July 9, 2011
Disclaimer: See chapter one for the general disclaimer. "Wait a minute! I have a plan!" is a line from Potter Puppet Pals, and should be read in the same way as the sketch.
A/N: Boy, do I have a funny story to tell you! So it just so happens that I uploaded this chapter to the FIA in July of 2009 and forgot to post it here. O_O Another funny story! I was using a MacBook in 2009, so my only copy of the master copy of this story (which includes the next two or three chapters) is saved in a format that I can no longer open, since I don't have Pages anymore. But I do have the next chapter beta-ed in an email somewhere, so there's that, at least. ONE MORE FUNNY STORY! It's been so long since I wrote anything for this story, I'm afraid I might have outgrown it, which is sad because I dearly love it. I just want to warn that even though I'm updating this chapter now, that doesn't mean I'll be updating again very soon. I would very much like to finish this story one day, so there is hope!
Also, this chapter was beta-d by Lyndsie Fenele and Brit-picked by FreeDaChickens.
Luna ambled, skipped, bounded, and danced through the woods. What a lovely little day it was! She stopped at a bush listening to the birds tweeting in the trees above her as she picked a handful of plump red berries and popped them into her mouth. She moved on in her twirling fashion, her feet never seeming to touch the ground. A white rabbit hopped out in front of her from the hollow beneath the exposed roots of a tree. It twitched its nose from side to side as she knelt down to talk to it.
Wide red eyes stared off into space. The little creature did not acknowledge Luna's presence except to flick one ear in her direction. Luna held out her hand to the rabbit, offering what was left of the berries she had picked. Its nose twitched again and it hopped closer to her outstretched hand hopefully.
"That's right, bunny." She poured the berries onto the ground and waited for the rabbit to hop closer. It sniffed the food suspiciously but eventually ate. "May I ask you a question?" Luna asked the oblivious creature. "You haven't seen a Crumple-Horned Snorkack around the forest have you?"
The rabbit lifted its head and looked straight at her. Luna stared into its bulbous red eyes silently and waited. As she stared at the bunny, it stared at her. As it stared at her, she stared at it. Suddenly the rabbit launched itself into the air and hopped away, taking long quick jumps to flee faster.
Luna stood up and smiled after her little friend.
"Great, Malfoy! Look what you've done! Just because my sister riles you up all the time! Where the hell are we going to find a bear? How the hell are we going to hunt one without wands?" Ron yelled as soon as they had walked far enough into the forest that the girls couldn't hear them. Harry shook his head at the impossible situation Draco had gotten them into, while the blond man simply paced furiously back and forth, ignoring both of them.
Ron was still ranting. "You can't let her get to you like that, you know! You just have to ignore her, or you'll be doing stupid stuff all the time. Believe me, I know! I lived with her for twenty years! She's too much like Fred and George."
"Like who?" Draco asked, never pausing his pacing.
Ron stared at him incredulously. "My brothers? The twins? Ring any bells in that dumb head of yours?"
"Oh, them," Malfoy said and then returned his total attention back to his stride.
Ron gaped disbelievingly at Harry who was trying unsuccessfully to stifle his laughter.
"Hey, Ron, don't worry about it," Harry said through his hand. "Maybe Malfoy has a plan that we don't know about."
Looking hopeful and ecstatic at the same time, the red-haired man said, "Yeah! You got a plan, Malfoy?" Harry and Ron's eyes followed him as he passed them for the tenth time.
"Nope. Do you?"
Ron exploded, his face reddening alarmingly. Harry feared his head might actually burst with anger. "What do you mean, 'Do you'? I'm not the one who told Ginny we would bring back a bear!"
Draco stopped pacing and stared at Ron like he had no brain and had just proved it. "That's stupid! Where are we going to find a bear? And how would we catch it? Or kill it for that matter? We don't even have wands! We need to get back at them. They can't make fools out of us!"
Ron stared back at Malfoy with the exact same expression on his face. "Brilliant," he muttered in an incredulous monotone. "How do you plan on doing that?"
"I don't know, Weasley! I'm still thinking!" He continued on his former path, back and forward in front of Harry and Ron. They rolled their eyes at each other, waiting impatiently for something to occur to him.
"Why would you agree to hunt a bear anyway?" Harry asked Draco.
He sighed in exasperation and threw his arms out at his sides. "I don't know! When she starts talking, I just want to… prove her wrong or something! She acts likes she's better than me, and she's not! She isn't better than anyone, but especially not me! So I wanted to show her that I could catch a bear and I wanted her to come to me if she wanted something. Just so I could turn her down and put her in her place!"
Harry looked at Ron who wasn't paying much attention because he was seemingly deep in thought. It sounded to him like Malfoy had agreed to find a bear so that he could impress Ginny, who was nonplussed by everything he did. But he kept this thought to himself, thinking that the blond man would not appreciate his theory.
"Wait a minute!" Ron suddenly cried, his eyes lighting up and a sly smile appearing on his lips. It looked suspiciously like a smirk. "I've got a plan!"
"Well?" Malfoy prompted.
Ron smiled evilly, generating an image in Malfoy's head of him suddenly snickering and rubbing his hands together manically. "The girls want a bear, do they? Well, let's give them a bear!"
It was the middle of Day Two and Ginny couldn't believe how undeniably bored she was. What exactly did one do on a camping trip? What did camping actually mean? You pitch a small, largely uncomfortable tent, sleep inside it on the ground, and make fires every now and then to sit around. Was that all there was to it? Build fires and stare at them? That's what Ginny was doing, but it was no fun. Hermione sat beside her humming obnoxiously, knitting something lumpy and red. Ginny no longer cared that the bushy-headed woman had deemed her worthy enough to share her oatmeal with her. Now she was so bored she could—she really, really wanted to—strangle her friend. If only to stop the humming. And the boredom.
Ginny had hoped that having Luna along would have made the trip better, to have a buddy that she could hang out with while Ron and Hermione were being all lovey-dovey. She was supposed to be her buffer against Harry and their awkward relationship, which he had previously hinted at wanting to start up again, and Malfoy, whose idiocy Ginny just didn't want to deal with. But Ginny hadn't seen Luna much since they had pitched their tents yesterday morning. She kept running off in search of her mythical creatures, leaving Ginny with Harry's uncomfortably company, Ron's bickering and complaining, Malfoy's complete arse-ness, and Hermione's boring, and sometimes bossy, society.
She wanted to do herself in with a shovel. She bet that if she looked in Hermione's tent, she would probably find one.
Sighing very dramatically for the umpteenth time, Ginny stood up from the ground and glared at the happily crackling fire. Hermione didn't even look up from her knitting. Ginny sighed loudly once more. Hermione kept humming, her fingers rotating and turning her yarn around her needles.
"I'm trying to subtly get your attention!" Ginny cried, as if this was totally obvious and Hermione was a mere dunderheaded child.
"Oh, is that what you were doing? I suppose you were too subtle then!"
"What is the point of camping?" she demanded.
Hermione looked confused. "What do you mean?"
Ginny rolled her eyes and tried very hard not to lose her temper. When her mind or body was not otherwise engaged, the Weasley temper tended to take control of her and use her to lash out at random people about random things. Or maybe her irritation was just a premature case of PMS.
"I mean, what are we doing here? What do people do when they go camping? What is the point? Aren't you bored?"
"No!" Hermione looked faintly surprised by the notion that she could be bored sitting on the ground in front of a happy, happy fire, knitting in the middle of the Forest of Dean. "I think it is very relaxing being without all the hustle and bustle of everyday life and everyday things. Would you really rather be at the Ministry right now, filing the criminal records of Death Eaters into the vaults?"
Ginny supposed not. No, she knew she would rather be doing anything other than going to work. She loathed her job, and still, after five years at it, couldn't remember why she had applied for a job at the Ministry of Magic. After leaving Hogwarts, she had received an offer from the manager of the Holyhead Harpies to try out for the all-women Quidditch team—all thanks, she knew, to Professor Slughorn's Slug Club—but somehow she had not made it to the try outs. She had landed herself as a secretary in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement instead.
"No, I guess I wouldn't," she agreed. "But I don't like sitting around here listlessly either."
"Then don't be listless! Look at Luna. She's got the most spirit and energy of any of us and what has she done all day? Walked around the woods making up evidence about things that don't really exist."
That was true. But Luna generally seemed to live in a different world: her own. Ginny was practical and restless. She needed something to do.
"You could go fishing or… well, I've got more knitting things, if you'd like to give that a try!" Hermione said, trying to be helpful but realizing that she was failing, especially as Ginny made a face at the mention of knitting. Even she couldn't come up with anything productive to do.
"Never mind. I guess I'll… go collect firewood."
Hermione's face flushed as Ginny walked off into the woods, but she had already left and never noticed. Not that she wanted to see the flush because it would only serve to bring back all of those nasty images of Hermione and Ron and what they had been doing in the forest for hours yesterday.
Ginny decided that in order to make more time pass by, she would have to draw out this excursion as long as she could. She did not want to waste so much time doing nothing except picking up sticks, but what other alternative was there? She made a list in her head of certain criteria each stick would have to meet in order for her to select it to be part of their bonfire that night. Oh, special sticks. They would only be too lucky to be chosen.
She headed in the general direction of the lake but her eyes were on the ground searching for already loose wood. Spotting a decent-looking piece near the roots of a tree, she paused and picked it up, feeling its heavy weight in her hand. It had been a branch on the tree but it had broken off at some point, she thought, looking up into the boughs of the beast hovering over her. She scanned the branch that she carried with her eyes and then placed it carefully back on the ground. It did not meet her criteria; it was too knobby and gnarled. She stored a memory of where she had found it in the back of her mind, just in case she searched for hours and none of the sticks matched the standard piece of firewood she had dreamed up in her head.
It's not like she was really looking for firewood, anyway, just trying to keep herself busy.
What she really wanted was to bathe. After their long hike the previous morning and the uncomfortable sleep she had received on the ground, she just wished to sit in a scalding tub and soak, possibly nap a little bit as well. The image was there in her head, so close, so delicious that she was drooling over it. Steam rising from the surface of the water like smoke, an abundance of white iridescent bubbles popping, and she sitting in the tub like a queen on her throne, luxuriating in the simple bliss of hot. It was the best way to relax the kinks in her back and to cure this new disease she had contracted known as freezing.
But the lake was sure to be frigid at this time of year and she had no wand to even heat the water with. She mused over the fire she had so recently thought of as useless—except to keep her and her friends warm while they sat and did nothing, of course—and a beautiful plan came to her, one in which she would hopefully be able to bathe, and with hot water at that.
Now all she needed was some kind of tub.
Ginny hurried back to the campsite, forgetting about her needless mission to search for firewood. Hermione sat exactly where she had left her, a significant amount more done on her knitting project. Ginny could tell that it was going to be a scarf at least.
"Back so soon?" Hermione asked, looking up from her work. Seeing the determined look in Ginny's eyes, her hands froze over the yarn. "What is it?"
"I'm going to take a bath. You didn't pack a bathtub, did you?"
Looking slightly alarmed, Hermione answered, "A bathtub? Of course not. Why don't you just bathe in the lake?"
Ginny stared at her pointedly. "Would you bathe in the lake? It's freezing."
"The boys did…"
"The boys were not clever enough to think of a bathtub. Are you sure you don't have anything I could use as one?"
"Let me check." Hermione carried her knitting over to her tent and dropped it on her sleeping bag, pulling out her pack to rifle through its contents. She took some things out and looked at them for a minute before deciding against them and putting them down. "Here's something that might work," she said, handing Ginny a squished yellow rectangle of some strange material. It was like plastic or rubber.
"What is it?"
"A lifeboat. It's inflatable. I have the pump in here somewhere." Hermione hunted through her stuff again and pulled out a contraption that Ginny definitely did not know how to use.
"Okay then…" Ginny said, staring at the foreign objects. "Why don't you tell me how to use these and then show me how to build a fire one more time?"
Ron muttered darkly under his breath nasty, nasty curses and hexes that he hoped would suddenly decide to work for him despite his lack of wand. Harry and Malfoy were his targets, but they were oblivious to his mood, or possibly, they could not tell what his mood was for all the mud and leaves on his face. They were not much concerned with the fact that he looked like he had just been tarred and feathered, mostly because they had been the ones to tar and feather him.
"Why do I have to be the bear?" he asked in a complaining, whining voice. "This was my plan!"
"Yes, exactly," Malfoy agreed. "And since it was your brilliant plan, you get to play the integral part."
Harry patted Ron's shoulder and then regretted it, immediately wiping the mud off onto a tree trunk.
"You are the largest bloke of the three of us, Ron. You make a slightly more convincing bear," he said.
"Okay, but do I have to wear the ears?" He reached up to his head to feel the ears that he himself had constructed out of two nicely rounded leaves folded over a flexible stick and held together with tree sap, which he wore like a headband.
"Of course you do, Weasley! You made them expecting one of usto wear them, and now you get to have the honour."
"Well, if I had known I'd be the one doing the dirty work,"—Malfoy rolled his eyes—"then I would have come up with a better plan," he grumbled.
Malfoy disagreed. "No you wouldn't. You've filled your brilliant plan quota for the year."
They walked on in silence, except for Ron's grumbling, until they neared their camp.
"Do you remember what to do, Weasley?" Malfoy asked.
"Of course I remember what to do! I made up the damn plan, didn't I?" Ron yelled.
"Be quiet! They'll hear you before you even get there!" Malfoy glared at him and then looked around the trunk of a tree to see what was going on in the camp. "Just repeat the plan for me so I know you don't have it wrong." The plan might have been Ron's idea, but Malfoy had adopted it as his own soon enough.
"I stalk into the camp and find Hermione and Ginny and then scare the willies out of them."
"Okay, what about you, Potter?"
"After they start screaming, I'll run in as if trying to warn them about the bear."
Ron rolled his eyes and, sounding less than enthused, replied. "Then I'll show up again, roar a bit, and scare the willies out of all three of them."
Malfoy smirked. "Great. Then I'll come in and save the day."
"Why do you get to save the day? It was my plan!"
"Because your sister challenged me to get the bear, remember?"
"Hey, Malfoy," Harry interrupted. "Won't they be able to tell he's not a bear though?"
"We'll wait until it gets darker, unless they go into their tents first."
Harry looked doubtful. "I don't think this is going to work."
"Shut up, Potter."
"Hermione is brighter than that, and they are both fighters. If there was a bear, they would get rid of it. I fear for Ron's safety."
"What?" Ron cried, ignored by the other two men.
"It's a risk I'm willing to take."
"Well, it doesn't look like anyone is there anyway."
"We'll look around for them."
"You mean I have to wear this all day?"
But Ron and Harry followed Malfoy into the woods, albeit with a measure of reluctance.
The bathing was not as easy as Ginny had planned it to be. Hermione had ended up coming with her to help her keep a pot of water hot and then pour it into the makeshift tub, which was too shallow to be anything more than a child's swimming pool. Half of Ginny's legs and her bum were nice and toasty, but the rest of her was freezing in the frigid air. She splashed the hot water on herself for relief from the cold but the wind dried it quickly, making her even colder.
"This probably wasn't such a good idea," Hermione said in disapproval as Ginny shivered and clutched her chest. She was hunched over herself trying to keep in the warmth, but it was gone as quickly and freely as water being dumped out of a cup. It left all at once and refused to come back. "It's only the second day. Did you plan on doing this everyday?" she continued.
"Y-y-y-yessss," Ginny answered, unable to elaborate because her teeth were clattering so hard, she thought they were all going to break.
"What if you get sick? I've only got so much over-the-counter medicine," Hermione said as she poured another pot of boiling water over Ginny's head to rinse the drying shampoo suds out of her hair. "And what if you catch something serious? We'd have to take you to the hospital."
"I know you're sorry! But that doesn't help the fact that you're still in the tub, does it?"
"Fine! I'll help you up."
Hermione grabbed the fluffy robe that Ginny had packed along for camping because of its warmth. It was not the most stylish garment—Mrs. Weasley had made it for her to wear as the weather got colder—but it could keep a snowman warm, it was so toasty. She picked up one of Ginny's towels as well and wrapped it around her shoulders, then grabbed her stiff arms and tried to pull her up. She was so frozen that she wasn't much help, but Hermione finally got her standing. As she stood behind the wet, red-haired witch, she tried to preserve Ginny's dignity by averting her eyes from her naked bum.
Not that it mattered much anyway because at that moment three voices exploded from the trees like canon fire.
"Ginny, what are you doing?"
"Nice arse, Weasley!"
Both Hermione and Ginny twirled around until they were facing Harry, Malfoy, and a brown glob of mud that must have been Ron. Except for the glob, as far as they could tell, anyway, the boys were ogling Ginny's naked body.
Ginny suddenly regained the ability to speak and screamed, "S-S-S-STOP L-LOOKING! T-TURN YOUR EF-F-FING HEADS A-W-WAY!"
"Stop looking at my sister!" Ron yelled and then tackled the leering men to the ground. With them all distracted, Ginny snatched her robe out of Hermione's slack hand and threw it on over her head, piling on her Muggle coat and pants after. She was wrestling with her socks and boots when the boys all stood up again, Harry and Malfoy covered with mud from Ron's body.
"Ron, is that you? What are you doing?" Hermione demanded, finally coming out of the shock caused by the sudden events. Once her boots were laced to her feet, Ginny crawled over to the fire Hermione had built to boil water for her bath and huddled near its heat. She wasn't even wearing a proper shirt or a bra, but she would have to wait until later to finish dressing.
"What are we doing? What are you doing cavorting with my sister!" the glob of mud yelled, confirming his identity as Ron.
"Cavorting?" Ginny, Harry, and Malfoy recognized this tone as trouble and all three looked away from the couple awkwardly, wishing they were in another place entirely. "I was helping her with a bath so she wouldn't catch pneumonia right away and die, Ron!"
"But she's naked! And you were… you were…" Ron stammered. He faltered under the life-threatening glare of his wife.
"Of course she's naked! She was taking a bath! I was helping her get out because she was too cold to do it by herself!"
"I'll help her do it," Malfoy muttered, heard by Ginny and earning a disgusted glower from her.
"You wish," she snarled, having to speak up so that he could hear, which unfortunately meant that the rest of them could hear her too.
"Actually, I do." He smirked and she blanched. Ron looked murderously at Malfoy before his wife's strident voice brought his attention back to her.
"I can't believe you, Ron! How could you think I was… I was… doing something with your sister of all people! That's disgusting!"
"Hey!" Ginny cried, offended.
"Sorry," she muttered, though she didn't sound sorry at all and really didn't even spare Ginny a glance.
"If that's what you think of me, then you can sleep with Harry and Malfoy for the rest of this trip!"
Hermione stalked back toward the camp leaving Ron flabbergasted, though no one could tell through his disguise. Ginny stood up and grabbed her clothes, intent on following the woman back to camp, but the boys caught up to her and stopped her.
"What did you think you were doing?" Harry asked her, looking furious. "You can't just prance around the woods—naked!"
Ginny gaped at him and then looked at Malfoy's smirk and Ron's muddy arms crossed over his muddy chest.
"I wasn't prancing, Harry. I was bathing, just like you three did this morning! I do not owe you an explanation for my actions. If I want to prance around camp naked, then I bloody will!"
"Oh, will you please?" Malfoy said eagerly. Both Ron and Harry aimed punches at him, which he dodged.
"Ron! Why are you all covered in mud?" Ginny screamed as if she had just now noticed. The boys stopped attacking one another and stared at her awkwardly. Ron grumbled something that she could not hear.
"What was that?"
"I said, I'm a bear…" he repeated.
Ginny blinked, and then she blinked again.
"He said he was a bear, Weasley!" Malfoy growled, recognizing something on her face that he did not like.
Ginny blinked one more time before it all came together and she doubled over laughing, her ribs aching and her lungs burning. She could not catch her breath.
"It's not that funny!" Ron protested.
"Oh—yes—it—is!" she wheezed, fighting her laughter just to get the words out. "A—a bear? This is the mighty bear you hunted? That's so—pathetic!"
"We weren't going to hunt him, Weasley!" Malfoy said, his hackles raised. "We were just going to scare you and Granger!"
Ginny sobered quickly. "She's Weasley now, remember?" He gave an unconcerned shrug. "And anyway, what's so terrifying about that?" She pointed at the moulting form of her brother. The mud was beginning to run, the disguise looking patchy. Maybe he had looked like a bear earlier, but now he just looked like he had recently enjoyed mud wrestling and hadn't managed to wipe all the mud off.
Harry and Ron were inching away from Ginny and Malfoy, trying to sneak back to camp and leave the constantly quarrelling duo to themselves.
"Our plan may have failed, but the alternative was so much better." His smirk was unbearable and the way that he leered at her, his eyes travelling from her feet and lingering on her chest before stopping at her eyes, made her whole body flush hotly.
Feeling flustered by that smirk and his stare, Ginny gaped at him for several seconds before realizing that Harry and Ron had left while she and Malfoy were arguing. Coming to her senses, she stalked after them back to camp and threw over her shoulder, "Well, I hope you enjoyed the view because that was the very last time you'll ever see it!"
He smirked after her appreciatively, watching as her damp hair glittered in the dappled sunlight and bounced with the force of her steps.
"Oh, I certainly hope not," he muttered.
When Ginny had returned to camp, she found that Ron had gone to the lake to wash all the mud off while Hermione removed Ron's sleeping bag from their tent and tossed it carelessly in front of Harry and Malfoy's. Luna sat in front of the fire rocking back and forth as she worked on her Crumple-Horned Snorkack sweater. Ginny decided that Hermione was not going to be pleasant to be around while she and Ron were fighting—not to mention the awkwardness about the fact that their fight was over her—and sat next to Luna to warm her hands.
"Your hair looks nice," Luna said.
Slightly wrong footed, Ginny reached up to touch her wet hair and realized that it must look a mess after her disastrous bath. She hadn't even brushed it out yet and she groaned at the thought of trying to brush through the tangles later.
"I've got to finish my sweater. I know I'm close to tracking down the Crumple-Horned Snorkack hiding in the forest. It's really rather lucky we pitched tents here, because I'm sure it's around this area somewhere."
"Oh, that's nice," Ginny said, not really listening. Malfoy had just come out of the forest and strode past her, glancing at her briefly, before stepping over Ron's sleeping bag and disappearing into his tent.
Damn, how had she never noticed how shiny his hair was? The light from the sun created a bright halo on his head, which was absurd, of course, because Malfoy was no angel. And he was so pale! Angels weren't… well, she supposed they weren't too pale, were they? And he wasn't attractive at all. Nope. Too pointy. Not attractive. He would poke her eye out with his chin if he ever tried to kiss her.
Not that she wanted him to kiss her, of course. She hated Malfoy. He was pure evil. Obviously.
"I don't know if I can wait for a calf to be born. It's taken my whole life just to find this one Crumple-Horned Snorkack, and I haven't even found it yet! So, I'll probably have to make another sweater for the one I find. What colour do you think I should do the next one?"
"Yeah… Totally," Ginny said distractedly, staring hard at the front of Malfoy's tent.
When Ron arrived, now mud-free, he spotted his sleeping bag lying on the ground, growled at it menacingly, and marched to his former tent. The ensuing argument would have been difficult for even a deaf person to block out.
"Do you expect me to sleep on the ground? Where will I sleep?" he yelled.
"It's not my problem, Ronald. I don't care what Merlin's left nut you do!"
Ginny and Luna's eyes met. Ron was in big trouble if Hermione had resorted to cursing. It was clear that she wasn't used to it; she couldn't even use a curse properly.
"It's cold outside! What if I catch new-moaning and die?"
"Oh, please! Spare me the dramatics!"
"You care if my sister dies, but not your husband?"
"Your sister hasn't accused me of romping with girls I'm not married to, has she?"
"OI! Shut your bloody mouths, will you?" Malfoy yelled from his tent. Ginny frowned disapprovingly.
"Keep that bloody nose in your own damn business, Malfoy!" Ron said in a threatening voice.
"What is going on?" Harry asked Ginny. He had just ambled in carrying the inflatable bathtub and the pot Hermione had used to boil water. She thought it was rather nice of him to pick up their mess, and the earlier anger she had harboured towards him about walking in on her naked and participating in a stupid plot instantly cooled.
"Hermione and Ron are arguing. Malfoy's just gotten himself involved."
"It's my damn business when I'm trying to take a mid-afternoon nap, Weasley! Which you are disturbing with your stupid fight!"
Ginny, Luna, and Harry settled themselves in comfortably with their backs to the fire. There was nothing like a fight to relieve the boredom of camping, and it brought them to laughter—stifled by their hands lest the wrath of Hermione turn unto them—to hear the two tents screaming at each other, not a single person in sight.
Ginny was rather happy to have something to do.