The forest was dark and scary. The little thestral gave out another desperate, loud shriek, but no one answered it. A lizard darted through the underbrush, startling the creature, and it set off again. When it stopped to catch its breath, the foal looked around, searching for any traces of its herd. The trees were thinner in this part of the forest, and the grass below its hooves was flatter somehow, more dry.
"Hello there," a quiet voice broke through the silence.
The thestral spun around, nearly in panic, and found the owner of the voice peeking out from behind a thick tree trunk. It was a human with a long blonde mane and big, blue eyes. The foal eyed it with a mixture of fear and mistrust and took a few hesitant steps back. "Don't be afraid," the human girl said softly, leaving her hiding spot. She approached slowly, holding one hand in the air with the palm turned up. The thestral shuffled back on its wobbly legs, keeping the distance between them. The girl stopped, then bent her knees slightly, her hand still stretched out.
"I won't hurt you," she said. "Did you get separated from your mother? I did too. She went away a few years ago, but it's thanks to her that I can see you." She smiled slightly. "So you see, we have that in common, you and I. And we're both lost, too."
Even if the little thestral couldn't quite understand everything the human said, there was still a certain sincerity that rang in her voice. Her tone was soothing and gentle, and it somehow innately felt like it could trust her. Taking a few hesitant steps forward, it drew closer. The girl stood as she was, not advancing but not backing away either—she simply smiled welcomingly. With its steps becoming more sure, the foal finally reached her and sniffed the outstretched hand curiously. Very slowly, the girl's palm reached for its head and caressed its side. The gesture was comforting, coaxing a soft whinny out of the creature. The human knelt down to match its eye level, continuing to pet it.
"My name is Luna, by the way," she said. "I'm a student at Hogwarts. But you're gonna need a name too. What should I call you…" Luna paused thoughtfully, and the thestral came even closer, completely comfortable with her now. "Oh, I know! How about Neeheeoeewootis?"
The foal whinnied disapprovingly and shook its head. That did not sound right.
"No? What would you like better, then? Beathag? Paciencia?" Another shake. "You are so picky!" Luna scolded gently. "You ought to have a fancy name, like Tibault or Isaiah."
The foal tilted its head in interest.
"Isaiah? Is that the one you like?"
It didn't know the meaning, but the word sounded nice.
"All right, Isaiah it is. How very nice to meet you." Luna took one of its hooves in her hand and shook it up and down. Isaiah simply blinked at her curiously. Humans were strange creatures.
It was a good thing that thestrals could not feel cold, but Isaiah knew that humans did and wasn't happy with the state Luna was in. When she'd appeared to see him that morning, he hadn't failed to notice that she was missing her usual bronze and blue scarf, as well as those strange pink-and-green things she put on her hands to keep them warm.
"Oh, it's all right," she had assured him when he tugged at the collar of her robes to indicate his question. "My dorm mates take my things sometimes, but they always turn up."
Isaiah whinnied in displeasure, his hoof beating against the snow-covered ground.
"It's not that cold outside," Luna told him, smiling slightly. "It's nothing to worry about; I don't even need a scarf right now." Isaiah bent his head and nudged her cold, frigid fingers. She smiled at him softly. "I'll survive. I always do." That didn't make what the other human girls were doing to her all right, but Isaiah knew he couldn't change her mind.
Footsteps crunched against the snow, and the thestral turned around, spreading its black, bat-like wings protectively, trying to shield Luna from the danger. The intruder was another human, maybe about her size. His black mane was messy and stuck out in all directions, and he wore the same black robes.
"Hello, Harry Potter," Luna said behind him, peeking under his wings.
"Luna," the other human said, notes of surprise ringing in his voice. "What are you doing out here?"
"I'm visiting a friend," she said, stepping around the thestral. "Isaiah, this is Harry. Harry – Isaiah."
Isaiah eyed the new person wearily and watched him approach as Luna caressed his neck to calm him.
"I'm… I'm visiting a friend too," the male human said, gesturing behind them. Over the bubbling creek, one could just make out the smoke rising from Hagrid's hut at the edge of the forest. So this one knew Hagrid as well?
Luna seemed to have the same thought, because she too turned to look at the groundskeeper's house. "Hagrid lives over there," she said, pointing over the snowy landscape.
"I—I know," Harry replied. "I just… needed to clear my head." He looked up at Isaiah. "So what… what are these?"
Luna turned her eyes to him once again. "They're called thestrals," she explained. "They're quite gentle, really... But people avoid them because they're a bit..."
"Different," Harry finished. "But why can't the others see them?"
"They can only be seen by people who've seen death." Luna reached into her bag and fished out a piece of red meat. Isaiah's attention immediately snapped to the fresh, delicious smell, and as soon as she lifted her palm, he gobbled it up hungrily. "I believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore."
"Thanks," Harry said, keeping his gaze on Isaiah. The thestral turned towards him curiously. Did he have treats too? The boy added, "Seems you're about the only one that does."
"I don't think that's true," Luna said. "But I suppose that's how he wants you to feel."
"What do you mean?"
"Well if I were You-Know-Who, I'd want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it's just you alone you're not as much of a threat. Take Isaiah for example." Luna looked up to him once more and gave him a smile, patting his muzzle. "There's a reason thestrals have an XXXX danger rating by the Ministry. Though they are docile for the most part, they are very intelligent and can easily discern friend from foe. If you gave him a reason to, Isaiah could crush your skull without much effort." Her tone was easy and conversational, but Harry still looked startled, and Isaiah could tell he was itching to step back. "Still, he is by himself, and if your friends came to fight with you, he would be easily subdued. He is technically stronger than all of you, but it's not just about numbers."
Isaiah licked her hand, where the taste of raw meat still lingered, requesting more. She reached into her bag absentmindedly and held up another piece.
Harry stared at him thoughtfully. "But that's different. Voldemort isn't fighting me physically."
"It's not just about that, either," Luna said. "Not all battles are fought in the open. If you feel deserted, your very will to fight is drained. That's how friends help you – not with spells or weapons, but just by being there. Letting you know you're not alone." She looked to Isaiah again and ran her fingers through his thick, black mane. "That's why you should make friends with thestrals. They're extremely loyal, you know."
Harry said nothing and just looked at them silently. Isaiah wondered what he was thinking about, and whether or not he was trustworthy. Luna seemed to like him, and Hagrid let him into his hut, but Isaiah had yet to decide if this new human was safe to let Luna be around.
The ground shook from the thunderous galloping of the centaur herd, and their shrieks filled the warm summer air. Isaiah turned his head in the general direction, mildly interested in what all the commotion was for. Something had been moving about in the woods for the last couple of hours, but none of it concerned him, so he had mostly ignored it. Suddenly, the breeze carried a wonderful smell and his nostrils flared, trying to suck it in. It was an odd aroma, definitely appetising, but unfamiliar at the same time. Following his nose, Isaiah traipsed through the forest, looking for its source.
Soon he came upon a clearing, and there he saw Harry, the messy-maned friend of Luna's. He was covered in red blood, though obviously not his, and was talking to another human girl Isaiah had never seen before. Her presence made him hesitate, and he held back, listening to their urgent whispers. Not long after he felt movement from behind, but relaxed when he recognised the silvery eyes of another thestral. The humans argued some more, and before long more of them came to the clearing. Recognising Luna between them, Isaiah almost left his spot, but just as he was about to, she noticed him and gave him a small wave. He decided it would be better for the humans if she introduced him first – most were a bit frightened by him for some reason.
When she did, Harry finally noticed him and approached, patting his neck. Isaiah wasn't paying much attention to what they were saying, distracted by the delicious smell of blood. As they kept discussing human matters, he bent down and tried to lick some of it off Harry's sleeve. How had he gotten covered in blood? Isaiah had never actually tasted human blood, but he had smelled it, and this definitely wasn't it. His eyes lifted from the sleeve and inspected the humans more carefully. They all seemed a bit banged up, mild injuries and bruises showing on their bare skin. Isaiah wasn't happy about it, but at least Luna seemed mostly okay. He started listening more carefully as soon more of his brethren found them, probably attracted by the smell.
The humans were talking about rescuing someone, and Luna was adamant about going. Harry was saying that it was too dangerous, and Isaiah wanted to agree, though he didn't know what they were talking about. They wanted to go somewhere, he gathered that much, and they needed to get there fast. Isaiah had carried Luna on his back before, but this time Harry climbed on him before any of the others had even started moving. Isaiah let him, though he still wasn't sure about helping.
The rest of the herd, seeing that he let the human leader mount him, went along with it as well. One of the humans, a male with long limbs and red hair, looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown. "This is mad," he said faintly, moving his free hand gingerly up and down his horse's neck. "Mad." Then, as Luna helped the other clueless humans onto the other thestrals, his mount turned to look at him, trying to ease the human's shaking. The redhead didn't look very assured. "You know, I don't really need you," he said nervously. "I can fly on my broomstick. Or I'll hunt down a Crumple-Horned Snorkack, at least that I'll be able to see."
"Your broomstick isn't as fast," Luna chimed in airily. "You'll fall behind. And for the last time, Crumple-Horned Snorkacks can't fly." She climbed on the back of her own thestral, and with that they all seemed ready to go.
Harry wound his hands into Isaiah's slick mane and said, rather uncertainly, "Ministry of Magic, visitors' entrance, London, then. Er… if you know… where to go…"
Isaiah blinked calmly at him. Humans were odd, and if what he'd heard from Luna was true, they could be quite cruel. Still, she was a very gentle soul, and if she was so adamant about helping Harry… then he couldn't be all that bad. Plus… Isaiah hadn't forgotten how Harry himself wanted to keep her out of danger.
Spreading his wings and bending down to gather momentum, the thestral shot himself into the air, shortly followed by the others. He soared through the sky, letting his natural intuition guide him and enjoying the wind in his mane. Unlike his first flight with Luna, Isaiah didn't hold himself back and glided on at full speed, knowing that for the humans time was of the essence. The journey lasted a couple of hours, as the last rays of the sun disappeared and twilight turned into night. The dots of light shining from below helped Isaiah pinpoint a safe location for landing, and he touched the ground as softly as ever. Harry still seemed a bit shaken though, even if the thestral had thought he handled himself all right. For a human.
They all dismounted, some more gracefully than others. Harry gave Isaiah a grateful pat and led his friends into an odd metal box. Luna traced a caress along the horse's body as she passed, then squished into the box, giving him one last wave before the thing took them underground. Harry too threw a look towards the thestrals to make sure they would be fine, and his eyes locked with Isaiah. The thestral gave him a very slight nod. He wasn't sure the human saw it, but it wasn't really all that important, because through that one look they had reached an agreement: he would make sure the thestrals stayed out of trouble, and Harry would look after the humans.
Yes, Isaiah decided as he watched them disappear from sight. This Harry person was alright. Wherever they were going, he trusted him to take care of Luna.