During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
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I find it endlessly ironic that we amateurs are held to higher standards than the professionals.
Anti-Note rant added to ANs on previous chapter, if you care to see it.
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Breakfast was an unusually subdued affair, what with the Headmaster having run screaming from the Head Table, and all the unease from the upset the previous day. Even though the majority could remember nothing of what had gone on, there were still disturbing signs, such as belongings having been left about by folks escaping in haste. Also, a prominent section of the school was at least aware of what day it was, and thus had unresolved questions about what had gone on the previous day that they could not recall- like the librarian missing her books that ought to have been returned.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, their muggle studies professor was one of those who'd escaped. So Hermione, who found she liked teaching when she'd been impersonating Trelawney, simply saw her chance when she noticed the Deputy Headmistress fretting over what to do about the aura of unease, and went up and offered her a suggestion.
Smiles and nods could be seen on both parties.
Soon the Deputy Headmistress had stood up and rung her spoon against her glass for attention, which she received. She then announced, "Please remain in your seats after breakfast, everyone. Since Professor Burbage has left us to pursue a career at nasal exploration," and here the Fey Trio had to bite their lips to avoid exploding in laughter at the lame excuses the cover-up team had thought up! "We will be receiving a presentation on muggle life by one of our prominent muggleborns. Attendance will be mandatory."
Those in the know could see the relief on McGonagall's face over having a distraction available from the tension as she sat down. It was plain the poor woman didn't know what she was distracting them from, her own unease was just as plain on her face as the relief was. The woman was just struggling hard to keep things working at her beloved school.
They had to wonder if Dumbledore appreciated her work much, or at all.
"Why do we have to stay and listen to the mudblood?" Draco sneered loudly.
Hermione's eyes narrowed as she reminded herself they still hadn't killed him yet. Anyone who'd try to murder one of her very few friends deserved no help or comfort from her! Still, she managed to plaster on a plastic smile as she answered, "Oh, I just thought you'd all like to see some of what muggles are capable of!"
Then she skipped off to her table, grinning widely.
"Bloody mental," Ron shook his head, and Harry had to remind himself not to blast the moronic traitor off into next week. Given sufficient provocation, though, and he could challenge the youngest male Weasley to a duel. And he honestly expected that would be the end. He doubted he'd be able to bring himself to kill his former friend, but driving him off would be easy.
After the breakfast dishes were cleared and all the food put away, Hermione enlisted Harry's help in setting up a film projector, having already sent Dobby back to his room for the appropriate movie.
As he was finishing getting the setup installed, and Luna had enlisted two of the professors to charm the far wall white and featureless for the next two hours or so, Hermione addressed the now curious room, a twinkle visibly tugging at the side of her face. "Muggles have moving pictures also, but they're of a different type. Rather than reacting to what's around them, they are made to tell a story."
Harry stood, having completed his job and fighting a grin of his own. Joining Hermione with his arm around her waist, he added his voice to hers."We thought you'd like to see what the muggles are up to."
Harry and Hermione stood back and smiled as the picture appeared and the famous song began to roll, "When you're seeing thangs, and they don't look good. Who ya gunna call?" and the resounding choral cry of, "Ghostbusters!"
Fighting giggles, the pair looked on at the first magical showing of the movie Ghostbusters. At first they saw disbelief and amazement on the faces of the purebloods, mirrored on most of the halfbloods, which gradually faded as the film progressed.
By the time the proto-Ghostbuster team had met the ghostly librarian in the basement at the start of the film, the entire audience was enraptured- and not a few of Hogwarts' own ghosts were in attendance, with more showing up and appearing out of the walls every minute.
Standing back and watching, the duo were puzzled for a while as even Luna seemed perfectly caught up in the film. Hermione was having a difficult time parsing their reactions, until she finally made the connection.
"Harry!" she whispered aside. "I get it now, why the students fell so hard for the Lord of the Rings movies! Look at them!"
He did. Shock, wonder and amazement were prevalent. McGonagall had nervelessly dropped a scone she'd saved from breakfast and was staring slack-jawed at the screen, and hers was among the more tame reactions of the staff.
"Think about it," Hermione insisted. "The wizard-raised have no clue what muggles are capable of. They can't even get the way we DRESS right!No one could expect anyone that ignorant to know what muggle technology can or cannot do. Besides, do you recall the old phrase, 'A picture never lies'? In the muggle world people no longer say that, because pictures have been lying for ages. You could put my head on a lion's body if you liked. But wizards never got past that. They still believe what they see!"
Indeed, the story unfolding in the film struck the wizard-raised as perfectly rational and reasonable. They were a bit surprised to see muggles doing that sort of stuff, but they'd never understood muggle technology anyway so devices that flung ropes of light tying up ghosts, or trapping them in little boxes, didn't seem outside the realm of possibility.
Actually, flinging beams of light from clunky, overlarge wand-type things was far too normal for the wizards to object to, save to wonder how the muggles had gotten things that looked so familiar to the magic-raised.
Obviously the backpack attached to those clunky rod/wand things was in some way meant to make up for not being magical themselves.
A slow grin dawned over Harry's face. "And what they are seeing is..."
"Muggles dealing with ghosts." Hermione concluded for him, just as the majority of the ghost population in the room (which was, by now, the majority of spirits in the castle) cringed and trembled as the movie team made their first successful catch. "The hard part for muggles to accept is the ghosts, but wizards are already passed that. They know ghosts exist. They see them here at school every day. So the hardest part of this story to accept is already regarded as fact. While the technology... Well," she drawled, smiling."Wizards don't have the slightest clue what muggles are capable of. They've already accepted that muggles can fly using helicopters and airplanes and such. They don't know how we do it, only that we can."
"And this is the same thing." Harry realized, comprehension dawning.
Hermione nodded, cheeks split with the force of her grin. "Yes, it's exactly the same. They accepted muggles could fly when they saw us flying around. They never understood how, they just accepted that we could. The actual principles involved would mean nothing to them, even if they were explained. So they have no accurate way of knowing what we can or cannot do - except what they see us doing. Now they've 'seen' muggles using more tools they don't understand to catch ghosts and keep them in boxes."
"And they're really going to believe that muggles can." Harry's grin matched hers for intensity. He met her eyes. "You realize the possibilities for abuse in this?"
Ron twisted around in his seat and gave them a firm and angry "SHHH!"and they shut up more out of surprise than anything, settling in to watch the rest of the film in an extremely thoughtful silence.
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After the film the staff disappeared into a meeting for which they'd dragged the Headmaster out of his study to discuss this clear evidence of a massive breach of the Statute of Secrecy: muggles not only hunting ghosts, but frankly and openly discussing rituals meant to end the world, possession by demons, and using those strange muggle backpack-equipped wands!
This was important, even if it was in America.
Dumbledore went to this emergency meeting extremely confused, as he'd not stayed around to see the film, having been busy with other necessities.
Surprisingly, Myrtle showed up to talk with the trio completely unruffled by the movie. Most of the ghosts in the castle were terrified by this new information about the dangers of treacherous muggles catching and holding them, but she wasn't.
It was so out of place that Luna had to ask why not.
To that, Myrtle replied with an unconcerned shrug. "Oh, I have no doubt Harry here would save me. He never lets his friends down. Now," she directed a stern gaze to the two muggleborn fey. "I've run out of material, and you two promised to help me grade the papers everyone's turned in. So Ineed a new projection picture to show my classes, and you two are to help me tonight to grade the essays written for the old ones. Is that alright?"
Weakly recalling that Myrtle had more or less taken over those History of Magic classes, with some help from them, the duo agreed dumbly.
"What are we going to show her?" Hermione whispered fiercely just after the ghost and most of the students, including Luna, had left the Great Hall.
In response, Harry shrugged. "Well, I could let her show Conan the Barbarian. But all I have is the version edited for American television."
Hermione thought about it, blinking for several moments before reluctantly choosing for him, "That's probably better, Harry. They cut out all of the sex and nudity, and we aren't old enough to be watching that, much less showing it to other children our age."
"Good, because I'd really wanted to show this one." The boy firmed up.
"Why is that?"
"Think about it." He grinned. "The whole film is shown from the perspective of a guy fighting an evil sorcerer. We WANT young witches and wizards to think in terms of standing up to villains! And it doesn't hurt that the bad guy of the piece loves snakes. Really it's not the worst thing that he has a total snake fetish. He uses them as arrows, models all his architecture on them, and even turns into one."
"Not the worst thing?" She challenged in surprise.
"Yup!" Harry grinned. "Because he also he feeds his followers to them, and we want people to think in terms of 'why do I want to follow a guy who might decide to turn me into snake food?'"
Hermione thought about it, before sprouting a wide grin, grabbing his arm and dragging him off, declaring, "You're right. It's absolutely perfect!"
I I I
Firenze was waiting for them by the edge of the lake. The centaur was easy to recognize, even at a distance, by his white-blond hair and a palomino body. Up close this recognizability was further refined by his astonishing blue eyes.
Today was the day they had agreed to meet the centaur for archery training.
As the walk along the broad lawn to their teacher would take the trio a couple of minutes, Harry inquired aside to Hermione, "So, did your research turn up much of what we are about to learn?"
The bushy haired girl shook her head, biting her lip in concern. "Not much. In our day archery is just a sport, and sports bear almost no resemblance to the ancient fighting arts they are based on. In modern fencing, for example, it is a tragedy if someone gets hurt, and through rules and new equipment they've rendered that nearly impossible to do. But in the ancient art hurting someone was the whole point, and happened all the time. Also, the new equipment and rules change things to the point that the modern sport fencer does virtually nothing an ancient fencer would recognize, and I fear archery may be the same. But I do wonder what kind of bows he will train us to use."
"Is that important?" Luna gave an otherworldly blink to ask.
"Vital." Hermione answered with a decisive nod. "The typical shortbow has a 45 to 50 pound draw, just enough to kill a deer. A shortbow is drawn to the eye so you can sight down the shaft. This improves accuracy and ease of use. Most cultures around the world used the shortbow for hunting, and so most archers sent into combat were shortbow archers, because those were what they had available to draft. But they did so poorly no commanders ever relied on them, and they had a negligible affect on a battle's outcome. They just had too short range and too low power to be useful or reliable against the troops who faced them."
Hermione drew herself slightly taller, gaining confidence. "Nobody builds a bow bigger than they need. Heavier draws mean extra work, and that extra effort was wasted hunting deer or bison or what have you. So they used the minimum power to get the job done, and when it came time to fight battles they used the tools they already had available. It takes years to build up the arm strength to wield heavier bows, so mostly they didn't bother. Many did not even realize they could! They had no experience to show what heavier bows could be used for, so no cause to go through the extra effort. But what was good for hunting, taking down deer caught by surprise, was inadequate for punching through armor. Anyone with a shield could almost ignore them, and shields were so cheap as to be readily available to anyone who wanted one, so even lightly armed troops carried them. Archers did some damage, mostly to the careless or unlucky, but barely enough to justify their use on a battlefield. Some very powerful armies employed no regular corps of archers at all - Rome, for one. Just because the shortbow was not a decisive weapon, and they could readily hire mercenary shortbow archers if they wanted some for a particular campaign or engagement."
Hermione wet her lips, getting more fully into lecture mode. "The longbow, on the other hand, so called because you could expect a six foot bow with a three foot arrow, was much more powerful, and appears quite rarely. Only a handful of cultures ever used them. It is not a tool for hunting so much as a weapon of war, and draws of 200 pounds were relatively standard, enough to punch through both sides of an armored knight AND his shield. However they drew to the ear, making it more difficult to sight along a shaft for accuracy. Men had to train daily from a very young age to use them. But a general able to field units of them could dominate a battlefield quite easily. In the battle of Agincourt they slaughtered thousands of fully armored French knights, while the English lost less than a hundred troops overall."
The Granger girl glanced aside at her companions apprehensively. "I guess it matters most to us in the time commitment. If Firenze is going to teach us archery on the shortbow, we'll be decent in a couple of weeks. It's an easy bow to learn to use, which is why most everyone used it. But if it's longbow, we could be students of his for a decade or more, at least."
The girl sucked in her lower lip and, nibbling on it, faced forward, where they were walking. "It's just, I'm not sure which I prefer. On one hand I am unsure of the amount of time I want to commit to this; and on the other, I am very curious to see if we could master the superior art. There HAS to be some use for it, even today! The longbow was the machine gun of the Middle Ages: accurate, deadly, possessed of a long range and rapid rate of fire. No other weapon compared. The flight of its missiles was compared to a storm, and entire armies got evaporated by it. The longbow was superior in every way to the black powder firearms that eventually replaced it - every way save one, that is. Longbows are difficult to master and require years of dedicated training, while any moron can use a gun effectively."
Then the girl thought about it and seemed to shrug. "Although modern things they call longbows are built for sport shooting and typically have a draw of 60 pounds or less. Modern bowmen capable of using even a hundred pound draw bows accurately are vanishingly rare, and there are just a handful able to reach a 180 pound draw - enough to prove to skeptics that records of full-time archers able to reach the full 200 pound draws are accurate. So I guess it's too much to ask that we could be taught the authentic art. Nobody uses bows for combat anymore."
"Centaurs do," Luna stated calmly, turning to favor her friends with a serene smile. "It has always been one of their defining features."
I I I
Firenze was an English centaur. They would be learning longbows. However, they would be starting on shortbows to learn some of the basics the easy way first, before moving on to the hard stuff.
That actually gave Hermione false relief/disappointment at first, when they walked up and saw a number of shortbows set up and ready. But the centaur quickly explained they had no muscles for this kind of labor, so they had to work up gradually. The shortbows he had available had measly little ten pound draws, and even that would be exhausting them in short order, as they didn't have the kind of muscles or callouses built up for this.
"Archery is a very physical art," the centaur began, stamping a hoof for emphasis. "All of your accuracy, speed and power is derived directly from your own muscles. The bow is simply a tool for focusing that power at long range. Everything you do, all that you desire to accomplish, depends on your strength, speed and skill. The greater your physical capabilities, the more powerful a bow you can wield. The more powerful the bow, the longer its range and the greater the damage caused by it. Normally, you would need a different bow for each draw strength as you increased in ability to reach harder and harder pulls."
The centaur snorted, tossing his head, and it took them a moment to parse that gesture as a happy one. "However, one thing that makes a dryad's bow unique is their ability, as living parts of the dryad who grants them, to adapt to the user as they grow in strength and ability. For beginners, this is vital, as it keeps them from having to continually replace their bows. However, for those who've already reached their maximum strength it is less interesting."
The centaur flexed a human arm. It took them a moment to realize what he was doing, as he didn't do it in a body builder way. But they could see, once they'd figured that out, that was a boast in his own ability.
Harry raised a hand. "I'm sorry, sir," he said, as the centaur looked at him. "But I was hoping you would explain some of the usefulness of archery in this day of wands and spells."
Firenze reared slightly. "A good question!" he declared. Then, with one smooth motion he reached behind his back for his bow, strung it, and fired an arrow off, clearing the lake by some distance to lodge in a tree on the other side, sinking in several inches.
Pivoting to face them again, he gave a contented tail flick.
"Virtually all spells are used within a distance of thirty yards. Most combat magic is actually cast in ten yards or less to your target, to make it harder to dodge. However, to qualify as an English longbowman of medieval times, a man had to hit a man-sized target twelve out of twelve times at a distance of two hundred yards. A longbow can kill a man at ranges greater than four hundred yards. Also, arrows are not as easily spotted as the balls of light your spells create. Nor do they move so slowly they can be easily dodged."
The trio all listened raptly to the centaur's explanation. All of them could see the advantage of being able to kill at ten times your enemy's max range.
Firenze grew serious and still. "There is a historical battle where two wizards under invisibility cloaks firing disillusioned arrows killed over four hundred invading goblins, and were never once spotted. They only broke off combat when they grew too exhausted to conjure more arrows."
"Wow!" Harry was impressed.
Firenze snorted. "And the remaining thousand goblins slaughtered every man, woman and child in the town those wizards had been protecting, butchering their carcasses to roast as meat. Just as they'd been intending to do before those two wizards launched their desperate, last ditch defense."
The trio paled dramatically.
"The goblins roasted and ate their own dead, also. Deeming the privilege of dining on goblin flesh too great to leave the carcasses for their foes to devour," the centaur concluded, "as they have always assumed that all beings do as they do and feast upon the corpses of their enemies. They just believe men and other creatures lie about it."
Now the trio looked like they were going to be sick.
"It was a town of four thousand people," Firenze instructed. "If they had been willing to fight for their own lives, they had enough to have been able to drive off their attackers. Instead, they chose to rely on heroes, placing the safety of everyone in the hands of a few. The first lesson all centaur youth are taught is this: your safety is your own responsibility. Trusting someone else to guard your life makes you no better than a slave."
The centaur pawed a back hoof, staring at them haughtily. "Likewise, the safety of a community is the responsibility of that whole community. If any decide they will not defend themselves, they are to be left without defense by others. If they are unwilling to work or risk to be safe, they are unworthy of the privilege of enjoying security, and are cast out of the herd."
I I I
Has anyone else noticed that witches and wizards tend to get in a giant game of "Not It!" when it comes to defending their lives? I mean, every one of the wizarding public almost seems to gloat, "Well, I'm not going to be bothered saving my life. YOU'D better do it for me!"