“Books away. Wands out. Everyone stand up,” Moody ordered as he limped to the front of the class. “We’ll be having a practical lesson today.” The excited whispers around the class drowned out my groan. I was not looking forward to letting Moody cast Merlin knows what on me. I’d also been trying very hard not to seem suspicious after the incident with the Imperius Curse. He did say ‘wands out,’ maybe this time I would be allowed to defend myself properly. “You’ll be divided into pairs.” Well this might be enjoyable. “I’ll be the one picking your partner.” Or not.
Moody waved his wand and the desks all slid to one side, leaving enough room for us to duel. “Brown and Thomas,” he called out first. “Finnigan and Weasley.” I tried hard to keep a neutral face but I knew who was left. There was going to be a final pair then a group of three. I had a very crude suspicion about who Moody was going to pair me up with. “Patil and Granger.” Bloody old codger. “Longbottom,” I knew what was coming next, “why don’t you join that pair.”
I jerked my head around quickly to give Moody a surprised look. His magical eye was swiveling between me and Neville. He caught my eye and gave me a penetrating stare. I looked away, something about Moody always made it difficult for me to stand my ground. It annoyed me that I felt so…not scared, I certainly wasn’t fearful of him, but there was something. Something that felt like he was always watching me. Bloody hell, now I’m paranoid. “Potter, Lestrange, line up at the end,” Moody directed, regaining my attention.
Potter and I stood across from each other next to the group of three, who had arranged themselves into a poorly shaped triangle. Neville was standing much closer to Hermione when he should have been on the same side as Parvati. Parvati, although not as useless as someone like Crabbe or Goyle, wasn’t anywhere near the target that Hermione was. I frowned and looked away. This is class, I berated myself, not some sort of battle, it doesn’t matter how they line up.
“You see a problem with the group beside you, Lestrange?” Moody asked. I glanced up at him, annoyed with myself for watching the group too long and with Moody for noticing and then calling me out on it. Everyone else was watching me now. Great. “Say what you were thinking,” Moody ordered. Right now I was thinking Moody was a git who could shove off but I don’t think he’d take that too well.
“It should be two versus Hermione, she’s...” How to say this without sounding rude? “She’s a…bigger threat.” I hated the way that sounded even if it was true. Parvati looked mildly offended as well. Neville on the other hand, nodded a bit and shifted away from Hermione before stopping to look at Moody.
“She’s right,” Moody grunted. “You should size up your opponents if you get the chance. Pour more resources into the main targets. There’s no point in having a handful of people against someone who could easily be taken out by one. Then there’s the other side of the scale. If everyone focuses too much on a few bigger threats, you let the low levels pick you off without interference.” Moody’s lesson, albeit true, was annoying nonetheless. He was teaching us like we were a group of Auror recruits he had to train. We were fourth year students trying to pass a Defense class, not Hogwarts graduates joining the Ministry. He could have at least attempted to make it sound less like a life or death situation until N.E.W.T. year. “Potter?”
I turned my attention back to the class. Potter looked surprised at being called on. “Er…don’t get hit?” he answered hesitantly.
“Exactly,” Moody said, almost proudly. I was very tempted to roll my eyes. “It’s easier to block than deal with a dozen or more counter curses, hoping you’ll use the right one. Who can tell me the most common blocking charm? Granger?”
“It won’t block the darker curses but a nice, strong Protego shield can do wonders,” Moody said after giving Hermione a quick nod. “That’s what we’ll be working on today and everyday until each and every single one of you can perform it flawlessly.”
After a quick demonstration of the proper wand movement, the dueling began. Already knowing the spell, I claimed the offensive side immediately, making Potter work on blocking. He wasn’t horrible per se, but he sure wouldn’t be winning any dueling contests. After ten minutes he was able to produce a weak shield but even my toned down spells would shatter through it. Another ten minutes passed and Potter hadn’t improved much. I could tell it wasn’t from lack of trying, he was just focusing too much on the correct wand movements.
“Cast it as a circle,” I told him after I cancelled my Jelly-legs Jinx that had easily broken through Potter’s shield. He looked at me with a mixture of surprise and confusion. Part of it was probably because I never made much of an effort to speak to him. The other part was likely because of what I’d said, I focused on that part. “You’re spending too much energy on the proper wand movements,” I explained. “Casting a circle’s easier.”
“It also isn’t as strong,” Moody declared from behind me.
“The shape is weaker,” I responded after giving Moody a small glance, “but your spell power will be stronger if you’re not worried about making the perfect angles for a shield.”
“In theory,” Moody said dismissively.
I let out a small growl, feeling irritated. This is probably where most of my annoyance with adults came from, teachers especially. Everything they taught was straight from a book and was the ‘right’ way to do things. Students were meant to absorb and perfect the book’s method. There was one problem with that though – not everyone was the same. We all learned in different ways and sometimes the textbook wasn’t enough. It was crucial to understand the material and then you could spend time practicing in whatever way suited you. You might even find a new way of meeting the book’s standard or even surpassing it. That was what Dimitri had spent months teaching me first year and I was more than confident about my casting abilities, especially my shield charm.
“I’d rather pour more power into my shield than worry about making it shaped perfectly,” I said stiffly.
“I haven’t seen you block once in twenty minutes,” Moody pointed out with a touch of superiority.
“Cast a spell,” I told Potter. “Any spell.”
He sent an uncertain look over my shoulder, likely to Moody before he shouted, “Locomotor Mortis!”
“Protego,” I called out lazily, casting a circular shield that effortlessly deflected Potter’s spell, sending it towards the wall where it crashed, leaving a scorch mark.
“That could have easily hit an ally,” Moody criticized.
I rolled my eyes. Obviously if I was in a fight I would have been doing things quite differently, like not standing still as a spell was fired at me. “Better them than me,” I said sarcastically, thinking Moody was being ridiculous.
“Spoken like a Slytherin,” Moody replied menacingly.
“Why don’t you take Potter’s position then,” I snapped back, fists clenched. The whole class watched as Moody walked over and brushed Potter aside, taking his spot. I should have felt some regret over allowing Moody to get to me again, but I didn’t. Moody eyed me for a minute as he took out his wand. Whatever he was going to send at me, it was going to be strong, I knew that much for sure. A moment later a bright orange spell came flying at me. “Protego!”
I cast a powerful circular shield that sent the spell back to Moody. He cast a perfect, textbook shield, proper angles and all. Moody’s original spell was coming back at me, moving even faster. My shield sent it back to Moody, who blocked, sending it back at me. The spell flew back and forth a couple more times, gaining speed until I became impatient.
I swiftly changed shield spells and when the spell struck my new shield it split apart, becoming four. They were all headed back to Moody who was just quick enough to expand his shield, fully protecting himself. Each of the spells rebounded at an angle, not sending them directly to me. One was headed to my right, straight for Neville and Parvati. Instantly I cast a powerful spell, sending out four spheres that absorbed the bright orange spells, then burst away in a flash of light. An eerie silence spread throughout the room and everyone gawked at me. Even Moody looked surprised. After a tense minute he snapped out of it and glanced around the room before giving me a distrustful glare.
“If Lestrange is done showing off, you can all get back to work,” he barked. The rest of the class turned their attention back to shield charms, occasionally giving me odd looks. Moody had turned his back to me but I’m willing to wager his magical eye stayed on me for the rest of the class.
So much for trying not to seem suspicious.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“STOP!” The other fourth year Gryffindors and Hagrid froze, looking at me curiously. “Just…stop.” I’m not going to let some six foot lobster/scorpion hybrid things kill me. I figure I might as well stop them from killing half the class too.
Hagrid still had ten Blast-Ended skrewts, each nearly six feet long. He’d decided to see if they hibernated and instructed the class to lead them into pillow lined crates. The skrewts had not taken this well. The Slytherin students had already barricaded themselves in Hagrid’s cabin while the Gryffindors actually stayed and attempted to help. It wasn’t an easy task, surely there was an easier way.
“Who’s got good aim?” I asked. I noticed most of them look at Potter. This shouldn’t be too difficult then. “P-Harry, come here.”
“Er…what’s the plan?” he asked hesitantly.
I tapped my wand on one of the crates, making it collapse into a small six by six inch square of wood. “When I hand you one of these, throw it and make sure it lands under a skrewt. You only have five seconds though, so know which one you’re aiming for.”
“What happens after five seconds?”
“It changes back into a box, hopefully with a skrewt inside it.”
“Alright,” he said nodding.
“Got one picked out?”
“Yeah,” he answered, eyeing the closest skrewt.
I cast the timed spell on square and handed it off. “Go.”
The first two attempts failed but on the third one a skrewt was successfully locked in a crate causing the other Gryffindors to cheer. For the rest of the hour the Gryffindors and Hagrid assisted with cornering the skrewts as I charmed the crates and passed them to Potter. We managed to finish with three minutes left of class.
“Bloody brilliant,” Ron exclaimed as Hagrid lifted the crates, moving them together by his cabin.
“What spell was that?” Hermione asked curiously.
“Japanese one. It just creates a timer until the original spell is cancelled. I wasn’t even sure if it was going to work.”
“Can you teach it to me?” Hermione asked immediately. I saw Ron and Potter roll their eyes.
“Er…sure. Preferably not with skrewts.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“That is a rather long assignment.” I looked up to find Victor standing beside the library table I was at.
“Potions. It is always like that here.” Victor nodded as he sat down. I noticed he had a book of languages with him, muggle ones though. At least he was on the right track.
“I wished to speak to you about something.” He looked a bit nervous now.
“The tournament champions are required to bring a date to the Yule Ball, you know this I am sure.” Oh Merlin, please don’t. “I wished to ask for your…assistance with this.” This doesn’t sound like a date proposal. Please don’t be a date proposal. “I have noticed you speaking with a girl.” Thank you, thank you. “She is however, usually with Harry Potter.”
“Hermione?” I asked, surprised.
“Hermy-own,” he tried pronouncing. I suppose she did have a rather difficult name.
“Close enough. You want to ask her?”
“She is…different. Like you, but not as loud.” I looked at him skeptically. How was I loud? If anything I had grown quiet since I left Durmstrang. “She does not treat me differently because of who I am, like you,” he explained.
“You are asking her just because of that?”
“She has a…certain way to her. Confidence, I believe you call it. I suppose I did notice her because she was different from the other girls. I do not wish to take her to the Ball if she is with Potter though.”
“They are just friends,” I assured him. Well I wasn’t entirely sure about that but they had never acted like more than friends so I assumed there were no romantic feelings there.
“Good. You are willing to assist me?”
“Of course. I need to think of a way to ask her first. I assume you do not want your fan club around for it.”
“That would be preferable.”
“Give me a few days, I will think of something.” Victor nodded and started reading his language book.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Honestly getting Hermione and Victor together was the easiest part. Hermione spent half of her time in the library anyways. The annoying girls who followed Victor around on the other hand, well they were what I was having trouble with. I couldn’t take too much time to plan something or someone else could ask Hermione to the Ball first. So with no ideas that didn’t involve me getting detention, I turned to the next logical choice – the Weasley twins.
I found them sitting at a table on the far side of the Gryffindor common room. They were sitting close, whispering to each other while writing on a piece of parchment. Not wanting to seem like I was snooping I made sure they saw me approaching.
“Mind if I sit?” I asked as George stuffed the parchment in his pocket.
“Not at all. How are things?” Fred replied.
“I'm actually here because I need a favor.”
“What kind of favor?” George asked suggestively, waggling his eyebrows.
“You’re not invited to those kinds of favors,” Fred said, elbowing his twin. “What do you need?” he asked me.
“Well I can’t give you the specific reason until Christmas.”
“Rather strange timeline, but go on,” George commented.
“I need to clear out the library.”
“Dung bomb,” the twins said instantly. I rolled my eyes, typical Weasley twins’ solution
“Not finished yet. I need to clear it out for Victor. The main problem is his fan club. There will be no dung bombs in this plan.”
“Every plan has room for dung bombs,” George said, looking offended.
“No dung bombs,” I repeated.
“If you insist,” Fred muttered.
“How long do we have to clear it out for?”
“Er…half an hour should be fine.” That gives Victor plenty of time.
“Does Madam Pince need to be gone?”
“When does it need to happen?”
“Whenever I don’t have class. Tuesday during lunch would be a good time.”
“There’d definitely be less people to clear out.”
“It would probably only be the girls who normally follow Victor,” I said. That’s why I’d picked that day to begin with.
“Right, give us a day to think of something.”
“I assume you want it done this Tuesday?”
“Yes.” Let’s not give another guy a week to ask Hermione out.
“I’m very curious about this,” Fred admitted.
“Christmas,” I reminded him.
“We’ll get started then,” George said professionally.
“Thanks.” I stood up and turned to leave.
“Don’t I get a thank you kiss?”
I turned back around, facing them. They were wearing identical smirks. I didn’t know which one had asked me. That’s probably why they’re smirking. I eyed them both carefully, there was a fifty/fifty chance of getting it right. Hmm…what to do?
“You can ask me again after you think of something.” They both scowled at me.
“Not fair at all.”
“Cheap way out.”
I gave them a smug look and left them there to plan.
A/N: I don’t actually know the wand movement for a shield charm but I assume it would be more difficult than flicking your wand and shouting “Protego!” I made the proper way of casting it more of a hexagon shape to trace with your wand, which would make it a bit difficult to cast in the heat of battle. That’s why Jade suggests just casting a circle and focusing more on making that stronger.
The Care of Magical Creatures class with the skrewts is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, Chapter 21, The House-Elf Liberation Front.
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