The Scent of Trouble - Chapter 1/8 - Up a Tree
Chapter 1/8 - Up a tree

"Darn it, Hermione! Why did you have to try enchanted perfume?"

Ron Weasley hugged the tree trunk tighter as another growl rose from the darkness below. Only the faintest moonlight penetrated the dense shadow of the forest. Enough to show Ron the gleam of red eyes below, and enough for the eyes to see Ron's pale legs dangling just out of reach.

"Don't blame Hermione. We all got into this together. Now we all need to find a way out." Harry's voice came from the darkness alongside, where he perched on a limb almost level with Ron's. Hermione's quiet sobs came from a branch above the boys.

Ron knew that he could reach out and touch Harry, if he just had the courage to let go of the tree. Hearing Harry's voice was almost as reassuring as grasping his hand would be. And what he said made sense.

Getting away from the school's protection for a weekend had been Harry's idea. Ron had magicked the butterbeer. Hermione had thought of the using the golems. But they'd agreed to those, all three. The perfume had been Hermione's idea, alone. And without the perfume they wouldn't have wound up in a tree in the dark, without wands or robes, and with a red-eyed something sharpening its claws on the trunk below.

Ron thought back to when they'd planned this expedition. How simple it had seemed then.

Early March is the end of winter, and when it seems winter will never end. Those who have seen many springs know that time will bring another. But for school children confined by an English winter to a building with traditionally English damp and drafts, spring seems an eternity away.

Their ancestors had celebrated the spring solstice by dancing in the circle of Stonehenge. These modern mages, though, gathered around a fireplace in a nook of the Gryffindor common room, and plotted an escape from the circle of restrictions their elders placed about them.

"We're never out of sight," Harry complained. "I know there have been problems. I understand that Dumbledore worries. But I can't even get up and go to the bathroom at night without stumbling over a ghost or a house-elf sent to check on me."

Hermione giggled. "That's not just you. You should see what happens if one of the girls tries to leave the dorm at night. We just use the chamber pots."

Harry's nose wrinkled. "That's gross."

"You're thinking of Muggle chamber pots. A properly enchanted pot is neater than a water closet - and a lot quieter, too."

"Darn it, it's not just at night. They're always keeping us away from things. We can't leave the grounds, we can't go into the Forest. There's that whole wing of the library we can't go into because the books are dangerous . . . Hermione? Are you all right?"

Hermione's coughing fit ending in a few deep gasps for air. "The books on the Restricted Shelves mostly aren't dangerous, Harry. You're just not ready for them yet."

"Well, how do you know? And what's in them, anyway?" Ron asked.

Hermione reddened slightly. "The librarian says I'm mature enough for them. And when you're mature enough, I'll tell you what's in them."

"C'mon, tell me."

"Ron", said Harry "It's only another twenty minutes till lights out. You know how she gets. If she says she won't tell, she won't, so drop it."

They sat in silence looking at the fire. Magic will do many things, but not central heating, and a stone castle heated by fireplaces is by turns too cold or too hot. After a day of drafty classrooms and draftier corridors, the three sat as close as they could to the fire.

Harry slid from his chair and went over to the stone arch of the window. On the peaks of the highest of the hills beyond the Forbidden Forest moonlight glittered on a late snowfall.

He turned and looked at the others. "What I really dream of is a weekend camping in the hills. When I was little I read about it in a magazine my uncle bought for Dudley, that he never even looked at. I read it along with the parakeet - the even numbered pages, anyway. I always wanted to spend a weekend in the hills in a tent, with no adults to say what to do or not to do."

"My family has the tent we used at the Quiddich World Cup. I could ask my mother to send it up to me. The teachers don't watch me as carefully as they do Harry."

"But how would we get away?" asked Hermione. "If we're not in the dorm at bedtime, Dumbledore will send the whole faculty after us."

"We can't camp in the winter. It'd have to be just before the end of term. That gives us two months to plan a way to fool everyone and get away."

The three looked at the window framing the distant moonlit hills. .

"I say let's do it." The other two looked at Ron. "Just Saturday and Sunday. A night in the tent, two days of picnics. Just before end of term. Agreed?"

They shook on it. There it rested for a month. Whenever the cold, the rain, and the constant homework got to be too much, Ron would think about the summer sun on a mountain meadow.

At the end of March, the tent arrived in a bulky package from the Weasleys, trundled in by house-elves at breakfast. The parcel attracted no particular attention from the other students. Packages from home weren't rare, and the hall was swarming with owls delivering mail.

Ron, Harry, and Hermione looked at the parcel. It was the first step. For Ron though it make the plan seem farther away, bringing it from the comfortable realm of fantasy to the real world, where obstacles didn't disappear with the wave of a wand. "The tent is easy. But we can't really get away. It's just a dream. "

"I've been studying, and I think I've found a way." Hermione looked slightly smug and superior.

"What did you come up with, Hermione?" asked Harry. "You know Dumbledore has seen student tricks since he studied here. It will have to be good to get around him."

"I've been looking through the Restricted Shelves. There are things there that very few students ever see."

"Spill it." said Ron.

"There's no time now, we'll be late for Potions. But I'll give you one word." Hermione looked around, and when she leaned forward the boys did too. Even so they barely caught her whisper. "Golems."

Note the usual disclaimers apply: characters are J.K. Rowling's and used without permission; you may archive if you tell me, if you do not charge, and if you include "author Caipora (".

Content warning: The last chapter is "NC17" or "R". Prior chapters may feature non-sexual nudity. There is potentially offensive material in earlier chapters; however if you are too young for it you won't understand it.