Chapter 10: All Good Things Must Come To An End… But Not Because Of Somebody Else's Bad Attitude
Hermione: Yes, chapter nine was surprisingly short, and there's good reason.
Ron: Oh come on, there's no good reason for the delays and disappointments in the updates for this fic!
Hermione: Well… it's true that this fic seems to be put on permanent hold. I don't want to be held responsible for that, though, and that's why I've invited our most unusual guest yet. Everybody, please say hello to our sponsor, the author, Elly. All tomatoes can be directed at her.
Elly: (arrives) Um… thank you very much. Please no tomatoes, because as I'm about to explain, I'm more fragile than I look.
Hermione: Well, you do have quite a bit of explaining to do! Why have you neglected this fic so much? It's not easy for us all to just wait about for you to come around and do your bit! There are a few people who want to know what happens, you know?
Ron: Yeah! You're lucky anybody's reading it at all!
Elly: (apologetic) That's true. Before I get started, let me extend a very heartfelt thanks to everybody who's supported my writing. I've really appreciated everybody's approval, but found out last year that I have a rather weak stomach for criticism.
Ron: Last year, huh? Coincides with this fic's lack of updates, doesn't it?
Elly: Yep. To make a long story short, I had one of my fics (not this one) posted on somebody's site for the sheer purpose of ridiculing me. Needless to say, I didn't take it very well and all my writing was put to an abrupt, painful halt. My feelings were just too hurt to keep up with the hobby.
Hermione: But… it is just a hobby. Why take it so seriously?
Elly: Let's just say it was really harsh. I cried for a couple days and everything.
Ron: Well, I'm sorry… but you can't let things like that get you down! Everybody has to learn to roll with the punches sometimes. It's part of life.
Hermione: That's right! You call yourself an amateur writer, don't you? Well write! We've been waiting!
Elly: I'm ready to agree with that. At the time, last year, I found myself wondering how I'd ever get over it and move on with my fics. I've decided the only way for me to do that is to keep contributing to the wonderful community I've found online to express all of our imaginations.
Ron: So… any lame promises this time? I remember you made a promise last time that you'd update sooner… and here we are one year later!
Elly: Right. I have no better excuse than to explain that my enthusiasm was thoroughly crushed. At this point, what I really want to do is express my support of all you writers here on and elsewhere, practicing and honing their skills.
I realize that this fic might have come off as being rather preachy and judgmental of other author's writing sometimes, and after what I went through, that's the last thing I ever want to do! Don't take me so seriously… I'm far from perfect and know it all too well.
Hermione: What she's saying is: break all the 'rules' we've been talking about in previous chapters. We're no authority.
Ron: Just aiming for a chuckle from our audience, really.
Elly: Yes, ignore all the rules! Except this one: don't let somebody else knock you down forever. People criticize others to make themselves feel superior… and that's a really lousy reason to go along with them and feel bad about yourself.
Hermione: So is it safe to say you're over it, Elly? Ready to get on with things?
Elly: I'll give it my best, anyway. I'm worried about letting the readers down, but I can't let it stop me anymore. I care about all that feedback I've gotten, and I'm going to try and make the wait worth it.
Ron: All right! She's got the right attitude. Now, stop getting in our way! You hired us to write this one, remember?
Hermione: She hired me alone…
Ron: Two for the price of one! I don't think Elly really would have wanted the textbook approach you had planned, anyway.
Elly: (smiles approvingly) I think everything's in good hands. I apologize for the disruption to the flow of this fic. I'll return now to my true role, orchestrating things from behind the scenes. (begins to fade) I don't know why I ever set this aside! I hope it's as fun for you as it is for me. (is gone)
Ron & Hermione: (look awkward in the sudden loneliness)
Ron: So… where did Unoriginality go, anyhow?
Hermione: (shuffling her quills and paper for lack of anything better to do) Not a clue. I think we're better off without her, myself.
Ron: Just couldn't wait to get some more alone time with me, could ya?
Hermione: (sniffles) It's not that at all! Too many cooks spoil the soup, is what I was getting at! As a matter of fact, this was going to be a solo endeavor originally!
Ron: Ouch… the rejection! But if we're going to learn anything from this lesson, it's that enduring rejection is essential to success, right?
Hermione: Well… yes. That's a fairly good summary, actually…
Ron: Just gotta keep plugging away regardless of being shot down, am I right?
Hermione: (smells a trap) … I suppose…
Ron: Can't let a little thing like having your heart repeatedly ripped out, stomped on, and crushed stop you, you know?
Hermione: Now Ron, you're getting a bit dramatic…
Ron: Think so? Might as well put all that drama to good use then, shouldn't I?
"I agree… this mark's not far from where we are right now, and we do still have a bit of time before picking up that film." Harry said, leaning against the undefeated theme park's walls next to Ron, treasure map spread out on the ground in front of them. "But if there's any chance of finding a real treasure map, the last place I'd expect to find it is from Medina!"
"We both know you're going to go look anyway." Ron sighed. "You know, I could really stand to fall upon some buried treasure? Do you have any idea what a turnaround that'd be for my life?"
Harry rolled up the map and estimated north by the angle of the sun. "Money isn't everything."
"No," Ron looked poignant. "But am I really asking for that much? All I want is robes without holes in them! A wand in one piece! A little respect! All the chocolate frogs I can eat! Attention from some girls!"
"Take it easy…" Harry motioned calmingly. "Attention isn't all it's cracked up to be."
Ron followed Harry in search of treasure moodily. "Speaking of girls, they really are all into fame and wealth, aren't they? That's all it really comes down to, isn't it?"
"What are you on about?"
"I'm just saying… girls don't just stare at you because of your charming personality, right? It's your notoriety that does it!"
"I'm trying to decide whether I should be insulted or not…"
"It's true, though! Even Hermione-
Hermione: Wait! Are you going to accuse me of being shallow?
Ron: Oh? This is just the dramatic moment required by all performances worthy of an award of some sort.
Hermione: We're not shooting for any awards… and besides, I think you're just trying to throw the spotlight back on yourself. We need to progress this story:
Ron thought for a moment. "Nah, not Hermione. She's too cool for that."
The two friends marched diligently off to locate the nearest landmark to their 'treasure.'
Ron: Wow… that was surprisingly sloppy for you.
Hermione: (ruffled) Well… we'll catch it in the next draft. Eheh.
Ron: We're doing multiple drafts?
Hermione: For the last time: yes! Now let's check on our other stars:
Hermione blinked her eyes drowsily for a moment before snapping back to clarity with a sinking feeling in her stomach. She instinctively knew her wand was elsewhere, her friends had left nearly half an hour prior, and upon attempt at movement her wrists proved to be bound. "So what's the plan, then? Going to keep me as a pet? Because you know it won't work!"
"Ah, stuff it." Draco sighed heavily, pitching a few loose pieces of gravel at some pigeons. He had taken Hermione out of the hotel to avoid even more prying into his as of yet undecided upon plan. A peaceful park wasn't exactly the epitome of a lair for a Slytherin, but it was the best he could do in the unfamiliar city. "If you start making a fuss I'll curse you, got it?"
Hermione kept her voice at a regular volume, but the venom was still full force. "I have perfect recollection of what happens when I'm under the spell. You can't keep me under watch forever, and I have friends watching out for me. First chance I get, I'll run and shave myself bald and tell everybody what's happened. Then what will you do? Be kicked out of Hogwarts, I imagine. Your father will be real thrilled with that!"
He raised his hand as if to slap her but lowered it rather than risk activating the spell attached to her hair again. Truth was, taking advantage of the spell in the first place was a bit of a whim, and he hadn't invented an actual use for it yet other than enjoy the ability to control a rival. "Just watch it. You could accidentally go 'missing' during this stinking field trip."
"So why did you let the spell wear off?" She muttered somewhat exhaustedly. How long before an escape presented itself?
"Certainly not to make small talk with the likes of you! Just be quiet, and… and…"
"And you won't hurt me?" Hermione finished the sentence. "Too late for that. Might as well chat your head off, the way I see it. I'm not going to cooperate."
Malfoy looked at her, perplexed. "Um… actually, I can make you cooperate at any time. Why not just calm down and stop making a nuisance of yourself, hm? I've got a lot of thinking to do." How is it that she still was resisting so much?
Hermione watched the pigeons for a while, considering her options in great detail. Any way she looked at it, her situation was bad. After several minutes, she spoke up. "You're in a serious dilemma. You have three options the way I calculate it."
"Fine. Why don't you tell me what they are?"
"One: You wait for me to inevitably escape which could result in me ratting on you to all the wrong people. Two: You arrange my 'demise', which seems too messy for even you. Or three: You let me go and hope for the best. I ruled out memory charms and the like, because that's way beyond you." Her eyes narrowed. "And you don't currently have contact with anybody who could do it for you since we're all but stranded in London."
He glanced at her appraisingly. "Option number two sounds good."
"Please," She huffed. "There are too many people who've seen us acting 'strangely' together. You'd be pegged with the crime in no time."
Ron: Oh great. This fic wasn't called Catch 22 the last time I checked.
Hermione: Well… if I don't prove to the readers that I'm being logical, they won't take it seriously!
Ron: You're just writing yourself into a corner again… bad habit, Hermione, you're lucky I'm here to save you:
Hermione smiled. "Or of course, secret option number four: I stall you long enough for Ron to show up and kick the living tar out of you, thus making him 'most datable of his year' and of course crippling you so badly you can't attend school for the rest of the year." She looked distracted. "How dreamy!"
"Huh?" Malfoy stammered. "That could really happen?"
"You bet! And chances are he'll call you a dork again."
Hermione: I thought you weren't writing this part of the story anymore.
Ron: Like Elly said: can't let anything stand in your way… I suppose I could pitch in here and there.
Hermione: (tentative) Then… do you think you could make them fall for each other just a little bit? I just can't seem to do it.
Ron: Hermione! I don't want you with him! Not in the story or anything! I'm not contributing there.
Hermione: Please, Ron… I need the help. We're sunk if this remains as stagnant as it has. I'll hand over some executive decisions to you if you do it… I promise!
Ron: (tempted) You'll make me an official author on this?
Ron: You'll stop ditching all my ideas?
Hermione: (adamant) It's a promise.
Ron: You'll let me blow up any fool thing that I want?
Hermione: Of course… (hesitates) wait, what was that?
Ron: Too late, we have a deal:
"Oh, scary!" Malfoy shrugged. "You'd think a guy could do better than 'dork,' but whatever."
Hermione grimaced. "Anyway… I suppose weighing the options you have to decide… are you willing to kill me over this?"
"That's my business."
"Draco, are you going to kill me or not? Because if you are, there's half a dozen reports I'll just forget about finishing right now. And I have a last request as well." She raised her chin bravely.
"Can't imagine what sort of dumb thing you'd want as a last request…"
"I want to finish reading the latest edition of Ancient Runes And You. I have only about twenty pages to go."
Malfoy flinched. "Are you serious? You want to finish a damn textbook before you die?"
"I… don't know! What do other people request? A particular food? Maybe to see somebody special… accomplish some great thing first…"
Hermione watched the expressions playing over Draco's face as he tried to think of something appropriate. "So should I be bracing myself then?"
"For what?" He seemed to have lost track of the conversation.
"Death of course. Seems like something that requires a certain amount of preparation." She shuddered. "To tell the truth, I'm not in any particular hurry… there aren't a lot of materials to study on the subject so I wouldn't know what to expect."
"Well if you're that concerned, I promise to make it quick and painless."
Her eyes grew large.
"A joke?" He seemed flustered. "I'm not going to kill you, Granger… well, yet… do you think the Ministry is tracking us down as we speak?"
Correctly interpreting the rapid change of topic as nervousness, Hermione couldn't help but feel a pang of camaraderie in the fear of Ministry involvement. "I can't imagine why they wouldn't have caught us already… something's not right with that…"
"It would be… bad if I was mixed up in something like that, understand? What should we do?"
"We?" It was an unexpected term. "We should keep a low profile, of course! We've been attracting too much attention so far."
"Well, what do you suggest?"
"Couldn't you just act casual? Oh, and let me go, by the way, it would do wonders."
Malfoy looked stressed. "Like you said, I can't! Not until everything blows over for sure!" He smoothed his hair roughly. "I can do casual… let's try casual… and if you act up-"
"Right, you'll activate the hair-curse." Hermione snorted bitterly. "Speaking of which, there's a huge clump of hair in my face."
"Then move it."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"Okay then…" Hermione took a deep breath and tossed her head. She could feel the curse altering her judgment slightly moments later. "Um… you'd better watch out."
"What are you talking about? Is the Ministry here?"
"No…" Half of her wanted to scream in horror, while the other half… "I just have this unnatural urge to… well… it's not me, as you well know!"
"The curse? It turns on if you just move your head?"
"It's just getting s-s-stronger…" She frowned. "The more it's in effect… I… I…"
Draco watched her talk, concerned about drawing unwanted notice. "Calm down, it's okay… you're still in control, right?"
"S-s-s-somewhat… I'm having the strangest thoughts!" She made a sound soft enough to classify as a whimper, but it seemed to imply that shrieks were on their way.
"Sssshhh!" He took desperate action and untied the shoelace that bound her wrists. It had been the best he could invent without using binding magic. "It's going to be worse for a bit, but maybe it will help in the long run."
"What are you going to d-do?"
Even as he was saying 'sorry' Draco didn't know why. He never felt the need to say sorry to anybody before. He pulled Hermione's hair back and tied it up with the shoelace to prevent any future mistakes. Predictably, the contact resulted in having the girl fling both of her freed arms around his neck, drawing the two close together. "Get off?" It came out a hopeful question rather than a demand.
"But," Curse-ridden Hermione responded. "I'm scared! I'm scared of the Ministry! Just… hold me."
Malfoy couldn't shake the impression that this was somehow a gross thing to do, but the reason wasn't prominent in his mind. Rather it was agreeing with the foe he was trying to silence: the Ministry was a frightening thought. What would happen to his family if the Ministry managed to charge him with something as serious as charming a Muggle during a school field-trip? It didn't seem possible that such a crime would have just slipped under their radar. An appearance by no less than an auror seemed inevitable in the paranoid, escalating fantasies.
Lost in more pressing concerns, Draco instinctively hugged Hermione protectively, ignoring the comfort he felt in return.
Hermione: (aghast) No way…
Ron: I don't know whether I should be proud or if I should curse myself for doing that.
Hermione: Well… er… nice going. It would never happen, of course…
Ron: Better not…
Hermione: So… well… (swallows) Okay!
Ron: We're going to give Hermione a minute to lose her lunch. Hopefully we'll see you all sooner than next year. Thanks for reading.