Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Amazing chapter image by abeille.reveuse @ TDA
A/N: I don’t own the world of Harry Potter. That honor goes to J.K. Rowling.
The forest was chilly, as the November wind attacked my body. I wasn’t cold though; I had a very warm coat, after all.
I listened to the pine needles and fallen leaves crackle under my steps. I ran my foot along the ground, revelling in the melodic crunch of the dying foliage.
Quickly, I began to run. Going deeper and deeper into the Forbidden Forest, until I couldn’t see back to Hogwarts any more. I wasn’t worried though, because I knew how to get back. I could practically smell the direction of the castle.
Most people would be worried about the creatures in the Forest. I wasn’t concerned, because they all left me alone, and even if they didn’t, I could stand up for myself. I was in here quite a lot, if you couldn’t tell.
In fact, I’d rather be around these creatures than the students at Hogwarts. The animals in here looked at me like they’d look at anyone or anything else: with no emotion. It was so much better than the sympathetic looks everyone in the castle gave me. Because I’m that girl – the girl whose brother died.
It’s been three years since Daniel died, but people act as if it happened yesterday. The students all look at me like I’m going to crack any second. Any time someone accidently mentions his name around me, they all jump like they’ve seen a ghost and start stammering wildly, trying to cover up what they feel is some massive blunder. People don’t even say the word “brother” in my presence.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss him everyday. I miss him so much it hurts. In fact, he’s the reason I started these Forest romps. In the Forest, I could lose my sadness and just be free.
But it’s time for people to realize that I have to move on. I can’t dwell on Daniel forever – that’s not what he would have wanted. He was a “carpe diem” type of person, always wanting to live life to the fullest. That was why, when he first got the diagnosis, the two of us immediately planned out a summer full of adventures. And we did a lot of them – we did most of them, in fact. But the cancer progressed too fast, so we never really finished our list. That’s one thing I really regret: we didn’t get enough time to finish it all like we had wanted to.
All I want to do is just sit down and talk to someone about him – for days, even. There was just so much about him that I wanted to share, but no one wanted to let me, not even my best friend. They just assumed I didn’t want to.
I blinked, but no tears fell from my eyes. I don’t think they were capable of producing tears in this state.
After endless running, I finally reached the place I wanted to be. I panted, out of breath, but I didn’t rest. Instead, I walked around the outside of the meadow.
If you went far enough into the Forbidden Forest, a place I doubt even the ancient gamekeeper, Hagrid, had reached, there was a beautiful meadow. It looked out of place among the dark and frightening trees, but it’s beautiful.
Right now, the grass had browned and the flowers had wilted, but the snow hadn’t fallen yet. The ground was dead – but in a beautiful way. Everything dies, but it comes back in the spring, just as beautiful as ever.
Springtime in this meadow was my favorite time of year. Coming back to see the gradual blooming of the flowers was a source of hope. After watching everything die the previous fall, seeing the new blooms was a reminder that everything was okay.
I guess it makes a metaphor for life: for every death, there’s another life. It may take time, but there’s always something amazing to come out of every tragedy.
Right now, I’m still waiting.
I heard a rustle in the woods, and immediately snapped my head in the direction of the noise. I had extremely sharp hearing, so every little noise stuck out to me.
A few centaurs were gathered at the edge of the clearing. Normally, they would have kicked a normal student out of the Forest by now. But I was a special case, so they let me be. In fact, they trusted me, something that I doubt any other student – or faculty member, at that – could say.
I ignored their presence, instead lying down in the middle of the field, not minding that the cold dirt got into my coat.
I looked up into the night sky. The stars were bright and beautiful. Canis Major was extremely prominent, and Jupiter could be seen, if you knew where to look.
Daniel’s absolute favorite subject was Astronomy. He always went on about the beauty of the night sky, and how each star had a story, and would spend hours explaining it to me. I never really took much interest, but after his death, the subject held a new appeal for me. I promised myself to learn everything about the stars, since Daniel couldn’t anymore.
“Jupiter is bright tonight,” I snapped out of my reverie, looking up to see a centaur only a few feet away from me. His name was Abraxas, and he was easily my favorite. In fact, he was the only centaur that openly spoke to me.
I didn’t reply, I just looked up at him and blinked. He always had a lesson for me whenever he ran into me in the Forest.
“It is usually not bright this early in the month. It’s a sign of relief,” he reported simply. His teaching was brief, as the other centaurs greatly disapproved, and would probably get angry if he hung around any longer. Apparently one of their ranks had taught as Hogwarts many years ago, and he was completely exiled from the group. Speaking to me was a borderline activity.
He turned his back to me, returning to the others. Our conversations were always one-sided, because I didn’t talk once I entered this forest.
After a time, I stretched out my limbs, and got back up, walking towards the edge of the meadow.
Beneath me, my legs picked up speed, until I was running at top speed. I wasn’t going anywhere, I was just running for the thrill. Maybe I’d frighten a rabbit or two in the process, but that wasn’t the goal.
That was the thing about the forest. In here, I was just another figure in the woods.
But in the walls of Hogwarts, I was Genevieve Hightower. The diligent prefect, but more importantly to them, the half-blood who lost her brother to leukemia. Many people were afraid of me, but it wasn’t from my personality. They feared joking around with me, because they might accidently say the word “death,” or something of the sort, and according to them, I couldn’t handle that.
That was another thing I loved about being out here. Nobody judged me for my actions. I could run and frolic and do whatever I wanted, and no creature thought twice about it. But in the castle, my every move was scrutinized, like I was a ticking time bomb that would sporadically explode into a mess of grief, pulling everyone around me into a massive black hole of sadness.
Honestly though, I couldn’t remember the last time I broke down in public. I think it was Dan’s funeral.
I looked at the coffin up at the front, next to a picture of Daniel. In the picture, he had a goofy smile, and would wave sporadically. I guess he just didn’t understand that he was at his own funeral. Or maybe he did, and he just didn’t care.
That couldn’t be my brother in that mahogany. Surely he was just on a trip somewhere, and he’d come back any day now. The figure whose body I had to watch slowly weaken until the point of death was just a boggart.
Because now I knew. My greatest fear was losing him.
My greatest fear had come true.
I smoothed out my dress, a simple black style. It wasn’t much, but it was the nicest I’d dressed in weeks, since Dan found himself confined to the hospital bed.
I walked up to the podium, where I was meant to give a speech. I had tried writing something out, but it just couldn’t be done.
“Daniel Hightower,” I began. “He was my brother, my best friend.” My voice cracked.
“He was the world to me, he never left my side. We did everything together. It didn’t matter that he was two years younger than me; we were as good as twins.” My eyes started to well up.
“Dan was a great person. He loved everybody, and always had something nice to say about everything. He was two years younger than me, but he was like an older brother. He was protective of me, always making sure I was safe and happy.”
“I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss him so, so much.” Tears were openly streaming down my face, and my voice had dropped to a whisper.
“I love you, Dan. We all love you.” Suddenly, my lungs constricted, and I found myself gasping for air. A pair of arms wrapped around me, ones that I soon realized belonged to my mother. She held me close to her chest, guiding me out of the room.
I was openly sobbing now. “He can’t be gone!” I cried. “He just can’t!”
“I know, sweetie.” My mother rubbed my back consolingly, although she was crying quite a bit herself.
“Mum, I just want my Dan back.”
I shook my head rapidly to get rid of the thought. That day was one I never wanted to relive. Watching a casket being lowered into the earth, knowing it holds the still and unmoving body of the boy who was once your greatest confidante, is probably the second worst experience of my life. Just behind watching the heart monitor turn into a flat line.
The thing that annoyed me was that people assumed I would pull my friends down with me. That was the last thing I would ever want to do. The pain I felt on a daily basis was not something I would wish on anyone.
I skidded to a stop, noticing through the trees that the sky was beginning to lighten up. Knowing that I had only an hour or so to get back to Gryffindor Tower, I turned back towards the direction of the castle.
The freedom of the forest was coming to an end, and I could even feel the weight of Hogwarts’s expectations beginning to re-settle themselves on my shoulders. Sadly, the peace can’t last forever. I’m not sure it would be accepted if I lived out the rest of my life in the forest.
I saw the gamekeeper’s hut in the distance, so I immediately began to search for the tree where I kept my things. I quickly found the pile of clothes, with my wand neatly laid on top.
Before I could do anything else, I threw my head back and let out a loud howl. One that signified the release of this side of me, for now.
With that, I focused my energy on my human, and felt as my body transformed from that of a wolf to that of a sixteen-year-old girl.
Because, you see, I’m an Animagus.
A/N: So here we go: a prologue of sorts! It’s shorter than the future chapters, but an introduction nonetheless. I do want to know something from all of you: did you figure out the Animagus thing before I said it at the end? If you go back through the chapter, I left some hints here and there. Please let me know if you did in that pretty grey box below, along with any other feedback you might have!