My first original novel, Strangers In Boston, is now available on Amazon under my pen name, T.S. Mann (get it?). It's free to Kindle Prime members and $4.99 to people who want to download the Ebook. Paperback copies are available for $12.99. Check it out, and if you like it, please leave a review. Basically, it's American Harry Potter. Except there's no school, no wands, and if you use magic improperly, it can drive you insane and possibly destroy the world. No pressure or anything.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled fanfic.
and the Resurrection Game
Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
Chapter 2: Marseilles, With an S
28 June 1994
4 Privet Drive
"I bet if I begged enough, I could talk Mum and Dad into letting me out of going to … summer school," Ron said with disdain dripping off the last two words.
Jim laughed. Ron still had a week before his summer tutoring (sponsored by Harry Black) began, so he'd wheedled permission to come see Jim after finishing his morning chores. Presently, the Boy-Who-Lived and his best friend were in the backyard of 4 Privet Drive working on their katas.
"Come on, mate," his friend said. "Your folks would never turn down the chance for you to get summer wand training. It'll put you in the top ten next year for sure given how much you improved just from spending last summer in Shamballa. To be honest, I'm embarrassed that I never asked Dad to pay for you to have a wand license so we could train together back when …"
His voice trailed off abruptly. "When my family was rich" was how that sentence was going to end.
"Still," Ron replied, "I hate that you're going to be stuck here alone all summer. Is there anything to do here in Muggle Town?"
Jim shrugged. "I haven't really gone exploring yet. I think Mum's worried I'll say or do something stupid that breaks the Statute of Secrecy."
"How? I'm a Pureblood, and I at least know how to walk to the corner store without starting an international incident!"
Jim laughed. "It's not that bad. I went with Mum and Dad to the grocery store the other night. I'd never seen one before. I'd always just assumed that the house elves made it all from nothing. And Saturday, we're going into London to buy some more Muggle clothes."
"Ah, shut up," Jim said in response to Ron's smirk. "I'm living the Muggle life now. I have to get my kicks where I can."
"Uh-huh," Ron said dubiously. "So has anything interesting happened since you moved in?"
At that, Jim's face turned pensive. He glanced back up at the house to make sure Lily wasn't watching out the back window.
"Well, I'm pretty sure I turned into a raven last night," he finally said.
Ron blinked a few times. "Okay. Is that a weird Muggle expression I've never heard before or are we talking actual raven?"
"The latter," Jim replied before going into the story of his adventure from the previous night. Ron couldn't help but laugh.
"Wait, you woke up naked in a tree?!"
"Shhh!" Jim hissed. "Mum and Dad don't know."
"Well, if you're changing uncontrollably into an Animagus form, don't you think you should tell them? Or at least tell your dad since he actually is an Animagus?"
Jim looked away. "It was … kind of an impulse when I went all the way with the ritual Remus did for me. All my Mum knows is that I was working on a partial transformation to get an Animagus's natural Occlumency defenses. Dad doesn't even know that much. I'm kind of worried about how they'll take it since I'm not registered."
"Well, the way I see it," Ron replied. "You can either tell them now, or you can start working on an explanation to give them whenever you get arrested for indecent exposure!"
A week later at the Manor
On July 4, summer lessons began at the still-to-be-renamed "Potter" Manor, and after a few weeks, Harry found himself quite pleased with how things had been going. In addition to himself, Theo, Amy, and the four minor Weasley children, the group was joined by Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Sue Li, Anthony Goldstein, and Justin Finch-Fletchley. On the first morning, Harry had two laughs—in addition to the look of aghast horror on Titus Mitchell's face when he realized he'd be teaching the Weasley Terrors, there was also Regulus's gobsmacked expression when Harry introduced him to Hermione in his new identity as "Archie Goodwin," the American Halfblood bodyguard.
"By any chance, Mr. Goodwin, have you ever read a Muggle author named Rex Stout?" she asked in complete innocence.
"… Never heard of him," Archie muttered irritably.
Those two brief hiccups aside, the summer lessons went splendidly (for Harry, at least), though he did notice that Hermione seemed a bit withdrawn. After some cajoling, he persuaded the girl to reveal what had left her so distracted. Apparently, the young witch was coming every day by Floo … and specifically, via the fireplace in her father's new apartment. Mr. and Mrs. Granger were still working together as dentists, but they had apparently progressed to the "trial separation" stage of their slow-motion divorce. Mr. Granger (who seemed to be pursuing his squib heritage with some gusto) had gotten a Floo hookup for his new home. Hermione stayed with him during the week and with her mother on the weekends, a development which saddened Harry even though he saw no way of consoling his young friend.
By the third day, Harry had managed to divert Molly Weasley from her hawk-like observation of Fred and George by introducing her to Buttercup and his own personal kitchen. Within a week, Harry had inked a deal with the Weasleys so that Molly's Magical Morsels could make free use of that space and also of the Potter house elves when their duties to the manor were complete. In fact, Harry had offered the space for free, but Molly had insisted on a rental agreement, so he would instead be collecting a small percentage of the profits generated by any food she prepared for her clients while at the manor. As a bonus, he also personally hired her to cater the Jim Potter Birthday Gala, though this year, he would not be on hand to witness it.
The kitchen wasn't the only part of Potter Manor that Harry had subleased, either. While the arrangements were much more informal, one large room had been given over to the Goldstein Group (which was brainstorming on ways to perfect and commercialize Eye-Spies) and another to Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes (the Twins' proposed joke shop).
"What are Wheezes anyway?" Harry had asked.
"It's a word that starts with W," Fred answered with a shrug. "Georgie-Boy mistakenly thought it was a Muggle word for jokes."
"The idea," George added irritably, "was that our products would be so funny that you would wheeze with laughter when you saw them in use. And anyway, we were going to call it Weasleys' Wizarding Wonders, but apparently there is already a company called WonderWitch that sells cheap knock-off love potions, and they've got a reputation for suing anyone that sells a potion with 'Wonder' in the title. We may change it if we think of something better."
But despite all the work that his classmates were putting into their summer activities, it was Harry who pushed himself the hardest. He had eight hours of magical instruction from his hired tutors on Monday through Thursday, bookended by two hours of physical conditioning and Wu Xi Do in the morning and two hours of dueling practice after dinner. On the weekend, Harry also spent several hours each day working with Regulus to develop his metamorphic powers, and by the end of July, he could reliably change his eye color and hold the new look indefinitely. Reshaping his hair, let alone changing its color, was more taxing, though, and while Harry could make his scar disappear, doing so caused headaches and could only be done for twenty minutes before the lightning bolt scar returned. Finally, Harry still met with Professor Snape every Sunday afternoon for training in both Occlumency and Legilimency.
In addition to helping refine the skills Harry already had, Snape introduced three new concepts. First was the Advocatus Diaboli, a technique for creating a secondary personality capable of providing (mostly) impartial advice and opinion. To Harry's surprise, however, Snape became surprisingly evasive when the boy asked him about his own Advocatus. He assumed, given Snape's background, that it was probably based on a Death Eater or someone else Harry might disapprove of.
The second technique was called neural suppression, which was a way of temporarily shutting off pain receptors so that the Occlumens could continue to function even while injured. Unfortunately, it didn't protect the Occlumens from magical sources of pain such as the Cruciatus, but it could allow him to continue to function despite otherwise debilitating physical damage.
Finally, Snape formally began basic instruction on ward sensing, a concept he'd introduced during the summer after Harry's First Year. Ward sensing was actually the most commonly used form of Legilimency, as all curse-breakers, enchanters, and spell designers were expected to be proficient at it. If that is, they didn't want to die horribly from dangerous magic they'd failed to recognize.
After a solid three weeks of intense study, Harry was ready for a break. On July 23, Harry, Theo, and Neville (chaperoned by Archie Goodwin) made their way to Heathrow Airport where they joined Justin Finch-Fletchley and his parents. Soon after, they all boarded the Learjet owned by Justin's wealthy family for a week-long trip to Marseilles. In their absence, the other students would enjoy a week off from study. Meanwhile Sirius grumbled about not being able to accompany Harry, but Andromeda Tonks put her foot down and absolutely refused him permission to leave the country.
"And certainly not on some damnable Muggle flying contraption!" she'd snapped. "Who knows what effect it might have on you! Or what effect your magic might have on an aeroplane if it starts acting up while you're a mile up in the air!"
While en route to the south of France, Justin and his parents were all acutely aware of the fact that most of their guests had never been on a plane before. Archie Goodwin clearly had some experience with Muggle air travel, but the three younger wizards reacted to being in a jet with varying degrees of excitement and terror.
Far sooner than any of the wizards could have anticipated, the jet landed at Marseilles airport where they were met by Gunther Hagrid and the van he had rented for the occasion. As the van pulled out from the airport parking lot, Harry noticed the sign in front of the facility.
"I thought there was an S at the end of Marseilles," he asked aloud.
"There is in the British spelling," said Mr. Finch-Fletchley amiably. "Of course, adding a silent S to a French place-name that French-speakers don't use is perhaps the most British thing ever."
Justin laughed, but his father had to explain to the other young wizards about the traditional rivalry between Britain and France, as Theo and Neville knew literally nothing about the latter country and Harry only knew that he admired the French for their cuisine.
More interesting than the history lesson, for Harry at least, was the easygoing manner in which Mr. Finch-Fletchley delivered it. In his two prior interactions with Justin's parents, both of them had seemed to be affected by the mysterious curse Harry had been under for most of his life, the curse that caused Muggles to develop an instinctive and intense dislike for him. To his surprise, Harry did not sense any animosity from the Muggles today. He wondered what had changed and resolved to speak to Snape about it upon his return to Britain.
For the next several days, the group would be staying at "the Farm," Blaise's name for the country manor house on the grounds of his family's French vineyard just a few miles outside Marseilles proper. While not as impressive as either Potter Manor or Longbottom Manor, the Farm still had an excessive number of guest bedrooms. Once everyone was settled in for the week-long stay, the group met downstairs for lunch followed by an afternoon trip to a private beach on the Riviera. The swimming was excellent, and, as Blaise had promised, there was even windsurfing, which Harry took to with considerable skill.
That night, after dinner, as the grownups in attendance congregated around a card table for a few hours of bridge, Blaise led his friends to a guesthouse that had been warded to allow technology to function properly within. Just outside was a satellite dish that was plugged into the largest TV screen Harry had ever seen (and, of course, the only one that Neville and Theo had ever seen). Even Justin was impressed. And also pleased, as he'd brought the first movie the boys would be watching all the way from his father's collection back in Edinburgh.
"So that's James Bond?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Justin replied. "Well, one of them."
"I thought this Bond fellow was one of the good guys!" Neville exclaimed in a scandalized tone. "He's beating up some poor widow on the day of her husband's funeral!"
"No, Neville," said Harry, who was following the plot better than his wizard-raised friends. "The widow is actually the guy who's supposed to be dead. He's a villain and he threw a fake funeral to throw his enemies off the trail before disguising himself as a woman."
"Oh?" Theo asked dubiously. "Is that something Muggles do often?"
"What?" Blaise responded. "Fake their own deaths or dress up as women when they're actually men?"
"Whoah!" Neville interrupted before anyone could answer. "Muggles can fly?! I mean besides in a plane?!"
"That's called a jet pack," Justin explained, as in the background, wailing trumpets and Tom Jones introduced the theme from Thunderball. "Muggles do have them. It's … not an efficient way to travel, though. Think of it like a backpack that can generate a continual Ventus out of the bottom."
But while the wizard-raised guests were awed and impressed with their first James Bond movie, they were utterly baffled and confused by Blaise's choice for a follow-up: Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
"What's a moose?" Neville asked.
"A large elk-like creature found in Scandinavia and North America," Justin answered.
"They sure do seem to have a lot of them in a story about King Arthur," the Gryffindor said.
"Actually, there are no moose in the movie," Blaise explained. "Nor llamas. That's what makes it funny."
Neville and Theo looked at one another.
"… I'll take your word for it," Theo said.
Sadly, while Justin and Blaise laughed through the whole movie, Theo and Neville never seemed to get the absurdist humor of Monty Python, though they did come away with the impression that cross-dressing was far more common among Muggles than they'd ever imagined. As for Harry, he was initially as baffled as his two brothers, right up until the Black Knight said "I've had worse!" in response to losing an arm. And then, something clicked in the boy's brain and he laughed out loud.
Before his trip to Marseilles was over, Harry would watch every Monty Python videotape in Blaise Zabini's possession, some of them twice.
28 July 1994
Hotel St. Germain
On the night of July 27, Harry and his associates traveled by Portkey to Le Quartier Magique in the heart of Paris and checked into the luxury wizarding hotel, L'Hotel St. Germain. The St. Germain, in addition to being one of the most famous wizarding hotels in the world, was also the host site for the 328th Paris Open, the first European dueling competition of the season that was open to novice duelists. Countess Zabini had rented out several suites in the hotel for her guests.
Early the next morning, Harry and Justin went downstairs to register at a table beneath the large banner that read "EUROPEAN STUDENT LEAGUE – NOVICE CLASS." By Harry's estimate, there were about fifty kids from all over Europe between the ages of twelve to sixteen who were competing this morning. And as near as Harry could tell, nearly all of them (even the younger participants) had been dueling for longer than he and Justin had been. Suddenly, Harry's "debut" threatened to become a more daunting experience than he'd initially realized.
The preliminaries were relatively unstructured and had two components. For the first two hours, all the novices would go through "the compulsories," which consisted of each contestant demonstrating all the spells from the approved list which they had mastered before a panel of six judges. In Harry's case, that meant demonstrating all the spells. Regulus had been annoyingly thorough on that point. There were a few younger contestants who simply didn't know enough spells to make it through the compulsories and so were eliminated, but most of those who'd come to this competition knew what they were in for and were proficient with enough spells to pass the first round.
Next, each remaining novice was assigned a dueling schedule for the rest of the morning. All the matches would be held in the hotel's Grand Ballroom, a massive space twice the size of the Hogwarts Great Hall, and one that was currently occupied by eight rectangular dueling spaces spread out with room for spectators on all sides. There were additional seats on raised platforms along each wall so that spectators could watch all the matches simultaneously if they wished.
Harry's schedule did not identify any opponents by name. He was simply given a list of five time slots, as well as the number of the dueling space where each of his best-of-three duels would be held. He would not find out who his opponent was until just before the next duel started. These preliminary duels were point-based, meaning that each duel would have three judges evaluating the duelists in terms of skill, poise, and depth of spellcasting knowledge. The top sixteen novices would then be seeded into a single-elimination tournament to begin that evening. While obviously winning a duel conveyed a lot of points, it was not the only factor. They were novices, after all, and dumb luck would be a huge factor in a lot of this morning's duels.
Harry and Justin fist-bumped one another for luck before heading off for their first-round duels. And soon after, Harry's nervousness began to dissipate, as his first opponent was a German wizard named Horst (his surname was given, but Harry found it unpronounceable). Horst was a heavyset 12-year-old who'd just finished his second year at Beauxbatons, and the boy's lack of experience showed. Harry took him down rather easily in two straight rounds without even needing to dilate.
The next two opponents went down as well, if not as easily as poor young Horst. But then, in his fourth match, Harry found his first real opponent: Albert Yaxley, who'd just finished his Fourth Year at Durmstrang. Apparently, the younger of Corban Yaxley's two sons was rather active in dueling at school, but he'd never had the chance to pursue it competitively before now. Making up for lost time, Albert came for Harry aggressively as soon as the duel commenced and after a furious 45-second contest, he became the first person to disarm Harry since the day began, knocking him to the ground in the process. With a smirk, he tossed Harry's wand back.
"Come on then!" he said with a mean laugh. "Surely Hogwarts can do better than that!" Then, he walked back to his end of the dueling floor where his older brother Giles merrily clapped him on the back.
Harry's eyes narrowed, and he turned to give Archie a meaningful look. His coach sighed and then nodded as if to grant his permission. Harry returned to his opening stance, but only after wordlessly activating the Averto shield on the tip of his wand. Fifteen seconds later, Albert Yaxley was lying flat on his back wondering what had happened, and he didn't fare much better in the tie-breaking round which also ended with a decisive victory for Harry.
"Hmm," said Theo as Harry stepped down from the dueling platform. "He's not a happy camper, is he?"
Harry glanced back and noted the younger Yaxley was glaring at him furiously. He shrugged.
"Pfft. A Death Eater's son is mad at me. Like that's never happened before."
Later, after dispatching his final competitor, Harry and his friends returned to the ballroom for the announcement of the brackets for the novice tournament that would take place that evening. After lunch, the facilities would be given over to compulsories and preliminaries for the Junior Open Class duels with the actual tournament for that class to be held the next on Friday night. Friday morning and afternoon would see the adult Open Class compulsories and prelims, with the finals for that group on Saturday morning. The World Class tournament was scheduled for Saturday but would have neither compulsories nor preliminary duels. Rather, the thirty-two World Class duelists would be there because he or she had done well enough in prior tournaments to merit an invitation.
As the two boys and their friends waited patiently, a portly French wizard stepped up to a lectern and cast the Sonorous Charm to announce the results. But as Harry tried to listen to the announcer, he was suddenly distracted as Blaise visibly tensed up next to him. He glanced at his friend who was staring off to the side, and when Harry looked in the same direction, he realized who had drawn Zabini's attention. It was a gaggle of teenage girls all chattering in French. One in particular drew Harry's attention as well: a remarkably alluring teenage girl, about 16 or so, with silvery-gold hair. She looked around the room before saying something to her friends and then laughing coquettishly.
"Friend of yours?" Harry asked quietly.
Blaise grimaced. "An … acquaintance. Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons. She'll be competing in Open Class later."
"Is she any good?"
The other boy hesitated. "At dueling? She's a very good duelist, but she hasn't been able to make it into World Class. I'm … surprised she's here today, to be honest."
"Oh?" Harry asked before sliding his glasses down to look at Blaise meaningfully over the rims. "Anything else you can share about her?"
Blaise grimaced. Then, he pretended to cough into his hand as he whispered: "Sunday night."
Harry nodded. Sunday, he would turn fourteen, and the Countess Zabini was throwing a small party back at the Farm in his honor. Later, after the party was over, she would give Harry a private Tarot card reading (his second such reading from the mysterious witch). According to Blaise, if she liked what she saw in his future, the Countess would share with Harry all, or at least some, of the secrets that Blaise had been keeping from him since the day they first met. One of those secrets apparently involved one Mademoiselle Fleur Delacour.
He turned back to the girl in question and made a mental note to catch a few of her preliminary duels. But before he could ask anything else, Harry heard Justin's name called out as the 6th seed in the Novice tournament. The young Slytherin didn't recognize any of the next several names announced, and he wondered if he had missed his name being called earlier, or worse, if he'd somehow missed the cut despite a total of fifteen rounds with only one loss. Finally, the announcer called out Albert Yaxley as the 2nd seed … and Harry Black as the 1st!
Even though he'd thought he'd done well in the prelims, the boy was still shocked at the announcement and caught by surprise when all his friends crowded around to let out whoops of celebration. Archie came over to clap him warmly on the shoulder.
"Well done, Harry! I'm very proud of you!"
"As am I," said a familiar voice from nearby. "And I'm doubly glad I got here just in time."
Harry spun around in shock. It was Sirius Black, who strode forward to pull the boy into a hug.
"Sirius! How did you get here?!" Archie exclaimed in surprise.
With a grin, Sirius pointed over his shoulder at an exhausted but upbeat Bobby Lattimer who was standing just behind him.
"My minion brought me!" Sirius said with a broad grin. "Can you believe that he didn't think to mention to me until yesterday that he had a car and knew how to drive it?!"
Harry did a double-take and turned to the young Hufflepuff. "Wait, you drove here from London?!"
Bobby nodded and yawned. "Yeah. Had to borrow my Mum's Ford Fiesta. We left around 4:00 a.m. London time and took the ferry from Dover to Calais. It took a lot of black coffee, but we got here."
"Indeed we did," Sirius said merrily. "Though before we head back, I may have to install a few spatial expansion Charms on it."
Bobby's eyes widened comically at the thought of his eccentric employer casting some highly illegal spells on his Muggle mother's car, but Sirius had already turned back to Harry.
"I might not be able to Portkey, Apparate, or even fly to Paris, but I was never going to stop looking for a way to be here for you."
Harry looked speechless, but finally, his face broke out into a wide grin. "Is this what it's like having a dad?" he thought to himself.
Then, Blaise's mother stepped forward. "I do not believe we have been introduced, Lord Black," she said in a cultured Italian accent. "I am Serena Zabini."
Sirius turned to the witch, and his face flushed slightly. "Sirius Black," he said somewhat huskily as he bowed his head before taking the woman's hand in his own and gallantly kissing her knuckles. "Enchanté."
"Far be it from me to interrupt this heart-warming reunion, Sirius," said Archie. "But the hall is clearing out now for the Open Class prelims. Harry and Justin have a few hours before their actual tournament competition starts. Perhaps they can go freshen up now and then we could continue over lunch? I'm sure the kids are all dying to hear what it was like spending hours on the A1 in a borrowed supermini, but you can regal them while we eat."
He turned to the Countess. "Countess Zabini, would you be so kind as to escort the youngsters upstairs?"
"But of course! Until later, Lord Black?"
"I can scarcely wait, Countess Zabini." Sirius turned to his driver. "Lattimer, follow along with the kids. I'm sure they can find you a couch to crash on for a few hours."
The rest of the group followed the Countess out of the Grand Ballroom, with Archie and Sirius bringing up the rear. They tarried just enough to get out of earshot, and Archie leaned in close to his brother.
"Before you get too carried away with your irresistible tendency towards rakishness, Lord Black, are you aware of the fact that the charming Countess Zabini has buried seven husbands?"
Sirius's eyes bulged in surprise. "I was not, and I thank you for the gossip. Although I suppose there could be worse ways to go."
The younger brother snorted. "Just so long as you make out a will before the first date, I suppose. Moving on, why did you really decide to drive to Paris?"
"I came to see my godson whup arse on the dueling court, of course!"
The metamorphmagus looked to his older brother and crooked an eyebrow until Sirius continued.
"Aaaand, I got some news yesterday. It's probably nothing to do with us, but it made me twitchy, so I started ranting about whether anyone else had a suggestion for getting here nonmagically. Young Lattimer suggested that he could drive me." Sirius laughed. "I think he's worried that I'll pick Mitchell over him, so he wanted to prove that a Muggleborn could be useful to an old Pureblood like me."
Archie's brow furrowed. "Hang on! Don't you know how to drive a car? I seem to recall Mother screaming about it at one point."
"Nah, just a motorbike. And for that, you just need to know how to turn it on and off, and otherwise, you just pretend it's a broom." He looked thoughtful as he suddenly wondered whatever happened to his old motorbike and sidecar.
"Ah. So anyway, what was the shocking news?"
Sirius reached into his jacket and pulled out the previous morning's Daily Prophet, which he handed over to the other man. It was already open to the Society Page.
"Well, well, well!" the disguised Regulus Black murmured. "I can see why this caught your eye."
At the top of the page was a moving photo of their cousin Narcissa standing arm-in-arm with a slightly stunned-looking Tiberius Nott. The blushing bride looked radiant in her wedding gown.
And the caption beneath the photo revealed that the new Lord and Lady Nott would be honeymooning right here in Paris.
Over lunch (at Summerisles-Paris, naturally), Sirius broke the news about the sudden remarriage of Theo's ex-father.
"Maybe it's for the best that Tiberius and Narcissa got married to one another," Blaise quipped. "That way, only two people are stuck in a horrible marriage instead of four."
"I should probably owl Draco," Justin said. "When we spoke last week, he mentioned nothing about this. I reckon it was a surprise to him too."
"How is Draco?" Harry asked. "I haven't seen him in almost a year."
"He seems to be enjoying Durmstrang. Better than his last year at Hogwarts, anyway. No giant petrifying snakes or anything like that. He spent the first half of the summer at Quidditch training camps: one in Austria and then another in Spain. He says he'll be at the Quidditch World Cup, though."
Harry nodded and then glanced to Theo, who was sitting on his left.
"How are you dealing with the news?"
Theo shrugged. "I'm worried about how this will affect Alex. Beyond that, I'm just rooting for injuries."
After lunch, Harry and Justin returned to the ballroom to watch some of the Open Class preliminary duels, with Archie, Sirius, and the Finch-Fletchleys as their chaperones. The other boys left the hotel for a tour of Le Quartier Magique provided by the Countess, while Bobby Lattimer contentedly napped in the group's hotel suite.
Harry made it a point to catch one of Fleur Delacour's duels, and she took her opponent down with methodical efficiency. He had no way of knowing for sure, but he suspected the older girl could dilate her perceptions. If so, she would be the only other person that Harry had encountered who had that skill besides Snape and Dumbledore. Even Rufus Scrimgeour had never learned to dilate despite his considerable skill at Occlumency, a tragedy in retrospect as the skill might have saved his life in his battle against Rookwood and Pettigrew.
But even as Harry continued to study Delacour's precise and economical style, he stiffened as a soft hiss from the tattoo on his upper back intruded into his thoughts.
"Massster," hissed Mark. "One who bearsss the Dark Mark drawsss near. Behind you."
Harry turned casually in that direction, wondering what he would do if Tiberius Nott and/or Narcissa Black Nott (had she even kept her maiden name?) were sneaking up behind him. It was not them, however. Given his earlier encounter with Albert Yaxley, Harry was not terribly surprised to see that the Death Eater who Mark had detected was the boy's father, Corban Yaxley, the Lord of House Yaxley and the newly appointed Director of the DMLE.
"Lord Wilkes!" the Death Eater said rather cheerfully. "I don't think we've been formally introduced. I am Corban Lord Yaxley."
"It is an honor to meet you, sir," Harry lied. "And my congratulations on your recent promotion."
"Thank you. And you, of course, have my congratulations on your own ascension to the Wizengamot. Has there ever been a lord as young as yourself?"
"Not since the 17th century, or so I've been told."
Harry turned his attention to the two young men who stood on either side of the Death Eater, the younger of whom Harry had bested that morning. Albert Yaxley had perfunctorily shaken Harry's hand after losing their match 2-1, but the two had not spoken.
"And of course, congratulations on your son's performance today. I look forward to our rematch this evening."
"As do I," Albert said coolly. "But right now, we're on our way to watch my brother compete."
Harry's attention wandered to the other boy. Giles Yaxley was a Durmstrang Seventh Year and would be competing Open Class, having won the Novice championship two years earlier.
"Feel free to join us, Lord Wilkes," the elder Yaxley added. "We're on foreign soil for this competition. We Brits have to stick together, what?"
"Naturally. And speaking of fellow Brits, I'm sure I don't need to introduce Justin Finch-Fletchley, the Heir Presumptive of House Prince."
"Of course not," Yaxley said while plastering a fake smile on his face. "You certainly made an impression on the Wizengamot, Heir Prince."
"A good one, I hope," Justin said mildly. While not a Legilimens, Justin was a good enough student of human nature to have noticed the look of mild distaste that flitted across Lord Yaxley's face at the mention of the notorious Mudblood who had dared to claim a seat in the Wizengamot, even if only through a regency.
Besides, Justin's magical guardian was Severus Snape, and he'd made a point of identifying to Justin everyone presently serving in the Wizengamot who had escaped prosecution as a Death Eater with a flimsy Imperius defense, one of whom was the man standing before him. In addition to having been cursed by the mysterious (and fictitious) Marcellus Frump, Yaxley had also been placed under the Imperius by Berith Selwyn, the former Selwyn Heir who confessed to using Unforgiveables to suborn several members of the extended Selwyn family into the Death Eaters. After his confession and conviction, Berith took his own life in a Ministry holding cell before he could even be transferred to Azkaban.
After a few moments of small talk, the Yaxleys left for Giles's next match. Justin leaned in towards Harry.
"So just between us, Yaxley's a former … you-know?"
The Hufflepuff nodded. "I'm pretty sure that was the first time since I claimed my Heirship that I noticed a Pureblood looking down on me like I was something to be scraped off their shoe. I'd almost forgotten what it felt like."
Harry chuckled, and then he, Justin, and Archie followed behind the Yaxleys.
"After all," Harry thought, "it could never hurt to study someone's fighting style. Especially someone who might try to kill you someday."
That night …
The Novice Class tournament began promptly at seven, with the top half of the seeded duelists quickly establishing their dominance in each best-of-five round. The only upset in the initial bracket was when the 10th seed—a fierce girl from Beauxbatons named Amaya Bidarte y Villalobos, who pointedly corrected the announcer that she was not Spanish but Basque—took down the 7th seed from Durmstrang in three straight rounds. Harry noticed that the Delacour girl was among the throng of Beauxbatons students cheering her on. While Harry respected Villalobos's aggressiveness, he still defeated her almost as handily as he had the 16th seed he saw first, a snotty rich American boy whose name Harry had already forgotten.
Justin had also done exceptionally well, winning his first round easily and then upsetting the 3rd seeded competitor, a lad from Beauxbatons named Rolf Scamander. Harry didn't know if Rolf was related to the famous Newt Scamander, but he did recognize several of the boy's hexes and curses from the Auror training manuals that Mad-Eye Moody had given him. Despite obviously being well-taught, though, Rolf couldn't get through Justin's masterful Averto shield.
Unfortunately, Harry's hopes for an all-Hogwarts final were dashed when Justin went up against Albert Yaxley in the semi-final. The Durmstrang student wasn't just a ruthless duelist, he was a clever one as well. Recognizing Justin's powerful defensive skill, Yaxley focused on spells meant to bypass Averto such as Avis Oppugno or simply Incendio (the latter of which was at the extreme edge of what was a permissible curse for novices). Averto couldn't be used to parry a flock of birds any better than it could a gout of flame, and Justin went down 2-1.
Forty minutes later, it was time for the final match of the evening, the championship bout between Harry and Albert Yaxley. Both competitors had studied their opponents well, but Harry had the advantage of having seen how the Durmstrang student had defeated Justin. The first round went to Harry when Yaxley sent a flock of birds to attack him. Harry calmly activated his Vestamentarum shield before striding boldly through the flock to catch his shocked opponent with a flurry of Stunners. But the second round went to Yaxley, who set off a series of brilliant fireworks to obscure Harry's view. When his vision cleared, Harry was shocked to see that his opponent had disappeared! Instantly, Harry realized that Yaxley had Disillusioned himself, and out of reflex, he cast the Supersensory Charm to try to spot his opponent. But that was what Yaxley had counted on, and he immediately set off a second round of fireworks to temporarily deafen Harry before finishing him with a Knockback Jinx.
In the third round, Yaxley got cocky and tried the exact same trick again. Only this time, when he set off his fireworks, he was shocked when Harry also Disillusioned himself, and the audience was treated to the "sight" of two invisible duelists each of whom stood silently while waiting for the other to make the first attack (which would cause the attacker to become visible). After nearly thirty seconds, Harry carefully took a step to the left and then whispered the incantation for the Supersensory Charm again, but as softly as he could … while still making sure Yaxley heard him. Yaxley again set off a round of fireworks meant to deafen Harry once more, but since he hadn't actually cast the Supersensory Charm this time, the loud pops did not affect him. Instead, Harry cast a flurry of Stunners straight into the mass of fireworks, one of which tagged Yaxley.
The fourth round lasted six minutes, which was quite long for a novice level duel. Yaxley had gone mainly with fire-based hexes that Harry could not easily parry, and so the young Slytherin spent more time dodging than in any of his prior duels. Then, Yaxley saw an opening and fired off an Aguamenti and a Glacius in quick secession, causing Harry to slip on the conjured ice and fall. Yaxley nailed him with a Disarming Jinx before he could scramble back to his feet.
Frustrated, Harry called a time-out while the referee vanished the ice that still coated the dueling floor, and he stepped off the platform to consult his coach.
"Suggestions?" the boy said tersely.
"None," Archie said flatly. "You're doing everything right, Harry, and you're tied with this kid who's older than you and has been dueling longer than you." The man leaned in towards him and whispered, "And he was raised by a Death Eater who'd been an Auror before joining the Dark Lord."
"I didn't come here to lose," Harry snapped.
"And I'm not telling you to accept it. I'm just saying that I don't see how you get past him with the skills I've taught you, because other than Averto, he's learned all the same lessons. I'm incredibly proud of your performance today, Harry. But all I'll ever ask of you is that you do your best."
Harry made a face. "That was completely unhelpful. I wish Moody were here."
Archie chuckled as Harry turned and climbed back up onto the dueling platform for the final winner-take-all round. He paused to look out into the crowd, where all his friends along with Sirius were still cheering for him. To his surprise, the Delacour girl was in the stands sitting directly behind Blaise and the Countess, and she was studying him with great intensity. The boy turned back to his opponent, took a deep cleansing breath and assumed his dueling stance. And at the referee's signal, the final round began.
This time, Harry decided to go for broke. He immediately fired off an Avis … followed instantly by a second Avis and then a third. Yaxley instantly cast Vestamentarum on himself, so he took no damage from the attacking birds, but he was surprised when there were suddenly so many birds flocking around him that he couldn't see Harry at all. With a snarl, he fired off an overpowered Finite that dispelled all the birds within range around him, but he was startled when his vision cleared to see two Harry Blacks at the opposite end of the platform.
The Doppelganger Defense was a legal Charm for dueling, but it was seldom used because usually the doppelganger could at most perform simple actions unless that caster stood still and focused on directing more complicated activities. So it was very unexpected to see both Black and his duplicate-the latter "piloted" by a secondary thought-stream Harry had opened-casting spells so perfectly in unison that Yaxley was unable to tell which one was real. As the two Harrys sent simultaneous Stunners at him (spaced just far enough apart that Yaxley could only sidestep one), the Durmstrang student had a millisecond of hesitation. Then, he jumped, casting a Ventus directly beneath himself as he did. The blast of air from his wand propelled the boy straight up, and he tucked his legs in so that the twin Stunners passed beneath, missing him by inches. To Harry's further frustration, Yaxley fired off a Stunner of his own to the person on the left which turned out to be the duplicate.
Harry's doppelganger winked out of existence even as the real Harry desperately fired off a volley of spells. But as Yaxley fell back to the floor, he landed in a crouch and did a quick roll to avoid the attacks. Then, he came up to one knee and targeted Harry with a Leg-Locker Curse that was aimed low and beneath Harry's defenses. Harry tried to dodge, but the curse just barely clipped him in the shin, which was enough. The boy's legs slammed together, paralyzed, and his momentum caused him to lean precariously and then fall forward.
Yaxley exhaled heavily and then smirked. The Leg-Locker required a specialized counter-curse, and even if Black knew it, the counter-curse took roughly three seconds to cast. One of the victory conditions for a competitive duel was knocking your opponent to the ground in such a way that he could not get back to his feet within five seconds. Not that Black would even have five seconds—if he wasted time with the counter-curse, he'd be defenseless against Yaxley's finishing spell. Also, the rules forbade the use of spells while lying prone, and once Harry's chest and stomach were touching the ground, he couldn't legally cast a spell anyway without risking disqualification. It had been close, but this duel was over.
As he fell, Harry dilated. Thump-thump. Even at his maximum dilation, though, the situation seemed hopeless. In roughly one second of objective time, he would fall flat on his face, and then Yaxley would finish him before he could get up again. Desperately, Harry's mind raced through all the dueling strategies he'd learned from his numerous teachers. But nothing Regulus had taught him would get him out of this spot, nor anything he'd learned from Moody or even Remus Lupin (not that he'd spent very much time learning from the Wu Xi Do master). But then, just a few feet away from a face-plant, Harry recalled one single fragment of a conversation he'd had with yet another teacher: Theo No-Name.
Several weeks earlier …
"So explain to me what the point of this is?" Harry asked while huffing and trying to shake the sweat from his eyes. He was lying nearly horizontal and supported by just his left hand, as Theo had decided to add one-handed push-ups to their exercise routine. Nearby, Theo himself was showing off, pushing himself forcefully up from the ground with one hand while the other was behind his back. While still in the air, he would switch hands to catch himself by the other one before he could fall to the ground. He made it look annoyingly easy.
"It's called the Tide Flows and Recedes technique," Theo explained, causing Harry to roll his eyes. While he respected the cultural significance of Wu Xi Do for those who practiced it, he found most of the poetically twee names that Theo recited for the actual techniques to be grating.
"Muggles use push-ups and even one-handed push-ups to develop upper body strength," Theo continued. "But with magic, we can use it for more. Just like an incoming tide will wash up against a shoreline and then recede, we can use our internal magic to control and redirect our momentum, taking the force that drives us in one direction and then using it to push ourselves in another."
With that, Theo switched techniques. As he fell towards the earth, he caught himself with his left hand and then pushed himself up with even greater force so that his body was at a 45-degree angle to the ground. At his apex, he clapped three times before falling again only to catch himself with his right hand and repeat the process.
"And that's good for …?" Harry grunted. "Besides showing off, I mean?" At this point, he was still trying to achieve a basic one-handed push-up, and as he slowly lowered himself, the arm he was using shook from the strain.
"Once you're good at it, it will help with dodging. If you're moving in one direction, you can use the technique to instantly change your direction with no loss of momentum."
"Can … you … do … that?" Harry's face was now about six inches off the ground, and his left arm was shaking uncontrollably.
"Ha. I wish. Remus said it'll probably take a year or so of practice before I can use Tides Flow and Recede in a fight or something like that."
Harry didn't respond. Instead, with a loud grunt, he pushed himself up as hard as he could with his left hand and then tried to switch hands before he came back down again. He failed.
"GAH!" The boy exclaimed as he face-planted somewhat painfully. With a loud sigh, he pulled himself up into a sitting position.
"Okay, Theo. I admit this probably has some long-term benefit. And Merlin knows I need to be in better shape. But honestly? I'll pay you 100 galleons if I am ever in a situation where being able to do a one-handed push-up is going to be of the slightest benefit!"
And truthfully, Harry had still not mastered the art of Muggle-style one-handed push-ups, let alone doing them with the magically-augmented physicality that Theo was only beginning to develop. But he had finally gotten the hang of supporting his body with one hand, which, at the moment, was all he needed.
The Slytherin ended the dilation and immediately opened a second thought-stream. One of his minds seized control of his left arm, causing it to swing around so that Harry could catch himself with his left hand before he could hit the ground. His other mind took control of his wand arm and began the wand movements for a Disarming Jinx even as that arm swung around towards his opponent. As Harry's left arm straightened to support his body far enough from the ground that spellcasting was legal, his right arm was suddenly pointing his wand straight at the startled Albert Yaxley, who'd assumed that the match was already won.
Yaxley tried to dodge, but it was too late. The spell hit him with enough force to knock him to the ground even as it sent his wand flying.
"Three points to two! Round and match to Black!" yelled the referee as the crowd went wild at Harry's extraordinary victory. Harry himself seemed amazed to have pulled out the win, and for a few seconds, he didn't notice the sudden aching in his left arm. But then, he came back to his senses and pointed his wand at his legs to cast the counter-curse before rising to his feet. He made his way to the center of the court and waited for Albert Yaxley to meet him. To Harry's surprise, the other boy seemed more amazed than angry over his unexpected loss.
"What the hell was that last move?!" Yaxley asked as he shook Harry's hand.
Harry shrugged casually. "Oh, just something I came up with on the spur of the moment," he said with a smile. Yaxley looked at him strangely but said nothing. As the referee joined them and held Harry's arm up, the Slytherin scanned the crowd for his friends. Most of them were cheering madly, but he noticed that Theo just stood with his arms crossed while bearing a smug expression.
"Yeah," Harry thought, "winning is nice, but the downside is that Theo will never let me hear the end of this. Plus, I owe him a hundred galleons!"
Next: Harry's Marseilles adventures continue, while news of his successes echo back home. Meanwhile, Fleur Delacour makes her move, while Harry and Justin's dad get acquainted..
The next chapter is scheduled for October 6 (delayed due to unexpected family matter (9/25/20)).
AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is begin written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.
AN2 (What the Sinister Man is reading):
The Methods of Humanity by local_doom_void (on AO3): In which Voldemort is restored to life in February of 1992 without anyone knowing. Surprisingly, the experience causes him to have a sudden midlife crisis and he realizes just how stupid an idea "becoming a Dark Lord" was, so he chucks it and becomes the new DADA professor under a fake name. Currently up to Year 3. Warning: It's broken up into separate works rather than a chapter format and begins with "You Asked If I Were Happy."
The Ghost of Privet Drive by AndrewWolfe (also on AO3): This story just completed, but a sequel is supposedly coming. In the meantime, the author has started an unrelated story that I like but it's only one chapter in, so I'm not recommending just yet. Anyway, I was shocked at how much I like Ghost because it's a genre I normally hate: "real world Harry Potter fan somehow ends up inside the books where s/he fixes things." What makes this one unique and compelling is that the narrator isn't the usual young woman who thinks Draco is "cute but misunderstood." Instead, it's a 50-something lawyer, highly educated and well-versed in pop culture, who dies in a car wreck and is sent as a literal ghost to watch over Harry at Privet Drive. A very well-done "fix-it fic" with a surprising amount of inventive world-building.
AN3: Special thanks to my Discord editors: BlueWater, Bob, Crookshanks, Deaalethiae, Dr. Nemo, haDEs, haDEs, JCornell, johnnesbit, kookooburro, Krisni, Maeve, Miss LeFay, Priest Of Judgement(Pivosh), ProgKingHughesker, Revealio Stupido, Rubric of Ahriman, SlenderGnome, Tesselecta, and TNT. Thanks, guys!
AN4: Vital Statistics: Reviews: 15,213. Followers: 15,916. Favorites: 14.089. Communities: 226. Discord followers: Over 3608! Go Team POS!
AN5: "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four" was a famous bon mot by Samuel Butler, adapted for use by our Blaise.
AN6: The first chapter of the Sinister Man's second novel, Strangers In Dallas, is available to $5 patrons through my website and will be serialized at one chapter per month (until I'm done with it, at least, at which point updates will come faster). The second chapter will be posted on October 1.
AN7: Wear a mask! And if you're of age in the U.S., register to vote! And then, do it!