Part 8 and LAST/8 - The Rest of the Golems

Warning: This chapter has more mature content than previous chapters.
If you're under 17, you should not be reading this.

"It's crazy to run into the Forbidden Forest at night!"

"Tell that to those things that are chasing us, Ron!"

They had been running for at least ten minutes. Harry hadn't thought they'd last this long. Barefoot, in the nearly pitch black shadow of the trees, not knowing the paths, woozy from the magicked butterbeer - how had they survived?

He had no breath to spare for talk. They had fled at first in panic. Now they were running in despair and exhaustion. Harry's head was pounding and his stomach clenching with nausea. The baying of the beasts of the forest behind them filled his ears, but he had to think. How did we come this far? How can we keep going? How can we escape?

This part of the forest was ancient. At night it was too dark for them to see their way, but the dimness of the daylight here let no bushes grow. Underbrush did not block them, branches did not lash their bare shins. Decades or centuries of fallen leaves cushioned their bare feet.

The beasts weren't impeded by underbrush either, though. Why haven't they caught us? Okay, the stream helped. Running water, Harry thought, Magical creatures have to go around it. So we had a head start. But there's got to be something more.

''Hermione, Ron. Run into the wind."

"Why?" Ron gasped.

"Perfume. Slows down magic beasts."

Hermione's darn enchanted perfume. It had cancelled the wards that defended their campsite from the beasts and made their wands useless. It had even dissolved their clothes, woven by magic and mere copies of their real garments, which their golems had worn back to the castle.

Nearly all the beasts of the Forbidden Forest had magic, great or small. A little rodent might have some not quite natural talent that hid it from predators, while a dragon or a basilisk would cease to exist without magic.

Harry panted. To run into the wind they now were running uphill. It slowed them, but even so the pursuit sounded farther behind. The perfume must confuse any animals that tracked them by magic, while keeping the deadlier creatures from approaching them at all.

There was enough perfume at least. The three of them had been spattered with the stuff when the flask dissolved a hole in Hermione's pocket and smashed on a rock.

They might make it through this.

"Harry. I. Can't. Run. Much. Farther".

"Hermione. Keep on till the top of the hill. Just keep going." Well, that gives me a few minutes to think.

They couldn't keep running. The trees were too big to climb. Harry had made them drop the wands in camp. He had known the wands were less the useless: if they'd had them, they would have kept trying wands that didn't work instead of looking for something that did. But what would work?

The ground leveled. Hermione was breathing in gasping sobs. "Ron! Hermione! Look for branches on the ground that we can use as clubs!"

They searched for thirty seconds, a minute. The sound of the chase grew closer. The ground held only the same soft mulch as elsewhere.

"Harry! Hermione! Come over here!"

Ron had stumbled into . . .was it a tree? Harry tried to put his arms around it, and could only feel the slightest curve. But it had to be a tree. That was bark. It had the warmth of bark, the deep furrows.

"I think we can climb it, Harry."

"Let's try it. Let's make a stirrup for Hermione. Put your foot here. Now the other on my shoulder. Ron's shoulder. Can you get a grip?"

"I think so. There are finger- and toe-holds."

"Climb, as fast as you can. Go, Hermione, go!"

"Now you next, Ron."

"Harry, I think . . ."

"Ron, don't argue. Climb!" He did. Harry picked a spot a little to the right. He forced his fingers deep into the crevices, grasped, and pulled himself up.

Harry didn't know how high they were when the pack of beasts reached the tree. The perfume kept some at a distance. When less magical creatures tried to hurl themselves up the trunk . . . However high the wizards were, it was high enough.

"Harry, I've found a branch." Hermione's voice came from several meters above.

"Can you keep going? Ron and I are behind you." Harry could hear Ron climbing, keeping pace with him in the darkness to his side. "We should all be a bit higher, too. Just in case, Hermione."

"I'll try." They kept climbing. "There's another branch, just above. But I can't go any farther. I'm so tired. I feel so sick."

"Stay there, Hermione. Just hang on." Harry kept climbing. Finally he reached up and found a bough.

"I'm on the first limb Hermione found." Ron's voice came from the dark almost beside Harry.

"Stay there, Ron. I've got a limb too, we've all got somewhere to rest, now."

Finally Harry could pause. He had straddled the branch, chest to the tree, and with his fingers firmly wedged into crevices, he hugged the trunk. The adrenaline rush passed. Harry started to shake. He felt weak. He'd climbed a tree in the dark, before that run for fifteen minutes from a baying pack of Forbidden Forest beasts. Before that he'd stuffed himself with steak and downed two tumblers - or was it more? - of that enchanted butterbeer.

Harry's stomach churned again, then jumped. He managed to turn his head before he lost his dinner.

The howl of a beast below stopped in a yelp.

Harry could hear retching from Ron and Hermione, too. His stomach convulsed again and his lunch followed his dinner downwards.

"Hermione! I'm right under you!" Poor Ron.

In a few minutes Harry's stomach had settled somewhat. He was feeling drained and dizzy, but surely the worst was past. The beasts that had howled below now mostly growled. Perhaps they would start to fight among themselves.

For a moment the growling was drowned out by a snarl from deeper in the forest, from the other side of the hill. The growling below stopped, and there was a sound of padding feet. Another snarl, closer now, raised the hairs on Harry's neck. There was a heavy silence beneath the tree.

Harry looked down. His eyes had adjusted to the dark, but he could sense motion but no more in the blackness below where only a little moonlight filtered through the leaves.

Another snarl beneath the tree. A challenging howl. Blows, screams, a yowl that stopped suddenly. Tearing and swallowing, repeated for a long time. Then a sound Harry took a moment to place. Crunching bones. He looked down again. In the dim moonlight, two red eyes looked up.

Harry opened his eyes. Well, now it was morning and sunny. Everything seemed easier, all problems seemed smaller. Thinking back on the sounds the red-eyed creature made, he knew what it reminded him of: Dudley with a roast chicken.

Well, the creature wasn't under the tree now, and its lair must be the other direction from the campsite. They wouldn't walk into it. If they didn't rouse it with noise, and the wind didn't carry their scent to it, they could walk back to camp. If it did come after them they'd have a running head start, and whatever it was, once they got to their wands they'd show it a surprise or two.

We'll be fine, Harry decided. It's no more dangerous than a fifteen minute walk in the Forbidden Forest without wands. Fifth-year students do it as a dare. He could be calm and brave.

The difficulty would be getting the golems out of Hogwarts unsuspected. Well, there was no set time for breakfast on Sunday at Hogwarts. Students straggled in and out in small clumps. It was never crowded, and no one would notice that Ron, Harry, and Hermione were absent or late. It could be a lot worse.

Harry's stomach rumbled. They'd have to get the golems to visit Dobby and bring another basket. The beasts must have eaten whatever was at the campsite.

So how were the golems? He'd have to tune in. If the perfume had broken the connection instead of merely blocking it, they were sunk. Harry looked around the hollow. Ron and Hermione still hadn't stirred.

He leaned back and closed his eyes, and thought of the golem.

The golem's eyes were closed. Instead of opening them, Harry concentrated on hearing.

A rhythmic squeaking sound, to the left. He would have thought a bed swaying, but there was no bed to the left of his. Odd.

Smell? He linked it. Sweat. Well, the golem had walked back from the hills, and hadn't showered. Taste? Saltiness. What was it, blood? Had he bitten his tongue? No, golems didn't really have blood. What, then? He couldn't place it.

Harry concentrated on touch. The golem felt like it was floating on clouds. Harry felt a warmth, a gentle pressure sliding up and down. He'd never felt anything like it.

Harry opened his eyes - no, the golem's eyes. He was looking up at the canopy of a four-poster. But it wasn't his bed. He'd woken to the sight of his canopy since he started at Hogwarts, and knew every seam and moth-hole. Even without his glasses he could tell this wasn't his bed. And what was he feeling?

He dropped his gaze. That his chest was bare of pajamas would ordinarily have given him a start. But that was trivial now, for he saw the source of that amazing sensation - and a head of flaming red hair.

Harry was back in the tree, trembling. What did I see? What have the golems been up to? He looked about for a moment. Hermione and Ron hadn't moved. Harry willed himself back into the golem, though this time he started with touch.

The sensation was stronger now. Harry thought he should stop the golems, but - whatever they were doing they'd been doing all night. What harm in waiting . . . a . . . few . . . more . . . minutes . . .

Something was about to happen. He didn't know what, but he could feel it.

"Harry! Harry!" He was being shaken.

"Hermione! Let go. I'm with the golems! Wait a sec. Be right back."

"Harry!" Her voice faded as his mind sought the golem.

Whatever it was, it had happened while Hermione called him away. The golem felt drained and happy, but somehow the feeling was anticlimactic. He looked at the head of red hair, and had a strange impulse to run his fingers through it.

The head lifted, the eyes opened. The mouth seemed to be trying to speak, spat, and said "Harry?" Then the eyes looked down. "Harry?!"

Oh no, Harry thought, Hermione's wakened Ron.

Ron's golem lifted itself to elbows then hands. It slid out of the four-poster. Harry willed his golem to follow.

Ron's golem turned to Harry's. "Harry. What?"

What, really? thought Harry. The squeaking he had heard continued, coming from Seamus' bed. Everything's so strange. He needed something familiar to focus on. He looked at his own four-poster. It looked odd, the mattress sagging below the frame. Broken bed slats? thought Harry, How?

Ron's golem spat into its hand. "I want to brush my teeth." It walked towards the bathroom. "My bum hurts." It paused. "I REALLY want to brush my teeth."

"Ron, the toothbrushes aren't here."

It looked just like Ron, and looked like it was about to cry. Then it said "Butterbeer," and dropped to its hands and knees and stuck its head under Ron's bed.

Harry commanded his golem not to move. He was just in time.

The golem reappeared with one of the bottles of butterbeer that had been left. It opened the bottle with golem strength, and poured a mouthful directly from the bottle. It gargled, went to the window, and spat.

Seamus' bed stopped swaying, and his head popped from between the curtains, followed by Neville's. "Hey, you two are speaking again! Wow, I bet you didn't sleep a wink. We were so amazed when we came in and saw what you guys were trying. But, like, it's way cool."

Harry opened the golem's mouth to respond, and stopped. What was there to say? As he paused, the golem's tongue sensed something in its teeth. Automatically its hand reached up, thumb and forefinger found the irritant, pulled it out, and held it up to the light.

Harry saw a very red, very curly hair.

Harry made his golem turn to Ron's and extend a hand. "Gimme." He too gargled with a mouthful of the butterbeer. He handed the bottle to Seamus. "You'll like this, too. Now don't bug us."

"No problem, we got plenty to do." The heads and the bottle disappeared behind the curtains of Seamus's four-poster.

"What now?" Ron's golem asked Harry's.

"We get dressed. I'll jump back and tell Hermione to meet us for breakfast. Then we get Dobby to pack us a picnic, and go to the hills as planned."

Harry was reluctant to leave the golem even for an instant. Its behavior was too unpredictable - and unaccountable. He willed the transition.

He saw the tree. "Hermione. Meet us in the Great Hall in ten minutes."

"What happened, Harry? Tell me!"

"It's okay, Hermione, but I can't leave the golem now. Later. Bye."

He was back in Gryffindor Tower. The arms of Ron's golem were around him. He disentangled. "You caught me, Ron? Thanks."

Ron's expression was unreadable. "Right, Harry, I caught you. Now we'd better hurry. "

Hermione was still irritated at breakfast. "What happened when you woke up, Harry? Why were you so strange?"

He looked around the Hall. The tables were sparsely populated, but one could never tell what spells might be in use, or who might appear.

"I don't want to talk here, and I don't want to dawdle. Tell you later."

Hermione was unappeased. She speared a pancake and her fork broke the plate in two. She looked around; but amidst the clatter of the Hall no one had noticed. "I think you two are putting something over on me. Otherwise, what's with the silly grins?"

Ron's golem seemed to choke on its orange juice.

Dobby packed a second picnic basket with no questions, though a few curious glances. Hermione supervised, and giving orders seemed to put her in better spirits.

Finally the trio were at the arbor in the gardens. They had left Hogwarts undetected.

"Harry, tell me. What happened this morning?"

"Wait till we're off the grounds, Hermione."

The reached the corner of the wood, where Harry had through golem's ears heard the crows at sunset. He motioned for them to pause.

"Hermione, I want you to check back at the tree. See that we're okay, and look through the hole in the bole and see if there are any animals at the base. Watch for a couple of minutes just to be sure something's not pacing around."

When her golem swayed and stood still, Harry had his golem turn to Ron's. "Just go along with what I tell her."

"What about Seamus and Neville?"

"Once they calm down, they'll agree to a secrecy spell so that none of us ever talks to anyone else about last night in the dorm. Don't worry. Now quiet."

They waited, and Hermione's golem spoke. "All okay, and all clear." It looked at Harry's golem. "Now spill it. What happened?"

"I guess I was, well, caught in the golem's dreams. It was really strange. Sorry I didn't tell you earlier. I didn't mean to seem mysterious."

"You were so strange in the tree, breathing fast and bucking. I thought you were having some sort of a fit, Harry. So I woke you and you disappeared again. I was so worried!"

"Sorry, Hermione, but we had so many real problems. What was going on in my head just didn't seem too important. I was just really weirded out, that's all."

He looked at Ron. "Now, here's the plan. We'll order the golems to take the path directly to the camp, and to neither pause nor leave the path. They can do that, and they won't get into mischief with exact orders. Once they're walking, we'll go back to the tree, climb down, and get back to the camp before the golems."

"Why don't we just have the golems bring our wands to the tree?"

"Hermione, the forest is safe - well, mostly safe - in daylight. If we send the golems they have to find a path around the running water, then find their way through the woods. Once they find us, yes we've got wands, but we'll each have to guide ourselves and a golem back. If we were attacked we'd have a hard time walking and fighting at the same time."

"Couldn't we leave the golems at the tree?" Ron asked.

Hermione answered. "We have to deactivate them and dis-attune the clay. Otherwise anyone finding a bit could make a golems of us - or voodoo dolls. There's a part of the spell, I think it goes 'clay you were, and to your clay return' that maybe means that to really undo them we have to put them back in the same pit."

She shook her head. "Anyway, I don't care to go casting spells in the Forbidden Forest, never knowing when something may turn up looking to eat me."

Harry said, "Agreed, then? Now, tell your golems to march to the camp, without stopping, without leaving the trail. Ron, Hermione? Three, two, one, now!"

The three were back in the tree. Harry sat up and stretched.

The powdery leaves that formed the floor of the hollow had stuck to their damp bodies the night before, leaving them looking as if they had been dipped in flour or brown sugar, or like monkeys with very short fur. Harry started to brush at it when Ron's waving arms distracted him.

"Hey look! Camouflage!"

Harry laughed. "You may be right. With a little luck nothing will see us." He stuck his head out of the hole. Even without his glasses, he could see that it was farther down than he had thought. The darkness had hidden that on the way up.

"Still no animals. I'll go first, then Ron. We'll go to that second branch and wait for you, Hermione. That way if you fall we can catch you. But don't fall, okay?"

Without waiting for arguments, he swung his legs out of the hole, grasped the rim with his hands, and lowered himself. Searching with his toes he moved his feet outwards till he found a firm grip. One hand moved from rim to bark, and he was on his way down.

When Harry reached the first branch, he looked up and saw Ron and Hermione looking down. "Now for you, Ron."

"It's so far down, Harry!"

"Don't look down, Ron. Look up or look at the bark in front of you. Come on, you climbed up without being able to see anything at all, and it was raining then, too."

Ron's head disappeared, and his feet stuck out and swung down. Harry watched his progress anxiously. Every now and then he would call out a hold. "Left foot just a little outward and down." Soon Ron was straddling the branch, sandwiched between Harry and the tree.

Harry felt Ron's warm back against his chest, with the slight grit of the layers of leaves between. He thought of the golems, and started calculating the cubes of prime numbers.

"Ron, same thing we did last night. Find a grip on the left, I'll find one on the right, arms around each other and lean outwards." Harry's hand was over Ron's rib cage, and he could feel Ron's heart. It was beating quickly. "All right, Hermione, we're ready just in case. Come on down!"

Harry looked up. So did Ron. Hermione was coming down the tree, no more slowly than the boys had. Her feet moved with confidence, her toes finding grips easily. He left foot moved outward, then her right, seeking purchase, moved outward too. Her left hand found a grip half a meter farther down, and her body lowered, her knees flexing.

Ron's heart was pounding under Harry's hand, which was growing slick with sweat. "Don't look up, Ron. Look down or look at the bark."

Harry and Ron edged backwards, and Hermione settled onto the branch in front of them.

"All right, We'll do the same thing to the next branch. Here goes." Harry swung to the trunk and started down. The distance was smaller, but he was tired when he reached the branch.

"Come on, Ron." Ron, too, was breathing heavily when he reached the branch. So was Hermione. "Let's rest a bit. Say, are you guys really tired?"

"Yeah, Harry."

"Me, too."

"I wonder how come?"

Hermione spoke. "The golem spell. The longer it's on, the weaker it makes us. That's why it's only good for a day or two. After that it gets dangerous."

Harry looked down. "Well, a fall from here might not even break a leg. Let's give it a few minutes, though. We should all go down side by side, so that no one is kept waiting on the ground. I'm not sure I could climb up again, even if that red-eyed thing came back and brought its family."

"Me neither. I hope we don't have to run to the camp. I feel more like crawling. "

Ten minutes later they climbed down the last leg, Ron to the left, Harry to the right, and Hermione straight down from the branch. Their bare feet landed softly on the loam.

Hermione turned to the tree and gave it a hug and planted a kiss on its rough bark. She stood back and smiled, and Ron and finally Harry repeated the gesture. Without its shelter, what would have become of them?

The layers of decaying leaves, damp from the rain, held tracks. In one direction enormous claws had ripped deep into the forest floor. In the other direction the path the three had taken from the camp was clearly visible. Their prints were obscured, but the many tracks of their pursuers required no woodcraft to follow.

Harry raised a finger to his lips and gestured. Despite their tiredness, they moved quickly. Their bare feet were quiet on the leaves, and though the sunlight was dim under the canopy of leaves, it was more than sufficient for them to avoid the little undergrowth that managed to grow here.

The trip back was as easy as the flight into the forest had been troubled. Descending the hill on which the great tree stood they saw no creature bigger than a squirrel, and heard none louder than a bird. With bright green leaves rustling in the morning breeze, the Forbidden Forest could have been any English wood in spring, if the trees in any other English wood had stood uncut for millennia.

They crossed the stream, and passed the pit where they had dug the clay for the golems. Then they came to the clearing. The warmth of the sunlight was welcome.

More welcome still was the sight of their wands on the grass where they had dropped them. Harry grabbed his. "Lumos!" Light flared. He extinguished it, then recast the spell that set the defensive wards around the campsite.

Hermione disappeared into the tent and came out with shorts and a sweatshirt, and a bar of soap. "I'm going down to the stream to take a bath."

"I'll come and, and guard you, Hermione."

"I'll be fine, Ron, I've got my wand." They watched her retreating back and noticed how her curves moved as her weight shifted from one leg to the other.

Ron shivered. "I didn't bring any extra clothes."

"Neither did I. Let's make a fire, then we'll check when the golems will get here with food and clothes."

The previous evening's abbreviated bonfire had consumed little of the wood the golems had chopped. They carried a few logs to the fire pit, logs that seemed much heavier than they had the night before. Harry's fire spell soon had a blaze going.

"You want me to check the golems, Ron?"

Ron nodded. Harry concentrated, and was with the golems.

They had passed the last rest spot of the day before, but they hadn't rested. Harry opened his eyes back at camp.

"Everything's fine, Ron. Ten minutes, maybe, and they haven't dropped the picnic basket."

"Any, um, trouble?"

"None at all." Harry noticed Ron's expression. "Don't worry, Ron, no one else will ever know."

Hermione was trudging up from the stream, hair dripping but clean. They watched her in the baggy sweatshirt. Ron wished he had paid more attention earlier. Harry cursed himself for giving his real glasses and not the copy to the golem. He'd imagined her more than he had seen her.

"Great, a fire. Hey, you two can take a bath and get dressed now."

"Hermione, the golems have our clothes, and they've got breakfast for all of us." Harry said. "If you don't mind I think I'll eat first and then change. If you don't like what you see, look the other way."

She sniffed. "Easy enough to overlook. I'm going to check the golems" She closed her eyes. "Almost here. I'll set up the picnic blanket."

"Oh, my." Where they had eaten the day before the dishes had been broken and trodden into the mud. Most of the checkered cloth was there, but had been shredded by teeth and claws. "Well, the silverware has to be here. Help me find it and I'll wash it off."

Hermione was at the stream with the bent flatware when the three golems arrived. The boys took control of theirs and commanded them to pass over their clothing. Harry put on his glasses right away, but the rest of the clothes they draped over the woodpile.

Ron looked at the underwear his golem handed over and wrinkled his nose. "I'm going to have to wash this before I wear it." His ears reddened slightly. "It's all sticky."

Harry laughed. "Must be my fault, I mean its fault," pointing at the golem. He glanced at Ron. "Oh, lighten up Ron, my underwear's all sticky too. We'll rinse it out together."

They ordered the golems to sit down and stay quiet. Then they opened the picnic hamper. Cold sausage and cheese, slices of roast beef, fresh-baked rolls, and hot chocolate in a jar enchanted to keep it piping hot, made by some Arabian wizards who marked each jar with their symbol of a genie coming out of a lamp.

Hermione arrived with the silverware. She went into the tent with her golem, and came out five minutes later to find the boys gorging themselves.

"Hermione, come eat."

"I'm over here, that's the golem."

Ron looked. The fully dressed Hermione now had wet hair, while the one in the sweatshirt had dry hair. "You dressed the golem?"

Hermione shrugged. Well, Ron thought, girls always like dressing up dolls.

In a half hour they had filled their stomachs, though the basket still contained enough for several meals.

Harry stood up and stretched. Hermione, seated on the grass beside him, looked at him with an expression that reminded Ron of how she had looked examining a rockworm specimen in Care of Magical Creatures.

"I'm for a bath and fresh clothes before we undo the golems. You coming, Ron?"

The stream was icy, and they had to submerge several times and scrub themselves with bunches of grass to clean off all the fragments of leaves that had stuck to them during their night in the tree. Their underwear needed several rinsings, too. The wrung it out and hung both pairs side by side on a branch. Harry waved his wand at it and pronounced a dehydration spell.

The cloth seemed to jump slightly, and Harry staggered and fell against Ron.

"Harry! Are you all right?"

"Sorry, Ron. I'm okay, but we'd better undo the golems soon. I'm too weak to even cast a dehydration spell."

"Sit down on the rocks, there, and I'll do it."

"Save your magic, Ron. If we're all too weak to undo the golem spell, we're in really big trouble. We'll just put on our pants, and hang our undies by the fire."

The slope to the fire seemed much steeper than earlier. Hermione was seated on a log by the fire, studying the red spell book. "How are you two feeling? Weak?" They nodded. "Me, too. The book says it will pass as soon as the golem spell is undone."

"What do we need to do, Hermione?"

"It's two parts. The first undoes the golem. It's really simple - just three passes and four lines, see? We should get our strength back after that. But even so, the clay is still attuned. Like I told you earlier, someone could still use the clay to make golems of us again, or even voodoo dolls. So we have to unmake the linkage. That's harder. You have to cut a knot of seven-stranded cord, pour water from a goat's horn, and mark the Seal of Solomon. And look here, it says what I remembered about 'to your clay return.'"

"Well, let's walk the golems down to the pit and get started."

Hermione stood. They each looked at their golems, sent their commands, and the three creatures of clay walked toward their birthplace. The young wizards followed behind, slowly. Ron paused to pick up the shovel they had used to dig the clay for the golems..

A few minutes later they were by the pit in the stream bank. The babble of the brook mixed with the songs of the birds, and the morning sunlight was bright on the flowers that bloomed along the banks. Ron thought irrelevantly, What a beautiful place to die.

"Oh, I can't do it. It will be just like killing them!" Hermione seemed on the verge of tears.

Harry put his arms around her. "Hermione, they're just dolls."

"I know, but I just can't. Could you do it, Harry?"

"I would if I could, Hermione, but I can't. I did a few spells earlier and now I'm just too weak. But maybe Ron can?"

"Of course. Just tell me what I have to do, Hermione."

"We just have to make them lie down. They you do this spell." She fumbled with the book. "Then this one. You have to repeat the spells for each of them. Here's the stuff." She pulled from her pocket a horn with thick line wrapped around it. "I've already made the knots. Use water from the stream."

Harry glanced at Ron. "All right, Hermione. Hermione, if you could tell your golem to take its clothes off and lie down?"

She clung to him, and the golem slowly removed the sweatshirt and shorts. Harry stared at it. He wanted to memorize the curves of its form, which he wouldn't be seeing again. Ron took the clothes from it. When Hermione opened her eyes, he handed them to her.

She took them with the expression of a mother just handed the clothes of her drowned daughter, and burst into tears.

"Hermione, make it lie down. Make it lie down. All right. Now come with me, back to the fire." Harry looked at the pit in the clay with the golem lying in it. His golem sat down then laid its head beside that of the female golem, arms at its sides. One hand sought that of the other golem, found it, clasped it.

"Do it, Ron, please. We're going back to camp."

Ron watched Hermione and Harry go. Ron's golem lay down beside Harry's. Ron paused. Harry wouldn't be tuning in again. Another command, and his golem grasped the hand of Harry's.

Ron checked the book again. Which golem first? Well, what if his strength ran out halfway? Mine first, then. Three passes, four verses. He raised his wand and spoke clearly.

It was like watching himself melt. The color left the doll and it looked like an image in clay. The details started to soften, smallest first - the eyelashes slumped, the hair collapsed against the head, the whole thing started to flatten.

The weakness that had been getting worse all morning vanished. He felt like a boy again, and laughed. The golem wasn't him, it was only a doll made for a single purpose, and it had worked. We pulled it off.

Next Hermione's golem. Buck her up a bit, too. Again the color fled and the same transformation happened.

Finally there was only Harry's golem, the image of living, breathing flesh, lying between the two dolls of clay.

Ron squatted at the golem's head. Almost without thinking he reached out and traced the lightning-bolt scar with one finger, then combed his fingers through the black hair. The forehead was still warm, and he could see a pulse in the throat. Curious, Ron placed his palm over the left breast. He could feel the beating of a heart, though he knew the golem didn't have one. He looked into the green eyes, moved his head to one side and noticed how the eyeballs tracked him. An amazing simulation. He felt the nipple harden under his hand. and looked away from the green eyes, to the chest, and down the trunk. All the reflexes are still working, Ron thought, and wow, no wonder my golem felt sore.

He stood up, gave the golem a last glance, and resolutely lifted his eyes from it. He made the passes and said the words over the third golem. Not without reluctance.

Now the second spell, the hard one. He paused. Hermione had said that now, before the linkage was unmade, the clay could be used to make other golems. He looked around. He was alone by the stream.

Ron quickly took out his pocket knife and knelt beside Hermione's golem. A rib, he thought, the symbolism is right. He ran his fingers over where a nipple had slumped atop the curve of what had been a breast, down the torso to faint ridges of the rib cage. He stabbed the knife in, and with two quick slices traced the shadow of a floating rib to carve out a wedge of clay.

He'd been afraid he'd find bone and blood, but the golem was merely clay inside. Perhaps it had always been, even when it acted alive. The clay rib carefully went into a pocket of his robe.

He reached over to Harry's golem. The clay had not yet lost much definition. His hand paused over the rib cage, then moved lower, passed the navel, lower, and dropped. His fingers encircled gently and lifted, and the knife easily severed the clay at the root. It came away in his hand. He wrapped it in his handkerchief and put in his breast pocket, over his heart.

Perhaps I can bake these in the campfire, Ron thought. Even if I never make another golem, they would be nice to have.

He rose, then knelt again, over his own golem. "Sorry, buddy." He quickly extracted a rib.

Ron stood. He cut a knot, dropped the threads on his golem, filled the goat's horn with the cold clear water of the stream and sprinkled it all over his image. He traced the Seal of Solomon on the golem's chest, then raised his wand and said the incantation.

He had expected the image to run like wax, but there was no visible change. A detection spell, though, showed there was no magic left in the clay.

Ron performed the rite two more times. The detection spell showed negative for each, and then for the entire pit. Ron picked up the shovel. His golem had excavated a good bit more clay than needed the day before, and he shoveled it on top of the images, covering them. Then he stomped on the mound, heedless of the mud that splashed on his clothes, trying not to think of the effigies being crushed under his heels..

Finally the mound was almost level. It looks like any other grave, Ron thought. He looked around to fix the place in his mind. He'd want to return here, someday. There a waterfall, over there a pair of huge oaks, there a bright yellow splash of daffodils. Ron paused. He walked over to the daffodils, picked an armful, carried them back and strewed them over the burial place.

Ron put the shovel over his shoulder, and headed back to camp and the others. They had a whole afternoon of freedom before returning to Hogwarts, and who knew what might yet happen?

The End, (8/8)
of The Scent of Trouble

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 (".

The golems and the Restricted Shelves are mine; if you want to use them for your own efforts let me know.

Many thanks to all those who provided comment and encouragement, particularly those who laughed at the jokes in questionable taste, and to Sara Ann who wrote to say she liked the description of the magic of trees at the start of chapter 4.

This is my first fanfic. If you enjoyed it, please recommend it to your friends.

Content warning, rather too late at this point: This last chapter is "NC17" or "R". Prior chapters may have nudity. Eeek. There was potentially offensive material in earlier chapters; however if you were too young for it you wouldn't have understood it.