The screams were driving him mad. He thought they'd been going on for days, but it was possibly only hours. They'd started soon after their 'conversation' had ended. It had been Hermione first, he'd known that. Then it was Ron. His screams were less terrifying for some reason.
And then it had been his turn. He hadn't made noise. He'd let go. It was almost relaxing, the pain. His time under the Cruciatus had been worse than that, and he just let it pass through him. His turn hadn't lasted long, he thought.
After that, it had been various students of various ages. That was pretty awful to listen to, but he couldn't do anything about that, so he focused on trying to see his magic or his bond with his father.
Nothing was working.
After what felt like a week, he began to wonder if they truly were going to die there. He'd always gotten out of the ridiculous, dangerous situations before. The only difference between those and this one was that he was not the primary target of the attack. He wondered briefly if he had to suffer to survive.
What a cruel idea of a life.
With a sigh, he zoned out the scream of a girl that sounded no more than twelve and returned to his happy place – or what was left of it.
He could barely find it anymore.
"Why do you believe this is the answer?" Firenze demanded, stomping anxiously. "They have not attacked us – they came out to help us and we attacked them!"
"We would have attacked them," Bane corrected with a huff. "You sent them away."
"Yes," Firenze agreed. "And they hear their children being tortured. We all hear it. It is agonizing, Magorian."
"It is justice," the centaur replied shortly. "They should not have taken what was not theirs."
"The castle cares for them," the kind centaur informed him. "She chose them. We have everything we need and more in this forest."
"We do not have our castle."
"It is not ours!"
"It is now."
Rowena wiped at her eyes harshly as she pushed her way into the room. She saw her daughter and heard her sobs, and wanted to comfort her, but she couldn't. It was her fault – their fault – that this had happened. The students, all of them children and innocent of crimes, were being tortured somewhere in the castle, and they couldn't find them.
Everyone heard it at night. The teachers, the Founders, Helena and Théophile, they all heard the screams and sobs. They'd been searching the castle nonstop, but they'd not found anything.
They had found the trio's things, but they couldn't use any of it to find them. Any tracking spell just led them to the nearest wall before fizzling out. They had no clues, and it was driving them crazy.
It had been four days by then, and the screams were fewer and farther between. No one wanted to consider what that meant.
Salazar was the most efficient and showed the least emotion, but his friends knew. They could see the fury raging behind his eyes. When they had the children back safe and sound, the centaurs would see what he had up his sleeve and pray for hell instead.
Helga and Godric were a bit slower than the cunning man, but they worked day and night searching the castle. Rowena hadn't actually seen them in two days, but she was sure they were around there somewhere – she could still feel their link active, though somewhat strained by exhaustion.
Rowena was forced to research the castle. She'd gone to the Chamber to look through any research they'd had on the way the castle worked, but she'd found nothing so far. She was beginning to think that whatever Magorian had done had to do more with centaurs than Hogwarts herself.
With a defeated sigh, she plopped down at her desk and began reading her most recent findings on Centaurs.
There had been silence for a while. He was scared to wonder why.
"We need to do it," he told them firmly. "But I can't find my magic."
"Then just release the emotions you've got bundled up," Hermione told him in a shaky voice. "Accidental magic should overcome any bindings they've got on you since you're so old."
"How do you know I've got enough bundled up?" He frowned.
"…you brood a lot."
He opened his mouth to reply before closing it again. Maybe she was right. So, he focused. He confronted the Dursley's. He saw Vernon smacking him and then breaking his leg. He let himself feel the sadness and anger he'd felt when it had happened, and every other time they'd hurt him. He remembered the night he'd found out the truth about James and Lily Potter and embraced the anger and frustration he'd felt, as well as the elation that he'd be getting away from the vial family he'd been placed with.
He saw the years at school when he was neglected and hurt and the times at the Weasley's when he was so excited to be cared for but jealous of their close knit family. He saw Hermione after the Yule Ball and released the pure anger he'd felt toward Ron when he'd hurt her and the pain in his gut when he'd gone back to tell tell Parvati that he was leaving and found Hermione sobbing on the steps. He released the hatred toward Umbridge and the overwhelming feeling of the crush he'd had on Cho.
And suddenly, he could see again.
It was dark and damp like he'd been told, but it was also filled with about a hundred children, which seemed to be about a third of the school. All of them were hung on racks against the wall and bleeding. He winced at the sight and turned to find Hermione hanging next to him. He gave her a weak smile before finding Ron across from them and nodding at him.
"You guys ready?"
They nodded in confirmation, and got to work on releasing their magic.
"We will find them," she whispered again. She wondered how many more times until she believed it herself.
Salazar stopped walking abruptly and gasped, doubling over. Rowena whipped around and rushed back over, placing a hand on his back. "Salazar?"
"It- it's him," he groaned, taking haphazard steps back until he leaned against the wall. "I can feel him again."
"Is he… is he alright?" She asked, terrified for his answer.
The scream of agony was a better reply than any words he could give.
"Salazar!" She helped him over to a large rock to sit on. "Breathe, it is alright. We will find him-,"
"They are… doing it," he hissed at her between groans of pain. "His magic is… emptying…"
"No," the woman said, her eyes widening in horror. "That was an absolute last resort!"
"From this pain," her friend said sadly. "I do believe it is their last resort."
It took them nearly an hour before they'd gathered enough magic in the middle of them. The first thing they did was release themselves, which turned out to be rather painful. When they finished, they stood together with Harry in the middle and his friends on either side of him.
"Sanare omnes," the trio muttered in unison. They saw some of the injuries on the students heal easily and then joined hands for the hard part.
"Libero," they said. Their united magic spread out across the room and released the students before gently transporting them to the infirmary, almost like apparating but much gentler.
When they were gone, Ron and Hermione worked to pull their magic back in, meditating to get it done. Harry agreed to be the lookout, which turned out to be a good idea.
"Where did they go?!" He heard Magorian bellow angrily. He turned around weakly and gave the man his favorite Marauder smirk.
It was a quick fight. The centaur ran at him with his bow drawn and Harry raised his magical shield. When an arrow slammed through it, the boy swore softly. He knew what he had to do.
I am here, Harry. We have been looking for you. For all of you.
I'm sorry. I was supposed to learn a lot and you were supposed to help me win the war.
Please take care of Hermione and Ron. Keep them safe.
I will, but-
Harry pulled the rest of his magic from his core and tossed it at the centaur, using the type of magic that Salazar had warned him against using much. The man had also warned them that if they didn't have a sufficiently full core, it could kill them. Harry heard the words repeated in his head as he spoke. "Magorian, for this crime, you will never leave the Forbidden Forest again. Stay there and remember what you've done and why you're there. And next time, remember that peace is always an option."
And with a bright, fantastic light, the centaur disappeared from the room, leaving Harry to crumple to the ground.
-did you do? Harry!
You were never meant to use that in such a way, Harry! Where are Hermione and Ron?
They thought it was over. I was just keeping guard. It's not their fault.
I do not wish to lose you as well.
'm always gonna be here. Can't… get rid of me that easy.
You are dying.
It was worth it.
He barely heard his friends rushing to his side as he faded away. It was only a few seconds later that Hermione let out a choked sob and informed Ron that he had no heartbeat.
Harry Potter was dead.