Paola had always been aware of security. She’d grown up behind embassy walls, which were always warded and watched. She’d had to sign out from and into the embassy on her way to and from school. There had been lots of safety drills, some that involved finding the nearest adult who could Apparate her out of the wards to a gathering spot in the Atlas mountains, some that involved hiding in a warded and concealed interior room with the rest of the embassy’s families and dependents until the officer on duty came to let them out. There’d been a few times when a security guard from the embassy had walked with her to school. And there had been once, when due to some political situation that no one had bothered to explain to her, when she’d been told that she wasn’t going to school that week, that she needed to stay on embassy grounds. And no one had told her why, not even afterwards, when all the adults had stopped rushing around with strained looks on their faces and wands out in their hands, and Paola could have asked without getting brushed off with a “Now is not a good time, Paola!”
Paola wished she didn’t know that adults could get scared.
But the point was she had grown up with adults who took security very seriously, and so Professor Brooks’ much more relaxed and playful attitude to Defense Against the Dark Arts had come as something of a shock to Paola. It made it hard for her to enjoy the class, since it was so different from the very real wariness that had permeated the embassy. She did her DADA assignments conscientiously, still in the habits that Aunt Tima had drilled into her. Paola didn’t feel like she could afford to do poorly in DADA, and she hated that feeling.
Paola had not told anyone about the self-defense spells that Aunt Tima had taught her. The most innocuous was one that made Paola unnoticeable, so that anyone who tried to find her would glance right over her, even if Paola was running. There was one that would heat whatever her attacker was holding, whether it was a knife, wand, or gun, to a red-hot temperature, so that they’d have to drop it or risk burning their hands. And third and trickiest, there was one that would convince her attacker that they were covered with spiders and scorpions. Aunt Tima could do that one well enough to make Paola think that she was completely covered, complete with the sensation of dozens of tiny feet on her, but Paola could only manage to make Aunt Tima think she had one scorpion on her. (Aunt Tima had cast it on her once and only once, so that Paola would know how it was supposed to work.) Which, as Aunt Tima had pointed out, might be all the distraction Paola needed to escape from a situation safely.
The spells that Paola had been learning in DADA, by contrast, were more confrontational. But she’d practiced them anyway, not liking the thought of being caught off guard. She soon learned why Aunt Tima hadn’t taught her any of them. While Expelliarmus and Stupefy would end a fight quickly, they both were showy. And even the invisible shield cast by Protego would flash when something struck it. None were something she could use either underage or when there were Muggles around.
Paola raised her hand and answered, “Protego,” when Professor Brooks asked for the three spells they’d been working on. Protego was probably the one she was most comfortable with, and she’d become skilled enough at it already to avoid taking too much damage from the practice dummies they worked with in class. (Dummies was using the term loosely, but Paola couldn’t think of a better one for the eclectic collection of things that Professor Brooks had found to attack them.) The dummies were still better than the possibility of facing down one of her classmates, or worse, Aunt Tima.
Paola had promised herself that she’d get better at approaching people to work with them, so that she didn’t end up working with the same handful of people all the time. Bracing herself, she tapped someone on the shoulder and asked (after first determining if she needed to introduce herself), “Would you like to work together?” That hadn’t seemed as hard as it had been at the beginning of the year, so maybe the practice (either in talking to people or in DADA skills) helped her confidence.
OOC: Mentions of Tima Morgan approved by Austin