Karen Davies

Into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul

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continued from here

 

Halfway between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, Karen was running. She kept as close to Linus as she could without bumping into him, legs tearing through bushes as they took themselves off the path and straight into the forest. The scene of Hogsmeade was still imprinted on Karen's mind, her thoughts in overdrive as she tried to make sense of it, the green smoke fighting for attention with it's unfamiliar familiarity. She was no longer paralyzed though, and after a solid minute of running through the trees, she started to slow down. The light of day was cut off by the canvas of foliage above them and, desparate for light at that moment, Karen pulled out her wand, lighting it's tip.

 

"Linus?" she called out, spinning around so her wand tip shed light around her as she tried to locate her friend. She had forayed into the forest before, her natural curiosity as to what exactly made it so forbidden driving the venture, but never this far and never with a looming sense of foreboding.

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"Bloody hell, Davies, I'm right here."

 

Pushing Karen's wand out of his face, he shook his head clear of the white and grey spots that remained. As his vision came back, all he could see all around him was dense foliage.

 

And trees.

 

Trees clouded his vision, their shape and texture blocking out nearly everything else. It was a grim reminder of the ways magic affected our surroundings, how even the nature became something more sinister by virtue of its presence. The air was thick with the smell of pine, and a fog hung just above their head, like clouds drifting through the canopy.

 

"We should be alright here for now. How are you, though?"

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Relieved when he came into view, she didn't even grumble when he pushed her wand away, muttering a faint, "Sorry," as he did so.

 

She nodded, looking at their surroundings. It was eerily quiet, and she couldn't shake the foreboding feeling that they hadn't quite reached safety. She still hadn't thoroughly processed what she had seen. It was a jumble of images, and part of her knew that she didn't even want to process them.

 

"Um," she searched for an answer to his question, her hand reaching up to slide into her hair as she looked away from his gaze. "I don't know," she admitted. It was a strange feeling not to know. So much of her life was spent on certainty of who she was, what she thought.

 

Unable to not do anything as they stood there in the gloom, she pulled off her jacket, laying it on the forest floor. With a muttered incantation it transformed into a blanket. She plopped herself down on it and gestured for Linus to do the same.

 

"You?" She asked in response, before muttering another incantation, pointing her wand to her sweater. Her low tolerance of cold was not going to do well out there, especially without her jacket. The warming charm, when activated, was welcome. "You want a warming charm too?" she offered, propping her head on her knees.

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There were few people Linus would rather be lost in the Forbidden Forest with. For as many shenanigans that he and Karen got into (which weren't that many, but quality over quantity, right?), she was as reliable as his own mum.

 

Whoa, that was a weird thought...

 

Earlier on when they had met, Karen had been obsessed with Keira Paddock. From her early career as a Magpie to her current stint as captain on the team, Karen knew almost as much about his mum as he did (and oftentimes more??). There had even been a point where Linus had suspected that the only reason they were friends was because of his famous mother. But that quickly faded as they spent more and more time with one another, and not only was she one his closest confidants, but she had been Linus' first kiss as well.

 

The thought made him blush a bit, and he was glad that it was dim enough to prevent his friend from noticing. Not to mention that this was an entirely inappropriate situation for his brain to bring up such a memory, but that's just how it worked sometimes. But all that besides, Linus was honestly as lost as Karen, and he was slower to respond than usual.

 

"Yea. I'm fine."

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Linus' words echoed, as heartfelt as her own had been. She felt hollow.

 

Usually, not knowing what was going to happen next was was exhilarating for the Ravenclaw. Her sister had mentioned once or twice that if it hadn't been for her egg-headedness, she might have made a good Gryffindor for how daring she was. But for some reason, that daring had left her. Maybe it was because the danger was not in her control; She had not willingly accepted the risk. While often dangerous, all of her schemes and experiments had been rooted in one thing: her curiosity. Everything that happened was by her design, her 'process'. So now, stranded in the Forbidden Forest with no knowledge of what was going on in Hogsmeade or the Castle at the moment, with no knowledge of when it was safe to leave, or even if they were safe there at that moment, and with no hand in the outcome, Karen was lost.

 

There was only one thing that was keeping her from losing it at that moment, and he was sitting next to her. It was comfort enough that he was present, despite the silence that stretched between them. That didn't stop her from starting, though, as a branch snapped somewhere in their vicinity. "Did you hear that?" she asked quickly, lifting her head off her knees to look around, hand clenching tighter around her wand. Not that she could probably do anything useful with said wand. She was horribly rubbish at Defense Against the Dark Arts, and had made a point not to take Care of Magical Creatures - her last interaction with a magical creature at the zoo with Linus effectively enough to last her a life time. She vaguely regretted that choice at the moment. It was probably a stray animal, she hoped, but all the same, she scooted a little closer to Linus just in case. He, she knew, had done well in Defense. If either of them was going to be the pillar of safety, it would be him.

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His senses were still somewhat sharp from what adrenaline lingered. Like a second wind, Linus was alert to the same sound of a branch snapping somewhat nearby, and his head swiveled left to right with his wand aimed forward. His heartbeat rose uncontrollably as his eyes narrowed on the darkness ahead of him.

 

But it was nothing.

 

As his muscles relaxed, he realized how sore they were to begin with. It was like he had played an entire week of Quidditch without the snitch ever being caught (ironically because the officials had forgotten to release it from its chest). Looking over at Karen, he tried to speak with confidence.

 

"We should probably get a move on. Maybe hang out on the fringes of the forest and the school? I don't think sticking around here is any good for our mental health, though."

 

With a forced laugh, he stood up slowly and offered Karen his hand. The forest certainly had that effect on people, of driving them mad with its depth and mystery. It might not have been a good idea to seek its sanctuary, but they couldn't turn back now. Besides, maybe the Death Eaters wouldn't feel so keen on following them into the forest if they knew something more dangerous than themselves lurked ahead. Hope proved his only comfort in these matters.

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Karen didn't have the same confidence as Linus in regards to the snap being 'nothing'. Up until that point she had been content to stay where they were, the only solid piece of their current predicament, but now it didn't take but a suggestion from Linus to get her moving.

 

"Ok," she agreed. Taking his hand, she let him help her get to her feet, the momentary respite from exercise working against her as her muscles complained loudly at the movement. She hadn't worked them this hard since her little league quidditch days. Maybe the ministry regulation to do more exercise wasn't such a hair brained idea after all.

 

Letting go of his hand, she summoned the blanket to her, not trusting her muscles when it came to bending over to pick it up. Wrapping it around herself - she was still chilly despite the warming charm she had cast earlier - she shuffled next to him, disinclined to do any more running at that point in time. Looking around her, she tried to piece together exactly which way they should be going, but found herself at a loss. "Which way is the edge of the forest?" she queried, hoping Linus happened to know. She hadn't exactly been keeping track of directionality as they had fled into the trees.

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"I think we head... this way."

 

When it came to the castle, the Gryffindor's sense of direction was awful. He couldn't find his way out of a burlap sack if he were at Hogwarts. But basically anywhere else, he wasn't that obtuse. Judging from how they had entered the forest, and Hogsmeade's general southwesterly proximity to Hogwarts, they just needed to head north.

 

As Karen gathered her belongings and crept close alongside him, Linus managed to keep his wand on the trees, noting how moss grew on them. As an amateur-ish photographer and wildlife enthusiast (he had Karen to thank in part for this), he knew a thing or two about surviving the outdoors. The bit about moss being found on the north-side of trees in the northern hemisphere of the world may actually prove useful here.

 

"If we just keep heading in this direction we should swing west of the road and straight to the southern gates of Hogwarts. Probably."

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Gazing in the direction Linus pointed, Karen could neither agree, nor disagree, with his assertion. The only thing that she could assert was that the longer they spent in the forest, the more nervous she was becoming; Not that anywhere else would have been any better, but the darkness was getting to her, and the looming fog in addition to the context in which their trek had been made wasn't helping.

 

"Ok," she accepted, relying on her trust in Linus. She walked next to him, trying to make as little noise as possible, but there was only so much she could do as dried fall leaves littered the forest floor. She briefly considered if she knew any silencing spells that worked on something other than a person's voice, but she was drawing a blank. Instead of furthering that line of thought, though, she let her mind wander back to everything they had seen that day: the limp body flying up and down, the adult in the mask, Hogsmeade in ruins, the green, smokey shape hanging over the castle... She still couldn't shake the feeling that she knew it, had seen it somewhere.

 

While lost in her thoughts, she instinctively inched closer to Linus as they walked, and then she collided with him. Startled, she jumped back. "Wha - oh, um, I'm - sorry!" she apologized, sheepishly, averting her eyes as she absentmindedly tugged her blanket tighter around herself. "I - um - wasn't paying attention," she admitted, though that much was probably obvious.

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There was nothing envious about their little foray into the Forbidden Forest. Aptly named, there were all manner of dangers that plagued the place, and it was merely circumstance that led them here. But for Karen, specifically, Linus would take the chance that she was more afraid of the things outside the forest rather than those within it.

 

Partly protective, his intention had been to keep Karen from having to experience what he himself had gone through back in Diagon Alley. She knew bits and pieces of what had happened to himself and his sister, but almost no one knew the full details (some things were still quite foggy to him, in fact). But he knew that he couldn't let her live through it, not if he could help it, and so these had been his motivations into whisking her away into other, uncertain dangers.

 

But also, he did not want to relive that day. All the familiar signs of the Death Eaters were there: chaos and ruin in abundance. The sight of the castle had also been something he remembered vaguely from when Diagon Alley had been attacked, though it was foggy at best. As his instincts shuffled between fight and flight, the latter became increasingly more convincing. He cursed himself for giving in so easily, but figured it was the best course of action in the end.

 

Still, he'd have rather felt empowered than powerless.

 

Although his sense of direction wasn't exactly foolproof, he knew they were heading in the right direction. The forest grew thicker at first, but then the familiar paths of wandering students became more readily apparent as the brush thinned ahead. Professor Qin often took them at least this deep into the forest, and the telltale sign of the thestral tracks signalled his intuition had been correct.

 

Narrowly avoiding disaster via Karen's clumsiness, he joked,

 

"Do you ever, Davies? You're easier to distract than Ryan Fowler!"

 

The inside joke, of course, being that Ryan was not quite the brightest keeper Linus had ever worked with...

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For the first time since their entrance to Hogsmeade, Karen felt a smile creep up on her cheeks. Having been an avid spectator and commentator of all the quidditch games since she had started at Hogwarts, Karen was quite familiar with Ryan Fowler and his quirks. "I swear," she responded, "take all the girls off the pitch and you might see a change. Or, put blinders and ear plugs on him. Either way..."

 

She took a glance around where they now were. There seemed to be actual trodden paths, and it was a tad brighter. Maybe they were nearing the edge? She didn't know how she felt about that. While she didn't fancy staying in the forest for the rest of her life, she also didn't particularly want to meet whatever had made that over the castle-

 

Karen froze. "The dark mark," she whispered, realization dawning on her. Suddenly, it was all coming back to her. It had been in a book...

 

Her father had just heard about the attacks at Diagon Alley. He had accompanied her for her first visit to the Paddock family ward to check in on Linus, and when they had returned home, she had made to go upstairs to find that snitch locket she had been meaning to repair but had felt her father's hand close around her wrist. He had guided her over to a couch and sat her on it. She hadn't seen him this serious since Mr Paddock had returned her home after her zoo trip with Linus and informed her father what exactly she had been up to while there. There was no reprimand this time, though. Instead, he pulled out a book and sat next to her and started finally explaining the things she had been asking about for years, ever since she had heard about the second wizarding war in History of Magic. He told her about Death Eaters and their allegiance to Voldemort. He had shown her their symbol: the dark mark, a symbol they cast in the sky over any place they had murdered.

 

Horror replacing fear, there was only one thought that pervaded all others in her head. He hadn't gone to Hogsmeade that weekend. He was still in the castle. Her brother, the Slytherin, was under that dark mark. Somewhere. If there was any reason for Karen to act like a bloody Gryffindor and throw all reason out the window, this was it.

 

"Kurt!" she exclaimed, and then tore off, the blanket she had been holding fluttering down to the forest floor.

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