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Chapter 3: teaching moments
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, as I am not JKR. :) Lyrics are by Jack Johnson!
How come when we say we will we won't?
I would say that I was getting more comfortable with fifth year, but unfortunately that would be overstating it.
Instead, it was more like a drudging acceptance had come over me. The terror, I believe, fully began to sink in. I went to my classes, stared at my professors with glassy eyes, begged Heather for her notes each night, and stared with complete bemusement at my textbooks, as the essays grew longer and longer and longer.
We weren’t even out of September yet, and I already felt as though I was going to burst. My achievements in disorganization and procrastination were definitely not helping me.
Heather was managing to do all right: she was treading water, yet I was slipping, drowning deep into the lake - no, ocean, that sounds much more grand and dramatic - into the ocean of fifth year.
If only all my damn classes weren’t immediately before or after a meal, then I’d do all right. But I had grown up on Nana Molly’s superb cooking. Say what you like about my family, and we certainly do have plenty of bad things - but nothing, nothing touches Nana Molly’s cooking.
When your grandmother decides that her new mission in life is to overfeed each and every one of her various grandchildren (of which there are far, far too many), then you don’t disagree. You just eat.
Unfortunately, this meant that most of the Weasleys grew up with very little tolerance for waiting in between meals. When we’re hungry, we’re hungry.
It’s probably one of the few characteristics I actually share with my cousins. I can’t quite decide if it’s a blessing or a curse.
Therefore, it’s awfully hard for me to concentrate when my stomach is growling. And seeing as how all my classes seemed to be near enough to a meal for me to be hungry, my grades were not doing as well as they could have, perhaps.
Clearly, this is not my fault.
I mean, I’m used to not necessarily understanding everything in my classes; it’s definitely not a new feeling. Understanding absolutely nothing, though - that’s a new low, even for me.
The one thing I do understand is that I’m screwed, but oh well.
Yet somehow, life continued on, oblivious to my failings. The professors taught, the rest of my classmates learned, I copied Heather’s notes, my stomach growled.
It might have seemed like my life was beginning to gain an odd sort of balance, but in reality, I was always waiting for something to tip and crash, and for everything to fall down.
It was like walking a tightrope. Only my balance was horrendous, and so my hopes weren't very high.
Care of Magical Creatures continued to haunt me. Lysander was attacking our project with gusto, which really was frightening from my point of view. My point of view being, of course, that of someone who liked to leave things to the last minute.
Every other night, we would meet in the library and work on our notes. I was slowly but surely working my way through An Introduction to the Study of Dragons and the History of These Noble Beasts, which, despite its horribly long title and old book smell, turned out to not be quite as dull as I had imagined. Which, of course, didn't take much, as I thought it was going to be the dullest things next to Binns' History of Magic lectures.
Lysander, of course, was on his third book, but I suppose we can't all be Ravenclaws.
I had begun to work my way through the history of dragons and the legislature surrounding them. (I was able to say I knew the word legislature beforehand; one of the perks of having a father who never shuts up about his Ministry work. However, I did find that I had to keep a dictionary beside me for most of the other words.) Lysander had been right: dragons could be quite interesting, in fact.
They had been around for eons and eons - some researchers speculated about their relation to some old, extinct Muggle creature called dinosaurs, whatever those were. They had, of course, become one of the biggest symbols of Wizarding life.
During the Middle Ages, dragons didn't have any laws surrounding them, and the Statute of Secrecy had yet to be introduced, so there were plenty of stories about knights fighting dragons. While Muggles later passed off these stories as myths and fairytales (because, of course, to them dragons weren't real), they had actually happened. I read an amusing story about a wizard who had watched the famed battle between this guy called St. George and a dragon who had been an onlooker. Apparently this George guy got really famous for it. However, apparently the dragon had been pretty old, and Mr. George put it out of its misery by killing it in his sleep. The whole battle part had been made up by him for glory.
See? I did retain something after all!
It also appeared as though books could actually be interesting, which was sort of an odd experience for me. I can't say books have ever really held any interest for me, at least not textbooks - the Hogwarts library was an excellent place to get a nap.
I dutifully jotted down notes on all the interesting bits. Course, I had no idea where we'd be putting this in our report (Lysander's outline still looked like Gobbledegook to me, frankly) but whatever. Lysander could figure out where to put it. He was a Ravenclaw. That's what they do for fun, isn't it?
So while the Care of Magical Creatures project was doing okay so far, and better than expected (though again, my expectations were so rock bottom that it really didn't take much), class itself wasn't quite so fabulous.
I think the main problem lay in the fact that Professor Wallace had yet to recognize my fear of animals, and insisted on me actually participating in class, which was sort of a new experience for me, and not one I particularly enjoyed.
It was right before lunch, as always.
I had always been particularly bad about paying attention in Care of Magical Creatures. Early on in third year, Hagrid had figured out that I wouldn’t willingly participate, and a few tears here and there and a specially requested meeting with him after class had eventually worn him down. (I think it was the tears that did it, really. For all his appearance, Hagrid’s secretly a big softy.)
I had yet to invoke the power of the tears on Professor Wallace, but I did have a sinking suspicion that it might not work as well the second time around.
Anyways, but I hadn’t explained my... rather peculiar problem to her, so she assumed that I was in the class for the love of animals or something. Crazy woman, that one.
So she was in the middle of an explanation or something, but clearly I was focusing on the more pressing matter: lunch. I had my priorities in order. But I guess she asked for volunteers or something, because then the next thing I knew, she was hopefully looking down on a piece of paper with the names of the class on it, and calling out, “Miss Weasley? Would you like to demonstrate?”
When hell freezes over, Professor Wallace. When hell freezes over.
“Err, no,” I squeaked out. “No, thank you, actually I’m quite all right.”
Her smile faltered for a moment, and maybe I would have felt bad, but the combined terror of going in front of the class and demonstrating something I didn’t know won over my attempts to be a decent human being. “Oh, come on up, Miss Weasley,” she encouraged. “Don’t be nervous.”
“No, really,” I tried to explain, “I’m just fine-”
“Don’t worry, Miss Weasley,” she said with a note of finality in her voice, and my heart sank. “Now please come to the front.”
I slunk to the front of the class, studying the grass in front of me intently, looking anywhere but Professor Wallace's eyes.
"Now, Miss Weasley," she said in that horridly cheery voice, "why don't you show the class the proper way to handle a bowtruckle?"
"Um," I said, stalling for time. "Right. Well. Um. Okay, so, err, the first thing you'll want to do..." My voice trailed off as I tripped over the words. For the love of Helga Hufflepuff, Lucy, I chided myself, why couldn't you pay attention for a change? "...is to make sure it's a bowtruckle," I found myself saying.
Oh my Merlin. Make sure it's a bowtruckle? Seriously? That was the best I could come up with?
Someone Avada Kedavra me now. Honestly, make sure it's a bowtruckle.
"Make... sure it's a bowtruckle," Professor Wallace said slowly. "Okay, yeah, that's a good idea, Miss Weasley!" she said, gaining some enthusiasm. "What are some things that a bowtruckle might be mistaken as?"
A llama. Merlin, I don't know.
I looked around furtively for the creature in question. There seemed to be something on the table Professor Wallace had set up, but all it looked like was-
"A stick," I said stupidly. Did I have no control over my mouth?
Professor Wallace, however, looked pleased as punch. "Very good, Miss Weasley! That's right, bowtruckles could be mistaken as a stick. So that's a very good thing to start with."
I nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, yeah, definitely. Totally! Now, if you don't mind..." I made a move to head back to where I was standing towards the back of the class, but Professor Wallace caught my robe sleeve.
"Hold on, Miss Weasley!" she said, chuckling genially. "You still haven't answered my first question!"
I haven't? Oh, darn. I gave her a weak smile. "Oh. Haha. Right. Funny. Um, could you repeat it please?"
"What is the proper way to handle a bowtruckle?" Professor Wallace repeated.
"Um, okay. So after you make sure that it's like, a real bowtruckle..." Sometimes I shock even myself with my powers of coherency.
I looked around at my fellow students wildly, hoping to find someone, anyone, who could somehow lend a hand. Heather, the lousy friend that she was, was in the back, silently in hysterics. I shot her a glare (which was quite scathing, naturally) but I think she didn't see it through the tears that were forming in her eyes.
I searched for a friendly face anywhere, for some kindly person to mouth the answer to me. And I found it, unexpectedly, in no one else than Lysander.
He was mouthing something to me, probably having caught the look in my eyes, which I imagine was something akin to what deer caught in the headlights looked like. If only I could read lips! I squinted and tried to make it out.
"...um, so after you determine it's a real bowtruckle, you... uh..." I focused on his lips forming words slowly. Come on, Lucy, you can do this, I tried to tell myself.
Give them gifts, I finally made out. Give them gifts! Okay! Weird, because who would think of giving gifts to stick lookalikes, but hey, whatever works for you. "Give them gifts!" I finished triumphantly, feeling pretty damn proud of myself.
"That is correct, well done, Miss Weasley. But what 'gifts' are you supposed to give them?" Professor Wallace just couldn't leave well enough alone, could she?
"Um... good ones?" Wow. I, Lucy Weasley, was such an eloquent speaker. Really. My dad would be in tears.
Professor Wallace sighed, disappointment falling on her young face, still wrinkle-free (unlike McGonagall's; she had as many wrinkles as my dad had reports on cauldron bottom thicknesses). "Miss Weasley, did you even read the chapter or listen to the lecture?"
Damn it, now she was making me feel guilty. Of course I hadn't. "Sure I have, Professor," I said with a pathetic attempt at a smile. "Just making a joke, ha ha. When I said good ones, I was talking about..."
Dumb Heather was still in the back in hysterics. Some Hufflepuff she made. But my eyes immediately fell on good old Lysander, who was mouthing words at me again. I did my very best to read it, hoping that if I said it quickly enough, Professor Wallace would believe me.
"...woodlice?" I ended meekly. I doubted I had gotten that right - what the hell were woodlice, anyways? I'd never heard of them before. Sounded gross to me.
Professor Wallace looked relieved. "Good job, Miss Weasley. Five points to Hufflepuff."
Seriously? Five points to Hufflepuff for that? Heck, I should pay more attention to Lysander in class.
"Of course, another acceptable substitute would be fairy eggs," Professor Wallace said dismissively, "but those are much harder to find. Now, Miss Weasley, if you could be so kind as to demonstrate the proper way to offer woodlice to a bowtruckle..."
Oh no. My eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. "No thank you, actually, I'm all set. I'd really rather not."
Professor Wallace frowned at me. "That actually wasn't a question. This is the focus of today's lesson, and everyone will have to demonstrate how to do this. Now if you please, Miss Weasley, the bowtruckle."
The bowtruckle and I had a staredown. I think it won, though, because I couldn't exactly see its eyes. Still, it was just about the creepiest stick I've ever seen. Spindly legs and arms and beady little eyes (well, so I made up the eyes part, but the arms and legs part was totally true, and that's obviously what the eyes would have to look like) that were glaring at me. I could feel it.
And then the hand that she was holding out to me, presumably filled with woodlice... oh my Merlin. I couldn't handle it. And I wasn't even being dramatic, either. (Well, not any more dramatic than usual.) But they were these tiny little brown beetle-like creatures that were swarming around her fingers, and I swear that my stomach jumped right up into my throat looking at them.
I could not, could not put those into my hand and feed it to this creepy eyed stick. It was just not going to happen. Even looking at the bugs made me feel a bit faint.
And those teeth! I knew that bowtruckles had teeth. Sharp teeth. Teeth that would probably bite me.
I shook my head and stepped back, feeling a bit nauseated. "I'm sorry, Professor Wallace," I said, "but I can't do this. I just can't."
She looked a wee bit exasperated. "Come now, Miss Weasley, we don't have all day. It won't bite you unless you provoke it."
"Oh, excellent," I said, my voice more high-pitched than usual. "Corking. Really corking. But no can do." I backed up even farther.
"Miss Weasley-" she started, fully exasperated with me now, but Russell Boot, the Ravenclaw Heather was paired with for the project, cut her off.
"Honestly, give it up, Professor Wallace," he said, sounding a bit bored. "There's no way Lucy will do it and that's just fact. It's not you, it's her."
Gee, thanks, Russell. Around me, the rest of the class murmured in agreement. Still, it was true, and I was grateful to him for rescuing me, allowing me to retreat back into the back of the mass.
Professor Wallace blinked, apparently trying to digest all of this. "Excu-"
Russell interrupted her once more, his voice sounding much more kindly this time. "It's not your fault, Professor. Lucy's never been able to do the practical bits in our lessons. Professor Hagrid figured that out. It'll be quite all right. Won't it, Lucy?"
"Yeah," I squeaked from my back hideaway. Russell was an all right sort of chap. I'd been with the people in this class for going on three years now, and they were all familiar with my limitations. It was sort of touching, actually, to have them stick up for me in a roundabout way.
"Um," Professor Wallace said, flustered and sounding about as eloquent as me at the moment. "Right then. Err. Everyone to the front, we're all going to try. Grab a bowtruckle and either woodlice or some fairy eggs." The class all moved forward in a single movement, chattering breaking out. I made to follow Heather like I always did (she was recovering from her hysterics fit, but her face was still quite red), so that she could study the animal close up while I compared notes with her from far away. It was a system that worked.
"Miss Weasley," she added as the rest of the class got to work, "please see me after class."
My heart sank. I wasn't sure how I was going to explain this to her. I really, really didn't want to wait after class - lunch was calling my name, I thought, looking forlornly at my empty belly.
"Smooth," Heather said, still chuckling as she held out a handful of woodlice to a wary bowtruckle, not squirming at all as the nasty things left her palm. I scowled at her and smacked her arm. "Shut up," I growled.
Heather still showed no sign of remorse. What a wonderful friend I had, honestly. Really supportive. She simply rolled her eyes. "Stop grousing. You should have seen your face. Now go grab us some parchment and start sketching the damn thing."
I didn't want to sketch it. It was far too creepy looking for my taste. But I dutifully grabbed two pieces of parchment, shoving one towards Heather as she held the creature in her hand so that both of us could study it.
The end of class bell rang and my stomach grumbled right along with it. Mine and Professor Wallace's little show had wasted class time, so I hadn't even gotten to finish my bowtruckle drawing. I stuffed it in my bag, looking longingly towards the direction of the Great Hall as everyone around me left.
Heather patted my shoulder consolingly. "I'll save you some chicken," she said over her shoulder as she walked up the lawn.
Some chicken? With the day I was having, she better save me the whole darn plate.
A/N: So I'm determined to soldier through this, despite how uncomfortable I am with attempting to write something vaguely fluffy! :) In fact, I actually have a couple of chapters written in advance, hooray!
I did manage to have some fun writing this in the end, though, so it's all worth it. Feel free to leave a review? -coughs- ;)