Chapter 2 : Let The Dueling Begin!
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Excitement for the upcoming dueling competition slowly built up to the point where on Friday, all the teachers (except for Snape, of course), grudgingly agreed to spend class time giving out tips on dueling.
Everywhere Harry went, he heard feverish rumors about who would be dueling whom, and what the prizes might be. He had, on several occasions, walked into the dormitory to see Ron, Dean, Seamus, and Neville practicing their wand-brandishing skills.
It was quite a funny sight. Ron had his stowed up his left sleeve, and he would whip it out and point it threateningly at the mirror. Dean Summoned his so it flew straight into his hand. Once he was a little too forceful and his wand wound up hitting him hard in the nose. Seamus pulled his out with a lot of unnecessary flourishing. And Neville simply pulled his out of his pocket and assumed the stance of a track runner preparing to sprint away.
Ron had told him his plan, and although Harry privately thought it might not work, he agreed to do it. It was hard to turn him down when he had shown so much enthusiasm.
Sunday night came very quickly. At five minutes to eight 'o clock the trio walked down to the Great Hall, where dozens of students were milling about. The doors had not opened yet.
"Hey Potter," said a snide voice, and Harry spotted Malfoy standing amidst a circle of Slytherins, his blond hair slicked back.
"What, Malfoy?" said Harry roughly. His hand itched to pull out his wand, but the sensible voice in his head that sounded like Hermione told him that it might result in a fight, and he would be subsequently banned from the dueling competition.
"I was wondering if you were ready for what I've got in store for you," Malfoy drawled. "But that doesn't matter. Even if you were anywhere near my level I'd still smash you to pieces."
"What are you going to do?" Harry shot back. "Transfigure yourself into a blond, bouncing ferret?"
Hermione, Ron, and the surrounding Gryffindors laughed loudly. Malfoy flushed.
"Just you wait, Potter," he sneered. "I'll get you back for that."
Before Harry could retort, the doors creaked open. The students standing nearest to the entrance leapt backwards as though something would jump out at them.
Ron craned his neck to see what was going on. The Great Hall seemed to be a black abyss. "That's odd. Why is it all dark?"
"I'm scared," said Parvati in a stage whisper. "I hate dark places."
Dean cleared his throat and stepped closer to Parvati protectively. Parvati giggled and nudged Lavender, who also giggled.
"Shall we?" said Harry. He, Ron, and Hermione led the way into the dark Hall.
"Come along," said a booming voice. A couple of people shrieked. Next to Harry, Ron jumped. "Don't be afraid. Move along, quickly now."
Harry looked to his left and saw Hermione's silhouette. She shrugged, and the trio moved toward the voice.
More and more students filed into the Great Hall, fumbling their way through the dark. Then, without warning, the doors slammed shut, prompting a few more screams.
"Welcome!" said the voice just as a clap of thunder sounded, followed by a flash of lightning. "Welcome to Hogwarts' first ever So You Think You Can Duel, where bravery, wits, and nerves will be tested! Where the champion will forever bask in glory! Where the losers will run away with their tails between their legs! Where people may get hurt or even killed--"
"Mr. Weasley!" barked Professor McGonagall.
"But don't worry! We assure you, there's a very low chance of a death occurring tonight."
"And you, Mr. Weasley!"
The storm noises ceased and the Great Hall was illuminated by the lighting of a thousand candles. Harry blinked and gazed around him. The house tables had disappeared. Instead there was a platform on which Fred, George, Lee, McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, and a couple other professors were standing. Encircling the main platform were dueling stages, about the size of a classroom. Between the stages were stands for the viewers to sit in.
Next to him, Ron whistled. "Blimey…they sure decked out this place, didn't they?"
Harry and Hermione nodded.
"That's right, little brother!" said George, beaming. Fred and Lee were beaming as well. McGonagall looked apprehensive, Snape was grim and sullen as usual, and Flitwick seemed a little nervous.
"As you can see," George continued, "there are three dueling stages set up. This means that there may be three duels going on at once, so watch out for wayward spells. You will be scored individually on a scale of ten, and the points you earn will go to your house. The house that earns the most points earns this shiny trophy. We also have medals for first, second, and third best in the individual category."
"Our kind headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, has placed a spell in this room so that absolutely no Dark magic will be possible. If you try," Fred glared at the Slytherins, who stared either defiantly or uninterestedly back, "then your wand will be unable to function for a temporary moment of time and you will be thrown out of the competition."
"Before you can begin unleashing your prowess on your opponent, you must register with us, your judges and your referees. That's right, we--" Lee pointed to himself and the Weasley twins "--are in charge here. So don't try to break any rules, or cheat, or play dirty." He glanced pointedly at the students wearing green.
"If you want to form a team, you can do that. You can also challenge one of your kind professors." Fred dared to smile at Professor Snape, whose lip curled into a sort of grimace. "Our kind professors will gladly duel you one-on-one, or one against whatever they're up to. However, we do not recommend dueling them one-on-one, because you will surely lose."
"Anything else?" said Lee, looking at McGonagall. The professor shook her head warily.
"Then let the dueling begin!" shouted Fred and George.
Around Harry, students clambered up to the platform to name their opponents. A Quick-Quotes quill scribbled furiously on a roll of parchment, which steadily grew longer.
"I'll go sign us up," Ron muttered out of the corner of his mouth to Harry. Harry nodded.
"Who are you going to duel, Hermione?" said Harry.
"Oh, I don't know. I don't have anyone particular in mind. I think I'll just observe," she answered. "What about you?"
"Malfoy, definitely…Ginny challenged me…and maybe I'll form a team and challenge Snape." He grinned at the thought of turning the Potions Master into a giant, slimy slug.
Hermione looked doubtful. "Honestly, Harry, you wouldn't do that! It'll just give him more reason to hate you. Besides, do you really think you'd stand a chance against him, even if it's ten of you against one of him?"
Harry scowled. "Thanks for having so much confidence in me, Hermione."
"I was just pointing out the obvious," Hermione sniffed. "But don't mind me. Do whatever you please." She stalked away.
Ron came back with a slip of parchment in his hand. "We go on in about an hour, at stage one." He looked around. "Hey, where'd Hermione go?"
Harry shrugged. "I dunno. Off to 'observe,' as she put it."
"Oh. Well, she better watch our duel, or else it'd be pointless."
"Yeah. She'll come around, though."
Neville came running up to them just them, beaming. "Harry, I've done it! I've challenged Malfoy! Luna and I are going against Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson!"
Ron stared. "Why are you so happy about that? There's no need to be smiling like that right before Malfoy and Parkinson take your guts--"
Harry stepped on Ron's foot and said hastily, "That's great, Neville! You'll probably do fine."
"Yeah, I've been practicing the Disarming spell! Look, I'll disarm Malfoy right now! Expelliarmus!" said Neville. Harry's wand flew out of his hand and sailed over Dean's head. "Oops, sorry, Harry!"
"It's alright," said Harry, running over to fetch his wand.
"You might want to practice your aim, mate," said Ron, clapping Neville on the back.
"Ah, well. The duel starts in twenty minutes. Oh look, there's Luna. See you around!" Neville left.
The candlelight flickered, and there was another boom of thunder. "Attention, please!" cried Lee Jordan, his voice magically magnified. "The first round of duels is about to begin! On stage one, we have Abbot versus Macmillian. Stage two we have Malfoy versus Zabini. And stage three, Finch-Fletchley versus Boot!"
"Why the hell are Malfoy and Zabini dueling each other? Aren't they supposed to be best friends?" said Ron.
Harry shrugged again. "I dunno. Say, which duel d'you want to watch?"
"Hannah versus Ernie should be interesting…and we should probably see if Malfoy is as good as he says. Why don't we go stand between those two stages and watch the both of them?" said Hermione, reappearing all of a sudden, no longer irritable, and, for some reason, looking rather pleased with herself.
"Good idea," said Harry, and the three of them made their way through the crowd to the far side of the Great Hall.
George was the referee for Malfoy and Zabini. He was standing at the edge of the dueling stage. Malfoy and Zabini were both in dueling positions, ready to begin the second George blew his whistle, which he did just as the trio found seats in the stands.
"And they're off!" George shouted, quickly jumping off the stage to get out of the way.
Malfoy shot a hex at Zabini, who dodged it quite easily and flicked his own wand at Malfoy, who wasn't so lucky.
"And Malfoy begins with a Stinging Hex, which misses Zabini and hits Padma Patil instead--might want to put up some Shield Charms, people--and Zabini retaliates with Tarantallegra! Haha, look at Malfoy's legs go!"
Malfoy glared and did the countercurse while Zabini laughed along with the crowd. His inattentiveness earned him a hit with a Trip Jinx, and he fell off the stage.
Harry, Ron and Dean roared with laughter. Hermione sat with her hands clasped tightly in her lap, muttering something about "dangerous" and "waste of time" and "Ancient Runes homework."
Zabini circled around the stage, hidden from view, and aimed a spell at Malfoy's back, who keeled over when he was hit with Petrificus totalus.
"And Zabini attacks Malfoy from behind! That was low, even for you, Zabini!"
"Yeah!" shouted Malfoy as soon as he had unfrozen. "Fight me to my face, like a man!"
"Are you implying something?" Zabini yelled, his face turning red, weaving and ducking as Malfoy sent jinx after jinx to him.
"That you're wimpy and GA--" Malfoy shouted.
There was a collective gasp and Zabini shouted, "STUPEFY!" before Malfoy could finish. The force of his spell knocked Malfoy off his feet, off the stage, and into the wall. "I am not!" He stormed out off the stage and out of the room.
"Ouch!" said George. "Well, that was certainly an odd duel, considering that, according to my notes here, Malfoy had intended it to be a 'warm-up'…. Malfoy earns 2 points out of ten, Zabini, 2.5.” The Slytherins groaned and booed. “Up next, Brown and Patil versus Chang and Edgecombe! This should be interesting, folks!"
"Er, Hermione, d’you know why Lavender and Parvati are fighting Cho and the sneak?” said Ron.
Hermione sighed with the air of someone with superior knowledge. “Don’t you know? Parvati hates Cho for going out with Harry after Harry asked Parvati to the Yule Ball fourth year. Parvati thinks that Harry belongs to her, and that Harry likes her better since they went to the ball together. Of course, she doesn’t blame you, Harry, and instead accuses Cho for stealing Harry from her. Lavender and Parvati are best friends so they have a ‘your enemy is my enemy’ attitude. And Cho is too scared to duel alone, so she dragged Marietta along, who definitely does not look pleased, as expected.” Hermione finished her speech and rolled her eyes at Ron, whose head was tilted to the side like a puppy trying to comprehend a rather difficult command.
"Wow. How’d you know all that?’ said Ron, straightening up.
"Isn’t it obvious?” Hermione said, exasperated. “Anyway, I suggest that we put up more Shield Charms. Hannah and Ernie are still dueling, and Hannah absolutely furious.”
Harry looked over at stage one, where Ernie was backed into a corner, balancing on the edge. Still, he refused to succumb to Hannah’s spells, which he was surprisingly able to dodge despite his precarious position.
Hannah, for her part, was slowly going purple in the face as jets of lights shot out of her wand without pause.
"She’s needs to stop and breathe!” said Hermione anxiously, standing up to get a better look. “Or she’ll—”
Suddenly, Hannah’s wand clattered to the floor and she collapsed, causing Lee Jordan to run onto the stage. Ernie, completely shocked, fell over onto the stone floor.
"It’s okay!” cried Lee, feeling for a pulse. “She lives!” He muttered something and Hannah regained consciousness.
Hannah wrenched her wrist out of Lee’s grasp and snatched her wand up. Ernie had just ascended the stage, dazed from his fall.
"Petrificus totalus!” screamed Hannah. And Ernie toppled to the floor once again, stiff as a board.
"Poor Ernie,” said Ron, shaking his head. “Getting beaten by a girl like that.”
For some reason, a sly smile appeared on Hermione’s lips, which the ever-oblivious Ron failed to notice.
Harry, however, had an inkling as to what was going through Hermione’s mind. He whispered into her ear, “You’re not going to—”
Hermione cut him off. “Oh, yes I am.” She grinned wickedly.
There's Hannah v.s. Ernie and Malfoy v.s. Zabini! Next will be Parvati & Lavender v.s. Cho & Marietta. Let me know what you think of this chapter in a review!
Yours till the Humdinger blibbers,
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