The moment Grace opened her eyes; she began to feel the sting of her frozen legs. Trying every attempt to lift herself up, she shot another spell into the darkness, “Stupefy!” She then sensed her partner putting up a fight, “Harry? Harry!!”
“Petrificus Totalus!” Harry’s voiced broke through the darkness.
Grace lit up her wand and saw the beast before her. A manticore.
It’s wings gleamed like leather against the falling snow and sent a large gush of wind towards the two. With a large roar, the monster leaped into the air and tried to grab Harry by its teeth. The Gryffindor maintained a hold on its mane and held it’s snapping jaws away from him.
“Incarcerous!” Grace yelled to protect her friend. She was seconds too late.
Harry fell to the ground, tainting the white snow with pools of blood. “Harry!” Grace ran over to her friend and shot another spell at the beast, “Confringo!” In just the right time, before the manticore could drive its stinger into Harry’s flesh again, a flash of fire came out of her wand, the creature retreating ever so slightly.
“Harry! Harry, stay with me!” Grace clutched his pale face and applied pressure onto his wounded shoulder. “Stay with me!” Her hands were now covered in his blood and she began to sink lower into the snow. “We need to get you to Madam Pompfrey.”
“Find Ron first.” Harry choked as he attempted to get up, “we need to help him.”
Grace wiped the blood off her hands and recollected her wand, “You shouldn’t be talking… it stabbed you.”
“It must’ve gotten to Ron first, its venom hasn’t replenished yet.”
“I think its guarding Ron. I saw him.” Grace remembered.
“I’ll distract it, you grab Ron.” Harry turned back towards the monster, his posture slowly leaning towards his wound, “Incendio!” A blast of fire shot from his wand and towards the creature. A deafening growl was the only response.
Seeing her chance, Grace sheltered herself between the trees and began to approach the beast from behind. “Ron.” She whispered to the ground around her, a flicker of flannel caught her eye between the hind of the manticore’s back foot. Carefully groping the air, Grace caught a very familiar feeling of fabric. Yanking it off the Gryffindor, she briefly froze at the sight of Ron’s tattered state and grabbed him before the manticore could do anything else. Levitating the body, Grace yelled for Harry. “I got him!” Another shot of fire was directed towards the hybrid creature. “Run! Let’s go!” Before she got back to the clearing within the trees, another roar struck the air and Grace was sent flying forward, along with Ron.
“I’m fine! Get Ron and go!” Grace cried from the impact. She had landed on protruding rocks within the snow.
Harry began to run towards her, “NO! HARRY, GO!” Grace shot another spell into the darkness, “There’s another!”
A second manticore bounded between Harry and Ron’s body, growling in defense. A small ‘bloody hell’ could be heard from Harry’s lips. He raised his wand towards the beast and breathed a shaky breath, hoping it wasn’t his last. “Inca-”
“LEVICORPUS!” Grace had hoisted the second creature into the air and onto the other behind them. She immediately grabbed Harry, re-levitated Ron, and began to run towards the school.
Before they even reached the doors, McGonagall was already at the entrance with three stretchers. At the sight of Ron, she held her hand against her mouth in sadness. The boy was deformed and pale from swollen cuts, loss of blood, and multiple stab wounds. “What was it?”
“Manticores.” Grace said as she helped Harry lie down on a nearby stretcher.
“A manticore?” McGonagall questioned in awe, she had known there was dangerous beings within the Forbidden Forest, but a manticore was unheard of from these regions.
“Yes professor,” Grace had finished strapping Harry in.
“I’ll find Hagrid to exterminate it. Ms. Zabini, lie down on that stretcher there, it will levitate all three of you to the Hospital Wing. Madam Pompfrey is waiting.” The Headmistress turned to walk out the door, “And Ms. Zabini, I expect a full explanation for this later.” With a small turn, she was off to inform the Hogwarts gamekeeper.
As the stretchers were being carried through the empty hallways, Grace turned her head to view Ron. He seemed physically dead, but if it weren’t for the fatally slow movements of his chest, Grace would’ve believed she failed.
“I’m sorry Ron.” She whispered, hoping someone could hear her. The minute Harry hit the stretcher he had passed out from blood loss. She searched for Ron’s file in her back pocket and unfolded the sheet. Using the strong light of the moon, she could barely make out the outlines of letters. Ron still had a chance; he was still alive. “I’m sorry.” Grace then fitted her hand around Ron’s and held it until they got to the Hospital Wing.
An hour or two later…
The minute Harry awoke his body began to ache as if his muscles had frozen in place. His mouth tasted of metal and he could feel a cold substance along his hairline. “Shh… It’s only a dream…” he heard as he fully regained consciousness.
“’Mione?” Harry lifted his eyelids a bit, a flash of emerald peeping from under his tired features.
Grace gave a small smile, oh how she missed that name. “Just me.”
At this point Harry was fully awake, “Zabini?” He began to sit up and felt the pull of new muscle and bone growing in his left shoulder.
“Stay down.” The girl said as Harry hissed in pain; she quickly took off the cloth she was holding to his forehead. “You were burning up, calm down a bit.” She handed him a glass of water.
“Thanks.” The golden boy grabbed the cup in desperation, hoping to get the rancid flavor of blood out of his mouth. “I’m sorry-just…what you were saying…my friend used to say that…” He dug his head further into his pillow in means to shut himself up.
Grace gave another smile. She hadn’t slept much since they had gotten to the hospital wing, and she couldn’t help but contemplate the intricate situation at hand. Grace was determined to finally tell Harry about her secret, but now she knew he wasn’t ready. The Slytherin sat back in the bedside chair. Suddenly the doors opened and a redhead began running into the room, clad in pajamas.
“Harry! Oh Merlin!” Ginny ran towards the injured boy and gripped his limp hand. “Your arm!” The girl examined Harry’s weak form and noted his blanched skin and blue lips.
“Shh…you might wake Madam Pompfrey.” Harry said through cracked lips, he gave a comforting smile to ensure his girlfriend that he was going to be fine.
“The next cot over.” Grace said from behind the united couple.
Ginny turned her head to look at her brother. Immediately her knees fell to the floor in defeat. Ron did not look the same. His skin was almost a pure white, veins creating a ghastly bluish shade in the thinner parts of his face. His signature ginger hair seemed faded and his body was wrapped in several cotton bandages: around his torso, his chest, and left leg. Ginny was speechless.
“The manticore used the majority of his venom on Ron, therefore Harry didn’t get much when he was struck. Madam Pompfrey repaired all 13 broken bones and stabilized his breathing. He’s on a sedative like Harry and his wounds were closed. By the looks of it, they will leave scars, but he’s lucky to be alive.” Grace said as she watched one of her best friend breathe slowly, insuring his survival. “The treatment Madam Pompfrey used will leave him here for several weeks, so I applied one of my own remedies on his wounds. He should be able to leave by the end of the week.”
Suddenly there was a wand at her throat and fiery blue eyes staring into her brown orbs, “What did you do to him?” Ginny hissed at her.
“I-” Grace cleared her throat from the initial shock, “I thought you might want him back to his normal self as soon as possible.”
“It won’t kill him will it?” Harry said, watching the row begin from the end of his bed.
Grace turned back to Harry, “No, it will just heal the wounds three times faster than any spell could.” She pulled out a small jar from her bedside table, “It’s made out of Bezoar powder, mandrake root, and Moly…” She held the glass full of thick brown sludge in front of the two awake students.
Ginny gulped and looked at Harry in a flabbergasted state. Harry, too, was struck into silence. Back in the war, when the golden trio was hunting for horcruxes, Hermione used a similar substance to heal their wounds in a matter of hours. It helped the trio a great deal. Somehow, the Slytherin in front of them had concocted a similar medicine that had rescued them several times before.
“…Gin, why are you here so late?” Harry stuttered out of his perplexed reaction.
Suddenly the redhead became a heated shade of red and turned back towards her boyfriend. Ginny grabbed his hand yet again and looked at him with watery eyes. “I…I got a patronis, H-Harry.”
The adrenaline began to rush through the raven-haired boy and he eventually sat himself up without any pain, “From whom?”
Ginny nodded her head in means to confirm Harry’s assumptions. “It told me to come here… it said you were here. She still cares, Harry. She’s still with us. Ron was right.”
Harry shoved a hand through his thin hair, “No…no way. Someone else must have sent it…it couldn’t have.”
“It was an otter, Harry! Who else do you know that has an otter as their patronis?!”
“It was me actually…” Grace stepped into the conversation. She hoped they would finally figure it out themselves.
The two Gryffindors looked to Grace and regain their frozen statures. “You can produce a patronis?”
“Is it an otter?”
Harry turned towards his girlfriend and shook his head in disbelief. “A patronis is unique to the wizard who creates it. It can’t be.” He whispered into Ginny’s ear.
“How would she know how to communicate with a patronus charm then? Only the Order knew how…” Ginny hinted in response, she too couldn’t fully comprehend what was happening.
Grace interrupted the two, “I know how much you love Harry and Ron…I thought you might want to know when we got back to the castle, so I casted one as soon as Madam Pompfrey left to her rooms.”
“Well…that was very considerate.” Ginny said, her arms crossed in a strict manner.
“She could’ve let me die, Gin. We owe Zabini enough to at least hear her out.” Harry argued at his girlfriend’s thick sarcasm. “Why didn’t you let me die?” His head was now firmly turned towards the Slytherin.
“You’re my best friend Harry…”Grace began to crawl back into her cot, “I’m not even capable of it.”
Two completely baffled faces were the last thing she saw before her eyes shut in exhaustion.