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Chapter 14 : Defense Lessons of Different Kinds
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Harry sighed exasperatedly, though he suspected he was going to be asked that question a lot so he had better get used to it. "I have no idea, Ron. I didn't ask anyone to put it in, or break Dumbledore's Age Line. I was with my dad and Draco and Uncle Phil last night."
"That's right," Draco agreed. "And we think whoever stuck Harry's name in there wanted him to compete so he'd get hurt badly . . ." Here the Slytherin's voice lowered so only Ron could hear him. " . . .maybe even killed."
"What? But that's . . .that's insane!" Ron sputtered. "Who would want to kill Harry?" he gasped. "He's a hero."
Draco shook his head in disgust at the other's obtuseness. "Think about it, Weasley. Think long and hard. Heroes die young and who's his greatest enemy?"
"You mean . . .oh." Ron went pale. "But what are you going to do about it? Can you just . . .quit?" He was looking at Harry strangely, as if he expected him to fall down dead any minute.
"No, I can't. Once the Goblet spit my name out, it bound me to the tournament like the rest of them. I couldn't quit now if I wanted to. I have to compete."
"Blimey! That's . . .that's . . .that really sucks."
"Tell me about it. I really hope Moody teaches us something useful in Defense. I think I'm going to need it."
"If not, then Dad will give you extra lessons," Draco reminded him.
"Your dad gives you extra lessons in Defense? Merlin! I wish mine did." Ron said enviously.
"Once you've been through a session with him, you wouldn't," Draco chuckled. "He's like an Auror sergeant, tough as nails. You ache when he's done with you, trust me. But it's worth it, because what he teaches stays with you."
Harry nodded in agreement. "That's for sure. And he teaches stuff that could save your life if you happen to go up against a dark wizard."
"Well, I just hope Moody doesn't give us too much homework this lesson." Ron said.
"Me too. Because I have a feeling I'm going to be writing a punishment essay from my father for punching out the Orc from the North," Draco said ruefully.
"The Orc from the North?" Ron looked puzzled.
"He means Krum," Harry clarified, grinning.
Ron nearly fainted. "Krum? You . . .you punched out Krum? The . . .the world's youngest international Seeker?"
"I did. And I'll do it again." Draco said.
"Why'd you do a thing like that, Malfoy?"
"Because he was being a git to Harry, that's why. Starting crap with him. Said he was too young to compete and a liar and that he needed to hide behind my dad's robes. So I belted him one and bloodied his nose."
"He really said that about you, Harry?" Ron repeated. When Harry nodded and scowled, Ron said angrily, "And here I thought he was cool and someone to admire . . .guess he's nothing but a conceited prat after all. I'm glad you hit him, Malfoy. I wish I'd of been there, I would have given him a black eye."
"And when he saw the blood coming out of his nose, Weasley . . .he fainted." Draco told him. "Just like a little baby. Passed out cold on the floor."
Ron smirked. "Pansy-arse. Fainting over blood. Was your dad like, spitting mad?"
"Kind of. But he really can't talk, since he strangled Karkaroff before I did anything to Krum," Draco said.
"He did? No way! What were you discussing in there?"
"How my name got in the Goblet," Harry answered. "But Karkaroff said some nasty things about me and Dad, but the final straw was when he said something about my mum. Then Dad let him have it."
"What'd he say?"
"Some trash about how my dad never really loved her and abandoned her first chance he got," Harry answered.
Ron whistled. "Karkaroff's lucky he's still breathing."
The professor's sons nodded. They had never seen their father lose control like that ever, and it had frightened them a bit.
"I would have loved to see that," Ron sighed. "Figures, I miss all the excitement around here. I hope this Defense lesson is good. Fred and George said it was awesome, but they could have been putting me on."
"Very true, Ron," Hermione said, she was waiting for them at the top of the staircase. "You never know with your brothers. I hope the class will be practical and informative, not like our other ones."
"You didn't seem to mind the one with Lockhart all that much, since you got to stare at his lovely face all afternoon," Ron reminded her.
Hermione blushed. "That was then. I was a silly girl with a crush."
Draco gaped at her. "You had a crush on Gilderoy Lockhart?"
"So? So did half the girls in the school," Hermione said irritably. "Now will you please stop reminding me of it?"
"I think she's still not over it," Harry teased, and Ron snickered.
"I am so!" Hermione protested. "I have someone who's ten times better, and not a conceited puffskein besides. Right, Draco?" Then she pulled Draco into an embrace and kissed him.
"I'd say so," Draco grinned, when he could talk again. He smiled tenderly at the witch. "Thanks, Mione. I needed that." Then he linked arms with her and they continued down the corridor to the classroom.
"Do I look that . . .ridiculous when I'm with Katie?" Harry asked Ron, sincerely hoping not.
"You look worse," his friend replied.
Harry promptly socked him in the shoulder.
"What? It's the truth. You get all moony-eyed and your face goes all dreamy and sort of stupid-oww!" Ron yelped and rubbed his other shoulder. "If you didn't want to hear the truth, Harry, why'd you ask me?"
But Harry was already walking into the Defense Against the Dark Arts and didn't bother to answer.
"Damn touchy Snapes," Ron muttered before following. He didn't hear the soft shush of displaced air as Phil glided in behind him, concealing a fanged grin at the adolescent drama.
Everyone had been seated for five minutes before Moody stumped into the classroom . . .thunk, drag . . .thunk, drag . . .as he limped heavily upon his wooden clawed foot, sometimes scraping it across the floor as he walked. It was rumored he had nearly gotten blown to bits in a duel with a Death Eater during the first war, which was why he had so many prosthetics. Whatever the reason, it leant an air of brooding menace to him that made even the most hyper prankster sit still and behave in his class.
No one moved when Moody came into the room and walked in front of the desk and looked upon them with his magical glass eye. "Put your books away, you won't need ‘em. What I'm about to show you can't be found in a textbook."
Everyone shoved their Defense texts back in their bags happily. Practical lessons were the best.
Moody waved his wand nonchalantly at the classroom door and it shut itself. He then perused his class list, only glancing up when he called a name to put the face with the owner of it. Harry met his gaze steadily, despite the fact that the magical eye made his flesh crawl.
At last Moody set aside his register. "Now then. Up until recently, I have been reviewing the material Professor Lupin had given you before I decided to alter the curriculum a bit. You have a good grounding in recognizing Dark creatures, but you're way behind on curses and hexes. Way behind."
He turned and took out a jar of three spiders from a drawer in his desk and set it atop the table.
Ron trembled and shrank away, for he was terrified of spiders.
Harry laid a hand on his arm and whispered, "Relax, the spiders can't get out."
Ron gulped and kept his eyes fixed on the jar anyway.
"The Ministry only wants me to teach you countercurses and that's all, but that won't help you if you happen to encounter a dark wizard one night. You can't defend what you can't anticipate and you won't know what countercurse to perform unless you've seen the spell done. And no dark wizard is going to tell you what curse he's casting, therefore I am going to show you exactly what you'll need to recognize." He drew his wand.
In the corner of the room, Phil nodded in agreement with what the teacher was saying. Very true, Moody. You cannot teach a student how to fight unless he knows what he is fighting against. The Ministry are fools if they think a competent teacher can teach while being hampered by such restrictions.
Moody continued. "Can anyone here name some dark curses that have been used upon people in the past?"
Several hands shot up, among them Ron, Draco, Harry, and Hermione.
Moody's hand stabbed forward. "You. Malfoy. Name one."
"Yes, the fireball hex. A particularly nasty one. Your father Lucius was fond of that one, if I recall," Moody said darkly. "Burned down a lot of Muggle houses using that."
Draco went red and seemed to scrunch lower in his seat. "He's not my father anymore."
Moody's eye fixed on him. "What was that, boy?"
"He said that Lucius isn't his father anymore, sir," Hermione spoke up, angry that Moody had been so tactless.
"I'll thank you to let Malfoy reply, Miss Granger." Moody snapped. "Well?"
Draco straightened, his pride coming to the forefront. "I said Lucius isn't my father anymore, sir. Professor Snape is my guardian now."
Moody grunted. "So he is. Best you mind what you do around him then, for Snape has no love for the dark ways, in spite of his being immersed in them for years as an agent."
Draco's eyes flashed at the insinuation. "I'm not a dark wizard, professor! I never have been."
Moody chuckled grimly. "Good, glad to hear it. Stay that way. Because you'd not want Aurors hunting you down, now would you?"
"No, sir." Draco replied stiffly, outraged.
Phil frowned. He did not like how Moody had singled out Draco that way, picking on him from all the Slytherins he could have queried, there were several Death Eater children among them. Why choose Draco to target and not one of the others? And why bring up Snape's past that way?
"That's one curse. Who can name me another?"Moody went on, oblivious to the hostile stares Draco, Harry, and Hermione were now giving him.
Ron was waving his hand.
"All right. You." He pointed at Ron.
"My dad told me one. It's called the Imperius Curse . . .or something like that."
"Ah, yes. Arthur Weasley's son, right? Your father would know that one. Gave the Ministry no end of trouble last time. So many witches and wizards claimed to have acted under the Imperius Curse that it was hard to tell who was serious and who was lying." He eyed Draco meaningfully. Lucius was one of those who had claimed the Imperius Curse was put on him to make him Voldemort's follower. "Let me show you what it can do."
Moody opened the jar with the spiders and pulled one out, letting it run across his palm.
Ron shook, watching in fascinated horror as Moody pointed his wand and said, quietly, "Imperio!"
The spider immediately began to jump up and down and do flips. It cartwheeled across Moody's palm, then stopped and bowed.
Some of the girls were giggling and even some of the boys were choking back laughter.
"Total control and command over someone or something." Moody said sharply. "It's not funny. How would you like it if I did that to you? Wouldn't be half so funny then, would it?"
The laughter ceased.
"But the Imperious Curse can be fought, if you have a strong enough will and strength of character. Most people don't though. And the only way you can find out if you do is to have the curse cast upon you." The spider stopped bowing and assumed a lotus position. "Which one of you is brave enough to let me try?"
Immediately nearly all the hands in the room went down.
Moody place the spider back inside the jar and closed it before turning to look at them again. "That's all? Humph! It would seem courage is a trait sorely lacking in here. Very well, Mr. Snape, come up here if you would. You must be strong of will to survive the tournament."
Harry came, hoping that Moody was not going to make him tap dance across the room or something utterly humiliating like that. Remember, it can be fought, he reminded himself. He stood in front of Moody, who pointed his wand at him and said sharply, "Imperio!"
Harry felt as if someone was whispering something in his head. Jump onto the desk! Jump onto the desk! Do it now! Jump!
He felt a strange pressure in his head and an urging to do what Moody was telling him. But he tried to block it out, recalling Smidgen's advice in creating a shield against mental intrusions. No! I rule me, you don't.
Once again, the mental command came to jump onto a desk.
Harry gritted his teeth, resolved not to do it.
The class watched with bated breath.
Moody's continued to try and make Harry move, but Harry did not.
"Good. Mr. Snape here is fighting me off. Very impressive."
Moody said that calmly enough, but something hidden in his tone made Phil scrutinize him. Was that sarcasm and resentment in his tone? How had he missed that?
Moody took his wand off a minute later. "Well done, Mr. Snape. Ten points to Gryffindor. You may sit down."
Harry did so, getting the odd feeling that Moody was less than pleased with his performance and not understanding why that should be.
Draco gave him a thumbs up from across the room and mouthed, "Good one, Harry!" Show the old bastard what us Snapes can do!
"The Imperius Curse. Very dangerous and not to be taken lightly. Another one."
To Harry's shock, Neville raised his hand and was called.
"There's one called . . .the Cruciatus Curse, sir."
"Very good. Longbottom, aren't you? No wonder you would know that one." Moody took a spider out of the jar again. This time the spider tried to jump out of his hand, but he prevented it. "Hmm . . .needs to be bigger to show you what the curse does."
He tapped the arachnid. "Engorgio."
The spider grew to the size of a dinner plate and Moody set it upon his desk where it crouched in shock.
Ron nearly crawled under his desk. "Think I'm gonna be sick. Oh Merlin!" Only his eyes showed above the top of his desk.
"Take it easy, Ron. It's not moving." Harry hissed, praying Ron could hold it together. His friend was looking very green about the edges.
"Don't care. It's huge. Like those . . .other ones that wanted to eat us." Ron gulped hard.
"Just don't think about it."
"Weasley and Snape! Pay attention!" Moody barked.
"Sorry, sir." Harry apologized. "Ron's a little phobic about spiders."
"Huh. He'll have a lot more to fear than that when I'm done." The ex-Auror grunted. He pointed his wand at the spider. "Watch closely now. Crucio!"
Suddenly the spider curled up on itself and began to rock back and forth. Harry stiffened, recognizing those tremors for what they were, the signs of a creature in mortal agony. He knew that if they could have heard it, the spider would have been screaming in pain.
Sickened, he turned away. And met Neville's eyes, which were round with horror.
"The Torture Curse. Instant agonizing pain." Moody said. "Don't need knives or hot irons or thumbscrews if you know this spell. And you can target specific areas to cause maximum pain to a subject, like the groin or the head."
Moody kept the spell upon the spider for a minute or two longer.
Phil's eyes narrowed. Had he imagined it, or was there a note of satisfaction in the man's voice when he had explained that last curse? And was there a look of . . .pleasure in the one eye when Moody looked at the spider writhing in pain on his desk? He had known many such who reveled in the pain of others in the Unseelie Court and some among the vampires were that way too. The master vampire's mouth tightened. Somehow he did not think it good that Dumbledore had hired a sadist to teach Defense. If he were right . . .He watched closely as Moody took the spell off and reduced the spider down to size and tossed it casually in the jar, without respect for what he had made it endure. No regard for it's wellbeing at all. Granted, it's just a spider, but still . . .it deserves respect after putting it through such torment. There was something not right here.
"There is one more curse that you should be aware of. Can anyone tell me what it is?"
Hermione's hand shot up, but she looked sort of odd, as if she were feeling sick to her stomach.
Moody looked about, then said, "Right. Granger, tell me."
"Avada Kedavra. The . . .Killing Curse."
"Yes. The most dangerous curse in a wizard's arsenal. The one curse that there is no counter for." He pulled the last spider from the jar, set it on the desk and pointed his wand.
A green light shot out from his wand and struck the spider, who dropped dead instantly.
No sound came from the students, they were all frozen in their chairs.
Now Harry felt as if he were going to sick up, recalling how Lily and James had died to save him. Was that the last light their eyes had ever seen, the bright flash of green before it ended? He knew how they had died because of his nightmares over the summer, but even so, he was not prepared for how that curse worked.
"As I said, there is no way such a curse may be blocked or countered and the only peron ever to have survived it is in front of me." He pointed to Harry, who tried to make himself invisible behind his bookbag.
"All three of these curses are called The Unforgivable Curses and the use of any one of them will land you a life sentence in Azkaban, should you try one."
"How about the fireball hex?" asked Hermione.
"That one, while nasty, is not in the same class as the others." Moody said. "Because it can be countered with a water jinx."
"But if there's no counter to the Killing Curse, then why are you showing it to us?" asked Parvati.
"Because you've got to be prepared. You've got to appreciate what the worst is. Knowing that is half the battle. That's what you're up against. Now, Avada Kedavra takes a very powerful wizard to cast it, you could all get out your wands and try it and I wouldn't get so much as a cut finger. Because intent as well as power fuels that spell, as it does the other two. But that's not important. I'm not here to show you how to do it. I'm here to tell you the best way to defend against it. And that is with CONSTANT VIGILENCE!"
The class jumped and Ron fell out of his chair.
He picked himself up, blushing hotly, but no one even noticed. Except for Phil, who just shook his head.
"Take out your quills-write this down-" he ordered.
There was silence as the class wrote down everything Moody told them about dark curses. How to recognize them by wand movements and certain looks in the eye of the wizard or witch about to cast one.
He was very thorough, even Phil had to admit that, and what he told the students could someday save their life, but even so, there was something almost . . .eager in the old Auror's voice that Philip did not trust. When he spoke of taking down an enemy using a certain hex, a current of . . .enjoyment seemed to flow through his voice, and that was not consistent with the way most soldiers and warriors spoke of battles. The warriors Phil had known, and of which he was one, had never discussed past battles with such relish. For they knew the cost of killing and how it scarred one forever, even if the killing was to save one's life or another's.
The only time I ever heard pleasure in another's voice when they spoke of how many lives they had taken was in one of the Unseelie who lived for killing and loved to see blood spilled upon the ground. A twisted and sick creature, one who was without compassion, soulless. Is this one another such?
Phil considered lowering his shields and trying to read Moody's mind, but he knew the thoughts of the students would interfere and so he had to wait. Another time he would try and slip into the Defense teacher's head and see what he could find. Right now, he dared not leave Harry undefended and that meant keeping a sharp eye on him wherever he went.
Tonight, he would ask Severus if he might show Harry and Draco some fencing moves, for as Moody had said, it never hurt to be prepared.
Moody wound down, and after repeating his motto of "Constant Vigilence!", dismissed them and asked them to study a chapter on recognizing possible threatening situations in their textbook.
Harry was eager to get to the next class, he had Divination, because that last demonstration had roused memories best left undisturbed. He glanced about and saw most of his classmates discussing the curses, they had all thought the class was brilliant.
All except Neville, who was still sitting at his desk, apparently shaken by the performance of the Cruciatus Curse. "Neville?" Harry called softly.
"Longbottom, I think you'd best come with me," Moody said, and his tone was gentle. "Come, we need to have a talk and a cup of tea in my office."
"Oh, but sir . . .I'm fine." Neville protested weakly.
"Nonsense, boy! You're trembling, it's a bit of a shock isn't it? Come along now." Moody urged Neville to his feet and the boy reluctantly followed his teacher to the Defense office next door.
"What's up with Neville?" Ron wondered.
Harry knew, of course, what was the matter with his friend. Neville's parents had been tortured into insanity by Bellatrix LeStrange using the Cruciatus and though Neville was too young to remember it, still it was awful seeing it done and then imagining what it must have been like for your parents. Severus had told him about the Longbottoms when he spoke of some of the things he had seen as a spy, and Harry had also known about the Unforgivable Curses as well.
"Tell you later. Come on, let's hurry before we're late," he said and began to half-run towards Trelawney's Tower, anxious to get away from his classmates who were discussing the curses as if they were a new kind of horror show on the telly-scary but not enough to be considered reality.
"Who cares? She won't even notice," Ron called after him, then he too began to run.
Draco lingered long enough to tell Hermione he couldn't meet her after class in the library as usual because Professor Snape wanted to see him. "Probably to ream my arse out for beating on Krum," he sighed ruefully.
"You really shouldn't have done that, you know," Hermione said.
"Too late now for regrets. See you around," he said, then gave her a quick hug before departing.
Hermione hoped Professor Snape would go easy on him and then headed to Arithmancy.
* * * * * *
Later, in the evening:
"Then would you permit me to teach the boys a few fencing moves as part of their training?" Phil asked Severus, seated in one of the professor's chairs in his office, while Severus marked that day's homework. "I know that you have been tutoring them in kin-sa-dor, but wasn't sure if you had begun sword forms with them."
"No, actually I hadn't. The sword is not a weapon I am very proficient in, I know only the basics. I can throw a knife, but it's not the same thing. I had thought perhaps Sarai might give them a few pointers once we returned to the manor for the summer, but if you feel they would benefit from fencing lessons with you, Phil, and are willing to take the time to teach them, feel free."
"I cannot make them into warriors in a month, or even three months, but every weekend we could practice and I can at least teach them the basics, so they will not be a danger to themselves if they do pick up a sword and how to hold off an opponent until someone older and stronger can get to them. Harry, especially, will benefit, since the tournament has been known to pit the contestants against various beasts and such."
"You're right. I would be honored if you would teach them a few moves, Phil." Severus said, marking an essay with a quick N/A for NOT ACCEPTABLE and then writing Next time read the assignment before putting quill to parchment and wasting both your own and my time. Re-do this and hand in a finished copy tomorrow and you won't get a zero. Third years! They tried to get away with everything, including making up answers to his homework essays. Did they think he didn't read them? Honestly, students these days!
There came a knock upon the door of the office and before Severus could tell whoever it was to wait, Phil spoke up. "It's Draco."
Severus slanted an eyebrow at the vampire, then called, "Come in, Draco."
Draco entered the office, looking both nervous and defiant, his typical expression when he was in trouble. Severus set down his quill and said, "Come with me to my quarters, son. This discussion is best done in private, without interruptions." He looked over at Phil. "Thank you for telling me your suspicions about Moody and good luck with keeping an eye on him."
"Come, Draco." Severus took Draco by the shoulder and gently herded him from the office.
"What suspicions about Moody?" Draco asked, hoping to stall for time.
"Do not concern yourself with that," Severus said firmly. "It's between Phil and the professor and not for prying eyes of young wizards."
"I'm fourteen, that's old enough to know what's going on," Draco argued.
"Currently there is nothing to tell," said his father simply, then he unlocked the door to his quarters and entered, Draco in tow.
"Sit," he pointed to the sofa, then waited while Draco sat down and he remained standing, towering down on the boy by virtue of his greater height. That tactic always worked in his favor.
"Now then, I assume you know why you're here, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Yes, sir. I'm here because I shouldn't have lost my temper and punched out Krum that way."
"Yes, and what else?"
"What else? Isn't that all?"
"No. What else did you do that was not civilized behavior?"
Draco thought hard, until finally it came to him. "Oh. You mean the eavesdropping."
"Precisely, Mr. Malfoy. Not only did you listen in on a private conversation, you also interfered in what went on inside the room. I taught you better than that when you were five, Dragon." Severus said, his voice filled with disappointment.
Draco immediately lost his defiant air and dropped his eyes to his sneakers. He hated it when Severus used that particular tone. Snape's anger he could handle, but it was the man's disappointment that cut him like a whip. He had been used to dealing with Lucius's rages growing up, and he had learned to never show fear and to take his punishments as quietly as possible, but inside he had still been defiant.
But Severus was different. Severus truly cared about him and Draco wanted to please him and when his father was disappointed it made him feel ashamed and unworthy and it hurt him worse than if Severus had given him a thrashing. There had been times, growing up, when Draco had done something very stupid, that he had wished Severus had thrashed him instead of giving him a scolding and grounding him, because at least a thrashing was over and done with in four minutes, while Snape's punishments lasted for days and forced him to really reflect upon his misbehavior and how guilty he felt.
"I know that, sir. I shouldn't have done it, but . . .I was curious."
"Humph! Curiosity killed the cat."
"Not this time," Draco defended. "I wanted to know if Harry was in trouble and then when that arse Karkaroff started in on you, it made me mad, so I stayed to see what you did to him . . .and damn, but you really kicked his arse, Dad!" Admiration was evident in his tone now.
"Draco, that is not the point-"
"It is so, Dad. Because aren't you always telling us we should follow your example?" Draco said, acting all innocent. Ha! Got you there, Dad! I'm such a good Slytherin.
Severus gritted his teeth. He knew his son had a valid point. "You know perfectly well how rare it is for me to indulge in a display of temper that way, Draco Michael. However, I would think that you are smart enough to choose the right example of my behavior to model yourself after, yes?"
"Uh . . .yes . . ." Draco admitted reluctantly. How did Severus always manage to outmaneuver him?
"Good. I was wrong in trying to throttle that pig Karkaroff, for I set you a bad example, but that still does not mean you shouldn't think before you act."
"I did think, Dad. I thought about what the big idiot said about you and Harry and then I decided to hit him. He asked for it. You know he did."
"Draco, what have I told you about using physical force against someone?"
Draco sighed. "That I should only use it when I had no other choice. But really, Dad, I couldn't hex him without getting in trouble either."
"You could have walked away."
"He was holding a wand on my little brother!"
"Which I would have confiscated before he could do anything. Your heart was in the right place, Dragon, but your methods leave something to be desired. I know that Krum, like most young celebrities, can be annoying to deal with, but I'm going to ask you to do a difficult but mature thing, and make an effort to tolerate him for the length of the tournament. Do you think you can do that, Dragon?"
Draco huffed. "It'll be hard, because I really don't like him. But I'll do my best."
"Good. However, there must still be consequences for your previous behavior," Severus cleared his throat. "And they are as follows, I want you to write me an essay detailing how else you might have handled Krum's remarks and why you should not defend your brother with your fists, but with words. I also want another essay about the wrongness of eavesdropping and no dessert tonight for you."
"Aww, Dad! No dessert? That's cruel."
"Sometimes, my son, one must be cruel to be kind," Severus returned. "Now, go fetch your brother. Your Uncle Phil has something he wishes to discuss with you."
"He does? Where is he? I thought he was keeping an eye on Moody."
"He will return shortly, after dinner, which I think you should have here with me. Go, get Harry."
"No need for that, Dad." Harry said from the doorway. "Remember you told me to meet you here after class?"
"Hmm . . .yes." Snape said, frowning at himself.
"You didn't forget . . .did you?" asked Harry slyly. "Because you know what that means, don't you, Draco?"
"It means senility's setting in." Harry quipped.
"I'll give you senile, you impudent brat!" Severus mock-growled, reaching out and giving his son a playful cuff about the ears.
"Ow! Okay, it was just a joke!"
"A disrespectful one," Severus said. "Have a seat next to your brother. Phil ought to be along shortly."
"To talk to me about the tournament?" Harry guessed.
"That and to teach you an important skill," his father told him.
Harry shot Draco a questioning look.
Draco shrugged. "Don't look at me like that, Harry. I haven't the faintest idea what it is."
Harry went and sat down next to Draco, wondering what Phil could have to teach them. Perhaps it was some magic known only to vampires?
Fifteen minutes later he had his answer, after supper, when the master vampire entered Severus's quarters and greeted them both jovially, giving each one of his rare smiles.
"Hello, boys. I trust all is well with you tonight? Draco, it looks like your father left you with a whole skin."
"Mostly," answered the blond teen, earning himself a glare from said father. "All right, he went kind of easy on me."
"Wise decision." Phil said, and nodded at Severus, who looked faintly mollified. "Harry, first I would like to tell you that though you must complete the tasks of the tournament on your own, I will be available to ask advice and support you while you go through the tasks. I cannot help you directly, but I will be there to protect you from outside forces who seek to harm you. Your father and I both believe that the one who put your name in the Cup is still out there, perhaps waiting for his chance to strike again."
"And you think maybe one of them might be Moody?" asked Draco.
Phil gave him a sharp look. "You are too quick by half, Draco. Yes, Moody is one of my suspects."
"But why? He stuck up for me." Harry protested. "I suspect Karkaroff over Moody."
"And so I do. But I must not discount anyone just yet. They play a dangerous game. But then, so do I. And I have more experience than they do," Philip said, and his fangs were bared.
Involuntarily, the boys and Severus felt a shiver race down their spines. The wrath of a master vampire was not something the wise man provoked.
"Where's Smidgen?" asked Harry, for the fae cat was nowhere to be seen.
"Scouting and keeping a cat's eye view on Karkaroff and the others," Phil replied. "Eventually we will discover who was behind this and then . . .then they shall rue the day they drew breath." Suddenly Phil's eyes glowed red with wrath and a terrible cold stillness came over his features and they were reminded that underneath his civilized and calm veneer lurked a hunter that was as deadly as any natural predator on the planet. And all of them were very glad that he was on their side.
"You think there's more than one person?" Severus asked quietly.
Phil nodded. "There usually is." Abruptly he blinked and his eyes returned to their normal violet hue. The air of menace vanished and he said, "I wish to help you two learn how to protect yourselves from those who might wish you harm, wizards as well as non-wizards. Though I am a decent bodyguard, it is never wise to rely solely upon a single person or persons to protect yourself. Therefore, I propose to teach you a bit of sword fighting."
"Sword fighting?" both boys exclaimed.
"Yes. I am quite a good fencer," Phil said modestly. "Having had a thousand years of practice, as it were. Come, let us go to a special room in the castle, one that your father has told me will supply all that we may need to begin your lessons."
"What room is that, Dad?" asked Harry.
"It is called the Room of Requirement," Severus answered. "Come, I will show you where it is."
* * * * * *
The Room of Requirement was on the seventh floor and it could only be found by one who needed it. "Place your hand upon the door handle and think of what you want the room to become," Severus directed Phil. "And then it shall try to become what you need."
Phil placed his hand upon the door handle and concentrated. I need a place to teach my nephews some sword fighting skills. Similar to a salle in the Seelie Court. He hoped the room would understand.
A moment later he turned the door handle and opened the door.
The room was filled with a soft white light that streamed down from an unknown source in the ceiling. It was a huge circle, and half the walls were hung with floor length mirrors. That part of the floor was covered in wooden planks overlayed with cloth pallets. The other half of the floor was covered in a layer of sawdust, which would give one firm purchase on the stone floor as well as cushion you if you were knocked down. To the left of the door was a large rack upon which hung swords made of birch wood of all sizes and types. A low bench was situated on the right side and it contained some small hand towels and water bottles.
Phil entered first and said, "Perfect! Just what I would have found on the estate of any Seelie lord." He beckoned to Harry and Draco. "All right. The first thing I need you two to do is stretch like you do when you practice kin-sa-dor."
Both Harry and Draco obeyed, moving over to the cloth mats and beginning the elementary stretches to limber up their muscles that they had learned over the summer. When they had stretched and meditated for twenty minutes, Phil called them over to the rack of wooden swords.
"Now then, I am most comfortable with a long sword like this one," Phil showed them a wooden sword that was about three feet long. "However, training with a long sword is not something you can master in a week or a month or even a year. I think, for now, we shall start out with a lighter weapon, the rapier." He pointed to the rows of a long whippy sword. "Pick up those and test to see what one fits your grip best and your arm."
The boys did so, finding the swords very light and maneuverable.
Draco playfully poked Harry in the thigh when he was testing his blade and Harry glared and poked Draco back in the stomach.
"Stop!" Phil ordered sharply. "This is not a game, don't act like it is. Though those swords aren't the real thing, you are to treat them like they are and no fooling around. Understood?"
"Yes, Uncle Phil," came out of both subdued youngster's mouths.
"Good. Now come over here, near the mirrors. The mirrors are here so you can see yourself performing a move and correct yourself when necessary. We'll start with a simple parry. You learn to parry first and then strike because if you don't, your enemy will kill you before you can ever get a thrust in."
He demonstrated the way you had to place your feet, with the weight balanced and the left foot forward, the right back so you could step and pivot when needed. "Grip the sword lightly in your hand. Don't hold on as if your life depended on it. In a way it does and in a way it doesn't. Now, close your eyes. I want you to imagine the sword in your hand and feel it. Become one with the sword. Think of it not as a piece of wood, but as an extension of your arm and hand."
Phil's voice was low, melodic, almost hypnotic in its intensity.
Both Harry and Draco breathed in and out evenly, concentrating on doing what their teacher said.
After about five minutes, Phil called for them to open their eyes.
When Harry did so, the sword felt less awkward and more natural in his hand. The grip was of polished wood wrapped with a black cloth. He waited, sword held before him, for Phil to tell him what came next.
"Watch me." Phil instructed. "This is a right cross parry." He demonstrated, bringing the sword across his body and then out. "Your turn."
Harry attempted to copy the vampire's parry. It was harder than it looked.
Phil corrected his stance and said, "Do it over, Harry."
Then he moved on to Draco, and adjusted his grip slightly and said the same thing.
He had them practice parries in the mirrors and corrected them for about twenty minutes. Then he turned them about and attacked them, moving slow enough so they had time to counter his strike.
"Not bad. A little slow and awkward, but you both have a good feel for the blade and an instinctive grace that is probably inherited from your fae ancestors." Phil said in approval. "Continue until I tell you to stop."
He had them practice that maneuver for an hour, then called a rest and they went to sit down on the bench and drink the water and mop the sweat from their brows with the towels.
Harry sipped the cool water slowly, feeling tired and sore, but it was a good kind of tired and the soreness was no worse than he had felt after a session of kin-sa-dor with his father and Sarai.
After they had rested, Phil had them back upon the floor, this time practicing a block that was a vertical defense. He was a very thorough teacher, and not hesitant to snap at one of them when their attention wandered. But he also did not mind re-doing a move over so they could see how to do it right.
"Moody was right when he sad that half the battle is knowing your enemy. Know how he thinks, how he reacts, and you have the key to defeating him. Learn as much as you can about your enemy, whether it be human or a magical creature, before engaging it in combat. That way, you'll have a better than even chance of coming away from the encounter alive."
"But what if we can't do that, Uncle Phil?" Harry said, he was thinking about the mysterious first task and how he wouldn't know what it was until the day he had to face it.
"Then, Harry, you just have to hope for the best and study your enemy before you strike." Phil said. "Do three more repetitions and we'll call it a night. Don't want you too tired to stay awake in class."
"How did we do so far, Uncle Phil?" Draco asked.
"Not bad for your first time, Draco. We'll work on speed and accuracy later. I think we should meet every weekend at night and practice. Will that suit you?"
"Fine with me," Harry said, performing his parry again.
"Yes. I can't wait." Draco agreed, his gray eyes shining.
"Good. It's been a long time since I had such eager students." Phil said. "Oh, one other thing. Anything I teach you, you are never to use on anyone in jest. As with kin-sa-dor, fencing is to be used in defense of your life only. Severus told me what he did to you, Draco, when you used his teachings on Harry over the summer, and rest assured I will dole out the same punishment if I catch either of you fooling around with sticks or dueling each other with the practice swords without my express permission. Am I understood?"
"Yes, sir." Draco said, flushing a little in embarrassment.
"Yes, Uncle Phil."
"All right. Put the swords away and walk about for a few minutes, give yourself a chance to cool off. Then you can take a hot shower and go to bed."
"Uncle Phil, can we tell our friends about our practices?" asked Draco as he started to walk around the salle.
"Yes. But don't volunteer my services, please. I only teach family members at present."
Once the boys had finished cooling down, Phil led them from the Room of Requirement. Both boys were tired but happy and Harry thought he was so tired he could sleep without dreams tonight.
He took a nice leisurely shower though, knowing all too well how much his muscles needed the hot soaking after the exercise he had done. When he got back to the portrait hole the Fat Lady greeted him with a cackle. "Oh, look who it is! The new Gryffindor champion!"
Harry blushed. He really hated titles and yet somehow he always managed to get stuck with one or two of them. "Balderdash," he spoke the password and entered the Gryffindor common room.
Only to be bombarded by half his house. "Hey, Harry! How did you do it?" cried Fred.
"Yeah, mate, tell us what bit of wizardry you performed to hoodwink the old man," George cried.
The twins picked him up and spun him about, laughing, then set him down and draped a large red banner over him like a coronation cloak.
People were cheering and clapping him on the back and offering him butterbeers and candy, it seemed as though the entire House wanted to celebrate his becoming champion.
All of the noise and commotion made Harry's head ache and suddenly all he wanted was to run away and hide. He had never enjoyed being in the public eye, like his father he was a private person. He did not relish the attention he always seemed to receive and in fact wished that everyone would just leave him alone.
All he wanted was to go and sleep.
Suddenly, Ron, Hermione, and Katie appeared from out of the fray and formed a kind of cordon about him. "All right, people, that's enough!" Katie yelled. "Leave him alone, let him breathe!" She performed some kind of spell with her wand that created a small bubble about them that pushed away people and they managed to get to the stairs and walk up to Harry's dorm without more well wishers interfering with their progress.
As soon as they had reached Harry's room, Katie canceled the spell bubble and turned to her boyfriend and hugged him. "Are you okay? Those gits were like rats, all of them swarming all over you like a piece of ripe cheese."
Harry hugged her back, shrugging the Gryffindor banner to the floor. "Is that a subtle way of telling me that I smell?"
She buried her nose in his shoulder and giggled. "Yes. You smell great, like-"
"I was going to say fresh clean linens, but soap works," Katie laughed. "I can't believe your name came out of the Goblet. How did it happen?"
Harry took her arm and led her over to his bed. He sat on it and pulled her down next to him. "It wasn't me, whatever anyone says or thinks. I would never willingly compete in this bloody tournament."
"I did think it seemed unlike you, but then . . .who put your name in?"
"I don't know. My dad thinks it has something to do with revenge maybe."
"Like a follower of You-Know-Who?" Katie hissed, her eyes wide.
"Yeah. I'm glad you believe me, Katie."
"Why wouldn't I believe you?" she asked, reaching up and pushing back a strand of hair. She gently traced his scar. "You're not the type to risk your neck for glory, Harry Snape. Anyone who knows you ought to know that. You look exhausted."
"I am, sort of. I had fencing practice with Uncle Phil."
"Fencing practice? Sounds cool," Katie said.
"I always wanted to fight with a sword," Ron said wistfully.
"Maybe over the summer, I can give you a few pointers," Harry offered.
"Harry, who wouldn't believe you didn't put your name in the Goblet of Fire?" Hermione asked.
"A lot of people. Half of Gryffindor thinks I've hoodwinked Dumbledore somehow and pulled off the best prank in history. Karkaroff and Krum think I cheated somehow and tricked the Goblet and I think Madame Maxime thinks so too," Harry said, somewhat bitterly. He told Hermione and Katie what had gone on in the unused classroom after the names had been drawn.
"Merlin have mercy!" Hermione exclaimed. "Draco's not in trouble with Professor Snape, is he?"
"Not really. Dad went easy on him this time. He only made him write two essays and skip dessert."
"Only? Only?" Ron repeated, his eyes bugging out. "That like really bites, Harry. And no dessert is like cruel and unusual punishment."
Harry laughed. "No it isn't. Cruel and unusual punishment is being grounded for the whole summer with no broom and being made to do laundry by hand. Compared to that, Draco's punishment is nothing."
"I dunno, mate. I think your dad's awful strict."
"Well, sometimes. But if he wasn't, the two of us might have killed each other by now. Accidentally, of course." Harry admitted. "He's only like that to save our hides and . . .this is going to sound totally barmy but . . .we love him for it. He wouldn't be the same if he didn't scold us every other day."
"You really have gone round the twist, Harry, if you like it when your dad yells at you."
"It's not that I like it, but it's . . .reassuring to know that he cares, even if he does tear strips off me when I need it. He wouldn't bother if he didn't love me." Then he blushed. "I can't believe I just said that."
Katie grinned and pulled his head around. "That's another thing I like about you, Harry. You're not afraid to show you care about your family. All of you seem really close, like me and my family. Someday you're going to have to come and meet them."
"I'd love to. After we finish school." Harry said. "Thanks for believing me."
"Of course we believe you, mate," Ron said, a touch indignantly. "You don't lie, well, least not to us. And you'd have to be crazy to put your name in that bloody cup and risk dying in the tournament."
"Ron's right. The TriWizard Tournament is very dangerous and you don't need the fame or the money, Harry, so why would you risk your life?" Hermione said loyally. "Don't listen to those dunderheads. They wouldn't know the difference between a real wolf and a werewolf."
Ron looked alarmed. "Uh, Harry? Do you remember what the difference is between a werewolf and a real wolf? Because I forgot."
Hermione hit herself in the forehead. "Merlin, Ron, but you really are hopeless!"
Katie and Harry took one look at the redhead and the very annoyed Hermione and started to laugh their heads off.
"You two quarrel just like an old married couple," Katie chuckled.
Ron and Hermione looked horrified.
"Katie, please!" Ron cried. "Hermione's like my sister."
"And he's like my brother. The one who got dropped on his head as a baby," Hermione smirked, looking remarkably like Draco.
"Thanks, Hermione." Ron stuck out his tongue at her.
"Must you be so childish?" Hermione rolled her eyes at him.
"Yup. I'm your brother, I'm supposed to be a pain in the arse. Says so in the Code of Brothers."
"What Code of Brothers? There's no such thing."
"Yes there is. Right, Harry?"
Harry nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
"Right. I wasn't born yesterday, Ronald."
"I know. You were born on September 19, 1979. Fourteen years ago."
"Brilliant, Ronald. You can read a calander."
Ron let out a whoop. "Ha! She finally admitted I'm brilliant."
"Merlin help us all!" Katie groaned. "I think someone spiked his pumpkin juice with Silly Solution."
"Nope," Harry shook his head. "He's like this all the time."
"And sometimes . . .he's worse," added Hermione. Then she smiled. "But we love you anyhow, Ronnikins."
"Ahhh! Do not call me that! Only my mum calls me that and I've finally got her to stop calling me that in front of my friends."
Harry looked at the girls and mouthed, "One . . .two . .. three . . ."
"Okay . . .Ronniekins!" they shouted.
Ron turned beet red. "Aww . . .shut up! Some friends you are!"
"We're the best," Harry said, laughing.
Ron promptly picked up a pillow and whacked Harry over the head with it.
Harry grabbed his pillow and smacked Ron across the face, and that was the beginning of a very satisfying pillow fight that even the girls joined in. By the time they were through, they were laughing, feathers were flying everywhere, and Harry felt better than he had since Dumbledore had announced his name out of the Goblet of Fire.
Hermione looked about in dismay. "Heavens, but we'd better clean this up. McGonagall will have our heads if she sees this."
"Yes, Mum," Ron mimicked, then began to help Hermione clean up with a Neaten Up charm.
Next: Phil contunues his investigation and Harry gets interviewed by Rita Skeeter and Hermione is cornered by Krum in the library, plus Severus gives Defense lessons to his sons.
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