The Sugar Quill
Author: WiccaRowan (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Knowing The Rules  Chapter: Default
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Reunion

Knowing The Rules

 

Forty Years Ago

 

At Hogwarts, Dolly was often teased for being a boring know-it-all.  While the other girls in her year made themselves up and stared at the Quidditch players, Dolly only really cared for learning.  The other girls had tried to encourage her to become more like them – Sarah offered to charm Dolly’s hair so it grew long and straight, Amelia urged her to take up jogging to shed some excess pounds – but Dolly had rebuffed them.  She’d had long hair when she was younger and the boys pulled it!  Didn’t they have any respect for the rules at all?  As for being thin, what was the point?  That was for silly girls with no ambition.  Dolly had ambition.  She didn’t need anything else.  She didn’t.  She didn’t.

            She did.  “Face it Dolly, you’re miserable,” the squat seventeen-year-old told herself, tripping over tree roots.  She wasn’t exactly in the Forbidden Forest.  She had checked with Hogwarts: A History and some maps of school grounds that she had found in the library.  Technically speaking, the Forest started about twenty yards further in.  It was important to know the rules.

            “I swear you make some of those rules up,” Becky had sneered, but she was only bitter.  Dolly had taken points off when Becky had snatched away her hairband in Potions, causing her mousy curls to fall into her eyes.  But why else was Dolly a prefect, if not because she knew the rules?

            Dolly swiped at tears and turned resolutely into the Forest.  One of the good things about knowing the rules was the satisfying little thrill you got when you broke them.  “It would serve them right if I did make some rules up,” she sniffed.  “They don’t know any better.  I could stop them having their stupid giggly meetings.”  Her wide mouth spread in a smile.  “Hmm… no meetings outside of proper school classes.  I wonder if they’d fall for it.”

            The Forest closed around her, deep and mysterious, but Dolly wasn’t scared. The Ministry of Magic would never allow truly dangerous beasts to wander about close to a school after all.  Besides, it wasn’t as if any of them were human, and Dolly was convinced that humans were far more intelligent than any other species on the planet.  There was nothing to worry about if you studied hard and knew the rules. 

Armoured with her conviction, Dolly strode into a clearing and sat on a tree stump, taking out her copy of Bending, Not Breaking by Regulus Stricture.  Slowly, she became aware that she was not alone, not through any noise the newcomers made but from a horrible, penetrating sense of being watched.  Dolly looked up, then the book tumbled unheeded to the ground as she backed violently off her tree stump and fell into the bracken.

She was surrounded by centaurs.  They’re amazing, said a voice in Dolly’s head.  They’re not human, said another.  They’re magical.  They’re not human.

They’re beautiful.

A chestnut centaur stepped forward and effortlessly pulled Dolly to her feet.  “An intruder,” he said, his voice very soft but filled with menace.  “In our Forest.”

“I didn’t know it was your Forest,” snapped Dolly, her voice high and girlish with fear.

“You are remarkably impertinent,” said the chestnut centaur, “but I suppose you are only a foal.”

Dolly was offended.  A foal?  He thought she was a child!  It was one of the drawbacks of being short but it might be to her advantage now.  These strange creatures seemed prepared to be lenient with her if they thought that she was a child.  Before she could open her mouth to argue either way, a black centaur stepped forward.  Dolly couldn’t help but notice the vicious-looking bow in his hand.

“She is no foal, Ronan.”  He raised the bow.

“Wait!” Dolly screamed.  “I wasn’t… I mean I didn’t… I just wanted to be alone and I know I broke the rules but it’s the only time I’ve ever done it and I swear if this is what happens I’ll never break the rules again, never in my whole life I promise…”

“Be still!” said the chestnut Ronan.  “We too have rules.”

“There must be something I can do,” Dolly said desperately. 

“There is one way.”  The voice was musically sorrowful, coming from a centaur with a silvery dappled body and long silver hair, his face set with astonishing amber eyes.  He is absolutely beautiful, Dolly thought, her mouth dry.  “You must be bound to one of us.  We will perform the ceremony then you will leave the Forest forever or be forced to submit to the terms of the binding.”

“Are you sure, Asturien?” asked Ronan.

“I am.  Give me your name, human woman.” 

Dolly obeyed, and took Asturien’s offered hand.  “Dolores Jane Umbridge, I bind you by the power of the stars….”

 

 

~ * ~

 

Present Day

 

Now, despite everything, she was back in the Forest.  Dolly kicked her legs and screamed, but the centaur’s arms pinned her firmly against his chest.  Wild black hair whipped against her face and she was jolted painfully as her captor ran.  She could hear the shouts of the other centaurs but could see nothing through the tangle of black strands and her own mousy curls.  Her favourite hair bow had been lost, presumably trampled by these inhuman monsters.  The frantic journey finally came to an end and Dolly was dropped unceremoniously to the Forest floor.  She clawed her hair back from her face and tried to get her rubbery legs to hold her up.  The rules having failed her, Dolly was determined to retain some scrap of dignity.

She saw silvery legs approach her and raised her head, ready to fight, but the words died in her throat.  Asturien had aged but was still startlingly handsome.  For a non-human, of course.

The centaur stared at her for a long while, then recognition came into his amber eyes.

“Stars above!” said Asturien.  “It’s the wife!”

 

 

 

~ * ~

 

A/N  The characters, settings, magical creatures, interesting plant life and indeed the whole Harry Potter universe do not belong to me.  If JKR knew what I was doing with her characters, she’d probably slap me.  Ooh, Asturien is mine and, in the words of Parvati Patil, “a gorgeous centaur.”  For the Ealing Comedy fans in the audience, please read the last line of this story as “Blimey, it’s the missus!”

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