An awkward silence descended upon the pair as they sat staring at the sleeping Justin’s face. The other teenagers stopped talking soon enough and wordlessly migrated over towards Dudley and Lunet’s post. The group sat keeping watch over their fallen peer whilst waiting for Owen’s return. Had Justin awakened during this period of time, four pairs of inquisitive eyes scrutinizing his face would have greeted him - an awkward realization, to say the least.
Owen, however, was not so lucky as Justin. He stomped back into camp having decided that, yes, he would concede to learning apparation from Justin only to discover his two siblings, Dudley, and Hazel gazing at Justin while he slept. “Uh… I hope I’m not interrupting anything…”
The four conscious friends raised their heads slowly, and looked at Owen with blank faces. It took them a moment to realize what Owen was referring to their watching Justin as he slept.
Hazel took this opportunity to explain in great detail how her cousin hadn’t yet woken up but also hadn’t thrown up in his sleep. They were taking that as a good sign.
Owen shuffled his feet then admitted he was wrong for storming off earlier. “I’ll learn how to apparate,” he modestly declared. “Don’t worry about it.”
“You had better be willing to apparate,” Nesta raged. “Because if you think poor Justin is…”
“I don’t think Justin should start teaching you until at least tomorrow,” Hazel interrupted Nesta before she got too riled up. “This first trip obviously took a lot out of him.”
“That’s fair,” Nesta conceded. “As long as you’re willing to learn, Owen. That should be fine.”
Dudley, who was really confused by Nesta’s outburst, looked to Lunet for interpretation. However, Lunet merely smirked and shook her head. “I’m not telling you anything. If there’s one good thing about being able to read people’s minds, it’s knowing everything and watching people squirm in their general lack of understanding.”
Dudley considered this. Then, “Have you told anyone else about your ‘special talent’?”
Lunet shook her head but didn’t say a word in response.
She sighed, “It’s kind of an awkward thing to know about someone. No one has any privacy around me; they’re happier being blissfully unaware.”
“No,” Dudley scrunched his brow, wondering how she could have possibly misunderstood his meaning. “Why did you choose me to tell?”
Lunet rolled her eyes. “Dudley, when will you get it through your head? I never misunderstand the meaning of your questions. I simply chose to answer those which are more relevant to the conversation.” She saw the bewildered and confused expression that still graced Dudley’s massive head, “And I chose you because I knew you would never tell for fear of people thinking that you’re insane.”
Dudley was considering this when he caught Hazel’s eye from a few feet away. She was in deep in conversation with the elder Llewellyn siblings, looking rather exasperated by their frantic antics. When they locked gazes, she smiled softly and tucked a lock of honey blond hair behind her ear. Dudley smiled stupidly back and was about to join her conversation when Lunet’s voice brought him crashing down to earth. “Don’t you dare think about leaving me here in the middle of our conversation!”
Dudley groaned inwardly but caught himself before thinking anything negative towards the youngest Llewellyn. Instead, he ventured into safer territory, “Can you hear what Justin thinks about while he is asleep?” he asked.
Lunet grinned wickedly, “What do you think I was doing when you all decided to join me on the log and stare at Justin’s head? I at least had a good excuse for being creepy!”
Dudley chuckled nervously at the awkward moment the four of them had shared earlier. However, instead of diverting his attention away from Justin, like any normal human being, Dudley stared down at the sleeping wizard’s face, trying to imagine what it would be like to read people’s minds. He had lost his train of thought when Justin unexpectedly opened his eyes.
“BLOODY HELL!” Justin exclaimed, causing the entire camp to rush to his side. “Why are you staring at me?”
Hazel rushed to Justin’s side and quickly hugged him before placing the back of her hand over his forehead. “Thank God you’re awake. You passed out after apparating the lot of us,” she explained. Justin groaned and murmured that he remembered. “So, we’ve decided that you’re going to teach Owen how to apparate!” she quipped cheerfully.
Justin viewed his cousin skeptically, “Now?” he asked.
Nesta scoffed, “Of course not now,” she shook her head at the absurdity of Justin’s assumption. “No, you’ll start teaching him first thing tomorrow. That way you’ll be feeling better.”
Hazel rolled her eyes at her friend then assured her cousin that he wouldn’t be expected to apparate unless he felt up to it. However, she finished her reassurance with, “But the sooner, the better… you know?”
Justin nodded stoically and made an attempt to stand up. Dudley offered him a hand and effortlessly hoisted his friend off the ground. The niceties of everyone expressing their relief at Justin’s recovery ensued only to be interrupted by the loud gurgling of Dudley’s stomach.
It was then unanimously decided that they would prepare some food. The sun was getting low in the sky and the group was anxious about being too active after nightfall.
Owen assembled the firewood he had brought with him from his escapade into the woods and used his wand to conjure a crackling fire. Nesta produced some sausage links she had managed to nick from the kitchen before they left and everyone sat down to a pleasant albeit hurried meal.
“Tomorrow,” Nesta announced, “We’re going to have to find a local town. Frankly, I don’t fancy camping every night.”
“Neither do I,” replied Justin. “But without any money, how do you propose we stay at an inn?”
“I’m working on that one,” Nesta answered. “I was actually hoping one of you guys,” she addressed the wizards, “could use your wands to trick an innkeeper into thinking we’ve already paid…”
Lunet rolled her eyes and Hazel looked at the long-legged girl sitting next to her in horror. “You are not suggesting we steal and take advantage of people? Are you?” Hazel asked disbelievingly.
“Well yes… and no,” Nesta answered. “We could do handy work to pay them back?” she offered. “They would never know…” She was clearly losing this battle.
Owen spoke up, “Nesta, it’d probably be better if we just camped outside.” Nesta huffed. “Besides, we’ll probably be stealing from unsuspecting muggles anyways. Do you really want to add sleeping in their homes for no extra charge to your conscience?”
Nesta looked quizzically at her younger brother, “Come again?”
Justin explained for Owen, “Nesta, we’re going to run out of food soon. So we’ll have to steal from various strangers in the near future anyways.”
She understood, as did everyone else, the situation they had put themselves in. They sat in pregnant pause for a few moments before Lunet’s clipped voice shattered the silence, “I’m tired.”
The group muttered in agreement and began assigning watch shifts. Dudley was to take the first shift with Owen. Lunet and Hazel, who in turn would be relieved by Justin and Nesta, would relieve them. A wand on each shift.
As Dudley watched Hazel drift off to sleep, he remembered the night of the ministry’s falling two months ago. He recalled his abhorrence of magic and his discomfort around wand-bearers. Dudley sat down next to Owen, smiling to himself. He was proud of how far he had come, and was warmed by the friendships he had forged with these people.
“So…” Owen said after some time.
“So…” Dudley replied.
“Have you started driving yet?” Owen asked.
“I’m not 18 yet,” Dudley stated.
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Owen smirked.
Dudley chuckled lightly. “I taught myself how to drive when I was 15. I don’t technically have my license, just a permit.” Dudley smirked as he remembered how willing his parents had been to let him pick up Harry. In hindsight, this was probably their way of proving to their nephew that their son was superior.
“Hmm…” Owen was clearly thinking about something. “Do you have that on you? Do you have any other form of identification? Something that says that you are over 18?”
Dudley had just about enough of his questions sans explanation. “Would you care to tell me why you want to know this?” Dudley sighed.
“No particular reason, I was just wondering if you could drive us, should we manage to get our hands on a car at any point.”
“That seems like a reason.”
“All right, I want you to drive us,” Owen admitted.
Dudley laughed, “Mate, you realize we don’t have a car, right?”
“I know that, but if we had a car, you driving would be less dangerous than me side-along apparating several people!”
“Is that what this is really about?” Dudley asked, “You are afraid to apparate someone else?”
“Wouldn’t you be?” Owen demanded. “I’m not even of age yet! I shouldn’t be responsible for apparating myself, let alone someone else. Think about it! I could completely sever several people’s limbs!”
“Whoa! Relax! It was just a question!”
“And I was just asking you a question!” Owen seemed on the edge of hysteria. “But that didn’t stop you from being defensive! You breaking the law by driving us is no different than me breaking the law by apparating us! Only you actually have a clue what you’re doing.”
Dudley considered this. Owen had a point. Besides which, he would feel much more useful if he actually could contribute something to this rescue mission. “Isn’t your sister 18 though?”
“Nesta?” Owen scoffed. “Nesta refuses to learn how to drive. She says that she will live in the city for her entire life therefore driving will be completely unnecessary. You do NOT want her driving you anywhere. If she is ever going to be responsible for anyone’s life, it is going to be in the operating room.”
Dudley laughed; Owen joined him. Finally, Dudley said, “I have a crap ID I got for buying booze, but if you’re thinking of doctoring one of my documents, you’ll have more luck just changing the age on my permit.”
“No, I know. I just wanted the fake one to make sure I didn’t miss anything when fixing your legal ID. So you’ll drive us then?” Owen asked hopefully.
Dudley clapped the younger boy on the shoulder, causing Owen to buckle involuntarily. “If you can find a car big enough to fit the lot of us, and you can figure out what the hell to do about gas money, I’ll drive it.”
Owen’s face brightened, “I was thinking about that – the whole needing money for gas. It should be a problem, right? But then Nesta started talking about tricking people into thinking we’ve already paid for hotel rooms! Why can’t we do the same thing with gas money? And while we’re at it, we could do the same thing at restaurants!”
Dudley scoffed, “Good luck convincing Hazel to go along with that.”
“Convincing me to go along with what?” Dudley heard from behind him.
Owen spoke first, “I think we should find a car and drive to France.”
Hazel considered this, “Fair enough, who here has a license?” It was clear she already wasn’t a fan of this idea.
“Dudley,” Owen said confidently.
“Really?” Hazel sounded impressed. “How long have you been driving?”
Dudley felt his cheeks turning an embarrassed red, “Since I was 15,” he mumbled.
Hazel was silent for a moment. By the firelight, Dudley couldn’t discern the expression on her face.
When she did speak again, she no longer sounded impressed, merely impassive. “What would we do about gas?” She asked Owen.
“We would have to confound the gas station owners,” Owen stated confidently.
“So you’re suggestion we steal from other muggles?” Dudley could hear the disappointment in Hazel’s voice. “Without any regard to the morality of the situation.”
“Hazel, lets be honest,” Owen replied. “Nothing about what we’re doing is legal. The only reason you and I ever met is because I am an outlaw in my own country. If we actually returned to England right now, I would be persecuted for no reason other than my being a muggleborn wizard, something I have no control over. If I attempted to apparate with you, I would probably disfigure you, if not kill you. I can’t have that on my conscience. So yes, I am suggesting that we steal. Because either way I feel guilty but I could not forgive myself for hurting one of my friends.”
Hazel was silent for some time. She slowly lowered herself to the log Dudley was sitting on. “It sucks when doing the right thing feels so wrong,” she said after some time.
Dudley instinctively put his arm around her frail shoulders. He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring squeeze. Judging by the fact she didn’t wince in pain, he hadn’t used too much pressure. Hazel sighed and leaned into his side. She was wearing a thin loose-fitting t-shirt but no jacket. Dudley gently slid his arm up and down her arm, marveling at how soft her skin was. When he noticed that she was shivering, he slid out of his leather bomber and placed around her shoulders. Before long, she had fallen asleep
Owen and Dudley continued to talk sporadically throughout the rest of their shift on night watch. When it came time to switch guards, Owen went to wake his sister. Dudley hardly had the heart to rouse Hazel but he did so anyways, lest he face the judgmental gaze of their resident telepath.
More than anything, Dudley wanted to stay awake to listen to Hazel and Lunet’s conversation. But before he knew it, his body had surrendered to sleep and the world had melted away.
A/N: Hey everybody and anybody who has read my story! I am officially back to writing this but I promised myself that I wouldn't post any given chapter unless the next two are written. That way, if something crazy happens, I can still theoretically post. I'm planning on going to an every-other-week posting schedule because I actually work best when I give myself deadlines.
On a less technical note, what did you think? Do you like where the story is going? What do you think is going to happen next? Also, do you want me to make some more chapter images to go along with the installments? Leave me a review and let me know!