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One Step Ahead by quicksilver
Chapter 2 : First Class
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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I was the first into Charms the next day- our first day of classes.  Unlike the other first-years, I was up before 7 and had finished eating breakfast by 7:45, giving me plenty of time to find the Charms classroom for our 9 o'clock class.  As I didn't want to be an hour early, I went and found the rest of my classrooms, too, still coming back with a good ten minutes to spare.  Being first in let me choose my own seat- in the front row, so I would appear an eager student, but way off to the side, so I wouldn't be called on or noticed.  Plus, my muggle-school experience had taught me that the seats in the front but off to the side were most often left alone, as they were too obvious for prankers and slackers but too off to the side for serious students- it was hard to read the board from there.  Only the unlucky late students ever sat there- or, in my case, the student who wished to be left alone.

Opening my school bag, I pulled out my wand, my new first-year charms book, and my father's fourth-year charms book.  I was planning to study during class, because I'd be darned if I was going to let school get in my way of learning.


Weirdest sentence ever there, but it's true.


The Charms teacher, an ancient, short man by the name of Professor Flitwick, wasn't there yet.  Glancing around to make sure nobody else was in the room, I flipped open my dad's book to where I had left off on the train and started casting spells silently on objects on Professor Flitwick's desk.  An apple turned yellow-orange under my command, then neon pink.  A quill spun around in circles, out of control.  Attendence lists rearranged themselves.  Little things, but they were practice, plus they would be amusing later on when the Professor tried to bring class to order.


Finally other students started filing in, clustered in little groups already.  It seemed like we had the class with the Ravenclaws- blue and bronze ties mixed in among red and gold.  Everyone was sitting further up in the class, closer to front and center, typical firstie behavior.  The Ravenclaws were closest to the front, with Rose Weasley dragging her cousin Albus into the seat next to her.  Sam Catly slid into the seat behind them, looking ruffled and grumpy, his robes fastened crookedly and wrinkled, a half-eaten muffin in his hand, hair sticking up at odd angles.  I'd be willing to bet that he slept in a little too long.


"All right, everybody, find a seat, sit down, sit down." Professor Flitwick hurried in as the bell rang, closing the door behind him.  I hurried to hide my dad's charms book under my desk as students swarmed in a confused fashion to find a desk.  Thankfully, nobody sat by me as Flitwick started class, standing on his desk to take roll call.


"Allen, Sophie!"


The brown-haired Ravenclaw waved her hand.


Flitwick marked her as present and continued with the role call with Burkley, Samantha, then Catly, Laurel- but she wasn't there.  Samuel Catly spun around, looking puzzled for a second, then shrugged and went back to talking to Albus.  Nice to know the kid's so concerned about his sister.


Gazing around, Flitwick continued with roll call.  As soon as he finished, there was a general rustling around as the Ravenclaws pulled out quills, ink, and parchment, most likely to write down every word that came out of Flitwick's mouth, even if it was only a friendly introduction to the class-


Oh. Guess I'm wrong.  It would seem that most Ravenclaws can distinguish between useful information and other stuff.  It's only Rose Weasley who is writing down every freaking word that comes out of  Flitwick's mouth.  Everybody else is just listening- well, except me.  I'm people-watching.  But I don't need to hear what Flitwick is saying- my grandma taught me pretty much everything.  The lady could have started her own small school if she hadn't vanished.  She knew everything about magic, and she had style- some of which was helpful in learning magic, some of which was not.  Meditating was one of her favorite things- it helped me to focus.  Even when I was very young, she would have me focus on things, to try to manipulate them.  It helped a lot.  She's the only reason I've gotten so good with magic. 


Once she told me that using magic is a bit like using water pipes in a house that hasn't been in use for a while.  At first, the pipes work slowly, not used to being in use.  Likewise, it's hard at first to get the magic to come out right, on command.  But gradually, with use, both water and magic come more freely.


"And now I am going to start you all off with making a feather float above your desks- the charm is Wingardium Leviosa, and you should move your wand in a swish and flick-"


Levitating things? That's so first year-


Oh, wait. Right. There's a reason for that- it is first year.  And none of the others in here, I think, have ever done any spell before, or not on purpose, at least.  There's a difference.  Having lots of uncontrolled magic doesn't predict that the wand magic will be as easy and frequent.  My magic, for instance, was always quiet, but it took very little effort to bring it out.  My grandma- who loves analogies- said most people's magic is like fireworks when they're young, spontaneous and random.  My magic, for whatever reason, was more of a reservoir.  It was there when I needed it, and much easier to tap into.


Flitwick continued to talk on about the spell- making sure everybody knew the spell and the wand movements for the forty-third time, and the rest of the class imitated him, droning the spell in a monotone, waving their wands in the same pattern.  I hastily picked up my wand and imitated everybody else after Flitwick sent a look in my direction.  I had forgotten that I was supposed to act like part of the class, not like an audience.  It doesn't make faking it any more fun, though.  I wish I could just sit back and practice my own magic, like at Gran's house.  Where I didn't have to worry about being found out.  Where I could be my real self.  Hogwarts wasn't all that different from home when you really got down to it.  Sure, the food was better, and the beds were more comfortable, and there were other kids my age- but the other kids were unlikely to be able to understand me, the real me, the teachers would just be more rule-enforcing figures that I would have to hide from, and classes would take up the majority of my practice time.  And there would be homework, most likely easy for me, but essay writing takes time nevertheless.


I finally snapped back to reality as Flitwick sent feathers onto each of the desks and told us to begin.  Now I would have to decide- should I do the spell right away, or should I pretend to struggle, to fit in?  I weighed the options- faking would make me fit in better, as nobody else had gotten the spell yet.  Rose Weasley was trying hard, though, her face turning red in frustration as she said the spell over and over.  However, I wasn't in the mood for pretending.  My success would get points for Gryffindor. I might possibly have time to work from my dad's old spellbook.  My find made up, I flicked my wand at the feather, and it soared into the air.  Easy as taking candy from a baby- not that I've ever tried it, but if I did, it would be that easy.


The sole flying feather caught Flitwick's attention quickly, which wasn't really a surprise.  I had been making it spin in complex little circles, using one of the fourth-year spells.


I wasn't doing it to get attention, I swear.  I was just bored.


"Look here, class! Ms. Paré has done it! Oh, my!" Flitwick sang as he made his way over to my desk.  His eyes widened as he took in the tight, controlled movements of the feather, which Wingardium Leviosa most certainly did not produce.  "Oh, my....oh, my!"


Now everybody's staring. Damn it. Don't they know it's not polite to stare?

Especially the redhead over there. Rose Weasley.  Her eyes went wide with astonishment- how dare someone get the spell before her-before narrowing into a furious glare.

Flitwick doesn't know what to think, I can tell.  He's stuck between thinking that I'm doing the twirls by accident and wondering if I could possibly be doing it on purpose. I can tell- his eyes are wide, darting back and forth between my face and the feather. My most innocent expression is in place, eyes wide, happy smile on face. I let the smile fade slightly like anyone else would at seeing the look on Flitwick's face.  He quickly pulled himself together and smiled again, but this time it's a bit forced.  "Ten points to Gryffindor-!"


The classroom door suddenly swung open as a slender, brown-haired girl slipped in, trying to look inconspicuous.  Too bad for her, it didn't work- but it was perfect for me.  Everybody swung around to stare at the girl.  Everybody, that is, except Rose Weasley.  She was still sending me a nasty glare, jealousy etched upon her face.  If looks could kill, I'd have been dead a while ago. Wow. way to blow things out of proportion. I pretended not to notice, instead looking at the girl who had just come in.


She was medium-tall for a first year, willowy, with shoulder-length brown curls.  Her hair was pulled back from her face with what looked like a blue-green gauzy scarf.  Her robes were perfectly tailored, accenting her thin body, but not clingy.  She looked slightly abashed at coming in so late, but wasn't blushing.  Suddenly I recognized her- it was Laurel Catly.


"Ms. Catly! So nice of you to join us at last!" Flitwick cried, looking peeved.  Laurel looked slightly uncomfortable.


"Sorry, Professor," she said, fiddling with a curl.  "I got really lost- some ghost pointed me in the wrong direction."  She glared at a group of Ravenclaws who were snickering.  They promptly stopped.


"Peeves," Flitwick said, nodding.  "In the future, ignore him.  He is a troublemaker.  But for now, you must catch up on classwork.  We are doing the Levitation spell.  You should sit here, with Ms. Paré- she can help you learn the spell."  I jumped, hearing my name, then pulled a smile onto my face. Drat. Now I won't be able to work on my own stuff. And I'll have to actually face human interaction- something that, until this point, I had managed to avoid.


"Hey," Laurel said as she swung into the seat next to me. Her curls bounced as she moved.  She dropped her bag on the floor with a thud. "I can't believe I was late to class on the first day!  First I slept in, then I got lost on the way down to the Great Hall, then I only had time to grab some food, and I haven't gotten to eat it yet because that blasted, bloody excuse of a ghost gave me the wrong directions!"  She stopped, looking upset.  "Do you think Professor Flitwick would notice if I ate now?"


"Not unless you have something really messy or obnoxious," I told her, feeling slightly sorry for her.  "Like Canary Creams, for example.  Or ice cream."


Laurel snorted, trying not to laugh.  "Who would eat Canary Creams for breakfast?"


"I don't know," I responded, trying to keep a straight face. "It could be a hidden addiction you're dealing with for all I know."


She clapped a hand over her mouth, muffling her laughter, eyes bright with laughter.  Finally she had calmed down enough to talk again.  "No such addiction. I'm sorry to disappoint." She giggled again. "But what about that spell?"


Oh. Duh. "Right- the spell is Wingardium Leviosa, and you move your arm like so-" I demonstrated, flicking my wand.  The feather rose again, hovering evenly- no extra tricks this time.


"Right," Laurel said, looking amused.  "I'm guessing that I'm probably supposed to actually say the spell, though?"


I stared at her for a second before clapping a hand to my forehead.  "I am such an idiot," I grumbled to myself. I usually mutter spells under my breath, but with first-year spells, my gran had progressed to teaching me how to cast them soundlessly.  Still, it was a stupid mistake- not saying the spell out loud when I was supposed to be being an example to someone else.


Laurel laughed again and tried the spell herself.  "Wingardium Leviosa!"  she sang, waving her wand enthusiastically.  The feather shot up into the air with the force of a Firebolt and promptly caught on fire with a slight explosion, sending sparks in all directions.  "Whoops.  What did I do wrong?"  Laurel's eyes were wide as she took in the smoking remains of the feather.  Several others in the class were giving us slightly frightened looks.  Apparently we're coming off as a bit crazy.  Or dangerous.  Or both.


"Professor Flitwick, sir?" Laurel called hesitantly, raising her hand.  "We- er- need another feather."  Professor Flitwick hurried over with a handful of feathers, placing several on our desk before hurrying away across the room.  Apparently he doesn't trust us- well, Laurel- not to blow up another feather.  Laurel looked dubious, but pushed most of the feathers over to one side so she would only blow one up at a time.


I mean, so she would only levitate one at a time. I have to trust that she'll learn, after all.


"Wingardium Leviosa!" I watched her carefully this time, noting her slightly extravagant movements, which this time included a slight flick outward.  The feather did the same thing, shooting upwards and exploding, except this time at an angle, spraying sparks over the people at the desk next to us.  They gave us nervous looks and edged away.  I briefly toyed with the idea of setting up a shield charm to protect everyone else, but decided not to.  Why prove that I was extra-powerful if I didn't need to?  Plus the sparks weren't doing any harm- by the time they got down to the other students, they were too small to do any real damage.  A shield charm wouldn't make any real difference.


Laurel made a frustrated face as the third feather blew up too.  "What am I doing wrong?" she asked, waving her arms around.  I ducked- she still had her wand in one hand.


"Well, you are making it do something, at least," I said cautiously, hoping I wouldn't upset her.  "The feather floated- it just kind of did some extra stuff, too."


Laurel cracked her knuckles, nodding gravely.  "Yes. Right, then.  So how do I not do the extra stuff?"  She tucked her wand behind her ear and leaved forward, hands clasped, eyes narrowed and focused.  So she was serious about not blowing things up.


I thought for a second before replying to her question.  "You might want to tone down the wand movements- they don't need to be so intense or extravagant.  But- just for safety reasons, you know- could you see if you could get the feather over Rose Weasley's head?"  I pointed to the red-haired girl, whose face was slowly turning red in frustration as she repeated the spell over and over, trying to get her feather to float. It wouldn't move.


That may or may not be because it has a spell-repelling charm on it, but then again, I wouldn't know.


Laurel grinned.  "So you don't like her either?"  She narrowed her eyes, focusing again as she prepared to cast the spell. "Wingardium Leviosa!"   she snarled, taking care to flick the wand in Rose's direction.  What? Rose was asking for it.  She's been giving me- and us- deadly glares all class.


The feather shot forward with a slightly scary whistling sound, aimed for right above Rose's head.  Focused on her work, she didn't notice until the feather exploded into flames, perfectly positioned above her head.  She shrieked, her hands flailing around wildly.  The sparks weren't even coming near her- Laurel's aim was perfect.  And I had a sneaking suspicion that Laurel hadn't even tried to improve her spell that time.  Nice. It would seem like I had found a friend.  Laurel was smirking evilly as she watched the chaos Rose was causing out of the corner of her eye, playing innocently with her wand.  Her eyes, I noticed, had turned from chocolate brown to sparkly purple.  What the...? Oh.


Are you a Metamorphagus?" I blurted out without thinking.  


Laurel turned to me, her eyes wide, the same vibrant purple. She looked shocked.  "How did you know?"  She sounded surprised, but not upset like I would be if I was found out by someone I'd only known for several minutes.


"Your eyes," I said, pointing.  "They're purple."


She grinned. "Drat." She closed her eyes, concentrating, then opened them again.  They were now bright brown again.  "I've gotten the rest of my appearance under control so it doesn't change unless I'm really upset, but that means I have less control over my eyes."  She shrugged slightly.  "At least it isn't my hair turning bright purple.  I don't think I could get away with that."  She smiled, her eyes sparkling.  "I've always been the one with crazy magic.  Sam's not a Metamorphagus, and he's truly terrible at magic.  I mean, he can't do anything- and I still think blowing things up is at least a step in the right direction.  I mean, at least I'm doing something, right?"


I laughed quietly, trying not to get Rose's attention.  I didn't want her to hate me more than she already did.  "Of course.  And you will get the spell- didn't I say something about a little less intensity?"


"You did," Laurel laughed.  "I was just making sure that it would actually explode over Rose, not just go over and hover.  Here goes nothing- Wingardium Leviosa!"  Laurel waved her wand, a bit carelessly, obviously going for the furthest from intense.  I held my breath without even realizing it, my eyes glued on the feather...and it lifted into the air, rocking slightly, before fluttering back down to the desk in a slow, wide spiral, dusting the desk's surface before settling again.  My breath came out with a whoosh, and I looked up at Laurel.


"It worked."


"Yeah," Laurel responded, eyes wide.  "But it stopped working after a second- I can do better.  Wingardium Leviosa!"  She was a little less careless this time, deliberate yet not totally focused.  This time the spell worked- the feather floated up and held, only moving when Laurel directed it with her wand.  I could see Laurel grinning- and suddenly her smile grew impish, and her eyes turned purple again.  I wondered what she was going to do.  Already I was starting to be able to read her- she was up to something. Glancing over her shoulder to make sure Professor Flitwick wasn't looking- he was helping some Ravenclaws in the back- Laurel stealthy moved her wand to the side, directing the feather over to the other side of the room, slowly and carefully.  I had to admit- she had good control over her wand.  The feather crept across the room, hiding behind chairs and under desks before sliding to a stop-


Right behind Laurel's brother.  It snuck out from behind a desk leg, crept up right behind Sam's ear, and wiggled.  He let out an undignified screech, clapping his hands over his ears as he jumped out of his seat, knocking over his desk in the process, causing Albus and Rose to jump up as well, knocking into their shared desk. 


"What is it? What is it?" Flitwick hurried up to the front of the room, saw the tangle of desks and chairs, and frowned.  With a flick of his wand, the furniture righted itself.  "All right- what was going on here?"


"I don't know, sir.  Something tickled my ear, and I...I...I don't know, I just was startled, I guess."  Sam's face could rival a tomato- it was flaming with embarrassment.  Rose was almost as red, from embarrassment or anger that the spell wasn't working, I don't know.  Albus just looked amused, though he soon rearranged his features into a more somber look before Rose could see him.


"That's all right, then.  Back to work, everybody," Flitwick ordered, looking around at the class.  Everybody had abandoned their work to look at the disruption, but now they hurried to settle back in their seats and pick up their wands again, still casting glances up at the front. "Ms. Weasley, where is your feather?" Flitwick asked, suddenly noticing that Rose's feather hadn't replaced itself on the desk. 




Rose's eyes widened. "I don't know, sir, it was here just a second ago..." She got up and looked around the desk, finally spotting it on the floor.  "Oh, there it is."  She started to get up from her seat, but Flitwick got to the feather first.

"Ms. Weasley- why in the world is there a spell-repelling charm on your feather?" 



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