Ron woke to a swift elbow to the face, his nose pounding with white-hot pain. He yelped, scrambling off the bed and found himself in a heap of blankets on the cold floor. Once he could open his watering eyes he found an angered Hermione still on the bed, her body wrapped in a quilt and her face flushed scarlet. Harry and Ginny had stirred nearby and were quiet so they could see the show. Harry was trying to stifle Ginny’s laughter with a quilt all while controlling his own by visibly biting his tongue. Malfoy was still drooling on the sofa.
“What do you think you’re DOING!?” she screamed, clutching the quilt to her chin. “You disgusting prat!”
Ron continued to rub his nose, completely puzzled and confused as to what she was talking about. He then realized that she was freaking out over them being in the same bed together and her being pretty much naked. It hit him like a passenger train. “Hermione,” he said pleadingly, his nose hurting, “it was body heat.”
“Don’t give me that stupid excuse!”
“It was! You fell into the lake!” Thank you, Harry for not chiming in.
She rolled her eyes wildly. “Where are my clothes? Did you do anything to me? I can’t BELIEVE you, Ronald Weasley! I’m owling your mother. This is crazy.”
Ron’s eyes widened. “That’s not it at all! I was… I was keeping you warm. Harry said you could die!” He looked over at Harry for support, but his friend only nodded. Ginny was giggling.
“That’s just ridiculous!” Hermione continued. “I just fell in a bloody pond. I can’t believe you…”
Ron stood up and crossed the room, walking over to the small fire. He grabbed Hermione’s clothes off of the mantle and chucked them at her. “I was just worried is all.” He said this quietly and folded his arms, facing away.
“Well, seriously, Ronald,” she replied, putting her pants on under the blankets. “How did you think I was going to react? By snogging you?”
Malfoy had apparently just woken up, because he took this news and began to laugh hysterically from the sofa. “She would have just ROLLED over and snogged you, Weasel bee.” Then he put a hand to his head. “Bloody… hell…”
Ron smirked. Leave it to Malfoy to not realize he had a hangover. He looked at Hermione. “No. I just… bloody hell, they were talking like you were about to die or something! I didn’t care how you were going to react!”
“How romantic,” snickered Ginny. Ron flicked her off.
Hermione folded her arms, fully dressed. She slid out from underneath the blankets and sighed. “All right. I forgive you. Just…next time I’m about to die make sure you think about how I’m going to react to whatever it is you’re going to do.” She raised a brow. “And that goes for the two of you as well.”
“You should have seen him, Hermione,” chuckled Ginny. “Reddest face ever...”
Hermione took her turn to blush a little and smiled. “What are we supposed to eat?” She paused. “Where are we?”
Harry threw on a shirt and climbed out of the other bed, moving toward the fireplace. “I think there’s some oatmeal and a few other dried things… we have tea though too.” He looked around the cottage and to the slits of light coming through the curtains. “And I have no idea where we are.” He took the time to explain to Hermione what had happened when she was unconscious and Ron stayed by the fire, throwing another log on top.
Hermione nodded, helping with the kettle. She poured the hot water into chipped mugs and placed a teabag in each, sighing as she did so. Ron took a flower mug from her hands and drank the contents, a weak tea with the slight scent of raspberries.
“So what are we going to do?” Hermione asked, sitting on the edge of one of the beds and staring at the others. “Should we go out into that forest?”
Harry shook his head. “Not yet. We should look around the area first and see if there is anything around the place that we came in.” He stood up, finished off his tea, and made for the door. “Ginny, do you want to get a start on that oatmeal while we go out and look?”
“Oh, sure,” she muttered, “I’m the youngest and a woman, so I might as well.” Ginny narrowed her eyes.
“That’s the spirit,” Harry chimed, leaving the cottage, Ron at his heels.
Outside it was bright, the sun basking in a cloudless sky, and the grass dry and crisp. Ron walked aimlessly around the pond, staring carefully at stones or anything that might lead to their return. He jumped a few times, trying to disguise his fear of spiders and step around various Daddy Longlegs, and found his way to where Harry was. Harry had been crouching in a patch of grass, pulling up weeds and looking under pebbles.
“You could see where everyone came through and kept pushing forward,” he said, sighing and touching the upturned grass with his fingers.
Ron got to his knees and examined anything on the ground that could be of promising use. He found nothing except a few dirty rocks and groaned, looking around the overhang and seeing his red-haired reflection in the waters. He bit his lip and noticed Hermione walk over behind him.
“That must have been the rock,” she said, noticing a few small rocks at the edge of the land. She kicked them into the water, irritated, and felt her head for bumps.
Ron glanced over at her and shrugged. “I don’t see anything out of the ordinary,” he muttered, still surveying the ground. “I can’t get over this. It’s too weird. One minute we’re in a random broom cupboard and the next we’re in a stupidly cold clearing with some old cottage.”
“Maybe Ginny was right…maybe it is something like the Room of Requirement,” said Harry lightly. He pulled his arms closer to his chest and stared around at the clearing.
Ron admired the surroundings and how crunchy and cold the grass was as they retreated back inside to find Malfoy lying spread-eagle on a bed with a blanket over his head. Ron cocked a brow and looked at his sister who had just taken a pot of lumpy oatmeal off of the fire. “What’s with him?”
Ginny shrugged. “Hangover I suppose.” She placed the pot on a heat resistant tray and waved her mitts over it. “He was upset when I opened the curtains.”
“Ruddy curtains,” muttered Malfoy.
“Look at you, little housewife!” chimed Harry and Ginny’s eyes shot daggers in his direction. “Why isn’t supper on the table?”
“Watch it,” interjected Ron, elbowing his friend. “She’ll kill a man for less than that remark.” He plopped down on the bed and Malfoy groaned. “Oh, shut it, Malfoy.”
“Get outa here, Weasel Bee.” Malfoy could barely utter an insult. “No more drinking…seriously… no more…”
Ron, sick of looking at Malfoy’s green-ish sick complexion and watching Ginny and Harry kiss each other on the nose, ambled back outside onto the wooden porch, taking a seat in an unstable chair. He pulled his jacket close to his skin and looked around and into the strangely dark trees.
How far away could the school be? He sighed to himself roughly and moved his hair fromhis face. We were in a closet. A closet. But we’re talking magic now. We could be in bloody Sweden and I wouldn’t have a clue. He looked around. Those trees look kind of Swedish. What does a Swedish bush look like? That one looks more Russian to me.
Ron looked up. Hermione was standing beside him, wrapped in a blanket with rosy cheeks. He shook his head. She took a seat on the same chair beside him since it was relatively large and directed her glance to where he had just been staring.
“Those bushes look strange,” she said softly.
“They look Russian.”
“Nothing.” He looked away, watching some of the trees sway back and forth around him. It was peculiar to see so many leaves on trees when it was that cold outside. “How about this weather, eh?” He blushed stupidly.
She nodded, smiling at him. “How about it?” She chuckled and leaned closer. “It’s so cold out here.”
“Why did you come out here then?”
Hermione shrugged. “Harry and Ginny making kissy faces didn’t really convince me to stay inside. And besides, whoever owns this cottage has a ridiculous taste in literature. There are only two books inside, one on Roman history that I’ve read and at least half of the facts are wrong and the other is a coloring book.” She frowned. “Harry took the one on Roman history… he’s been a little too into the books lately.”
“No crayons for the coloring book?” Ron chuckled.
“No, no crayons,” she said, smiling warmly in return. “I guess I just wanted to actually talk to someone.”
“Better than obsessing over opera I suppose…though I’m surprised it’s me after the episode this morning.”
Hermione chuckled, her eyes cast lightly on the wooden floor. “Yeah, but can you blame me?”
He shook his head. “Well, no.” Ron felt his face grow hot as he remembered the previous evening he had fallen asleep to the smell of her pond hair. “My nose still hurts though…”
She smirked. “Sorry about that. I didn’t even realize it was you.”
Ron gaped at her. “Who else would it have been? Malfoy?”
“Maybe… Gin said he was taking that whiskey kind of hard.”
He nodded. “Good point, he was.” Ron stood up from the chair and paced the porch, his shoes clicking against the rotten wood. “I feel weird… helpless, you know?”
Hermione nodded. She looked at the ground and sighed softly. “I know what you mean. I feel like there’s nothing I can do, like I just have to sit here and wait to be rescued.”
Ron shrugged. “I hate that feeling. I think that’s what’s bugging me.”
“Don’t let it bother you.” Hermione got to her feet and placed a hand on his shoulder, the blankets trailing behind her. “We’ll figure it out. We always do…we just won’t have wands this time.”
Ron could feel an enormous weight on his shoulder from her touch. He looked at her hand and then at the smile etched into her face. Ron watched her turn and walk back into the cottage, almost closing the door on her blankets.
The sun was beginning to blind him when Ron walked down off the porch and to the edge of the pond. He dipped his fingertips into the water, watching the ripples. He sat back onto the grass and looked up at the pale sky, a hand on his forehead to block the rays, just as voices met his ears.
“Oh, please, I don’t want to see that, Harry.” Hermione was obvious annoyed.
“Stop talking so loud!”
“Oh, relax. It’s not like we’re having sex in here.”
“Seriously, quiet down!”
“GET A BLOODY ROOM AND SHUT UP!”
And then there was silence.
Ron glared into the water, unsure of what he was looking for. He bit his lip and looked back into the windows, the yellowed lights from the fire illuminating part of the porch. Hermione was beside the sill, staring down at what he assumed to be a book. He watched her as she bit her lip, licking a finger as she turned each page. Stop staring. She’s going to look out at you and you’re going to turn a rotten shade of red.
Ron chuckled to himself and eventually retreated back inside to find Hermione skimming through the coloring book where he had seen her, Malfoy curled up in a ball on the sofa, and Harry and Ginny talking in whispers beside the fireplace. “Are we going to bloody get out of here soon?”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “I ruddy hope so. Being at this close of range with four other people is killer.”
“Whoever did this just wants us to kill each other off,” muttered Malfoy, putting his hands on his ears.
“I’ll go first by killing him,” Ron interjected, smirking as he took a china bowl off of a shelf. He scooped some oatmeal into it and grimaced, realizing that it looked more like gray vomit. Sitting down on the edge of a bed, he mixed it around and shoveled it into his mouth so that he didn’t have to taste the plainness on his tongue. He almost wanted to grab a handful of whatever herb was in the basket and pour it on top. Chances were, however, that it would be marijuana and he would have the munchies and cancel out the entire process.
The cottage was awkwardly quiet as they ate, spoons clanging on china and teeth barely grinding against the sticky food. All of their expressions matched, the look of complete disgust.
“So what happened to that broth?” Malfoy groaned, staring at the lump on his spoon.
“You want a bowl full of broth?” Ginny asked, folding her arms.
“Better than this,” he retorted, putting it in his mouth.
“I can’t help but wonder how we’re supposed to get out of here,” said Harry, standing up and searching around the shelves, ignoring the conversation “It’s obvious someone has been here and they left. There’s no sign of a struggle or even a death…”
“Aren’t we detective Harry?” said Ginny.
“How do you know they didn’t walk off into that forest and get killed?” Hermione said suddenly, looking out one of the windows and seeing the dark trees. “Maybe they were getting so frustrated with not finding a way out; they just wandered away and never found their way back!” Her eyes were wider than usual and her hands were twisting in her lap.
“Or,” said Ron, trying not to let everyone freak out, “maybe they just found the way out and didn’t get killed or eaten or anything.”
“I didn’t think of eaten!” Hermione cried, jumping up and sending the coloring book quickly onto the floor in front of her. “Do you think there are animals around here? It is a forest after all!”
Harry shrugged. “We can’t really be sure, can we?”
“Yeah, Granger, there are big, bad wolves out there just waiting for you to step outside.” Malfoy sat up and pointed. “They come here to get water so they can last longer on a hunt.”
“Shut it, Malfoy,” said Ron, throwing his spoon at the Slytherin. “Don’t be a prat.”
“That’s in his job description,” muttered Harry in reply, placing the oatmeal pan in the sink. “Let’s just drop it for now, all right.”
“Well what else are we supposed to do?” asked Ginny, tossing a few twigs into the fire. “It’s not like there are Exploding Snap cards under the bed or anything.” She folded her arms and surveyed the group.
It was already afternoon and Ron was finishing off his second cup of tea, watching the others with interest. Hermione’s eyes were fixed out the window, looking for any sign of some sort of wolf. Harry was looking away from everyone else, next to the counter, most likely pondering dangerously and Ginny was looking irritated beside the fire. That was assumingly because the oatmeal was rubbish. Malfoy was still on the bed, head covered up, probably contemplating whether or not he should take a swig from his flask.
Ron decided then, taking his tea with him, to retreat back outside with a blanket and watch the rest of the day vanish from out there. He didn’t feel like waiting for tempers to hit a high and for Harry to start freaking out about how he couldn’t save the world all the time and for Hermione to lose control because she did not have a book to consult or a wand to get a book with.
He plopped down on one of the chairs and watched the sun set toward the other side of the pond. Taking a sip from his cup, he rocked against the chair and listen to Hermione flip the pages of the coloring book inside. Ron sighed to himself and leaned back again, falling backward into the cottage and slamming his head against the window sill.
“You all right, mate?” called Harry from inside.
“Corking,” replied Ron bitterly, picking up his now empty cup of tea. He shifted in the chair and groaned, rubbing the back of his head. This was complete rubbish. Not only was he in some foreign cold place, but he was also being damaged in the head frequently. Soon there wouldn’t be a brain inside it.
“Should we buckle down for another night then?” asked Harry from the doorway, his arms folded across his chest.
Ron shrugged. “It doesn’t look like we’re getting out of here tonight…at least not until we find some sort of a path or something.”
“We’re NOT going into those woods!” cried Hermione from inside.
“Bloody hysterical women,” muttered Ron, standing up. “What’s on your mind?”
Harry looked out at the pond. “We’re going to need some more wood…that fire will be out by tomorrow morning. Son of a bitch, I need my wand.”
“Inappropriate, Potter,” snarled Malfoy from inside. Harry flicked him off.
“Should I go try to find some?”
“Ron, you’re NOT going out there!” Hermione said loudly and Harry slammed the door shut to block out her protests.
“It might be a good idea,” he replied. “I’m sure I can get one of them to fix… something…in that broth.” He grimaced.
Ron nodded, just picturing chunks of oatmeal floating around in the yellow broth. He paused to think on it for a moment and his thoughts drifted back to when they were sitting in the kitchens the previous day. He bit his lip. “What ever happened to Malfoy’s biscuits?”
Harry raised a brow. “You’re right. Where’d those go?” He opened the door and stared at Malfoy, who was still sprawled out. With one swift movement, he grabbed the blanket off of the Slytherin’s head. “Where are those biscuits, Malfoy?”
Malfoy cocked a brow. “What’re you talking about?”
Harry glared at him, his face an interrogation light. “Tell me where they are, Malfoy. You’ve been holding out on us.”
“Well, I do hate you.”
Harry’s face got closer. “Tell me, Malfoy, or this could get ugly.”
“I’m horrified,” Malfoy yawned and lay back down. He placed his arms delicately behind his head and shrugged. “I ate them.”
“You’re a liar,” snarled Harry. “There’s no way you ate all of them.”
Ron pulled Harry back. “Who cares, mate? They’re gone…and if they’re not, I’ve got the rest of Malfoy’s whiskey.” He held up the flask that had been abandoned on the night stand and Malfoy’s eyes snapped open. “I figure if he can be drunk, stupid, and not doing anything, so can I.” Ron smirked at the hung-over boy and retreated back outside to locate wood without being eaten by a random pack of wolves.
He tucked the flask deep inside his pockets and crossed the green lawn as Malfoy’s angry comments met his ears. Apparently it was suddenly Harry’s fault that this happened. It was always Harry’s fault for some reason.
There were a few logs sitting on the edge of the forest, which Ron questioned. Either the previous owner of the cottage had left them there to dry in the sun, or they were there are bait by the wolves. Hey, the wolves could be that smart. They could be baiting me to go for the wood. Then again, they could just jump out and kill me now while I’m just thinking about what they’re plotting…
Ron took the chance and snatched up three logs, lugging them inside.
Hermione was back to flipping through the coloring book, accidentally ripping a few pages as she turned them. Her feet were up against the wall as she glanced up every few moments to see if there were wolves waiting outside the door. Ron moved toward her after he set the logs beside the fire and sighed. “My stomach is killing me.”
“Why would it be killing you?” she asked, not glancing up.
He cocked a brow at her. “Because I’m hungry.”
“Eat what? Oatmeal?” Everyone grimaced.
Hermione glanced up, irritated. She furrowed her brows and set the coloring book down lightly on the sill. “What do you want me to do about it?”
Ginny snorted. “Don’t you get it?”
Hermione looked over. “Get what?” She raised a brow.
Ginny snickered a bit and folded her arms. “My stupid brother wants you to make something for him to eat.” She jabbed her finger in Harry’s direction. “Like I did early for him.”
Hermione looked taken aback. “Excuse me?” Her eyes shot to Ron. “Do you want me to play bloody housewife, Ronald? This is ridiculous. Just because we’re out here and reduced to rubbish doesn’t mean we’re going to go back to the fifties and I’m going to throw on a ruddy apron and slave over a hot stove!”
Malfoy snorted from the bed. “I’m hungry too.” He leaned over and put his hand against his temple. “I’m thinking… centaur?”
“Piss off,” said Ron, flicking him off. He looked at Hermione. “You don’t have to… I just thought maybe you could cook better than…me.” He flushed scarlet and twisted his fingers, averting his gaze to the dusty floor.
Hermione paused, unsure of how to answer. Her lips went thin and she blushed as Ginny snorted.
“Anyone could cook better than you, Weasley,” Malfoy sneered, rolling back over onto his stomach. “I bet you burn water.”
Ron narrowed his eyes. “I do not!”
Hermione stood up. “Sure. I’ll, erm, cook something.” She shuffled over to the kitchen area and stared at the basket of herbs and the random things they had on the counters. “What am I supposed to make?”
Ginny bit her lip. “Uh. Soup?”
“We need something else. I’m not eating shit again for dinner.” Harry groaned along with his stomach. “I’m going out there to find something.”
“Are you going to hunt quail, Potter?”
“Shove off, Malfoy.” Harry threw open the door, left, and slammed it behind him.
The room breathed in silence for a minute until Hermione placed a pot of water over the fire and Ginny began shuffling through cans to see if any herbs would go well in a soup of chicken broth. The girls were obviously trying to keep themselves busy.
Ron leaned against the wall, sighing to himself. He looked to Malfoy who was staring at his pillow and then to the girls who were bustling about around the kitchen and lighting the lamps around the room since night was falling outside. He decided to join Harry outside rather than witness one of the girls snapping and throwing a kettle across the room, causing him further head damage.
Once outside, Ron couldn’t see Harry anywhere. The clearing was vacant except for the pond and the moon was being covered by deep, dark clouds wielding flashes from far off. He shuddered, glancing around. “Harry? Oy, Harry!”
“What?” The voice was coming from behind the cottage.
Ron walked around the side and found Harry crouching in the weeds. “You might want to watch out for those wolves, Harry.” He smirked and walked up, kicking a few dandelions as he went. “What’re you doing?”
He held a finger to his lips. “I’m trying to find something to eat.”
“In the grass?”
“I’m looking in the woods, moron.”
Ron looked into the darkness and bit his lip. “I can’t even see into the woods…how are you hunting food?” He folded his arms. “You don’t even have a bow and arrow.”
Harry smirked. “I just heard something. I need to eat real food. I’d rather go hungry than eat that oatmeal rubbish again.” He grimaced and looked back into the darkness. “I still can’t believe we’re not out of here yet.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “You’re beating a dead horse.”
“Good and hard.”
“SHUT UP, MALFOY!” There was a rustling in the bushes and then another one further off. “Damn it! Whatever was in there…isn’t anymore.” He sighed and stood up, dusting off his pants.
Ron nodded, sliding his hands into his pockets and looking around them. “Probably a wolf anyway.” He shrugged. “I wonder if the girls found anything to put in that soup…other than water.”
Harry shook his head. “I wouldn’t say no to Malfoy soup.”
“I would. It would probably be bitter and disgusting.” Ron made a face as they entered the cottage. Immediately the sour aroma of over boiled herbs met their noses. “What in Merlin’s name is that?”
Hermione wheeled around from the fire, her hair sticking out at odd angles and her face flushed. “I’m cooking, Ronald!”
Ron backed up and looked at Harry, who had the same expression on his face. Malfoy had his face buried in the pillow again and Ginny was trying to open the cans without a can opener. She was slamming it against the counter in frustration.
“I can see that,” he replied slowly, walking up to her. “And what exactly are you cooking again?”
She glared at him, shooting daggers from her eyes. “I’m making your damned soup!” she shrieked, stirring the kettle with a wooden spoon. “I’m…cooking.”
Ron glanced at Ginny. “And what are you doing, little sis?”
She spun around. “I CAN’T GET THIS STUPID CAN OPEN AND IT’S GETTING RIDICULOUS!”
The boys jumped back.
“Maybe we should just go hunt a rabbit,” whispered Harry. Ron nodded and they were almost out the door when Ginny grabbed her brother’s collar.
“Get it open!” she cried, thrusting the can into his chest.
Ron’s eyes widened as he took the can into his hands and looked over at Harry, open-mouthed. Ginny’s face was a bright red and giving him a sort of snarling look. “All right, I’ll get it open.” He side-stepped her and retreated to the kitchen, sorting through drawers of mismatched silverware and stained Tupperware containers. In the back of one of the drawers containing two moldy pot holders he found a can opener, twisted it around the broth can, and gently handed it back to his sister.
She sighed, snatching it from him and pouring it in with the water in the pot.
Ron returned to his post by the door and looked over just as Malfoy was sitting up. “That smells delicious. Did the hunter boys bring home the beef?”
“I swear to fucking Merlin…” Harry said, leaving again.
Ron paused for a moment, watching Hermione stir viciously. “Why aren’t you helping, Malfoy?”
The Slytherin shrugged. “I’m not too prone to cooking. We have a cook at the manor and I haven’t really learned. Chances are I’d be worse than Granger.”
“I’M NOT A BAD COOK, YOU TWIT!” she shrieked, throwing a ladle at his head and missing by several feet.
Malfoy ducked and fell to the other side of the bed. It was apparent his hangover had either ended or the effects were lessening because he was back to being his original cocky self. “Go on, Weasley. I’ll watch from in here. Bring home the bread.” He snorted.
“I’d like to see you hunt something, Malfoy. Only thing you can hunt is your father’s wallet,” Ron muttered, leaving again and slamming the door.
“SLAM IT AGAIN, RON! SEE WHAT HAPPENS!” shouted Hermione from inside.
“How did they suddenly go from girlfriends to mothers?” asked Harry, perched on the side of the porch with his feet rustling against the grass.
Ron flushed. “Hermione’s not my girlfriend, Harry.”
“Yeah, well, only a matter of time, right?”
Now he was magenta. “I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Maybe I should knock you out and see how she does with it,” Harry said, clearly pondering out loud. He had taken to thinking through the demise of his friends lately.
“Subject change please,” Ron said, plopping down beside his friend and hearing a board creak on the porch. “How about we discuss how those women are bloody insane.”
Harry shrugged. “Deny the inevitable then.”
“You’re reading too much.”
“You don’t have enough fiber in your diet and I’m not whining about it.”
Ron narrowed his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”
“And you’re in denial.”
He shoved Harry lightly. “How are you ignoring them?”
“Not ignoring them… just paying more attention to you,” Harry replied playfully. “They’ve always been about to crack. You, on the other hand, should be less thick by now.”
Ron crossed his arms. “We’re friends, Harry. Friends.”
“Yeah. I bet.” Harry stood up and walked over to the water’s edge. “No one takes that long to undress a girl that they’re just friends with.”
Ron stared at the grass as lightning lit up the sky. “Bloody hell. Now it’s going to storm and I’ll bet the wind is going to knock this thing over.” He knocked against the porch.
Harry raised a brow, staring out at the water. “The trees block the wind, Ron.” He paused for a moment, kicking a few pebbles. “Too bad this water is stagnate. We could have had fish.”
“Merlin, you do read too much. I’m going inside so I don’t learn too much.” He stood up and reentered the cottage empty handed to two insane women and one sly Slytherin who was still on the ground. “Hoping they don’t put you to work, Malfoy?”
He shrugged. “Even if they did, what would I do? Accidentally push one into the fire? Too good to be true.”
Ron ignored him and sat at the edge of the cottage, watching the lightning streak across the sky. The moment thunder accompanied it Ginny threw a piece of garlic in the air and scrambled to the bed. She hated storms.
“I thought it was…,” she cried, throwing the covers over her head as Harry entered.
“A mirage?” he said, closing the door and locking it. “It’ll be bad pretty soon.”
Ginny squealed and put a pillow over her head.
“That helped, Potter,” said Malfoy, looking out one of the windows. “What I want to know is why there are storms.”
Ron cocked a brow, but for once, he agreed. He thought for sure it was winter in wherever they might be but the temperature had risen considerably since they had been there and the frost had melted. He joined Malfoy beside the window and stared out as the first droplets hit the roof.
Harry also noticed as he sat beside Ginny, rubbing her back lightly. “I’m not really sure. The seasons are strange here…wherever here might be.”
Hermione fell back against the floor, the wooden spoon spilling out of her hands. Her forehead was littered with tiny beads of sweat and her knees were red from kneeling on the floor for so long. “I can’t DO IT!” she screamed, sobbing hysterically into her red hands.
“Can’t do what?” asked Harry, glancing over.
“COOK!” she shrieked. “I can’t bloody cook!”
Ron raised a brow. “What do you mean? Of course you can. You’re Hermione… you have Muggle parents. Can’t you do all that rubbish?”
She shook her head, tears flowing down her face. “I can’t do it. I’ve never done it. My parents always cooked and then I came here… and oh hell, I can’t cook!” She motioned to the pot. “I’ve ruined it and now we’re going to starve!”
Ron walked the length of the room and sat down beside her. “We’re not going to starve. We’ll find something else to eat.”
“Oatmeal?” she asked and everyone made a face.
“No, not oatmeal. We’ll find something else in the morning.” He looked at the fire and into the pot. “It can’t be that terrible, can it?”
“Well, you can try it,” she said, wiping her eyes and picking up the spoon.
Ron nodded and took the pot off of the fire, setting it on the kitchen counter. He waited for it to cool and then scooped some into a bowl. In truth, it didn’t smell half bad. The different herbs added some zest in the aroma and he didn’t mind it. Hermione was looking hopeful about it, so no matter what it tasted like he was going to deal with it and swallow it. For her…because they were friends.
As he brought the spoon to his mouth he caught himself. He was doing it to make her happy. Would he have done the same thing for Lavender? For Parvati? For his own sister? No. He would have tasted it, felt the disgusting soup on his tongue, and spit it halfway to China.
And so when the appalling soup met his mouth, he swallowed it in one gulp. He ate the entire bowl and looked at her, stomach full but tongue in agony. “Can I have a glass of water please?” She obeyed and handed him a glass of cold, boiled water. He drank it in a hurry and shrugged at the rest of the room. “Not bad.”
Malfoy snorted. “I’d rather starve.”
Harry glared at him. “Probably because you have those biscuits stashed somewhere around here. Where are they, Malfoy?”
He shrugged. “What biscuits?”
“Don’t play stupid with me!”
“Harry, nevermind,” said Ginny as she peeked out the top of her head. She shrieked as thunder slammed against the cottage. “Malfoy can’t play smart so he has to take the other road.”
“I hate you,” Harry whispered to Malfoy.
“Hate you more, hero boy,” Malfoy breathed back.
“This place is making me crazy.” Hermione ignored the boys, motioning to her messy hair and flushed cheeks. “We need to leave. I need to finish perfecting those charms.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t think of this like that,” said Harry, throwing a pillow at Malfoy to get him to shut his face. “Maybe we should just go along for the ride.”
“Are you being serious?” asked Ginny.
“Of course I am,” he replied slowly, glancing back out the window as lightning lit up the night sky. “Perhaps this is what this entire trip has been about. We’ve all been so wrapped up in life… maybe we should just… relax.”
“Yeah, ok. First Hermione almost dies of hypothermia, then our wands are gone and we have shit for food and the seasons are all schizophrenic on us and we’re supposed to just sprawl out and relax?” Ron asked, perplexed. “Somehow I find that kind of hard to believe.”
Harry shook his head. “I think it’s a way for us to take a step back and just rough it for a while. Maybe we’ll learn something. Or maybe,” he glared right at Ron, “some of us will stop being so damn thick. How was that soup, Ron?”
Ron threw the spoon at him.
“I think Harry’s right,” said Ginny, the blankets still up to her neck.
“Only because he’ll have you,” retorted Malfoy as he got another pillow to the face.
“He’s right because we’ve all been way too stressed lately, even before this mishap.” She sighed into the silence and looked around. “But, Harry, how are we supposed to relax when we’re fighting to find a meal?”
“Like this,” he chuckled and plopped down on the sofa with his feet kicked up on to the arm rest. “Ah, relaxing.”
“That looks nice, Potter, but my stomach is keeping me from relaxing by ruddy screaming at me!” Malfoy said, folding his arms in protest and jabbing his head toward the soup that Hermione made. “Maybe you should cook.”
“Me? Why?” Harry said, glancing over.
“Because it’s obvious Granger and the Weasley girl can’t handle it. And if Weasel Bee even thinks about touching my food I’ll throw him out a window.”
Harry cocked a brow. “Why me?”
“You’re the only one left.”
Ron snorted. “Go on, Harry. Malfoy wants his din-din.”
“Shut your face, Weasel!”
Harry shrugged. “I’ve got nothing to make anyway.” He looked out at the rain-soaked window and bit his lip. “I’m sure there will be something out there tomorrow after the rain.”
“Worms?” asked Hermione. “They’re prone to reaching solid ground, cement, or wood in order to feel the full effects of the rain.”
“Please, stop with the knowledge!” Ron cried, standing up and covering his ears. “STOP READING SO DAMN MUCH.”
Hermione smiled warmly at him and stood up from her place by the bed. She set his bowl in the empty sink and took a seat on a small stool.
Ginny got up from the bed, dragging the blankets with her and sat beside Harry, laying her head on his shoulder. He kissed her forehead and sighed contently, closing his eyes for a moment.
“Get a bloody room,” muttered Malfoy, turning the other way. “Bloody disgusting…”
“Jealous,” said Ginny lightly and she squeaked as thunder shook the cottage.
“We need to do something to keep us busy. It’s still kind of early,” said Hermione, folding her arms.
“What do you suggest, Granger? Truth or Dare?” Malfoy snorted.
“Oh yes, because that is exactly how I would like to spend my Saturday night,” Hermione huffed sarcastically. “Does anyone know any regular, non-ridiculous games we could play?”
“How about spin-the-bottle, Granger—?”
“Malfoy, shut up.”
“I have no idea, Hermione,” said Harry, staring at the ceiling and trying to console a frightened Ginny.
“How about trivia?” she said, excitedly. “I could ask you lot questions and whoever answers first would get…” Hermione’s eyes darted around the room.
“More oatmeal?” groaned Ron.
“No, don’t be stupid. They would get…” She bit her lip. “Well, something.”
“That sure is incentive to play,” muttered Malfoy, staring back out the window.
“Ok! I’ll start!” she cried, ignoring him. “In the Muggle World War I, what country did the Germans go through in order to attempt to capture Paris?”
Ron threw a pillow at her. “This game is even more ridiculous than the ones Malfoy came up with.”
“You want to play then, Weasel Bee?”
“No, of course I don’t want to play! Shut your mouth!”
Hermione looked at the ground. “I just thought that it would be fun.”
“It would be more fun if it was about something we actually knew, Hermione,” said Harry softly.
Malfoy looked over as Hermione sighed and met eyes with Ron for a moment. Ron’s insides were squirming, but he stared back anyway. “What do you want, Malfoy?”
“Where’s my flask?”
He shrugged. “I dunno.”
“My arse you don’t know,” Malfoy replied. “Tell me where it is.”
“Why? So you can have another hangover and not help out around here because you can’t stand sunlight?”
Malfoy narrowed his eyes. “I just want something to drink other than stale tea.”
“Deal with it.”
“I’m going to deal with your mother, Weasley!”
“Don’t you talk about my mother, Malfoy!”
“Then give me my bloody flask!”
“I’m going to kick your arse, Weasley!” Malfoy stood up and crossed the room. “Give it to me.”
“Kiss my arse.” Ron cocked a brow and folded his arms, now standing.
“Calm down, you two,” said Ginny lightly, jumping as lightning lit up the room. “Malfoy, you don’t need it. Drink the tea.” Ron smirked. “And Ron, stop being a prat.” He flicked her off.
“Hell with this,” said Harry, plopping down on one of the beds. “I’m going to sleep. Gin, coming?”
She nodded and sprinted to the other side of the cottage, falling onto the bed in a heap of blankets. Harry blew out the lamp beside the bed and curled up with his girlfriend to go to sleep.
Ron and Hermione glanced at the other bed in unison. This thought hadn’t occurred to Ron before then and his stomach tightened with knots. There was one bed left and two people that had shared it the night before that most certainly would not be doing that again. His face grew a darker shade of red and his ears were burning at the thought.
Neither of them knew what to say. At long last, after each had stared at the ruffled blankets for a few minutes, Hermione turned to him. “Erm, I’m going to go to sleep as well.” She stood up from the stool and crossed the room, pulling back the blankets and sliding underneath.
Ron nodded, taking an extra quilt and spreading it out on the floor between Hermione’s bed and the fireplace. He laid down on it, propping up his head so that he could look into the fire with ease.
Hermione’s head became visible peeking over the side of the bed. “Are you comfortable?”
He looked up. “Want the truth or a lie?”
“The truth, Ron.”
“Bloody hell. No, this isn’t comfortable. I was more relaxed at the Yule blasted Ball.”
She smirked. “Do you want to… to lay up here?”
Once again, his face faded to a deep magenta. His eyes widened roughly to the size of tea saucers and he didn’t know what to say. Was this some kind of sick trick to get him to say he wanted to and then she would call him a pervert? Then of course she would smack him round the head and that would be that. Or, he thought as he looked up at her face, she could be being sincere. Maybe she wanted him to actually be comfortable.
He bit his lip. That was very unlikely.
“Well?” she said impatiently. Even in the light from the fire it was obvious her face was two shades redder than it had been before.
He shrugged. “Sure, I suppose that’s all right… I mean, it wouldn’t hurt.” He paused. “Friends sleep in the same bed as friends all the time, right?”
“Sure, sure,” she said quickly, moving to the other side of the bed in the semidarkness that bathed the cottage.
Ron slid under the covers and lay there, once again as stiff as a board. Lightning lit up the room. Malfoy snorted with laughter.
“Weasley! What did I tell Potter?” he laughed. “Get a bloody room!”
Harry and Ginny wheeled around. “Ron!” cried Ginny, laughing. “What’re you doing?”
Ron froze. Hermione froze. “We’re going to sleep now. Good night,” said Hermione, turning her face toward the fire, toward Ron.
He, however, remained facing the ceiling as the other three laughed until they finally decided it was time to sleep and leave the pair alone. Hermione’s breathing was rapid, irritated and humiliated. Her eyes were closed softly, trying to get over the embarrassment that had just befallen her.
Ron glanced over and whispered, “You ok?”
She nodded slowly. “Yes, I’m fine.”
He looked at her, hard. “Are you sure?”
“Just a little humiliated is all,” she replied softly. She was blushing again.
“They’ll get over it. I mean, it’s nothing anyway.” He paused. “Right?”
Hermione looked up and nodded. “Yes, of course.” She sighed for a moment and moved closer to him, adjusting her neck. “Bloody neck is killing me. I must have taken a serious spill into that pond yesterday.”
“You did. Are you ok? Do you want to lay a different way?”
She shrugged. “Sure.” With that, she moved even closer and Ron was forced to put his arm around her as she snuggled up against his chest. His face was a bright pink but he didn’t show it as her breathing slowed and she didn’t wince at the pain in her neck.
“Oh, and Granger?” Malfoy said into the darkness as he put out the last lamp.
“Hmm?” she said softly.
“It was Belgium.”
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