The further that he got from Hogsmeade, the darker the night became. The tall forest trees reached toward the sky and merged together to block out any trace of moonlight that tried to filter through to the ground below. It was a week before the full moon, but George Weasley had expected it to be easier going than this. He pulled his wand out of the hidden pocket of his robe.
Instantly, light surrounded him. George moved the wand left and right, quickly scanning the nearby area.
"This is the last time I make a bet with Fred, " he muttered to himself. "It’s my own fault I’m wandering through the Forbidden Forest alone."
Since opening their own joke shop, Fred and George had become very aware of the amount of money needed to procure the ingredients they needed for their products. Since they were always in need of different ingredients for use in their products, they had to find the most economical ways to get what they needed. Trips into the Forbidden Forest next to Hogwarts became frequent, although neither of the twins enjoyed the forays.
This latest trip had resulted from a bet the twins had made involving a beautiful blonde witch. George was certain that she would go out with him while Fred thought there was no way possible such a sophisticated creature would ever date his brother. Fred turned out to be correct in this instance, as he was most times when George’s love life (or lack thereof) was involved.
So now George wandered through the forest, on the lookout for shrivelfig that had to be picked at midnight for the best effect.
An hour later, George was still wandering around. His robes were now covered with dirt, as he had tripped a few times over the sprawling roots of the trees. After he picked himself up of the ground for the fifth time, he decided he had enough. As he lifted his wand to apparate home, he heard noise behind him. He froze. Hearing the sound again along with a snort of sorts, George slowly turned to face what in his mind was a pact of Death Eaters out for a midnight meeting.
"Who’s there?" He whispered into the darkness, not wanting to speak too loudly. Merlin only knows what else was out here and George certainly did not want to attract any more attention. He gripped his wand tightly and lifted it so the circle of light expanded. It reflected off two dark beady eyes high off the ground. Then the creature moved into the clearing.
It was a hippogriff, he recalled from the time spent in Hagrid’s class. What to do next? Oh, right. Maintaining eye contact with the beast, George bowed deeply from his waist.
After a moment (a very long moment in George’s opinion), the hippogriff bowed back. George sighed with relief and approached cautiously.
"You look just like the hippogriff Hagrid showed us. The one that got away. The one Sirius had upstairs at his house."
With the mention of those names, the creature closed his eyes and bowed again.
"What was your name again? Buckbeak?" George moved next to the hippogriff and began to stroke his neck. "I wondered what happened to you after Sirius…well, so here you are!"
Buckbeak looked at George with a look that clearly said "Duh!"
At that moment, they heard a loud shriek and footsteps began to approach the clearing. George moved to the other side of the hippogriff, using him as a shield. He heard someone approach the animal and tried to see who it was. All he saw were two shoes directly on the other side of Buckbeak.
"You know that you shouldn’t wander off like that, you silly creature." A soft feminine voice broke through the stillness, admonishing the hippogriff. "I started to worry about you when you didn’t return."
Buckbeak almost looked sorry as he lowered his head toward the woman. George now had a full view of the woman. Tall and slender, her face was hidden by a dark green cloak. She turned to caress the creature and George saw her face for the first time. It was the witch he had asked out yesterday. His mouth opened in astonishment and as he stood there speechless, she noticed him for the first time.
"Fred? Why are you out here? I thought that your brother lost the bet. Too bad I already had that deal with you. I really would have gone out with him."
He shook his head, at a loss for words. She would have gone out with him? Fred had a deal with her? He was going to kill his brother when he got home. The witch noticed his anger and realized she made a mistake.
This time he could only nod.
"Oh, my. I just told you…I mean…um…come here often?" Her face began to turn red. "Why are you wearing your brother’s jumper?"
George looked down and saw a large F on the front of his jumper. He must have grabbed the wrong one on the way out of the store. He finally found his voice as he moved around Buckbeak toward the woman. "You would have said yes?"
"Of course. Only a fool would turn you down for a date. Unless…"
"Unless they had a deal with my evil twin."
They stared at each other for a long moment. Buckbeak began to get restless and pushed George into his keeper. He fell against her and their arms wrapped around each other in a failing attempt to remain on their feet. They landed in a heap on the forest floor, their faces only inches apart.
"Hi," she said breathlessly.
"Hi. Shall we try this again? My name is George. Would you like to go out to dinner with me?"
"I’d be delighted."
And the shrivelfig lay undiscovered on the other side of the clearing until Fred found it there the next night.