School Craze - Part III
Chapter 24 - EM-E - School Craze - Part III
"Exactly what did you just commit us to?" Ron wanted to know as they rushed to keep up with Harry's tear to the ROR.
"A point of no return," Harry said, breaking into a jog. Severus had been so smug just now, when he'd suggested they spend the rest of the morning before lunch getting started on their defense clinic, as if the older wizard knew something Harry did not. But Severus doesn't know Ron and Hermione, when it comes to being prepared. He flashed a look over his shoulder at Draco, and could tell his arch rival was questioning his own sanity for having joined in on the wager.
"You said earlier that you'd learned some things that you hadn't told us," Hermione puffed out as she ran faster to keep up with the boys. "Is this part of it?"
"Well, sort of," Harry said. "I'll explain."
"You are the one who proposed the wager," Severus reminded Lucius after he'd lamented how much Narcissa preferred a cleanly shaven face.
"Are you concerned you won't have enough even growth for a goatee?" Lupin asked Lucius in mock innocence. Remus currently was clean shaven, but they all knew he had no issue with facial hair. He turned the same innocent look upon Severus, who'd never been seen in public with more than a five o'clock shadow.
"Not at all," both Slytherins replied in unison.
"Well, you may as well get started," Lupin said with a smirk. "I've no doubt that Harry will win."
Nor do I, Severus thought inwardly, but he kept his expression indifferent as he replied to the werewolf, "Mine started immediately after this morning's shave, Lupin."
"Actually," Harry told his friends as they spread out into a square formation, facing inward, "I learned the mouthless hex from Draco on the last timeline, and it's been as useful as contego."
"Of course it has, Potter," Draco said adjusting the knot on his tie with a satisfied smirk.
Harry had had Draco demonstrate the spell on him first, so that Ron and Hermione wouldn't be threatened at the idea of their former(?) arch enemy's wand turning on them while they practiced the next phase of learning the mechanics of wandless casting. Ron's expression was doing little to hide his visceral response to Malfoy Jr.'s smug attitude. Harry nearly announced that he'd used that spell to save Ginny's life, but caught himself, instead giving Draco a look that hopefully conveyed his advice to curb the arrogance, for change.
"Alright, think of the spell you're the most comfortable with. The one that you've got completely mastered," Harry directed next. He proceeded to engage his friends in the exercise he'd practiced with Severus on the previous timeline where he'd learned to cast nonverbally while enduring the Haud os hex, first by yelling the spell in his throat and gradually leading up to casting in complete silence.
After an hour, they were each capable of producing their favorite spells while yelling(moaning) into their throats.
"We've got to win the wager, guys," Harry said emphatically. "You have no idea how cool those three are when they're in action. The goatees will make them look like complete bad-arses."
Hermione giggled nervously, and Harry wondered inwardly which of the older wizard's she'd want to see with the facial hair. But she was full of grim reality when she said, "Yes, but Harry, in order for us to see such a thing, there will have to be danger again. And any one of us, or them, could get hurt."
"I know," Harry said. "But it's inevitable. Let's stop for a little bit." He cast a tempus. "We've only got twenty minutes until lunch. And I want to show you something."
"Bloody hell, Harry," Ron said after Harry had shown them his magical field of protection and explained his wild magic. "You could work yourself up to invincibility with that kind of magic." His tone was full of awe and a tad bit of worry.
"Believe me, I have no desire to do that," Harry said. "And Severus would be the first one to put me in my place if I went too far. But I've been able to enhance some of my spells… and sometimes someone else's spells, by channelling my wild magic through my wand."
"Acathedra," Draco said quietly, producing a four-legged wooden stool from the tip of his wand and taking a seat. His expression was unreadable as he digested what Harry had revealed.
Hermione bit her lip and repeated the spell Draco had just done. Now she had a stool and took a seat as well.
Draco smirked at her. "Your turn to share a spell, Granger."
"I will," Hermione said with a smirk of her own. "I'm nearly ready to show you all what I've come up with."
"I've got one," Ron said. He looked at the three shocked expressions around him. "What? Why's that such a shock?" He took a step towards Draco, "Care to be my volunteer?"
Draco stood, immediately on guard. "What does your spell do? and how much will it hurt?"
"It will hurt a bit," Ron said nonchalantly. "Don't be afraid, Malfoy, it won't hurt enough to make you cry."
"Er, Ron?" Harry intervened. "Why don't you demonstrate on me? I won't take it personally, even if it does make me cry."
Ron grinned. "It does hurt, but it's bloody brilliant."
"Alright," Draco said, not willing to be bested by Harry, nor to be seen as a coward, "cast it on me. But I get to practice one of mine on you, then…. when I make one up."
They all chuckled and waited while Ron cleared his throat and readied his wand.
Draco had no time to react as he appeared to be smacked across the face, then backhanded, then smacked again. Smack, smack, smack!, his head snapping side to side after each smack. He stared at Ron in shock in the silence that followed. But they were all recalling the scene in Umbridge's office, where she'd pinned Harry in a chair and smacked him exactly the same way, all because Draco had ratted them out.
"I take it you hold grudges, Weasley," Draco said, but he burst into laughter along with the others.
"That is brilliant, Ron!" Harry chortled.
Severus pretended not to be pleased at the grin Harry flashed at him when he came into the Great Hall for lunch. He hoped the boy would be able to maintain his positive energy throughout the meal, while Albus reclaimed his post as Headmaster, and made a speech to the student body about the state of affairs as they stood. He watched Harry catch Lucius' eye as he stroked imaginary hair growth on the sides of his mouth. Lucius raised an eyebrow, which was enough to make Harry laugh. This can't last, Severus thought with concern for The Boy Who Lived's emotional state.
"These are unique times," Albus was saying to the student body.
Indeed they are, Severus reflected. Who could say what his ward should be doing with the rest of his day, after a violent experience? He hoped the boy would come to him when this temporarily lightened state of mind began to recede.
Harry did visibly deflate during Dumbledore's address. The greeting was very similar to what he'd said upon returning to the school on the previous timeline. The elderly wizard ended again with the reminder that each of them were there to engage upon their journey into adulthood, and that their friendships and ties would define their futures, as well as their Hogwarts experiences. At one point during the speech, when Harry stared off at nothing, and without focus, Severus messaged Harry and the other teens to be sure to eat a large lunch, suggesting that the ache of failure to win a wager often could be assuaged with food.
That helped Harry refocus for the time being. He looked over at Severus at the staff table and managed a taunting smile. He could tell his guardian was worried about him, but at the moment, Severus was struggling not to smile back.
Severus stood with arms folded, watching Harry guide some of the younger DA students through one last round of Et formam, a simple disarming spell that forced the recipient's wand hand to go limp, resulting in his or her wand dropping to the floor. This was to be quickly followed with an emphatic Scopo! to sweep the wand briskly out of reach. Severus had no idea where the resourceful young wizard found the spells he'd been favoring recently, but it was clear that Harry had a good sense of the level of magical skill his friends and peers were capable of mastering.
Case and point, the fact that Ronald Weasley was now able to cast a non-verbal Genu, also known as the knee bender hex, which was the first spell Fred and George had advised him to master when he'd reached Hogwarts. Miss Granger predictably chose the ever practical contego shield, which she could produce with as much precision and power as Harry could with his wand alone. Draco had attempted several charms, including contego, but had had to settle for his favorite pinching hex. And Harry had managed to master casting his patronus silently, which he'd sent to inform Severus just before the dinner hour that they'd won the wager and were staying in the Room of Requirement to prepare for the DA meeting.
The uncanny and awe inspiring significance in the fact that Harry had led exercises throughout the day, which had united Draco Malfoy and Ronald Weasley, and for that matter, Draco and Hermione Granger, was a fait accompli that was pretty damned impressive. And now the messy haired Boy Wonder was leading a defense session with a very large group of his peers. Severus counted sixty students assembled, including new Slytherin members and returning former members who had reevaluated their foolishness after hearing about the Slytherin attack on Harry.
Lupin was circulating among the older years, his popularity with his students quite apparent. Meanwhile Severus was content to remain in the periphery, not quite ready to embrace familiarity with the youth he'd expended so much energy intimidating previously. However, he found himself distracted by Neville Longbottom attempting to disarm Hermione Granger. The Gryffindor witch was casting her shield in an all-encompassing manner and coaching Longbottom to try to detect its edges, and hence its weaknesses. Severus was reminded of the conundrum facing them, of how to break through the Voldemort-derived magical barrier. The weakness will not be found by seeking flaws in its configuration…
Lucius joined them a few moments before Harry called the meeting to a close. He winked at Harry as he called Draco over to have a quiet word.
"Lucius went to the manor to convince Narcissa to let Draco stay at school," Severus said into Harry's ear while the students began to file out of the room.
Harry looked up at him with unexpectedly grim eyes. "He's in danger, but so are the others, so if he stays, he'll probably be the best person to help with your House, working from the inside."
"Thanks, Harry!" People began to call in succession as they passed Harry.
Severus watched his ward wish everyone a good night and compliment the ones who had excelled in their lesson. He waited until the boy's closest friends were all who remained before he draped his arm around Harry's shoulders. He could tell by the way Harry leaned into him that he was exhausted. "You'll sleep in your bedroom tonight?" he asked, pulling Harry close for a squeeze and resting his chin on the boy's messy hair while he waited for the response.
"Yeah," Harry replied. Fatigue hit him full force as he glanced over at Ron and Hermione, who together with Neville were gathered around Remus, chatting about something to do with his suggestion that they coordinate their casting as a team.
Severus kept his arm around Harry while they walked with Lucius and Draco back down to the dungeons. "What do you know about surface tension, Lucius?" he asked the elder Malfoy as they rounded the corner to the corridor near the potions classroom.
"Are you referring to interpersonal relations, or laws of physics?" Lucius replied.
Severus rolled his eyes. "I had a thought about our approach to disabling Voldemort's magical field," he revealed. "Perhaps the reason we have failed to break through it is because we are assuming its construct is like that of a shield created by a wand."
They stopped, and Harry realized belatedly that they were in front of the Slytherin House entrance. Lucius gave Draco a hard hug and warned, "Remember our agreement."
Draco flashed his trademark smirk at Harry and nodded to Severus and then disappeared behind a door that was only briefly visible while he stepped over the threshhold.
"Perhaps we should work with the field as though we are attempting to dismantle a set of wards," Lucius said when they'd resumed their trek to Severus' quarters.
"Indeed," Severus agreed.
"The only thing I know about surface tension is what we learned in primary school when we dropped dishwashing liquid into oil," Harry offered. "That, and I've heard that if you're going to drop a long distance into water, you should make a slicing motion with your legs or arms, whichever will be breaking through first. Otherwise it's like dropping onto stone."
Severus and Lucius exchanged a look over Harry's head.
"Sleep well, Harry," Lucius said with a bow when they'd reached the door to Severus' quarters.
"Good night," Harry returned with a tired smile, heading inside.
By the time Severus had finished his brainstorming with Lucius, Harry had taken a shower and crawled into bed. Severus pulled the desk chair over and had a seat.
"You've had a rather extraordinary day," he commented as Harry turned onto his side to face him.
"I'm glad Dumbledore is back before any of the horcruxes have come into play," Harry said. He met Severus' eyes. "I've never seen someone die like that before."
Severus nodded. "You will need to leave yourself time and space to feel unsettled by what you witnessed."
"It really bugged me that McClaggen came away from it thinking he'd been the one to get things under control," Harry said. "I know I shouldn't care, especially because I could tell he realized Paloma had died because of him. But it was just plain odd that he'd told Kingsley what he did."
"Not everyone can maintain a level head under so much duress, Young Harry," Severus commented.
"So that's what that was?" Harry asked. He yawned widely and the focus was leaving his eyes, but he wanted an answer.
"That's exactly what that was, son. McClaggen had come to see through that fog of shock by dinner, and had to be sequestered to the Infirmary with a sleeping draught to help him through the worst of it while you were in the Room of Requirement." Severus stood and returned the chair to its space at Harry's desk. He moved back over to stand over Harry for a moment as the boy's eyes struggled to clamp shut, feeling a depth of paternal affection for Harry that prompted him to press a kiss to the boy's forehead. "Whatever you need while we get through this, you shall have, child."