The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 13: The First Attempt
Whatever Scorpius called Albus and whatever Albus called Scorpius a couple weeks ago was irrelevant. They remained with their respective nicknames as soon afterwards as the next day. Albus was Al and Scorpius was Scorps, or where Mark was concerned, Scorpy. Albus tried not to laugh when Mark would call Scorpius that name.
November wore on and frost was settling on the grounds, so that they were mushy. Albus disliked walking on them, so he and Scorpius remained inside. It seemed that Mark and the twins loved the outside wetness though. But was there anything the three disagreed on? Albus found himself wondering that for a long time indeed.
Lessons went on as usual. Professor Trelawney continued to predict Scorpius’ untimely death, and went on to state the brutally obvious between Mark, the twins, and sometimes Laura.
Lightened by a sudden idea, Scorpius motioned his head to where Laura was sitting. Getting the message, Albus followed. He feigned looking at Mark’s tea leaves while Scorpius seized Laura’s cup, “Here, let me look at yours.”
“Right, you’ve got a troll,” Albus muttered. “So, your life will be full of guarding. Ooh, like me. See, it’s all bogus. Oh, wait, no, that’s you. A selfish cat. Hey, Scorps got that too. You two should get together.”
Mark rolled his eyes, and snatched it away. Speaking of Scorpius, he was turning Laura’s cup, and looking in the book for the shapes. “You’ve got… a scorpion. Hurt. Pain. But, strength. Or, it could signify my name. What’re the odds? Well, either way, congrats. But here, you’ve got a mantis. I’ll bet I know”-
“Oh, my dear girl, I sense… I see… oh my dear, it’s a hopeless chase right now,” Trelawney said to Laura.
Albus’ heart leapt. Did that mean Scorpius could forget about Laura? Before he could look up, Scorpius cleared his throat. “Uh, Professor, that’s my cup,” Scorpius pointed out. “She was looking at it.”
“Yes, I see this, my poor dear, and it is hopeless,” Trelawney recovered. “Because the haunting spectral dog guards your path forward. I sense death. You shall kill and be killed. The scythe, the skull, and the grim make up a trinity of your unhappiness.”
“Wow, I’m really going to get it, aren’t I?” Scorpius shrugged. “My life was going just swimmingly until I entered this class, and then it all goes downhill till death. Poor me.”
“Ah, but you must kill first, my dear,” Mark said in an equally misty voice as Trelawney.
“The class is cursed,” Albus yawned, and before he could stop himself, he looked up at a flustered Trelawney and asked innocently, “Professor, who’s gonna get the axe after Scorpius?”
“Can it be me???” Alex and Eric jumped in unison.
Just then the bell rang and Trelawney slammed Mark’s book down, saying, “Homework. Five months worth of predictions! Your grade depends on how many of them are right! No exceptions or excuses!”
So shocked was the group that Albus, Scorpius, the twins, Mark and Laura walked down quietly, minds still reeling from Trelawney’s demand. Finally, Mark turned to Scorpius and Albus, “You do know that this is all your fault, right?”
“How’s it bad?’ Albus questioned.
“Yeah,” Scorpius shrugged in agreement. “I’ll just predict my inheritance being stolen, my manor being destroyed, me getting trampled by a Manticore before slipping and breaking my neck when walking out of the shower… and then say it all happened. Homework passed.”
After Divination was Potions; and Era was forcing their noses down the cauldron those days. Albus thought it unlikely they would get a cold that year because of the steam rising out.
Hagrid was easier. He showed them a variety of creatures, but Scorpius was often freaked out. He kept saying that if he never met Albus, he might’ve done a Draco, and insulted a Hippogriff.
While they were dealing with Hippogriffs in the evening, as their last lesson, Albus and Scorpius took Hagrid aside, and pestered him for information of the Forbidden Forest. So much that Hagrid stole a beady glare at Albus, and growled, “A lot like yer father. Wantin’ teh know more en’ yeh ought to.”
“Does that mean you’ll tell us?” Albus said pleadingly. “C’mon, Hagrid. Professor. Please.”
“Don’t let the kiss up fool you, Hagrid,” Rose said from behind. “They want to find out what’s beyond the forest, and they need to know what kind of creatures are in there.”
“Yeh what!” Hagrid said loudly that earned them glances from some of the class. “Beyond the forest? It’s one thing trying to venture, but to get through it is impossible. I dunno what’s past it, and I never will, I reckon. Yeh listen teh me, yeh two. Rosies’s got her head straight. It’s dangerous in that there forest.”
After the lesson, Rose led Albus and Scorpius back to the castle. Scorpius leaned to the side, and whispered to Albus, “In his hut.”
“Wanna go?’ Albus asked.
“Go where?” Rose demanded. “Al, I will write to mother, I swear, I will.”
“Such a snitch!” Scorpius said angrily. “You know what, Al? Let’s so. I’m so game.”
They walked away toward the forest, and Rose called back threateningly, “Al, I will tell Hagrid. I’ll get Professor Redgrow! I’ll”-
But Albus wasn’t paying attention. He stared at what had just formed in front of them. A long silvery line, following one of the paths, straight into the forest. It disappeared among the trees. Albus knew Hogwarts wasn’t known for normality, even by Wizarding standards, but this wasn’t normal at all. The long, thin silvery line sticking to the path, extended itself into the forest as if inviting all of them to follow it.
“Look,” Albus whispered.
Scorpius looked where Albus was pointing, and gaped at it. He saw it too. Albus looked at Rose for further confirmation he was not hallucinating, but did not receive it. Rose looked puzzled, “What on earth are you talking about? Guys, listen to me, if you go in there, I will”-”
Before Rose could finish her threats, Albus and Scorpius ran away. By the time Rose could make it to Hagrid’s, they’d be well in. Well, it was better than nothing at least.
Albus and Scorpius didn’t stop running until they were quite in the forest. It was very dark, and the way ahead was like staring into a void of darkness. Scorpius whipped his wand out, and muttered, “Lumos.”
An orb of light shone at the end, and a narrow stream of light lit their way. Albus did the same. Albus stared at his own lit wand for a second, and then said wonderingly, “I always wondered if we could fire spells while our wands are lit.”
“Well, let’s try, Flipendo.”
Albus was knocked back against a tree, and he staggered back up, Scorpius grinning childishly. Albus glared, “Damn it, Scorps.”
He punched him. Scorpius recoiled. “Hey.” He aimed a kick, but hit a tree instead, and Albus tripped his outstretched foot. Scorpius grabbed onto Albus for support, and they both fell down.
After half a minute of kicking and flailing at each other, Albus rolled away and got up, breathing heavily. Scorpius got up and looked around. He was counting on something that he now noticed was absent. They weren’t paying attention when they ran in. “Al. Where’s the path?”
Albus looked around, and gulped, “Erm… do you remember which way we came from?”
The two boys stood rooted to the spot in fear. A small rustling sent them running further in, without knowing if they were going further in, towards the outside, or simply skimming the edge.
Albus closed his eyes, and started spinning, hand outstretched as if relying on chance. Indeed that’s what it was. Scorpius gaped at him, “That’s your plan? A chance spin? Great. Let’s play Spin That Albus. Will we die, will we live, or will we be stuck in here forever. Only luck and chance will tell, and who else will fate rest with than Albus Potter?”
“You got a better idea?”
“Al, are you an idiot, or do you just act like one?” Scorpius asked seriously. “We’re in a situation here. We don’t know how to get out, and”-
“Relax, Scorps,” Albus said, smiling. “We got what we wanted, now we’re paying for it. I’m sure Rose is gonna get Hagrid, and they’ll come in after us, and”-
“And we’ll be detained, or lose house points,” Scorpius finished dramatically. “Or maybe a beast will get us first, and Trelawney’s prediction will come true. Is that what you want, Al? For Trelawney to be proven right? That old bat? Oversized bug?”
“Scorps, you’re exaggerating,” Albus said calmly. “You have to kill someone first.”
“The way it’s going, I’m killing you!” Scorpius said aloud. “Look, let’s just- take a chance, and go- that way,” Scorpius pointed to their left at random. “We got a chance of finding the opening, or a path to follow in or out.”
They walked the way Scorpius pointed, and continued on for a minute until Albus pointed ahead. He and Scorpius stopped dead. There was a flashing red light. Scorpius squinted through the darkness, and raised his wand up at the tree where it appeared to be coming from. Albus dared to venture up close, Scorpius following behind uncertainly.
Before they could decide that it was a creature not worth investigating, a monkey-noise met their ears. Or at least, it would’ve sounded like a monkey if it didn’t have a croaky voice to it. Now, Albus could see what was causing the lights, though he didn’t know what it was. The creature was green, and looked like a cross between a monkey and a frog. Long legs and webbed hands allowed it to swing from branch to branch and it emitted a croaky screech of a monkey.
Scorpius backed away as he pointed up. More arrived. It was like a group of them, and Albus was on the verge of yelling for help desperately when he backed right into a large mass. He took a breath to yell, but his mouth was covered.
Albus was silent and Scorpius was tight-lipped and quiet as Hagrid led them back to the entrance. Albus would’ve preferred it if Hagrid yelled, but he was silent. It turned out they were walking in a diagonal way closer to the entrance. But as they got closer, they could hear familiar squeals of laughter, and Hagrid looked up. “Yeh two stay here.”
Hagrid walked off into the darkness. It was only three quarters of a minute when he returned with none other than the Scamander twins. Hagrid looked furious. Albus never saw him like this before. Yet, still, he held his cool. They just had a few feet to go. Rose was waiting at the entrance.
“To the castle,” Hagrid ordered gruffly, and turned to the four. “Four trouble makers. More n’ me life’s worth the deal with four trouble makers, bent on self-sacrifice all teh find what’s at the end of an extremely dangerous forest. What part of ‘forbidden’ do yeh not comprehend?”
“Just curiosity,” Lysander muttered. “We’re safe, the Jibbies, and the- the Yarks. They all skim the edges. I swear, I feel them. Those who believe are safe.”
“I deal with what I see protectin’ yeh. Righ’ now, I see nothing. Now”-
“What were the monkey things you saved us from?” Albus asked.
“It was no savin’,” Hagrid said gruffly. “They’re Clabberts.”
“Are they dangerous?” Scorpius asked.
“No, they ruddy hell are not dangerous,” Hagrid growled angrily. “But that’s not the point. If yeh went on any further, yeh could’ve been in trouble, and if I wasn’t there”-
“We were just having a bit of fun,” Lorcan said pleadingly. “Riley was with us, why’d you leave him?”
“Fun nothin’!” Hagrid fumed. “Yeh want fun? I hate teh do this, but I’m putting the three of yeh on detention. Me hut, Friday. Five o-clock. Be there, or it’ll be fifty points from all of yeh. Now, I’m escorting yeh back to the castle. If I hear a word of going’ back, I’m writing teh yer parents!”
Scorpius and Albus were in low spirits as they walked to their Common room. Lorcan muttered a goodnight, and parted with them at the second-year dormitory. They sat up on their respective beds, heads against the pillows, and folded their arms.
“I know we’d probably be stuck in the forest still if Rose didn’t get Hagrid,” Scorpius began. He seemed to be looking for the right words to describe his feelings. “But, couldn’t she have followed us in or something. That might’ve gotten us out, and without Hagrid involved. Now we’re on detention,” he added bitterly.
Albus found himself agreeing with him. Not exactly for Scorpius’ reasons, but because seeing Hagrid angry was not what Albus wanted, and he never heard of a case where Hagrid was giving detention, letting alone threatening to take house points away. Hagrid wasn’t even known to yell or get angry too much.
To make matters worse, it seemed the old warfare between Scorpius and Rose was about to reignite. Scorpius did seem bitter about the events that night, and within the bitterness, Albus could sense anger. The same kind of anger. Unless Albus was mistaken, Scorpius was plotting a confrontation with Albus’ cousin for the very next morning.