Draco slowly regained consciousness, his body feeling weak.
He sensed a jolt and experienced sporadic, sharp pain in his leg, rendering it almost immobile.
Panic surged within him as he tried to understand his surroundings.
Where was he?
What had happened?
What should he do?
A momentary confusion gripped his mind, but then the memories flooded back.
He also recalled the arrow piercing his right knee, the source of the excruciating leg pain he now endured.
Draco realized he was lying on the back of a Centaur, covered with the fur of an unknown animal, which had probably saved him from freezing to death in the ice and snow.
The Centaur suddenly halted, casting a shadowy ambiance around them.
Draco felt himself being carried into a cave by the Centaur.
“Ouch!” Draco couldn’t suppress a cry of pain as he was roughly thrown to the ground.
Another heavy figure was thrown onto him, almost crushing him.
It seemed to be Vincent, and soon, the presence of Gregory and Theodore became apparent.
All four of them had been captured, and this cave served as their prison.
Draco glanced at the Centaur who had brought them here, noticing his distinctive features: red hair and beard, with a red-brown horse body, complete with a long red tail.
The Centaur entered the cave once more, this time bringing a large bundle of hay and placing it in front of them.
He instructed, “If it gets too cold at night, use this hay for warmth.”
“Thank you,” Draco stammered, still shivering from the cold.
He wrapped the animal fur around himself, disregarding the hay.
The idea of sleeping on hay in these conditions was unthinkable.
“Excuse me…” Vincent hesitated, realizing he had been awake for some time. “Do you have any food? I’m feeling quite hungry.”
The Centaur with red hair and beard frowned but went deeper into the cave.
He returned with a small bag of grain-like food, seemingly cooked, and threw it to Vincent.
Vincent eagerly grabbed a handful and took a bite but immediately spat it out.
It was evidently inedible.
Draco was surprised; Vincent was known for never being picky about food.
Even the most unusual wizarding dishes didn’t deter him.
“This stuff is inedible!” Vincent exclaimed, but then he glanced nervously at the Centaur, realizing he was their captor.
The Centaur picked up the discarded bag and nonchalantly grabbed a handful of the grain-like food, chewing it without complaint.
“Don’t waste it,” he said, “We don’t have much food, especially during winter. Every bit is precious.”
“It seems only you Centaurs can stomach this,” Vincent muttered timidly, taking note of the Centaur’s response.
“The recipe is the same for Centaurs as it is for Humans,” the Centaur with red hair and beard replied icily.
Neither Draco nor Vincent dared to say more at that moment.
Time passed agonizingly slowly, and the Slytherin group of four endured an excruciatingly cold night in the cave.
Without their wands, hunger gnawing at their stomachs, and the relentless cold, sleep remained elusive.
As dawn approached, hunger drove them to eat the grain-like food despite its unpleasant taste.
They choked it down, their stomachs grumbling from hunger, but their bodies shivering from the cold.
The Centaur who guarded them lay nearby, wrapped in animal skins and hay, eating the same unappetizing food.
Their captor seemed no different from them.
Hours turned into days, and their situation grew dire.
Theodore’s fever worsened, and the others grew weaker.
They knew that if they remained in this place for much longer, they might not survive.
Their only hope rested in the possibility that Professor Grindelwald would come to their rescue soon.
At the same time, they couldn’t help but fear the intentions of the Centaurs holding them captive.
The sound of approaching hooves echoed outside the cave, alerting the red-haired, bearded Centaur who stood up.
Another Centaur rushed in, rougher in appearance than the first.
“Ronan!” exclaimed the second Centaur. “Did the prisoners cause you any trouble?”
“These young foals behaved well,” Ronan replied with a touch of melancholy. “But they seem unable to withstand the cold nights in the Forbidden Forest.”
“They should freeze to death,” the second Centaur, named Baine, replied rudely. “Our Centaurs have endured these conditions day and night.”
“We never harmed the young ones, Baine,” Ronan said softly. “It’s the Centaur way.”
“If it weren’t for you stopping me, I would have chopped their heads off and thrown them into the castle to show the wizards our anger!” Baine declared angrily.
Draco and the others, huddled in the cave, dared not speak as they listened to the heated exchange.
However, Baine left without taking any action, relieving the captives of the immediate threat.
Draco and the others sighed with relief but continued praying for Professor Grindelwald’s swift arrival.
Baine didn’t venture far from the cave, soon encountering another Centaur, Firenze, with platinum hair and a silver mane-like body.
Accompanying him was a giant of a man with unkempt hair and beard but gleaming black eyes.
Hagrid, recognized by Draco, confronted Baine, expressing disbelief at the situation and their actions.
“I’ve had enough of the hunting ground guards and their little pets!” Baine ranted, justifying his actions. “They’ve provoked us for months. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I responded. The young ones supported me.”
Hagrid, stunned, couldn’t fathom their attack on Hogwarts.
If Firenze hadn’t informed him, he would have remained unaware.
“That’s right!” Baine boasted. “Wizards fled, and we emerged victorious. The Centaurs have taken control of Hogwarts!”
“This isn’t right…” Firenze, the young Centaur, interjected. “There’s a hidden conspiracy, I can feel it.”
“I don’t care about conspiracy anymore!” Baine shouted. “I just want to retaliate against the wizards, reclaim our forbidden forest, and ensure our young ones and Centaurs never go hungry or freeze to death in winter.”
“I hope Venus shines brightly tonight,” Ronan sighed cryptically.
“If it weren’t for your intervention, I would have gladly chopped off the prisoners’ heads,” Baine grumbled.
Draco and the others, terrified, listened to the conversation, wondering about their fate.
Would Professor Grindelwald arrive in time to rescue them?
Baine eventually left the cave, heading toward Hogwarts.
Draco and the others breathed a sigh of relief, their hopes resting on their rescue.
“We couldn’t convince him,” Hagrid lamented.
“Hey!” Firenze shook his head in dismay. “Miss Evans, what should we do?”
Lily Evans, a young witch with auburn hair and green eyes, spoke calmly. “It’s undoubtedly a conspiracy. Grindelwald’s plan extends beyond what we see now. We must unite and gather all available forces.”
Baine, however, remained unmoved, doubting their intentions. Lily acknowledged that, to Grindelwald, they were all considered wizards, regardless of their heritage.
“We’re not Centaurs, and we won’t betray you,” Hagrid reassured.
Baine, still skeptical, didn’t respond but turned to leave the scene.
Lily Evans persisted, “This is our last hope.”
“The last hope,” echoed Firenze.
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