The Dueling Club

Hermione was grading papers when Harry knocked on the open door to her office.

She looked up. "Harry?"

"Hi," he sat down in one of the leather chairs in front of her desk.

Hermione smiled. She could tell by the look on his face that he wanted something. "Yes."

He grinned at her. "I've had an idea, you'll probably think I'm mental, but I'm going to tell you anyway."

Hermione set down her quill. "All right then, let's hear it."

"I think Lockhart was on to something when he started that dueling club." Harry sat back in his chair as though he'd said something profound.

"Lockhart? Gilderoy Lockhart?"

"Yes, remember when he started that dueling club second year?"

"I remember it was a fiasco," Hermione said, arching an eyebrow at him.

"Yes," Harry acquiesced. "But only because he was running it, and then he got Snape involved and well, you know what happened."

Hermione nodded. "Yes. So, what are we talking about?"

"I want to start up a dueling club again. Actually, I am starting up a dueling club. I already have McGonagall's permission." He smiled broadly.

"Well, that's terrific, Harry," Hermione said. "I think it will be good for the students to get in some practical defense against the dark arts." She picked up her quill again.

"Me too, but…" Harry paused. "I'm a bit worried about the girls."

Hermione looked up at him. "Worried how?"

"Well," Harry said, "they just don't seem to take my class seriously, like it's a boy's subject or something."

Hermione smiled. "I'm sure they don't all feel that way."

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "True, true, but I think they could really gain by having a role model."

Hermione nodded. "You should ask Ginny to come in and do a demo with you."

"Well," Harry said. "I thought of that, but I think it would be a bit weird dueling with my wife, besides the students don't really know her, so I'm not sure how effective that would be."

"Perhaps McGonagall?" Hermione offered.

"I can't duel an old woman, Hermione." Harry said, shock evident in his voice.

"Don't let her age fool you," Hermione scoffed. "She's formidable."

"I'm sure she is," Harry said. "I know she is, it's just we're talking as much about perception here as anything. I don't think McGonagall is likely to inspire the girls to join a dueling club."

Hermione made a correction on one of the student papers in front of her. "Well, I'm sure you'll think of someone."

"I have," Harry said.

"Well, good," Hermione said. She wanted to finish up with these papers so she could head home.

"I want you." Harry said emphatically.

Hermione's head snapped up. "What? Harry, I'm pregnant!"

"Only just," Harry said. "Besides, you don't honestly think I'll be able to curse you do you?"

Hermione smiled.

Harry grinned and his eyes lit up. "It'll be a great demo. Come on, Hermione. I know you want to. I mean History of Magic hardly shows what you're capable of, now does it?"

"I'm not here to show off, Harry." she frowned.

Harry held up his palms. "I know, I know…but still." He picked up a spare quill from her desk and ran it through his fingers. "It would be fun, to show off just a little."

Hermione bit her lip. It would be kind of fun. "All right, but I have to have certain parameters."

"Name them." Harry said. His grin was back.

Hermione took a deep breath. "No more than five minutes. I don't want to channel too much magic while I'm pregnant. Full on defensive magic is fine, but offensively only stunning. I have to mind the baby."

Harry nodded. "Absolutely, but my suspicion is, if one of ends up on the floor--"

"Oh, it'll be you." Hermione said, pointing her quill at him.

Harry nodded his head. "Right."

A half an hour later, Hermione Apparated behind the dustbins in the alley next to the townhouse she shared with Ron in London. She adjusted the bag of parchment she brought home to finish grading and headed out of the alley and up the steps into the house.

As usual, Horatio greeted her at the door. She wasn't sure how he did it, but he seemed aware of her arrival now no matter how she managed to get to the house. If she took the Floo network, she found him sitting on the hearth. If she Apparated, she found him at the front door. If she took a Portkey, he anticipated where she would arrive in the house, and there he was. She set down her bag and scooped up the gray cat.

"Aren't you clever?" she said as she kissed his head and carried him into the parlor.

Ron was in his favorite club chair by the fire.

"Hullo," Hermione said, as she set the cat down on the ottoman in front of Ron. She leaned down and kissed him.

He pulled her down on to his lap. "You're later than usual."

Hermione leaned her head against his chest. "Harry stopped by to see me as I was grading some papers, so I had to stay to finish up. As it is, I still have another class to grade before tomorrow."

Ron nuzzled her neck. "What did Harry want?"

"Oh, he's starting a dueling club for the students." She stretched her neck to give Ron better access.

"That's nice," Ron said as he kissed his way to her ear.

Hermione murmured her agreement, and shifted on his lap so she was straddling him.

"Oh, yeah," Ron said sliding his hands over her hips.

She leaned down and kissed him softly on the lips.

"So what did he want from you?" Ron said before kissing her back. His hands were fishing around looking for an entrance under her long robes.

"Just a dueling partner." Hermione said and ran her tongue between his lips.

"Oh," Ron sighed and opened his mouth. He abruptly pulled away. "What? Is he mental, you're pregnant."

"Only just," Hermione said. "Besides it's only a five minute demo, stunning only."

"Stunning!" Ron shifted her off his lap and stood. "I'll kill him! Where's my wand?"

"Ron," Hermione said, grabbing his arm. "Relax. I already said yes."

"You what? Without consulting me first?"

Hermione arched an eyebrow at him. "Excuse me?"

Ron frowned at her. "I'm just saying--"

"I know exactly what you're saying and I don't appreciate it." Hermione glared at him.

"I'm just worried about you and the baby, that's all." Ron grumbled.

"And you don't think I'm concerned about the baby? You don't think I have sense enough to know what I can and can't do?"

"I didn't say that," Ron said, stepping toward her.

"It might interest you to know that I already had this conversation with a healer," Hermione said, turning away from him.

"I thought Harry just asked you today," Ron said, and put his hand on her shoulder.

"He did. I asked for other reasons."

Ron dropped his hand. "What other reasons?"

Hermione sat down on the ottoman and looked up at him. "I got an owl from the Minister of Magic last week."

"Last week?" He glared down at her.

She touched his leg. "I didn't want to worry you," she started.

"What have I told you about that?" Ron frowned.

"I'm sorry. It's just they wanted me for a project."

"No!" Ron protested.

Hermione sighed. "I can't just say no, Ron. I have to at least--"

"No," Ron said again as he knelt in front of her. "You haven't come home in pain a single night since you left that job."

"I know," Hermione said, shaking her head. "But I--"

"Don't do it, Hermione, please." Ron pleaded.

She pushed the fringe off his forehead. "I told him I'd do some research, but that I couldn't do any of the practical magic. I told him I was pregnant. I told him I was planning on staying with the baby and not working. I told him, Ron."

Ron closed his eyes and sighed and put his head in her lap. "Good."

Hermione stroked his hair. "So you see, this business with Harry is really nothing."

He sat back on his heels and looked at her. "Are you sure?"

"Of course, I'm sure." She touched his cheek. "I would never do anything to jeopardize this baby. Never." She smoothed a hand over her belly. "It'll be a spot of fun, that's all. Really."

Ron let out a ragged sigh. "All right, when are you dueling?"

She smiled broadly. "I don't have an exact day yet, but soon. I'll let you know, all right."

He nodded reluctantly, his forehead wrinkled with worry.

"You know," she said casually, "soon, I'm going to be rather large."

Ron shrugged. "Comes with the territory, I suppose."

"I'll be tired a lot too, I suspect."

Ron nodded, "Ginny certainly was."

Hermione dropped her chin and then looked up at him. "Of course, I'm not tired right now."

Ron smiled, catching her drift. "No?"

She shook her head, "Not at all."

He stood and held out a hand to her. "Then let's see if we can find something to do with all that energy before Winky calls us for dinner."

Hermione smiled and took his hand.

Harry set the duel for the following Friday. Hermione spent the week boning up on her defensive spell work. She wanted something impressive to excite the students. Besides, it would hardly be interesting to stand there shouting Protego for five minutes.

When the day for the duel came Hermione chose her robes accordingly, wanting something practical but not showy. She ended up in dark blue robes with a high collar. It would hide the movements of her body so she wouldn't telegraph what she was going to do, not to mention they covered her rapidly expanding belly.

She was surprised when she walked into the great hall with how packed it was. Apparently, not only had most of the student body turned out but all of the professors as well.

Harry stepped up onto the platform that had been conjured for dueling and began to explain the purpose of the dueling club and who could attend. He explained that there would be a five-minute demonstration.

On the far side of the Great Hall, Ron slipped in quietly through a side door. He was surprised to see Ginny leaning against the back wall.

"Hullo," he said. "What are you doing here?"

Ginny snorted. "The boy who lived versus the only battle hardened Unspeakable and you thought I'd miss it?"

Ron laughed softly. "I see your point. Personally, I'm just here to support the little woman."

Ginny laughed too. "Right."

"Where's the baby?" Ron asked.

"Home with Dobby, I'm popping right back after this. I just couldn't miss it, but I didn't want to bring him."

Ron nodded. "I understand. Oh, here we go."

Back on the stage, Harry had announced that their veryown Professor Weasley would be assisting him in his demonstration.

Hermione stepped on to the raised stage and there was a murmur among the students. Why on earth would he choose the History of Magic professor for something like this? History of Magic, you could practically be a Squib and teach that.

They met in the center of the platform, drew wands and walked back to their respective starting points.

Professor McGonagall conjured a giant clock, which counted down from five minutes. She instructed them to begin.

Harry cast Stupify and Hermione countered with Protego. She cast Stupify and he countered with Protego. They smiled at each other.

They both cast Stupify, but this time in addition to Protego, Hermione cast an incantation that striped the Gryffindor lion from its banner and sent it romping toward Harry. This forced Harry to strip the Slytherin snake from its banner and send it to stop the lion. While he was distracted, Hermione cast Stupify again and Harry had to throw himself to the floor to avoid it. While he was getting to his feet, Hermione sent the Hufflepuff badger to dispatch the snake, so Harry had to send Ravenclaw's eagle to try and keep the lion busy. He managed to get off another stunner in her direction, but this time Hermione called up the tiles of the stage. They flew up into a curved column that sent the spell back at Harry, who shouted Protego just in time to deflect it. Harry was sweating, but Hermione hadn't moved from her original position.

"You ready?" he called to her.

She nodded and pocketed her wand.

"What's she doing?" Ron hissed at Ginny.

"I suppose he wants the students to see wandless magic," Ginny replied.

"Bloody hell," Ron grumbled.

On stage Harry sent a stunner at an apparently defenseless Hermione. There was a hush over the crowd and then a murmur of shock as Hermione held out her hands, and without saying anything and with no wand, produced the shield charm. Harry cast one stunner after another, but the shield held. When he finally stopped and Hermione put her hands down, Ron could see that she was sweating now too. She placed a hand on her side and took a deep breath.

Ron started forward, but Ginny grabbed his arm. "It's almost over, don't embarrass her."

Ron glared at his sister, but stayed put.

The bell on the clock chimed and Harry and Hermione returned to the center of the platform and closed the duel with the proper ceremony, but then he hugged her as the students went wild with shouting and applause.

"You were fantastic," he said.

"So were you," Hermione grinned, "one more stunner and that shield would have broken."

"Are you alright? I saw you—"

"I'm fine," she assured him. "I should go though, so you can get on with your lesson."

Harry nodded. He thanked her before the crowd and everyone cheered as she stepped from the stage and made her way out of one of the side doors.

Ron was standing in the entrance hall as she came out of the Great Hall.

"Ron," she said in surprise. "I didn't know you were here."

"Well, I couldn't very well miss that now could I?"

Hermione blushed. "A bit too much grandstanding, eh?"

"No," Ron said draping his arm over her shoulder. "You were brilliant."

Hermione laughed and leaned into him. "Well, I bet they pay better attention in my class now."

Ron laughed. "Yeah, for fear you'll hex them into next week."

"Well, whatever it takes to inspire them to learn," Hermione said with a smile.

"Let's go home," Ron said, "before your fans come pouring out of the hall."

Hermione nodded and they headed for the castle's massive front doors.