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Payback 1. Take Umbridge by Hippothestrowl
Chapter 2 : Room to Breath
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 0


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Settling in


When Harry again entered the Room of Requirement he left behind the grey corridors of Hogwarts in autumn and discovered instead a vast domed arena whose walls and ceiling displayed as springtime skies. This generous stage had been reforged as varied terrain: some challenging; some easy. Harry nodded and smiled at the scattered stone slabs on the slanted landscape; a few were daunting but all looked climbable. They dominated the coarse slag and rocky scree that was recklessly spilt around them. But lower slopes were softened by thick turf and rounded hollows. These depressions, scooped out in different shapes and of varied extent, sheltered tall grasses and high bushy shrubs to provide good ground cover. There was a gentle hum of insects that were being drawn to a mix of colourful blossoms and the feathery breeze whispered amongst their stems and foliage. The Room was an unashamed chocolate-box artist.

Far ahead of Harry was an inviting leafy wood and as he advanced nearer he could see through the trees several clearings in some of which were one or two small buildings: an intriguing low tower; a half-built stone lodge; a narrow farmhouse with a ruined barn; and a cottage so obviously picture book that Harry laughed. Either the magical life that was the Room of Requirement had a sense of humour or it felt Harry needed to lighten up if he was to train well. And he did.

"Wahoo!" he shouted to the sky as he ran forward.

Exhilarated by the sense of freedom, Harry almost leapt the rest of the way to the trees. He felt free both physically and magically, and free from time. He was in a way, outside of time. Nobody could touch him here.

When he reached the edge of the wood he stopped and peered into the dappled shadows. Close by the distant cottage, a pretty brook encouraged a rich growth of olive-green rushes to thrust themselves up above the bluebells and primroses and other small flowers that brushed the landscape with their colour. Harry breathed in the scent. It was familiar; he liked it. It reminded him of a forgotten day when, as a hungry infant, the Dursleys had tried to lose him at a holiday resort. A pretty lady in a summer frock with her gentle grandfather re-introduced him to kindness. They'd led him through a little park, blessed with fragrance, to enjoy a generous lunch and to await his aunt's reluctant claim several hours later. It was if the Room felt he needed to be in the best frame of mind possible if he was to learn.

Harry couldn't stop grinning to himself and spoke aloud, "Finally - I can plan my life myself - not be manipulated and used without my knowing what's going on!"

It seemed to Harry that the Room knew him better and cared for him more than his friends did - or at least, knew his needs better. He felt mean as that thought stole through his mind but he quickly supressed the rogue feeling. He had suffered enough; all he wanted now was to put the injustices behind him.

He could see between the beckoning trees several dark figures but they were not moving so Harry guessed they were training dummies. He wondered what else awaited him.

One last thing he did before entering the wooded area. He turned around. Looking back to where he had entered the Room, he could see a solid metal gate set in a long stone wall that curved away out of sight. Funny to think that gate led back to Hogwarts. Harry memorised its position then smiled, turned, and strolled into the wood. He was whistling.

He passed several of the figures as he picked his way through the trees: crude, painted, life-size mannequins of wood and metal, stiff-legged with arms splayed out in crucifix fashion. Silently they stood like sentinels or lay discarded on the bark litter seemingly at random amongst the trees. Most of them wore Death Eater face masks but he found two that had no masks - their faces were of mahogany - featureless and smooth. He looked closely for a while but could see no obvious way to activate them. He was thinking like a Muggle.

Harry found his way to the farmhouse and went inside. It was empty of all but the barest of furniture and he wondered how long it might take him to get it comfortably habitable. He doubted the Room intended for him to live here. He gazed out through a dirty window. He could just see a glimpse of the white painted cottage through the trees. Somehow he had known all along that he would end up there. Cottage it is, then!

Harry stood before the low stone wall that separated the cottage's garden from its rough surroundings. On his left he could hear the stream adding its gentle gurgling sounds to that of the birds and insects. To his right was the garden gate displaying a name written on a slice of yellow sycamore. It was warmly illuminated by the sun and proudly boasted, 'First Choice'.

He walked unchallenged through the unlocked front door into the wide entrance hall of the cottage. He needed to confirm the date and there on the wall the Room had provided a large picture calendar with a holiday image of sea and sands. A party of young people were throwing a beach ball monotonously back and forth around their circle. A sun-tanned blonde girl left them to come and blow a kiss at Harry. She seemed happy enough. He waved back and she sang out the date to the melody of an unfamiliar tune. It was still the first day of September but it was 1994 - exactly one year before he had used the Time-Turner. He paused to think. Professor Dumbledore might just be announcing the Triwizard Tournament in the Great Hall about now.

He went through to the kitchen. Everything he would need was there: cooker, sink, table, cupboards. There was a long empty shelf along one wall which might serve to conveniently display the single items of food.

On the kitchen table was an old grey book whose covers looked badly worn. Harry rested the sack on a chair and untied its string. Inside was all the food he had asked for, one of each kind. He levitated them across to the shelf in a neat row: potato, loaf, orange juice, milk, tea, all jostling one another for their position on the ledge. He was annoyed to see that his only loaf was slightly squashed as if some idiot had kicked it but he restored it easily enough with a mending charm and everything else seemed alright. Food was one of the few things the Room could not produce and he did not want to be without the basics like breakfast toast and tea. The loaf was fresh and smelt delicious. He looked at the tattered book lying on the table. He had told the Room he needed it so he knew what to expect within its pages. He picked it up and read carefully.

Harry drew out his wand and went over to the shelf. He pointed it at the first item of food and carefully chanted slowly and repeatedly as he walked along the row, "Temporalis Immobulus" The only effect he could detect was that all the pleasant aromas were gone and everything he prodded seemed hard, unyielding. He looked down at the book in his left hand and turned a page. He restored an onion with a quick "Temporalis Mobulus" and it looked and smelt alright so he time-preserved the onion again and had to trust that everything was in order. Magic could not create food but it could duplicate it so he now had as much as he needed.

Having satisfied himself that he had both shelter and supplies for his stay, Harry relaxed for most of the rest of the day. He explored a little to familiarize himself with what was where. The house was rather bigger inside than out with an open stairway and various doors off the entrance hall. In one room he found exercise and leisure equipment and through another doorway he could see a good-sized plunge pool. As he came back through the hall he called out to the calendar girl.

"Excuse me - where's the bathroom?"

"Oh you silly! - that was it," the girl laughed and giggled. She did a couple of cartwheels across the sand then seeing she had Harry's attention she came forward again.

"What's your name?" she called.

"Harry. And you are?"

"Marianne," she smiled coyly. "Blow me a kiss and I'll sing you the date!"

"Erm... but you've already told me the date," said Harry.

The girl began to pout. From the way she swelled out her bikini, Harry guessed she was about eighteen but she was acting as childishly as a six-year old. Her head hung down, half-obscuring her face with thick golden curls and she began to suck her thumb. Was she crying?

"OK, Fine! Here..." As soon as Harry saw one blue eye peeking at him he blew her a kiss.

She jumped up and down with delight and sang him the date again - this time to another, slower melody. Everything here was a caricature of real life thought Harry - the scenery, the cottage, the pinup calendar with the dumb blonde. Did the Room have such a limited notion of a young man's needs or was it having fun with him? Harry hoped the latter and while the girl was distracted with her singing he took the opportunity to slip outside and look at the garden more closely.

There were ample beds of flowers and shrubs of course but no vegetable or salad garden. It seemed everything else was in season but it was all for show - to decorate the environment and please the senses. There was a deckchair and a rope swing hanging from a tree - but it wasn't a fruit tree.

He toured around the surrounding countryside a little more and decided the other buildings were mostly empty shells for training practice. Further afield he thought he could see a lake. As he began to appreciate the size of the place he wished he had brought his Firebolt. He wondered if there might be one amongst the leisure equipment in the exercise room.

Harry got plenty of exercise that day just walking about and he decided to have an early night and make a fresh start in the morning; he was weary.

As Harry lay in bed that night he tried to anticipate all the things that might go wrong. He knew his fourteen-year-old self would right now be in the Gryffindor common room or dormitory. He determined he would not be going anywhere near his earlier self or anywhere else outside of the Room of Requirement for the next year if he could help it.

He thought about Cedric Diggory. It was strange to think that he was alive now. Suppose Harry left his earlier self a message somewhere warning himself to take the Triwizard cup and not let Cedric take it. Why take it at all, himself? If he did, could he stop Cedric taking it? Could he destroy it? Doubtful. Harry sighed and decided he could not second-guess time and best to let things play out as they had before. He remembered that the year before they had only saved Sirius after the day's events had already unfolded and they never had seen Buckbeak executed. They had not actually changed the known past at all but only the future after the moment they had gone back in time.

Harry rolled over in bed and tried to get to sleep but he could not help thinking about how it would all work out. Next summer, he must remember to exit this Room before his fourteen-year-old self entered or there would be conflict. He must leave a sign that it was safe to enter. He could write something on the wall outside but that might be noticed. He decided to mark a portrait or perhaps twist a statuette.

Harry immediately remembered the turned tapestry he had seen earlier that day in the future. So that must mean he had successfully completed this year. At least he was still alive next year, that was something. But turning the tapestry would be a waste of time anyway because he had not known what it meant earlier - that is, in the future. Harry's head hurt just trying to think about it. He resolved at the end of the year he would do exactly the same to play safe. At some time while he was fretting over this he fell asleep.

—oOo—



Training


When Harry awoke the next morning he used the Geminio spell to duplicate the orange juice, restored it, smelled and tasted it. It was delicious. He did the same with several rashers of bacon, an egg, the loaf, and other items. He charmed them to cook themselves while he stood sipping his drink and gazing out of the window. It would be a cloudless, warm, sunny day he knew.

"Morning Marianne!" he called as he passed through the entrance hall. He could just see the calender girl raise her sleepy head from the sand then it fell again while she was still trying to faintly sing the date. Clearly she was not an early riser.

Upstairs was another room opposite his bedroom that he had only glanced into yesterday. It was a sizeable study with extensive shelves of books and a desk he could work at. On one side were ledges supporting various equipment and tools. He was resolved to spend some time every day learning new magic that might be of service to him. That would leave him free for most of the day to train and practice. He began with a large training manual designed for the Aurors and for their equipment.

Harry was eager to get started so he spent no more than an hour browsing through the hefty instructions to get the basics then set off outside. He walked across and out of the clearing in which his cottage was situated wondering where to begin. He crouched low behind a tree, chanted the spells that began the Auror training session then waited apprehensively. After a few seconds the sky clouded over and the woodland began to darken considerably. He felt a growing chill as he spotted a shadowy, dark-robed figure searching through the trees to his right. It looked and moved like a real man and not at all like the static figurines he had seen yesterday. When it turned slowly in his direction, Harry could clearly see the Death Eater mask even in the gloomy light.

Harry cast a distraction spell beyond the slowly walking man and as the figure turned its head away from him, Harry sent a Jelly-Legs curse followed immediately with a disrupting spell to the ground ahead of the figure. He had the satisfaction of watching his adversary tumbling forward with a loud cry but his elation lasted only for a few moments.

"It's Potter! We've found Potter!" The cry came from elsewhere.

The tree beside Harry cracked loudly and tore unnaturally down towards him. He flung himself backward but felt an agonizing pain in his right leg which had become pinned down by the tree. Looking sideways over the log, Harry saw two more figures, definitely Death Eaters, running towards him, screaming curses. Only the tree trunk protected him from one deadly spell; another went wide.

Harry conjured up a shield charm, levitated the log and hurled it at the two approaching enemy then tried to stand. He yelled in pain and fell back again, barely able to sit. This was far too real. His leg really hurt. He was almost fainting with pain when through the haze he saw one of the Death Eaters still closing in and hurling a heavy dark curse towards him. Harry doubled the shield charm which just managed to block the curse before the shield's magic collapsed leaving Harry unprotected.

Harry instinctively aimed his wand roughly in the right direction and cried "Expelliarmus!" but the Death Eater was faster and Harry felt his wand plucked from his grasp. The Death Eater stood gloating over him, pointing his wand at close quarters, and demanding his surrender.

"Give it up, Potter - you're mine!"

"Erm... Excuse me, how do I terminate the--"

"Crucio!"

Harry screamed in pain but the Death Eater did not persist with the torture curse.

"Surrender to the Dark Lord, Potter, or it will be the worse for you!"

Harry knew he had nothing left. He yielded and the training spell reset itself. He lay back on the ground feeling weak.

The Room of Requirement quickly became warm and sunny again, the simulated leg pain eased quickly away and the imaginary Death Eaters became immobile dummies once more. Harry stood up. His leg was still a little sore and stiff but he could walk. He retrieved his wand from the nearby dummy, kicked the wooden figure over backwards in annoyance, smiled grimly to himself and began walking to the stream for a drink and to ponder what he had done wrong. But there was someone waiting for him around the next tree.

"That was pathetic, Potter!" It was Mad-eye Moody.

Harry almost jumped out of his skin but he had his wand out ready to fight. Mad-eye leaned forward on his staff. "Have you got tunnel-vision? Always check your back - and your sides - and above and below. And why didn't you use your surroundings to better advantage? There was plenty of cover and what about the Disillusionment spell?"

"I didn't expect--"

"Didn't expect? Do you think the Death Eaters will only throw at you what you expect? Expect the unexpected, lad!" Mad-eye paused, eyeing Harry carefully; his magical eye was rolling in all directions wildly for a few seconds then came back in line with his good eye to rest on Harry, waiting for him to speak.

Harry studied Moody in return for a few seconds. "So how come... You're that mannikin aren't you? One of those I saw yesterday?"

"Why you asking? You requested me."

"Did not. What do you mean?" Harry slowly lowered his wand. Clearly this was part of the training.

Mad-eye's wand came up and hit Harry with a sharp stinger. Harry yelped.

"What the hell you do that for?"

"You just said you did not request me so you don't even know what I am but you're lowering your wand! Wake up lad or you'll be dead before you even complete the basics!"

Harry frowned. "Is that possible?"

Mad-eye shook his head but not in answer to Harry's question. "You've not even read the manual have you."

"Yes... I've been through it..."

"Been through it? Flipped the pages did you? What about the trainer selection page? Who did you select?"

"I... There was..."

"I'm the default trainer. I'm the badass you get if you don't choose."

"The hell with you! Why am I standing here listening to a bloody mannikin!" Harry stalked off and shouted back over his shoulder, "I'll change you for a less irritating model! How'd you like that Moody!"

"Can't. You can't, Potter. The training sequence has begun. ...and it's 'Sir' to you."

Harry stopped in his tracks. "You're joking aren't you! The Room can't create a real person. You seriously think I'm going to address a wooden puppet as 'Sir?' Not on your life - Oh sorry, you haven't got a life have you - you're really just all dumb splinters and a big mouth made to look real." Harry turned and started walking away again.

"Think you're funny don't you, Potter." Mad-eye had a malicious grin on his face as if he were enjoying himself. "Tell me, how much have you invested in this training? I mean, how much of yourself? How badly do you want it? How badly do you want to survive You-Know-Who?"

Harry stopped again but did not turn back to Moody.

Mad-eye continued, "Do we go forward? ... Or do you keep throwing tantrums like your dumb pinup bimbo?"

Harry whirled around. "She's not! - Don't say... Have you been spying on me?"

Mad-eye sighed. "You really don't have a clue do you? This is all one magical life - this Room I mean. It's what you require. It's what you need or it would not be here. Surely you can trust what you absolutely need to be the right thing, the best thing, for you?"

Harry stared and thought deeply for some time while Mad-eye waited then he said, "Maybe..."

"That's 'Maybe - Sir' I think you meant to say."

"Fine! Have it your way then! I'll--"

"It's not MY way! It's YOUR way you bloody fool! It's what YOU need not me. It's what you summoned up with all your heart and soul when you addressed the Room."

"I definitely didn't ask for you!"

"'Need,' Potter, not 'ask.'"

"I definitely don't NEED you... nagging me! You only exist because I flipped the page without knowing! You don't even--"

"But you DID flip the page didn't you? It was what YOU did wasn't it? No matter how painful, everything happens here because you need it - it customises itself to you and you alone. The Room knew you needed ME so it made me the default knowing you would be too arrogant to read the instructions properly."

Harry remained sullenly silent. This was not going at all the way he had hoped. He had come back in time and into the Room to get away from being controlled.

Moody continued, "Do you know what you ought to be asking yourself right now?"

"What?" snapped Harry.

"What the other maskless dummy is doing," said Mad-eye quietly.

Harry dived for the soft dirt floor and twisted and turned with his wand up high, searching in all directions.

"Good. Good, Potter. Now we're getting somewhere."

The form that was Mad-eye swirled its details into a blur and somehow became just a sightless wooden dummy once again. The training session was over.

Harry stood for a minute or more looking around then his shoulders sagged and he walked back to the cottage. But he didn't lower his wand all the way.

* ' * ' * ' *


Moody turned up earlier the next day right in the middle of Harry's practice. Harry had tracked one of the enemy and was lying under a thick bush waiting for the Death Eater to show herself. He felt sure she was behind one of three stone slabs spaced out across a big scrubby dirt patch next to a meadow that was fairly open short grass. She couldn't have escaped without him seeing her but he wasn't sure which block she was behind. The biggest stone was less than six foot high but she was short enough to comfortably stand behind any one of them without being seen. He determined to be patient and wait her out. He glanced left and right and checked behind himself again and again but otherwise his gaze was fixed on the stones in case she ran across the gaps between them. Suddenly, Moody was standing right there in the open.

"Better, Potter, much better - but you're moving the bush. That's a dead giveaway."

Harry, startled, jerked his head up and whispered back, "Only because you spooked me! Keep your voice down! And get down..." Then he added, sarcastically, "--Sir!"

"They won't take any notice of me, Potter," said Moody, one eye fixed rigidly on Harry. "It's the other one they take notice of. Oh yes, they'll take notice of her alright."

"Who? Who'd you mean?"

"You'll find out soon enough." He disappeared without warning.

Harry turned his attention back to the three stone blocks. He considered whether he had the power to lift them - to reveal the person hidden behind. It was worth a try.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" Harry maintained all his magical focus on the three blocks. This was much harder than the log he had despatched yesterday. Each block was many times the weight and there were three. After a few seconds he thought he saw one of them tremble. He held firm. Now there was no doubt - all three were moving! He felt a great surge of energy and pride in his accomplishment as all the big rock slabs raised up several inches from the ground, scattering stones and tearing up roots. Now they were on the move - but Harry was puzzled; they seemed to be heading the wrong way.

In a flash, Harry realised his mistake; he turned and fled as the huge slabs hurtled towards him but he could not outrun them. The first slammed into his back as another thumped into the ground ahead of him. The last thing he remembered was feeling like ketchup being squeezed out of a huge plastic bottle with the aid of a giant's boot.

"Never heard of the Ascendio charm, Potter?" It was Mad-eye looking down at him. "Or how about bringing a broomstick next time?"

"Oh, how are you, Harry? Are you hurt?" said Harry. "I'm fine thank you now my intestines have been pushed back inside - are you going to nag me after every training session? - Mr. Moody, Sir!"

"I'm teaching you is what I'm doing - and you can't experience extreme or mortal injuries - the enchantment blanks you out."

"Pity it doesn't blank out my imagination just before it happens though," grumbled Harry as he got to his feet.

"Seriously, Potter, you have to learn to think fast - don't experiment with levitating huge blocks during combat - make sure you know you can do it first."

"Then what would you have suggested? - if you'd been there when I needed you that is?" Harry paused, thinking.

"I AM here when you need me." snapped Moody.

"How come you're here at all? If you're part of the training session I mean? The session is over."

"Every session has a debriefing session even if it's not used, Potter. - Chapter Eighteen, Page 764 of the manual - you know, the one you haven't read."

"So instead of teaching me so I know what to do you prefer to not teach me then mock me after I get it wrong, is that it? How'm I supposed to learn then?"

"Learn by your mistakes, Potter - not by being told what to do as you go along. Any fool can do that - and any fool can forget it ten minutes later. You need to draw on your resources; your own imagination - then when you fail I'll tell you why and teach you other possibilities."

"Then teach me!" Harry snapped back.

"You couldn't see your target to use a direct spell so levitating something was not a bad idea. In that situation you might have lifted a smaller rock over the top and blasted it - if nothing else it would either drive out the Death Eater or reveal which stone she was behind when she responded to the blast. Another thing you could have tried is simply to retreat without waiting until you were driven away. No shame in that. Creep silently away backwards and live to fight another minute, another hour."

Harry nodded reluctantly and looked at his watch. "I only lasted fifteen minutes that time. How many... I can do more than one session a day, right?"

"As much as you want - as much as you can stand."

"Right, let's get on with it then," said Harry. Moody smiled.

—oOo—



The Smirking Witch


Over the next week, Harry spent more and more time training until it filled most of the day then he studied in the evenings. He worked more stealthily, more conservatively - saving his best efforts for when he had a clear shot and not taking on more than he knew he could handle unless he had no choice. It was four days later when he had no choice but to deal with more than he wanted.

Harry lay on the top of a rocky slope. He was using omnioculars and had a good view of the wild, open area before him and the hamlet at the far end - just four small stone houses abandoned on a dirt track. Death Eaters had been using them earlier as their base. He had good cover around and behind him so he knew he could retreat safely if necessary. Three Death Eaters were searching through the shrubs and bushes far down the slope below him and he knew there was at least one more somewhere near the houses or inside one of them. There were far too many to take on together and the three below were keeping good visual contact with each other so he couldn't make a stealthy attack on one of them without being seen by the other two.

Harry decided to start with the one in the house. He had a broomstick from the cottage now - not a Firebolt but it would suffice. He crept back to it and used it to silently fly low in a wide curve - keeping behind the cover of tall shrubs and the few trees that were in the area.

When he got nearer he stashed his broom behind a low stone wall then crawled along to where the wall met the track that ran by the houses. There was nobody in sight but now he was this close it was obvious there was no cover immediately around the houses - no doubt that was why the Death Eaters had chosen them as their headquarters in this session.

Harry never brought his invisibility cloak with him in training - he wanted to learn and the cloak made stealth too easy. Instead, he looked up at the dark grey clouds. He decided it was not going to rain in the next half an hour and cause sparkly splashes on a disillusionment spell so he cast the spell on himself and crept near-invisibly forward.

He was half way to the nearest doorway when a figure emerged from one of the houses further along. It looked like it might be the same Death Eater who had hurled the stone blocks at him the other day. She had her back to him but she had the same build, same black robes. She had stopped and cast an intense blue light up ahead of her to light the track right to the end as if searching for someone. The fool was not only looking the wrong way, she was illuminating herself. She was a sitting duck.

Harry crept forward to get within range where his spell would be reasonably accurate then pointed his wand.

"Stupefy!" Harry said firmly.

Too late, he realised the blue light was masking a shield charm that the witch had cast upon herself and Harry's spell was ineffective. The woman turned slowly. She wore no mask and was smiling confidently. It was Umbridge - the woman who had been at his trial last summer; the new Defence Arts teacher.

She sent up red sparks which crackled loudly then called loudly "I say! Over here! Mr. Potter's over here!" She was bouncing up and down on her heels with glee. It was a setup. They must have been expecting him and the three Death Eaters had only been moving forward to his slope to tempt him around to the houses.

Harry dodged and weaved and tried various spells and curses but Umbridge simply stood recasting her shield charm and even had time to counter his Disillusionment spell. She held her ground; she had no need to attack.

Umbridge was smirking. "You silly, silly, little child! Did you really think you could surprise an experienced adult like myself?" She shook her head slowly and Harry could hear her tutting to herself. "You're not very good at this are you, dear? Not very good at anything really. My charms saw right through your concealment. Perhaps if you ask me really nicely I might teach you so you don't hurt yourself so much?"

"When hell freezes over, you old bat!"

Harry started to advance slowly but then hesitated. Umbridge's cocked her head on one side and her eyebrows lifted a notch derisively. "Yes?"

Curses were coming his way from the other three now. If he turned and fled then Umbridge could easily hit him in the back with another. Harry ran into the nearest doorway. It was a trap. There was no back door, no stairs, no window except the one beside the open doorway. Harry had no choice but to try to shoot it out, one against four. He cursed under his breath.

"Ahem! Excuse me! I really think you should give up, don't you, dear?" Umbridge was taunting him from outside.

"Moody - I could use your help right about now!" Harry muttered but without much expectation. He saw a blasting curse headed right towards the doorway so quickly cast his own shield. The blast destroyed what little furniture there was in the room but Harry's shield held.

"How you going to get out of this one, Potter?" It was Moody.

"Just tell me!"

"I just did."

Harry stared, wide-eyed. He could see more curses heading his way and the Death Eaters were getting more accurate as they drew nearer. He could smell Umbridge's sickly-sweet perfume as she approached the doorway. There was no way he could survive.

"What part of 'get out' don't you understand, Potter?" said Moody in a tired voice.

"How? - I don't have..." Harry paused for only a moment.

"Accio broomstick!"

When the broomstick burst through the open doorway it had barely stopped moving before Harry had leapt on it and spun back out and up, back-flipping over the roofs of the houses and down to get cover behind them. He was gone before they could get near but he knew that now he had been spotted they would call a dozen more Death Eaters and the situation was hopeless. He could fly well away from the area but he could not win this particular situation. He ended the session and took a break.

Umbridge outwitted Harry in the next two sessions that day also but in the third he lost patience. He knew one spell that would break her shield and put her down before she could recast it.

"Avada Kedavra!"

He saw the green flash but he did not have the satisfaction of seeing it connect. The training session ended itself.

"No, no, no! Aurors cannot use unforgivables! What are you thinking, Potter?" It was Moody again.

"I'm not an Auror! I can do whatever--"

"You're using an Auror training manual. The sessions fail if you use an unforgiveable!"

"Well why didn't you--"

"Why didn't I tell you?" Moody sighed. "Still not read the book have you, Potter?"

"I've read... a bit more..." Harry paused. "How'm I supposed to beat her if all she does is shield herself over and over and call others to attack me?"

"You can't."

"What!"

"You can't beat her. You're not good enough, Potter."

"Then... Then I'll have to bloody well get good enough won't I... --Sir!"

Harry stormed off. The Moody trainer watched him go then reverted to its static wooden form. There remained a fading trace of a smile on the otherwise blank surface of its face.

—oOo—




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