A/N: Nocking is the term that is used to place an arrow onto a bow, ready to fire. I’ll use this term to make all of our lives easier and if you know more about archery than I do and I’ve got something wrong, please let me know.
Thank you to Oomahey and Kevin for being a great and faithful Betas!
Chapter 2: Lead, Follow Or… Nock
“You can’t be serious, Hermione!” Ron whined loudly while looking up at the girl suspended above them.
Harry turned away before he started laughing. He had no right to laugh, as they were stuck in this situation together but the irony of the situation had not escaped his notice. He, Harry, could duel better than any of his peers and he could conjure food with a flick of his wand and yet, here he stood, staring stupidly at a bow and arrow.
“I don’t think it will be that hard,” Luna commented. Harry looked over at her. She was still dressed as a boy and was now holding her bow correctly but the arrow was facing the wrong way so that the tip was aimed towards her.
“Uh, Luna…” Harry smiled at her as he turned to face, her eyes wide and unblinking. “Turn the arrow around.”
She turned the arrow the other way. “Like this?” At his nod she grinned. “So then I pull the string back,” she did this while she spoke, “and aim for the target. Then I let go.”
Harry watched as the arrow soared on its way towards the small target they had set up in a bale of hay. The arrow arched up smoothly before coming down to strike the bottom of the target, well out of the red bulls-eye but certainly great for a first attempt.
“Bloody good shot Luna,” Ron whistled before nocking his arrow and pulling the bowstring back so hard that the wood of the bow split in half with a loud crack, causing all of the pieces to fall from his hands. He groaned audibly. “We’re going to starve.”
“Cheer up mate,” Harry said bracingly, patting him once on the back. “If all else fails, Luna can catch our supper.”
“Oh I don’t think so Harry.” Luna told him calmly. “I couldn’t ever kill an animal with one of these things. It just wouldn’t be right.” She nocked another arrow, pulled it back and let go. Harry watched its path and this time she got within the target circle. She just had to be great at it, didn’t she? Harry thought darkly.
“Just great,” Ron muttered darkly, going over to pick out a new bow. “She’s the only one of us who can fire this thing and she won’t use it to get food. Just brilliant and of course I’m starving!”
“Neville hasn’t tried yet.” Harry reminded him before turning to watch Neville take his first shot. Neville had gotten the arrow in place and pulled back the string when his hand slipped down the bowstring, flinging the arrow backwards to hit him in the face. Neville yelled and fell down flat on his bum. “Never mind then.” Harry sighed and looked up to see that Hermione was doing her best not to laugh at them. Her face was all red from suppressed laughter. “This is not funny Hermione! We’re going to starve!”
She shook her head. “No you won’t, it will be fine. Why haven’t you tried yet, Harry?”
Harry scowled for a moment before picking up his bow. The truth was, he was very much afraid that he was going to make an arse of himself and prolonging that moment seemed prudent, in his estimation.
“We need help Hermione!” Ron called up to her.
Harry saw her nod. “I’m working on it but in the mean time you should keep practicing.” Her head disappeared from view.
“Best to try again.” Ron told him.
Harry nodded and another arrow from Luna went flying out. This time she hit the bulls-eye. “Great shot Luna.” Harry told her, while inwardly thinking that he would rather kiss Snape than try this again.
“I’m ready again,” Neville called over to them.
Harry looked over to see Ron was also waiting. “On three then?” Harry asked rhetorically. He nocked the arrow and pulled back the string. “One, two, three!”
To his amazement each of their arrows flew straight out and hit the bale of hay! Not one was as close as Luna’s first shot but some how they had all done it.
“That is wonderful!” Hermione squealed and Harry looked up to see her holding a bright orange book.
“What’s that?” He asked.
She looked down at it and blushed. “Oh, it’s the Idiot’s Guide to Archery but I don’t think you’ll be needing it anymore.”
“Bung it down, we need all the help we can get.” Ron said, holding out his arms to catch it. Hermione passed it down to him and the instant he caught it, Ron started flipping through its pages. “Oh that makes sense.” Ron then picked up his bow, looked back down at the open book, then straightened his shoulders and held his arms parallel to the ground. He nocked another arrow, pulled the string back smoothly and fired. The arrow went straight into the red bulls-eye. “Yes!” Ron pumped his fist into the air in triumph as they all congratulated him.
“Now, you need to get proficient enough to hunt and then to fight with your bows. We will also have to teach you sword fighting.” Hermione explained.
Harry watched her flip through a thick, old tome and a thought that had been nagging him for the past several minutes surfaced again. “Hermione, is Ginny all right?”
“Hmm?” Hermione looked over at something he could not see and then giggled. “She’s fine Harry,” she assured him before going back to her book.
“But… but I thought you said that she would have to marry the Prince and that’s Draco, right?”
Hermione looked up again to study him before her eyes went wide. “You’ve never read Robin Hood?”
“No, but well… I never got books as a kid!” Harry told her defensively. “How do you know she’s okay?”
“My control panel tells me how each of you are doing.” Hermione said simply. “Right now Ginny is having a row with Draco.”
“What!?!” Ron yelled, turning around sharply to stare up at her. “How do you know their having a fight and how do you know she’s all right?”
Hermione actually giggled. “Well, I know their locations. They are in the palace of course and Draco is hiding in one of the small bedrooms while Ginny stands at the door, yelling at him.”
“Do you know what she’s saying?” Harry asked her curiously.
“Oh yes, it’s amazing! I have their whole conversation printing out up here for me just like a Muggle computer.” Harry saw Hermione look over at the screen and her face went a deep scarlet. “Well that wasn’t very nice of her.” Her voice was mild but instead of reproachful, as Hermione’s words should have been, Harry could hear a note of pride in her tone.
“What is she saying?” Harry asked quickly.
“Well… I’m not supposed to tell you it all since you aren’t really to know what’s going on. Robin is meant to rescue Maid Marian after all but… well,” Hermione paused before letting out a chuckle. “I guess a highlight would not hurt.”
“Go on then,” Neville said eagerly as he came over to join their group. “I’d love to hear her put down Malfoy.
“Luna, do you want to join us?” Harry asked the other girl.
“No thanks, I think I’ll keep practicing.” Luna replied, sending another arrow down the range and knocking Ron’s from the target.
“So what is she saying?” Harry asked again impatiently.
Hermione looked away from them to read. “Well, the argument started when Draco told Ginny she had a nice rack and she punched him again, causing him to hide in said bedroom.” She held up a hand to stop Harry and Ron from yelling. “Don’t worry, it gets better. She says, and I quote ‘You are an arrogant, skinny, lapdog for Voldemort and I bet one of the thrills in your life is kissing his-’ Well, I’m sure you get the picture.”
“She actually said Voldemort?” Harry asked in awe. Ginny hadn’t said his name before then as far as he knew.
“Yes she did!” Hermione cried triumphantly. “That’s not all, wait until you hear what she said next.”
“This should be interesting.” Ron said dryly.
“She then goes on to say use the words ‘fairy’, ‘coward’, ‘moron’ and ‘doily’ in the same sentence followed by ‘I am sure you want to be wearing this dress more than I do but I can still kick your arse in a fight, while still wearing this corset you lazy, ignorant simpleton. I bet you’ve never thought to follow your own conscience once in your life!’ After that I am afraid that she starts swearing a lot more.” Hermione finished it off and smiled down at them. “So you see, Ginny will be well fed at the palace and she is certainly capable enough to handle her own affairs. It is you four that I am worried about.”
“But we’re getting better at archery; soon we’ll be able to catch our own food!” Harry called up to her, completely disgruntled at her lack of faith in them. He picked up his bow and followed Ron’s lead in preparing to shoot. His shot wasn’t too bad either, not award winning certainly, but not bad.
“Ron, I have another book for you.” Hermione tossed another orange covered book to him.
“The Idiot’s Guide To Survival Cooking,” Ron read the title off to them.
Harry felt his mouth drop open. “How many different types of Idiot’s Guides are there, anyway?” He took it from Ron and examined it. “And just who would take this thing with them to get lost in the woods? It’s too bulky.”
“Never mind that Harry,” Hermione replied impatiently. “After you catch your food you’re going to have to skin it and light a fire to cook it so that you don’t get sick.”
“We’re going to starve!” Ron whined again.
Neville laughed. “No we aren’t, I know how to skin most anything. I’ve done that enough in Herbology although it will be different with a dead animal. The plants tend to attack you when you try and take their skin off; the Cottonrill plant especially.” He took aim and shot again, barely hitting inside the target. Neville sighed, “Well at least I’m getting closer.”
“See Hermione, we’ll be fine.” Ron grinned cockily up at her.
Hermione let out a snort. “So then start a fire for me.”
All of them stared at each other, including Luna. “We’re going to starve!” Ron finally wailed as his stomach let out a loud grumble.
“The book I gave you has all the instructions you will need to start a fire so I am confident that you will get your dinner shortly and between the four of you, you will be able to cook it.” Hermione assured them.
“Hang on, how are you going to eat?” Neville asked her suddenly.
“Yes, we won’t be able to float food up to you without a wand.” Luna added.
“Oh, well I can just say what food I want and it will appear up here for me but,” she added hastily, “I can’t share my food with you! If I try, it will disappear and I’ll get struck by lightning.”
“How do you know that?” Harry probed.
Hermione held up the thick book he’d seen her looking at before. “It’s all in my guide book and-” She cut off and looked back at her control panel. “Oh dear, I should go check on Malfoy.”
“Why?” Luna asked, nocking another arrow to practice.
Hermione coughed softly. “It seems she’s ordered the servants at the palace to break down the door and she has located a sword.”
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