Harry Crow

What will happen when a goblin-raised Harry arrives at Hogwarts. A Harry who has received training, already knows the prophecy and has no scar. With the backing of the goblin nation and Hogwarts herself. Complete.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8186071/1/Harry-Crow

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41. Double Trouble

Albus sat in this magnificent room and watched as his entire school, excuse the pun, had a ball! None of the staff had been involved in the preparations, nor were they needed to supervise their charges. Jugs of punch and pumpkin juice were on every table, refilling before they had time to empty. The house ghosts patrolled around the tables, chatting with anyone who had the time to talk. After the elves had provided a wonderful meal, the band had turned up and now dancing was the order of the evening.

Albus also noticed some couples sitting on the marble ledge around the fountain's circular basin, the entire structure acting as a cooling off area for the dancers. Albus was here tonight purely as a guest, and that's exactly how he felt - a guest in his own school. Losing even a little control would normally have Albus reaching for his wand to rectify the situation, but not tonight. The reason for that was simple, it was Hogwarts herself who was in control here this evening - and doing a magnificent job of it.

Horace watched as everyone had fun, he was so depressed. How had two Gryffindors and a couple of Ravenclaws managed to destroy a famous wizard's reputation so easily? They also did it in a way that the fool still hadn't realised every single person in the hall now knew he was a liar.

The head of Slytherin thought he was dealing with a couple of second years, and that gaining their confidence would be easy. He hadn't done his homework and gotten savaged during his clumsy approach. Albus of course hadn't mentioned any of this when he conned him out of retirement and into returning to Britain, Horace was only now beginning to realise just how much he hadn't been told. His only chance now appeared to be somehow gaining the boy's respect - grudging or otherwise. To do that though would take every piece of Slytherin cunning he had.

Minerva watched her students having a great time and, reputation be damned, she just had to smile. Between her time as a student in the castle and then her teaching years, Minerva had almost half a century of experience inside Hogwarts. In all that time, Minerva could honestly say she'd never seen anything like this. Hogwarts sure knew how to throw a party.

Her eyes caught a sight she still didn't believe, a second year dancing with a veela professor - with both of them laughing and chatting away. That second year being one of her young lions, Mr Longbottom, just added to her sense of astonishment. Minerva would bet her pension she wasn't the only person inside the castle who was continually having to upgrade her opinion of that young wizard.

Gilderoy also noticed Henrica dancing with the second year and was considering cutting-in, until he recognised who that second year was. He then spied Black dancing with the sword wielding witch, and Crow soon followed them round with his friend's date as a partner. This just seemed to sum up his evening. He'd been so looking forward to this ball but it was turning into a personal disaster.

He was expecting the girls to flock to him, not scatter in different directions anytime he approached. Not only had every witch spurned his advances and offers to dance, most of them had rushed away in the opposite direction before he could even ask them. Hogwarts was turning into a major disappointment, the press didn't even ask to take his picture when they arrived.

Harry was back dancing with Hermione as they twirled around the fountain, holding his princess in his arms as they waltzed around this magical setting. This was worth putting up with Lockhart and Dumbledore, this was priceless.

Hermione smiled as she asked him about tonight. "Do you think this will see Lockhart chased out the castle?"

"I doubt it, that would mean Dumbledore not only admitting he was wrong but doing something about it. Remember, this was a prank Fred and George played on Lockhart. Looking at it from that angle, it's a fantastic success. The entire castle now knows Gilderoy Lockhart is a liar, and we even got a ball out of it too!"

When she followed Harry's logic, Hermione had to agree. She also knew the news would be filtering out to homes all over the country. This might not be the knock-out blow that finally flattened Lockhart but it was the first step to destroying his reputation. Unlike Dumbledore, a reputation would appear to be all that Lockhart had. She was reminded of the Emperor's new clothes, and how it was children who solved that puzzle too.

-oOoOo-

The group of friends left the ball together as they headed back to their dorms. Whether it was chivalry or the presence of Harry and Neville, Blaise kissed Parvati on the back of her hand and thanked her for a lovely evening. Colin escorted an almost floating Ginny through the portrait hole after Parvati. Ginny just had the best night of her life, a night that also included a dance with Harry. She was in heaven - until her brother spoiled it.

"You traitorous bitch! Why don't you go down to the dungeons where you obviously belong?"

It was only when Parvati answered that Ginny realised Ron's tirade wasn't aimed at her.

"Listen Weasley, who cares what you think? Take your attitude out of my face before I decorate the common room with it."

"Oh yeah, think Crow is going to come running to save you? He only does that for your sister..."

Padma had been outside saying goodnight to Neville when she heard the shouting, discovering her sister was involved saw her head straight into the lion's den.

Ron suddenly had double vision with both Patil sisters now in his face. "Listen weasel, my sister doesn't need anyone to rescue her from the likes of you. We always have each other's backs and there won't be enough of your bigoted carcass left to decorate this common room with if you forget that."

Looking desperately for help, Ron attempted to turn the argument around in his favour. "First she dates a Slytherin, now we have a Ravenclaw in our common room! Is everyone else here okay with this?"

Neville had of course followed Padma inside and stood squarely behind the twins on this argument. "What Parvati does is none of your business, Weasley. She hasn't broken any rules and you have no authority inside Gryffindor, far less Hogwarts."

"Well, we can't all be school champions! Is your buddy Crow getting ready to come in here and wave his fancy sword around? Is that what happens next?"

What happened next was Percy entering the common room, Ron grasped this fortuitous event and treated it almost as if the cavalry had arrived to save him from the circling savages. "Percy, not content with dating a Slytherin, she then has a Ravenclaw in our common room." Ron confidently stood back, expecting his brother to now administer the justice he was unable to.

Percy looked to Padma for an explanation of her presence here, she didn't take long to provide an answer. "Your prat of a brother is probably the only person in the castle who didn't have a great time tonight, he then decided to spread that misery around by screaming at Parvati. I was outside saying goodnight to Neville and wasn't about to let him get away with that."

"She dated a Slytherin!" Ron appeared to think that if he achieved enough volume then everyone would finally understand the point he was trying to make. Unfortunately, for Ron that is, he chose to shout this in Padma's face from a distance measured in mere inches.

As Ron's spittle sprayed over Padma's face, Neville's fist connected with his - dropping Ron onto his arse.

Percy's hand gripping his arm stopped Neville taking any further action, apart from removing a hankie and offering it to Padma.

"Ron, go to bed!"

"But Percy, he just hit me! Surely you're going to do something about that?"

"Had you acted that way to Penny, I would have flattened you - if Penny didn't do it first. Go to bed, now!"

As Ron slunk his way up the stairs, Percy turned his attention to the girls. "I must apologise for my brother's behaviour..."

It was Padma who cut him off. "No you don't, Percy. Apart from your brother, Charlie, we've met your entire family. We've liked them all but Ron sticks out like a sore thumb with his crass behaviour. You shouldn't have to apologise for him, he probably doesn't even realise what he's done wrong. Thanks for that, Neville, I was about to reach for my wand when you flattened him."

She then turned her attention to her sister. "Are you okay, Pav?"

"I was perfectly capable of dealing with that situation on my own, I don't need you - or anyone else - rushing to my rescue."

This took the breath from Padma. " ...but we've always looked out for each other."

"Well, you've made it plain that situation has changed. Christmas, summer and now Halloween! How can we look out for each other when you're never around?"

Parvati headed for her own staircase, leaving Neville to escort Padma back outside where the rest of their friends were waiting. Neville's comforting arm was replaced by that of Hermione as Padma found herself now sandwiched between her two friends. "How much of that did you hear?"

Hermione's arm tightened around Padma as she answered. "All of it. It looks like Parvati didn't take the news you would be going with us at Halloween as well as you thought."

"Christmas is nothing more than a break from school for us, Halloween is different. This will be the first one we've ever spent apart. I don't know if I want to go now."

Harry tried to help. "Neither Hermione nor I have any experience of siblings but we have had to work our way around the differences thrown up between us and our families. Trying to look at the situation from different perspectives has helped us. What would you think or do if the shoe was on the other foot, if it was Parvati who was going with us at Halloween?"

This got Padma thinking. "I see what you mean, but this is hard..."

Hermione confirmed it had been hard for them too, encouraging Padma to continue.

"I would like to think I'd be pleased for her. Parvati would look at this weekend as being the lead-up to an offer of betrothal from Neville - that's probably what's got her so mad. She would never understand that Neville and I could just be friends."

Hermione had a front row seat as she watched their two friends begin the journey from friendship to possibly something more. If she could see that, it was a certainty Parvati could too! Padma herself had said that her sister was always the twin who drew the most attention, watching Padma with Neville must be hard for Parvati to take. Her less popular sister appeared to effortlessly obtain what was Parvati's greatest wish - a boyfriend who had the potential to be so much more. That this was a boy Parvati had previously attempted to ensnare must be particularly rankling. Like the rest of their friends, the smartest witch in their year dismissed the problem as jealousy on Parvati's part.

Padma herself had reached the same conclusion, it didn't hurt any less because of that.

-oOoOo-

That morning's Prophet pleased everyone - except Lockhart. They had led with the headline 'A Celebration Merlin Would Be Proud Of', accompanied by a picture that showed lots of first and second years' posed around the fountain.

That his school was shown in such a positive light pleased Dumbledore no end, he was more than happy to bask in the reflected glory this story generated. The way things had been going lately, Albus was happy simply not being publicly berated for something - it made a pleasant change.

Harry was also happy. Apart from there being some mention of the Order of Merlin winners in attendance, he didn't feature in the story. Thirty or so very happy students had their picture on the front page of the Prophet, and the article promised more pictures from the ball in their sister publication, Teen Witch Weekly, which intended to do a full spread on the 'new' fashion sweeping Britain's magical community.

Roger was unhappy that he wasn't going to attend the extra defence lessons today, that was until Harry had a private word with him.

"Having someone older there certainly helped us, so we're thinking of making it a permanent arrangement. We're also thinking of including Fred and George, but don't know any older students well enough to figure out who else to ask. Penny would be the obvious choice but that would really mean taking Percy too! I don't know if we're ready to mix it with sixth years' just yet."

Roger privately thought Harry could mix it with just about anyone but had a suggestion to make. "What about Cedric Diggory? He's a fourth year Puff, and I'll vouch for him being a good guy."

"Didn't his father just become the Chief Warlock?"

It was a puzzled Roger who answered that question with one of his own. "Yes, do you have a problem with that?

"No, but I wouldn't want him thinking that's why we were asking."

"Harry, you don't even know Cedric ... Oh, I see! I'll tell him the truth, it was me who suggested he join us."

This got a nod of agreement. "I'll need to check with Assistant Ambassador Weasley first, but you can see if he's interested. If nothing else, it gives us a mixture of houses."

Roger immediately headed off to the Hufflepuff table for a talk with Cedric though Bill spotted a potential problem the minute Harry mentioned the names.

"I know you don't pay much attention to Quidditch, Harry, but those four are all on their house teams. The chance of them having every Saturday morning free are nil."

Bill was right, Quidditch held no interest for Harry but he did know Roger and the twins played. "What about having them join us every Sunday? That would still leave us Saturdays to work on things ourselves."

Liking that idea, Bill suggested it was time to put it to the group. He signalled for the twins to come over while Harry did the same with Roger. The fourth year Ravenclaw brought Cedric along and introduced him to the four friends.

Bill then laid out their proposal. "You four want extra tuition in defence, and I want to match this lot up against some older opponents. We're proposing to do both every Sunday morning - if you're up for it?"

The twins agreed at once while Roger had a question. "Cedric mentioned Quidditch, is that why you're offering Sundays?"

"Yes, this lot might not bother with the game but I knew you four had Quidditch commitments."

Both Roger and Cedric confirmed they would be delighted to accept, only to quickly discover what they'd let themselves in for.

"Okay, we've already wasted five minutes standing here blethering - let's move it!"

Their was no hesitation amongst the four friends, they shot out of the hall - leaving the others to chase after them. That same quartet of second years sat showered and changed at lunch, while a certain four fourth years were conspicuous by their absence.

A certain professor noticed this, and the esteem this gained the second years from the other students. It was time to try a different approach.

-oOoOo-

Before they arrived for breakfast on Monday morning, Harry must have denied he was holding a duelling club at least a dozen times to excited questioners. Apparently notices for this club had appeared in all four houses.

Padma attempted to look on the bright side. "At least they're holding it tonight, and not in direct competition to 'Crow's Marauders'."

"I think I prefer the Order of the Avis..."

Harry's suggestion was instantly outvoted by his three friends and all the first years within hearing range. It seems he was stuck with that name.

"So, are we going to go along tonight?"

The other three thought over Neville's question and couldn't come up with any reason not to. Between the ball and now this club, morale in the castle had rarely been higher.

-oOoOo-

Everyone left the great hall straight after dinner, there was no dawdling tonight. They understood the hall would need to be set up for the club, and on regaining entry it certainly looked promising. The house tables had been removed, and a duelling platform now dominated the hall.

All that early promise was for naught though with the discovery of just who was running this club.

"Gather round, gather round! Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent!"

The loud groans that greeted Gilderoy's arrival told the professor he was the only one who thought this situation was 'excellent'.

"Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little duelling club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions — for full details, see my published works."

He then rather grandiosely, in a move that must have seen him practicing in front of a mirror for hours, swirled his cape off his shoulders. Deliberately choosing a group of girls, he tossed his cape toward them - only to see it hit the floor as they all moved away from the item that had actually touched liar Lockhart.

Undaunted, the intrepid professor pushed on with the meeting.

"Now I would like to introduce the professor who has kindly agreed to assist me with this demonstration duel tonight. Professor Slughorn."

This was a surprise to just about everyone in the hall. No one knew what Slughorn was like with a wand in his hand, the unanimous consensus though was that he couldn't possibly be worse than Lockhart.

The blowhard counted down from three, and then promptly ended up on his back - a simple disarming spell doing the damage. That this was met with loud cheering did more damage to Lockhart than his opponent's curse. He of course claimed to have let the curse through - purely for demonstration purposes - but no one was buying that anymore.

Slughorn seemed to take heart from the cheering, not realising it was more for Lockhart's defeat than the person inflicting it. Their next demonstration duel, the potions professor really went to town.

Within seconds, Gilderoy was dressed like a circus clown - complete with red nose and green frizzy hair - while trying his best to perform 'Riverdance' without music. He was waving his wand around more like a conductor of an orchestra rather than a wizard, Gilderoy would probably have gotten better results from the string section than he achieved trying to cast a counter spell.

What was riotously funny at the beginning was now becoming cringeworthy and decidedly unpleasant. There is a fine line between a prank and bullying, Slughorn was leaving that line far behind him. A silencing curse ended Gilderoy's pleas for the spells to be lifted, the defence professor was now entering a clear state of physical distress.

Horace was enjoying this, and now for phase two of his plan. "Oh dear, I can see why there is such a demand for private defence tuition. I just hope tomorrow night's lessons are better than this."

The first years were on him in seconds, defending 'Crow's Marauders', Ginny being especially vociferous. Harry used that distraction to cast a finite incantatem at Lockhart, drawing no pleasure from watching the now physically exhausted man collapse to the floor.

Slughorn turned his attention to Harry. "It would seem your charges are quite impressed with your defence teachings, centurion. Then again, they don't really have much to compare it with - do they?"

Hermione was muttering a warning to him, that she was speaking in his own language told Harry how serious she thought the situation was. ""This is screaming set-up, and making me wonder just whose idea this club was.""

"What do you say, centurion, want to show us what you're teaching the first years? Let's have a friendly duel, you're bound to at least last longer than our current defence professor."

""He's deliberately goading you into fighting him, I just can't figure out why.""

""This might not be a bad idea, Hermione. I really need to get some idea what level I'm at, and he can't really go too far with all these witnesses...""

Horace wasn't getting the reaction he expected so goaded Harry some more. "Do you need your girlfriend's permission to duel? Is that what the problem is? Perhaps I should duel her instead, that might get your attention." He'd been expecting those comments to be accompanied by some derisive laughter, especially from his Slytherins. The entire school though had learned - some of them the hard way - that you don't anger Harry. The one sure way to do this was by targeting his girlfriend, Hermione.

Harry though was very calm as he answered the head of Slytherin. "You have been misinformed, professor. I don't teach the marauders how to duel, I teach them how to fight. If you wish to fight a centurion, I just happen to know one who will accommodate you."

Harry might be calm but Hermione was nervous enough for the both of them. ""Don't mess about, Harry, end it quickly!""

Horace was pleased his plan had worked, he needed to show he was so much more than the image the students now had of him. Dumping the boy-who-lived onto his arse would be his first step on the road to regaining some of the respect he had lost. "Certainly centurion, won't you join me up here?"

"As I said, professor, I don't duel. We'll ward off an area down here and the fight only finishes when someone is bleeding." Harry handed a stone to both Neville and Padma, before kissing Hermione and giving her a third. They then moved everyone back to clear a large space on the floor. Harry moved Luna, Ginny and Colin up on to the duelling stage so they could see more clearly, a move that was soon copied by most of the lower school. When they had a large enough area cleared, they each placed a stone at a corner and activated them.

Harry kicked off his shoes and opened his shirt, Horace though was already playing mind games.

"Armour for a friendly duel, surely not?"

"This is a fight, professor, and there is nothing friendly about one of them. I can no more leave my armour off than you can discard all the years of experience you have over me. Like your experience, my armour is a part of me. Don't forget, you agreed to fight a centurion. I told you I am a centurion first, and a Hogwarts' student second."

Harry had his shield and knife ready before he drew his sword. "Count us off, Hermione."

Horace was now faced with this golden warrior, all trace of the boy he thought he was duelling seemed to vanish when that magnificent armour activated. He was beginning to suspect this might not be as easy as he thought when the girl set them off.

"First Blood - Fight!"

Harry's first stunner reverberated off the shield that Horace had hastily erected, that shield though was no protection from a blade. In a move that was almost as quick as his stunner, Harry was on Slughorn and sliced a chunk out of his robe.

The professor let out a yelp of surprise before managing to get a combination of spells off, they didn't do any good. Crow was so fast, dodging or deflecting every single one before that sword flashed and another chunk of his robes hit the floor.

Horace felt as if he was fighting for his life here, yet really couldn't use any of his heavier curses against a twelve year old boy - at least not with so many people watching. The third time Crow's blade had cut through his robes, the experienced dueller knew this boy could finish the fight anytime he wanted. This had changed from an opportunity for Horace to gain some respect to a training exercise for Crow, that could not be allowed to continue.

He'd bided his time and was now ready, a starburst charm should momentarily blind everyone in the hall, allowing Horace to cast the necessary spells to put Crow down. He clamped his eyes tight as the starburst illuminated the entire hall, but Horace never got time to put the rest of his plan into operation.

When Hermione's vision returned, she saw a knackered Harry leaning on his sword - and no sign of Slughorn. She deactivated her corner and rushed to him, throwing her arms around her mate to confirm he was okay.

"I thought I said not to mess about? He nearly had you on a few occasions."

"I wouldn't have learned anything ending it in seconds, and he was sticking to spells that wouldn't really hurt me."

Padma and Neville had also collapsed their corners and joined the couple. It was Padma of course who just had to ask the question. "So, what did you learn?"

"Not to mess about...ouch! No need to get violent ladies." Harry had just received a punch on each arm from both girls. Neville though had a different concern.

"Eh, Harry, where's Slughorn?"

Harry looked up, and his three friends were the first to burst into laughter as they followed his line of sight, they certainly weren't the last. Slughorn was dangling from the ceiling of the great hall, robes ripped to shreds and entrapped in a web. Everyone though could easily read his expression of disbelief as he cradled his bleeding wand hand.

"I barely scratched him, I wonder if old Sluggy is afraid of heights?"

Roger had made some pretty outrageous claims about the defence classes these four attended at the weekend, not one Ravenclaw doubted his word now. Cedric had also stated in Hufflepuff that any of the four would kick his arse in a fight, and Harry regularly fought the other three - all at the same time. Susan and Hannah's claims that Harry and Hermione practiced every day, even on holiday, had also been taken with a pound of salt. These too were now being believed.

Even the first year Gryffindors knew not to believe a word Fred and George said, their house did know a fighter when they saw one though - and Harry was undoubtably a fighter.

The Slytherins didn't know what to think. Their head of house had deliberately goaded Crow into a fight - and then lost. Anyone who'd seen him use either of his blades knew Harry could have cut Slughorn with any of those strokes that sliced through his robes. This seemed to send a mixed message. There was certainly no love lost between Crow and Lockhart, it didn't escape their notice though that Harry had just dished out the same treatment their head of house gave Lockhart earlier. One thing was for sure, no one would openly challenge Crow after that display.

The prefects had to step in and stop the great hall from descending into chaos. With Lockhart now sleeping from exhaustion - he snored too - and Slughorn hanging from the ceiling, they were forced to take charge. The ruckus Harry's victory had started was bound to attract staff attention, with McGonagall and Flitwick soon arriving and demanding some answers.

There was no shortage of people willing to supply those answers and soon McGonagall had only one question for Harry. "Centurion, how long do you intend to leave Professor Slughorn up there?"

"Professor Slughorn didn't seem in any hurry to remove his Tarantallegra from Professor Lockhart. He left him dancing so I see no reason not to leave the good professor dangling. Excuse us, professor, but it's been a long and tiring day - with tomorrow probably being longer still since we have our defence club. I'm heading off to bed now."

They walked out of the great hall, leaving both professors to restore order - and also deal with a swinging Slughorn and snoring Lockhart. Neville and Hermione were practically carrying Harry by the time they reached Ravenclaw tower, goodnights were said as Neville then escorted Ginny and Colin back to their own dorm.

Luna found herself sitting with Moonlight at Harry's feet, Padma and Hermione had plonked him between them on a sofa. Luna was delighted her friends trusted her enough to discuss what was going on in front of her.

"I've never used my armour to enhance my speed for so long before, it really drained me. I think it's something that I might need to build up some endurance to."

Padma agreed with his assessment "Magic will always extract a price, why didn't you end it sooner though?"

"it didn't really hit me until the fight was over, that's the scary part. If I had continued, would I have just dropped from exhaustion?"

"Harry Crow, you will not be practicing that!"

"I think I need to, Hermione, it could prove vital in a fight." He could see the scared look in her eyes and made a concession. "I promise I won't attempt it without supervision and have at least one healer present."

Hermione could see this was something he would need to get a handle on, that Harry was going to do it as responsibly as possible was really the best she could ask for.

They got Harry up the stairs before he fell asleep on the sofa. Hermione did offer to take a morning off from their exercises but Harry wouldn't hear of it. A quick kiss goodnight and he collapsed on top of the bed.

"Shouldn't we undress him?"

"Padma Patil, get your thoughts off my Harry. I'm throwing a cover on him, that will keep him warm until morning."

Padma was in full teasing mode now. "You could stay with him? No one would know."

Hermione was pleased to see her friend returning to something like her normal self, Padma's relationship with her sister could currently be described at best as 'strained'. "That's precisely why I won't be staying. When I spend the night with Harry, I at least like him to know I'm there."

Padma had no answer to that so both witches headed back down to the common room, stopping to watch as Luna attempted to teach Moonlight how to play hide and seek.

-oOoOo-

Harry was almost back to normal next morning, though the couple did knock a few miles off their run. At breakfast, Harry found himself receiving vicious glares from the Hogwarts potions professor, it was almost as if something he'd been missing had returned. He much preferred the glares to the covetous stares Slughorn normally aimed at him.

Breakfast also saw Harry face a barrage of questions - and even more requests for defence tutoring - he held up his hand to gain some quiet to be allowed a chance to answer. "First off, Slughorn was holding back. He couldn't really go full power against a second year student. In a real fight, I think you would see a different approach." This set the Ravenclaws thinking, though Harry knew they wouldn't like the next part.

"Working out lesson plans for the first years is taking nearly as long as teaching them - and they are all at the same level. To try and run another class couldn't fail but have an impact on our own studies. I'm sorry but it has to be a no to more defence lessons. Roger and the other three are being tutored by Assistant Ambassador Weasley and again, increasing the size of that class would seriously cut into our lesson."

The one thing about Ravenclaws was that they could see the logic behind Harry's reasoning, none of them would endanger their own studying or grades to tutor others. They may understand Harry's reasoning but that didn't mean they had to like his decision.

They had defence after lunch and once more the four stayed behind to run over their plans for tonight's defence club. Bill though was more interested in Harry's exhaustion.

"We all noticed you were knackered after fighting Master Sharpshard, but you were wounded too! This is something your father needs to hear about, and I really do think we need to find your limits." Bill headed Hermione's objections off with simple logic. "It's much safer to discover what those limits are under test conditions than in a battle."

None of them could really argue with that.

-oOoOo-

By the time they were due to meet 'crow's marauders', Harry's exhaustion was nothing more than a memory and the four friends were all raring to go.

"You all did really well last week but tonight we're going to change it up a level. We noticed that some people weren't concentrating on their evasion, prepared to take a hit to get their own spell off. That is never the way to behave in a fight. The curse that you let hit might be the last thing you'll ever feel." Harry let the seriousness of this sink in before continuing.

"Because of this we're going to learn a new spell tonight. It's called the stinging hex, any idea why?"

Ginny was first with an answer, she'd seen her mum fire it at the twins for years - usually as they were running away from the mayhem they'd just created. "That's because it stings when you get hit with it."

"Ginny's exactly right. It does sting people, but it won't do you any harm other than that. The secret will be not to let it hit you, and we want you to learn to treat all spells cast at you in the same manner."

After having learned to cast the blob spell, no one had any trouble mastering the stinging hex. Then the real lesson began. Harry had asked the room for some protective headgear, a stinging curse to the face was not something they wanted any of the first years to experience.

"You are now going to take part in an exercise the four of us do all the time. Same teams as last week, one will be casting the stinging hex while the other will be doing their best to evade. There will be a strict time limit of one minute, when we call time - you'd better stop casting! If you get hit, lie down on the floor and you will not be targeted again."

There was a much more serious atmosphere about the lesson tonight. Even the ones doing the casting knew it would be their turn to evade next. Harry and Neville kept their eyes on the casting team, while Hermione, Padma and Henrica looked after those evaders who'd been hit. There was no cheering from the sidelines this time, everyone was too busy watching for ideas that would see them come out of this without being stung.

Hermione made sure to be the one who led Colin to the sidelines after his team's minute was up, he would probably have looked upon Padma having her arm around his shoulders as a price worth paying for taking a stinging hex.

Once each team had their turn at both exercises, Harry reintroduced the format they had used last week - only this time using stinging hexes. All were pleased to see the battles this time were a lot more cagey, no one wanted to rush into a brace of stinging hexes.

At the end of the lesson, they had all the 'marauders' sit in a large circle and the elves provided comforting mugs of hot chocolate for each of them.

Harry then spoke to the class. "Up until tonight we've tried to make these lessons fun. The downside of that approach was some of you were treating it all as a game - I hope you now know it's not. We will still try and have some fun but you have to understand that learning to defend yourselves is a very serious business. You are witches and wizards - a wand in your hand gives you the power to perform magic. The point of this club is to teach you how to do that properly and responsibly. We realised tonight might be a bit of a shock to the system and hope you'll still be back next week."

They had worried that tonight's approach might scare a few of them off, Luna though seemed to speak for all of them. "Why wouldn't we come back next week? This is stuff we need to learn and who else is going to teach us it - Professor Lockhart? You are giving up your evening for us, and I know you'll be studying for Master Pitslay's class the minute you get back to our common room. I think what I'm trying to say is thanks, to all of you."

They weren't sure who started clapping but soon all the first years were applauding their four tutors and staff sponsor. The first years had taken to wearing their 'Crow's Marauders' badges on their robes and Harry couldn't help but feel proud of what they were doing here.

-oOoOo-

It was fear rather than pride that saw Lucius shoot up into a sitting position in bed, the nightmare had left him sweating. Draco and Pansy had been in the picture that appeared on the Prophet's front page, just two of many purebloods who were clearly having a good time. Lucius was the only person who knew that those good times were going to come to a crashing halt - and that the pictures he saw in his nightmare were of dead pureblood children. That Draco's face was amongst those dead children was the reason for his nightmare - that and his inability to do anything about the situation. His son was just going to have to be left to take his chances - along with the rest of Hogwarts.

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