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Chapter 62 : Wizard's Duel
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Murmuring spread through the hall at the unusual request, and Arthur’s seatmate Robin Durham nudged his elbow and whispered, “What’s up with all this protection stuff, mate?”
Arthur shrugged. “I don’t know, Rob. Maybe it’s on account of Professor Marsh getting attacked or something. I guess now Dumbledore’s worried that someone else might be a target.”
“Could be,” speculated the other, sliding his willow wand out and placing it on the table. “I know my mum and dad were real upset when I told them what happened, and my mother wanted me to come home, said it wasn’t safe. What’s Professor Snape think?”
“He was furious, but he didn’t say much to me. At least not yet, I haven’t seen him since lunch.” Arthur said, also placing his hawthorn wand down. “I hope they catch whoever did for Professor Marsh and snap their wands.”
“Do you think it was supporters of . . . You-Know-Who?” Robin asked, a quiver in his voice.
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Well, I know one thing, Rob. It sure as hell wasn’t the Easter Bunny.”
The students quieted as Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick, and Snape went about the room, casting the spell over the childrens’ wands. Or so they thought.
In actuality, the professors and Headmaster were casting a modified Priori Incantatum, designed to show the caster only the last ten spells the wand had cast in rapid succession. Each time the spell was cast, a mist hovered over the wand for a minute or two, showing the professor the spells the wand had been used for. All the students saw were bluish mist.
Over half the students had been scanned when Dumbledore and Flitwick found two of the culprits. One was a seventh-year Slytherin named Kurt Selwynn, the other was a seventh-year Ravenclaw named Morton Foster. Dumbledore had seen Selwynn’s wand cast a Binding Curse, and Flitwick had seen that Foster had cast a Cutting Curse as well as a Weakening Hex.
As per Dumbledore’s instructions, they did nothing to the two at first, continuing to cast spells until all the wands had been examined. No third party was found. Dumbledore returned to the podium and then announced that a new policy would be going into effect this evening regarding the use of wands. “Your Head of House shall be taking all of your wands and keeping them safe while you are not in class or needing them for assignments. This will, I hope, cut down on the number of students who have been hurt by jinxes and hexes in the halls and the grounds and prevent vicious tragedies like the one that befell Professor Marsh.”
There was an immediate outcry from the students.
Dumbledore held up his hands for silence. “Quiet, please! These measures, while they may seem harsh and unfair, are to guarantee your safety.” He gestured and the Heads collected all the wands. He noted that Flitwick and Snape pocketed their culprits’ wands separately.
“The attack on Professor Marsh was a heinous crime, all the more terrible because Professor Marsh did nothing to provoke it. His injuries will prevent him from teaching until later on next week, and they might have been even more serious had not Professor Snape found him in time. Anyone who could stoop so low is clearly cruel and believing that Dickon Marsh was not deserving of common human decency.” Dumbledore said sternly. “However, I am pleased to announce that two of those responsible have been found.” He pointed his wand and both Foster and Selwynn were jerked to their feet. “Kurt Selwynn and Morton Foster, you have been revealed to have participated in harming Professor Marsh that night. Do not bother to protest, for your wands tell the tale. We have cast Priori Incantatum on all the wands here and yours were the ones who cast some of the spells at Professor Marsh.”
Gasps of outrage and shock echoed around the hall.
Both boys looked startled and Selwynn cried, “Foster! You said no one would ever find out!”
“The truth will always come out eventually, Selwynn,” Dumbledore said sternly. “Your reprehensible behavior shall not be tolerated. To harm a professor is grounds for expulsion. Since you are of age, you will be subject to the full penalty of the law.”
Both students struggled, trying to free themselves of the Headmaster’s spell, but they could not.
Everyone in the hall glared at the two, and a few started screaming, “Traitors!”
Up on the dais, Eileen rose from where she had been sitting next to Pomona and said loudly, “Headmaster, according to my right as a War Mage, I may invoke dueling privileges in lieu of a sentence in Azkaban.”
“That is true, my lady.” Dumbledore said, bowing to her. “But first, we must summon the Aurors and let them be questioned. There is another suspect that is still at large. After that, you may duel them to the death if you so choose.” The Headmaster stalked to the fireplace and called the Auror Department.
Orion, Sirius, and James Flooed into the hall moments later, Orion had manacles and a bottle of Veritaserum in his pocket.
“Headmaster, where do you want us to question them? Your office?” asked Orion, his face drawn and grim.
“Here will be fine, Auror Black. I wish the students to observe exactly what happens to followers of Voldemort when they harm innocent teachers.”
“That’s a bit irregular, however . . . Auror Potter, Auror Black, fetch the accused and bring them here.”
James and Sirius quickly dragged the two over to where Albus and Orion were standing. Their quarry struggled a bit, but both Aurors soon had their arms pinned behind them and frog marched them up to the podium, where Minerva had Transfigured two peas into hardbacked chairs.
The young men were thrust into the chairs and Orion slapped the Manacles of Suppression on them. Orion then examined the wands as well, confirming Albus’ findings.
“As the evidence against you is overwhelming, we have the right to interrogate you with Veritaserum to determine your innocence or guilt in this matter,” said Orion sternly. “If guilty, you shall face at least ten years in Azkaban or a duel with War Mage Eileen.” He turned to his two younger colleagues. “Administer the potion.”
Sirius pried open Foster’s mouth while James placed three drops of Veritaserum on his tongue. The same was done to Selwynn.
Orion began to question them swiftly. “Did you cast a Weakening Hex on Professor Marsh?”
“And you, Selwynn? Did you cast a Binding Curse on Professor Marsh?”
“Did you assault the professor in the Astronomy Tower, Selwynn?”
“Yes, I did.”
“What did you do?”
Selwynn described the injuries he had inflicted, all in a monotone.
Foster admitted to punching and kicking the professor also.
“Was there a third accomplice to this beating?”
“Yes,” Foster answered.
“Who was it?”
“I don’t know his name. I never saw his face. He had a weird voice. High like a girl’s. But he came from the Dark Lord.”
“Did he bear the Mark?”
“I don’t know, but he wore the mask and the robe. None but Death Eaters dress so.”
“Why were you told to hurt Professor Marsh?”
“The Dark Lord said it was to be an object lesson and a warning. So we obeyed.” Selwynn answered.
“A warning to whom? Dumbledore? The Hogwarts staff?”
“Professor Marsh is a Mudblood. His kind of filth always need warnings,” sneered Foster coldly.
Orion’s jaw clenched and his eyes blazed. “I see. What else did this Death Eater tell you?”
“To make sure Marsh learned his lesson and kept his nose out of the affairs of his betters. He gave us robes and masks and got us into the Astronomy Tower somehow. He was going to use a partial Cruciatus on Marsh but Marsh’s bastard familiar attacked him and clawed his arm, making him drop his wand. He tried to hex the bleeding thing, but the damn cat let out a roar like a lion and we were stunned for a few minutes.”
“Where did your accomplice go?”
“He snatched his wand and ran out the door, shaking his head. We left Marsh tied to a telescope with a note and then left too, before the bloody cat could bite us.”
Orion pulled up their left sleeves and sure enough, both students displayed the Mark. “Were you both willing followers of You-Know-Who?”
“Do you regret what you did to Professor Marsh?”
Selwynn laughed. “Regret? Why the hell should we? Mudblood trash doesn’t deserve any better.”
“He was lucky the Dark Lord let him off so easy,” added Foster. “He could have taken days to die. Pity that we couldn’t Crucio him to death. ”
“Little bastard!” James swore. He liked Dickon Marsh, despite the number of detentions the professor had given him while in school.
“You can say that again,” agreed Sirius.
“Based on your own admittance, I declare you guilty as charged. You may be sentenced by the Wizengamut at your trial, or alternatively duel War Mage Eileen. As of now, you are under arrest and shall be held in Azkaban.”
Before Orion could move to take the prisoners away, Eileen came down from the dais and said formally, “Wait, Auror Black. I formally challenge Foster and Selwynn to a Wizard’s Duel of honor where the loser pays the ultimate penalty—death.”
“Are you certain?” Orion asked. “You can just defeat them and lock them up in Azkaban, Eileen.”
But the War Mage shook her head. “No, Orion. I am done being lenient with scum like them. They admitted freely that they are his creatures and my husband’s life meant nothing to them. They might as well have been whipping a fence post. Had their master ordered it, Dickon could have been murdered that night. Locking them up isn’t enough. They need to be made an example of. And I am more than happy to do so.”
“I understand that, but . . . are you sure, Eileen? You could die as well. You have a small child at home . . .” Orion said.
“I know. That is why I must do this, however. So my baby can grow up in a world without fear,” Eileen said grimly.
“Very well. As War Mage, you have challenge right and cause. When do you want the duel to take place?”
“I would duel them now, but to make this a fair fight, I shall wait till tomorrow afternoon,” Eileen replied smoothly.
“Where shall the duel be held?”
Eileen thought for a minute. “How about the Quidditch pitch?”
“That would be adequate,” Dumbledore agreed.
“Good. That will give us time to inform their families and file reports,” Orion said. Then he chivvied the two Death Eaters to their feet and sent them through the Floo with James and Sirius. “We’ll keep looking for the other one.”
“Thank you,” Eileen said simply.
Orion bowed to her and then stepped through the green flames.
“Blimey!” exclaimed Robin. “She’s going to fight a real wizard’s duel!”
Arthur nodded. “And I’m positive she’ll kick their arses.”
“You can say that again!” Robin said, awe tingeing his tone.
The next afternoon:
Nearly the whole Wizengamut had turned out to see the War Mage duel the two convicted former students. Dumbledore had not snapped their wands at Eileen’s insistence, she wished for no unfair advantage during the duel, no chance for someone to cry foul afterwards. But the Headmaster did expel them officially and had papers to that effect. After presenting the evidence to the Wizengamut, they declared the two were as guilty as sin, and convicted the two Death Eaters. There was no appeal, despite a few attempts by the parents’ to sway the Wizengamut’s ruling.
The night before, both Severus and Dickon had argued with Eileen, asking her to reconsider. But the War Mage refused, saying that it was her right to defend her family and this was what she had been trained to do.
“Mum, you’re about to become a grandmother!” protested her son.
“Your point, Severus?” Eileen asked icily, flashing him a Look.
“That you shouldn’t have to fight a death duel. I could fight in your stead,” Severus protested. He did not know these young Death Eaters, they must have been recently Marked. Voldemort had stepped up his recruiting campaign after losing more of their numbers to Auror Alastor Moody, who had captured Igor Karkaroff and killed Wilkins and Rosier. Moody had lost and eye and a leg during that battle, but it didn’t seem to have slowed him down any. He had pursued Karkaroff for over six months before finally bringing him in last month. The Dark One was not pleased, and thus the new recruits.
“No, Severus. I won’t have your baby grow up without a father.” His mother declined.
“How about Jess having to grow up without a mother?” Severus snapped.
“She won’t. Severus, I’m a War Mage, I’m trained for this. If I don’t duel them, they’ll go to prison and perhaps one day be released. I can’t risk that. They need to be dealt with now. And I am the only one able to do it.”
“Eileen, I don’t want you risking your life for me.” Dickon said.
She looked at her husband, still lying in the hospital bed, and murmured, “Sometimes, beloved, the risk is worth it. This time, I’ll fight to protect those I love. Now, I’m going to bed. I’ll need sleep for tomorrow.” She bent and kissed Dickon good night. She turned to go, having been given a guest chamber just down the hall.
Severus caught her arm. “Mum, please! Don’t do this because you feel guilty over not protecting me better from Tobias.”
She turned and placed her hand over her son’s wrist and looked into his eyes. “Severus, I made a terrible mistake agreeing to never harm Tobias with magic when I married him. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret what he did to you. But this has nothing to do with the past. It has to do with the future. I know you think I’m not capable of defending myself, Sev. After all, I never did against your father all those years. But this time it’s different. I’m different. I’ve remembered who and what I am. A War Mage. Now let go, Severus. I’ve made up my mind and nothing you say will change it.”
Their eyes locked, and finally Severus’ shoulders slumped and he released her. “All right, Mum. But please be careful.”
“I will, Sev. I want to see my grandchild, son.” She hugged him and kissed his cheek. Then she was gone.
“Merlin watch over her,” Severus muttered.
“Aye, lad.” Dickon added. “I’d tell you not to worry, but I can’t do that without being a hypocrite, since I’m scared to death. I wish I were well enough to defend my own damn honor, Sev. I know Eileen’s a War Mage, but how long has it been since she’s fought in a duel?”
“Before I was born, I think,” Severus said glumly. Then he bid Dickon good night and left to tell Lily the news.
Now he watched from the stands, along with a Glamoured Lily, as Eileen stood in the middle of the pitch, wearing her gray War Mage leathers and cloak, her medallion displayed proudly on her breast. She had her hair braided in a twist about her head and looked calm and collected.
Around the pitch was a glowing strip of power, colored icy blue and white. It would prevent any of the combatants from leaving the dueling ground, either by Apparition or flying or any other method. Any attempt to flee would result in an instant verdict of execution. The only way for the two Death Eaters to avoid death was to fight the War Mage and win.
Instead of fighting two duels back to back, Eileen had opted to fight the two together, in a single duel. That was something she had not mentioned to her son or husband, knowing how they would take it. She preferred to have the fight over and done with, and she had been trained to deal with two opponents at once.
The prisoners were brought in, manacled hand and foot.
Orion Black removed the manacles and handed them their wands. “Fight or you die,” he told them. “I’m hoping for the latter.”
The two moved forward, smirking at the witch.
“You really have a death wish, dontcha, old lady?” chortled Foster.
“Yeah, Mort. She must be touched in the head, to take on two of us at once.”
Eileen simply eyed them coolly and did not speak.
Finally the two shifted uneasily at her eerie calm and quit talking.
“Are you ready then?” she asked, her eyes like chips of flint. She bowed briefly, never taking her eyes off her opponents.
Warily, they bowed back, then a voice called, “Begin!”
The two chanted spells of blasting and binding.
Only Eileen was no longer there.
The Blasting Curse left a hole where she had been standing a moment before.
“Huh? Where’d she go?”
“Here I am, boys. Petrificus totalis!” she called from behind him.
Her Body Bind caught Selwynn, and froze him. He toppled over, stiff as a board.
But before she could finish him, Foster shot a Cruciatus at her, which she blocked.
He blinked and swore. “Say your prayers, bitch!”
“Sloppy,” she hissed, and then cast a Wind Hex at him.
He blocked somewhat, but the wind caught him up and slammed him against the ground across the pitch. He yelped at the impact.
Then he scrambled to his feet, and cast a Lightning Curse at the advancing witch.
Eileen twirled her wand and deflected the curse.
Then she cast rapidly, shooting jets of fiery magic at the other’s legs and feet, making Foster yelp and do an odd dance across the pitch, trying to avoid the sharp burning jets. “How do you like that, boy? Still think it’s funny to curse unsuspecting professors?”
“No! Please! No more!”
“Coward! Quit cringing and fight me.”
Foster, who had no taste for pain, tried to cast several more dark spells at the canny witch, but Eileen dispelled most of them.
The few that did get through were minor, and she sustained a few cuts and one spectacular bruise from getting slammed against a goal post by sudden upheaval of the earth. But she didn’t let that stop her. She shook off the ache and came on again, only to find that Selwynn was groggily getting to his feet, having been released by his mate Foster.
Selwynn pointed his wand and screamed, “Incendio maxima!”
A huge ball of fire emerged from his wand.
It slammed down right in front of Eileen.
In the stands, several people cried out upon seeing it, thinking Eileen was done for. Severus clenched his hands into white knuckled fists and prayed. Lily hugged him and prayed also.
Then Eileen walked through the fire. Little tongues of flame danced upon her cloak and robes, but she was untouched.
Her enemies gaped at her.
“H-How? You should be dead!” stammered Selwynn.
“A long time ago, boy. But I’m still here,” the witch pointed out. Her eyes hardened. It was time to finish this. Flames flickered at her back. She twirled her wand counter clockwise and leveled it at him. “Have fun in hell.”
Then she spoke a word and the rocks imbedded in the earth where Selwynn stood suddenly began to melt and become molten. The earth bubbled and erupted and Selwynn screamed as the ground beneath his feet became lava and he fell into the molten pit. The earth closed over him and he was gone.
Eileen turned. “Now for you,” she hissed.
Foster gulped and backed away. Sweat sheened his forehead. He had never seen anything like this before. Half-trembling, he attempted to cast the Killing Curse. But it fizzled and died, because he hadn’t enough power.
Eileen’s wand came up and she glowered down it at him. “This is for Dickon.” She muttered a spell that caused the other’s throat to close up.
Foster turned blue. He fell to the ground and in moments was dead.
Eileen tucked her wand away and bowed to the Wizengamut and Dumbledore.
“Has your challenge been satisfied, War Mage?” called Dumbledore.
“Sentence has been carried out. May Merlin have mercy on their souls.” He bowed to Eileen.
Nearly all of the Wizengamut stood and applauded.
The wards flickered and died, allowing Eileen to leave the pitch. She walked regally off the field, her head held high.
Severus looked at Lily. “I’ll be right back.” Then he excused himself and went down to find his mother.
He found Eileen standing amid some pine trees, vomiting.
He put an arm about her. “Mum, it’s okay.”
The War Mage looked up at him, wiping her mouth. “Sorry. But this is the first time I’ve ever actually used battle spells to kill.”
Severus gently handed her a handkerchief. “Here.”
Eileen took the handkerchief. “Thank you.”
“Any time, Mum.”
She breathed in and out sharply. “I don’t regret their deaths. Not really. They would have killed Dickon quick as blinking if they were told to. And yet . . .I’m glad I don’t make my living as a War Mage.”
“I know,” her son whispered. “You did what you had to. Come on. Let’s go see Dad before he frets himself into a relapse.”
Together they walked towards the castle.
Lily soon joined them, and she hugged the other witch and murmured, “Merlin, Eileen! I never understood what a War Mage was until I saw you duel. You must be exhausted though.”
“I am,” the other admitted. “All I want right now is my husband, a bath, and to sleep for six months. And a toothbrush,” she added, grimacing.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Lily said quietly. “I was scared they would kill you.”
“They gave it a good try,” said the War Mage. “But that’s the risk you take.”
Lily just nodded in understanding, and put a hand over her stomach.
Eileen entered the Hospital Wing to find her husband and daughter sharing a bowl of popcorn and playing Exploding Snap.
Cards flew all over as Jess ran to hug her mother. “Mummy, are the bad men gone?”
“Yes, sweetling.” Eileen picked her up and kissed her.
“Yes.” She moved over to sit on the bed, so her husband could embrace her also.
“Never do that to me again,” Dickon scolded. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.” Then he hugged her so hard she could barely breathe, and Jess squeaked, “Hey! Daddy! I’m getting’ squished!”
“Sorry, imp,” apologized her father sheepishly, then he withdrew and allowed Jess to wriggle free. Then he resumed hugging his wife.
She ran to her brother and sister-in-law and held up her arms.
Lily lifted her onto a hip. “Hi, Jess!”
“Hi! I missed you!” she gave Lily a kiss. Then she said plaintively, “I’m hungwy!”
“Me too,” Lily said, smiling. “Sev, why don’t we take Jess home and eat some supper?”
“All right. I think they need some time alone.” Severus said, then he asked what Jess wanted to eat for supper.
“Chicken wings!” she sang. “N’ mashed ‘tatoes.”
“Very well. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes it is. And there goes my attempt at eating healthy,” he sighed.
Lily poked him in the ribs. “Live a little, Sev. You’re not fat. And it could be worse. You could be eating peanut butter and jam.” She reminded him, recalling the time when Jess was on a peanut butter sandwich kick and refused to eat anything else.
“Never mind.” He grimaced, then turned and walked towards the door, thinking that while two of the culprits might have paid the price, the mastermind was still out there somewhere, waiting perhaps for a chance to strike again. He would have to be on his guard still. He had a sickening feeling that Dickon’s “lesson” had not just been aimed at Muggleborns, but himself as well.
Well, now you've seen a War Mage duel. Who do you think was the other assailant?
Happy Easter or Passover or spring rite!
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