A week later, Arth, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were walking across the entrance hall when they saw a small knot of people gathered around the notice board, reading a piece of parchment that had just been pinned up.
Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas beckoned them over, looking excited.
"They're starting a Dueling Club!" said Seamus. "First meeting tonight! I wouldn't mind dueling lessons; they might come in handy one of these days..."
"What, you reckon Slytherin's monster can duel?" said Ron, but he, too, read the sign with interest.
"Could be useful," he said to them as they went into dinner. "Shall we go?"
"Depended on what they are going to teach." Said Arth. "If it's going to be all that nonsense about attacking first and waving your wand, I might just not go."
"... it sounds interesting so I might go..." said Hermione with a small voice as she sent furtive glances at Arth.
"So are we going or not?"
"I guess we are."
At eight o'clock that evening they hurried back to the Great Hall. The long dining tables had vanished and a golden stage had appeared along one wall, lit by thousands of candles floating overhead. The ceiling was velvety black once more and most of the school seemed to be packed beneath it, all carrying their wands and looking excited.
"I wonder who'll be teaching us?" said Hermione as they edged into the chattering crowd. "Someone told me Flitwick was a dueling champion when he was young — maybe it'll be him."
"Oh, your right. It would be great to have a professional teach us. Now that would be interesting." Said Arth with a content look.
"I'm fine with however it is as long as it's not —" Harry began, but he ended on a groan.
Gilderoy Lockhart was walking onto the stage, resplendent in robes of deep plum and accompanied by none other than Snape, wearing his usual black.
Lockhart waved an arm for silence and called "Gather round, gather round! Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent!"
He straightened his robes and revealed a dazzling smile.
"Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little dueling club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions — for full details, see my published works."
Arth couldn't help but curse underneath his breath.
What a shameless sellout.
"Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape," said Lockhart, flashing a wide smile. "He tells me he knows a tiny little bit about dueling himself and has sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin. Now, I don't want any of you youngsters to worry — you'll still have your Potions master when I'm through with him, never fear!"
"Wouldn't it be good if they finished each other off?" Ron muttered in Harry's ear.
Snape's upper lip was curling.
"No, Snape is one of the best teachers in Hogwarts, just because you don't like him doesn't mean I don't." Said Arth with a sigh.
Hearing this, Ron and Harry wore disgusted faces.
Lockhart and Snape turned to face each other and bowed; at least, Lockhart did, with much twirling of his hands, whereas Snape jerked his head irritably. Then they raised their wands like swords in front of them.
"As you see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combative position," Lockhart told the silent crowd. "On the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course."
"I wouldn't bet on that," Harry murmured, watching Snape baring his teeth. "One — two — three —"
Both of them swung their wands above their heads and pointed them at their opponent.
Snape cried "Expelliarmus!"
There was a dazzling flash of scarlet light and Lockhart was blasted off his feet. He flew backward off the stage, smashed into the wall, and slid down it to sprawl on the floor.
Malfoy and some of the other Slytherins cheered.
Lockhart was getting unsteadily to his feet. His hat had fallen off and his wavy hair was standing on end.
"Well, there you have it!" he said, tottering back onto the platform. "That was a Disarming Charm — as you see, I've lost my wand — ah, thank you, Miss Brown — yes, an excellent idea to show them that, Professor Snape, but if you don't mind my saying so, it was very obvious what you were about to do. If I had wanted to stop you it would have been only too easy — however, I felt it would be instructive to let them see..."
Snape was looking murderous. Possibly Lockhart had noticed, because he said, "Enough demonstrating! I'm going to come amongst you now and put you all into pairs. Professor Snape, if you'd like to help me —"
They moved through the crowd, matching up partners. Lockhart teamed Neville with Justin Finch-Fletchley, but Snape reached Harry and Ron first.
"Time to split up the dream team, I think," he sneered. "Weasley, you can partner Finnigan. Potter —"
Harry moved automatically toward Hermione.
"I don't think so," said Snape, smiling coldly. "Mr. Malfoy, come over here. Let's see what you make of the famous Potter. And you, Miss Granger — you can partner Miss Bulstrode."
Snape honed his eyes onto Arth with an undecipherable gaze.
"As for you, Mr. Kingscrown, you can partner up with Mr. Nott."
The four of them separated and mat up with their dueling partners. Harry gave Malfoy a nice bow, confusing Malfoy a great deal.
Arthur also gave a silent salute before facing his opponent.
He was tall, thin, and looked weak. He could also be considered to be "rabbity" in appearance. His face was calm and his eyes half a smidgen of intelligence.
"Hello, I'm Theodore Nott."