Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.
Edited by Mellie Erdmann.
Chapter Eleven: The Dueling Club
Percy woke up on Sunday morning to the hospital wing full of crisp winter sunlight, his arm re-boned albeit stiff. Sitting up, he looked over at Colin's bed but it had been blocked from view by the high curtains drawn around it. Madam Pomfrey noticed he was awake and bustled over with a breakfast tray. While he messily ate porridge with his left land, she bent and stretched his arm and fingers.
"All in order," she told him once she was done. "When you've finished eating, you may leave."
Dressing quickly, Percy hurried down to the Potions classroom to see if any of the study group was there. He needed to tell them he was okay and about Dobby and Colin. To his relief and surprise all seven of the others were present.
"How's your arm?" asked Hermione.
"Fine," he replied as he sat down.
Draco apologized, "Some of us would have come to meet you, but we decided we needed to discuss the Chamber of Secrets more."
Percy realized that Hannah was standing by the blackboard, chalk in hand. Several categories had been put up: Suspects, Possible Monsters, Victims (Real and Possible), and Other.
"How do you guys already know about Colin?" Percy questioned, pointing at the Gryffindor's name under Mrs. Norris in the Victims column. Beneath their names was the term Muggleborns with a question mark after it.
"Ron and I heard Professor McGonagall telling Professor Flitwick this morning," explained Hermione. "That's why we decided we'd better get going…"
"The sooner we figure out what's going on the sooner things can get back to normal," agreed Daphne, putting her feet up on the table.
"Well, I'm hoping that you guys don't already know about Dobby's late night visit," snorted Percy. He then told his attentive audience all about Dobby's visit.
"So the Chamber of Secrets has been opened before," gulped Hermione.
With an apologetic look at Draco, Ron said, "How else would Dobby know so much about this unless Lucius Malfoy is behind this?"
Draco's shoulders slumped. "It's not looking good for my dad, is it?"
"No," admitted Neville.
"Before we figure out who…" Hannah underlined the term 'Possible Monsters' again. "We might want to figure out what."
"Maybe it can make itself invisible," suggested Hermione. "Or maybe it can disguise itself- pretend to be a suit of armor or something- I've read about Chameleon Ghouls-"
"You read too much, Hermione," grumbled Ron, rolling his eyes. More seriously he told Percy, "So Dobby stopped you and Percival from getting on the train and broke your arm. You know what, Perseus? If he doesn't stop trying to save your life he's going to kill you."
Draco, Neville, and Hannah nodded their agreement. Luna was busy reading the Quibbler, Daphne looked bored, Hermione was starting to read, and Ron looked bemused at the support of his theory. All Perseus could do was sigh.
The news about Colin Creevey being attack had spread through the entire school by Monday morning. It felt like everyone was trading rumors and suspicion. Most of the first years now moved in packed groups, clearly terrified. There was even a trade in talismans, amulets, and other protective devices going behind the teachers' back. Neville had to be repeatedly reminded that he was a pureblood and definitely not a Squib, and therefore not in danger.
Ron reported in amusement about the twins' antics in their endeavor to cheer up a distraught Ginny. Perseus was slightly amused when Percival ranted at them and threatened to tell Mrs. Weasley since Ginny was having nightmares; on the other hand, he kept dreaming of a shape shifting monster petrifying all of the Hogwarts residents so he could sympathize about her nightmares.
In the second week of December, Professor Sprout came to the Common room and collected the names of the Hufflepuffs staying at school for Christmas. Percy and Cedric were going home for the holidays, as he had gotten Tonks to agree to meet them and a few others at the Leaky Cauldron on the 27th. The twins, Ginny, Daphne, Hermione, Neville, and Hannah were all staying at Hogwarts for the holidays though.
Draco planned to go home with Luna and to fake staying at Hogwarts to his parents with Snape's tacit permission. As he said one Friday evening with a sigh, "It's not looking good for my father being innocent, is it?"
"Nope," admitted Percy, popping the 'p'. "Okay. Cedric and I are the Hufflepuffs; Percival and Ron will be the Gryffindors. Luna and Penelope will be the Ravenclaws. So you'll be the only Slytherin, Draco?"
"No- my little sister Astoria wants to meet you all," Daphne spoke up, looking up from her Herbology homework. "I've been telling her what I'm allowed to about our study group. She's a sly little thing- and besides, Greengrasses are Slytherins as often as Weasleys are Gryffindors."
Ron smirked proudly at that.
Late in the semester a new piece of parchment was posted on the notice board after breakfast. The study group detoured from heading towards their first classes of the day to read it. Nearby Seamus commented eagerly to his friend Dean, "They're starting a Dueling Club! First meeting is tonight! I wouldn't mind dueling lessons; they might come in handy one of these days…"
With interest Ron read the sign. Draco scoffed, "What, Ron? You think Slytherin's monster can duel?"
"Well, maybe. The Heir, if there is one, certainly could," the redhead responded dryly.
So the study group hurriedly did their homework and put their school supplies back in their dorms so that they were in the Great Hall by eight o'clock that evening. The long dining tables were gone, with a golden stage having been placed against one wall. Overhead the ceiling revealed a pitch black sky while hundreds of floating candles lit up the space.
"I wonder who'll be teaching us?" asked Hermione as they stood at the edge of the chattering crowd. "Penelope mentioned that Flitwick was a dueling champion when he was young- maybe it'll be him."
"As long as it's not-" began Neville, suddenly ending in a groan as Gilderoy Lockhart walked onto the stage, clad in plum hued robes. An annoyed Snape, dressed in black as usual, accompanied him.
After a pause, Percy informed Draco, "Lockhart might not survive the evening."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," sniffed Draco. Percy had to smile at that.
Waving an arm for silence, Lockhart called, "Gather round, gather round! Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent! Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little dueling club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions- for full details, see my published works."
"Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape," continued Lockhart with a wide smile. "He tells me he knows a tiny little bit about dueling himself and has sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin. Now, I don't want any of you youngsters to worry- you'll still have your Potions master when I'm through with him, never fear!"
Ron snorted while Neville gulped at the glare Snape was giving Lockhart. Not that Percy could blame Neville; Snape looked ready to duel Lockhart to the death rather than for a demonstration. Apparently Lockhart was stupider than he had thought.
The two professors faced one another at opposite ends of the stage. Lockhart bowed with a flourish while Snape only jerked his head in annoyance at the golden haired man. After that they raised their wands like swords in front of them.
"As you see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combative position," Lockhart told the quiet crowd of students. "On the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course."
Snape bared his teeth. After a beat Perseus commented to Draco, "Heh, Snape's going to wipe the floor with Lockhart."
"That much is obvious," drawled Draco, making Ron snigger.
"One- two- three-"
Both of them pointed their wands at the other; Snape cried out, "Expelliarmus!"
With a bright flash of scarlet light Lockhart was blasted off his feet, flying backward off the stage and slammed into the wall before sliding down to the floor. Quite a few people cheered at this display. Hermione got up on her tiptoes, worrying, "Do you think he's all right?"
"Who cares?" snorted Ron irritably.
Dazed, Lockhart got to his feet. His hat was gone and his hair was mussed. Returning to the stage, he told the crowd, "Well, there you have it! That was a Disarming Charm- as you see, I've lost my wand- ah, thank you, Miss Brown."
A blushing second year girl returned his wand.
"Yes, an excellent idea to show them that, Professor Snape," Lockhart continued. "But if you don't mind my saying so, it was very obvious what you were about to do. If I had wanted to stop you it would have been only too easy- however, I felt it would be instructive to let them see…"
Percy had no other option besides face palming at this complete and utter idiocy. Draco winced at the murderous look on his House Head's face. That expression was clear enough that even Lockhart could tell it boded ill so he changed the subject.
"Enough demonstrating! I'm going to come amongst you now and put you all in pairs. Professor Snape, if you'd like to help me-"
Lockhart teamed up Susan and Pansy, while Snape approached the study group. With a wry sneer he observed, "Let's see here… Weasley and Draco, Longbottom and Granger, Lovegood and Potter, which leaves Greengrass and Abbott together. Happy?"
Seven of the eight study group members nodded meekly. Boldly Draco added, "Nice work, sir."
"It was only Lockhart," he drawled smugly before moving on.
A few minutes later Lockhart proclaimed from the stage, "Face your partners! And bow!"
Percy bowed towards Luna, who curtsied in reply.
"Wands at the ready!" Lockhart continued. "When I count to three, cast your charms to disarm your opponents- only to disarm them- we don't want any accidents- one… two… three…-"
Draco and Ron were quickly trading sturdy Expelliarmus charms at one another while Percy and Luna were content to squirt bubbles at one another after the first trade of Disarming Charms. The rest of the room was just as chaotic.
Alarmed, Lockhart shouted over the noise, "I said disarm only!"
Luna and Percy ignored him and just kept blowing giant bubbles out of their wands.
"Stop! Stop!" screamed Lockhart helplessly. His wand at his throat Snape roared, "QUIET!"
Everyone froze in various states of enchantment. The two professors went about fixing the damage from the dueling students. Flustered, Lockhart commented from the center of the hall, "I think I'd better teach you how to block unfriendly spells. Let's have a volunteer pair- Finch-Fletchley and Finnegan, how about you-"
"How about Weasley and Malfoy instead," interrupted Snape with a dark smile. "That should be… an interesting combination."
"Excellent idea," nodded Lockhart, gesturing for the pair to go to the middle of the hall. Everyone else backed off to give them some space.
Lockhart gave a disinterested Ron some last minute advice, dropping his wand in the process, while Snape gave Draco one last pointer. The two boys smirked at one another.
Hermione hid her face between her hands. "Tell me when it's over…"
"Three- two- one- go!" shouted Lockhart. Malfoy did a Tickling Charm on Ron, making the other boy bend over in laughter. Once he recovered Ron cast a spell that had Draco hacking up slugs. Annoyed and disgusted, the blond boy tackled the redhead so they rolled around roughhousing.
Bemused, Snape physically separated the two. "I think that's enough for the evening. Wouldn't you agree, Gilderoy?"
"Oh, yes," agreed Lockhart absently.
Feeling both satisfied and dismayed by the night's experience, Percy left for bed.
The next morning Percy woke up to a blizzard outside. A Prefect told them that the last Herbology class of the term was canceled because of it. Justin was staring out at the snow. Bemused, Percy asked the other boy, "Enjoying the snow?"
"Yes… wow, what a storm."
Ernie looked up from where he was reading in bed. "Harry?"
"Some of the older students seem to think you might be the Heir of Slytherin… I mean…"
Justin rolled his eyes. "You're being silly, Ernie. I'm going to go talk to Nearly Headless Nick for a bit. I wanted to ask him about a History of Magic project. See you guys later."
"Bye," the other two replied absently as Justin left. There was awkward silence for a bit before Percy emitted a loud sigh.
"Ernie, think about it. Lily Potter was a Muggleborn; Hermione Granger, one of my closest friends, is a Muggleborn. I don't want to try to take over the world every night, or any night for that matter. Am I weird? You have no idea. But I'm no Dark Wizard, 'kay?"
Ernie seemed unconvinced and resumed reading. Over an hour passed before the plump boy spoke again, this time a bit worriedly. "Shouldn't Justin be back by now?"
"Yeah, he should," realized Percy. "Should we go look for him?"
"Probably," frowned Ernie, putting a bookmark in his book. The two headed out and went through the corridors, occasionally calling out Justin's name. It was darker than usual in the castle thanks to the thick snowfall outside. They came upon a particularly dark corridor.
"Lumos," muttered Percy, the tip of his wand glowing to give them some light. "What do you think, Ernie?"
Casting the Lumos spell himself, Ernie led the way. "Justin? Justin, are you here?"
Due to a loose windowpane, a strong icy draft had blown out the torches. Their wands' glows revealed twin figures halfway down the corridor.
"What?" puzzled Percy. Cautiously he and Ernie approached. Soon they were close enough for their glow to reveal what the nearer figure was- a petrified Justin Finch-Fletchley. The fellow Hufflepuff was rigid with an expression of shock on his face despite his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling.
"Oh, Merlin," gasped Ernie.
Raising his wand, Percy gulped. "Ernie, look!"
Next to Justin was Nearly Headless Nick. The Gryffindor ghost was black and smoky, floating immobile and horizontal half a foot off the floor. His head was half off with his face just as shocked as Justin's.
Backing up, Ernie gulped. "Justin's been attacked."
"And Nick," went Percy. "Should… should we get help?"
"I'm not staying here alone," got out Ernie, shivering.
"Neither am I!" retorted Perseus.
Both boys jumped when a nearby door banged open. Peeves the Poltergeist came shooting out, cackling, "Why, it's potty wee Potter and meanie Macmillan! What's they up to? Why's they lurking-"
He stopped, halfway through a midair somersault. Peeves had spotted Justin and Nearly Headless Nick. Flipping right way up, he inhaled and screamed at the top of his lungs, "ATTACK! ATTACK! ANOTHER ATTACK! NO MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! ATTACK!"
All doors within the range of Peeves' considerable lung capacity slammed open, people flooding into the corridor. For several minutes it was utter chaos, Percy and Ernie uncomfortably in the middle of it all. Professors called for quiet repeatedly to little avail. Then Professor McGonagall appeared with her class, one of whom Percy noticed had black and white striped hair for some reason. She let off a loud bang with her wand to gain quiet before ordering everyone to go back to their classes. This left Ernie and Percy facing the Deputy Headmistress awkwardly.
"Well, at least I know it's not you for sure now," Ernie frowned. "Justin was right."
"What's going on?" went Percy, refusing to look at Justin and Nick.
Professors Flitwick and Sinistra carried Justin up to the hospital wing. Eventually Professor McGonagall conjured up a fan for Professor Sprout to waft Nick up the stairs.
"This way, Potter and Macmillan."
"We didn't do anything!" protested Ernie, Percy nodding his agreement.
"This is out of my hands," she replied curtly. "Come along."
She led them in silence to a large and extremely ugly stone gargoyle. She told it, "Lemon sherbet!"
Apparently that was the password as the gargoyle sprang aside as the wall behind it split in two. That revealed a spiral staircase moving upward like an escalator. The trio stepped onto it, the wall closed behind them with a solid thud. Rising upward in circles, eventually they came to a gleaming oak door with a brass knocker shaped like a griffin.
"This must be Dumbledore's office," whispered Ernie in shock.
"Oh," was all Percy could say as they got off the stone staircase. Professor McGonagall rapped on the door, leading it to open silently. The two boys entered and Professor McGonagall departed.
Looking around, Percy had to admit Dumbledore had a very interesting study. It was a large and circular room, a bit like the Lovegoods' house. Dozens of odd silver instruments were on spindle legged tables, whirring and emitting puffs of smoke. The walls were covered with portraits of sleeping wizards and witches.
"All of the former headmasters and headmistresses," marveled Ernie.
"Really?" went Percy in interest. "Where's Helga?"
"Well, except for the founders," amended Ernie, looking around. Behind the huge claw-footed desk was a shelf containing the Sorting Hat.
"Hello," went the Hat.
"Hello," the two boys replied weakly. The Hat then went back to sleep or simply chose not to go beyond pleasantries.
Looking behind him, Percy went, "Uh-oh."
On a golden perch was an ill-looking, half featherless bird making a gagging noise. Its eyes were dull and as they watched a few feathers fell from its tail. Ernie winced, "This can't end-"
The bird then burst into flames, making both boys yelp in shock as they jumped backwards. Swiftly turning into a fireball, the bird emitted a single shriek before becoming a smoldering pile of ash on the floor.
Moments later a somber Dumbledore entered. Ernie got out, "We didn't set your bird on fire!"
Percy smacked the other boy's shoulder out of annoyance.
To their shock, the headmaster smiled. "Ah. It's about time. He's been looking dreadful for days; I've been telling him to get a move on."
He chuckled at the stunned looks on their faces before elaborating, "Fawkes is a phoenix, Harry and Ernie. Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes. Watch him…"
They looked down to see a tiny, wrinkly, newborn bird poke its head out of the ashes. Taking a seat behind his desk Dumbledore continued, "It's a shame you had to see him on a Burning Day. He's really very handsome most of the time, wonderful red and gold plumage. Fascinating creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets."
"If you can tame them," Ernie commented as Dumbledore settled in his chair.
"Now, I am aware neither of you attacked Justin and Nick. But I still want to talk to you both."
Nervously they waited as the elderly headmaster considered them. At length he asked, "Is there anything either of you would like to tell me?"
"Some students think it's Harry and this isn't going to help," Ernie commented. Not wanting to lie even by omission Percy said, "My friends and I are going to do some planning over winter break. We'll tell you or our House Heads if we figure out anything… probably."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "That's all I ask. You may leave."
Muttering their good-byes to the headmaster, the two Hufflepuffs exited the room.
The double attack renewed and doubled the panicky vibe. It certainly didn't help that whatever was doing this could attack a ghost who was already dead. Suddenly a lot more people wanted to go home for the holidays; Mrs. Weasley owled and insisted on the twins and Ginny coming home, an insistence they obeyed.
Playing wizard chess in an empty classroom with Percival the day before they were to head home for the winter holidays, Perseus asked, "How's Penelope doing?"
"Penny's worried… so I am," he sighed before commanding a bishop to move. "She's a Muggleborn after all. And Ginny's such a wreck… this hasn't exactly been a good welcome to her Hogwarts years, has it?"
"Considering how mine went, I'd guess she's getting off lightly," remarked Perseus, moving a pawn. "So we're all set to meet Tonks on the twenty-seventh?"
"Yes, for the tenth time," Percival chuckled, claiming one of Perseus's castles with a bishop. "It'll be… interesting to see her again."
Perseus had to grin at that, looking out the window at the snowy landscape. It would be nice to return to the Burrow, though he had to admit privately it'd be nicer to go home to NYC and be with his mom again. Still, he'd take what he could get.
Next time: CHRISTMAS!