Herbology was taught by Professor Pomona Sprout. They started the class in the entrace hall of Hogwarts, where she gave them an overview on several topics: Grass-type Pokemon, medicinal berries, the effects of weather on Pokemon health, and how certain moves could affect the local weather. It was nothing new to Harry, who had been obsessed with Battle Science his whole life, and thus knew everything about how weather affected Pokemon moves and how certain Pokemon had abilities that let them move faster under certain weather conditions.

"There's more, of course," Professor Sprout said, "but this is all you need to survive in the event you're called to battle tomorrow. That's very unlikely, of course, we wouldn't risk our youngest generation unless the need was dire. So today we'll be cultivating berries."

Harry smiled, but very few other people did. Many of them were still sore from yesterday's trial, and today's classes were more relaxed. Today's classes would all be book learning—Herbology, Charms, and Potions. No massive trials by combat like yesterday's simulated Dynamax Raid.

Sprout led them outside, through the cold snowbanks of the Hogwarts grounds, to a greenhouse, filled with row upon row of berry bushes. He and Ron claimed a row of berry bushes, and Hermione and Lavender claimed the one besides it.

"Is this what life's going to be?" Hermione whispered, mostly to herself, kneeling next to a berry bush. "Is this what I have to deal with? Crawling in the mud? Doing agriculture? Am I going to die by fifteen?"

Ron smiled painfully. "We've all been there. Six years old was a hard time for me."

"You were afraid?" Lavender said. "But you're a Weasley! Your family's so impressive. Though I suppose that makes sense — I couldn't possibly imagine growing up in the shadow of so many surviving older brothers, it must have been such an experience. I'm Lavender, of the Browns, though you probably already all know that, but of course we haven't been formally introduced so it's only proper."

She said this all in one breath.

"Hermione Granger," Hermione said. Lavender didn't even spare her a glance.

"I'm Harry, uh, of the Potters."

"Well met, child of the Sacred Eight," Ron said awkwardly. "Your munip-You grace us with your munificent presence."

Lavender stared at him, bewildered, before bursting into a fit of giggles. "I cannot—Did someone tell you to say that? Someone told you to say that. I bet it was your brothers—Fred and George, I think their names are? It sounds like the sort of thing they would tell you to do. But why on earth would you take them seriously still if you grew up with them?"

"Well," Ron said, "This way I look like a simpleton. If I'm too casual, I could, I dunno, give you a vendetta against me for life."

Lavender stopped smiling, and a thoughtful look crossed her face. Then she nodded and gave Ron a smile.

"How'd you know about Ron's brothers, anyways?" Harry said.

"Oh, I spent last night talking to the older students. Once they hear the name Brown they're jumping to share all the gossip they have, you know, it's the benefit of the Eight. A lady's work is never done! And of course I wanted to make myself useful, since I barely did anything yesterday—that was all you, Harry—Can I call you Harry? We'll be peers in a greater sense someday."

Harry had no problem with that, and Lavender beamed. "Wonderful! And speaking of yesterday, that was some impressive footwork. Super smooth— you looked like you were practically gliding over the field, and the way you slowed down once you hit the Psychic Terrain — that must've been a Grassy Glide, right? That's amazing — we don't learn advanced spells until the spring. Did you pick that up in your secret elite pre-Hogwarts training bootcamp, or do you just like gardening?"

She was a lot more talkative than she had been the day before, though Harry supposed it was hard to speak freely when your professor was unleashing the elements at you.

"I didn't go to any secret bootcamps," Harry said. "Was that an option?"

He rather hoped it hadn't been, for if it had, the last days of summer had been a colossal waste.

"Well, I don't know, but you are the Boy-Who-Lived and the last of the Potters," Lavender said. "And we haven't heard hide nor hair of you for a decade, so I guess we all hoped you were off training somewhere intense? I mean some of the rumors started to get absurd — some people thought you were bound to fix the broken world and purge the shadow of the fear of death for once and for all, I mean, that's just silly, it's not like there are prophecies about you, I think, but I guess we all figured if the last Potter wasn't part of the wizarding world there was a good reason for it."

She was putting Harry in a rather tight spot.

"I was raised by my aunt and uncle," Harry said. "From my mother's side of the family."

Lavender's eyes widened almost imperceptibly. "But that would mean— not that there's anything wrong with it, but… the last Potter, raised by muggles? How on—"

"And just what," Hermione said indignantly, "is wrong with being raised by muggles?"

At this point, none of them were gardening, and people were starting to listen in on their conversation. Professor Sprout wasn't interfering, for some reason. Harry wondered if she would, or whether she was as hands-off as many of the teachers he knew in the muggle world.

"I mean, nothing! Nothing's wrong with being raised by muggles, I love muggle culture!" Lavender said. "I mean, I love the Macho Men — have you heard their latest album? It just speaks to me. And Hernando's crooning? Simply divine."

The Macho Men were the latest homegrown boy band sensation sweeping Galar. Harry didn't listen to them because their music was so sappy it was disgusting and it was mostly targeted towards girls, which was normal for most boy bands. Unlike other boy bands, though, one of their members was a Pokemon. Hernando was a Machoke, and while he wasn't able to sing lyrics, he was able to effect a croon. At their concerts, he mostly just flexed his muscles. Harry didn't get it, but most of the muggle girls he'd known had swooned over it. One of his muggle acquaintances had said that they looked so manly, but they had such soft, gentle hearts.

"Of course I've heard of them," Hermione said beedrilly. "So the only value of muggles are our formulaic boy bands."

Lavender looked outright offended by that. "I didn't say that. I'm as Galarian as any muggle. But, like, I just turned eleven. Are you really going to blame me for liking some absolutely sublime tunes over, I dunno, Shakespeare?"

"It sounds like you recognize it's a problem," Hermione said.

Harry glanced at Ron, who looked like a Deerling in the headlights. But Lavender just sighed dramatically, and pulled off her gardening gloves to look at her perfectly manicured nails. "Look, Granger, I understand. Truly, I do. You've just learned that everything you ever knew is a total lie that was being told to protect you and now you have to do the protecting. But, like, can we skip this part? Can we skip to the part after you've acclimated to what the world is really like?"

She turned to Harry and said, in a stage whisper, "I hope you're not as shocked as she is."

"Gee, I don't know," Hermione said. "But it sounds like you know that Pokemon have souls and I just learned this week that Pokemon can equal humans in intelligence and yet it still sounds to me like you're swooning over a Machoke who is most likely, by all accounts, a lobotomized slave. Am I supposed to get used to that?"

"How dare you!" Lavender shouted. "How dare you…"

Her voice was unsteady.

Hermione didn't waver. "Am I wrong?"

"Hermione," Ron said, loudly and bluntly, "I'm bad with plants. Can you identify what this berry is for me?"

"Sorry, Ronald. I want answers."

"Hermione, I need help with plants."

To Harry, as oblivious as he was, it seemed that Ron was trying to save Hermione from incurring the wrath of Lavender Brown from now into eternity. And Harry didn't really feel like wading into the morality of a singing Machoke in bondage. He was vaguely aware they had attracted an audience as well. He was vaguely aware that there were a whole bunch of scandalized whispers, some of them mentioning the Machoke.

And of course, the audience member to interfere was Draco Malfoy.

"Potter," he said, as loudly and obnoxiously as Ron, "if you'll allow me to have your ear for a moment, this is what I meant to speak with you yesterday. It should be quite clear to you now that it simply wouldn't do for a child of the Sacred Eight to befriend the wrong sort of wizard. Ron's not all that bad, though he'll likely not make it to twenty, so a poor investment. But an uppity muggleborn?"

This snapped Lavender out of her sorrow. Instantly, she was as effusively bubbly as she'd been seconds before. "Good lord, whatever have I done to deserve this? Being chastised by a muggleborn I was prepared for, but to need help from a Malfoy? I can't believe I've fallen so far."

"But you're going to let her talk to you like that?" Malfoy said. "She's a—"

"Piss off, Malfoy," Ron said. "The lady doesn't need your help."

"A Brown doesn't need the help of a Malfoy," Lavender said. "And it would do you good, Malfoy, to know your place. Where's —Greengrass, come and fetch him. He's in your house — that makes him your problem."

"I don't, as a rule," Daphne Greengrass said from the back of the crowd, which parted at her words, "stop people from making idiots of themselves. I would never have any time to myself if I did."

"Potter," Malfoy said pleadingly. "Surely you see that I have a point? Surely that you can see that an uppity muggleborn shouldn't be allowed to show such lip to a child of the Eight?"

"I was raised by muggles, Malfoy, so I wouldn't know," Harry said, anger finally surfacing in his heart. He didn't care now that everyone would now know that their supposed savior had been raised by muggles. The scandalous whispers intensified. "But you can't just turn your nose up at everyone who's different than you."

"Piss off, Malfoy," Ron said again. "You've done enough damage."

But of course, Hermione couldn't let them go.

"And just why are you showing Potter, Brown, and Greengrass such undue reverence?" she said. "Muggle Galar eliminated its nobility centuries ago. Is this society so backwards that you still have a full-on aristocracy?"

"There's always one," Lavender sighed airily and histrionically. "Always one."

"Always one what?" Hermione said. "Always one person who believes in the fundamentally equality of all humans?"

"What on earth are you on about, Granger?" Malfoy interjected. "We're wizards. Ira Draconis!"

He pointed his wand upwards, and three orbs of shimmering cosmic fire, dancing indigo, violet, and orange light soared through the greenhouse ceiling, breaking through the glass.

"Saying that all humans are—"

"Shut up, Malfoy," Lavender and Hermione said simultaneously. Lavender gave Hermione a conciliatory smile.

"Supposed nobles," she said with an affected giggle. "So very unruly."

But Hermione didn't budge. "More unruly than uppity muggleborns?"

"I can see that you'll be having a very eventful four years in the Gryffindor dorms, Potter, Brown," Daphne Greengrass said, stepping forward from the crowd. "Now, get to work, Malfoy. There's a Durin Berry bush with your name on it."

And to Harry's relief, they parted ways, and he and Ron could return to the gardening without needing to hear more of the feud between Lavender and Hermione.

The next class was Charms/Battle Flow Control. They were taught by Professor Filius Flitwick, who was a diminutive man with a squeaky voice.

The Charms classroom was split into two sides by a wide corridor, almost ten meters across and twenty meters long. The Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs sat on one side, and the Ravenclaws and Slytherins sat on the other. Flitwick's desk was directly across from the door, at the far end of the room, and it was piled with books and scrolls and all manner of devices.

His Pokemon were helping supervise; his Dedenne perched on a bookshelf near the far end of the room, electricity arcing from its cheeks as it fondled its wiry tail. His Klefki jingle-jangled high above the class, its various keys glinting in the light. His Lucario watched from near the door, poised and ready to strike.

Flitwick paced down the center of the room as he lectured, gesticulating wildly with his wand.

"Now normally a Charm merely alters the properties of an object — and I use properties very loosely here, the Levitation Charm alters the property of physical location in space, and physical location in space is hardly a property intrinsic to an object, so the field is very much a catch-all. But the esoterica of charmwork doesn't matter in the field. Charms are cast with sharp, precise wand movements and clearly enunciated incantations. And there is one charm that is essential! If there is one charm that will save your life time and time again, it is the Shield Charm! Also known as Protect! The basic incantation is Protego. But there are countless variations on it that improve on specific functions: Protego Diffus, the Wide Guard, which is weak in power but effective at shielding one's allies from spread attacks."

He waved his wand, and a shimmering barrier appeared at the far end of the room, separating Flitwick and the class from his Dedenne. He nodded to his Dedenne. "If you would, Mr. Pibbles?"

The Dedenne squeaked gleefully, before unleashing parabolic arcs of electricity that would have danced around the classroom, no doubt stunning tons of defenseless students, if not for Flitwick's Wide Guard.

"That was Parabolic Charge," Flitwick said, "an attack that siphons electrical energy from the environment with no regard for anyone's safety but the user's own. But because of its spread nature, it is too weak to penetrate the Wide Guard. However…"

Mr. Pibbles crackled with electrical light, before unleashing a focused bolt of electricity at Flitwick. The Wide Guard rippled as the electrical surge passed through, though it did not break. Flitwick caught the electrical bolt on the tip of his wand, and redirected it into the floor."Wide Guard is worthless against any sort of focused attack," Flitwick said. "If a frenzied wild Pokemon or a Dynamax Pokemon is systemically picking your deployment team off, one by one, a Wide Guard won't keep you safe. Hence the need to know a basic Protego."

He turned to face the room with a flourish as he summoned a shield charm, which shimmered with a faint blue glow before him, ignoring Hermione's raised hand.

"Now, moving on, Protego Rapida, the Quick Guard, which protects your allies from priority attacks. What does that mean, if you're new to battle science or magic?"

He nodded to the Lucario. "My dear friend Caius here is going to use a series of attacks against me. He will use Bullet Punches and Vacuum Waves, before finishing with a Force Palm. Observe carefully!"

Caius the Lucario surged forward, twitching his front paws, shooting forward microbursts of supercompressed air with loud pops. Flitwick seemed to enter a trance, muttering the words "Protego Rapida" over and over again. His wand flew before him, parrying each and every one of the Vacuum Waves, as Caius closed in. As the Lucario drew closer, the twitching hands became fists, the barrage of punches like a hail of bullets. And Flitwick parried every one, his wand flicking every which way to meet Caius's fists, silver sparks scattering from every collision of the bullet punches with the shields of the Quick Guard, every hit like a snare drum. Faster and faster the bullet punches flew. Faster and faster did Flitwick's wand fly. Until Caius opened his palm, and slid it past Flitwick's fast guard, placing a forceful palm glowing with blue aurafire on Flitwick's chest.

"Touche indeed," Flitwick said. "Thank you, Caius. Wonderful, splendid as always!"

The Lucario bowed its head, then leaped to perch atop one of Flitwick's many cabinets.

"Protego Diffusus and Protego Rapida. Both variants on Protego itself, but the additional charm components make the differences so very vast! Diffusus is governed by will and knowledge; it follows certain ironclad rules, and so is almost impenetrable within its domain of protection but almost worthless outside of it. Contrary to that, Rapida draws upon my physical agility as much as it draws upon my magical power. If I weren't so blessed with quick reflexes, Rapida wouldn't work so well for me. And that's the thing you must remember!"

He walked up to the front of the class and climbed onto his desk. It was almost a comical sight, though he was nimble enough for it not to be awkward.

"There are other variants. Protego Spina, the Spiky Shield, which manifests a physical barrier of brambles before you. Protego Tatami, the Mat Block, that repurposes detritus into a barrier but depends heavily on the element of surprise. And Protego Aegis, the King's Shield. You may find yourself more capable of some protection spells than others. You may not. But nearly everyone is capable of a simple Protego, and I would be a terrible teacher if I let you leave this room without having some progress made towards it. Release your Pokemon!"

Flitwick demonstrated the wand movements for the basic Protego and enunciated the incantation several times, before he divided the first-years into five groups for practice. Four were by house. "Just for now, of course!" he said. "Once you've mastered the basics of Protego, then the fun really begins!"

Harry, Lavender, Draco, Daphne Greengrass, Susan Bones, and Zacharias Smith were in the fifth group.

Flitwick directed the six of them to wait besides his desk while he circulated among the four other groups to answer any initial questions. Harry realized that five of them had last names in the Sacred Eight, but…

"Why are you here?" he asked Draco.

Draco sniffed aristocratically. "I'll have you know that my mother Narcissa is of the Ancient and Noble House of Black."

"She married down," Zacharias Smith said in a tone that took no shit.

"How does it feel, Smith," Draco shot back, "knowing that if a muggle named Smith stumbles across a wild Meltan and raises it properly, he would usurp you in the order to be the Smith?"

"There are no wild Meltan, you ignoramus—"

"Settle down, settle down," Flitwick squeaked as returned to his desk, clambering atop the piles of books. "None of that is here nor there. But yes, as you've realized, the six of you have recent heritage of the Sacred Eight. As such, it is my duty as Hogwarts's Battle Flow Coordinator to test your ability to cast the King's Shield — Protego Aegis."

"Does that mean we're royalty?" Harry asked. He didn't think it was a stupid question.

Flitwick stared at him, sucking in a deep breath. "No," he said, after a tense moment. "The name is borrowed from the signature move of Aegislash, and the techniques are fundamentally similar. While those Pokemon have historically been wielded by kings, it is not the title of royalty that grants them the power of King's Shield. Rather, it is their inherent regal elan vitae. In witches and wizards, that translates to a familial magic, the regal elan vitae carried by every true-bred member of the Sacred Eight, which grants them the ability to cast Protego Aegis. Think of it as an Egg Move."

"But surely, sir—if I might presume," Susan Bones said. "Surely you're not a child of the Sacred Eight?"

Draco and Zacharias both snorted.

"I would hope that was obvious," Flitwick said. "I'd be out on the battling circuit if I was. Or being somewhere other than a school. Not that I don't love teaching inquisitive young minds!"

"But then—how can you teach us to cast Protego Aegis, sir?"

Flitwick smiled. "Good observation, Susan of the Bones. I can't directly."

He tapped his wand on his desk. A side door that hadn't been there a moment before swung open.

"As I said — Protego Aegis flows from the regality of the silver soul. All I can do is put you in an environment where the magic will flow out of your heart."

"You're not going to tell us anything?" Harry said.

"No need," Flitwick said. "Either you can do Protego Aegis, or you can't. It's not finicky like baseline Protego or highly conceptual like Wide Guard or reliant on quick reflexes like Detect or Quick Guard. I wouldn't sorry so much, Harry of the Potters — not after your brilliant performance in McGonagall's class yesterday."

"He had help," Draco whined. "Greengrass transformed—"

"You think I transformed an acre of non-euclidean space into Grassy Terrain wordlessly and wandlessly, Malfoy?" Daphne Greengrass said neutrally. "I'm flattered."

"You had a wand—"

"The beauty of inter-house cooperation!" Flitwick said. He seemed to be losing his patience. "We've been doing similar to this for years, but you're the first chance I've had to test out the most recent refinements in the past decade, so you're all in luck, you're the test case for your younger siblings and cousins! Real pity the War wiped out most of the spares. So form a line, and Caius, my Lucario partner, will meet you one-on-one in the adjoining training room. It's soundproof. He'll draw out your Aegis, or not."

"Why the privacy?" Smith said.

"There was a situation a few centuries back when a Brown turned out to be a Black, but you're far too young to know of the details."

Draco rushed to be the first to the door to the training room.

"My mother was of the House of Black, and Black is first in alphabetical order, so I shall be the first to prove myself," he said pompously.

The door to the training room sealed shut as he entered. The five remaining of them stood about awkwardly.

"I almost feel sorry for him," Susan Bones said after a long moment.

Zacharias Smith snorted. "I don't."

Harry pulled out his wand and stared at it forlornly. It was a special wand, but he had no idea what was expected of him.

"Nervous?" Lavender asked Harry. "Don't be. I mean, after what we saw from you yesterday, this should be a breeze for you!"

"Have you done it before?" Harry asked them.

"I've tried," Lavender said. Susan pursed her lips, and Zacharias stared at the ground.

"You'll all do fine," Daphne said softly.

"Daphne of the Greengrasses, being nice?" Zacharias Smith said. "You must have no faith in us at all."

"I assure you, Zacharias, I have every confidence in the four of you."

She directed a pointed glance to the training room.

"How do you know?" Harry said. "What makes us… what makes me different from Malfoy?"

Daphne looked at him for a second, before directing short glances at Lavender, Zacharias, and Susan. None of them volunteered any insight, and she sighed.

"I heard you were raised by muggles. Is that true?"

"Do you have a problem with that?"

She assessed him with her cold blue eyes.

"I don't," she said after a moment, "but you might. When you were younger, did you ever dream of winning glory in Dynamax Raids?"

"Of course," Harry said. "Who didn't?"

"Wizards and witches," Daphne said. "The magical cannot afford such idle fantasies. Children of the Eight cannot to an even greater degree."

"That sounds odd," Harry said. "Here I thought the Eight were supposed to be the first to rise and the last to fall."

"Those are just words," Zacharias said from behind them.

"Not really," Susan said. "I… well, when you think about it… the Sacred Eight have all the necessary skills to rebuild civilisation if it ever completely falls. Pottery, smithing, agriculture, funerary rites, matchmaking, legislation and law enforcement, and esoterica."

"Sure, Susan," Zacharias said. "But if civilisation falls tomorrow and the five of us are left… I can't forge a sword or a scythe. Potter might be recklessly brave but I bet he's never touched clay."

"Well, none of us really know," Lavender said. "But we've talked about it a lot. Our parents and grandparents — we're not completely sure actually holds the seat, honestly, no one is, to make sure everyone benefits from the name — they don't tell us much, there's a lot that you're not supposed to know until you're actually One of the Sacred Eight, and I'm not sure how you get chosen above everyone else who could be it, but anyways… the four of us were planning on having tea with each other, but you should totally come along!"

"Assuming you can cast a Protego Aegis," Smith said.

"What if I can't?" Harry said.

"Then the Ancient and Noble House of Potter will have ended with James," Daphne said. "You'll be able to."

The door to the training room opened. Draco slumped out, clearly exhausted. His Dreepy was curled around his neck, sleeping. It was as if they'd spent hours training, instead of just ten minutes.

Flitwick fluttered over. "Have some chocolate, Mr. Malfoy. And once you're feeling better, join your House. Most of the Slytherins already have made fairly good progress to their shield charms, so you've got some catching up to do."

He turned to the five of them, ignoring Draco's despairing, hateful gaze. "Who's next? Oh, I'm sure you can work it out among yourselves."

"I'll go," Lavender said. She stepped through the threshold of the chamber, and it sealed her in.

"Have you seen Lavender cast the spell before?" Zacharias said, once she was gone.

"No," Susan said. "But if she could, I doubt she would want us to see what phase her power was at."

"If she can cast it at all," Zacharias said. "She's always been a bit of an… she's an airhead."

Susan and Daphne both glared at him. "That's incredibly rude, Zach," Susan said.

"I know she's doing an obfuscating stupidity thing," Zacharias said, "But honestly? Do we really know it's obfuscating? Look at Malfoy. Nobody would think he's pretending to be arrogant in order to hide his true power."

"If she is pretending, you're playing into her hands right now," Daphne said neutrally.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Harry said. "But Lavender's nice."

"Well, Flitwick wouldn't know this, but Protego Aegis has multiple forms," Zacharias Smith. "Base form is a normal Shield Charm that you can do reflexively. The stronger forms prove that you're worthy of inheriting your House because it'll have a sigil on it. Mine'll have the Smith sigil. I've never seen her cast even the weak form. Maybe she's like Malfoy. Maybe she's squibbed out of being a Brown."

"I think you're being a sexist, Zach," Susan said.

"How am I being a sexist? All I said was that she seems like a bit of an airhead. There's nothing female about being an airhead. Have you guys heard of Cormac McLaggen? He's an upper year?"

"Yes," Susan said acidly. "Lavender gave me a full dossier on him this morning. She knows every rumor about him from the past three years. From what she said, it sounds to me you would get on rather well with him. Perhaps you would find him a better partner for tea."

Zacharias rolled his eyes dramatically. "The fairer sex. So dramatic, am I right?" he said to Harry.

"Some of the first words you ever said to me were 'excuse me, but how dare you'," Harry said. "I don't think you get to call other people dramatic."

Susan chuckled, and Daphne let a puff of air out of her nose. Zacharias clenched his teeth.

At that moment, the door to the training room opened. Lavender strode out, her Eevee Veeva sleeping upon her head. Her makeup was running from sweat, but Harry could swear he saw a pink glow about her. She beamed, though she was clearly exhausted.

"Shows what you know, Zach," Susan said. She entered the training room.

"How was it?" Daphne said. "I knew you'd be fine."

"Thanks, Greengrass," Lavender said. "Wait — are you being nice?"

"Hardly," Daphne said with an exaggerated turning up of the nose. "It was evident for anyone who truly knew you."

"In the ten years I've known you, you've never lightened up in the slightest," Lavender said, though she sounded amused.

"If I ever lightened up, Smith would think I was an airhead," Daphne said.

Lavender stared at Smith, dead-eyed. "I am going to make sure you stay single until you're thirty."

Flitwick chose this opportune time to interrupt. "A success, Lavender of the Browns? Have some chocolate, and then you're free to spend your time as you like until potions starts."

She drifted away, and now it was just Harry, Zacharias, and Daphne.

"If it's alright with the two of you, I'll wait over there," Zacharias said stiffly. "I've clearly said enough already."

"You can go next, if you'd like," Daphne said. Smith nodded curtly.

"So Lavender could, while Malfoy couldn't," Harry said. "Though I suppose we don't know that Malfoy couldn't…"

"He couldn't," Daphne said. "We would've seen the glow. The aura of the Eight. I assume you could see it. "

"How could she could while he couldn't? Is it really just that she has the regal elanvit-vital"

"Elan vitae? That's Flitwick's guess. A reasonable one, but a guess all the same."

"Do you know the true reason?"

She stared at him, fixing her blue eyes on his. Her stare was intense, and her eyes twinkled.

"You were born with a sense of greater purpose," she said. It wasn't a question.


She grabbed his wrist. "No—I know it. I saw you yesterday. A unifier, a leader of the divided. You sought not personal glory until you had no other choice. The glory came as a reward for a job fulfilled. Contrast that with, say, Malfoy or Weasley. Malfoy wants glory for his own benefit. Weasley, I presume, to match his brothers."

"I think you've got Ron wrong."

She shrugged. "Perhaps. But can you say his motivation is more than selfish?"

Harry couldn't. Ron was trapped in the shadow of his brothers.

"If Draco was more willing to sacrifice… would he have been able to cast the King's Shield?"

Daphne shrugged. "Who can say? In the end, magic is mysterious to us all."

Only then did she drop his wrist.

Susan emerged from the training room with a silver light about her. Smith entered and left, a similar bronze glow about him. Daphne nodded to Harry as she entered the room, and left in mere moments with wisps of green light swirling about her.

And then it was Harry's turn. Alone, he stepped into training room. It was bigger on the inside, like the TARDIS from Doctor Who, which Harry had never really watched but knew was about a Time Lord named the Doctor who helped the legendary Pokemon Dialga maintain the flow of time while helping those that he could. (Uncle Vernon often complained about how unfair it was that the BBC had canceled the show.)

Every surface in the room was padded with athletic mats. The mats on the floor had some supple bounce to them as Harry tested it with a foot. He tentatively pushed on the walls. It seemed like the padding on the walls was easily a foot thick. That didn't bode well.

Flitwick's partner, Caius the Lucario was meditating cross-legged in the center of the training room, glowing with blue aurafire, levitating a foot off the ground. A pulse of aura rippled through the room, an invisible wave in the air.

Caius opened his eyes and stood up, nodding to Harry. He tapped his waist, and Harry realized that he ought to release his Pokemon.

With a burst of light, Honor the Eevee appeared, and rared to go.

"Can you hear me?" said a gravely voice. Caius the Lucario was staring right at Harry, though his mouth hadn't opened.

"I can," Harry said. "Is that you, Caius?"

"It is", the Lucario said without speaking, its voice echoing in Harry's mind.

"How are we talking?" Harry said.

"Magic," Caius said. "Ask Hagrid. We have other concerns. Raise your wand."

Harry pointed his wand at Caius.

"I will attack you and Honor. Ten minutes," Caius said. "I will not relent until you produce a King's Shield. I am sworn to secrecy on the nature of your sigil, as useless as that is. Ready?"

Harry wasn't. "Yes."

Caius surged forward with extreme speed, catching Harry off guard. Before he knew it, the Lucario was almost upon him.

"Honor, to me!" he shouted. The Eevee jumped onto his shoulder.

"Helping Hand on me!" he said, jumping back, avoiding a swipe of Caius's paws. Instinctively, he used Quick Attack to rush away from the Lucario's onslaught. Yet still the Lucario came.

He raised his wand. "Legilimens!" he shouted, and a blast of pale liminality erupted from his wand. But the Lucario effortlessly ducked beneath the blast.

It clenched its fists before itself. Blue aurafire surged forth in its clenched paws, shooting outwards, forming a long jagged bone. The Lucario swung the bone wildly at Harry's head, and Harry jerked back from each and every swing reflexively with a speed he hadn't realized he had.

"Not the point," the Lucario said mentally. "You must guard, not dodge."

Harry couldn't help it. His every instinct was to dodge, to escape, to avoid pain. (Which was odd, a part of him noted, because this wasn't at all what he stood for.) Each time he raised his wand, even if he wanted to cast a spell, he dodged out of the way, Honor clinging tightly to his shoulder.

Caius growled. "You leave me no choice."

The Lucario jumped back to the center of his room, landing on a single foot, its bone-weapon dissipating into wisps of blue aurafire. It clasped its paws together, and the air rippled outwards.

And before Harry could react, Caius sprang into action once more. The Lucario twisted its fists in Harry's direction, sharp pops echoing from its blindingly fast motion. Waves of pressurized air, vacuums in their wake, shot at Harry.

Of course, he dodged. His robes swooshed as the vacuum wave passed him, and he could hear the blood pumping in his ears.

But in the second after he thought he was safe, he realized something was wrong.

His shoulder felt lighter.

He felt less enthused, for some reason he couldn't name.

And had he heard a cry of pain?

Caius was no longer attacking, but was studying him, yet still ready to strike again.

Harry whipped around. Honor, his Eevee, was lying prone on the ground behind him. She had taken the full brunt of Caius's vacuum wave, had been thrown from Harry's shoulder by the force of the impact.

Harry rushed over, falling to his knees, wondering if anything had been broken. To his relief, Honor stirred under his touch. He drew his wand. Could he cast the healing spell he'd used at Ollivander's?

"Doubtful," Caius said from behind him. The air popped like firecrackers, the sound of a flurry of vacuum waves being launched.

Harry grabbed Honor and rolled, clutching her to his left side in his left arm, all thoughts of healing forgotten. Some of the vacuum waves harmlessly impacted the floor behind him, yet the air still popped with incoming danger.

(A small part of him thought that he'd always wanted to be a Pokemon trainer, not a wizard. Danger he knew. Valor he knew. Sacrifice he knew.

Magic was foreign.)

They were at stalemate, though soon it would break. The Lucario seemed to have an endless amount of stamina; its punches grew no slower and the air practically vibrated with vacuum waves.

Magic was pulsing through Harry's veins and thrumming through his muscles, energizing and invigorating him, blessing him with speed and stamina. He could dodge faster than he had imagined, his muscles responding faster than they'd ever before. He could feel Honor's pulse, the Eevee's heart matching his own. Every so often she would cry out, her ears twitching, alerting him to an incoming projectile.

But it wouldn't last. Harry could feel his muscles starting to strain, could feel his breaths deepening, while the Lucario did not tire.

"Oh, I tire," Caius said. "I tire of these games."

The Lucario held its hands to the side and leaned back, putting its weight on one knee. It was as if its hands were holding a ball. The air hummed with a pure note as will and force distorted, azure aurafire condensing into a perfect sphere. Harry recognized it instantly.

Aura Sphere, a projectile of materialized life force, that responded directly to its user's intent. It was an arrow that would hit any target, externalized emotion, a manifestation of the user's very will.

It would never miss

"My will become real, my joy and exultation made manifest in this world! Expecto Patronum!" the Lucario said.

The Aura Sphere spiraled forward, as if alive, taunting Harry. No matter how he twisted or turned, no matter how fast he ran, the Aura Sphere would be floating there, ready to slam into Honor's face.

"I will break her ribcage," the Lucario said. "That sounded like a threat. It's not. It's a promise."

This did nothing to reassure Harry.

"Don't whine. Ribcages heal," the Lucario said.

And then the Aura Sphere shot towards Harry. No—not towards him. Towards his left side, towards where he was holding Honor the Eevee. Instinctively, he twisted counterclockwise, putting his right side in the path of the Aura Sphere, and the path of the Aura Sphere curved around his body.

There were but seconds.

And Harry did something either very brave or very stupid.

He clenched his right hand about his wand, and threw a punch at the Aura Sphere, hoping that he could intercept it with his fist if not his body, hoping the Lucario would be taken by surprise, squeezing his eyes closed to brace for the pain.

There was a high clear note, like a crystal bell ringing.

His hand didn't hurt. His eyelids were red from a sudden light. And Honor was squealing — but in delight, not in pain.

He opened his eyes.

The aura sphere had met an unexpected barrier, and dissipated upon collision, the last wisps of aurafire fading away as he watched.

And there, extending from his fist, was a translucent disc of magical energy. It glowed with a terracotta light. In the center, there was a stylized amphora, a Greco-Roman pot, heaped full with wheat and grapes.

And Harry knew, instinctively in his heart, that this was the symbol of the House of Potter.