13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve: “What Ever Happened to Baby Norbert?”
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Although feeling satisfied from a delicious dinner, Nicholas was helping himself to a bit more dessert when Millie rushed through the doors of the Great Hall and made straight for the Hufflepuff table to find him. She sat down across from him looking breathless.
“Did you hear what happened last night?” asked Millie, her eyes bright with excitement.
“No,” Nicholas said while shrugging his shoulders. As usual, he was probably the last person to hear any sort of gossip. If it weren’t for Millie, he wouldn’t hear it at all.
“Well, according to Leanne, who heard it from Ernie, who heard it from Hannah, who of course heard it from Neville, Potter and Granger freed a dragon — named Norbert — last night! They got in terrible trouble; so did Neville! He was caught out of bed trying to find them.”
“A dragon!” Nicholas said excitedly. “Where did they find a dragon?”
“From what I heard in the girls’ lavatory after lunch earlier today, Hagrid is raising an army of dragons in the Forbidden Forest. This dragon was getting to be too dangerous to hide, so Hagrid needed to send it away. He couldn’t do it himself without exposing his whole army, so he asked Potter and Granger to do it for him.”
“Wow, I’d love to have seen the dragon.”
“You’re in luck! As I was leaving the common room to come find you, I overheard Susan telling Hannah that she was up late last night working on her Moon Mushroom project. While she was working, she was looking out the window and swears she saw the dragon break free and escape back to the forest.” Millie paused and looked at Nicholas expectantly. Nicholas began to shake his head, but before he could speak she continued, “We could go find it tonight! I just want a quick look.”
“You want to willingly sneak out of the dormitory and skulk about in the Forbidden Forest? If we aren’t eaten by a dragon, we might get caught!”
“Exactly! Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“My sense of adventure was used up when you wanted to go snooping down in the third floor corridor that is off limits.”
Nicholas knew he didn’t want to get caught out of bed after hours, but the thought of seeing a real, live dragon quickly vanquished his concerns for rule breaking. With a grin, he replied, “Okay, I’m in.”
Nicholas and Millie sat in the chairs closest to the portrait hole. They worked on their homework and waited for the others to go to bed. Slowly, the common room emptied. When, at last, they were the only two left, they grabbed their cloaks from their bags and made their way out through the portrait hole.
Quietly, they closed the portrait of the bowl of fruit, which blocked the entrance to the Hufflepuff dormitory, and made their way up the stairs out of the basement. Cold wind blew through the deadly quiet corridors. Millie tightened her cloak around her. They made their way out of the front doors and took the side path leading to the greenhouses. The plants inside cast large, looming shadows as the two moved quickly around the back.
“So what’s your plan, Mills?” Nicholas whispered as they made their way across the sloping lawn toward the Forbidden Forest. His breath gleamed shimmery in the moonlight. “Are we just going to walk blindly around the Forest calling out for the dragons?”
“No, you idiot. Use your brain. Hagrid has to visit his dragons, so they can’t be too far off from one of the paths. Dragons are quite large, so the path will be wide. Dragons also like to nest in or near caves that are covered in Shimmerweed. So let’s look for a wide path that has Shimmerweed growing near it.” She quickened her pace as they neared the forest.
The two stopped at the entrance to a path. With a brief look of nervous excitement, they each whispered “Lumos” and ventured into the darkness.
The air felt thicker in the Forest. Cold wind blew through the trees, causing them to creak and bend. Their wand light created twisting and jarring shadows across the path. Every so often they would reach a fork in the path, and Millie would nudge Nicholas in the direction they should go. After 15 minutes, or what felt like hours to Nicholas, Millie let out a small gasp. She pointed. Up ahead, a faint glow could be seen along the side of the path – Shimmerweed. They quickened their pace but remained quiet as they delved deeper down the path, following the ever more prominent Shimmerweed. The trees around them began to thin, and soon the two found themselves approaching a large cave. The trees were sparse around the entrance. Most lay broken and splintered on the forest floor.
A new fear came over Nicholas, like ice water slowly being poured over him. What idiots we are!, he thought. Why on earth did we think we should traipse into the Forbidden Forest at night to find a dragon?! He grabbed Millie’s arm. She turned to look at him. Her eyes were large and shone brightly in the wand light. He couldn’t tell if she was thinking the same thing he was. She grabbed his hand and clasped it tightly. Then she pulled him along as she slowly walked into the cave’s entrance.
Even with the cool night air, the cave was damp and humid. A musky scent of dirt filled their nostrils. A sickening crunching noise came from beneath their shoes; the cave floor was covered with the bones of numerous animals. Millie raised her wand a little higher to shine the light further into the cave. The light fell upon a nest of eggs. They moved closer to see them better.
“Cool,” Nicholas said in a barely audible whisper. “Now can we leave?”
A low rumbling growl emitted from somewhere in the cave’s darkness. Nicholas froze in fear. Millie slowly stepped toward the entrance, grabbing Nicholas’s arm as she went. A loud noise filled the cave, like hard steel scraping against rocks. Nicholas moved his wand to shine a little more light toward the rear of the cave. A dragon’s tail was briefly visible, before it slithered out of sight.
Finally overcoming the immobilizing terror, Millie gripped Nicholas’s arm harder, swerved him around, and began to run toward the faint light of the opening, Nicholas stumbling behind her. A roar unlike anything she had ever heard blasted her eardrums. The roar reverberated off the cave walls and shook her to her core. She heard a dense thud behind her. She glanced behind. Nicholas had tripped over a skull lying on the ground. She went to help him up, but the sight before her eyes froze her where she stood.
It was not a dragon looming before her in the cave. It was a creature standing at least 50 feet tall, with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of dragon – a Chimera! Saliva drooled from the mouth of the lion’s head. Its great, black, scaly tail whipped about, smashing rocks and bones to rubble. Its eyes seemed to hold Millie in her place. Millie felt time stand still. Then, in a flash, everything happened at once. The Chimaera moved swiftly forward, grabbed Nicholas’s leg with its teeth, and flung him up in the air. Millie screamed in horror, but nothing compared to the screams of Nicholas. His body flew like a rag doll, bounced off the ceiling of the cave, and landed in the Chimera’s open and waiting mouth.
Millie ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Tears streamed down her face as she stumbled over the bones of the previous victims. She could see the moonlight streaming in through the cave’s entrance. She was just feet away from it. Something hard hit her back, and she fell face forward. She could not move. The Chimera’s hoof weighed down upon her, pinning her where she lay. She could feel the warm breath of the monster on her neck. She tried to scream for help, hoping anything or anyone would come to her aid, but she could not draw the breath. She closed her eyes. I only wanted to see the dragon. I’m so sorry, Nicholas, she thought.
The Chimera bent lower. The crunch of death filled the cave.[divider]
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