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7:53 a.m. Much too early to be trying my patience by preparing to listen to someone who thinks they know everything. This, I’d heard, is exactly what Professor Alendria believed.

I leaned against my hand and watched James inhale the ninth muffin he’d had since we left the Great Hall three minutes prior. His defense: they had chocolate in them. My offence: he was going to clog his arteries and kill himself.

Death by chocolate. Death by apple. I was beginning to detect a morose pattern surrounding this boy’s life.

He had caught me that morning as I was coming in from another jog around the lake. Apparently, he woke up from a bad dream and saw me outside, figuring that it would be polite to wait for me. A nice thought, but I don’t believe I was pleasant with him – the dark sense of foreboding surrounding each footprint had put me on edge, especially because I had found one with a very definite indentation of a claw in it.

Might I add that this claw seemed to be very, very sharp?

“So,” he finally said when he finished licking his fingers. “Why do you run so much? I mean, it’s great and all, but you could burn so many more calories playing Quidditch.”

I smiled slightly and moved the corner of my text book so it was in the exact center of my desk. “It’s meditational.” I said lightly. “I can think so much better when I’m running.”

He shrugged. “Fair enough. Bet you’re in great shape.”

I hesitated before nodding, unsure if I was walking into a trap of some sort. I was relatively sure that he was scheming, but I figured I was smart enough to wiggle out of it.

“Why don’t you - ?”

Whatever suggestion he had was cut off as a handful of students walked into the room, talking loudly. All of them looked tired and as if they hadn’t done their homework, because several of them had rolls of parchment in their hands and were frantically scribbling down answers to the problems that had been given over the weekend. (Thanks to my new friends, my homework had been completed before the teachers even had a chance to assign it.)

The class began to fill rapidly after that, my other friends shuffling in and taking the seats behind us. I started idle chatter with Rhyad about Transfiguration in general, though I could tell he was poking my brain to find out how much I knew. To be perfectly honest, Transfiguration was not my strong point – when you’re fighting the stuff I chase after, it doesn’t do much to transfigure rocks into apples or whatever the hell Transfiguration is all about.

He was just beginning to explain what I felt like was a standard theory of changing things when the door opened and a woman walked in. She was tall, blonde, and beautiful, but starting to show the signs of age around her eyes and mouth.

“Good morning class,” she chimed and was given the gift of a chorused, “Morning,” back. She walked up the aisle, adding, “Everyone, books away and wands out! Practical lesson today.”

There were scattered cheers and a few clapped hands while everyone shoved their books under their seats with dull thumps, pulling out their magical aids. I put my book away but crossed my hands over my stomach, suddenly growing nervous. Headmaster Longbottom was smart enough to inform my teachers about my lack of wand usage... wasn’t he?

Professor Alendria seemed to notice me, pausing on her way to her desk. “Miss Elaina Riley?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am,” I said politely, trying to look small and nice.

“Welcome to my class. I might as well tell you that

 I do not tolerate any kind of insolence or stupidity in my classroom. I demand respect, and will only issue it in return.”

“That won’t be a problem, ma’am.”

“Good. Now, today we will be transfiguring our desks into piglets. This spell is complex, not only because it is changing one thing into several, but because each living organism must have all the things necessary to its survival. You will be working with your partners today. The instructions,” she reached the front of the room and flipped the chalkboard over, showing us lines and lines of tiny script, “are here. I will be walking around in case you need any help.”

Everyone began to push their belongings to the floor, before the furniture they were lying on suddenly became a squealing, wiggling pig. I tried to swallow my nerves as I followed suit, rubbing my hands on my robe and reading the instructions.

Why was I so anxious? I had faced vampires, werewolves, dragons, and everything before, between, and after. Did it really make sense that I was worried about a little piece of magic?

“Where’s your wand?” James asked as he pulled his own out of his pocket.

“I don’t need one.”

“You don’t need one?” he repeated dumbly.

Aqualumate,” I whispered, hiding my hand under the table. He looked beneath just as the space beneath the wood erupted in a glowing light, stemming from a small puddle of water growing in my palm. James gasped as I shook my hand, ending the spell, but I blocked him out and began to read the instructions.

“How?” he spluttered.

“I don’t know. I just can.”

“That is so. Fucking. Sweet.”

I smiled and pulled up my sleeves, saying, “Shouldn’t we get to work?”

I was just beginning to say the incantation when Professor Alendria called out, “Miss Riley?”

I paused and looked up as she walked up, her heels clicking against the ground. “Yes ma’am?”

“Where is your wand?”

“I don’t need one,” I said, feeling a wave of déjà vu.

Her plucked eyebrows rose as she quietly said, “For my class, you do. You see, we do magic here at Hogwarts, and to do that you require a wand.”

“Not her!” James piped up, making me turn to glare at him. He ignored me and said, “She can do magic with her hands!”

“Not if she doesn’t want a detention,” Professor Alendria said acidly.

“But ma’am, I can’t use a wand. It doesn’t work.” I broke out before James could do any more damage.

“Prove it.”

There was a silence that would have been broken by a feather dropping as I looked around the room. There was an inkpot sitting on her desk, and it was that I focused on – with a wild sweep of my hand, I lifted it into the air. Another flick and it was spinning around, dancing wildly with the dust motes. A handful of quills soared into the air as the inkpot uncorked itself, were loaded with ink, then flew back down to the desk and wrote on a slip of parchment that was lying, blank, on the wood.

There were gasps of surprise and shock and wonder, several people actually falling out of their chairs in astonishment. I didn’t exactly care about their impressions, though – the one I needed was Professor Alendria’s.

Her expression was cold as she said, “Transfigure it.”

“Excuse me?” I gasped.

“This is Transfiguration. Transfigure it.”

I will once again attract your attention to the fact that I hadn’t practiced Transfiguration much. There was just no need for it while working with my dad. So I took a deep breath, gathered all of my spell knowledge, and exclaimed, “Metacorpfelon!”

Abruptly, there was a wicked pop and the inkpot fell onto the desk. Except that it wasn’t an inkpot anymore.

It was a fluffy kitten, so black it was blue, with green eyes and little white teeth. Its tail erect and walking on unsure feet, it trotted off the edge of the desk, fell flat on its face, shook itself, and made its way over to my desk. I reached down and picked it up, scratching beneath its chin. James leaned forward and ran his finger along the creature’s spine, making it meow in pleasure. The poor thing was barely as big as my palm, but was trying it’s hardest to purr louder than even the biggest of tom cats. I smiled at it as Professor Alendria stepped closer, examining the creature as if she was hoping for it to be maimed in some way.

Finally, she sniffed. “You are rough, coarse,” she said scathingly. “You are going to have to work much harder than you have ever worked in your life if you expect to pass your N.E.W.T.s.”

I bristled slightly, but I figured it wasn’t the time to explain to her that I wasn’t planning on staying past February.

“Continue, the rest of you,” she snapped to the others before turning heel and marching to her desk. She cleaned up the mess I had made as I sighed, placing the kitten on my shoulder.

“Well,” James said, falsely perky. “We'd best get started, right?”

I nodded and gestured for him to begin the transfiguration of our desk.

 

“That chick’s a bitch sometimes,” P.J. said, oddly comforting as she sat down beside me. “Don’t let her get to you.”

“Thanks,” I muttered glumly, petting the kitten that I had smuggled from the room at the end of the lesson. I figured he was mine by right, seeing as I had made him and all.

“She always assigns a ton of work on Mondays,” James added, piling lunch onto his plate. “That’s not anything new.”

I sighed and rubbed my eyes, feeling the weight of the book in my bag. After nearly an hour of trying to teach James how to make piglets out of the desk, I had spent the remainder of the hour reading my book. Of course, it contained next to no useful information for performing basic Transfiguration, so… I was probably sunk in that subject.

“What do you have next?” Annalie asked gently.

“Advanced Potions.”

“Not too bad, then,” Rhyad commented. “Ranson is okay – a little quirky, but not bad.”

“Quirky?” I asked slowly, naturally being hesitant to the term.

“Yeah,” James reached for a roll, shoving half of it into his mouth and dipping the other half in a bowl of butter. “Funny dude. He’s, well…”

“The first time we met him, he spent five minutes describing, in detail, how much his nostril hairs were tickling his nose,” Oak said, grinning crookedly.

“That’s mildly disturbing.” I scooped a bite of chicken into my mouth before James would eat it for me, chewing slowly and trying not to think about my potions professor’s nose issues.

“Isn’t it?” Annalie smiled and shook her head.

There was a brief silence while we all ate, broken only when my kitten tripped over a spoon. James spoke up next, saying, “You know, you should totally come to our Quidditch practice tonight. It’ll help get your mind off things.”

“We’ll see,” I said.

“You should!” Oak exclaimed, leaning forward excitedly. “Seriously! I mean, watching us play might inspire you to come and join us on the field.”

I snorted and said, “Since when did you have an open spot?”

“Since I said we might.”

I shook my head and pet my cat, absently eating an apple. I don’t think anyone took this motion as denial, because they all seemed to be content to let the subject drop for the time being. After a few more silent seconds, Annalie started up a conversation with P.J. that was mostly gossip and Oak teased Rhyad about something that was obviously an inside joke. James leaned forward so that his elbows were practically on either side of my plate, saying, “So how has your first day been?”

I shrugged. “Interesting enough, I guess.”

“Like P.J. said, don’t let Alendria get to you. She doesn’t really like people who are different.”

“She’ll hate me, then.”

“Who cares? What’s one teacher compared to an entire staff? Everyone else will like you.”

“The teachers won’t be the only one,” Oak said, smoothly gliding into our conversation.

“What do you mean?” I asked while James, at the same time, glared and snapped, “Shut up.”

I glanced at James and felt a small shock at the expression of barely restrained fury and defense in his eyes. When I looked at Oak, he seemed a little put off too.

“What do you mean, Oak?” I repeated.

“Nothing,” he said quickly. “Nothing at all.”

James seemed temporarily satisfied with this and looked down at the food before him while I mouthed at Oak, Tell me later?

He nodded and I leaned back, returning my gaze to James.

“You really think that the rest of the teachers won’t have a problem with me?” I asked.

James grinned crookedly and nodded. “Defiantly not. If they haven’t kicked me out by now, they’ll adore you.”

I smiled and turned, gently worming my way into Annalie’s conversation with P.J. They pointed out the owners of the many names they mentioned, telling me who was cheating on whom and who was recently seen exiting a broom cupboard with Darby Mackintosh. I just nodded as if I understood what they were talking about, munching my way through a plate of fruit and trying to forget the morning’s escapades.

Eventually, enough time had passed that I was getting close to potentially being late, so I rose from my seat. Oak, to my dim surprise, rose as well.

“We’d better get going,” he said.

“We?” I asked.

“Oak’s in Advanced Potions too,” Annalie informed me. “He aced his O.W.L.s, in that subject at least.”

I blinked at him and he stuck his tongue out at her, the others laughing. I shook it off, however, and slung my bag over my shoulder. I froze when I saw my kitten, sitting on the table with an innocent look on his face.

“I have a free period next hour,” Annalie said. “I’ll take him up to the common room.”

I smiled at her. “Thanks.”

“What’s his name, by the way?”

I paused and thought, considering the question for a long minute before saying, “Quill. His name is Quill.”

She laughed. “Oh, the irony.”

I smirked as we walked away from the table. Yes, the irony indeed.

Oak and I made our way to the dungeon in a mildly awkward silence, not even trying to make a conversation. When we reached the Potion’s room, he opened the door for me; I thanked him quietly before entering.

All conversation inside of the room froze when we entered. It wasn’t exactly an overflowing turn-up, but there were enough people to make a pretty noticeable silence. I swallowed and tightened my grip on my bag while Oak gestured for me to follow him, leading me to a table near the back of the room. He took two cauldrons from the stack on one of the shelves and set them up, getting everything ready for potion making.

Finally, the silence was broken. By a long, loud wolf whistle.

I blushed slightly and looked down while Oak snorted, pulling his book out of his bag. He sat down and tucked his hands behind his head, trying to look nonchalant. I tried to follow suit, but it was extremely difficult while I was trying not to glare furiously at everyone who was staring at me.

“That is what I meant earlier,” Oak whispered, so quietly that I almost didn’t hear him. I turned and frowned, brushing my hair out of my eyes.

“I don’t think I understand.” I said slowly.

“The guys here? They’re interested.”

“In me?”

“No, in physics. Of course you!”

“Why?”

He sighed as if a child had just asked him where babies came from and rubbed his neck. “Because, Elaina, you’re new, you’re unique, and you’re, well…”

“I’m what?” I asked somewhat defensively.

“Pretty. Beyond pretty. Beautiful. And you obviously can handle yourself. There aren’t a lot of girls like you here, so when one comes…. She’s a hot commodity.”

I bit my lip, unsure whether to say thank you or ask what exactly what he meant. I was deciding on some sort of middle ground when the door opened again and in walked none other than the peculiar professor.

Professor Ranson was dressed in robes that were such a pale yellow that I was wondering if he was trying to become one with the sunshine. His dark hair was cropped short around his head and his nose – the one that was giving him such nostril hair trouble – was a bit larger than considered normal.

Conversations ebbed slightly, but didn’t end entirely. Oak and I watched as he walked up the aisle and stopped by his desk, shuffling through the overflowing papers before he looked at the class.

“Well, everyone, today we’ll be making a bone-mending potion. You can find the directions in your book on page four-seventy-two. You may begin.”

I opened my book and flipped through the aged pages until I found the right set of directions. I was rising to go to the ingredients cabinet when Professor Ranson called my name.

“Elaina Riley! A word with you, please.”

I felt Oak glance nervously at me while I walked up to his desk, my book in one hand and my other fist clenched. I didn’t speak until I was right in front of his desk, saying, “Yes, sir?”

The man blinked at me, as if he had entirely forgotten asking for a moment of my time. After a second, however, his expression cleared and he asked gravely, “Are you capable, dear girl?”

“I like to think so.”

He studied me for a minute before nodding his approval. “Good. You may return to your potion making.”

My eyebrows rose and I turned, walking back to where Oak was waiting next to the ingredients cabinet. “What was that about?” he asked while I begin to shuffle through the roots and bottles of livers.

I looked at him and smiled, saying, “Well, you were right about one thing. He certainly is quirky.”

 

E/N: Sorry if this chapter felt a bit like a filler, because it kind of was. But I like to think that it sort of set the mood for Elaina’s educational career at Hogwarts, so hopefully no one resented it too much! As always, reviews of any sort are welcome… hint, hint…
 

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