Sammy Kerrigan knocked cautiously on the wooden door that separated the dungeon corridor from his new Head of House’s quarters. ‘Sir?’ He asked. ‘Professor Bennett?’
‘It’s open,’ the teacher’s voice called back. ‘Come in, Sam.’
‘You wanted to see me?’ The seventh-year asked, pushing the door open.
‘Yep,’ Greg nodded. ‘That’s right. ’ He forced a smile as the Quidditch captain closed the door behind him. ‘How are you, mate?’
Sammy grunted. ‘Alright,’ he swallowed. ‘Is something wrong?’
‘Nope,’ the teacher grinned. ‘Is that the only reason I’d want to talk to you?’ He challenged the boy. ‘What have we both got coming up that we need to think about?’
‘Oh,’ the boy winced as he realised the man’s aim. ‘Transfiguration.’
‘Correct,’ Greg grinned, sitting down in an aging armchair and gesturing to the seventh-year to do likewise. ‘What made you sign up for it, then? Haven’t you got enough else on this year?’
‘No more than you did when you were here,’ Sammy avoided the question.
The teacher smiled again. ‘I remember... but that’s not what I asked you, mate, was it? Why did you sign up for the study lessons?’
Sammy shrugged. ‘I guess I enjoyed some of the Quidditch coaching I did last year,’ he searched for an explanation, ‘and I still remember my first year, when some of the study lessons were really good.’
‘Just some of them?’ Greg teased, and the teenager shifted uncomfortably on his seat before Greg broke the tension with a laugh. ‘I know some of mine weren’t!’ He stood up, reaching for a crate of butterbeer and offering the boy a bottle. ‘That sounds good, though. Have you planned your first lesson yet?’
Sammy shook his head. ‘Not yet.’
‘When is it?’
Greg raised an eyebrow. ‘When were you thinking of doing it, then?’
The seventh-year blushed, snatching for his drink and downing a large mouthful to cover his embarrassment.
‘It’s alright, mate,’ the teacher smiled. ‘I’ve got them first thing and I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to do yet,’ he admitted. ‘Do you want to sit in there, see what we manage, and take it from there?’
Sammy nodded, gratefully. ‘Thanks, sir,’ he offered.
‘No worries,’ Greg acknowledged the teenager. ‘Shall we work out where to begin, then? It was a lot easier with you lot... I can remember my NEWTs much better than my first year.’
‘We started with match to needle,’ Sammy recalled. ‘Everyone does, I think.’
Greg nodded. ‘Yeah. Boring... but it’s the easiest one, isn’t it?’ He began to think out loud. ‘It’s not like I can turn into a cat to catch everyone’s attention, either.’
‘So how are you going to start?’
‘That’s just it,’ the teacher shrugged, ‘I didn’t just ask you here to check on your lesson, Sam. Mine’s not ready either.’
‘How about pretending to duel?’ Sammy drained another long mouthful of butterbeer. ‘We could transfigure different things around the room and use them to pretend to fight with each other.’
‘That’ll get their attention,’ Greg nodded approvingly. ‘Let’s make sure we throw to miss, though, right?’
‘What, and hit the kids instead?’ Sammy laughed as the teacher exaggerated a look of thoughtfulness.
‘I guess it’ll make them remember it, won’t it? Let’s have one of them cop a water balloon,’ a grin spread across the man’s face. ‘Who do you think will take it best?’
‘What do you think we’ll do today?’ Nathan whispered to his only friend as the two Slytherins tagged onto the end of a queue of boys outside the Transfiguration classroom.
‘Not sure,’ Louis shrugged his shoulders. ‘It’s only our first lesson, and Professor Bennett’s still new…’ His answer was cut off, however, by the arrival of the Ravenclaw girls.
‘Ugh,’ a tall blonde, whom Louis immediately felt might have been attractive if not for the sneer stretched across her lips, scowled at the boys. ‘As if it wasn’t bad enough being taught by a Slytherin, we have to share another lesson with them, too…’
Daniel snapped around as he heard the girl’s words. ‘Have you got a problem with us?’ He challenged.
The girl snorted. ‘How crude,’ she sniffed, turning away. ‘Don’t you agree, Rose?’
Louis sunk back instinctively, pressing himself tight against the wall as he watched his two cousins stare one another down, all malevolent glares across the narrow stone corridor.
‘Are you proud of yourself, then?’ Rose taunted. ‘Proud of everything your Dad fought for?’
‘Have you even told your Dad? Cause you know James owled him as soon as you got sorted into that… that…’
‘I said shut up!’ Albus reddened. ‘It’s none of your business!’
Rose blinked. ‘You haven’t told him, have you?’ She persisted.
‘I told you, it’s nothing to do with you!’ The boy bit his lip as he felt his fists clenching. ‘Anyway, how’s your Dad taking it that you’re not in Gryffindor?’ He smirked. ‘Not so much fun now, is it?’
‘Good morning!’ Greg Bennett’s shout silenced the corridor, halting the cousins’ argument before it could grow any more spiteful. ‘Good morning,’ the teacher repeated, allowing himself a grin as the gathered students mumbled an echoed reply. ‘Welcome to Transfiguration,’ he gestured towards the empty classroom. ‘Now, boys, please could you sit with someone from the opposite House,’ he talked over an audible groan. ‘You’ll be here with them for seven years,’ Greg reasoned, ‘so you might as well get used to each other.’
The teacher shook his head as he watched the line of children trudge into his classroom, the boys sinking sullenly beside unfamiliar partners. ‘I hope it’s not one of those mornings,’ Greg’s eyes sparkled as the children stared robotically back at him. ‘Oh, give me something to work with… Now,’ he clapped his hands, beginning to stroll down the centre of the room. ‘Transfiguration. Transfiguration is a Science; a subject that demands precision and concentration, and above all… Hold on.’ The teacher’s eyes darted across the classroom, before settling on the doorway as it rattled on its hinges. ‘Can you hear that?’
A handful of the children’s heads jerked around at the unexpected noise but Greg continued speaking. ‘Hello?’ He ventured, before ducking for cover as a hooded figure burst the door open into a rising cacophony of fearful screams. ‘Who are you?’ The teacher challenged him. ‘What do you want?’
The intruder didn’t reply, instead reaching for an umbrella that stood inside the door, and projecting it as a javelin towards Greg, only for a flick of the teacher’s wand to transform it into a bunch of flowers that crumpled harmlessly against his own chest.
‘Who are you?’ Greg repeated, picking up a paperweight and hurling it at the other figure before watching it turn innocuously into a bath sponge and bounce off the intruder’s shoulder. ‘Look out!’ He yelled, prompting half of his class to take cover beneath their desks as another missile, this time in the form of a heavy textbook, sailed above the children’s heads. The professor’s wandwork vanished it into thin air, before another flash of the wrist conjured a makeshift shield that he held in front of another identical projectile a matter of seconds later.
‘Louis!’ The teacher yelled, shaping to spin his shield like a frisbee towards the intruder, as the hooded figure stepped behind one of the few eleven-year-olds who had not yet scrambled for safety. ‘Duck!’
Louis’ eyes widened as the disc cut through the air above his head, before the boy threw himself against the top of his desk. He never saw the missile transform into a water balloon, or the explosion above his head that drenched him in the process.
‘And… Cut!’ A wide grin spread across the teacher’s face as Sammy Kerrigan pulled down his hood, revealling an equally amused expression. ‘Transfiguration,’ the man intoned, ‘is a powerful tool.’ He took a deep breath. ‘You can get out from under your tables now.’
‘That… that was an act?’ Daniel was the first of the children to recover his poise.
Greg nodded. ‘We thought we’d let you see what Transfiguration can actually do.’ He turned to the seventh-year with whom he’d pretended to duel. ‘This is Sammy Kerrigan, by the way. He’ll be taking your study lessons.’
Daniel grinned. ‘Awesome…’
‘Well, then,’ the teacher glanced toward Louis, the boy’s eyes still wide as realisation of what had happened fully sunk in. ‘I suppose we should start of by getting you dried off.’ He flicked his wand, sending a wave of warmth washing over the still-speechless boy. ‘Okay, mate?’ Greg asked. ‘I’ve made a right mess of your hair…’
‘It’s alright,’ Louis mumbled, conscious of the gazes of his classmates. ‘I’m fine.’ He brushed his fringe away from his eyebrows.
‘So,’ Greg continued. ‘Transfiguration has four main parts, and we’ve seen three of them already today. Can anyone tell me what they are?’
Alexander Corner, the Ravenclaw boy sitting with Louis, raised his hand. ‘Vanishing.’
The teacher smiled. ‘Quite right.’ He turned his attention to the other side of the room, where Rose Weasley was almost lifting herself off her chair in her eagerness to answer. ‘Miss Weasley?’
‘Conjuring, and Switching.’
‘Right again,’ the man acknowledged. ‘That’s three out of four… which means there’s one left. Anyone? No?’ He strode across the classroom, collecting the sponge that had deflected off Sammy’s shoulders earlier in the lesson. ‘I quite liked this when it was a paperweight.’ The teacher replaced it on his desk, before snapping his wrist as he aimed his wand towards it. ‘Now, can anyone tell me the fourth branch? Mr Stretton?’
A boy with short, tawny brown hair offered an answer from the seat beside Albus. ‘Reverse Transfiguration?’
‘Close enough,’ Greg grinned. ‘We call it Untransfiguration – but you’re dead right in that it’s all about reversing a previous change. Now, as for how we do it, well, it’s all about one word.’ He made deliberate eye contact with Sammy, who shook his head theatrically. ‘That word is PIES.’
‘Did you think up that Pies thing?’ Louis questioned Sammy as the seventh-year leaned over the younger boy’s table later that morning.
‘Oh, come on…’ Sammy groaned. ‘Surely you think more of me than that, hey?’
‘All Professor Bennett’s idea,’ the older boy insisted. ‘I came up with another one, but, well…’ he tailed off. ‘I’ll tell you later. How’s your spell going?’
The boy shook his head. ‘Badly.’
‘Mine too,’ Alexander Corner echoed. ‘You made it look so easy…’
Sammy smiled. ‘That’s cause I’ve been doing it six years,’ he reasoned. ‘Not six minutes. Keep at it.’ The seventh-year stood up, leaving Louis and Alexander to sit silently beside one another, muttering their attempted spells. ‘Getting there, hey?’ He crouched down beside Nathan. ‘Maybe speak a bit more clearly?’
The blond boy nodded. ‘I’ll try,’ he whispered. ‘Acus Evoco...’ He sighed. ‘It’s no good.’
‘It’ll take time,’ Sammy reminded him. ‘No one gets this on their first try. ‘Remember, think clearly about what it is now, and what you want to change it into.’ The seventeen-year-old turned to the Ravenclaw at Nathan’s side. ‘You too,’ he pushed. ‘See, you’re getting a little bit of a point at that end. Malfoy, isn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ the boy, a similar height to Nathan but whiter of hair and paler of skin, uttered an even quieter reply than his partner had managed just moments before.
‘This is the noisy table, hey?’ Sammy smiled, heading across the room to stand beside the professor. ‘How long did it take you, first time?’
‘Couple of weeks,’ Greg answered, his eyes darting around the room at the abortive spells and frustrated expressions of his class. ‘I remember Theo just turned his into sawdust…’
The seventh-year laughed. ‘Same here,’ he recalled. ‘Guess I might have been quicker if I hadn’t have been hanging round the Quidditch team all day instead of practising.’
‘Priorities,’ Greg smiled at the memory, before pacing across to inspect the efforts of Daniel and his Ravenclaw partner, Felix Ashworth. ‘How are you getting on?’
‘Nothing’s happening,’ Daniel explained, bluntly. ‘The match sometimes jumps about a bit, but that’s it. Nothing else.’
Greg nodded. ‘That’s because you’re not focussing your spell enough,’ he summarised. ‘Remember, you have to think about each part of the needle, and what you want it to turn into… expectation and separation.’
‘This is the easiest one, right?’ Daniel retorted, sceptically.
‘Oh, yeah,’ Greg acknowledged, ‘but it’s also the hardest for a lot of people, because they’ve never anything they’ve done before.’
Daniel blinked. ‘What?’
‘I think I get it.’ Felix, short and with jet-black hair, looked up as he spoke for the first time. ‘When we try the others, we’ll already know what it feels like to make this work. It’s like learning to fly your broom and then learning how to do a trick on it.’
The teacher beamed. ‘I can tell why you’re in Ravenclaw, Mr Ashworth. Take a couple of points whilst you’re at it.’ He rested a palm on the first-year’s shoulder. ‘It took me a good week or two before I got this one cracked. To tell you the truth, I’d be surprised if anyone…’
‘I GOT IT!’ A shrill scream from the opposite side of the classroom both interrupted and disproved the teacher’s prediction in the same breath. ‘I did it,’ the voice repeated, calmly enough for the class to realise it belonged to Rose Weasley, before a shout from the table in front of Felix and Daniel further disrupted the lesson.
‘I did it too,’ Albus announced, ‘and you got your matchstick before me, so that means…’
‘Did not, Albus!’ Rose jerked upright, staring across the room at her cousin. ‘I did it first, and you know it!’
‘Only because you had longer than me!’ The boy snapped back, clearly in no mood to accept the Ravenclaw’s assertion. ‘If I’d’ve got my matchstick first, then I’d’ve done it first!’
‘Mr Potter,’ Greg raised his voice for the first time, quieting the room. ‘Miss Weasley. That will be enough. May I take a look at your work?’
‘Yes, sir.’ Albus complied, holding out his effort to the teacher, who then made the short walk across the room to collect Rose’s finished piece. Professor Bennett held up the two needles high against the room’s lantern-light, before passing his judgment with a nod. ‘Impressive,’ he concluded as the school bell rang out. ‘Take five points, each.’
‘I so did that before you,’ Rose Weasley hung back from her housemates as the first-years escaped the teacher’s earshot, before turning on her cousin as the corridor cleared.
‘Yeah, and I told you why!’ Albus reddened. ‘So stop going on about it!
‘You’ve changed, Albus Potter,’ Rose lowered her voice menacingly. ‘Since you became a Slytherin, you’ve changed.’
Albus stopped in his tracks. ‘I’ve changed?’ He gasped. ‘I’ve changed? What have I done?’
‘Yeah,’ Daniel blundered in on Albus’ side. ‘What’s he done? You’re just jealous because you’re not the best at Transfiguring!’
Now it was Rose’s turn to blush. ‘That’s not true!’ She spluttered. ‘I’m not, I’m not…’
‘Oh, sure,’ Daniel rolled his eyes. ‘Not jealous at all. Is that like you’re not ginger, too?’
Albus laughed at his friend’s sniping as he watched Rose turn an even deeper shade of red.
‘Rosie…’ Louis tried to intervene, but his cousin didn’t even let him utter a second word.
‘You’re just as bad as him!’ The girl snapped, bearing down on Louis as the boy backed away into a corner. ‘You betrayed everyone in the family, too! Dominique’s right about you!’ Rose seethed through a film of tears. ‘You’re just an attention-seeking little bastard who can’t stand it if you don’t get everything your own way. Maybe Slytherin’s the right place for you, after all!’ She jerked out a wand, holding it tight against Louis’ neck as the boy’s breathing hurried and his face paled. ‘Never… call… me… Rosie… again,’ she hissed, before turning her back on her cousins and making her thunderous way back to Ravenclaw Tower.
In her wake, Albus and Daniel cast one glance at each other, and left Louis to collapse onto the cold stone of a seat that was cut into the corridor wall.