Anna Grayson and The Order of Merlin

The Dueling Club

As Gwen and Anna quietly headed off to the Dueling Hall, Anna was immersed in her own worried thoughts. So… the person who altered me at birth is locked away. Well, I suppose that’s a good thing, but the mirror also said this person would kill me if given a chance. Why? And what did this person do to land them in a place like Drogo?

Gwen swung open one of two large wooden doors at the end of an extensive corridor, and entered a room unlike any other Anna had seen before at the school. It was long, like a hallway, with black wooden bleachers rising up both sides of the walls running its length down a sand-filled center. At each end of the hall hung a large painting depicting a dueler, wand in hand, pointing at his opponent across the length of the hall opposite. The space above their heads was endless, opening to some unseen ceiling high in the shadowed darkness. As they made their way up the steep steps looking to find a place to sit, somebody moved in front of Anna to stop her. It was her brother Damon.

“What are you doing here?” he said, with an irritating emphasis on the word ‘you’. “First-years are not allowed in the Dueling Hall. You had better get out before Professor Bots comes in and throws you out,” he added sarcastically.

Anna’s face flushed. “Get out of my way, Damon, and mind your own business,” she retorted angrily. Damon sneered at her.

“I said, get out,” he insisted in a low whisper, and then looked around in a way that told Anna he was hoping nobody in the hall would notice him talking to her. “I don’t want you embarrassing our family with your feeble attempts at magic. This room is for sorcerers who know what they’re doing with a wand.”

“For your information, Damon,” Gwen chimed in sardonically, “dueling is a scheduled class for Anna. It’s not an elective like it is for people like you who can’t do anything remotely resembling a real sport.”

“Shut your mouth, Reese, or I’ll take today’s opportunity to shut it permanently in that brainless head of yours,” Damon hissed, raising his wand. Anna stepped up to Damon.

“Unless you get out of our way, Damon, I’m going to toss you over that railing.” Her brother glared at her. “Move aside, stick-boy, or I will move you.” Damon’s face went taut, and he moved angrily forward to accept his sister’s challenge.

“Hey Damon –– come on! We’re saving you a seat,” said another student behind them, sitting with a small group of Defender fifth-years. Damon’s face went slack. Looking back at Anna, he pried his sallow expression into a grin.

“Very well. By all means, join us then,” he said, bowing mockingly low, and motioning her forward with an outstretched hand. Anna tutted loudly and then shoved passed him. Damon glared at her as he watched her go by and said, “But don’t expect to be rescued when you get yourself into trouble here, Anna. Family or not, in a duel, you’re on your own.”

Anna looked back. “It’s always been that way, Damon. I could be bleeding to death right next to you and still be as good as alone.”

Her brother smiled agreeably. “Quarter shall neither be asked nor given,” he said, bowing again, his eyes never leaving her.

“Yeah, whatever,” Anna replied nastily, turning to sit on the bench next to Gwen. “Jerk,” she huffed under her breath.

“What are you going to do if you’re forced to duel with him?” Gwen asked her nervously. “I mean… I know Damon is an ass, but he’s probably one of the best in here when it comes to dueling.” Anna looked at her friend and then forced herself to smile.

“Then I’d better learn a couple of fast spells to take his wand from him. That way — I can punch him in the face with my squibbly little fists.” The two girls giggled, but Anna was hiding a deep uneasiness. The fact was, she knew Gwen was right about her brother; Damon was indeed very good with his wand, good enough to give Eric pause during their verbal battles in the past. Although Anna was correct in assuming she had every right to be in the Dueling Hall, she was also very concerned about having to duel with anybody without the magical knowledge to protect herself. Why would Thordarson put her in here as unprepared as she obviously was?

“Uh-oh,” Gwen said, bumping Anna’s leg with her knee. “Look over there –– at two o’clock.” Anna looked up and her heart sank. In the first row of bleachers across the pit, sitting among a number of Defender girls, was none other than Debbie Dunning. She was laughing and talking like a celebrity with the students around her. Anna tried to sink low in her seat to avoid being seen.

“Oh, great,” Anna whispered to Gwen. “If she sees me, I’m dead.” No sooner had she said this, when one of the girls sitting next to Dunning saw Anna, and nudged Debbie with her shoulder to whisper something into her ear. Debbie’s head jerked up, and Anna’s blood went cold. She could see Debbie’s eyes searching the seats around them before finally settling upon her. The two girls stared each other for a moment, and then Debbie’s eyes narrowed with haunting anticipation. A malicious smile slowly began to form on her face as she raised her wand. She twirled it expertly between her fingers, and then pointed it at Anna across the pit. For the lack of knowing what else to do, Anna smiled and nodded back.

“You’re right,” said Gwen, mumbling out of the side of her mouth, “you’re dead.”

Anna looked back at her friend. “Do you know if there’s a rear exit out of here?” Gwen tried to smile, but a sudden bang at the entrance door brought their attention back to the center of the hall. Anna groaned again.

“It keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?” she said, sinking still lower on her bench. Captain Dunning had just entered the room. “Would you mind sitting on my lap so I can hide behind you?” Anna said, mournfully. Gwen looked at Anna, her face screwed up in understanding sympathy.

“Quiet down!” bellowed Captain Dunning before turning to face the class. “For a number of years now, I have been trying to convince the Chancellor that I would be the best instructor for this Dueling Club. I believe this, not only because of my experience as a Crimson Guard, but also because I have been watching this class very closely and believe your skills to be woefully lacking. Professor Bots might be a fabulous Muggle Studies teacher, and I believe he even has a number of dueling titles to his name, but I think it’s time we took this class to a new level.

“Well… good fortune has smiled upon you, because the majority of Professor Bot’s time this year is going to be spent preparing our school to receive the Triwizard Tournament, and I have been able to finally convince Professor Thordarson to allow me to take over. So… prepare yourselves. This hall has been striving to make you the best dueling students anywhere in the Wizarding world.” The captain paused to look at the students around him. “I,” he said, unwaveringly, “will make you better!”

Gwen leaned over to Anna. “A little full of himself, don’t you think?” Anna smirked.

“We will start with a couple of demonstrations after which I will give you my observations. Then you will pair up and practice what you’ve learned.” He paused importantly. “So — let’s have our first demonstration pair. For the benefit of those who are joining us for the first time, I need two volunteers who can impress us.” Several hands immediately shot into the air. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Smith,” Dunning said, shoving the hand of one of the Servers back down as he passed. “I said impressive, not repulsive.” The boy’s face went red as he flopped back into his seat and scowled, while some of the others in the class snickered.

“Let’s see,” said Dunning, still searching through the sea of raised hands. “Ah, yes –– Mister Riggins. You seem to have shown a reluctance to embarrass yourself recently. Get down here.” A fifth-year boy from the Searchers’ Union stood and, smiling broadly, began sliding past the knees and feet of the others as he headed for the stairs. “And one more…” Dunning continued, looking around at Anna’s side of the room. “Ah… but of course… Grayson. Get down here!” Anna’s heart jumped into her throat. She looked up, expecting to see Dunning pointing at her, but instead she saw the Captain motioning into the crowd to her right where her brother Damon was now sitting in the front row. Although his hand had not been raised, Damon nodded agreeably and then stood.

“Let’s put that family honor of yours to the test, shall we?” Captain Dunning sneered.

Damon hesitated slightly to give Dunning his patented scowl and, grumbling under his breath, began pushing his way to the stairs. The two boys made their way down to the pit below and then stood facing each other on opposite ends of the long, sand-filled hallway. The images in the portraits behind them began to whisper instructions to the boys.

“Keep your wand high in the beginning, and thrust the hex forward with the force of your body and your mind,” the portrait on the left whispered to Riggins. The boy nodded appreciatively.

“Oh this is going to be good,” Gwen said, looking at Anna. “I dated Donald Riggins a few weeks last year. He’s such an arrogant ass.”

Anna smiled. “Maybe the two of them will hex each other into oblivion then,” she said, grinning.

“Let’s hope so,” Gwen replied, looking down at the two boys with eager anticipation. “Maybe I can sneak a shot in unnoticed.” She took out her wand and then looked around at the other students sitting behind them. “Anybody know the jinx for rectal-cranial inversions?”

“Forward!” called Dunning, and the boys took ten steps toward each other and then halted. “Wands… at the ready!” The boys raised their wands and crouched low to take careful aim at one another. Anna started to snicker. Damon looked like a chimpanzee standing with both arms outstretched over his head. Anna leaned over to say something about Damon’s stance to Gwen, but quickly realized her friend wasn’t laughing. She, like everybody else in the hall, looked positively enthralled at what was about to happen.

“On my command!” Dunning bellowed. There was a long pause as the room turned deadly still. “Begin!”

“Incursiosultus!” yelled Damon, thrusting his wand forward just as the Riggins boy screamed, “Exarmo!” from the opposite end. A bright flash of red light exploded out of Damon’s wand and streaked its way toward his opponent, while a bright white light shot out of Riggins’ wand and headed toward Damon. As the beams blasted down the center of the pit, Anna could feel her hair rising on her head as the power of the two spells crossed in front of her.

Damon was hit first. He let out a loud, “Oooff!” as the spell hit him in the chest and knocked him ten feet back into the sand. Riggins was hit too. The force of the blow looked like he was struck with the blunt end of a telephone pole. He crashed into the portrait behind him and toppled into the sand below.

“Get up!” the portrait behind Riggins yelled. “Your opponent rises!” Sure enough, Damon was on his feet again and marching forward.

“Everbero!” yelled Damon. A flash of orange shot out from his wand. Riggins was still trying to get to his feet when he saw the hex coming.

“Repellatego!” he screamed. Instantly, a shield of faded blue flattened in front of him just in the nick of time. Damon’s spell bounced off the shield with a loud gong, and then streaked its way back in the direction from which it came. Damon dove head long into the sand, his own hex just missing him by inches. “Incendia!” yelled Riggins again, who waved his wand like a whip over his head, and then jumped out to cast the spell forward. A thin beam of fire shot across the hall. Daman rolled across the sand as the hex smashed into the pit behind him. A cloud of brunt ash shot into the air blocking Damon momentarily from sight. There was a pause.

“Scindoeverbero!” Damon yelled, and another beam of orange light shot out of the cloud toward Riggins, who looked more than ready. But halfway down the hall, Damon’s hex suddenly split itself in two. One of the beams continued to head toward Riggins, while the other abruptly turned upward and blasted out of sight into the endless ceiling above. Riggins dove to avoid the first half of the hex and then jumped to his feet again to point his wand at Damon. Suddenly, the second half of Damon’s hex came streaking down from out of the ceiling and struck Riggins in the shoulder of his wand hand. The blow seemed to flatten him strangely over his feet as his wand flew out of his grip. Damon was running forward. His face determined, he was moving in for the kill.

“STOP!” yelled Captain Dunning, and the crowd in the stands exploded into thunderous applause. Damon slowly lowered his outstretched arm as Riggins reached down to lift his wand out of the sand. Smiling, he ran toward Damon who was waiting in the center of the pit. Riggins stretched out and, rubbing his sore shoulder, he shook Damon’s hand.

“Unbelievable shot, Damon,” he said, swatting him hard on the back. “I hope it was a lucky one,” he added with a grin.

Damon smiled with forced politeness. “Thank you,” he replied simply. The crowd continued to applaud their approval, as did the portraits on either side of the hall.

“Very good,” said Captain Dunning, waving at the crowd to quiet them. “Congratulations to our duelers for a fine display of what this club is all about. There were, however, several mistakes I need to point out,” and Dunning went on to explain the errors he had witnessed in wand motion and movement.

Anna sat mesmerized. The excitement of the duel itself was enough to keep her awake for the next several nights, but it was Damon’s performance that was truly astonishing to her. Anna always knew Damon would be a very powerful wizard in some distant future, but she had no idea he was already so formidable. In all the times she had threatened her brother, confident she could easily hold her own, it was only now that she realized she never truly had any chance against him. As hard as it was for her to admit, Damon was dreadfully impressive.

“So, what do you think?” Gwen asked, leaning over to her. Anna looked up with a strained smile, which told Gwen everything she needed to know. She smiled back. “Don’t worry; everybody has that look the first time they see a duel. I like to think of it this way: Someday we’ll be just as good as they are.” Anna looked skeptical, but nodded anyway.

“All right then. That’s ten points for the Defender and Searcher Halls, and a winner’s mark for Mister Grayson. Now then, let’s have another demonstration pair,” said Captain Dunning. Once again, several hands shot into the air. “Debbie, get down here!” Debbie Dunning, smiling eagerly, stood and headed toward the stairs. One of the girls sitting next to Debbie yelled something at the Captain through a cupped hand, and Anna saw him straighten and then quickly spin around to look to her side of the hall. His eyes began searching the stands and finally found Anna sitting in the crowd. His face turned cold.

“You!” he said, pointing at Anna. Terror shot through Anna’s body like an electric shock, which immediately seemed to turn her whole world inward onto itself. There were people talking right next to her, but their voices began to fade in and out like a badly tuned radio. Her limbs felt strangely foreign, stiff, and slow, too heavy to move. She could hear her heart booming like a cannon in her ears, which seemed to drown out Captain Dunning’s words.

“Let’s get the other Grayson down here, shall we?”

Damon, who was still making his way back to his seat through a gauntlet of congratulatory handshakes, suddenly stiffened. “Captain Dunning,” he said, looking down into the pit. “My sister is only a first-year, sir. As you know, first-years are not supposed to be in the Dueling Hall. She shouldn’t be in her seat, let alone in the pit. She is ill-prepared to duel anybody, sir.” There was a murmur of surprise and agreement in the crowd, as everybody strained their necks to look Anna’s way. Captain Dunning merely smiled.

“Normally, Mister Grayson, I would agree with you, but it would seem our knowledgeable Chancellor does not. He must believe our first Guardian deserves to be here… so who are we to argue with such wisdom? Sit down, Mister Grayson.”

“But, sir!” Damon protested.

“I said — sit down!” the Captain bellowed, and Damon slowly sank onto his bench. If not for the fact that Damon was arguing against her having to duel, Anna would have enjoyed seeing her brother rebuked, but not this time.

“Now, Miss Grayson, if you would be so kind,” said Dunning, motioning Anna toward the stairs. Anna didn’t move. Her mind and her body seemed strangely disconnected from each another.

“Anna?” Gwen whispered, nudging her friend as if to wake her. “Anna! Are you… all right?” Gwen glared at the boy sitting on Anna’s right. “Help me!” Gwen whispered to him angrily.

Looking somewhat uncomfortable, the boy reached out and gave Anna a timid poke on the leg. The touch of a stranger did what Gwen’s prodding could not, and Anna reluctantly stood.

“You did bring your wand, didn’t you?” asked Gwen, with a look of impending foreboding. Anna reached into her robes and, with a trembling hand, pulled out her purple heart. Gwen looked terrified for her friend. “Listen, Anna, if a spell hits you, just drop your wand and the Captain will have to stop the duel. Do you understand? Just drop your wand, Anna.”

Anna didn’t answer her. Her throat was too dry to speak, and Gwen had to give her a gentle push in the direction of the stairs to get her moving again. As Anna passed Damon, he kept his eyes straight, never flinching as she went by him. She was grateful. She expected him to repeat his warning that she shouldn’t have been in the Hall in the first place. Now Anna wished she had listened. After what felt like her last walk to the gallows, Anna entered the pit and stood in the spot directed to her by the wizard dueler in the portrait.

“Did I hear the gentleman correctly, my dear? Are you –– in fact… an egg?” asked the painting, speaking to her with a thick Irish brogue. Anna’s mouth was still too dry to speak. She simply nodded back. “Do you have a properly practiced spell you can use in your defense?” Anna stared blankly up at the portrait. “Do you know a spell of any kind?” he asked, frowning down at her. Anna’s eyes moved to meet his, her face twisting into a kind of smiling grimace. She mouthed the word –– no.

“By the bloody hills of Knockcroghery, this is without precedence!” He straightened to glare down at her. “Shoulders back, lass,” he said, lifting his chin encouragingly. “This battle may be short, but yer manner of fight will set in the minds of those watching the struggle. Courage, and fast feet, will win you support even if you falter.”

Maybe it was the confidence in his voice, but something in his words seemed to throw a switch inside Anna’s brain. It reminded her of something Karen Scott had said back in the Server Hall. You have to somehow show the rest of the students a reason to follow you. And then an idea came to her. If she couldn’t protect herself, then perhaps a strong display of bravery in the face of such long odds might come to something positive. Anna looked up and smiled gratefully at the portrait, her face reflecting more determination.

“Thanks,” she said, simply. The portrait smiled back at her.

“I see courage in yer eyes, lass. I accept you then as my Squire in the battle to come. Hold on to who you are, and if yer cause be noble, others will flock to yer side.” Anna nodded, and then turned to face Debbie at the other end of the hall. To her surprise, Debbie wasn’t even looking at her. She was laughing and talking eagerly to her friends who were giving her suggestions for a first strike. Debbie’s portrait behind her was trying to get her attention, looking desperately to offer his own words of advice, but he was being ignored. Finally, Anna could see the image in the portrait turn away, folding his arms in obvious indignation at Debbie’s rudeness toward him. Anna stood there staring down the long sand-filled corridor, and she realized how difficult it would be to hit anybody with a spell at this distance even if she knew one. Damon’s ability to hit his opponent in the arm with a disarming spell seemed, if possible, even more impressive than the moment she saw it happen. Captain Dunning broke her gaze as he stepped in front of her.

“So Grayson… are we now ready to receive some payment for our past sins?” he growled, in an undertone of deep malice. Anna didn’t reply. She tried to stare straight through him as though he wasn’t there. “What’s the matter? Are we too frightened to speak as before? Maybe you would feel more comfortable if I replaced your wand with something more suited to your talents… the club of a troll, perhaps?” Anna’s eyes shot up to meet his. She could feel her face flush as her insides began to seethe with rage.

“Disgraceful!” protested the portrait behind Anna. “Yer distractions of my Squire are without honor, sir!” he said, glaring down at Captain Dunning. The Captain smiled and then looked up.

“I’m just giving the student encouragement before the contest,” he said, coolly.

“That, my good Captain, is my job!”

“I’ll be fine,” Anna said, in a whisper almost too low to hear. Dunning looked at her.

“What was that?”

“I said –– I’ll-be-fine. What’s the matter Captain, something wrong with your ears?” and Anna leaned to look at the spot on the side of Dunning’s head where she had hit him. Dunning’s eyes flashed as he stepped closer.

“There-it-is. I knew I would find it soon enough. That infamous forked tongue is waggling again. Perhaps I’ll have my sister rip it out of that pretty little head of yours.” He quickly turned and strode across the pit toward Debbie. He began to whisper something behind a cupped hand into her ear, and Anna could see Debbie’s face forming a wicked smile as she turned her eyes toward her. A few of the students in the audience started to heckle at the Captain’s obvious bias as he continued to whisper to his sister.

“Unconscionable behavior!” protested Anna’s portrait. “Giving advice in the pit without the portrait overseer’s inclusion is a grievous breech of protocol.” Anna looked up and could see Debbie’s portrait swaying side to side in his frame, struggling to hear what was being said between the Captain and Debbie. “This is, without a doubt, a most disgusting display of judging bias. We are up against those of sinister heart, my noble Squire.”

“Yeah… tell me about it,” replied Anna, as some of the hecklers around them started to jeer and boo.

The captain finally whipped about to walk to the side of the pit. “Forward!” he yelled, and the jeers from the audience quickly fell silent. Anna and Debbie started to walk toward one another.

“A stout heart, lass, and quick feet!” called Anna’s portrait behind her.

After taking a few steps, which Anna didn’t bother to count, Debbie stopped. Anna halted in front of her fifty feet away. Anna glanced to her left and saw Damon sitting board straight, both hands on the rail in front of him, with a look of surprising concern in his eyes. Gwen was peeking through the fingers of her hands covering her face.

“Wands at the ready!” shouted Dunning. Debbie planted her right foot forward and pointed her wand at Anna. Anna raised her wand. It’ll be over in a second, she thought. Think about Eric and Daddy, and how fearless they are. Come on… show some backbone, Grayson.

“Begin!” bellowed Dunning, and Anna closed her eyes and waited for the spell to hit her. She waited… and waited… but nothing happened. Finally, Anna slowly opened one of her eyes to look down the pit. Debbie was still standing there, her wand pointed and at the ready. Anna opened both of her eyes and stared down the long bed of sand between them. Even from this distance, Anna could see Debbie was smiling. The crowd was still; so quiet, that when someone finally moved in their seat, somebody let out a quick “Ssshhh!” in response. The two girls stood there staring at each other, and then it occurred to Anna what Debbie was doing. She was giving Anna the first shot, an opportunity to cast the first spell before pouncing on her. Anna’s mind was racing. What should she do? What spell could she use that might help her? She finally decided on the only spell she had ever used in Professor Titan’s class. She stretched out her wand.

“Relashio!”yelled Anna. Instantly, purple sparks shot out of her wand and headed toward Debbie. Then, about halfway across the pit, the jet of sparks turned abruptly up toward the dark ceiling and exploded harmlessly into the blackness above them. The crowd in the stands started to howl with laughter. Debbie was also giggling maliciously at Anna’s failure. She finally straightened and then stepped forward.

“My turn…” she said, pointing her wand. “Reducto!” A burst of red light shot out of her wand and headed toward Anna. It hit her square in the chest and propelled her back, slamming her body into the portrait behind her. Anna fell to the sand and crumbed into a heap.

“A strong grip –– hold on to yer wand, lass,” called her portrait. Anna looked up to spit the sand out of her mouth and could see, to her surprise, that she indeed still held the purple heart in her white-knuckled grip. She tried to get to her feet, but Debbie was moving forward again.

“Everbero!” she bellowed. Another blow hit Anna in the chest, sending her flying back against the wall again. She slid down onto her knees, her back leaning against the cold stone behind her, and the crowd gasped in horror at the violence of the blow.

Anna was fighting to remain conscious. Clutching her wand tight, she could hear Gwen’s words running through her mind. Just drop your wand and the Captain will stop the duel. But then another voice streamed into her head: Yer manner of fight will set in the minds of those watching you. Anna tried to stand, but was hit again by another spell. Her head exploded in pain as she fell into the sand once more.

“Give it up Grayson,” taunted Debbie from across the pit. Anna slowly raised her face out of the sand, her eyes blurred in agony. She pushed herself slowly up to her knees again and then raised her wand defiantly toward Debbie. Anna didn’t say anything – she didn’t know what to say. She was helpless before her foe. Another blast slammed into her, which spun her around. She hit the wall with her front, the hex burning straight through to her back and she felt her wand finally slide from her hand. In the far off distance she could hear the wavering voice of the portrait calling to her in a most sympathetic and gentle tone.

“Yer courage has served us well, my brave Squire. Let the wand lie, yer fight is done.” But something flashed in Anna’s brain. My wand! My mother’s wand! Shaking, Anna looked down and saw the end of the purple heart sticking out of the sand by her feet. Summoning all her strength, she reached down and grabbed its handle. She quickly turned and used the wall at her back to hold herself up.

“Remarkable!” whispered the portrait. Anna could feel the coldness of the stones to her back and against hands, which lay limp to her sides.

“Drop the wand, Grayson,” Debbie demanded, raising her own wand at her again. Anna’s breath was short and rapid; her head was spinning. She could see what looked like three opponents blurring in and out of focus in front of her. “I said, drop it!” Debbie screamed, piercingly. Anna tried to force her eyes clear, and then clutched her wand defiantly with both hands against her chest. Debbie’s face lit with anger. “Fine! Have it your way!” She raised her arm, “Reducto!” Another burst of red light shot toward Anna, just as a loud voice screamed into her mind.

“DUCK!”

Anna did as she was told just in time, and Debbie’s spell struck the wall exactly where she had been standing the second before. Anna reached her hand back to touch the wall behind her. The warning had come from the stones.

“Your enemy is approaching,” they whispered in unison. “Down!” they yelled into her brain.

Anna dropped again. Another hex bounced off the wall above her, but as the seconds passed Anna’s head was starting to clear once more. She staggered to her feet in time to see Debbie sending more hexes toward her. She ducked again and then dove to the right, following the warnings coming from the stones. Finally, another spell hit her and she collapsed.

“Drop it! Debbie yelled.

“Nooo.” Anna gurgled defiantly.

“Oh, this is ridiculous,” Debbie said in frustration. “All right, if you won’t drop it, then I’ll just take it from you. Wingardium Leviosa!”

Immediately, Anna was lifted off her feet and turned upside down. Debbie began flicking her wand with her wrist, which bounced Anna up and down in the air. Some of the students in the crowd started to laugh as Anna’s skirt toppled to her waist, and she could hear Gwen screaming at the Captain with several others to stop the duel. Anna’s grip weakened, and her wand fell to the sand below her. Her humiliation complete, Anna was dropped on her head to the sound of Debbie’s cold, pitiless laugher. Completely blinded by sand and pain, Anna’s hands flew across the ground in a desperate attempt to find her wand once more.

“Captain Dunning!” yelled Damon, who was now on his feet. “This match is over. Anna has lost her wand twice, but you have not stopped this duel,” he protested.

Captain Dunning gave a gratifying smirk. “It doesn’t look to me like she wants to give up. Look at her groveling on her hands and knees. She looks like a little pig, rooting for its…”

“Captain!” raged Damon.

“Sit –– down, Grayson, or I’ve have you removed” Damon slowly dropped into his seat again as Anna found her wand and then tried to stand.

Expelliarmus!” yelled Debbie, and Anna’s wand was unexpectedly jerked out of her hand. Accio Wand!” The purple heart flew end over end toward Debbie and landed in the sand next to her feet. “Finally!” she quipped triumphantly as she reached down to pick up the wand.

Anna was left stunned, shocked by a sight strangely repulsive to her. It was as if Anna had no other possessions worth caring about but that which was now being examined in Debbie Dunning’s insufferable hands.

“Give… me… my… wand!” Anna demanded, heaving herself up to stand. Debbie looked up in surprise, and then her face turned cold.

“What, you mean this foul thing?” she replied with a glint of evil in her eye and waving Anna’s wand between her fingers.

“Give it to me!” Anna screamed. Debbie’s face went slack.

“No.”

Anna started marching toward Debbie across the pit, her eyes focused on her mother’s wand in Debbie’s hand. “Give it to me, NOW!” There were jeering sounds now coming from the crowd, which seemed to be directed toward Debbie.

“Well, if it means that much to you…” Debbie snorted, “maybe I’ll just break it in half.” Anna stopped dead in her tracks.

“You will return my mother’s wand to me, or I swear, I’ll…”

“Or you’ll what?” Debbie retorted, her expression now turning angry.

“Give it to me!”

“No… I’m going to snap it in half,” and she raised her wand at the purple heart.

“NO!” Anna screamed, and she began to run toward her.

Debbie looked up at Anna coming at her. At first she seemed rather surprised, but then smiled as she lifted her wand again. Rictusempra!”

Another jet of light streaked its way toward Anna, but all hesitation within the Guardian had left her. Her body felt different – light and powerful, and Debbie’s movements looked as if they were suddenly moving in slow motion. Anna growled in determination as she continued to move forward toward the beam of Debbie’s hex coming directly at her. At the last possible moment Anna stopped, twisted to her side, and watched the hex streak by her chest missing her. Anna quickly turned and continued to march toward the thing still holding her wand.

“Give – it – back!” Anna snarled. Debbie’s face fell.

“Reducto!” Another hex was coming toward Anna, and although she was now closer to Debbie, the spell coming at her seemed even slower than the first. Anna twisted her body to the left and let the hex pass within inches of her face. She snapped straight again, and continued pressing in on her foe. Debbie was falling back now. “Impedimenta!” she screamed, taking two steps back. “Impedimenta!” She stepped back again. “Impedimenta!!” She was now continuously moving backwards, trying without success to increase her distance.

Anna twisted right. SHKEWW. The hex shot by her.

She took four steps closer to Debbie and then ducked again. SHKEEEWW. The hex streaked over her head. She popped up and took another five steps.

“GIVE-IT-BACK!” Anna roared, before diving to the left. SHHREWWW –– missed again.

Anna rolled twice, sprung to her feet, and then started to race toward the thing that now seemed as prey to her, and for the first time since she had entered the pit, Debbie looked fearful. Try as she may to keep her back, Anna was now nearly on top of her. The Guardian’s movements didn’t seem human anymore, but more like those of a wild animal closing in for the kill.

“Get back!” Debbie screamed. “Stupefy!”

Anna leaped at Debbie just as the hex exploded beneath her. In mid-air, Anna pulled back a fist and shot an open palm forward. The sound of the blow echoed all the way up to the topmost bleachers as the thickest part of Anna’s hand smashed into Debbie Dunning’s horrified face. The two wands she was holding flew in opposite directions as Debbie’s body slammed backward into the sand. Anna hit the ground, rolled once, and was on her feet again sprinting to her right. With barely a thought, she snatched up the purple heart and circled back to close on Debbie, who was crawling across the sand toward her wand. Anna could smell the trail of blood she was leaving in the sand behind her. Debbie grabbed her wand and rolled over, swinging her arm around to take desperate aim at Anna, but she was too slow. Anna swatted her wand to the side, grabbed her by the robes, and lifted her head off the sand. Dunning’s face was a mess. Her nose looked broken and was bleeding freely down both sides of her head. Debbie could hear Anna’s voice mixed with a low, growling rumble, snarling down at her.

“You enjoyed that didn’t you, Debbie?” Anna snapped the girl’s face still closer. “You love causing pain in others, don’t you? Well now let’s see how much you can take!” Debbie looked up and her eyes widened in horror. Anna’s eyes were completely black, her teeth fanged with rage. Debbie screamed as Anna pulled back an open fist that spread itself like a claw ready to strike.

“FOUL!” shouted a voice from behind, and Anna was grabbed by the back of the neck and thrown to the side. It was Captain Dunning. In a fit of rage, he began screaming at her. “You do not put your hands on an opponent in the pit, Grayson! This is not one of your disgusting Muggle brawls!” Anna scrambled to her feet, but remained crouched low in the sand, snarling at him.

“Detention!” bellowed the Captain.

Anna’s brow darkened as she slowly stood, never taking her eyes off of Debbie who was still sobbing in the sand.

The Captain leaned down over his sister. “Get up!” he whispered, rudely yanking her to her feet. “You!” he said, pointing at another Defender in the bleachers, “take her to the hospital floor!” The Captain shoved his sister into the arms of some of Debbie’s friends and then spun around to glare back at Anna. “And you –– get out of this hall –– NOW!” Anna let out a low growl that seemed to come from the dungeons deep beneath her feet. She pocketed her wand and brushed the sand off her robes as she watched Debbie being escorted off the pit.

“She isn’t human,” Debbie sputtered and spat. “Did you see her face? DID YOU SEE HER FACE?” she whimpered, holding her bloodied nose.

Anna snapped her robes straight around her neck and then turned to leave. As she plodded through the sand, her steps seemed heavier than during the fight, but these thoughts were quickly set aside as she heard something strange filling the hall around her. It was applause. Anna stopped and looked around. To her great surprise, nearly everybody in the wooden bleachers surrounding her was on their feet and clapping loudly.

“Silence!” roared Captain Dunning. “I said, SILENCE!!”

Anna grinned and then turned to leave, pausing slightly at the portrait above her as she headed for the door. The portrait overseer was also clapping toward her with his wand tucked up under his arm and a look of utmost pride painted on his brightened face.

“A strong display of courage and steely determination, my fine Squire; you have done well. Allow me to call you to my side when battle-ready champions are in greatest need.”

Anna grinned casually, nodded once, and then exited the pit.


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