The Games They Play

Chapter 37

Blake opened the door to the Defence classroom with a flick of his wand as he strode down the corridor. The bell went just as he did so, and the students all began to pile into his room. Harry mentally counted the students as they passed through the threshold, and wasn't surprised to see that all his students were present and accounted for. His class was a very well liked one, and so other than extenuating circumstances the students were always on time. They knew he didn't tolerate tardiness, and the fact he was fair to all students – including Slytherins – it made them like his class. Then there was the fact he ensured it was mostly practical classes helped too.

"Good afternoon," Blake said coolly, "Today we will be discussing two spells, Fiendfyre and of course, the Patronus Charm." momentarily ignoring the excited murmurs that arose at his proclamation.

"Yes, Mr. Thomas," Blake pointed towards the fifth year student, who had his hand raised in the air like a few of the other students.

"Are we going to be practicing them?" Thomas asked, excitement exuding from the wizard.

"The Patronus Charm, yes, depending on how long the discussion runs for…it might be our next class before we begin participating in the practical side of the spell," Blake informed him. His lips twitching minutely at how excited they were over such a simple spell, one he had cast at the age of thirteen. Two years younger than all the students were right here and now.

Hermione raised her hand, waving it relentlessly in the normal way she did, as if she feared that she would be ignored.

"Yes, Miss. Granger?" Blake pointed towards her, bracing himself for her usual 'I-know-better-than-you' jabs she loved to emote so much. It didn't matter what class she was in, she did it to them all, and it annoyed all her teachers, in fact it drove them crazy. He hadn't realised just how 'crazy' it made them until they'd gotten into a discussion about it while in the staff room. Only Severus actually demonstrated just how annoying it was in front of the students. Blake honestly wouldn't have said she drove them all insane. None more so than Professor Babbling, the woman got herself into a tizzy just discussing her earlier that week.

"Is the Patronus charm even part of our exams?" Hermione asked, ignoring absolutely everyone around her who rolled their eyes in derision. Even her fellow Gryffindors had all but groaned theatrically over her hand being in the air.

Blake just stared blankly at the girl until she was squirming in her chair, cheeks flushing red in a combination of what was embarrassment and anger. "The spell can gain you extra points at the end of your practical exam, for both Charms and Defence. I presume that extra credit is something that you'd like?" he said sardonically.

"Yes, Sir," Hermione murmured, her gaze going to the table feeling rather foolish. She had thought such a hard spell would never make an appearance on the exams. It felt almost like a cheat, having it there, but the prospect of extra credit did excite her, and thus she made a promise to herself to try her hardest to cast it.

"Now…what can you tell me about the spell, Fiendfyre?" Blake called out to everyone, taking a seat on the top of his desk, eyeing all the students. Ensuring that everyone was paying attention, especially Crabbe and Goyle, and surprisingly they were paying attention. Which of course, was odd itself, those two…weren't the brightest Lumos in the wand, they did have more magic than they often portrayed, the damage done to Hogwarts due to the Fiendfyre gave that away.

"Yes, Mr. Nott," Blake said, gazing expectantly at the wizard.

"It's cursed fire," Nott explained, eyes a little nervous, he didn't know much about it, "My father says it's a 'damn near impossible' spell to cast, my father almost had a heart attack when he came home unexpectedly from the Ministry to find my cousin trying to cast the spell, he had just turned seventeen," and legally an adult went unsaid. "He didn't let Cory back into the manor for years after that."

Blake chuckled, nodding his head, "I'm not surprised, it's in fact how the Black's lost their ancestral manor back in the early fifties." With so many Black's they hadn't dared to spend gratuitously, too worried about money and possible future repercussions. Not a lot of the Black's actually worked, unless they actually had a motivation and a will to do so. So they bought a small townhouse and a few other properties and that's how it remains to this day. It was their unwillingness to spend that accounted for the large estate they had now. That and the constant disownment, a large sum had gone towards marrying the females off, Bellatrix and Narcissa, Andromeda got stuck off. Regulus was killed and Sirius spent over a decade in Azkaban.

Surprise flittered over Draco's face, as he mentally stored yet another piece of information he should already know about his family. Sure, some of the Black's were disappointments but the family itself was a proud one. A pure and proud family, and he was honoured to be a Black even if it was only through his mothers side. Unfortunately, his mother didn't really ever talk about her family, he only knew his grandparents names and a few other titbits he'd picked up over the years. He knew infinitely more about his father's side, his side, the Malfoy family.

"So, take heed, Fiendfyre is a very, very difficult spell, damn near impossible to master and control." Blake stated sharply, ensuring everyone's attention was fixed upon him. "There's a reason the professors do not teach you such an unpredictable spell…primarily so that the school is still standing to teach its next class." He said dryly making them laugh a little and relax, Blake did want to warn them but not petrify them after all. Hopefully, this would be a lesson to them all.

"But it can be taught?" Patil asked, it sounded more of a statement.

Blake glanced briefly at the girl, before nodding slowly, "Yes, a specialised tutor would probably be what you should aim for." aware of her family origins since Filius had informed him about them. How members of her family were in the duelling circuit. "Confidence is key," he added as an afterthought. He didn't believe in arranged marriages, and it was a damn shame they would be having to endure such a thing. Unfortunately, with older families and traditions it wasn't easily overcome. Short of disowning themselves, there was no getting out of it. It explained why they were rather…demure, even during the tournament ball they had been very modest, had made no attempts to even give a chaste kiss to either Ron or him at any given time.

"My Sister-in-law perfected the spell when she was eighteen-years-old," Patil said, sounding a little smug.

"Duelling champion?" Blake enquired.

Patil blinked in shock surprised, dumbly nodding her head, yes, she was a duelling champion. Most people thought witches didn't take part in duelling championship games. Or that they had their own version, which wasn't true, they worked just as hard as the wizards to aim for their place in the top three.

"Now what can anyone tell me about the Patronus Charm?" Blake asked, once again changing the subject. As always, Harry had no desire to raise his hand in order to participate in class. If he wanted the teen to answer anything he'd need to call upon him.

Only Hermione's hand raised.

Blake bit his tongue violently, his narrowed gaze zooming over the students, wondering if they were truly that stupid or if they just didn't wish to compete with Granger.

"Granger," Blake said, deflating slightly, bracing himself for what was coming.

"The ancient and mysterious charm conjures a magical guardian, a projection of all your most positive feelings. The Patronus Charm is difficult, and many witches and wizards are unable to produce a full, corporeal Patronus, a guardian which generally takes the shape of the animal with whom they share the deepest affinity. You may suspect, but you will never truly know what form your Patronus will take until you succeed in conjuring it…"

"That's enough, five points to Gryffindor," Blake sighed, "Anyone else know anything about the spell?" one that wasn't a textbook answer. This was why Granger wasn't in his advanced Defence class.

Harry took pity on his guardian and raised his own hand, he did look exasperated beyond belief.

"The spell creates a partially-tangible lifeforce, a spirt guardian that protects you from Dementors and Lethifolds. The spell itself is ancient, there are scrolls and woodcuts that portray how old it is. Those who can produce fully-fledged Patronus' tend to have high up positions in the Ministry of magic. It's a sign of greatness." Harry explained, his fingers absently making the pattern of the Patronus with his finger which was a circle. "Every Patronus is as unique as it's creator, even identical twins are known to produce two very different Patronuses."

Hermione pursed her lips unhappily, her jaw dropping at the words that left her Professor's mouth next. It wasn't fair! She had given a good answer, the best answer one could give.

"Twenty points to Gryffindor, Mr. Potter," Blake stated with pride, ignoring the huff of breath from the Gryffindor side of the classroom. He didn't need to look to realise just who it was. "Now, the most difficult part of this particular spell is the fact you need a very, very happy memory. The happier the memory the greater the strength of your will to cast it properly. Imagining scenarios is no good, it doesn't have the emotion behind it to create your Patronus. Emotion is what you need to have you Patronus emerging fully. Simple every day memories will not be strong enough either. You'll probably find this out yourself as we practice. So for the next ten minutes, I want each of you to concentrate and focus on a memory that means the world to you. One you wish you could return to, live again, experience again for the first time."

Blake stood and moved around to his seat, trusting his students to do as he asked for now. No doubt they were looking forward to attempting the spell. He knew many of them had what it took to cast the spell, for he had taught them himself. It was a lifetime ago, and oddly enough around about the same time too, give or take a few weeks. He wouldn't be surprised if his students from his advanced class actually asked to continue their lesson. The Patronus spell was something everyone would want to cast unless they were lazy. Even Ron had been able to cast the spell, and he was one of the laziest wizards he'd ever met.

"Professor? Can you create a Patronus?" called out one of his students, bringing Blake out of his thoughts.

Harry sat up straighter, alarmed, there was no way he could cast it without arousing suspicion.

"Expecto Patronum!" Blake uttered, his wand twirling in a circular motion with swiftness only a professional could have.

A large wolf pounced out of his wand, it prowled around the room prideful and arrogant in its strut. After investigating the room, it returned to Blake, bowing low before it disappeared into a wisp of smoke. Blake was able to change his Patronus by thinking on certain memories, just like Severus and Remus could hide their Patronus. Remus of course, out of fear that he would be made as a werewolf. Tonks had also inevitably had her own Patronus change form when she fell in love with Remus. It's for this reason he decided against revealing that Patronus' could be changed, he didn't want to implant that kind of idea in their minds.

Blake's lips twitched as he listened to the coo's of awe and exclamations of amazement from the students. Their excitement was palpable, their eyes sparkled with desire to do this themselves, to see what they could do. To see what kind of Patronus they would have. Seamus' would be a Fox something he rather liked, Granger's would be an Otter.

Harry leaned back in his chair, breathing for the first time since he'd seen Blake use the wand movements.

"Mr. Potter, since you will not need this lesson, come up here, I have a book that should hold your attention," Blake stated, it wasn't a suggestion and Harry knew it.

Harry stood up automatically, used to doing what he was told when it came to Blake, he was his magical guardian after all. Someone he respected and cared for very much, and knowing what was going to happen was fucking with his mind. He didn't want Blake to face Voldemort, even Dumbledore hadn't been able to beat him. The thought of losing him was a bit too much to bear.

Not even knowing he was safe, or that the magical world would be safe if he won changed that. For the first time in his life…he felt as though he had something to lose.

Blake's hand came down on his shoulder, guiding him into the seat his teacher had just vacated. "Stop worrying so much," he murmured. Giving his shoulder a squeeze, he stepped away, letting Harry read the book, it should distract him for a while. None of the students so much as looked confused, such a momentous spell…and the fact he did within Hogwarts grounds meant that the Patronus was seen by dozens of students. They knew he could cast the spell.

The book did distract him, the gleeful look on his face as he opened it immediately spoke volumes.

Blake shook his head and began to coach the students on how to perform the spell. Guiding them when they failed to get an aspect of it right. He wasn't surprised when only wisps of smoke emerged from their wands. Such a spell took dedication, time and power, not just magical powers but mental powers too. It would take weeks if not months for any kind of process to be made.

"Do not be discouraged," he informed them seriously, seeing the irritated and disappointed looks on their faces one- hour and thirty minutes in. It was almost like they had expected a goddamned miracle. Perhaps they thought well a thirteen year old can cast it, it must mean they can. "Most adults cannot perform this spell, but by the time I'm done with you, each of you will be casting it successfully. If you're not feeling it use a different memory, give it time, it's all you need and practice and time to perfect it." Not something he should be promising them, but it was one he intended to keep. Even if he had to keep going with them individually, you never know when such a spell could save your life. Especially if the Dementors were already compromised, which they were, but nobody knew that, yet.

The bell went immediately after his speech.

"Go, enjoy your dinner, and remember what I said," Blake started firmly, giving them permission to leave.

"Sir, can I speak to you, please?" Neville asked, his brow furrowed an apprehensive look on his face, having waited until everyone left the room – with the exception of Harry of course – who was still sitting reading the book.

"Of course," Blake said, gesturing wordlessly for Harry to leave, before reclaiming his seat. Keeping his full attention fixed upon Neville, giving him a single nod of encouragement.

Harry had left, taking the book with him.

"Wha…what if you can't think of any memories that are good enough?" Neville whispered, eyes shadowed, "Will that mean I can't cast the spell?" he had gotten steadily better since getting his own wand, at this wizards behest too. He hadn't no success whatsoever trying to cast the spell, and he was slightly surprised he hadn't been called upon about it.

Blake leaned back, "I know sometimes it can feel as though memories aren't good enough, but surprisingly there can be times in one's life where the emotions you still feel are more powerful than you realize. The moment you realized your life had changed when you performed magic, the ride to Hogwarts, your first pet, your sorting, your best friend, these memories are deceptively mild but can carry you forward even decades in the future by just remembering." He informed the teen, knowing that those he'd suggested would actually help Neville gain the confidence required for the spell.

Neville swallowed, his brow furrowed before nodding slowly, either agreeing with what his professor said or just acknowledging his words.

"Would you like one-on-one tutoring on learning the Patronus spell?" Blake asked, inwardly cursing himself, he was busy as it was, what the hell was he doing giving up more of his free time? Because Neville had been there for him, he couldn't help the other Neville. He could help this one, and the other Neville would never exist, hell, Nev might get to become that Herbology teacher he so desired. He'd confessed his deepest fears while hidden from the world in a rotten down property hiding. They all had done the same thing, spoke about what they wanted, it kept them going through the worst of the war. Gave them hope.

Between the advanced classes, teaching Harry, and a few of the seventh years in order to get their grades up so they could become Aurors…his schedule was packed. It was better that way, less time to think, to procrastinate. He didn't like dwelling on things he wanted to change. It made him second guess himself, which nobody would think about when it came to him. Except maybe Severus, it was difficult to say whether Severus could see through him or not.

Having a plan made things easier, he didn't worry quite so much.

The day after the Hogsmeade trip the students went on…would be the day he put forth the challenge.

One way or another this would all be over, at least for him.

He didn't want to die, but he also wouldn't detest the idea, peace sounded quite good to him.

"Professor?" Neville called, his tone indicating he'd said the word more than once.

Blake blinked and shook his head, seeing the concern written across Neville's face had his masks back up quicker than lightening. "My apologies, Neville, I was simply lost in thought, so, lessons?" leaning forward giving him his full attention.

"I…if you're sure?" Neville finally stuttered, he knew that his professor was busy, he wasn't blind or stupid. He heard the others talking about the tutoring Professor Slytherin was giving them, two Gryffindors who were constantly exhausted on a Tuesday night. He was also pretty sure Harry was getting lessons too. He wasn't sure why the professor would give him lessons, he was nothing special.

"Of course I am," Blake stated firmly, "It may have only been a few weeks since you got your new wand…but Neville you've already grown in leaps and bounds…just like I knew you would. You're so much more capable than you know." He would curse the hell out of anyone who said otherwise. Children were cruel, the students could be cruel, completing grinding someone's confidence to the grindstone just to make themselves feel better.

Neville glanced down at the floor, cheeks flushed red in uncomfortable happiness.

"Await my owl, either that or I'll send Harry with a date and time," Blake informed Neville, everyone knew Harry was his ward so it wasn't surprising that he'd send something for him. "Go on and get your dinner before the rest of the Gryffindors leave you with nothing." He teased, knowing just how quickly the food could disappear especially when you sat next to the Weasley's.

Neville grinned tentatively at his professor before muttering a quiet goodbye before hastily retreating from the classroom.

Blake sighed before leaning back in the chair, stretching out rubbing at his chin absently. He just wished he knew when the Hogsmeade day was, regretfully there wasn't a date set yet, they had to see which teachers were available and on what days. He would know in the next few days though, that was something at least. Harry was anxious about it, he hadn't been prepared for that when he went to the Ministry and got himself made Harry's magical guardian.

He hadn't counted on any strong feelings growing between them. He should have. It's what he'd actually craved for the most of his childhood. Guidance, love, a firm hand, someone to say he did well, to let him feel as if he had done something right in life. He was seeing himself how he always knew he could have been with someone to encourage and love. It was a kick in the gut really, he cared, probably too much, all things considered. It was the same with Harry, he cared too much too, and this…well, he hadn't been sure he'd stay, or get to, hell time-travel of this magnitude had never been done before. At least not documented, like him they could have just fitted in and hunkered down, lived.

Then there was Severus…Merlin help him, for the first time in decades he actually had something real to live for, someone – some people – to live for. It was utterly fucking terrifying, his life had been one constant uphill battle with attempt after attempt to destroy Voldemort for good before there was no magical world left.

Quite honestly…he'd rather that than this fear he could feel creeping up on him. The fear of loss.

Blake closed his eyes, breathing evenly and deeply, clearing his mind. Dinner, then he would be tutoring, that would keep his mind occupied.

Thank Merlin for busy schedules.

There we go! Another chapter for you to enjoy I think the next one will be the challenge and then maybe some conversations between Harry/Blake or Blake/Severus...maybe them all before the next chapter will be the duel, this story is nearly at it's end perhaps maybe 5-6 chapters left I think it was always going to be a rather short one compared to my newer stories since after Voldemort's done there will be no drama and nothing worth writing about to make the story exciting and push it on for longer :) I hope you dont' feel too disappointed! Read and Review please