Ron was the first to break the
silent tension. "How far in do we
have to go?"
Harry peered ahead into the gloom,
the pale light from his wand barely penetrating the forest darkness. "Not much farther," he said. He glanced back at the shadowy faces of the
small group following his lead.
Ron, who was right behind Harry, looked
up at the dense canopy of trees. "Just
steer clear of spiders, mate," he said and pulled his cloak tight around
quavering voice sounded from somewhere near the back. "Spiders?"
"Yeah," Ron said. His voice was trembling too. "Big, hairy ones with long legs
Hermione socked Ron in the
back. "Knock it off," she
hissed as her eyes darted upward.
Harry turned his attention back to
the forest and saw a patch of moonlight ahead.
Picking the least tangled path he could find, he led Dumbledore’s Army
through a low patch of snagging brush and into a small clearing. On a small hillock in the center of the
clearing sat a giant, gnarled tree, its withered branches clawing at the night
sky. As the others filed into view,
Harry walked up toward the tree and turned at its base to face them.
With a mingling of whispers and
gasps, they crept across the damp turf, pointing off into the shadows as they
went. As they approached the tree, they
came together to form a half circle on the sloping grass around Harry. All talking ceased, and one by one they
turned their apprehensive faces up toward Harry.
"The reason for this outing,"
Harry began, "is fear." The
growing unease on their faces told him he had their attention. "It's one of Voldemort's
most powerful weapons. Overcoming your
fear is an important part of Defense Against the Dark
Arts. If you think this forest or this
tree is scary, what will you do when you're face to face with a Death Eater who
wants to kill you?"
He waited for this last statement
to sink in before continuing. "Now,
we went to a lot of trouble to get everyone out of the castle. So it's really important to try to make this
nodded in agreement, but remained frozen in place. Harry looked up at the sky as the moon
slipped behind a silvery wisp of cloud.
"Okay then," he said, "let's get to it."
around the circle, Harry paired off the students and spread them about the
clearing. "Wands out,
everyone," he instructed.
had mine out since the first step we took into this bloody forest," Ron
said. He received a rousing chorus of
stopped and looked at the small gathering in the clearing. Ron was right. They already had their wands out and
ready. "Well then, let's see what
you can do with it," he replied. "Take
turns using the curse of your choice on your partner, and your partner will try
to defend against it.
know I probably don't have to say it, but stay away from the Unforgivable Curses. Except maybe the Imperius
Curse…so you'll have to use more than just your wands. You'll need your heads as well. Have at it."
the next few minutes wandering among his pupils, dodging stray curses and
offering helpful suggestions. Some, like
Hermione, were getting along well. More than a few, however, seemed to be having difficulty staying focused. When a large barn owl swooped over the
clearing with a loud screech, Dean dropped his guard and took one of Lavender’s
Impediment Jinxes in the chest. Ginny,
who had been in the process of sending a Jelly-Legs Jinx at Neville, jumped and
sent it right past Harry's ear and into Ron's back instead.
stumbled toward the edge of the clearing and grabbed hold of a low tree branch
to steady himself.
In the next instant, something darted from above and struck at him from
behind, then vanished into the canopy.
His legs collapsed as he let go of the tree and clamped his hand down on
his neck. When he pulled his hand away,
the palm was spotted with drops of blood.
Ron let out
a horrifying shriek and scrambled away from the tree as best he could without
the use of his legs. "D-Did anybody
see what it was? Was it a spider? It b-bit me!"
and Ginny ran over to Ron as the remaining members surveyed the woods, wands at
the ready. Hermione leaned over and checked
the back of his neck. She exhaled
sharply, a look of relief spreading across her face. "It's just a scratch, Ron. This isn't a spider bite."
walked over to the tree, wand out in front of her, and looked up into its
branches. A small, twig-like creature
buzzed angrily about, stopping now and then to examine a leaf or twig. Ginny lowered her wand and chuckled, then walked
over to her brother. Ron was still
squirming in agony.
g-going to die! I'm too young!"
leaned down and punched her brother in the shoulder. "Don't be a prat,
Ron. It’s just a bowtruckle."
squirming, but even in the darkness Harry could see his face flushing. "Are you sure?" He rubbed the back of his neck and took a
was probably just protecting its tree," Hermione added matter-of-factly.
helped Ron to his feet. His legs
suddenly looked a little stronger. Ron
pointed back over his shoulder as Harry led him toward the center of the
wasn't hurting his tree," he said in protest.
laughed and dropped Ron onto the grass.
"You should feel lucky."
tree could’ve been a relative of the Whomping
Ron gave Harry a half-hearted sneer
and tucked his wand back into his belt.
thing’s for sure.”
a use a few more lessons on fear.”