"If you switch places at the table with me for two weeks."
"No deal. I'll take two of your Hogsmeade weekends."
"One week at the table, and one Hogsmeade weekend."
"Two Hogsmeade weekends and a bottle of Ogden's."
"Three Hogsmeade weekends and the run of your top shelf."
"I'll give you one Hogsmeade weekend, and the run of the shelf."
"One Hogsmeade weekend, the shelf, and the Ogden's."
Hermione loved her schedule. Arithmancy was an elective course, which meant she had five levels instead of seven. And since none of the sixth years had chosen to carry on after their O.W.L.s, she only had four levels this year. Her classes were small, her students were relatively bright, and she had arranged things so that she only taught in the mornings, leaving the majority of her time for her research and the occasional consultancy.
Snape had asked nicely, so she'd agreed to demonstrate non-regulation dueling for his seventh years. Most of them were going on to be Aurors, so most of their defensive encounters would not follow the English Primary's Dueling Standards. And he had a good point that watching the same person demonstrate over and over wasn't as effective as using several different "good examples" when possible.
Also, she'd helped him perfect the training dummies he used in his classes, and she was curious to see them in action against the students. He'd allowed her free access to them (since she'd done most of the math, after all), and she usually spent a bit of time every weekend practicing against them or tinkering with the spellwork.
The seventh year class was his last of the week, a double-lesson Friday after lunch. She arrived an hour into the class, allowing him ample time to lecture on multiple-opponent dueling and prepare them for the demonstration.
"Perfect timing, Professor Granger," Snape said, nodding to her when she stepped into the class.
It was exactly as it had been in her sixth year, gruesome posters and everything. There were sixteen students in the class, a large group for a N.E.W.T. course, but these children's parents had been in a war. (Hogwarts had begun to see the post-war effect, lots of babies born as people celebrated not dying under Voldemort's brief reign; enrollment was up more than a hundred percent from where it had been when Hermione was a student.)
"Hello," Hermione said, smiling at the familiar faces. She had taught ten of the sixteen, though only four of those ten had carried on to N.E.W.T.-level.
She made her way to the front of the room while the students cleared their things into their bags and the room reorganized itself for the demonstration. Desks shrunk to half size and stacked themselves at the back by the door. A practice dummy came to life at the front of the room, holding its wand out in a ready position. After a moment, a second dummy moved it stand abreast of its twin.
Hermione unclasped her teaching robes and folded them over the back of Snape's chair. Under, she'd worn simple clothes that were easy to move in: Black work-out capris, her running shoes, and a simple t-shirt; things she wouldn't mind horribly if they acquired a scorch mark or two. Her hair, usually in a messy knot on top of her head, had been strangled into a proper ballerina's bun.
Snape raised an eyebrow at her attire, but didn't say anything. Hermione ignored him; he could parade around in Victorian-era buttons and wool as much as he liked, she preferred cotton.
"In non-regulation dueling, as I'm sure you've figured out, there is no bowing, no bell to signal the clock-count. As Aurors, most of your dueling would begin when you announce yourself and your intention, and somebody takes issue with your presence." The students laughed, and Hermione smiled. "Other non-regulation duels may start with an insult or any number of other things. Usually, they just begin."
The dummy on the right flicked its wand, sending a Disarming Jinx at her. She dodged it neatly, spinning to the left.
The dummy on the left moved to flank her, so she sent her own Disarming Jinx its way. Knowing the jinx would be dodged, she conjured the little yellow birds she'd pelted after Ron so long ago and sent them towards its face to harry it while she dealt with the dummy on the right. It conjured a snake, she turned it into a spear and sent it back. It split the spear into seven daggers and flung them at her. She deflected the daggers back at the dummy and followed them with a Jelly-Legs jinx. It Vanished the daggers and flopped to the floor when it failed to deflect the jinx.
She turned to the other dummy, guessing that it would've dealt with the birds. She caught sight of a third dummy joining the fight in her peripheral and hit the floor just in time. The orange flash of a badly-cast Stunning Hex flashed overhead, hitting the dummy just regaining its feet from the Jelly-Legs Jinx. The hit dummy flew backwards a few paces, landed hard, and skidded off toward the stacked desks at the back of the room.
While the new dummy was watching to see if its hex hit its mark, Hermione used a Disarming Jinx and a quick Stunning Hex. The dummy fell into a lump near Snape's desk, and Hermione pocketed the wand. She Summoned the wand from the dummy that had wound up at the other end of the room and pocketed that too, since she was being a good example.
The dummy with the birds had to have been set at a lower level than the first. It was trying to deal with the birds by cursing them one at a time, sending little spouts of flame from its wand at the birds as they dive-bombed. It had managed to set its own foot on fire. Taking pity, she blasted it into the nearest wall with a jet of water, Stunned it, and took its wand. The birds immediately set upon the next closest enemy, which turned out to be a fourth dummy that had been creeping up behind her.
At that point, Snape began a running commentary of the things that she or the dummies were doing that the class should be paying attention to. The way she never stood still, the way the dummies tried to flank her without ending up directly opposite each other. If she hadn't had to focus on the six active dummies, she would've taken up her own commentary—not only had he activated more than the three he'd talked about when she'd agreed to demonstrate for him, but he'd ratcheted up the 'competence' level on them, too.
She knocked one down by Summoning one of the shrunken desks, then kept it busy by transfiguring the desk into an angry bull. Since the desks were enchanted to resist the spellwork of anybody but professors, the dummy couldn't simply transfigure the desk into something else or even use Finite Incantatum.
One of the dummies knocked the wind out of her with a badly-cast Expelliarmus; luckily, she kept her wand. It was impossible to tell which dummy had been set to what level of 'competence' since they all looked the same. They all seemed to be at different levels, though the majority of them were toward the more difficult end of the spectrum. (The bastard.)
She trapped one dummy in an overlarge bubble, which bounced around faster and faster as it struggled inside. That became an ongoing hazard for her as well as the dummies. The bubble bounced from wall to ceiling to floor, careening about, rebounding with ridiculous SPROING! noises.
At one point, she round-house kicked one of the dummies and sent it stumbling. She disarmed one dummy only to have it spring up and pin her arms to her sides in a strange bear-hug from behind.
A Disarming Jinx caught her in the back when she was focused on a minor Slicing Hex. She heard Snape begin talking about prioritizing defenses and tried not to second-guess herself—should she have taken the cut and kept her wand? The hex was most commonly used to slice up fruit, after all.
"But Professor," one of the students asked, "isn't the duel over now that she's been disarmed?"
"Does she look disarmed?" Snape countered. Hermione had cast wandless Shield Charms immediately, holding the clumsy domes in place so that they'd reflect what was cast. It was a draining tactic, but she'd built up her stamina with this particular charm during the war.
Three of the five remaining dummies were on the floor before they adapted to her shields, and by then Hermione had managed to get her hands on her wand again. She dodged a curse from one of them, rolled onto her back, and cast a sort of generalized Levicorpus. All the dummies—all fifteen of them—and two students who had stepped beyond the line of Snape's protective ward hung from an ankle.
Hermione rolled smoothly to her feet, then made her way through the dangling dummies quickly. She immobilized the dummies and retrieved their wands. She set the students gently back on their feet and urged them back behind the line of the ward with a hand on their shoulder.
All fifteen of the practice dummies had been put to use. When she reached Snape at the front of the classroom, standing behind his desk and facing the students lined up beneath the wall of windows, she smacked him upside the back of the head. A few students let out nervous giggles and one barked out a laugh (quickly smothered behind a hand). Snape raised an eyebrow at her.
"You are switching seats with me at dinner."
He looked like he was going to argue, but she raised an eyebrow back at him and he shrugged. The rest of the lesson passed quickly. Snape lectured a bit more about non-regulation dueling, and then the class broke off into groups of three to practice two-on-one. Two groups of two had a dummy as their third. Hermione circulated the classroom with Snape, providing insights and correcting stances.
Word of the demonstration spread like the plague. Before dinner was over, all the upper-level students were watching the staff table and whispering. For her part, Hermione didn't much notice it; switching with Snape put her between Sprout and Sinistra instead of between Trelawney and Brewer (the Muggle Studies teacher). They had a lovely conversation that lasted the meal, and nobody predicted her horrible death/sacking/impending baldness even once.
After dinner, she returned a selection of books to the library. Irma told her that the students had been whispering about her, and all the books even vaguely related to the fall of Voldemort had been checked out.
"I don't know what they're more impressed with," Snape said when she met him in his sitting room later, "your prowess against the dummies or that you smacked me in the head and lived."
"You deserved it," she informed him, going on her toes for a better view of the titles on the top shelf of his book case. When they'd first decided they were more-or-less friends, he'd given her permission to borrow any of his books except for the ones on the top shelf. Naturally, the top shelf held everything rare and interesting.
"Oh, I fully expected it. Maybe not in front of the students, though."
"Are you angry?" He hadn't seemed angry, but he was a superb liar.
"No." Well then. "I suppose it's good for the students to see that their professors get along."
"You mean it's acceptable for teachers to have depth and lives? Oh, please. Just give me a moment; you're shattering my illusions."
"Don't be ridiculous. Teachers don't have a sense of humor."