~ Chapter 3 ~
Oh, Wallabindle, Baby!
It was a luscious sort of October day where the sun was bright, the air
was crisp, and the sky was sapphire blue. Hogwarts had settled into the
new school year by now, and Filch was less likely to find first-years
lost and teary in the dungeons somewhere, or trapped in a corner while
Peeves cackled and tormented them.
It was just the perfect sort of day to have class outdoors, and since
Hagrid had become a little bolder with his Care of Magical Creatures studies
(making things ever so much more interesting than feeding flobberworms
forever), the fifth-year Gryffindors were actually rather content to head
down the hill and toward the Forbidden Forest to Hagrid’s hut.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were strolling down the hill, laughing and talking
about how hard it would be to ruin a perfect day like this. Until they
realized that the Slytherins were walking beside them to class, which
reminded them that nothing could be as perfect as it seemed.
Draco Malfoy and his henchmen, Crabbe and Goyle, had just about caught
up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The day seemed to have put even Malfoy
in a good mood, which for him, meant he would spend it being particularly
“Hey, Weasley, your parents have to sell your house to pay for that
crystal ball you broke?” taunted Malfoy.
Ron clenched his fists as he glared at Draco and started angrily toward
him, but Harry pulled him back by his robe.
“Shut up, Malfoy,” said Harry, “or we’ll have Hagrid
bring around another hippogriff so you can try your luck at being polite
Malfoy sneered at Harry, but shot back at Ron again: “Speaking of
luck, Weasley, you know how you get seven years bad luck if you break
a mirror? I hear it’s nineteen years for a crystal ball.”
“First of all, Malfoy, the crystal ball thing’s old news-- been
out of the gossip loop lately or what?” Except for the sarcasm, Ron
was showing exceptional patience with Malfoy now. He wasn’t even
sure why himself-- must have been the weather. “And besides, if I
did have nineteen years of bad luck, there are only fourteen left.”
Malfoy laughed. “What? You broke something else five years ago?”
Ron looked smug. “No. The bad luck count started when I met you.”
Harry, Dean, Seamus, and several other Gryffindors nearby began laughing
loudly. Hermione smiled almost proudly at Ron for a long moment, then
turned a sneer nearly as mean as Malfoy’s right back on Draco himself.
Currently outnumbered and taking this all in, Malfoy turned pink and then
signaled for Crabbe and Goyle to walk faster.
As the Gryffindors approached Hagrid, Ron noticed the half-giant taking
mental note of those students present and assembled for class as his eyes
traveled from one student to another. When he got to Harry, Ron, and Hermione,
he beamed at them. Hagrid then motioned for the class to follow him to
a nearby animal pen that more closely resembled a small meadow.
“Yeh’r attention please, class. T’day, I have a special
treat fer all of yeh. I’d like yeh all to look carefully at what
yeh think yeh see in this field here,” began Hagrid.
Those students closest to the fence began to peer between the railings,
while those in the back stretched on tiptoe and leaned back and forth
A hand went up.
“Miss Brown?” called Hagrid.
“Those are kangaroos,” stated Lavender.
Inside the confines of the fence, most of the class had observed what
did seem to be kangaroos. There were two that could be seen on their feet;
one animal was leaning over a mound on the ground and watching it intently,
the other had its back turned, but as it wheeled to face the class, a
chorus of “ooooh, how cute!!” came from the girls at the fence.
There, inside a rather roomy pouch at the front of the second animal’s
belly, was a furry, cinnamon-colored baby, curious enough to come out
and stare back at the class, but afraid enough to keep all except its
eyes and the top of its head hidden.
“Oooh, they’re just so sweet!” cooed Parvati, as several
of the Slytherin boys pretended to gag.
“Well, yeah,” Hagrid agreed, chuckling, “they can be sweet
little things. But yeh haven’t guessed exactly right as to what they
are. These are rare animals; much more rare than common kangaroos, for
these are some of...” (he paused for effect) “...the famous
wallabindles!! And if yeh look more closely in the pen, yeh’ll see
there are lots more than just two, plus the little tyke, o’ course.”
Hagrid chuckled, seemingly pleased that he had fooled them all a bit.
“Does anyone know anythin’ abou’ wallabindles?”
This was Hermione’s call to arms. She, Harry, and Ron had been at
the back of the group, but at this she plucked her stuffed and heavy book
bag from the ground and shoved it at Ron. “Here! Hold this!”
she ordered, all but ripping open the top and leaning over it to rummage
for her textbook.
“Oh, can I, Hermione, please? You don’t know how long I’ve
been waiting for this!” Ron begged sarcastically, rolling his eyes,
but holding the bag anyway. Ron attempted to look down and watch what
she was doing, but as Hermione reached and pushed, her bushy, honey-colored
hair fluffed back and forth under his face. He wrinkled his nose and tried
not to sneeze, but he did notice her hair smelled really nice.
And the warmth of her body so near made him feel strange-- but good
strange-- he found himself hoping she wouldn’t find her book right
Moments later, with a mighty yank, Hermione pulled her book from the bag,
nicking Ron’s chin with the corner. Not even noticing, she flipped
open to the index of their textbook, Temperamental Magical Creatures:
Do You Dare to Care?
“Hermione?” Hagrid called smiling, as her hand shot up.
“Wallabindles are a relative of the wallaby, a kind of kangaroo.
So it says they do have powerful legs and can jump very well, in addition
to the females having a pouch for the babies,” Hermione summarized
as she scanned the book. “But they’re also like anteaters in
a way because they have pointy noses and long, long sticky tongues allowing
them to extract ants out of their burrows. They have really strong tails
that help them balance, but their tails can also grasp like a monkey’s
when they’re fighting or trying to grab their young.”
Most of the students were half listening as Hermione read aloud, but a
few near the fence were whispering to themselves and pointing into the
pen. Apparently, they had finally discovered something else inside. Pushed
into the tufts of tall grass could be seen what appeared to be a number
of light reddish-brown, furry, Quaffle-sized balls, lying motionless.
The wallabindle that had been peering down the ant burrow made a high-pitched
squeal, plunged its tongue far into the mound and pulled it back, chewing
the crunchy ants happily as it rolled its sticky tongue up into its mouth.
This must have been some sort of a signal, because as the students watched,
one after the other of the furry balls began rolling around, sticking
out first one large foot and leg, then another. Next they rolled out their
body, chest, two short front legs and, finally, a head from their belly
pouch. It was amazing that such a large body could fit into such a small
As they emerged, the waking wallabindles hopped over quickly and gathered
around the one chewing, beginning to push and shove each other as they
neared it. Several, discouraged that they were being pushed away, began
to sniff the ground for a mound of their own.
“Can we touch them?” asked Seamus, as the animals seemed to
“I don’ see why not. Try not to startle any o’ the ones
sleepin’, but once they’re standin’ and calm, they’re
usually sort of nice.” Hagrid opened a gate, and the class filed
in cautiously, beginning to break into smaller groups.
Ron exchanged a look with Harry that showed they were thinking the same
thing; Hagrid’s idea of “nice” animals was always a little
Most of the students were approaching the wallabindles with fascination.
Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin girl, was not so impressed. “So that’s
all they do? Lick ants out of the ground and roll themselves into a ball
to sleep? Big deal! That big, ugly orange cat that hangs around with Granger
could do that.”
Malfoy sniggered, and poked Crabbe and Goyle to do the same (even though
they didn’t have a clue as to why). Pansy smiled with satisfaction
when she noticed Draco’s approval. She then shot a smile-turned-sneer
directly at Harry and Ron.
Ron and Harry were looking daggers first at Pansy, then at Draco. But
it was Ron who muttered in his friend’s ear (perhaps since he had
mixed feelings about Crookshanks anyway), “We won’t do it now,
Harry. Not here. Even Hagrid couldn’t ignore students hexing one
another in class. We’ll get even---later.” Harry kept looking,
but said nothing. Ron looked to see if Hermione had heard, but she was
still outside the fence, reading her book.
“Well, Miss Parkinson,” Hagrid said quickly, “yeh may not
ha’ seen what makes these animals so diff’rent . Yeh see---”
A ruckus near the end of the pen interrupted Hagrid’s explanation.
One of the smaller wallabindles had tried to push in front of a larger,
dominant one to get his share of ants from a mound. The larger wallabindle
gave the smaller a shove to indicate that was not such a good idea. What
resulted was a great deal of loud, high-pitched squealing, ending in a
low growl and a stare-down of some thirty seconds. Whatever the larger
wallabindle said with his noises or his eyes, the smaller one seemed to
realize his serious error and in a millisecond he had rolled into his
pouch and was bumping rapidly across the grass, with the larger one, also
now a furry ball, in hot pursuit.
Students were leaping out of the path as the two “fur balls”
rolled all around the pen, the smaller trying in vain to get away. Periodically,
the animals would roll out from their pouches to stand up and fight, kicking
out with their powerful legs, only to curl back inside and continue the
chase. Even though it was somewhat comical, the blows themselves
were quite vicious and if they connected, could easily throw the opponent
to the ground.
“They’re very strong-minded creatures,” Hagrid continued,
“and intend to get their own way, one way or another. But the problem
these two ha’ started -- well, yeh don’t want to get ‘em
all stirred up, b’cause...uh-oh.” Hagrid looked around
him to see that the chase of the first two wallabindles was getting the
others agitated. All of them, except the mother, had begun to jump around
excitedly, taunting and kicking out at one another, almost daring one
another into a row.
“Okay, class,” Hagrid said rather urgently, “ looks like
we need to get ‘em into their cages before they get out o’ hand.
Grab ‘em when they’re rolled up, stand back when they’re
kickin’. The other cages are by the fence. Might work better to do
it in pairs.” Hagrid himself rushed to grab a cage as well.
Harry and Ron looked at each other, and in silent agreement, headed toward
the fence to gather one of the wrought iron ball cages. On their way,
they glanced at Hermione and shook their heads. She was still outside
the fence, only now beginning to look up and take notice something else
was going on.
Harry circled on one of the bouncing wallabindles, which eyed him suspiciously.
Ron was sneaking up behind with the cage, when suddenly, one of Ron’s
large sneakers snapped a twig, and the wallabindle was off. He jumped
high, turning around in mid-air, and kicked out at Harry’s shoulder
firmly enough to knock him to the ground. As the animal spun, he struck
out high enough in the other direction to hit the large round cage in
Ron’s hands and jam it into his middle. Ron found himself seated
on the ground as well, with a speeding fur ball passing him by.
“That went well, didn’t it?” Ron said sarcastically to
Harry, standing and dusting himself off.
The two friends looked around the pen, realizing the wallabindles were
way past “getting out of hand”. Students were running everywhere,
trying to close in on the animals, grab them, or jump out of the way of
their powerful kicks. But the wallabindles were everywhere, too-- only
they were moving twice as fast.
Harry and Ron looked over at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who were trying
to work together for a capture. Draco was dancing a jig trying to outfox
a fur ball rolling back and forth on the ground. He was acting frustrated
as he shouted instructions to Crabbe and Goyle, who held either side of
a cage. Draco’s problem seemed to be that the delayed-reaction thinking
of his companions just caused them to gawk at one another until they understood
the direction Malfoy gave them two minutes ago--far too slow to deal with
As Draco screamed another command at the two, the wallabindle unrolled
to its full height, kicked Draco square in the chest, and seated him soundly
in a large warm pile of wallabindle dung.
Halfway to escape, the animal kicked out again, this time at Goyle. The
swift strike hit the hulking student from the side and caused a sickening
thunk as he and Crabbe smacked heads and fell stunned to the grass. At
this, the wallabindle changed into a ball, and rolled right over the large
mass of body that was Crabbe and Goyle in dreamland.
Ron and Harry burst out laughing. This was just too choice to miss, even
if they should have been trapping more wallabindles.
“Well, at least we know it won’t do them much damage,”
Ron laughed, looking at the thick skulls of Malfoy’s two ‘assistants’.
Then he looked directly at Draco. “And we already know how
much Malfoy stinks. Now everyone else’ll know, too!”
Hermione had seen what happened and smiled to herself, but was acting
concerned about something else. She had finally let herself in the gate
(when there were no hurtling fur balls nearby) and was walking purposefully
across the pen, dodging a rolling object here and there in passing. “Harry!
Ron! Look--over there!”
“Hermione! Come here! You’ve got to see this!” called Ron,
ignoring her command and still laughing at his least favorite Slytherins,
who were trying to regroup.
Hermione reached her two friends and grabbed Ron’s arm, forcing him
to turn and look where she pointed. “Look--over there! Come on! You
two need to help! I’d go, but there are no more cages.” She
looked, exasperated, from Harry to Ron, neither of which moved, both confused
as to the problem. “Okay, if you won’t do it --well--just--give
me the cage, then!” Hermione grabbed the heavy cage from Ron’s
grasp and stomped off with it before either Ron or Harry could reply.
Harry looked at Ron and shrugged, turning to see where Hermione was off
Ron studied her closely as she strode across the pen, impressed with her
determination. Some days with Hermione, she just won’t take no
for an answer, he thought. She’s so different from girly
girls like Lavender. Hermione’s so strong within herself- she stands
up for what she believes, and has the brains to back it up. She never
just squeals and lets the boys fight it out. Sometimes that makes me completely
mental, and other days, it’s sorta- sex-- Surprised at the word
that almost came to mind about someone who was ‘just
a friend’, he blushed and decided someone must have snuck
in and bewitched him about girls this year.
Turning quickly to Harry to change his train of thought, he began, “Have
a go again, shall w-”
Just then, the two heard a shriek from Hermione, who was standing near
the mother wallabindle. Another large wallabindle had been harassing the
female with the baby still in her pouch, trying to get her into a chase.
Ron realized that must have been Hermione’s concern--what would happen
to the baby?
The mother wallabindle was becoming increasingly irritated, and the baby
in the pouch was bouncing up and down, clinging desperately as the mother
jumped; Hermione kept her gaze fixed on the animal who was trying to pick
The offending wallabindle had kicked out at the mother. Hermione had batted
at his leg with the cage while he was in the air, knocking him to the
ground. Undaunted, the animal struggled to his feet quickly and made the
same horrible squeal-to-growl that seemed a declaration of war with the
earlier pair of wallabindles. Now his focus was Hermione.
Hermione held the cage in front of her like a shield, leaning forward
so as not to be thrown off balance as the angry wallabindle kicked out
at her again and again. But he was trying to circle round and kick at
her from another side, and she had no other defense.
Harry and Ron ran to help their friend, but at the same time, the mother
used the momentary distraction to reach into her pouch, turn around, and
set the baby in a tall clump of grass several feet away and out of harm’s
way. Now she was ready to fight her own battle. The mother came back alone,
crazed and kicking. Even as Harry and Ron were poised to distract the
growling wallabindle from Hermione, the mother delivered a fierce kick
to the animal--then another, then...the growling wallabindle curled into
a fur ball and rolled away, with the mother following close behind.
“AAARRGGHHH!” Ron screamed suddenly, clutching behind his shoulder
and turning swiftly as if he could catch up with his back and relieve
the problem. But as he turned, Hermione and Harry gasped.
Firmly attached to Ron’s back, and hanging by sixteen razor sharp
claws, was the baby wallabindle. Anyone watching would have seen the poor
little wallabindle watching in terror, trying to stay hidden in the grass
as his mother had signaled. But seeing her roll away was too much for
him. He sprinted over and jumped to cling desperately at the first thing
he saw with wallabindle coloring. And it happened to be... Weasley hair.
The baby’s eyes were like saucers and the panicked breathing made
his cat-sized body fairly heave. He was making a soft, pitiful whimpering
cry and wheezing.
“Get it off! Geroff!! Take it off!!” Ron cried out, still flailing
“Ron, stop it! Stop!” scolded Hermione. “You’re scaring
“Scaring him?! He’s bloody ripping the skin off my back!”
“Well...” she knitted her eyebrows and bit her lip, trying to
think what to do.
“Harry! Harry!” yelled a deep, familiar voice nearby. “Harry,
can yeh lend a hand?!”
Harry and Hermione glanced over at Hagrid, who was on the ground attempting
to stuff a partially rolled wallabindle into one of the round cages. At
odd intervals, a back foot or front paw would pop out, and Hagrid, unable
to force the animal for fear he would hurt it, needed several more hands.
Harry had looked somewhat dumbfounded at Ron’s situation. He glanced
questioningly at Hermione.
“Go on, Harry,” she started. “Hagrid’s is bigger than
this one. We’ll think of something.” She turned back to Ron,
who was a bit calmer, but still wincing with pain. “Okay, Ron. Turn
and face away from me, but try not to jump or move fast. I think I can
get him loose if you calm down .”
Ron looked down at her, his eyes watering in pain. “Calm down? You
calm down when you have this thing on you,” he muttered. But he had
no better suggestion, so he did as he was told.
Hermione began by stroking the baby wallabindle softly and talking to
it in a low, even voice. The baby’s breathing started to slow and
he eventually began to look trustingly into her eyes. Soon, Hermione could
wrap one arm around the baby’s furry middle, as she often did with
Crookshanks, and gently pull one claw after the other from Ron’s
shredded robe and shirt, and his semi-shredded back.
As Ron looked away trying to deal with the pain, he realized he had never
heard Hermione speak with such a soft, nurturing tone. He found it soothed
him as well. Finally, Ron felt the weight of the baby completely leave
his back. “Oww...” he moaned, turning slowly to face his little
attacker, who was still held belly out from Hermione in her arms. “How
bad is it, anyway? It feels pretty bad.”
“Well, I hope you don’t need wizard immunizations for wallabindle
scratches, because he did draw quite a bit of blood, but-- I’m sure
Madam Pomfrey can take care of it. It’s pretty minor compared to
what she’s used to, ” assured Hermione.
“Minor to you, maybe!” he growled. Ron’s weak sense of
calm began to leave as the pain became more edgy. He felt the urge to
lash out, strike the little animal from Hermione’s arms and chase
it away. But then he looked into its face. Ron half-wished he could spend
his anger, but knew he could never try and hurt anything that looked at
him like that.
The two friends had less than a moment to consider what to do next when
two fur balls unrolled almost directly beneath Hermione and immediately
began kicking at one another. Hermione started, causing the baby to lunge
again at Ron and cling to the front of him this time. Though she was thrown
off-balance by the baby’s spring, Hermione managed to support enough
of the little wallabindle’s weight that he did not have to sink his
claws in skin-deep, much to Ron’s relief. For his part, all Ron really
could do was catch and help support the baby with his one free arm--the
other arm was keeping all three of them held together, balanced precariously,
The two fur balls soon rolled away to fight somewhere else, and Hermione
regained her footing. She tried to slowly shift the baby’s weight
to Ron so she could step away from leaning her entire body against his
side. But to her surprise, she found her upper arm to be wrapped in a
tight grip by a long, strong, winding wallabindle tail. The baby was still
hanging onto Ron desperately, but apparently wanted the comfort of having
both him and Hermione at once. Hermione would not be leaving Ron’s
side any time soon.
Trying to think through the pain from his back, and unable to see past
the top of the furry little wheezing head buried in his chest (the wallabindle’s,
of course), Ron didn’t realize what the problem was. He could feel
he was no longer keeping Hermione from falling, and he was becoming a
little curious as to why he could still feel her breathing hard
against his rib cage. Not that he exactly minded (Hmm, he thought,
I think the pain’s easing a bit now--I am feeling better) but
he did feel a little conspicuous out here in the middle of the pen like
“Er,... Hermione?” he questioned.
“I know,” she said. “The wallabindle’s got my arm
gripped with his tail. I’ll try to move.”
As Hermione tried to swing herself out from under Ron’s upheld right
arm, she found the grip on her own arm tighter and the baby sounding more
panicked. Ron cradled the little wallabindle in the crook of his long
left arm, but for each inch Hermione managed to move, the sharp claws
of the baby moved that much deeper through the clothing on Ron’s
“Ouch! Okay, Hermione, just stand still!” Ron said, beginning
to look very pained once more. “He’s digging in again--he’s
afraid you’ll leave. Just --lean back where you were. I’d like
to leave class with a little skin left today.”
Hermione eased back against Ron, still trying to help by holding the baby
up as much as she could at this angle. “Sorry. I mean, I didn’t
know he’d do that,” she said.
Unable to move much due to the pain from his back, Ron could feel Hermione
leaning in every direction she could to see if there was any other help
for them available. Most of the students and Hagrid were near the far
end of the pen, still struggling with the last few liberated wallabindles.
Hermione then moved back against Ron’s side and looked behind them
to a large rounded pile of rock. “If we move together, I think we--you,
could lean back against that rock until they’re done. Maybe it wouldn’t
hurt as much if you could relax a little bit. But we’ll have to move
at the same time.”
“Er...okay,” Ron agreed. “It’s gotta be better than
Ron appreciated Hermione’s attempts to help him, but he could tell
she was feeling rather awkward and embarrassed, as was he. He wondered
what she was thinking and angled his view down to the right. Though he
couldn’t fully see her face, he could see enough to realize she was
blushing furiously, even redder than he imagined he had even been.
She began, very business-like: “I think if I put my arms around your
waist and still keep my shoulder by his back, I can help get you to the
rock without worrying him. Does it hurt if I do this?” She carefully
circled his waist and put gentle pressure on his opposite side with her
There was certainly nothing about her touch that hurt him--in fact, it
was quite the opposite. She’s just your friend, Weasley, Ron
kept telling himself, trying to shake off the mental image of he and his
‘other friend’ Harry in exactly the same predicament. You
can do this. It’s no different than hugging Ginny, and that’s
no big deal. But the problem jumped out at him immediately -- with
Hermione, right here, right now, it felt like a big deal.
Ron suddenly felt he had to do something, anything, to get away from facing
this pretty wonderful, but terribly scary feeling. Amazing himself that
he could summon the energy at this moment, he smiled down at her with
his lopsided, cocky grin. “Why, Hermione! I didn’t know you
cared!” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Ron could almost physically feel her defenses going up. Hermione tensed
against his side, and immediately her uncertainty was gone. Though the
wonderful feeling had also left, for the most part, the awful tension
had gone with it, and he now felt like he was on familiar ground. Irritating
Hermione, fighting with her, teasing her--that felt normal; thinking about
why her touch shot butterflies through his stomach--that was a whole other
”Look,” she began tersely, beginning to loosen her arms, ”if
you don’t want my help, it’s perfectly all right with me. I’ll
just leave you and your little friend here to your own devices and go
on with my work.”
Ron’s eyes widened as he realized she just might do that, and the
baby wallabindle was tensing on his arm as her voice rose. “No! I
mean, no, it doesn’t hurt if you do that. Not at all,” he said
quickly. Just to make sure she didn’t go, (and because his arm was
killing him) he wrapped his suspended arm around her back, not noticing
until afterward what he had actually done. The wonderful feeling was trying
to fight its way back.
Hermione’s eyes snapped up to look into his, questioningly.
Ron could feel himself turning red as she stared up at him with an odd
expression on her face. But he was already into it this far, he was hurting,
and he didn’t want to fight. “Is this... okay?” he asked
tentatively, having to look away after a moment from the intensity of
Hermione quickly looked down at her feet. “Um...yeah.” She was
rarely at this much of a loss for words, and it took her a moment before
she could bring herself back to the problem at hand.
The sight that greeted first Harry, then Hagrid, then the rest of the
class as they tiredly straggled back across the pen, was nearly as amazing
as anything else they had seen that day. For there, leaning against the
rocks, was Ron, one arm cradling a sleeping baby wallabindle, and the
other wrapped securely around Hermione, as she leaned against his side,
her own arm encircling his waist.
It looked for all the world as if they were just out together enjoying
a beautiful fall day. Staying calm seemed to help Ron with the pain,
so after only a few minutes, the two (well, three) had been lulled
into a quiet, peaceful mood and were completely unaware they were being
The remainder of the class had finished caging the wallabindles and the
pen had gone quiet except for some exhausted panting and sighs of relief
from a few of the students. Most sat at the far end of the pen for a moment
resting as Hagrid sorted through the cages, looking for the mother wallabindle
to release only her.
Harry came to a dead stop, staring, as he arrived near the rocks. He had
left Ron screaming in pain and Hermione screaming at Ron--how in the world
had it come to this? He wanted to alert his friends before anyone else
arrived, but Hagrid was already right behind him, and Harry couldn’t
think of anything sensible to say.
“Well, wouldja look at that,” Hagrid said quietly, not sure
which part of the scene surprised him the most.
Harry became aware of others wandering up around him, stopping to gawk
at the trio themselves. He knew he had to say something -- it was probably
already too late to keep Ron and Hermione from some merciless teasing
and gossip, whatever the cause.
“Hey, Ron, we finally caught that one that kicked us,” Harry
said lamely. But it was enough.
Ron and Hermione, startled out of their quiet mood, both jumped at Harry’s
voice, coming to full awareness and pulling as far apart from one another
as possible under the circumstances. They turned to look at the number
of faces staring their way, turned back to each other in realization,
“Oh, great! I hope you didn’t get us a detention, Ron,”
Hermione whispered irritably under her breath.
“A detention? From Hagrid?” was Ron’s immediate reply.
Then he thought a moment. “Hey! What do you mean ‘me,
get us a detention’? I didn’t plan this, you know! If I had,
I would have made it a lot less painful -- for me, anyway!”
Hermione glared at him. “Really? And what do you mean by that,
exactly?” She looked as if she thought of something, then looked
over at Hagrid. “Hagrid, can you help us, please? Ron frightened
the baby wallabindle and he won’t let us go.”
Ron glared back at Hermione this time, opening his mouth to respond, but
Malfoy had just arrived.
Malfoy stared a moment, then began laughing so hard it was difficult for
him to stand. “Hey, Weasley, you and Mudbl--” Forgetting himself,
Draco looked quickly at Hagrid to see if he heard--” uh- Granger,
starting a family so soon? He’s really cute, looks just like his
parents! Don’t you think so, Uncle Harry?”
An amount of snickering and some outright laughter was heard from the
class, especially from the Slytherins. Harry thought it was tough to tell
which Ron and Hermione were doing more of: blushing or fuming.
This was just the kind of thing Harry had been afraid of. He was sure
there was a perfectly logical explanation, but he was certainly
anxious to hear it and even so, Ron and Hermione were likely to be the
talk of the school for awhile.
“Shut it, Malfoy!” was all Harry could muster. He started over
to his two friends, but was gently pushed aside by the mother wallabindle
when Hagrid released her.
The mother wallabindle hopped calmly up to the two students holding her
baby and looked up at Hermione gratefully. She flicked out her long, black,
sticky tongue and licked Ron several times in the face, leaving some of
the gelatinous orange saliva stuck to his cheeks.
Ron grimaced and squeezed his eyes shut. As soon as he realized she was
finally done, he opened his eyes just in time for the baby to offer his
thanks in the same way.
“Could this day get any worse?” Ron muttered, feeling the slime
start to slide down his chin. The baby wallabindle then released his grip
on Hermione’s arm (she had been trying to hold her arm toward the
crowd so as many students as possible could see this situation with Ron
was NOT what it seemed).
As soon as the little wallabindle loosened his tail, Ron gently picked
the baby from his chest and held him out toward the mother’s belly,
where he scrambled to get inside the safe, warm pouch. Looking out at
the still-staring crowd, Ron said quietly toward the baby inside, “Any
room in there for me?”
Ron struggled to get fully upright from the rock without moving and hurting
his back, then at Harry’s request, turned to show Hagrid the injury.
The scratch marks had stopped bleeding for the most part, but had swollen
considerably and were oozing some purple and orange goo.
Hagrid winced at the sight. “Yeah, he got yeh, all right. Yeh go
ahead on up to the hospital wing, Ron. Harry and Hermione can help yeh
along.” With that, the three friends started slowly up the hill toward
“Now, Mr. Weasley, it will take only a few minutes for me to prepare
the salve. I could, of course, heal the wounds over right away, but wallabindle
scratches have powerful bacterial properties, and they’re likely
to get infected without using the salve first overnight. You may speak
with your friends, but they must leave immediately upon my return. Understood?”
Ron was sitting up in bed, listening intently to Madam Pomfrey. He briefly
wondered if anyone but Dumbledore ever got away with not listening
to her (and even Dumbledore used the privilege only in extreme circumstances).
Ron shivered as a draft blew on his back through the open hospital gown.
Usually students were allowed to wear their own pajamas, but Madam Pomfrey
allowed him only the pants and then gave him this other garment “to
allow the skin to breathe”. Breathe, it did. He nodded in agreement
to her command.
Madam Pomfrey threw back the curtain from around Ron’s bed and whisked
herself away, revealing a whole group of waiting well-wishers.
Harry and Ginny were the first to walk up to the edge of the bed.
“You know, Ron, between Crookshanks and this, this--” Ginny
“Wallabindle?” Harry guessed.
“Yeah, the wallabindle,” Ginny continued. “I’m wondering.
You’re tall, you’re lean, perhaps all these clawed creatures
mistake you for a scratching post.”
“Very funny, little sister,” Ron said sullenly. “Been taking
Fred and George lessons?”
“She most certainly has not!” protested George. “She’s
a Weasley through and through. Comes by the harassment genes naturally.”
Ron looked over at George, who had both arms wrapped completely around
Fred, half dragging him over to the bedside. The twins looked at their
brother expectantly. Ron sighed and shook his head. “Okay, I’ll
bite. What’s your problem, guys?”
“Well, I sort of got hurt,” Fred said, his eyes twinkling. “And
I needed some help to get around, so without any willing females to fill
the need, George is trying to help comfort me and make me feel better.
What do you think, Hermione? Do you think it’ll work? I hear you
and Ron are experts in this kind of healing. Well, actually, I hear the
version you two practice is a little more intense.”
Hermione, who had been hanging back sulkily near the wall, sneered at
Fred and turned to look out the window. She’d been putting up with
whispers and snickers behind her back all day since the incident, even
after the cause was known.
Ron started scanning the room and patting around the bed urgently as if
searching for something. “Okay... Okay. You guys stand right there.
I know there must be something here I can throw at you, but it’s
got to be big and heavy and painful. Wait right there. I’ll find
something in a minute,” said Ron, only half-joking.
The sound of quick footsteps coming from the other room interrupted Ron’s
search. Madam Pomfrey, carrying a small steaming black pot with a cloth
holder, came to tell them all they would have to leave.
Just then, the hospital wing doors burst open, and two Hufflepuff students
charged through the door helping a third student who was howling in pain.
Ron recognized the now-moaning student as Ernie Macmillan, a fifth-year
Hufflepuff that he knew from Herbology class several semesters ago. Even
though it was difficult to figure out right away what the problem was,
it seemed that Ernie had been doing his transfiguration homework while
eating, had said the word “shocks” instead of “socks”
in his spell, and had ended up with non-removable socks that sent his
feet intermittent electric currents.
The Hufflepuffs helped the boy onto an empty bed, while Madam Pomfrey
hurried over to Ron’s bedside.
“Okay, it’s important to get this on those scratches right away
before this cools, but I have other business to attend to,” Madam
Pomfrey said tersely. “One of you needs to stay to apply this salve
to Mr. Weasley’s wounds before it thickens and hardens. The rest
of you will need to leave immediately.” She looked around the group
for any volunteers. Another yelp came from the shocking sock boy. Madam
Pomfrey shoved the salve into the hands of the nearest person and fled
to help the Hufflepuff.
The receiver of the salve was Fred, who quickly passed it off to Ginny.
“Sorry, little brother, but I’m not touching you!”
Ginny thrust the salve pot at George. “And I’m not touching
those!” she said, pointing at the oozing scratches.
George looked at the clock and quickly passed the salve pot to Harry.
“You know I would, Ronnie, but we have Quidditch practice-- five
Harry, who had been looking a bit frantic for lack of an excuse, suddenly
looked relieved. “Oh, yeah, I forgot! We do! Sorry, Ginny, but will
you be okay walking back alone?”
“Yes, sure. I have to stop by the library anyway,” Ginny replied.
“But, what do I do with--?” Harry was looking around for someone
to pass the pot to when he spied Hermione, still by the window. He walked
over and pushed it into her hands. “Here, Hermione, you’ve done
a really good job taking care of him so far today.” Hermione’s
face showed immediately that it had been the wrong thing to say, but Harry
didn’t have time to clear it up now.
Everyone leaving began to back away, wishing Ron a speedy recovery.
“Yeah, thank you all for your concern and for CHEERING ME UP!”
Ron yelled sarcastically out the door after them. Then they were gone.
All of a sudden it was silent in Ron’s end of the hospital room.
The only noise was the commotion down the way around Ernie and his socks.
Hermione just stood staring into the steaming salve pot in her hands.
Ron looked down at the bed for a moment, but then glanced over at Hermione,
who had moved to his bedside. The steam was turning her hair into little
curls all around her face--they shone in the amber light from the window,
glittering as if enchanted by tiny fairy lights. After a minute, Hermione
felt Ron’s staring fascination with her and looked up to let her
eyes meet his. The two stood this way for a moment, searching, wondering
if the other felt something, too, or if it was just their own imagination.
Hermione spoke first. Ron didn’t know what to expect, but was half
disappointed and half relieved when her words brought them back to reality.
“You know, I’m not a nurse or anything,” she said quietly.
“Maybe I should just let Madam Pomfrey do this later.” She set
the pot on the bedside table and started to move away.
Ron didn’t think, but reacted. He grabbed her hand and held on a
moment, then realized what he was doing and let go, his ears turning red.
But he tried to think of something witty to say to keep her there. “I
heard a Muggle saying once about bad friends need enemies--or something
Hermione smiled a tiny smile for the first time since she came. “You
mean: ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies’? Yeah, that
seems about right for those guys tonight.”
Ron smiled, too. He was glad to have someone there who wasn’t determined
to give him a bad time. “Yeah, for once I think I’m glad they
all had other plans. But, of course, they couldn’t miss stopping
by to say their piece about today.”
“Yes, well,” Hermione said quietly, “I feel like the whole
school’s talking about that.”
“No one else is here to bother you now,“ Ron said encouragingly.
“And as for Fred and George, I’ve told you before-- just ignore
them. I know it’s hard, I’ve been trying my whole life, but
it does get easier. I figure by the time I’m sixty, they won’t
bother me at all.”
Suddenly, Ron’s face tensed in pain.
“Ron? Are you okay?” she asked gently.
“Yeah, it just hurts,” he answered. “It’ll get better
in a minute.”
Hermione thought carefully if she could handle doing it before asking
him. “Do you... want me to put on the salve for you?”
Ron was somewhat surprised that she would offer. He could only imagine
how ugly the mess on his back looked. “You mean you don’t mind?”
“Well, I mind,” she teased.
“You don’t have to, you know. But who knows when that will get
taken care of?” Ron said, jerking a thumb at more whining sounds
from the other end of the room. “Just think, the longer it takes
me to get back to normal, the longer you’ll have to go without a
Hermione’s eyes sparkled as she considered this. “Okay, then
let’s. I’ll go wash my hands and you lie on your stomach so
I can see what I’m doing better. Let’s hope I can put it on
right, “ Hermione said with a doubtful note to her voice.
She returned to find Ron lying on his stomach with the ties to the gown
undone so that the long, purplish-orange scratches reaching from just
below his neck almost down the top of his pajama pants were now easily
visible. She winced as she looked at the wounds, seeming to almost feel
them as well as he did.
Hermione swallowed hard and reached two fingers into the salve pot, scooping
out some mushy, gray ointment that looked like wet cement. She muttered
under her breath, telling herself she could do this as she touched the
first scratch on Ron’s back and gently dragged the salve across it.
The salve started to bubble up and fizz into a light purple froth on the
Ron’s reaction was immediate. “Oooh, you don’t know how
much better that feels. It felt like it was on fire, and that stuff puts
it out. More! More!” he demanded teasingly. Relieving the pain that
had been with him most of the day had another effect as well: it started
to make him very relaxed. He wasn’t exactly asleep, just letting
go of everything except the feeling of Hermione’s fingers and the
salve. His mind began to wander.
*Why does he keep following me? I just wish he’d go away. He makes
me feel so creepy. I’ve got to find that book fast and get out of
Book? What book?
* “Isn’t it a coincidence, Miss Weasley, (again?)
that we’re both here working on the same subject? “ *
Malfoy! That was Malfoy’s voice!
*“Maybe we should work together, you and I. Somewhere else. Don’t
you know how many other girls would love to have me-- I mean, my help?”
*Oh, he is so...so full of himself!!*
You are such a slimy git, Malfoy!
*“I thought you had a problem with ‘poor girls’, as
you call me, Malfoy.” *
Tell him, Gin! Wait --how can I be with Ginny?
*”Not any more. Maybe they don’t have to care as much about
their reputations.” *
*Okay, he’s breathing on my neck now.*
*This is starting to make me nervous! There’s no one to help me this
time, either. Oh, why did I leave my wand on the table? *
Where is Madam Pince? Or anybody?! She’s--I’m-- afraid!
*He’s pushing me up against the bookshelf. Don’t panic, Ginny,
just get away. But he’s just a kid- how can he feel so evil?*
*“Come on, Ginny. I promise I’ll help you with yours if you
help me with mine. And I’ll even help you with your paper, too.”
You bloody filthy-minded slime, Malfoy! ...What’s that? Something--
else-- is in here.
*Oh, no! His hand’s up above me on the shelf-he’ll have me pinned
here in a minute. It’s now or never. Elbow straight back to the ribs-NOW!!!*
“Elbow straight back to the ribs --NOW!!” Ron yelled, jumping
up onto his knees on the bed and batting the salve pot completely out
of Hermione’s hands in the process. It landed upside down on the
floor, the salve oozing out.
Hermione jumped back from the bedside in shock and surprise. She glared
at Ron angrily, acting as if he had planned this to scare her. “You
great stupid prat, Ron Weasley! See if I ever try to help you again!”
she shouted, then promptly stormed out the door of the hospital wing.
“Mr. Weasley! You calm down this instant!” scolded Madam Pomfrey,
rushing over. “You should be thankful to people for helping you instead
of yelling at them! And look what you’ve done!” The floor was
bubbling and hissing with light green froth now.
Ron, dumbfounded at what had just happened, sat there on his knees with
a ridiculous expression on his face. He was certain that Malfoy was just
here, bothering him. Bothering him? And he never remembered feeling
afraid of what Malfoy would do before. Plus he had to get that book for
the assignment. What assignment? And why was he sitting up on his
knees like this? It HURT!!
Ron thought back a moment to before Ginny left. She said she was going
to the library from here. What if he was there with her? He felt
like he was with her. In fact, he felt like he was her (too WEIRD!!).
And what was that he sensed in his ‘dream’ besides Ginny and
Draco? A presence floated just at the edge of his mind’s reach, but
Ginny’s fear had distracted him from being able to focus on it. Ginny
(or he?) had sensed it--the evil in Draco--but was it him, or was
it something else there with him? As horrible as Malfoy could be
to people, Ron had never known Draco to make them feel cold and helpless
and hopeless at the same time just by his presence. Only one thing he
knew of could make people feel like that. The thought brought a mental
image that he pushed away determinedly--and then came the anger.
This whole thing is stupid! Why does this keep happening? he thought.
It had to be just a dream or something. But if it wasn’t a dream,
if I could somehow sense what was going on in the library, Ginny could
be in real danger, not from just Malfoy, but from that, that other...thing!
Thinking this, Ron’s strong sense of logic told him he hadn’t
been in the library- he couldn’t have been. He was lying here just
a moment ago with Hermione salving his wounds. And--oh, NO! Hermione!
Where was she? Even though he vaguely remembered hearing an angry
voice somewhere in the distance, Ron had no idea what had just happened
here in this room, except that it reminded him too much of the crystal
ball crash in Professor Trelawney’s class.
Ron finally calmed down enough to slowly ease back down on his side. He
tried desperately to sort things out in his mind, but his wounds were
starting to hurt horribly again from all the moving about. And even though
he didn’t exactly know where Hermione had gone, he had a sinking
feeling in his stomach that he was in trouble with her--again.