Chapter 36 // Let The River Run
After dropping off our bags at the Ravenclaw tower, we rushed outside. We stared at the Forest. It seemed to be about four miles across, with a narrow earth track which winded away through thick black trees near Hagrid’s hut. This was the path Harry had told me about, the one he had taken on his trips into the Forest. The path we were going to take – the one near the Great Lake – hadn’t been on the maps we studied, so we decided to walk around the Great Lake and search for it. We left the doors behind us and walked left, towards the greenhouses and the Whomping Willow. We passed some fellow students, waved and pretended we were interested in the vegetable patches near the lake. When we were certain that they weren’t paying attention to us anymore, we walked closer to the Lake.
‘I don’t see a path to the forest,’ Luna said, after inspecting the Lake around us.
‘What’s that?’ I asked, as I pointed towards the side of the lake.
‘A river flowing out of the lake?’
‘I can’t really see from up here,’ Luna said. She squinted her eyes and stared, ‘could be. I’m not sure. The greenhouses are in the way. Do you think that stream would lead into the Forest?’
‘Only one way to find out,’ I answered, and I started taking of my robes, until I stood in my underwear. I heard someone whistle.
‘Don’t!’ Luna took my arm, ‘what about the squid?’
‘Let’s hope it’s on the other side of the lake,’ I said, and I jumped into the lake before she could stop me again.
The cold hugged my body, like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. As I sank deeper into the water, it turned black all around me. The water numbed my thought. I didn’t hear anything, didn’t see anything, didn’t feel anything. My lungs burned for air. I pushed with my arms and legs, and unexpectedly, I broke through the surface. I gave Luna a thumbs-up and started swimming towards the stream. It took me a while to get there. From the cliffs it hadn’t looked like it was a long distance, but halfway through my arms started to hurt and I could feel my muscles burn in my thighs. I wasn’t the athletic type, in fact, I was a bit on the fatter side of things, so this was real exercise for me.
When I finally reached the river, I was out of breath. My lungs burned in my chest and I could feel my arms trembling from the cold. The river didn’t run that fast and was easy to swim in. I could imagine students swimming here on the hot summers day, after the exams. The only problem was that the river was hidden behind the greenhouses and I doubted a lot of students actually dared to go this far into the lake, considering there was a giant squid. I let the stream take me further, until I reached the Forbidden Forest. I didn’t find a way to get out of the river and I slowly started to panic until I noticed a shore. On hands and knees, I dragged myself out of the water. Pebbles scraped on my skin as I glanced around. I was at the bottom off a hill, surrounded by dark trees, with tangled roots. I heard nothing but the sound of the river running into the woods and the wind playing with the branches. I decided that I was deep into the Forest already. I took in my surroundings as best as I could, trying to remember tiny details, so that Luna and I could work out where I ended up.
After I stood there for a while, I started to think about getting back to the castle. Since the river wasn’t running that fast, I figured that I should be able to go back out the way I came in, but that was easier said than done.
After the flow dragged me away several times, I finally reached the lake again. I was so tired that I had trouble getting back. It took me a painfully long time, but eventually I got there. I stretched out my arms, feeling relieved when Luna’s hands closed around my wrists and started pulling me on the shore. I didn’t even have the energy to sit upright, so I stayed down and lay there, waiting for my heart to calm down. After a while, my breathing became steady again and I finally found the strength to sit up and talk to Luna. She was sitting patiently next to me, her legs crossed underneath her body.
‘This is it,’ I said, and broke into a smile, ‘the river leads straight into the forest. There was a shore with pebbles and a hill and trees with tangles roots. It’s pretty far in, I couldn’t hear a thing.’
Luna listened and nodded, and I could see in her eyes that she was visualising the map in her head, trying to figure out where the river would run.
‘So, we probably need some spell that can dry us when we reach that shore and off course we need some defensive and offensive spells, in case we run into something,’ Luna said, as she helped me to my feet. I threw on my robes, shivering from the cold.
‘Some healing spells, maybe?’ I suggested, ‘I mean, you never know when those come in handy, right?’
‘Smart,’ Luna agreed, ‘we should ask Pomfrey. She’d be glad to help.’
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