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Chapter 2 : Learning the Ropes
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a/n: So here’s chapter 2. Not quite two months since the first- not actually as bad as I though it might have been, but not great. The problem is, aside from being too busy to write around Christmas, that this chapter was entirely unplanned- and therefore had to be written as I went. The fact that even as I write this there’s no chapter title says a lot! Therefore it’s probably not stunning, especially as it was written in widely spaced short bursts, but chapter three is basically in my head (and a little on paper) so should be easier and quicker. Keep your eyes open for it, and as always I hope you enjoy this.
Chapter 2: Learning the Ropes
Disclaimer: I own nothing except my ideas
2nd September 2014
James woke suddenly, and quickly remembered where he was. Filled with excitement again he suddenly felt totally awake and pulled back the drapes to his four-poster bed to reveal the Gryffindor first-year boys dormitory. The rising sun was streaming through the windows, but the drapes were apparently thick enough for the light not to disturb any of his roommates, who all appeared to still be sound asleep. Grabbing his watch from his bedside cabinet James realised it was no wonder- it was barely past half six. He had a brief urge to go back to bed, but decided with only an hour until breakfast began it was pointless. He quickly showered, before putting his uniform on and heading down to the common room. There were a couple of other Gryffindors there, but seeing no sign of Teddy, Victoire or any of the first-year girls, he continued out of the portrait hole.
Finding himself at the top of a seemingly endless expanse of staircases James realised he’d paid no heed to Mark the prefect’s words; he hadn’t a clue how to get to the Hall from here. ‘Good job I’ve got an hour spare,’ he thought to himself as he started to descend the stairs. It was a laborious process, as he had at least remembered Ted’s warning about trick steps and was checking each step felt totally solid before putting his weight on it. About five minutes later he found himself in a corridor he didn’t recognise, and felt sure he had gone up as many stairs as down.
“Excuse me!” he called out, as someone appeared in the corridor from around a corner ahead of him. “Sorry, I’m a first-year and I’m a bit lost, where am I? What floor is this?”
The older boy didn’t seem too sympathetic but answered anyway, “Seventh floor- Owlery’s up there, if you want to get down you either go round that corner or back that way past the Gryffindor common room.”
“Thanks,” said James without reply as the boy stalked away hurriedly. The owlery…James suddenly had a way to kill some of the time before breakfast, he could write a letter to his parents. They’d want to know he was in Gryffindor, and he damn sure wanted to tell them! The only problem was that he didn’t have any parchment with him. Deciding he could probably remember the way he hurried back to Gryffindor tower more quickly than he had come, confident in the knowledge the path was free of trick steps.
Re-entering his dormitory to find the other three all still hidden behind their drapes, James rummaged through his bag to find a piece of parchment, some ink and a quill and scrawled a quick note.
Hi Mum, Dad, Al, Lily
I woke up really early this morning- weird I know- so I thought I’d use the time before breakfast to tell you that I’m in Gryffindor! I knew I would be, but thought confirm it for you! The other new Gryffindors all seem nice; I already got to know a couple on the train, Octavia- Oliver Wood’s daughter- and a muggle-born boy called Ryan. Plus it’s nice having Victoire and Teddy around in the common room.
Anyway, I’d better leave it there- gotta try and find the owlery again before breakfast!
Returning back through the common room he saw a couple of the first-year girls, Sam and Sally, had made it down, and gave them a quick ‘good morning,’ before heading back towards where he had gotten directions from the surly boy. Continuing around the corner the boy had appeared from he saw a steep spiral staircases, which he followed up until he reached a tall, circular room- the owlery. It turned out he didn’t need to search for Ignotus, his owl flew down to meet him.
“Hello Iggy,” James said as the barn owl landed on his arm. “I haven’t got any food with me, sorry,” he told the owl as he clicked his beak impatiently, “but if you take this letter to mum and dad for me I’m sure they’ll feed you.”
Ignotus seemed a little placated by this, and let James tie the envelope to his leg without nipping his fingers, before disappearing through a hatchway.
Checking his watch and seeing he still had a good twenty minutes before the Great Hall would open for breakfast, James decided to get his bearings a bit. As it turned out he managed to do so surprisingly well, heading from the owlery, down past the library to find himself in the great hall and then heading back up the route he had used yesterday to return to the Gryffindor common room. Entering, he found it was now moderately full, and quickly glancing around located Ryan and Octavia, chatting to several of the other first-years.
“Hi guys,” he said after he’d approached the group unnoticed.
“James!” said Ryan, turning round to face. “Where have you been?”
“Exploring!” said James with a grin. “While you lot were having your extra hour of kip I found the owlery, the library, and two different routes from here to the Great Hall. No secret passages yet though unfortunately.”
“Well do you want to lead us all down to breakfast then, seeing as you’re the expert navigator?” asked Octavia dryly.
“My pleasure,” James grinned. “Are we going down now then?”
“I guess so,” said Sally Mattock.
“Yeah, it’s past half-seven,” added Lexi Williams.
“What about the others?” asked Samantha Boll, “Laura and...”
“Averus,” supplied Josh Melbury.
“There’s loads of time still,” said James, “If they’re not down by like eight fifteen then a couple of us can always come back and check they’re up.”
“Let’s go then,” said Ryan. “I’m looking forward to breakfast.”
“Surely, you’re looking forward to getting your timetable more?” Octavia questioned Ryan as they followed James, along with Sam, Sally, Lexi and Josh, out of the portrait hole. When Ryan only shrugged she persisted, “You’ve had breakfast your whole life- this is the timetable for your lessons in magic!”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the lessons,” he explained. “I’m just not that bothered what order they’re in. I’ll just follow you guys. Plus, if that dinner’s anything to go by this’ll be no ordinary breakfast.”
Unfortunately for Ryan’s stomach it did turn out that breakfast, while good by any standards, was not quite able to match the splendour of the feast of the night before. There was a limit to how exciting, toast and cereal could be, which was all most people, still full from the night before, could manage. Ryan did manage to get though a few sausages and rashers of bacon too however, impressing James and causing Octavia to keep glancing at him with a mixture of disbelief and amusement.
“Finished are you?” she asked with a grin, when Ryan finally copied the others in pushing his cleared plate towards the centre of the table.
“First day of lessons,” he replied, “nothing like a hearty breakfast to keep your energy up.”
“How much energy do you need for sitting in a classroom?” asked James. Ryan seemed not to have a good reply to this, as he simply shrugged and glanced around. The Great Hall was starting to fill up now; most students had not been as punctual to breakfast as the eager first-years.
The brief silence was interrupted by a voice from over Ryan’s shoulder- “Welcome new Gryffindors. I’m sorry I did not greet you at the feast last night, but I had important business to attend to.”
“You’re Nearly Headless Nick!” came the voice of Lexi from further down the table.
“Who?” asked Ryan quietly, turning around to look stunned at the ghost floating behind him.
“Yes, I am he,” the ghost replied to Lexi, “though I do prefer Sir Nicholas.”
“Sorry, who are you?” asked Ryan again, more audibly.
“Sir Nicholas de Mismy-Porpington, Gryffindor House ghost, at your service,” he replied. “And as I just said to the young lady, I do prefer to be called Sir Nicholas. Though,” he added, more to himself, a few seconds later, “after all these years I don’t know why I still bother.”
“Why are you called Nearly Headless Nick…Sir Nicholas?” asked Ryan, still looking awed that he was having a conversation with a ghost.
He signed heavily, “I do tire of doing this after 522 years. Still, I suppose it is no fault of yours...what is your name young sir?”
“Ryan, Ryan Davies,” he supplied.
“Well, for your delectation Ryan,” said Nick, and pulled his head askew.
“Woah…” said Ryan, and most of the new Gryffindors seemed to agree, judging by their expressions.
“I was improperly beheaded,” stated Nick, quite calmly, once he had returned his head to its correct position.
“Sounds like a good story…” said Ryan with a thinly veiled request.
“Well,” said Nick, rather huffily, ignoring Ryan, “that’s enough of that. I hope all of you will continue to provide Gryffindor house with the success it has been used to the past few years. Three of the last four house cups,” he finished proudly.
“But alas, no Quidditch cup for five years,” said Ted rather dramatically, taking a seat next to Ryan.
“Too true Master Lupin,” said Nick sadly.
“But you haven’t had me on the team yet,” said Victoire, also joining the table.
“So what positions are going to be up for grabs in the trials,” James asked Victoire, “besides the chaser spot you’re going for?”
“Well another chaser spot,” she said, “a beater…”
“And a keeper,” added Ted. “Four seventh years left last year, there’s just me, Paul and Holly left.”
“Well Octavia will try out for keeper, won’t you?” James said to his friend.
“I guess so,” she said, looking a little embarrassed by the attention.
“Go for it,” encouraged Ted, “if talent runs in the family I’m sure you’ll give it a good shot. I’ve seen both your parents play. And besides, even if you don’t make it this year you have to try out, so whoever’s captain next year will have seen you play.”
“Thanks,” Octavia said, “I will. So what position are you Ted?”
“Seeker,” he said, “Paul’s a beater and Holly’s a chaser. Everyone else left last year like I said. We’re not a bad team; Ravenclaw and Slytherin have just had some immense players the last few years.”
“But some of them have left too,” said Victoire. “We can definitely win it this year.”
“Ooh, look timetables,” said Octavia, distracted from the conversation by the sight of Professor Jones moving down the Gryffindor table from the far end, handing out sheets of parchment.
“Please let me not have double potions Monday morning this year…” groaned Teddy, “that was living hell.”
“What subjects are you doing Ted?” asked Octavia.
“Well it’s my first N.E.W.T. year and I want to enter Auror training once I’ve graduated, so I’m doing potions, charms, transfiguration, defence against the dark arts and herbology.”
“What’s N.E.W.T. year?” asked Ryan.
“N.E.W.T.s are the seventh years exams,” explained James, “fifth year tests are O.W.L.s, they stand for ‘Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests’ and ‘Ordinary Wizarding Levels’.”
“They’re kind of like GCSEs and A-levels,” clarified Janine, Ted’s friend, from just down the table.”
“Oh okay, gotcha,” said Ryan.
“A-levels and GC whats?” asked James.
“Muggle tests,” said Ryan, “never mind.”
Professor Jones had reached them, and handed out their timetables. James looked down and studied his intently.
7:30-9:00: Breakfast, Great Hall
11:00-11:30: Morning Break
12:30-13:15: Lunch, Great Hall
13:15-14:00: Lunch Break
16:00-18:00: Free Time
18:00-19:00: Dinner, Great Hall
19:00-21:00: Free Time
21:00-6:00: Student must remain in dormitories or common rooms at this time
9:00-10:00: Charms, Room 3H, Prof. C. Urquhart
10:00-11:00: Transfiguration, Room G2, Prof. A. Bonmeta
11:30-12:30: History of Magic, Room 1C, Prof. C. Binns
14:00-16:00: Double Potions with Hufflepuff, Room B1, Prof. E. Philpott
9:00-10:00: Transfiguration, Room G2, Prof. A. Bonmeta
10:00-11:00: Herbology, Room G7, Prof. N. Longbottom
11:30-12:30: Defence against the Dark Arts, Room 3A, Prof. H. Jones
14:00-15:00: History of Magic, Room 1C, Prof. C. Binns
15:00-16:00: Potions, Room B1, Prof. E. Philpott
9:00-10:00: History of Magic, Room 1C, Prof. C. Binns
10:00-11:00: Defence against the Dark Arts, Room 3A, Prof. H. Jones
11:30-12:30: Potions, Room B1, Prof. E. Philpott
14:00-16:00: Double Charms with Ravenclaw, Room 3H, Prof. C. Urquhart
00:00-1:00: Astronomy with Hufflepuff, Astronomy Tower, Prof. J. Juptra
9:00-10:00: Transfiguration, Room G2, Prof. A. Bonmeta
10:00-11:00: Herbology, Greenhouse 1, Prof. N. Longbottom
11:30-12:30: Charms, Room 3H, Prof. C. Urquhart
14:00-16:00: Double Defence against the Dark Arts with Slytherin, Room G6, Prof. H. Jones
9:00-11:00: Double Herbology with Slytherin, Greenhouse 2, Prof. N. Longbottom
11:30-12:30: History of Magic, Room 1C, Prof. C. Binns
14:00-15:00: Transfiguration, Room G2, Prof. A. Bonmeta
15:00-16:00: Flying class, Grounds (meet in entrance hall), Prof. L. Karoonda
“That is not bad,” said Ted, studying Ryan’s timetable over his shoulder. “Only one History of Magic first or last, no potions first thing in the morning, flying to end the week…only thing you want to watch out for is double herbology with Slytherin in greenhouse 2 on Friday morning, make sure you’re nice and alert for that or you might find someone’s put a Venomous Tentacula in your bag.”
“Yeah it looks alright, don’t you think?” asked Ryan in the direction of James and Octavia.
“Uh huh,” said Octavia, without looking away from hers. “Transfiguration, herbology, defence against the dark arts, history of magic and potions today.”
“Boy, I do not envy you having to do History of Magic,” sighed Ted. “Best thing about moving to sixth year, dropping that snooze-fest.”
They continued to talk for the rest of breakfast time, James, Octavia and Ryan pestering Ted somewhat about where rooms were, what teachers were like and so on, before everyone headed back up to the dormitory to retrieve the textbooks they would need for that day’s classes.
The nine first-year Gryffindors had quite a considerable walk, right up and down the height of the main castle, as the Transfiguration classroom was on the ground floor.
As they reached the room the door was open, and a voice called “Come in, come in,” upon seeing them nervously loitering outside. “Take your seats please,” called the professor, a dark-haired woman of, James guessed, a little under fifty years old. Everyone did so, in pairs as each desk seated two. James sat with Ryan, Octavia with Sam, Lexi with Laura and Josh with Averus, leaving Sally the odd one out.
“There will be no need to remove anything from your bags yet,” she added, as a few people had started rummaging around for textbooks and quills. “We have a few formalities to deal with before I can really start teaching you,” she said, “so for now just pay attention. Firstly I would like to offer you my own personal welcome to Hogwarts, and my hopes that you will find this class enjoyable. My name is Professor Bonmeta and I am the head of Ravenclaw house in addition to being transfiguration teacher.”
“Secondly, if I am to teach you effectively I must learn your names. If you’ll forgive my lack of manners to begin with, what I will do is point at you when I want you to answer a question. If I do this, please state your name before answering. Equally if you raise your hand to ask a question then please say your name before answering. Once I know your name I will ask and acknowledge your questions with your surname.”
“So,” she said, pointing to Sally Mattock, “what is transfiguration?”
“Sally Mattock,” Sally stated as instructed. “Using a spell to transform one thing into another?”
“Tell me, don’t ask me, Miss Mattock,” said Professor Bonmeta, though not unkindly. “You are not incorrect, but that is not the whole of it. Can anyone expand on Miss Mattock’s answer?”
A couple of hands nervously ventured into the air, but Professor Bonmeta pointed at Octavia. “Yes?”
“Octavia Wood. Transfiguration also involves the ability to conjure or vanish certain objects, as well as altering something without totally changing its form.”
“Very good,” said Professor Bonmeta with a smile, “five points to Gryffindor. What Miss Wood says essentially sums up what you will learn in this class for the next five years, assuming you all pass your examinations. You will be learning to vanish, modify and totally change objects and living creatures, and also conjure them if you should continue to N.E.W.T. level.”
“Now,” she said, pointing at James, “how are these effects achieved?”
“Um…” said James, surprised by the suddenness of the question, having been distractedly thinking Octavia had done well to get Gryffindors first points in their class.
“I hope that you are thinking about the question, and are not struggling to remember your name,” said Professor Bonmeta as James put on his best concentrating face.
“Oh sorry,” he said, as a few people around him, most noticeably Ryan, laughed a little. “James Potter. And erm…well you do transfigurations with a spell…with your wand.”
“True enough,” said Professor Bonmeta, though James realised he had missed out on his first opportunity to earn points. ‘Oh well’, he briefly thought to himself, ‘I don’t want to be a swot’.
“Can you expand on Mr. Potter’s answer at all?” Professor Bonmeta as Ryan, whose amused expression had rapidly changed to panic. “How do we bring about the spell? For example if I touch this desk with my wand-” she did so- “nothing happens. Why?”
“Ryan Davies,” he said, “Errr…well you need to say the spell.”
“Correct,” said Professor Bonmeta, “although often a skilled enough witch or wizard can replace the incantation with a simple thinking of the words. But as far as you are concerned then yes, one of the three things you must do is speak the incantation. Can anyone tell me the other two?”
“Averus King,” said Averus once Professor Bonmeta had acknowledged his upraised hand. “Moving your wand in a specific pattern?”
“Indeed,” she said. “The third one anyone? No? It is concentration. The three key things for you to remember are thus: Incantation, Concentration and correct wand motion. By these three things I can do this-” she picked up her wand, pointed it at a coffee mug on her desk, performed a complicated-looking movement with it, and said “Muto Muris.”
Lexi, one of the closest to the desk, gave a small shriek as there was a bright flash of light and the mug vanished, replaced by a white mouse. Professor Bonmeta quickly picked it up without saying any spell, changed it back. “And that,” she said, “is transfiguration. Now take out your parchment and quills, and make notes. I am going to tell you about the laws of transfiguration magic.”
The rest of the hour was spent taking notes as Professor Bonmeta lectured them, interrupted by the occasionally question asked by her, or (usually by Octavia, Averus or Sally) to her.
When the bell went just before ten o’clock, they were dismissed without homework and made the short journey around the ground floor to room G7, where they had Herbology. They waited outside the room for a couple of minutes before Neville, or Professor Longbottom, as James again reminded himself to call him, hurried towards them down the corridor.
“Hello,” he said cheerily, “go in and take your seats, you don’t have to wait for me. In fact I’ll probably normally be a little late for this lesson as I’ve got to wait until my first class has left the greenhouse and then hurry over here.”
“You’ll just have the one lesson a week in here,” said Professor Longbottom, dropping an armful of papers and folders on the desk, the rest will be in the greenhouses, which I much prefer. Unfortunately in your first year you do need a certain amount of theory lessons and lectures, and they are much easier to do in a classroom than the greenhouse.”
“So if you can all take out your quills and parchment…”
At the end of an hour of lecturing, which wasn’t too boring thanks to Professor Longbottom’s enthusiasm, the bell rang again and they headed off to morning break.
“There doesn’t seem much point going all the way back up to the common room,” said James, “especially seeing how decent the weather is.”
“No,” agreed Octavia, “as long as both of you have got your book for defence against the dark arts with you.”
James and Ryan confirmed they had, and so the trio headed out into the grounds, deciding to stretch their legs after two hours of sitting down, they wondered around while discussing the lessons.
“I mean they obviously weren’t the most exciting,” conceded Octavia, “but they can’t let us start doing magic straight away, it would be dangerous to do anything but the most simple spells without being taught about them first.”
“Yeah, fair point,” said James. “Defence against the dark arts will be fun though, my dad knows Professor Jones quite well, she taught while he was he and he said her classes are good.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask,” said Ryan, “is your dad famous or something James? I’ve just noticed people saying things, and the way everyone reacted when your name was read out in the sorting.”
“You could say that,” said James with a sigh. “Okay here goes- the story of Harry Potter in thirty seconds. Basically, years and years ago there was this really evil guy, a dark wizard called Voldemort. He thought that muggles and muggle-borns were inferior, and that pure-blood wizards should rule over all of them. He had loads of followers and they were terrorising Britain, until he killed my dad’s parents and tried to kill my dad. He used a curse called Avada Kedavra, the killing curse, which normally can’t be blocked in any way, but because my grandma had died to try and protect my dad he was protected and the curse rebounded on Voldemort. My dad just got a scar on his head, Voldemort turned into a sort of spirit but didn’t die. Then when my dad was at school here Voldemort came back, got his body back and eventually managed to take over this school and the ministry of magic. My dad and loads of other people fought against him, and eventually there was a huge battle here and my dad defeated him- Voldemort tried to use Avada Kedavra on him, but because my dad was the master of the wand Voldemort was using the curse rebounded and killed Voldemort instead.”
“So,” added Octavia, “his dad’s basically the saviour of the wizarding world.”
“Woah,” said Ryan. “Sounds like a pretty big deal, even though I didn’t totally understand everything you said.”
James shrugged. “It’s a big deal to people who don’t know him. To my family and my dad’s friends it’s in the past. And he doesn’t think of himself as a hero.”
“Fair enough,” said Ryan. “Must be pretty cool though.”
“Yeah I guess,” said James with a shrug.
“I’m guessing that’s the Whomping Willow?” asked Ryan as their walk took them within sight of the famous tree.
“Uh-huh,” said James.
“What’s the point of it?” questioned Ryan. “I mean why leave a tree that beats people up in the middle of a school?”
“It covers a secret passage,” said James.
“How do you know that?” asked Octavia, looking every bit as surprised as Ryan.
“You’d have to ask Ted,” said James, “I can’t say any more than that.”
“Oh come on!” said Ryan, “You must know where it goes, how to get to it?”
“I couldn’t explain it without telling you stuff that’s Ted’s private business,” said James matter-of-factly, glad when the other two silently accepted his explanation. Plenty of people knew that Ted’s father had been a werewolf and Ted wasn’t ashamed of it in any way, but James still felt it was a personal enough not to just go around telling people.
“So, defence against the dark arts next,” said James conversationally to break the silence. “Reckon we’ll finally get to use our wands?”
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” said Octavia. “Be patient, it won’t be long.”
James grunted noncommittally, thinking of the moment he had received his wand from Ollivanders. His wand, ten inches, fairly rigid, beech wood with a phoenix tail feather core, had felt so right in his hand he had been itching to try it out constantly since then. His parents had buckled under the pressure of his demands and agreed to teach him the simple ‘Lumos’ spell; but that was it, with them claiming it would spoil Hogwarts if he already knew spells he was going to be taught there.
The rest of the day passed without incident, although that wasn’t to say it wasn’t enjoyable or interesting. Defence Against the Dark Arts was, as Octavia had predicted, a theory-only lesson, as were Potions and of course History of Magic. While the latter was certainly dully delivered by the ghost Professor Binns, to call the actual content boring would have been a stretch. The cheery Professor Jones and the friendly Professor Philpot both gave good lessons, and stressed that practical work with their wands and cauldrons would start next lesson, which pleased James no end.
In addition to the lessons they were all still learning about the castle; James felt like it would take months before they new were everything was, and that no-one probably knew everything about the castle.
At four o’clock, after Potions, James led Ryan and Octavia down to Hagrid’s cabin, having insisted on introducing them.
“Hullo James!” exclaimed Hagrid after responding to the knock at his door. He was wearing a thick coat that made him seem even larger, if that were possible, but the smile visible through his enormous beard was so friendly that James felt sure any doubts the others had about him would be dispelled immediately.
“Hi Hagrid,” he replied, before introducing the other two.
A couple of minutes later they were all sat inside, clutching large mugs of tea as Hagrid offered them some toffee which tasted nice enough but took an incredible amount of chewing.
“So how’s yer firs’ day bin?” asked Hagrid to the three first-years.
“Really good thanks,” said Octavia, while Ryan nodded enthusiastically.
“Yeah it has been interesting,” agreed James, though sounding less excited.
“He’s just really impatient to start actually doing spells,” Octavia explained to Hagrid, “we only had theory lessons today.”
“Well o’ course,” he said. “There’d be chaos if they let yeh all loose with wands without teachin’ yeh a bit firs’. What did yeh think of yer teachers?” he asked, adding “you don’t need to worry about criticisin’ ‘em to me. Yeh’re allowed yeh’re opinion.”
“They’re all pretty good actually,” said James, “well except Professor Binns but…”
“But that’s nothin’ new,” finished Hagrid. “He ain’t much of a teacher, but ‘e does know more about ‘is subject than anyone. And beside I don’t think ‘e’d leave the school for anythin’.”
“Like Peeves?” asked Octavia.
“Oh, bumped into ‘im already ‘ave yeh?” asked Hagrid.
“No thankfully, I just know about him from what my dad’s told me.”
“Who’s Peeves?” asked Ryan.
“A bleedin’ pain in the rear!” said Hagrid. “He’s a poltergeist, causes trouble for everyone in the school, nothin’ no-one can do to get rid of ‘im.”
“Did your lessons go okay?” James asked, before taking a tentative bite of his toffee, which he had been holding against his mug of tea to try and soften.
“Well enough,” said Hagrid, “nothin’ too excitin’ though. In a few weeks some winged ‘orses are arrivin’ though, that’ll be good fer the students ter see. Magnificent beasts they are. Enough about my class though, yeh can’t do it fer two years, which other teachers did yeh have today?”
“Professor Bonmeta, Professor Jones, Professor Philpott and Neville,” answered James, before adding, “Professor Longbottom I mean.”
“All good teachers,” said Hagrid, “three of the heads of house too.”
“Who’s Slytherin’s head of house?” asked Octavia.
“Professor Urquhart,” Hagrid replied. “She’s not a woman ter cross I’ll tell yeh that fer nothin’. Very strict, but fair I reckon.”
“She teaches charms right?” said James.
Octavia and Hagrid both confirmed that she did, while Ryan shrugged. After chatting a bit more with Hagrid the trio headed back to the castle in readiness for dinner.
As they wandered towards the castle Octavia broke the silence. “I was wondering, do you think we should tell someone that we know whose snake it was on the train?”
“What, like a teacher?” asked James back.
“Not a good idea,” said James. “Blackford would know it was us that’d grassed him up.”
“So? What’s he gonna do?”
“I’d rather not find out. Look, he’s not still got it so it’s not bothering anyone, just leave it alone.”
Octavia huffed a little at James’s dismissive tone, but didn’t broach the subject again.
When they got to the great hall dinner was already underway, and they joined their fellow Gryffindors and tucked in with relish.
As they left the hall they stopped in their tracks. Ted and his friends had left just ahead of them and had stopped to face a tall dark-haired boy of about their age who was blocking the tapestry that covered the doorway to the corridor that headed toward the library.
“Move it Gamp,” said Ted.
“Keep your fur on, wolfboy,” said Gamp, prompting an angry response from the others.
As he still wasn’t moving Ted’s friend Janine tried to push past him, giving him a shove when he blocked her way, but he pushed her back, harder, saying “Get your hands off me, Mudblood.”
“Mr Gamp!” came the furious-sounding voice of Professor Bonmeta, who had obviously seen events unfolding. Striding past James, Ryan and Octavia, she spoke again with an authority that surprised James. “Miss Yeates, twenty points from Gryffindor, there is no excuse for violence. Mr Gamp, fifty points from Slytherin for your foul language and violent behaviour. Come with me and we can arrange your detention.”
All of them obviously knew better than to argue with her, as the Gryffindors left without a word, while Gamp followed Professor Bonmeta in the other direction, throwing a malevolent glare at the backs of the others as he did so.
“Ted!” called James, hurrying after his godbrother.
“Hey James,” he said, noticing him. “I’ll see you in the library in a minute,” he said to the others, who nodded and continued along the corridor.
“What was that all about?” James asked. “Who is that guy?”
“Blair Gamp,” said Ted, “our year’s resident Slytherin prick. He doesn’t really like me,” he added with a humourless grin.
“Well I’d watch out,” said James, “he did not look pleased after you’d walked off.”
“Thanks for your concern,” said Ted sarcastically, “but I can take care of him. See you later.”
He turned round to catch up with his friends, leaving James to explain to Octavia and Ryan that Ted’s dad had been a werewolf, but that Ted himself was free of the condition. Octavia then took over to explain the term Mudblood to Ryan, before they reached the common room, chatting with the other Gryffindors for a few hours before heading to bed.
The rest of the week went by so quickly, with very little time to take stock. Wednesday brought their first practical Defence Against the Dark Arts and Potions lessons, as well as double charms, which introduced them to the first-year Ravenclaws and to their scariest teacher by far, Professor Urquhart. She looked around fifty-five or sixty, with dangerous-looking ice-blue eyes and almost white-blond hair. Her disapproval at incorrectly answered questions certainly didn’t engender inquisitiveness, but her discipline at least meant plenty of learning was managed in the two hours.
After midnight, so technically on Thursday, the Gryffindors had their first lesson with the Hufflepuffs, the night-time astronomy lesson with Professor Juptra, a middle-aged woman who was utterly immersed in her subject, and didn’t react well to interruptions. After a sleep that was shorter than any of the first-years were happy with came Thursday’s proper lessons, including their first venture into the Herbology greenhouses and, in the afternoon, double Defence Against the Dark Arts with the Slytherins, which thankfully hadn’t reached the stage of practising spells on each other yet, as Craig Blackford was still casting James the odd hateful look.
Another double lesson with the Slytherins, Herbology, followed first thing on Friday morning, before at three o’clock they gathered in the entrance hall in preparation for their first flying lesson.
“Hello guys,” came a voice from behind them. Turning to see the source of the strong Australian accent James saw a woman, probably in her forties, but still extremely athletic-looking, with blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and dressed in green and gold Quidditch robes. “My name’s Professor Karoonda, and hopefully you’re my Gryffindor first-years. If you want to follow me out onto the pitch then we’ll get started right off.”
“Do you know what make the school brooms are these days?” Octavia asked James as the walked.
“Er, no actually,” he replied. “Don’t think I’ve ever asked Ted or Vic. What broom do you fly on at home?”
“I’ve got my mum’s old Comet five-ten,” she said. “A bit outdated, but it’s a damn good broom. Dad says he’ll get me a brand new one if I make the team.”
“I wouldn’t say no to a new Nimbus Elite,” said James suggestively.
“I’d be happy enough with the Firebolt Mk.3,” said Octavia. “I know it’s nearly ten years old, but Peru, Romania, Japan and Spain all went with it at the last world cup and they were the four semi-finalists. That’s good enough for me.”
“Right, enough chatter,” said Professor Karoonda. “Everyone stand by a broom.”
“Comet three-forties!” Octavia hissed to James as they did so, along with Ryan and the others. “These are older than me!”
“Now firstly, simply raise your hand above your broom and say ‘Up’,” said Professor Karoonda.
They all did so, Octavia and James seeing their brooms leap straight into their grasp, as did those of Laura and Sam. Ryan’s rose hesitantly and shakily, but did reach his hand, as did Averus’s, while Sally, Lexi and Josh saw theirs obstinately remain on the floor even after several shouts.
“Okay, well done to those of you who did it. Those of you who didn’t, don’t take it too badly. Sometimes these old brooms are a bit unresponsive, but often a broom’s failure to respond to your command is an indicator that you’re one of the people who just isn’t really cut out for flying. If that is the case then there’s nothing wrong with that, but you do have to at least try, so I’ll raise the brooms for you three and you can try flying with everyone else.”
The lesson was a little frustrating for Octavia and James, more experienced fliers, but Professor Karoonda had to teach them at the same pace. Eventually however, once they had been told how to sit on the broom properly, how to steer, how to accelerate and brake, they were eventually allowed to fly. Everyone started steadily, but managed a lap of the pitch without any mishaps, at least not to the point of falling off, and James, Octavia and Laura began to accelerate away from the rest.
“Race you!” shouted Octavia, giving neither any time to react before accelerating away. James and Laura zoomed after her, but neither could catch her over two more laps before Professor Karoonda’s whistle called them back to the ground.
“Show off!” James called as Octavia leapt off her broom before stopping. She simply grinned back as the others stopped in a more controlled fashion, except Lexi, who appeared to decide the best way to stop was to simply aim at the ground and performed a few rolls before coming to a halt, muddied but unharmed.
“Well, that’ll be all for today,” said Professor Karoonda. “You all did a good job out there, especially those of you whose first time on a broom it was. Have a good weekend!”
“Smile Octavia!” said Ryan, as the three of them walked back towards the common room together, “it’s the weekend!”
“I guess,” she said with a half-smile. “That just reminded me how much I love flying. It sucks we won’t get to do much this year.”
“Hey, you might still get on the team,” James offered. “You flew amazingly.”
“Thanks, but you said yourself on the train, and you were right, that even if I’m the best flier there’s bound to be someone who’s a better ‘keeper just ‘cause they’re taller.”
“You’ll at least try out though?”
“Yeah, why not,” she said. “If nothing else it’s another chance to fly.”
“Well we’ll be there cheering you on!” said Ryan.
“You bet!” James agreed.
“Thanks guys,” she said. “So James, you gonna keep your promise and teach me chess this weekend?”
“Sure,” he said. “Do you play chess Ryan?”
As it turned out Ryan not only played chess, he was very good at it, crushing James once he’d got used to commanding the pieces instead of touching them. By the end of Saturday Octavia had pretty much got the hang of it too, and gave James a really good game.
“Rematch?” James asked, having checkmated Octavia’s king, currently being beaten round the head with a pawn by an over-enthusiastic bishop.
“Nah, tomorrow maybe.”
“Well in that case,” said James, packing the board and pieces away, I hate to be the one to say it but we should probably do some homework.”
Ryan groaned. “I hate homework…can’t we just pretend the giant squid ate it?”
“Yeah I bet Bonmeta hasn’t heard that one in the last 10 years…” said James. “What else have we got again other than that Transfiguration?”
“Herbology, History of Magic and Defence,” Octavia said. “Why don’t we do the Defence now? It’ll only take like fifteen minutes.”
“I guess,” sighed Ryan dramatically, appearing to exert a huge amount of effort to haul himself into a sitting position from where he was slumped on the chair.
Ten minutes later they were packing that piece of homework away, having answered the questions by using the conveniently present and helpful Ted as a talking textbook.
“Can we return to a state of not doing homework now?” asked Ryan hopefully.
“We’ll just be doing it all day tomorrow,” said James.
“Yeah, let’s do the herbology,” Octavia offered, “we’ve just got to learn what all the plants do on page…” she leafed through several sheets of notes, searching for her record of the homework- “page fourteen and fifteen do.”
“Man I thought you two were fun,” said Ryan, though his tone of voice was clearly teasing, and however reluctantly he did pull his textbook out.
The next day Ryan did admit that getting half their work done had been a good idea, as they managed to fit a few hours of chess, exploding snap and chatting in between their Transfigurations and History of Magic essays, the last finished well after eleven.
As their second week progressed they were well into the swing of actually doing magic in lessons, though some more successful than others, and were starting to get to know their fellow Gryffindors really well, and the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs passably. Unfortunately the pair of double lessons with Slytherin tended to make the end of the week less enjoyable. Several of the Slytherins, while certainly not friendly, seemed content to keep themselves to themselves, but Craig Blackford, his oversized friend Kevin Critchlow, and Raymonda Flint and Paul Redmond were all pretty nasty. This culminated in a punch-up in Herbology on Friday after Redmond had pushed Laura Tait into a prickly plant that had caused her to break out in large orange pustules. She was back in class after break, with the consequence worse for Ryan and Averus, put in detention by a reluctant Neville, along with Blackford, Critchlow and Redmond.
“I can’t believe we have to clean the whole potions room,” moaned Ryan later that evening. “It’s huge! It’s going to take hours!”
“I know,” said Averus resignedly. “Couldn’t we have just had lines or something?”
“Well if makes you feel any better,” said Octavia, “I heard the Slytherins have got to clean the trophy room. The tiniest bit of dirt will be obvious on all the silver, you might get away with missing some bits.”
“Not really Octavia, but thanks for trying,” said Ryan.
“I’d be there with you if Blackford hadn’t cursed me,” said James. “It would have been worth a detention if I’d gotten to wipe that smirk off his face.”
“I’ll let you know later,” said Ryan, “but I’ve got a feeling punching him is going to feel a lot less satisfying after six hours of cleaning. Plus I don’t think it really hurt him anyway.”
“Yeah, you should count yourself lucky for getting cursed James,” said Octavia. “It’s a silly thing to lose your evening for.”
“Not that I don’t appreciate you standing up for me, but I’m with Octavia,” said Laura. “They’re not worth it.”
“What spell did he hit you with James?” asked Averus. “I didn’t see, what with everything.”
“Leg-locker curse,” said James ruefully. “And I will get him back for it.”
“Well try not to get caught at least,” Octavia offered dryly.
With that Ryan and Averus headed off to the dungeon, returning over five hours later, after everyone except James had gone to bed, looking distinctly the worse for wear.
“So not worth it…” was all Ryan said, before heading straight up to bed.
a/n: That’s it, not quite as long as chapter 1, but still pretty long by my standards. I did try to think of stuff, but I think I’m going to have to gloss over most of their first year- it seems stupid to try and force ideas out when there’s so much planned for the future. But as I said at the start I know what chapter 3 will be, so hopefully it shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks until it’s done.
Reviews are greatly appreciated!
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