The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 31: The Forbidden Forest
A/N: Dear readers. It’s been a while since I last sent an Author’s note but this is to inform you that we have unwittingly crossed the threshold, the point of no return. From here on out, it will be strictly main plot and the events leading up to it, including our brand new villain(s).
Albus’ old nightmare haunted him in his sleep once more. A high cold voice spoke from the mouth of a giant snake stood, rearing its head over his crouched form, “You’ve lived in bliss for too long. But I swear to you, I will rise and annihilate your bloodline.” And his cold laugh made his hair stand on end like a frightened cat before he snapped awake, almost jumping out of bed. Scorpius yelped in half-fright as he jumped back with his hands up in apparent surrender.
“What the bloody hell, Al!” Scorpius yelled in apparent fright. “Are you always this cranky?”
“I could’ve sworn”-
“You know what,” Scorpius sighed, calming down a little. “Your family is weird, Al. There, I said it. You’re weird and it’s not cool. Ok?”
“Th-thank you,” Albus muttered uncertainly, getting into his clothes. His dream was still vivid in his mind and he made a mental note to tell his father if it came one more time. He lived as a Potter long enough to know that these things were not just dreams.
“That was an insult,” Scorpius growled.
“Lysander would disagree,” Albus said back, taking his wand and tucking it under his sleeves. “C’mon. We got a job to do. The forest, remember?”
And speaking of Lysander, it was as if Lorcan’s tearful cry for help was answered. The Quibbler was getting readers and help came from the most unlikely ally. It was just as Hermione silently predicted to herself. Skeeter would feel sensitive to the issue and would respond whether it was in the Quibbler or not. She responded by writing her own article in the Daily Prophet against Lysander Scamander. The truth was getting out.
With Us or Against Us: Hunt or be Hunted by Rita Skeeter
The Quibbler said it all. None other than a student wrote the article of the Quibbler in defense of vampires. Well I, as a well-skilled journalist have information proving many things to take this boy’s credibility away.
First of all, the respondent was a student of Hogwarts. Lysander Scamander is the son of the Wizarding naturalists Luna and Rolf Scamander. Lysander Scamander is of course sticking up for his brother.
“Lorcan Scamander always tried getting Blackberry in,” said Malcolm Mold, our favorite duelist from last year who battled Riley. “Kind of worthless. Phoenix shouldn’t give in.”
He shouldn’t indeed. Phoenix has caved in to enough pressure from the lies and deceit of Professor Era. It’s time to take action. Students are what make up Hogwarts, yes, but let the vampire in and there will be no students left. Vampires are creatures of the night who infest and create others like them. They’re dangerous. Phoenix will have the full backing of the wider community.
Most people choose to respond to articles of the Prophet by writing their own article. Writing for the Quibbler shows a decrease in attention. No one will listen or care too much. To write for the Quibbler, the magazine edited by none other than our Loony Luna Scamander tells us exactly who we’re dealing with.
I have one thing to say back: You’re with us or against us. This world is run by one rule since the war. Hunt or be hunted. Pragmatism has risen. If we choose to leave vampires alone, they will hunt us and turn us or kill us. They have the capability to outnumber us if we leave them alone. Either outcome I’m sure is unwelcome. So we have no choice but to hunt them. It’s for self-preservation. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves at the mercy of vampires. We’ll find ourselves at war with vampires with numbers dwindling quickly.
The year is almost over and it’s time to see action taken. The school governors should put their foot down and demand all vampires expelled and leave them at the mercy of the Ministry as is right and just for us. This isn’t a matter of prejudiced, it’s a matter of safety.
Enough is enough Minister Cauldwell. Take action or step down.
All Albus heard from Lysander as a response was a gleeful face as he swore in front of his dispirited brother “I’m going to beat her. She’s beaten!”
“How can you”-
“She lost, Lorcan,” Lysander interrupted happily. “Only when threats are made do people show their weaknesses.”
Albus, Scorpius, and Lorcan sat in the Common room just before six working on letters to send to their respective parents. If all three families sent letter to Phoenix at once and Lorcan gathered enough signatures… more than half the school if he could manage… there may yet be a chance to bring the vampires back where they belonged.
At six sharp, Albus and Scorpius arrived at the spot behind Greenhouse Three as they promised. Mark, Laura, and the twins were behind. But so were many others. Lorcan and Lysander was understandable, but James, Fred, and Louis too were a bit of a leap. Gabriel was also there, and that made Albus feel kind of guilty. With Gabriel were Hugo Weasley and young Lily Potter. Roxanne tailed behind them.
James seemed more than willing to take part in this excursion but not to accompany them. He had a mischievous grin on his face and for a second, Albus was worried that he was up to something that might get them in trouble like what happened the year before. But when everyone was gathered, James turned to his mates and said, “Alright, here’s how it goes. We distract Hagrid. We’ll attempt the forest near his hut and catch his attention. While he’s focused on us three and catching us, these guys will go in the other side and he’ll be none-the-wiser.”
“Alright, let’s do this!” Fred said enthusiastically.
“We march to war!” Louis exaggerated.
“Louis,” James said silently and pitifully. “We’re distracting a teacher. We do this all the time.”
“Silence, you fool,” Louis said dramatically.
“Come Roxy, I’ll show you how the business is done, shall I?” Fred grinned, taking his little sister by the shoulder.
The three marched off, James telling the party to wait five minutes while they did their business. Gabriel then increased their chances by promising to wow Hagrid with some jokes and keep him occupied. Gabriel looked very uncertain, and for the first time, without humor. Albus looked at the boy, and finally, Gabriel said, “My place is in Hogwarts, cracking hilarious jokes.”
“Hilarious? That’s debatable,” Eric laughed.
Eric wasn’t very large, so Gabriel must not have pushed very hard, but he did, and he threw himself back, right against a bush, and he tripped back, and yelped like a puppy as he fell back to the laughter of everyone.
James, Fred and Louis followed Gabriel to Hagrid’s Hut. James looked back once more, and caught Albus’ eyes, “We won’t rat you out. Just don’t be stupid. There’s a difference between bravery, hilarity and stupidity… contrary to popular belief,” he added with a look at Gabriel.
And as the kids walked off, for the first time, Albus started feeling hesitant. The line urged him on and yet, his dream was bothering him, the forest was dark, and the unknown was all that was out there.
“It’s our best chance, Al,” Mark said quietly, voice coming as if from another world. “We can seriously get inside. Ready?” And he grinned mockingly, “Or getting cold feet?”
“Wait a sec, you guys… are in this alone,” Rose interrupted. “Hugo and Lily are coming with me. I can’t tell the others what to do, but I’m not watching you all walk into a death trap.”
Hugo looked up bravely, “I’m so not staying out of it! I’m going! All of my friends are going and you’re ruining everything!” And an argument started. Rose opened her mouth to protest, even going so far as to threaten to tell their dad and stop the whole thing before it got out of hand. Lily was looking from one to the other. Rose was blatantly refusing to allow Hugo in, but Hugo went red, reminiscent of Daniel Dagger, and said angrily, “You’re not dad! If you don’t want anything to happen to me, then you best follow me in!”
Rose scoffed, “At least some have their right minds. Even Roxanne didn’t go in and she’s about to go down Fred’s path. Take priority, Hugo!”
“I don’t care about your stupid prorties!” Hugo mispronounced, irritating Rose more. “Besides, even if you tell dad, he’ll be too late. It’s a pretty damn large forest for a teacher to find us!”
Rose went red in anger and threw a furious glare at Scorpius before rounding back on Hugo, “Hugo, I’m warning you now. You’re going down a very dark path. If you step into that forest, I’m telling mum, dad, and Uncle Harry and putting a stop to this madness.”
“Uh, listen, I don’t wanna put anyone in too much trouble,” Alex said uncertainly but Hugo just had it.
Red-faced and shaking with fury, he yelled at Rose in a way Albus never heard him rant before, near tears as Lily stood by his side. Though she was silent, Albus could tell she was taking Hugo’s side just because he was Hugo. “You NEVER let me have ANY FUN! You and mum are always hounding me! Dad’s so much better than any of you. At least he knows how to have fun. He”-
“Oh, spare me your theatrics”-
“Dad wouldn’t ground me, only mum would, and people like you,” Hugo yelled bitterly.
Rose was silenced effectively by this but this did not end the problems. She turned on Scorpius next and gave him a murderous stare and said, “You and I have a big problem, Scorpius. I’ve had it with you.”
“Ah, c’mon, Rosie”-
“And like you don’t like being called Scorpy, quit calling me Rosie!” she blurted.
As she walked on her way back to the castle, to tell a teacher no doubt, Alex called her back casually and a rush of appreciation for Alex overtook Albus and he smiled good-naturedly to his foster sister, “Y’know, Rosie. If you worry so much, why don’t you come with us?”
“I’m telling a teacher and getting you suspended,” she said calmly. “You won’t get far.”
“Getting us suspended won’t bring us back,” Alex said casually. “The forest is full of places to hide. If you have Hugo’s best interests at heart, just follow us in. See for yourself. Besides, I don’t think anyone here will let you walk off scout-free. And we are running out of time.”
“Alex, remember what happened last year?” she reminded him smartly, turning to look him straight in the eye. “You were all nearly killed by people who used this forest to hide. Well, what makes you think you won’t find them again, or this invisible line of yours will lead you straight to them? Ever thought of that?”
Rose reminded them all of a painful memory with a small smirk on her face. Hugo kept his arms folded in defiance and Lily looked as if she really did not want to get involved. But in Alex, wheels were turning as he slowly recalled the very horrors Albus was forced to remember as well. Mark was nearly killed, Alex and Eric were beaten in seconds, and Albus barely got away. Alex turned slowly to catch Mark’s glance and Rose turned to Albus next, this time a lot calmer than usual, “Al, I know why you’re doing this.”
Albus looked down, refusing to meet her eyes as she said the very words that slowly started occurring to him next. “For two years, your dad put you up to something you didn’t want to be a part of. Now, you’re looking for adventure on your own terms. But this, Al is suicide. You know that if you go in there, I’ll have to inform the Headmaster. It’s dangerous.”
Before Albus could speak, Mark saved face for both of them as he put an arm on Albus’ shoulder and smirked, “Yeah, it’s about time we had adventures on our terms. Besides, those gits were arrested, beaten to a pulp, and now…”
“Riley,” Scorpius reminded. “Riley is in there, somewhere. If he didn’t run into trouble, neither will we. Now, let’s go.”
Albus could hardly believe it. She turned to face him and a different look was on her face. Alex was clearly on Hugo’s side in this and so was Scorpius, but she blamed the Slytherin. Alex Wallaby, her foster brother and a boy she grew to appreciate as he grew more accustomed to the Weasley household. She walked forward slowly, silently allowing herself to get mixed up in what she called madness. She silently accompanied them into the forest and for the first time, without any hindrances and a full sense of wanted adventure ahead of them, they set forth.
The forest began open, the path straight. Trees were far apart and the red-orange sky easily visible above. The path twisted and turned quite a bit, and when it took a sharp turn to the left, the sky started getting darker. Alex stayed in the lead, Mark right beside him. Laura was close behind, refusing to be any further. Eric was behind Alex. Behind Eric was Rose, with Hugo and Lily on either side, and behind them were the Scamander twins. Bringing up the rear was Albus and Scorpius.
The path turned once more so they were going almost in the opposite direction, to the right. After ten minutes of walking, it veered slowly forward once more. Still, they kept to the silver line, which led them through without fail… until one point.
Albus was surprised that so far in, they had yet to meet any dangerous beast. There were supposed to be trolls and vampires and worst. Where were they? The path stopped right at a large tree, growing too close beside other trees for them to find a way through that didn’t involve climbing or jumping. The silver line split into two. Both led them to either side. One left, the other right, and then passed directly under the piece of wood. Alex took a deep breath. They were now very deep into the forest, and miraculously didn’t run into any creatures.
“It splits here,” Alex whispered. “Do we go on, or…”
“We came this far,” Mark moaned.
“Let’s go left,” Alex suggested. “The right one leads us under, and we know we can’t get through that,” he said logically.
Eric nodded in agreement, “Right. Let’s go.”
They took the left, and as expected, it led them around it. But turning around, as if Albus’ mere thoughts Jinxed it, there met them a single forest troll, obviously having wandered away from its colony. Large, muscular, ten feet tall, and wielding a large club the size of a small tree trunk, it faced them.