Hey there! Welcome to Wizarding Realm! We are an Alternate Universe HP role-play set in the present day Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please register with a first and last name, properly capitalized.
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One of life’s most precious gifts took shape in a friend. Of course, not everybody would be lucky enough to get the ‘awesome’ gift of the bunch, which, obviously, was code for ‘best friend’. Because, let’s face it, anyone could just get a friend – that was, for the most part, an easy enough task. But to get a best friend? A friend, who, happened to be the best one of all? That wasn’t something anyone could just get. A best friend – in Alric’s opinion – was like hidden treasure; they just sort of were there, waiting around, doing their own thing as they unconsciously waited for you to find them. No amount of time or endless conversations could just produce a best friend either, not in the seventh year’s mind anyway. A friend like that who had been there since the beginning – those were close friends, and close friends were perfectly wonderful in their own way, as they could provide one with enough happiness and adventure to satisfy a lifetime. But it was a best friend who made time stop altogether, and enriched not just some man’s life, but his entire universe. The most amazing part about that was that best friends seemed to do this effortlessly, as if they weren’t even aware of how powerful their presence was. With all that considered, surely most would agree that a best friend was, indeed, an ‘awesome’ gift of life. The unfortunate part of it all was that not everyone was lucky enough to find this special gift. Surely every being had one ‘awesome’ gift floating around somewhere in the world – it just happened to be by chance should one ever find it. For Alric, he believed he had been among the lucky lot who had received the ‘awesome’ gift, by chance, and, at a time when he had least expected it. Those were the best kinds of gifts though, weren’t they? The unexpected ones? This had been the case for Alric at the very least. But with a person that special in his life, it certainly shouldn’t have come to a surprise that he was entirely determined to make his best friend’s birthday one to remember. The seventh year wasn’t trying to outdo any previous birthdays, nor was he trying to make this particular birthday ‘the best of all time’. He was merely trying to make this one a happy one for his best friend, one that he could enjoy and look back upon with contented eyes.
That was pretty much what Alric thought Harry deserved – a happy, fun-filled birthday that he could store in his memory banks as one being nothing less than pleasant. Being that this was Harry that the seventh year was talking about, pleasant in this statement referred to something along the lines of ‘exciting’ or ‘adventurous’, since the eagle was a boy who seemed to strive for only the most exciting things in life. Al could relate to his friend’s desire for finding interesting things, though his purpose in wanting that was solely to enrich his brother’s life. This of course only brought up one of the most amazing things about Harry that Alric happened to appreciate a lot. When with Harry, the Hufflepuff found himself in a place where his troubles could barely reach him. Whether he was wandering around with the eagle or watching as he experimented with different things, Alric could find a sort of haven that he could escape to and, for the most part, forget his worries; all thanks to Harry. The sixth year just happened to be one of those amazing sort of hidden jewels that, unfortunately, most of the world either took for granted or didn’t really notice at all. Why this was the case, the wizard hadn’t a clue, because when he looked at Harry, Alric saw one of the most intriguing things that could have ever been created. The Ravenclaw was, he supposed, of average height and average looks, perhaps on the skinny side, but overall he seemed to be labeled as average, and because of this label, the common misconception about him was that he was normal. This was a horrible, horrible lie, because it simply wasn’t true. Harry Berkwood was a genius limited to the “rules” set by everyone around him, yet the fascinating thing about him was that he didn’t seem to let that hinder his ability or his will to seek out the unknown. The eagle was so much more than he let on; so much more than just some average sixth year with a decent mind and interesting clothes. He was, perhaps unconsciously, a master of using normality as a façade that hardly so much as hinted at his true greatness. He was incomprehensibly one of the purest, gentlest and rarest of human beings, and the most wondrous thing about it all was that was Alric was lucky enough to be able to call him his best friend. The boy couldn’t have offered the Hufflepuff anything greater than that.
For someone as special as Harry, Alric would accept no less than spectacular when it came down to choosing what to do for his birthday. As fate would have it, the seventh year had been fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a timeworn map stuck within the pages of an old text he had randomly decided to flip through in the library one day. Knowing full well that his best friend’s birthday was approaching fast, Al had went and saved the map in his journal and had decided that the old piece of parchment would be his gift to the eagle. Harry did, after all, enjoy discovering things, and the Hufflepuff couldn’t possibly see how an old map could lead them to anything but something worth discovering. That was sort of the purpose of maps –or, well, that was the purpose of maps to those who had no hand in the creation of the thing. But the discovery of something usually went along with the finding of a map, especially with the old and forgotten ones. This made the Ravenclaw’s birthday quite exciting for Alric, though, just being able to spend a day in celebration of the eagle’s life was exciting enough for him that he wouldn’t have minded simply sitting around somewhere and enjoying the boy’s company. This scenario was averted mainly because Harry wasn’t the type to just sit around – that was boring, and Alric understood this, and, actually, was pretty grateful that the eagle was so adamant about avoiding things that were ‘boring’. Now, the wizard didn’t mind sitting around in the least bit, that’s not the point he was trying to get across. Alric merely found that he could appreciate going around and doing things just as much as he could about sitting around. Being that this was Harry’s day, the Hufflepuff was more than happy to take to the former and await his friend’s arrival with much anticipation.
Taking a glance outside the doors of the Great Hall, Alric found that the weather was on their side for the day, as the temperature outside felt just perfect for a day of exploring. The sun shone brightly above the many layers of clouds that scattered themselves throughout the sky, several holes of light seeping through the gaps within the fluffy things, providing the land below it with fantastically patterned shadows that fell upon the earth gently and added several spots where one could enjoy the outdoors under a cool, umbrella of sorts. He watched silently as a wave of air swept across his line of vision, carrying along with it random clusters of pollen and leaves to some unknown location. The air was coated in a scent that smelled of both moist earth and flowers; a great scent to many who were lucky enough to pick up on it. This was the type of weather that allowed great things to happen; the kind that surely had permitted the great explorers of ancient times to find their most spectacular discoveries. Hidden coves, lost and forgotten villages, ancient, sand-worn ruins - these were the kinds of the things that swept through the seventh years mind as he imagined what the explorers before him had spent their days uncovering. Perhaps it was a bit immature of him, but... Alric couldn't shake the slight sense of excitement that came when he considered the possibility of this expedition resulting in the discovery of a couple ancient ruins here and there. The eighteen year old had wandered through many parts of the area surrounding Hogwarts before, but he certainly hadn't gone through every inch of land around it, so... while it was highly unlikely that he and the eagle would find any ruins or other such things, the Hufflepuff couldn't help but allow himself the moment to appreciate his childish idea that they could find something of the sort with the map. He supposed he'd just have to wait and see though, which was perfectly fine with him because as much as he would like to begin his journey for the day, Alric couldn't have imagined starting without his best friend at his side. Er, actually, he couldn't imagine the journey occurring without him aiding his friend in the expedition, because... well, it was Harry's day, and while Al had found the map first, the thing was a present that he had already given away to his friend, and thus it was he who was tagging along for the day. Having corrected his thoughts, the Hufflepuff turned his attention to the inside of the castle again, and patiently waited for his friend to show up.
Sometimes, there were just days you knew were going to be amazing, from the very first moment of wakefulness. It was just impossible for them to be any other way. All disasters great and small wouldn’t dear sully such a day, wouldn’t even consider turning up for a visit. They would just have to reschedule for another, lesser day, one that didn’t dawn quite so gloriously as the likes of this one. They could come back on a Tuesday, or boring old Sunday, but weren’t allowed anywhere near Saturday, that most exciting of all days… Hang on a second. It was Tuesday. Well, never mind. This day was essentially, in a metaphorical sense, a Saturday. That was the bit that mattered in the end.
This wasn’t just any dull and boring Tuesday, though. Oh, it looked like it on the surface, there was no denying that. On the surface, it was, at its most basic level, your average Tuesday, perhaps a bit more on the cheery and splendid side weather-wise than one could usually expect from Scottish weather, but it wasn’t the sort of thing one wrote home about. “Dear Mum and Dad, school’s fine, weather perfectly pleasant, need more pocket money for sweets. Love, Harry.” That would just be weird, and anyway, the sixth year’s parents were likely to think their son had completely lost him mind. Actually, come to think of it, they probably thought that frequently. It was sort of nice to realize he didn’t need to worry about how he sounded to his parents, at least in Harry’s opinion. He didn’t spend too much time being bothered by other people’s thoughts of him unless they were particularly close friends—or were standing in front of him and yelling about what they thought at that particular moment; those people were hard to ignore—but still, no one wanted to worry their parents with bouts of complete insanity. If they weren’t likely to worry, it was all fine. That meant the eagle could do as he pleased. Within reason, anyway.
He was getting completely off-track, but the Ravenclaw didn’t care as he bounded down the stairs from the common room, deftly dodging passerby in a fashion that could only be described as part-jumping, part-skipping and part wild arm flailing that was mostly a result of losing his balance from attempting the jumping and skipping on stone stairs. The boy was getting some rather odd looks, but never mind that, it wasn’t important. What was important, what was so very, incredibly, vitally important was that Harry Berkwood was happy. Splendidly happy, excitedly happy, unquestionably and undeniably hap-py. Oh, sure, the boy was usually happy. The eagle found very little in life to be unhappy about. But today was special, today was different. Today, this most glorious of days, Harry was seventeen. As far as the wizarding community was concerned, the sixth year was now legally an adult. Odd, though, the Ravenclaw didn’t feel like an adult. What were adults meant to feel like? The boy remembered asking his grandmother once what it was like to be old, and the woman had said something about aches and pains and not being able to see so well anymore, things like that. Well, Harry didn’t have any aches and pains, and his vision was nearly perfect. Age seemed like a pretty arbitrary way of determining adulthood, like there was some sort of transformation that took place at the stroke of midnight on a person’s seventeenth—or eighteenth if you were a muggle—birthday, and suddenly you had everything necessary to go out and lead a normal, productive life. If that was what happened, the seventeen year old reasoned he must have slept right through it, because he still felt exactly the same. Except, no, that wasn’t quite true, was it? He felt better than the same, he felt splendid. But that was probably because, at that very moment, he was on his way to meet up with his best friend for an adventure. Who could be anything but exuberant at a moment like this? It didn’t matter that Harry didn’t know what they would find, or what the journey would be like to wherever that map Alric had found would lead them. None of that really mattered, at least not in the “preparing to go” stages. No, none of that was important because the main attraction of this whole thing was getting to do something exciting with his friend to celebrate the eagle’s birthday. It didn’t matter what they did, really. Well, that wasn’t strictly true. It mattered a little. This wasn’t a day to sit around and chat. Maybe to walk and chat, but there was definitely to be no sitting.
As the boy entered the entrance hall, he spotted the badger. Waving a hand over his head, not caring if Alric had seen him without the gesture or not, Harry made his way over to his friend, his usual grin already playing across his face. “Hey, you ready?”
A child-like smirk flashed over the Hufflepuff’s face as he heard the familiar voice of his friend. “Harry, hey.” He said coolly as he whipped around to greet the eagle. His smile faded as the question of whether or not he was ready to leave was brought up. “Oh. Actually, I’ve forgotten something. A moment, please?” Though he hardly waited for a response. “Happy Birthday Harry!” He said, pulling the eagle in a ‘manly’ embrace—though it was probably about as manly as a baby lamb— before handing him the thin box with the map inside. “Alright.” -- he grinned once more -- “I’m ready now.” With that, the badger opened the doors to the outside world, allowing the birthday boy to take the lead before letting go of the door behind him. The air outside was even better when one was fully submerged in it, as the coolness of it hugged around his bare skin and lightly touched the hairs on his arms. It all reminded him of just how perfect the weather was – perfect for exploring, that is. The atmosphere, the company, the mission – all together they combined to form the perfectly smug grin on the Hufflepuff’s face that would no doubt remain there for the rest of the day. And why shouldn’t it have stayed there? The clouds, cottony and aloof as they slowly drifted by made the seventh year feel as if they had all the time in the world to follow their map wherever it would it would take them. Harry, obviously happy as usual and raring to go, his eyes sparkling with wonder, displaying clearly his wonderfully curious nature, all aided in keeping Alric’s own excitement alive. And, finally, the mission. Oh, but what a fantastic mission it was, wasn’t it? Imagine, for one measly second, the glorious feeling that overcame a person when they found something old, something mysterious, something that held so much potential for leading to great things. That exuberant feeling that crept up on a person like a shadow, overtaking them when they least expected it, perhaps even frightening one at first sight, yet containing within it something – some sort of essence of purity and spiritualness that… Well, how could anyone not love that feeling? Not appreciate it or crave it? And that was just the initial feeling that came with finding the thing! Though, that explanation was about as accurate as any other could get when trying to explain what the Hufflepuff was feeling at that moment, for there were not words that could do his true emotions justice. It was a wonder to the seventh year why there were some people who would rather stay indoors or stick to partying or some other ‘normal’ activity instead of being outdoors; out in the open and seeing what the world had to offer. Was this not a normal desire? Man began in the outdoors, didn’t he? The desire, at the very least, seemed natural to Alric – almost instinctive, even. There was just something that the outdoors contained – whether it was the murky darkness of the swamp, the obscure view of the mountains, the sweet aroma of the flowers, or the ever changing sky above – there was something special outside; something that could only be created by Mother Nature herself, and could only properly be appreciated by the inhabitants of her earth. It truly was a shame that not all could indulge in the uplifting feeling that came when exploring the outdoors. The hidden treasures that were out there were endless, and just knowing this little fact fueled the eighteen year old’s desire to live. To be able to see just an iota of the wonders of the world – that would have made the perfect life for Alric. To live unlimited in sight and sound, to drift onward to foreign places, specifically the kind that were untouched by man for centuries… Perfection. That was all perfection in its purest, most elegant form. And Alric had been permitted to get a taste of this perfection; just a tiny nibble that had the great possibility of tasting sour, yet also had the great possibility of resulting in the sweetest thing the boy could ever taste – all with a great friend at his side.
In all his musings, the boys had finally come upon the desired path. Alric took note of how worn down the dirt looked, every crack appearing to have been filled with enough matted down dust that they were barely visible anymore. Carefully the badger pulled out his journal, jotting down quickly everything he saw, and then turning a few pages back to his personal copy of the map and its instructions. “We must go… North. 28 paces north, mate.” He said calmly, using his words to refocus himself on the task at hand. Adventuring was wonderful, so wonderful that one could easily get lost in the dreaminess of the sport, and, while dreamers were fine, it was never wise to dive head first into an expedition with a dreamy head. Good adventurers were well submerged between the line of dreamland and reality, but great adventurers were perfectly capable of staying within one realm when it was required of them. There was no other time that would require one to be most alert to the quirks of reality then during an expedition, thus the centering of all the badger’s senses into the mission. He rose a finger – the wind was blowing from the west, lightly though, as if there were merely a giant gently exhaling his air across the land. Pale green eyes looked up and noted the angles of light that seeped through the holes in the clouds above, all of which seemed to point in accordance to the direction of the wind. The airborne insects hovered gracefully over the plots of flowers on either side of the dirt road, and over yonder there appeared to be younger students frolicking over the still returning grassing, laughing and teasing as young students did. Everything seemed normal and right, so the badger motioned to his companion to go forth with him. He chose his steps carefully as they entered the forest at the end of the dirt road, making sure not to lose his footing by stepping into a hole. The grass of the forest was coarse and long, clearly showing how unkempt and wild nature could be. There seemed to be varying areas of dry and damp earth around the forest; the dry areas soon merging from the entrance of the forest into the near-swampy part whose earth was damp and covered in the green dye of surrounding plants. The lightly bitter stink of moss coated the air, filling the seventh year’s lungs in the slightest, almost making him desire to take in the scent a little more. But the greens of the forest kept him from giving in to his desire, as they pleased his eyes far more than the scent pleased his nose. It was really fantastic to notice just how many greens covered a forest. There were the darks that seemed to remain closer towards the earth, and the brilliant lights that seemed to hover just out of reach, almost symbolically pointing out that the world of the sky was brighter than world below it. And then there was the middle part – ‘limbo’ if you will – where the darks and lights clashed together, creating the very essence of war right before their eyes. The lights predominated one area where the shrubs were thin and the towering bushels of larger plants were clearly victorious. Then there were the spots that hailed the darks, whose intensity overshadowed the lime greens and pure greens as easily as it would be for a lion to overpower a mouse. It was beautiful – a perfectly beautiful ‘war’ that produced a blend of darks and lights in a way that no human could ever imagine. The dark and light war didn’t end with the greens though, as another was occurring at the same time, except among the browns of the wood. Two fantastic wars of colors were peacefully being shown off to the badger and his eagle friend, two that, more than likely, weren’t even appreciated by a third of the student population. How sad – to think that this phantasmic scene was clearly there, painted by the unknown hands of something, and yet had no one to stare at it in awe. Well, no one aside from Alric and, perhaps, Harry if he found himself drawn to the scene as Al did.
Scenery aside, Alric glanced down to his journal to reaffirm their position. His fingers were pressed down against the frame of the book to ensure that he wouldn’t drop it. The wizard couldn’t imagine losing his journal… or any of his other, already filled journals either. The eighteen year old used all his journals to hoard all the knowledge of interesting sights and tricks that he had learned about through rumors, trial and error, and even some that he had stumbled up during expeditions like the one he was in now. As such, the badger was a master at recording every detail of his journeys, jotting down everything he saw, heard, and even smelled if he felt it was a necessary detail. So, rather instinctively, Alric began taking note of how long it had taken them to get from the start of the forest to where they were now, which happened to be a snug pocket of clear ground surrounded by fallen trees and plants. Turning to Harry, the Hufflepuff asked, “Mind if I take a peek at the map?” Sure that his friend wouldn’t mind, Al merely stood behind the boy and peeked over his shoulder. The dark dashed lines that marked the trail on the map seemed to stop and fade into the area that they were at. This confused the badger, as, normally, a map would show a trail that ended with an “x” rather than one that merely faded into nothing. It was peculiar… very peculiar. “Perhaps we need to look at the clues behind it now?” Al suggested, stepping aside to give his friend some moving space. Swiftly the Hufflepuff brought his hand to his face, licked the tip of his index finger lightly and turned the page of his journal, leaving the thumb of the hand that held the book behind so as to not lose his place. Behind the page of Alric’s hand drawn version of the map was the list of riddles that appeared in champagne-red colored ink at the lower left corner of the parchment. The fact that the riddles had been written by hands skilled in the art of cursive made Al recreate his own copy in his own journal as a way to practice his cursive skills. The riddles hadn’t come out as he had hoped, but they did provide him with a sight that he could be less envious of. Getting back on track though, the riddle read:
1. Beyond the stone beast, an unforgiving shadow seeks to repent.
“Interesting… what do you suppose it means, Harry?” It could have been anything really, though Alric presumed that between the eagle and himself, the true answer to it would be easy enough to find. Twisting at his waist to look around, Alric’s alerted eyes glanced over everything within his sight. His pale green irises searched endlessly through the sea of trees around them, gliding over the green plants smoothly, yet peering underneath the holes between their leaves in case something out of the ordinary was hiding within the shrubs. The left side of his view was covered in more trees and brushes, and the right side of his view mimicked the left near perfectly, save for one corner at the top (directly diagonal to the badger), covered by trees whose branches seemed to mask a sort of opening. “Harry, this way, please!” He suggested as he began to head toward it. Pushing back the branches that were in the way, Alric came upon a stone clearing, albeit a small one, but large enough to warrant an investigation. The stone ground had many grooves and crevasses that the badger needed to watch out for, many of which that were probably harmless and not booby trapped, but Alric enjoyed playing it safe. Near center of the stone covered clearing was a cluster of rocks, containing one central rock that seemed to be carved into the shape of a beast, and several smaller ones whose fate belonged at the foot of the central mineral. Steadily the seventh year made his way to the rock, taking mental notes of all the angled cuts it bore and of its overall shape. It was lion in form, yet its face seemed deformed, perhaps from old age? Or perhaps on purpose to ward off any unwanted guests to the clearing? Whatever the case, Alric felt confident that this was where they needed to be. He looked around the stone beast, soon finding a dark hole, one that was lower than the one in the beast’s back. Directly behind this hole (and the entire rock) was a tree that contained an even darker hole. He examined the tree closely, taking in the uneven surface as he touched the bark with his finger tips. Looking up, Al could see another hole, one that was directly pointed at the back of the beast. Pulling out his wand, the seventh year aimed at the lower hole within the tree and uttered, ”Lumos.” A second later, and—nothing happened. Brows pressed firmly together as he stared at the hole in confusion. Perhaps he needed a bit more ‘juice’ to his spell? Shaking his head slightly, Alric pointed his wand at the hole again and said, ”Lumos Maxima.” The light that emitted from his wand shot off, shining so brightly that the Hufflepuff had to look away for fear of going blind. There must have been something within the tree that could deflect light, for not long after sending his light-spell into the tree, a second light shot from out of it, specifically from out the hole located higher on the tree. The beam of white light flew into the back of the stone carving, disappearing within it in a matter of seconds. Alric whipped around to see what would happen next, his eyes concentrated solely on the stone in front of him. He watched in amazement as the light began to ‘stick’ to the embossed lines that made up the figures form. The light moved up the stone lines, lighting up every path that eventually led to the beast’s head. Quickly the badger ran to face the front of the beast, just barely making it to see its eyes light up. From the eyes, the light shot off again, this time, in the form of a shadow that created an arrow on the ground. The stone carving was positioned northeast, and Alric observed the shadowed arrow pointing exactly east, both details of which he noted down in his journal. His pace to observe the area the arrow was pointing in was quick, as he had no idea how long the light would last. He made it to the tip of the arrow just in time, for only a second after stopping, the light disappeared. Staring off into the distance, Alric could see another dirt path, one that was thinner than the previous one and outlined in various logs, rocks, and wild plants. His old grin appeared on his face once more as he called Harry to go over with him. Delicately he closed his journal, slipped his pen into his pocket and moved on to follow the path. “Looks promising already, doesn’t it?” he said, turning to Harry as he walked, “I wonder what we’ll find…”
Harry was the sort of person who was just easily excited. He really didn’t think this was a bad thing. Sure, it meant that sometimes he was the only person interested in something, but that was just because most people had too wide a definition of the word “mundane.” A pile of leaves to one person was just a pile of leaves, nothing terribly special, the sort of thing one just walked right past without even bothering to look. To Harry, it had, at the very least, two really useful purposes—one, it was something to jump in, which was just fun; and two, you could hide stuff in it. Or there was a third option: a way to break a fall. Those were just the ideas the sixth year came up with in about five seconds of contemplation—who knew what else there could be with more thought? The point was, people just didn’t have enough imagination. The Ravenclaw wasn’t perfect; he was as likely to overlook something with potential as the next guy. But still, it seemed to him that he picked up on more than most of the people he came into contact with.
That was why Harry liked hanging out with Alric. The badger noticed things. Hell, he carried around those journals of his all the time just so he could write stuff down that he noticed. At least, the eagle was pretty sure that was what he was doing. That’s what it looked like, anyway. Even if Alric didn’t do that, he still definitely had an appreciation for the world like Harry did. This was pretty much why they were friends as far as the seventeen year old was concerned. They got it. They understood that there was just… so much. It was almost overwhelming sometimes. There was no shortage of things to find, things to be experienced, things to discover. The sixth year had heard someone say once that there wasn’t much left to discover, that people had figured it all out already. That person was an idiot. Harry didn’t say that about many people—everybody was some kind of expert at something, whatever you thought of its noteworthiness—but those people who didn’t even bother to try? Who just gave up before they even started? What else were they if not idiots? And anyway, that person had been wrong. Muggle scientists were making discoveries all the time, and there was still stuff they didn’t know. Witches and wizards were always coming up with new spells or new theories on why magic worked the way it did. Someone, somewhere, was always trying figure out something. The Ravenclaw thought there had to be about as many things to discover as there were people in the world. You just had to look.
As the two boys moved through the forest, the eagle tried to concentrate on the map in his hands, but it was hard at a time like this. Every few feet they went, the sixth year spotted something new that caught his interest—a strange looking plant, a weird rock-like thing, some plant that he knew exactly what it was and needed more of, like that purple moss-like substance clinging to an oak tree along the path. Harry was running very low on Purple Moss Things. He needed it for his latest Potion That May Or May Not Actually Do Something. The boy needed a better way of naming things. He had a cat at home named Cat. He was great at being creative when it came to potion making. He was just awful at naming his concoctions. Or anything else, for that matter.
The seventeen year old was staring very intently at a patch of weeds, wondering if he could just stuff them in his pockets for safe keeping--he’d been a total dope and left his bag in the dorm—when Alric’s voice brought him back to focus on the task at hand. Oh, right. They were kind of in the middle of something. The eagle stared down at the map in his hands, his brow furrowing as he tried to decipher the first clue. Before the boy could say anything, though, his friend had already figured something out and was off through an opening in the trees. Harry hurried to catch up, not wanting to miss anything. The Ravenclaw was amazingly skilled at getting distracted. Unfortunately, being able to see the potential in most things meant that sometimes he ended up fixated on the wrong object. Never mind, he was paying attention now.
The sixth year came to a halt behind his friend, staring up at stone beast. Blimey, it was ugly, like a horrifically deformed lion. It was awesome. Someone went to the trouble of making this monstrosity, thinking it up, placing it here, maybe even giving it a face only a mother could love—or maybe that was just what time and the elements had done to it. Harry thought it was more interesting to think that it was done on purpose. The eagle just wanted to climb on it, feel it under his hands, figure out what it was for, what it was made of. There was also a not-so-small part of the boy that wanted to climb on the stone beast just because it was there. Was any other reason needed?
Alas, that didn’t seem like it was going to be possible—at least not today. He could always come back—and soon Harry was turning his attention back to the Hufflepuff, who was inspecting some holes in the stone. Moving to his friend’s side, the eagle glanced over Alric’s shoulder into one of the holes, wondering what it was. He couldn’t see anything, but that just made the boy more curious. Unfortunately, his inspection meant he was looking directly where the badger’s spell hit. There was a great flash of light, causing the Ravenclaw to reel back, temporarily blinded by the brightness. The sixth year rubbed furiously at his eyes, trying to dispel the stars that were dancing in front of them, blocking everything else out. Who’d ever gotten the idea that adding “maxima” to “Lumos” was a good idea? The point was to be able to see, not be blinded. Scratch that, it was a brilliant idea. Why didn’t people use that in dueling? You could just blind your opponent and gain some time. By the time Harry’s vision had cleared, he could only assume the spell had done what it was intended to, as there was now a shadow in the shape of an arrow pointing off to the east. “Hell of a way to decipher a clue,” the eagle said, his tone more impressed than anything. The seventeen year old shot one last glance back at the stone beast before following after his friend.
"Well. What do you think we'll find, Harry? Lost treasure? The missing link? Some sort of hidden, underground city that's been occupied for centuries, unbeknownst to us land dwellers?" Following a map in silence was fine. In fact, there were likely many who preferred to sticking with silence whilst on an expedition. But, doing such a thing would often prove to be rather boring. Plus, Alric personally found that his adrenaline rushes came from the musing over the treasures of his expeditions as opposed to what he actually would find. It was just more fun, more engaging, more enthralling to get together with your comrades and talk about what you expected to find or what you hoped to find. It got the gears in his mind turning, kept his blood pumping at a steady rate and kept his mind acute to the mission. With so many things lying around, it was easy to get distracted. A bit too easy, actually. And it usually only took one distraction to ruin an entire mission, because, while there were some who could leave something and get back to it later, there were several who would get side tracked and never come back to what they had intended on doing. Sometimes for a long time, and other times for... forever. And, while Alric wasn't positive that the map would lead them to untold discoveries, he though it wise to keep his mind as focused as possible, lest he persuade Harry to go off with him somewhere else and miss out on whatever the map led to. Missions didn’t always have to end in finding things though—sometimes just taking the journey to get somewhere was enough. And that reason right there was exactly why Alric enjoyed exploring so much. The thrill of not knowing what you could find out there as you walked through trenches or crawled through tiny passages covered in cobwebs and dust... That was enough to make the boy happy, even when he ended up finding nothing at all.
The gentle rushing of water soon swept through the wind, quietly so, yet still catching the badger’s attention quickly and enticing him to quicken his pace towards it. A small stream came within view, outlined in stones and tiny shrubs with what appeared to be several gnats hovering over the moss ridden stones and mud. For a moment, Alric stood by the edge of the stream, watching silently as the water glided over the rocks trapped underneath. There was something about the way water would flow that made it interesting to watch. It would mold to fit any path, easily find ways to go over things, under them, or around them… It was… oddly peaceful. With the a sigh, the seventh year turned to face the direction they had been heading in before, looking around for Harry first before pulling his journal out again to look at what they needed to do next. He flipped to the last page he had written in, finding the last part of the directions.
Ah, right. The path. They were following a path. Looking up, the Hufflepuff looked for the path they had been on, finding it just off to the side of him. “Let’s continue, Harry!” The wizard said, closing shut his journal as he marched forth on the path again. After what seemed like five minutes later, Alric found another clearing, circular in shape and nearly clear of all bushes and stumps. The ground appeared as if it had been trampled down, matted with dead leaves and shreds of old plants to form a somewhat comfy area to walk on. At the center of the circle was a pile of rocks, seemingly placed together in a sort of pyramid style, except… it was kind of lopsided? Or… something about it was off. Maybe it was the angle of the rocks, the varying sizes, or perhaps it was just the badger’s eyes creating the illusion that it looked strange? Shaking the thought away, Alric opened his journal again, eyes locating the next riddle to solve.
2. Give life to which does not breath, and follow the path the white leaves form.
The boy’s face became tense with confusion, mind desperately searching for a possible answer to the puzzle. As hard as he tried, the Hufflepuff couldn’t think of a thing. He let out a contemplative ‘hmm’ as he looked around, stepping in place to rotate his body until he made a full one eighty. Blinking several times, the seventh year let out a laugh, turning after to face his friend—wherever the boy was. “Harry, I’m afraid I don’t know what this means… what do you make of it?” He asked, hoping to Merlin that the Ravenclaw would come to the rescue.
Harry had had some pretty great birthdays over the years. There’d been the birthday parties when he was younger, those things that were tailored made to keep a group of small children entertained for a few hours. Even the birthdays when the seventeen year old had to be in school were pretty great—though, in truth, he liked it when his birthday fell on a weekend a lot better than when he had to go to class. Still, the Ravenclaw was pretty sure that Al gave the best birthday presents. He’d gotten a lot of those over the years, so Harry figured that made him pretty much an expert on that sort of thing. It didn’t even matter where they were going, or what they’d find. Really, what the eagle was most interested in was everything they’d find on the way there. Speaking of… The boy stopped suddenly and fished around in his pocket for a moment before pulling out a pocket knife and taking off into the trees. He didn’t go very far, and he was sure Alric could tell where he was, anyway. The sixth year bent down over a patch of something that looked like a tangle of orange vines. He grabbed a handful of the plant and pulled it taught before carefully cutting away a small sample. Straightening, Harry grinned to himself, then stuffed the knife and the vines into his pocket and returned to his friend.
“I’m hoping for that underground city,” the Ravenclaw said cheerfully, as though he hadn’t just run off to collect a random plant. He figured the badger was probably used to him doing that sort of thing by now. Harry couldn’t just go into the Forbidden Forest and not come out with something. It was physically impossible. Everything was practically calling out to him, begging him to take them back to the castle and experiment. Who was he to argue? It would be downright rude to even consider it. And anyway, there were frustratingly few things in the natural world that were bright orange in color—besides, he supposed, the fruit, but orange trees didn’t exactly grow in Scotland now did they?—it seemed even more of a shame to pass up something like that when it could be found.
Alric strayed towards the stream as they drew nearer to it. Harry let him go, choosing to wander a bit further from the path, setting to work digging up more interesting pants and scraping up some of that purple stuff he’d seen earlier. By the time Al was ready to continue, the sixth year’s pockets were full to bursting. He looked like the world’s most obvious thief. The eagle was pretty sure he owned a pair of trousers with charmed pockets that would let him stuff all sorts of things in them, but, naturally, he wasn’t wearing them now. Maybe Alric would hold something for him if he asked.
Harry hurried after the Hufflepuff, coming up to walk alongside his friend as they continued down the path for a few minutes. As they entered the clearing, the Ravenclaw squatted near the entrance—a very uncomfortable position at the moment, as something sharp poked into the boy’s thigh. He grimaced slightly. He should probably be more careful. So far he’d been blinded and now he was probably getting bruised. Shaking his head, the boy reached down with one hand to press against the leaf covered ground. This didn’t do much more than make the eagle’s palms itch, so he rose, wiping away the tree debris that clung to his trousers. He glanced up as his friend called for him again, slightly amused by how this whole episode was going. Harry’d spent most of their time out there searching out his own projects, almost completely forgetting what they were supposed to be doing. One would have thought the seventeen year old could at least pay attention to his birthday present. Ah, well. He was paying attention now.
The sixth year peered down at their next clue for a moment, then looked around them, scratching his head. There wasn’t much in the clearing besides the leaves and the stone pyramid-like thing. “Maybe we can just try a few spells and see what works?” he offered, shrugging. Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it at the rock pyramid. ”Locomotor rocks!” The structure shook slightly but otherwise didn’t move. The Ravenclaw frowned at it, then down at his wand. “That usually does something at least.”
Alric nodded at his friend, agreeing that trying out spells would be their best option in the matter. Observant eyes were glued to the rocks as Harry cast his spell, carefully watching as the rocks shook, but overall remained in place. “Hm.” That was strange. The eagle was correct in that the spell usually did something. But here it hadn’t? There were clearly other forces at work here—perhaps a counter spell to act against it? Or some sort of charm that only allowed for the correct spell to work on the rocks? Pursing his lips, the Hufflepuff glanced down at the riddle again, whispering it out loud in the hopes that something new would pop out after doing so. The only thing that stuck out to the Hufflepuff’s mind was that there was to be a trail of white that they would need to follow. A trail of white. What spell left behind a trail of white? A coloring spell, maybe? But that merely colored an object, it didn’t leave a trail after it. Of course, nothing could be ruled out…
Aiming his wand at the rocks, Alric recited a spell, eyeing the rocks as they turned from their stone-grey color to a pure white. Moments passed and… nothing happened. “Well!” The wizard sighed, crossing his arms as he gazed down disappointedly at the unmoving rocks. It clearly wasn’t right, but what, then, was the right spell? Remaining in his spot, Alric cut out all distractions—sound, sights, and smells—and reworked the riddle in his mind. He started from the top of the list of spells he knew, going through each one and its effect, till he came upon one that had…. Potential. “Avis![/i}\]” The seventh year said, pointing his wand away from the formation. Birds flew from out of his wand, whites and greys and all leaving behind loose feathers that fell to the ground. [i]That spell, technically, left behind a trail of mainly white “leaves.” Maybe they needed to transfigure the rocks into birds? Scratching his head, Alric turned to find Harry, face hinting at his embarrassment of what he was going to request. “Harry… would you mind trying to turn the rocks into birds? Maybe doves, or… some other sort?” He paused then, and let out a nervous chuckle. “You know I’m horrible at Transfigurations… I’d rather not accidentally turn them into trolls or… man-eating rocks, instead of just immobile rocks.”
Although, the idea of fighting off a horde of man-eating rocks did sound like quite the adventure to the seventh year…
Harry tapped his chin with his wand--probably not the safest thing to do, but he felt like tapping his chin, and his hands were full--contemplating the rocks in front of them. The Ravenclaw considered himself to be pretty decently proficient at Transfiguration. It wasn't Potions, but it was something that took time and patience--two things that no one would think the sixth year had in spades, but sometimes, when he wanted to, the boy could conjure it up, so to speak. "Let's see," the eagle said pointing his wand at the rock formation. Muttering under his breath, the seventeen year old tried to picture the rocks turning into birds--doves, with their white feathers and little feet--talons? Were they called talons on small birds? "Talons" brought to mind those claw-like things on eagles or hawks or something. Anyway... right, concentrate, Harry.
Slowly, too slowly for Harry's tastes, the rocks began to change their shape, sprouting wings and talons, turning from grey to white and sprouting feathers. The boy grinned to himself as one dove stretched out its wings and began to flap--and then another and another, until the whole group of them were taking off, lifting up into the air in a flurry of motion, leaving a scattering of feathers in their wake. The seventeen year old cocked his head to the side, looking at the bizarrely even path the feathers created, leading off to the west. "Follow the white feathered road. Follow the white feathered road." Harry paused, frowning, then shook his head. "Wouldn't make a very good song." Turning to Alric, the eagle grinned at his friend. "Shall we?"
Feathers made for an interesting walking surface. They muffled most sounds, which Harry imagined would be useful if you were trying to sneak up on someone or something. On the other hand... The boy glanced over his shoulder, frowning. Well, he had been thinking that the muffled noise meant they wouldn't hear anything coming from behind them--or from ahead of them, he supposed--but now that he looked back at the path they were following, the Ravenclaw realized a different problem. Dirty footprints were an incredible nuisance. Raising his wand again, Harry muttered another incantation to himself. A moment later, their footprints began to fade away as though they'd been scrubbed off. "That looks better." Turning forward again, the sixth year continued down the feathered path. "What's next?"
A smile spread on the badger's lips as he watched the rocks transform perfectly in front of his eyes. The birds shifted from solid rock to pure liveliness so smoothly that the wizard was left standing in awe at the sight--eyes teaming with admiration over his friend's skill. He had to remember to ask Harry later if he could tutor him in Transfigurations--a thing Al normally meant to ask the boy, but somehow always got a little sidetracked. Things were simply always a bit more exciting with the younger wizard around; like life was suddenly injected with a fast forward serum that made all these fantastic things occur in just a short amount of time. Clapping his hands at his friend's feat, Alric had to suppress a laugh, nodding his head slightly at Harry's statement over the riddle not being a very good song. Likka could probably find a way to tweak it so it worked--he was brilliant at that sort of thing. "Yes! Onward we go!" Alric responded, marching off down the feathery path. His pace was slow as he flipped to a new page in his journal, jotting down quickly with a spell from his wand all the events that had occurred thus far. He noted the formation of the trees and rocks in the clearing they were then leaving, and picked several reference points in the landscape around them to add as key things to look for in case the boy ever found himself wanting to follow down this path again. Assuming they could ever follow it again, of course. But that thought only brought more excitement to the Hufflepuff as they continued on, resulting in that rather content grin and shine in his eyes that resembled a very young and excited boy. He savored every moment like this--ones where he could feel nothing else but the wonderful sensations of excitement and anxiousness over finding something new sweep over him and flood his body with pure goodness. It was like the wizard was on some sort of natural high in precious moments like that, and it made everything that troubled him disappear into the dark, as if they never even existed.
The sound of Harry's voice slightly behind the wizard made him turn, seeing just in time the footprints they left behind disappear. "Oh, yes, good thinking! We don't want any pirates or bounty hunters on our tails." They liked to ruin adventurers fun; according to the books Al liked to read, at least. He went back in his journal to see what was next, all the while not noticing how their path was beginning to thin. The farther they went down the slightly descending path, the fewer the feathers that outlined their way. Soon the wizard came to a part where there were merely lines of feathers going off in different directions, spiraling in one direction then jerking off to another, ones leading down between the trees, others lined along what Alric assumed to be a ravine, and a few random others that scattered along different areas whose end the badger could clearly see. Those clearly weren't the lines the pair needed to follow, but there were still a good number of other options in front of them. Looking to the riddles for a clue, Alric read out loud the next on the list.
3. It's the path we've all gone down before--be we gentlemen, lady, rich or poor--not the right, but the...
Left. It had to be left, right? "Seems a bit easy this one..." Alric started, turning his gaze to his left and stopping. "Ah." There were multiple left paths--of course. Storing his journal away, the badger stood in front of all the paths that lead to his left, scratching the side of his brow as he contemplated the riddle. If it was a play on words, then the wizards would have to choose the "wrong" path to go down--a thought that confused the Hufflepuff to no end. Did they have to simply pick one and walk down it to see if it was the correct path? Er... The "wrong" correct path?... Sighing at the headache he felt coming on, Alric took sought comfort in a nearby stump. He sat on its edge, arms folded across his chest as he examined each possibility. There was one that lead off to an area the badger could somewhat make out--a rocky sort with minimal plants on the ground, but plenty of trees surrounding it; then there was one that lead to an area of the forest that seemed thick with plant life, whose path the wizard could hardly make out behind all the branches and overgrowth. And then there was another, nearly bare in plant life and whose trees were tanned to a near black coloring with what few leaves that could be seen appearing as if they were tainted in a sickly dark-grey. It looked to be scariest of the three so far, so maybe that was the one? That lion statue had been frightful--perhaps the original map creators were playing off of fear when they first went down this path? It was all the boy could logically assume.
"Let's go down this one, Harry." The wizard said, picking himself up and starting down the darkest path. It sloped downward so steeply that the badger nearly fell over himself several times. He managed to stay on both feet for the majority of the descent down, though the last stretch of slanted ground had finally got him, causing him to slid involuntarily all the way down. He let out a grunt as he caught hold of a tree, blinking away the dust that came up before he found the sight of a rather spooky looking cave.... House?... It was something like a house. "Look at that..." He whispered, still looking on in awe at the thing. With his balance regained, the seventh year went in to investigate the place, finding soon a large plank sticking upward at the side of the giant rock. There was a window way off to the other side, reflecting off what little sunlight that made it through the trees and all the way down there rather lightly. Keeping his focus on the plank, Alric began to touch it, feeling the worn grooves along the sides of it before pulling down on it with all his strength. A loud bang! was heard first, followed by several other clangs and booms till one side of the giant rock moved, revealing an opening. Alric wandered in, lighting his wand as he did and finding, to his surprise, a room with candles--unlit, of course--and cauldrons and shelves with books and vials and many, many other things that the boy was still trying to process. Grabbing a few candles, Alric lit them up, spreading them throughout the room so there would be a bit more light than just his wand. There was so much stuff everywhere... "What do you think, Harry? Think this belonged to some evil scientist?" He grinned, still looking around the place for any traps or other hidden passageways.
Harry shook his head at the possible paths in front of them. “Never say ‘seems a bit easy.’ It never ends well.” The sixth year sent his friend a grin before turning back to consider the paths. He wondered what was down the paths that weren’t correct. Booby traps? Fierce creatures? An endless maze that would take them deeper and deeper into the forest until they were hopelessly lost and could never find their way out again? Maybe they all just led back to this spot. It was almost tempting to give them all a go, just to see what happened, but the boy supposed that would take a lot of time. They didn’t have an eternity to spend out there, after all, nice as that might be. At any rate, the eagle was content to let Alric pick their path. If it were left up to Harry, they’d end up trying every path, even the ones they already knew were wrong, just to see where they went. This was why it was important to go on adventures with a partner--there was always somebody who could keep the other person on task.
The Ravenclaw took a moment to peer down the path that Al had chosen. It was dark and spooky looking, reminding the seventeen year old a bit of a hole in the ground. The thought made him feel slightly uneasy, but if this were the right--er, correct--path, than he supposed it was meant to do that. “What’s that saying about the road less traveled?” The boy mused aloud as he followed his friend, stretching his arms out to the side to keep his balance as he walked down the steep incline. The eagle slipped and slid most of the way down, making him wonder briefly if it wouldn’t be worth it to just give in and use the path like one of those playground slides. Clearly that’s what this thing wanted to be, and Harry was all for giving things what they wanted--at least when he thought it’d be fun. But the Hufflepuff was still on his feet, for the most part anyway, and it wasn’t quite as much fun if you were barreling into someone. At least that was what Harry thought today. Tomorrow would probably be different.
The sixth year slid to a stop next to his friend. “That’s promising,” he commented, staring at the… what was that exactly? A cave? A cave with a window apparently. That could be a thing, couldn’t it? Harry decided that it totally could as he followed close behind Alric as they approached the… whatever it was. Rather impressive for something so ambiguous, though. While Al fiddled with a plank, the Ravenclaw went over to the window to peer try and peek inside. From the angle he was looking at it, there wasn’t much to see except shadows, the little light that there was down here blocked now by the boy’s head, trying to see past the pane of glass. His inspection was cut short though at the great racket that his friend had caused. Turning just in time to see the opening form, Harry grinned. “Nice.” Following his friend through the opening, the eagle looked around at the newly lit room. “Definitely an evil scientist,” the seventeen year old said, nodding. He strayed close to one of the walls, tempted to reach out and touch everything but having enough sense to know that probably wasn’t a good idea. “The most interesting scientists are usually evil.”
"That they are," Alric said with a sigh, running a hand through his hair as he gazed around. "Well I guess this is it, then. Bit of a let down, isn't it--what's that?" He asked, suddenly noticing a wooden box jetting out from behind an old plant pot. He walked over towards it, picking up and placing it on a nearby table to further inspect it. A candle was brought to shed a bit more light on it, revealing all the collected dust on its smoothed surface. The badger's fingers were itching to get the thing open, find the latch that sealed it to be well hidden as it appeared to be charmed to blend into the crafted box well. "Alohomora!" The Hufflepuff said, waving his wand over the lock and grinning to himself as he watched it snap open. Lifting the top off, Alric slid out a piece of parchment, finding it to be blank aside from what appeared to be grey splotches over the middle before setting it aside and inspecting the interior of the box. It was lined with a crimson, felt-like material, and the inside of its top appeared to have been engraved, though much of the letterings were filled with a strange black grime that nearly made the thing illegible. Alric coughed as the rancid stench of--what he assumed was just the grime--released into the air, and took a step back to catch his breath as soon as his eyes began to water from the foul smell. "It's like rotten eggs," he said, throwing a disturbed glance at Harry before turning around, sucking up a bit of fresh air, and then facing the box again to try and read what the inside said. He pulled out the three vials as instructed, and quickly closed the box shut to keep from throwing up, tossing it safely to the side and far away from the wizard himself. With an exaggerated cough, the badger did his best to clear his lunges of the scent before taking the vials over to his companion. "Says one of these vials will lead to 'what we are searching for' - whatever that might be." It was a pretty ambiguous message for what the seventh year had been able to make out, though, if a person had gotten this far, and had made it into the hidden lab, he supposed there wasn't much use in riddles since it was highly likely that whoever was there, was supposed to be there for whatever reason. Holding them up for Harry to see, Alric asked, "Which do you think we should try first? I assume we drop it into that cauldron over there," he jerked his head toward the single, though rather large one off to the side.
Harry rocked back and forth on his heels, looking around the room they were standing in. If this were all there was, the Ravenclaw supposed he wouldn’t be that disappointed. So far, he’d had a pretty fantastic birthday, all told. He’d gotten to go on an adventure with his best friend, had two pockets filled with potential potions ingredients, and he was reasonably sure he could probably maybe find his way back to that stone monstrosity that looked really cool. Really ugly, but really cool. It could be that the eagle just wasn’t that hard to please, of course, but he was pretty okay with that. Otherwise he’d have just walked through the Forbidden Forest for no reason at all, and that just seemed silly.
Gravitating toward Alric as he inspected some sort of box, Harry peered over his friends shoulder, waving a hand in front of his face in an attempt to dispel the awful stench that escaped. “Blimey,” he muttered. “How long’s this thing been here?” The sixth year looked around the cave again, as if expecting it to reveal its secrets in some obvious way. Writing on the wall might be helpful. Mysteries were only fun if you were given clues. The eagle thought that whoever had set this whole thing up probably figured that out, what with the map and all that time he must have put into setting all those clues up. Actually, come to think of it, what sort of person went to all that trouble anyway? Forget evil scientist, Harry was going to put his money on a scientist of the “mad” variety. He still wasn’t complaining, though. It was all just kind of curious.
In the middle of his musings, the seventeen year old realized Al was saying something. “Sorry, what?” Turning back, Harry looked down at the vials in the badger’s hand. “Hmm. Here.” The boy took each vial from his friend one by one, holding them up and turning them in his hand before handing them back to Alric. There were probably several scientific ways to figure this out. But there wasn’t really much to go on as far the Ravenclaw could tell. Up to this point, they’d mostly been just guessing until they got it right. No reason to think that couldn’t continue. “All right, we have to be very careful about this,” Harry said, his tone ludicrously serious. “Can’t fudge this up. Who knows what it’ll happen. So… that being said…” The boy plucked a vial from his friend’s hands again, holding it up. “I’m thinking this one. Because it’s blue.” With that, the eagle turned on his heel and headed toward the cauldron, vial held aloft. Stopping in front of the cauldron, the sixth year turned sideways to look at Al. “Let’s see what it does, yeah?” Unscrewing the cap, Harry held the vial over the cauldron, then overturned it, letting the contents drop in.
The cauldron remained still and quiet, as though the vial hadn't even been poured in, but eventually the room began to fill with thousands of popping and cracking noises. Soon the thing began to shake and tremble, the sound of thick metal rattling over the stone ground soon accompanying the rest of the noises in the room. Smoke erupted from the cauldron--a thick, bluish-grey kind that sent the badger into a coughing fit. He stepped back as the cloud engulfed all of the room, and shielded his face with his arm.
Suddenly, the ground below began to rumble, booms! and screeches! sounding everywhere, and Alric, unable to see a thing, was left to leaning against the nearest table so as to not fall over. The artificial earthquake seemed to taper off after a few moments, smoke clearing slowly until the badger could properly stand and see what all had happened. He went off to look at the cauldron, intending to inspect it closely but was instead distracted by the appearance of a stairwell. It was a bit narrow, and led down into the earth from one corner of room. "Look at that..." he merely managed, turning to Harry with a shocked expression. Alric looked at the other two vials, wondering if they would produce different hidden rooms or stairs. He supposed they could find out later--the other stairwell was calling to them first. "Lumos!" The badger said, lighting up his wand and walking over to the stairs. He began descent, keeping a hand to press against one side of the earthy walls as he pointed his wand arm forward, lighting up the rest of way and finding the darkness to almost be never ending.
Down the Hufflepuff went, eyes almost beginning to itch from all the pressure he felt from air down there. But soon he could see a bottom, and as he came upon it, his foot stepped onto what he found to be a pressure plate. Light soon flashed into the underground room, blinding the badger temporarily. He blinked until he could see again, finding stone pillars to line against the walls of the room, and straight ahead of him, a bronze colored door was there with bowls of fire standing guard on either side of it. Another step forwards, and the ground ahead began to fall, leaving only few platforms to stand alone. He turned to his friend with a grin, excited for a little challenge. "looks like it's time for a bit of exercise! Why don't you head on first, and I'll follow behind." Because then, if Harry lost his footing or didn't make a jump, Al could have a better chance of catching him. The seventh year didn't underestimate his friend in the least though, he just worried a lot about him...
Harry couldn't help grinning to himself as he and Alric descended the stairs that had appeared. For all he knew, this wasn't where they were supposed to be going at all. They could be heading toward a dead end for all the Ravenclaw knew. They could've chosen the wrong vial, or there could be no correct vial, and this was all really a very elaborate plot to trap intelligent young magical folk for some evil, mad scientist scheme. Or somebody else could have already found what they were looking for and just returned the map to where they'd found it. The seventeen year old wasn't sure why anyone would do any of these things, but when you started assuming that the people you were dealing with were of the "mad" variety, you really had to keep an open mind.
Whatever the case, the eagle was pretty sure at least one of his theories--either one of those he'd just thought of or the ones he was likely to think of in another minute or two--would end up being proven right soon enough. Shielding his eyes against the blinding light, Harry moved down to stand next to his friend, watching the ground drop in front of them. It was probably best not to look down. The sixth year was capable of a lot more in the way of bravery if he just ignored whatever could possibly harm him. That was about the only way to handle adventure, anyway, if you were sane at all. Tilting his head to the side and squinting his eyes against the light, the boy considered the distance to the first platform. It wasn't an awfully long way. Harry was pretty confident he'd jumped farther. Best to be careful, though. Reaching into his trouser pockets, the eagle pulled out the various plants and... whatever that purple thing was... and deposited them in more or less neat piles on the step behind them. He didn't know if they'd come back this way, but he was at least pretty sure he could find his way back. Maybe with a bag this time.
"Okay!" Harry said, turning back to the platforms. Backing up as far as he could, the sixth year took a running start, leaping off the ledge they'd been standing on after the ground fell away and landed, a bit shakily, on the first platform. Throwing out his arms to keep his balance as he came to an abrupt stop, the boy waited a moment to make sure he wasn't going to topple over the side before calling over his shoulder, "'S not so bad!" Once he was sure he had his bearings, the Ravenclaw backed up as far as he was comfortable going on the platform, and then ran forward, leaping up onto the next platform. He landed a bit more gracefully this time. Harry turned and looked back at Alric, giving his friend a chance to catch up a bit.
Alric’s face tingled slightly, cheeks staining in a transparent rouge as he saw his friend dump out all the contents in his pockets. The normal questions of how, where and when ran through the eighteen year old’s mind—purposely forgetting the why because this was Harry—before he realized that he was being ridiculous. If he could throw out the question of why in regards to what he had just witnessed, then he could just as well discard the how, where and when. It all went back to the fact that this was Harry who had collected all that stuff—that was all the explanation that was ever necessary whenever the other boy did anything. Feeling guilty about, in a way, forcing his friend to leave behind all the things he had taken the time to gather, Alric drew out his wand and conjured up a piece of tarp, then waved his wand over the items and deposited them in the center of the material. A small strap was conjured as well, and in a matter of seconds, Al had constructed a pouch that fit his friend’s…. discoveries, just fine. He tied the pouch to the side of his trousers, and looked over just in time to see Harry make his second jump rather stylishly. Stowing his wand away, the badger rubbed the palms of his hands together, gathering up a bit of warmth and using the action to pump himself up a little before dashing off to follow after the Ravenclaw.
He glided over the empty pit below, landing on each plate of earth just at the very edge. His weight was tactfully shifted with each leap, force from his legs keeping him just high enough in the air to allow for him to calculate how his body had to move to ensure he would land with his balance intact. Eventually, Alric was off in the air one last time, landing squarely on the edge of the final platform, arms flapping about as the boy moved his hips forward to keep from sliding off to his doom. Barely regaining his balance, the badger placed a hand over his thudding heart, letting out a nervous chuckle as he walked away from the edge with a slightly shaken up grin tugging on his lips. “Woo,” he let out, voice dropping in volume and tone as the vowels were extended. “That was very nearly bad.” With a forced sigh the Hufflepuff shook away most of his jitters, then proceeded to examine the pillars on either side of the slate doorway, fingers running along the grooves and indents of the stone, mind unable to tell if these were crafted by a knowing hand or if the embellishments were merely the result of some kind of natural decay. He smiled at his failure at telling difference, green eyes lingering on the rock for a moment. Little, unsolvable mysteries like this were perhaps the real treasures to the eighteen year old when on adventures. There was just something oddly pleasing in knowing that some things would never be figured out.
Shying away from the pillars, Alric looked to find his friend, waiting a moment to check him over and make sure that he was okay. When the badger couldn’t find a thing that worried him, he moved on passed the pillars, hand pressing firmly against the slate doorway that was now in front of them. The surface felt as cool and bumpy as the pillars, though large portions of it were smoother than its frame had been. This was a thing that the Hufflepuff merely noticed, not finding that it gave much help to either explorer other than to hint that it was some kind of doorway. His hands moved along the structure inquisitively, pressing down on each suspicious looking groove in the hopes that he would find a way to make it open. “How do you suppose—” His question was left unasked as his hand slipped slightly into the stone wall, causing the whole place to begin to rumble ever so slightly as the ‘door’ opened up to one side. “Ah!” Alric bellowed, happy to have found a way to move forward. He stepped back a bit to scan the new area before him, finding something of a dark hallway ahead that led to… someplace. The end was too dark for him to see. “Let’s move on with caution, mate.” He flashed a look at the eagle, hoping to not have worried him too much. Offering a playful smile, he added, “If either of us see Medusa, let’s agree to ‘hoot’ twice so as to warn the other to keep their gaze down and away from the she-beasts eyes.” Remaining as flesh and bones was sort of a preference, though surely Harry preferred that as well.
Eyes glinting with excitement, Alric flashed his wand ‘on,’ brilliantly pure-white light emanating from the tip of his wand as he aimed it forward. The path they walked through was a bit moist; vines seemingly growing along the ground and on some areas overhead, while the walls and floors themselves appeared to be constructed of cobblestone… Interesting. The whole thing was just… rather interesting. Breathing softly, the badger did his best to focus his mind on his surroundings, ears somewhat blocking out the light pat-pat of the boy’s shoes as he walked against the stone. He drew in more shallow breathes as he finished committing the intricacies of the corridor to mind, eyes trained once more ahead of him. Time seemed to teeter between feeling stretched and shorted as the badger walked, not really knowing how long they had been walking and not really seeing any indications of the end. It funny how things you were looking for just sort of popped up as soon as you noticed that they weren’t around, because just up ahead, some few leaps away, Alric could see yet another door, though this was one made up vertical planks with slightly rotting wood and a strip of decorated metal forming its handle and hinges. Ignoring the musty scent of the darkened wood, the Hufflepuff pulled on the thick ring that made the door knob, and stepped backward as the door ended up opening towards him. Inside he found what looked to be an old classroom with vials and twisty beakers along the dust covered table tops. There were miniature cauldrons on a few of the tables, while others had mortars that were chipped and cracked laying peacefully on them. Perhaps this was an old potions room? Before the wizard could go off on his speculations, he noticed yet another doorway off the right, one a bit smaller in height than a normal doorway that was almost hidden behind a little bookcase parallel to it. Alric peered around over every table, sort of quickly skimming through the things around. “Drink me.” He said, holding up a tiny vial with a moldy cork enclosing it and a tiny copper-colored chain that was jammed right through the side of the cork to make it as a sort of… necklace, or… something. Alric frowned at the bottle, eyes unable to decide if the liquid inside was either a sea-foam green or a slate blue through the fogginess of the glass. “Want this?” He asked his friend, unsure of what the other boy could use it for or on if it was even safe to hold on to in the first place. Still, Alric hadn’t found anything else that interested him, so he offered up the only thing that had caught his attention. He supposed, though, that harry could have just as well found a plethora of things that he found interesting…
Shaking his head, Alric turned to face the tiny door just across from him, curiosity burning ever brighter as he gazed at the thing. The pressure was too much—he had to walk through it. “If you’re done, mate, I’ll be off checking this out,” he nodded toward the door, just in case Harry hadn’t spotted it yet.
Harry landed on the last platform more or less gracefully--if you considered “gracefully” to mean teetering back and forth on his heels for a few heart-stopping seconds before stumbling forward and somehow managing to not slam into his friend, or catapult into the abyss below and behind them. Graceful might have been the wrong word. Straightening, the Ravenclaw dusted at his clothes. He didn’t think he’d gained a sudden excess of dirt while leaping around, but it seemed like a vital part of the balance regaining process. It made him feel better, anyway, and that was the point, probably.
Once he had his bearings--and he’d seen that Alric was fine--the sixth looked around them, trying to take in their surroundings now that they were standing in a completely different position. Looking over his shoulder, Harry considered the distance they’d just come. There was that sudden slightly sick feeling that came with realizing you’d just done something potentially insane and dangerous. Once the adrenaline rush wore off and you weren’t in immediate danger of falling to your death--or just injuring yourself, but “falling to your injury” sounded stupid, didn’t it?--it was a lot easier to look down at where you could have fallen, and… Right. Face forward, Harry. Instead of looking back at something that could so easily turn the boy into the sniveling coward he preferred to only be when a wand was pointed at him, the eagle approached one of the pillars. He walked around it, rubbing his chin with one hand and running the fingers of his other hand along the grooves. “I swear,” the Ravenclaw mused aloud, “you could spend forever just studying all these extra bits. Can’t all just be for this little map, can it? Everything’s too big and intricate.” He shook his head, then moved to stand next to Alric while the badger tried to work out how to open the door. Harry tried pressing his hands here and there to help, but quickly jumped back slightly as the thing began to open. It took a split second for the surprise to wear off, and then the boy was laughing.
“I’ll try to remember the signal,” Harry said, lighting his wand. “Though I can’t promise I won’t be too busy running in the opposite direction.” The Ravenclaw grinned sheepishly, then started through the doorway and down the hallway that had appeared. As they went, the seventeen year old flashed his wand light around at the walls around them, taking in the vines and the cobblestone and just the total strangeness that seemed to be this place. It seemed like the farther the two got, the more questions formed in the eagle’s mind. ‘Course, he liked that sort of thing--the more questions there were, the more answers there were to find. “You know,” Harry said as they reached the end of the odd hallway, “never mind what sort of person’d set this all up--what sort of person did they think we’d be?” The sixth year flashed his wand over his shoulder, as though to point. “To get through all that, I mean. It might as well have our names written all over it.”
The door open, Harry moved around, looking around--under tables, around the door--moving about like a bloodhound sniffing out a particular scent. He turned as Al held up a vial, considered the thing in his friends hand for a moment, then looked at the door. This felt awfully familiar, like the sixth year had been there before, or-- “Are they getting their ideas from muggle literature now?” The eagle shook his head, an amused smile on his lips. “Here. Let me try that.” Taking the vial from his friend’s hands, the boy pulled out the cork and peered in for a moment. He thought that being muggleborn made him the most qualified to test the vial’s contents, at least in this situation. That, and Harry reasoned that he had a lot more experience than Alric in downing potentially harmful substances. With a shrug, the Ravenclaw raised the vial to his lips and tilted his head back, taking a hearty swig. Then he shoved the thing back in the badger’s hands quickly. The liquid tasted awful--like milk that had gone off, almost--but for a moment it seemed like nothing had really happened. Harry frowned. Maybe he needed to drink the whole thing? As this possibility crossed the seventeen year old’s mind, he suddenly realized his eyes were level with Al’s shirt collar. They’d been about the same height a second ago. “Aha!” the boy yelled triumphantly, pleased to have his hypothesis proven as he continued to shrink down to a size that could fit through the small door.
Harry seemed to know what this vial was supposed to be mimicking, or… implying. Alric himself couldn’t place the name—hadn’t even realized it was even alluding to anything at all when he’d first picked it up. Regardless, the eagle had gone and taken it, popped the cork and---was drinking it!? Wide eyed, the badger leaned backward a little in shock, mouth slightly open as if to speak out some protest but nothing came out. The wizard was too taken back by his friend’s actions to even form a single thought. There was just… silence. This horrible, seemingly long-lasting silence that settled between the boys as Harry chugged down the contents of the tiny vial. A swift pang of fear swept down and knocked some action back into the Hufflepuff as he watched the sour face his friend made, an airy “H-harry!” coming out from his mouth. Before Alric could practice using his voice more and ask his mate what he was feeling, the eagle was growing smaller, shrinking to about the size of an army toy figure right before the Hufflepuff’s eyes. Blinking didn’t seem to change the scene he was seeing. Harry, his best mate and chap of about the same size normally, had just shrunk down to far less than half his usual size and was now sauntering off towards that tiny door Alric had spotted earlier.
Even in a world of magic—where mystical things of wonder and galore occurred regularly—something like this just seemed ridiculous. Sighing as his last bits of logic flew away, the badger caved, tired eyes looking down at what was left in the vial. With one motion, the wizard took a drink, grunting a little as the distasteful tang scorched his tongue with a bitterness he had never had the misfortune of entering his palate before. As expected, the once tall wizard began to shrink down, his line of vision decreasing as he came to meet the height of his mate once more. “I guess…” he muttered, blinking a few times as he made one last try to see if this all was just a dream. (It wasn’t.) “I guess we… shall be off, then…” Because, well, there wasn’t really anything else for them to do in a room made for normal-sized people.
Taking the lead through the door, Alric found himself confused on whether or not to be surprised that there was a tunnel awaiting them. It seemed, in a way, to make… sense? He wasn’t sure anymore. Perhaps it didn’t matter, though. Aside from a sour taste still lingering in his mouth, he was having fun. “Right.” He said, nodding at the path ahead. So they were off in another tunnel, slowly climbing up as the road ascended at the slightest. Tiny mushrooms lined the walls of this tunnel, lighting up the place in different shades of light blue and green as they glowed through the dark. Just overhead, a tiny screech echoed out, its source soon gliding over the wizard as he flew past. “Bats…”
Nothing made sense anymore. Frowning, Alric resolved to merely stare at the ground, mind far too lost and confused to even bother with sorting out any of this business anymore. For all he knew, he and Harry could have very well been gassed and were simply sharing a dream. Some… very odd dream that Alric couldn’t make sense of anymore. Honing in on the crumply noise his shoes made in the gravel, Alric hardly noticed the stone pillar in his way. The top of his head met it with a thud!, his hands flying up rub against the sore spot as he stumbled back and looked around. To the side of the pillar laid a series of steps, all leading upward to some unknown place. “I guess we go there now…” He mumbled, taking a glance at the small waterway that rested peacefully to the other side of the pillar. The place was almost like a sewer, except devoid of the rancid stank and without any pipes dumping waste into the still water. In fact, the water appeared so clear, someone might have been safe to swim in it…
More interested in the stairway, the badger went off to climb again, the gentle clip-clap of his shoes against the stone rising in volume, growing heavier in sound, as he ascended flight after flight, nearly toppling over in exhaustion as he came to the top. Without any energy to comment on their seemingly long climb, Alric did his best to ignore his burning limbs and push through the door, finding himself to be back in the castle. Inside there was a table, decorated with multicolored confetti and a grand chocolate cake—was that cheesecake?—standing tall at the center. A large candle was placed in the middle of it, a warming flame already dancing over the cream-colored wax. A few plates were lain out, forks and knives accompanying them in a pile just off to the side, and two chairs were set up right across from the other on either side of the cake. The words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” were strewn across the side of the table cover in bright blue letters, and… Alric was sufficiently confused. He couldn’t recognize the room they were in, though that door off to the side… looked a bit like the strange door that led to the Room of Requirement at times.
Exhausted from the walk up, Alric couldn’t be bothered trying to make sense of anything. He was just glad that they seemed to be back in the castle, in their normal size again—though it was hard to really tell with nothing else to compare themselves to—and with a large, unattended dessert waiting to be eaten. “I have… hm…” The wizard couldn’t even form any proper words. “I guess… Happy Birthday, Harry.” He said, motioning to the table so the eagle could take a seat.