3. Faced Death
The next day, I had most of my classes outside. It was a beautiful day with just enough cloud cover that it wasn't too hot, despite the fact that the summer was just coming to a true end. Herbology went quickly with my partner being Peter Pettigrew, who despite being a mousy-looking boy with few skills, turned out to be quite skilled with plants. He even coaxed the shyest of the Damanhurian Lilies to sing to him. It was a beautiful sight, even to me. I, on the other hand, seemed unable to coax my own lily into blooming, let alone making a sound.
Care of Magical Creatures was my only afternoon class of the day. When the class gathered, I noticed for the first time that I wasn't just the only Slytherin present. The entire class consisted purely of Gryffindors except for myself. The Gryffindors seemed to notice this as well and I could feel their curious eyes watching me as we waited for Miss Kettleburn.
Just as I was about to turn and head back to the castle, after all the teacher was nearly fifteen minutes late, Rubeus Hagrid, the enormous groundskeeper stumbled out of the forest with a grin on his face and a vest with dead ferrets hanging from it strapped to his chest.
"Goo' mornin' Class. Miss Kettleburn is out sick today, and 'as asked me ter take over her classes." The giant of a man laughed. I couldn't help but smile a little. Hagrid's personality contrasted so much with his huge mountain man looks that it was more than a little ironic. "Yer in for such a treat today. I'm goin' ter introduce yeh to the thestral herd!"
I frowned slightly and noticed that the Gryffindors around me all looked either confused or worried. I couldn't help my own shiver of fear. Thestrals were bad omens. Very bad. If you saw one, it was like seeing the Grim. Death and devastation were in your future.
"Can anyone tell me why some o' yeh can see thestrals and te others can't?" Hagrid asked as he led the class into the forbidden forest. We didn't have to walk far. Soon we entered a clearing and a few people, including myself gasped.
The clearing was filled with reptilian creatures that looked like what would happen if a skeleton horse and a dragon mated. Their eyes were pure white and they had huge, bat-like wings. One of them gave a shrill shriek, causing the students who couldn't see them to look around curiously.
"You can only see thestrals if you've seen death." Lily Evans whispered softly, staring anywhere but at the terrifying beasts. I took to her approach and focused instead on a particularly interesting flower at my feet.
"Five points ter Gryffindor." Hagrid said and I could hear the smile in his voice. He seemed thrilled that no one had brought up that most people also thought them to be bad omens. "Thestrals be dead smart, carnivorous beasts. They can smell fresh blood fer miles."
I heard a sickening crunch as Hagrid tossed one of the ferrets on his vest to the nearest thestral.
"Show of hands, folks. Who can see te thestrals?" Hagrid asked and I couldn't help but look around. Lily Evans raised her hand. So did Remus Lupin and a couple other people. Reluctantly I raised my hand as well. It's not like anyone would miss the fact that I wouldn't look anywhere near the beasts.
"Marvellous. Marvellous. I am, o' course, sorry for your losses, but I'm glad a few of yeh can appreciate this lesson." Hagrid boomed over our tentative hands. "Now, can any of yeh tell me what the Hogwarts thestrals er normally doing fer the school?"
"They pull the carriages at the beginning of the year and during Hogsmeade weekends and whatnot. That's why some students prefer to wait until later in the day and walk to Hogsmeade." I said softly. I knew this for a fact because I was one of them. Thestrals creep me out. "Not everyone is exactly comfortable with them, which is why we allow people who can't see them to believe that the carriages pull themselves, despite that being a ridiculous notion."
Sirius Black chuckled, obviously Remus had done the same thing with him at first. I'd never told anyone about the thestrals myself, because I knew how uncomfortable they made people.
Hagrid smiled "Very good Miss Malfoy. Five points for Slytherin as well." I blushed lightly. I hadn't meant to actually sound smart with that comment. I had been trying to hint to him how uncomfortable this lesson was making some of the students. Peter Pettigrew looked like he might wet himself if one of the beasts so much as breathed on him. I could tell he couldn't see them though, because his eyes were darting all over the place as if he was searching the shadows for some vicious monster waiting to suck his blood. I wondered if I should warn him that there was actually one a foot or two to his left, but decided not to scare him like that.
Suddenly I looked up as one of the thestrals came eye to eye with me. It spoke to me in a cool voice like a gust of winter wind.
You. You're the one who finally claimed it.
I glanced around panicked and saw that no one else had heard the words. No one was looking at me. They were all watching Hagrid as he talked about the beasts or looking around hoping to see one.
They can't hear me. I speak only to the one with my wand.
I shakily pulled out my wand and held it flat on my palm for the thestral to inspect it. He made a shriek that sounded like a monstrous bird and pranced around me. Remus and Lily were both watching me now with interest.
I knew it. I knew you had my wand. The tail inside that wand came from my very own. The cool wind voice said proudly.
I blushed as the others who could see the thestrals looked at me as well, even Hagrid. I smiled slightly and whispered "Yeah, this wand has, uh, really pulled through for me..."
"Interesting... Very interesting. Dragon heartstring and Phoenix feather both seem to shy away from you." Ollivander had whispered reverently as he pulled yet another wand from my grasp before I could blow anything up. I had been in his shop for hours trying every wand in sight. It seemed like I had grasped a hundred wands only to have them pulled away again. "Perhaps something different, Miss Malfoy? Perhaps something I would never have thought of before..."
Ollivander had sulked off then to search through more and more stacks of wands. Eventually I heard a crash in the back of the shop and rushed to help him. By the time I made it to where he was, he had already levitated the fallen wands to their rightful places and all that was left of the crash was a dust cloud so thick it could be cut with a sword.
"Try this one dear. I made it many, many a year ago, when I was just starting out." Ollivander passed me plain black box that was caked with dust and cobwebs. I reverently opened the box and it creaked with age as I pulled out the beautiful ebony wand. I swished it in my hand and the tip showered us in purple sparks.
"Curious. 13 inches of ebony. Unyielding with a thestral hair core..." He had whispered reverently. "Interesting indeed. It is said that only a wizard who has faced death can master this wand."
**Back to present**
The thestral had wandered off shortly later when I had refused Hagrid's offer to let me feed him, but I noticed that it continued to watch me for the rest of the lesson. Ollivander's words seemed to bounce around in my head. "A wizard who has faced death." I whispered softly to myself.