Having completed the Slipstream Charm, I suddenly found myself with an abundance of free time. At first, I wasn't quite sure where to focus my attention. There was still so much I wanted to learn. Sometimes I felt like I could spend lifetimes learning, and it still wouldn't be enough.
Having learned Occlumency, I thought it might be time to start teaching myself Legilimency, but I was a little hesitant to begin. The biggest problem with using Legilimency was the beginning stage. Unlike Occlumency, there was an incantation to a legilimency spell that I could pick up within a few weeks if I put my mind to it.
The problem with the incantation of the Legilimency spell is that it lacks any and all subtlety. It's more of a brute force version. The book I had from the Heir's library compared the spell to cracking someone's mind open and trying to gain knowledge from a chaotic jumble of memories. From what I remember from the fifth book, where Professor Snape used the spell on Harry. It seems like an accurate description.
I really would like to bypass the beginning somehow and move onto the wandless version that Dumbledore and Voldemort can use. But, the book also warned that performing Legilimency without a wand is even more difficult than fullying mastering Occlumency.
I'm sure I could turn to my friends for help, but considering how invasive the spell is, I put that option at the bottom of the list.
The coldest and most logical part of my brain suggested that I could practice on someone I didn't like and erase their memories when I was finished. But I wasn't sure I wanted to go down that road. Legilimency was useful, but forcefully ripping open someone's unwilling mind so that I could learn an obscure branch of magic was a line I wasn't willing to cross. Yes, I had stuck a toe across the line with some blackmail. But, there is a big difference between blackmailing someone and tearing into their minds.
Since I wasn't willing to practice on the unsuspecting, nor did I want to do it to any of my friends. That left me with few options. I suppose I could ask Professor Flitwick or Dumbledore for some advice. But, I doubt they would be willing to teach a third-year student advanced mind magic.
Since I didn't have a solution, I decided I would put off learning Legilimency for now. After weighing all my options, I decided to throw myself into finishing my fifth-year spells. I have almost finished with them anyway and should have done it in a couple of weeks. I was looking forward to learning NEWT level magics.
The following weeks slipped by without any significant incidents happening. While I wasn't too surprised by this because nothing happened in the first book, the troll incident had taught me first hand that canon was slowly changing, and I would need to be careful.
I decide to keep my success with my spell a secret from my family. I wanted to surprise Dad with it when I went home for the winter break. I looked forward to seeing his face when he realized how much faster it would make the Firebolt.
During the first week in December, I finally completed all the fifth-year spells and moved onto the next year's textbooks. After reading the first chapter in the Standard Book of Spells Volume 6, I figured out what I would be spending my newly found free time on, Nonverbal Spells.
Nonverbal spells were precisely what they sounded like. Spells cast without the incantation uttered out loud. You still had to say the incantation, but you said it with your mind rather than your mouth.
The biggest advantage of this was an adversary would have no warning about what kind of magic you are about to perform, which gives you a split-second advantage. I will never forget the professional dueling tournament that Uncle John took me to when I was younger. All the top duelists there used nonverbal spells. Seeing spells tossed at one another in silent fervor was an amazing sight.
As useful as nonverbal spells are, many people never become very efficient with them. They require a great deal of concentration and mental discipline, which some people lack. There are other reasons why some people don't use them as well. For example, some spells can have their potency reduced when used nonverbally.
A great example is when Hermoine was cursed by Antonin Dolohov, a death eater in the Department of Mysteries' Battle. Had Dolohov not had the silencing charm used on him, the curse he used probably would have killed Hermoine.
Another reason why some may not use a nonverbal spell is that it's not needed. My dad rarely uses them in his work. He prefers speaking the incantations as he claims it helps him concentrate on what he is working on, rather than dedicating mental energy to getting the spell to work nonverbally.
Still, I was looking forward to practicing nonverbal spells. I probably won't have many spells ready for the dueling competition in a couple of weeks. But, I bet by the time the international competition comes around in April I can give everyone a big surprise.
I was still somewhat sore that my debut on the international stage was interrupted by an unexpected trip to China. But, if I can master enough nonverbal spells by April, I have a feeling I will shock the seniors in the Silver Spears. Although I hadn't been as focused on dueling this year as I did last year, I still had hopes of one day receiving training from a dueling master.
The Silver Spears guarantees assistance and some training for any member in good standing if they wish to join the Professional Dueling League. But honestly, I don't think I am too interested in going pro. Not to mention, by the time I graduate, Voldemort will have returned. So, who knows what will be going on by then.
But, if I can impress one of the masters, I could be offered a summer apprenticeship starting after my fifth year. I know Zack was offered one this past summer, and I expect it will show during the competitions this year.
With all that in mind, one evening at the beginning of December. I was deep within the sanctum of the Ravenclaw tower, practicing nonverbal spells. Just like the books promised they would be, I found nonverbal spells to be extraordinarily difficult.
Not for the first time, I mentally chanted 'Incendio' as I made a triangle motion with my wand. Like all my previous attempts, no fire erupted from my wand.
"Work, damn it." I cursed.
Working on nonverbal spells could be maddening. Not being able to work a spell I could have performed with my eyes closed was annoying the crap out of me. I had been performing the basic fire charm for years at this point.
Logically, I knew that it would take some time for me to succeed. But still, part of me had silently scoffed that this would be only slightly more challenging, and I would pick it up right away.
Determined to make this work, I gritted my teeth and held my breath in concentration. Incendio, Incendio, Incendio, I mentally murmured.
"You know," a snide voice cut in. "When you make that face, I can't tell if you're trying to cast a spell or just really constipated."
Furious, I turned the Bronze Eagle Statue, who was smirking at me. I snapped my wand at it, "Reducio."
I'll forever treasure the look on the Statue's face. It was a delicious mixture of shock and outrage sprinkled with a hint of surprise. I don't think it ever expected me actually to do anything to it.
Slowly, the Statue began shrinking before my eyes.
"What did you do to me?" The Eagle demanded as it continued to shrink.
I chuckled maliciously. "Oh, nothing much. I just thought you could use a benefit from a change in perspective."
The shrinking continued until the Bronze Eagle was about the size of a baby chicklet.
Looming over the Statue, I chuckled, "There. Now you should have a more accurate measure of our relationship."
The Eagle waived its wings about and squeaked out in a tiny voice. "How dare you. You'll pay for this."
Peals of laughter erupted from behind me. Turning, I saw the Grey Lady hovering behind me, looking absolutely delighted at the Statue's predicament.
If anything, I think the Statue was more upset at seeing the grey lady seeing him in this situation than he was about being shrunk in the first place.
Fuming, the Statue hopped around in a little circle. With each hop, the stature demanded, "Turn… Me… Back… Right… Now."
"Not until you've learned your lesson," I explained.
Not willing to remain shrunken in the presence of the Grey Lady, the tiny Statue huffed its displeasure and disappeared.
"Don't worry." The Grey Lady said. "He'll be back once he calms down."
"Out of curiosity, what did he do to get shrunk?"
"He kept distracting me with snide comments while I was working on a nonverbal spell."
As silence filled the room, my face reddened in embarrassment as I realized how petty that sounded. "Maybe I went too far," I lamely offered.
The Grey Lady chuckled in amusement. "I'm sure it's fine," she said. "I've known the Eagle for far longer than you, and you're not the first Heir of Ravenclaw to curse it."
Hearing that I wasn't the only Heir to use magic on the Eagle made me feel better.
"What's the Statue's problem? It constantly makes rude and snarky remarks. I would have thought me being the Heir of Ravenclaw would make it more agreeable."
Helena snorted, "That Statue has only loved and respected one person, and that was my mother. He only tolerates you because you're an Heir. It probably doesn't help that he has pretty much kept to himself for a thousand years. Anyone who spends that much time alone is sure to have a few loose screws."
"Sounds like a lonely existence." I mused. "Why does he spend all his time alone? Being personally created by Rowena ensures that he would be more than welcome in Ravenclaw tower."
Helena shrugged, "Who knows. I doubt it was my mother's intention that he remain so isolated. She could be cold, but she was never needlessly cruel. Perhaps that's just the way he is. Maybe you should ask him sometime."
We fell into a comfortable silence, and just when I was about to return to my silent casting, Helena remarked, "So you moved onto nonverbal spells, that's quite remarkable, even for an heir."
I grimaced, "Well, I haven't actually successfully yet. I'm having more difficulty than I thought I would."
"That's not a big surprise," Helena soothed. "There is a reason why they don't introduce nonverbal spells until the sixth year."
"Do you know of any tricks I can use?"
Helena shook her transparent head. "I'm afraid not. There isn't any trick or clever workaround to nonverbal spells. It simply takes a great deal of mental discipline and concentration combined with a great deal of repetition."
For some reason, her reply relaxed me. For the last two years, if I have learned how to do anything, it was how to persevere. First with Occlumency, then with creating a spell. If the only thing standing in my way from learning nonverbal spells was mental focus and repetition. Then it was only a matter of time before I would succeed.
Filled with confidence, I gathered all my mental energy, which had been honed over the past few years.
Thoughts of fire filled my mind, and I mentally shouted Incendio.
A small glowing orange ember shot out of the tip of my wand. Even though it was far from the fire charm I had been going for, it was a start.
By the end of the night, I was getting fiery, ember sparks shooting out from the tip of my wand nearly every time. I went to bed pleased with my results. It was only a matter of time.
A few days later, my persistence paid off. With a mere thought, I was now about to send streams of fire at anyone or anything I wanted.
The next two weeks went by in a blur, and soon it was time to board the Hogwarts Express and head home for a few weeks.
When I got to the platform, I found Mum waiting for me alone.
"Where is everyone?"
"The girls are with your grandma, and your dad had to take care of some business, so it's just me today."
After trying to smother me to death, mum motioned for me to follow. "Come on, Lola has been whipping up a feast for everyone all day. She'll be in tears if we're late."
By the time we got home, the last rays of sunshine were fading away.
As soon as I got inside, I was nearly bowled over by the twins. But, they quickly abandoned me in favor of Athena, who was always happy to be the center of attention.
Hearing all the commotion, Grandma wandered into the room. "Alex," she happily greeted. Sweeping me into a hug, she added, "It's so good to see you."
In a playful voice, she said, "So a little birdie told me you are at the top of the list for the student exchange program."
A ghost of a smile appeared on my face. "What do you think of my chances."
She patted me on the cheek and winked at me, "If I had to guess, I would say you have it in the bag. You might even see some familiar faces along the way as well."
I smiled, pleased at her reassurance about my friends coming along. When I had written to her earlier in the year and asked for her help, she warned me that while she could pretty much guarantee I would have a spot, my friends were another matter.
"Your professors must like you and your friends. All of you were at the top of the list for consideration. It made it easy for me to push for all of you to be selected."
"So it's official," I eagerly confirmed. "We all got selected for the student exchange."
Grandma nodded, "I'm sure you will be informed when you return to school. Now that you have been selected, you still have to choose what school you wish to attend next year officially."
"Are you still planning on going to Uagadou?"
Seeing me nod, she mused, "I think that's a good choice. Your cousin Omar goes there, and I think it will be nice for him to show you around Uagadou."
I nodded. Having Omar around next year would be nice. But, it wasn't a factor when I chose Uagadou as my destination, more of a bonus.
Eager to talk to dad about the Slipstream Charm, I asked, "Where's dad?"
Grandma waived towards the back of the house. "Your father is in his study working. I swear, sometimes he is so much like his father, always bringing his work home with him."
I left grandma behind and went to Dad's study. Once I got to the door, I noticed Dad had set up a work table in the corner and was currently leaning over a gleaming broom."
"Is that it?" I asked. "Is that the Firebolt?"
Startled, Dad looked up and beamed when he saw me standing in the doorway. "Alex, you're home. When did you get back?"
"Just now," I replied.
I was so focused on the Firebolt. I barely registered moving through Dad's study.
I ran my fingers along the gleaming ebony handle. "It's beautiful," I breathed.
From the streamlined handle to the birch and hazel twigs, every inch of the Firebolt screamed that it was built for speed. Adding to the design was the goblin ironwork. Dad had broken the mold when he added metal to the broom for unparalleled stability. Near the rear by the birch and hazel twigs was a golden plate with 001 inscribed on it.
Putting his arm around me, dad asked, "So, what do you think? Think it will be enough to take on the Nimbus?"
"Take on," I jeered. "The Firebolt is going to destroy the Nimbus. I almost feel sorry for Delvin, almost."
After admiring the Firebolt for a few more minutes, I turned to Dad and said, "Speaking of destroying the Nimbus, I have something that I think will help."
Dad raised an eyebrow and rubbed his short stubble-like beard.
"What is it?" He asked.
Decided to get it over with, I replied, "It's a spell I made."
Dad nodded for a moment, then jerked to a stop. "Wait, what?" He said in disbelief.
"A spell you made? From scratch?"
Blinking rapidly in confusion, he clarified, "Are you sure you didn't find this spell in some forgotten text? Or maybe you modified an already existing spell?"
I shook my head, "It's my spell," I promised. "I spent the better part of six months working on it."
After searching my face for the truth, a smile broke out on my dad's face. "That's incredible," he crowed. "Do you realize that you've done something ninety percent of wizards will never do?"
Dad's eyes widened as a thought occurred to him. "Alex, how far along in your studies are you?" He asked suspiciously. "There's no way a third year should be able to create a spell."
He narrowed his eyes when I hesitated.
I winced at the full use of my name. I usually only got that from Mum, and then it was only when she was really serious.
Seeing how there was no reason to conceal how far ahead I was, I answered, "I've started working on NEWT level magics."
Dad blinked rapidly in surprise and muttered, "Merlin's soiled underpants. My son is a genius."
I shot Dad a smug look, "Are you just now figuring that out?" I teased.
"Hmmph," Dad grunted, trying to act like he wasn't as impressed as we both knew he was, "So, what's this spell you made?"
My smirk went from a smug grin to a full-on Cheshire Cat smile. "Oh, nothing much. It will just increase the speed of the Firebolt, or any broom by twenty-five percent."
Dad's eyes bulged, "Twenty-five percent." He half-shouted. "But… That… I mean"
Dad's voice trailed off as he wasn't quite sure what to say.
As for me, I simply radiated smugness.
Once Dad recovered, he said in a proud tone, "Alex, that's incredible. I'm so proud of you."
His eyes widened as a thought occurred to him, "With this spell, I could get you into the enchanters guild. You could even skip the bronze stage and go right to silver."
I snorted and shook my head, "I don't think so. The second I join the enchanting guild, Mum will drag me down to the potioneers society and force me to join. Maybe one day, but for now, I have enough on my plate."
"Fine," Dad sulked.
From the crafty look in his eye, I had a feeling that this wasn't the last I had heard of it.
Putting his disappointment behind him, Dad eagerly asked, "How does your spell work?"
"It removes all drag," I eagerly blurted out.
Seeing Dad's puzzled look, I further explained, "Think of drag like resistance that builds as you move through the air."
Dad rolled his eyes at me, "I understood you the first time."
Pointing at the aerodynamic Firebolt, he added, "I did just build the fastest broom in the world."
My face heated up in embarrassment. I should have realized my dad would be somewhat familiar with the concept of air resistance.
"Well, you looked a little confused." I defended myself.
"That's because I was thinking," Dad replied. "You said your spell would increase the speed by twenty-five percent, right?"
I nodded, "I tested the spell on multiple brooms to be sure."
Dad stroked his stubble beard, "Hmmm."
"What is it?" I asked.
Making eye contact with me, dad replied in a serious tone, "Are you sure your spell does what you think?"
Confused, I asked, "What? I already told you, it removes all drag from the broom and rider."
Dad gave me a skeptical look, "I don't know," he said. "An increase of twenty-five percent seems a little low for removing all air resistance."
"Really? How much faster should it be?" I questioned.
Dad shrugged, "I have no idea. It just sounds a little off to me."
"But that's what I intended when I created the spell," I argued.
Seeing I was a little frustrated, Dad suggested, "How about we do some testing and try to work out how your spell works?"
"Really?" I eagerly asked. "Can we get started right now?"
Dad mussed my short hair. "Tomorrow," he said. "It's about time for dinner, and your mother will be upset if we spend the night playing with spells."
I wanted to argue, but I knew he was right. Besides, it was my first day back—no need to poke the momma bear quite so soon.
Dinner was excellent as always. Lola, our house elf, went above and beyond.
The next day, Dad and I took one of his older prototypes outside for testing. Dad had a wide array of tools strapped onto a tool belt.
Eager to get started, I quickly explained the spell's effects so he wouldn't fall off like Alicia.
Once the Slipstream charm was attached, Dad said, "There's no better way to get started than to take it out for a test run."
Rising slowly into the air, Dad started to feel how the broom operated with the slipstream spell attached. Once he got used to it, he started pushing the broom to go faster.
Dad spent the rest of the day running test after test on the broom. He was so focused that he forgot to eat lunch. I knew better than to bug him when he got like this, so I left him alone.
He finished just as the sun was heading down. Landing in front of me, Dad remarked, "Alex, this spell of yours is something else."
"So, does it work as I thought it did?"
Dad frowned, "Partially," he explained. "Your spell definitely reduces air resistance. But, only partially, as for how much, I can't really give you a number."
"Then how come you can't feel any air resistance when you're flying on the broom?" I questioned.
Dad scratched his head, "I'm not sure. I believe the spell isolates you somehow. That's also why the feeling of acceleration and deceleration are somewhat muted. But, just because you're isolated doesn't mean you are completely immune to the forces at work."
Disappointed, I said, "I was hoping for a little more clarity. Like how the spell works rather than just the effects of the spell."
Dad waved his arms helplessly, "It's magic, sometimes magic is just unexplainable."
Seeing my disgruntled expression, Dad laughed, "If wizardkind can't even really explain how simple spells work. Spells like yours are far beyond us."
Dad pulled out his wand, "Think about this. We can't even fully explain the fire charm."
Seeing my disbelief, dad smiled and summoned a flame. "We all know fire exists by burning things. So what is this fire burning?"
Remembering my shallow chemistry lessons with Nicolas Flamel. I guessed, "I don't know, perhaps the air."
Dad smirked like he had been expecting that. He waved his wand again, encasing the burning flame in a solid glass ball.
Seeing the flame burning merrily within the glass ball, I admitted, "I don't know. How is it doing that?"
Dad shrugged, "I haven't the faintest clue. Magic?" He suggested.
With a wave of his wand, the fiery glass ball vanished.
"Whenever I test a spell, I'm not trying to puzzle out how the spell is possible, but rather what the spell is doing. Trust me, trying to do the former will drive you mad."
Sensing my disappointment, Dad laughed. "Try not to think of it if it bothers you so much. Regardless of what you initially assumed, your spell is still impressive. I was able to get the broom to speeds of nearly 300 KPH (187 MPH).
I grinned, even though I had calculated the same number. It was gratifying to see it in action. We were so close to being ready. It was only a matter of months until we were ready to move. Delvin and the Nimbus Broom Racing Company wouldn't know what hit them.
Ok, so a lot happened in this chapter. Alex finally got his first taste of nonverbal spells. I always felt like Rowling kind of dropped the ball on this one. She introduced them, but still had characters using incantations. Every once in a while, she would show a nonverbal spell, but most of the time incantations were used.
As for Legilimency, all I will say on the subject is that eventually it will be learned. But, as of now its not the biggest priority for Alex.
Finally, the slipstream charm. When Alex created the spell, he assumed that he knew how it operated. It was kind of a surprise for him to find out that magic didn't do exactly what he wanted or thought it should do. On a side note, I hope this chapter better explains the capabilities of the slipstream charm. There were some really interesting discussions on what would happen if the spell truly removed all drag. I hoped this explanation showed that their are definite limitations to this spell. As for anything else unexplainable with the spell, I'm just going to shrug and say magic. Also, when it comes to not being able to explain how magic works, that's just the way the HP magic system work. Magic is magic, it doesn't have to make sense.