The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 20: The Second Attempt
Like all good things, Christman eventually ended and Albus and his friends, including Scorpius were sent back to school. The holidays ended with good spirits all around and sent the kids back with high spirits. A quick goodbye to the Malfoy’s who came to Kings Cross to see their son off and they boarded the train once again that year to ride to Hogwarts. Albus, Scorpius, and Rose took a compartment with Lorcan Scamander and Gabriel Dagger. The compartment across from them was occupied by Mark and the twins. Gabriel was giving them a comic version of his Christmas holidays, and the frequent duels he had with Daniel which Albus was sure were mostly exaggerated.
“He said I could go rot in the Forbidden Forest for all he cared, because I was in Slytherin,” he laughed.
“That’s Gryffindor for you,” Scorpius shrugged.
“Honestly,” Gabriel agreed. “Gryffindor heads are so inflated…” he paused at this point as if expecting Scorpius or Albus to put in, ‘how inflated are they?’, but when they didn’t, he went on, “… Gryffindor heads are so inflated, it would take an expert mountaineer to scale them and see China from there.”
The compartment was quiet at this. Scorpius yawned, and Albus stared in disbelief. “That was… funny?”
“Ah, a moment of silence,” Gabriel said happily. He lay back, and smiled up into space, “I love moments of silence. They’re so… silent…”
“I’m gonna go sit with Mark,” Albus said immediately, and got up.
“Where’re you going?” Gabriel demanded.
“I had an idea,” he said, and left the compartment.
Scorpius stared at the shut door, and then turned on Gabriel, “See what you did? You scared Al away.”
Albus of course was not scared away, but truly had an idea. His mind had been on the forest since Gabriel mentioned Daniel’s suggestion and Mark entered his mind. If the Gryffindor dormitory were willing to accept this favor…
If there’s anything you need, ask…
That was Alex’s promise. Would they consider this favor or was it too much for them to pull off for a Slytherin boy? He slid open their compartment door and breathed out a sigh of relief. Mark looked as if he were almost expecting Albus. Eric widened his eyes and Alex looked up in amusement. The twins, it seemed were playing exploding snap and had Albus not been on good terms with Alex since the previous year, he may have been told off.
This time, they greeted him and Mark even got up to show him in and clear up a space for him. Albus took it, even if it was going to be for a minute and started, “I got an… offer. I know Gryffindors like to be… well, brave and all that…” Eric raised an eyebrow as if Albus said something either very insulting or very obvious. “We in Slytherin have been trying to take a trip into the forest for ages, and we always get caught or repelled by Bugbears or trolls or whatever.”
“So, if a few Gryffindor kids tried their hand in distracting Hagrid then…”
“Sure,” Mark shrugged immediately. “But under one condition. We go with you inside and cross the whole forest. Sound good?”
It sounded better but Scorpius would have to be warmed up to the idea. Nodding in gratefulness, he got up and left the compartment to tell Scorpius what he managed to get from Mark and the twins. Then…
“You will not,” Rose said firmly. “I’ll tell Hagrid. I’ll”-
“Rosie, honestly, ruin the fun,” Scorpius said sarcastically angrily. “Just shut up and stay out of it, will you?”
Rose looked highly affronted. “Excuse me? I will not. You’re endangering yourselves, and breaking the rules. Stay out of the forest.”
“Stay out of our lives!” Scorpius said angrily. “Hey, Al. Let’s go for it first thing when we get back. Before term begins. C’mon, what do you say? Forget Rosie, and let’s do it.”
Albus was surprised already that Scorpius was pushing for such a remarkable feat. He shrugged uncertainly, and said, “I dunno, Scorps. We might seriously”-
“Oh, c’mon Al, don’t be a goody-two-shoes,” Scorpius whined. “Let’s do it.
Albus sighed. “Ok, ok.” He was surprised Scorpius was pushing for it so hard. He was not the kind of person to push for such a remarkable feat. “Let’s go for it.”
The train arrived at Hogwarts in the evening, but they did not head for their dorms. Albus and Scorpius headed for the Entrance Hall, and out the double oak doors. They ran across the field toward the forest. There, laying before them, was the same curious line leading them into the forest.
Without a glance to Hagrid’s Hut, they ran straight in. This time, they made sure to stick to the path. The path they took was narrow, and the trees pressed in on all sides, increasing the darkness even though it was just before evening.
Sounds were coming from within the trees, but Albus didn’t mind them. They went further in, and still further, and the darkness increased as night swiftly fell. Lights were visible within the trees. Albus guessed they were fairies, but he still followed Scorpius further inside. He was vaguely wondering if Rose had noticed they were gone and if she got to Hagrid yet.
Scorpius kept going further in, looking left and right and sticking to the line, which stayed on the path. They didn’t meet anything, and it stuck them both as suspicious. Albus looked at Scorpius for judgment, but the blonde boy just shrugged, “Maybe that’s why they tell us to stick to the path. But what’s on the path that keeps everything off?”
“Hey, Albus! Scorpius! Back here, now!”
Scorpius’ neck went red, and Albus realized. He didn’t need the sense of hearing to know who it was. Scorpius’ reaction was enough to answer that. They turned around, and Albus braced himself. Scorpius had a dirty look on his face. Albus was angry too though. Why did she have to get involved? How did it concern her?
“All of yeh back here now!” Hagrid yelled. “Yeh come to Hogwarts and yeh immediately run into the forest? This is the greetings yeh give me? Back here now!”
Scorpius threw an angry look at Rose as they walked with Hagrid back to the entrance. Hagrid was quiet, and Rose kept back, obviously to avoid eye contact with Scorpius. When they got back to the entrance, Era was waiting for them.
“Have them, Hagrid?”
Hagrid nodded gruffly, “They’re here. I’ll escort them to yeh when I’m done. I want a word with these two troublemakers first.”
Era fixed her two students with a cold black stare, and they knew they were in for it. Hagrid turned to Albus and Scorpius. Albus looked down at his sneakers guiltily. Rose was still standing back, determined to keep away from them. How long could she keep it up?
“Apparently, showing yeh up close how dangerous the forest can be doesn’t work,” Hagrid growled. “I’ve shown yeh a troll we had to fight off, and in case you forgot, yeh would’ve been killed and eaten if I weren’t there. Still, yeh go in. Yeh leave me no choice. I’m writing’ to yer parents and I’m taking fifty points each from Slytherin.”
Albus gaped. He shook his head disbelievingly, “No. Hagrid, no. You wouldn’t.”
“If I catch you in the forest one more time, it’ll be a hundred. Now back to the school. Era will deal with you.”
Hagrid escorted them halfway to the castle when Era appeared from behind a tree, and stared at them. “I’ll take them from here.”
Albus always wondered how hard Era was with her own students. Now, he reminded himself grimly, he was about to find out the hard way. Era walked with them up near the Greenhouses, and took them behind Greenhouse Three. “Alright. I’m gonna be clear with you. If I find you’ve been going into that forest one more time, I’m stripping you of your Quidditch privileges. Am I clear?”
“Professor, it’s that, over there, by the bush, see?” Albus pointed to the silvery line, hoping she, unlike Rose, might be able to see it. She stared what seemed to be straight at it for a while, and then shook her head, “What are you talking about? Listen! I’m serious here. We’re not playing jokes.”
Resigning, they nodded slowly, and she went on, “I’m taking an additional fifty points each, and I will also write to your parents.”
Albus and Scorpius stood rooted to the spot as Era left them. Slowly, it dawned on them that they lost two hundred points in one minute. Scorpius looked down guiltily, slowly going red. A dangerous sign. To add to frustration, Daniel Dagger showed up.
“Oi, Malfoy, I got a bone to pick with you!”
“SHUT IT!” Scorpius raged, his anger level at boiling point and still being tested. Albus knew this would escalate before it did.
“YOU SHUT IT!” Daniel screamed.
“Watch your anger, Danny!” Albus said venomously, sticking up for his friend out of his own anger. And before he could stop himself, added, “You need therapy? I know a great doctor!”
“Need I say again? STAY OUT OF IT!” Daniel screamed.
“Go away!” Scorpius yelled back, withdrawing his wand threateningly. “If you have no friends to stick by you, that’s your problem.”
Next thing Scorpius knew was a world of pain as the clash of fist on face sounded. Daniel kicked Scorpius as he fell to the ground, and walked off, neck still red from anger. Problems didn’t end there either. Albus helped Scorpius up, choosing not to give chase like he did before. Scorpius pushed Albus off forcefully though, not wanting to appear weak or humbled in any way. After a minute, he consented to walk inside.
It seemed Albus and Scorpius arrived only to problems though. They walked sorrowfully into the Entrance Hall only to find a circle of students gathering around a confrontation in the middle. Albus’ first thought was that once again, Lorcan had dared to confront rhe Headmaster, a man who Albus was liking less and less, Dumbledore or no Dumbledore. Once again, as if he had planned this from the Christmas vacation, was Lorcan Scamander and he was facing Galadral Phoenix but beside him was a familiar but unexpected face. Professor Era.
Lorcan was holding what looked like an issue of the Daily Prophet in his hand, glaring at Phoenix angrily. “I’ve read enough, sir.”
“Perhaps you should’ve stayed out of adult matters,” Phoenix said calmly. “The fact of the matter is this had nothing to do with anyone. He’s threatened your classmates… Scamander he’s a lunatic.”
“My mother would never”-
“Your mother is known for her lunacies, so forgive my not taking you seriously,” Phoenix interrupted. “Mr. Blackberry is not expelled. He takes lessons, he controls his magic, and he remains an educated being.The only difference is you and your classmates live in a safer environment.”
“What about Era!” Lorcan yelled. “What did she do?”
“This is result of the distrust of the community,” Galadral justified. “In case you forgot, Mr. Scamander, I defended all actions last year. Unfortunately there is”-
“A need to keep a reputation,” Lorcan breathed. “Screw what’s right, huh?”
“Ten points from Slytherin Mr. Scamander,” Phoenix said calmly, face composed against Lorcan’s fury. “Leave immediately or it’ll be fifty. Leave.”
“A hundred points from Slytherin,” Phoenix roared, face contorted in fury.
Before Lorcan could respond, and perhaps lose himself a thousand points, the circle broke up from behind where Albus and Scorpius stood to reveal none other than one of the controversial beings in the school. Professor Era, black hair falling to her waist. Her pale face was contorted in fury as she too faced Phoenix, holding her own copy of the newspaper. Something in it must’ve angered as her. “Headmaster, I resign!”
“What is the meaning of”-
“I’ve had enough of this intolerant prejudiced,” Era yelled. “The second war wasn’t fought for nothing and it took place in this castle. To show how far back we’ve stepped after the war, your little alliance with Potter and Blackberry has ended. One of them has resigned and I’ll give you a hint, Headmaster, it was not you. Because you go and take an interview for”- she threw the newspaper straight in his face.
Albus was certain Phoenix would scream at her, perhaps curse her. Further, she mentioned someone having resigned. Potter or Blackberry. But Professor Era remained firm against him, Lorcan also facing him. This was it. Lorcan was going to be expelled. Phoenix wasn’t lenient, was he? Albus never knew him for leniency.
“Are you going to kill me, Era?” Phoenix asked calmly.
“I resign,” she said simply. “I’m going to live in the forest.”
“No!” Phoenix said aloud, eyes widening with what looked like fear. “I refuse to accept it,” he said calmly, staring her straight into her cold black eyes. “Return to your office immediately or face more humiliation. I’ve tried what I can do. The community decides what happens in Hogwarts. It’s their children.”
“It’s our life, our rights, our beings!” she said back. “You can show a little”-
“I showed enough, Era, return to your office now,” and Galadral said the last line with such force, Albus thought he’d challenge the vampire if she did not listen.
Then, Lorcan did something brave, stupid, and miraculous. He spat on Phoenix’s shoes angrily and walked off toward the dungeons angrily. Albus expected Phoenix to run after him and expel him for real, but he didn’t. He stood there in what seemed like shock and embarrassment. The circle broke up slowly, Phoenix still stood where he was.
Albus and Scorpius were the first to leave, and as if it was hung there to prove a point to all, the Daily Prophet article Lorcan seemed to be pointing to hung in the common room notice board. Albus and Scorpius were the first to catch it, but soon enough the whole Slytherin Common room would know. And they’d remember who Riley Blackberry always was.
Vampire Hunting: by Rita Skeeter
Rita Skeeter, celebrated author of three books, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, Snape: Scoundrel or Saint, and Harry Potter: The True Story, once again releases the article all have been waiting for, “and soon to be a book if enough readership is earned from the article.” Returning journalist Rita Skeeter has this to say of vampire hunting within none other than Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry:
It seems Hogwarts finally clamps down on the issue of beasts within its walls. Professor Forma Era, full vampire still roams free within the walls of Hogwarts, but one, Riley Blackberry was expelled last year for threatening the lives of his Slytherin classmates.
“He threatened my brother,” Malcolm Mold, a slender yet tough and brave Slytherin fourth year boy who dueled with Riley last year. “We were always afraid of him but we didn’t say anything. We thought Phoenix was against us.”
Slytherin house isn’t completely free from vampires though. Actually, it seems as though Phoenix has a soft side for the vampires. Riley still takes lessons in Hogwarts and his little brother Nate Blackberry still resides in school. Phoenix is also in negotiations with Otto Blackberry, a vampire within the Ministry to keep the two at school over the summer holidays where they can be watched over at all times by volunteers.
Professor Era, a vicious vampire who is said to have lived for over a hundred years still resides in Hogwarts, watches over it like a cruel mistress of the night. Because of a rather clever trick of hers of dueling Riley and covering her nature up, she remains Head of Slytherin house.
Mr. Blackberry now resides in the Forbidden forest during weekends with more of his kind under the suggestion of Era herself. This was yet another deceitful move by Era as Riley was granted rights to the forest with a vampire community.
“I can’t have my son in Hogwarts school with the mad vampires within,” said Mr. Karl Mold, Head School Governor and father of the brave Malcolm Mold. “In the forest to be influenced by his kind, it only puts the school in more danger.”
Karl Mold has three children in Hogwarts, all three of whom felt threatened the previous year with Mr. Blackberry and one of whom actually did battle with him. It is only a matter of time before vampires infect Gryffindor house, Ravenclaw, or even Hufflepuff. The Wizarding community can no longer look on in silence as vampires infest Hogwarts.
The Muggles, yes, the Muggles look in fear at vampire legends. If they knew of the existence of vampires, they’d be at war. Why isn’t the Wizarding community doing anything? Why does Riley, his ferocious brother Nate, and Professor Era do nothing? Why does Phoenix allow monstrosity to continue like this? Hogwarts already serves as home to a half-giant Hagrid, confidant of the late Professor Albus Dumbledore.
We allow Hagrid residence, why do we allow vampires residence? We’ve seen enough. We’ve been through two wars, three counting Grindelwald. Now, the Ministry hires a vampire to head the International department. Is this vampire the face we want the world to see? Mr. Phoenix should be brave like his teacher Dumbledore and crack down on all vampires and beings in the school. Time to take it back.
If one refuses to do so and support he who does it, it is apparent he is against the cause and must be imprisoned. This cannot go on any longer. It is time for Mr. Phoenix to clamp down on vampires and kick them out for good or hand in his resignation. If not, the school board should handle it. If the board fails to take action, a revolution is at hand.
To show the beginning of such a revolution, my inside sources from within the Ministry suggest the Head of Aurors Harry Potter has resigned his post and will be handing it further down the line of Aurors clamoring to take over. No word yet from the Auror office on this piece of information and no word concerning who is tapped to replace Mr. Potter, hero-turned-villain at the hands of Ministry corruption.
Albus stared in shock, open-mouthed, vaguely aware of Scorpius surveying his expression. That was it.
…We’re ready to save the image of a hero.