Knowing The Rules
Forty Years Ago
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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
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.
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
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.
remarkably impertinent,” said the chestnut centaur, “but I suppose you are only
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.
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…”
said the chestnut Ronan. “We too have
“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.”
and took Asturien’s offered hand.
“Dolores Jane Umbridge, I bind you by the power of the stars….”
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
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.
stared at her for a long while, then recognition came
into his amber eyes.
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