AN: Thank you for letting me know your thoughts about Fleur's speech. I agree that given that she had spent several years in the UK already her accent should have gotten much better than it was in the canon. But it looks like most of you want me to keep her not pronouncing the "h" since it's cute and because her speech is not as botched as in the canon so it's not hard to read. It seems like my worries were for nothing, I will keep it as it had been until now. Enjoy!
Chapter 26 - Duelling Club (II)
Fleur gnashed her teeth. Especially when she saw the feral smile on Professor Black's face when she got on the stage. The girl swore to herself that she was going to make Harry pay even if that was the last thing she did.
But Bellatrix did not start firing spells right away. Instead, she turned towards the audience below the stage and said:
"First of all, I have a question for you all: in how many ways you can stop a spell from hitting you?" Looking over the dozens of raised arms, she took another approach. "Hm, let's do it this way. Students from different houses will give one answer each. Let's start with Slytherin. Yes, Mr Flint?"
The fifth-year boy - he should have been a sixth-year but he had not managed to pass the exams at the start of the year - answered loudly: (1)
"Dodging! It doesn't matter how dangerous a spell is if it can't hit you!"
"Correct. Now, someone from Gryffindor. Does anyone know another way? Yes, Mr Weasley?"
"Which one?" Fred, George, and Percy Weasley all asked at the same time seeing as all three of them had raised their hands.
"Percy, you do it."
The Gryffindor prefect pushed the rim of his glasses on his nose with the tip of his index finger and dressed his voice before saying:
"The Shielding Charm can block almost all spells. Notable exceptions to the rule are the Killing Curse and the Cruciatus."
"Good answer!" Professor Black acknowledged. Considering that it was an extra-curricular club, she could not reward them with House Points, she could only offer them verbal praise.
"Any other way? Who else can tell me? Someone from Hufflepuff? Yes, Mr Court?"
A well-built sixth-year Hufflepuff boy with blond hair and brown eyes answered in a confident voice:
"Blocking, or intercepting. But it requires extensive knowledge of curses, their wand movements, and their counter-curses so it's not a technique that inexperienced wizards and witches can pull off."
"As expected of an aspiring duellist. Perfect answer!"
The boy's face lit up in happiness for being praised like that by her.
"Now, can someone from Ravenclaw tell me of another way to prevent harmful spells from hitting them? Yes, Ms Larke?"
A seventh-year girl with short brown hair and brown eyes answered:
"Interrupting the attacker's spells mid-way. It requires very good timing though so, just like blocking, it's a duelling technique not easy to pull off by inexperienced people either."
"Another perfect answer!" Bellatrix said and the Ravenclaw girl smiled in content too. "Besides those four, there are two more ways. But we will come back to that a bit later. How about a demonstration first?" she said and turned her attention back to the blonde girl who was on the stage in front of her. "Let's start with dodging. Ms Delacour? I will fire spells at you, harmless spells, do not fret. Just do your best to dodge them. Petrificus Totalus!"
Though she had cast the spell out loud for the younger students to understand what she was doing, the fact that she started with a spell that did not have any visible effects let Fleur know that Bellatrix had every intention to not make things easy for her.
Fleur quickly stepped to the side. She barely completed her dodging motion when a bolt of red light was shot at her new location.
Fleur crouched and the Stunning Charm flew above her head and slammed into the Shielding Charm that the professors below the stage had cast for the occasion to prevent any of the spectators from being harmed by stray spells. But while she was still crouched, another red bolt of light flew at her right away:
She was left with no other option than to roll to the side. The students below the stage were surprised by how quick she was. In less than a second, not only that she dodged by rolling to the side, she also shot up to her feet, wand in hand, ready for action.
Bellatrix stopped firing spells at her and said:
"Harry told me you go for morning runs every day. It looks like they really paid off, impressive physical fitness."
She turned towards the audience and explained: "Dodging spells might seem easy but there are some issues with doing that. In my opinion, it's an amateur's choice. It wastes your energy and makes you predictable as well- what is it, Mr Flint, something wrong?" she stopped and asked Marcus Flint who was grumbling quite loudly about his choice being regarded as an amateurish way to avoid spells.
"She dodged your spells just fine," Flint said stubbornly.
"Athletic people can do that, yes. But what about the physically frail or the overweight people? Even for a fit and athletic person like Ms Delacour, there is a limit to how many spells she can dodge before getting caught by one. Watch:"
Fleur muttered what sounded like a swear word in French under her breath as Bellatrix suddenly cast a nonverbal spell at her. She dodged the blue beam of light by stepping to the side, she even dodged the second beam of light (a red one) by ducking her head but she did not have time to avoid the third spell as well. A thin rope was conjured out of thin air and wrapped tightly around her body. Fleur fell directly on the wooden stage's floor with a rather loud thud.
A wolf-whistle was suddenly heard from the audience at the sight of the Veela girl tightly bound on the floor. The ropes conjured by the Incarcerous Spell were coincidentally digging in various places...which were making her rather developed assets stand out. Bellatrix quickly cancelled the spell on Fleur whose face was burning with a mixture of indignation and embarrassment amidst the students' laughter. She glared daggers at the witch in front of her.
Ignoring the blonde girl's murderous glares, Bellatrix spoke to the audience:
"As you see, dodging is not always reliable. I can cast about 3 spells per second when I cast them nonverbally. I believe Professor Flitwick can cast 4 spells per second while extremely skilled wizards such as Professor Dumbledore can even cast several spells simultaneously, both with his wand and wandlessly with his left hand. How will anyone dodge that?" (2)
The students were greatly surprised by her words, especially the tidbit about Dumbledore. They all knew that he was a legendary wizard but they never took the time to think just how his skill translated in actual numbers. In the first place, nobody among the younger generation had seen him in action before. To them, he was mostly a half-senile old man that loved sweets and always smiled. Only some of their parents, those who had been involved in the war from a decade ago, had seen with their own eyes the might of the only wizard that the Dark Lord had ever feared.
Turning her attention back to Fleur, she said:
"Now, I will demonstrate the Shielding Charm. Or, better said, Ms Delacour will. Ready?"
Fleur nodded stiffly and readied her stance.
"Protego!" Fleur shouted and the red bolt of light dispersed into tiny sparks of light when it clashed against a transparent wall of blue light.
"I would have awarded the Ravenclaws with 10 points for that Shielding Charm if we had been in class. Very nice!"
Despite the praise she received, Fleur was still scowling at the older witch. To someone of her mental age, casting a good Shielding Charm was nothing impressive.
"Overall, the Shielding Charm is a good method of stopping harmful spells. Do keep in mind, however, that 2 out of the 3 Unforgivable Curses - Cruciatus and the Killing Curse - cannot be stopped by the Shielding Charm. There are other Dark Curses that can either bypass or destroy it too. So it's a good tool to have in your arsenal but you shouldn't trust it blindly or you might end up suffering because of it," Bellatrix explained for the audience.
"Now, let's go ahead and demonstrate Blocking or Intercepting. This technique is the reason why there is so much focus on learning wand movements in the first two years of DADA and why learning counter-curses remains a main focus of the class even until the fifth year. Ms Delacour, if you would - cast some spells at me."
It was like Christmas came a second time for Fleur when she heard that. Pointing her white wand at her, she cast: "Locomotor Mortis!"
Recognizing the wand movement and hearing the incantation, Bellatrix quickly chanted the counter-spell out loud: "Libero!"
Fleur's spell was intercepted/blocked before it could be fully cast. She tried to cast the Curse of the Bogies after that but Bellatrix blocked that one too.
"As Mr Court said, this is an advanced duelling technique. It's not something I expect you to excel at in the beginning but we will work our way up in time. That's why I said I want consistency from the members of this club. It takes time and effort to become good at it. Now, let's proceed with demonstrating how to interrupt someone's spells mid-way. As Ms Larke said, this is a duelling technique for which timing is everything. But the upside is that it's easier to use than Blocking and, frankly said, much more reliable as long as you don't miss the timing. Ms Delacour?"
"Yes, Professor?" Fleur replied.
"Cast at me a spell with a long incantation please."
The girl did not need to be asked twice.
"Everte Sta-" Fleur began to cast but she was cut off as a nonverbal Knockback Jinx hit her squarely in the chest and pushed her back three or four feet. Depending on how much power was used, this spell could throw the target through the air even up to twenty or thirty feet - Bellatrix had clearly held back her strength, only making Fleur stumble a little.
"This is a great way to stop spells when they are chanted out loud. Imagine if someone is casting the Killing Curse at you - Avada Kedavra is a long incantation while the Knockback Jinx is much shorter: Flippendo. Furthermore, the Knockback Jinx is very easy to learn to cast nonverbally. So you could potentially cast this Jinx two or three times faster than how long it takes someone to cast the Killing Curse."
The students were drinking every word that she said. This was the real deal! That was what the class of Defense Against Dark Arts was supposed to be like! Learning how to actually protect themselves against those who wished them harm. Everyone was filled with excitement.
"Now that we've covered the four ways of avoiding being hit by spells that you have mentioned, I will tell you about the other two: first, deflection. Ms Delacour, feel free to cast any spell at me."
Fleur cast a Stunning Charm but when it looked like it was going to hit Bellatrix, the older witch easily batted the bolt of red light away with the tip of her wand. The students looked in awe at how the spell was deflected to the side, into the Shielding Charms that had been cast around the stage by the other professors.
"Deflecting a spell like this is not the only use of this technique," Bellatrix said. "Ms Delacour, cast one more spell at me please."
Fleur fired a Banishing Charm at Bellatrix and this time, the witch did not just deflect the spell to the side like before but she used the wand to bat it straight back to where it came from! She reflected it back to Fleur who, though surprised, were sharp enough to cast a Shielding Charm just in time.
"Merlin, that's so freaking cool!" Michael and Terry exclaimed at the same time. They were not the only ones; many other students were talking in excitement about what they had just witnessed. Using someone's own spells to defeat them was badass as hell!
"As for the last method to stop harmful spells, it's making use of your skill in Transfiguration, Conjuration, and Animation Charms. The gist of it is to use a physical object as a shield against your opponent's spells. This is the strongest and most reliable form of defence because it can protect you from the Unforgivables as well. However, it takes great skill to properly use it in a duel. That's why Transfiguration Masters such as Professor Dumbledore or Headmistress McGonagall are so deeply respected."
Groaning sounds came from the students - Transfiguration and Conjuration were difficult by most people's standards and Animation Charms were not easy either.
"Now, now, don't complain. You don't need to transfigure or conjure entire blocks of concrete or animate large statues to protect you. Watch." Turning her attention towards Fleur, Bellatrix said: "You can cast any spell at me, no matter how dangerous."
Though Fleur was no stranger to violence, she did not want to accidentally harm someone for no reason. She hesitated.
"Trust me," Professor Black said when she saw her hesitance, "I will be fine no matter what spell you cast."
Fleur nodded her head. "Okay." Then, she pointed her wand at her and chanted: "Bombarda!"
At the same time, Bellatrix cast a spell too: "Avis!"
A flock of yellow birds flew from the tip of her wand and met Fleur's Exploding Charm head-on. Two birds were blasted into a rather cruel display of gore but that was it. The spell did not go past them.
Some of the younger boys and girls in the audience shrieked at the violent way through which the conjured birds died but after that everyone became completely silent.
"The Bird Conjuring Charm. It's something that even first and second-year students could learn to cast with a bit of effort. It's nothing exceptional. But Harry Potter used this spell three weeks ago to stop a Killing Curse directed at me. It is this seemingly banal spell that saved my life and stopped one of the worst curses in existence."
Harry facepalmed himself when hundreds of heads turned to look at him. Even the professors were looking at him with wide eyes because nobody knew what had truly happened on Diagon Alley back then. Despite the rumours circulating around, nobody had taken them seriously; Harry was, after all, only twelve. It was hard for most people to believe that a child had played a major role in helping Bellatrix Black survive. However, with Bellatrix herself confirming what he had done, Harry was once again thrown into the spotlight.
It was the end of the second week of January and, in the third match of the House Quidditch Cup tournament, Ravenclaw defeated Slytherin by a difference of 160 points to 0. Roger Davies was quick enough to score the first goal within the first minute from the start of the game but after that, the Ravenclaw Seeker caught the snitch - within the second minute from the start. The match ended so fast that for nearly a minute, the spectators in the stands were not really sure how to react. Even the members of the Ravenclaw team themselves were looking at each other befuddled. To say that they were upset would be a stretch - after all, who did not love winning? - but they were not happy about their win either. They didn't even get the chance to play. Their seeker won the game by himself... ...and it had been the same during their match against Hufflepuff as well.
And that led to the current scene in the Ravenclaws' locker room. After everyone changed from their Quidditch robes to their casual wear, Roger Davies, the captain of the team, said:
"Potter, I need to have a word with you."
At his words, the rest of the team members tactfully left the locker room, giving them space to talk.
The older boy scratched the back of his head, unsure of how to say what was on his mind. Nevertheless, going by the reaction of the rest of his teammates after winning the match and by the general lack of joy and exuberance on their faces, it was not hard for Harry to guess what was on the captain's mind.
"I caught the Snitch too fast, didn't I?"
The captain's face flushed a little. He dressed his voice as to dispel the awkwardness in the air. Putting a hand on Harry's shoulder, he said:
"I saw it during our training sessions and I saw it during our matches too. You're one of the most talented players I've ever seen. I'm not just buttering you up, Potter, it's the truth. Anyone with eyes can see it. I wouldn't be surprised if you told me you wanted to go pro after Hogwarts...with your grades though, that's unlikely."
Realizing that he was rambling, he dressed his voice again. It was unlike him to act in that fashion in front of a boy younger than him.
"What I want to say is... -" he trailed off, unable to continue.
It was in this kind of moments that everyone realized how skewed the rules of Quidditch were: one single player had the power to not only earn 150 points in a single move but they held the power to end the game too. Unless one team was completely destroying their opponents, whoever had the better Seeker won. It was extremely unfair.
Harry took pity on the boy and decided to not let him struggle any longer. 'It must be embarrassing as hell to tell a member of your team to stop playing so well because he's ruining it for everyone else,' he thought.
"I understand what you want to say. How about this: next time, I'll focus on stopping the other Seeker from catching the Snitch until you give me the 'ok' sign to catch it myself and end the game."
Roger Davies looked relieved at not having to say those words with his own mouth.
"I want you to not misunderstand. We're lucky to have you in our team. I wouldn't substitute you for anyone else. It's just that... ...the other players need to feel like they're doing something too, you know?"
Harry nodded. "They gotta feel motivated or else they'll lose interest."
Having reached an understanding, the two boys shook hands before leaving the locker room together and heading towards the Ravenclaw Tower. Before touching the Knocker of the Ravenclaw common room's entrance door to hear the riddle, Roger Davies said:
"Our little chat...I hope it stays private. Just between the two of us."
"No worries, mate."
The older boy playfully punched him lightly in the shoulder. He was glad that Harry had not taken it the wrong way. With a lighter heart and a smile on his face, he knocked the eagle-head shaped knocker of the door. A clear, melodic voice rang:
"What can fill a room but takes up no space?"
Roger Davies appeared pleased by what he heard.
"Oh, that's an easy one. The answer is - air!"
The smile froze on his face when the eagle knocker said in return:
Not for the first time that evening, the older boy felt his cheeks warming up from embarrassment.
"Um, let me see. What can fill a room but takes up no space... ugh..." Wearing an awkward smile on his face, he turned to the younger boy next to him. "Any chance you know the answer?"
It took considerable effort on Harry's part to not start laughing. He held it in though, not wanting to embarrass the boy more than he already was. Despite being sorted in Ravenclaw, Roger Davies did not fit the stereotype of his house: he wasn't nerdy and he was definitely not a genius either. Tall, athletic, handsome, obsessed with Quidditch, and barely getting passing grades on other subjects that needed studying - he was a jock through and through.
"The answer is - light," Harry spoke to the knocker.
"Correct," the melodious voice was heard again before the door opened.
"See you around," Harry said and then stepped into the Ravenclaw common room.
The older boy stood rooted in his spot for a few moments, thinking of how could he not find such an easy answer. But when he saw that the door was starting to close back after Harry, he rushed inside quickly. He was afraid of getting stuck outside and waiting until he guessed the answer to another riddle.
AN: Is there a British word for the American "jock"? I couldn't think of one. I mean I could've used musclehead or meathead but that sounds a bit too derogatory in my eyes and it's not an exact equivalent for 'jock'.
(1) In case you have forgotten, at the start of the year, all students had to take the exams that they would have taken if the previous year had not been cancelled after Draco Malfoy's death. In Flint's case, if he had passed those exams, he would have been a sixth-year now but he had failed them so he remained a fifth-year.
(2) Dumbledore really can cast more than one spell at the same time, one with his wand and one with his other hand, wandlessly. You can rewatch his duel against Voldemort to refresh your memory.
Until next time~