Emancipated Minor

Defense - Part I

Chapter 28 - Emancipated Minor - Defense - Part I

Severus walked Harry back to his common room, speaking softly as he said, "I don't recall you giving Madam Chase any significant details about your upbringing."

"I didn't," Harry said, "and I'm worried about what could have happened to her."

"Leave that to me. I will check on her," Severus said, checking his watch. "I hope you are feeling more at ease now?"

"Loads," Harry said, and meant it.

"Then I will admonish you to go straight to bed, as soon as you can manage it, Young Harry," he said. "Have a good sleep."

Harry felt cared about again, which translated to feeling less alone, which he used to bolster his courage to face his Housemates as he passed through the portrait entrance.

Ron and Hermione were still downstairs as promised, along with a very anxious looking Dean Thomas. Ginny and Neville were lingering nearby, as if testing the waters. The rest of those who were present made a point of redirecting their attention away from Harry, as if they didn't want to get caught watching him. Harry took a deep breath and went over to his friends, grabbing the open space between Neville and Ginny on the sofa. No one spoke at first, so he decided to address a slightly easier topic, at least for him.

"Earlier tonight, when Malfoy defended me against his fellow Prefect, he basically declared himself on the side of the Light to Pansy Parkinson and two other Voldemort groupies," he told them. While Hermione was nodding in agreement, Ron's eyes were narrowed as if he knew exactly where Harry was going. "The truth is, Malfoy is surrounded by people who actively threaten him, and who would probably not hesitate to really do him harm. Quite a few of the Slytherins are in that state."

"I. Hate. Him." Ron said emphatically. Dean and Ginny laughed, Neville smirked. Hermione had her shrewd eyes on Harry.

"He's good with a wand," Harry pointed out. "We could share spells, couldn't we?"

"Bloody hell, Harry!" Ron complained. "I can't believe you're doing this!"

"Hear me out, alright?" Harry said calmly. "I have some ideas about what I want us to practice, see?" He hunched forward, exhaustion forgotten for the moment, as he circled his gaze around at his friends. "Like what Lupin had us do in class, where we used annoying hexes and shields that were easy to cast. Defense isn't about magical strength, it's about keeping the upper hand in combat. Being unpredictable."

Now he had their attention. "That spell Malfoy used on me wasn't in our schoolbooks. I'll bet he knows a lot of others."

"That's a very Slytherin tactic, Harry," Hermione said, clearly impressed. "Flattery is a useful tool in some interactions."

"I'm not saying I want to offer him membership to the DA, yet." Harry yawned so hard his jaw popped. Everyone winced at the sound. "And on that note," he said with a chuckle, "I'm going to bed."

"Harry-" Dean said as everyone stood, but stopped himself when Harry shot him a look.

"I don't believe for a second that the Prophet actually interviewed the muggle social worker," Harry told Dean. "I've never complained to anyone about the Dursleys. So once again, they've printed a bunch of codswallop, for all they know. Let's go to sleep."

Herbology was fun the next morning. They were weeding their singing chrysanthemums, and separating them into altos and sopranos. Apparently, once separated, the seasonal blooms had a variety of healing properties that made them excellent potions ingredients, which varied by the notes they could reach. The process of grouping them by pitch required teasing them into song, which was hilarious. Many of his classmates were too inhibited to get started, but Harry couldn't resist teaching his plants to sing a song from his aunt's Golden Oldies radio station.

"Come on now, like this," Harry coaxed, "We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun." He looked around with a grin as his plants began to sing off key, off beat, and with garbled lyrics. He was getting unimpressed looks from the others. "Seasons in the Sun? No? Oh, it was a real chart topper back in its time." He turned back and got the plants on cue by singing the chorus again and soon they had a little harmony going. The only observers who were amused were Hermione and Professor Sprout.

"Five points to Gryffindor for reminding me of my younger days," Sprout said with a wink to Harry.

"Now I'm going to have that stupid song in my head," Anthony Goldstein griped at Harry.

But Harry was looking out the window, distracted by the sight of two little girls walking over the grounds, seemingly towards Hagrid's hut. One was that Dawlish girl, and the other looked about the same age, although not as small as Mabel. Neither of them should be on the grounds at this time of day, especially because all outdoor study for first and second years had been cancelled until further notice. Headmistress McGonagall wasn't taking any chances after Harry's scar had tingled when the unicorn had turned up dead.

No sooner had he pulled out his coin to sound an alert, than Lucius had appeared, stalking purposefully towards the girls and addressing them with hands on hips. Harry was too far away to hear what was being said, but by the way both girls were hanging their heads, he imagined they were being told off.

By now, Anthony saw them too. "That's Thora Breckin, she's in my House," he said annoyance. "What is she doing out of class like that? Second years should be in History of Magic right now."

"Yeah," Michael Corner said. "If she's going to skive off of class, she should at least spend the time somewhere less conspicuous."

Harry deflected questions about the Prophet article all day, alternating between ignoring them and glaring coldly at those who inquired. It eventually got results, so he was able to relax a bit by dinner, to which he deliberately arrived late in an effort to avoid conversation. Unfortunately, Friday's evening paper arrived as he was finishing his dessert. It had a small teaser that promised a more thorough background overview of Harry Potter in the Sunday edition.

Harry slapped the paper down with a groan of frustration as the Headmistress walked past the Gryffindor table.

"Mr. Potter, if you have a few moments, I'd like to speak with you," she said over her shoulder.

"Yes ma'am," Harry said, happy for the excuse to leave the table. He followed the Headmistress up to the office that Dumbledore used to utilize, and realized that it still had all of his things in place. Harry took a seat in the chair in front of her desk.

"He'll be back soon enough, Potter," McGonagall said to acknowledge his unspoken inquiry. "I haven't bothered to settle in." She smiled at him. "Now, how are you, Harry? Have you had any problems with the other students over the Prophet article? Or more likely, over You-Know-Who?"

"Not that much, surprisingly," Harry said. "Other than that run-in with the Slytherin girls yesterday. But Malfoy helped me out of it."

McGonagall nodded. "Yes. That was a positive surprise," she acknowledged. "And all of your other sources of stress? How are you managing those?" she asked.

"Like O.W.L.s?" Harry asked, not sure what she meant.

"Like Severus," she said with a smirk.

"Today is a new day, Professor," Harry said. He smiled slightly while she chuckled. He'd always been a little unsettled by her laughter, only because she was so stern so much of the time, but compared to Severus' prickly moods, she was a delight.

"I've had a soft spot for Severus Snape for years, but he is a very complex wizard," she said, clearly being diplomatic.

"Yes," Harry agreed, smiling more widely as he remembered how Severus had said that very thing about himself just last night. "But he's been really great, in spite of all of that."

"That's good to hear, Potter," McGonagall said. "I think it does him good to make room for you in his life. And you might just benefit from it as well."

"I already have." Harry said sincerely. Then he took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Professor, last term, Umbridge punished me for fighting with Malfoy by banning me from Quidditch," he started.

"I am well aware of that," McGonagall said, tilting her head and giving him a look that said he'd brought up a particularly awful memory.

"Well, she took my broom, too, and I don't think she should have been allowed to do that," Harry said. "I thought it might at least be worth asking about maybe getting it back. Sirius gave me that broom."

McGonagall nodded. "I'm working on reversing the ban, Harry. As for your broom, its return is up to the administrator of the school. That would be me."

Harry's eyebrows raised as his expression shifted from frustration to hope.

"Severus tells me you've gotten quite good at summoning charms," she said. "I believe you are familiar with the layout of Mr. Filch's office?" She smiled again when Harry nodded uncertainly. "Your broom is chained to the wall just above the file cabinets. Summon it here, right now, Mr. Potter, and you may have it back."

Harry grinned and pulled out his wand. He took a long moment to visualize the broom on Filch's wall, and then cast his charm, "Ferre Firebolt!" His beloved broom appeared on the broad surface of the Headmistress' desk. He swallowed down the sentimental lump in his throat and forced himself to relish the conquest, and the impressed expression on McGonagall's face.

At eight o'clock, Harry faced the DA, aware that Severus had walked in as he was calling them all to order. He shot a glance over his shoulder to acknowledge the potions master before addressing the group. "I'd like to welcome Professor Snape, who is here to observe and offer input if anyone needs it. We're not being graded, so relax." A few snickers could be heard, but for the most part, the group was too predisposed to being reserved in front of Professor Snape to comment further.

"Alright, so tonight we'll be practicing our contego shields. We'll begin by pairing up and taking turns casting simple hexes at our partners while they shield as fast as they can."

"What sort of hexes should we cast?" Michael Corner wanted to know.

Harry grinned. "Let's stick to basic ones that don't cause pain, and can be ended with a finite. I've got a couple of new ones to show you that I think we should all keep in our defense arsenals."

He taught them the mouthless charm that Draco had used in DADA that previous Monday and broke them into pairs to practice casting it a few times on their partners. It was hard to control the hysterical giggling that followed as half of the members lost their mouths behind a new lower half of their faces that was only skin and chin. The odd moaning of the mouthless students didn't help sober their laughter.

"Excellent," Harry called over the noise. "Finites, please." He waited while all of those with mouths intact ended the hexes on their partners. "Eyes up here again, everyone. The wand movements for the next hex are like this." He performed a downward diagonal slash that started from the upper left. "The incantation is, 'Bracchia iacto!'"

Harry monitored everyone again, laughing as much as they did at the silly predicaments they found themselves in as their arms went numb and they dropped their wands, completely unable to cast spells or defend themselves magically. From there, Harry set them all to practice their duels. "Only use the contego shield, though, no protegos. We don't want deflected hexes flying all around the room," he directed, and the group began casting with their partners immediately. Some of the third and fourth years needed more time to master the new hexes, which slowed down their dueling, but they each managed it eventually. Severus spent some time with the upper years, individually giving quiet suggestions on refining wand techniques. When Harry moved away from the youngest members, Severus took some time with them as well, giving each student a hint or correction to help them along.

Their hour ended quickly, and before he knew it, Harry was bidding everyone goodnight, and they were all clearing out of the Room of Requirement. As per usual, the students all clustered around Harry to thank him or tell him how great the lesson had been. When the majority of them had cleared out, Harry noticed Thora Breckin and Mabel Dawlish standing just down the corridor, gaping into the room.

Hufflepuff Prefect, Hannah Abbott rushed over to Mabel and took her hand. "Mabel, you shouldn't be out wandering around at this hour," she said sternly.

Mabel turned beet red, with a mortified expression on her face. Her eyes darted over to Harry.

Thora Breckin scowled as Anthony Goldstein marched over to her. "This is the second time today you've been out of bounds, Thora," he scolded, but she was unaffected.

"I'm hardly out of bounds. Besides, we've still got twenty minutes until curfew," she said in a rather snotty tone, clearly not impressed with the authority of an older student.

Severus stepped through the thinning crowd to get in front of the two girls, who each slowly and rather comically raised their startled eyes to meet his stern ones. "I'm doubtful I heard you correctly, Miss Breckin. Certainly neither of you would argue with your House Prefects when they are doing you the courtesy of looking after your well-being."

"No, sir," both girls said in unison.

"Then off with both of you," Severus said unrelentingly.

Harry frowned after them as they walked away, wondering if Mabel was in a bad situation with a dominating friend. But he had more pressing concerns that distracted him. "Well, sir, what did you think?" he asked Severus, mindful that Ron and Hermione were standing with them.

Severus directed his response to Harry, but acknowledged the other two teens with his eyes as he spoke, "I was quite impressed, and applaud your methods," he said, although with his reserved manner, it sounded like a comment, not praise. "If I were to offer any advice, it would be to continue as you are until the group has solidly mastered this technique. I would then suggest mastering a selection of spells that would render an opponent disabled, so that he or she is no longer a threat." He cast a glance at Hermione. "As Miss Granger demonstrated with the incarcerous charm on Pettigrew."

Hermione blinked at the unexpected recognition of her talent. "We saw Madam Umbridge use it against a centaur. It nearly strangled him," she said shakily.

"And rather than ask what in the world was going on that you were with the former High Inquisitor," this latter was said with the classic Snape disdain, "in the Forbidden Forest, I would again applaud the resourcefulness of utilizing your adversaries' tactics against them."

"Like Lupin did to Lucius with that leg cramping hex," Harry told Ron and Hermione, who were clearly off kilter from this tension-free discourse with their professor. He looked back at Severus. "Sir, could you show us a couple of spells? We have a few minutes, and the dummies are on hand to practice on."

"Very well," Severus agreed.

Severus indulging Harry to such an extent went a long way towards building an alliance with his friends. They had just enough time to learn the incantations and wand movements for a few defensive spells which would also prevent further assault by non lethally disabling their opponent.

"Professor, would you happen to know that disarming spell that Sirius used when he was fighting Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange at the Ministry?" Ron asked after a moment of hesitation. "Did you see that, by any chance?"

"I did," Severus revealed. He could tell Harry's thoughts were reverting back to that awful moment, but there was nothing he could do to shield the boy from his grief in that regard. "I do know the spell you refer to, and it may be more appropriate for Lupin to demonstrate it, as it was among the Marauder Classics, as they used to name their arsenal of manufactured spells."

"They made up their own spells?" Ron asked in shock. "Did you too, sir?"

Severus nodded. "I invented a number of my own," he revealed carefully. "I will admit that the students in my year at this school were particularly gifted. Many of the spells we invented made their way into common practice." He deflected further inquiry by checking the time.

"Will you show them the bear?" Harry asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Severus sighed an exaggerated, long suffering sigh, but then quickly cast the monster sized bear not too far away from Ron. It towered over the youngest Weasley male while snarling ferociously, foaming saliva spilling over it's jaws.

"Blimey!" Ron yelled.

"Finite!" Hermione squeaked, but her ending spell didn't work.

"Finem," Severus said loudly over the snarls of the not quite corporeal bear. He deliberately held his wand in full view to demonstrate the tiny spiraling movement required to cast the releasing charm. "The finem charm is effective on most of the darker spells, so keep that one in mind for moments such as these." He smirked at the two Prefects, who were struggling to compose themselves while Harry laughed nervously, still having been rattled again himself in spite of knowing what to expect.

"That should end a duel right then and there," Ron said as they made their way back towards the door.

"It had no real impact on Mr. Malfoy," Harry said.

"He'd seen it before," Severus admitted. "The first time I cast it in a duel, it did indeed render my opponent utterly paralyzed in fear, allowing me to gain full control. But, Harry, I do not wish to see a herd of bears terrorizing the school."

Harry laughed. "Don't worry, sir, we'll keep that one under wraps."

"Then I will bid the three of you goodnight," Severus said.

"Good night, Professor," Hermione said.

Ron mumbled an awkward goodnight, watching as Severus gave Harry's shoulder a squeeze before he walked away.

Harry had been watching Hermione, and could see she'd taken what she'd just learned and was racing miles and miles ahead in her mind. "Well, then, Professor Granger, when you've created some spells of your own for us to learn, we'll work them into the DA curriculum."

"Oh hush, Harry," Hermione said, but she was smiling, so Harry knew he'd guessed correctly.

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