought him? But there was no other way; he could not let Firenze die.

"Do you see the path just there?" Bearach motioned to a faint trail winding around one of the larger trees. At Hagrid's jerky nod he continued, "You must follow that path for another three lengths and you will find the clearing where the judging is to be."

Glancing at the crossbow and arrows slung across the gamekeeper's back, Bearach turned away and called over his shoulder as he trotted slowly from sight. "I would recommend that you go armed."

***

Author's Note: Prior to the release of Book 5, I began my own story set in the Harry Potter world, Eshu's Daughter. As I read Book 5 I had the most disconcerting experience of my characters tapping me on the shoulder at certain points and saying "Hey, see that line right there? That was me." Nobody, however, tapped harder than Bearach. When I read about Hagrid rescuing Firenze, there was Bearach proudly telling me how he had been the one to let Hagrid know Firenze was in trouble. After all, he said, what are the odds that Hagrid just happened to stumble in at the right moment? Thus this little side story was born. I hope you've enjoyed it and if you'd like to read more about Bearach he will be appearing in the final two chapters of Eshu's Daughter, later this summer.

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