A/N: Been a while, has it? What can I say? College is chaos, and rearranging my schedule for second semester wound up hurting my free time more than it helped. But enough about that, it's summer now, my time of writing.
This is it, the chapter you've all been waiting for. The smut has arrived! Those of you on fanfiction(dot)net would do well to transition on over to ficwad, especially since this chapter is short even with the lemon. Another benefit of ficwad is the fact that I posted a oneshot there since my last update...and it has a lemon of its own as well! Details are in my profile here if you aren't sure it's for you.
Speaking of other stories, some of you may have noticed that the prologue of my latest piece, The Blackest Potter, is up both here and at ficwad.
I wanted to get this chapter to you guys as quickly as possible, given how long you've already been waiting, so it's beta-free this time.
Chapter 3: The Practical Lesson
Harry woke up early the next morning and found that his clothes from the previous day had been washed and left out for him. A note was attached to the stack telling him that Mrs. Weasley and Hestia Jones, who he had met the previous day, would be taking him to buy new clothes after breakfast. It mentioned Muggle clothing specifically, which Harry assumed was the reason Hestia was accompanying them. Grinning slightly, he left the room and headed downstairs.
Only Remus and Mrs. Weasley were in the kitchen when he entered, the former sipping a cup of tea while the latter was piling food onto a plate at a truly alarming speed.
"Morning, Harry," Remus said without looking up.
"Yes, good morning, dear," Mrs. Weasley said, smiling. "Here's your breakfast. Hestia is already waiting for us in the Leaky Cauldron. She said the Muggle shops won't open for another hour, so we'll be going to Madam Malkin's first."
"Sounds good," Harry said, dropping into his chair. "D'you mind if we go to Flourish and Blotts as well? I was hoping to pick up a few Defense books."
Mrs. Weasley's smile faded slightly and she seemed to lose herself in thought for a moment. "Y-yes, of course. I suppose you should learn what you can," she finally said, her eyes watering slightly.
"It's a good idea, Harry," Remus agreed. "Sirius and I can help you go through them, if you want."
"Sounds great! Speaking of Padfoot, is he still asleep?" Harry asked. Remus nodded in mid-sip. "Do me a favor when he wakes up and remind him to ask Dumbledore about house-elves."
"Will do," Remus said. "Any special reason?"
"I know one that might be able to help us clean this place up," Harry said, giving Mrs. Weasley a small nod and a smile. Her somewhat unhappy expression immediately cleared.
"That sounds lovely. I certainly could use some help around here."
Harry only grinned in response, his mouth bulging with toast. He got up to clear his almost empty plate.
"Weren't the kids helping out with the cleanup?" Remus inquired.
"They have been," Mrs. Weasley began, "but Ron and Ginny aren't allowed to do magic yet, and the twins seem to make more of a mess with it than anything else. Sirius has been helping as well, but Kreacher keeps trying to get in the way, and he's the only one who can order that...thing around."
Harry raised an eyebrow at Remus, who shrugged.
"Well I can promise you'll like the one I've got in mind loads better than Kreacher," Harry said.
Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips, as if prolonged discussion of the loathsome elf was physically unpleasant to her, but was smiling as cheerfully as ever a moment later after checking her watch. "Ready to go, dear?"
"Yeah, let's," Harry said before turning to Remus. "I'll see you later?"
"Unless Dumbledore's got a job for me," Remus said, waving him off.
"Right," Harry said with a nod before following Mrs. Weasley out of the room and towards the Floo. "Are we going to Gringotts first?"
"No need, dear," she said airily. "I went out last night after you'd gone to bed and picked up plenty. Hestia told me how many pounds to get as well, and the goblins took care of the exchange, though I think they may have been a bit stingy with the rates." Mrs. Weasley looked pensive for a second at that, but shook herself free of her thoughts a moment later when she tossed a pinch of Floo powder into the fire that had sprung up the moment they entered the room. "You go first, Harry."
One horrific tumble through the Floo network later, Harry was walking into Madam Malkin's with Hestia Jones and Mrs. Weasley protectively flanking him. He hadn't gotten a chance to get to know Hestia the night before and found himself quite taken aback by the witch. Were it not for her black hair and slightly slimmer build, he'd mistake her for his other minder in a second. He didn't think he was quite prepared for the level of mollycoddling that now seemed inevitable.
Harry hadn't yet been recognized, though he suspected it was only because no one had come close enough to see his scar. There were few shoppers in Diagon Alley so early in the morning, and none even close to his own age. He was grateful for that, mainly because he wasn't ready for any female attention that didn't come from Fleur just yet. As he walked into their first stop, he wondered if he'd ever really be ready.
"Hello dears," greeted Madam Malkin, eliciting scowls from both women flanking Harry. 'Guess they have a monopoly on that word,' he thought to himself, unable to fully suppress a smile.
It was Hestia that recovered first. "Our young friend here has had a sudden growth spurt and seems to be suddenly lacking in robes. We'll take a few sets of black robes for Hogwarts while we're here, but perhaps a couple in a few different colors for everyday use as well. Anything I'm leaving out, Molly?"
"No, you've thought of everything," she said absently, seeming entranced by a set of aquamarine robes on the other side of the shop.
Madam Malkin followed her gaze easily and waved a salesgirl forward. "Gloria, why don't you show our customers that set of robes over there...no, just to the right...yes, that's them. I'll get our young friend's measurements, meanwhile." She waved her wand absently at a measuring tape that lay tangled up on the floor, causing it to shoot into the air and begin wrapping itself around Harry, who tried not to jump away from the overfriendly device.
Harry and his entourage left half an hour later with one bag, though it contained three more that Mrs. Weasley had cast a Shrinking Charm on.
"Harry, you really didn't have to buy us those robes," Hestia commented for the fifth time as they entered Flourish and Blotts. He had insisted on buying them both a new set of robes as a thank you for taking him shopping.
"For the last time, I was happy to," Harry said exasperatedly. "And if you don't stop with that, I'll buy you loads more from the Muggle shop." Without waiting for a response, he made his way to the counter, not noticing the smiles his threat of more generosity had elicited.
The wizard at the counter was a tall, unsmiling fellow who wordlessly pointed Harry to the back of the store when he asked for books on combat and defense. He quickly began sorting through the available tomes, finding a great deal right away. To be on the safe side, he grabbed a couple basic spellbooks (Curses and Counter-Curses, which he remembered seeing during his first trip to Diagon Alley with Hagrid, Jinxes for the Jinxed and Self-Defensive Spellwork) before moving on to the more advanced books. The Dark Arts Outsmarted was his next pick, and several others with similar titles followed it. On a whim, he also grabbed Dueling for Sneaks. The cover depicted one man repeatedly hexing another from behind. As Harry watched, the hexed man turned around and punched his attacker square on the nose, starting a fistfight. Another impulse buy came when he spotted Hermione's Arithmancy textbook on the way back to the counter. 'If Hermione was as right about that as she was about bloody Divination, I just might have to ask McGonagall if I can take the O.W.L. for it at the end of the year,' he thought to himself as he picked it up.
Harry paid over twenty Galleons for his books, which surprised Mrs. Weasley even though their previous stop had cost nearly twice as much.
"All those books, Harry?" she asked as they walked. "Don't you think you're going a bit overboard?"
"Just trying to be safe," Harry replied. "Given the scrapes I keep getting myself into, I think I should try to at least be ready for the next one."
"You make it sound as if it's inevitable," Hestia observed.
"Ask anyone who's known me for more than a year," Harry said. "Except for Snape, don't even mention my name around him."
"Yes, I've noticed that every time your name pops up in a meeting he can't resist inserting at least one snide remark about you," Hestia said.
"I'm starting to think he really doesn't like me," Harry said with a theatrical sigh.
After returning from the Muggle clothing shop, Harry used the remaining time before lunch to begin looking through his new books and found those he looked at to be far more interesting than his other spellbooks. He hadn't yet looked at the Arithmancy text, but resolved to tackle at least the first chapter that afternoon.
When he finally came down to lunch, Harry was so deep in thought about the various hexes he wanted to try out on Malfoy upon returning to Hogwarts that he barely heard Sirius tell him that he had sent the request to Dumbledore.
"…think he'll reply sometime tonight, hopefully with Fawkes. Harry? Are you even listening?"
"I drift in and out," Harry said honestly, not really wanting to rid his mind of the image of Malfoy attempting to brew a potion with his eyes transposed onto the palms of his hands. A slap to the back of his head from Sirius shattered that particular daydream. "Guess I'm in now," Harry said, glaring at Sirius and rubbing his head.
"Good," he replied, not troubling to hide his smile. "I wonder where your thoughts have been today…" Remus hastily choked back a laugh at that remark.
"I wasn't thinking about Fleur, if that's what you're insinuating," Harry said smugly. "I've been looking up hexes, and I was thinking of the potential results of a really odd one."
"Ah, say no more," Sirius said, getting a faraway look in his eyes. "Just imagine Snape's cloak trying to strangle him…"
"Is that really the best you can come up with?" Harry asked incredulously. "All that time in Azkaban has taken away any and all creativity that you once had. Allegedly had, I should say."
"Oh, and you can do better?" Sirius asked.
"Here we go," Remus muttered.
"Off the top of my head, and just using Snape's cloak?" Harry asked. "Sure. Hex it so that it attempts to strangle the other professors when they get close enough, or add a small whip or two to each corner of it that are charmed to swing up and hit him in the eye every time he tries to sweep it behind him. Really, Sirius, it isn't all that difficult."
"I'll admit the whip idea has merit, but I'd personally rather see the cloak strangling him than anyone else," Sirius said after a moment's thought.
"As amusing as that would be," Remus interjected, "don't you think seeing Minerva's potentially violent response to being assaulted by it would be a bit better?"
"You might be right," Sirius admitted grudgingly.
"Don't worry, Sirius," Harry said, giving his godfather a friendly pat on the back, "I'm sure Fred and George can help you regain your lost talents."
"Actually," Sirius began smugly, "they've come to me for business advice for their shop."
"Business advice," Harry echoed. "Do I really need to elaborate?"
"Ruddy kid thinks of everything," Sirius grumbled.
"Too right I do," Harry said. "You two all finished?"
"Just a second," Sirius said as Remus rose and picked up his empty plate. "I'll make a second sandwich to bring upstairs."
"No you won't!" Harry exclaimed in mock seriousness, thinking of what Hermione's reaction would be in his place. "I'm not about to let you go through my brand new books with a sandwich in hand!"
"I'll wash my hands before touching them," Sirius replied, unfazed. "Books are more Moony's cup of tea, anyway."
"I'd take offense at that if it wasn't true," Remus said with a slight grin. "Let's go ahead and start without him. He'll join us when he's ready."
Harry nodded his agreement and the pair made their way upstairs.
"This is quite a bit of reading," Remus said, eyeing the pile appreciatively when they'd entered Harry's room. "Are you sure you can manage all of it this summer?"
"Of course not! That's why you're here," Harry said. "I want to learn as much as I can, but I'd like for us to go about prioritizing it. And by us, I mean you and Sirius. The only book I've committed to reading cover-to-cover is Dueling for Sneaks, and even with that one I'll skip bits that focus on taking advantage of situations in regulation duels. I won't be in any of those."
Harry had expected Remus to complain, what he hadn't expected was an eager smile to appear on the former-Marauder's face. "I guess I'll get right to work, then. You go ahead and start on that one, I'll sort through the rest."
"Actually, I'll be starting on this right now," Harry said, pulling out the Arithmancy textbook.
"Harry, that won't help you much in terms of defense," Remus warned.
"I figured I'd give it a try. Besides, if I'm ever sick to death of learning curses without actually being able to practice them, I'll have a nice change of pace right here."
Remus looked like he wanted to say more, but wisely decided to open up a book and start flipping through it instead, muttering to himself as he read.
What followed was the most mind-numbingly dull hour of Harry's life. He forced himself through the entire introduction of the book, but still didn't even know what Arithmancy was. Sirius had come in at that point and began laughing uncontrollably at Harry's choice of reading material. He wasn't able to help Remus until several minutes had passed. Meanwhile, Harry started the first chapter, but wound up flipping through to later ones to see if they were more interesting. He eventually came to the conclusion that there was no mention of any form of spell in the entire book, so he gave it up as a bad job.
Sometime during the afternoon, Ron turned up and left Harry's Firebolt outside of the door. Harry only found it out there when he went down to dinner with Sirius and Remus. Both men expected to finish sorting through the new books within the next couple of days, but Harry wasn't worried. Dueling for Sneaks had piqued his interest from the start, so it wasn't entirely unexpected that he was already six chapters in. The only mention of formal dueling was a brief, scathing disclaimer at the very beginning. It warned Harry that if he expected to find the secrets of winning legitimate duels by means of less-than-honest strategies through reading it, he was not only an idiot, but an idiot that should never, under any circumstances, procreate.
Dinner was a slightly smaller affair that night, with only Emmeline Vance and Mad-Eye Moody joining them and the Weasleys. Fleur sat next to Harry, but had to be on her best behavior, as Moody's magical eye seemed to be staring at him throughout the meal. It was really quite disconcerting.
Ron, for his part, didn't even seem to notice Fleur and Harry sitting together. He was on Moody's other side, as far away from the pair as possible, and appeared completely focused on his own thoughts. He didn't even take his usual extra helpings, curbing himself after a restrained three.
Ginny, who sat on Harry's other side, seemed to be regaining her confidence around him. The pair had a fairly animated conversation that ranged across several topics with only a few blushes on Ginny's part. Harry was slightly tempted to ask whom she was with just to get a rise out of her brothers, but managed to refrain from doing so.
"Potter!" Moody barked from across the table, completely interrupting Harry's current conversation with Fleur, Ginny and Sirius, and making everyone seated jump at the sudden noise.
"Er, yes?" Harry asked, once he'd recovered.
"Come with me after dinner, there's something Dumbledore asked me to show you." Harry's eyes darted around at that, but the slight surprise showing on everyone else's faces told him that no one else knew what Moody was talking about.
"What does he want me to see?"
"It's a surprise," Moody growled.
"Of course it is," Harry muttered darkly, nodding at Moody before turning back to Sirius. His plate was almost empty, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to see whatever it was that the grizzled ex-Auror was assigned to show him. The fact that Dumbledore had suggested it gave the idea, whatever it was, some credibility, but Harry often had bad luck with surprises, especially surprises involving Alastor Moody...or anyone impersonating him. He and Fleur also had prior arrangements, but one shared look with her told him she had already accepted the necessary delay. So, he continued to slide his last bite of roast beef back and forth on his plate over the next few minutes, half-heartedly listening to the conversation around him.
"Let's go, Potter," Moody said, shaking Harry free from his thoughts.
Harry said nothing, but briefly squeezed Fleur's shoulder on his way out.
Moody led him to the rear of the house, where a staircase led down to a basement he hadn't known existed. The first thing he noticed was that it was completely empty except for four fairly small stones and one human-shaped one, a small stone in each corner with the large one in the middle of the room. Harry couldn't find a light source, but the basement seemed well lit.
"I take it you're wondering what we're doing down here," Moody said, his wooden leg making a dull clunk with every step. He didn't wait for an answer. "This is the surprise. I've been working on it for four days, and it's finally complete. In this room, you can practice magic without the Ministry being able to detect it."
"Really?" Harry asked, his excitement every bit as strong as his apprehension had been moments before. "That's brilliant!"
"Thought you might like it," Moody replied.
"So Ron, Ginny and I can practice spells here?"
"Sorry Potter, this is a deal that's just for you," Moody said, not sounding remotely unhappy about it. "Dumbledore's orders, and all. After a certain point, you have to leave your friends behind if they can't keep up. Besides, the warding on those stones is keyed to you and you alone. I'd have to put in at least another week for the Weasleys, and I've got better things to do."
"Fair enough," Harry said, surprising himself with his quick acceptance. Then again, he had no real desire to spend an extended period of time with either Ron or Ginny given the way things currently stood between them, not to mention Mrs. Weasley's likely reaction at the mere thought of her children having to defend themselves against Death Eaters. "But wait, Dumbledore said something about physical training, which would include them."
Moody shrugged. "No one has to spend an extra week doing busywork so they can physically train all of you. He probably did it so you could spend some time with them. Dumbledore's always been a strange bloke. Any more questions, or can I continue?"
"Sorry," Harry said quickly.
"S'alright. The stone in the middle is a piece of Dumbledore's handiwork, actually. It'll be your target, since these walls won't last forever against some of the spells you'll be practicing, and speaking of that..." Moody paused long enough to pull a small, tattered brown leather book out of his pocket and hold it out. Harry took it, opening it to a random page.
"A spellbook?" Harry asked.
"Not just any spellbook," Moody growled. "My old Auror spellbook. Includes most of the spells we used, and some of the ones we weren't allowed to until things got bad. Learn it all, and only use the illegal ones against Death Eaters. It's all marked. Mine's got a special bonus feature that not too many others put in. I put some of the relevant information on a few of my favorite Death Eaters. The spells they usually use, their personalities. Even threw in a picture or two when I could find them."
"This..." Harry began, completely gobsmacked.
"Don't mention it," Moody said gruffly. "Feel free to write notes of your own in it if you like, I've got the ruddy thing memorized, and I never was too sentimental."
"I'll put it to good use," Harry promised.
"That's all I needed to hear," Moody replied. "Go on and pocket it, you'll have plenty of time to look at it after."
"After what?" Harry asked as he complied.
Moody's only answer was a powerful looking stunner that Harry felt pass through his hair as he ducked under it. He dove to the side and pulled his own wand out as another stunner passed through where he had been a moment before and splashed harmlessly against the ground.
Harry let loose with an Expelliarmus, dodging two more shots. It seemed that Moody was limiting himself, since Harry had only seen the one spell so far.
The older man batted Harry's attack aside with practiced ease and kept his spells coming at a breakneck pace. Harry found himself rolling and dodging all around the room before an idea came to him.
"Accio!" he shouted, pointing his wand at Moody's leg. It should have come out from under the ex-Auror, causing him to lose his balance. It should not have stayed exactly where it was, completely unaffected by his spell. The last thing Harry saw was Moody's wicked grin before a flash of red light covered his field of vision, darkness at its heels.
Moody waved his wand over Harry's prone form, bringing him back to consciousness.
"Looks like you need a lot of work, Potter," Moody said. "My leg and eye are as impossible to summon as the real thing, so you might want to try a different strategy next time."
"Next time?" Harry asked, rising.
"Someone has to keep track of your progress," Moody said. "We'll try again in two weeks or so. Next time I won't just use stunners, either."
"Right, I'll be looking forward to it," Harry muttered sarcastically as Moody went upstairs. He was about to follow the ex-Auror when he heard someone else making their way down to see him.
"Professor McGonagall?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Don't sound so shocked, Potter," the woman in question replied. "Surely you at least suspected that I was a member of the Order."
"Er, to be honest, Professor, you and rule breaking generally don't come to mind in the same sentence," Harry said, smiling in spite of himself.
"I assure you, Potter, that I follow every single law that is worth following," Professor McGonagall said smartly. "But that isn't why I'm here. I have merely come to give you this, a book to help keep you occupied. Professor Dumbledore informed me of your summer studies, and I believe this will help you greatly." She handed him a surprisingly thin leather-bound book.
Harry looked down at the cover and blanched at the title, Transfiguration in Combat. Transfiguration wasn't his best subject, and it was only the knowledge that Remus and Sirius would go through it for him and mark the important parts that kept him from asking about the gift's importance. "Thank you, Professor."
"You're welcome, Potter. Enjoy your studies," Professor McGonagall said, either not noticing or ignoring his skepticism.
As he followed her upstairs, Harry wondered just how useful transfiguration could possibly be in a duel.
"Now remember, 'Arry, concentrate. You must want to be overlooked. You must want to be invisible," Fleur said in an unbearably sultry tone.
In all fairness, it wasn't really Harry's fault that he couldn't concentrate. Fleur had taken advantage of the extra time between dinner and the lesson to change into the most provocative clothes Harry could imagine her wearing. Her white top was skintight and very small, and the evidence that she wasn't wearing a bra underneath it had been pointing at him since the lesson began. She wore a skirt that covered up slightly more than half of her thigh when she was standing, but much less when she sat down. On the bed. Less than a foot away from Harry. She had removed her socks and shoes shortly after his arrival, citing the high temperature as her reason, though she was snuggled up into his side a moment later complaining about the cold. If Harry wasn't already being driven half mad by lust, he might have teased her for it.
Despite his lack of concentration, Harry was still doing fairly well. He had spent his whole childhood wanting to be invisible, so it came to him easily. Fleur had commended his immediate progress after he successfully turned his attraction down as low as possible, but now he found himself unable to duplicate the feat. He was starting to suspect that the clever girl at his side had planned it all out, allowing him to learn the basics before taking the reins for herself through subtle seduction. Her voice had been changing throughout the lesson, going from fairly clinical to little more than a poorly disguised moan.
"Yes, 'Arry?" She licked her lips, making Harry pause momentarily before continuing.
"I don't think we're going to get any farther in tonight's lesson."
They stared at each other for nearly a full minute, neither willing to take the initiative. It would have been impossible for an observer to tell who moved first, but they were kissing an instant later, tongues darting back and forth, teasing and taunting each other. Harry lost all capacity for thought as he let his instincts take over.
An hour later, the couple was wrapped around each other and fast asleep. The sweat on their nude forms had mostly dried, but the smiles on their faces would remain until morning at the very least.
A/N: Seriously, go to ficwad if you haven't already. The ending just isn't the same without the lemon.