"What if?"

A Harry Potter story (AU, set in the beginning of HP-ATSS to follow each school year but with trickles here and there from years 2-6) started July 2007, just before the release of Book #7. This tale ignores DH and subsequent revelations about canon characters and timelines. It is, for the most part, RaM-verse compliant.

Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling; I do not own these canon characters, and I do not make money from these fictional adventures.

Rating: K+ to T (just to be on the safe side, for mild coarse language and implied sexuality; ADMM and FFPS).

A/N: We find our second-year students early in the fall term as Harry tries to figure out the new season of Quidditch whilst dodging photographer/pest Colin Creevey and Ron has wand-troubles. Professor Lockhart has gotten permission from Headmaster Dumbledore to start a Dueling Club at the school, which causes Brian to seek out Professor Flitwick for advice.

Chapter 33/?

Dueling Rumors

Brian Rollins was uncharacteristically agitated as he waited on the wrought iron bench outside of Professor Flitwick's office and classroom. Rollins had sent a note by school owl that Thursday morning to the Charms Master, asking for an evening appointment at his earliest convenience. Flitwick had replied immediately that study hall after dinner would work for him, and that Brian could come straight up to his classroom, using the reply note as his hall pass before curfew and lights out.

He got to his feet as several Ravenclaw upperclassmen made their way out of the Charms lecture hall, laughing softly and chatting as they tucked well-worn books under their arms; the sixth year students were preparing for their Ordinary Wizard Level (OWL) exams, to be administered the following spring. The oldest, a tall attractive redhead (she also had a shiny Prefect badge on her robes), grinned at Brian as he fidgeted.

"Come on, Griffy," she teased, noting the scarlet and gold colors of his house necktie that he had slightly loosened along with the shirt's top button. "It's not that bad, kid."

"Nah, it's nothing terrible really," replied Brian good-naturedly, wiping his hands on his trousers. "Just some extra tutoring to catch up on a couple of new things in class." Inexplicably, he blushed which made the older students chuckle even more when they recognized his distinctly American accent.

"Come in, come in Mr. Rollins," called Flitwick from the side of the classroom, his tone cheery and warm. "How can I help you?"

The tiny wizard was moving some silver goblets that had been used that afternoon for class demonstrations to a storage cabinet, and Brian reached to grab the last three of them remaining. Flitwick chuckled and brushed off both hands.

"Well done, thank you indeed," he said merrily. Filius pulled out a wooden chair from a desk, indicating with a gesture that Brian should do the same as they sat companionably together. The Charms Master grimaced as he massaged one sore knee. "Oh dear. This dodgy knee is really flaring up; we must have some rain coming tomorrow. My advice? Don't get old, Mr. Rollins."

"No sir, not if I can help it," Brian agreed, smiling at his tutor's joke. His foster father, his father and his godfather had all told him the same thing at one time or another.

"You said in your note that you had a few questions for me, young man," Flitwick prompted when Brian did not continue. "Our recent Charms in class this week have been a bit challenging, eh?"

"Oh, yes sir, I do but it's not about class though; I think I have a pretty good handle on the new spells we have been doing," said Brian, straightening in his chair. He took a deep breath and dove right in. "I saw an announcement on the bulletin board downstairs about a Dueling club that is starting up next week or so, and I wanted to ask you about that. It says the club is open to second years and above from all houses, and I read that…"

Flitwick nodded but he held up one hand to politely interrupt the boy. "I am delighted that you came to me but you will have to speak to Professor Lockhart about that as he is sponsoring the club, you see."

"He is? No way!" Brian exclaimed, a sudden and critical edge to his voice, causing Filius to sit back in surprise, as this was not at all the reaction he'd expected. "He's not nearly as qualified as you are! In fact, Lockhart's a total knuck…"

"Gilderoy is a fully-vetted wizard, author and faculty member of this school, Mr. Rollins," Flitwick interjected sternly, raising his voice to cut off Brian as the youngster built up a full head of steam, so to speak. "Any Dueling club questions should be addressed directly to him, as Professor Lockhart, by the way."

Rollins involuntarily made a rude noise, which further surprised the Charms Master: Brian was usually reserved and exceedingly polite when it came to his conversations with staff and faculty at the school.

"If you say so, sir. The Defense against the Dark Arts classes have all been a disaster so far, not to mention his flagrant cruelty to magical creatures and total disregard for Professor Sprout's expertise." Brian sat back, crossed his arms and shook his head in disappointment; even he didn't really understand why he was getting so worked up about Lockhart. The back of his neck reddened in his agitation.

"Nevertheless, Professor Lockhart is a member of the teaching staff here, and as such, you will respect his position if not his methods of pedagogy," Filius continued, his expression grave as he looked at Brian over the top of his rectangular spectacles (he sometimes wore them later in the day when he was tired from marking essays). "You are very close to insubordination, Mr. Rollins, and that certainly deserves detention. Am I making myself clear?"

Brian sighed heavily, shifting a bit uncomfortably in his seat, and trying to regain his composure. He started to speak and cleared his throat, mortified by the stern admonishment from his mentor.

"Yes sir, very clear. I—I apologize, Professor," Brian stammered hoarsely. He cleared his throat again and swallowed. "It's just that you could duel better than he ever will with one arm tied behind your back. Sir." He sat very still except for wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers and staring at a point on the floor about two feet beyond his knees.

Flitwick sat quietly for several long moments, studying the embarrassed young Gryffindor student who couldn't meet his gaze. He shook his head fondly, recalling an evening discussion he'd had recently with his wife. The discussion in their room, had in fact, been about Brian Rollins and how he had become an invaluable assistant to her in the greenhouses and gardens. Filius struggled to hide a broad smile as he realized that Pomona had said some of the exact same unflattering things about Gilderoy Lockhart when she described how he had "advised" her regarding the treatment of the injured Whomping Willow.

"I'm not sure about one armed dueling at my age but thank you. That right there is just one of the many traits that my wife and I truly admire about you, Brian," Flitwick said in a very soft tone when at last he spoke. "Your loyalty and sense of fair play in all things. These are sometimes attributes that are hard to find in both the Muggle and Wizarding world, if you really stop to think about it. The Sorting Hat chose well, if I may say so."

Pomona had teased him on a number of occasions when he'd said privately that Rollins would make a fine Ravenclaw. She'd even suggested—not quite jokingly, the formation of a new house called "Griffy-claw"; Filius and Minerva could be co-Heads of the House.

"Thank you, Professor." He raised his eyes to look at Filius, but he still seemed self-conscious of his strongly negative reactions. "I apologize sir, for being disrespectful. It's just that Defense is supposed to be one of our core courses in the curriculum and Professor Lockhart is treating it like the whole thing is a joke. The Cornish pixies were practically starved and crowded in that one small cage. It's not right." Brian was still visibly angry about Lockhart's treatment of the pixies but now he was able to hold his temper firmly in check.

Flitwick was quiet for an even longer thoughtful pause now, nodding sagely as he watched Rollins; he could tell that Brian was thinking back to the gilded cage in which the pixies were so tightly packed. He knew from Pomona that Rollins had befriended the garden gnomes too, bringing them special gifts from their greenhouse tomatoes and other fruit. Then he gave a crooked smile and chuckled.

"But you demonstrated a clever Duplicating charm—twice I believe, to remedy that housing situation for the pixies, didn't you? And the Headmaster was able to find adequate living space here at the school for the entire family. Professor Dumbledore told me that the three youngest pixies were very taken with you in particular. Delightful children, young Cornish pixies are. The mischief often comes later in their teens, I find, rather like humans." Filius giggled softly at his own joke.

Brian wasn't aware that the faculty had talked (and he did not know that Lockhart was absent), at length in the staff break-room, about that day. He blushed and ducked his head modestly. "Um, uh, yes I did use that charm. Thank you, sir."

Filius stood and patted Brian's arm, then gripped it gently in affection as he felt a surge of pride for the young man. "Lad, if you have to tell others that you are a gentleman and a talented wizard, then you are truly neither of those things." He chuckled at Rollins' puzzled look and waved his hand randomly. "I'm paraphrasing a quote from a British Muggle politician here in the UK from a few years back—uh, Thatcher she was called, well before your time, but I think it works well here in our conversation."

Brian stood politely, and just as he was about to thank the Charms Master for his advice, Flitwick reached into a hidden sleeve pocket and twitched his wand at the desks and chairs which immediately slid aside and began to stack one upon the other, clearing a large open space around the two of them in the center of the classroom. He checked the timepiece in his waistcoat pocket.

"I may get into a rather large spot of trouble with my wife later on if I risk injuring this gimpy knee of mine any further, but how about a short duel to our music?" he offered with a smile. "We've not met for dueling practice since she and I went on our holidays to France."

"And my vacay as well, sir," Brian replied immediately, a wide grin on his face. "I did promise you that I'd work on the drills when my family were visiting." Rollins removed his outer robes, draping them over a nearby chair and rolled up his white shirtsleeves, exposing tanned forearms.

Flitwick laughed, delighted that the tall Gryffindor wizard certainly took his training to heart. He twitched his wand at the Wizarding music box, and it skittered noisily through several classical pieces until he found the one he had in mind.

"Are you still a Wagnerian, lad?"

Brian's grin grew rather wolfish and he nodded agreement as the first movement of "The Ride of the Valkyries" rose and surrounded around them, the swelling of the orchestral horns pounding in his chest. "Always, sir. Always."

Filius flinched inwardly at the boy's enthusiasm, knowing that Pomona would give him an earful and a half if he injured himself (again) while practicing with Brian and she already knew that the youngster was getting rapidly better at Wizards' dueling under Flitwick's tutelage.

"Very well, then, wands at the ready, Brian?"

TBC

A/N: So here we are in about Chapter 7 of CoS. Thank you to "HOP" for helping me to get back to this story (come on the rest of you, help me out too, please!). It's been a bit of a long break since I last updated this one and I have to admit that my Muse went over to play in the Star Trek world for a while. If you have a mind to, my Star Trek (new movie-verse, Scotty & Uhura) story is called "Din Lugh". Cheers!