The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 28: Alexis’ Judgment
Albus had a rather disturbing dream that night. He dreamt of whizzing through the forest, like an independent wind only to arrive in a white area of nothingness. A snake struck out but narrowly missed him and it changed into an old man with a pointed grey beard. The old man looked harmless and almost sagely but before Albus could talk to him, be burst into green flames and in his place stood what seemed like a half snake, half human form. A high cold laugh sounded in the background and the snake-man reached forward with a long hand and said, “I will get you Harry Potter,” in a cold voice. A burst of green light erupted from his hands and Albus woke up with a jolt.
Albus awoke the next morning, feeling disturbed but deeply refreshed. But he was met with a rush of unfamiliarity. He was so used to sleeping in the Gryffindor dorms now that he felt a little exotic to the space around him. However, when he sat up in bed against his pillow and looked around, it started rushing back to him. The green-tinted water jug, the green color on the walls, the enchanted windows, the snaky way of the beds, and the snake mouth leading out of the dorm were all like distant friends to him, long forgotten. But they came back, and he once again grew appreciative of his surroundings.
Scorpius sat up in bed next, and looked over at Albus through sleepy eyes, and smirked. “Hope you’re happy back here. I mean, Gryffindor didn’t take your pride away, did it?”
Albus shook his head, rubbing his eyes sleepily, the dream still in his mind. The two sat in the dormitory for a little while longer, both of them still in the process of waking up. Neither felt like talking to Rose just yet. For a minute, Albus wondered why he agreed to talk to her in the first place before he glanced out the window and saw the Forbidden Forest.
“Tomorrow, Al,” Scorpius muttered as if reading Albus’ mind. Scorpius was stretching long and hard as he got up, and gave one final yawn. “I’m not in the mood to talk to her now.”
“Yeah, fine,” Albus yawned. “I’m going to breakfast. You coming?”
“You go on,” Scorpius said tiredly. “Gonna send a letter.”
Albus nodded, and walked out, deciding to pass the dream off as a regular dream. But Sunday passed uneventfully. Albus endured a lot of evil looks from fellow Slytherins, and he noticed Lorcan threw Malcolm a threatening look as the latter scowled at Albus. Albus didn’t say anything, but what could Lorcan hope to do against Malcolm? Lorcan was a little second-year kid and Malcolm was a fourth year and a very fast duelist, Albus having witnessed so the year before. Lorcan couldn’t take Malcolm on in any circumstance.
Albus appreciated it all the same though. He heard stories, mainly from Lucy and Roxanne, what students did and how they acted in response to Albus changing houses even for a week.
“What did Lorcan do to Malcolm,” Albus asked Lucy during lunch. “I keep hearing”-
“Oh, that- that was… nothing,” Lucy shrugged. “He kicked him when Malcolm called you a kiss-up Potty, so Malcolm tried cursing him. Lorcan got quite lucky that the Curse missed, and luckier that it hit Frankie instead, so Lorcan had an ally. Lorcan fired a spell and threw a punch… and… detention was involved… and Frankie got Malcolm a bloody nose. I think Lorcan gave him a black eye before he fell unconscious though.”
“What about Walter?” Albus asked.
“Oh, he was cool about it,” Roxanne shrugged. “Don’t take too much offense. He just had to stay quiet and work his position out for himself, because Malcolm was acting like a tyrannical bully.”
Albus bade goodbye to his cousins, and walked out of the Great Hall, feeling refreshed and filled up. As Albus walked out and toward the dungeons, he ran into Mark and therefore a test of friendship between the two now Albus changed houses again. Mark nodded heartily and said, “Hi, Al,” that Albus pat his back in response.
“So, who’s pissed at you?” Mark asked, grinning all over.
Albus grinned and counted off his fingers, “Malcolm, Gordon, Jared, Herald, Gerald and… Jennifer, I think.”
“Oh, you’re kicked off the team?” Mark asked happily.
“You wish, Mark,” Albus rolled his eyes.
“You’re telling me,” Mark said back, in mock disappointment. “I was rather hoping to give Captain Wood some good news.”
“Good to know I’m a threat,” Albus said.
But Mark just shook his head mockingly, “Actually, we were hoping for a better challenge.”
The week passed by as normally as it could for Albus. More and more Slytherins came out against him, as if publicly imploring him to change back to Gryffindor. Never had Albus felt so hated and yet, never had he felt so supported. Malcolm Mold would have loved to give him a good beating and Jennifer would have loved to kick him off the team, but fellow team mates and Slytherin friends Scorpius, Lorcan, and even Walter stood against them. Lorcan even took it upon himself to ask Era to forbid Jennifer from making such a bold move.
The most incredible part of the week came on Thursday though, when Albus found himself pushed into an empty and unused Charms classroom by Malcolm Mold. The twins Herald and Gerald were behind him, the latter looking particularly angry with Albus. Malcolm seemed threatening but it did not look like he was aiming to fire spells just yet.
“Listen,” he said with great effort, as if it was taking every last bit of tolerance he had to resist injuring Albus. “You’re on the team and you’re Walter’s… friend. So, I’ll make you a deal to let you walk away from this.”
“Truth be told, Potter, I never liked you,” Malcolm said honestly. Albus was not bothered in the slightest. He never liked Malcolm either and was on the verge of saying so when Malcolm went on, “I offered you friendship in first year and you turned me down. I stood up for you last year and you spat in my face. This is your last chance, Potter!”
“You didn’t offer friendship, you demanded, more like threatened,” Albus shrugged bravely.
Herald made to leap at Albus but Gerald caught him and Malcolm pointed his wand at Albus’ neck. “Issue a public apology for joining the lions. Make nice to the Gryffindors and give us their password. We’ll give them a taste of Slytherin power and your grace is saved. I’ll never bother you or your brother again. Deal?”
Did Malcolm really expect Albus to agree to this? Mark had proven to be a friend. For one nasty second, Albus imagined getting back at Mark viciously, putting him on the defensive the way Mark did the year before, paying him back for real and exacting some sort of revenge. As Albus remembered Mark’s genuine smile as they spoke, and Alex’s offer as well as the possibility of Mark’s allegiance in the face of any adversity, he could not bring himself to agree. What did Albus care if Malcolm’s entire gang went against him? Mark was vicious, that was certain. Imagining Mark’s actions the previous year but directed at Malcolm was much more tempting.
So, in a second, Albus answered, “No.”
Malcolm seemed shocked and stepped back. Gerald loosened his hold on Herald and the latter leapt at him. Before he made it though, an unseen string pulled him back. Albus widened his eyes but could not see the helper. He could only guess. Gerald disappeared next and Malcolm pointed his wand once again. For a split second, Albus felt something almost liquid wash over his face and he thought Malcolm had done something. But his wand was pointing as if nothing happened, “Any last words, Potter, before you visit the hospital wing? And know that you will wake up and find yourself kicked from the team. You don’t want my enmity.”
A loud bang erupted and lightning zapped out but it was ineffective. His face absorbed the hit and Malcolm gaped in shock. Before Albus could do anything, a familiar foot stepped out from behind a corner. Herald and Gerald were tied up behind her as a familiar brown-haired girl made herself known. “Hi,” she said brightly to Albus. It was Alexis Ackerly and everything made sense. Albus’ face was temporarily Charmed to become rubber for a split second and block the electricity. “Hanging with your friend?”
“Yeah, hanging,” Malcolm agreed at once.
“Because it sounded to me like you were going to send him to the hospital wing,” Alexis shrugged at Malcolm, facing him fearlessly.
“And who the bloody hell are you?”
“His friend,” Alexis said brightly.
Alexis withdrew her wand threateningly for the first time in Albus’ memory and pointed it at Malcolm. Her smile was still there but her eyes were fiery and furious and her voice shaking with rage, “If you ever threaten Albus again, I will put you through worse humiliation than you could ever cook up.”
Malcolm tried to feign strength but he backed away as she advanced on him. “What could you do?”
Alexis looked unfazed. Usually, Albus knew people for making these kind of threats only when they were empty. Alexis looked like she meant every word of her threat and more. “Imagine your brain being Charmed to command your feet to do ballet every time you hear Professor Era speak.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I’m the daughter of the Charms Professor, I can do whatever I want,” Alexis warned, smile disappearing. Malcolm had his wand on her too by now and they looked ready to duel. But Albus was not so sure Alexis could deliver on her threat. Malcolm was tough and fast. “So, say you’re sorry. One chance before I deliver judgment on your unworthy head.”
“No,” Malcolm said fearlessly, confident he could take the third year girl before him.
Alexis shrugged and strafed to the side of a yellow jet. One waved of her wand Charmed the desks and chairs to march on Malcolm. But Malcolm had taken that opportunity to release the binds from the twins, Herald and Gerald. Albus withdrew his own wand to aid Alexis and took her back, casting a spell at Malcolm. Malcolm blocked it and Alexis cast her own spell. Malcolm’s hair went aflame but Herald doused it. Gerald raised his wand at Alexis but Albus charged him physically and knocked him down and Malcolm destroyed the desks and chairs charging him. Herald was taken down just as easily too and Malcolm and Alexis went into a flurry.
The two were going so fast and changed spots so swiftly that Albus could not cast a spell, worried he might hit Alexis instead. And he saw her eyes. She looked furious and yet so calm. One second Malcolm was tap dancing and the next second he had an extra leg on sprouting from his head and talons at toes, poking a hole in his shoes. She ducked a jet of red light, ducked behind him and stunned him. It was over in seconds.
Albus was left in shock as she pointed her wand cruelly at Malcolm’s head. “Obliviate!”
The spell was not as powerful as some incidents Albus heard of but Malcolm was clearly effected. Then, she cast another spell that opened his eyes in a kind of hypnotic state. His first sight being Alexis who launched off into speech, “Your mind is mine for a month to do with as I please. For a month, you will inexplicably start doing a rendition of the Muggle ballet called the Nutcracker every time Professor Era speaks. When she asks you to stop, you will refer to her as ‘Your Royal Highness,’ before sitting down and admitting you were Charmed, but you must say so with a drunken voice. When Era summons Professor Ackerly, you will then admit that it was you who destroyed the desks in his old Charms classroom and proceed to show him how it was done. Clear?”
“Yes,” he muttered lowly in a very un-Malcolm-like way.
“Please refer to me as your Majesty before you are expelled, please,” she asked.
“Yes your Majesty,” he muttered and he walked out, eyes wide and glassy.
Albus stared after him in absolute shock. As much as he liked Alexis, he had never seen that side of her. Despite the half of his mind yelling that Malcolm deserved it, he almost felt sorry for him. The twins were unconscious on the floor and she stood over them, right in front of a shocked Albus. He gaped at her, “Yo-you…”
“You might’ve gotten him expelled!” Albus blurted out.
“No, my father’s too nice,” Alexis said brightly. “I did get him suspended for a couple of weeks though. Let that be an example. I told you I would defend you, didn’t I?”
The two walked out of the room casually, as if nothing eventful just occurred. Albus was still shocked at her actions and still wondered why Alexis was willing to go through such lengths to help him. As if she could read his mind though, she drew him into a tight embrace, eyes closed as if trying to hold back tears and when they broke apart she seemed as normal as ever but dead serious, “I remember your state last year. You were friendless, alone and miserable. You ran into this same classroom in tears, crying on my shoulder. And you were half asleep, I hardly think you remembered that. The climax put your life in danger. But I never want to see you in that state again.”
“Alexis,” Albus said lowly, still recovering from the shock he witnessed. “I owe you. And… please let me pay you back one day.”
As they continued walking, Alexis was smiling to herself in silence and when they reached Ravenclaw tower, they parted with her final words, “Don’t worry. You will, one day.”