Chapter Three: Continuing Education
The rest of the week went the same way. All the teachers were piling on the homework. McGonnagall not only passed out a three foot long syllabus with monster assignments, but also laid down more stringent requirements for Transfiguration Class. Before, they'd sometimes been able to squeak a good grade with an oddly colored teapot or two, but the Transfiguration Professor made it quite clear that nothing less than the best would be passing in Fifth Year.
Potions was a nightmare. Harry hadn't been wrong about Snape. The man was even more vitriolic than usual. From the way Snape snapped up his homework assignment, Harry got the feeling that the man would have set fire to it and given him a zero if he thought he could get away with it. He did make a mistake while brewing, but his potion was better than some of the Slytherin ones that Snape deemed 'an acceptable effort', though from Snape's expression, you'd have thought he'd melted the cauldron. He'd have been tempted to fuss, if Hermione and Ron hadn't both given him warning glares and headshakes. As it was, Snape took ten points from Gryffindor for his 'insolent glare'.
Fifth day of classes they had Defense again. Harry was looking forward to learning more of the Professor's odd spell-casting. He'd been practicing drawing the sigils, working his way through the incantations, and he was hoping for a chance to test out the spells.
Castiel showed up the same as he had the previous class, two minutes late and looking rumpled. Harry had never seen an adult with hair as untidy as his, but the professor looked as if he'd never even bothered to try and brush his, and the clothes were the same as the ones he'd worn all week, as if the man never changed. He set his folder on the desk, looked over it, then looked up."I assume you have all been practicing."
Several people shifted guiltily. Hermione sat up straight and put her hand in the air. "Professor."
Castiel's sharp gaze transferred to her. "Miss Granger."
"Sir, the pronunciations on some of the words….I've noticed, it's difficult to tell if the sounds are long or short. Based on what you've said, would a difference on long or short vowel sounds alter the components of the spell?"
"Most likely. Enochian is very complex."
"Then...would it be possible for us to have some sort of reference? I mean, since there aren't any books in the library..." She flushed.
Ron and Harry exchanged an amused grin. Hermione had spent an entire evening in the library, looking for any references, and been horribly frustrated at the lack of material.
Castiel's head cocked to the side, brow pinching slightly in a thoughtful frown. Then it smoothed out. "That would be prudent. I shall endeavor to produce a basic translation guide for your next class." His gaze flicked over the rest of them. "I assume you have all experienced similar difficulties?" There was a murmur of assent. "Very well. We will work on another segment of your education today." He turned to the blackboard. "I understand that your O.W.L exams demand a basic competency in several different spells." He turned and wrote out a list of spells on the board. A long list. Harry stared at it. He knew a lot of them, but some of them he'd never even heard of.
Castiel turned back around. "Each of you, when I call your name, come up to the front of the class. We'll go over the first five spells on this list."
Harry looked at the first five spells. Protego. He knew that one. Expelliarmus. He'd learned that one Second Year. Stupefy. He knew it, more or less. Incendio. He knew it. Sort of. Petrificus Totalis. He'd seen Hermione cast it, but wasn't too sure about his own proficiency in it.
Castiel called Neville to the front of the class. Neville shuffled forward. "Cast your spells."
Neville glanced around. "I'm not sure where to aim. I mean...what's the target sir?"
Castiel's head tilted again. "I am."
Neville's eyes widened, and his throat worked as he swallowed nervously. "Sir...are you sure? My control isn't very good..." He flushed.
"You won't hurt me." Castiel nodded. He lifted one hand, and a ball of white light formed in his palm. "The first spell is a shield spell. You should cast it now." He flung the ball at Neville.
"Protego!" The word came out in a strangled yelp as Neville jerked his wand upward. The ball of light splashed on the shield, and it flickered and died.
Castiel nodded. "You need to put more force behind it. Also, shielding spells should be instinctive, a first reaction in combat. Either that, or extremely fast combat reflexes. You should practice." Neville nodded. Castiel lowered his hand. "You should cast the second spell now."
Harry perked up. He hadn't seen the Professor ever draw a wand. He was starting to think the man didn't have one.
Neville cast. Castiel's hand flickered up, sketching a quick symbol that looked similar to the one he'd used the previous class. Neville's spell disintegrated in mid-air. "You should put more force into your spell." Neville nodded again. "Third spell."
Neville's Stupefy got the same result as his Expelliarmus, but he flushed miserably when the Incendio came up. "I don't know that one. I can't remember it."
"Then you should study it. Ask one of your classmates or the older students to teach you. That's always the best method."
"That, or he could just partner with one of his classmates." Heads snapped around at the voice.
The tallest of the three new teachers, Sam Winchester, was sitting in the back of the classroom. How he'd gotten in without anyone noticing, Harry had no idea. Then again, Castiel didn't look annoyed or surprised. Perhaps he had known the other man was there.
Castiel cocked his head. Sam shrugged. "I had a free period, thought I'd come see how you were doing. Especially since I know it's been a while since you taught people. And you mentioned having trouble last time." He held up his hands as Castiel opened his mouth. "I'm just saying. I thought you could use some help. Teaching teenagers never was your thing, as far as I know."
Castiel paused, a frown creasing his forehead. "You have a suggestion."
"Yeah. Evaluating them one on one is going to take forever. And it's embarrassing for them. It might work better if you just partnered them with each other. See who does best at what spell, who does worst, rotate them through so each person can learn what they need to from their partner. And you can help the ones who have serious trouble." Sam shrugged. "It's just a thought."
"This is how you were taught."
"Not usually. But I always did better working with Dean or Bobby than I did getting grilled by Dad." A small smile flickered over the younger man's face. "Most students do better without public displays of their abilities."
"I see." Castiel's eyes flickered to the syllabus, then back up to Sam. "Perhaps, I could use some further...assistance. It appears my training was significantly different from yours. And possibly less applicable to dealing with younger humans."
"Sure." Sam strode up to the front. "So...what's on the lesson plan for today?"
"Beginning Enochian. But they asked me for a pronunciation guide. I don't have one, so I moved on to the next phase of their education." Cas moved back as Sam came to the front. "These are the spells they are supposed to know."
"And you were focusing on the first five." Sam laughed. "I've got it. So..." He looked up. "Everyone grab a partner. I don't care who."
There was a scramble as everyone grabbed partners. Harry ended up with Ron. Hermione ended up with Neville, by virtue of proximity. Finally, they were all sorted out.
Sam nodded. "All right. I want you to take turns casting spells at your partner. Keep casting the spell until you get it right, then move on to the next one."
Parvati raised a hand. "What about counters?"
Sam grimaced. "For now, just cast the spell. Professor Winchester will handle reversing it for you. The point is to find out if you're doing it correctly. We can work on countering and blocking next time."
"But one of those spells is meant to set things on fire." That was Dean Thomas, looking much less certain than he usually did. Understandable, since his partner was Seamus, and Seamus had never had a problem with setting things on fire.
Sam Winchester actually laughed a little. "Trust me, Professor Castiel is very good at dealing with fire. He's had a lot of practice."
"Technically..." Sam Winchester shot a look over his shoulder, and Castiel Winchester shut his mouth, looking a little puzzled, and possibly affronted. After a moment, he nodded. "Professor...Sam, is correct. I am very familiar with how to handle fire. I also know how to heal burns."
Harry watched the whole exchanged with interest. He didn't understand everything that was going on between the two professors, but he did understand a few things. One was that Castiel wasn't an experienced teacher, and Sam appeared to be. At least, he knew more about teaching than Castiel did. Another was that the two hadn't received the same teaching, even though he'd thought they were brothers.
Another was that they were keeping secrets. Several secrets. And that Sam Winchester was far more concerned with keeping them than Castiel Winchester was. Whatever they were, they were clearly important.
That made Harry curious.
Then the moment was broken by Castiel sweeping them all with his intense blue-eyed stare. "I believe you should start casting spells now."
The rest of the class involved casting spells at each other. Castiel Winchester moved through the room, making comments and reversing spells in his quiet monotone. How he reversed the spells, Harry wasn't sure. It wasn't the usual counters, not unless he was doing them wandlessly and nonverbally. It looked like more Enochian, but Harry couldn't tell because he didn't verbalize it.
Sam Winchester sat at the front of the class, making notes.
By the end of class, Harry was bruised from falling over from being Stupefied and Petrified, and his shirt was singed from Ron's Incendio. His shield was good though, better than Ron's or even Hermione's. Ron looked as tired and beat up as he did. Hermione looked less frazzled, probably because she'd spent more time helping Neville than she had being hit by spells designed to lay her out.
It was kind of funny too, to see Draco Malfoy looking mussed and bruised and less than perfectly groomed. But he'd been paired with Blaise Zabini, and Blaise was clearly no pushover.
Best of all, neither professor had assigned homework. Considering all they had to do in the other classes, that was a relief.
It had been a good class, but Harry found himself vaguely dissatisfied as he left. Not because of the spells.
He still wanted to know what the Winchesters were hiding, especially about Castiel.
Dean smirked as Castiel and Sam came in. "So, how'd it go?"
"Great. Just great." Sam sighed. "They want a pronunciation guide for Enochian. Which isn't unreasonable, but...it is complicated." He flopped on the bed. "And I think we need to supervise Cas's classes for a little while."
"What?" Dean sat up. "Seriously?"
"Yeah." Sam sighed.
Cas frowned. "Sam, I am perfectly capable..."
"You aren't. No offense Cas, but you're not used to teaching. Not normally, at any rate. And you are definitely not used to dealing with teenagers. I'm not trying to criticize, I'm just saying...being an Angel of the Lord and a Soldier of Heaven doesn't exactly prepare you for the classroom. And today just kind of proves it." Sam waved at the door. "Don't get me wrong. You're fine with me and Dean. But...there are only two of us. And Dean and I have been studying this stuff for years, so we're used to learning as we go and playing it off the cuff. It's what we do. We've been hunting like that practically since we were toddlers. These kids...they aren't like us."
"You mean they're sheltered little pansies." Dean snorted from his position on his bed.
"If you want to see it that way. The point is...Cas, you need help. This isn't something you were trained for. That's not...it's not a bad thing. It's just the way it is." Sam sighed again, then looked at the angel. "Think of it as...well, as training, so you can teach angels. Didn't you say you were having trouble, teaching them about Free Will?"
"Actually, he said it was like teaching fish poetry." Dean grinned.
"It is." Castiel sighed. "You are...correct. I was trained as a soldier, not a teacher. This was never my function in Heaven. Perhaps I am...unprepared."
"And that's nothing to be ashamed of. I mean, if we hadn't had Bobby, Dean and I probably wouldn't be doing that much better." Sam kept his voice soothing.
"True." Dean waved a hand at the ceiling. "Dad was more of a 'point and shoot' kinda guy."
Sam nodded. "So, Dean and I can help you, and in the meantime, you can help teach us, because Dean and I can handle it. Sound good?"
"No. But it sounds...acceptable. But you don't know enough to help teach Enochian."
"No but we can assist, serve as demonstrations. It's safer than using kids, especially if you're throwing around that angel powered shit." Dean popped up on his elbows. "Be kind of like sparring practice, and I could sure as hell use some. I'm about ready to go hunt the classroom material for that creature class." He grinned.
"Yeah. Don't do that. We can spar in that room the Headmaster showed us." Sam sat up to look at the books scattered across his bed. "Speaking of which…Dean, you and I both need more practice with our spells. I think I've almost got the Lumos and Wingardium Leviosa completely down, but you need work on yours."
"You mean that...Ridd...Ridd..."
"Riddikulus." The word rolled off of Cas's tongue. Dean frowned at him. "You do need more work, if you are to properly teach the younger students." He frowned. "And both of you need more practice with the standard defensive enchantments. Despite your lack of wands, the Disarming charm could be very useful against many foes."
"Fine." Dean growled the word, the rolled off the mattress. "How about a deal. We practice magic until dinner. But sparring and weapons training after dinner. At least an hour, cause I feel like I'm getting soft."
"Works for me. I could use the workout too." Sam nodded, then ducked to pull his duffel bag full of weapons out from under the bed. "Cas?"
"I am agreeable." The angel nodded.
"All right then." Dean ducked and grabbed his own duffel. "Let's get to practice then."
Harry spent the rest of the day working on his load of homework. It wasn't so bad, given the lack of Defense homework, but he'd never have managed without Hermione's help.
By dinner, he'd seen the notice go up for Quidditch try-outs, and he felt like he'd made decent headway on his Transfiguration and Herbology homework. Hermione wanted to start the Potions Homework after dinner, but Harry figured he'd do better with Charms or possibly History. After all, there was no way Snape was going to grade him fairly, so it hardly mattered if he did his homework well or poorly. As long as he studied up for the practical portion of class, he'd be fine.
They went down to dinner, Hermione still chattering about the various things she wanted to cover in her homework, and Ron and Harry discussing Quidditch. Ron was considering whether he wanted to try out for the team in fifth year or sixth. Harry was vocally supportive of either move, though privately he thought Ron might do better to focus on his new duties as a Prefect. Besides, Fred and George would tease their brother endlessly if he joined the team while they were still on it, and Ginny was already planning on joining as a reserve player. Ron had always struggled with being overshadowed by his family, and Harry didn't think it would do him any good to place himself in a situation where he'd be competing with all his other family members at Hogwarts for attention.
The food appeared, and Harry tucked in with a will. Defense had taken more energy than he'd expected, and lunch had vanished pretty fast. As always, he kept an eye on the staff table.
The professors Winchesters looked tired. Sam and Dean both had full plates. It looked like Castiel, sitting between them, had put a small portion of everything in reach on his plate. As always, he was simply sitting quietly while everyone else ate.
And, as usual, halfway through the meal, the other two Winchesters stole everything off his plate. Harry frowned.
Almost a full week into school, and he'd yet to see Castiel Winchester eat anything. The man showed up faithfully at every meal his two brothers attended, but never ate a bite.
Sadly, he wasn't going to solve that mystery any time soon. Harry turned back to his food.
Finally, dinner was over. The dishes cleared away, but before everyone could leave, Dumbledore stood up and moved to the podium, holding up his hands. "Before we all retire, a moment of your time." He settled hands on the podium. "In light of the events at the end of last year, the Ministry has elected to maintain a slight presence at the school for the coming year. Therefore, in the coming weeks, there will be a Ministry representative doing on-site evaluations. It would be best if all of you, teachers and students, were to extend the utmost cooperation to the representative when he or she arrives. Answer their questions. Attend to your studies, and do not allow yourself to be agitated by their presence. That is all."
Students began to file out of the Great Hall. Harry remained where he was, his stomach churning in sudden shock and dismay.
The Ministry. Representatives of the very same group that had tried to have him expelled and his wand snapped for saving his cousins. Somehow, he didn't think the Ministry representative was going to ignore his presence and let him get on with his life.
Up at the staff table, Sam and Dean exchanged glances. Then they were moving, all three of them rising in concert and heading for the staff door and up to the practice room. Sam shut the door behind them, just as Dean cursed and kicked at a conveniently placed wooden crate. "Son-of-a-bitch!"
"Dean, calm down." Sam sighed. "Just calm down. It's not that bad."
"Calm down?" Dean whirled. "Sam, there is no way we can pass as teachers! You and me, we're barely even competent. And Cas? Cas might have the mojo, but teaching and normal spells aren't exactly his thing. This...this ministry creep gets wind that we're teaching Enochian, think they're gonna go 'oh, angel magic, that's totally approved'. Like hell."
"So Cas sticks to regular curriculum until the eval's over. You and me, we practice, read up on the lessons. Make it look real. And if they question, tell them the American system's different. Tell them Cas had special training. Make it out that we're eccentric and harmless."
"Yeah, that's just great. Two hunters and an angel, and we're just gonna play harmless little academics."
"Well, at this point, we kind of have to. It's going to look really suspicious if we up and leave. Like I said, we just study the magic, stick to the textbooks until the evaluation is over." Sam huffed out a breath. "Cas can train too, in normal spell casting. Well, as normal as any of us are gonna get."
"That seems reasonable." Cas nodded.
Dean snarled and kicked another target. "Damn it..." Then he heaved a sigh and spun around. "I'm not good at this crap. I mean, Sam's already working on the spells I'm supposed to know, and I just got that stupid boggart-thing down."
"Yeah, well, I kind of have a head start." Sam grimaced apologetically. "The stuff Ruby taught me...the whole demon blood thing might have been wrong and honestly, kind of nasty in retrospect, but her training did give me a solid foundation in concentration, meditation and visualization. Which is something you never had, and something that is critical for these spells."
"Great. Well at least that evil skanky bitch was good for something." Dean growled.
"Yeah, well, the point is, we need to get all of us up to at least a semi-working standard. Or, in Cas's case, down to a working standard. And since we don't know how long we have, every second counts. So we need to get to work Dean."
Dean cursed, then relaxed with another growl. "Fine. But I'd better get some extra pie for this."
"Sure. I'll tell the house elves." Sam grinned.
The three of them got to work.
Author's Note: So...how do you think the boys are going to handle the Ministry? And how is the Ministry going to handle them?