Neither Harry Potter nor any of the characters associated with him belong to me. They are JFK Rowlings. I'm not in this for the money, just for fun!

A lot of what's in my fic will be based on what's seen in the movies, with some references from the books, hence Firenze will not be blonde, but dark and more beastial like, as will the rest of the Centaurs.

I would like to thank Pensieve Plotter for her ideas, and for her permission to use one of her characters and a scene from her fic. Thank You also goes to InferiorBeing for her help in editing, and to Aesop for co-writing some of the scenes!

This fic is based during 'Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban'!

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Scotland; Private Airport;

0200PM:

Rebecca stood outside the heliport, her arms crossed and her left shoe impatiently tapping on the concrete, as she waited for both her friend and her pilot to arrive. She hated waiting!

Today was her eighteenth birthday, and as a special birthday treat, her parents had arranged for her to have her very own private helicopter ride.

'Whoop-de-doo…'

She chewed on some gum to calm her nerves, enjoying the sweet sugary taste in her mouth, as the flavour slowly dissipated, while checking her nails for the fifteenth time. The people at the front-desk had assured her that the pilot would not be long, and had told her to wait outside near the landing area.

She looked around again, but there wasn't even anything interesting to watch. Aside from vast runways of concrete for the landing of helicopters and small aeroplanes, and the surrounding countryside beyond the small airport, it was all pretty dull.

"Hey, Becky!" a loud cheery voice called out to her.

Rebecca turned and gave a small smile to her approaching friend, Chloe, as the smaller girl hurried across the concrete surface to reach her. Chloe had always been the short one between the two of them, and young adulthood had not changed anything in that perspective. Presently, she was five feet tall.

She and Chloe had been friends since they were about seven. They had gone to the same school, City of London School for Girls, and had rarely left each other's side since.

The two of them were both equally beautiful, with sunny-blonde hair, blue eyes and fit physiques, though their sense of fashion differed like the day from the night. While Rebecca preferred having a large assortment of colours to choose from, Chloe always wore plain old black. Apparently she thought it made her look sexy and dangerous, yet elegant and refined.

Just looking at her, anyone would think that she was one of those moody girls who never smiled and talked about death and sorrow non-stop, only to get a large shock when they did talk to her. She was the living incarnation of the old saying 'never judge a book by its cover'.

Forget about moody, as Chloe was prone to large bursts of energy, laughing and chattering away almost constantly. She greeted every day with a big smile and a cheery laugh, something that tended to grind on Rebecca's nerves a lot, but she was long since used to it.

They had hit it off as friends right away because they each came from two of the most respected and wealthy families in the London area. Chloe's family, the Smiths, were all CEOs and business investors, while Rebecca's family were mostly politicians. Rebecca's father, Harold Leicester, was a Member of Parliament, and as such his political career was a…delicate one, to say the least, as tabloids were always on the prowl for any string of gossip that could potentially damage his reputation.

Because of this, her family's lives had to be strictly controlled. They naturally couldn't afford to take any chances concerning her father's career. Rebecca's mother, Veronica Leicester, did not work, but spent most of her time organising fancy dinner parties for her husband's political guests and benefit events for charities, a benefit for both the charities and for her husband's campaign.

"Hello, Chloe," Rebecca greeted her friend.

"Sorry I'm late," Chloe apologised. "The restaurant at the hotel was short staffed, and they got my breakfast order wrong. I had to wait half an hour before they got it right."

"Tragic," Rebecca murmured.

"Oh, don't be such a misery guts today, please," Chloe moaned. "Today is your birthday, and your parents went through an awful lot of trouble to arrange this trip for us."

"Yes, hooray for us," Rebecca muttered, and then sighed.

They had finished school several months ago, and were now planning to go to University. Chloe, of course, was going to study subjects such as Business Studies and maths, and no doubt follow in the footsteps of her family as a future CEO.

Rebecca, on the other hand, had a different kind of career in store for her.

Her parents had been very particular about her education. From the day she had first started walking and talking, she had received only the best tutors that money could buy. Thanks to all her extra tutoring, she had received only straight A's on every report card, allowing her entry into any school she could want. Her father wanted her to go to Oxford, as he had done, but her mother wanted her to attend Cambridge, claiming it had a better atmosphere to it. But whichever school she chose, she was going there to study Medical Sciences and be a doctor. It had been a dream of theirs since she was little.

Rebecca had to admit that she liked the look of Cambridge better than Oxford.

"Miss Leicester?" a voice broke her out of her musing.

"Yes?" she replied, looking to her right and seeing a man in a pilot's uniform. He was well built, but bald, around his mid-thirties, and had a goatee.

"I'm John Doncaster," the man said. "I'll be your pilot for your ride."

"How exciting," Rebecca replied, none too enthusiastically. "Well, we're ready when you are. Just show us the way."

The pilot gave her a curious look, but shrugged it off, pointing toward a helicopter on one of the landing bays. "This way, please."

Rebecca followed him. Chloe had not stopped talking, but then she never did. She didn't truly mind though, as that had always been the nature of their friendship. Chloe was a talker; Rebecca was a listener.

As a gift for finishing school, both of their parents had paid for a first class holiday for them around the world. They had travelled to Egypt, Greece, California, Australia, and finally back to the good old U.K.

It had been a miserable day when they had returned home. After spending months travelling to exotic places, only to come back to cold and foggy England, Rebecca had felt ready to crawl into bed and remain there for the rest of the year.

Still, the trip was not over quite yet. Since her birthday was a few days after their return home, Rebecca's parents had added an extra few days to their holiday by sending them to a high-class hotel in Scotland. Her parents were supposed to fly over in a private helicopter a couple of days later, but her father had some unexpected business to take care of, which really wasn't all that unexpected. Her father had paid for the helicopter to be sent down to her, though, saying she could use it to see more of the country, so at least she got a free helicopter ride out of it.

Rebecca would sooner be riding camels in Egypt or scuba diving in Greece, but she supposed it was better than nothing. At least, Chloe certainly seemed to be having a good time.

She noticed the pilot taking small glances at her every now and then, which she had to smile at.

Rebecca knew she and Chloe were fair beauties to gawk at. If not for the difference in their heights, they would be hard to differentiate. The years of strict dieting, gymnastics, beauty spa treatments…not to mention the nose-job that she had had for her sweet sixteenth, had worked wonders.

Their nicknames at school had been Barbie and Sindy, like the dolls. Though she disliked the analogy, she had to admit that the names had been perfect for them. They had been dead-ringers for the famed dolls, with their blonde hair, blue eyes, slender bodies and shiny faces with bright smiles painted on them.

The only differences between them was that Rebecca was taller than Chloe, close to five and a half feet tall, and of course her blonde hair was natural, but the annoying bright smile that felt like it was plastered onto her face was not.

A few of the many duties of a politician's daughter was to be polite, dress smart, act accordingly and always have a big bright smile on your face when greeting or speaking to guests.

Sometimes, Rebecca felt like she had a coat-hanger lodged in her mouth, what with all the smiling she did, which most of the time was insincere.

"Buckle up, ladies," the pilot said, as he opened the door of the helicopter for them, ushering them inside. "It's gonna be a bumpy ride!" he joked.

Chloe laughed, but Rebecca was already bored.

'Should have stayed in California,' she thought.

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For a long half hour, the helicopter flew them over the glorious landscapes of Scotland. Chloe was practically bouncing in her seat at all the beautiful acres of fields, forests and tiny houses seen from far above.

Rebecca, on the other hand, sat bored out of her mind, as the pilot flew the helicopter and Chloe idly chatted away.

"Oh, by the way," Chloe suddenly said. "Did I tell you about my cousin Tommy? You know, the brunette with the lisp?"

Rebecca turned to look at her. "Is he the short one who keeps wriggling his nose like a rabbit all the time?"

"That's the one," Chloe admitted. "Seems he's gotten himself into a bit of bother at school."

"What else is new?" she mumbled. Chloe's cousin came from one of the more middle-class branches of her family who lived in Surrey. She remembered he was ten years old, but looked small enough to be eight, had a lisp when he talked, and wore big thick glasses. As a result, he was often bullied at school.

"There's this big kid at his school," Chloe went on. "His name's Dudley… I think his surname's Dynasty, Derby… or something like that. I mean, who has a first and last name that sound like the other? That is just sooo tacky!" She giggled. "And he's a bit of a porker apparently. Got an arse bigger than a rhino's!" She sniggered, but then looked serious. "Seems he gets his jollies out of picking on kids smaller than him. What a creep!"

Rebecca resisted a snort at that last comment, as she and Chloe used to take great pleasure in picking on some of the lower class girls in their school: the ones who weren't as rich, who couldn't afford the latest style in clothes, decent make-up, and had to be picked up on the last day of term in a simple car driven by their parents, instead of a chauffer-driven limousine, as they were.

Chloe continued going on about her cousin's current plight, while Rebecca's mood went beyond bored to just sick and tired with seeing the same type of thing over and over again out of the helicopter-window.

Okay, Scotland was a beautiful country, there was no doubt about that, but how many fields and forests could a person take? Once you've seen one of them, you've seen them all.

"Isn't there anywhere else with a bit more view to it than just trees and grass?" she asked, frustrated. If she ever saw the colour green again after this, it would be too soon.

The pilot spared her a glance, shrugging. "Afraid that's all there really is, Miss. I can head toward the town if you like… "

"No!" Rebecca said, a little forcefully. After growing up in Britain's capital city, a town was like a dolls-village, even when she wasn't looking down upon it from high up. "Just take us a bit further out… that way." She pointed toward the east.

The pilot frowned. "We're not really scheduled to go that way, Miss…"

"Whose father is paying for this ride, and your salary?" Rebecca queried harshly, giving him a hard look.

John held her look for a moment, but then sighed and pushed on the control stick to the right, heading in the direction.

"You do know how to get your way, don't you?" Chloe chuckled.

Rebecca shrugged. "I always do."

They continued flying across country for about another twenty minutes or so, but the scenery was pretty much the same as before… all green.

"Well, this was certainly a waste of time," Rebecca grumbled, until a long stretch of forested land caught her eye. "What's over there?" she asked.

The pilot looked in the direction of her finger. "That's Hogsmeade Forest," he replied.

"Hogsmeade?" Rebecca wrinkled her nose. "What's that? Some sort of pig farming community or something?"

John visibly resisted rolling his eyes. "No, it's just a deserted village, Miss. No one's lived there for hundreds of years."

Rebecca shrugged. "Oh well, sounds better than nothing. Let's go and take a look."

"I'm afraid we can't do that, Miss." John shook his head. "This whole area is considered off limits. No land or air vehicle is allowed anywhere near or within its vicinity."

Rebecca stared at him. "What, is this whole land private property or something?" she asked in disbelief. "It looks bigger than London!"

"Nevertheless, we are not permitted to be here," the pilot said, as he prepared to change course.

"No, wait," Rebecca interrupted. "We'll just go for a quick look, and then come back. If anyone asks, we'll just say the wind blew us off course or something, okay?"

The pilot looked at her as if she'd gone mad. "Miss, I'm truly sorry, but we can't venture any further. If we do, I could lose my…"

"You are here per your superior's instructions, correct?" Rebecca snapped. At his nod, she continued harshly, "And they were operating under my father's instructions. Therefore, unless you want me to give my father a disappointing report of your miserable excuse for flying, which he will then give to your superiors…you will take us there now!"

Doncaster gripped the control stick a little tighter, but finally he relented. "Heading into Hogsmeade," he said, pushing the helicopter forward.

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A few minutes passed, and the helicopter had entered into the official vicinity of the apparently abandoned village of Hogsmeade.

"No wonder it was abandoned," Rebecca murmured, viewing the primitive buildings that were now in ruins. "Is there anything else here besides decrepit architecture?"

"Not that I'm aware of, Miss," John replied, now speaking only in a professional manner. "I hear there's an old castle somewhere near here, but that's just ruins, too."

"My, what big woodland," Chloe said, her eyes growing wider than saucers, as she surveyed the gigantic woodland below. "It must be bigger than the Mersey Forest."

"Don't be silly, Chloe," Rebecca scoffed. "The Mersey Forest is the largest of the twelve community forests in the U.K. Don't you think someone would have reported there being a larger forest by now, if there was one?"

Chloe grumbled. "Are you serious? No way can there possibly be any type of woodland bigger than this place here! Just take a look and…" She didn't get to finish what she was about to say, when the helicopter made a sharp jolt to the right.

"What's happening?" Chloe squealed in fright.

"Just some turbulence," their pilot reported. "There's a storm brewing up. We'd better head back…"

"How bad is the storm?" Rebecca asked.

"Not too bad for the moment," John answered. "But it could worsen anytime. We should…"

"Not just yet," Rebecca replied. "Whereabouts is the storm?"

"Just in front of us."

"Fine, head over the forest then."

"Excuse me?"

"Just satisfy my friend's curiosity over here!" Rebecca said, her frustration growing. "She seems to be under the belief that this place is bigger than the Mersey Forest, biggest one in the United Kingdom. Just go and get a better view of the forest to…"

"I'm sorry, Miss Leicester, but absolutely no way!" John Doncaster told her, setting his foot down. "Maybe another time, but it is never a good idea to fly in any kind of stormy weather… especially when you're near the eye of one, too."

Rebecca looked aghast at him. "How dare you!" she yelled. "You have no right to deny me my…"

"I have every right when I am the pilot," he noted. "One day, when you have your pilot's license and your own helicopter, you can go fly off into typhoons, hurricanes and anything else you want. But for right now, I am not going to risk my neck just to satisfy some rich brat's curiosity."

Rebecca glared at him. "You good for…"

[KA-BOOM!]

A loud explosion rocked the helicopter, knocking it to the side. Chloe squealed, as she held onto her seatbelt for dear life, while Rebecca just clung onto her friend's arm as though for support.

"What's happening?" Chloe said, her voice in a state of panic.

"The engine's down!" John swore, his hands gripping the control stick tightly. "I'm gonna have to make an emergency landing! Hold onto your knickers!"

The two girls screamed, as the helicopter lost control and started to spin round and around.

John felt a cold sweat upon his forehead, as he continued gripping the stick until his knuckles turned white, doing his best to hold it steady. The force of the wind swirled all around them, as the helicopter spun fiercely.

He didn't even notice the approaching branches of the trees, before they crashed right through them.

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From the sensitive ears of the Unicorns who dwelled within the heart of the Forest, to the Gnomes who lived beneath the earth itself, there was not a single creature within the Forbidden Forest that did not hear the shuddering crash that echoed throughout the woods.

The Hippogriffs, which were in the middle of their daily hunt, raised their heads at the loud sound of the crash. Despite being part horse, their diet tended to lean more towards the Griffin side of their lineage, preferring raw flesh.

A pride of Manticores lay in the sunlight, happily munching on the spoils of their own hunt, but stopped when they heard the unfamiliar sound echo throughout their forest, growling in apprehension.

And from elsewhere, another creature raised itself upon its eight legs, making loud clicking noises, as it scampered in fright at the noise. But no matter how strong its fear was, its hunger was even stronger.

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Rebecca moaned, as she slowly opened her eyes, wondering if she would be seeing the pearly gates of Heaven when she did.

Instead, all she saw…was a huge spider sitting on a leaf right in front of her, looking at her curiously.

"EWWW!" she yelped, striking out at the arachnid with her hand, shooing it away.

"Mmmm…" a low moan came from behind her.

Rebecca turned and saw her friend lying in an awkward position, her arm bent at an impossible angle.

"Chloe?" she asked her friend urgently. "Are you okay?"

Her friend moaned again, and hissed when she tried to move. "I think…my arm is broken," she whispered.

Rebecca winced. "I think that goes without saying," she said, eyeing the now odd structure of the arm in question.

"Urgh…everyone all right?" the voice of the pilot, John Doncaster, groaned.

"Chloe's arm is broken," Rebecca told him.

"Hold on," John said, as he started shuffling about on his seat. A few moments later, the door of the helicopter opened, and he stepped out and came round to Chloe's side of the aircraft.

He opened the door and started to inspect Chloe's wound.

"This needs to be set right away," he explained. "Go and find me a branch to use as a splint."

Rebecca looked at him oddly for a moment.

"Now!" he added more forcefully, urging Rebecca to quickly obey.

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Hogwarts; Dumbledore's Study;

Same Time:

Professor Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts, sat grading papers at his desk, his faithful friend Fawkes, a Phoenix, crooning on his perch beside him.

He frowned, attempting to concentrate on the enormous stack of papers on his desk, but for the moment his mind was on other, more important, matters.

Ever since he had first heard of Sirius Black's escape from Azkaban, he had been going through the flow of emotions inside him. Part of him prayed for Sirius's safety, yet also he feared for Harry's, even though he knew Sirius was not the one responsible for the death of Harry's parents. He had known Sirius too long to ever believe that he would kill his oldest friends, but he had no more proof of that today than he'd had twelve years ago. Until those facts were changed, Sirius was a wanted man.

He had felt like this at Black's trial years ago, and even after all these years, nothing had changed. He knew Sirius was innocent, no doubt about that, but the evidence presented to the Ministry of Magic had been too strong to challenge. He did not know for sure what had really happened to Peter Pettigrew, but he did not believe that Sirius had had anything to do with his death.

'Peter Pettigrew…' his thoughts went to that of his former pupil. He had always found Peter to be an odd sort of boy, and his maturity into adulthood had certainly not swayed his feelings.

"Albus!" a shrill voice called out to him.

Dumbledore looked up in surprise, as Professor McGonagall raced into his study. "Minerva, what is it?" he asked, seeing her flushed face.

"There are Muggles inside the Forbidden Forest!"

At first, all Dumbledore could do was blink, as he stared at her, wondering if he had heard correctly. "Muggles?" he said in wonder, as such a thing was not meant to be possible. "What happened?"

Ever since the founding of Hogwarts, every precaution had been taken to ensure that no Muggle would ever approach the castle or even the Forest. Every time when a Muggle got too close to either, the enchantments would make them see an illusion, often a warning sign or sometimes even a mirage of impending danger, which would frighten them away from the school. The closer they got to Hogwarts, the more severe the supposed danger would be.

And even if by some chance they were able to get to Hogwarts, they still wouldn't be able to see it, as the spells of illusion disguised the entire school, making it appear as nothing more than mere ruins.

Professor McGonagall shook her head. "I don't know for certain, Albus. Apparently, the Muggles were in one of those confounded flying contraptions of theirs… a helipad, I think, and it crash-landed right into the Forest!"

"I think you mean a helicopter," Dumbledore said, smiling briefly, but then quickly looked serious. "Contact the Ministry's Security Department immediately. We will need them to send a Muggle retrieval squad to us at once. If there are Muggles in the Forbidden Forest, then they have no idea of the danger they are in."

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The Forbidden Forest:

Chloe squeaked, biting her lip in pain, while John Doncaster reset her arm, the bones cracking beneath the skin as he did so, and setting it with a large branch Rebecca had found, bandaging it with his own shirt.

Rebecca seemed more concerned with checking her nails than she was with her friend's health, but then that was just Rebecca's way… she never liked to show that she cared about anything other than herself. John looked over at her but, seeing her merely filing her nails, he merely gave her a look of disgust before turning back to the injured girl in his care. He never noticed Rebecca turning her head back every few seconds to check on her friend.

"When will help be arriving?" she asked the pilot.

John turned to her. "I've activated the distress signal on the helicopter. With any luck, they should probably be able to locate us within the next hour or so."

"Probably?"

John shrugged. "I can only give you an estimation."

"I thought rescue missions were supposed to be an on the job kind of thing!" Rebecca hissed. "You know, leap into action and all that!"

"They are," John replied, seething beneath his breath. "But I can't be certain that our signal is getting through to them."

"What do you mean?" Chloe asked miserably, groaning as John finished bandaging her arm.

John just shrugged. "I can't explain it, but there seems to be some kind of interference out here, though I don't know from where. It might be blocking the radio signal."

"So what does that mean for us then?" Rebecca insisted.

"It means we just have to wait here for the time being. Like I said, I can't be certain the signal is getting through, but I can't be certain that it isn't either. Our best bet is to stay where we are for now and wait. If they can track our signal then they'll follow it here to where the chopper has crashed. It won't do us any good if we leave before they get here."

"And just how long are we supposed to wait here then?" Rebecca sneered. "Until Chloe's arm falls off, maybe?"

"Look!" John said, frustrated. "We'll wait here until I say so, not before, all right? If no one comes then we'll just have to try and make our own way back."

"Through all this thicket?" Rebecca scoffed.

"Well, do you have a better idea, Miss Leicester?" John replied, almost sneering at her. He knew he was taking a chance by being rude around rich toffs like this one, but this girl was sure asking for it.

For a moment, Rebecca Leicester said nothing, as she just stared at him with a murderous glare in her eyes. Then she turned and started to walk away.

"Hey!" John quickly yelled. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Mind your own business!" Rebecca yelled back at him.

"It is my business when you're my responsibility and you're about to go wandering off into a large and unfamiliar forest!" John started to go after her.

Rebecca turned back to face him. "I'm going to the little girl's room! Is that okay with you, Mr. Pilot, or do you think I need an escort?"

John blushed a little, but didn't lose his aggravated look. "Fine, but don't go too far, okay?" he warned.

Rebecca laughed a little at him. "Why, do you think I'm going to get mauled by an angry lion or something? This is Britain, remember? The most dangerous animals we have here are foxes and badgers."

Before John could reply, she turned and walked into the thicket, beyond his sight.

"Is she always like this?" he asked the girl called Chloe, as he went to check on her arm again.

Chloe gave a small laugh. "You're lucky. You're seeing her on one of her better days!"

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Rebecca headed deeper into the forest, with no thought of stopping.

As far as her bladder was concerned, she was fine. She had lied to Doncaster just so she could get away from him for a while.

If there was one thing that Rebecca hated beyond all else, it was when someone didn't show her proper respect. After all, she was the daughter of one of Parliament's most distinguished members. Who was this scruffy upstart of a pilot to speak to her so rudely?

She would go hide in the forest for a little while, make him worry. That would teach the idiot what for. She knew he would worry only about what her family would do if anything ever happened to her, and not about her safety in itself, but worry was worry no matter what it was about. It was good enough.

Rebecca was not stupid though. She knew better than to go running off alone into a deep dark forest that she had no clue about. She would only walk for a short while and hide out, probably behind one of the trees. Then, once she was sure that John Doncaster had sweated enough; she would go back.

But, unknown to her, there was someone…or something else in the forest with her, watching her every move, observing how she was leaving the safety of her friends, and that she was all alone…and it was definitely not a fox or a badger.

Rebecca walked a little further, until she heard the sound of running water, probably a river.

"Well, at least we won't die of thirst," she said to herself. She wondered briefly if she should forget about this whole trick on Doncaster, and go get a canteen to bring back some water for the others.

The rustling of several branches paused her thoughts before she could decide. She turned around, but saw nothing.

"Hello," she called out. "Is someone there?"

No answer

She just shrugged, assuming it to be no more than a rustle of the wind through the trees. She was in a forest, after all.

Rebecca was about to continue heading towards the river, once she discovered where it was, when she heard it again…

This time she knew it was no mere rustle, as the sound did not match. This sound was like the patter of little feet, but it was definitely not the sound of a child's that she was hearing. The pattering was too quick for a child, and it sounded like several feet were moving all at once.

"Hello?" she called out a little louder this time, but again she received no reply.

The pattering noise stopped.

Rebecca felt the beginnings of a cold sweat, as the creepy feeling that she was being watched came upon her.

The pattering soon started again, only this time it was much closer than it had been when it first started, but still she could not see the source of it.

Feeling the anxiety beginning to creep up her spine, she spun her head from side to side, but still she could see nothing.

As the sound came so near to her that it felt like, whatever it was, was almost right on top of her. That was when she realised that she had been looking in every direction except up.

Staring up at the tree-branches that blocked the sky from her view, she only had to look through them for a few seconds before she found what it was that had been stalking her. But when she found it, she wished she hadn't.

It was the largest, most gigantic and hideously terrifying spider that she had ever seen before in her entire life!

Rebecca froze, standing there like an idiot, her eyes growing wider by the second, as she stared in disbelief at the monstrosity above her.

The thing knew that she had seen it, but it didn't seem concerned. It just stared down at her with its numerous eyes, as it hung by its web, neither blinking nor attacking, before starting to make its way down the tree that it was perched on. It didn't move quickly or seem to be in a hurry, as it just took its time, moving steadily down the bark.

It was as big as a large dog, covered in thick black hair, legs with a span of about four to five feet wide, and a pair of gigantic fangs spouting from its mouth. It looked like something from an old monster movie, like that old film The Fly, at the end where the little fly had been trapped in a web and was about to be devoured by a huge spider.

If that spider had been a real giant, this one could very well be its baby.

She had had nightmares for weeks after she had seen that film, and even today had to bite her tongue whenever a spider, even the pitifully micro-sized ones, came near her.

'It can't be real,' Rebecca thought, close to panic, refusing to acknowledge what she was seeing right before her. 'It just can't be… There are no spiders this size in real life. Someone would have found out about them by now if there were. It would have been in newspapers and on the telly and…'

The monster spider soon reached the bottom of the tree, its eyes never leaving her (or most of them anyway). And out of all the things she feared and detested most about the sight of this creature, she especially did not like the look that it was now giving her.

The giant eight-legged stalker remained where it was, at the foot of the tree it had just climbed down. It watched her every move, as if waiting for her to strike.

"Chloe…" she said what, in her mind, had been a scream crying out for help, but which came out in barely a whisper.

The creature made no movement, except when one of its many legs took a small step back and forth, its eyes and fangs hungry for the tender fresh meat before it. Unlike its father, Aragog, it had not been given a name by the friendly half-giant, and was known only by its species' title: Acromantula.

Normally, it would never have ventured this far out from their nest, but there had been unforeseen circumstances…

It had been out hunting with several of its kind when they had come across a small pride of Manticores, and like all good hunters they had attempted to subdue them. But they had severely underestimated the Manticore's intelligence, strength and ferocity.

The large lion-like beasts, with the Scorpion tail and the Human head, had been quick to repel the Acromantula' attack. Unlike the young Acromantulas whose minds were little more than beastial, the Manticores were a very intelligent race and were also known as one of the world's most dangerous creatures. But of course, the Acromantulas hadn't known this. They had only seen what had looked like a possible meal for them and had attacked.

The Manticores had fought viciously, and had quickly subdued and killed them. Only the lone Acromantula had survived by fleeing deeper into the forest until it was sure they had stopped pursuing it. The last time it had seen its would-be prey, they had been returning to their hunting ground with the rest of the Acromantula' fallen brethren, from whence it had then heard the sounds of a soft crooning, a sign of the Manticores beginning their feast.

It had remained deep within the forest for a short while until it was certain the Manticores were gone, and it was then when it had heard a new sound.

It had never heard a sound like it before, like the noise of a giant bee with its loud buzzing, followed by a tremendous crash that seemed to vibrate throughout the entire forest. A short while later, it had spotted a few humans by the wreckage of a strange large metal thing, and soon one of them had left its nest-mates.

Its kind had always been partial to the taste of human flesh. This meat was not the big one called Hagrid that its father had taught it and its siblings not to touch, nor was she even the two young ones that had ventured into their nest and escaped a year ago. Those two had fought like the Manticores, refusing to become prey, killing with harsh magic, but this one was no predator. This one was true prey and, as there were none of the Acromantula's brethren nearby, it would have no need to share.

Rebecca swallowed the growing lump in her throat, as the creature took another step forward. It had begun to snap its huge fangs at her, making loud clicking noises.

Her grandfather had once been on safari and had told her about some of the big game that he had seen there, and the important lessons that he had learnt when faced with a real-live predator. Right now though, her fear was making it hard for her to even remember her own name, let alone something her grandfather told her years ago.

She began to step backward, as it came slowly forward, her nerves taught and her movements jerky. The monster snapped at her with its fangs, snarling and clicking, and that was all that she could take, as she turned tail and ran as fast as her legs could carry her, screaming.

The spider was quick to spring after her on its eight legs, leaping onto one of the nearby trees and scampering over its branches, as fast as a Cheetah on steroids.

It was then that Rebecca suddenly remembered one of the things that her grandfather had once told her… When facing a predator: never run from it, as it attracts their attention! Animals live by the code of the hunt, and they can't hunt something unless it first starts to run from them.

'Oh bugger,' she thought.

0000000000000

Back at the crashed helicopter, Chloe sat with her arm in a sling made from John's shirt. The pilot turned medic had done a pretty good job in setting the arm.

John had attempted to send out another signal from his radio, but whatever it was that had interfered with the transmitter signal earlier, it was still there.

"Where's Rebecca?" Chloe asked weakly.

John frowned. She had been gone a lot longer than was necessary to take care of her business. Of course, from what he suspected of her, she would probably take all day just to find the right bush in which to relieve herself.

Goddamn, he hated babysitting these stinking trust-fund babies! The girl had probably never done a decent day's work in her life, yet considered herself above everyone else just because she had more money. All rich folks were the same.

Still, she had been gone a while and they were out in the middle of nowhere, and he was responsible for her…

"Wait here," he told her, placing the receiver of the radio back in its cradle. "I'll go look for her."

"Hello!" a voice called out from somewhere.

John looked around in surprise. "Oh thank God…" he said out loud. "Yeah!" he then yelled. "We're over here!"

A few moments later, a group of men walked out of the thicket.

When John had first heard them, he had just assumed that they must be the rescue team sent in response to his SOS, but now... Now that he had seen them, there was no way that these men were with the air rescue service. If anything, they looked like rejects out of a King Arthur picture.

There were five of them, each wearing long and flowing dark cloaks, two of them had long beards, three had pointy hats and… Was that guy holding a wand?

"Err, hi?" John said hesitantly. "I'm John Doncaster."

The man in the lead was one of the men with a long beard, so long that it almost reached his midsection. He wasn't old per say, though the beard did seem to add years on him. John guessed he was somewhere around his mid or late forties.

The bearded man nodded at John respectfully, and then looked at something behind him.

John realised he must be looking at Chloe. "This is Miss Smith," he introduced them. "We were just in a crash. Our helicopter lost control."

The man nodded. "Yes, we know," he explained. "My men and I were sent for your rescue."

John felt his eyes almost ready to pop. "You're the rescue service?"

"We're a service, yes," another one of the strange men confirmed.

There were a million things John wanted to ask at that moment, but he knew right now was not the time. First things first, they had injured to take care of.

"Yeah, well," he said. "Like I said, I'm John Doncaster, the pilot. I was flying this helicopter when it crashed." He pointed behind him at the wrecked aircraft. "Dunno what happened. One moment we were flying safe as you please, next I was doing an emergency landing. I think the engine must have blown out, but how that happened is beyond me. We did run into a storm, but I don't recall any lightning touching us."

The five men looked at each other curiously, like they knew something he didn't, but whatever it was, they weren't saying.

"Miss Smith here is hurt," John told them hurriedly, though he didn't know what they could do, as he didn't see a first aid kit on any of them. "She's broken her arm."

One of the men with the pointed hats came forward, carefully holding out his hands to check her arm. "Let me see," he gently told her.

Chloe moaned, as she allowed him to undo her sling so that he could examine her.

"Are there any other members of your group?" the man who had first spoken then asked.

"Yes," John replied. "Another girl called Miss Leicester, Rebecca Leicester."

"And where is she?"

"She just went off into the forest to spend a penny," John said, shrugging. "She'll be back soo…"

"She's where?" the man suddenly demanded, his eyes wide, as were the rest of his team.

0000000000000

Rebecca screamed, as she heard the monster spider behind her getting closer, the branches and twigs snapping as it sped its way through the forest after her.

She screamed again and again, hoping that her pilot and Chloe would hear her.

'Where's a giant can of bug-spray when you really need it?' she thought, despite her fear.

She heard the creature, as it sprang on its long legs through the forest growth, chasing her.

Rebecca raced through a large bush in her way, panting in agony from all the running, which made her chest heave and hurt.

'John…Chloe,' she thought. 'Where…?'

The branches above her shuddered violently, and the creature dropped down on top of her. It's legs swarmed over her, trying to hold on, and she shrieked at the feeling, as one curled around her shoulder. She twisted and turned, spinning round and round, trying to shake it off. The beast's fangs snapped behind her ear, grazing her neck, as it grappled to stay on her, digging its legs into her sweatshirt.

With her arms bound by her sides within the beast's grasp, Rebecca did the only thing she could think of and dropped to the ground, landing on her back with a hard thump.

The creature screeched in pain, as the weight of her crushed it, forcing it to loosen its grip, allowing her escape. Wasting no time, Rebecca leapt back up and continued to run for her life. She never heard the tear, nor even noticed that most of her sweatshirt had remained entwined in the creature's grasp, as she tore herself away from it.

The spider clicked loudly in hunger and now anger. Its hunting instincts lead it on, as it stormed through the growth, leaping fast and widely for her. It hurt from its prey falling on it, but it was a small pain that only increased its hunger. The prey may have shed her skin to get away, but the Acromantula knew it would get her eventually. It just had to be patient. Acromantulas could, after all, think and learn from their mistakes, same as any other creature.

Rebecca felt herself tiring, as her own legs ached from all of the running she had done. Clearly this creature didn't know the meaning of the word quit.

With her legs tiring, the blood pounding in her ears and her breath feeling like it was caught in her throat, there was nothing she wanted more at that moment than to collapse right there and then. Unfortunately that wasn't an option, not with super-arachnid behind her.

With the pounding of her blood and the sound of her own breathing making it hard for her to concentrate, she almost missed one important sound. It wasn't the sound of Chloe or John, which was disheartening, but it was an important sound nonetheless, the sound of rushing water… the river!

Rebecca didn't know much about spiders, but she knew that most of them didn't know how to swim. If she could just get to the river and into the water then maybe it would leave her alone!

In her hope she urged her legs to go faster, heading towards the sound of the running water.

She fortunately didn't have that far to run, but the spider was gaining on her quickly. She didn't dare turn and look behind her to see how far it was, but she swore she felt its breath close to her neck again.

She soon reached the river, but the water was too deep and the current too wild for her to cross, and whichever way she looked she saw only thick trees and bushes blocking her way.

The Acromantula reached the river moments after she did, pausing behind her, watching her with its many eyes.

She knew it was biding its time, getting ready to make its final strike. Panic began to consume her; she twisted her head from side to side hoping to find some small aid anywhere. But all she saw was the log.

It was a long log that was strewed across the river, but didn't seem very thick or strong. She doubted that it would be able to hold her weight very well.

The Acromantula sprang up at her, its fangs reaching for her, as they clicked loudly in excitement. Rebecca only just managed to avoid it, as she leapt over to the side.

'Needs must when the devil drives,' she thought, running over to the log before the creature could take another shot at her.

She raced over the log as fast as she could, trying her best not to look behind at the awful thing that was now coming back after her. The creature was already coming, moving at the speed of lightning, scampering onto the log, that torturing clicking sound forever with it.

"Get away from me!" she screamed, picking up a small branch and throwing it at the monstrosity. She knew it was a futile thing to do, but her fear knew no bounds at that moment.

Unfortunately, the log turned out to be more brittle and rotten than she suspected. The sudden twist of her body when she threw the branch had caused it to finally succumb to its fate… The fallen tree had been pulled down many years ago by a harsh wind during the night of a terrible storm. Since then it had remained lying askew the river, the elements breaking down what was left of its strength. The sudden arrival of the human girl, her weight and the sharp movements made by her and even the giant spider had finally brought its time there to an end.

The brittle wood of the log cracked and snapped apart, as Rebecca sharply turned her body to throw the branch at the creature.

"AAARGH!" Rebecca screamed, as she fell into the raging waters below. The Acromantula unwillingly followed her down into the water's murky depths, its clicking noise finally ending for good.

Rebecca knew how to swim, but she had never swum outside before, let alone in currents as strong as these. She tried valiantly to swim to the other side of the river, but the current's superior strength pulled her with it downstream.

"JOHN!" she yelled for all her life. "CHLOE! HELP!"

Her cries went unanswered, as she continued her rush down the water. Then she heard another terrifying sound

The sound of the raging river was nothing compared to what she was quickly approaching. She couldn't see it with all the water in her face, but she knew what it had to be: a waterfall!

"SOMEONE! ANYONE! HELLLLLLLP!" she screamed one final time before going over.

0000000000000

"You are certain she came this way?" one of the robed men asked, as they made their way through the forest growth.

"Course," John replied, irritated at the constant questioning that was being thrown at him. "Look, what's the problem? I mean it's not like there's any dangerous wild animals out here."

The other men remained quiet. There were three of them now, four including John, as two had remained behind to look after Miss Smith.

John stared at them. "Are there?"

The one, who had been the first among them to speak, when they had all first arrived, turned to him. "There have been…a few sightings of some unfamiliar creatures within this forest, but nothing confirmed as of yet."

"Unfamiliar?" John said blankly. "What, you mean like the Stafford Beast or something?"

The Stafford Beast was what the press called an unconfirmed animal that had been spotted for decades around the areas of Gnosall, Castlefields and Western Downs. It was like Big-Foot and the Yeti, as many claimed to have seen it, but had no actual proof. The creature was believed to be a wild cat, like a Puma or Panther, as the British had once kept such beasts as pets before the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in 1976, forcing their owners to give them up, by sending them to the zoo or having them put down. Some of them, however, had not wanted to give up their animals though, and instead had ended up releasing them somewhere into the British countryside.

"Something like that, yes," the robed man replied. "But as I said, there has been nothing confirmed as of yet."

'Nothing to Muggle officials anyway,' the wizard thought to himself. He understood the importance of keeping their mystical world hidden, as Muggles weren't exactly known for their acceptance of others different from them. And, as for the animals of their world…even with all the creatures of magic safely hidden and presumed extinct, Muggles had still found other animals to hunt down and destroy, such as the Dodo bird, Atlantic Grey Whale, the Quagga (though Muggle scientists had been trying to recreate that species, thankfully), and countless others.

He dreaded to think what would happen if Muggles were to ever learn the existence of beasts such as Centaurs, Dragons and Unicorns. It was doubtful any of them would survive into the next century, should they be discovered.

"Derwood!" one of the other men, the ones with the pointed hats, called out. "Look."

The man with the very long beard, who had now been identified as Derwood, hurried over to where his companion and colleague had pointed, with John close behind him.

There, lying in the dirt, was a girl's sweatshirt. It looked as though it had been ripped to pieces.

"Dear sweet Mary, mother of God!" John exclaimed. "That's Miss Leicester's!"

Derwood reached down and picked up the item of clothing, turning it over in his hands and smelling it. "It hasn't been here long," he deduced. "Barely a few minutes. She must have come through here."

"But what the devil did that to it?" John demanded. "I mean, look at it! It looks like it's been put through a shredder!"

"Derwood, up above," the second man spoke again, nodding upwards toward the trees.

The others followed his gaze to find…a vast network of the largest collection of spiderwebs that John had ever seen before in his life.

"Sweet Jesus," John could only whisper in awe and fear. "What, is there a whole herd of Tarantulas living out here?"

"Unfortunately yes," Derwood simply said. "But not a Tarantula."

"What are you talking about?" John demanded, fed up with all the half-truths and runabouts that he was getting from this guy. What was he, another politician? "Look, just what is going on here? Where's Miss Leicester?"

"I'm afraid I can't answer anymore questions, Mr Doncaster," Derwood told him, as he reached into his robe and pulled something out. "But never fear, as you won't have anymore questions to ask."

"Wha…?"

"Obliviate!" Derwood yelled out, pointing his wand at the confused Muggle. There was a flash, and John Doncaster's mind went blank.

"What are we to do now?" the second wizard asked.

"You take him back to the crash-site," Derwood told him, sighing as he did so. "Wipe out the girl's memories, too, while you're at it. We'll continue looking around here for a while longer, but…I doubt we'll find anything good."

"You mean…?"

Derwood nodded. "Those webs could only have been made by an Acromantula. I knew the Forest had a nest of them living within it, but I didn't know their colony reached this far. If one of them found the girl…it's doubtful she's still alive."

The two other wizards hissed through their teeth.

"How did this even happen?" the third wizard asked. "I thought the Ministry took every precaution to keep Muggles away from Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest?"

"They did," Derwood explained. "The spells the Ministry placed on the school and Hogsmeade all those years ago made it so that whenever a Muggle got too close to them, they would see something that would dissuade them getting any closer, such as a storm. And even if by some chance they did make it past the enchantments, then all they would see would be a bunch of derelict ruins."

"The pilot claimed that they ran into a storm," his companion pointed out. "Could the storm have caused them to crash?"

Derwood shook his head. "The storm was merely an illusion. It could do no more harm to them than the ceiling of Hogwarts could do to us."

"Then what could have caused their flying machine to crash?"

Derwood frowned. "I don't know. Examine it, see if you can find anything out."

The second wizard nodded. "Very well, but you are aware that I don't know anything about Muggle machinery?"

"If you need to, contact Arthur Weasley in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office. He knows more about any Muggle objects than any of us."

"And what should I do with the pilot and the young girl, concerning their memories?

Derwood frowned, as he considered this. "Wipe their minds and implant some new memories straight away. Make them believe that the other girl never got on that, err…helicopter of theirs with them. Let them think that she decided not to go at the last minute, and that was the last they saw of her."

"Is that wise?"

Derwood shrugged. "It seems to be our best bet for now. If we don't find her then everyone will think that she's out there somewhere, and nowhere near this forest. And if we do find her then we'll simply erase her memories as well and make her believe that she went to somewhere like a holiday resort or something."

His colleague nodded, and then walked off with the entranced pilot in tow.

To Be Continued…