"Ow," Draco moaned as he woke up.
"Ow," Draco moaned again when no one answered him. He had a throbbing headache and felt like somebody had hit him with a thousand bludgers.
"Oh, stop being such a wimp!" someone said irritably from beside him. Someone who sounded very familiar…
"Weasley?" Draco asked, opening his eyes and then shutting them again when he saw nothing but trees. "Is this a nightmare?"
Ginny laughed. "Yes, it's me," she said. "Who else?" she asked, getting up from a log. She was covered in bandages, having already dealt with her own injuries.
"You look like a mummy," Draco commented as Ginny crouched by his side.
"Very funny, Malfoy," Ginny said. "Now I need you to sit up so I can heal you, too."
"But I don't want to be a mummy!" Draco pouted.
"Tough luck. Now do it!" she said.
"But it hurts!" he whined.
"It needs to be done," she replied. "Now, can you sit up on your own, or am I going to have to help you?"
"On my own," he said, resigned. He pushed himself up gently, ignoring the pain. After all, he couldn't let a girl show him up.
Ginny helped him to lean again a tree trunk, and then eyed him appraisingly, mentally ticking off all the injuries Draco had.
"You've got a bunch of lacerations and a really nasty gash on the back of your head, but other than that, you seem fine. Thankfully your broom has cushioning charms on it, so the fall wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. We got pretty lucky – had we been using my broom we'd be dead. With yours the injuries are relatively minor."
"You call this minor!" he asked incredulously.
"In comparison to having your neck broken, then, yes!" Ginny exclaimed. "Now shut up so I can heal you. Lean forward so I can take care of your head." she said, pulling some gauze and a some foul-smelling concoctions out of the first aid kit. "Now hold still," Ginny commanded. "This is going to sting a bit, but the pain should recede afterwards because the cream has a healing and pain relieving potion in it. You'll feel a little sore tomorrow, but that's all."
The "little sting" actually felt like fire, but Draco just gritted his teeth.
"Good," Ginny said, slightly surprised that he hadn't complained. She applied another ointment to the bandage and held it on his head.
"Now hold this on for me," she said, pressing his uninjured hand against the bandage. "Good," she said, beginning to wind the gauze about his head. "You can take your hand off now," Ginny said, knotting the bandage firmly.
"Where did you learn all of this, Weasley?" Draco asked.
"Training to be an Auror," she responded, rummaging through the first aid kit for more bandages. "On top of taking all the Defense classes, you also have to be a fully trained healer. And the healer's course requires that you learn muggle healing techniques. It's actually quite remarkable how muggles heal without magic."
"You would say that," he said, smirking, but not unkindly.
"I guess it does run in the family, doesn't it?" she replied, smiling. "But, really, muggles have done some fantastic things. Take the pyramids, for example. Built entirely without magic!"
"Wrong as usual, Weasley," Draco said. "They've discovered ancient magical residue on them."
"Yes, but the residue was probably applied when the early wizarding tribes used them as huge fortresses. They used to house their entire families in them – like a huge castle, "Ginny said, applying bandages all the while.
"That's fascinating, Weasley," Draco said, "but shouldn't you be concentrating on what you're doing? You're bandaging invisible cuts."
"Huh?" Ginny asked, then trailed off, blushing. "Oops. Sorry about that. I get really engrossed in things sometimes."
"That's all right. I was actually learning things for once. Professor Binns always puts me straight to sleep."
"The same here. I just copy Luna's notes, though, and I manage just fine." Ginny said, dressing his leg.
"Now, this potion is for bone regrowth, just in case I missed something," she said, explaining things as she went along. "I want you to drink the whole thing, okay?"
Draco gulped visibly. Pomfrey had forced the very same thing down his throat when he'd broken his arm before. To say it was an unpleasant experience would be a major understatement.
"Oh, no," he said vehemently. "There is no way in hell that you're getting me to drink that thing!"
"I can think of several ways of getting you to drink it, none of them pleasant. Now, either you can drink it, or I can force you to. You choose."
Draco sized her up,evaluatingher strength.
"No," he said.
"Fine," Ginny said, grabbing the bottle. "Your choice. But don't say I didn't warn you." She sprang into action, grabbing his hand and twisting. Hard.
"Ow, ow, ow!" Draco said. "I'll drink it! I'll drink it! Just stop!"
Ginny eyed him, and then slowly released him. Gasping, Draco massaged his wrist.
"Now drink," she said firmly.
Eyeing the bottle's contents distastefully, Draco downed the loathsome potion. Amazingly he didn't throw it up, although he did gag once or twice.
"Good," Ginny said, satisfied.
"Ugh," Draco moaned, clutching his now tumultuous stomach.
"You'll feel better soon," she said.
"What sort of doctor are you? Injuring your patient! And where'd you learn to do that?"
"Growing up with brothers will do that to you," Ginny replied, packing up the first aid kit.
"Weasley?" Draco ventured after a moment's pause. "Could you teach me to do that?"
"Of course," she replied. "Here let me show you," she said, reaching for his wrist.
"No way!" he exclaimed, snatching his hand away. "Not after last time!"
"Fine," Ginny said. "I'll show you myself, then. My brother Bill taught this to me in my second year when I wanted help with self defense. It's a pretty basic technique – you just have to do it over and over again until you learn it by heart. Anyways, you take your opponent's hand," she said, demonstrating, "and put your four fingers on the palm directly underneath their thumb. Your own thumb presses right in between the knuckles of the ring and pinky fingers. Then you just pull your fingers back and press your thumb forward, twisting their hand. If you crank it hard enough then they should wind up on the ground. Obviously when I did it I didn't put enough force into it to seriously damage you – just enough to make you want to cooperate."
"Wow," Draco said. "That's a really neat move."
"Yeah. But you better hope they don't have a wand with them, otherwise…" she said, trailing off to illustrate her meaning.
"Good point," he conceded.
"I know," she said, smirking slightly. "It was mine."
"Please don't do that," Draco said, wincing.
"Do what?" she questioned, confused.
"Act like that! It's disconcerting. You were smirking, and…and…acting like me!"
"So?" Ginny asked. "Is there some law that says no Gryffindor is allowed to smirk? Or be conceited? Because, if so, we're all in trouble. Especially Ron – I swear he acts so arrogant sometimes. He thinks he always knows what's best, and he thinks he can boss me around. Well, he can't! Just because I'm a year younger and a girl doesn't mean I can't take care of myself!" she exclaimed.
"Bravo, Weasley," Draco said, applauding her mockingly. "Now, after that heartwarming show of independence, let's get back to the matters at hand. Not that I don't wholeheartedly agree with you – Weasley is thick – but might I remind you that we just fell a hundred feet, plowed through trees, and are sitting in the middle of a forest full of creatures that want to kill us," Draco said.
"Oh, yeah," Ginny said forlornly, once more reminded of their situation. A silence descended on the camp. "Well, I suppose you want to know what happened to your broom."
"No – I can guess for myself. It's broken."
"Yes," she confirmed.
"And we're stranded."
"If you put it that way, yes," Ginny replied.
"Great. So what's the plan for getting us out of this place?" Draco asked.
"Well…" Ginny said, uncertainly. "I hadn't thought that far yet. Maybe Cupid will help us?" she ventured.
"And the chances of that happening are…" Draco said.
"About one in a million," Ginny finished.
"Do you, by some miracle, have a back-up plan?" Draco asked.
Ginny just shook her head.
"Isn't that just typical of a Gryffindor? You charge in heroically, ready to save the day, but don't actually have a plan," Draco said disgustedly.
"I did too have a plan!" she said, defending herself. "We were going to fly back to the castle, except you went and got the brilliant idea to switch brooms!"
"Well, who agreed!" Draco fired back, slightly irked that she was right. "You should always have a Plan B, because 9 times out of 10, Plan A will fall through!"
Silence settled on the camp once more, but now it was charged with tension. This time it was Draco who broke it.
"Do you at least have a map?" he asked.
"No," Ginny replied. "But that's not my fault. Maps don't work on this forest because it's constantly shifting. One week it'll look like one thing, and the next it will have totally changed."
"Wonderful," Draco sighed. "Well, it was worth a try."
"So I guess we'll just have to wait for someone to help us, and get the ingredients in the meantime," Ginny said.
"Wait for someone to help us?" Draco echoed, his previous anger returning. "Who? Your precious Dumbledore! He's probably still thinks he's a ballerina! Are the chances of him coming to our rescue worth sitting around in a dangerous forest waiting for him!"
A low chuckle filled the clearing, gradually getting louder.
Slowly, the two turned around. A man lounged against the tree, dressed in plain Roman clothing. He had brown hair, mostly covered by a winged cap, and a tall muscular form. In his left hand he held a bag full of money, and in his right he held what appeared to be a wand except for the two white ribbons adorning it. He was, quite obviously, yet another god.
"Well said!" the god exclaimed.
"Who is that?" Ginny hissed, getting her wand out.
"Hermes," Draco whispered in awe. "God of –"
"Travelers, shepherds, orators, poets, athletes, inventors, interpreters, liars, and thieves. Guardian of roads and commerce. Messenger for the gods and bringer of luck and charm. Also know as Mercury and Alipes," Hermes interrupted, concluding Draco's sentence. "Though I doubt you were going to say all of that."
"What do you want?" Draco asked. "Surely you didn't come here just for a social visit."
"Actually, that happens more often than you might think. There was that time when Jupiter and I…oh, never mind. You were correct in assuming that I had a motive in coming. Your friend Cupid."
"Uh-oh," Ginny muttered. "We're sunk."
"He came to me a few days ago, pleading for help. Apparently something had gone wrong with one of his potions, and he was under the impression that I could fix it. Of course, he was correct. But, I refused to assist him. After all, there was nothing in it for me."
At this Draco pinched Ginny in hopes of keeping her from saying something stupid (as always). Unsurprisingly, he failed.
"Why not?" she demanded. "When someone needs help, your job as a god is to assist them."
"Ah, so the brave lion cub speaks," Hermes said mockingly. "Well, tell me, little girl, if one of your enemies asked you for help, would you give it to them?"
"Of course," Ginny replied. "Well, maybe. Depending on what they wanted," she amended.
"You see?" Hermes asked. "You would only assist them if it benefited yourself or your cause."
"But, back to the matters at hand," Draco said hastily before things could get nasty. "You were saying, Hermes? About the potion?"
"Yes, yes," Hermes said, brushing him away. "My, you are sharp. Just like your father." At this Ginny and – curiously enough – Draco winced.
"Back on topic," Hermes said. "Ultimately, Cupid and I made a bet. However, Cupid only accepted the wager on the terms that I help you a) find the potion ingredients, b) make the potion, and c) get back home. So, here I am."
"What was the bet?" Ginny said, voicing the very thought that Draco had just had.
"That, I'm afraid I cannot disclose. I will, however, inform you after it is completed, though I believe you will have figured it out by then."
"It involves us, then?" Even though Draco phrased this as a question, he stated it more as a fact.
"I can neither affirm nor deny anything you say, Mr. Malfoy, so why bother asking questions?"
"Great," said Draco, correctly interpreting that as a yes.
Hermes continued. "Unfortunately, you two have gotten yourself into such a predicament that I can't do much to help you. I can, however, give you a piece of advice. Seek the centaurs out. They'll help you find what you're looking for. But be careful around them. Especially you, Mr. Malfoy. You are no longer a child."
"Am I a child?" Ginny asked.
"You…you, Miss Weasley, are debatable," Hermes replied, looking her over thoughtfully.
"The best of luck to you both," he said, fading away. But before Hermes vanished completely Ginny thought she heard him say, "You'll be needing it."
"Well, it has begun," Hermes said regretfully to Cupid. "Although I'm not quite sure why I had to get involved. You could have delivered the message just as easily on your own."
"I've told you a thousand times Hermes, you're much better at this sort of thing than I am," Cupid said, rolling over on the cloud he was perched upon. "You know that whenever I lie, or even try to cover up the truth, I stutter and blush and generally make it obvious that I'm lying. And we couldn't have that, now could we?"
"No, we could not," Hermes agreed thoughtfully. "You know…there was something that I forgot to mention to them that they might have found useful."
"And what might that be?" Cupid asked, sipping his ambrosia.
"I am also the god of match-making," Hermes said. "And that is why I shall win our bet."
"No way!" Cupid sputtered, nearly spilling his heavenly drink. "I am the god of LOVE, for Zeus's sake! And I say that the only place those two would ever get together is in your dreams."
"And I am the god of intelligent speech, and I say that you're spewing utter nonsense. Besides, match-making is entirely different from your version of love. Your love is rather chaotic. You think, 'Oh look! There's a pretty couple!' and shoot them full of arrows when, in fact, they clash horribly," Hermes said, evoking a scowl from Cupid.
"Your so-called "love" relies totally on hormones and lust," Hermes continued. "Mine is a truer, more realistic love; one that will last throughout all of life's ups and downs. It simply identifies two people that are perfect for one another and then just…encourages them a little, so to speak. And I will win because neither of us may interfere. Well, except for when we crashed their brooms," he amended.
"I still say you're wrong," Cupid replied sulkily. "I mean, their families have hated one another for generations! How are you going to overcome that!"
"True love conquers all," Hermes said, ending the discussion.
Okay, so what do ya'll think? Good? Or at least better? I hope it's better than the first few chapters! I am working on overhauling those, so hopefully they'll be better soon. I hope you're happy that I added Hermes and the wager to the plot. This chapter's shorter than the last one, only 11 pages. Please please please review! And thanks for sticking with me - I know I'm not the best author, but I really am working at it.