The Sugar Quill
Author: Juliane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Foreign Defenses  Chapter: Chapter Two
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“Get up. Come along, get out of bed, you lazy creature.”

 

“Mmmmmph.”

 

“Out. Of. Bed. You’ll be late for class.”

 

Viviane rolled over. “Shut up.” She hadn’t had a bed this large in years, and she reveled in the fact that she could stretch her long body out without hanging over an edge.

 

“Professor Chance, get out of bed NOW, or I shall be forced to scream.”

 

Viviane raised her head to look at her clock, rattling around on her nightstand, the numbers on its face scrunched up in fury. “All right, all right, I’m up…oh hell, look at the time.” She gave the clock a slap, sending it bouncing into a corner near the fireplace. “Wake me sooner, next time!” she exclaimed as she flung herself out of bed and towards the bathroom, discarding clothing as she ran.

 

“I’d much prefer working for a nice, over dedicated Undersecretary,” the clock sighed, eliciting a murmur of sympathy from the fender.

 

After tossing on the robe she’d worn the day before, Viviane exited her rooms and sprinted down the hall, her hair in a simple ponytail rather than pulled back in the usual loose bun. Trying not to spill the coffee in her enormous mug, she skidded into her classroom and plopped down in her chair, eyeing her third-year students as they stared at her in amazement. "Not a word," Viviane warned them, "until I drink some of this coffee." She took a long sip, silently cursing herself for oversleeping. Movement in the back of the room caught her eye, and she stared over the rim of her mug at the perpetrators, who had their wands out and were about to zap each other. "Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Finnigan," she said, "one thing you never want to learn is what happens when you piss off a witch with an unmet caffeine addiction." The wands disappeared instantly and both boys tried to look unconscious of doing anything wrong.

 

Taking another swig, eyes closed, she thought, Oh, to be back in the smuggling business, took a deep breath and opened them again. “All right, stand up and let me see what, if anything you’ve learned since our last class.”

As the students got up to practice their Shield spell, Viviane found that the class was doing fairly well. Ron Weasley was keeping his shield up for several minutes, and it was strong enough to repel a few mid-level curses that she threw at him. Most of the others were managing to at least summon the shield, except for Hermione Granger, who let out a shriek as Draco Malfoy slyly hit her with an Engorgio curse. Viviane reversed the curse, and then turned on Draco, who was shaking with laughter. "Mr. Malfoy," Viviane said quietly. "In my class, you will not throw a curse without warning, and you will stay after class for a little talk with me. Twenty-five points from Slytherin." The class fell silent, as they sensed the fury behind her glare. Draco pretended to search for something in his satchel to avoid it.

After class Viviane, arms crossed and head tilted, surveyed Draco thoughtfully as he sat in front of her desk. The boy stared back at her through half-lowered lids, his pale eyelashes barely flickering as, under her scrutiny, he lounged negligently in his seat. Viviane noticed, as the silence lengthened, that his fingertips were beginning to turn white where they clasped the arms of his chair. Finally, she leaned her chair on its back legs and remarked, "Draco, you seem like a rather intelligent boy. Why would you do something so stupid? Surely you don't think you'd get away with it?"

"N-No," replied Draco. Lifting up his chin, he said "Besides, I didn't do anything. I'll tell my father you're being unfair- "

Viviane set her chair back down with a bang, causing Draco to jump. "Act your age and let's settle this without running to Daddy, shall we? You're not stupid. You've got some talent for this type of magic, so let's not waste our time with idiotic behavior. Agreed?" As Draco nodded, surprised, and got up to leave, Viviane suddenly asked "How difficult is it to be stuck with both Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in so many classes?"

Draco looked at her, shocked. "How would you know-"

"Oh, I've got an idea," said Viviane with a hint of a smile. "Just keep it out of my classroom." Draco left, looking slightly taken aback.

****

After finishing with Draco, Viviane continued to sit at her desk, running her finger slowly along the edge and trying to remember what else had happened to bother her that day, and who had been involved. Neville Longbottom? No, he finally managed to raise the Shield long enough to not end up a mess of boils and odd facial tics. Harry Potter? Getting up from her chair, Viviane began to pace about the room. Not that one. He’s perfectly competent, and perfectly satisfied to sink into the crowd, for once. A smile of wry sympathy curled her lips. I’ve found that experience to be a profound relief.

 

Then she recalled the scorching look Hermione had thrown at her upon leaving class. Why, Viviane wondered, would that studious know-it-all be upset with me? Suddenly she realized that Hermione was the only student who hadn't been able to raise even the weakest shield. "Her pride is hurt," Viviane said aloud. It would be, if she’s as ruthlessly brilliant as she appears to be, and from the way Minerva raves about her Transfiguration skills. “Time to tweak that pride a little,” she remarked to Malhereuse, just arrived through the window to drop a writhing vole at her feet.


The next day Viviane tracked Hermione down in the library, where she was studying alone, and sat down at the table. The girl looked up briefly, then returned to her reading.

"Er, hello. Hermione, I was wondering whether you had some free time this evening. I think you could use some extra help on that shield we're working on. You're doing fine with the research and memorization portion of the class, but the practical seems to need work"

Hermione's eyes narrowed as she looked back up at Viviane. "This Shield Spell is nonsense - I simply don't understand it. Everybody in class is able to at least start one - even Neville Longbottom! I follow your instructions exactly and nothing happens."

Viviane pursed her lips at the frustration in Hermione's voice. "Hermione, this type of magic is not something that is easily picked up - some people just have more natural talent at it." She realized immediately she'd said the wrong thing when Hermione grew red.

"Ask Professor McGonagall if I have talent! I think your class is silly and I don't have any free time because of my class load. I'm going to ask her if I can drop your class - we already have a Defense class with Professor Lupin, and I'm learning far more useful spells there than I ever have in yours." Hermione picked up her books and fled, leaving Viviane sitting at the table, wondering what to do next.

 

~*~*~

 

Viviane spent the next day ostensibly walking the perimeters of the Forbidden Forest but really wondering how she was going to solve the problem of Hermione. After dinner, which she spent abstractedly murmuring admiring words as Professor Vector expounded upon his latest article accepted by the academic journal Magical Maunderings, she sat staring into the fire, still unsure of what to do. I could just let her drop the class, but she needs to learn these skills. I could keep her for an extra half-hour for the next several classes… her schedule is too full. Ask Remus for advice? No, he’s had no experience with surly preteen girls, none that I know of, anyway. Treat her to a good slap upside the head? Tempting.

 

Hermione's suggestion about asking Professor McGonagall about her talent came to mind. "Minerva," murmured Viviane thoughtfully, and said to Malhereuse, who was half asleep on his perch. "So what would Minerva prefer? The Moravian or the Loire vintage? Loire, I think." She rummaged through her wine cooler for the appropriate bottle and began the walk to McGonagall's rooms in Gryffindor Tower.


As she entered the room at Professor McGonagall's invitation, Viviane smiled and held out the bottle of wine. "I noticed you had your fourth year Gryffindor class today and thought you might need some help recovering from Fred and George Weasley."

Professor McGonagall looked up, surprised, but smiled wearily. "Oh, thank you! I spent most of class trying to reverse the effects of bug-eyed caramels they'd just handed out. Why the students would eat anything those two have touched still amazes me. My, this is wonderful!" Professor McGonagall exclaimed as Viviane tapped the cork out, poured and handed her a glass.

"Thanks. I picked it up last time I stopped in the France. Yes, Zonko had better watch his profits if those two ever think to open up shop in Hogsmeade. He'd be out of business in a week." Viviane settled down in a chair. "I've got a problem in the most surprising area. Hermione Granger is -"

"Ah yes." Professor McGonagall looked down and began to twirl the stem of her wineglass. "She's asked to drop your class. It's most surprising. I can see why she would have no patience with Divination, but she's brilliant when it comes to spells and charms."

Viviane hesitated for a second, then replied "I'm teaching a spell that uses a different method than wand work. It helps greatly if you have an affinity for it, and she apparently doesn't. You can learn it - I did - but it takes time and patience. She's shut me out completely when I've tried to help. I'm not sure what to do."

"Perhaps we should let her drop the class. Hermione is taking too many already, in my opinion and one of them is a Defense class with Professor Lupin."

Viviane got up and began to pace. "Minerva, do you believe Voldemort is growing stronger?"

Professor McGonagall looked surprised at the question and then sighed. "I hope not. Right now I'm more worried about Sirius Black. Voldemort was near death when Quirrell was carrying him around."

Viviane had continued to pace, but she stopped short and knelt down by the arm of Professor McGonagall's chair, gripping it tightly. "Minerva, I have a lot of contacts around the fringes of the wizard world. We see and hear a lot that you don't and believe me, Voldemort is gathering his forces. He's getting help from someone." Viviane leaned in closer. "If he wanted to demoralize Hogwarts by attacking a prominent student, and make a point about his feelings towards Muggles, who do you think he'd choose? I can't say this to Hermione - I don't think Voldemort's threat is close enough that I'd want to terrify the students. But, Minerva, this girl needs to learn every defense she can. She's so vulnerable."

Viviane got back up, too upset to sit still, and ran her hands down her face tiredly. "Is there any way you can reconcile her to a meeting with me to possibly salvage her interest in my class? I have a way I can help her master this spell. At least I think so."

Professor McGonagall sat still, twisting the stem of her wine glass around. "Surely the students are safe at Hogwarts. And Albus wouldn't let Hermione go home if he thought there was any danger-"

"There's no danger here, now. Hopefully not ever." Viviane took a gulp of wine. "But the threat of future danger is here, and growing."

Professor McGonagall considered the request, eyeing Viviane as if gauging her for paranoia. "Well, I'll have her meet with you one more time. If you can't get through to her then, I think it may be best to let her drop the class altogether. Perhaps she can pick it up next year, when her class load won't be so heavy. At least I hope it won't be."

Viviane sat back down and sighed with relief. "Thank you, Minerva. Now, would you be so kind as to catch me up with Hogwarts gossip? Tell me about the Weasleys. Just how many of them are there, and have they all gone to Hogwarts?" They both settled down to more wine and an interesting evening of chat.

~*~*~

 

Viviane wandered about the classroom, waiting for Hermione. The silly girl had her more rattled than she liked to admit, sitting at the front of class, disapproval of Viviane’s teaching methods radiating from her resentful eyes and stiff posture. Please, let me be fair to her, said Viviane to herself. Stopping at a window, she looked out and tried to quell her bitter envy of the girl. Hermione had everything she'd wanted once - a full academic life, recognition, support, parents who let her follow a chosen path without contest. Viviane leaned against the glass and briefly imagined what her life might have been, then banished it from her mind and nerved herself to face Hermione simply as another of her students, one who needed help.

Hermione knocked and opened the door, hostility emanating from every line of her body. Viviane scrutinized her as the girl paused, one hand lingering on the doorframe while her eyes took in the bookcases, overflowing with tomes and scrolls and intriguing objects d’art. She reluctantly turned her head to look at Viviane, who uncrossed her arms in a gesture of invitation.

 

“Come in.”

 

She took hesitant steps forward into the room. “Professor?”

 

"Hermione, I'm going to try and help you with this spell. I think it's difficult for you simply because you're so good at channeling with your wand that it makes it harder to use other methods. So, to help you understand what a proper wandless summoning feels like, I am going to use a technique that is a little unorthodox. But it needs mutual trust to be effective, so stop glaring and work with me, will you?"

"Why?" questioned Hermione. "I still can't understand why I need this class-


Viviane gave a short laugh. "You must be more sheltered than I thought, if you don’t understand-“

 

“Besides, we’re learning Defense with Professor Lupin.” A look of horror crossed Hermione’s face, and her fingers flew up to her mouth as she backed away, bumping up against the edge of the teacher’s desk. Viviane stalked across the room to tower above her.

 

“You stupid little Muggle,” she said, in a low, quiet tone that made Hermione cringe, “never interrupt me again. What a naïve child you are, walking into our world prepared with nothing except memorized information and a few simple charms. You’re a clever girl, I’ll give you that, but all you’ve got now is a store of facts and lots of wand practice. The acquisition of knowledge, real knowledge, and true power, will take sacrifices you cannot yet comprehend.”

 

Hermione had straightened up and braced herself against the desk. “I- I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve spent evenings in the library-“

 

Viviane crossed her arms and began to laugh. “Oh yes, you’ve missed the occasional Quidditch victory party, I’m sure, poring over Hogwarts, a History and practicing how to make a pincushion out of a porcupine. Not to mention learning about how to escape from Hinkypunks. That’ll come in handy when you’re running for your life, chased by a squadron of Death Eaters.”

 

“Professor Lupin is your friend,” Hermione said, the gold specks in her brown eyes beginning to flash in anger.

 

“Yes, he is, and he would agree with everything I’m saying to you. Think about this. You're a child of Muggles. You're a star student. Therefore, you're a prime target if and when Voldemort decides to take on Hogwarts. Do you really want to face him armed only with Transfiguration spells and important dates in wizarding history? Are you going to stand there and threaten him with empty curses, like those with which you’re spoiling to use on me right now?"

Hermione stared, shocked, at Viviane. "But I thought Harry was the target-"

"He is. But we all are in the end, aren't we, if Vol-"

"Stop saying his name!"

 

Viviane began to laugh. “Frightened of a name, are you?”

“I’m not afraid of you – much. And I won’t let you hurt Harry, if that’s what you came here to do.”

 

Viviane took another step towards the girl, who tightened her shaking fingers around her wand. “If I wanted to hurt Harry, there aren’t too many who could stop me,” Viviane commented. “Dumbledore, perhaps. Certainly not you. And if you don’t start thinking about things a little differently, you never will.” Her voice softened. "I don't mean to use scare tactics, Hermione, but I think you're intelligent enough to realize the truth of what I'm saying."

"M-maybe. But what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to summon the shield, but I'm going to use your body to do it. That way, you can feel how the spell is conjured, and get the hang of it. It's a little trick I learned in, er, my travels."

Hermione thought about it. "That doesn't sound good - it sounds like a Dark Art to me. You'd control my body? Could you read my mind?"

"I doubt the Ministry would smile upon this technique, so yes, in a sense it would be a Dark Art. But I don't think anybody in the Ministry would've heard of this, so at the moment it's a neutral art. I'll only control your body to the extent of creating the shield, and only if you consent. If you fight me, I won't be able to do it, or I'd hurt you. As for mind-reading, that is a very, very dangerous pastime. Not recommended at all. Shall we?"

Hermione sat and thought for a few moments longer. Viviane watched her surreptitiously as fear and stubborn pride fought with curiosity on Hermione's face. "All right," Hermione finally conceded. "I'll try it. But I'm not sure I like it, and I'm not sure I really trust you."

Viviane laughed. "Good enough! I like knowing where I stand with people. Come here." Viviane stood behind Hermione and placed one arm firmly around her shoulders and a hand on her forehead. "Try and relax. I'm going to start the spell now, so try not to think, or fight me. Just feel what it's like to conjure the shield, and try to remember how it works."

Hermione gave a start when Viviane, using the girl's body, created the shield but allowed Viviane to control the process. Hermione, apparently fascinated, stood still, deep in concentration. After a moment Viviane sighed and relaxed as the shield disappeared. "Why don't you try one on your own?" Viviane suggested, as she moved away and sat down.

They both jumped as Professor Lupin's voice sounded from the fireplace, "Do you have a moment, Viv?"

"Sure, Remus!" She turned to Hermione. "I'll be right back. Why don't you practice the shield on your own while I'm gone?"

When Viviane returned, Hermione, after a few unsuccessful tries, finally managed a thin shield that only lasted a few seconds. But it was enough. Viviane leapt up, applauding. "See, you just needed a nudge in the right direction! Congratulations!"

"It wasn't exactly strong. It couldn't even repel a Jelly-Legs Jinx." Hermione said, attempting nonchalance but still looking pleased.

"Keep trying. It will get stronger as you go along, and class will be much more pleasant when you can repel Ron's onslaught of twitchy-ear curses! Will you keep my class on your schedule?"

"I suppose." Hermione gave Viviane a penetrating stare and began to say more, but suddenly left the room, leaving Viviane wondering just where she stood in Hermione's estimation.

 

~*~*~

 

"You're reading that? Most of us had that memorized by the time we were 16."

Viviane looked up from her perusal of Hogwarts: a History at Snape, who had walked into the teachers' lounge and was regarding her with a sneer. "I'm afraid I've spent most of my time in Constantinople and New York, among other places. Hogwarts was hardly the topic of endless conversation," Viviane said. "So I'm doing some catch-up in between classes."

"Really," replied Snape as he settled into a chair by the fire. "What were you doing in Constantinople and New York, besides picking up ill-behaved falcons? A little trade in the Dark Arts here and there? Your vaunted Defense skills sound rather unorthodox to me."

"Word gets around here, doesn't it? Has the young Master Malfoy been telling tales?" Viviane replied as she went back to reading.

"All of the students are unsettled by you and your antics, Chance. Have you ever taught a class before, or even gone to a wizarding school?"

"Shall I write my autobiography and hand it in at end of term?" Viviane snapped. "Yes, I went to a wizarding school and if Albus was bothered by what or how I teach, he wouldn't have hired me." Snape gave her a nasty look and then buried his head in The Daily Prophet.

”Stock in Zonkos is up, Blotts is down, Fudge made idiotic comments about the situation in Romania, and mauve lipstick is the new shade amongst fashion-conscious witches,” Viviane murmured, eliciting an irritated huff from Snape. She had just gone back to reading when Professor McGonagall looked in. "Oh, Viviane, there you are. I have a favor to ask of you. Nobody else is available to oversee the Gryffindor Quidditch practice this evening. Could you possibly help us out?"

"Quidditch? Is that that sport I hear so much about? The thing on broomsticks?"

"You didn't have Quidditch at-?"

"No!" said Viviane. She laughed. "That would have been considered frivolous." McGonagall looked shocked, and Snape rustled his paper in an exasperated manner.

"Oh. At Hogwarts, winning the Quidditch Cup is most important, to the students and faculty. They'll be meeting at the field in an hour. Can you make it?" Professor McGonagall asked.

"Sure," said Viviane, wondering exactly what she'd signed up for.

****

After the day’s classes, on a glorious, early autumn evening, she found herself standing in the midst of a group of students, staring at them in disbelief. "You can't be serious!" Viviane exclaimed. "You're crazy! They let you DO this?"

"Oh come on, Professor Chance," said George. "I bet you're great at flying!"

"Well, I do like a good fast broom, but I use it for transportation or relaxation, not chasing these little balls around while being attacked by other little balls."

"The Snitch!" interrupted Harry, at the same time Oliver said "Bludgers!" in a scandalized tone.

"Oh. Right. Go at it, then. But don't people get hurt falling off their broomsticks?" At the students' appalled expressions, Viviane said "Never mind. I'll watch from the stands." The team got on their brooms, some still shaking their heads over the professor's ignorance, and began their practice. Despite her misgivings, Viviane was impressed by the skill of the players, especially Harry Potter, and found herself almost enjoying the practice as the Gryffindors swept through intricate plays and cut the air with sharp banking maneuvers, lying flat along their broomsticks.

 

At last, sweaty and tired, happy, the students lowered themselves to the ground and, shouldering their brooms, headed towards the athletic wing.

"So," Viviane said on the walk back to the castle, "who's your biggest rival?"

"Slytherin," replied Oliver in a sepulchral tone. "They beat us last year, and have won the cup the last seven years running."

"Professor Snape's house," remarked Viviane. "Go figure. Oops, forget I just said that. Well, good luck with the rest of the year!"

"You are coming to the games, aren't you?" asked George.

"Of course. Wouldn't miss it!" replied Viviane, thinking she didn't have much choice in the matter.

"Did you ever really fly?" broke in Angelina.

"Oh yeah," said Viviane as she turned towards the castle porch, "wrecked some great brooms back in New York - I always had problems avoiding those gargoyles on the Chrysler building. Don't get any ideas, the lot of you," she yelled over her shoulder as she entered the hall.


****

Meanwhile the faculty, with the exception of Viviane, met in Dumbledore's office at the request of Professor Snape. "She's nothing more than a vagabond, who has implied to me that she thinks Hogwarts unimportant. Untaught, unmannered, rude, with skills that are doubtful at best. She lets her class run wild and I don't know about you, but I -"

"Severus," interrupted Dumbledore. "She's here on my invitation, and will stay as long as I can keep her. If you must know, she was born in France, but has traveled widely, including the East and the United States. Along the way, she's studied other methods of magic and has, perhaps, the widest knowledge of obscure defense skills of any witch or wizard today. So make her welcome, please." The rest of the teachers nodded.

"I don't see why you find her so objectionable, Severus," said Flitwick. "She has a thorough knowledge of Charms and although I find her skills, ahem, exotic, they may well help our students in the future."

"I agree," said McGonagall. "She may have her rough edges, but if she can teach Hogwarts students some decent defenses...after the late fiascos..."

"She is someone to count on in difficult situations," Lupin quietly chimed in. "We're lucky to have her, and she may be the advantage our students need in future challenges."

Snape curled his lip and said "Well, Remus, you would think so. I'm still going to be careful when it comes to Mademoiselle Chance." He stalked out of the room, and the rest of the teachers exchanged faintly amused glances as they followed him downstairs.

****

When Viviane entered the faculty lounge, she noticed that Remus was the only person there, so she flopped dramatically into a chair opposite him and declared "I have been officially deflowered. I am no longer a Quidditch virgin, having witnessed the Gryffindor practice!" Lupin looked up from his book and grinned at her.

"That's right, I remember you never were a sports fan. What do you think?"

"Frankly, I think you're all nuts to let students fly thirty feet in the air while being attacked or bludgered or whatever it's called. But boarding school culture, I'm beginning to realize, is far beyond my comprehension."

"Oh come on, Viv, not that far. You went to one, although you've always refused to tell me which it was."

Viviane sighed and said "Yes, but it's been fifteen years, it was not an English school, and I only got halfway through my fourth year. So far I've managed to offend or shock practically every member of Hogwarts' faculty, and Albus has the patience of a saint, or I'd have been let go by now. These students know so much that I don't, Remus, and it puts me at a disadvantage; hell, I don't even recognize some the low-level charms my fourth-years toss at me."

Lupin leaned forward, grasped Viviane's hands, and gave her a stern look. "Give yourself a break. You have more knowledge about more subjects than probably anybody here, so you shouldn't feel inadequate. Don't sweat the culture clashes." Lupin started to laugh. "Honestly, I find them highly entertaining when I'm lucky enough to witness them." He released her hands, sat back, and began to laugh harder. "If you could have seen Severus' face the morning Malhereuse...."

"Oh, I saw it. He thinks I crawled out of a bog. And why not? I've never been taught a thing about potions, and my formal education stops-"

"Relax," interrupted Lupin. "Just remember, these students need you, and try to teach them at least a little of what you know. That's all we ask." He smiled at her, and Viviane grinned back wickedly as she got up and clasped his hand.

"I wonder if you know just what you're asking for! Thanks for the pep talk. I-"

The door opened and Snape strode into the room with a smoking goblet. "Here you are, Lupin." He glanced at Viviane. "For your cold."

"Thank you, Severus." Lupin said as Snape left the room. Viviane looked at Lupin quizzically, and he explained "It's a remedy for my - ongoing problem. Wolfsbane. I would not have agreed to teach here without it." Viviane's face softened, and she dropped a kiss on Lupin's forehead before returning to her room.


//
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