Spooky StrollHoliday Level:
A True HauntingGenre:
Neville, Nikki, Professor SproutSummary:
An evening alone goes awry...Warnings:
“Luna once told me that there were creatures in the Forbidden Forest that hibernate nearly all year, only coming alive during the month of October.”
When Nikki didn’t say anything, Neville turned his head to look at her. “Oh, Nikki, I’m so sorry!” He exclaimed, taking her hand and squeezing it tightly, trying to soothe away the frightened look on her face. “I shouldn’t have said that, it just crossed my mind.” Considering their predicament, how could he not have thought of that comment from his eccentric friend.
A simple walk around the lake for Neville and Nikki had turned in to a mild nightmare.
Neville had his N.E.W.T. level Herbology class before dinner, and on his walk back to the castle had noticed what a pleasantly mild fall evening it was turning out to be. A slightly crisp chill, perfect to enjoy in a warm cloak. The trees were bedecked with deep red and gold leaves, and the lake was relatively calm, save where the Giant Squid was flexing its tentacles, creating small waves and occasionally poking them above the surface.
So when Neville had bumped in to Nikki before dinner, bumbling for a few conversational words, the idea to ask her for a walk around the grounds after dinner had tumbled out almost naturally. Though, Neville hadn’t been able to eat much, nor wipe the grin off his face.
Halfway around their leisurely stroll around the lake in the dusk, the sky had quickly turned to pitch, and the wind had rustled and blown itself into a miserable, howling gale. The rain was pouring down, pelting their faces and drenching them with icy drops.
Nikki tried to smile at Neville, she really did, but it came out as more of a grimace. So she gripped his hand more tightly and said, “Let’s just get in as soon as we can.”
Neville nodded, letting silence promote speedier progress to the front doors of the castle. Neville and Nikki both tried to ignore the sounds of howling that was more than just the wind. Nikki was not superstitious, and she’d heard of Luna (who hadn’t heard of the girl, especially after her involvement last spring in the Department of Mysteries?) and her silly ideas, but she was inclined to believe the Ravenclaw might be right about the Forest because it definitely seemed scarier than she’d ever found it before.
Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that she’d never been out in a storm as fierce as this, and certainly not with the nervous butterflies she got from holding Neville’s hand.
That might have been what made it different.
Whatever it was, Nikki was glad when they reached the stone steps leading to the castle doors. The couple eagerly scrambled up the slippery stones and reached the great wooden doors, both of them pulling to open them.
A few moments more of tugging didn’t get them any closer to being safe and warm inside of the castle.
“I don’t understand,” Nikki yelled loud enough to be heard over the storm, “why would we be locked out? It can’t be much after...”
Neville looked at his watch. “It is. Curfew was about eight minutes ago.”
Neville sighed and tried to think of what to do. Being locked out of the castle was not what he’d planned on happening the first time he was officially alone with Nikki. This time last year he probably wouldn’t have even asked Nikki out, but he’d proved to himself that he truly was a brave Gryffindor after the ordeal at the Ministry with Harry and the Death Eaters. Even as Neville was thinking, there was a change in the air that made his skin break out in goose flesh. Nikki drew closer to him, and Neville noticed there was something approaching them. Some dark figure was approaching them. Neville pulled Nikki behind him protectively and drew out his wand, shouting, “IMPEDIMENTA!”
The spell seemed to go clean through the figure without any effect, and Neville’s heart rate shot up quickly. What was this creature? He cast light on the steadily approaching figure with a quick, “Lumos.”
The Shadowy figure, once illuminated, diminished, giving way to the small form of a snowy, white bird, about the size and shape of a raven. The bird also had eerily red eyes. It was a Spectrinal. Neville didn’t say anything to Nikki about this because this was one of the creatures Luna had claimed only stalked through the night during the haunting month of Halloween, and he didn’t want to think of the other spooky creatures himself, let alone frighten Nikki.
“Let’s see if we can get into the greenhouses,” Neville suggested.
“Good idea,” Nikki replied, still clutching Neville’s other hand as they made their way across the grounds with the light from Neville’s wand.
The greenhouses were indeed a good idea. It hadn’t taken them long to reach them and then get inside. More importantly, it didn’t bring them very close to the forest. The interior of the greenhouse was warm, and they quickly dried their robes and set some small Heating Charms to hover in the air around them.
Finally, warm and dry, they were able to relax and think more clearly about how they were actually going to get back into the castle. Nikki opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when there was a huge crash of some pot falling to the floor and shattering, making the two jump. Neville and Nikki silently nodded and raised their wands in order to find out the source of the sound.
“Nikki, follow me and cover my back,” Neville whispered, and they set off around the greenhouse slowly, fearing to make any noise. They could hear rustling sound and scraping of something rough on the floor. Then a figure popped up between some plants and let out a scream, dropping her shovel and her wand. Neville and Nikki also let out their own terrified yelps.
“Longbottom and Nikki!” Professor Sprout trilled, clutching at her heart. “What in the Devil’s Snare are you two doing out of the school at this time of night, and in my greenhouse no less?”
When two of her favorite students explained why they were out of bounds and that they’d shown up at the doors of the school just a few minutes after curfew, having completely lost track of time, Professor Sprout smiled sympathetically at them. She sighed. “Well, I will have to give you a detention. Accident or not, you know you’re not allowed of your common rooms after curfew.”
Neville and Nikki nodded in understanding.
"Let’s get you back inside though.”
Neville walked Nikki right to the entrance of her common room. They paused there, smiling at each other. Nikki found Neville was a very easy person to talk to and a great listener. “Thanks for the walk, tonight.,” she said.
“I always pegged you as one to enjoy unknown adventure.” They both chuckled, and then Neville leaned in and kissed Nikki’s cheek. “I’ll see you in detention.”