Asking for directions

Really - where is the harm in asking? Characters belong to Rowling.

Harry sighed. The forest path they followed was now forking in two, each winding away in the dense undergrowth of the forest. He didn't recognize this place, and what little sense of direction that had still remained before they reached this unwelcome choice was now definitely gone. He simply had to face it - they were lost.

Scratching his head Harry peered down the left path. It seemed to lead towards higher ground. And the Hogwarts castle was on a hill, right? He supposed that any direction was as good as the other right now. Making up his mind, he took a few steps down the path, but was interrupted by a voice.

"I wouldn't go there if I was you, pal. Just a piece of advice to the smart."

"I'll take any advice right now," Harry said with earnest thankfulness and turned towards the source of the voice. Behind him, he could hear Ron sharply draw his breath. "What's wrong with this path?" he asked.

"Oh, nothing much. Only it leads towards the spiders' part of the forest, and they're hatching. Sure, cute as anything, but the youngsters are always impatient for something to bite, if you catch my drift."

"I see. We've had our full share of spiders for a lifetime, thank you very much," Harry said, shuddering at the memory of the spidery moment he and Ron had shared a few years ago. He made a guesture to Hermione, who seemed to be anxious about something, to wait.

"I could agree on that!" the voice chuckled. "So, you're Hogwarts kids? You're not supposed to be out here, you know."

"I know," Harry answered. "We were looking for Hagrid and got lost. You don't happen to know the way to his hut?"

"Aha! Well, that explains that you have managed to get this far, I suppose. Hagrid is highly respected in these parts. There're not many likely to mess with you if they know he's your buddy. And yeah, it's really close. Just follow the right path until you reach a pond, then sharp left, crawl over a few boulders and then you should see it."

"Thanks a thousand," Harry said with heartfelt voice. "I don't know where we would have ended up without you."

"Don't mention it pal," their helper answered. "Just make sure you don't get lost again."

"We will," Harry said. "Bye for now." And heading down the right path, he turned to Ron and Hermione.

"Are you coming?" he asked, but stopped as he saw their thunderstruck expressions.

"What?" he asked.

"Man!" Ron said with shaking voice. "You have absolutely no idea how freaky that is."

"What are you..." Harry begun, but then comprehension dawned on him. "Oh..." he went on, looking a bit sheepish. Hermione, very pale in her face, loudly let out her breath. Ron simply shook his head at how stupid his best friend could be at times.

By the side of the path, the large snake flickered goodbye with his tongue and slithered back into the undergrowth of the forbidden forest.