A week passed. Ron never mentioned the kisses and the other two followed his lead although Harry kept thinking that he wouldn't mind it happening again and Hermione would give Ron a questioning look every evening when they went to bed as if she wanted to say something but was holding back, leading Harry to believe she felt the same.
One day as they crossed the entrance hall they noticed a small crowd gathered around the notice board. Dean and Seamus looked round and spotted them
"Hey, Harry, Ron, Hermione!" Dean called "Come take a look."
"Yeah, this is cool!" Seamus added
Interested, the trio made their way over
"They're starting a dueling club!" Dean said, pointing to a sign that had been recently pinned to the board "First meeting tonight. I'd like some lessons, you never know do you." Ron read the sign with a thoughtful expression
"Do they think the monster can duel or something.." He said
But still as he walked into the great hall for dinner with Harry and Hermione he added "Could be useful though...should we go?"
Harry and Hermione agreed. After they had dinner they returned to the common room to wait until it was time for the club. They laid in front of the fire as had become their custom lately .
Ron and Hermione were playing chess and Harry was sketching again. This time he was drawing the scene on the castle grounds the day Ron had kissed him. The castle doors and the stone steps leading up to them covered in snow, the snowman they had all built together. He grinned to himself and shot a glance at Ron, he wanted to say something to him..but he didn't know what. Before he could decide on anything Ron had stood up after winning the chess game
"Better get going." he said "Dueling club starts soon."
"Just a sec." Harry said, closing his sketchbook "I'm gonna run this upstairs." he took his sketchbook up and hid it in it's usual place in his drawer then joined Ron and Hermione and the three of them made their way back to the Great Hall.
The house tables had been pushed to one side and a golden candle lit stage had been placed along one wall. Most of the students in the school seemed to have showed up. Everyone had their wands and every face looked exited and intrigued.
"Wonder who the teacher's going to be." Hermione said in a tone of interest as the three of them joined the crowd "Maybe Professor Flitwick. Someone told me that he was a champion duelist when he was younger."
"I dunno." Said Ron
"I just hope it isn't-" Harry started but he never finished the sentence, instead he groaned as Lockhart walked onto the stage accompanied by Snape.
Lockhart waved his hand for silence which fell at once "Now, can everyone see and hear me?" He asked "Good. Now, professor Dumbledore has granted permission to start this little dueling club to train you all up just in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I have done on countless occasions. See my books for details!" He then flashed a smile "Let me introduce my assistant professor Snape!" Lockhart continued "He says he knows a tiny bit about dueling and has agreed to help with a short demonstration."
"Be great if they offed each other wouldn't it?" Ron said in Harry's ear. Harry chuckled at the thought. Snape's lip was curling and he could't help but wonder how Lockhart was staying so calm, he was even still smiling. If Snape had been looking at him that way he'd have fled the country. Lockhart and Snape turned and faced each other and bowed or at least Lockhart did with much exaggerated hand twirling. Snape barely inclined his head and then they raised their wands like swords.
"This is the accepted combat position." Lockhart explained "Now on the count of three we will cast our first spells. Not aiming to kill of course."
Harry gave a little chuckle at that "I wouldn't bet on it." He said in a low voice to Ron and Hermione, looking at Snape's livid face.
after the count both of them waved their wands above their heads and Snape yelled "Expelliarmus!" there was a flash of light and Lockhart was blasted off his feet, he flew across the stage and hit the wall and slumped to the floor. There were cheers from the Slytherins, including Malfoy.
"Do you think he's alright?" Hermione squealed, dancing on tiptoes
"Who cares?" Harry and Ron grumbled together. Lockhart got unsteadily to his feet.
"That was the disarming charm." He said "As you can see I lost my wand." Lavender had picked up Lockhart's wand and handed it to him "Ah, yes thank you miss Brown. Excellent choice to show them that, Professor Snape but, you'll forgive me for saying so, it was pretty obvious what you were going to do and stopping you would have been only too easy."
Snape looked ready to kill and Lockhart must've noticed because he announced that the time for demonstrations was over and he and Snape walked among the students partnering them up for some hands on practice. Snape reached Harry, Ron and Hermione first.
"Time to break up dream team I think." Snape said icily "Weasley, you can team with Finnigan...Potter..."
Harry took an automatic step toward Hermione. Snape smiled nastily "Oh I don't think so." he sneered "Mr. Malfoy..come here. Let's see what you make of the famous Harry Potter. Miss. Granger, you can partner Miss Bulstrode." Malfoy sauntered over to them followed by a large Slytherin girl who looked quite mean. Hermione gave her a small smile that wasn't returned.
"Face your partners!" Lockhart called. Harry and Malfoy glared at each other "And bow." Harry gave a jerky nod of his head without taking his eyes off of his opponent
"Now, when I count to three cast your charms to disarm your opponent..and only to disarm, we don't want any accidents..one, two, three..go!"
Harry raised his wand but Malfoy had started on two. His curse knocked Harry backwards but he managed to stay on his feet. He then hit Malfoy with a tickling charm sending him into an uncontrolled laughing fit. Harry then hung back, it wouldn't be right to curse a downed opponent but he paid for his sportsmanship when Malfoy hit him with a spell that caused his legs to jerk around in a sort of tap-dance against his will.
"Stop! Stop! I said disarm only!" Lockhart called over the heads of the dueling students. Nobody seemed to hear him but at that point Snape took charge
"Finite incantatem!" he yelled. Malfoy stopped laughing Harry stopped dancing. There was a haze of green smoke over the hall, Justin and Neville were both on the floor, Ron was holding up Seamus and apologizing over and over for whatever his broken wand had done this time. Hermione and Millicent Bulstrode were the only ones still moving. Millicent had Hermione in a headlock, both of their wands were discarded on the floor. Harry rushed forward to help.
"Get off her." He snapped, eventually managing to pull Millicent away. It was difficult as he was much smaller than she was.
Lockhart looked around at the unmitigated disaster trying to restore some kind of order.
"I think we ought to teach you to block unfriendly spells." Lockhart said, looking flustered, he took a quick glance at Snape and looked away again and said "How about a volunteer pair. Err..Longbottom, Finch-Fletchley..how about you?"
"Not the best idea, professor." Snape said silkily "Longbottom causes chaos with even the easiest spells..Finch-Fletchley will end up in pieces."
Neville flushed and Harry glared at Snape as he continued "How about Malfoy and Potter?"
Harry and Malfoy made their way into the middle of the room and Snape whispered something to Malfoy who smirked, Lockhart tried to show Harry some sort of blocking spell and manged to drop his wand in the process.
"Scared Potter." Malfoy muttered, too low for anyone else to hear.
"You. Wish." Harry hissed out of the corner of his mouth.
Lockhart gave them a countdown and Malfoy waved his wand and yelled "Serpensortia!" a large snake exploded from the end of his wand. Harry started at it, the snake raised itself to strike. People in the watching crowd screamed and backed away.
"Don't move, Potter. I'll get rid of it for you." Snape said lazily with a kind of twisted enjoyment in his voice.
"Allow me!" Lockhart said, he waved his wand but the snake, instead of vanishing, flew into the air. It thudded back down, enraged and hissing, the snake turned toward Justin, exposing it's fangs. It was poised to strike again.
Harry didn't even think he just stepped forward and shouted stupidly "Leave him alone." the snake turned to face him and then, amazingly, it slumped to the floor as docile as a kitten. Harry knew it wouldn't attack anyone now. He smiled at Justin, expecting gratitude or confusion. What he hadn't expected however was for Justin to look angry and scared
"What do you think you're playing at.." He snapped, and before Harry could even try to explain Justin had run out of the hall. Snape vanished the snake and then gave Harry a shrewd look that Harry didn't like at all people were whispering all over the hall. Harry felt a hand in his and the next thing he knew Ron was leading him out of the Hall with Hermione trotting along behind them. The people on either side of him backed away as if he was carrying some kind of illness.
Ron dragged him straight to Gryffindor tower, pushed him into a chair and then finally spoke
"you're a parselmouth.." he said in amazement "Why didn't you say anything?"
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, confused
"You can talk to snakes." Ron explained
"I know..." Harry said "I mean that's only the second time I ever did it..I set a boa constrictor on my cousin once."
"You what?" Ron asked, his eyes wide
"Long story." Harry said "But it was telling me it had never seen Brazil and I sort of...set it free without meaning to.." He shivered suddenly. The memory of the aftermath of the boa's escape swam to the forefront of his mind. That had been one of the worst beatings he'd ever gotten.
"A boa constrictor told you it never saw Brazil..." Ron muttered "That's crazy."
"So? I bet loads of people here can do it." Harry said
"No. It's not a common gift." Ron said "Harry..this is bad."
"What's bad?" Harry asked, he felt angry. Ron was treating him like a time bomb "Why's everyone acting so strange...if I hadn't told that snake not to attack Justin-"
"So that's what you told it..." Ron said suddenly
"You were there...you heard me." Harry said, tilting his head
"I heard you speaking snake language." Ron said quietly "You started making this strange hissing sound and well..you could have been saying anything. It seemed like you were egging the snake on..it was a little creepy."
Harry stared at him, his eyes wide
"I spoke another language..but how could I have..."
"I don't know, Harry." Ron said, Harry was still totally confused. Ron and Hermione looked like someone had died.
"Does somebody want to tell me what's wrong with me stopping a huge snake from ripping Justin's head off?" He snarled, his temper getting the better of him "Why does it matter how I did it as long as Justin isn't the newest member of the Headless Hunt?"
Hermione and Ron exchanged a look
"It matters Harry..because Salazar Slytherin could speak parseltounge." Hermione said quietly "He was famous for it..that's why the symbol of Slytherin house is a snake."
Harry's anger instantly abated replaced with horrified shock. His mouth dropped open.
"That's exactly right." Ron said "And now everyone's gonna think you're his great great grandson or something.."
"But I...I couldn't be.." Harry said, trying to convince himself as well as them
"He lived a thousand years ago.." Hermione muttered "For all we know..you could be."