Chapter 4 : The Start of Lessons
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‘Why?’ Harriet asked, surprised. History had always been one of her favourite subjects at school and she was looking forward to learning more about the war that everyone seemed to talk about constantly.
‘Because of Professor Binns,’ Lily explained.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ Harriet wanted to know.
‘Well, for starters he’s a ghost,’ Lily said.
‘A ghost?!’ Harriet almost shrieked.
‘Oh yes,’ Lily said sheepishly. ‘I forgot you didn’t know about ghosts. You get them all around the castle. I’m surprised we haven’t seen one yet, actually. But yes, Professor Binns is a ghost and he is just very dull. James says it is impossible to concentrate.’
‘Oh,’ Harriet was a bit disappointed. ‘What kind of things do you learn about in History of Magic, then?’
‘Well, the Wizarding Wars to start with,’ Lily said. Harriet nodded, unsurprised. ‘And then it’s really just the history of wizarding in Britain, from medieval times up until now. Albus says there are all sorts of treaties and laws and revolutions that we have to learn about, so that doesn’t sound very fun.’
‘No,’ Harriet said uncertainly, but she was pleased that hopefully she would begin to understand the war so that when everyone talked about it she wouldn’t feel so left out. The lengthy explanation she had been given on the train yesterday by Lily suddenly didn’t seem very thorough at all.
With Lily’s knowledge of the castle, the first years found their way easily. As they walked along the corridor, Jamie consulted his timetable and announced that they were having the lesson with the Ravenclaw first years.
By the time they reached the classroom, the Ravenclaws were already waiting. Harriet did a quick headcount – there were ten of them. As the Gryffindors approached, one of the Ravenclaws pointed towards them and they began frantically whispering and giggling together. Harriet felt Lily stiffen slightly beside her and she was sure she knew what they were talking about.
Sure enough, as they came and stood behind the Ravenclaws in the line, a lot of shoving and giggling was still going on.
‘No, you do it!’
‘Stop it, Isabella!’
‘Go on, Rufus, you do it!’
A boy with copper coloured hair not unlike Lily’s stepped forward with the help of a shove in the small of his back from the boy standing behind him.
‘Are you Lily Potter?’ he said, looking at Lily. An outbreak of giggling occurred from behind him. Lily put her hands on her hips.
‘Who wants to know?’ she asked, raising her eyebrows.
The boy frowned. ‘I do,’ he said, puzzled. ‘Well, everyone does really. Everybody’s talking about it!’
‘Well,’ said Lily. ‘If everyone’s talking about me and you know my name, then I think I have the right to know your name, don’t you?’
‘Rufus Goldstein,’ said the boy promptly. ‘And you are Lily Potter, aren’t you?’
Lily nodded. ‘Yes I am,’ she said briefly. ‘And this is my cousin Harriet.’
Harriet, taken aback at being drawn into this confrontation, nevertheless smiled slightly at Rufus, who also looked surprised and quickly turned back to his friends. Lily giggled quietly.
‘That was fun!’ she whispered. ‘I gave him a taste of his own medicine, didn’t I?’
Harriet nodded her silent agreement, and was still looking at Lily admiringly when the classroom door creaked open. Nobody seemed to have opened it. The Ravenclaws all took a step backwards.
‘Go on, then,’ Matty said to them.
‘After you!’ said the boy who had pushed Rufus, backing away. ‘You’re the Gryffindors, after all!’
At this, Lily turned on her heel and marched inside, the others following. Lily chose a desk in the middle of the room and threw herself into her chair. Harriet dithered next to her.
‘Come on, Harriet!’ Lily said, exasperated. ‘Aren’t you going to sit down?’
Harriet grinned apologetically and quickly sat down next to her.
Professor Binns announced the start of the lesson by drifting in through the blackboard. Harriet jumped as he made his entrance, as did several other people. Harriet noticed Rufus Goldstein’s friend looking particularly alarmed.
‘We’re going to start your first year by learning about the most recent part of our history – the Second Wizarding War,’ the ghost began to speak. His voice was more of a drone with no inflections to speak of, and Harriet began to see what Lily meant. ‘But today I will give a brief outline of the school and the Houses to give you the background information. As you know, Hogwarts was founded in the late tenth century…’
Harriet, who did not know this, looked up, alarmed that he had already begun to teach without so much as an introduction. There was a scramble from the unprepared students to find quills, ink and parchment. Harriet had packed all of her books into her bag that morning, not know what lessons she might have, and with difficulty she extracted ‘A History of Magic’ by Bathilda Bagshot and a slightly thicker book called ‘The Rise and Fall of Voldemort – A Study of the Wizarding Wars’.
‘After the founding, the four founders Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin each decided to create their own House into which they could admit the students that they wished,’ Professor Binns droned on. ‘This was practical for each had their own opinions about which values were worth the most – Gryffindor wished to teach only the bravest, Hufflepuff only those with loyalty and dedication, Ravenclaw those with the greatest capacity for learning and Slytherin those of the greatest ambition.’
As the lesson continued Harriet, writing away steadily, noticed that she was almost the only one taking notes. The others did seem to be listening though, because every time Salazar Slytherin or his House was mentioned, their eyes flickered towards a small blonde Ravenclaw girl sitting alone in the back corner. This continued throughout the whole lesson.
The end of the lesson was signified by Professor Binns drifting away through the blackboard again. Harriet finished her final sentence, screwed the top onto her ink bottle and looked up. Nearly everyone else was already packed up and ready to go. Lily had put away her unused parchment and was fastening the catch on her bag.
‘So,’ she said, looking over at Harriet. ‘How did you enjoy your first ever lesson?’
‘It was good,’ Harriet said uncertainly. ‘I see what you mean about the teacher, though!’
‘Terrible, isn’t he?’ Lily agreed, waiting a little impatiently as Harriet packed her books away. ‘I’m surprised you managed to write it all down.'
‘It was interesting,’ Harriet said lamely, all too aware that to Lily the lesson had not been exactly interesting. Dull and repetitive were probably the words that she would use.
‘Was it?’ Lily asked vaguely, as they left the classroom, pulling the door shut behind them as they were the last ones out. ‘I wasn’t really listening.’
Harriet followed Lily down the corridor in silence.
‘Who was that girl?’ she asked eventually, as they climbed a staircase. ‘The one everyone kept looking at, I mean.’
Lily stopped walking and looked at Harriet, her face uncharacteristically serious. ‘That was Adira Malfoy,’ she said in a low voice, drawing Harriet over to one side of the corridor. She was not surprised when Harriet didn’t recognise the name.
‘So?’ Harriet frowned.
‘Her father and her grandparents were Death Eaters,’ Lily said grimly.
Harriet gasped. Following the conversation at breakfast and from various things that Professor Binns had mentioned, she now knew all about Death Eaters. ‘And they were in Slytherin?’ she guessed. ‘Is that why everyone kept looking at her when they mentioned Slytherin?’
Lily glanced around her to check they were alone. ‘Almost every Death Eater was in Slytherin,’ she explained quietly. ‘Not so long ago, to be put in Slytherin meant you were pure-blood, arrogant and your parents probably supported Voldemort.’
‘Then why isn’t Adira in Slytherin?’ Harriet wondered aloud.
Lily gave her a stern look. ‘Times have changed, Harriet,’ she said, sounding about a hundred years old. She seemed to be repeating something that somebody, probably her father, had told her. ‘In the end, the Malfoys turned against Voldemort. Adira’s grandma actually saved Dad’s life at the Battle of Hogwarts by telling Voldemort that he was dead when he wasn’t. And the school has changed now, too. You heard Professor Binns – Slytherins are ambitious, but not evil. A few years ago that basically meant the same thing, but it doesn’t anymore.’
‘So Adira’s family are good now?’ Harriet checked.
‘The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters,’ Lily said wisely. Again, she seemed to be quoting somebody. ‘They’re not, well, her family aren’t the nicest people, but Dad and Adira’s dad get on okay now, even though they were enemies at Hogwarts. In the end I think they knew that Voldemort was wrong.’
‘I see,’ Harriet murmured. ‘Hadn’t we better get going?’ she asked, looking at her watch. ‘What have we got now?’
‘Muggle Studies,’ Lily replied promptly. ‘Come on, it’s only up one more floor!’
Harriet sighed, and hurried after Lily. This castle seemed to be ridiculously big for the relatively small number of children that it educated. She didn’t say this, of course.
She was still a little bemused at the idea of having to take Muggle Studies when they arrived at the classroom. The girls joined the other Gryffindors who were lined up in the corridor with another group of first years. By now, Harriet had learnt that their yellow and black ties and the badger crest on their robes meant that they were Hufflepuffs.
One of the boys, a slightly pudgy boy with light brown hair, stepped forward and approached Lily.
‘Hello,’ he said, sticking out his hand. ‘I’m Hamish Macmillan. Have you heard of my dad?’
‘No,’ Lily admitted. ‘But I’m guessing that he had something to do with the war or the battle.’
Hamish nodded. ‘He was at school with your parents,’ he said proudly. ‘He was a member of Dumbledore’s Army, too. And he fought at the battle.’
‘Erm, good,’ Lily seemed unsure of what to say. Harriet was busy wondering what Dumbledore’s Army was. Another name for the Order of the Phoenix, perhaps? She shook her head in confusion, trying to clear it. She’d have to ask Lily later.
Just then, the door of the classroom opened and a young looking witch appeared in the doorway. ‘In you come, first years,’ she said, pointing them inside. They all hurried inside and Harriet slid into a seat next to Lily.
‘Now then,’ their teacher began. ‘My name is Professor Wilson. Welcome to Muggle Studies. Now, I know that there may be a good number of you here who are wondering why you have to take this subject.’ There were a few mutterings that spread through the class and several people nodded. ‘So, how many of you here are Muggle-born?’ Professor Wilson asked.
Harriet hesitated, and then put up her hand. Dylan, sitting in front of her with Matty and Lucas, sat across the row with Jamie also put their hands up, along with four of the nine Hufflepuffs in the room. Professor Wilson smiled at them.
‘You will be my star pupils, then,’ she smiled at them. Harriet, looking at it that way, felt a little better. She lowered her hand along with the rest as Professor Wilson continued. ‘Now, today I am merely going to demonstrate the need for this subject. There will be no need for you to use books, quills or parchment. I merely want you to pay attention and apply a little thought.’
Everyone quickly dropped their copy of the textbook back into their bag and sat up to listen.
‘Now then,’ Professor Wilson perched on the front of her desk. ‘Those of you who are not Muggle-born, how many of you have at least one close Muggle relative? A parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle?’
Harriet scanned the room. Almost every other hand was raised, including Lily’s. Only Hamish Macmillan’s hands stayed in his lap. Professor Wilson looked around and nodded. She turned to Hamish.
‘What’s your surname?’ she asked curiously. Hamish told her, and she nodded in understanding. ‘The Macmillan family – one of the old wizarding families. I expect yours, Hamish, is one of the only wizarding families to remain truly what people call ‘pure-blood’.’
She looked around at the class, who were all listening attentively.
‘The thing is,’ she continued. ‘We have many members of old wizarding families attending Hogwarts today. We also have the Potters, – ’ Here she nodded to Lily, who blinked back at her. ‘ – the Longbottoms, the Malfoys and the Weasleys. Many of you, although with different surnames, will be members of one or other of these ancient families. Indeed, these families are now so interlinked that you may belong to more than one. We also have the families which are extinct in the male line, some recently so, such as the Blacks and the Prewetts and others from further ago, like the Peverells.’
Professor Wilson paused and smiled at Lily again. This time, Lily smiled back. Harriet didn’t understand what the Blacks, the Prewetts or the Peverells had to do her cousin, but she supposed that she must be related to one of those families somehow.
‘Now then, class,’ Professor Wilson looked around at them all. ‘Of those eight families that I have mentioned, how many do you think remain ‘pure’? In other words, they contain no Muggles.’
Several hands were tentatively raised. Professor Wilson pointed at a Hufflepuff girl in the front row.
‘Half of them?’ she guessed. Professor Wilson shook her head and pointed at Lucas.
‘Almost all of them?’ he suggested. Again, the professor shook her head.
‘Come on, children,’ she laughed. ‘Have you missed the point that I was trying to make? Think about it! Yes, Miss Potter.’
Lily lowered her hand. ‘Just the one,’ she said. ‘Only Hamish’s family. The rest of us are all half-bloods. There’s really no such thing as a pure-blood anymore.’
Professor Wilson nodded emphatically. ‘Very good, five points to Gryffindor,’ she smiled. ‘Lily is right – these days, with a very few exceptions, there is no such thing as a pure-blood witch or wizard. That is very important. Now, what does that tell us?’
Harriet glanced around the class. Apparently, they were all just as confused as she was. Lily too was peering around. It reassured Harriet that Lily didn’t know the answer either.
‘Think about it,’ Professor Wilson tried to coax the answer out of somebody. ‘Many witches and wizards have avoided learning about Muggles – avoided Muggles themselves all together – by using the excuse that we are not alike. They claimed that Muggles were an entirely different group of people, a different species even, and this ignorance contributed to the Wizarding Wars which you will no doubt be learning about in History of Magic.’
Harriet frowned. The war was cropping up even in Muggle Studies. She still couldn’t grasp how much it had changed the lives of the wizarding community, but she knew that it must have been enormously influential.
‘So,’ Professor Wilson was continuing. ‘Who knows what the definition of a species is?’ There was silence. ‘Come on, the Muggle definition of a species. One of you must know it!’
Harriet looked around her. No-one else seemed to be willing to offer an answer, so she shyly raised her own hand. Professor Wilson nodded to her.
‘Yes,’ she smiled. ‘And what’s your name?’
‘Harriet Dursley,’ Harriet replied nervously.
Professor Wilson raised her eyebrows slightly. ‘Yes, Miss Dursley,’ she said. ‘Do continue.’
Harriet coughed nervously. ‘Isn’t it two animals that can, erm, reproduce and make, erm, offspring that can also reproduce?’ she fumbled her way through the sentence, blushing furiously.
Professor Wilson beamed at her. ‘Very good, Miss Dursley, well done,’ she said. ‘Five points to Gryffindor.’
Harriet’s blush deepened but she smiled with pleasure. Next to her, Lily was also beaming. ‘Ten points!’ she mouthed happily at Harriet.
‘Now what Harriet has shown us,’ Professor Wilson was saying, ‘is the fundamental similarity between witches and wizards and Muggles. If we were so different, the dilution of magical blood that has occurred over the centuries would not have been able to happen, due to inabilities to reproduce with Muggles. This would have meant that witches and wizards would have died out many hundreds of years ago. We owe our very existence to our likenesses with our Muggle relations. Without them, we would exist merely as legends and storybooks, told to amuse children.’
One of the Hufflepuff girls raised her hands, and Professor Wilson nodded to her.
‘What’s your name?’ she asked.
‘Jenny Forrester, Professor,’ the girl replied. ‘I just wanted to know, what about Muggle-borns? Their blood hasn’t been diluted, so would they still exist?’
Professor Wilson nodded again. ‘An excellent question,’ she said. ‘I’m glad to see some brain use going on today, especially on the first day of term. Five points to Hufflepuff. Now then, this is an interesting issue. The crux of the matter is this – how do Muggle-born witches and wizards come to gain their magical abilities? This matter is little understood, but the most commonly held belief is that Muggle-born children with magical abilities occur due to their own amplification of small amounts of magic passed on down through their families. They may or may not have wizarding ancestors, and we do not know what that special spark within a child is that makes them magical, but this theory states that magic is there within every Muggle to a greater or lesser extent. It is just the accessing of that magic that creates a witch or wizard.’
Harriet looked up at the boy sitting with his hand in the air. He was the boy she had watched be Sorted into Hufflepuff before Matty.
‘Your name?’ the professor asked.
‘I’m Simeon Brooks, Professor. I was just wondering, does that mean that you can chose to turn on or off your magical powers?’
‘Another good question,’ Professor Wilson was smiling. ‘It is not as simple as that, Mr Brooks. There can be no conscious decision to ‘switch on’ magical abilities. Magic tends to leak out slowly through childhood, and eventually display itself by about the age of seven or eight. Switching magic off, on the other hand, is a different matter. If not used, abilities will grow weaker over time, although whether or not they ever totally vanish has not been documented.’
Professor Wilson looked around at her class, all of whom appeared to be totally absorbed. All eyes were on her, and some of the children even had their tongues sticking out in concentration. She had to hold back her grin of amusement.
‘Now then, children,’ she announced. ‘I think that will be all for today. Don’t expect a lesson like that every week – that was just a demonstration of the need for this subject. And I would like you to do some homework for me.’
A groan ran through the classroom. Harriet, however, didn’t mind. She thought this subject might not turn out to be as boring as she thought.
‘I’d like you to write a list for me, of five ways in which we are similar to Muggles and five ways in which we are different,’ Professor Wilson said. ‘Now, there are no right or wrong answers in this exercise – I just want your opinions. I shall look forward to reading what you come up with.’
‘Muggle Studies sounds fun!’ Jocelyn said enthusiastically. ‘You’ll have to tell me all about it when you go, Joe.’
Joseph nodded his agreement. ‘It sounds amazing,’ he beamed, his eyes wide with excitement. ‘But that can’t have been all of your first day, Grandma Harri. We haven’t even got to break yet!’
Harriet smiled gently. ‘Those are the most memorable parts of my first day,’ she explained. ‘Those first two lessons made quite an impression on me. The rest of the day was, while not boring, definitely not as interesting.’
‘So what are you going to tell us about next, Grandma?’ Emma asked.
‘That depends on what you want to know, darling,’ Harriet smiled down at her as she settled herself in her chair to await a decision.
As ever, thanks for reading, I assure you it is much appreciated. If you have the time reviews are also appreciated... :)
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by Riya Potter