Chapter 2

The sun had just appeared at the horizon, bathing the undergrowth of the forbidden Forrest with its dim light. The snow was now covering the whole place with a blanket of pure and cold whiteness. No animal or magical creature had yet disturbed its untouched perfection in the small clearing or its present occupants. Sat upon a large rock, the figure of a woman cradling in her arms her child seemed frozen in immobility. Not once in the past five hours had she moved in the slightest. And yet, she wasn't dead, and neither was the baby she was holding so tightly. They were lost in a healing trance that had overcome them in the urgent necessity of the horrendous past events of the night.

The amount of magic power involved had been so intense that instinctively all other Forrest denizens who had come near the Blue Licorn's clearing had sensed it and kept away from their Lady by respect. From the tension, they had deduced that it was a matter of life and death, or at least something Medusa thought as very important for her. They had not wanted to interfere in anyway in the hard process involved here, at the risk of endangering the outcome. The Forbidden Forrest had seemed to hold its breath for a moment, keeping that unnatural calm that had protected its Lady's tranquillity and peace in this time of need.

But in this early hour of a winter morning, life seemed to conquer back its rightful territories. Birds had started their songs again above Medusa and her son. Centaurs and unicorns had reinvested their playgrounds all around the peaceful clearing, throwing curious glances that became confused and amused stares at the very unusual spectacle. Never in two millennia their lady protector had really been close or intimate with anyone of them. She had always made a principle not to get too involved with anyone of the denizens of her territory, fearing maybe that her friendship to one clan would be seen as favouritism by others. Always polite and courteous to a fault. But nothing really emotional. It was the first time any magical creature had witnessed such a display of love and care from their Lady. Something had really changed in the Forbidden Forrest. Soon the word would have made its way in every clan, in every corners of Medusa's protectorate.

Unaware of the attention she was attracting at the moment, or simply indifferent to it, Medusa finally ended the healing trance she had been lost in for the past four or five hours. The fight had been long and really straining, but it was done, it was one battle won. Opening her eyes slowly, she allowed herself to loosen a little the close mental link she had build with her new son. She opened her awareness to her surroundings and allowed her snakes to take in all the sensations they could grasp for her. The light, the absence of moves around her, the cold of the snow, the silence sometimes interrupted by birdsong or branches breaking somewhere in the wood. In conclusion, no direct danger. Nothing to fear for her or her baby.

Lowering her gaze on the precious burden, Medusa finally took some time to really watch her son. She had not been able to before, in the hurry of the emergency. His black fine long hair, all entangled and dirty now, contrasted strikingly with his pale skin, which had maybe never been exposed to the light of the sun. His features were already showing the sharp angles he should have had in twenty years, all the baby fat being painfully absent of his cheeks and jaws. The only colour that could be observed on this white skin was the dark purple circles that had settled, surely for a long time now, around eyes she still had not seen. The baby had always been unconscious. dying in a comatose state and now in an exhausted slumber.

The baby boy was sleeping now, cradled closely against her chest, his little fists grabbing with all their strengths the layers of veils that were covering his mother body, as if reassuring himself that the little comfort he had finally found would not escape once again. At this sight, she could only sigh with a mix of both contentment and pity. This fragile being was hers ! Her son, her baby, the new centre of her life ! But her heart could only tighten at the spectacle in front of her eyes. All these angry scars, all these bruises that she could not heal, this horrible thinness. a few hours ago, it had only been shocking and even revolting. Now it was terrifying too. It was no longer any random child, any victim. It was now her son, her baby. He was hers. Hers to love, hers to bring up, hers to take care of, hers to protect. Seeing him like that, so vulnerable, so hurt, with the many traces of a past so dark and painful she couldn't even fathom, was hurting her in a very personal way, filling her with anger as well as compassion.

The only sight of the baby, her son, was a wonderful experience to the millennia old lady. On the previous night, she had made a passionate and instinctive choice, saving this child's life. It could have been any child. It didn't matter then. Now, looking down at him with the love of her new mother eyes, she made this choice once again, she confirmed the eternal commitment she had initiated on the previous night. Because it was him, this really unique and special child, with his unique qualities and personality. It was personal now. Because it was him, because it was her. The trial they had both passed successfully a few hours ago had taught her a lot about her son. He was sensitive and brave. He had been so hurt, and yet there still was a place for love in his heart. It was as if the dark feelings of hate and revenge were totally foreign to him. He was so pure, so beautiful, so wonderfully strong of heart and mind. She couldn't but feel an overwhelming feeling of pride at the thought that this splendid soul was her son's. She had been gifted so richly by the Fates in this day.

Shaking all these thoughts and feelings away for a later analyse, Medusa finally stood up when she noticed that, while she was not vulnerable to the climatic variations, the biting cold of this winter morning could easily become a danger to her still human son's survival. The little blanket he had been wrapped in was torn in so many places that it could hardly be of any use. Instinctively, she tightened her grip on his fragile body, as if to give him more of her body warmth and covered him with one of her veils. In a thought, she apparated away with her son in the cave she had been staying in for centuries now.

Embodied in the middle of the mountain marking the centre of her protectorate, the cave was charmed to only let in Medusa and her designated guests. It was constituted of a series of caves making a suite of rooms she had arranged at her convenience. The place was neither luxurious nor richly furnished, but it was secured and served its purpose fairly well, providing Medusa with a place in which she could rest and have a few indoor activities. Quite simple and even maybe a little Spartan in fact, wooden pieces of furniture were scattered in the rooms, determining vaguely their actual use. a bedroom, storerooms, living rooms, workrooms of different kinds and even a very strange library.

At first sight, it didn't seem much, but a few details marked this unusual place as warm and even welcoming to a certain extent. Fires and candles were disposed all around the rooms, giving a natural light that did not assault Medusa's and her snake's sensible eyes. Weird objects of all sorts, souvenirs of more than three thousands years of life, had given this place the comfortable familiarity of a place lived in for a long time. A careful eye could even admire the magical fresco of a Greek moving landscape that was painted on a whole wall, in the main chamber of the cave, the picture of the island where she was born.

But none of those so familiar details really registered anymore, after so many centuries, and less of all on this particular morning, when the Lady of the Forrest apparated at home, her son tightly cradled on her chest. At the same second she had arrived, she had run, rather than walked, in the chamber she used as a bedroom, in the rare occasions she needed a little sleep. Kneeling in front of the bed, Medusa carefully laid her burden on the soft and comfortable arrangement of moss and leaves that made the bedding.

Seeing that the child was still deeply asleep, she seized the opportunity to make him a little more at ease and to verify she had not overlooked anything in her healing trance, without risking to have him afraid to be touched by a virtual stranger. Cutting away the last shreds of cloth he was still wrapped in, Medusa started to wash away the dried blood and the mud that were staining his skin. Wherever the washcloth was wiping away the dirt, she made sure that another wound or bruise was not hiding viciously. Luckily, she had not missed anything presenting any kind of medical emergency.

And yet, all her snakes' eyes could perceive was not pleasing, to say the least. Medusa had made her best, during the whole night, to erase all signs of illness and abuse, or to be more precise, all their symptoms and direct effects, but she had not been able to take away the hundreds of magical scars, resulting from dark curses, that were disrupting the softness of his baby skin on his whole body. The esthetical issue was not the point that mattered the most. but the child would most likely than not have to live with this physical reminder of the horror of his little childhood carved forever in his skin, with no way to escape from it and from the devastating effect it would have on his psychical development. The child would have to be superbly strong in his mind and soul, if his spirit would have any chance of surviving it.

Finally discarding the soiled water and washcloth, Medusa settled herself beside the bed, watching closely her child and dwelling on all those serious fears and hopes for the future. his future. their future. Hours passed like that, in the stillness of the wait. Medusa barely moved at all, only from time to time gently wiping away the drops of sweat that were running down the little boy's face. A lingering fever had appeared in the first hours of the afternoon, leaving the weak body alternatively shivering in the chill of illness and sweating in the heath of the new fight for life. A restless sleep had followed the stillness of the initial slumber. The boy was shaking and trashing the bedding away, occasionally letting a painful and fearful moan escape from his thin white lips, only to calm himself when he could feel Medusa holding his little hand supportively and stroking gently his face.

The evening and following night were a very trying moment to pass for both of them. maybe even more for Medusa than for her child. With every toss and turn, with every moan, with every shiver, she was terrified to see her baby taken away from her. Her whole magic was not enough to heal her son totally. She had come to the conclusion, after the first twenty attempt at feeding him her energy to destroy the illness and fever, that the process, as exhausting and dangerous as it was, was necessary. The baby's organism had to hunt down and throw away every remnant of the dark magic that had inhabited and maimed his body for so long, if he would have a chance of starting a new life free from its deadly influence. It was simply killing her to see him suffering like that, while she could do nothing but watch. and assure him time after time in soft and featherlike touches she was fighting with him, in spirit if nothing else.

And finally, in the early hours of the second morning, the fever broke. Suddenly, the baby boy won his fight against unconsciousness and sleep and started to stir weakly. In a hurry, Medusa, yet excited as she was, summoned her veils to cover her deadly features, afraid the curse of her sight would kill the son she had fought so hard to keep alive. Soft moans amplified into small cries and inarticulate calls. "Mmmum.Mumm." Only one word, or what sounded vaguely as such, could be heard repeated time after time, urging Medusa to squeeze lovingly the small hand she was already holding in hers. The gesture was understood as an encouragement to find and join this comforting presence. For a few more seconds, the weight of sleep seemed to crush down any attempt at moving heavy eyelids, but finally, they cracked open. to reveal the whiteness of blind and unmoving eyes.

The gasp of horror, pain and compassion this vision elicited in Medusa only managed to upset the child even more. In his weak state, in the darkness of his blindness, with no real means to evaluate his surrounding and his situation, he had focussed his senses, his desperately hungry for affection senses, on the ghost presence of a mother he had yearned to know and dreamt about for years, on the warm hand that was touching him with so much love, guiding him like a life line through the pain . And now, the first thing he was perceiving was this sound he had instinctively associated with rejection and disapproval. 'Alone. still alone. always alone. no hope.' this mantra would soon have entered his distraught mind to never leave it again. if Mother had not reacted so quickly. Realising her mistake, Medusa had gently pulled her son to her, settling him on her lap and holding him tightly against her heart, stroking languidly his long black hair and murmuring sweet and reassuring nonsense in his ear, lulling him to sleep.

It was in this position that Medusa spent the next few hours, rocking slowly her precious child while her mind was focussed on the resolution of the new situation in which she had chosen to take herself. The next few days would be determining, both for her and for her son. She had thought at first she had received the responsibility and favour from the Fates to raise and love a child. But the recent events had revealed a few details she would have to adapt to if she wanted to gather as much chances and assets as possible in hers and her son's advantages. Not only the child was human, but also a wizard, as no muggle would have reacted so readily to her heart magic, and a blind abused little baby. For now at least.

To be sincere, Medusa had to confess to herself that her experience in the practical care of such a child was very limited, if not absent. As much as she had wished she would be a natural mother to him, without any interference in her new found happiness, she had to admit that for now, she needed help and advice from someone who would be more knowledgeable and practised in the matter, someone she respected for their kindness and their good heart, someone she could trust with the most precious being in her life.

Ever the pragmatic one, Medusa didn't loose time pretending to be able to do what she was perfectly aware she didn't know and readily started to sort through the possibilities. Soon enough, she had discarded every magical creature of her domain. Neither of them were human, after all, and the general policy in the traditions of the Forbidden Forrest denizens was to avoid any contact with the human population as much as possible. to state it clearly, she would never find the experience needed in any of them, even in the half-human creatures. No. She had to find a human being. a wizard even. Of course she knew that next to her territories had been built a hamlet and a school. but past events had made her wary of their attitude toward any non humman being. If she made the wrong choice, she could find herself in a situation where one of those wizards would want to take her child away from her, pretexting that only human could raise human children. No. She had to find someone who would respect her for what and who she was, who would accept her decision and be willing to help her without ill placed interference. The only real choice was the simple and kind half-giant, Hagrid.