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The Writing on the Wall. by MargaretLane
Chapter 2: A Magical Education
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the settings, the characters you recognise or any mentioned on Pottermore or in interviews with JK Rowling or anything of Harry Potter. No copyright infringement is intended. Rose's comment about repeating history is paraphrased from Santayana. Credit is his.
The next morning Albus headed automatically towards the Gryffindor table for breakfast.
Rasmus pulled him back.
“Hey, we’re Ravenclaws, remember?”
Albus blushed. He hadn’t realised he already thought of Gryffindor as his house, but he’d been seeing James in red and gold for the past two years and Victoire, Dominique, Louis and Teddy even before that and his mum and dad still took an interest in Gryffindor’s Quidditch team. It would be weird to start thinking of blue and bronze as his house colours.
Rose was already seated at the Ravenclaw table and he took a seat beside her thankfully. He’d have hated it if they were separated.
“We get our timetables after breakfast,” she told him. “I’m looking forward to seeing them, aren’t you?”
He supposed he was. Learning magic would definitely be more interesting than sitting at the kitchen table, learning reading and sums from Grandma Weasley.
“There's so much to learn,” Rose continued. “Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Herbology. What are you looking forward to most, Albus?”
“Oh, Defence of course. How about you?”
“I can’t decide. Defence is really important, of course, but Astronomy sounds really good as well. And Transfiguration. And Potions.”
Albus shuddered, remembering his dad's stories about Potions. Of course, he knew Slughorn was teaching it now and James said he wasn’t too bad, but he still thought it sounded difficult.
Derek was listening to their conversation and something approaching alarm crossed his face.
“Defence? Has this something to do with that evil wizard fellow you were telling me about?”
Albus shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think it was always part of the curriculum. It’s supposed to be quite interesting. We’ll learn defensive spells, like how to protect yourself if anybody hexes you or anything.” Derek was looking even more apprehensive now. “Oh, most of it's just for fun. My brother thinks it’s really funny to give me jelly-legs and stuff, when nobody’s looking, so I’ll be glad to know how to defend myself. And we learn about vampires and werewolves and all that stuff.”
“You mean they seriously exist?"
“Oh yes. Rose’s mother works in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she’s very concerned with making things fairer for other magical beings. There’s a lot of discrimination.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Oh, stop. I’ve been hearing this all my life. Not that it’s not true or anything, but there comes a time when you get tired of hearing about it. It’s not as if I make the laws, you know.”
“Gosh, I really have a lot to learn.”
“We all do,” Rose said. “Underage witches and wizards aren’t allowed to perform magic except in class.”
Derek turned to Albus. “But you said your brother… Or is he of age?”
Albus shook his head. “No, he’s in third year, but James doesn’t exactly always follow the rules. My gran says he’s just like my Uncles Fred and George. And George owns a joke shop now, if that tells you anything.”
“What does your Uncle Fred do?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“It was before we were born. Back in the war. Those were pretty awful years, I guess. People don’t really like to talk about them too much.”
“Mum says they should, though,” Rose put in. “She says those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. So we should pay attention in History of Magic, no matter how boring Binns is.”
Albus sighed. “Dad says your mum’s probably the only person who ever paid attention in History of Magic in the history of the school.”
A prefect cut their conversation short by standing up and announcing that everybody was to finish eating quickly and go to get their timetables.
“Come on.” Rose pulled Albus to his feet.
The other Ravenclaws followed them, all anxious to find out what class they’d have first.
“Is everybody here?” Professor Flitwick glanced around. “All right, I have your timetables here.” He passed them around.
Albus was pleased to see that their first class was Defence Against the Dark Arts, but less pleased that it was with the Slytherins. Despite what his father'd said about his namesake, he wasn’t exactly pleased at the thought of making a fool of himself in front of Scorpius Malfoy
“Come on, Albus,” Rose said. “We can’t be late for our first class.”
“Good morning,” a middle aged witch greeted them as they entered the classroom. “My name is Professor Jones and over the course of your years at Hogwarts, I will be teaching you to defend yourselves from a vast number of Dark Creatures and many different varieties of Dark Magic.”
A dirty looking Slytherin boy raised his hand. “Professor.”
“Is it true you were in the Order of the Phoenix in the last wizarding war?”
“Yes, Fletcher, that is true. So I can fairly safely say that I have seen some of the worst examples of Dark Magic in at least the last half century. However, I am far from the only one, as I’m sure you know. Your own father was a member and of course, all of the wizarding world is aware of the part played by the parents of Potter and Weasley.” She paused for a moment. “How many of you here are Muggleborn?”
Only two students raised their hands; Derek and a girl Albus had noticed at the Ravenclaw table that morning.
“Only two of you. And do either of you know anything about the second wizarding war?”
“Um, Albus and Rose told me a little about it this morning,” said Derek. “And some of the boys were talking about it last night. They said there was this wizard who didn’t like Muggleborns and stuff, and that he was extremely dangerous.” He trailed off.
“That is true. You’ll be learning more about it in History of Magic. I don’t want to frighten either of you, but I think you, all of you, should be aware of the worst we’ve had to fight against. Wizards like Voldemort, or “He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named” as many still call him, are thankfully rare, but the fact they exist at all makes what you will learn in this class extremely important. Your parents will be able to tell you there was a time when the Ministry wasn’t too happy about young boys and girls learning practical defensive magic. Thankfully, that is not true today. However, it will be a while before you attempt anything too exciting, I’m afraid. Firstly, you need to be aware of what it is you'll be facing.”
She outlined the course they would be following for the rest of the year and then dismissed them.
“She’s great, isn’t she?” Nathan said. “I mean, she really knows what she’s talking about.”
Between James and his cousins, Albus was already familiar with most of the teachers’ reputations so he knew Professor Jones was very highly regarded.
Professor Blackburn, who they had next, was rather more of an unknown quantity. However, her greeting to the class seemed pleasant enough.
“Transfiguration has a reputation for being one of the more difficult subjects,” she told them. “But I personally consider it one of the most important. And one of the more interesting, as well. The introductory material might not seem that way, but remember that it’s Transfiguration which allows people to transform into animals.”
Dora Nottingham raised her hand.
“Yes Miss Nottingham.”
“Are you an Animagus, Professor?”
The teacher laughed, a little uncomfortably. “I’m afraid not. However, you do have a highly accomplished Animagus here at Hogwarts, as some of you may be aware. Professor McGonagall, who taught Transfiguration before becoming Headmistress, can transform into a cat."
“Are we going to learn to become Animagi?” Dora continued.
Professor Blackburn laughed again. “I’m afraid not, Dora. Becoming an Animagus is extremely difficult and many witches and wizards can never accomplish it. Also, our Ministry keeps detailed information as to who has the ability, as it’s a skill that could easily be misused. However, if you chose to continue with Transfiguration to N.E.W.T. level, you will learn Human Transfiguration, which is the first step for those who wish to become Animagi.” She smiled. “I’m sure that seems a long way off for all of you and there is quite a lot to be learnt in the intervening years, but if you concentrate now, you’ll find the work in later years so much easier.
“And now, if there are no more questions…” She paused and glanced around the classroom. “Then I’d ask you to take out your textbooks and we’ll take a look at some of the basic principles. Don’t worry if it seems confusing. It will make more sense as you get more used to it. And I want you all to feel free to ask me if you have any questions or are finding anything difficult.”
“She seems nice,” Albus said after class. “We’re doing well with teachers so far, aren’t we? And we’ve Neville later.”
“We’re to call him Professor Longbottom at school,” Rose reminded him.
“Yeah, I know.”
He hoped he’d remember. It would be really embarrassing to call him “Neville” by accident in front of the whole class.
Actually, it could be embarrassing having one of your parents’ friends as a teacher, he thought, remembering them telling him to give Neville their love. He’d look a right idiot doing that anyway.
Neville smiled at them as they entered Greenhouse One.
“Hello Albus. Hello Rose.”
“Hello, um Professor Longbottom.”
“Looking forward to Herbology?”
They both nodded politely and Neville turned his attention to the rest of the Ravenclaws and Gryffindors gathered before him.
Unlike their previous classes, Neville had prepared some practical work for them.
“We’re going to begin by planting some Bouncing Bulbs,” he told them. “These can grow quite large, even reaching the size of the door over there. At that size, they can be very difficult to handle. However, the ones we’re working with are only babies, so you have nothing to worry about.”
It was an entertaining class. The students chatted and laughed as they tried to keep hold of the bouncing plants. A couple of Gryffindor boys started bouncing the bulbs on the floor of the greenhouse.
“Stop that at once,” Neville called. “Or it’ll be twenty points from Gryffindor and I’m sure you don’t want to lose your house points on your very first day.” He turned to face the entire class, as the boys picked up the bulbs they’d been playing with. “One of the most important things I hope to teach you is to treat the plants with respect. That means not harming them and taking care that they don’t harm you…”
His speech was interrupted as Nathan stumbled, dropping the bulbs he was carrying. He tried to pick them up, but they bounced out of his reach. Already off balance, he stumbled again and a bulb bounced on the back of his head.
“Flipendo,” Neville shouted and the bulbs flew back.
"Sorry Sir.” Nathan’s face was bright red. “I just lost my balance. I didn’t intend to.”
Neville smiled. “Not to worry. So long as you’re not hurt, that’s the main thing. Now, let’s gather up the bulbs and continue on with our task.”
They quickly gathered up the bulbs, but Nathan remained subdued.
At the end of the class, Albus noticed Neville take him aside and say a few words to him.
“Did he tell you off?” Albus asked as they headed back to the castle.
“No. He said not to worry about it; that anybody could lose their balance and he’d done a lot worse when he was a student here.” Nathan didn’t sound convinced. “God, I’m such a klutz sometimes.”
“Nev…Professor Longbottom is right though. That could have happened to anybody. I was sure I was going to drop them actually. They’re so…bouncy.”
“And just after he said we were to be careful we didn’t let the plants hurt us.” Nathan seemed to be following his own train of thought.
“He was talking about people mucking around deliberately; not genuine accidents,” Albus pointed out.
Rose came up behind them.
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Nathan,” she said briskly. “I’m sure we’ll all make fools of ourselves before the week is out. Some of the things our parents got up to…well, simply dropping some bulbs doesn’t even begin to compare. Isn’t that right, Albus?”
“Yeah. Our dads arrived by flying car for the start of their second year, Nathan. You can imagine the trouble they got into.”
Nathan stared at him. “You’re not serious!”
“I am. They missed the train. And…well, it’s a long story and we’d better get to History of Magic, so I’ll tell you later, OK?”
They hurried to class, getting there moments before Professor Binns floated through the blackboard.
Derek stared in amazement.
“Wow, this looks like being an interesting class.”
Albus stifled a giggle.
“You must be joking. Professor Binns is the most boring teacher in the history of Hogwarts, possibly the world! Wait until he starts lecturing. Then you’ll see how interesting it gets.”
Binns didn’t even bother calling for silence. He simply introduced himself quickly and then started into his lecture.
“We are going to begin with the events leading up to the signing of the Statute of Secrecy in 1689. Prior to that time, witches and wizards had lived semi-openly among Muggles. However as persecution from Muggles continued apace, more and more wizards chose to live in secret...”
It should have been interesting. Binns was talking about violence and persecution. However, he seemed to glance over anything remotely interesting in favour of dwelling on exact dates and minute details. Ten minutes into the class, Albus was already nearly asleep.
“Why exactly is he still teaching?” Rasmus demanded after the class. “He’s a rubbish teacher. He just managed to make some of the most significant events of our history sound utterly meaningless.”
“I’m lost,” Derek said. “I don’t even know what the Statute of Secrecy is."
“Me either,” the girl who’d raised her hand when Professor Jones had asked who was Muggleborn said.
“It’s basically the law that says we’re not allowed to let Muggles know about us,” Rose explained.
The girl looked puzzled. “But my mum knows about us. And my sisters and brothers. Professor Flitwick explained it all to them. Not sure how much they took in, but…”
“That’s different, Angie,” Rose said and Albus stored away the name for future reference. “Our parents can know, even if they’re Muggles and if you marry a Muggle, you’re allowed to tell him. Things like that. The Muggle Prime Minister knows as well.”
“I didn’t know that,” Albus said.
Nor did Nathan or Dora.
“Well, he does. But they're all people who have a reason to know. We can’t just tell anybody we want to or perform magic publicly where anybody can see. Who is and isn’t allowed to know is complicated. That’s why there’s a statute, to set it all down in black and white, so that the entire wizarding world is in agreement about who is and who isn’t.”
“But what if somebody finds out?” Derek asked. “Somebody who isn’t meant to know, I mean.”
Rose, Albus, Dora and Nathan exchanged glances.
“It depends,” Rose said. “If it’s judged to be a risk, the Ministry has Obliviators who modify their memories so they won’t remember what they’ve seen or heard.”
“Wow,” Derek said. “It’s like science-fiction or something. You know, all those conspiracy theories about alien landings being covered up by the Government.”
Everybody except Angie looked blank.
“Sounds like something they’d publish in The Quibbler,” Dora said.
“The Quibbler?” Derek asked.
“It’s a paper,” Albus said. “It belongs to the father of one of my mum’s friends.” He glared at Dora. “And my mum’s friend sometimes writes for it.”
“Your mum’s friends with the Lovegoods?” Dora snickered.
“Yes. My sister’s middle name is Luna, after Luna Lovegood. OK, the Lovegoods have their own ideas on things, but Luna is really nice. And unusual.”
“I’ll believe she’s unusual. OK, I’m sorry Albus. But honestly, the Lovegoods…well, they’ve a reputation for being odd.”
“So what?” said Rose. “Being different isn’t necessarily bad. And Luna was a Ravenclaw, you know.”
“OK, OK.” Dora sounded as if she was bored with the argument rather than really convinced.
“Hey, is there any school library or anything here?” Derek changed the subject. “I want to look up some stuff.”
“Of course there’s a library.” Rose sounded shocked at the thought of not having one. “I think I can find it. Mum gave me directions.”
“Only Aunt Hermione would give directions to the library.”
“Actually, I’ll come too, if you don’t mind,” Rasmus said.
Albus decided he might as well tag along with them. It would be worth knowing where the library was, and besides, he didn't think he wanted to be left alone with strangers longer than necessary.
Hermione’s directions were good ones, which was hardly surprising, considering the amount of time his father said she’d spent in the library in their schooldays.
“Wow.” Derek glanced at the books in amazement.
The librarian looked up.
“Are you looking for anything in particular?” Albus whispered to Derek, as Rose and Rasmus wandered off together
“Um, just something to give me some idea what the wizarding world is like. Do you know where you’d find that book your aunt used to read?”
Albus shrugged. “We could probably find it, if we looked."
Searching the shelves, they eventually stumbled upon Recent Wizarding History.
Derek flicked through it.
“This will do, I guess.”
They headed for the door of the library. Rose and Rasmus were still scouring the shelves.
“Should we wait for them?” Derek asked.
“I suppose so.”
They waited outside the library, chatting, until Rose and Rasmus joined them, both carrying armfuls of books.
“Find what you wanted?” Rose asked Derek.
“No need to ask if you did,” Albus said.
Rose laughed. “There’s some interesting stuff there. I don’t suppose we’ll have that much time to read once classes really get started, but these’re worth taking a look at anyway.”
Their journey back to Ravenclaw Tower was interrupted by a ghost floating towards them.
“Albus Potter,” he said.
Albus looked up.
“I must say I was hoping you’d be in my old house, young man.”
“It’s Nearly Headless Nick,” Albus informed Derek excitedly.
“Why does everybody always call me that?” The ghost sounded mildly annoyed. “My name is Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington.”
“Sorry, erm, Sir Nicholas,” Albus said. “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to.”
“Oh, I’ve got used to it.” The ghost was smiling now. “Don’t suppose I’ll ever be anything but Nearly Headless Nick in this school. I do prefer ‘Sir Nicholas’ though.”
“I’ll try to remember,” Albus promised.
“What’s wrong with Ravenclaw anyway?” Rose burst out.
“Oh, nothing, nothing, but I was fond of this young man’s father, you know. Still am, as a matter of fact. And I was rather hoping to have his sons in my house. His daughter too of course.”
“You have James,” Rose reminded him.
“Yes, yes, of course. Oh well, one can’t have everything and I’m sure I’ll see plenty of you around the school. I don’t confine myself to Gryffindor Tower, you know.”
“I hope so,” Albus said shyly.”
“We really need to be getting back now,” Rose reminded him. “We don’t want to risk being locked out.”
“Um, who kept us waiting at the library? We really do have to go, though,” he told Nearly Headless Nick.
“I’ll accompany you as far as Ravenclaw Tower.”
Nearly Headless Nick had a number of interesting stories to tell about previous events at Hogwarts and all four students were sorry when they reached Ravenclaw Tower and he floated away.
“Still, he said we’d see him again,” Albus said.