The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 27: The Mending
It was on a happy note that Albus left the Gryffindor house. Era and Redgrow awaited him in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady, outside the Common Room, to escort him back down to the dungeons where he belonged. It felt like a prison sentence, being escorted to the gallows but he felt a sense of longing as he saw them both. For the first time, the Heads of Gryffindor and Slytherin were taking him to his rightful place.
A small portion of the Gryffindor students followed to see him off. Among the small portion was Laura Creevey, Albus’ brother James, Lysander Scamander, , and of course Mark and the twins, and even Rose. Even Eric showed up, showing nothing more or less than indifference. Alex had a small half smile on his face, and as Albus passed him, Alex stopped Albus by the back, and grinned, “No hard feelings, Al, k?”
Eric shrugged, and Mark nodded whole-heartedly beside Alex. Albus looked around at them. His true friends were of course in Slytherin, among Scorpius and Walter and even Riley. Sometimes, even Malcolm had to be on good terms with Albus. Still, for Mark and the twins to finally come through like this, it had to show friendship. And better than that, Albus had won.
Mark had spent two years making life for Albus a living hell. He dueled him, tried splitting him up from Scorpius countless times, even tried failing him some projects, got him into big trouble with his own mum, split his dormitory up, manipulated the field against him and took on Albus and James, ultimately seeing Riley expelled. And after all of that, where anyone would have hated Mark forever, Albus had forgiven him. Mark had gotten what he wanted and had Albus resorted into Gryffindor all to see Albus change once more to Slytherin. Mark understood the look on Albus’ face better than anyone now. Sorry, Mark. My true friends are in Slytherin and Gryffindor.
Albus walked with the two teachers down the staircase. Redgrow parted with them at the foot of Gryffindor Tower, and Era continued on to the dungeons. Pausing at the Snake hole, she muttered, “Power,” and the hole opened.
Albus was meant with a loud chorus, a mix of jeers and excitement. The jeers came mainly from the back of the Common Room, led by Malcolm and his gang and with a shock, also from the Quidditch team Captain Jennifer. The excited yells came from those who threw themselves on Albus the second he entered. Scorpius was directly in front, for the first time giving Albus a true hug. Patting his back enthusiastically and practically begging him to join them at a table was Walter and Riley. Walter was demanding a day by day account of Gryffindor life. Riley just nodded at Albus with a little bit more interest than he usually showed. He must’ve been allowed there for the occasion, and he held in his left hand a bottle of what Albus was sure was animal blood from the forest.
Scorpius and Gabriel led him to the dormitory, where they could allow Albus a break. This was one of the few times Gabriel ventured down to the third year dorms. He closed the door, and sat with them. It didn’t seem he planned to stay for long, because he left early. A few excited girls opened the door to spy them, but Gabriel reacted immediately.
Gabriel got up, and demanded, “Get out. Out, I say. Befoul the dormitory with”- and on his way, he tripped again. From the ground, he crawled over, scaring them away as if he was some human spider. He exited once more to yell up the stairs at the rowdy kids above, “QUIET! Give the man a BREAK!” He took his wand out, and sent a bang up the stairs to frighten everyone. Gabriel kicked the door shut behind him, and proceeded up, leaving Scorpius alone with Albus.
Scorpius was smirking, and his first comment was, “That guy is hilarious. Gabriel. Thanks to you going into Gryffindor… you should’ve heard the joke. But… I’ll tell ya later. How was it, with Mark and the carrot-tops?”
Albus shrugged, “It was good.” He hadn’t forgotten his promise to Mark that he wouldn’t tell anyone his greatest fear, and he decided to keep it. Albus spilled everything else. He told Scorpius everything since the Quidditch match against Ravenclaw. How Alex and Eric talked to him by the forest. He did not offend Scorpius with unneeded accusations that Scorpius was not a good friend. He left their main argument out since their reason no longer existed. He told him of their deal though, and how he left the table to the Headmaster’s office and tried a resorting. He told Scorpius about how he made Gryffindor and Eric’s rant against Slytherin and how Snape himself badmouthed him back.
Then, he told Scorpius about his week there. He spilled the news on Laura’s tantrum, his decision to stay in Slytherin after the week was over, Alexis’ happiness, (Scorpius smirked at that part) and his ultimate deal of Mark and the twins distracting Hagrid long enough to take an extended excursion into the forest for real and how bad feelings seemed to be nonexistent in the three. “After two years of warfare, Mark Wallader is finally my friend. But now, I have to tell you… Laura is cute and everything, and she’s fun to hang out with, but if you wanna hear my opinion, leave her be. She can throw a tantrum. She’s such a baby and definitely not your type.”
Scorpius widened his eyes further, “Tantrum? What happened?”
“I think Daniel Dagger accidentally pushed her over, but she yelled and screamed like a baby,” Albus smirked. “I wish you were there. The only one who can control this loudness is Mark.”
“How did it end?”
“Mark’s presence, if you can believe that!” Albus laughed. “I’ve never heard Mark yell so loud at someone before, especially someone as vicious as Daniel. Then, I launched myself at him. I got him back, finally!”
“Whoa!” Scorpius said admiringly. “What’d you do?”
“Just ran at him,” Albus said happily, satisfied now he was the one being stared at in awe. “Jumped at him, and we dropped. I punched his face, stomped his arm down, and spat.”
“You did not,” Scorpius denied.
“You wanna ask him?” Albus challenged.
“Made any friends, apart from the three we already know?”
“Well, Laura is fine, as long as she’s with Mark,” Albus counted off his fingers, “Nigel and Samuel didn’t see e off like she did though, and Rosie- Scorps, Alex wants us to make up with Rosie.”
Scorpius’ face turned from curiosity to dislike, and scoffed, “She owes me an apology. And you for that matter.”
“Funnily enough, Eric agrees,” Albus put in. “But we gotta try. Because if we do, and Alex is there to witness, he’ll make good and help us get through the forest.”
“Are you serious?” Scorpius said delightedly. “Through the forest? No Hagrid?”
“We can sneak out, and no one will be the wiser,” Albus proposed. “But we gotta make it up first.”
Scorpius shrugged, and then Scorpius Malfoy said the words Albus would never, ever forget till the day he died, “I’m an idiot. Out of control of my own actions.” At Albus’ puzzlement, Scorpius clarified, “That’s a ‘fine.’”
Their talk ended there for some time. There was a feeling of uneasiness there, but it was not negative. Something was unsaid between the two and Scorpius seemed to know what it was. Albus remembered. How did everyone react to him leaving? Now he was back in Slytherin house, was he welcome? Malcolm certainly did not seem to think so and neither, it seemed did the team Captain Jennifer Salsty.
“A lot of people in Slytherin were mad with you moving,” Scorpius said solemnly.
Albus shrugged, “I noticed,” he said bitterly.
“Malcolm was furious. And Walter seemed to want to join him, but I convinced him to stay quiet,” Scorpius said slowly. “Quite a fight. I ended up dueling Malcolm at one point. I held off pretty good too… anyway, so Walter stayed quiet.”
Albus was quiet for a little bit. He expected this, so why did it bother him? They abandoned you, the second you changed house. They’re not real friends, Mark had told him. After almost three years of friendship, it seemed his friendship with Walter and his moderate speaking terms with Malcolm were coming to an end. But how could Walter stand against Albus. He was friends with Mark. After a minute of contemplating, said, “There are things better left unsaid. I think that was one of them.”
“Consider this like a test of loyalty,” Scorpius suggested. “Walt’s still your friend, mate. Actually, he wanted to tell you something, but I promised I’d let him do it. But we had heroic Slytherins standing up for you. You know Joel Herbert? He actually yelled at Malcolm for badmouthing Gryffindors in general but that’s probably due to rumors that sprung up six days ago that he was dating a Gryffindor. And Gabe… he is a true friend. For a comic, he knows how to act when two sides have opposite points of view. He could keep himself in tune with you and I, but not get in trouble with Malcolm and the others. Made a killing.” Scorpius smiled widely, “Y’know the fable we Slytherins have about the lion and the serpent?”
Albus nodded, raising his head up, ready to hear the joke and laugh. Scorpius continued, “Well, Malcolm, as usual, being him, starts criticizing you and calls you a traitor and stuff, and then he recounted the fable, trying to win emotional support. The serpent wraps himself around the lion, swallows it, and uses its roar to scare away victims and take over the Jungle. So, Gabe said, ‘I don’t get it? Is Al getting eaten or not?’ And Malcolm, so angry, says, ‘Who the hell cares?’ and Gabe responds, get this, like, ‘I care, my friend is being a self-cannibal, eating himself.’ You had to have been there. It was the kind of joke you had to see the look on his face. Even Malcolm laughed.”
“How was Lorcan?”
“Lorcan calmed the tension really,” Scorpius shrugged. “He had an in between view. I mean, I guess, to a lot of people, making friends with other houses is fine, but changing is over the line or something. But remember this, so you know who your friends are; Lorcan defended you tooth and nail against Malcolm. Give him credit.”
Just then, the door opened, and in walked Walter. “Hi Al.” And immediately, he looked down, “Listen, I wanted to apologize. For… the way I acted… with you and Malcolm. I mean… it’s hard. I’m a Mold, and friends with Mark… I thought he’d kill me if I made friends with another Gryffindor. So… I kinda… I was on his side, but then Scorps- well… there was a duel, and both ended up in the hospital wing all last Sunday with broken noses and limbs and stuff. I just wanted to apologize for that.”
Albus shrugged, “Doesn’t matter. Forget it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter.”
Albus fell asleep slowly. He remembered the twins insisting once that Walter was going to go against him one day, and it was already starting. Even Mark couldn’t argue against that. Was it starting? Looking over at Walt’s sleeping form, looking so peaceful, Albus refused to believe it, but that was probably because Walt looked so innocent anyway. In all honestly, Walter was older than Scorpius and Albus, and views between the three differed greatly.
If Walter was Albus’ friend, he’d have shown it in a way like Gabriel and Lorcan were said to have done. But then, if he wasn’t a friend, he wouldn’t have come up to Albus, and apologized guiltily and admit what he did was wrong even when Albus didn’t really need to know. With that thought in mind, Albus fell asleep.