The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 34: Nuts
This was not the first time Albus was left wondering inconclusively what had happened. In fact, a part of him was leaning towards the rather prevalent idea that it was just a dream. He snapped awake in his own green-sheeted bed underground, rolling off his bed in shock, yelling out loud as he hit the ground. He heard a yelp from Scorpius, who jumped out of bed with his wand out in such haste that he was pointing the wand handle at Albus instead.
Thankfully, Walter was already downstairs so only Scorpius was startled. He went from a look of shock to one of anger as he saw Albus was the cause of his sudden wakeup. He went red in anger and kicked the ground, “Damn it, Al!”
“Wh-where are we?” Albus demanded, unperturbed by the wand.
Scorpius seemed half shocked as he regarded Albus concernedly and said slowly, “In our dorm. Walter woke up a while ago. We slept in late and we missed breakfast.”
“Of course we missed breakfast, we practically went through a near-death experience in the forest!” Albus insisted.
“What are you talking about?” Scorpius demanded loudly. “We went to bed here like we always do. We never stepped a foot in the forest!”
“Yes, we did!” Albus insisted madly, crankiness at being woken prematurely as well as Scorpius at a complete loss getting to him.
“Ask Rosie!” Albus told him. “Or Mark. Laura. Or the twins. Or Lorcan and Lysander. They’ll know.”
“Hugo and Lily!”
“We were there, you actually tried beating some geezer with a beard”-
“AL, YOU’RE CRAZY!” Scorpius yelled impatiently, shutting Albus up. Albus stared for the longest time at his best friend, feeling hurt. Was Scorpius really denying all that had taken place? It made no sense. Scorpius was red-faced but a little regretful that he yelled. “Al, your brain is addled and I’m taking you to Madam Pomfrey”
And Scorpius actually took him by the arm and walked out of the dormitory. The first person they met was Lorcan, who Albus brightened up at seeing. “Oi, Lorcan! Lorcan!”
“Yeah?” Lorcan answered casually.
“When was the last time we went into the forest?” Albus asked him in forced-calm.
Lorcan looked thoughtful for a second, considering him and then said, “Two weeks ago, I think. Why?”
Albus never had the chance to respond. Scorpius pulled him away with such force, Albus was sure his left arm would be twice as long as the right. And shocked that even Lorcan denied the adventure but sure of himself. Maybe he was crazy…
Next thing Albus knew was he sitting up on as hospital wing bed with Madam Pomfrey behind the curtains studying notes on Albus. Scorpius was not there anymore and Albus was alone. Very alone. The only time he felt so alone was a year back, during the Christmas holidays when he was not on good terms with a soul in the school. Except one Ravenclaw girl. But she could not help him now. If he let her in on the troubles, she would probably think he was crazy too.
The door opened the tiniest bit, as if not wanting Madam Pomfrey to hear and in came Mark. He grinned a small one and slipped in and up to Albus’ bed. He bent down on the other side so it would be easy to crouch down and hide if Madam Pomfrey poked her head out.
For a fleeting second, Albus was filled with fear. Mark. Mark was barely involved in this. If someone who Albus plotted with the entire year, namely Scorpius, denied the event ever took place, Mark would definitely think he was nuts. Perhaps it would be better if Albus stayed quiet. So he stayed put in bed quietly, barely acknowledging Mark’s arrival.
“Oi, Al,” Mark started.
“So, what’re you in for?” Mark asked casually like they were prison inmates.
“Not now, Mark,” Albus pleaded.
“Word around the school is you’re nuts,” Mark said with an evil grin over his face. “How about that?”
“Mark, shut up,” Albus said angrily, going red at the thought of Scorpius telling people that his best friend had lost his mind one morning.
Mark shut himself up, but the evil grin did not disappear just yet. For a terrifying second, Albus thought that Mark had reverted back to his negative state and hated Albus again, but how could that be the case. Mark’s change was noted by more than just Albus. So, what was the story here?
Mark ducked down behind the bed as Madam Pomfrey came back out to fetch some notes she left on Albus’ bedside. When she disappeared again, Mark rose back up and sat down casually, once more showing a more positive expression. “Al, you’re not stupid.”
“According to Scorpius and Madam Pomfrey, I am,” Albus mumbled.
“Scorpius is weak-minded,” Mark scoffed. “I’ve always said so. But he knows you’re not nuts. He just thinks you need help because apparently, this isn’t the first time you burst awake in a rage. But, Al, you’re smarter than this. You claimed to have seen something vividly enough to be real but everyone else denies it. That means it never happened?”
“Then why are you letting them get to you!” Mark challenged. “Scorpius denied our adventure ever took place, Lorcan denied he stepped foot in the forest which is a miracle for him.”
“Lysander,” Albus remembered. “He got Unicorn tail hair and venom. That’s proof, isn’t it?”
Mark sighed and shook his head, “The twins were about to send me here themselves when I asked Lysander about his possession of these magical objects. He claimed the Snorkle Fairy blessed him with these gifts for writing against Rita Skeeter. As far as he’s concerned, our excursion never took place.”
“So, you believe me?”
“Me, and Lily,” Mark said happily. “She’s the only reason why the twins stayed off my back.”
“Doesn’t remember a thing… but he believes her because… I quote, ‘she said we went.'” Mark shrugged. “Goes to show just what trust really means. It’s just the three of us.”
Albus went into thought, Mark verbalizing it for him eloquently, “No one believes you. Apparently, it all happened in your head. The only people to remember clearly are those of us who were affected more. How we were effected, I don’t know. But if you’re having weird dreams and we actually saw Soto there, your dad needs to know.”
Albus shook his head in immediate refusal and said, “No. He already lost his Auror job, I’m not making him out to e crazy too.”
“Al, you’re gonna die,” Mark told him frankly and honestly. Albus looked in shock as Mark, the boy who had nearly died himself told him this. A wave of fear overtook Albus as the possibility loomed over him and Mark fixed him with a serious glare reminiscent of the past two years. “Something happened there. They did something. We were all supposed to have died but they let us go with memory modification Charms. For some reason, you, Lily and I were unaffected. You expect me to believe we just got lucky? You, Lily, me… we’re going to die if we don’t warn your father about this immediately.”
“No way!” Albus yelled.
Albus’ yell summoned Madam Pomfrey over who hastened to kick Mark out. Mark resisted persistently for another minute to try to convince Albus, “It’ll ony get worst if you don’t. He needs to know.”
But Harry had taken enough of a fall. He was no longer Head Auror. To make a claim the entire student body denied will only demote him further. But Mark would not hear it. He shook his head as the patron dragged him out forcefully, “Al, if you don’t tell him, I will! I’m warning you!”
Albus could not argue the case further. Mark was forced out but his belief in Albus sparked a sense of resistance in him. As Madam Pomfrey insisted he lay down, Albus refused and stood up straight out of bed, making her gape in shock. “I’m not crazy. You’re just cruel.”
Of course, this did nothing to alleviate anything in the school. Jennifer and Malcolm were convinced this was a testament to his Gryffindor sympathy. Jennifer was convinced she made the right decision in expelling him and Malcolm, while in agreement with her, said nothing, knowing Alexis might have her way with him again.
The Easter holidays came and went, and Albus confined himself completely, unwilling to face the rest of the school. It was bad enough Scorpius did not believe him. If he faced everyone else, he would only be made miserable once again. However, he had no choice during the final Quidditch game. While Gryffindor raked up their victory, Jennifer caught Albus’ eye during the last match with a gleam of triumph in them. Gloating. As if she was trying to get a rise out of him. Still, with the year drawing to a close, no one, not even Scorpius believed a word he said. Even Alexis seemed distant with him. Albus was forced to stay quiet for the holidays and not utter a word about it.
Save one Hogsmeade weekend at least. Rose had a date with Daniel Dagger and Scorpius opted out due to a detention Professor Ackerly had given him for failing to perform the Hanging Charm. (Albus failed too, but he was strangely lenient with him.)
Ackerly’s reasons for detaining Scorpius were made clear when Albus walked on his way to Hogsmeade alone. He felt a soft, familiar tap on his shoulder and just as he turned around to face her, Alexis spoke up loudly and clearly, as if she wanted everyone to hear her, “Al, you are not crazy and I believe everything you said. If you say you ventured into the forest… that’s what happened. And Scorps is a jerk for not believing you.”
Albus just stood there in shock, disbelieving her. Alexis, no matter what, had stuck by him. Now, when the entire school would think she was as nuts as he was, she still supported him. A part of him just wanted to cry on her shoulders again like he always did but he stayed rooted to the spot. And she shrugged and took him by the hand again, as if they once again had a date to go on.
The two walked in complete silence to Hogsmeade, not daring to utter a word to each other. Albus did not even say thank you. They stayed silent until they reached a secluded spot by the Shrieking Shack and sat down across from each other. Then, Alexis sighed and started speaking, “You need more confidence in yourself. You said you saw the end of the forest, which is a pretty bold remark in itself. Which stands to reason that unless you’ve gone crazy overnight, you did see the end of the forest. You told a story, Al. The least you could do is stick to it.”
“How do you know it wasn’t a dream?” Albus questioned in a low voice.
And Alexis smirked, “Just because it happened in your head doesn’t mean it does not exist. Your own father would know better than anyone.”
Albus was silent once again, pondering on this. Mark said just about the same thing but in more words. Harry had to know. And Alexis was right. Harry would understand. But the rest of the school… their parents by extension… Albus could not guarantee that. Slowly, he nodded, “Ok,” he whispered. “I’ll tell my dad.”
“That’s better,” Alexis muttered. “Now, we have Hogsmeade to get to. And Al… no more weakness, ok? Or, I’ll hex you. I’m trusting you. You’re stronger than this. You’re better than this. If your best friend can’t understand, get a new one. Because frankly, we’re all growing up. We need support. If Scorpius can’t fill that role, someone else will.”
Albus of course knew everything she meant to imply. His support was her. That much was clear. She was all he had sometimes and at times in the two years he knew her, she was his lifeline. And yet… she never asked for anything in return. And if there was anything he learned about the world, Scorpius, Mark, even best friends, it’s that a reward was expected.
“So, who’s yours then?” Albus asked casually.
She laughed the laugh he loved, nudged him in the shoulder playfully and said, “You, silly. Who else?”
“I am your support?” Albus repeated.
She nodded and said, “And one day… I’ll hold you to that.”
Truly, Albus would never forget her. Not till his dying day would he cease thinking about her. Somehow, when he needed it, she was always there, like a guardian angel. And she seemed so calm about it. And as she stated, they were growing up. One day, Alexis would be in need too. And she was counting on Albus to be there. That was why she was so nice. To gain a trustworthy support system in the school and she chose Albus. Albus Potter was Alexis Ackerly’s lifeline as she was his.
And so, apparently, was Lysander Scamander to Riley and Nate Blackberry in his next and last article to drive his final point home once and for all.
Rita’s Madness: by Lysander Scamander
Rita knows no bounds apparently. For the first time, she’s allowed herself to be quoted by the Quibbler, thus placing herself at a much lower level than the magazine famous for its quirky theories. The fact she responded to such a low magazine shows we had readership and shows attention being drawn to this campaign.
What she did was openly attack a student. Even the Daily Prophet has laws against unprofessional attacks against the writer. “We only attack the views, not the person,” says an anonymous official of the newspaper.
She goes further to attack not only me but my brother and my mother, supporting her arguments only with statements from Malcolm Mold whilst I give statements from those in question. I revealed how they felt.
But how does Rita get information from Malcolm Mold when she is forbidden from Hogwarts grounds? Either she is illegally entering Hogwarts which is impossible or Mold is leaving, either way is controversial for both. What makes her believe Era is a liar? I believe none other than Mrs. Hermione G. Weasley can answer that question. She has information she claimed she’s been keeping for a while now. Information on a dark truth concerning our infamous journalist and best-selling author.
“Rita is an unregistered animagus,” she said from her office in a letter to me. “She can turn into a beetle. I struck a deal with her when I was fifteen in my fourth year about keeping her secret. She kept her end of the deal, yes, and kept her quill to herself for a year before writing three books to demean the reputations of not only Dumbledore and Snape, but Harry Potter, our hero of the first and second war.”
I believe the Ministry has a simple way of determining an animagus by means of a simple spell. No doubt the Ministry will take action against illegality of animal transfigurations. It’s time for the Ministry to take action yes, but not against the vampires but against Rita Skeeter, who’s been attacking and demeaning too many for too long. If Rita fails to turn herself in, that will only expose herself.”
Threats and medieval dogmas of “hunt or be hunted” show how backward she is. She threatened a student, attacked a hero, and called for extermination of innocent beings. Beings who need to learn to control their magic as much as everyone else and actually have the social life they deserve.
“I remember Blackberry being a good student,” Professor Macmillan said from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. “Always ingoing and to himself, but always smart as the quiet usually are. Quiet people usually have a lot to say.”
Macmillan’s point was backed up by the son of Harry Potter himself, Albus Potter, a student who last year also felt threatened by Riley. He is now speaking up on his behalf. “He surprises me with what he has to say when you finally get a conversation going with him. He is tremendously smart and few others can compare.”
Why is Hogwarts kicking a worthy student out? Why is Rita calling for a war against vampires? Why is Phoenix unmoving concerning the vampire? Why is Era demoted? Why is Riley expelled? Why is Nate expelled? Unless we have reasonable answers as there are none at this moment, they must return to the school. If he does not, Phoenix may face some parents pulling their children out of Hogwarts.