Duel Another Day
*~* Duel Another Day *~*
"Severus." Willow said calmly. She knew Spike could get out of the grip the wizard had on his throat at any moment.
"I will not allow him to touch you... ever."
Faith blinked. Hell of a beast Red had for her boyfriend these days. Damn, to have someone be that deadly about you.
"Spike wasn't gonna bite me."
"Set him down. Please?"
Snape put Spike back on his feet carefully. He also edged himself in front of Willow a bit. She waved her hand and set Faith on her feet again.
For once Faith did as she was told.
"Miss Granger, you may go on to class." Remus said.
"Right." Hermione sighed as she walked off, only stopping to cast a very curious glance at Spike before rounding a corner.
"Spike wouldn't bite anyone. Not really. It was just to see if the chip would react. He wasn't really gonna bite me, right Spike?"
"Oh I would." He said taking one finger and trailing it from between her eyebrows and down her nose. "In a heartbeat if you'd have me."
Willow gasped. Snape actually growled and batted Spike's hand away from her face. Spike growled in return. Snape reached for his wand, but Giles stepped between them, grabbing Severus's arm and pointing it away from the vampire. Wesley had moved to Faith's side in case she tried anything.
"Are you trying to get yourself hexed?" Giles hissed a Spike. "Stop baiting him."
"You don't even like him, Rupert."
"Yes, well, I like you even less."
"Spike's not gonna attack anyone... not even Faith... right, Spike?" Willow said in an overly even tone.
"Red... She hurt you... hurt Buffy..."
"I appreciate the feeling, Spike, but people change. Chip or no chip, you have the benefit of my doubt. Let's extend the same to Faith, ok?"
Spike sighed unnecessarily. "Right."
Everyone started to disperse... slowly.
Willow turned and looked at Faith.
She seemed to struggle with herself internally. "Thanks."
"You pull ANYTHING remotely like the crap you pulled before, and I let Spike eat you. Do you understand me? And not 'eat' in the good sexy way. There are no more chances here. You only have the one you're on now because Wesley believes in you. Don't muck it up, or you'll WISH Buffy was the one gutting you."
"Willow." Giles whispered in shock.
"No, that's fair." Faith said looking at Willow with whole new eyes. She grinned a bit.
Willow grinned back.
They were by no means friends, but at least they had reached some sort of understanding.
There was an eerie quiet that descended over the school in the weeks that followed. People attended classes. Faith attended some classes. Harry liked having Faith in class. She so was not afraid to ask questions, and she was honestly curious to know what she was asking. Most of the teachers liked her. Most. Snape seemed on the verge of a serious blow up every time she trotted through the door of his dungeon classroom.
Professor Maclay was doing better. She'd stopped having 'attacks' after Faith had been 'outted' to the school, and Harry had to wonder if her episodes had anything to do with Faith. Not that Faith was causing them or anything, just that maybe the vision or whatever plaguing the blonde witch had been somehow connected to the brunette slayer.
There had been all sorts of rumblings about Spike, but Dumbledore quelled them all. He trusted him. There would be no more talk of putting the vampire out just because he was no longer as harmless as they thought. And it got surrealistically quiet. There was nothing much to gossip about for a while.
Then it happened. Word had spread like wildfire.
Dawn Summers was the new beater for Slytherin... and Lily Rosenberg was their new keeper. For some reason there was this grin on Oliver Wood's face that would not die. But even more startling than that was who had managed one of the open beater positions for Gryffindor... Ginny Weasley. Seamus Finnigan had landed the other one.
"So..." Faith said as she fell in step behind Dawn, Draco, and Lily. "What's all the quidditch stuff I keep hearing about? I have a feeling if I knew what the hell everyone was babbling about, it wouldn't bore the shit outta me. What's a beater, D?"
"It's what it sounds like, F."
"Oh, they DID make you outta that big sis of yours."
"Yep. I like to hit just like Buffy."
Faith chuckled. "That's not just a Buffy thing, D. That's a slayer thing."
"Look, the first game is in a few weeks. You'll see then. It's like nothing else."
Draco looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. "You will root for Slytherin, won't you?"
"Why? Who're you guys playing?"
Faith attacked the punching bag with a fury of kicks and punches. They'd learned their lesson. This time it was magically attached to the ceiling, so she could not knock it down. Wesley was circling her at a distance.
"Try leading in with your left."
Neither saw Willow and Spike standing in the doorway. Well, not until Wesley circled around.
"Professor Rosenberg. Spike."
"Just Willow, Wesley."
"Right. What are the two of you doing here?"
"Thought Slayer the Second might need a sparring partner she couldn't hurt so easily."
Faith grinned and cracked her knuckles. "You are SO on, blondie."
Spike began removing his boots and socks. He removed his duster and his shirt. He stripped himself down to just his jeans. Willow grinned appreciatively as she and Wesley moved to a far corner of the room to watch. Faith did a little appreciative grinning herself.
They began circling each other.
"Sorry about... you know."
"It's all right, Fang. I get it. Finally."
He grinned as he dodged the fist she had aimed at his face.
"Look at this then." Ron said pointing to a parchment posted on a bulletin board in the main hall.
"Holy cricket." Hermione said as more students gathered around. "They're reviving the Dueling Club."
"Because it went so well the last time." Harry muttered, but then arms circled him from behind.
"Why so bitter, Mr. Potter?"
"Oh I don't know. Could it be that perhaps my girlfriend is going to be hitting bludgers at my head in a few weeks?"
"Oh like you've never been hit with a bludger before."
"Not by someone I liked."
Dawn tightened her arms and whispered in his ear. "Well, how about whatever boo-boos I make on your very attractive person, I kiss and make all better?"
Harry turned bright red.
"Oh, Potter, what's your girlfriend saying over there?" Malfoy said with a sneer.
The effect was ruined by loud squeaking as Gutterflower ran up his body and perched herself on Draco's shoulders.
"Hey, Malfoy, that's MY line." Ron said.
Curiosity won out, much like it had done in years past. Most of the students showed up that night for the Dueling Club. Even Harry Potter.
It was set up much like before. Tables had been moved, and a long stage was set up with candles overhead. Harry was tackling an eerie sense of deja vu. He half expected Lockhart to go flouncing up on the platform. It seemed everyone else had the same sorts of thoughts because they gave a great sigh of relief when Professor Giles stepped up on the stage. He was joined by Wood, Professors Snape, Rosenberg, and Wyndham-Pryce.
"This will be a bit different from the last time for those of you who remember." Snape said icily.
"We will need two volunteers." Giles said. "I thought we'd start off with a simple example of disarming, then move on to blocking unfriendly spells. Later we'll work on dodging."
Several hands went into the air. Giles looked at Snape. Wesley and Oliver jumped off the stage. The watcher held a hand up to Willow to assist her down as she gave a dainty little jump. Oliver did the same for Faith. She looked at his hand suspiciously then did a very slayerific flip off of the stage.
"Show off." Wesley muttered.
"Hey." Willow said. "Play nice."
Oliver was still gaping at the brunette slayer with no small amount of awe.
"Hmmm." Snape was scanning the crowd. "Miss Parkinson... you'll be facing..."
"OH ME!" Lily said rather loudly, jumping up and down and waving her hand like a maniac.
"Miss Rosenberg, I think Miss Parkinson would prefer to end this meeting of the Dueling Club in her current one-piece state."
Lily dropped her hand with a scowl.
"You'll have your turn, Miss Rosenberg. I promise." Snape scanned the crowd. "How about Miss Weasley."
Ginny smirked. "She already knows I can disarm her."
It was all Snape could do not to grin. He scanned the crowd some more and noticed Granger studiously avoiding his gaze. "How about you then, Miss Granger?"
Pansy smiled evilly.
Hermione swallowed hard. She hated dueling. She only came to watch. Well at least it wasn't Millicent Bulstrode this time. Harry and Ron helped her up onto the stage. She willed herself not to shake. For some reason, her eyes caught Malfoy's. He nodded at her slightly. Hermione almost stumbled in shock. And then some oddness took her over.
She pulled her wand from her robes slowly and whipped it down and to her side. Her eyes locked with Pansy's, and they narrowed in determination. Every nasty thing Pansy had ever said about her was running through Hermione's head. She raised her wand before her face in salute, then whipped it back to her side. Her eyes never left Pansy's.
Snape counted off. "One... two... three..."
Hermione didn't think she'd ever moved so quickly in all her life, but there was no way Pansy Parkinson was getting the better of her. "EXPELLIARMUS!"
Pansy was blown out of her shoes. Literally. Her wand flew through the air. Wesley managed to catch it.
Hermione stood perfectly still, her eyes still on Pansy's.
"Hell yeah, Mione!" Lily screeched.
Most of the room exploded into applause. Hermione tucked her wand away and walked to where Pansy was sprawled on the floor. She grabbed the Slytherin girl by the arm and hauled her to her feet.
"Guess that bit of 'dirt' in my veins doesn't make the difference we thought it did, hmm? You are not better than me."
Pansy yanked her arm from Hermione's grasp harshly.
Snape had heard what she had said. "Thank you, Miss Granger. That will be all."
Hermione hopped down into Ron's arms.
"You were bloody brilliant, you realize. I admit I was a bit worried."
She kissed him lightly.
"Miss Summers?" Snape said. "Step up, please."
Dawn looked at Harry in alarm. She had never used her wand outside of charms or transfiguration.
Draco reached over and squeezed her arm. "Just stay relaxed, D."
He and Harry hefted her up onto the stage.
"Hmmm, let us see... Miss Chang."
Dawn watched as the petite little Ravenclaw seeker was helped up. Dawn had heard. People had told her. Harry used to have a crush on this girl with her tiny form and straight black hair. The key suddenly felt very giant-like and gawky next to the Ravenclaw girl.
Snape pulled her aside. "Listen, Dawn, I realize you have never used your wand outside of the classroom. Remember what Miss Granger did. She watched Miss Parkinson's eyes. It's just like a gunfight in a muggle western."
Dawn grinned up at him. She nodded. She faced off with her opponent.
"One... two... thr-"
Dawn felt like she'd been punched in the gut. She toppled backwards and landed on her back hard.
"I'm fine!" Dawn snapped as she forced herself to her feet.
Cho Chang flashed Dawn a weirdly superior look that Dawn did not like at all, and some bizarre sort of defiance took her over. She remembered the words.
Cho doubled over and flew off her feet much like Dawn had earlier. As she recovered, she pointed her wand at the Slytherin girl.
Dawn blinked and rubbed at her eyes. It was as if someone had dropped a fine mist over them. Everything was blurry and running together. Then she heard it, but had no idea from where.
Dawn fell to her hands and knees and gave a mighty burp. Something came up with it. Something gross and slimy. She was glad her vision had been impaired. Dawn felt her stomach heave again. She let out another bubbly belch that produced yet another slimy thing with it. Then hands were on her.
And more hands. "Dawn?" Harry.
Her answer was to spit up another slimy thing. She could hear people laughing and gasping with disgust. Her clouded eyes filled with unwanted tears. She bit them back though.
"Stand aside, Potter... Malfoy."
Then Dawn felt the velvet whisper of Snape's voice right in her ear as he pulled her to her feet.
"Do not let them see you cry."
Dawn produced another slimy display of digestive pyrotechnics.
Her vision cleared almost instantly. It was then she noticed what she'd been spewing up. Slugs. Gross-o-rama! Dawn stumbled a bit in her revulsion. Everyone in Slytherin except Draco and Lily was snickering. And a fair amount of the other students were as well. Dawn straightened her back. Faith reached up and grabbed her hand.
"Well good for her, but I guarantee you'd take her in a fist fight. Cos a girl don't always have a stick of wood handy."
Dawn smiled. Harry and Draco had already hopped down to the floor when Lily pulled herself up. She had her wand on Cho.
"Lily, don't." Harry said.
But suddenly Pansy Parkinson vaulted herself in front of Cho. It seemed she was keen to test her luck against Lily despite what Snape had said. "Serpensortia!"
Harry flinched. Anything but that.
Lily jumped back as a black snake shot out from the tip of Pansy's wand. It landed with a loud thud on the stage before Lily. The snake raised with intent to strike. Several people screamed. It was just like before. Harry felt horror in the pit of his belly as he pulled himself back onto the stage and prepared to face the snake... like before. He opened his mouth to speak to it when.....
"Stop. Leave her alone."
Harry blinked. He could tell by everyone's faces that only himself and the snake could understand Dawn. It was regarding Dawn oddly, as if unsure if it should obey her.
Harry stalked forward. "You heard the lady. Leave the other girl be."
The snake relaxed to the floor. Dawn crouched down before it and ran a finger along its scaly body. "There now. Was that so difficult?"
The snake blinked at her, obviously charmed.
Harry looked at Dawn in awe. It had never been more apparent to him that she was likely his match. "You're a Parselmouth."
"I'm a what?"
They were both speaking snake language still, so it probably seemed really disturbing to everyone else.
"A Parselmouth. It means you speak Parseltongue. Snake talk. You can talk to snakes. Like me. It's really rare. We're doing it right now. No one can understand what's being said except yourself, me, and the snake."
Dawn blinked. "So we sort of have our own language?"
"It seems so."
Snape waved his wand and the snake disintegrated in a tuft of black smoke. He was looking at Dawn in shock. So was everyone else.
So maybe she really was a Slytherin at heart.
Faith broke the awkward silence. "Look out for Mary Python and the Holy Gryffindor."
And few of the muggleborns and ALL of the professors snickered.
Willow looked up at Severus. "You know Monty?"
"Is it an English swallow or African swallow?" He said in a starchy manner as he stepped down.
Willow giggled. "Is that a hint?"
He glared at her.