The Forbidden Forest

Be careful of the curse that falls on young lovers
Starts so soft and sweet and turns them to hunters
A man who's pure of heart and says his prayers by night
May still become a wolf when the autumn moon is bright
-Florence and the Machine


5. Chapter Five

In some ways, the house was almost the same as the house Elise had lived in before her father died. In the same aspect, it was entirely different. The house itself was an average home, only built out of the way and far from other people. Elise always felt like she lived in the middle of the woods, but the distance from the house to the nearest village wasn’t very far at all. But to a child with no way to travel except for her own two feet, it might as well have been the moon.

Patricia did everything she could to make Elise feel comfortable in the new place. She’d moved all of their things from the old house that would remind them of the home they’d left behind. But there was so much missing now. Her father was the biggest hole in their hearts, and there were other things she missed too. She missed the sea of grass outside the garden gate. She missed her neighborhood friends and her school. She missed being normal.

Even though her mother wanted her to feel at home, she also wanted her to become accustomed to the world she was now going to be part of. After the war had ended, she subscribed to a wizarding newspaper that arrived every morning delivered by owl. She tried to read the articles to Elise, but the girl showed no real interest in politics and business. Even magical ones. The only delivery she looked forward to was the Wolfsbane potion that arrived once a month.

There was still so much about the world that she didn’t know yet. Patricia had offered to order Elise’s school books so she could learn a few things before school started, but Elise politely declined. She didn’t feel like she was ready yet. She was just barely attempting to adjust to the monthly changes hat made her want to rip her mother in half. She didn’t want to deal with this entirely new world and culture that had come along with it.

So she didn’t think much of the cat when it appeared in the woods around her house over a year later. She had spent most of the day outside since she was finally free from the effects of the lunar cycle. The potions worked, in that they stopped her from turning into an animal, but the three days of the full moon became more and more unbearable every month. She was bedridden for three days. And her mother had taken to strapping her wrists down to stop her from clawing at her skin in an attempt to set the beast free.

They hadn’t known how she would do the first few times, and so there were scars on her face and arms from where her claws had grown too long and she’d attempted to rip her own skin off.

She was standing in the stream when she first noticed the cat. The stream ran through the property and she’d spent the afternoon searching for frogs and toads. She was wearing rainboots and a light dress that was sopping wet and dripping with mud.

The cat stood on the edge of the bank. It was watching her quietly so that she hadn’t even noticed it approach. It was a tabby with black markings on its face, and it had caught her chasing down a school of toad spawn.

“Oh, hello,” Elise said when she noticed the animal. Its tail twitched in response. She sloshed out of the water and went to greet her new friend. A cat was far more interesting to her than a bunch of toads. She didn’t have a pet at home. Her mother was worried that she might hurt it. She never said it, but Elise knew that was the reason.

The girl plopped down on the grass beside the cat and went to pat its head. It had allowed her two good pats before it walked off back toward the path. She jumped up to follow after it. It didn’t seem to want to be scratched, but it looked like it knew where it was going.

So Elise followed it back to her house. As they walked along the path together, side by side, she came up with numerous different questions for her mother. She was planning on begging her to let her keep the cat. She would tell her that they’d bonded. It was a stray. It needed a home and it had chosen them. But when they reached the gate that led to the garden, the cat stayed behind. Elise pushed the gate open and looked back at the cat.

“Come on then,” she instructed, as she waved toward the small house. But the cat only swished its tail.

“Darling,” her mother said, stepping outside. “We got an owl from the…” And her eyes went wide before she could finish her sentence. Elise turned back to look at the cat so she could quickly explain it was a friendly animal, but instead of a cat there stood a tall woman.

She was an older woman with robes of green and black. Her black hair was pulled into a tight bun and she had a set of squared glasses that looked remarkably like the tabby’s stripes. She seemed like a severe woman, but she offered Elise a friendly smile anyway.

“Hello, Miss Mills,” she said. Then she turned toward Patricia. “And Mrs. Mills. My name is Minerva McGonagall. I am the headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“Headmistress?” Patricia stammered, still shocked by having seen a cat turn into a woman.

“Yes,” the headmistress confirmed.

“Forgive me. Please come in. Have a seat. I received your owl, but I was expecting you much later. I forget how quickly your kind travel.”

“I would like that very much, thank you.” The professor walked past the child and offered a short smile before she was led into the house. But then she turned back at the door and looked at the girl. “Are you free to join us, Miss Mills?” she asked.

Elise nervously began rubbing her hands on her dress. She was suddenly very aware of how ridiculous she must have looked. She had grown thin in the past year. Her hair had thinned and the scars on her face and bare arms felt like bright pink ribbons. She stood on the path in a dirty wet dress with muddy boots and this queenly woman wanted her to join them for tea.

“Come along, darling,” Patricia said at the door. So Elise quickly followed after them.

Though Remus Lupin had been a professor at Hogwarts for a short period of time, and the Weasley family had all attended, Professor McGonagall was her first real connection to Hogwarts. Her mother led them into the homely kitchen where she sat at the table beside the small girl. Patricia bumbled around the kitchen in an attempt to get the kettle on, but she was unaccustomed to visitors and seemed startled by the headmistress.

“Have you come to take me to Hogwarts?” Elise asked as she anxiously attempted to hide her scars behind bony fingers and stringy brown hair.

“I’ve come to bring you your acceptance letter,” she explained.

“Doesn’t it usually come by owl?”

“In most cases, yes. But your case is special, isn’t it?” Then Elise felt even more ashamed of her scars. She reached her fingers up to touch the ones on her face, but McGonagall seemed to pay them no mind.

“Is it wise to send her to Hogwarts in her condition?” Patricia asked as she got the kettle on the stove and took the seat across from them.

“She is hardly the first of her kind to attend our institution, and she will certainly not be the last. We think it would be best for her to receive a magical education from magical educators. She is a bright young woman and we will do whatever we can to keep her safe and happy.” Patricia didn’t seem convinced.

“But she’s just a child.” Professor McGonagall nodded once.

“And she should be with other children. She should experience life the best that she can.” Elise thought of what Lupin had told her the first and last time she had ever seen him. He told her to live to the best of her ability.

“I want to go to Hogwarts, mum,” she finally said. Both of the women turned to the girl and Patricia nodded in response.

“I don’t have much money,” she told the headmistress. Professor McGonagall waved that away.

“Attendance is free,” she said. “And an anonymous doner has offered to cover the cost of supplies. We only ask that she be ready for school come September First.”

“An anonymous doner?” Patricia questioned. “Who would want to help us? We hardly know anyone.”

“It does not matter. Your daughter will be well taken care of at Hogwarts. And she will return home for Christmas and the summer. I understand that it will be quiet here without her, but there are other parents just like you. And the Weasley family has offered to send you correspondence. Patricia shook her head.

“They’ve suffered so much. I would not want to burden them.”

“Friendship is no burden. Which is why we think it best to send Miss Mills to Hogwarts so that she can make friends and lead a normal life.”

“It’s what Lupin wanted,” Elise said. She was looking down at the scarred hands in her lap, but she could see them turn their heads to her again. “When I met him—after—he said he wanted me to go to Hogwarts and live. To make friends and fall in love and just—live.” She saw McGonagall nod and pinch her lips as if to hold back some unseen emotion. But Elise looked up and focused on her mother.

“You can experience life here too, darling,” Patricia said. “You don’t have to go away to live a good life.”

“I don’t want to leave you behind,” the girl admitted. “But I want to go to Hogwarts. I want to be—normal.” Her mother nodded slowly and didn’t bother to disguise the emotions she was feeling. Her eyes were glassy as she turned them back to the headmistress.

“September first,” she said. McGonagall nodded.



'm sorry these chapters are so short. I have a hard time grasping canonical characters, so I tend to try and skim over that as quickly as I can. But there will be more interaction with original characters than anything else, so once I get that settled I can stretch them.


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