Chapter 22: Training
Our whole studying ahead thing has resulted in me and Hermione having a very unbalanced educational status. In the areas not deemed too urgent like Herbology, we're at about the same level as our classmates. In the areas where we did learn, we're at second or early third year level, but not advancing much. And we spent a lot of time learning a select few useful spells from higher years like Accio where we just memorised incantation and wand movement patterns while skipping most of the theory, not a very scalable approach to learning..
In the duelling club we're often faced with second years, but we're holding back to avoid people asking questions. In order to really advance our combat skill, we have to train in secret.
I heard "Expelliarmus!", and jumped behind a pillar to dodge Hermione's spell.
"Stupefy!", I replied but missed by half a meter.
"Dangerous spell incoming, Reducto!"
I jumped away before my cover got disintegrated by the Reductor curse, and threw a jinx at her: "Petrificus Totalus!"
"Protego!", she blocked it casually. "Really? Is that all you have?"
"Of course not.", I said and cast: "Expelliarmus!"
She just stepped to the side and avoided it, casting at the same time.
I dodged her Jelly-Legs curse, and prepared my own attack, "Wingardium Leviosa", I whispered while carefully moving my left hand. A loud "Reducto!" from my wand followed, aimed to harmlessly pass above her.
She attempted to jump to the side, but got stuck and fell over. One "Accio Wand!" from me and it w0as over.
I noticed some blood on the floor. "Hermione, are you okay? I didn't want you to get hurt."
"Eh, just a scratch. Episkey, Reparo."
I really need to get better at that one. Quite advanced, but she's figured it out already, and fixes everything that goes wrong in our training duels. While she mended her skin and robe, I commanded the Room to clean up the broken pillar.
Finally she asked: "How did you get me to trip? I didn't notice a tripping jinx."
"It wasn't. I put a levitation charm on your left shoe."
"Of course! That's the wandless spell you're the best at. I really need to look up how to enchant clothes against that."
And immediately she's in research mode and off to the library, and won't stop until she figures it out.
Maybe I should've mentioned that I already had Remus take my duelling robes to an enchanter in Diagon to give it the standard anti-summoning protections? Eh, if she learns it we'll save money on enchanting all our other clothing.
"Oh, Harry, is everything okay?", Fred asked when we randomly met on the east staircase a few days later.
"You weren't behaving like normal last time", George continued.
"Whatever passes for normal with you, anyways."
"Yeah, I guess I overdid it a little," I laughed, "but I actually had an idea that might just about work."
I got my water bottle from my pocket, took a sip and showed them how the enchantment immediately created more water out of nothing, violating conservation of mass, momentum, energy and probably a dozen more laws. And when you can casually do that, it allows for some pretty interesting exploits. In theory.
"That's interesting," Fred asked, "but how is this going to make a broom go faster?"
"Trust me, it will. But it's complicated and I got Transfiguration in ten minutes. Let's meet tomorrow in the Room of Requirement?"
"Ok," George confirmed, "and by the way, yesterday we finished a project of ours. We can show it to you then. You'll love it."
More days passed, the twins showed me their totally awesome project, I explained my idea to them, I and Hermione did more training, and plenty of our time was spent with classes, homework and essays. All in all there wasn't much time left to worry about the brewing war. Until the occasional meeting, whether with the entire Order or just me, Snape and Dumbledore, brought it up again.
"Harry, good that you're here on time. We do have something important that we need to discuss today. Occlumency."
"What about it?"
"While the Headmaster thinks that whatever you taught yourself seems to work somewhat, we both believe that you will need serious improvement."
"Totally agree. Are you offering to teach me?"
"More or less. Since Severus has a less busy timetable, I asked him to give you weekly lessons."
Are we ahead of schedule by four years already? Damn, I didn't even notice.
"Sunday, six o'clock. My office."
"Do I have to invent a story about me getting remedial potions classes?"
"That won't be necessary," Dumbledore answered. "On more positive news, we do have got another safehouse ready, the one in Wales. Nicholas told me he'd have enough gold for another two soon, although he's not very happy with us using so much of his money. He's having trouble keeping up, and can't do as many academic experiments as he'd like."
Snape continued: "I also got us enough healing potions of all kinds to last years. Even some Polyjuice. Your little Alchemy discovery paid for some quite expensive ingredients."
And I'm not seeing a knut of it. "Perfect. Remus also got some work done on his project last Friday night. And I have a new project of my own."
I got a piece of paper from my bag and gave it to Dumbledore.
"Is this.. a map of soviet air bases? Where did you get this?"
"Actually Ukrainian, now. The Soviet Union doesn't exactly exist any more. As to where I got it from, ask Kreacher. He's gotten pretty good at navigating the muggle world undetected. The thing about Ukraine is, they currently have a large chunk of the ex-soviet nuclear arsenal. Thousands of bombs and missiles. And they don't really want them, so they'll give them back to Russia. But their government is also pretty chaotic right now. Not all of the paperwork is perfectly done. Things get lost in the bureaucracy. My point is, while I hope that it won't come to that, if we need the firepower to defeat Voldemort, this is the perfect opportunity to get our hands on a thermonuclear warhead or two."
Dumbledore and Snape just stared at me. Then after a few seconds Dumbledore sighed. "I'm not really supposed to inform you about this, but I have the unfortunate feeling that if I do not, you will eventually attempt to sneak off on your own..."
And then he told me about the ICW's top secret Nuclear Oversight & Protection Enforcement, who keep track of all the world's nukes and magically block them unless they're about to be used in a weapons test. I'm not quite sure if I should be disappointed that I won't get to play with nukes or downright euphoric that wizards actually did something sensible for once.
At least those killjoys have a decent acronym, I'll give them that.
After finishing 300 lines of "I will not steal a nuclear warhead", It was almost midnight and I was finally on the way to bed with a cramped hand. Stupid quill. Completely unergonomic. If I only had my good old writing tablet with copy & paste. And Wikipedia. And programming. Instead of spending half an hour writing lines I'd probably have spent two hours writing a script to generate handwriting with small differences to make it seem more real, before giving up and writing the lines manually.
AN: I did indeed spend several hours writing a .gs script to automatically upload new chapters and edits, before giving up and doing it manually. 1319 strikes again.
I was so lost in 2010's nostalgia I didn't notice the leg-locker curse before it caused me to inelegantly fall to the ground.
I immediately grabbed my phoenix wand, but a shouted "Expelliarmus!" from a dark corner behind me caused it to promptly fly away. I instinctively cast a wandless levitation charm on it, stopping it mid-air, before extending my right hand to summon it back, Jedi-style.
At the same time I transfigured my eyes to increase photon count and finally noticed my opponent, a small figure in dark robes, who objected to me getting my wand back. "Hey! Wingardium Leviosa!"
The wand stopped in mid-air for a second time, just barely outside of my reach. For a moment my wandless silent Accio with years of practice behind it and the attacker's wanded spoken levitation charm fought over control, but it wasn't even close. There's a reason barely anyone bothers learning wandless.
But while wands do have a massive power advantage and make it way easier to learn, they also have the disadvantage of only doing one thing at a time. While the obviously not too advanced attacker was busy with the levitation charm, I used my left hand to open an extended pocket, drew my backup wand - dragon heartstring, californian redwood, fifteen inches, great for enchanting and curses - and "Stupefy!".
The mysterious attacker immediately dropped unconscious.
To be quite honest, I'd expected more from someone ambushing me in a dark corridor in the middle of the night.
I summoned my main wand and the attacker's wand, undid the curse on my legs, added an Incarcerous, cast Lumos, immediately regretted doing that before detransfiguring my eyeballs, detransfigured my eyeballs, and finally took a close look at who cursed me.
Draco Malfoy. Talk about low level enemies. I've worried so much about Voldemort recently I completely forgot Draco was still around.
I did my best to give off an imposing look. Wand pointed at him. Voice deepening charm, a real must have to get people on the phone to take you seriously at my age. Slight colour change charm on the irises, to better match that Avada green. Although I doubt he'd recognize it, it's good practice. Now, time to figure out what's going on.
"Hey! What's going on? Did you tie me up?"
"I'm the one asking the questions here. Understood? Good. Now, what were you thinking, attacking me? What, exactly, was your plan? What were you trying to accomplish?"
"Uh.. I was just trying to get you in trouble a bit."
"'Get me in trouble a bit.' Why? Elaborate."
Draco gulped, and after a short pause continued:
"After that duel, back in autumn, everyone in Slytherin laughed at me. So I wanted to get back at you for that."
"So you wanted to, what, improve your reputation? By cursing me in the back? How was that supposed to work?"
"I just noticed that you're sneaking around in the middle of the night. I thought, if you got caught, you'd no longer be the teacher's favourite any more. I swear, that's all. I just wanted to leg-locker you, grab your wand, and wait for Filch to find you."
That actually makes sense. Slytherin Death-Eater son or not, he's eleven, so getting me in trouble with the teachers is still the worst he's mentally capable of. Although I'm not sure if I'm really the teacher's favourite, Hermione is also a contender for that title. But he probably ignores that possibility, for obvious reasons.
"Okay. You cursed me from behind, not exactly honourable but certainly effective. Then the disarming charm second. Good job with that by the way, it seems like you learnt something from my duelling lesson. Would've almost worked."
"I had no idea you could do wandless magic!"
"Yeah, and I preferred it that way. Unfortunately I'm not quite as good with memory charms as I'd like, if I tried to make you forget that detail there's a pretty high chance I might make a mess of it."
His face turned white. Not white skin colour white, but triple-FF white. A4 printer paper white. Partly due to the active Lumos I was pointing at him. But mostly due to the fact that obliviation mistakes are terrifying, and no one would ever trust an eleven year old to get it right.
"I swear I won't tell anyone!"
"Of course not! Are you crazy?"
"Right. I'd need a third party for that. And waking up Hermione for such a minor thing would indeed be crazy."
Okay, I think I enjoyed that a little too much. But you can't force a Vow, and if I accidentally fry his brain Dumbledore would know who it was.
"Fine. No Vow, no obliviation. Looks like I'll just have to trust you to not spread that around. I could leave you here for Filch to find, but I'll be nicer than you. So I'll let you go, you go straight to bed, and never tell anyone about what happened tonight. It wouldn't exactly help your reputation anyways, losing another duel even though you had the surprise advantage."
"Yes. But before that, let me tell you another secret about me. You're probably wondering why I can do wandless magic. Has it ever occurred to you that I am famous?"
"Uh, everyone knows that."
"Yes. But what not everyone realises is that not everyone likes what I am famous for. There are people who'd prefer if I was gone. And not all of these are in prison."
"You think people want to kill you?"
"Finally you got it! So obviously I take self-defence a bit more seriously than the average wizard. It's not paranoia when they're really out to get you. So when someone curses me in the back in the middle of the night, I do take it very seriously."
"You thought I was trying to kill you?"
"Up until you said Wingardium Leviosa in that squeaky young voice of yours when I expected a serious curse, what else was I supposed to think? If that had happened a fraction of a second later, I'd have proceeded with a counter-attack appropriate for a professional assassin."
"And what would that have been?"
I shrugged. "Not sure. Maybe a blasting curse?"
While he imagined the results of that, managing to beat the entire muggle paper industry's best efforts, I threw his wand out the window into the courtyard below, vanished his ropes and left without another word.
Now I'm always using my invisibility cloak, even when I have a legit reason to be out in the middle of the night.
The attack hit my mind, slipped through the primary barriers and scanned for interesting memories. It pretty quickly found one.
I and Hermione stood in the middle of a flowery clearing in a forest.
"Try it", I said. Hermione nodded, and the flower in her hand started floating.
"You're doing great!"
The memory stopped, and faded into another one.
"FREAK!", Petunia shouted. Vernon grabbed me and held me against the wall. He looked blurred, because he had just hit the glasses off my face.
I and Hermione were back in the forest, sitting on a picnic blanket, reading.
Hermione looked up from her book. "I think I'd want to go to Gryffindor. All the best wizards come from there."
I answered: "That'd fit you. Or maybe Ravenclaw? They do have a reputation for books."
"Which House do you think you'll be in?"
"I don't think it'd be Hufflepuff. Too lazy. Whenever I'm faced with hard work, I look for shortcuts. I don't feel like I'm particularly brave, I'd prefer to avoid trouble if possible. Find ways around. Maybe that counts as cunning?"
"So, Slytherin? That house sounds terrible!"
"Yeah, true. The whole pureblood supremacy stuff is awful."
"So, you'd prefer Ravenclaw?"
"I'm not brave and too lazy, so I think I'm either Slytherin or Ravenclaw. You're either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. How about we both do our best to convince the Sorting Hat to put us into Ravenclaw?"
"Good idea. Then we can be in the same house!"
"Imagine if we had to spend all our time at school separated from each other just because some piece of clothing said so. That'd be pretty annoying, right?"
The Legilimency attack stopped, and we were back in Snape's office, for my first proper Occlumency lesson.
"Your Occlumency is halfway-decent for a beginner, Potter, but don't think that just because you have basic barriers in place you can protect your mind from everyone. It only took me seconds to get at one of your memories."
"Did you see much?", I asked.
He was still for a few seconds, as if deep in thought about a past that could have happened.
"Yes. Several memories of your childhood. Which demonstrates that you still need a lot of practice."
"And did you notice anything… off?"
"What do you mean?"
It actually worked!
"It means I won! You got through my primary barrier, but that one was only supposed to stop subtle attacks and to allow communication. Behind that I have a lot of random, unimportant memories and several 'rooms' of memories behind other barriers. One of them is the training room I use when Hermione and I train our Legilimency, one contains private but not too important memories, another one with stronger defences containing everything related to Voldemort and the Order, and so on."
That seemed to surprise Snape a bit. "I did not notice any advanced structures."
"Well, you would have, after a few moments, unfortunately they aren't yet that well disguised. One thing I hope you can help me improve. What I did have was a very simple active defence, basically I set my mind to hit you with a memory that I specifically designed to surprise you and cause you to stop the attack. That trick obviously only works once, but it did work!"
"What do you mean, designed?"
"Remus told me quite a lot about what Lily told him about you. Take a look."
I pushed a memory in front of my primary barriers, and his eyes widened as he read it.
"..That'd be pretty annoying, right?"
Hermione laughed. "Annoying? That's quite an understatement!."
I briefly paused, and dropped the act. "CUT! I think this take was quite good."
"Okay, should we do another scene?"
I shook my head, and around us the forest clearing disappeared. Grass turned into a solid stone floor, the nearby trees shrunk into the ground, revealing that the rest of the forest had only been a painting on the walls, which too faded away. The walls moved closer as the Room of Requirement turned back into a simple classroom.
"Enough for today. But we should think of possible scenes that could surprise Voldemort, just in case. I think the one with the asteroid isn't quite good enough."
"That memory was fake?", Snape yelled.
"Not quite, the part with Petunia was real. The rest happened in a similar fashion, but we re-enacted it to maximise parallels."
"You designed it, on purpose, to make it look like you and Granger were similar to… to Lily and me!"
I nodded. "I originally intended to use the memory to manipulate you into trusting me more, but since we're already getting along pretty well I decided to inform you of its true nature."
Snape laughed. "You're a real evil bastard, Potter.. You would have been a good Slytherin. Although you did have a very good reason to avoid it."
I decided to take that as a compliment.
"I think we should finish for today," Snape said after a short pause. "Since you're a bit further along than I anticipated I will have to revise my lesson plans to include active defences."
"Okay." I got up and walked to the door, then remembered something and stopped. "There's one more thing, though. During last week's Order meeting, Dumbledore mentioned that you'd still be our spy?"
"If the Dark Lord gathers his followers again, I will have to resume that role."
"Isn't that a bit risky? You did attack his mind, after all. The whole double agent thing might not work after that."
"I was in disguise and he only got a short look at me even then. He should also not recognize me by my mind, as my own Occlumency is quite a bit more advanced than yours and I have different personas that I use in different situations. If he managed to scan his attackers, he'd have seen me as a completely different person."
"It's still dangerous."
"I am well aware of the fact, Potter. Fighting the Dark Lord always is."
I took a ballpoint pen from my pocket and gave it to Snape. "Take this. It might help you if you're discovered."
He examined it. "A pen?"
I nodded. "A slightly enchanted one. It works normally if you click it once or twice, but if you click it three times in less than a second then you'll have exactly five seconds before it goes off."
"It mixes two potions, which causes it to explode with a bright flash and a really loud bang. No serious damage, but it should be a good distraction."
Snape looked at the pen for a few seconds, and asked: "Potter, did you by any chance watch too many muggle spy movies?"
"Kinda. Back during the Christmas holidays I had Fred and George visiting, and we spent some time at Hermione's place with some rented movies from Blockbuster. We were watching some James Bond films and the twins loved the gadgets. I suggested they try to build one themselves, and they created this. Their version was meant as a harmless prank item, so I modified it a little by increasing the amount of explosive potion. Took some time of trial and error to figure out at which point a shield charm would recognize the noise as a danger and block it, but this one should be just below that."
"Fred and George Weasley. Of course. Why are you associating with those troublemakers?"
"Because with the right guidance they could give our enemy a lot of trouble. Guiding them is a little difficult since I haven't told them what we're really doing. Professor Dumbledore asked me to not spread it around too much."
Eventually I'll have to tell them though. The twins are so good at coming up with things, I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years we'll have more Checkhov's guns than we'll ever get to fire.
AN: You leave the firing up to me…