Chapter 39 : Duel, You're On!

I do not own Harry Potter

Author's Notes :

1) Been a while, but here's some dueling!

2) For anyone about to be sour that I gave Dumbledore a proverbial 'win'; you don't get as far ahead as him without knowing how to pull a few strings.

3) Enjoy!


| Sixth Floor, West Wing | Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry | Somewhere in the Scottish Highlands | January 11 1994 |

"Expelliarmus!" the familiar red beam of the of the Disarming Charm cruised towards Harry, who moved aside and let it pass harmlessly

"Petrificius Totalus!" he fired back at Lily Moon. The white light beamed across the stand much faster than the previous spell. The Hufflepuff was caught off-guard and barely moved out of the way, but staggered.

The moment was all the Gryffindor needed to capitalize, who swiftly fired a Jelly-Legs Jinx before disarming his fellow third-year.

"Winner, Harry Potter" announced McGonagall as the two combatants came off of the stage "Good start, Mr. Potter" the Deputy Headmistress mumbled as he passed her, giving her student a brief smile. The boy nodded back, knowing he must have done something right, for even that simple acknowledgment was high praise from the stern witch.

Herself, and Professors Flitwick, Babbling and Snape along with some seventh-year volunteers were adjudicating duels for the day.

The tryouts for the reinstated Dueling Club were finally underway, and Harry had just won his fourth match in a row, having bested Terry Boot, his Quidditch teammate Katie and Marietta Edgecombe in previous encounters.

Every student trying out would be welcomed into the Club's entry tier, but only those who performed well would be allowed into the upper pools. There was Pool 3 for the beginners, Pool 2 for the proficient, and Pool 1 for the best duelers at Hogwarts. Him and his friends were hoping to skip the first tier, and move straight into the intermediate category, and all their hard work seemed to be paying off since all of them had won at least one match.

As Neville dueled Padma Patil with a determined focus, Harry's attention was abruptly seized by the familiar drawl of Draco Malfoy. The Slytherin slithered over with his customary air of superiority, his eyes glinting with malicious intent.

"Well, well, if it isn't the famous Harry Potter," Draco sneered, his lips curling into a contemptuous smirk. "I was surprised your big head could even fit onto the stage, you filthy Halfblood."

Harry fought to keep his rising irritation in check, "What's the matter, Malfoy? Jealous that we're actually doing something productive while you're just lurking around like a garden snake?"

Draco's sneer deepened, his gaze flickering with disdain. "Oh, please, Potter. We all know the only reason you're winning these duels is because you're too scared to face any real competition. Afraid you'll finally be exposed as the inferior, half-blooded weakling you really are."

"Is that so, Malfoy?" the Seeker's voice was cool, almost taunting, his reaction to the Slytherin a testament to his growth over the year "Well, if you think you're any better, why don't you step up and prove it? Or are you also a fraud like your dear old dad?"

Draco's face contorted with rage, his pale cheeks flushing crimson as he struggled to contain his fury. "You dare insult my father—"

But before Draco could unleash his pent-up anger, Snape's ominous figure materialized beside them, his dark eyes piercing through the tension like daggers. "Belittling other students' parents are we, Potter?" Snape drawled as usual "I think-"

Before Snape could find a way to deduct points from Harry, Professor Flitwick swooped in, "Mr. Malfoy, I heard what you said. Refrain from making such slurs or I will have you thrown out. If you wish to prove anything, do it in a duel."

With a reluctant nod from Snape, Harry and Draco begrudgingly made their way to the dueling platform, their animosity revived in a pinch. They took their stances, wands poised and ready, the stage set for a showdown between two bitter rivals.

Draco Malfoy's dueling stance exuded aggression and confidence. He stood with a slight forward lean, his weight shifted onto the balls of his feet, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. His wand arm was extended forward, held at a slightly downward angle, indicating his readiness to strike swiftly and decisively. His stance suggested a preference for offensive maneuvers, aiming to overwhelm his opponent with a barrage of spells and aggressive tactics

In contrast, Harry Potter's dueling stance was more conservative and calculated, a testament to his experience as an underdog in countless battles. His wand arm was held close to his body, angled upward slightly, poised to deflect incoming spells and launch precise counterattacks while his body stood ready to pivot and evade at a moment's notice. Harry's defensive posture allowed for quick maneuvers and lightning-fast dodges, showcasing his adaptability and agility. Despite his defensive posture, there was a sense of controlled power in his stance, indicating his ability to turn the tide of battle with well-timed strikes and strategic maneuvers.

"3"

"Scared Potter?"

"2"

"You wish!"

'"1"

"DUEL!"

"Depulso!"

"Obscuro!"

Malfoy's banishing charm, aimed at his nemesis' torso, sailed just under Harry's blindfolding jinx. The two beams whistled past their targets and thudded against the walls of the dueling setup, as the old rivals began moving along the diameter of the circular platform, eyeing each other with unveiled contempt.

"Depulso!"

"Relashio!"

The two spells beamed directly into one another, creating a ringing sound as magic dissipated into thin air.

"What are these spells, Potter?! Fight like a real-"

"Stupefy!"

Draco was forced to swallow the rest of his words as Harry's stunner zoomed across, missing him by a hair's breath. The Gryffindor pounced on the opening like a lion, and momentarily, Draco seemed rattled.

Aggravated, the boy regained his composure as another curse shot forth from the Slytherin's wand like a speeding bullet, aimed directly at Harry's head. But the Seeker proved ever nimble, ducking underneath the attack with a swift grace.

Unrelenting, the Slytherin unleashed another Bludgeoner spell, as Harry's reflexes kicked in, and he raised his wand in defense.

"Protego!"

A shimmering blue shield materialized before Harry, deflecting Draco's spell with ease.

Then, seizing the opening, Harry struck back with a series of rapid-fire spells.

"Stupefy! Flipendo! Petrificus Totalus!"

The spells rocketed towards Draco in quick succession, each one aimed with precision. Draco managed to dodge the first spell, but the Knockback Jinx caught him off guard, sending him stumbling backward.

Harry half-expected the duel to end there, but Draco surprised him by rolling over using the momentum of the Flipendo, and conjuring a shield of his own to block the third spell. It was clear that Draco had been practicing, and the raven-haired boy grudgingly acknowledged his opponent's apparent skill.

The duel intensified as Harry and Draco clashed wands with a flurry of spells, each movement fluid and precise. Draco's aggression was met with Harry's calculated defense.

"Confringo!"

Draco's curse exploded in a burst of fiery sparks, sending a wave of heat hurtling towards Harry. With a quick roll, Harry narrowly avoided the blast, the flames licking at his heels as he scrambled to his feet.

"Locomotor Mortis!"

Harry retaliated with a Leg-Locker Curse, aiming to immobilize Draco. But the Slytherin prince proved quick enough, sidestepping the spell with a practiced leap.

"Expelliarmus!"

Harry's Disarming Charm shot forth, and this time, Draco deflected it with a Protego of his own.

"Fulmen Strix!"

Harry followed up with a lightning strike on the standing shield. The spell crackled against the Malfoy's defense, snapping it with a jerk, but doing enough to leave Draco standing, who retaliated immediately.

"Bombarda!"

"Aegis!"

A more advanced shield than the regular Protego, Harry's colorless shield withstood the blasting curse.

The exchange continued, each duelist showcasing their prowess with a diverse array of spells. Stunning hexes, binding curses, and blasting charms filled the air as the two wizards fought tooth and nail for supremacy.

Despite Draco's skillful maneuvers and relentless onslaught, Harry began to gain the upper hand. With each passing moment, he grew more confident, his movements becoming fluid and instinctual as he began to tire out his enemy both physically and mentally.

"Rictusempra!"

Harry's Tickling Charm caught Draco off guard, causing him to double over with uncontrollable laughter.

"Reducto!"

Seizing the opportunity, Harry followed up with a powerful Reductor Curse, sending Draco crashing to the ground with a resounding thud.

As Draco lay sprawled on the floor, he clutched his dragon heartstring wand tightly in his hand, heaving heavily, his disdain fueling his strength, inviting the end he knew was nigh.

As Harry locked eyes with Draco, he could sense the Slytherin's final act of defiance, a silent challenge to bring forth his most powerful magic. With a determined nod, the Gryffindor accepted the unspoken invitation, channeling his resolve into a spell of formidable strength.

"Flagello Ignis!"

The words escaped his lips in a fierce chant, unleashing a torrent of blazing flames that coalesced into a whirling inferno. The fire whipped and danced, twisting and twining around Draco with a predatory grace.

The Slytherin's cry pierced the air as the flames ensnared him, his body contorting in agony. Despite the searing pain, he clung to his wand with a stubborn resolve, unwilling to surrender even as his body writhed in pain. The flames crackled and hissed, Draco's screams echoing in the chamber as he struggled against the relentless onslaught.

"I yield, I yield!" Draco's voice rang out eventually, the words a desperate plea for mercy.

As Draco's cry of surrender pierced the air, Harry's expression remained unchanged, his focus unwavering as he continued to apply pressure on the fiery whip.

"Mr. Potter, enough! The duel is over!" Flitwick's voice rang out, urgent and commanding, breaking through the haze of battle.

Harry's grip tightened on his wand for a moment longer, his eyes fixed on Draco's contorted form, before finally relenting. With a heavy sigh, he released the spell, allowing the flames to dissipate and leaving Draco battered but alive.

As the Gryffindor retreated from the dueling platform, a sense of disquiet settled over him like a heavy cloak. The echoes of Draco's cries still reverberated in his mind as he contemplated his own brutality, unsure how he felt about it. A disturbing realization gnawed at him with relentless persistence. In the heat of battle, for the briefest of moments, he had felt a twisted satisfaction in the pain he inflicted upon Draco.

It was unsettling.

"Bloody hell, mate" spluttered Ron "that was something"

Harry did a double take as he registered the presence of his redhead friend. Only then did he realize that Daphne, Hermione, Neville and Tracey were also there, as was the rest of the room. All of the action had stopped completely, and all eyes had been on his match with Draco.

As the crowd began to move back into their own duels, Harry went over and apologized to Flitwick for not standing down immediately after his opponent had yielded. He went over to the Slytherin camp to ask if Draco was ok, but was only met by the shrill voice of Pansy Parkinson telling him how he should be "expelled for putting Draco in the Hospital Wing".

Immediately, Ron was there to volley back, reminding everyone Draco was the one who'd issued the challenge.

As an all-familiar confrontation began to break out, Harry walked away, still pensive over his actions from the duel.

On one hand, there was Draco, a figure steeped in prejudice and arrogance, whose character cried out for a humbling dose of reality. Yet, on the other hand, there lingered a disquieting unease at the brutal manner in which Harry had administered what he deemed a form of vigilante justice.

Should he have opted for a more measured approach, perhaps a simple Disarming Charm to neutralize Draco's threat? Or was the drastic and forceful action he had taken necessary to serve as a deterrent against future aggression? In the delicate balance between righteousness and ruthlessness, Harry couldn't help but wonder if he had crossed a line.

"I think you did the right thing"

Daphne. Her presence brought a flood of memories rushing back—their shared moments of laughter and camaraderie amidst the somber halls of Grimmauld Place. Memories of that afternoon on the grass, their hands intertwined as they basked in the fleeting moments of peace, flooded Harry's mind. He couldn't help but smile back at Daphne.

A sudden impulse surged through him, a longing to reach out and grasp her hand once more. But the reality of their surroundings crashed down upon him—they weren't in a warded off house in London, but in Hogwarts, where gossip flew faster than a Firebolt.

Fighting against the urge, Harry settled for an awkward pat on her arm, his cheeks flushing with embarrassment at his own clumsiness. In that moment, he couldn't help but feel a pang of longing for the simplicity of their time together, far away from the prying eyes and whispered rumors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Slytherin seemed to find it, or perhaps him, funny (or, laughable), as she giggled under her breath.

"Thanks, I think I needed to hear that"

"I know"

"Quite an impressive win, Potter," a new voice cut through the moment, shattering the illusion of their private exchange.

Standing before Harry was Adrian Montague, a sixth-year Slytherin and the heir to the Noble House of Montague. His father's recent assumption of the role of Regent Fawley added a layer of significance to his presence

Two words, spoken by Sirius not long before, rung in his ears - Power Dynamics.

While Lucius "sabbatical" changed few things behind the scenes, it had created a vacuum as to who the perceived face of the Conservatives was, at least till the self-exiled Lord Malfoy was to return, and it was becoming readily apparent that that "face" was Graham Montague.

Despite the controversy surrounding the circumstances of Graham Montague's rise to power, the Slytherin's House now held significant sway. Adrian, seemed intent on leveraging this newfound authority, perhaps even using Harry as a pawn in his bid to assert dominance within Hogwarts.

"How about another duel, one with someone who is... more of a match?" Montague extended his challenge in the signature Slytherin drawl.

"No thanks, Montague" Harry rejected firmly "I've had five duels already, and the last one was pretty tiring. I'm done for the day."

"And it's hardly fair" interjected Daphne "You're in the sixth-year"

"He is" affirmed Gemma Fawley, arriving on to the scene beside Adrian "But one who has locked wands with Death Eaters, surely he's not afraid of his Hogwarts comrades?" teased the new Head of House Fawley, and a potential conspirator in the death of her grandmother.

"You beat Malfoy quite convincingly, and this on top on besting someone one year your senior. Logically, I, should be amongst your next challengers" Montague egged him on "And you know what they say; if you're the best in your class, you're in the wrong class"

Harry scanned the onlookers and noticed people looking intently at the exchange. Even the eternal Gryffindor-Slytherin debate had taken a pause. The significance of their encounter was not lost on anyone present.

The Gryffindor quickly weighed in his options.

With a quick mental assessment of his options, Harry found himself at a crossroads. On one hand, he had little idea what he would be getting into with Montague. But on the other, backing down from him in front of everyone...

"Let's do it"

And just like that, the die was cast.

He'd made the decision, only time would tell whether it was the right one.

"Looks like we have ourselves a duel," Montague said with a smirk, his predatory gaze flickering towards an empty dueling platform, clearly suggesting their battleground.

"Montague's no pushover, Harry" Daphne cautioned her friend made his way towards the starting area "He knew exactly what he was doing confronting you this openly"

"I know, but-"

"Harry, are you out of your mind?" Hermione hissed fiercely, pacing alongside him. "You can't be—"

"He REALLY doesn't need this right now, Granger," Daphne interjected sharply. "And your griping isn't going to turn back time, so why don't you—"

"What I REALLY DON'T is you two getting into it again" growled an irritated Harry, before sighing heavily

"I'm sorry, Harry, I was just-" began Hermione, but Harry cut her off. "I know" he gave her an appeasing smile and a one-armed hug.

"Doesn't mean you were helping" Daphne mumbled under her breath, but the raven-haired boy heard her. She had the decently to look sheepish as he gave her a side-eye, and Harry couldn't help but chuckle.

"Just be careful, ok?" implored the Slytherin "You've had worse odds than this, I'm sure you'll figure something out" Daphne gave his hand a tight squeeze, and his face into a genuine smile.

"Thanks" he mumbled as he squeezed her hand back, before walking back on to the platform.

He observed Montague's posture. Unlike Draco, the sixth-year was much more reserved in his positioning, and his stance lent his battle plan a key ambiguity.

"3"

"2"

"1"

"Duel!"

Montague wasted no time and launched a quick attack, his wand flicking with precision as he incanted, "Doloris!"

The Slytherin made his intentions clear from the get go as he fired a lacerating course, which Harry moved out of the way of. However, Montague wasn't done yet. With a fluid motion, he directed another spell straight at Harry, casting non-verbally.

Unaware of the nature of the spell, Harry raised his wand, incanting, "Protego!" The shield charm sprung to life just in time to deflect the fiery explosion that erupted towards him. The shield held, but to Harry's surprise, he felt a jolt of impact that caused him to jerk backward slightly.

Feeling the surge of adrenaline from the impact of Montague's spell, the Gryffindor swiftly began retaliating.

"Langlock!"

In another show of proficiency, Montague deftly batted aside the curse with a flick of his wand. The precision and speed of his countermove elicited gasps of admiration from the crowd, particularly the Slytherins, who erupted into cheers.

Even Harry, begrudgingly impressed, noted his adversary's skill. While Langlock may not be an 'offensive' spell, batting curses was no easy feat.

Montague fired back with a blindfolder. Obscuro!"

Reacting sharply, Harry channeled his focus and countered by batting the curse away with a forceful swish of his wand.

To the astonishment of onlookers, Harry's maneuver was executed with flawless precision. This time, it was the Gryffindors' turn to erupt into cheers, their voices echoing through the dueling chamber as they applauded their fellow lion, and the boy noted a flicker of surprise and impression even in Montague's demeanor.

"I see I'm not the only one adept at batting curses" acknowledged the sixth-year, before ending the brief pause in combat with a Diffindo.

Both Harry and Montague exchanged a flurry of spells, and While Harry held his own, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was slightly on the back foot.

The intensity of the battle reached a crescendo as both wizards paused for a brief moment, catching their breath. In the lull, they simultaneously unleashed offensive spells, but Harry managed to fire just before Montague.

"Expulso!" Harry shouted, his voice ringing out as he aimed a blasting curse towards Montague.

"Diffindo!" Montague countered, his incantation echoing sharply as he directed a cutting curse towards Harry.

Harry's spell shot forth with lightning speed, propelled by his swift incantation. Reacting fast as he could, Montague raised a shield charm just in time to deflect the blasting curse, the force of the spell sending sparks flying as it collided with the protective barrier.

Meanwhile, Harry managed to duck out of the way just in time, narrowly avoiding the slicing curse. Despite Montague's quick reaction, Harry's slight advantage in speed allowed him to avoid casting, and helped him the upper hand for a fleeting moment.

However, as the duel resumed in earnest, the relentless exchange of spells pushed both wizards to their limits, with Harry's advantage beginning to wane and the two resumed their battle of attrition.

The back-and-forth exchange continued, with Harry feeling the strain of the prolonged duel. Fatigue began to set in, slowing his reactions and dulling his focus. Thankfully, Montague too seemed to be tiring, if the blunter attacks and lighter shields were any clue.

As the duel reached its climax, Montague seemed to admit he couldn't win purely on raw power.

With a swift incantation and a deft flick of his wand, Montague unleashed a series of rapid spells, each one designed to keep Harry on the defensive. Seeing an opening amidst the chaos, Montague's lips curled into a cunning smirk as he seized upon a transfiguration spell that only a wizard with years of advanced study could master.

The Slytherin casted non-verbally, his wand tracing an intricate pattern in the air as he directed the transformative magic towards Harry's outstretched hand.

Harry's eyes widened in alarm as he felt his hand suddenly grow heavy and cumbersome, transfigured into a solid log. The weight of the log began to restrict his movement, throwing him off balance and making it increasingly difficult to defend himself against Montague's relentless attacks.

With a quick incantation of "Fumos!" he conjured a thick smoke screen, obscuring his movements from Montague's view.

As the smoke thickened around them, Montague's senses sharpened, honing in on the faint sounds of Harry's movements. With calculated precision, he unleashed a bludgeoning hex, aiming to capitalize on the chaos. Meanwhile, Harry, focused on reversing the transfiguration on his hand, remained unaware of the incoming spell. The hex struck Harry's left shoulder with force, sending him reeling in pain amidst the swirling mist.

"Gusto!"

The Slytherin followed up, dispersing the haze with a powerful gust of wind.

To the surprise and befuddlement of everyone present, there were now two identical figures of Harry Potter standing on the dueling stage.

"It's an illusion!" yelped Gemma from the crowd, hoping to help Adrian

Montague eyed the two perfectly still figures carefully, trying to discern which Harry was the real one.

Suddenly, the Harry on the right raised his wand and chanted, "Expelliarmus!"

Reacting instinctively, Montague fired a retaliatory spell at the caster, only to realize a split second too late that no spell had been fired from the other's wand.

His eyes widened in realization as he turned to face the "other" Harry.

Before he could react, a red beam of light whistled across the hall, striking the Slytherin squarely.

Harry's speed advantage from earlier came into play once again as Montague was hit before he could raise a shield. With a sharp crack, his adversary's wand sailed out of his hand, leaving him defenseless.

"Stupefy!"

Harry casted swiftly, the stunning spell striking his opponent squarely, sending him collapsing to the ground, unconscious and defeated.

"Winner, Harry Potter!" declared Flitwick, his voice ringing out over the now-silent dueling chamber.

As his proclamation echoed, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause, the Gryffindors cheering with fervor akin to their victories over Slytherin at Quidditch matches.

As the victor made his way off of the podium he was greeted by Ron, Neville, and Hermione, with the bushy-haired girl engulfing into a tight hug.

Across the hall, his eyes Daphne's who gave him a small, but warm smile, and Harry beamed back at her.


| Headmaster's Office | Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry | Somewhere in the Scottish Highlands | January 11 1994 |

Later that day

"Professor, you asked for me?" Harry inquired as he took a seat opposite the Headmaster.

"I did" nodded Dumbledore "lemon drop?"

"No, thank you, sir"

It had been a while since he'd seen the Dumbledore, though he had a good idea what this meeting could be about

"First of all, allow me to congratulate you on a marvelous performance at today's dueling tryout" lauded the ancient wizard "Professor McGonagall was simply raving, while Professor Flitwick was eager to get you to train for this summer's dueling circuit"

"Professor McGonagall 'raved'? I'll see it when I believe it, sir!" guffawed the Gryffindor

"Professor Snape, on the other hand, is convinced you cheated and asked me to sanction a doping test"

"Which he would personally conduct, I presume?"

"Goes without saying" they chuckled, a departure change from the tone of their recent encounters.

"Why the summons, Headmaster?" Harry inquired bluntly, his frustration with the old professor still lingering.

"Right, on to less light-hearted matters" Dumbledore cleared his throat "Sirius Black"

Harry stiffened. "What about him... sir?"

"You may not know yet, Harry, but your friends - "

"Were tricked into telling you, I know" the Gryffindor interjected, a frown creasing his brow.

"...Right, for now let's say they were" the Chief Warlock transitioned "But I must know why, Harry? Why did you not tell me?"

"Same reason you don't tell me things" replied Harry "Same reason you keep all those secrets about me"

"I can assure you they are not" Dumbledore said calmly "But for whatever reason you have stopped trusting and confiding in me as you used to-"

"I think you know why, Professor"

"The Dursleys. I know you dislike them."

"I hate them" Harry breathed out bitterly.

Dumbledore paused.

"A year ago I would have said you were merely holding on to a tiny pill of resentment from your past" the ancient wizard spoke eventually "But now I see that you do. You truly hate them, don't you?"

Dumbledore's countenance was grave and weary, his demeanor tinged with alarm yet with a certain degree of sadness.

"Your hatred runs so deep that it drove you to discard the protection bestowed by the wards fortified by your mother's sacrifice. An invincible defense sacrificed for questionable, uncertain strides in power, borne out of a simmering animosity I could not quell"

"I've told you already, Professor. If I was given the choice a hundred times, I would do the same thing a hundred times over. You wouldn't understand because you don't know what it's like to live there. The Dursleys are worse than anything Voldemort or his minions ever managed. "

"A place where Voldemort could never reach you," Dumbledore countered. "And now it's gone. That's why it's more crucial than ever that you don't keep things from me, Harry."

Before Harry could respond, Dumbledore raised his hand. "You have every reason to despise me, and you'd rather I stayed out of your personal affairs... I understand," the wizard declared, surprising his young counterpart. "I won't interfere. And once we've moved beyond Voldemort's shadow, if you wish, we need never cross paths again. I give you my word. But until then, allow me to step in when it comes to your safety."

As Harry fell silent, Dumbledore pressed on. "You're better off with me on your side than without, Harry. You're smart enough to see that much. Yes, I've had my share of failures, as evidenced by the many hardships you've faced in this castle. But I want to help, Harry, truly. So I implore you, at the very least out of prudence... work with me. Let me know what I need to know. Do not discard my advice for the mere reason that I am the one giving it. You life is far too valuable to be endangered over such things."

The boy's inner turmoil churned as his Headmaster's words resonated within him. He saw the wisdom in cooperating with the Headmaster, recognizing the value of his guidance for his own safety. Yet, a stubborn part of his mind clung to defiance, hesitant to fully acquiesce.

After a prolonged silence, Harry finally nodded, albeit slowly.

Dumbledore's expression softened at Harry's response. "You've made a wise choice, Harry. Rising above your demons is the mark of true strength."

After another long silence, Harry spoke again, "Alright, Professor. But on one condition."

"Ask, if it in my power, I shall fulfill it."

"Teach me"

"You've expressed concerns about my safety, and you've admitted that you haven't always been there to ensure it," Harry began neutrally "You disapprove of some of the magic I use, like the Cyndarredd spell... So why not teach me? Teach me the kind of magic that will empower me to protect myself, the kind that doesn't require me to put myself in danger like I did at New Year's. Make me self-reliant, so I can take care of myself, and those around me. You're always going on about how I didn't need the rituals, why not prove it?"

Dumbledore's eyes sparked with intrigue, his hand gliding thoughtfully through his beard as he considered Harry's proposition. "You are resourceful indeed, Harry," he remarked, a faint smile playing at the corners of his lips. "Very well, I accept your condition. But I have a condition of my own."

Harry arched an eyebrow, waiting for Dumbledore to continue.

"I want to see if you're ready to receive the knowledge I wish to impart," Dumbledore explained. "The magic I intend to teach you is not ordinary. It requires a level of skill, discipline, and maturity beyond what is typically expected of a student your age. You must prove to me that you are worthy of this knowledge."

With a flourish, Dumbledore presented an itinerary, his eyes gleaming with anticipation. "Behold, the International Dueling Championships, held every summer," he announced. "I challenge you, Harry, not to participate in the Under-OWLs, but to win the NEWT Category—the highest tier of competition for school students, where even those of age are permitted to compete."

Harry's jaw dropped in disbelief. "But... but I'm only a Third Year," he protested.

Dumbledore's smile widened. "You may simply wait till you are older," he replied cryptically. "If you wish to alter my plan, Harry, you'll need to give me a reason to."

One simply didn't stay on top of the political hierarchy without knowing how to work people. And that's exactly what Dumbledore had done. The sooner he began training Harry, the sooner he could monitor and try to mold the boy, all while ensuring his magical prowess continued to grow.

It had taken the man longer than he might have expected, but he'd brought himself back to a win-win.

Harry nodded.

"You're on."


That's all for now, see you all next time