The Simmering Unknown - Part II
Chapter 16 - Emancipated Minor - The Simmering Unknown - Part II
Harry glowered over at Severus, but the older wizard was now facing Malfoy Sr. on a narrow strip of concrete surface that informally designated their dueling zone. Both wizards walked backward ten paces further before bowing to each other. Their wands raised simultaneously and visual mayhem instantly ensued. Flares of crackling reflections on the transparent movement from their magic, combined with savage zips and pops that seemed to slice through the air, left no question as to the ferocity of the power behind each spell. This went on for several moments, with Harry having no idea what types of spells were being cast, as neither wizard was chanting or speaking them aloud. He watched with his mouth open as Severus cast a silent spell that caused a visible flash of magic to zoom at Lucius with breakneck speed. The blond wizard swept his wand in an arc, yielding a shield that turned Severus' magic into a swirl of white feathers, which collected together to form a set of birdless wings that flapped back towards Severus menacingly. Severus snorted in amusement and cast a silent blasting hex that sent the feathers upward, and with a spectacular poof, the whole mass exploded all around them.
"That one was a tribute to you, Harry," Lucius called out.
"Very funny," Harry griped, ignoring the confused look Draco gave him and glaring at Malfoy Sr. who was currently smiling broadly in spite of his intense concentration.
The duel resumed, now with each wizard much more fiercely intending to best his opponent. Harry quickly realized they were studying each other's wand movements and responding in kind. For the next few minutes, both Severus and Lucius stood in a similar posture, one foot slightly more forward than the other. The leading foot matched the hand that held the wand, their eyes trained along the line of their extended wand arm. Harry realized then that Severus was left handed, as both wizards were turned slightly with this stance, bodies facing their audience while their wand arms seemed to be mutually suspended from the same tether. Their free arms were used intermittently to craft the force of their spells.
Harry came out of his reverie when Severus suddenly dove behind a large boulder to dodge a spell that flashed a rush of fiery wind past where he'd just stood. He would have been badly singed, at the very least, if it had made contact. From behind the large rock, Severus cast a spell that reminded Harry of a patronus, but it yielded a huge bear-like creature that, while only an apparition, seemed to be capable of ripping real flesh apart. The large animal bounded rapidly around the boulder and charged directly at Lucius, whose responding expression nearly made Harry forgive him for the feather taunt. How can someone come across as cool and terrified simultaneously? he wondered inwardly. Lucius had about half of a split second to react with a hex that caused the bear to roll off of his feet and into a horizontal spiral. The non corporeal animal's roar of rage was terrifying, and the already elevated thrum of Harry's adrenaline shot up exponentially as Lucius slowed the spiral down and stopped it altogether, putting the bear back on all fours and sending it back to Severus, who by now had moved over to take cover behind a row of large tree trunks that they'd earlier set out to emulate a forest setting.
"Bugger!" Harry muttered, inching forward in his seat, unable to take his eyes off of the match.
"Told you!" Draco returned, equally wound up and focused on his father's and godfather's activities.
The bear charged toward Severus, who bought himself time to strategize as he scooted backward to put first one tree, then another, between himself and the snarling animal. Finally he slashed his wand in a motion that yanked the animal's feet from beneath it, as if it had been hogtied, and dragged it back along the ground to Lucius in a freakish visual display that was once again accented with terrible roars. The ties released and the animal was now upright on its hind legs, head thrust forward towards Lucius' blanched face, letting out a snarl of rage that, accompanied by drops of foaming apparition-saliva, actually made Lucius take a step backward and gulp down a reflexive yell. He seemed to come to his senses quickly, however and let out a snarl of his own as he called out, "Enough of the bloody bear!"
A slash of his wand later and the bear was exploding into crackling wisps of magic that settled to the ground like burning shards of translucent paper, and faded from view. Now Lucius charged after Severus and the spells they cast looked more like gunfire than curses. Harry lost track of who cast what, blinking his eyes and trying to keep focus on both the wizards and the magical rips- and tears-through-reality that flew between them as they dodged and darted around the boulders and trees. Finally everything came to a halt when Severus fell to the ground and let out a yelp of real pain.
Harry jumped to his feet, heart in his throat. He charged over to where his potions professor lay on his side, hand reaching back to grip his hamstring muscle.
"You and your bloody muscle cramping hex," Severus seethed between clenched jaws at Malfoy Sr.
"That beast was completely over done, Severus," Lucius chided, as he cast a spell that must have released the cramp, because Severus suddenly appeared to be fine. Lucius held out a hand and pulled Severus to his feet.
"He had you trembling in your boots," Severus taunted with a smirk. He looked over at Harry. "Don't use the bear with your students." Harry laughed shakily.
"I win," Lucius said triumphantly, and overtly tauntingly at Severus. "Who's next? Remus?"
"Oh, absolutely," Remus said from behind Harry.
Harry spun around to see Remus had shucked his robes and now stood in a sloppy, but form fitting jumper and jeans, wand dancing between the fingers of his right hand as he twirled it like a drumstick. He had a gleam in his eye that Harry had never seen before. He wasn't nearly as undernourished as Harry had imagined him to be, and suddenly the last of the true Marauders looked pretty damned capable. Harry grinned at him, and the corners of Remus' mouth quirked upward in response, but the rest of him was ready for action.
Harry felt Severus' hand on his neck as they headed back to the stadium seating. "Are you alright, Severus?" Harry asked.
"I am," Severus replied as he broke away from Harry to be seated beside his godson. "I'm not happy to have lost the match, but otherwise, I am fine." His tone told Harry that he was already anticipating all of Harry's questions and comments. "You'll have to save your feedback for later, young man."
Harry smiled to himself. He was having difficulty deciding which of the two adult Slytherins he considered the stronger wizard, and now Remus was added to the mix. It was a completely unlikely event, and Harry could only sit there with a goofy grin on his face as he watched it continue to play out.
Remus and Lucius bowed and raised their wands. Harry flashed a glance at Tonks and saw that she had a gleam of her own in her eyes that he wouldn't have equated to anything to do with the duel. Chuckling to himself, he badly wished that Ron and Hermione, and the twins for that matter, were seeing this with him. Attention back on the match, he watched Remus cast the first hex that seemed to actually make contact with Lucius, if the pulse of wavering air, that looked something like the way steam billowed over a boiling pot, as it swept around the blond wizard, was what had induced a wince of discomfort and subsequent growl of fury from Lucius.
Harry watched in thrilled anticipation as Remus took a few casual steps backward in response to Lucius' aggressive stomps in his direction and the ferocity of spell casting began. For every slice of Lucius' wand, there was a countering swipe through the air by Remus. Lucius seemed to be targeting Remus' feet with the next series of hexes he hurled, Harry realized. He grinned in awed amazement as Remus dove to the side, rolled easily and was back on his feet, leaping lithely onto the largest boulder and now hurling his own hexes downward onto Lucius in a way that forced the blond wizard to defend, rather than aggress. When Lucius finally was able to cast a pulse of forceful magic that would have blown Remus across the room, the werewolf jumped upward and outward, somersaulting through the air to land nearly perfectly on his feet on the far side of the boulder where he was now shielded from Lucius' spells.
Harry shot a look at Draco. "Bet you won't complain about him teaching us this term, will you?" he asked, his smile so wide it was starting to hurt his cheeks. He caught a smile on Severus' face as well, but couldn't be sure what had put it there. The sight distracted him for a few moments before a loud blasting hex hitting a tree trunk and causing it to crack! quite loudly turned Harry's attention back to the duel. He'd missed it, but it appeared that both wizards had cast spells simultaneously that had collided and diverted into the tree. "Bloody hell!" he couldn't help but blurt out, as now both Remus and Lucius were racing around, darting between trees as they fired spell after spell at each other. Remus had just leapt up onto another boulder, only to have to somersault off of it when Lucius blew it apart.
Tonks' hand gripped Harry's arm. He shot her a look and saw that she still had that gleam.
"Pays to have access to your primal side, I'd say," she commented, eyes never leaving the arena before them.
"The upside of being a werewolf, you mean?" Harry grinned.
Tonks wobbled her eyebrows at him.
"Gah!" Harry snapped his attention back to the match as this time Lucius fell to the ground, gripping the back of his thigh the way Severus had done earlier. Remus released the spell immediately, and Lucius jumped to his feet, bowing as he conceded defeat.
The audience all left their seats to close in around the duelists. Remus smirked at both Lucius and Severus, using his professor's tone as he directed his comment to Harry and Draco, "A perfect example, boys, of learning from your opponents, is to utilize their own crafty spells against them."
"That was really, really brilliant," Harry said to all three of the older wizards. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from gushing out his excitement at what he'd seen, but his mind was racing with ideas to use in the DA. He had questions for each of them. "I think the most impressive part is how adept you all are and blocking non-verbal magic."
Lucius wiped the sweat from his brow with a conjured towel as he regarded both of the teenagers at length. "Have you two made any agreement that could constitute a truce between you?"
Harry and Draco glanced at each other. "Yes, sir," Harry said.
"Harry, I am most urgent when I ask that you make concessions for Draco and some of his friends, based on the influences of their parents," Lucius said meaningfully. "The danger is still just as dire, it has simply changed its face, understand? There will be unrest among the children of Death Eaters when the realization that the Dark Lord has disappeared again actually takes hold. I've no idea how long it will be before word spreads. But Draco will need your alliance, Harry. I am hopeful that you will be able to manage it."
Harry nodded slowly. "But it goes a lot farther than just Draco and me, sir. There's a lot of bad feeling between a lot of Slytherins and Gryffindors."
"Indeed," Lucius agreed. "But in the end, those bad feelings are mostly manufactured nonsense and parroted sentiments that were overheard at home. It's time for your fellows to actually conclude for themselves where they stand on matters."
"I am going to stop antagonizing you, Potter," Draco said softly. "Like you said earlier, I'll try if you try."
"Fine then," Harry responded guardedly. "I'll try to persuade my housemates to start fresh, and leave the past in the past with the new year." He looked over at Severus. "What am I going to tell people has happened? It seems like no one realizes that Voldemort's gone. If I start telling them he is, I'll just come off as a liar again. First I said he was back, now I'm claiming he's gone again..."
"Let's wait until the students return to decide, Harry," Severus answered. "I realize you will tell your inner circle about what occurred, but perhaps it will need to remain undiscussed beyond them, for a time. Things are changing moment by moment, as we've both experienced this past week alone. We'll make a decision on Sunday morning, alright?" He turned his onyx eyes on Draco. "You will follow the same discretion as Harry within our House. You know best which of your peers would be relieved to hear the news, verses those who would decide to act out."
Draco nodded. He darted his eyes over to Harry. "At least all of your housemates are against the Dark Lord, Potter."
"Or at least that's what I've always assumed," Harry said.
The odd assembly of friends/foes grew quiet. Lucius checked his watch and jerked his head for Draco to follow him. "Come, son, let's not keep your mother waiting for us to return for dinner," he said, glancing around to make eye contact with everyone. "Have a good evening, each of you."