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The Rise of the A.W.L. by MargaretLane
Chapter 6 : Professor Fairfax.
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4

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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise, including the title Hairy Snout, Human Heart and the Shrinking Solution belong to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

Sorry for the long delay in getting this chapter up. I've been really busy, but I'm done now, so chapters should go up a bit more quickly.

The following morning after breakfast, Flitwick handed out their timetables.

Rose skimmed hers quickly, looking for their first Potions lesson.

“Not until after lunch,” she murmured disappointedly.

“What?” Rasmus asked.

“We don’t have Professor Fairfax until after lunch. I was looking forward to seeing what he’s like.”

“Well, you’ll find out in a couple of hours,” he pointed out.

Albus grinned. “We’ve Defence Against the Dark Arts first. That’s what I’ve been looking forward to.”

“We’d better get going actually,” Rasmus said. “Professor Jones really doesn’t like it when we’re late.”

Nobody wanted to get into trouble on the first day of classes, so they took his advice and headed to the Defence classroom.

“I think most of you will be glad to hear we’ll be starting this year by learning some basic defensive spells,” Professor Jones began.

Nathan sighed softly. Practical work had never been his strong point.

Professor Jones glanced at him, but continued with what she was saying.

“Then, after Christmas, we’ll move on to studying some of the less challenging Dark Creatures, such as Kappas, Grindylows and Boggarts.”

“What about werewolves?” Dora called out.

Some of the Slytherins laughed and Professor Jones shot her a look of intense dislike.

“I believe I’ve spoken to you before about raising your hand if you’ve something to say, Miss Nottingham. It may be the first day of term, but the rules in this classroom have not changed.”

“Sorry, Professor.” Dora smirked.

“And you can wipe that look off your face. I will not tolerate disrespect. Five points from Ravenclaw.”

“But I…”

“Do you want me to make it ten?”

“No, Professor, sorry.”

To Rose’s surprise, the second apology sounded more genuine. She hadn’t thought Dora would care about losing points. She sure hadn’t shown much loyalty to her housemates in the past. But maybe she was tired of being the outcast. Or maybe it was Jones’s tone, which made it clear she wouldn’t stand for any nonsense, which silenced her.

“All right.” Jones turned back to the class at large. “Can anybody name a defensive spell?”

Rose raised her hand, as did Scorpius, Albus, Nathan and Rasmus.

“Miss Weasley?”

“A Shield Charm.”

“Yes, very good. Quite a difficult spell, that one. It’ll be another couple of years before we cover it. Any other suggestions? Mr. Potter?”

“The Disarming Charm.”

Professor Jones smiled. “I’m not surprised you’d think of that one.” She glanced around the room. “Can anybody tell me when the Disarming Charm was most famously used?”

A number of hands went up again.

“Mr. Adams?”

“Albus’s dad used it to defeat You-Know-Who.”

“Correct. In fact, the spell remains very closely associated with Harry Potter. You’ll actually find some textbooks even list the Dark Wizards he defeated with it. But yes, You-Know-Who is certainly the most famous. Mr. Potter, could you come up here for a moment while I demonstrate the charm.”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Now raise your wand. A little higher, as if you’re about to attack me. That’s right. EXPELLIARMUS.”

The wand flew from his hand.

“Can anybody tell me why this spell is so useful for defence? Mr. Malfoy?”

“It deprives your opponent of his most valuable method of attack.”

She nodded. “Although, while the spell is known as the Disarming Charm, it can actually be used to remove anything from another’s grasp. I’ve known parents use it when a child is holding something dangerous, for example.

“But yes, its main use is to disarm. Without a wand, many wizards are rendered almost defenceless. That’s why it’s such a useful spell and also why you should take particular care to defend yourself against it. If you are attacked, it’s likely the first thing your opponent will do is attempt to disarm you.

“Now, please get into pairs and we’ll begin practicing the spell.”

It was more difficult than Rose had expected and five minutes later she’d still failed to disarm Albus. Around her, most of her classmates seemed to be having similar difficulties.

The monotony was broken by an unexpected flash of light, followed by the sound of smashing, as a window was blasted to smithereens.

“Oops, sorry Professor.” Nathan bit his lip nervously.

Professor Jones shook her head. “Could you please tell me how you managed to smash the window with a disarming spell, Nathan?”

He fidgeted nervously. “I’ve no idea, Professor. I just stumbled and somehow that jet of light flew out of my wand. I don’t know how.”

With another shake of her head, Professor Jones raised her wand and the shards of glass flew back into place, leaving the window just as it had been beforehand.

The class were in hysterics.

“How do you do it, Nathan?” Derek asked as they left the classroom.

“I don’t mean to,” he said miserably. “It’s just whenever I wave a  wand or fill a cauldron, something seems to go wrong.”

“The whole class was a disaster, really,” Rose said. “How long did it take before any of us mastered the spell?”

“Too long,” Rasmus agreed. “I suppose it’s not being able to practice over the holidays. We’re all a bit rusty.”

“What do we have next anyway?” Fionnuala asked, as she rooted through her bag. “I can’t seem to find my timetable.”

Rasmus sighed. “Between you and Nathan, we’ll probably lose about a hundred points before the week is out.”

“It’s Transfiguration next,” Albus said hurriedly.

Professor Blackburn’s eyes were wary as they entered the classroom.

“Hi Professor. How are you?” Rose asked, smiling at her.

“Fine Rose, thanks. Did you have a good holiday?”

“Yes, Professor.”

Seeing Blackburn properly for the first time since the term had begun, Rose noticed how tired she looked. And how tense. Her hand was grasping her wand so tightly, her knuckles were white.

“Hi Professor.” Dora’s tone was mocking.

Professor Blackburn took a deep breath.

“Hi Dora. Um, could you all please sit down now and get out your books?” The words came out in a rush.

“Aren’t you going to tell us what we’ll be studying this year?” Dora demanded as she sat down. “Professor Jones did.”

“Oh, right, yes. We’ll be um carrying on with basic transformations…”

Dora snorted at the word “transformations” and Professor Blackburn faltered.

“Ouch,” Dora exclaimed. “Professor, Angie kicked me.”

Professor Blackburn sighed. “Could you all please settle down?” It came out sounding more like a plea than a warning.

“Sorry Professor,” Angie said apologetically.

Blackburn gave a half-nod, acknowledging the apology.

“And then, well, towards the end of the year, we’ll probably take a look at the theory behind switches. Um, can anybody tell me what switches are?”

Her eyes darted nervously around the classroom.

Rose, Albus, Nathan, Rasmus and Angie all raised their hands.

“Um, can you tell us, Albus?”

“It’s when you magically exchange part of one thing with part of another.”

The correct answer seemed to relax Blackburn slightly and some of the panic left her eyes.

“That’s right. Ten points to Ravenclaw. Now, switches are quite difficult and I don’t  expect any of you to have mastered any by the summer, but I will expect you to be able to list some of the more common ones and explain the theory behind them.”

She took a deep breath and seemed to come to an abrupt stop.

Rose raised her hand.

“Yes, Rose?”

“Could you tell us some of the Transformations we’ll be learning, Professor.”

“Yes, of course.” Rose thought she sounded relieved as she listed some of the spells they’d be learning that year.

Rose pulled out a roll of parchment and began making notes, more to show she was interested than because she really thought she needed to. Albus, Derek, Nathan and Angie followed her example.

“She seemed upset,” Angie said as they left the classroom after class.

“She probably is,” Rose said. “The papers have been really going after her again this past week. Because of Hogwarts reopening, I suppose.”

Dora rolled her eyes. “She hasn’t a clue what she’s doing.”

“Well, you didn’t exactly make it easy for her, did you?” Rose said hotly.

“All I did was ask a question.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

Rasmus raised his hands. “Hey, there’s no point in getting into an argument. We need to get to History of Magic.”

With a final glare at Dora, Rose hurried to catch up with him.

“You probably shouldn’t antagonise her,” Albus muttered nervously.

“I’ve told you before, I’m not scared of her. That’s what she wants, how she operates. She’s not getting away with it.

He fidgeted. “Yeah, but there’s no point in looking for trouble either, is there?”

“I agree,” Rasmus said. “And you know, she kind of had a point, Rose. That wasn’t exactly the greatest class we’ve ever had, was it?”

“Like Angie said, she was upset. She looked exhausted, didn’t you notice?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

He didn’t finish the sentence and Rose hadn’t time to demand he do so, as they’d reached the History of Magic classroom and he sat down between two Hufflepuffs.

Angie sat beside Rose.

“I’ve been reading a bit about werewolves,” she whispered. “After what you told me in Diagon Alley. Just trying to figure out why it was such a big deal, you know.”

“You should probably take a lot of what you read with a pinch of salt. It’s not half as big a deal as people make out.”

“Well, yeah, I kind of figured it was nothing to worry about when nobody even noticed all last year.” She glanced up to check Binns wasn’t paying any attention to them before adding, “I found this book Hairy Snout, Human Heart.”

“Oh, that’s supposed to be good.”

She nodded. “There are parts of it that make the whole thing sound pretty awful though. The transformations and all. Do  you think Professor Blackburn goes through that every month?”

Rose shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t read it. Probably not though. I think it was worse before they made the Wolfsbane Potion. It’s still supposed to be pretty unpleasant though.”

She should really be paying attention to the class, she supposed, but she could always go and look up the information in their textbook or the library later. She usually ended up doing that anyway since Binns was such an appalling teacher and the books explained things a whole lot better than he ever did.

She glanced across the room. Rasmus and Nathan seemed to be the only ones actually listening.

She was angry with Rasmus, she realised. Of course, their education was important and she wanted good teachers just as much as he did, but it was one flipping class. They’d learnt plenty in Transfiguration last year. And it was pretty mean to criticise Blackburn for being distracted after the summer she must have had.

Rose still felt a little guilty. Out of all the classrooms in the school, why, oh why, had she picked the Transfiguration classroom for their great plan? If she hadn’t none of this might have happened. Of course, her mother’d had a point that Dora’d probably been planning to use the information against Blackburn sooner or later anyway, but maybe she wouldn’t have. Maybe she’d have kept it in reserve for some future time that might never come.

She supposed there was little to gain by worrying about it now.

She tried to turn her attention back to what Binns was saying, but it wasn’t easy.  Although she usually had good concentration, she had to admit, there were times she found History of Magic hard going, particularly when she’d something else on her mind. She supposed she couldn’t really blame her classmates for tuning out almost constantly, but they could at least read up on the information in their textbook. That’s what the books were for, after all.

An age seemed to pass before the class finally came to an end.

 “Lunchtime, finally.” Derek grinned. “I’d forgotten how long a morning felt.”

“It’s just History of Magic that makes it feel so long,” Rose said. “The rest of the morning was good.” She glanced at Rasmus pointedly.

“Are  you annoyed with me?” he asked.

“Yes! Actually, I am. What did you want taking her side for?” She nodded disdainfully in Dora’s direction.

“I wasn’t ‘taking her side’. I just said the class wasn’t great, that’s all. Come on, Rose, you must have thought that yourself.” His voice was almost pleading.

She turned away. “Albus, Angie, are you coming to lunch?”

Rasmus sighed, but didn’t try to argue further.

Over lunch, the conversation turned to their upcoming Potions lesson.

“I hope Professor Fairfax won’t be too strict,” Albus said nervously.

Fionnuala looked up.

“What? Who?”

“Do you ever listen to a full conversation?” Angie asked her in amusement.

“Sometimes,” she said vaguely. “If it’s interesting.”

“And this isn’t? Don’t you wonder what Fairfax will be like?”

Fionnuala shrugged. “I’m sure he’ll be grand.”

“He looks more on the ball than Slughorn was,” Rose said. “Might be a problem for some people.”

“Personally, I think a Potions master who knows what’s going on around him just might be a good thing,” Rasmus said.

Rose narrowed her eyes, wondering if he was referring to their Transfiguration lesson, but he probably wasn’t. And she had to agree that a Potions teacher who spent more time teaching than sucking up to favourites would be good.

Fairfax certainly showed no interest in choosing favourites that afternoon. In fact, his teaching style seemed to differ as much from Slughorn’s as his appearance did.

“Good afternoon class,” he began.

“Good afternoon, Sir.”

“Professor Slughorn has informed me of how much you covered last year. Adequate, I would say, but we’ll be raising the bar a little this year. You’re not first years any more after all and the potions we’ll be studying this year will be of a rather more difficult and, I hope, interesting nature.”

Rose and Rasmus both grinned. Nathan, Albus, Abric and Derek, however, looked nervous.

“I expect you all to work hard and take the class seriously, but I’m certain we won’t have any problems in that direction.” He gave a tight smile. “Now, let’s see…Nathan Adams.”

“Here Sir.”

Nathan raised his hand, which unfortunately happened to be holding his wand. A jet of water flew out of it, soaking those around him.

Fairfax frowned.

“Put your wand away please.”

“I’m sorry, Sir. I didn’t realise I was holding it.”

“I didn’t ask for an explanation. Just put it away now.”

Nathan did as he was told.

“And there’s no need to make such a fuss, Miss…” he addressed Dora, who was tutting and trying to dry herself. “It’s only water.”

He raised his wand and dried those who’d been hit with it.

“Rasmus Bagshot,” he barked.

“Um, here Sir.”

He continued through the class alphabetically.

“Now, I want you to open page five of your textbooks and we’ll begin looking at Shrinking Solutions.”

Professor Fairfax clearly had a gift for explanation. His description of the potion and the steps they would need to follow when making it were not only clear and concise, but also interesting.

“I want you to study these principles carefully tonight,” he finished by saying. “You’ll be making the potion in our next lesson. Good day to you.”

“You know, I actually think I might be able to do this,” Nathan said in amazement, as they left the classroom.

Dora scoffed. “Yeah, right. You know you’ll tip your potion over or spill one of the ingredients or something equally stupid. You can’t even raise your hand in class without causing mayhem.”

His face fell.

“At least he knows better than to daub pro-Death Eater slogans on the castle walls,” Rose snapped. “Or deliberately damage other people’s things. You know, the things you seem to struggle with.”

“Aw, sorry for the loser, are you Rose? Suppose somebody has to fight for the lost causes of the world.”

Rose raised her wand and hit Dora with a jelly legs jinx.

Unfortunately, at that moment, Fairfax stepped out of the dungeon.

“What is going on out here?” One look at Dora seemed to answer his question and he immediately undid the spell, a look of irritation on his face. “Who cast that spell?”

“Um, I did, Sir,” Rose admitted.

“Twenty points from Ravenclaw and count yourself lucky I’m not giving you a detention.”

Dora was grinning widely.

“And I don’t know what everybody else is so enthralled by. Surely you’ve another class to get to.”

They hurried away.

“I don’t mind losing the points so much,” Rose muttered to Albus. “Well, I do, but what really annoys me is how flaming smug Dora looked. I swear…”

“You’re not going to fight with her again, are you?” he asked.

“Not if I can help it. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but she just drives me so crazy. Mocking Nathan like that. And Fairfax wasn’t much better, biting his head off over that jet of water. It was an accident.”

She knew she was being unfair. She’d quite liked Professor Fairfax until he’d caught her jinxing Dora. It was true she hadn’t much liked how he’d spoken to Nathan, but his obvious talent as a teacher made up for it.

And she couldn’t blame him for reprimanding her, really. Any teacher would have.

Just why did he have to come out of the classroom at that moment? It gave Dora way too much pleasure.

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