The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 34: The Secret of the Forest
Albus snapped awake, eyes spinning around dizzyingly, as if he had been spinning around while sleeping. For a wild second, he thought the entire adventure was a dream but Scorpius, Mark, Alex and Eric, Laura, Lorcan and Lysander, Hugo, Lily and even Rose were all there, all having woken up at the same time. They were not in their own beds, however; but in a completely different room. Albus was the first to look around. They were in a Japanese style bedroom. The bed he was sleeping on was on the floor. He was not used to this, it was a wonder he managed to sleep. Especially through that night.
“What’re we doing in Japan?” Mark demanded tiredly.
Albus looked quickly at Mark. He didn’t notice he was here as well. The previous night’s adventures didn’t yet hit him. Mark’s hair was messy as usual when he woke up. Wonderingly, he looked around more. The room was also styled like a Japanese bedroom. The closets opened with a sliding door, and the walls were covered with tan and white colored tiles.
While everyone else seemed untroubled, Albus himself felt disturbed. His dreams had never been so painful or as vivid. Wondrously, he still felt pain in the place where the green jet hit him in the dream. And as he remembered the laugh, he felt a burning sensation, like a headache, but based all over his body. He wanted to scream but he did not want to worry the others. He took the pain, hugging himself in pain like he was cold.
As the kids all muttered in early morning stress, Scorpius helping Lily up and Hugo dusting himself off, the door that was invisible to them at first since it blended so well with the wall slid open. A ray of early morning sunlight shone through, and an old man walked in. At the sight of him, two of the kids collapsed to the ground in pain. First was Albus who fell and this time yelled in pain, simultaneous with Lily who was screaming a high pitched scream like someone was torturing her.
Hugo rushed to her side and Scorpius and Mark were both torn between rushing to Lily’s side or Albus’ side. Perhaps out of a newfound spirit of friendship, or a simple desire to make up for the past two years, Mark chose Albus while Scorpius joined Hugo beside Lily. The old man watched bemusedly as the pain passed both of them. Albus and Lily remained where they were, unmoving and bracingly, for fear that the pain would return as suddenly as it came and went.
Without warning, Mark leapt up, wand out and pointing at the old man who pointed a long wand at him too threateningly, eyes wide with knowledge and power. He had a mid-sized white beard ending in a point at the bottom. He was rather short, and the beard reached down only to his breasts. His face was wrinkled, lit up only by his bright blue eyes. “So, you’re finally up,” he spoke with a quiver, wand still at Mark’s. His voice sounded deathly soft, cold, and yet weak in contrast to his eyes of power.
“What’ve you done?” Mark demanded.
“Hold your fire, lest you meet a fate worse than death,” the man warned, walking calmly past Mark’s wand, voice alone forcing Mark’s wand down. He waved his wand in a quick motion and all eleven kids, including the pained Albus and Lily were bound against the wall, single file in a line, facing the man before them. None could move, even if they wanted to. The old man gazed at them all.
They all stared. He stared back for a time, and then laughed, sending shivers up their spines. “Eleven kids only? So many met. What happened?”
“How- how do you know we met for this?” Alex asked tiredly, too tired to confront.
“I- we know a lot of things,” the man corrected himself slowly. “And you’ll be wise to listen to me. Now follow me.”
The kids didn’t protest. As if mesmerized, they followed, as if placed under a curse to do as he commanded. They got up slowly, and followed him outside. They found themselves in the same clothes they wore the night before, for the events had returned to their memories. As they stepped outside, what a sight beheld them.
The place before them was beautiful. There was no other word for it. Laura opened her mouth in amazement. A grassy field stretched out before them, but not for long. They could tell it was only a five minute walk to a large sandy beach, ending ultimately in a shining blue sea, where a few children were playing. An archipelago of islands dotted the sea further out at different points.
Catching the look on their faces, the old man smiled, “This is the land of my namesake, Putus Cruor Dubium.”
“What is that?” Eric asked.
“Pure-blood Reservation,” the man said, near gravely. “The purest land in the world, and it’s ours. This is a place only the pure can enter. A place of such beauty, it is enjoyed only by the oldest Wizards. The latest surviving Wizarding clans. The Gasper’s. The Farthy’s. A reservation for Pure-blood’s. We used to be open, but we built a forest when the Hogwarts founders started fighting. We’ve scarcely gotten involved in affairs of the outside world, the latest being the second war to pick up the body of one of our own.”
“Why through a forest?” Eric asked.
“Because, the forest houses the most dangerous creatures imaginable to a Wizard,” the man replied. “And we’re so far from them. It takes a day’s worth of walking if you don’t follow a certain path. The one you followed.”
“How did it appear then?” Albus asked, dying to know the answer.
The man smiled, “I am the one who cast the line. Only to the curious can the way forward appear. He who is immensely curious enough to know what is beyond would find his way here. He who sees the line is doomed to find his way here against even his better judgment. For now, there is no way back!” he finished dramatically to the horror of all.
“We’re stuck here?” Lily asked, horrified.
The man smiled a dark one and Albus felt the urge to point his wand at him, but he didn’t. He couldn’t. The man laughed, probably at his inability to challenge and said, “Perhaps, provided we cannot reach a happy conclusion.”
“Wait a sec, no one here is Pure-blood except the twins and I,” Mark challenged.
“We decide who is Pure-blood and who is not,” the man replied. And he spoke no more but led them closer to the forest that had led them to this strange place to begin with. He seemed careless to Hugo’s whimpering or Rose’s mutterings of how they should have listened to her. After what felt like five minutes but was closer to one, he stopped at the exit.
“There is a Prophecy,” the man said simply, regarding the eleven kids seriously. “The contents of it has been lost to us but we know of its gist. There have been three wars fought over the Purity of blood and its place and status in the Wizarding world. One was fought over the span of the continent, the other two were contained within Britain but more destructive and explosive. All three saw the fall of the idea that the Purity of Blood is somehow significant to the advancement of the Wizarding world in claiming our rightful place. And until the issue is settled for good and for real, there will be waged another war. And this one will annihilate either the Wizarding population or the Muggle world. The question, what depends on whether you leave or not is which side you will take in this war?”
Mark regarded him back with wide eyes, and seemed itching to say something. As the man moved his gaze to Lily, Mark nudged Albus on the shoulder, seemingly restrained, as if he could not speak freely. But his desired words were clear, Don’t trust him.
“I saw that, young man!” the old man suddenly said.
In response, Mark and the twins whipped their wands out. The man held his hands up in apparent surrender but a wide smile was apparent too, “Shoot me! Kill a senior! I beg you. And prove your allegiance once and for all. You are but naïve children and no nothing of the true inner workings of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the Powers we were blessed with! Shoot me!”
Something inside Mark seemed to be working as Laura cuddled up closer to him in fright. Hugo and Lily stuck strictly together and Rose positioned herself in front protectively. Scorpius’ face was unfathomable and Albus felt regret. He knew that what this man was preaching sounded fine to Scorpius. He agreed with such extreme philosophies but never preached such hateful views. It was unclear what this man really had in mind but Albus knew, and Mark knew he was not to be trusted.
Suddenly, a jet of green light shot out from Dubium’s wand and Eric threw himself to the ground. Mark screamed as Laura and Lily ran out from their hiding places in different directions. Albus ran after Lily but the girl was cast down by a far-off jet of light and Laura was knocked back and landed beside Mark who shakily pointed his wand, something in him stopping him from responding. For the first time, Mark seemed terrified.
Alex broke the internal barrier in Mark by casting a Disarming Charm and Dubium blocked it just as Mark fired his own Disarming Charm. The Charm had no visible effect. In fact, Albus was not even sure it even made impact. There seemed to be an invisible barrier between them and the old man who laughed as they made the unsuccessful attempt.
In one sweep, Mark and the twins were cast down, black fire erupting around Mark who screamed in pain as it engulfed him. Laura crawled up next to Mark to help him and Lily hid behind Hugo who hid behind not Rose but Albus. Rose stood beside her cousin to help protect her brother but Dubium seemed fearless. “I cast down three of your own. Where”-
He looked around, momentarily surprised as he realized that two of their number were missing. Where were Lorcan and Lysander? Dubium then snapped his eyes back to Albus and Lily, supposedly interested in the two kids. He raised his wand and opened his mouth dangerously, “Avada Kedavra!”
What happened next went too fast. Albus did not catch everything. All he knew was that he felt himself fall down without anything making impact. Rose fell too and Hugo and Lily were down. It looked like the jet had killed all of them, but Mark it transpired later had cast a massive Trip-jinx to force Albus, Rose, Hugo, and Lily down.
Still, black fire erupted around Albus too and Lily knelt down in pain, receiving the same treatment. The flames were causing external damage but internal. Albus felt something seriously wrong going on inside of him, like some part of his very essence was being challenged. He screamed the same way Mark had.
At this action, a jet of bright red light erupted from Scorpius’ wand. Dubium yelled as he blocked it off but he widened his eyes in shock that a Malfoy had fought back. Albus breathed a sigh of relief as Scorpius walked forward, bravely. More bravery than Scorpius had ever shown. A jet of green light erupted next from Dubium but Scorpius dove to the side only to feel a force hang him upside down. He yelped as he was hanging by his ankle uselessly, his wand dropping.
At first, it seemed that they would all be killed but then, a horn blared over the land and yells from the forest were heard. Dubium jumped in surprise, raising his wand at the source of the noise.
“I’ll take them off your hands Dubium!” a familiar voice said from behind.
A wave of fear struck Albus, Scorpius, and Mark as they witnessed the man they knew walk towards them, smile wide, eyes greenish red and skinny face. He seemed hungry for something and he regarded Albus with a mixture of longing and want. “There is no easy way to deal with Wallader and Potter is a special case.”
The man called Soto stood there, laughing coldly, familiarly reminding Albus of the dream he was disturbed with the previous night. Soto had taken them by a forceful string, bind them all together and forcing them to walk along behind him. He seemed careless to what was happening behind them as he led them to the forest once more.
There stood Lorcan and Lysander beside a group of Hippogriffs. They smiled widely at their arrival and Soto waved a hand, “They’re here. Take them. And quick. If you stay too long here, you’re dead. And this place is no longer the reservation it once was. So quick.”
Mark was puzzled, “I don’t underst”-
“We all have our own interests and mine do not include death at the present time,” Soto justified hurriedly.
Albus regarded him slowly before taking his hand. All of a sudden, it no longer mattered that this man had tried killing them before, or that he saw Harry removed as Head of Aurors. He, even Lily took his hand. Mark seemed split, half of him wanting to take his hand too. It was something, a change of heart none could explain. Then, it disappeared and Mark burst out, “DON’T LISTEN TO HIM, AL!”
But Mark’s voice was drowned out by a loud bang, shaking the earth and deafening them all. Soto had let off an explosive spell to force them onto their respective Hippogriffs and Soto raised his wand, preparing a massive spell to rectify the situation once and for all. “Obliviate!”
The next thing Albus saw was another jet of green light before falling into blissful eternity, the bird carrying him off with the others back to Hogwarts, never to see Soto or the old man again.
But it was not over.