Pumpkin Hunting at Dusk

Pumpkin Hunting at Dusk

By cappie

The mist hugged close to the damp ground as four figures shrouded in the indigo shadows of the spruce and aspen walked quickly along the leaf-strewn pathway. Beneath their feet the leaves, once vibrant and verdant now crackled. The pathway crept its way for a time through the outer edges of the inky forest, until at last it reached the lake where it hugged the thin strip of land—where the trees gave way to the rocky beach. The lake was glimmering in the golden sunlight of a late afternoon in October. Across the water, seated high like a king on his royal thrown, sat Hogwarts; its walls, bleached by countless summers and winters, matched the color of the golden sky overhead. The larks and forest thrushes swirled in the skies, singing their final song before night gently crept onto the land.

"Hurry up, now!" the young man at the front of the line called, "It will be dark soon!" His brown boots tramped with greater fervency through the leaves.

Another man, this one slightly pale and wan, though with kind golden eyes murmured, "Well, perhaps if someone hadn't spent so long at Zonko's." His voice was mellifluous, like the gentle sound of a babbling brook. His demeanor was mild, like the colors of the fading grass and flowers that lined the path.

Following this fragile figure was a small, rather ordinary looking boy. He appeared not as old or worldly as the others. There was something in his dull brown eyes and petite figure that seemed to venerate the three companions, who in height and looks outweighed him three times over.

When he spoke there was something prodigal; his words came rushing out, hurried, jumbled, unclear and without thought, "But you know it was my fault it took so long—because remember how I spilled the butter beer all over myself? And how it took me about ten tries to get the spell right—and Lucius kept laughing at me so I couldn't remember and—,"

Undoubtedly the boy would have continued but he tripped over a root, being caught just in time by the final companion to the group of four—a pale, tall, good looking young man with black hair and eyes to match. He bolstered Peter, for that was the name of the youngest, and said, "Careful now. How are you going to be able to bring back the biggest pumpkin—after all your bragging at the Broomsticks?"

Peter nodded, gulped, and continued along the path—trying to desperately ignore the spider that was crawling atop his school robes.

A few moments later the path faded away at the base of small platform built for the arrival of the first years. Seeing as how it was used only once or twice a year, a thin layer of brown and green moss had slowly grown atop it. The platform was situated directly across the lake from Hogwarts, allowing for the finest view even on the stormiest of nights.

Just on the other side of the tracks laid Hagrid's pumpkin patch. In reality, Hagrid had more than one of such patches—the small one that he planted outside his hut was for his personal use. It was a little known fact that Hagrid adored a good pumpkin scone or cake on cold, rainy, winter nights.

This particular pumpkin patch—or field, it should have more likely been called, was the one that serviced Hogwarts throughout the year. It laid on a broad, flat field—a rarity considering the part of the country. Once or twice a week Hagrid could be seen walking the path or rowing a boat to tend them.

The first member of the group, the young boy with brown boots, jumped up onto the platform—his dark brown eyes surveying the scene of pumpkin glory that awaited them. His name was James, and he exclaimed,

"It's always so nice, having this little tradition of ours," For some reason he seemed abnormally pleased. Perhaps it was the quintessentially autumn weather that brightened his spirit, or the reddish hue the sun was now taking on. Or, just maybe it was because the message he would carve on this year's pumpkin would be particularly special.

His brown eyes glinted, his lips parted, and he smiled. The next moment he was trampling through the field—the sound of rustling and crunching leaves in his wake. By the time Peter reached the tracks, James was but a purple shape off in the distance that would occasionally bend down, stoop, and exclaim, "No, this isn't right."

The tall, pale young gentleman still stood on the platform. He watched James for a moment, but then turned back towards the lake and the shadows of the woods. As he watched his raven-haired friend arrive he studied him carefully. His blue shirt looked almost green in the golden light, and his usually fair cheeks were flushed and rosy.

"What are you smiling about, Sirius?" He called, pulling his striped scarf closer about his neck.

Sirius, who was munching on a wild crab apple called, "I'm just thinking what a good thing it is I let you borrow my scarf. Knowing you, you'll catch your death, Remus."

Remus did not say anything, but stood patiently waiting for his friend.

"Are you still going to do what you promised?" Remus questioned, stepping closer. Sirius looked down, noticing the way the color of his friend's eyelashes stood out against his fair skin.

"Only if you do what you promise," Was his reply. Then, Sirus grinned, his usual grin—the grin which made half the female student body melt, the grin that had got him out of many a detention, the grin that Peeves loathed him for. This afternoon it was Sirus' grin for Remus.

"Then lets go to it," Remus smirked, hopping off the platform and down into the dried carcasses of what once had been the bounty and foliage of summer.

The sun, now the color of a tangerine lethargically hung on the horizon, like a glimmering, glittering ornament hanging in the sky. The trees, off in the distance, were the kinder, gentler relatives of those living in the Forbidden Forest. Instead of singing of Tales of Woe and Glory and Valor like their cousins, the distant trees sung of autumn's bounty and their quiet sleep that was awaiting them. Then, when their thoughts turned to spring they sang of hope.

Young Peter watched the trees from his vantage atop the largest, most enormous pumpkin in the entire patch. It was far from being the most beautiful, unspoiled and pristine—in fact its surface seemed as pock-marked as Filch's face. Yet, the color was vibrant and the size suitable for Peter. He sat, his brown eyes glued onto their leader, his leader; James.

Peter watched as James whooped in excitement, exclaiming, "I've got it! The perfect pumpkin!" A flash of silver—a cut to the stem, and there it was nestled in James' arms. It was a typical orange color, perhaps slightly redder than the light hued pumpkin Remus had found.

"You see," Remus whispered to himself—though the light breeze made the comment available to everyone, "You can tell by the way it sounds if it has a lot of seeds."

Sirius glanced back at the crouched form of his friend. His black eyes glimmered and he hugged the little pumpkin closer to his chest, blushing. In his left hand he carried a round, reddish pumpkin about the size of a lantern.

"Has everyone got there's?" Sirius called, his eyes resting on Remus again, noticing that he had wrapped the scarf even closer to his body.

"Looks like it," James called, crunching through the fields, his glasses glinting.

"We better hurry," Remus said, hoisting up his pumpkin onto his knee, "If we are going to get back to Hogwarts in time to carve these before the feast."

Not another word was spoken. The trees hushed their singing for there was no longer an audience. The sun at last solved its indecision and sank lower and lower until the only the memory of its glory remained etched on the clouds. The pumpkin field was stilled once again, the only sounds remaining were the scratching of the field mouse and the rustle through the leaves.

The lake was dim now, no longer gold and glowing. Instead, it had faded and matured to a pale lavender so that the surface looked like a mirror reflecting all.

In its reflection the shapes of four bodies moving beneath the cover of the trees was lost—instead, the pumpkins bobbed along behind them—their insides glowing, as if they had swallowed a swarm of fireflies.