Defence and Offence, Part 2
_Asking someone for a favor can form a powerful bond. _
- Lucius Malfoy
Draco slept through lunch and the first half of History of Magic. Cuttingclass was a non-problem, students routinely answered roll call for each other.As long as you didn’t say ‘present’ twice in a row, Professor Binns nevernoticed. Given his full load Draco had already considered ditching History ofMagic anyway for the full year. Draco respected history and its lessons; but,Binns was worthless. He could probably pass all the final right now and usethe extra time to study Runes. He didn’t need to waste hours each weeklistening to Binns drone on and on about Goblin Revolutions. He could sleep,like the other students, but it wasn’t nearly as comfortable as his bed.
(Only Binns could make Goblin Revolutions boring. History tutoring startedeven before magical tutoring at Malfoy mansion. Draco’s bedtime stories, likeall great fables, taught lessons.)
Stretching awake, Draco pulled out his schedule.
3pm – Intermediate Muggle Studies (All Houses). Professor Asimov. (NewAnnex).
Draco blinked. Intermediate? He hadn’t signed up for intermediate. Had Harryadjusted his schedule? He’d asked Harry, on the train, about tutoring. Dracowalked through the dungeons, navigating automatically. Left - past the pictureof Mad Witch Matilda - laughing as she burned in a bonfire. She’d enjoyed itso much Muggles ‘caught’ her dozens of times in the 1500s. Up the SqueakingStairs, air no longer cool as Draco arrived in the main levels. He headed forthe Great Hall, taking the long way instead of risking a shortcut.Headmistress had told them directions to the Annex, from the Great Hall.
The schedule allowed plenty of time between classes, especially for the firstweek of school as students discovered changes over the summer. Walls stood inthe middle of hallways, pits and spring-loaded traps would launch you onto abalcony. Last December a shimmering gateway - a bright orange oval - hadappeared in the wall underneath Mad Matilda. Anyone stepping into it wouldstep out of another gate, identical to the first but blue, a mere minute fromPotions. Slytherins grumbled bitterly when it disappeared a few days later, ithad cut out a good ten minutes of walking. Each way.
Draco came to the Great Hallway and walked down the new set of short, blackstairs, wide enough for only a single person. Fortunately a second set crossedover the first, enchanted so that students could only go up. The grooves oneach stair, coupled with the graceful curve of the vertical side remindedstudents of the the black Elbonian ridgeback dragon, and the name had stuck.
Draco stepped off the Ridgeback and turned left, hearing the matching giggles.He pulled out his wand and quickly aimed it at Flora and Hestia Carrow.Hestia, straight hair in a ponytail, square glasses that actually looked quitefetching, served in Diggory’s army last year but Flora had finished herO.W.L.S. He aimed at Hestia on instinct and stepped back, to get somedistance.
“Do we scare you, Malfoy?” Flora swished her wand with a flick of the wristleft right left right making little tsk tsk cutting noises in the air. Allthe Carrow girls were short, but she stood taller than Draco, probably wouldfor the full year. Hestia’s wand never wavered off him.
Draco breathed deeply while speaking. “No, although I wonder where your sisterhas wandered off to. A falling out?” Draco’s eyes never left Flora, but heshifted his head slightly to adjust his peripheral vision. Draco didn’t seeanyone else. He’d been early, but other students should be following in a fewminutes.
“Going to study the ikky Muggles, Drakey?” That would sound silly if Florasaid it, Hestia pulled it off.
“No, I’m just Steleus!” Draco shouted the hex out and threw himself to theright to avoid Flora’s stupefy, _cast almost at the same time. Hestia handilyblocked his curse but Flora doubled over sneezing. Hestia’s _Stupefy wentwide and Draco flipendo‘d Flora to the ground, going for the easy hit andremoving her from the fight before she recovered. Flora tumbled backwards,still sneezing and Draco ran left (so his right hand wasn’t blocked by his owntorso). He blocked Hestia’s drill breaking hex and tried his ownExpelliarmus when he heard a screeched _Ventus Tria. _Draco dived for thefloor as the jet of wind rushed over his back, but still got thrown sidewaysby the blast. He hit the ground rolling, hard slippery cobblestones digginginto his shoulder blades and the world was upside-down when he spotted Sheila,the cow. Draco kept rolling then slapped the ground with his left arm to stop,his right arm pointed back
Draco didn’t wait, waiting got you hit, he’d already shoved both arms underhim and he was scrabbling forward, crawling as he climbed into a run. Sheilawent down in a tangled mass of her own two legs, but Hestia was behind him.Draco juked and heard several jinxes but didn’t see anything. He glanced overhis shoulder and she was aiming and shouting. Just shouting, not actuallycasting. Waiting for a good shot. Draco spun around, stumbling, and fired offa Maledictonum, which just caused stuttering and twitching and was moreprank than hex, since it only affected normal speech and not spells. But itsounded dangerous and he’d won three fights by firing off random spells andhaving his targets dodge wildly in fear. Last November, Hannah Abbot jumpedinto the lake to avoid Draco’s magical hair grooming. Hestia stood her ground,either recognizing the spell or seeing that he’d fire wide, and her carefullyaimed Colloshoo hit Draco squarely in the chest. With his feet stuck to theground Draco’s momentum bent him awkwardly the waist and he felt the blindinglight as his head impacted the cobblestone.
Anxious faces looked down at Draco. Students milled past them, peered in,giggling, gasping, laughing and shouting. A hand was reaching down to help himup and Draco focused on it, grabbed it. As he started to pull himself up herealized he’d been kicked hard in the sides and pain shot through him. Hecouldn’t pull himself up and the hand easily pulled him to his feet, steadiedhim, and Draco finally looked at the face.
“Thank you, Robert,” Draco gasped. His left knee almost gave out and SusanBones slipped herself into his side as Robert cast more spells.
“Episkey. You still look terrible,” Robert said. “Your face is worse. Youshould go see Pomfrey.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ve already missed one class today.” Draco looked around andsaw that, apart from Robert Jugson, the huddle had been Susan, Padma, Nevilleand a particularly worried Vincent. Draco cocked his head. Vincent understood,but the throbbing pain Draco felt made him think it would have been better toask.
“They were kicking you pretty hard,” said Vincent, “something might be broken.We were heading back from Muggle Studies but they ran off once Robert sawthem.” Vincent didn’t need state the obvious, Gregory had chased after them,to confirm who was involved and enact any retribution.
“It was the Carrows.”
“I saw at least four people around you, but only one kicking.” said Padma.There was disagreement, Neville thought it was just three. Robert offered thatShelia had gotten a few boots in. Draco put a bit of weight on his knee. Hecould walk, gingerly. Vincent latched on to the side opposite Susan.
“Thanks for getting them off me. That could have turned ugly.” The generalopinion was that it had gotten ugly. Robert mumbled a goodbye and walked off.By now there wasn’t much of a crowd going past out of class, but a smalltrickle of older students were descending the Ridgeback while Draco, supportedby Susan and Vincent, made the slow walk down the hall. Draco fumbled for hiswand and pointed it to his sides and mumbled Te Manawa. _The pain eased.Draco shifted the wand towards his face and cast _Tango Karawarawa. He didn’thave a mirror so he cast it again until Vincent nodded.
Malfoys collected spells that improved your appearance.
After being lowered (gently) into a seat in the back row Draco numbed hisknee, which he hadn’t dare do while walking. A few other glamours improved hisappearance and fixed his clothing. Most students would hear the gossip, but atleast Draco didn’t look like someone who lost a fight.
The Professor spoke into a device that apparently functioned like a Sonorusspell. He also had sheets of paper.
“Good afternoon, class. I am Professor Asimov. As you may know, I’ve recentlybeen hired to teach at Hogwarts. Forgive me for not knowing your names,although I have a class list here with pictures. Since I am a squib, I askthat you keep your actual appearance and not take this opportunity to prankthe new teacher. We will focus on Muggle society trends instead of simplefacts. However, since your prior classes were hogwash I’ll summarize thefacts, at least for the English Speaking Muggle world. As we progress I’ll beinterested to hear what topics you’d like to cover, and we will move towards adialogue. Today’s topic will be a brief history of the Industrial Revolution,and the impact on the Muggle beliefs in magic…”
At the end of the lecture Draco waited for the room to clear before removingthe anesthetic spell on his knee. He used the chair’s hand-rests to pushhimself up, then extended his left leg to the ground. It held.
“Why don’t you use magical healing?” Professor Asimov, walking down the aisletowards Draco.
“Healing spells require raw power. I’ll have to be older before I have it.They don’t even start theory for a few years.” Draco started out the door andthe Professor walked with him.
“You are younger than your classmates, but not a Muggle born, so why are youin my class … Draco?” The professor had rifled through the sheets and found apicture of Draco. He’d done that several times to call on students during theclass.
“I figured you’d know, sir.” Draco moved slower than strictly necessary, butit made his walk seem less like a hobble.
“The Headmistress didn’t say, and you needn’t be so formal, Draco.”
“Of course. Although if you don’t mind some advice, you are too informal inlectures. You should stick to Mister So-and-so and Miss whoever.” Draco pausedand thought. “Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if that’s a nationaldifference or a Muggle/Wizarding difference. Is there a word for that?”
“Not that I’m aware of. My apologies, then Mr. Malfoy.”
“None required, as I knew it was an innocent mistake. But some studentsdon’t.”
“And that must be why you were in my class.” The Professor stopped at a smalldoorway. Draco realized it was a Muggle door you might see in a home, gaudilypainted, two small squares inlaid, one atop the other. “This is my office. Doyou have a few moments?”
Draco followed Professor Asimov in. The room was lined with shelves, booksstacked a dozen high on the desk, leaving only enough free space for a manualtypewriter, some paper, and several legal pads. Draco squeezed past thevisitor chair to look at the closest shelf.
“You wrote all of these?” All the books said “Asimov” or “Isaac Asimov.” Manytitles read as gibberish but some were science books. There must be hundredsof books, all four rows were written by his Professor. Draco found a title andpicked it out.
“Mostly just that bookcase. I’m afraid that book isn’t what you hope, Draco.”Draco put Young Witches and Wizards back on the shelf and continuedbrowsing.
“Just Muggle fiction, I’m afraid. The majority of my books are fiction,although I wrote general interest pieces on current scientific knowledge.Current for the time, I suppose.” Draco spotted a picture on the back of onebook’s outer paper wrapper, which showed the Professor as a much older man,gray hair, skin dropping, but still the same glasses and general look. Dracojudged the man in the picture to be roughly 100, firmly middle aged. He putthe book back.
“So, they made you younger.”
“I imagine I’d be dead in a few years if not. I’m grateful that HeadmistressMcGonagall offered me this position. Anyway, I wanted to ask you something,Draco.”
“Of course, Professor Asimov.” Draco kept browsing. His training told him tosit, he could hear his tutors screaming. But Harry Potter had clearly hand-picked this Muggle and Draco had heard you can never have too many booksoften enough. Such a prolific author and scientific expert deserved study.Anyway, expressing interest in a Ravenclaw’s writing surely exemplifiedpoliteness. Probably. For Muggles, too. Maybe.
“Are you OK? I mean, I gathered from the other students that you’d been in afight with several older students, and given what you told me about rawmagical talent…well.” Isaac Asimov watched the young boy examining the booksstop and consider. He stood almost straight, although his weight was obviouslyon one leg. He’d spoken well, partially due to how refined British Englishsounds to an American ear, but the boy had an aristocrat’s bearing.
“I am OK, in the sense that you just offered to help and I am declining. Isurely don’t know how things like this are handled … outside. But you damageus both if you publicly interfere. But, I thank you for the offer, ProfessorAsimov.” Once Draco started speaking he’d gone back to browsing books titles.They may reveal something, but he only understood a fraction of them.
“Please, call me Isaac. And I don’t understand how you can let them do that,and others can stand by, it’s just not natural.”
At this Draco sat. “To answer your question, first of all that happened to bea reasonably fair fight. Some magic is about raw age, but not most of it. Asto your other question, I’ll answer, but I need to know how much youunderstand. What did they tell you about us and about the relationship betweenour worlds? About last year?”
“Well, Magic was real. I’d seen a little bit, here and there, as a child. Atalking cat scolded me for almost getting run over on 5th Avenue, when I was,oh, around eight years old. I’d see a doorway nobody else could see. Thingslike that. So, for a while I’d believed in magic, but never found anyevidence, so I just dismissed it as being young and foolish…”
Draco sighed internally. Most people, when asked a question, told a personalstory instead of giving an answer. Ninety percent of politics involvedfeigning interest and Draco kept nodding. But to listen to someone who’dwritten literal bookshelves of relevant knowledge spout on ….
(“That must have been hard on you,” said Draco) …was particularly frustrating.
“I don’t know, my experience nourished my sense of wonder, made me questionthose around me. It may have kept me from following those foolish beliefs thatcaptured so many of my friends, although my father helped. They didn’t believemy stories, why should I believe theirs? And I see those like me, squibs, borninto your world and they seem bitter. Better to glimpse these visions thanstare at them too long. You don’t risk staring at the sun, not before you havethe right tools. Fortunately we only have one, not six.”
“What?” Draco didn’t know exactly what would happen if more suns appeared inthe sky. Maybe you could deal with a second. OK, but hot. More soundeddangerous, especially if there was a water failure, and there would probablybe a panic…
“Sorry. Just a phrase. Anyway, I was shocked to find out I hadn’t beenimagining it. They offered youth and health for teaching, and of course Ijumped. Even without that I’d have done it, just to learn. I know about theStatute of Secrecy, of course. I’m sworn to keep that. Not that I’ll beallowed to leave the campus for several years, until things get settled.”
“You aren’t being coerced? Did you actually swear to any spell? Or just giveyour word?” Draco asked.
“I haven’t had any magic done to me, apart from the healing.” Professor Asimovseemed confident.
_Not that you know. But even a Muggle would recognize an Unbreakable Vow asmagic. _
“And how we view your world?” Draco asked.
“I know that most of you don’t really give it much thought, but those who dodon’t think well of us.”
“As you said: facts first, then implications. So, the facts. They told you thepolite version. For the other houses you basically don’t exist, or are maybesome exotic rarity. For my house, Slytherins, Muggles are sub-humans, not evenworthy of pity. How Muggles might treat people of different colour a centuryago, as Harry Potter explained it to me.”
Professor Asimov interrupted, “Harry who?” Draco didn’t pause, but just filedthe information away. Either Harry is busy, or worried about some appearanceof impropriety. He’d think about it later.
“Oh, just my room-mate. Raised by Muggles. I haven’t examined his booksclosely but I suspect he owns several of your books. I’m surprised he hasn’tasked to talk to you. But anyway, you heard about last year? About themurders? Yes, then the fallout also affected Slytherin. Most victims andVoldemort, the murderer, were Slytherins. Voldemort preached hatred ofMuggles. He’s dead, but still has followers.”
“So … this is not simple bullying then.”
“No. I insist you do not get involved, for your own safety. I know it mustsound odd, to hear this from a child.” Draco looked abashed, but sounded firm.“But I suspect you’d get the same advice from the Headmistress or teachers.Stick to teaching your lessons, and learning about us. Let the situation cool.Even your presence is provocation enough, to some. I got ambushed by threewitches because they fear me. They fear what you represent, but they don’tfear you personally. I suspect that’s why you can’t leave Hogwart’s. Thewards aren’t perfect, but if you wandered without protection…”
“Thank you for the advice, Mr. Malfoy.” Professor Asimov sounded unconvinced,but solemn.
“Of course, Professor … Isaac. If you don’t mind, I’d like to continue thesechats. I believe we can both learn quite a lot. I know that I have so manyquestions.”
Author’s Note – When I came up with DMPOR and added a Muggle professor of Muggle Studies, I decided to only consider people listed on the Wikipedia Category “Muggles who Died in 1992.” I kept looking after I saw Isaac Asimov’s name (it felt silly to give up without even finishing the As) but he really is the perfect choice and after I got halfway through the alphabet I finally admitted it.
According to Muggle History he died in April of 1992, which is prior to Harrygetting the stone. This is not important to the plot, but it’s a nit I chooseto ignore.
It has also been pointed out that Gilderoy was a Ravenclaw in canon. Yeah,that’s another divergence. So, when I say I’m trying not to diverge fromHPMOR, I’m not trying hard, especially on little details. (I am not divergingfrom Multiple-Hypothesis Testing, at least I don’t think so, but I’ll let thatspeak for itself.)
Update #2 - It has been pointed out that Matilda is just Wendelin the Weird,whom I probably vaguely remembered. Oh well.
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