Hangleton Forest reminded Hermione of the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts, except
it was much larger. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been walking for hours,
and it was Hermione who suggested they take a break from their Horcrux search,
since they all seemed quite exhausted from walking through the thick trees all
day. When they came to a small clearing, they pitched a tent and ate the
sandwiches she had prepared for the journey. Even though they were fairly
sure they weren’t being followed, Hermione set up a strong barrier around the
area in case of intruders or other creatures that happened to be lurking in the
unfamiliar forest. They decided to take turns on look-out while the
others got some sleep.
volunteered to go first. The night was relatively quiet, except for the
occasional owl hooting nearby and Ron’s snores echoing from the tent. She
was actually rather surprised at how quickly time passed as she spent the two
and a half hours reading up on defensive spells. When she was finished,
she woke Ron to relieve her before returning to the tent to fall asleep beside
Harry. He looked so peaceful and boyish, lying there without his glasses
on. It amazed her that he could even fall asleep, considering his
responsibilities. On the other hand, they had been hiking all day, and
she felt the exhaustion pulling her into slumber as well.
wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but she woke suddenly when she heard a
bit of a commotion outside. She chose not to wake Harry, who was sleeping
soundly beside her, unless it was urgent. Slipping her cloak on, she
quickly grabbed her wand and stepped out of the tent. She muttered, “Lumos!”
and scanned the area.
was gone. She spun in a circle, squinting at the surrounding trees and
bushes, looking to catch any glimpse of red. “Ron?” she whispered
shakily, backing toward the tent to go and wake Harry.
then she heard him. “Psst! Hermione!”
she hissed, pointing her wand in the general direction from where she’d heard
his voice. “Are you under Harry’s cloak? Where are you?”
here.” He shook a small twig to get her attention.
eyes widened when she looked up and saw him; he was about fifteen feet above
her, his long legs dangling down as he sat on a very thick branch. “Dare
I even ask what you’re doing up in a tree?” She raised her brows, awaiting an
you see….” Ron cleared his throat, which indicated that he was about to
tell a lie. “Well, I just figured that from up here, I’d be able to watch
over the area better.”
Hermione walked toward him, and froze when she noticed Ron’s wand on the
ground, surrounded by four or five little spiders. She picked it up,
grinning a bit. “I see. You won’t be much use without this,
even if you are getting a better view of the clearing from up there.”
winced a bit, peering over at her from above. “Oh! How… how
forgetful of me,” he said lamely, reaching out for it. “Toss it up here,
pulled her arm back, preparing to throw it, when she stopped, her eyes going
wide in realization as she brought it closer to her own lit wand. There
was a tiny spider crawling along the tip of his wand, and she smiled innocently
up at him. “Why don’t you just climb down and get it? It’s almost
Harry’s turn anyway.”
shifted a bit in the tree; she could see the look of horror on his face when he
saw the tiny shadow of the spider crawling on his wand. “I… I really
prefer it up here. The air, it’s clearer. And, erm… this tree is
quite—it’s rather comfy,” he said unconvincingly, scratching the back of his
honestly, she thought to herself. This spider thing is
ridiculous. “You know, Ron, this little creature is actually quite
cute.” She picked the spider off of Ron’s wand and laid it in the palm of
her hand, watching it crawl about.
Don’t do that!” Ron’s voice broke slightly and he clutched at the
tree trunk harder.
for heaven’s sake, Ronald. It’s not going to bite me.” A wicked
smirk crossed her face and she gasped slightly. “What?” Her
expression turned to that of surprise, and she brought the spider closer to her
ear. “Yes, I know, Mr. Spider. Don’t mind my friend Ron, he’s a bit
shy. Of course he’d like to meet you!”
face turned ghostly pale. “Are you mad? Stop playing
games! Spiders can’t talk!”
spiders can talk! Aragog spoke quite eloquently, according to
Harry. This little one is a different breed is all. I’m sure he can
still understand you.”
don’t want that hairy little beast anywhere near me!”
Ron. You’ll hurt his feelings,” Hermione snapped, cooing at the little
spider, which crawled around to the top of her hand.
crossed his arms over his chest, glaring lightly down at her. “Spiders
don’t have feelings, they’re just creepy and ugly,” he muttered.
She gasped in an overdramatic fashion and feigned taking strong offense to
that. “Don’t have feelings? Of course he has feelings,
Ron! He’s a living, breathing animal. How would you feel if someone
was afraid of you because they thought you were creepy and ugly?”
Ron took offense to that. “I’m not a bug, Hermione!”
you bug me!” she retorted matter-of-factly.
brilliant comeback. How many O.W.L.s did you say you got?”
Hermione stuck her chin up at him. “It looks as if Mr. Spider has
something better to say!” She stuck the spider in her cloak pocket and
started to climb Ron’s tree with determination.
What the hell d’you think you’re doing?” Ron watched with horror as she
brought the spider closer to him. When she reached his branch, he crawled
outward, away from the tree trunk. “You’re completely off your
rocker! Go back down, or I’ll… I’ll…”
what? Jump and break your neck?” she said smartly, situating herself on
the same branch as Ron. He was merely a foot away, since the branch
thinned out slightly and it was too dangerous with his weight to climb out any
take your spider and go back down right now!” he commanded. “You don’t
understand, Hermione. I’ve... I’ve got a serious fear of—I’ll jump
off! I will!” he threatened half-heartedly, trying to control his
seriously, Ron. I read a very fascinating article just a few months ago
on phobias and fears. What you have is an example of a common phobia, not
That’s comforting,” he said sarcastically, gripping onto the branch for dear
rolled her eyes. “A researcher named Dr. Bartoli says that the systematic
desensitization of a phobia is generally a combination of very gradual exposure
and relaxation techniques.” She reached into her pocket to fish out the
gasped and turned away. “Don’t! I’ve had… plenty of exposure,
really! Second year Harry and I were surrounded by them, don’t you
but that certainly wasn’t gradual or relaxing. That probably only
worsened the condition.”
think so?” he said sardonically, snorting a bit.
really think this’ll help you. Now stop being such a baby and come
closer!” She scooted closer to him, which only made Ron squirm, shifting
uncomfortably against the bark of the branch. The spider was in her
fist. She held it out in front of her and uncurled her fingers.
not being a baby,” he pouted, looking down at his lap.
slowly moved her hand in front of Ron and watched as he seemed to hold his
breath, trying to keep it together. It was quite adorable,
actually. A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.
you laugh at me, Hermione! You don’t understand!”
that he was now watching her, she wiped the grin off her face
immediately. “I wasn’t laughing at you, Ron. Relax. Just
breathe,” she said soothingly, keeping her eyes on his face as she saw him peer
down at the spider.
can’t relax,” he muttered, a mix of frustration and anxiety present in his
you can!” she said encouragingly. “Just… think of something you’d
normally find relaxing… like Quidditch, or chess, or those terrible comic
magazines or-” She was cut off mid-sentence because Ron had kissed her.
Caught off guard, she clutched at his cloak when she nearly lost her balance;
her stomach felt as if she had, in fact, fallen out of the tree and was
plummeting to the ground. The kiss itself was completely innocent, and
Hermione was sure she’d burst from feeling so much happiness and warmth in one
it ended, she opened her eyes and saw Ron looking at her differently. He
still seemed terrified, but triumphant. She was sure she would have a
hundred things to say to him when this moment finally occurred, but for once in
her almost eighteen years of life, she was speechless. She felt herself
grinning and blushing, and though she knew she must have looked like a complete
fool, she watched as Ron visibly relaxed to mirror her inane expression.
then he said something that she wasn’t expecting. “I had a… um… phobia of
doing that,” he said with a nervous laugh.
was a fear, not a phobia,” she replied once she found her voice. “I had
it too,” she admitted shamelessly, loosening her grip on his cloak.
what’s the difference?” Ron asked, and Hermione was taken aback by how
sincerely interested he seemed in her research for once.
caused her smile to widen. “Well, fears are more frustrating. Dr.
Bartoli says that fears cannot be reasoned with; no matter what deductions or
insights one may develop regarding their fear, it does not eliminate the
fear. Fears also tend to worsen and broaden over time.”
Ron nodded. “That sounds pretty accurate to me,” he said with a
laugh. “Bright fellow, that Dr. Bartoli. I’m glad, er… we got over
this fear. Y’know, so it doesn’t get worse.”
was about to add to that, when she gasped and looked at her hand, which had
just let go of Ron’s cloak. “Mr. Spider! He’s gone!”
what a pity!” Ron said with a chuckle, seemingly relieved.
“Let’s get down from here. This branch won’t hold us forever.”
he started to move, Hermione caught a quick glimpse of Mr. Spider—on Ron’s
shoulder, crawling toward his neck. Gradual exposure, she thought,
realizing that this might be far too much exposure, too fast. If Ron
noticed this, he would most likely panic and fall out of the tree.
Instead of drawing attention to it, she did the only sensible thing—she leaned
in and kissed him again. Ron seemed surprised but didn’t object. As
she watched him shut his eyes, she reached up to gently pick up Mr. Spider and
place him safely on a nearby leaf.
were interrupted by a very off-pitch rendition of, “Ron and Hermione, sitting
in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes-”
broke the kiss, tore off his already unlaced trainer, and chucked it at Harry,
who was grinning up at them from down below. “Bugger off, Potter!” Ron bellowed,
and Hermione had the grace to look embarrassed.
snickered and caught the shoe. “It’s my turn for look-out duty. You
two ought to get back into the tent and sleep. It should be
sunrise in just a few hours. I’ll wake you both when we’ve got to pack up
moved first; she untangled herself from Ron and slowly climbed down the
must have noticed that she looked a bit shaky, because she heard him call out
to her, “Hey, Hermione, don’t you have a fear of heights?”
voice trembling a bit, she looked down at him and shrugged. “I’m working
on it,” she said, saving a knowing grin for Ron when he looked at her as well.
had his feet firmly on the ground right after she did, and they both brushed
off their cloaks as he turned to Harry. “You know, mate, it’s actually
called a phobia; a fear is different.”
on, Ron,” Hermione said with a soft laugh, beaming as she took his wrist and
pulled him toward the tent.
are more fun to conquer!” he called out to Harry before ducking into the tent
they continued to conquer their fears until the sun came up.
Author’s Notes: The article and
interview with Dr. Bartoli (Professor of Psychology at East Stroudsburg University) were written/conducted by Greg Predmore.
major? Me? Of course not… ;-)