Chapter 39 // Thestrals
Our search didn’t go as easy as we had planned. Although we knew the general direction we were going in, and the places we should look, we still had no clue what to look for. Firenze had called it a cave, but what did he know about it? Centaurs might have different perceptions then humans too.
Walking around in the Forbidden Forest at night was not at all something I would suggest on a bucket list. It was distressing and terrifying and overall traumatic. At one time I heard the call off a wolf and the stories about werewolves started replaying in my mind. A bit later I saw spiders crawling all over the place and when we decided it was best to leave the spiders alone and go the other way, I could’ve sworn I saw the pure gold colour of a new-born Unicorn.
The western Taipan turned out to be an interesting companion. He slithered along with us, humming songs he seemed to have learned during his years in the dark forest and telling me stories. Luna had been mad that I never told her I was a parseltongue, but she had quickly calmed down again, after running into salamander that almost burned her hair off.
By the time the sun started the rise, we were exhausted, hungry and moody.
‘We’re never going to find that cave,’ Luna thudded down and leaned her head against a tree. I followed her example and started rummaging through my bag, pulling out some apples and a chocolate frog. We ate in silence, listening to the sound of the breeze whispering through the pine needles.
‘We should get back,’ I finally said, ‘we could come back another day.’
‘No, we should keep going for a while,’ Luna threw her apple away and pushed herself up against the tree. I could tell she was exhausted. But she held her head up high and pulled me up too. I admired her determination.
‘How about we go back to the castle early?’ I said, after another hopeless day of searching. It was the third day we spend in the forest and we still had no clue where to look.
Every night we would sneak out of the castle, swim down the river and walk through the forest. We fought of fire crabs and red caps, followed the Taipan around – we decided to call him Barry – and became more frustrated as the days went by. Everyday we’d go back to the castle around noon, hungry and tired, getting something to eat and stumbling into our beds. I don’t even think anybody missed us in the common room. The Ravenclaw were so used to not having us around, that nobody asked questions. Once or twice I caught Jason staring at me with curious eyes, but then I’d just smile, or wave and he’d go back to doing his stuff.
‘Hey, are you listening?’ I looked behind me and found Luna far behind, staring at something between the trees. ‘Luna?’
I got closer, trying to see what she was looking at, but I couldn’t see a thing. It looked like she was staring into thin air.
‘Don’t you see it?’ Luna said, moving forward slightly, her hand outstretched to something I couldn’t see.
‘So, you don’t. It looks like a horse, with a skeletal body and wings. I can’t say that he’s beautiful, but he definitely has something about him.’
‘A Thestral,’ I said, staring at Luna’s hand while she seemed to be stroking air. ‘I’ve read about them. Some books say they are bad omens.’
‘I don’t think he means us harm. Oh, there’s another one! Hi, sweetheart.’
Luna kept on stroking the horses, while I turned around and looked for Barry. ‘What do you think?’
‘I do not like Thestrals. It is better if you do not see them.’
‘Why is that?’
‘They are only visible to those who have witnessed a death. Your friend here must have seen someone die.’
Luna was still caressing the Thestrals as she told them about our quest. I stared at her, feeling a sudden urge to hug her, but I resisted. I got closer and brought my hand up next to hers, feeling their bones under my hands.
‘You don’t happen to know where that cave is, do you?’ Luna laughed, shaking her head, then stopped and the smile disappeared from her face. ‘Merlin’s beard.’
‘They’re moving. They know. They know where it is!’
‘Luna,’ I started, but she didn’t listen. She took my hand and started dragging me along. I hissed at Barry to keep his eyes open for any attacks and he slithered along behind us. We followed the invisible horses, deeper into the forest, but moving closer to the river again. We walked about fifteen minutes when Luna came to a stop. small, loose stones littered the floor, causing us to trip as we got closer to the rock face.