A/N: I know, I know. I've been ridiculously bad about updating. But I'm right about to graduate and consequently I'm nearly pathologically averse to focusing on anything other than music, food, or my friends for more than about ten seconds at a time, it seems. It's no excuse, but at least it's a bit of an explanation, right? Please don't hate me. I'll try to do better, really I will.
Caught, Once Again, By A Hot Boy, While Curled Up In A Ball, Eating My Hair
Chapter 13: Who Knew Expelliarmus Could Cause So Much Trouble?
I followed the trio into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, practically twitching with nervous energy. For one, everything I’d heard about Professor Snape from Harry and Ron - despite Hermione's pleas for balance and justice and whatnot - had me thoroughly convinced that he was exactly the sort of teacher I was bound to hate.
I've never been all that good at all that fair and equitable, give everyone a shot riffraff. I'm quite attached to my preconceived notions, thank you very much.
For another, I was pretty sure that I wasn’t likely to make it through this lesson without wandwork. I had gotten lucky, having Herbology -- you don't necessary need a wand to tame a vicious plant, even if it is, like those blasted violets, apparently out to annihilate you; but to practice defending yourself against a well-trained, experienced, unscrupulous wizard who has no qualms about hitting you with curses wicked enough to maim, torture, or kill you in one fell swoop?
Yeah, you might want a wand to deal with that last one.
I wasn't sure what I would do if he called on me to perform a spell, really. Hermione's lesson that morning, loathe as I am to demean the usefulness of books, hadn't yielded any practical knowledge or experience, so I suspected I was no further along towards controlling my magic than before, and attempting advanced, NEWT level defense magic in a room full of unsuspecting students without any idea of what I was doing didn't strike me as all that . . . responsible. But I couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that this new professor wouldn't be quite so accommodating as, oh, say, Professor McGonagall, and just let me study theory quietly in the back of the room like the pathetic failure of a witch that I am.
It was a quandary, to be sure.
I slumped down into a desk in the back of the room, Harry on my left, Ron and Hermione directly in front of us, and looked around. The room was dim; the curtains were drawn across the windows, so the sunlight was filtered through the dark, heavy fabric, bathing the room in a washed-out lambency. I blinked a few times, letting my eyes adjust to the caliginous surroundings. Slowly, the details of the room, previously blurred together into one textureless grey landscape, came into focus. The walls were sparsely decorated with crumbling, yellowed, gruesome ink-drawn diagrams of dark curses and creatures. The drawing closest to me, labeled, quite simply, Cruciatus, in blood-red ink, depicted a wizard sprawled out, legs and arms contorted in aberrant angles, face a distorted, misshapen mask of pain. Across the room, the snarling, toothy face of a werewolf stared out at the classroom with hungry eyes. A desk sat at the front, piled high with thick, grimy, ancient-looking tomes and littered with sheaves of parchment and bits of broken old quills.
Other than the desk and the drawings, the room was sparse and plain. The air was stale and practically thick with tension; it gave me an uneasy sort of feeling that did nothing to help with my nerves. I set about pulling my book, my wand, a quill, and a bit of parchment out of my bag and scooting them around the desk, arranging them in front of me with militaristic precision.
I organize when I'm nervous. It alleviates a bit of my apprehension if I feel like I am at least marginally in control of one aspect, however insignificant, of the world around me.
Or maybe it's OCD. Who knows?
I had just lined the objects up to my satisfaction and was congratulating myself on a job well done when the heavy oaken door to the classroom creaked ominously open and banged against the stone wall with a muffled thud. My head snapped up. A tall, slender man with long black robes clearly a size or two too big for him stalked to the front of the room. His lank, greasy, black hair curled slightly at the ends, resting on his bony shoulders; a long, hooked nose protruded from under dark, snapping, hooded eyes. The corners of his mouth curled into a grimace as he approached his desk, settling into his chair in a billow of robes. He glanced perfunctorily up at the students and his sneer deepened.
"I assume everyone has read chapter 17," he said.
No one spoke.
"Moving right along, then," he continued deliberately, clearly not interested in waiting for a response. "Everyone up."
I looked around, startled, as the class stood collectively and stepped to the edges of the room. I hastily swept my meticulously arranged supplies back into my bag (much as it pained me to undo such an exemplary organizational job) and followed suit, squeezing myself in between Hermione and Harry against the wall in the back.
And not a moment to soon. I had barely stepped out of the way before the desks swooped into the air and stacked themselves neatly in the front of the classroom. The clattering and thunking of legs banging against tabletops as they settled was the only noise in the room.
"Pairs," the Professor ordered.
Apparently he wasn't one for verbosity.
The students around me shuffled themselves into couples. Harry moved to stand by me. As soon as we had all paired off, Professor Snape rose to his feet and walked toward us.
His mouth twisted into a grim smile as he neared the back of the room. He paused next to Harry and me.
"Well, this won't do," he smirked. "Miss Farrell, is it? I believe you're supposed to be mixing with all the seventh years, are you not? You've been spending a bit too much time with these three for my liking."
He pointed to the other side of the room. "Mr. Potter, with Miss Parkinson." Harry hesitated, and Snape frowned ominously. "Now
With a parting glare, Harry walked over and positioned himself next to a stocky girl in Slytherin colors with the face of a pug. She shot him a look of extreme dislike and stepped back, crossing her arms over her middle.
"And, of course, that means that you will partner Miss Farrell, Mr. Zabini," Professor Snape continued, crooking his finger at a tall, handsome boy over near Harry and the Parkinson girl. With a bored, long-suffering look on his face, he crossed the room and took up a position to my left.
"Spread out!" Snape barked to the rest of the class, apparently pleased with the new partnerships. "You will take turns. One student will perform the Disarming Charm. Their opponent will attempt to counter it with the Repercussion Charm, which, as you should know, if you did the assigned reading, turns most minor hexes, jinxes, and charms back on the person who cast the spell. Then you will switch. Understood?" He turned to retreat back to his desk. "You may begin."
"Er, Professor," I began, thinking I should at least raise the problem of my little . . . handicap when it came to performing spells of any kind, "I'm not so sure I should -"
"Yes, I'm aware of your . . . difficulty,
Miss Farrell," he interrupted me silkily. "And I refuse to coddle you. You will perform this and any other spell I require to my satisfaction or you will leave this class. Perhaps there is room for you with the first years, if you are not capable."
Ignoring the indignant expression on my face, he swept back to the front of the room.
I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at his retreating back. I am not three years old, I am not three years old,
I chanted silently.
Too bad. Back then, I didn't have any problems like this - my only ambition was to grow up to be the Pink Power Ranger, and sticking out my tongue was a perfectly acceptable avenue for expressing my displeasure.
Life was good.
But I digress.
I sighed and turned to face my partner. He was looking at me like one might look at a snail slithering across one's path - that is to say, with an expression of minor annoyance and repulsion.
Goody. Not only am I a failure as a witch, but my mere presence is repugnant to my peers.
"Ready?" Zabini drawled, raising his wand. Without waiting for a reply, he brandished it at me. The force of his spell blew into me like a train, knocking me off my feet. My wand flew up into the air, clattering to the ground to rest on the floor behind me.
I fumbled around for my wand, clenched it tightly in my fist, and clambered slowly to my feet, shooting daggers out of my eyes at my partner. All around us, wands were flying. A Hufflepuff girl disarmed Mandy, and her wand shot off to her left and beaned a Gryffindor boy who I thought I remembered was called Seamus in the face. He yelped, and she retrieved her wand with an apologetic smile. Kevin was partnering Malfoy; he had successfully turned the Slytherin's spell back on its slimy caster and, to my great amusement, every time Malfoy reached for his wand, it skittered across the floor just out of his reach, evading his grasping fingers. Malfoy looked ready to rend Kevin's limbs from his body with his bare hands. I caught Kevin's eye and he shrugged innocently and mouthed, "What? It's not my fault the stupid git can't hold on to his wand,"
all the while directing Malfoy's wand around the room with his own, hidden behind his back.
Repressing a giggle, I directed my attention back to Zabini, who was watching me with a fastidious expression in his eyes, his nose turned up so far his head was practically at 90 degrees to his neck.
"Are you going to cast a spell, or am I going to have to do all the work?" he inquired lazily, picking at the manicured fingers on his left hand.
I hesitated, and he shrugged. "Fine, then."
Before I could raise my wand, he hit me again with the Disarming Charm. This is getting old,
I thought, as I felt my wand wrenched from my fingers and the world seemed to turn on its axis. I gritted my teeth and braced myself for impact with the hard, stone floor.
It didn't help. You'd think that with all my experience tripping, stumbling, slipping, and otherwise falling victim to the vicious force of gravity, I'd have learned how to fall properly. Apparently not. I cushioned the blow with my face. More specifically, I cushioned the blow with my nose.
I wasn't sure how I'd managed to do a complete 180 in midair in order to perform said nose dive, but as curious as I was, I wasn't all that keen on repeating the experiment for scientific purposes. I issued a muffled shriek - stemming more from rage than from pain, though my nose was throbbing fit to burst - into the unyielding stone and fumbled around for my wand. Once I had it securely in my grip, I shot to my feet, determined to throw every hex I knew at the smirking Slytherin across from me, consequences be damned.
I'm fairly certain steam was spewing from my ears.
I thrust my wand toward Zabini, every muscle in my body tense with anticipation. He stepped back into a defensive stance, one leg forward, his wand at the ready.
Adrenaline was coursing through my body. My heart was pounding in my ears. I was practically spitting, I was so incensed. The only thought in my head was, This smug little Slytherin prat is GOING DOWN.
Did I mention I've got a bit of a temper?
And so with all the power of my mind intent on decimating my partner's body into its constituent quarks and leptons, so hell-bent on smiting him from the face of the earth (or, at the very least, disarming him) that I didn't even speak the spell out loud, I sent Expelliarmus screaming toward Zabini.
In the split second before the spell left my wand, I saw his mouth forming the beginnings of the counterspell, but before he finished, my charm hit. There was a tremendous boom, and I swear I felt the room shudder. Then, it was as if all the bones in my body suddenly liquefied; my limbs turned to sludge, and I felt myself sag like a spineless rag doll. I slumped to the floor, my ears buzzing, a white light shining behind my lowered lids.
I woke to the rather disconcerting sight of a wand aimed at my head. Professor Snape was crouched in front of me, brandishing his wand so close to my face that I practically had to go cross-eyed to see the point. I blinked, and, hand shaking, he slowly withdrew his wand.
"What on Earth was the meaning of that little display, Miss Farrell?" he questioned. His tone was as icy as before, but now there was an undercurrent of something else . . . a quivering sort of wariness beneath the glacial freeze.
I slowly raised myself onto my elbows, propping myself up in a sitting position. Harry dropped to his knees beside me. "Dublin, are you OK?"
Mr. Potter," Snape barked. "Miss Farrell. Explain yourself. Now.
I took a deep, shuddering breath. "I . . . I don't know what to . . . what happened?"
The professor rose and wordlessly moved out of my line of sight. Propping myself up a bit more, I swept my eyes around the classroom.
That was the only word I could think of to describe the scene before me.
The other students were clustered behind me, whispering nervously. A few had singed robes; the Parkinson girl had a small cut over her eye that was bleeding sluggishly.
I can't say I was all that sorry for that.
The pile of desks was gone. In its place was a mass of splinters and dust. One lone, sad, jagged bit recognizable as the remnants of a table leg sat on top, identifying what the mound of rubble used to be. Behind the desks, there was a . . . a . . .
I blinked three times before I was sure of what I was seeing.
A hole. In the wall. Approximately three meters tall, crumbling around the edges. As I watched, a shower of stone dust trickled down to the ground, dusting a pile of rubble in the opening of the gaping aperture.
"Your spell glanced off Mr. Zabini, reduced twenty-five solid oak desks to dust, and blew a three meter hole in a stone wall thirty centimeters thick," Professor Snape informed me icily. "You will explain yourself. Now.
What spell did you cast?"
I couldn't tear my eyes away from the hole in the wall. "I . . . I . . ." My quivering lips couldn't seem to form the words. I moistened them - or tried to; my mouth was as dry as the Sahara - and forced my gaze over to the professor.
He was still towering over me, his arms folded neatly across his chest. Despite his outward presentation of sanguinity, though, I detected a slight hitch in his breath that belied his agitation. "Well
"Expelliarmus," I whispered.
"What did you say, Miss Farrell?" he demanded, a dark look flashing across his face.
"Ex-Expelliarmus," I repeated, a bit louder this time.
"Do not lie to me," he hissed. He thrust a ramrod-straight finger in the direction of the wall (or, more accurately, the crumbling orifice that used to be a wall) and the pulverulent pile of desks. "The Disarming Charm does not do this. Even you, a home-schooled, untutored, magical neophyte, must know that. What did you cast
"Expelliarmus," I repeated, a hint of defiance in my quavering voice.
OK, I know it probably wasn't the time to have an attitude - I had, after all, just destroyed a whole classroom full of furniture and blown a whole in the very walls of our hallowed educational institution - but he was basically calling me a liar. And I guess I have to admit that I find occasion to fib every once in a while -- but this wasn't one of those times.
Cross my heart.
At that moment, as I was contemplating ramming my wand up Professor Snape's rather large right nostril (hey, it wasn't doing me much good as I'd been using it -- maybe it was time to consider other uses for the thing), the door to the classroom swung open and Professor McGonagall swept into the room.
"That was an inordinate amount of noise, even for one of your lessons, Severus . . ." she began, frowning at Snape. She froze just past the threshold, however, and didn't finish her thought, her mouth moving noiselessly as she took in the scene around her.
Her eyes wide as saucers, she swiveled to glare at Professor Snape. "What in heaven's name happened in here, Severus?"
Snape narrowed his eyes at me. "That is precisely what I am trying to ascertain, Minerva. Miss Farrell appears to have cast a dangerous, advanced spell that is responsible for this destruction, but she refuses to tell me exactly what spell she used."
"I told you it was Expelliarmus," I interjected, trying not to sound sullen.
'Cause I swear I wasn't. Sullen, I mean. Not one bit. That would be wrong, considering the circumstances. I believe when one has just decimated half the contents of an entire classroom, the proper emotion to express is contrition.
Professor McGonagall strode over to me, frowning intently. "Expelliarmus, Miss Farrell? You're quite sure?"
"This is ridiculous," Snape hissed. "Look around you, Minerva. The Disarming Charm does not have these kinds of repercussions. There is a hole
in the wall, for Merlin's sake."
"That's enough Severus." Professor McGonagall held up a hand to forestall any further objections from the irate Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. "Do you really think, given the circumstances, that this is all that unbelievable? For goodness' sake, the girl has had next to no training in wandwork at all! Do you really think she possesses the skills necessary to cast a . . . what did you say? A dangerous, advanced spell?"
Snape sputtered indignantly. "Who is to say . . . Clearly the Disarming Charm does not usually manifest . . . You can't blame me for being suspicious, Minerva. How do we know -"
"I think, perhaps, that we had best take Miss Farrell to the Hospital Wing," Professor McGonagall interrupted him. She turned to face the group of students clustered in the back of the room. "This lesson is dismissed. You are free to go."
Slowly, they gathered their things and slipped out of the room in twos and threes, whispering intently all the while.
Harry, Hermione, Ron, Mandy, and Kevin remained behind. Professor McGonagall surveyed the group and nodded sharply. "Mr. Entwhistle, if you will kindly escort Miss Farrell to the Hospital Wing, perhaps the rest of us can get started on cleaning up this mess."
Kevin nodded in assent and walked over to me, extending a hand to help me up off the floor. I took it and lurched to my feet; my limbs still felt about as sturdy as Licorice Wands, and a faint buzzing was sounding in my ears, but other than that, I felt OK.
"Really, I'm fine," I protested, shaking my head vehemently. "Please don't send me back to the hospital."
Even I was conscious of the pleading note in my voice.
"Look, I'm absolutely fine." I spun around in a circle, jumped twice, and extended my arms, then demonstrated my prowess at the touch-your-nose test. "Please," I begged. "If you send me back she'll never let me go."
I was fairly certain I heard a snort emanating from Kevin's direction. "Oh, you think it's funny?" I snapped, whirling to face him. He schooled his face into a blank expression and shook his head quickly, his dark locks falling down into his eyes. "
You try forcing down two gallons of toxic, foul headache cure a day, and we'll see what you'd do to stay out of Madame Pomfrey's reach,"
"Well, that was a rather impressive display, Miss Farrell," Professor McGonagall noted dryly. "Your head is feeling fine, I take it?"
I nodded vigorously. "Yes, Professor. Just fine."
And it was, I realized with a bit of a shock. No pounding. No throbbing. No lightning bolts of pain shooting through my cerebral cortex.
Hallelujah. It was a miracle.
The professor frowned pensively. "In that case, perhaps Mr. Entwhistle will be kind enough to take you to my office. I will meet you there when we have set this room to rights."
I clapped my hands together. "Thank you,
Professor." I scuttled over to the door, determined to get out of there before she reassessed. "Get a move on,
" I mouthed at Kevin through a forced smile.
He snorted again, but when he saw the look on my face, he quickly strode over and opened the door for me. "Thank you," I muttered, then, quick as a flash, I shot out the door and down the hall, Kevin trailing after me.
He caught up to me after a few paces, his long legs making up the distance easily. "Whoa, Turbo. You can slow down now. I really don't think she's coming after us."
I shot him a dark look. "I'm not willing to take that chance."
He laughed. "Someone's feeling a tad melodramatic today."
I screeched to a halt and whirled on the ball of my foot to face him. "OK. Let's get something straight," I spat, punctuating each acerbic word with a sharp jab to his chest. "I've been at Hogwarts for two weeks now. More than half of that time has been spent either unconscious or trapped in a hospital bed praying to be. I've forced down more of that scorching, god-awful orange headache glop than can reasonably be defended under the Geneva Convention's rules for prisoner treatment. I will not fall back within that sadistic little tyrant's reach. I went through hell over there, do you understand? Hell.
I served my time. I'm not going back."
Kevin backed away, the corners of his mouth twitching, and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. "Right. Roger that. Shall we stop dallying and get a move on, then?"
I threw my hands up in disgust and stomped off down the hallway. He trailed after me, chuckling to himself.
We traversed a few corridors in this way - with me leading, and Kevin following behind, unsuccessfully trying to suppress a near-constant stream of chuckling as he watched me grow progressively more and more confused. I finally paused at a three-way juncture, staring hopelessly at each passageway.
"Er . . ."
Damn it. I had no earthly idea which hallway to take. I wasn't even sure that any of them would take me in the remotely right direction. But I wasn't about to admit to Kevin that I was lost. After a millisecond of careful deliberation, I turned up my nose and set off down the passage on the left at a determined clip. I stopped when I heard Kevin's cheerful voice echoing from the entrance to the corridor. "I don't think you want to go that way."
I whirled to face him. "And why is that?"
He ambled up to me. "Well, that one will take you directly to the entrance to the Slytherin dungeons. And considering you've just sent one of their number to the Hospital Wing, out so cold even Professor Snape couldn't revive him, I'm guessing you're not all that popular among that constituency right now."
"Oh." I curled my fingers almost reflexively around my robes to keep them from trembling, clenching the fabric until I couldn't feel the tips any more. I hadn't even thought to ask what had happened to Zabini, but, looking back, he hadn't been one of the students huddled in the back of the classroom when I woke up. "Oh my god. I feel . . . D'you think . . ." I trailed off, not sure I wanted to hear the answer, then plowed on. "He'll be all right, won't he?"
Kevin must've got a good look at the expression of guilty horror on my face, because his smile faded. "Don't worry, Dublin. I'm sure he'll be fine. He was still breathing, and all, just unconscious. There was nothing else wrong. Well," he amended, the corners of his mouth creeping up into a grin again, "he got a right foul bump on his head where he hit the floor, but the smarmy git deserved that, OK? And if he had knocked you over one more time without letting you defend yourself, I'm fairly certain Harry would've hit him with something a lot worse that Expelliarmus. So really, you did the scumbag a favor."
I felt a smile spreading unbidden across my face. A warm, fuzzy feeling crept into the pit of my stomach, nearly making me shiver; my cheeks turned hot. I shook my head vigorously. What the hell was going on with me? I don't think of myself as particularly sadistic. Normally, the news that I've just hospitalized one of my peers (even a pretentious git like Zabini) doesn't exactly elicit happy emotions in me.
At least, I didn't think it would. I couldn't say that I'd ever had peers before, so really, I wasn't sure. But I could safely assert that I wasn't typically excited by injury, gore, death, mayhem, or carnage in any of its other assorted forms.
So why was my face lit up like a bloody Christmas tree?
Kevin looked me over, a knowing grin dancing across his lips. "Oh, bloody hell. You're going to be useless for a while, I can tell. Come on. McGonagall's office is this way."
Kevin practically dragged my limp, unprotesting body through a whirlwind progression of corridors, passages, and doorways. I was barely cognizant of my surroundings; they blurred together into one indistinguishable mess of brick and stone. Kevin's words streamed through my head like a song on repeat; over and over again, I heard him say, "If he had knocked you over one more time without letting you defend yourself, I'm fairly certain Harry would've hit him with something a lot worse that Expelliarmus. Harry would've hit him with something a lot worse than Expelliarmus. Harry would've hit him with something a lot worse than Expelliarmus."
You would think it would get old, repeating those same eleven words over and over again, but it really didn't. Each time I felt a tiny rush in the pit of my stomach.
Suddenly, I stumbled to a halt, my mental replay interrupted by . . . by something solid barring my path. I shook my head, trying to clear the euphoric fog swirling around my brain and identify the rather daunting obstacle in that seemingly required more than my perfunctory attention, but my head didn't seem to want to shake. I felt something unyielding and grainy rub against my cheek.
Kevin's bright, infectious chuckle permeated my thoughts. "Dublin. Dublin.
Anybody in there? That's a door. I'm sure you've seen one before. You tug on the little knobby thing there, and it opens, just like magic. But your method will probably work, I suppose. If you stick to your current course of action, you'll likely have burrowed through it with your forehead in about, oh, say ten years."
I blinked, and raised my head. I was nose to . . . well, solid oak plank, with a heavy door. I took a step back and scrutinized my enemy. A neat brass plaque hanging just above eye level proclaimed, Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress
I grinned at Kevin. "Right. You mean you don't usually open doors like this yourself? Come on."
He winced. "I'm rather attached to my brain cells, thanks."
I shrugged. Ravenclaws. So protective of their precious cognitive function. "Suit yourself. But all the cool kids are doing it."
He shook his head ruefully. "I'm sure. Listen, I'd better get going - I've got Ancient Runes, and I'm probably already late. You'll be all right, yeah?"
"Oh, yeah. I've still got a few neurons left, I think."
He grinned. "That's my girl." He took off down the hallway, tossing a casual wave over his shoulder, and I pushed open the door - the conventional way, this time - and sat down in McGonagall's office to wait.
It didn't take long. I had just about ten minutes to devote to an extensive examination of my rather haggard - I discovered - split ends before McGonagall swept through the doorway. She sunk behind her desk with a massive sigh and peered at me over the rims of her thick black glasses.
I stared back. I am nothing if not a champion in the art of the unsettling stare. It's another one of my incredibly useful gifts.
With another sigh, she blinked and lowered her eyes.
Damn. Focus, Dublin, focus,
I berated myself. She's probably about to kick you out of school. After all, you did just assault a student, blow a massive hole in the classroom wall, and reduce nearly thirty solid oak desks to splinters. Maybe you should've let her win that one.
Curse my competitive nature.
I sat in silence, chewing my lip nervously, and focused my gaze squarely on the floor. Much, much safer.
Still, Professor McGonagall didn't say anything. The only sound in the room was the scratching noise of a quill scraping across parchment. I chanced a glance upward; the professor was scribbling something furiously, a frown creasing her brow.
We sat this way for what was probably only about five minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. Finally, the scratching sound ceased. Professor McGonagall carefully laid the quill down on her desk and rolled the parchment into a tight scroll. She waved her wand and, with a loud squelch that practically echoed in the pervasive silence of the room, a blob of wax shot out of the tip and affixed itself to the missive. She waved her wand again and it floated off her desk, hovering right around eye level. "Hermione Granger, please," she ordered. The scroll bobbed in the air as if to signal its assent and drifted silently over to the door. McGonagall strode over and pushed the portal open, and the message bobbed off down the corridor.
That finished, she folded her hands on her desk and looked up at me once more.
"My goodness, Miss Farrell, what are we going to do with you?" she sighed.
"Er . . . slap me sharply on the wrist and make me swear I'll never, ever do it again?" I suggested hopefully.
She fixed me with an irritated look powerful enough to peel paint.
"Right then. I'll just sit quietly and let you talk," I mumbled contritely.
The professor pulled off her glasses and rubbed them clean on her sleeve. "You present a singularly unusual problem, Miss Farrell, the likes of which Hogwarts has never seen before. You have incredible potential, and vast reserves of power at your disposal -- that much any wizard or witch worth their wand can tell just by looking at you. But you are unschooled in the ways of magic. Even a moderately powerful first year without a strong grip on his powers presents a danger until he can bring them under his control, and you . . . you are certainly far beyond moderately powerful. When one considers that your magic has been bottled up years longer than normal . . . It has been allowed to feed off itself, and a tremendous . . . pressure, I suppose is the best word, has built up inside you. Casting a spell is like punching a hole in a dam - your magic bursts out of you with extraordinary force, overpowering you and eluding the small measure of control you have learned to exert on it thus far."
I nodded cautiously.
"We need to find a way to relieve some of that pressure and help you bend your magic to your will. It is wild and unpredictable, and now that you've cast a spell or two, we suspect that the situation will only get worse until you can bring it totally under your control. It has been awakened, so to speak, and Professor Dumbledore is of the opinion that it will grow progressively more and more . . . unruly until you master it for good. Therefore, time is of the essence."
She paused. "This is mostly conjecture, Miss Farrell, because we've never seen powers like yours before. They are completely unprecedented. But Professor Dumbledore believes he has a shrewd impression of the course your magic's development will take, and his shrewd impressions have an uncanny reputation for accuracy.
"To this end, the Headmaster has excused you from all regular lessons until, by his estimation, you have a firm grip on your magic. Instead, you will study theory - first and foremost the theory behind magical control - and attend regular lessons with Professor Dumbledore and myself in addition to your time with the Head Boy and Girl and the Prefects. In a controlled environment, we will attempt to help you temper some of the force behind your spells so you can exert stronger control over them."
I breathed a sigh of relief. They weren't kicking me out, and as an added bonus, I didn't have to go back to Defense Against the Dark Arts until I got my powers under my control. Hallelujah! No more Snape.
Professor McGonagall frowned and placed her spectacles back on the tip of her nose. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you, Miss Farrell, that you are not to use magic without a prefect, Head Boy or Girl, or teacher present. Such a reckless act would pose a danger not only to yourself but also to everyone else in this castle. You must master your temper. Are we clear?"
Damn. Someone must've told her the circumstances behind my little catastrophe in Snape's class. I nodded sheepishly. "Perfectly clear, Professor."
She wasn't going to have to tell me twice. I still got a shiver up the back of my spine when I thought about what I had done. What if my spell had hit Zabini square on? I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that there wouldn't be much more left of him than there was of the desks heaped in the front of the classroom. My wand would be strictly relegated to my back pocket at all times.
"Good. I believe you are scheduled to meet with Mr. Potter tomorrow afternoon?"
"Good. You may spend the morning perusing these for helpful information." She flicked her wand, and a pile of parchment nearly ten centimeters thick landed in front of me with a dull thud. A cloud of dust rose up from the sheaves, filling my nose and mouth. I coughed lightly and nodded, my eyes watering.
"That's all for now, Miss Farrell," Professor McGonagall said, waving me off.
I stood and picked up the pile of parchment and staggered toward the door, hampered by its weight. I choked back a sneeze as a few more dust particles invaded my nostrils, and shifted the massive pile awkwardly to one arm so I could fumble the door open with the other.
I was a few steps out the door when I heard her call after me. "This is a very serious matter, Miss Farrell. We are all depending on you to be diligent. Do not take this lightly."
I pictured Zabini lying unconscious in a hospital bed. I didn't particularly like the pretentious little snot, but I wasn't too keen on repeating the afternoon's events. "No chance of that," I mumbled under my breath.
I'm terribly, terribly sorry this took so long. Please feel free to rips me to bits if you like. I know I deserve it. I shall try very, very hard to be more timely with the next chapter. That said, I hope you enjoyed this one, those of you who stuck with me through that abysmally long wait. Please, let me know what you think! Comments, questions, suggestions, criticism, and other assorted random thoughts are appreciated and encouraged :)