(For those folks wondering about how Lucy could get away with owning certain things in the UK: Note that this is the summer of 1995. The items she owns are perfectly legal and will remain so for another two years. CC)

It was a happy, busy afternoon at Offhand Manor.

Sirius, now that he and Lucy had made the decision to trust each other, insisted on putting her through her magical paces, going over the spells Harry had already taught her, and adding some new offensive and protective spells to her arsenal. Harry watched as Sirius critiqued her form with a razor-sharp eye; his godfather, he realized, was an exacting yet fair taskmaster. And Lucy understood this, and drank in everything Sirius had to say with unwavering attention.

Harry also noticed that the adult seriousness with which she treated Sirius and his teachings had extended to her behavior around Harry; it was as if she, who spent much of her working day around small children, was suddenly made aware by Sirius' presence that Harry himself was no longer a child, but in fact a young man, with all that that implied. There would be no more wild, unannounced huggings from her, Harry sensed.

At last even Sirius, whose bulldog tenacity was countered somewhat by his still feeling the aftereffects of his near-starvation, had had enough. They sat in the study, drinking Chianti and noshing on some crackers, which were laden with pesto that Lucy had whipped together in the kitchen.

"You move with the speed of a cobra," Sirius said between mouthfuls of pesto and cracker. He was eating the lion's share, with Lucy's and Harry's full approval and encouragement. "Faster than any non-magical human I've ever seen."

"You think this is a byproduct of my being a witch?" Lucy asked.

"Almost certainly," Sirius replied.

Lucy sipped at her Chianti and considered this for a moment. "That would explain a few things about myself."

"In what way?"

"I've always been able to move faster than other people -- not just physically, I can sense things faster, make mental connections faster. And I've always wondered why I was stronger than every other woman I knew. I have a grip strength of 90 kg, I can easily shoot a Colt .45 semiautomatic pistol one-handed; even a few of the men I knew needed to use both hands. And I can use the true Weaver stance when shooting, where most women my size and height need to use the locked-arm Isoceles stance."

Harry was astounded; like most Britons, Muggle or wizard, he had never known anyone who owned guns of any sort, much less handguns. But then he remembered: "This was part of your law enforcement job in America?"

Lucy nodded. "UK policemen don't carry guns, but American cops have to. We'd be dead in two seconds if we didn't. Which reminds me," she said as she stood up and retrieved the now-empty cracker tray and plates, "I owe you both for the magic lesson you gave me today." She looked at Harry's godfather appraisingly. "Sirius, how are you feeling right now?"

"Quite well, thank you." He studied her face narrowly. "What do you have in mind?"

"Let me drop this off in the kitchen, and then follow me downstairs," she said. "You're giving me magic training, it's only right I should give you both firearms training."

Harry half-rose from his chair. "Firearms training? Are you serious?"

"Dead serious, Harry." She looked at them both with a stern, grim face. "The people who are after you don't play nice, and as you yourself have said, you can't always use magic in the Muggle world to defend yourself, not unless you want to spend your life doing Memory Charms. There will be times when you'll need to be able to disarm -- or kill -- your attackers, and if you can't use your magic, you'll have to use something else, be it gun, knife or whatever."

Harry looked at her and had a sudden intuition: Lucy has shot and killed humans. He shivered at the thought: it was so unlike his mental image of the soft-and-cuddly Miss Stellanova.

Lucy must have seen his shiver, for her visage softened a bit. "The evil you know is somehow less scary than the powerful force you don't know, eh, Harry?" She smiled, and was gratified to see both Harry's and Sirius' faces relax a touch. "You're already familiar with the Unforgivable Curses, right? How are guns worse than those? Besides," she said, leaning against the chair she had just vacated, "it sounds as if your foes may not know how to deal with guns themselves. Best to get the drop on them, any way we can -- especially if they're not expecting you to know how to handle a firearm."

Sirius looked at Lucy with a quizzical expression on his face. "And me?"

"You, too, Sirius. Wizard or not, I'll feel a lot better about you roaming around eating rats and dodging Death Eaters and such if I know you have one of my Colts strapped to either your hip or your ankle, and you know how to use it."

The cellar of Offhand Manor was a spacious affair, housing several large rooms in addition to the laundry room. One of the rooms was a long, narrow one which Lucy used as a shooting gallery. Lucy, Sirius and Harry stood by a small table at one end of the room. The other end held nothing, save for the cardboard silhouette of a man on the wall.

The table was laden with various devices: guns, knives, and a host of other objects whose function was not immediately apparent. Harry's heart gave a lurch as he stared at the table. He had never willlingly gone near so many items of deadly force, Muggle or magical, in his entire life.

Lucy pointed to the guns, which were by themselves on a corner of the table. "Rule Number One: Always Treat A Gun As If It Were Loaded. I can't tell you how many times someone just tossed a supposedly empty gun around, only to have it prove them wrong in a bad way." She demonstrated how to safely check the magazine, then set the gun back down. "Any questions?" she asked. Both Harry and Sirius shook their heads. Nodding in acknowledgement, she proceeded to the next part of her lesson.

Lucy picked up three pairs of very small semi-cylindrical objects, partly foam rubber and partly metallic. She gave a pair each to Harry and Sirius, then took the remaining pair and put them in her ears; Harry and Sirius followed suit.

"I invented this style of earplug, with the help of Dr. Reader," Lucy said. "It's activated by the oncoming pressure wave generated by the bullet as it leaves the gun. The plug automatically shuts tight to protect the eardrum, then opens back up when the wave has dissipated. This way one can still shoot and do other things, such as carry on a conversation or hear someone sneaking up behind you." She watched their faces to see if they were paying attention to her. They were. "The earplugs are necessary because the report from a Colt .45 registers at over 150 decibels, which is loud enough to permanently damage your hearing, especially in the 6000 Hertz range. The plugs will tamp the noise down to about 50 decibels, well within the safe range for humans."

Lucy picked up a gun from the table. "This is the Colt Mark Four Government Model .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol," she said in a precise, even tone; Harry guessed that she'd taught this sort of thing many times before. "It weighs 2.9 pounds when empty, holds seven rounds of ammunition in the magazine plus one in the chamber should you choose, has an effective range of fifty meters, and can knock you unconscious if you don't manage its recoil properly. Let me show you what I mean by that."

Gun in hand, Lucy turned to squarely face the target on the opposite wall. She placed both hands on the Colt, braced herself with her whole upper body leaning forward, and held the gun with her arms locked straight out in front of her at eye level. "This is the Isoceles stance," she said, her voice still in that same semi-soothing, semi-monotonous instructional tone. "It's the stance that we all instinctively tend to take under duress when shooting a gun two-handed, regardless of what we've been taught. Here we go."

Lucy pulled the trigger; a loud bang ensued; and the recoil sent her hands to pointing towards the ceiling. A hole made itself visible in the head of the silhouette, right above the spot where the eyes would be. "Any questions?"

Sirius and Harry remained silent.

Lucy allowed herself a small chuckle. "C'mon, guys, be serious but don't be overly anxious. The key to being a good shooter is to respect the gun, not to fear it." She set the gun back down on the table. "You'll notice that the isoceles stance doesn't control the gun's recoil very well at all, at least not in a situation where you need to be able to recover quickly and shoot again. This is why, whenever possible and when you have time to think clearly enough to utilize it, you should use either the true Weaver stance, or the modified Weaver stance, or Chapman stance as it's usually called."

Lucy picked up the gun again. "To use either the Weaver or the Chapman stance, you turn sideways, putting the dominant side of your body -- for all three of us, that'll be the right side -- back, like so." Lucy assumed the stance she just described. "This braces you so you can absorb the recoil without losing the target. Now, for the Chapman stance, which is what I'm going to show you right now, you put your dominant side's arm -- your shooting arm -- straight out and hold it straight out, while your weak side's arm is bent, like this. Now watch." She fired again, and this time the gun barely moved in her hands. "See what I mean? With the Chapman, you have much better control, which enables you to pull off more shots, and more accurate shots, in a shorter amount of time -- like this." She reeled off five shots in rapid succession, emptying the magazine. Every single shot wound up in the forehead of the target silhouette.

"Did you see the difference?", she asked as she lowered the gun. "With the isoceles, I could barely get off a shot every second -- and only the first shot would likely be accurate. With the Chapman, I can keep the gun relatively steady so that I don't have to waste time recovering my fix on the target." Lucy went over to the table and cleared the magazine from the pistol while Sirius and Harry watched like twin hawks; they couldn't have torn their eyes away even if they'd wanted to.

Lucy inserted a fresh magazine. "All right, which one of you wants to go first?"

"I will," Sirius said. His eyes glittered; whether it was with apprehension or intensity, Harry wasn't sure.

Sirius stepped forward and held out his right hand. Lucy handed him the pistol.