*Let’s hope this is
coherent, as it is less than half its original length. But after all that
editing, I couldn’t NOT submit it! And please don’t count this note towards my
1000 words . . .*
Harry peeked beneath his
invisibility cloak, smiling expectantly. A three-legged kettle gurgled happily
up at him over a magical fire. He inhaled the aroma of beef and let the cloak
fall to conceal the fire’s glow. Even with the spell for Traveler’s Protection
Dumbledore had cast on them, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to be careful not to
attract attention to their presence in the Forbidden Forrest, especially until
Remus Lupin arrived after the full moon.
Harry and Ron,
frighteningly, were safest here, hidden under Albus Dumbledore’s protective
nose. Since a dementor had nearly kissed Harry last year, this summer’s stay
with the Dursleys had been mercifully short. Mrs. Weasley, afraid to have Ron
at the Burrow, or even Grimmauld Place, until the extent of Kreacher’s
treachery was revealed, had sent Ron into hiding as well, armed with Fantastic
Beasts and Where to Find Them and
three bags full of wood lice, in case they hung their hammocks from wand trees,
disturbing their bowtruckles. Harry thought bowtruckles the least of their
problems, but was happy anyway for Ron’s company.
Hermione, however, who sat
a few yards away, renewing the Traveler’s Spell, a skill she had learned in one
afternoon, along with how to use Chew Powder to conjure their meals, a charm to
temporarily calm a raging centaur, and about a dozen others, would have been
undeniably safer at home. That made Harry uneasy. Ron was attempting levity
with semi-melodic burping, but Hermione was not amused.
“Quit that,” she hissed.
“Aw, Hermione, you’re no
fun. Jealous Dumbledore didn’t teach you spells to belch as beautifully as I
can. Wait!” Ron’s face lit up. “Fred taught me one—“
“Oh, no--urrrp. Ruuurp! I’m gonna Gurrrrrrp Yourrrrrrp! You
are so UUUUUURRRRP!” The last eruption from Hermione was incomprehensible to
Harry, but he was already rolling on the ground laughing. She turned on him.
As she reached
for her wand, Harry scrambled. She started to curse, but emitted only belches.
The boys rolled behind trees, dodging sparks. Ron uprooted a handful of moss
and pelted Hermione, who whipped around. While Ron darted away, Harry
distracted her with rattling seeds. She whirled, and Ron landed a clump of
grass in her hair. Harry dodged a spell as Ron struck again and soon they were
all panting, laughing, and occasionally burping.
Harry studied his best
friends, who had created this, his first moment of real laughter in ages, and
emotion flooded his brain. He would do anything for them, die if that’s what it
And he had concluded that
that was what it would take. “And either must die at the hand of the other for
neither can live while the other survives” had confused him. Weren’t he and
Voldemort both alive? Then, slowly, the conviction had formed that it must also
be true that he could not survive Voldemort’s downfall. The bitterness that had
accompanied that conclusion now evaporated. He wasn’t dying for ungrateful
wizardkind. But he could for his best friends.
Then Hermione interjected briskly, “We’ll need to move camp
now, you know.”
“I really just want to rest,” he wearily moaned.
“I’m sorry, Harry, but just now you can’t.”
And he turned on her and stormed. “Who put you in charge?
Who-- even asked you along? Like I need a bushy-haired ball and chain
baby-sitter when I’ve --” but regret was already attacking, as Hermione’s eyes
grew, large and wet. She turned and fled into the woods.
Then Ron was in his face, screaming, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH
YOU? ARE YOU MENTAL?”
Harry ordered Ron to stay put lest they all lose the path.
Ignoring his mutinous glare, Harry crashed into the trees, peering frantically
around. As he shoved a springy branch aside, an army of tiny stickmen swarmed.
He threw them a handful of woodlice from Ron’s pouch and brushed razor-fingered
hands from his hair as he ran on.
He found Hermione, hands balled, kicking a tree. Seeing
Harry, she crumpled with guilt and shame.
He dropped beside her. “Listen, Hermione. I didn’t mean it.
I don’t know why I--I was thinking about that prophecy and I don’t think I’m
going to make it and I’m so sorry. I know Ron and I are gonners without you.
But I don’t just need you--“
“No,” Hermione frowned. “I shouldn’t be this upset. But . .
. My parents. When Dumbledore requested I—accompany-- you, I knew they’d want
me to help, but that they’d worry horribly. They were so upset.” She inhaled
sharply. “He performed a memory charm. They think I’m at the Burrow. I wrote a
letter in case—“ She stopped. Harry was staring. “D-do you think I’m awful?”
“No,” he mumbled, “I think nobody could have a better friend
than you.” His arms shot out into the unfamiliar feeling of a true embrace.
“Ron,” Harry said finally, “looked ready to kill me.” When
he and Hermione had begun to walk, he asked, “Think you and he ever. . .?”
Herminone smiled slightly. “Not now, but. . . I think—I
hope—he just needs to grow up a bit. Nobody else would ever understand what it
was like . . . being friends with you.” Her voice fell to a whisper and she
looked away. Harry distracted himself by preparing for Ron’s worst.
However, before the towering red-head could utter a furious
word, Hermione had stepped smoothly between the boys and smiled, “Hello, Ron,”
so composedly that his freckled face immediately relaxed.
“I hope there’s been nothing nasty along,” she fussed. The
wand fell from his hand. “We really should get moving. Harry stumbled into some
bowtruckles and we’re more than lucky if we haven’t woken anything worse.”
“Bowtruckles?” Ron grinned. “Good thing you had my lice with
you, then, mate?” And the kettle announced supper.
Later, Harry had a question
for Hermione. “How’d you know about the bowtruckles?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t. But it did cheer him up. Would you
rather belch slugs?”