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Freya ran, not even knowing where she was going. She didn’t want to be around anyone. She wanted to be alone, to escape the voices in her head, the voices of her so called friends. They were screaming at her. She ran. Totally unaware of where she was, she stormed out of the castle, across the grounds, changing direction on impulse when she saw other students ahead of her. She eventually came to an abrupt halt on the verge of plunging into the Forbidden Forest. Freya had never been in the forest, but the solitude it could provide was a temptation she couldn’t resist. As she tentatively passed beyond the first trees, she released the breath she’d been holding. She’d always imagined that there would be some kind of spell preventing students from going in; evidently she’d been wrong. The forest was eerily quiet, and even though it was almost noon, the further into its depths she walked the darker it became. The faint hint of light that penetrated the foliage above cast an almost magical atmosphere in the forest; Freya half-expected to find a fairytale castle hidden in the thick undergrowth. Why had she gone in there? Something had drawn her towards the forest; some unknown force, she was sure of it. Looking around, she couldn’t quite figure out what all the fuss was about. She’d heard numerous stories about how scary it was, but she didn’t feel at all frightened. Although, most of the accounts had been about the forest at night time. She supposed that was when the forest was at its most dangerous. She just had to make sure that she was out of there before nightfall. Freya walked aimlessly around for an hour or so, careful not to forget which way she had entered, before she began to notice a change in terrain. The forest began to thin out, looking more like a place you would go with your family for a Sunday picnic. The grass, which covered the undulating landscape, was emerald green in spite of the fact that it was early November. The little stream that ran trough the area sparkled with a freshness that just invited you to take a drink of its crystal clear water. Freya took her shoes and socks off. Even though it was a cool day, she felt an urge to touch the grass with her toes. Now barefoot, she went down to the stream, sat down and dipped her toes in the icy water. The cool sensation seeped trough her body, refreshing her. She peered at her reflection in the water. She seemed paler than usual. ‘Probably because of the water’ she thought. In her own opinion, she was a little too chubby and a little too short. Her mother always said; ‘It’s only baby-fat honey, you’ll grow in to it.’ Freya was nearing sixteen and she still hadn’t ‘grown in to it’. She’d been the same height since she was thirteen, 1.60 m, not even a millimetre more. Freya’s gaze started to wander and something caught her eye, mirrored on the rippling surface of the stream. A small cottage stood a little further down on the opposite bank. Shoving her dripping feet into her shoes and grabbing her socks, she got up and approached it warily. It was wooden with a straw roof; wild flowers surrounded the outside, trailing down from battered window boxes. ‘Who would live here?’ she wondered. Upon reaching the door, she hesitated. She couldn’t just knock on the door hoping for the best. Could she? Pulling out her wand, just to be safe, Freya knocked quickly and quietly Her heart pounded faster than ever. Not even aware of it, she started biting her nail; ever since she was little she had bit the nail of her left pinkie finger when she was nervous. It took every ounce of courage she had not to run away. What really made her stay, even when she heard someone moving around inside, was the feeling that this was the reason she had entered the forest. This was something she was supposed to see. As the door opened, her body tensed in expectation. A woman stood before her. Freya’s forehead wrinkled. The woman had long silvery grey hair, yet her face wasn’t that of old age. In fact, Freya couldn’t determine how old the woman was. It was almost as if her features were constantly shifting, minute changes that kept her neither young nor old. Her long silvery grey hair also seemed to be in constant movement. It wasn’t grey like Dumbledore’s beard, which was obviously a result of his advancing years. Her hair appeared as though it had always been that slightly iridescent shade. Her eyes seemed black at first glance, but as Freya looked closer, she got the impression that every single colour was absorbed in them. ‘Maybe that turned them black,’ Freya mused. The long dress the woman had on didn’t stop Freya’s amazement at the person standing in front of her; if her eyes had absorbed every colour, then her dress radiated them. It was impossible to see where one colour ended and the next began. Freya moved her gaze to the woman’s feet: they were bare. The odd thing about them was that the nails were the some colour as her hair. Intrigued, Freya looked at her hands to check the fingernails; they were the same. Something else grabbed Freya’s attention, the woman was knitting. The yarn she used was made from the same fabric as the dress. The silver-nailed fingers were moving; knitting, non-stop. “Hello, my name is Freya,” she said, finally breaking the silence. She tried to put as much confidence into her voice as she could muster, but she was no Gryffindor, and never would be. Moments of courage were few and far between. She was, however, curious and that drove her to do things that could be mistaken as bravery. “Well, hello. I am glad you chose this path my dear. Life is full of choices, even I do not know where every one will end up.” The still unidentified woman smiled at Freya, showing her toothless mouth. “My name is Verdante Enron. Please, come in. I’ve just put on some tea.” She entered the cottage, leaving the door open for Freya. Verdante went over to the fireplace. As she pulled the teapot out of the flames, Freya noticed that she hadn’t put her knitting down. She gasped as it touched the flames lightly, but astonishingly it didn’t burn. “Sit down, my dear.” Verdante offered, pointing at a red beanbag on the floor. Freya dropped onto it, reaching for the teacup she was handed. She glanced around the room while she sipped on the sweet drink. It was bigger than she’d expected. To the right of the entrance was a round dining table, big enough to seat three people. In the furthest corner was a sort of kitchen; it looked old and was built from stone. On the shelves were herbs and potion ingredients that Freya, possibly even Professor Snape, she thought, had never laid eyes on before. A big cauldron was placed on the floor. It would have been a fairly inconspicuous room if not for one thing, everywhere a textile of some sort was used, it was made from the same colour-shifting material as Verdante’s dress; the curtains, the tablecloth, even the beanbag she was sitting on. Lost in her observations, Freya hadn’t noticed Verdante’s gaze upon her. Verdante coughed slightly, to catch her attention. “Sorry,” Freya said, jerking her head up to meet the odd woman’s gaze. “It’s quite alright.” she replied, sounding a little bit like Dumbledore. Verdante Enron took a sip of her tea and surveyed the girl in front of her. “Freya, what brings you here?” She had an extremely penetrating gaze. “I don’t get visitors that often, you know.” Freya had the feeling that Verdante already knew the reason she was there. “I suppose I just needed to get away,” Freya replied, not wanting to go into any specifics. “And this is where I ended up.” She could already feel herself getting slightly angry at the memory of the argument. “Interesting, very interesting. A subconscious decision, then. What you seek is an answer. I can only tell you some things. Not everything is clear to me at this moment.” The tone in her voice indicated that she was finished, but Freya waited for more. After five minutes of waiting in silence, it was more than apparent that it was Freya’s turn to talk. She had no idea what she was expected to say. If she was supposedly seeking an answer, what was the question? Normally, Freya would be able to come up with tons of questions, but right at that moment her mind was blank. Maybe it was about her friendships at school, but that just seemed too simple. Finally, she decided to ask. “Answer to what? What am I supposed to ask?” Verdante looked up from her knitting and smiled at her. “Only people with truly important questions weighing on their minds can find their way to my residence. Dig a little deeper, child. If you could ask me anything, what would it be?” Her piercing black eyes encouraged Freya to search inside herself, beyond the argument that was still filling up her head. Then it hit her; her gift! Could she tell a stranger about something she had only discussed with a select few? Once again, her curiosity got the better of her. “My gift, something about my gift,” she blurted out, her excitement overshadowing her doubts. “If that is what you think it is about, then yes. As I said, something must have brought you to me. Even if you didn’t know it yourself.” She smiled again, and Freya silently wished that she wouldn’t; without any teeth it looked kind of creepy. “Will I be able to handle it?” Freya asked quietly, almost afraid to know the answer. She absentmindedly started to bite her fingernail, waiting for a response. Oddly enough, Verdante didn’t look in Freya’s tealeaves or in the palm of her hand as Feya was half-expecting. Once again, Verdante had turned back to her knitting. “Handling it will not be the problem. There are two clear paths for you, and both indicate that you should be more than able to cope with your abilities.” Again Verdante smiled, but this time she kept her mouth closed. “If that won’t be my problem, what will?” Freya was becoming rather nervous. It didn’t sound good to her at all. For a brief moment, she wondered why she should even trust this stranger. She came to the conclusion that if she didn’t like what Verdante had to say, she could always disregard it as an old woman’s rambling. Advice was appreciated, but she didn’t have to believe it. “Everybody has to make choices. In the future you will have a big decision to make. The choice you make will have an impact on those around you; quite a big impact as far as I can tell.” As Verdante spoke, she became more and more serious. Freya, on the other hand, became more and more convinced that she was wasting her time. Maybe this woman was a bit disturbed? Why else would she choose to live in the middle of the Forbidden Forest of all places? “What should I decide then?” Freya asked in spite herself. She was hoping that she could at least get one clear answer, just on the chance that this woman wasn’t out of her mind. “I do not have the answer to that dear, and even if I did, I would not give it to you. It would not really be your decision if someone told you what to do. More tea?” she asked, finishing their conversation. “No, thank you. I should be heading back… if I can find my way out.” The last bit she said more to herself, but nevertheless, Verdante answered. “Oh, that will be no problem, child. When you are ready to go back, just step out of the door and proceed straight ahead. After a few minutes, you should find yourself at the outskirts of the forest. Next to Hagrid’s hut, if I am not mistaken.” She got up and replaced the teapot over the flames. Freya rose from her seat and moved to shake Verdante’s hand; but seeing as she kept on knitting, making no indication of stopping to grab her hand, Freya waved instead. Just as Verdante Enron had said, it took Freya no time at all to find her way out of the Forbidden Forest. Judging by the delicious smells drifting down from the school, it was about time for dinner. Freya headed towards the castle, deep in thought. The conversation had been good for nothing but more confusion. She decided to let it go for now. Maybe she could ask Dumbledore about it when she got the chance. Sure, she wasn’t supposed to have gone in to the forest, but she could always tell him that she’d had another dream. Even if he didn’t believe her, how could he prove that she was lying? The Great Hall was filled with students sitting down to eat. Freya caught Ginny casting nervous glances in her directions. Searching the Gryffindor table, Freya noticed that Harry wasn’t there. She’d forgotten all about him. Something quite serious had to have happened for him to be in the hospital wing for more than a day. Freya decided that she would go and check how he was when she had eaten. Maybe he would tell her something... ***a/n Hey everybody! Sorry that this chapter was long in the making, but I really want to do my best… If you have anything to comment on please feel free to do so! ***thanks to Finchy and Jenova for all their help as my betas!*** ***and once again thanks to the The Fitchburg Finch Fan Fiction Group for all their support***

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