Chapter 7: A Devious Stranger
Ron stared at Grimble, unaware of the best way to deal with a menacing centaur.
“Hark! Who goes there?” queried Ron.
The last time he had been approached by a centaur was on April Fools Day in March of 1999. Six of his friends had dressed up in elaborate centaur costumes and convinced him they were outcasts looking for a new tribe and could they have six thousand dollars please. Ron took pity on them and allowed them to take possession of his Beverly Hills mansion and fleet of luxury cruise liners to facilitate the creation of a new centaur clan, unaware that they were not, in fact, centaurs.
The centaur glared at him.
Ron decided to talk to Grimble as he would any other of his close friends in an attempt to break the ice. “Sometimes when I’m feeling lonely I open all the windows in my house and walk around naked, secretly hoping that street vagrants and derelicts can see me”. This intimate confession had worked well for him over the years.
The centaur appeared satisfied. “This is an effective ice-breaker. Pleased to meet you, little hobbit. I’m the one they call Grimble.” Grimble bent down on one knee, a centaur bow that approximated a human handshake. Ron reciprocated with a brief curtsey.
“The way ahead is fraught with peril,” warned Grimble, “Come let me show you a safe shortcut through these troublesome woods.” The centaur gestured toward a small path leading to the north, veiled by the lush undergrowth and damp moss that coated the forest floor.
Ron looked at the path with suspicion. “It looks suspicious,” he said, his brow furrowed in suspicion.
“Ah, but allow me to allay your fears,” spoke Grimble smoothly, with the practiced tongue of a seasoned liar, “For at the end of our path lies a delicious feast of bacon.”
“Bacon!” Enthused Ron. “Okay, let ‘me’ go tell my friends”. He made quote fingers around the word me, adding an unnecessary level of ambiguity to his sentence.
IPhone in hand, Harry Potter was being happily entranced by the soft, elegant lyrics of Shaggy, when Ron appeared in front of him, clearly and visibly excited.
“’arry! ‘agrid!” Ron explained that he had made a friend who wanted to lead them on a sketchy looking trail, for vague reasons under the obvious pretense of giving them a clearly fabricated meal of bacon.
Harry thought for a second. “It seems like our best option,” he decided, slowly nodding his head.
Malfoy began to stir, immediately becoming alarmed at being carried over Hagrid’s shoulder like a white, pasty sack of English private school git.
“I must say, this isn’t the fashion to which I’ve grown accustomed to travelling,” he complained, struggling to lift his head. “Ack!” He suddenly caught sight of Grimble, standing patiently at the entrance to the path, “it’s one of THEM!”
“One of wh-“began Harry before going silent, “Oh…”
The others stood around nervously. Everyone had gone silent, looking at each other awkwardly.
Finally Harry turned and tentatively addressed Malfoy. “Uh, you’re not a…a, uh…you know. Look I’ll just ask you straight out. You’re not a racist are you Malfoy?”
“No.” Malfoy looked embarrassed. “I just mean it’s one of them that took Hermione. Not, you know…one of THEM.”
“Oh okay, good.” Harry laughed nervously, “just because of the implicit connotations of that sentence. And your hideous blonde complexion, and the swastika tattoo on your back. You just had us worried for a second there buddy.” The others laughed nervously as the tension began to clear from the air.
“Well what are we waiting for!” said Ron enthusiastically, “Our magical feast awaits us.” And with that he set off down the path with Grimble, a spring in his step and a song in his heart.
The others looked at each other and shrugged, then rushed to catch up.