Been a while, but here you go, guys, another chapter. Enjoy.
Chapter 29. Beauty of Magic
It didn't take long for us to collect our belongings, which was unsurprising given our current state. In reality, we only had two backpacks, and even those were mostly barren. Thanks to my magical abilities, we didn't require much. A map, some provisions, and a few articles of clothing were sufficient. Anything else we needed, I could get on the road.
"Ready?" I spoke up, slinging one of the backpacks over my shoulder.
"Yeah, yeah," Laura scowled, her own bag already resting on her back. She pushed past me through the opened door, refusing to look in my direction.
"Still mad that I won't tell you about the Chamber?"
"Shut up..." She grumbled as we walked through the Sanctum's corridor. Laura could try acting angry all she wanted, but the pout on her face would always give her away. My little companion just couldn't handle a bit of teasing.
A chuckle slipped past my lips. "Oh, come on. Don't be like that, brat. A few more minutes and we will be there. There is no point in spoiling the fun."
Turning onto the stairs leading down into the entrance hall, Laura muttered, "Yeah, fun for you. I don't like surprises."
I scoffed, leaning against the railing as we stopped at the end of the stairs. "We both know that's a load of bullshit, Laura. I happen to remember that you loved every surprise I set up on our way to New York."
Crossing her arms over her chest, Laura gave me the blankest look ever. "Rochester?"
Instantly, I winced. She had me there, not that I was going to admit it. What had happened in that city was a mistake, an embarrassing one... Moreover, I thought we had agreed never to speak of it again.
Putting a smile on my face, I answered. "That wasn't meant to be a surprise, Laura. It was just an honest mistake on my part. But, if you really want to count it, then it's not like you proved me wrong here. I still got plenty of evidence that you like my surprises."
The girl had the nerve to smirk back. "Whatever you say, mister I-am-always-right."
I cleared my throat, "Okay now, one, I never said I'm always right. Two..." My well-crafted argument got cut off when a circle of sparking energy spawned next to us. Ancient One just had to choose this moment when I was about to prove Laura wrong...
"Life hates me," I mumbled as the current Sorcerer Supreme stepped out of her creation, the portal sizzling out of existence a moment later.
The ancient woman nodded to us both with a smile. "I see you are both ready. Let us not waste any more time then." She then turned to me. "Mr. Hunt, would you like to provide a place where you want me to create a portal, or is any location near the forest acceptable to you?"
Huh, I didn't expect that. Getting transported right next to the Chamber's entrance would be nice, but I had no idea how to even provide Ancient One with a proper image. I definitely wasn't going to let her wander inside my mind, and my magic was too limited to do this any other way, for now at least.
Thus, I just shrugged. Might as well show Laura a bit more Wizarding World. Even if it was only a glimpse from afar. "If you don't mind dropping us on the edge of the forest close to Hogsmeade, then that's fine with me."
"That, I can do," Ancient One took a few steps back. With the ease of a master, another sparking portal spun into reality, guided by the Sorcerer Supreme's hand. It was effortless for her, and I didn't doubt for a moment that she could have done that without even moving a finger.
"Shall we?" The woman asked, her lips twisting into a broader smile as she noticed our reactions.
Shaking my head, I gave a shallow bow. "Ladies first."
Next to me, Laura snorted loudly. Yet she approached the portal, her wide eyes taking in the scenery on the other side. Not that it was anything special, just your average colorful edge of a not-so-average forest.
"You can step through, Miss Kinney," Ancient One assured, and to prove her point, she passed onto the other side, her feet landing in the grass. At least there wasn't any snow at Hogwarts anymore.
Laura, still not too sure about this new creation, poked her hand a few times through the portal. I chuckled as I came closer, and this was enough of a push for the girl to go through with a huff.
I followed, my eyes closing instinctively as a wave of wild magic swept through my body, magic that I almost forgot about. Damn, I had missed this place. Not the UK, but the land around Hogwarts? Oh definitely.
"Will this spot suffice, Mr. Hunt?" Ancient One's voice snapped me back to reality.
Opening my eyes, I looked around as the fresh, English — or was it Scottish? — air filled my nose. We were at the edge of the forest, alright. In the distance to my right, I could even spot the rooftops of a few buildings that belonged to Hogsmeade. All in all, a pretty good landing. With a few minutes of walking along the edge, I could probably give Laura a surprise of a lifetime.
I turned to the woman and nodded. "It's great, Ancient One. Thank you very much."
She smiled in return. "I'm glad to hear it. In twenty-four hours, I shall return here to lead you to Kamar-Taj. Until then, I bid you farewell, Mr. Hunt, Miss Kinney."
With a wave of her hand, Ancient One was consumed by another sparkling ring that, just like any other, disappeared a moment later. Well, there was that.
I spun on my heel and clapped Laura on her shoulder. The poor girl was once again gaping at the spot from where Ancient One had just disappeared. And here I thought she was already used to magic.
It must be the flashiness of sorcery. It must be...
"Alright, brat. Enough staring. We have places to go and people to see. You will have plenty of time to be in awe of magic when we arrive at Kamar-Taj." Not that she should need to wait that long. This place had enough beautiful sights to see, even from afar.
Laura, finally aware of her surroundings, narrowed her eyes. "People to see? Weren't you the one who said that must stay hidden for now?"
I rolled my eyes as I started walking along the forest's edge. "Figure of speech, Laura! Now, move on. We might have a whole day before Ancient One returns, but it doesn't mean we can just waste time."
"Whatever," Laura grumbled, jogging to catch up to me. "So this is the Forbidden Forest? Doesn't look scary enough to deserve such a name."
She wasn't wrong there. With winter just ending around this part of the world and the Sun shining right above us, the forest didn't look scary. Almost empty and just coming to life after harsh winter at first glance? Yeah, but scary or dangerous? Not at all.
Still, I knew better than to underestimate this place. "This is just the outskirts, and it's still daytime, Laura. Wait until nightfall, venture further in, and then see if you feel the same way."
"Most forests are scary at night," Laura frowned.
I snorted, "Yeah, but most forests also don't have deadly magical creatures living inside them."
The girl stopped mid-step. "You are kidding, right? Logan?"
"And why would I do that?" I flashed her a smirk as I continued onward.
Laughing, I hugged the girl to my side when she once more closed the distance between us. "Don't worry, kiddo. As long as you stay close to me, we should be fine. It isn't the first time I will be taking this path."
When Laura mumbled, "For some reason, it doesn't fill me with much confidence," I only laughed louder.
"I thought we would be going into the forest. Not sticking to the edge permanently."
That was yet another smart-ass comment from Laura in the past few minutes. She really thought she was getting anything out of me when nothing could be further from the truth. Especially now that we were so close...
Another minute or two and the ancient visage of Hogwarts should emerge from behind the dense trees of the Forbidden Forest. Although it was risky to approach the castle, I couldn't let Laura miss out on experiencing the grandeur of Hogwarts.
We just had to keep a safe distance from the castle grounds and exercise extreme caution. And in case someone spotted us, I had my time-space energy at the ready.
"Please be quiet now, Laura," I shushed the girl that kept grumbling to herself. "Just stay close to me and watch your steps."
With that, I veered left and strode into the forest, weaving through the trees, roots, and undergrowth. Laura trailed behind me, but her presence was palpable, so I had no reason to stop. That was, until I caught the glimpse of the castle grounds a few dozen feet ahead, and beyond that, the long-awaited sight of Hogwarts itself.
"Wow," Laura breathed out beside me, her eyes drinking in the ancient castle.
I chuckled quietly, "Wow, indeed."
After living in this castle for almost a year and a half, I thought I had gotten used to this sight. Obviously, I was wrong. Maybe the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" had some merit in the end.
Look at me. I am turning into such a sap.
Sighing, I kept watch as Laura continued to drink the sight of Hogwarts. Plenty of students were mingling all across the castle grounds. Some conversed among themselves, while others just decided to take a walk in between their classes now that the weather had improved.
Sometimes a person or two would glance in the Forbidden Forest direction, but with its density, no one ever spotted us. We were just too far, too well hidden for children without enhanced vision to see us.
"I'm jealous, you know," Laura muttered without turning away from the castle.
"Of what?" I asked, even though I had an inkling.
Laura motioned to the grounds, or rather to the people using it as their playground.
"Them," the girl whispered, the world barely reaching my ears. "They all look so carefree, so unaware of the horrors of the world. And look at them, Logan," she motioned to a group of children flying on their brooms. "They are using magic to play. They are using the same thing that turned me into a monster to have fun."
I should have known that one conversation wouldn't fix this issue...
"Laura, hey," I spoke softly, kneeling beside her. "We talked about this. It doesn't matter what they know. What matters is that we do, that we survived and got stronger from it. Let them live with their rose-tinted glasses over their eyes. We will thrive and one day achieve the freedom we both want so much."
"I-I," Laura stuttered, bowing her head. "Sorry, I'm being stupid."
I smiled and ruffled her hair lightly. "Nothing to be sorry about, Laura. We are still humans, even if we have a fancy 'In' prefix." I nudged her. "Now, come on. The Chamber is waiting. We can come back to get a better look at the castle tomorrow if you want. Sunrise is quite beautiful around those parts. I swear it has something to do with all the ambient magic that has been gathering here for centuries."
As we rose from the ground, Laura nodded, a smile playing on her lips. "I would like that."
"Then it shall be done," I grinned, walking deeper into the forest.
Like I told Laura, Forbidden Forest received its moniker for a reason. Fantasy creatures lurked at each corner, and magical plants were still common enough around those parts despite the winter just ending. Everything could prove to be dangerous here, and yet it didn't stop my little companion from stopping every once in a while to admire the sights.
She is doing this to pay me back for earlier and discover more about the wizarding world. Double win for her, double the pain in the ass for me...
"Laura..." I groaned when the girl crouched in front of a glowing white flower. "We are almost there. Can you stop with your antics? I know I said that this forest isn't as bad during the day, but still."
Standing up, the girl shot a smirk in my direction. "Antics? What antics?"
I rolled my eyes and pointed to the rock formation ahead of us. It was mostly consumed by greenery but still easily visible. "See? This is our way in."
Laura didn't answer and just followed me as I walked around the rocks until I found a small snake engraved into that stone. "Open."
The rocks in our way slid apart, groaning under the ancient magic that kept them together. Beside me, Laura jumped slightly, and I couldn't help but chuckle. That was what she got for annoying me.
"Here we go, my Lady," I bowed mockingly, motioning to the dark tunnel with my arms.
With a scoff, Laura stepped into the passage, and I followed suit, illuminating our path with a glowing ball of light. We made our way in silence for several minutes before encountering another obstacle. This one, thanks to the various engravings, deserved the title of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
I stopped just a few feet from the wall and addressed my companion with a serious demeanor. "Alright, Laura. I want you to listen closely. Do you understand?"
Hearing the tone of my voice, the girl straightened up and nodded.
"Good," I smiled. "Now then. The moment this door starts opening, I want you to close your eyes and keep them like that until I say so." Before she could protest, I quickly added, "No, I'm not doing this to surprise you. I'm doing it so you don't die. There's a creature behind that door that can kill with just one look, and until I tell it to close its eyes, you better keep yours shut."
Laura gulped. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Logan? What if it kills us anyway?"
"It won't," I denied and took her hand in mine. "The commands I left the Basiliks with will see to that. Besides, I will teleport us out if anything goes wrong. Now close your eyes. We are going in."
Ignoring Laura's incredulous mutter of "basilisk", I nodded as her eye closed. "Alright then. Let's do this." I shut my eyes. "Speak to me, Slytherin, the greatest of Hogwarts Four."
Immediately the entire tunnel was filled with the sound of stone grinding against stone. I grimaced slightly and squeezed Laura's hand in reassurance. She mustn't open her eyes, not yet.
"Young master, you came back!" The basilisk spoke from the depths of Slytherin's chamber, its voice accompanied by the scraping of its body against the ground. "Old master's shade has been whining ever since you left. It has been a while since the shade awoke me from my slumber."
Did he now? I'm touched, really.
I sighed. "Well, I'm back now. You may go to sleep again. I will take care of that cranky old bastard. Also, please keep your eyes closed in the meantime."
The basilisk almost trilled happily. "I will do that, master. As always, I'm at your command."
As the basilisk slithered away, I opened my eyes and nudged Laura. "You can open your eyes, kiddo. Quickly or you will miss it."
Snapped to attention by my voice, Laura's gaze instantly veered to the long slithering form of the basilisk. Its green, scaly skin glinted softly in the back chamber's light, forcing a gasp out of the small girl.
"That was a..." Laura muttered, still gaping at the disappearing visage of the ancient creature.
"A basilisk?" I finished with a grin. "Yep. A thousand-year-old representative of its specie. The fabled monster of the Chamber of Secrets, or less known, the final defense of Hogwarts."
"Damn," She mumbled before turning to me with a wide-eyed stare. "And you command it? Doesn't that make you all-powerful in the wizarding world?"
Resuming the trek deeper into the back chamber, I shrugged. "I do, and no. While the basilisk might be a powerful creature and can be useful in the right situation, it isn't invincible, far from it. In a word of magic, almost everything has a counter, and it happens that a rooster's crow is one for the basilisk."
"A rooster's crow," Laura repeated slowly as she fell into step by my side. "Really? You're not messing with me again, right?"
I chuckled. "You will soon learn to expect weirder things from the magical world. A rooster's crow might seem odd, but believe me, it's just the beginning of a long list of things that will make you want to tear your hair out."
"Yeah? And what do you have on top of that list?"
Stopping just to look Laura in the eyes, I spoke with the most deadpan tone I could muster. "The wizarding world's lack of common sense." And with that, I resumed walking.
"Wait, what?!" Laura called out. "Now you are just making fun of me..."
"Maybe I am," I answered with a laugh as we stepped into the corridor leading to Slytherin's study. I didn't say anything else, staying silent to keep Salazar from hearing us too early.
Of course, from there, it only took us a moment to step into the familiar, illuminated study. I grinned as the chamber was soon filled with a drawl I longed to hear for a few months now.
"Well, well, well. And so the prodigal son returns," Salzar spoke with a glare pointed in my direction. "Where in the name of Godric's soggy balls were you, boy?! I have been waiting for weeks!"
Ah, good old Sal.
Ignoring Laura's squawk, I spread my arms and grinned even wider. "I missed you too, you old bastard."
And that's it.
We are back in Hogwarts... well, not really, but close enough.
I won't bore you with longer AN, so I will just say thank you all for reading, and have a good day/night. Also, check out the links below!
Linktree: linktr. ee/Chaos65 (Delete the space) | Also you can read my original story "A Universe of Bloody Evolution" on RoyalRoad. 100k word (As of now) story with a gamer system focused on growth while fighting against monsters of the void.
PS: You can find me on the Emerald Library discord server: discord. gg/elibrary