The Sugar Quill
Author: zzzFF Saracoth  Story: Forbidden Forest Farce  Chapter: Default
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Forbidden Forest Farce

            Harry found the common room of Gryffindor tower held little interest for him. Without the amusement of Fred and George, the friendly chatter with Ron, or even the constant quill scratching and paper ruffling of Hermione, it just didn't feel like home.

            He found himself wandering the corridors around the school, alone and lost in thought. Was the magical dog that had attacked them in Hogsmeade yesterday some freak occurrence or part of something more sinister? It was true that Ron was hurt much worse than Harry, but that didn't mean Harry wasn't its target.

            Was this how he would live out the rest of his life? Harry thought about Mad-Eye Moody and his seemingly endless collection of devices and tactics designed to keep him safe from enemies. He pictured himself with his own hip flask, eyes darting around everywhere as he almost continually checked his Sneakoscope for signs of activity.

            Harry realized something else in that brief imagining. He saw himself alone. Was that because he feared growing so paranoid that he could not trust even his friends or because he worried that, as with Ron, they would only be hurt by remaining close to him?

            Harry decided that he would not allow that. Not now, at any rate. He thought that Ron would appreciate a visit, if Madam Pomfrey would allow it. Thanks to strange venom from the dog's bite Ron's leg was expected to be slow in healing, but surely he was up to a visit.

            As Harry considered this, he heard the sound of footsteps echoing in the corridor behind him. He turned around to see the unusual site of Hermione sprinting at him.

            She stopped in front of him and hunched over, out of breath. She held her left side as if it pained her. "Harry!" she started.

            "Hermione, what is it?" Harry asked. "Did you find something at the library?"

            "Yes.... But not here." She panted. "We should go somewhere secluded."

            "Well, there're loads of places around here for that."

            "No, Harry, we can't talk about it in the school. Just follow me, all right?"

            Harry nodded, trusting his ever-resourceful friend had good reason.

            Hermione led him quietly down the halls, outside, and across the grounds towards Hagrid's cabin. Perhaps she wanted him to hear what she had to say as well.

            But they did not stop at the cabin. They continued on past it towards the Forbidden Forest. Harry, not one to pay the restrictions on entering much heed, was nevertheless curious.

            "All the way out here?" he asked. "Are you that sure someone would listen? I thought that Hogwarts was protected from all those magical bugs and stuff--you told me so yourself, remember!"

            She replied without slowing or turning to face him. "I can't tell you anything here, Harry, so just be patient."

            Harry noticed now that Hermione was holding her left arm unusually still as she walked. Maybe she'd hidden something inside her sleeve?

            Harry quickened his pace a little so that he was walking beside her. They were at the edge of the forest, beginning to penetrate more deeply.

            "How far are we going?" Harry asked her.

            Focused on the path ahead, Hermione replied with a curt, "Further."

            Not a minute later, Harry was surprised to see one of the reclusive thestrals watching them from behind some leaves. The winged, horse-like creatures were visible only to those who had seen death. Harry knew thestrals were attracted to the smell of blood, but he and Hermione were fine. Sure, Harry had gotten scratched up a little yesterday, but Madam Pomfrey had mended those completely.

            Harry looked at Hermione again--had she been looking at the thestral, too? But now she seemed focused on their path as she'd been before. Maybe she'd heard it or something.

            Several minutes later, they were still walking while the forest grew steadily darker and more overgrown. They'd gone deeper than this before, but it still seemed a little excessive if all they wanted was a private conversation.

            Harry stopped. "Come on, Hermione. This has got to be good enough, and I want to get back to the common room before it gets dark, don't you?"

            She stopped when he started talking, but didn't turn to face him until he'd finished. Her expression looked unusually cold. Something else wasn't quite right. Something about her eyes, maybe.

            "You're right." She said coolly. "This is far enough. Let me show you...." Her voice trailed off as she reached into her robes.

            She extracted that hand suddenly, clutching her wand. Except it wasn't her wand--hers was a bit shorter and lighter in color. This wand was almost pitch black.

            And it was pointing at him.

            Hermione spoke in an aloof manner, her voice gradually changing pitch as she spoke. "Don't make this hard on yourself, Mister Potter."

            Her voice was now somewhat bland, between a male's and a female's. The loose folds of her robes seemed to be clinging to her body as though the whole outfit was trying to wrap itself tightly around her.

            As Harry watched, gaping, she and her clothes began to turn a sort of bland grayish color. In short order, Harry stared not at Hermione, but at some creature he'd never seen before. It was average height with a build between an average man's and an average woman's. It wore no clothes yet its body was totally featureless. There was not a single strand of hair anywhere on its body or its head.

            Strangest was its face. More poignantly, its lack thereof. There was only a protrusion that vaguely resembled a nose as well as indents where there should have been eyes. It reminded Harry of a very large piece of clay that had been cast in the vague shape of a human.

            There was one other important feature. Its left side had a gash that seemed scabbed over with black blood. A gash not unlike the dog from yesterday had fled with.

//
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