The Sugar Quill
Author: zzzFF hooligan  Story: The Field Trip  Chapter: Default
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Ron was the first to break the silent tension

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 his neck.

Parvati's quavering voice sounded from somewhere near the back.  "Spiders?"

"Yeah," Ron said.  His voice was trembling too.  "Big, hairy ones with long legs and--"

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 session count."

            The group 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."

            Going around the circle, Harry paired off the students and spread them about the clearing.  "Wands out, everyone," he instructed.

            "I've had mine out since the first step we took into this bloody forest," Ron said.  He received a rousing chorus of agreement.

            Harry 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.

            "I 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."

            Harry spent 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.

            Ron 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!"

            Harry, Hermione, 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."

            Ginny 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.

            "I'm g-going to die!  I'm too young!"

            Ginny leaned down and punched her brother in the shoulder.  "Don't be a prat, Ron.  It’s just a bowtruckle."

            Ron quit 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 calming breath.

            "It was probably just protecting its tree," Hermione added matter-of-factly.

            Harry 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 clearing.

            "I wasn't hurting his tree," he said in protest.

            Harry laughed and dropped Ron onto the grass.  "You should feel lucky."

            "How's that?"

            "That tree could’ve been a relative of the Whomping Willow."

Ron gave Harry a half-hearted sneer and tucked his wand back into his belt.

"Very funny…ha, ha."

            “Well, one thing’s for sure.”

            “And what’s that?”

            “You could a use a few more lessons on fear.”

//
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