Chapter Seven: Teach Me
As it turned out, neither Hermione or Ron had any idea what Harry had witnessed on the Quidditch pitch. Ron just shrugged and frowned and agreed with Harry that it wasn't likely to be a Portkey. "Bit tricky, making a Portkey for something like that. And I don't think it'd be legal."
Hermione started by reiterating that Apparition was absolutely not possible on the grounds of Hogwarts, the Quidditch pitch included. After careful thought and two hours of research, she suggested that it was something unique to the Winchesters and their American schooling, possibly the Enochian study that Castiel had done.
That theory was as good as any, but it didn't help Harry's suspicions much. After all, Sam Winchester knew Enochian and had trained in America too, and he had used a broom.
Sadly, there wasn't much time for him to worry about it, suspicious or not. There was simply too much school-work to be done. As the days grew colder, the Professors expectations grew as well. Trying to keep up with everything was a nightmare. For the first time in his academic career, Harry was actually glad of Hermione's obsessive study habits and scheduling. Without it he'd have been lost for sure, and probably failing most of his classes.
The only class that wasn't piling on the homework was Defense, but Harry still found himself studying for it as much as he would for any other class. The O.W.L spell-casting was simple enough for him, and the theory wasn't much harder. But the Enochian….
It was difficult, but also fascinating. Fascinating enough that Harry eventually swiped a copy of Hermione's Third Year Runes textbook, just to get a feel for the theory behind it. The Runes were different from the sigils that Castiel used in class, but the theory seemed at least somewhat similar, at least in the way it was broken up. Defensive Runes, Offensive Runes, Transformation Runes...the list was long, and Harry soaked it up, wishing he'd taken that instead of Divination.
The pronunciation was awkward too. Hermione swore it was very old Latin derivative with something middle eastern thrown in, but Harry had enough to do just twisting his tongue around the syllables in the proper order. Still, by the beginning of November he'd managed a credible blocking spell, and he was learning several of the Banishing and Constraining sigils. There was one called Solomon's Key that was intricate, but apparently good for capturing all manner of 'demonic' creatures. He wondered if that would include Voldemort.
There was also a banishing sigil that Sam Winchester demonstrated that they were absolutely NOT allowed to perform in class. Harry was tempted to try it anyway, but refrained, simply because he wasn't sure what the effects would be. Not to mention, the notes said it was best inscribed in blood, and using blood in magic made him a little wary.
Still, he had to admit the Winchesters were good teachers, easily on par with Lupin and even Moody (without the imposter's sadism). From what Luna and Ginny said, it was possible that Dean Winchester was actually better than Lupin. Not only did he teach spells to get rid of Dark Creatures and all manner of dangers, he also showed them techniques that didn't require a wand. Harry had already known about silver for werewolves, but not the various uses of iron, or salt of all things.
Such as getting rid of unwanted spirits. Harry had been skeptical about that, right up until he'd seen Dean Winchester chase Peeves out of his classroom with a salt shaker and some well placed Latin. Afterward, he found himself wishing he'd known about the effects of salt and iron on spirits earlier. He might have defeated Voldemort with less trouble in his first and second years, maybe even his fourth. Or bound him in place, something the Winchesters had also mentioned was possible.
Which led him to wondering what else they knew that he'd never learned. Techniques that for them seemed to be second nature, but that he'd never even heard of. And how many of those techniques would be useful for dealing with Voldemort and his followers.
He thought about it for a week, then approached Ginny after Quidditch practice Saturday. The youngest Weasley had tried out for a reserve player, and was good enough that she'd been appointed reserve Seeker and reserve Chaser. Harry had flown a few practice matches against her and, given a good broom, she was easily good enough to give him a run for his Galleons. There was nothing that could match a Firebolt for speed, but Ginny did fairly well with the Comet, and she knew a few tricks that he'd never seen. She was also lighter than he was, and more maneuverable in the air. And she didn't have to deal with the problems that came with wearing glasses. There was only so much Impervious Charms and Sticking Charms could do, and against Ginny, his glasses were a distinct disadvantage that she didn't hesitate to exploit.
After practice, he waited outside the locker rooms until Ginny appeared, then fell into step beside her. "Ginny."
"Harry." She tilted her head up at him. There was no trace of the shy child she'd once been, and he found himself liking this new Ginny much better. "What's on your mind?"
"I was wondering...you've learned a lot in your Defense class, right? About different...stuff."
Ginny nodded. "Professor Winchester's pretty good. He's even taught us some hand to hand combat and dodging moves." She glanced back at him. "Why?"
"Because...I think I need to learn everything I can. We know the Winchesters do things differently than any other teacher we've ever had. I'm willing to bet they do things differently from any teacher that Voldemort or his Death Eaters ever had too. And I...I need any advantage I can get." He swallowed. "We both know he's not just going to leave me alone. I have to be prepared for his next move."
He half-expected another lecture about how his life shouldn't revolve around Voldemort, but Ginny only paused and pursed her lips thoughtfully. Then she nodded. "That's not a bad idea. I've been watching them, the Winchesters…they move like some of dad's Auror friends. And the way Professor Winchester teaches, I get the feeling that they've been in real battles. If you really think that He's going to attack you, then they could teach you a lot. There's just one thing."
She met his eyes. "You're not the only one who needs to learn. So if you ask and they agree, I want in on it. And you'd better include Ron and Hermione. And others. There's other people who think...who think you're telling the truth and will want to learn too." She paused. "I've heard...Luna and Hermione have both mentioned that your Winchester Professor is teaching some new system of warding and magic that no one's ever seen before?"
"Yeah. Something he calls Enochian. Tough stuff." Harry winced. "Makes me wish I'd taken Ancient Runes instead of Divination."
"Do you think he'd teach us? The younger years, I mean."
Harry frowned. Then he shrugged. "Dunno. He might."
"Right." Ginny nodded decisively. "Look, Harry, I think you've got a good idea, expanding your training. But before you do...ask around, or get someone else to do it. Find out who all wants to learn. The more students who step forward, the more likely it is that we'll get permission, and that they'll agree. And...were you planning it more like asking for tutoring, or like a study group?"
"I was thinking more like a study group, at least for now." Despite his respect for their Defense teachers and their teaching skills, he wasn't sure how far he could trust the Winchesters.
"All right. But you might want to consider asking them to sit in on it anyway. You'll learn more." Ginny eyed him a moment, then darted off in the direction of the girls locker area. Harry watched her go, then went to change and shower, thinking about what she'd said.
She was right that the Winchesters could teach him more, teach him faster, than a simple study group. But after Moody, he wasn't sure he could trust them to do so. And after the events of the summer…well, the Winchesters might not be friendly with the Ministry, but that didn't mean they'd believe him either.
He sighed, then finished dressing and went to find Hermione. Hopefully, she'd be able to give him some good advice.
Sam rolled his shoulders as he made his way to the Room of Requirement.
He'd just finished his fourth lesson with Snape, and it was going well, as far as he was concerned. Snape – Severus, rather – was sharp-tongued and short-tempered, but in the field of Potions, he was absolutely brilliant.
He reminded Sam of some of his pre-law professors at Stamford. Talented, practically geniuses in their fields, but if you didn't have the grit to stick with your studies, if you weren't prepared or gave the impression you didn't care, then they were hell to study with. On the other hand, if you made a real effort, worked hard and did your reading – well, they might mock you if you didn't have the 'talent', but they'd at least respect your willingness to work. And if you got lucky and had both the talent and the drive – there was no better instructor.
He hadn't gotten very far in his Potions education, but he'd read the books Severus had given him, made notes and written down questions, and he paid attention to the directions Severus gave him when they worked together.
The first three sessions, he'd prepped ingredients and asked questions, while Severus brewed actual potions and answered him. Today, Severus had actually agreed to let him try a basic potion, one in the First Year's textbook. It was a simple Boil Cure, useful on blisters, but also as antidote to several curses that had a tendency to be fired when teenage tempers ran hot. Why boils seemed to be a weapon of choice Sam had no idea. There were also apparently several magic and potion-related accidents that would result in boils and blisters.
Keeping the cauldron temperature regulated had been the most difficult thing. The rest of it – well, he'd learned to cook when he was a kid, and as a hunter he'd learned a lot about precision and timing. He'd had a bit of a rough spot with the stewed slugs (just how stewed were they supposed to be? The consistency of stew for eating, or more the consistency of something boiled into unrecognizable gelatinous goo?), but he'd gotten past it. The result had been a usable, if not perfect, Boil Cure potion.
Severus had given him beakers to bottle it up, explained to him that it was three shades too light for a perfectly done Potion, and then discussed possible errors between bouts of paying attention to his own cauldrons. The result had not only been a sense of satisfaction at a job well done, but a highly informative and education session.
He'd also learned about more than Potions while working with Severus. Despite the fact that he did his best to avoid asking awkward questions, a few things had cropped up. Mundane things, if you weren't a hunter, with a hunter's instincts. Interesting things, however, if you were.
Like the fact that Severus knew – not believed, but knew – that the Headmaster and the one student, Harry Potter, were telling the truth about this 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' and his return. Not only that, but Severus was apparently heavily involved in whatever was going on between those three. He'd let it slip more than once since that first encounter. And he'd let slip enough other clues, including another healing session were Sam had treated him for more bruises and badly strained muscles, to give Sam a pretty good idea of what wasn't being said in the papers.
Like how this 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' was a Dark Lord, which if Sam understood him right, was rather like a witch gone rogue, or even a willingly possessed demon vessel. Bad news. Somehow, Dumbledore was opposing him – Sam hadn't asked for details – and somehow he had plans for Harry Potter – which Sam had also not asked about. And somehow, Severus was playing middle-man, which Sam knew was probably a horrible position to be in.
He'd purposefully avoided asking for details, knowing it would strain things between them. And he hadn't mentioned his conclusions or the information he'd gathered to Dean yet. The last thing he wanted was for Dean to go off on Severus again, which would probably destroy the tentative rapport he'd developed with the acerbic man, not to mention getting all of them in trouble.
With that in mind, he shelved his thoughts in a quiet corner of his mind, then opened the door to the Room and stepped inside.
He found Dean and Cas engaged in a spell-war, of sorts. Cas was, of course, completely unruffled, and hadn't broken a sweat. Dean on the other hand – Dean was panting, a snarl of tension curled across his face as he cast one spell after the other. Sam watched for several minutes, mentally picking out the ones he thought he recognized. One stunner (Cas caught and dispelled that), a few jinxes, a couple of more serious hexes, and one or two actual attack spells, although he fizzled something that looked like it might have been a Bombarda. His Incendio, on the other hand, emerged in a hot, bright bolt that actually made Cas step out of the way, and his follow-up Incarcerous wrapped around a training pillar with enough force to break bones, if used on a normal person.
Sam knew the moment Dean spotted him. His brother's expression went from frustrated to gleeful, He flicked a spell at Sam. Sam stepped back and pulled up a shield spell before frowning at his brother. "Rictumsempra Dean? Really?"
Dean grinned and shrugged. "Hey, got you to block, didn't it? If it works, it works."
"Yes, because we can totally fight demons and monsters with Tickling Hexes. Yes. I can just see that working on Crowley." Sam snorted.
"Hey, you never know. Good distraction, at any rate." Dean rolled his shoulders again, popping them to loosen stiff muscles.
"I guess. It might also work with a boggart. You know, if you're with someone, get them to laugh, boggart runs away." Sam shrugged in answer to Dean's nonchalance. "Might actually work better for us than the regular method."
Dean made a face, but didn't contradict him. Both of them could use the Riddikulus spell on a boggart, but trying to turn their worst fears funny...well, the downside of all the crap they'd seen was that their fears were a little too close to home, and there was nothing even remotely funny about seeing your brother in Hell. Sam was just glad they'd done their practice in private. He wouldn't have wanted to explain their boggarts to anyone.
In fact, he'd suggested Dean request Hagrid's help for the practical demonstration of boggart-repeling for that reason. Hagrid might not be fully trained, but he knew enough magic and had enough focus to cast a Riddikulus properly. Which meant Dean had been able to hang back and coach from the sidelines.
Dean shrugged again, picking up a towel that had appeared out of nowhere. "Yeah, well...how'd your thing with Snape go?"
"Pretty good." Sam moved further into the room, stretching different muscles in preparation for his own turn at dueling Castiel. "We talked, and I got to make an actual potion today. Boil Cure. It's good for blisters."
"That sounds...useful." Cas spoke up. "Boils were a common Biblical affliction." The angel cocked his head. "It's something that Raphael would find useful for punishing the sins of humanity. Having a method of curing them without recourse to time or angelic powers..."
"Yeah. There's also your douche brother. Balthazar." Dean scowled. "Didn't he use boils on that one dude?"
Castiel's brow furrowed. "Technically, no. He only provided Aaron's staff to the boy who did wish vengeance, and therefore boils, on the… 'dude'."
Sam choked back a laugh at the way Castiel's expression contorted around the unfamiliar word. He focused on his warm-up until he had himself under control, then moved to the center of the room, while Dean moved off to the side to read up on more spells.
"Ready Cas?" he flexed his hands and shoulders, working the joints loose.
"Of course." Castiel cocked his head at him.
Sam started off with an Expelliarmus. It wouldn't do anything to Cas, but that wasn't the point. Where Dean used his sessions to test spells in a battle environment, Sam focused more on ensuring the accuracy and breadth of his knowledge. He preferred a battle strategy with more finesse and tactics. Besides, part of the training was for Castiel as well. The angel might know every spell ever invented, but even he'd admitted that seeing them was different. Angelic magic focused mostly on sigils and personal intent. Or incantations paired with rituals, like the spell he'd used to find Balthazar.
Castiel might know the meaning and intent of any Latin phrase he heard, but Sam had spent a lot of time practicing his silent casting. Likewise, wandless removed the element of gestures that might also have telegraphed meaning to Castiel. And, of course, practicing against Cas meant that they had to avoid telegraphing, otherwise the angel was liable to counter a spell they hadn't even finished (Dean had gotten blown off his feet by a countered Depulso in one of their first sparring sessions).
Cas dodged. Sam followed up with a Tripping Hex, a Bombarda, and a few others, keeping them low-powered. Then he snapped out a Lumos Maxima.
Cas might be an angel, but even he blinked against a sudden flare of unexpected light, giving Sam time to fire off a Stunner, a Petrificus, and an Incarcerous.
Castiel dodged the Stunner and the Petrificus, but the Incarcerous clipped him, tying up his main sword hand. Sam grinned...then ducked when Castiel fired a bolt of energy at him and proceeded to set the ropes on fire and step free. Sam cursed, then got serious.
Half-an-hour later, he called a halt. His ribs were aching, and his nerves were singing with that funny, shaky energy he got when he really pushed his powers. He'd managed to land a few good hits, but not enough to stop Cas. Then again, he hadn't really expected to stop Cas. Not with the level of his powers compared to the reborn strength the angel had gained after his resurrection in Stull Cemetery.
Castiel moved over to heal the minor injuries he'd acquired during their fight. "You've improved."
"I guess." Sam shook his head, flinging sweaty hair out of his eyes, and accepted a water bottle from Dean. "It's still...I'm not sure how much room I've got, you know? I never trained my powers without a boost before."
"You have no reason for concern. Your powers are developing at an excellent rate for a human. Faster than most. If my observations are correct, you still have plenty of room to develop your skills. However, your progress is...remarkable, for the time you have had to learn." Castiel tilted his head. "That is true for you as well, Dean. Samuel is indeed progressing faster, but he has also had more training, even if that training was...improperly conducted."
The words were awkward, but clearly meant as compliments. It was also clear that Cas was trying to respect boundaries by avoiding mention of Sam's previous addiction to demon blood. Sam appreciated it. He and Dean had mostly come to terms over the whole thing, comparing it to Dean's ill-advised demon deal, but it was something of a sore spot, especially when Cas mentioned it. After all, Cas had been the one who'd originally planned to kill him for using that power, and had later released him to Ruby's manipulations.
"Yeah, yeah. I get it." Dean scowled at the textbook he'd been reading. "It's just...it's freakin' weird. Using magic and all this crap. I'd rather just hunt, you know? A blade in my hand and a gun at my hip in a straightforward fight."
"I understand. However, these powers will aid you in hunting. They may also aid you in combat with Raphael. You are archangel vessels. Though your power is not as great as Michael or Lucifer, fully developed, there is a chance you would hold your own against lesser angels. At the very least, you would surprise them."
"I'll take it. Hell, I'll take any advantage we can get." Dean rolled his shoulders. "How long till dinner?"
Sam checked the clock that had obligingly appeared. "Couple hours."
"Great. You and Cas can help me figure out how to do these." He gestured at the spell-book. "Some of them look pretty useful. That summoning spell, for example."
"Accio." Sam nodded. "I've read about it. I've heard rumors that some kid last year summoned something from almost a quarter of a mile, or more, away. If we could master that..."
"No more panicking when shit gets knocked out of our hands." Dean grinned.
"That would be very useful." Cas nodded.
"Right." Sam took a few more swallows of water, dried his face on the towel Dean handed him a second later, then stood and stretched. He smirked at his brother. "Shall we?"
Dean grinned and bounced out of his chair. "You bet, bitch. First one to master it in a fight gets to pick the evening snack. Loser gets to walk to the kitchens and pick it up."
Sam moved back, matching Dean's expression with his own challenging one. "You're on, jerk."
"I'll just...do damage control." Cas stepped back, out of the way. He'd learned over the last couple of months that it was better to just let the brothers have their fun and get the urge to fight out of their systems. Instead, he confined his participation in their sparring matches to protecting the Room from ill-aimed or ricochet blasts, repairing what they did manage to break, and healing their wounds after they were done for the night.
By the time they left, an hour-and-a-half later, both brothers had mastered the spell. Sam had won their bet, a fact Dean attributed to 'overwhelming nerdiness'. Not that Dean was at all unhappy. He'd still learned the spell, and made excellent use of it at one point to summon Sam, or rather, Sam's trousers (that had been embarrassing), into grappling range, where he'd wrestled Sam to the floor and pinned him for a good thirty seconds. If Sam hadn't managed a Repelling Charm that dislodged him, Dean might have won the fight right then. As it was, they'd declared a draw. For the moment.
Dean might have 'food retrieval' duty, but he wasn't complaining about that either. They both knew he'd use it to get some extra pie from the Hogwarts Elves. Once his fondness for pie had become known, the elves had been more than happy to keep an extra pie on hand for any time he might fancy a slice. If it hadn't been for their magic usage and their regular workouts, Dean might have been at risk for being seriously overweight by the time their teaching contract was up.
Sam grinned as he followed his brother back to their shared quarters. Today had been a good day. Heck, they'd pretty much had a good month, the whole 'educational investigator' issue aside. Even Cas was beginning to look a little less haunted and ragged around the edges. When he added that to the mental catalog of things they'd gained since starting it was clear to Sam that Hogwarts was good for them, no matter how much Dean groused about it.
They'd needed this.
Sam turned his thoughts away from that, and focused on coming up with some proper taunts, for when Dean came back from the kitchens with the inevitable pie smears on his face.
Hermione thought a Defense Study Group was a fantastic idea. Of course, she also thought they should get the Winchesters involved right away.
"They seem to know so much about Defense, they really are some of the best professors we've had. Besides, if we get a Professor to sit in on it, then it'll be sanctioned, and it'll be sort of a Defense Club, won't it? And then we might get permission to do some real practice, and we'll all need that for our O.W.L.'s, you know. Plus, having an instructor on hand to help with any accidents, or to explain the material better..."
"I know." Harry cut her off before she could continue with her lecture. "I know, Hermione. It's just..." He ran a hand through his messy hair. "I don't know if we can trust them. What if they're...I don't know, Death Eaters, like Moody was last year? Or report us to the Ministry or something?"
"I don't think so. I mean, they didn't seem to like that Umbridge person much." Hermione frowned. "And, if they're really American...I wouldn't think they'd have had a chance to become Death Eaters. Besides, they don't really look or act much like Death Eaters, do they?"
She had a point there. None of the Winchester's really fit the 'blood-purity, I'm better than you' mold that most Death Eaters seemed to adhere to. In fact, he rather thought Lucius Malfoy and his ilk would die of shock if forced into muggle jeans and flannel. "I know. It's just..."
"We get it mate." Ron stepped in. "You don't trust 'em, and you've got reason. Hell, at least two of our professors wanted to kill you from day one, and Lupin..." He blushed. "...it wasn't his fault, really, but he did um...well, try to eat you. And Lockhart was just a moron and all. But..." He paused. "I think I'm with Hermione on this one mate. You might as well ask them. It's obvious those guys know loads we don't. And besides, if you're really that suspicious of them, this will give you more time to keep an eye on them, yeah?"
"Yeah. That's true." Harry sighed. Ron and Hermione both had valid arguments. "Okay, fine. I'll ask after our next class."
"Great. Then Ron and I will ask around about people who might want to join us." Hermione grinned, then started jotting down notes, no doubt ideas about who to ask and how to ask them and what they would do if the professors agreed, as well as what they would do if the professors didn't agree.
Harry spent the rest of his weekend getting caught up on homework. The amounts the professors, other than Castiel, were giving them was horrendous. Most assignments required at least two feet of parchment, sometimes more. Added to that Harry's self study into Runes and their similarities to Enochian (a project Hermione enthusiastically endorsed and plunged headlong into) meant his time table was full. Sometimes, he was surprised he actually managed to find time for Quidditch practice, eating and sleeping. Without Hermione's firm direction, he doubted he would have.
By Monday, he was reasonably caught up, but he was also nervous. He'd never really approached a professor for any reason other than an emergency, or much needed information (usually not for classes). And Castiel was...well, that blue stare and stern expression was somehow more intimidating than Snape at his worst. Even McGonnagall looked more approachable, despite her stern demeanor.
Nevertheless, he stayed behind after class on Tuesday, waiting while his classmates filed out the door. It had been Sam Winchester's day to help Castiel in class, and it was the younger Winchester that Harry decided to approach.
He waited until Sam looked relatively unoccupied, then cleared his throat. "Sir? Professor Winchester?"
"Yeah?" Sam turned. Harry swallowed. Sam looked a lot friendlier than his brothers, but he was huge, at least a foot taller than Harry himself. And as he'd shown in class, he was fast, and good at spell-casting.
"Professor, I was wondering..." Harry took a breath, then seized his Gryffindor courage with both hands. "My friends and I were wondering if we could...that is, if you'd be willing to give us some extra training. My friend Ginny is in your brother's class, and she says he knows loads of stuff about Defense we've never learned. Our Defense teachers for the past few years have been kind of…well, one was an idiot and a fraud, and one was pretending to be an idiot, and one was kind of...evil, I guess? Anyway, we're really worried that we'll be behind in Defense. We were hoping you'd be able to help."
Sam cocked his head. "Just so I'm clear. Are you asking just me, or all of us?" He gestured to Castiel, standing by the desk, and the absent Dean.
"We were sort of hoping you'd all agree to teach us. Since you seem to have different skills, I mean. Like Enochian, and hands-on fighting and stuff..." He waved, vaguely as he trailed off.
Sam considered, then turned to look at his brother. "Cas?"
"I have no objections."
"Right." Sam sighed, then ran a hand through his hair. "I'll have to talk to Dean, since this is more his sort of thing than mine, but I don't think it'll be a problem. We hold daily workouts in a room on the seventh floor. So...how about you give me two days, then you and whoever's interested come up to the seventh floor, and I'll give you our answer then. Deal?"
"Yeah. Deal." Harry nodded.
"Your next class will be starting soon." Castiel's low voice broke in. Harry looked at the clock, swore under his breath, and excused himself, bolting for his next class.
Slipping in just before the bell, he managed a nod to Hermione. He'd asked. Now it was up to her to see who was interested.
Author's Notes: Up next...a Winchester run DA. And mounting suspicions on all sides.