The Forbidden Forest
disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, sadly. JK Rowling does. I have nothing... except for Arabella :)
Enjoy! Hope you like it :)
The Forbidden Forest
Things could not have been worse.
Filch took them down to Professor McGonagall's study on the first floor, where they sat and waited without saying a word to each other. Hermione was trembling and Arabella was gripping Harry's arm. He didn't say anything. When Professor McGonagall appeared, she was flowed by Neville.
'Harry!' Neville burst out, the moment he saw them. 'I was trying to find you to warn you, I heard Malfoy saying he was going to catch you, he said you had a drag-'
Harry shook his head as Arabella seemed to tighten her fingers. Professor McGonagall was towering over the four of them.
'I would never have believed it of any of you. Mr Filch says you were up the astronomy tower. It's one o'clock in the morning. Explain yourselves.'
It was the first time Hermione had ever failed to answer a teacher's question. She was staring at her slippers, as still as a statue. Arabella seemed to keep her grip on Harry's arm. He was sure there was going to be some marks when he looks later.
'I think I've got a good idea of what's been going on,' said Professor McGonagall. 'It doesn't take a genius to work it out. You fed Draco Malfoy some cock-and-bull story about a dragon, trying to get him out of bed and into trouble. I've already caught him. I suppose you think it's funny that Longbottom here heard the story and believed it, too?'
'Professor, that's not –'
'True, Miss Black? Then tell me what happened?' snapped Professor McGonagall.
'Well, um… we…,' stammered Arabella. Professor McGonagall was not impressed.
'I'm disgusted,' she said. 'Five students out of bed in one night! I've never heard of such a thing before! You, Miss Granger, I thought you had more sense. Miss Black, I thought you were better than your father. As for you, Mr Potter, I thought Gryffindor meant more to you than this. All four of you will receive detentions and fifty points will be taken from Gryffindor.'
'Fifty?' Harry gasped – they would lose the lead, the lead he'd won in the last Quidditch match.
'Fifty points each,' said Professor McGonagall, breathing heavily through her long pointed nose.
'Professor – please –'
'You can't –'
'Don't tell me what I can and can't do, Potter. Now get back to bed, all of you. I've never been more ashamed of Gryffindor students.'
Two hundred points lost. That put Gryffindor in last place.
Harry didn't sleep all night. He could hear Neville sobbing into his pillow for what seemed like hours. What would happen when the rest of Gryffindor found out what they'd done?
At first, the Gryffindors thought that there was a mistake when there was a loss of two hundred points. Then the story spread: Harry Potter had lost them all these points with Arabella Black and two other stupid first-years.
From being one of the most popular and admired people at the school, Harry was suddenly the most hated. Everywhere they went people pointed at him and didn't lower their voices as they insulted him. Arabella seemed to be in the same boat as Harry. Insults followed her everywhere she went, saying things about her father and how she's going to end up just like him. She didn't have the heart to tell them off. Slytherins would clap as they passed by them, whistling and clapping.
Only Ron stood by them.
'They'll all forget this in a few weeks. Fred and George have lost loads of points in all the time they've been here, and people still like them.'
'Did they lose two hundred points all in one shot?' said Arabella miserably.
'Well – no,' Ron admitted.
It was a bit late to repair the damage, but Harry swore to himself not to meddle in things that weren't his business from now on.
Hermione and Neville were suffering, too. They didn't have a bad a time as Harry or Arabella, but nobody was speaking to them either. Hermione had stopped drawing attention to herself in class, keeping her head down and working in silence.
Harry was almost glad that the exams weren't far away. All the revision he had to do kept his mind off his misery. He, Ron, Arabella and Hermione kept to themselves, working late into the night, trying to remember complicated potions, learning the charms and spells off by heart and other things that made their heads hurt.
A week before exams were about to start, Harry and Arabella were walking back from the library one afternoon when they heard somebody whimpering from a classroom up ahead. As they drew closer, they heard Quirrell's voice.
'No – no – not again, please – '
It sounded as though someone was threatening him. Harry and Arabella moved closer.
'All right – all right –' they heard Quirrell sob.
Next second, Quirrell came hurrying out of the classroom, straightening his turban. They waited until Quirrell's footsteps had disappeared when Arabella looked into the classroom.
'Weird – it's empty.'
'Let's go. I promised myself that I wouldn't meddle in things anymore. You should do the same,' said Harry.
They walked back to the library where Hermione was testing Ron on Astronomy. They told them what they heard.
'Snape's done it, then!' said Ron. 'If Quirrell's told them how to break his Anti-Dark Force spell –'
'There's still Fluffy, though,' said Hermione.
'Maybe Snape's found out how to get past him without asking Hagrid,' said Ron. 'I bet there's a book somewhere in here, telling you how to get past a giant three-headed dog. So what do we do, Harry?'
Hermione answered before Harry could.
'Go to Dumbledore. That's what we should have done ages ago,' said Hermione.
'We can't go to Dumbledore. He trusts Snape. We'll just be wasting our time. And if Dumbledore believes us, we don't have any proof. Quirrell's got no back bone to back us up against Snape,' said Arabella.
'But we can't try anything ourselves, we'll be thrown out for sure.'
'If we do a bit of poking around – ' said Ron.
'No,' said Harry, 'we've done enough poking around.'
The following morning, notes were delivered to Harry, Arabella, Hermione and Neville at the breakfast table. They were all the same:
Your detention will take place at eleven o'clock tonight. Meet Mr Filch in the Entrance Hall. Prof. M. McGonagall.
At eleven o'clock they said goodbye to Ron in the common room and went down to the entrance hall with Neville. Filch was already there with Malfoy.
'Follow me,' said filch, lighting a lamp and leading them outside. 'I bet you'll think twice about breaking a school rule again, won' you, eh? Oh yes… hard work and pain are the best teachers if you ask me… It's just a pity they let the old punishments die out… hang you by the wrists from the ceiling for a few days, I've got the chains still in my office… Right, off we go, and don't think of running off, now, it'll be worse for you if you do.'
They marched off across the dark grounds. Ahead, Harry could see the windows of Hagrid's hut lighted up.
'Is that you, Filch? Hurry up, I want ter get started,' shouted Hagrid.
Harry's heart rose; if they were going to be working with Hagrid it wouldn't be so bad. His relief must have showed in his face, because Filch said, 'I suppose you think you'll be enjoying yourself with that oaf? Well, think again, boy – it's into the Forest you're going and I'm much mistaken if you'll come out in one piece.'
At this, Neville let out a little moan and Malfoy stopped dead in his tracks.
'The forest,' he repeated. 'We can't go in there at night – there's all sorts of things in there – werewolves, I heard.'
'Scared Malfoy?' jeered Arabella with a smirk. 'Is little Malfoy scared of the Forest?'
'Shut up Black. I'm not scared,' sneered Malfoy.
Arabella laughed and continued to smirk. Hermione turned to Arabella.
'Aren't you scared of werewolves Arabella?' whispered Hermione, so that only the three of them could hear.
'Not really, no,' said Arabella, with a small smile towards Hermione.
Hagrid came striding towards them out of the dark, Fang at his heel. He was carrying his large crossbow, and a quiver of arrows hung over his shoulders.
'Abou' time,' he said. 'I bin waitin' fer half an hour already. All right, Harry, Arabella, Hermione?'
'I shouldn't be too friendly to them, Hagrid,' said Filch coldly, 'they're here to be punished, after all.'
'That's why yer late, is it?' said Hagrid, frowning at Filch. 'bin lecturin' them, eh? 'Snot you place ter do that. Yeh've done yer bit, I'll take over from here.'
'I'll be back at dawn, for what's left of them,' said Filch, turning away and walking back towards the castle.
Malfoy turned to Hagrid.
'I'm not going in that Forest,' he said and Harry was pleased to hear the note of panic in his voice.
'Yeh are if yeh want ter stay at Hogwarts,' said Hagrid fiercely. 'Yeh've done wring an' now yeh've got ter pay fer it.'
'But this is servant stuff, it's not for students to do. It thought we'd be writing line or something –'
'Oh, shut up Malfoy,' snapped Arabella. 'Let's just get this over with.'
Malfoy threw her a nasty glare. Hagrid nodded approvingly towards her.
'Right then,' said Hagrid, 'now, listen carefully, 'cause it's dangerous what we're gonna do tonight an' I don' want no one takin' risks. Follow me over here a moment.'
He led them to the very edge of the Forest. Holding his lamp up high he pointed down a narrow track that went into the Forest.
'Look there,' said Hagrid, 'see that stuff shinin' on the ground? Silvery stuff? That's unicorn blood. There's a unicorn in there bin hurt badly by summat. This is the second time in a week. I found one dead last Wednesday. We're gonna try an' find the poor thing. We might have ter put it our if its misery.'
'And what if whatever hurt the unicorn finds us first?' said Malfoy, unable to keep the fear out of his voice.
'There's nothin' that lives in the Forest that'll hurt yeh if yer with me or Fang,' said Hagrid. 'An' keep ter the path. Right, now, we're gonna split inter two parties an' follow the trail in diff'rent directions. There's blood all over the place, it must've bin staggerin' around since last night at least.'
'I want Fang,' said Malfoy, quickly, looking at fang's long teeth.
'All right, but I warn yeh, he's a coward,' said Hagrid. 'So me, Harry an' Hermione'll go one way and' Arabella, Draco, Neville an' Fang'll go the other. Now, if any of us finds the unicorn, we'll send up green sparks, right? Get yer wands out an' practise now – that's it – an' if anyone gets in trouble, send up red sparks, an' we'll all come an' find yeh – so, be careful – let's go.'
The Forest was black and silent. A little way into it they reached a fork in the earth path and Harry, Hermione and Hagrid took the left path while Arabella, Malfoy, Neville and Fang took the right.
'Hagrid! Look! Red sparks, the others are in trouble!'
'You two wait here!' Hagrid shouted. 'Stay on the path, I'll come back for yeh!'
They heard him crashing away through the undergrowth and stood looking at each other, very scared, until they couldn't hear anything but the rustling of leaves around them.
'You don't think they've been hurt, do you?' whispered Hermione.
I don't care if anything happened to Malfoy, but if something's got Arabella or Neville…'
The minutes dragged by. At last, a great crunching noise announced Hagrid's return. Arabella, Malfoy, Neville and Fang were with him. Hagrid was fuming. Arabella looked like she was about to punch Malfoy. Malfoy, it seemed, had sneaked up behind Neville and grabbed him for a joke. Neville had panicked and sent up the sparks.
'Right, we're changin' groups – Neville, you stay with me an' Hermione. Harry, you go with Arabella, Fang an' this idiot. He'll have a harder time frightening you, an' we've gotta get this done.'
So Harry set off into the Forest with Arabella, Malfoy and Fang.
'Honestly, that idiot. It's now going to harder to catch whatever we're trying to find thanks to him,' said Arabella, glaring towards Malfoy.
'Look –' murmured Harry, holding out his arm to stop Arabella, gaining Malfoy's attention.
Something bright white was on the ground. They moved closer. It was a unicorn, and it was dead. It looked as beautiful and sad.
Arabella took a step closer to inspect it, when a slithering sound made Harry grad her left arm. The three of them froze where they were standing. Then, out of the shadows, a hooded figure came crawling across the ground like some stalking beast. The figure reached the unicorn, it lowered its head over the wound in the animal's side, and began to drink its boll.
Malfoy left out a terrible scream and bolted – so did Fang. Arabella moved closer to Harry, clutching onto his arm. The hooded figure raised its head and looked right at them – unicorn blood was dripping down its front. It got to its feet and came swiftly towards them – they didn't move for fear.
Then a pain pierced his head like he'd never felt before. He staggered backwards.
'Harry!' screamed Arabella, holding on to Harry as he fell to his knees.
He heard hooves behind them, galloping, and something jumped clean over them, charging at the figure.
The pain took a minute or two to pass. When he looked up he saw behind Arabella he didn't see the hooded figure. A centaur was standing over them. This one had white-blond hair and a palomino body.
'Are you alright?' said the centaur as Arabella was helping Harry to his feet.
'Yes – thank you – what was that?'
The centaur didn't answer. He looked carefully at Harry, his eyes lingering on the scar which stood out on his forehead.
'You are the Potter boy,' he said. He looked at Arabella. 'You look familiar. What's your mother's name?'
'Kassandra,' said Arabella
'Kassandra Anastas's daughter?' he asked. Arabella nodded. 'I had the pleasure of meeting your mother here in this Forest. She got lost one time and needed help back. She was a kind human. You look like her.'
Arabella nodded, at lost for words.
'You two had better get back to Hagrid. The Forest is not safe at this time – especially for the two of you. Can you both ride? It will be quicker this way.
'My name is Firenze,' he added, as he lowered himself in to his front legs so that they could clamber on to his back.
'Harry Potter, Arabella Black, do you know what unicorn blood is used for?'
'No,' said Harry, startled by the odd question.
'Yes,' said Arabella. 'It can keep you alive, even if you were a second away from death.'
'How do you know this?' asked Harry.
'Uncle Remus has a lot of books on things like this. I occasionally flip through them,' said Arabella, shrugging her shoulders.
'Correct Arabella Black. It is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,' said Firenze. 'Only one who had nothing to lose and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch away from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have but a half life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.'
'But who would be that desperate?' wondered Harry. 'If you're going to be cursed forever, death's better, isn't it?'
'It is,' Firenze agreed, 'unless all you need is to stay alive long enough to drink something else – something that will bring you back to full strength and power – something that will mean you can never die.'
'The Philosopher's Stone! Of course – the Elixir of Life! But I don't understand who –'
'Can you not think of nobody who has waited many years to return to power, who has clung to life, awaiting their chance?'
'You mean,' said Arabella, who had suddenly paled, 'that the thing we just saw was Vol – '
'Harry! Arabella! Are you all right?'
Hermione was running towards them down the path, Hagrid puffing along beside her.
'Fine, fine,' said Harry, hardly knowing what he was saying. 'The unicorn's dead Hagrid, it's in that clearing back there.'
'This is where I leave you,' Firenze murmured as Hagrid hurried off to examine the unicorn. 'The two of you are safe now.'
Harry and Arabella slid off his back.
'Good luck, Harry Potter, Arabella Black,' said Firenze. 'The planets have been read wrongly before mow, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those times.'
He hurried back into the depths of the Forest, leaving behind Harry and Arabella shivering.
'You ok?' asked Harry.
'No. You?' said Arabella.
Ron had fallen asleep on the common room, waiting for them to return. He shouted something about Quidditch fouls when Harry roughly shook him awake. In a matter of seconds, though, he was wide-eyed as Harry and Arabella began to tell him and Hermione what happened in the Forest.
Arabella was sitting beside Hermione with her knees to her chest and her eyebrows in a frown. Harry couldn't sit down. He paced up and down in front of the fire. They were both still shaking.
'Snape wants the stone for Voldemort… and Voldemort's waiting in the Forest… and all this time we thought Snape just wanted to get rich…'
'Stop saying the name!' said Ron is a terrified whisper, as if he thought Voldemort could hear them.
'Now's not the time to be worried about his name Ron!' snapped Arabella.
Harry wasn't listening to either of them.
'Firenze saved us, but he shouldn't have done… Bane was furious… he was talking about interfering with what the planets say is going to happen… they must show that Voldemort's coming back… bane thinks Firenze should have let Voldemort kill me and Arabella… I suppose that's written in the stars as well.'
'Will you stop saying the name!' Ron hissed.
'Ron! It's just a name!' exclaimed Arabella.
'So all I've got to wait for now is Snape to steal the Stone then Voldemort will be able to come and finish me off… Well, I suppose Bane'll be happy.'
Hermione looked very frightened, but she had a word of comfort.
'Harry, everyone says Dumbledore's the only one You-Know-Who was ever afraid of. With Dumbledore around, You-Know-Who won't touch you. Anyway, who says the centaurs are right? It sounds like fortune-telling to me, and Professor McGonagall says that's a very imprecise branch of magic.'
They went back to bed exhausted. When Harry pulled back his sheets, he found his Invisibility Cloak folded neatly underneath them, there was a note pinned to it: Just in case.
Thank you for reading! It's not one of my favorites with the whole Forbidden Forest and the stars and the moons and all that stuff... Anyway, tried my best.