Chapter 14 : It's Forbidden
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Hermione let Harry’s arms embrace her. She was in too much pain to move away. Her arm was on fire—like it had been dipped in molten rock. Every nerve ending in her body was screaming at her to cool it down, to relieve the pain. But she couldn’t. Nothing she had tried did anything.
Tears of pain broke from her eyes as she argued with both Ron and Harry. She didn’t have time to argue. She had to speak with Professor Amsel.
For the first time in all the months the ring had appeared to her, the symbols morphed into two symbols she could understand: V A, glowing a brilliantly violent shade of violet. Just as in Diagon Alley, Hermione felt as though something whispered in her ear, repeating the letter ‘v’ over and over.
“What about Madame Pomfrey?” suggested Ron. “The Hospital Wing is so much closer. We could get her here much faster.”
Hermione shook her head vehemently and pulled back a bit from Harry’s arms. “No! I have to talk to Professor Amsel. Please, Harry!” she pleaded.
“I can get her.” Hermione turned around and saw Ginny standing at the entrance to her room. “Seamus and I can go if neither of you want to leave Hermione.”
“Thanks, Gin, that would be great,” said Harry.
“You don’t need to worry about it,” came a voice from across the room. All four of them turned and saw a man oddly placed in a portrait of grazing cows in the countryside.
“What do you mean?” asked Ron.
“I’ve already informed the Professor. She and the headmaster will be here momentarily.”
“Thank you,” Hermione hissed through a fresh stab of intense pain.
The man in the picture just shrugged. “We portraits aren’t just here for looks, ya know.” And he walked out the side of the frame and was gone.
True to the painting’s word, they soon heard quick footsteps dashing up the stairs and Professor Amsel appeared through the door, closely followed by Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall.
Harry pulled away from Hermione as Professor Amsel reached her. “What happened, Miss Granger?” she asked. Hermione tried to answer, but another wave of intense, searing pain engulfed her arm. Her whole body cried out, screaming at her to do something, anything to end it.
Professor McGonagall turned to Ginny and said, “Please tell the girls on the stairs to leave.” Ginny nodded and left the room. The door shut and locked behind her.
“Hermione,” Professor Dumbledore called softly, “Look at me.” Tears of pain blurred her vision, but Hermione did as she was told. “What is wrong with your arm, Miss Granger?”
“I don’t know,” she gasped, “What did I do?” she whimpered to Amsel. The Professor looked at a loss for words. Professor Dumbledore slid the sleeve of Hermione’s shirt up her arm, his fingers examining every part of the exposed skin, searching for anything to tell him what was happening.
Professor Amsel’s searching eyes fell on Hermione’s other hand which grasped several pieces of parchment. “What are those, Miss Granger?”
Hermione had completely forgotten she held the papers in her hand. She quickly shoved the parchment into Amsel’s hand, just as her arm felt to be submerged in a river of magma once more.
Harry and Ron could only watch the scene progress, both wanting to stand by Hermione’s side and give her comfort but forced to stand aside.
“Oh lord,” breathed Professor Amsel. Her eyes widened further the more she read whatever was written on the paper.
“What is it, Verena?” asked Professor McGonagall from her place by the door. She had also taken the role of observer. It was odd seeing her standing in the background; watching and waiting the same as Harry and Ron.
Professor Amsel handed the notes to Dumbledore and he stopped his work to quickly read over the papers before passing them on to Professor McGonagall—who gasped the moment she saw what was written.
Hermione looked to Professor Amsel, whose dark violet eyes locked with hers. The searing pain in her arm was constant now, it had traveled up to her shoulder and was gradually moving through her chest and neck, constricting her breath and dimming her vision for lack of oxygen.
Harry and Ron caught her just before she stumbled to the ground.
“What is happening to her?!” said Harry gazing down at Hermione’s paled face.
“You wrote it, didn’t you,” said Professor Amsel, her gaze fixed with Hermione’s.
“Wrote?” said Ron, “Wrote what?”
“Shut up or get out, Weasley!” she snapped. “You wrote this, didn’t you,” she repeated to Hermione, holding up the notes. Hermione barely managed a nod before crying out in pain again. “Dammit,” Amsel hissed. “Minerva, go get my black bag from my office. You know the one…with the silver-blue clasp.”
“She is protected,” Dumbledore muttered to Amsel after the door shut behind McGonagall’s hurried figure.
“It’s a double standard,” she whispered back. “How much did you write, Hermione? How far did you get?”
The Ring was burning in her eyes. Angry whispers in her ears chastised her for breaking some rule, some law she had no knowledge of.
Clarity suddenly struck Harry. Those symbols. The ones Hermione had written down earlier that morning. That’s what they were talking about.
“She only wrote three of them before the parchment burned up,” he answered for her. Both Dumbledore and Amsel stared at him. A long silence ensued, broken only by the sobbing gasps of Hermione.
Dumbledore muttered something to Professor Amsel that neither Harry nor Ron could understand. She answered him in a word and returned her gaze to Hermione who was now nearly convulsing in pain.
She couldn’t see anything. The light of the ring—now a blinding white—engulfed her vision. The same power that had flowed through her veins in Diagon Alley washed through her again, sharpening the pain which now engulfed her whole body. It was worse than the cruciatus curse.
In the impenetrable light of her surroundings, there were no trees. She couldn’t even feel the ground beneath her feet nor the soft breath of her horse beside her. Hermione called out to the empty vastness, but only her echo responded. There was nothing.
Fear shot through her veins. This couldn’t be the end. It wasn’t her time.
In the distance a faint outline of a figure—blurred by the all encompassing light. Drawn to it, she walked forward; the image clearing the nearer she came.
She was only a few feet away now. Beneath the white hood of the tall figure, two deep, glowing blue eyes shown out at her.
It is forbidden, a soft, cool voice said inside her head. But you are spared.
Harry watched in horror as Hermione’s breathing stopped. For one fraction of a second—one agonizing, heart wrenching moment, he thought she was dead. But the efforts of both Professor Dumbledore and Amsel seemed to work because she soon drew breath again, coughing and sputtering violently in his and Ron’s arms.
“Look at me, Hermione,” Professor Amsel said softly, gently cupping her cheek to turn Hermione’s head towards her.
Hermione opened her eyes and was instantly transfixed by Amsel’s violet stare. The Ring faded out of her sight; the pain vanished. She could feel blood return to her face and neck.
“Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, please leave. We must speak to Miss Granger alone,” said McGonagall.
“But, Professor!” protested Ron.
“I’m not leaving,” Harry said flatly. McGonagall’s jaw set tightly and she began to reply when Dumbledore held up his hand.
“Both of you, please leave,” he said; his crystal blue eyes unusually dark.
“Go, Harry,” Hermione’s course, gasping voice told him.
“But, Hermione…” pleaded Ron.
“No, Ron,” she rasped, grasping his hand. “Just go.”
Reluctantly, Harry and Ron got up from their spot on the floor, being careful to gently lay Hermione on the ground before standing. Slowly, both of them crossed the room and opened the door. Harry turned for one last look at Hermione only to find Professor Amsel directly in front of him.
“Don’t even think about it, Potter,” she hissed. Harry slowly backed away and she shut the door.
“Come on, Ron,” said Harry, grabbing him by the arm.
“Aren’t we going to stay and find out what—”
“No,” he answered, “We’ll have to ask Hermione later.” Harry was in no mood to get into any further trouble with Professor Amsel.
Harry and Ron waited in the Common Room, and questioned the three professors the moment they emerged from the stairs.
“She needs her rest, Harry,” said Dumbledore, “But she’ll be fine.”
“What happened? Why did writing down the symbols effect her so much? She was fine this morning.”
“This is not the time or the place to discuss that, Mr. Weasley,” snapped Professor McGonagall. “You’ll both do well to keep that particular detail under your hats.”
“Can’t you tell us anything?” If Harry’s concern for Hermione wasn’t so consuming, he would have been livid for the run around he and Ron were being given. The Common Room was empty. Ron made sure to clear the whole room the moment he reached the bottom of the stairs. There wasn’t any reason for the Professors not to tell them even the slightest bit of information.
“As these two have taken care of any eavesdroppers,” began Professor Amsel, giving Harry a pointed gaze, “And to prevent the two of them from accosting Miss Granger before she is ready, Minerva, I don’t see any reason to keep them from knowing at least enough to keep them at bay.”
“I’d have to agree, Minerva,” said Professor Dumbledore, shooting a quick wink at Professor Amsel. Professor McGonagall glared at the both of them but backed down.
“Since when does Amsel stick up for us?” Ron whispered to Harry.
“I assume Miss Granger has told you about the image she sees in her vision,” began Dumbledore, “When she copied them down on the parchment, she broke a very strict law.”
“What she sees, the symbols, is a forbidden language.”
“So what happened to her was some sort of punishment?” asked Ron.
“A sort of punishment is correct, Mr. Weasley,” said Dumbledore. “What Miss Granger experienced was a very mild version of the prescribed punishment.”
“I fail to see how that is mild,” said Harry.
“As opposed to death, Potter?” said Professor Amsel. “I’d say that was pretty mild.”
The rest of the weekend went by horribly slow. Ron and Harry were lucky enough to catch Ernie in a good mood, letting them up the stairway to Hermione’s room through the Head’s common room.
“I’d get out of bed if it weren’t for these dumb portraits hanging around,” she told them Sunday morning. “Madame Pomfrey told them all to report directly to her and Dumbledore if I leave my room.”
“I hate to say it, Hermione,” said Ron, “But I have to agree with them.” Hermione glared at him.
“I just don’t understand why this happened,” she began. “I would have thought that the Ring would have changed color or something would have happened to stop me. But there was nothing. Not one sign or warning that what I was doing was wrong.”
“Any news on when you’ll be able to get out?” asked Harry, forking one of Hermione’s extra sausages from her plate.
“Professor Amsel sent word with this guy—” she jerked her thumb in the direction of the same painting that had told the professors about Hermione the day before, “—that she would check with me before noon.”
“Then we better scoot before she gets here,” said Ron, biting into one last piece of bacon.
“I think it is a bit late for that, Ron.”
“Keen observation, Potter,” said Professor Amsel from the door. Harry got up from the chair and he and Ron made a move to leave when Amsel stopped them. “You need not leave. I only have to ask Miss Granger a few questions.”
Hermione was given a clean bill of health after she answered Amsel’s questions. The whispers between she and Amsel looked oddly personal for such a formal relationship. Harry couldn’t get the image of the two of them talking out of his head. Every time he let his concentration wane from homework on Sunday evening or classes on Monday, the image of the both of them kept popping up. Something about the way they spoke together made him wonder if they knew each other better than Hermione was letting on. Even during Defense, Harry could hardly concentrate on the different poisons used against wizards because he was too focused on the quick shared glances between Amsel and Hermione.
“Aren’t you coming?” asked Hermione, jostling him from his thoughts and his dinner.
“Wha—oh, no. I’ve got detention, remember?” he answered, refilling his goblet with pumpkin juice. “After dinner I have to meet Professor Amsel.”
Ron grimaced. “Good luck with that, mate. Here’s hoping she doesn’t kill you.”
“Thanks, Ron,” said Harry flatly.
“She’s not going to kill him, Ron,” said Hermione, “Knowing her, it will probably be something challenging.”
“Do you want us to stay up for you?” asked Ron, giving Hermione an admonishing glance.
“No. I doubt her detention will be short. Besides, we’ve got that charms exam tomorrow. I don’t want to be responsible for the both of you falling asleep during the test.”
“All right, Harry,” said Hermione, “If you really don’t want us to stay up…”—Harry shook his head—“All right, then…good luck.”
Ron gave him one last sympathetic look before tagging on behind Hermione.
“I know she won’t actually kill him, Hermione…” Harry heard Ron say to her. Their arguments slowly drifted out of Harry’s earshot. He gulped down the last of his pumpkin juice and stood up.
“Better early than late,” he supposed aloud and head off for the kitchens.
He reached the floor with the entrance to the kitchen in minutes and rounded the last corner to the painting of the basket of fruit.
Professor Amsel was already there waiting for him. Harry quickened his pace at the sight of her.
“How long does it take you to get here from the Great Hall?” The question knocked him off guard for a moment. He hadn’t even done anything wrong yet and she was already jumping down his throat.
“Um…well, Professor, I guess I got carried away talking with—”
“Do you always assume you are in trouble?” she asked, cutting him off mid sentence. She turned from the painting to face him. “I was simply asking you the length of time it takes for you to reach this spot from the Great Hall.”
“Oh…um, five minutes maybe? A little more if there are a lot of students.”
“And how long does it take you to reach the Defense classroom?”
“Usually around twenty-five minutes.”
Her left eyebrow arched and a brief smirk graced her face. “Then watch closely, Potter, I’m about to show you a shortcut.”
Harry closed the rest of the distance between them and watched as she pressed her index finger on the last grape in the bunch, then the center grape and then traced the stem of the grape bunch. She took a step back (Harry did the same) and the painting swung open with a soft click.
Instead of the wonderful scent of dinner wafting through the door, filling his nostrils with the delights of mashed potatoes and gravy, a heavy, stale, damp, cold wind blew from the dark corridor that the painting had revealed.
“Not all doors have one destination,” she quipped, casting a glance at his shocked expression. “Follow me.” She stepped through the door with Harry right on her heels.
Just two or three minutes later, Professor Amsel pushed against the wall at the end of the dim corridor and they both stepped out into the hallway in the southeast tower.
“I don’t believe it,” said Harry as a painting of the Scottish landscape closed behind him.
“After all this time…do all the portraits have multiple destinations?” he asked, catching up to Amsel who was opening the door to the defense classroom.
“No. Only a few of them. And they change all the time. Come on now, Potter, this isn’t twenty questions.”
He followed her into the classroom. The bookshelf to her office automatically swung open at her approach.
“Um, Professor?” he asked, following her into her office, “What exactly is my detention?”
“What lesson do you think you need to learn?” she countered, shrugging off her outer robe, hanging it over the back of the cushy chair next to the fire.
“I…I thought this was for eavesdropping,” Harry responded, rather confused. What was all of this? He continued as she pulled on a book on one of her shelves and waved her wand at the wardrobe, “I had assumed when you asked me to meet you by the kitchens, it would involve something like cleaning dishes or something.”
She looked up from her desk drawer—where she had been searching for something—and laughed at his assumption. “And what would you learn from cleaning dishes other than how to wash dishes? Would it teach you not to eavesdrop?” She waved off his attempt to respond and continued while she rummaged through the wardrobe. “Or did you maybe think of writing lines? Would repeating the words ‘I shall not eavesdrop’ one thousand times teach you to respect the privacy of others?” She held up a shimmery, black cloak to his chest, measuring its size to him. “This will do,” she murmured and tossed it over his shoulder.
“What is this for?” he asked, pulling the cloak from his shoulder.
“Your detention,” she answered curtly, grabbing her own black cloak and then disappearing behind the bookshelf that had swung open after she pulled the book.
“Are we going somewhere?” Harry examined the soft, slick cloak. It felt much like his invisibility cloak—light and flowed in his hands like liquid.
“Yes,” she answered, still in the room behind the bookcase. “Do you think polishing trophies or cleaning out cauldrons will make you understand the importance of thinking before acting?”
Harry bristled at her cold, condescending tone. Her knowledge of his knowing who she was hadn’t seemed to make much of a difference in her feelings towards him.
She immerged from the room, cloaked, with a quiver full of arrows and long, elegant looking bow strapped to her back.
“Where are we going?” he asked, his eyes fixed on the odd design etched into the leather of the quiver.
“The Forbidden Forest.” She quickly moved about the room, grabbing a roll of parchment from her desk drawer, dropping a few oddly shaped and colored bottles of potion from a shelf into a small bag and then glanced out the window to the darkening sky.
“Well?” she admonished, looking at Harry, who still held the robe in his hand.
He quickly slipped it on and clasped the top three ties together. Professor Amsel stood only a foot from him, looking him over—scrutinizing every inch of him. Their eyes met and she frowned.
“How bad is your eyesight?”
“I’m pretty much blind without them,” he answered.
“Take off your glasses—”
“But I just—”
“Take them off.”
Harry took them off and placed them in her open hand. He hardly blinked before the tip of her wand appeared half an inch from his eyes and a soft blue-green mist encircled his head. In the blur of his vision, Harry could see the mist turn a dark emerald. In his next breath, the mist swirled around in some intricate pattern and then, like a cool breeze, the mist soaked into his eyes. Harry’s vision cleared immediately. Never before had he seen in such clarity—seen such distinction between colors or the depth of shadows.
“Wow,” he whispered.
“It isn’t permanent,” she told him, her tone slightly softened, “It will only last until tomorrow morning.”
He nodded in understanding and turned towards the door to leave, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“Change the color of your shirt to midnight green,” Amsel told him. While he did so, she returned to the window and opened a small chest on top of a large table which sat below it.
“What are we doing in the forest, Professor?”
“Looking for something,” she answered, returning to the entrance of the office. “Let’s go.”
The sky glowed a brilliant shade of red as the sun entered its last stages of retirement. A crisp, cool breeze blew across the grounds, loosening a few tendrils of Professor Amsel’s meticulously kept hair.
They reached the edge of the forest when she stopped him. “Wait here. Do not enter the forest until I get back.” She quickly jogged towards Hagrid’s hut, then sharply turned and disappeared into the forest.
Harry stood his ground and waited. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Whatever spell Amsel used on his eyes had done more than just improve his ability to see in a lit room. The detail he could see in the night! Looking back towards the castle, Harry could see every shadow the fading sunlight cast on the stones of the high turrets and the moss that grew from the edge of the windows. If this was what people with perfect eyes saw all the time, Harry wanted to ask Professor Amsel for that spell. He could cast it every morning and never have to wear those dumb glasses again.
“Ready?” Professor Amsel’s voice brought Harry out of his sight seeing and he nodded.
“We must move quickly. Stay close to me and be silent. Keep your wand out and ready.”
“What are we looking for?”
She ignored his question and continued on, “It is going to get very, very dark the further we go, so tell me the moment you can no longer see clearly. We cannot risk the light of our wands.”
“But where are we going? What are we looking for?”
“I’ll tell you when it becomes absolutely necessary,” she snapped. “Now be quiet and keep up.”
Harry was no stranger to the Forbidden Forest, but he had never before gone so far into its depths. It hadn’t taken long for the little amount of sunlight there was left to be lost in the thick trunks of the forest. Even with his enhanced sight, Harry soon tripped one too many times and Professor Amsel had to adjust his sight again.
“Hold still,” she whispered to him the moment they took cover under a low lying branch. She placed her hands on either side of his face, her index and middle fingers pressing lightly on his temples.
He only caught a few fragments of her whispered mutterings, but Harry watched her lips quicken and her dark eyes close in concentration. Her touch seemed oddly personal; her proximity almost intimate. Again, Harry felt the odd sensation that he had met her before. He couldn’t quite place it, but her touch just seemed to ignite the feeling deep in his core that she had once touched him in this delicate manner before. But its origin eluded him.
There was a flash of white light and Professor Amsel lifted her hands from his face, her violet eyes looking directly into his.
Harry nearly gasped at the change in his sight. Every pigment of color, every shadow, was exaggerated, giving Harry a clear view of what lay all around him. It was amazing.
“Better?” she asked. He nodded. “Good. We’ve got to keep mov—” She stopped abruptly. Her head snapped to the left, and her grasp on Harry’s shoulder tightened.
“What is it?” he whispered, ducking further below the branch.
“Centaur. Don’t move,” she muttered.
A moment later Harry could hear the snap of a twig and a light trot of hooves. Just beyond their hiding spot the branches were pushed aside and a small foal walked out into the small open patch of grass right in front of them.
The young foal stopped immediately, her hazel eyes fixed on their position. She’d seen them, and there was no doubt that she would go running for her parents.
Professor Amsel did nothing. She only stood, matching the gaze of the little foal. Her grasp on Harry lightened considerably, giving Harry the maneuverability to take his shot.
He inched around Amsel’s body and took aim. A silent cast was necessary if he was going to avoid bring any other unwanted attention to their presence.
Harry didn’t see Amsel turn to him, or the fury that spread through her face when she realized what he was about to do. He only felt the sharp jolt of pain shoot through his back when she tackled him to the ground.
His stunner missed the foal and hit a tree, sending shards of wood spraying into the air.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing!” she screeched, disregarding her own restrictions on the volume of their voices.
“I was trying to stun the foal so she wouldn’t be able to tell the rest of the herd about us!”
Amsel was shaking in fury. “Do you ever think before you act? Do you ever think about the repercussions of your actions before you take them?”
“Yes!” he practically shouted back. “I knew that if we just let her go the herd would be on us in no time flat. I was trying to prevent that!”
She sat on the ground, wide eyed at his reasoning—so dumbfounded she couldn’t even speak. “Did you stop to think who that foal might be?” Her voice was low and angry. “Did you pay attention to her markings and coat?”
“No…I don’t see the—”
“Of course you don’t, Potter!” she hissed. “Because you never pay attention to what is going on outside of your own little world! If you had bothered to look you might have noticed that that young foal had the same markings and coat as Ronnan, the second in command to Bane. A Centaur that hates humans with his very soul. And now you have just attacked his daughter—a foal no more than three years old.”
“Not only have you now cemented the fear of humans into that impressionable and innocent foal, you have also guaranteed that we will be faced with an entire herd of centaurs in less than an hour and they’ll be furious as hell.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Potter,” she snapped, her voice shaking in anger. “You have just put both of us in serious danger because you didn’t think before you acted!” She roughly grabbed his arm and pulled him up from the ground. “I hope you can run fast and long, Potter, because we won’t have time to stop and rest.”
Harry was exhausted. They had been running for over an hour with no sign of Centaurs and no sign of Amsel letting up. His legs felt heavy and every downed tree or large boulder they had to climb over became harder and harder to conquer. Sweat was pouring down his face, soaking his shirt.
The trees were so close together this deep into the forest that it was nearly impossible to avoid scraping his face on several branches or stumbling over protruding roots.
Finally, Amsel stopped.
Huffing and gasping for breath, Harry slid down the base of a tree and tried to control his breathing.
Professor Amsel turned from her spot a few meters away, walked towards him and crouched down beside him.
“Drink this,” she said, offering him a small bottle with green liquid in it. “It will help.” The lumpy potion tasted like copper and clung to his teeth as he gulped it down. But it only took a few seconds for the effects to kick in. His body cooled down immediately. Harry could feel the sweat on his body dry and his lungs were filled with a second wind. He stood up, his legs no longer heavy, and faced Professor Amsel.
“Wand at the ready, Potter,” she whispered to him. “They’re coming.”
Post Note: I realize that Amsel may seem a bit back and forth right now, and I did it on purpose. Next chapter will really shed a light on her and I hope will clear up any big questions pertaining to her character. I'd really like to know what you think of this chapter, because I'm a bit iffy on the first half. So any comments on that would be great. Thanks so much for sticking with me. Happy Holidays and have a safe and Happy New Year! *Eli*
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