- Chapter Nine -
"Where the ruddy hell is classroom 1B?" Sirius asked irritably, as they climbed yet another staircase on the way to their first lesson.
"It's the Transfiguration classroom," said Remus unhelpfully, clutching a stitch in his side.
Sirius rolled his eyes and started using the bannister to haul himself up. "I know that, but that still doesn't tell us where the stupid thing is!"
They reached the top of the stairs and stood there for a few seconds, panting.
"My - legs - hurt!" gasped Peter, who was bent over double as he struggled to regain his breath.
"So do mine," said James. He leant against the wall and looked around him. To his left, there was another staircase; to the right, there was a corridor. "Which way do we go now?"
"I don't know," said Remus, examining his timetable, even though he knew it was useless. They didn't have any directions apart from the printed name of the teacher, the subject and the classroom number. "Let's go right. I don't think I can take another staircase."
"Me neither," came Peter's voice. He was still hunched over and beads of sweat had started to break out on his forehead. "But let's have a break before we move on - my feet can't move any more."
James nodded. "All right," he said, glancing down the corridor. There was no one else in sight. "Hurry up, though. We've only got a couple of minutes."
"What if we're late?" Remus hopped on the spot looking anxious.
Late to their very first lesson? That wasn't something he wanted to think about... They'd make a bad impression.
"We won't be," James assured him gently. "I promise."
Sirius glanced at Peter's watch, which was showing beneath his sleeve. "I wouldn't promise that, if I were you," he said. "We've got two minutes to get there. I don't think we'll make it."
Remus groaned and hopped even more frantically. "Oh, no... Oh, no..."
"Relax, mate, we'll be fine," Sirius told him. I won't let you get a detention. I'll tell McGonagall that it was my fault."
"But it wasn't," said Remus, looking surprised. "So that would be a lie."
"Exactly," said Sirius. He rolled his eyes. "But it'll get you out of trouble."
Frowning slightly, as though he doubted Sirius' morality, Remus opened his mouth to argue.
But James got there first. "Come on," he said. "We'd better get going. We really are going to be late, if we don't hurry up."
Sirius nudged Remus. "See?" he said. "I told you so. And if it's inevitable, there's no point worrying."
This did nothing to lessen Remus' panic.
"I said 'if we don't hurry up', idiot!" retorted James, dragging the puffing Peter down the corridor. "I didn't say it was inevitable!"
Sirius shrugged. "That doesn't mean it isn't," he said.
James just rolled his eyes.
They hurried through the castle, taking turns at random, avoiding the staircases wherever possible.
Peter trailed a little behind the others, his face flushed with exhaustion, struggling to keep up.
Remus would probably have waited for him if he hadn't been so paranoid about being late. He was the one leading the way, while Sirius and James strode a pace or two behind.
"What's the time?" asked James, passing a suit of armour and glancing back at it over his shoulder.
He was willing to swear it was the same one they'd passed earlier.
"Four minutes past nine," panted Peter. "We're late."
Remus groaned and sped up.
"Wait for us, Remus!" said James loudly, hurrying after his friend and dragging Sirius with him.
"James, stop dragging me! Holy unicorn turds! I can walk on my own, thanks!" Sirius did not take kindly to being pulled around corners. He pulled his arm out of James' grip.
Peter stopped walking. "Have we been down this corridor already?" he asked, looking back at the suit of armour they had just passed. "It's just- I swear I've seen that thing before."
James stopped too and Sirius reached out for Remus to stop him going off on his own.
The three of them turned.
"Well, that's what I thought," said James slowly. "I thought the armour looked familiar too. It's got the same dent in it as that one in the Charms corridor... But I don't recognise the rest of the area at all."
"Maybe the armour can walk," suggested Sirius, more as a joke than anything.
"I wouldn't be surprised, to be honest," said Remus. Then he pushed Sirius' arm off him. "Can we get going, though, please. We're very late now and I'm still panicking."
Peter tore his gaze away from the suit of armour and followed the others down the corridor.
James chuckled. "All right, Remus, keep your hair on... Hey look!" he stopped suddenly.
Remus turned. "What?" he snapped, looking irritated. Then he realised how rude he must've sounded and blushed slightly. "Sorry."
"Don't apologise," said James, waving him aside. "I just think we're nearly there. See?" he pointed to a lone student standing outside a door up ahead. "Is that Frank?"
They all looked.
Sirius' heart gave a lurch. "It is!" he cried, as he recognised Frank's tall, brown-haired profile. "But what is he doing outside? He can't have been sent out already."
"I don't know," said Remus, waving at Frank to catch his attention. "Though at least we know where the classroom is now!"
"Yeah." James watched as Frank noticed them and waved back. He raised his voice to call after the other boy. "Hi, Frank! What're you doing?"
Frank waited until the others were a meter away before speaking. "McGonagall told me to wait outside for you. She's a bit... um... irritated, I think."
Remus' heart sank. Here comes detention.
Sirius peered around the door into the classroom. Professor McGonagall stood at the front of it, tapping her foot impatiently. Her nostrils were also flaring.
"A bit irritated?" he said, glancing at Frank. "A bit? She looks like she's about to-"
But Professor McGonagall had noticed him looking. "Mr Longbottom, have you found them yet?" she said irritably, striding over to the door and staring down at the five boys.
Frank looked uncertainly at James. "Uh, yes, Professor. I have. They're here, right here."
None of the other four said anything.
Professor McGonagall's spectacles flashed. "Well?" she demanded, turning from one guilty face to the others. "Why are you all so late?"
Keeping his eyes on the floor, James decided to speak. Professor McGonagall had a knack of making people feel ashamed of themselves, even if they had only been late. "We... We got lost, Professor," he said. "We're really, really sorry."
McGonagall sniffed. "Hmm..." she said, still looking at them sharply.
Beside him, James could feel Peter trembling.
Remus' eyes were very wide.
For a moment, it seemed as though the Professor was going to let them off scot-free. Her expression certainly seemed a little softer as she took in the general first-year-ness that surrounded them...
But then her gaze fell on Sirius, who was absently examining his fingernails. He looked up at her as he sensed her eyes on him, meeting her gaze with perfect, lazy arrogance.
Professor McGonagall's face creased into one of mild disapproval. "As it is your first day," she said crisply, "I will not give any of you detention. However," she glanced at Sirius, who still looked unabashed, "I shall be taking a point off Gryffindor for tardiness. Inside, please."
She pointed through the door into the classroom and, one by one, the boys filed past her, trying not to look too pleased at how easily they'd got away.
Frank headed for a seat next to his friend, a Gryffindor girl who had been copying something from the blackboard. Sirius and James slid into two empty seats in the second row, while Peter and Remus were left to take the last desk at the front.
Once the class was settled, Professor McGonagall closed the classroom door and turned to face them.
Everyone went silent and James - with a pang of dislike - saw greasy-haired Severus Snape hastily stop whispering to Lily.
"Now that our latecomers have finally joined us," McGonagall began, picking up her wand from her desk and sweeping it through the air. "I would like to begin the lesson."
Instantly, the blackboard, which had been bearing the words 'Professor M. McGonagall, Transfiguration teacher and head of Gryffindor', was wiped blank.
The girl next to Frank hastily put down her quill.
James sat up a little straighter. He didn't think it was a good idea to irritate this teacher even more by not listening.
"If you could please take out your copies of 'A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration', I would like you to turn to page four and read the first paragraph. I will walk you through anything you do not understand when you have finished."
There was a great scrabbling as everyone bent down to pull their books from their bags.
James glanced over at Remus and Peter, as he put his quill and ink on his desk, just in time to see Remus drop his textbook on the floor.
Remus blushed and dived under the table to get it; James grimaced at him while bending over to reach his own copy. He extracted it from his bag with difficulty and dumped it, with a loud thump, in front of him.
Then he rifled through the pages until he'd found the one marked with a four. Glancing once at Sirius (who grinned back at him), James began to read.
It was much more complex than he'd expected.
In the row in front, Peter Pettigrew was frowning as he attempted to decipher something about wand movement - why, he thought bitterly, couldn't the textbook be a bit easier to read? He gnawed at his fingernails, trying and failing to concentrate.
Beside Peter, Remus had read the paragraph in ten seconds flat and understood it all perfectly. But he thought he'd have trouble actually performing the spell.
Sirius and James had likewise understood; Sirius was now leaning back on his chair with only two of the wooden legs touching the ground.
James, meanwhile, was surprised at how quickly he'd managed to grasp the concepts. Yes, they had been difficultly worded, but the idea was fairly simple once you'd understood the basics...
Once they'd all finished reading - Peter gave up halfway through - Professor McGonagall brought their attention back to her. She began to explain the process of Transfiguration, how the wand movement was crucial, how the trickiness of the spell depended on mass and certain other scientific variables...
Then she stopped and looked at them all very sternly. "Before we begin," she said, laying her wand on her desk. "I will have you know that I do not accept foolish behaviour in my lessons. Anyone senseless enough to mess around will be leaving immediately. And they won't come back. Transfiguration is an immensely difficult branch of magic and I would like your full attention when I am talking. In practicals, I do not expect you all to get the spell perfect on the first attempt, however I will have to be hard on you if you refuse to try."
The entire class was listening to her more raptly than ever; Professor McGonagall, it seemed, had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort.
She picked up her wand again and continued. "Mistakes, of course, are inevitable, but ignorance is not. Therefore, accept your mistakes with the full understanding that it is within your power to fix them." The wand twirled and, the next thing they knew, McGonagall had changed the quill on her desk to a porcupine and back again.
Everyone stared. There was an outbreak of muttering.
Behind James and Sirius, Lily Evans turned to Severus Snape and whispered, "Wow, I can't wait to do spells like that!"
But the first-years soon realised that they weren't going to be starting animal transformations anytime soon. Professor McGonagall set them all to making a large pile of notes, then gave them homework; they had to read the whole first chapter of 'A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration' for next lesson.
Sirius groaned as they left the classroom when the bell rang. "I can't believe we've got homework in our very first lesson!" he muttered, pushing Peter through the door.
They were the last ones to leave the room.
Just as Remus was about to follow Sirius out, however, Professor McGonagall called out for him to stay: "Mr Lupin, a quick word, please."
James whirled around and stared at him. "What've you done?" he said incredulously. "You didn't speak all lesson, how could you have done something!"
But Remus shook his head. He thought he knew exactly why McGonagall wanted him. She was, after all, head of his house. "I don't think it's because I was bad or anything... Look, you three go on - I'll see you in Herbology."
He tried to nudge James after Peter and Sirius.
But James didn't move. "It's okay," he said generously, "we'll wait."
"No, really-" Remus began, but he was saved by Professor McGonagall.
"Hurry up, the rest of you. You'll be late for your next class."
Very reluctantly, James, Sirius and Peter left the classroom, looking back over their shoulders as they did so.
What did Professor McGonagall want with Remus?
Thank you so much for sticking with me until this point - I hope you like the story! If you see anything that's out of place or wrong, please let me know. I'm trying to make this as in-line with the Harry Potter books as possible.
Please review, if you're reading this - it makes my day and I love hearing what you think of the book :)
See you soon!
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