The Curse That Went Awry

Chapter Ten: Pointless Diatribe

          Hermione was suddenly aware, as she leaned her back against Malfoy's, of how very, very shirtless her traveling companion was. "Goodnight," she said, as an afterthought.

          "Good—" Malfoy got out, when there was a deafening clap of thunder. Huge water droplets began to pour out of the sky. "Oh…" said Malfoy. "Crud."

          Scrambling to her feet, Hermione turned her face to the heavens. "The sky was clear half a minute ago!"

          "So?!" yelled Malfoy over the thunder, standing up as well.

          "So—this isn't even meteorologically possible!"

          "What does this have to do with carnivores?!"

          "What, Malfoy?!"

          "You said 'meat-eater,' and I—oh never mind! We should get out of the rain!"

          "Where are we going to find shelter?"

          "We're in a bloody forest, Granger!"

          "Well, it doesn't seem to be helping us right now, does it?" Hermione began to wring out her already-sodden sleeve in vain. Then, stooping, she picked up her knapsack.

          Adopting his typical condescending stance, arms folded over (bare) chest, Malfoy looked down at her and said, "That's besides the point, Granger. The point is that…"

          The rest of the words faded into the rain as Hermione stared at him and thought, Someone like Malfoy should not be allowed to be that attractive. I mean, it should just be against the law for a jerk like him to look so…something…and…no…shirt…and…NO! BAD! Hermione shook her head to clear it. "Why are we just standing here getting wet?"

          "What?"

          "I mean, standing in the rain!"

          "I'm so sure that's what you meant. I bet you weren't even listening to what I just said."

          "Of course I was."

          "Then what did I say?"

          "That doesn't matter right now, Malfoy, and you're wasting time!"

          "No, Granger, you're not getting out of this! I want to know what I said!"

          "You were there, weren't you?!" She was getting cold, now, and feeling overburdened with her wet clothes.

          "So were you! So you should know what I said!"

          "Ugh! Malfoy!" Seizing his hand, Hermione began to drag him into the deeper woods, lifting her feet high to clear the grass and mud.

          "Stop dragging me, Granger! Are we even going the right way?"

          "I don't know!"

          Malfoy suddenly halted. Hermione tried to pull on his hand to make him start walking again, but her weight wasn't enough to shift him. She gave up when he asked, "Did you have the map in your pack, Granger?"

          Oh, a fine time for him to decide to be rational. "I thought it was in yours."

          "Yes, but if you'll notice, Granger, I am currently in possession of only my pants and my wand."

          Why does that sound dirty? "Did you look at the map, yet, then?"

          "It's not in your pack?" Malfoy's voice had a frightened edge to it.

          "No," said Hermione, slowly, a wave of fear washing over her. "Malfoy. Tell me you looked at the map before it was lost."

          "Okay, now I know you didn't steal my things, because that would just be committing suicide…"

          "Malfoy!"

          "Yes, I looked at it."

          Hermione felt her panic recede. Her feelings of discomfort at their present situation, however… "Which direction do we have to go in?"

          "Southeast," Malfoy said, sounding unsure.

          "Southeast. Are you sure about that?"

          "Er, yes. Er, definitely. Yes. No. Sort of. In a very strong way, yes."

          After thinking hard, she finally said, "Then we should go that way." Drawing her wand, she said at it, "Point me."

          "Which way?" said Malfoy impatiently.

          "I can't see my wand!"

          "Lumos." The light from Malfoy's wand illuminated the enormous raindrops falling between them. Hermione's eyes caught his for a second, and she spotted something there, something that hinted that maybe he was just as scared as she was about all this, underneath the posturing. She saw a frightened person, and she was so focused on that fact that it startled her when he became Malfoy again, face forming into a glare. "Well?" he demanded, and she cleared her throat. They both looked down at her palm, which she held up for inspection.

          "So, if this is north," she pointed, "then…this way."

          "We were going that way already."

          "Ah…yes."

          "So this whole exercise was pointless."

          "Er…"

          Scoffing, Malfoy seized her hand again and they began trudging along. Lightning flashed a few miles away—a few seconds after, thunder pounded on their eardrums. Hermione flinched at the sound. Malfoy glanced back at her, and his face softened almost undetectably. "It's just thunder," he grumbled.

          "I know, thunder is just air rushing into the space made vacant by the enormous amount of electricity touching the ground, and there's a delay from—"

          "Does this diatribe have a point?"

          "The point is, you should never get me started about the weather!" Which wasn't truly the point, but she wasn't about to tell him that.

          For a few moments they were silent, merely slogging through the rain, staring at the woods around them, revealed by the light of their wands.

          Then the light of their wands began to have no effect in the face of the heavy downpour. "Can you see anything?!" cried Hermione over the wind.

          "Yeah! Lots of trees and rain! Plenty of rain! In fact, too much! A proliferation of rain!"

          Rolling her eyes, though she was sure he couldn't see it, Hermione yelled, "Thank you!"

          "You're not welcome! It's cold, dammit!"

          "How is that my fault?!"

          "Well, you—" Lightning flashed.

          Hermione screamed as loudly as she could. A millisecond later, Malfoy screamed from beside her.

          They flew into each other's arms.

          It was hideous, monstrous, and other words ending in '—ous.' Its giant, black, fat, twisted form was lit dramatically from behind by the lightning. That was why Hermione had screamed.

          "Why are we screaming?" she heard by her ear. Once again, she was made aware of how very shirtless Malfoy was. Also, how very, very close he was. He didn't have to shout over the rain. Hermione gulped.

          "Th—the thing. You don't know why we're screaming?"

          "Well, I heard you scream, so I assumed a scream on my behalf would be appropriate."

          "Malfoy…"

          "So…this thing you mentioned? Was it, er…hostile?"

          Hermione squinted into the rain. "I only saw it for a moment, when the lightning flashed. It obviously hasn't attacked us by now…" Then she saw what it was. "It's a tree," she told him. How embarrassing.

          "All this for a tree?"

          "Oh…shut up. And let go of me."

          "But you're warm."

          "Oh, I'm sorry," she said, and she really was. "Are you cold?"

          "Granger, I'm shirtless in the pouring rain."

          "…Oh." Not exactly anxious to remove her arm from Malfoy, but feeling she had to do it, Hermione held her wand closer to the tree. "Oh! Come on!" Pulling herself away from Malfoy, she grabbed his hand once again and dragged him, yet again, forward.

          "Hey!" Malfoy protested. Hermione wasn't sure if he was protesting her sudden grasping of his hand, or the sudden loss of body heat. Either way, a second later, his "Hey," had turned into a delighted one.

          Lit by wandlight, the hollow tree was revealed to be spacious…at least, for a tree. The inside was filled with soft, dry grass. Too tired to ponder what grass was doing inside a tree, Hermione flomped down onto the ground. Malfoy snatched at her pack, dropping down beside her. In a few seconds time, he'd pulled out some of their rations, and had begun to devour them.

          "Thanks for sharing," said Hermione.

          "Once again, you're not welcome," Malfoy told her, mouth full.

          Rolling her eyes, Hermione nicked some food from his hands.

          "Now what?" he queried.

          "We wait the rain out." Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes again.

          "No, really? I thought we were going to head right back out there!"

          Ignoring him, she picked her wand up again, then said, "Nox. Aridus," she added, waving her wand over herself. Her clothes were instantly dry. She lit her wand again and resumed eating.

          From a few feet away, Malfoy cleared his throat.

          Hermione continued to eat, grinning internally.

          "AHEM."

          "Hmm?" hummed Hermione innocently, looking up from her food. "Oh. Why not use your own wand?"

          "RassafriggamfraggamnogoodgrumblegrizzlestoopidGranger."

          "What was that?" said Hermione, still pulling her innocent act.

          "I said I'mnottoogoodatthespell."

          "And…?"

          "Andcouldyoudoitforme?"

          "Say the magic word."

          "No, you say the magic word," said Malfoy, annoyed.

          "I meant, be polite."

          "Grrr—please?"

          "And…?"

          "What else is there?"

          "And…?"

          "…Urgh, all right, andHermioneGrangeristhebestwitchever, now will you please just—"

          "Nox," Hermione repeated. "Aridus."

          "My feet are still wet," complained Malfoy.

          "There's something else you're supposed to say after someone does something nice for you," Hermione said patiently.

          "Good job?" asked Malfoy.

          "No, that's not it…"

          "Curse you, Granger."

          "No, that's not it…"

          "…Thankyou," he spat quickly, then turned back to his food.

          "Now was that so—" Hermione cut herself off when she threw a glance to the entrance to the tree.

          Or what had been the entrance to the tree.

          "Ahh—Malfoy?"

          "Yerf?" His mouth was full again.

          "What happened to the door?"

          "Wert?" Malfoy turned, saw the solid inside of the tree, stood up quickly, then rapidly sat back down again after banging his head up against the wooden ceiling. "Owsh. Ferk, ferk, ferk, darm, arsh, tert-mungrrrrow!"

          "Mind your tongue, Malfoy."

          "You shound lerk—" he swallowed. "You sound like McGonagall."

          "Malfoy!"

          "Yes?"

          "What happened to the door?!"

          "How should I know?"

          "How can you—be so calm?"

          "Simple, really, I just—" Malfoy's voice was cut off by a rapid squeaking noise that seemed to come from all around them. The air was…glowing. "What the…?"

A/N: Mmm, massive cuteness in this chapter, ne? This chapter was extra-long, 'cause we wanted to include all this happy stuff. And now…a cliffhanger, for your enjoyment. Frightening tree balloon animals (or plants, as it were) with special lightning backdrops if you review. You know you want one.