The Forbidden Forest. The land of endless shrubs. Just the sort of place where Hagrid had seen Lethifolds. Thank goodness this detention was in the rainy season instead of in warm weather. But oh, what if? What if?
Sparrow had halted at the edge, and refused to tell Hagrid why, before finally gripping her wand tight in hand, squaring her shoulders, and pressing forward. If she was going to learn whatever Hagrid wanted to teach her then she couldn’t be stopped by ancient fears.
She could be slowed down by them. Now and then she did have to stop for the sake of her nerves, and for all that this was a Detention, Hagrid never asked her to carry onward until she was ready.
An hour into the journey to wherever they were going, Sparrow finally thought to ask the question that had been on her mind. “I thought this detention was going to be something like cleaning the Thestral stables for a month,” she said. “Not hiking into the Forbidden Forest. How long does this thing go on anyway? And why am I carrying this gear when you could carry it? You could carry all the supplies without a sweat. In fact, why do we have rucksacks at all when we could just magic everything we need? These things are for muggles.”
“Hardly a punishment if it’s a walk in the park,” said Hagrid. “I can stop for ye as often as ye like but I’m still cross. So yer learnin’ a lesson. And we can’t magic everyin’ we need, because we don’t have a mokeskin bag, yer not skilled enough to handle all the spells ye’d need, and anyway ye don’t want t’ rely on magic alone when yer in a dangerous place. So, muggle gear it is. Complain all ye like but I’m not changin’ me mind about that.”
“And where exactly are we going?”
“To the grave of an old friend.”
“Out in the middle of the woods?”
“Don’t know if it’s the middle,” said Hagrid. “Never really found the other side, no matter how long I walked. And I’ve walked a long, long time. But it’s deep in. Or maybe I should say, it’s far in. Can’t call it deep if all the big trees are gone, can ye?”
Sparrow looked around. There were a lot of low bushes with long greyish tapering leaves, and the occasional tree about twice her height, a rare few twice the height of Hagrid. But there was, indeed, no depth to this place, just endlessness. Not eternity, exactly – that would have required more open space. This was more enclosed, in its own way.
Had it been the usual rainy day, as opposed to a frost day, it would have been endless misery. With frost on the leaves and upon the blades of grass, it was more like endless mystery.
“Where did the big trees go?”
“Long story,” said Hagrid. “Not all me own fault, but somewhat. It’s not me that made the world hot and dry and cold and stormy all at the same time. I just…let some things happen that weakened this place, ye could say.
“T’ begin with, there’re these birds called Rheas. Native to South America. They run over the dry plains, ye see. Tall flightless birds, like ostriches. Right? Well, some twat decided ‘e wanted ‘em around his nice parkland down in Devon.”
“So, Rheas belong in South America. That’s their domain. Have ye not heard of Invasive Species?”
Sparrow shook her head.
“Right. Well, us humans, we think we know where to put animals, and sometimes, it turns out we don’t. Sometimes we introduce animals to places they shouldn’t go. No natural predators, right? And nobody wants to hunt ‘em. So they overrun the whole landscape and eat everything and ruin everything. Like what old Professor Kettleburn told me about Starlings in the Americas – some idiot introduced them and suddenly the regular birds started to get crowded out. Things like that. Well.”
“What does that have to do with these things?”
“I’m gettin’ t’that. I’m gettin’ t’that. See, the Rheas were kind o’like the starlings. They got loose, and this fool muggle couldn’t catch’em, and nobody could. They wouldn’t eat the poison set out for ‘em, they dodged the guns. And they multiplied. And they nibbled the landscape half to death. Ate all o’ the heath and all o’ the harvest mice. Muggles didn’t know what t’ do.”
“So why didn’t a Wizard help the muggles deal with them?”
“Muggle problem. Not our domain.”
“But – ”
“We’re Wizards, Sparrow. We also have domains. Like the starlings. Anyway, getting back to the story. The Rheas, well, they’re wild animals, they don’t know how t’ obey the Statute of Magical Secrecy. So some o’ them got themselves into the Old Forest and, er…interbred with a bunch of cockatrices. And produced these things, that hide like shrubs, run like the wind, and never get fooled by the same trick twice. Arr, see, then it became a Wizarding matter. So I got meself authorization from the Ministry of Magic, I did, and got down to Cornwall and scooped up all the new birds, and all the old birds too.”
“But you said those weren’t your domain.”
Hagrid chuckled. “I know how t’bend the rules, Miss Jones. Might even have a reputation for it. I’m lucky the prime minister is a doddering old fool who signs things without looking at them, otherwise I might never have been given the job.”
“I’m not sure where you’re going with all this,” said Sparrow, as she swept a branch out of her way.
“The story isn’t done yet, Miss Jones. I brought the birds here and called them Rhiannons. And I didn’t know what I was doing with them, because they went and they ate up all the pine cones, and they kicked out all the underbrush, and suddenly there were fewer pine trees around here, and when the world got dry…there were even fewer. So that’s why I think it’s partly me own fault that the Forbidden Forest looks the way it does now. There’s domains for you. If ye break them without knowing what yer doing, like I did, you change yer world in ways ye don’t expect.”
Sparrow looked around. There was a Rhiannon following them at a far distance. Big eyes, bigger than the girl’s fist, deep eyes. There was a mystery there too. Sparrow had the feeling that this bird knew a lot more than it was willing to let on.
For one thing, it nodded its head in the direction that Sparrow had been going, as if to tell her, “turn around”.
Sparrow turned. There was a wide clearing amidst the bushes. And there in the clearing grew the most grass she had ever seen in one place.
“What is this?” said Sparrow.
“This is it,” said Hagrid. “Aragog’s grave.”
“I don’t see it.”
“Yes ye do.”
“Well where is it then?”
Hagrid nodded to the clearing. “There.”
“But where in the clearing? I told you I don’t – ”
“It’s the entire clearing.”
“ – oh. Um. Was Aragog a dragon?”
“Jus’ a spider,” said Hagrid. “A mighty one. Ruled the forest, ‘e did, along with all his children. Almost killed Harry Potter, but I was friends with Aragog, and they was friends with me. So the old spider paused long enough for a bit of muggle magic to save ‘em. Long story. If ye ever meet Ron Weasley remind him about tha’ fer me.”
“So where did Aragog’s children go? We haven’t seen any of them.”
“Can’t say fer certain.” Hagrid placed his own rucksack down, and sat upon a large rock. “Maybe they ran off to the muggle world and all got killed. Maybe they ran so far into these woods that we’ll never see them again. Either way, the Rhiannons kind of crowded them out, and once the pines were gone there weren’t much left fer ‘em so I can’t hardly blame ‘em fer leavin’. Makes detentions in this place a bit safer in th’rainy season, if a bit more boring. Anyway!” He slapped his knee. “Lesson number one. Magical creatures can get this big, and bigger. What do you think would happen if ye introduced them to the muggle world?”
“Muggles would start talking about wild monsters again like they used to?”
“Send out some kind of knight to slay them. Or just someone with a shotgun, I guess.”
“Exactly,” said Hagrid. “Without the Statute of Secrecy, Aragog would never have survived in peace. In our little hidden world, he had the chance t’ live in peace and sire many children.” Hagrid stood, and hoisted his rucksack onto his shoulders. “Come on. The next grave is a fair distance away.”
“Far enough that yer goin’ t’ need that tent yer carryin’.”
“Son of a – ”
It took the rest of the day and half of the next day before there was another clearing. It would have taken less time, but as they continued Sparrow had to stop more and more often. Hagrid began to look a little exasperated, but didn’t give Sparrow an unkind word. He just let her tremble, as long as she needed, until she could go on again. They reached the clearing after many delays.
It was a slightly smaller space than that of Aragog, and more encroached by trees. In fact, Sparrow had not seen quite so many trees in one place before, outside of the paradise gardens.
There was a simple headstone.
Grawp the Short, last of the giants. 1933-2030.
“That’s a funny name,” said Sparrow.
“It’s a Giant name,” said Hagrid. “Giants understood it. I never did.”
“How did you know him?”
Hagrid told Sparrow the whole tale, from meeting him in the Ural Mountains all the way to putting him up in the Forbidden Forest.
Sparrow went over to the stone and touched the place that said 2030. “And he died close to the time I was born. What happened? Did he meet his match?”
“Ye might say that.” Hagrid dropped his rucksack and took out an apple, which he popped into his mouth and chewed. “So did muggles, in a way, although it was their own fault. Ye can’t expect a giant to be able to handle the heat. Grawp couldn’t. There was a summer when he didn’t manage to get t’ the highlands in time, and a heatwave came on and killed him. I have enough trouble handling the summer meself.”
“And you managed to drag him all the way out here?”
“Ar, well. We’d buried him at the edge of the forest, didn’t we? But the forest has its own way of doing things, let’s leave it at that. But it’s the second part that’s important. ‘Last of the giants.’ I’m sure Grawp was the last. Never saw another after him. I went back to the place where I’d seen ‘em last, back in Scandinavia. But they were gone, and all I found there were bones. So. When Grawp was gone so was the giants, and that’s that, I suppose. Now, why do ye think there were so few?
“I really have no idea. They’re in all the children’s stories.”
“Righ’, and what does old Jack do to ‘em in the stories?”
Sparrow thought. Jack, who slew a giant. Always one giant or another. Sometimes he tricked them into a hole, sometimes he tricked them into hanging themselves. “Never suffered a giant to live,” said Sparrow.
“Righ’. And Neither did King Arthur, or Thor, or anyone. Understandable, I suppose. Giants were never very friendly. They were dangerous! Ate everyone’s livestock, smashed houses, all manner of mischief. So muggles and wizards alike couldn’t let ‘em live. That’s yer second lesson. The Statute of Secrecy is for protecting muggles from dangerous beasts. There’s some that even the biggest Muggle bomb and the best muggle guns couldn’t handle. Ye know about dementors, well enough. Ye know about Lethifolds as well. Not many people do. Didn’t expect ye t’ ask about them things. Why did ye?”
“Come on, now. Ye can tell me.”
“I most certainly cannot.”
“Am I not trustworthy?”
“I said cannot. Not that I won’t tell you, but that I can’t. I can’t bring up the subject here, I can’t talk about it – here of all places I can’t even tell you, you who know how to cast a Patronus – ”
“Oh, so the brave and talented Miss Jones is scared – ”
“I have every fucking right to be!” Sparrow shrugged her rucksack off her shoulders and let it fall with a clatter. “I have every right to be scared of something you’re scared of! And it’s not just about that, because if it was only that I could just climb up on your shoulders and feel safe there! You saw very clearly what happened to me when we spoke of the matter before, and how much effort it took to get me to calm down! Why the hell did you decide to bring me into the midst of this place when you knew what it would do to me?” Sparrow’s voice broke as she felt tears come to her eyes. “Why did you put me through – through all – this – ” And then there were no more words, only tears.
Hagrid placed his own rucksack upon the ground, sat down before Sparrow and fished a handkerchief out of one of his pockets. A Hagrid-sized handkerchief, enough to make a tunic for a man of normal height. He handed it to Sparrow, who buried her face in it, still weeping. It was just the sort of thing she needed right now. Her tears would have soaked a normal handkerchief fairly quickly.
Hagrid picked her up, placed her on his knee, and put a huge arm around her, as she cried herself out.
When she was finished, he said, “I’m sorry. Fer takin’ ye this far without askin’ how ye were doin’. I could’ve asked…and I was wonderin’, anyway. I thought ye might have some trouble when ye halted at the edge there. But ye decided t’ square yer shoulders and follow me. So, I figgered ye were alright with the whole journey, and ye were stopping out of exhaustion. Wouldn’t be a spurprise. Yer a little slip of a girl carryin’ an entire rucksack. But yer havin’ a bad time. Worse than most who come here. Why’d ye decide to keep goin’ after all?”
“You didn’t give me a choice.”
“Well…I didn’t tell ye there was a choice. I’ve been meaning to offer to end this whole journey for a while now, ever since ye had to stop that first time. I guess I should’ve made th’ offer earlier, eh? I was too focused on makin’ sure you got to see what I was tryin’ t’ tell ye, and didn’t realize how bad ye were takin’ it. We can go back and ye can polish everything in the trophy room, if this is too much fer ye. Or…we can go on, and I can show ye the last thing.”
“Are you making me go on?”
“After what I just saw out of yer eyes? I couldn’t possibly make ye go on. I shouldn’t have even offered. We ought t’ head back to th’ castle and finish up with somethin’ else.”
“It’s fine,” said Sparrow. “I can go on as long as…as long as you’re with me. Alright?”
“Fair enough,” said Hagrid. “And I won’t mention th’ L-word again.”
“An’ I’ll handle the rucksack.”
“I’ve got it.”
Sparrow stood, and shouldered her burden. “I’ll let you know if I’m having trouble.”
Past the grave of Grawp, there was no more path to be found. From this point on it was a complete wilderness, full of those bushes with the long tapering leaves. They scraped Sparrow as she walked by, and she had to keep her shield spell up just to brush them out of the way. Sometimes Hagrid carried her on his shoulders, though she didn’t want to make him a pack horse for the entire trip. Most of the time she walked.
For days. Through the cold rain. The frost had long since gone. Sparrow’s one solace in the whole journey was that, in this cold and misery, crawling insects were dormant. Blooming season should have been the joy of the year for her, as it was for so many, but for her it was bittersweet, for now she had to wonder if the year’s growing heat would let Lethifolds hide within the forest. Had she been out in the forest in March she would not have gone a step beyond the giant’s grave.
Yet here in the season of rain and cold, she was stepping farther than she had ever dreamed of going. Sparrow lost count of the hills they climbed, the mountains they skirted, and the rivers they forded -- well, Hagrid towed a floating Sparrow over those rivers. In these hills the trees began to thin out, but the bushes never did. In fact they seemed to get thicker.
“It occurs to me,” said Sparrow, as they descended a slope towards a lake, “that you could fit quite a lot of Wizards in here. In fact, you could probably fit all of Wizarding Britain in here.”
“True enough,” said Hagrid. “There aren’t many wizards around anyway. What do you have, forty to a year? Fifty? You could fit every wizard in Britain into Hogwarts, although some o’ them might be competing for elbow space. And then inventing spells to steal people’s elbows.”
“So why don’t we?”
“Stuff every wizard into one place?” said Hagrid. “Make every wizard live in Hogsmeade? Turn Diagon Alley into a Wizard City? Ha! Sounds like something a Pureblood Supremacist would come up with. No, Miss Jones, Wizards themselves wouldn’t take kindly to that. Our magic is secret, but plenty o’ folks still got friends in the muggle world. Imagine tellin’ them they had to live far away from muggles, away from their parents, their relatives, their favorite parks and forests.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. What if we stuffed all of Britain into this forbidden forest? I feel like we’ve walked as far as Kent is wide.”
“Might have done by now. But I sincerely hope yer jokin’ about the stuffin’ part.”
“Maybe. I mean, supposing the pureblood supremacists did want to completely withdraw from the muggle world, they could re-create their own wizard society entirely within this place, couldn’t they?”
“Maybe,” said Hagrid, as he lowered Sparrow down a tall ledge. “But then, yer thinkin’ o’ this whole thing like the fellers in Berlin in the 1880s thought about Africa. Who are you to shift th’ whole world around like it’s yer chess board, hm? It aren’t hardly fair to change people’s lives for them without asking, now is it?”
“Perhaps not,” said Sparrow. “Sometimes it’s for their own good though.”
Hagrid had been preparing to climb down the ledge after her, but then he paused. “And ye know what’s good for ‘em better than they do, eh?”
“Sometimes. I mean, people do some really stupid things.”
“Like run around asking too many questions about the Statute of Secrecy?”
Hagrid’s position above Sparrow did not inspire her to offer any comment.
“You just want to be able t’ do yer magic in public, I’ll be bound. That’s why ye were askin’ about domains.”
“There’s more to it than that!” said Sparrow. “The first time I read my magical creatures textbook, I wanted everyone to see dragons. I thought every kid in the world should get the chance to see a unicorn. And then I come to Hogwarts and people tell me no, it all has to be secret. Shush shush. Everybody’s missing out on this! Everyone is missing out on doing wonders, because we’re all shut up here. I want the whole world to have magic, Hagrid. Is that too much to ask?”
Hagrid raised an eyebrow.
“Been thinkin’ about this all yer school years, have ye?”
“Sort of. I only came up with the idea of giving everyone magic after you told me about dangerous creatures attacking muggles.”
Hagrid sighed. “The things I set off because I can’t keep me big mouth shut. Again. Yer beginnin’ t’ sound like ol’ Grindlewald. But yer not interested in lordin’ it over muggles, are ye? Yer not selfish like he was. But still dangerous. Who would have thought that a little Hufflepuff girl would be wanting t’ do things more dangerous than Voldemort ever thought of? Ar, but he was selfish too.”
“What do you mean, dangerous? I want to give everyone the same power I have.”
“Exactly the point,” said Hagrid. “Ar, but McGonnogal knows more about wizard politics than I do. I’m bringin ye along t’show ye what I can demonstrate, not speak fer her. So.” He finished climbing the ledge. “Ye want t’ give every bloke and blighter and biddy in the world some magic, is that it? Let ‘em in on the wizarding world. Ha! I’m about t’ show yer some things even most wizards can’t handle.”
“If you’re taking me to meet my worst fear after all – ”
“I’m not a complete idiot,” said Hagrid.
“Then what are we seeing? Dragons?”
They had halted at the top of a low mountain.
Hagrid had decided this was a good place to end the journey, for, as he said, the plain beyond was something he’d barely escaped alive. He waved his wand in the air and the image of the plain grew in their sight as if through a giant telescope. “Here,” he said, “We ought ter be safe watching from this distance.”
In the magical telescope Sparrow could see the Rhiannons. They ran almost too fast to notice – at one moment they were on one edge of the view, and in the next moment they were on the other. And it was a wide view indeed. Sparrow stepped to the side of the magical telescope and tried to take in the view of the plain as a whole. From one horizon to another, over a flat expanse, there were clumps of the very sorts of bushes that she and Hagrid had passed between to get here. There was little else. A few different sorts of low trees, some scraggly vegetation close to the ground. Not much more.
She’d been told that, once upon a time, there had been more plant variety in the world. But that was mostly gone now. It was all about the same, only changing color from green-gray in the wet season to green-brown in the dry season.
From this distance, she could see the Rhiannons moving faster than she’d ever seen a car go.
So what, exactly, was able to overtake their speed by an order of magnitude? What was the creature moving so fast that she could only see its aftermath when a Rhiannon’s neck exploded in blood?
“Things down there,” said Hagrid. “Never quite figured out what they were or where they came from. I was too busy tryin’ t’escape, ye see. Got a bit too close last time.”
“You can’t apparate out of here?”
“We’re on the Hogwarts grounds, Miss Jones. Besides which, I never got taught how, now did I? Got expelled in me third year fer somethin’ I never did. Long story, ye might have heard it already. It was back when Aragog was a wee little spider…”
Sparrow was not listening to Hagrid, for she had finally seen one of the swift creatures come to a halt. It was feasting upon the Rhiannon that had died messily. A creature like a cat, yet extremely narrow and pointed, as if meant to slice right through the air. She thought of a shark in cat form. This one was dull gray, like everything in this landscape. But what to call it? A Shark Cat? A Cat Shark? A Cark?
The most dangerous cats she had never heard of were called Nundu. They could spread poison breath over a whole area and nothing could take them down. Perhaps these were related.
“You haven’t named them yet,” said Sparrow. “So I get to do it first.”
“Now hang on a minute, I saw them first – ”
“They shall be known as Narks.”
Hagrid scratched his head. “Name sounds familiar, but alrigh’. Fair enough. Narks it is. Let’s keep watching a bit and head back then.”
Sparrow shrugged. “I feel like I’ve seen everything there is to – wait.” Sparrow stepped away from the magical telescope and surveyed the landscape.
The Rhiannon had started from there…and reached there within the space of a second. The Nark had started from somewhere and reached there within half a second. Maybe it was from a distance shorter than what the Rhiannon travelled. Maybe it was from a longer distance. But the space the Rhiannon had crossed looked like it was slightly longer than the distance from its corpse to the mountaintop.
“We may not actually be safe here,” said Sparrow.
“Nonsense,” said Hagrid. “They can’t see us from up here.”
“Then how do they spot a Rhiannon from a longer distance? They have the eyes of hawks, Hagrid. I’ve seen enough. We should be going. Right now.”
Sparrow glanced at the magical telescope. In it, the Nark had lost the Rhiannon to a larger and more powerfully built beast of stamping feet and jutting horns. This one had no need to move as fast as the Nark, because it could just bully other creatures out of their kills. Having no chance to get its food back, the Nark had lost interest.
And it was staring straight at the two wizards.
Sparrow had the space of half a second to get her shield up before the cat slammed into it. The shock of the impact forced the girl a step back. She had never been forced back before, not even an inch. No spell of Jill’s had ever hit with as much force as the Nark did, and before Sparrow could even react the Nark had run back and then straight at the barrier again. Every impact forced the girl backward. And why was it not going at her from the side?
She turned her shield into a dome over herself and Hagrid, just before the Nark slammed into it from the side.
“Oh boy,” said Sparrow, “I sure wish we could apparate out of here.” She winced as the Nark slammed into the barrier again. “I sure wish someone had learned how to do that.”
“Excuse me fer gettin’ framed by Voldemort ninety years ago!” said Hagrid.
“Well maybe you can stun this thing,” said Sparrow. “Because I sure can’t.”
“What do you mean you can’t? Oh right, I’m talkin’ t’ Sparrow Jones. Ha! Well, What if I just try to catch it with me bare hands?”
“Somehow I don’t think you’d survive that. Oh, great. Now what’s it doing?”
The Nark had ceased to ram its head into the barrier, and was now attempting to bite through it. Sparrow thought this to be comical.
Until the barrier began to flicker.
“You didn’t answer my question,” said Sparrow. “Why can’t you stun this thing?”
“It eats magic,” said Hagrid. “Tell you what. I’ll just get close here…” He moved to the space where the Nark was eating the barrier and waited. The Nark looked at him and snarled, then moved to a different spot and took a bite. Hagrid wound up spinning in place as the Nark continued to move, stopping only here and there to keep biting.
The barrier flickered, and finally disappeared.
In that instant, Hagrid whirled around, and he caught the beast, holding his hands over its muzzle.
The Nark was surprisingly strong, for all that its build seemed more gracile than powerful. Perhaps it took a great deal of strength to reach near-supersonic speeds. As it was, Hagrid had a hard time keeping the Nark’s jaws shut, and it scratched at his arms and torso as they struggled upon the ground. Sparrow began to understand why Hagrid wore that giant moleskin coat, because it tended to make sharp claws slide off.
“Stun it!” said Hagrid.
“What if I hit you?”
“I can take a few hits!” said Hagrid. “Don’t worry about me, just stun this thing and keep at it!”
“But it eats magic – oh. I see.”
Stun magic. Offensive magic. The very sort of magic she had sworn to avoid. Every bit of her life past eight years old had bent towards learning how to defend her friends without having to hurt anyone. She didn’t want to hate anyone or hurt them, not even the fierce wild beasts, not even – perhaps not even the most deadly of them all.
“What are ye waitin’ for?” said Hagrid.
He was beginning to lose ground. Sparrow tried to think of a good defensive spell, something that would tie the Nark up. She pointed her wand at the Nark and shouted, “Petrificus Totalis!”
The Nark froze for the space of half a second, just long enough for Hagrid to get a better grip on its muzzle. But then the Nark began to thrash again.
“Stun it!” said Hagrid. “Don’t waste time playing nice!”
Hagrid was already back to where he had been. He wasn’t going to last much longer. And Sparrow was out of ideas. But she had no idea if the stunning spell would even work, and there might not be enough time to try anything else if it didn’t. How was she supposed to make it work?
Jocasta had told her she needed to feel hatred if she was to cast an offensive spell. How could she hate a wild creature? It was innocent. Fierce, deadly, but technically innocent. And yet, by that criteria a Lethifold was innocent well. Sparrow had no desire to entertain that possibility.
Hagrid looked like his grip was about to slip.
Jill had told Sparrow about the value of offensive spells. How sometimes a friend was in danger and there was nothing you could do but to strike their assilant down. And Hagrid was a friend. And Sparrow had sworn to never let a friend come to harm, never again. There was nothing for it, then, but to break her vow of peace.
Sparrow pointed her wand at the snarling beast and, with all the fear and rage and hatred she could muster, shouted “Stupefy!”
A jet of red light shot out from the wand and struck the creature between the shoulder blades. The Nark shuddered, and then seemed to grow slightly larger. Again Sparrow shouted “Stupefy!” and the Nark grew a bit larger still, and slightly reddish.
Again and again she threw a stunning spell at the beast, while Hagrid held on for dear life. Bit by bit the Nark grew larger and redder. Hagrid began to look like he was reaching the last of his strength. The Nark was now half again as large as it had been, now twice as large, now three times as large. Hagrid was holding onto the beast now instead of being able to hold it down. If it got a bit larger it would be able to carry him away. A swipe of its paw was now powerful enough to go right through the moleskin coat and draw blood.
“What are ye waitin’ for?” said Hagrid. “Finish it off!”
Another stunning spell wouldn’t be good enough. What else was there? Stupefy was the only one she was familiar with because it was the one she kept trying to do. But Jill had a dozen different attacks in her repertoire. What was her favorite? Oh yes.
“Expulso!” shouted Sparrow. “Expulso! Expulso!”
Three mighty blasts in quick succession, all absorbed by the creature’s skin. Had the Nark not been full of magic already it could have survived all three. Yet, having devoured an entire magical barrier cast by the strongest barrier witch of the age, and at least twenty stunning spells, there was no more room within the Nark for anything else. Red light shone through its cracking skin, and then the cracks erupted in flame.
The Nark raised its head and howled in pain, its body shuddering in the final throes of death. It fell to the ground beside Hagrid and lay still, with no more shuddering, no flinching nor thrashing, as the flames licked over its charred and blackened body.
The beast was no more.
For a moment, neither Wizard moved nor spoke.
Hagrid got to his feet and took a handkerchief out of one of his surviving coat pockets. Yet when he offered it to Sparrow, she did not move to take it, nor did she even look at it. She remained standing there, wand held outward, her gaze never leaving the spot where she had killed the Nark.
Hagrid sat back down upon the stone. He spoke not a word as Sparrow remained standing.
Until at last the girl said, “I cast a curse.” She let her arm drop. “Let that be the last time.”