Masses of Classes and Magic Molasses
Calvin exploded out of his bed the next morning, making enough noise that everyone else was instantly awake as well, if not so enthusiastic about getting out from under their covers.
“Wow, I’ve never felt so rested in the morning before! I feel like I just slept for three days straight! Today’s not a Saturday, is it? I just feel tip-top today!”
Ron rolled over and moaned. “Mate, you better not be like this every morning.”
Pulling on his clothes, Calvin turned to the sleepy redhead. “No, usually my bed and I are inseparable before my mom comes into my room, yelling at me to get up cuz I’ll miss the bus. After that, it’s a regretful and reluctant goodbye.”
“Mphumph,” mumbled Seamus, sitting up. “What time is it?”
“Game time!” said Dean from the bed next to him, stretching and hopping to the floor.
“Hammer time!” yelled Calvin, donning his robes and striking a pose.
“Greenwich Mean Time!”
“Epic meal time!”
Ron yawned and pulled back his covers. “Oh, right, breakfast! I guess I can get up for that.”
“Is it in the same place we had the banquet?” asked Harry, rifling through his trunk for clean clothes that weren’t hopelessly wrinkled.
“Yeah, the Great Hall,” Ron said, doing the same.
Calvin finished tying up his shoes and got his wand from his bedside table, sticking it into his pocket. “What’s after breakfast?”
“Class, of course.”
Calvin froze. “Cl-class? I have to go to class? Already? What about orientation? Don’t I get a week to recover from jet-lag? There’s no adjustment buffer? There’s no test today, is there? They didn’t expect us to study over the summer, did they? I read through most of my books but only the most interesting parts and to look at the moving pictures! They can’t do this to me!”
“Calvin, calm down,” Harry said. “Hagrid never mentioned anything about summer work to me, so I doubt there’s any sort of test on the first day. Right, Ron?”
“Fred told me they make you get up in front of the classroom and tell everyone about your summer – in Latin,” Ron replied, looking decidedly queasy.
“Oh, phew,” said Calvin, letting out a breath. “That’s a relief.”
Ron looked at him in bafflement. “You want to do that? Do you even know any Latin?”
“No, of course not – but if Fred told you that, it must mean that absolutely nothing like that’s going to happen.” Calvin looked around to see if there was anything he was forgetting. “Alright, I’m going down to breakfast.”
He walked out of the dormitory, a puzzled Ron staring after him. “You know, I never thought of it like that…”
After getting lost no less than fourteen and a half times, Calvin bumped into – literally – Percy the Prefect, who was just leaving for the Great Hall. It seemed Calvin had somehow wound up back at the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. He followed Percy through a long hallway that appeared to shrink the farther you went, through a large door shaped like a keyhole with a keyhole shaped like a door, and down many flights of stairs that apparently didn’t have the presence of mind to stay put.
Breakfast in the Great Hall was a mild affair – where mild meant mountains of golden pastries and fresh, steaming breads, hundreds of mostly-unidentifiable spreads and dips and toppings, and pitchers of pumpkin juice set out every few feet along the tables.
“Good morning, Calvin,” Hermione said brightly when he sat down across from her.
“I’m awake!” He spread his arms wide and grinned toothily.
“Um, yes you are…is that unusual?”
He grabbed a hot roll and dropped it quickly onto his plate. “Very. Can you believe they’re starting classes on the first day!?”
“I just can’t wait!” Hermione said, scooping some eggs into her mouth.
“But you’re a girl, you can only become the Queen – and even that’s unlikely.”
She ignored his strange comment. “According to our schedule, first we have Charms with Professor Flitwick – I’m really looking forward to it because I hear the first spell we’ll be learning is the Hover Charm, which I’ve already practiced quite a bit. Then we have Transfiguration, taught by Professor McGonagall; I read through the textbook a few times over the summer and then again last night before I went to bed and once more this morning when I saw my schedule, and I hope I’ll have enough time for another read-through in between classes. Anyway, it says it’s really, really dangerous, and the examples it gave of people who had Transfiguration-induced injuries were beyond terrifying, so I didn’t dare try it out on my own of course, but it seems like Professor McGonagall is going to be a fantastic teacher and I can’t wait to learn from her!”
“Mmm,” Calvin said, stuffing food substances into the wide opening on the lower part of his face.
“Then, later this week, there’s Herbology in Greenhouse one-”
“-Herbology?” asked Calvin dubiously. “Why’s there a class for that? I already know everything I’ll ever need to know about thyme, and cilantro, and, umm…rosemary.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “It’s not a class on seasoning, it’s about magical plants! I talked to some of the students from the upper years, and they said we’ll probably be shown some sort of plant that doesn’t move of its own accord for the first day, but when we get further into the year we’ll be dealing with some really interesting ones like the puffapod and the ruh-berry ring-plant and the eliseus tree! Oh, hello Harry! Hi, Ron!”
“‘Morning, Hermione,” Harry greeted, sitting down next to Calvin and grabbing a few pieces of toast.
“Ghrmrng,” Ron said around a mouthful of eggs and hashbrowns.
“Ron, sit down before you start eating!” Hermione admonished. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.” Ron just stuffed more eggs into his mouth.
“Hey, Neville, can you pass that bubbling black sludge?”
“Honestly, Ron, have you ever even heard the phrase ‘table etiquette?'”
“Too busy to answer questions, Hermione,” Ron replied, reaching across the table to grab a full loaf of bread. “Class is in fifteen minutes and I have five more plates to clean.”
“You wouldn’t have to rush if you just woke up earlier!”
“What’s our first class?”
“Those things girls put on their bracelets?”
“It means magic, Harry! And I do not wear bracelets.”
“How’re you even allowed to be a girl, then?”
“What’s that supposed to mean, Ron?!”
Professor Flitwick was shorter even than Calvin, a miniscule wizard who had to resort to using a pile of books as a stool in order to see over his desk. He started off the class by taking roll call, and when he got to Harry’s name he gave a high-pitched squeak and promptly fell off the book pile. Calvin had to correct him on the proper way to say “Calvin, Boy…of Destiny,” and how to insert the pause in the most dramatic fashion, which seemed to make the tiny professor rather flustered.
“Magic, magic, magic, magic, magic, magic, magic, magic,” Calvin whispered excitedly, rubbing his hands together as Professor Flitwick finished up roll call.
“Now, the first thing we will be learning this year is a spell called the Hover Charm,” he explained to the class. “However, we will not be casting the spell until our third class.” Nooooooooooooooooooooo, Calvin yelled with his thoughts. “Please open up your books to page seventeen, and we will begin-” Calvin’s mind flew straight out the open window in the back of the classroom.
“Calvin!” an urgent whisper broke through his thoughts almost half an hour later. “Why aren’t you practicing the wand motions?” It was Hermione, leaning over from two seats away, a worried look on her face.
“Oh, we’re doing something? Must have missed that.” He pulled out his wand and glanced up to the front of the classroom, where Professor Flitwick was showing them all the proper ‘Swish, and flick’ technique vital to casting the Hover Charm. Calvin managed to mirror the man’s movements with his own wand a few times before getting bored.
When class ended, everybody streamed out into the hall, except for Hermione, who had stayed back to ask Professor Flitwick a few questions, and Neville, who it turned out had managed to go the entire class practicing the motions with his wand backwards and using the wrong hand.
“What’ve we got next?” said Ron, peering over Harry’s shoulder at the crumpled schedule he’d just pulled out of his pocket.
“It says here we have Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall.”
“Fred and George say she’s really strict, and doesn’t favor Gryffindor even though she’s our Head of House. Unlike Snape,” he scowled. “They said Snape only doesn’t hate his Slytherins, and takes points from everyone else at every opportunity.”
“That’s awful,” Harry replied. “He didn’t really look like a nice fellow, that’s for sure. Kept glaring out me throughout the banquet last night like I’d stuffed his pillow with porcupines or something.”
“Hey, that’s a good idea!” cried Calvin. “If he ever takes points from me, I’ll do that.”
“I hope you’re kidding,” Harry said wryly, but Ron just laughed. “How much time till class?”
“About three minutes,” said Ron, checking his watch. “Why?”
Harry stopped walking as they came up on a dead end. The three of them stared at the blank gray wall in front of them. “Because we’re completely lost.”
“We should’ve waited for Hermione,” groaned Ron. “She seemed to know where she was going when we walked to Flitwick’s classroom.”
“Yes, well, we didn’t,” said Harry, turning around and leading them back down the hallway.
“Is it bad to be late for class?” Calvin asked. “I mean, the less time spent listening to a teacher the better, that’s what I always say. Though I do actually want to learn how to transmogrify.”
“You mean transfigure.”
“Yeah, that. How is this even possible?” asked Calvin, bending sideways and turning his head.
They had reached another dead end, even though they’d only just turned around and headed back the way they’d come, and there hadn’t been any turn-offs along the way. They were now peering through a small window about the size of a cereal box that looked out onto the grounds in front of Hogwarts, including the lake they’d come across the day before. It was a beautiful morning outside, with plenty of sun and only a cloud or two in the entire visible sky. The lake was shimmering magnificently, and a giant squid broke the surface every now and again, splashing water up into the air. It would have been an absolutely magnificent, yet ordinary view, even with the giant squid taken into account. If it weren’t for the fact that everything was upside-down.
“The grass looks so far away up there,” Ron commented, craning his neck and pressing the side of his face up against the window.
Harry had turned around, and was staring in confusion at the opposite end of the long hallway, where the first dead end was, well, still there. The walls of the hallway were solid and gray and clearly didn’t open up into any other hallways between the first dead end and the confused window.
“Um, guys?” he said quietly. They looked over their shoulders in Harry’s direction.
“We’re trapped,” Ron breathed, face pale. “Hogwarts has eaten us!”
“Please,” snorted Calvin. “We’re at the top of the food chain! The phrase ‘has eaten us’ isn’t even in our lexicon.”
“What about ‘hopelessly lost,’ mate?”
“Curiously, no, not that either. This is certainly more exciting than sitting in a boring old classroom listening to a teacher read from a textbook, though, don’t you agree?” said Calvin, grinning. He paced excitedly down the hallway, trailing his fingers along the stone and inspecting the walls closely. “There’s got to be a hidden passageway of some sort.”
Harry and Ron nodded, joining their spiky-haired friend in searching for a secret switch or a disguised doorway.
One was found about five minutes later, after Ron had already given up and resigned himself to dying a slow death trapped in a stone corridor.
“Woah!” exclaimed Harry, falling through the wall.
They arrived at the elusive Transfiguration classroom twenty minutes late, covered in chalk dust from a run-in with Peeves, and laughing heartily at a joke Ron had just made.
“You find it humourous, arriving late to my class, gentlemen?” asked Professor McGonagall sharply as they filed through the door. Their laughter died the swift and abrupt death of a fly being hit by a lightning bolt.
“Uh, no Professor McGonagall,” Harry said nervously. “We’re sorry. We got lost.”
“And then Hogwarts tried to eat us!” interjected Calvin. Ron kicked him in the shins. “Ow, what was that for!”
Their Transfiguration teacher gave them a look, and they felt a combination of debilitating shame and crippling, icy fear. “One point from each of you for your tardiness. Find your seats, and maybe I can continue doing my job?” She raised an eyebrow severely.
How do you raise your eyebrow severely, Calvin wondered in awe as he walked to the back of the classroom and dropped into an empty chair. That must take years of practice!
“I am going to take a moment,” Professor McGonagall said, “to repeat what I told you all at the beginning of the class, for the benefit of those who have recently arrived. Normally I will not go over something again just because someone did not see fit to get here in a timely manner, but I do not wish to see any dead or even maimed students that end up so because they are not aware of the dangers of Transfiguration and the cautions that must be taken.” Her eye met Harry’s, then Calvin’s, and then Ron’s. She had their undivided attention.
“Until you have at least graduated from this school and are no longer my responsibility, there are some rules that must be adhered to,” she said seriously, eyes practically burning with intensity. “You will never, and I do mean never, attempt transfiguration without the supervision of either myself or Professor Dumbledore. You will never attempt any form of transfiguration that has not already been covered by this class. You will never attempt transfiguration on any living thing, on any food or drink or anything that looks even remotely like a food or a drink, or on anything that could, conceivably, enter someone’s body, through the mouth or any other orifice. You will never transfigure anything into any type of currency whatsoever as it is a criminal offence. You will never experiment with transfiguration. You will not play with transfiguration.” She had started pacing, but stopped now, standing straight in place and bringing her hands behind her back.
“On page fifty-three of your textbooks you will find a picture of a man who attempted to augment his bone structure by changing it to metal, also trying to give himself claws. Fortunately, his screams of agony lasted less than a minute, as he then ceased to be alive. Transfiguration is not a toy. It is not a game, it not something to ‘have fun with.’ It is not to be taken lightly in any way, shape, form, substance, or dimension. Is. That. Perfectly. Clear.”
Even the people who had already been given this talk not twenty minutes before nodded energetically, as if wanting to make sure that Professor McGonagall saw them nod, and knew that they took it seriously and that she had no reason to suspect they would ever break any of her rules as long as there was yet breath in their bodies and blood running through their veins, and that they would try their very best not to break said rules even after those things did not hold true.
“That said,” Professor McGonagall continued, adopting a kindlier tone of voice. “I do hope you that enjoy this class, as transfiguration is a fascinating subject. If you ever have any questions, please do ask them – I am here to help you learn, not just to help you pass tests.”
Calvin leaned over to Dean, who was seated to his right. “Did I miss anything worth noting?”
“She turned her desk into a pig,” Dean whispered back. “Nothing too exciting.” He grinned.
“Mr. Calvin and Mr. Thomas, I would rather you conducted your private conversations outside of the classroom, after class, when I am not talking.” They gulped and nodded.
Calvin tried really, really, really hard not to space out as the Scottish professor began lecturing them on the underlying principles of Transfiguration – and for the most part, he succeeded. He took many notes – okay, he took some notes, and watched Hermione take copious amounts of notes – and only daydreamed about flying through space a couple times. Near the end of the period, Professor McGonagall walked through the room, placing a matchstick on each person’s desk. The goal was to turn it into a pin. No, not a bowling pin, she explained to Calvin – a metal pin, as is used for clothing.
By the time class ended, the only ones whose matchsticks looked any different at all were Hermione’s and Calvin’s, much to Professor McGonagall’s delight – and, in Calvin’s case, complete surprise. She awarded them each five points for their outstanding performance, and praised Calvin on achieving an almost perfect transfiguration on his first try. Hermione, who had only managed to turn hers into metal and make it a bit pointy, seemed to take it personally that she hadn’t done the best.
“I don’t understand! I read the book six times, memorized every step, I did everything it said to do and everything Professor McGonagall told us to do!”
Harry leaned over to her. “Hermione. You did amazing. Judging by how excited she was, I don’t think Professor McGonagall even expected anyone to make any progress! I mean, look at Neville.”
Neville’s matchstick had sprouted a small flower bud, and it was blooming slowly as the confused boy explained to their Transfiguration teacher that he had no idea how it happened and hadn’t been trying to do that at all.
“And even Ron.”
Hunched over his desk, brow scrunched in determination, Ron was pressing the end of his wand against his matchstick and growling, as if he hoped to intimidate it into cooperating. Trickles of sweat made their way down the edge of his jaw.
Calvin wandered over to the red-faced boy and crouched down, looking up at him. “Kaboom!”
“Ah, Calvin! You messed me up – I was this close to getting it to change!” he complained angrily, picking up his chair from where he’d knocked it down.
Calvin shook his head calmly. “No you weren’t. You were concentrating too hard.”
“What’s that even mean!?”
“As you said – you were trying to make it change.”
“…As opposed to?”
Calvin shrugged. “Just letting the matchstick be a pin. If you imagine that it takes immense effort and intense concentration, it will. Imagine the matchstick being a pin, and it will.”
Hearing their conversation, Professor McGonagall walked over to Ron’s desk. “Not everyone accomplishes transfiguration with the same mindset, Mr. Calvin.” Then she turned to Ron. “Though I do think, Mr. Weasley, that perhaps a change of tactics would help you. Mrs. Granger, what were you thinking of when you transfigured your matchstick?”
Hermione looked frightened at being put on the spot, but quickly replaced it with excitement at getting to explain her method to the teacher. “Well, first I just pictured the matchstick, every part of it. The irregular grain of the wood, the long flat sides, the edges and corners, the rough red end a bit more bulbous than the rest; the exact length and width and height Then, one by one, I imagined each of those aspects of the matchstick changing into those of a pin – the irregular grain of the wood flattening out into smooth metal, the surfaces curving around, the larger red end stretching its mass out until it reached a point, the corners melding together into a circular end.” She took a breath, face flushed. “That’s…that’s it.”
Professor McGonagall applauded when she finished, much to the bushy-haired witch’s embarrassment. “Excellent, Mrs. Granger, take another five points.” As Hermione blushed even more thoroughly, the green-clad professor explained, “That process was absolutely flawless, and allows for extremely detailed changes. It greatly diminishes the chance of making a mistake, and of leaving something out, as well, which is what one should strive for in one’s transfiguration work.”
A few minutes later, when they filed out of the classroom, handing in their matchsticks on their way out, Ron triumphantly presented their teacher with a questionably altered matchstick of his own.
“Did he actually change it at all?” Calvin whispered to Hermione as the left.
“I’m not sure – could be confirmation bias. Best not to mention that, though.”
He nodded seriously.
As they had Hermione with them this time – and she’d figured out that, if you managed to determine which ones actually knew what they were talking about, the pictures could be asked for directions – they arrived at the Great Hall only ten minutes after lunch had begun.
“Hey, at least we didn’t have to do that Latin thing,” Ron said, piling multiple chicken legs and thighs onto his plate as he sat down.
“What Latin thing?” asked Hermione.
“Ron’s brothers – the awesome ones – told him that we’d have to stand up in front of the entire class and tell everyone about our summer, but while speaking Latin,” Calvin told her, pouring two pitchers into his cup at the same time so as to only spend half the time waiting for it to fill up.
“That’s obviously not true,” Hermione said to Ron. “They would never expect us to be fluent in Latin in our first year.”
“I realized that,” Ron grumbled, picking up a leg.
“Don’t eat with your hands! It’s unsanitary and unbecoming – beside, there are utensils here for a reason. So,” she continued as Ron began to reply. “What did you guys do over your summers? Or at least after you found out you were going to be coming to Hogwarts. You two met at Diagon Alley, right?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “I met him and Draco Malfoy in the robe shop.”
“I must have just missed you, then – I met him there too.”
“I met everyone important except the Weasley twins and Dumbledore there,” Calvin commented, shoveling food into his mouth before he’d even swallowed the pumpkin juice.
“Hey, I’m important!” said a voice to his left.
“Oh, hi Neville, I didn’t see you there. Are you sure you’re a main character?” Calvin peered at him suspiciously.
“He didn’t mean it,” Hermione apologized to the round-faced boy, throwing a deadly glare Calvin’s way. “Ron, who did-” she cut off, eyeing the overly large mouthful of chicken he’d just taken. “Harry, who did you go to Diagon Alley with? I know Calvin was escorted by Professor McGonagall – and I went with my parents.” Then she cringed, realizing what she’d just said.
“I went with Hagrid,” Harry answered, not noticing at all. “When we entered the Leaky Cauldron, everyone practically mobbed be, wanting to shake my hand and talk to me – it was really weird, and pretty uncomfortable. I met Professor Quirrel there – he’s out Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, though he-”
“Our what teacher!?” spluttered Calvin, reaching for a napkin to wipe at the forcefully exported pumpkin juice that had been launched onto his robes from his mouth.
“Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
“Why in the world would anybody ever need to defend themselves against developing photography?” he asked, baffled. When Hermione opened her mouth to explain, he continued quickly, “Even if it means defending against ombromanie – yes, it is undoubtedly the creepiest thing since finger puppets, but I don’t think anyone’s in danger of being physically hurt by it.” Hermione rolled her eyes and was about to start talking when he exclaimed, “Ohhhhh, it’s probably referring to those guys who go around in the middle of the night spraying graffiti everywhere! That makes sense. I get it now.” Hermione gave up and continued eating.
“…Right,” said Harry. “Glad you’ve cleared that up for us. So when Hagrid realised I was getting overwhelmed, he just told everyone we were in a hurry, and whisked me out to the back. I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere as noisy and crowded as Diagon Alley, but with Hagrid it was easy getting around – everyone got out of his way to avoid being trampled, not that he would do it on purpose, but he’s…pretty big,” Harry smiled. “First we went to Gringotts, to get the money for my school supplies.”
“Me too!” Calvin said. “At first I thought the Goblins were aliens, and a bunch of thoughts ran through my mind about the wizarding world actually being another planet, or aliens who make themselves look human with magic, or- oh, sorry, you can continue your story. I was finished with what I was saying anyways.”
“We went really far down under the building in this nauseating cart-”
“-You haven’t seen nauseating until you’ve eaten a lemon-flavored sucking candy,” Calvin chuckled.
“It’s rude to interrupt someone when they are talking,” Hermione told him harshly.
“Well when else would I interrupt them?”
She rolled her eyes. “Go on, Harry. Calvin won’t interrupt again.” She gave him another glare.
“Right, yep, no interrupting from me, no sir, I am the expert at not interrupting people, this one time I even didn’t interrupt someone for the entire time they were talking, or at least-”
“CALVIN!” shouted Hermione and Ron at the same time.
“Riiiiight. Gotcha.” He clamped his teeth together and smiled innocently.
Harry waited a few seconds before continuing. “It turns out my parents left me some money, so I had enough for my school supplies. Then we rode the cart to vault seven-hundred-and-thirteen, where Hagrid picked up this tiny little package for Dumbledore.”
“Vault seven-hundred-and-thirteen!” Hermione exclaimed, eyes wide.
“Uh, yes, that was the number.”
“Why is she allowed to interrupt but I’m not?”
“Didn’t you guys read the paper? That was the number of the vault that was broken into over the summer! The goblin interviewed said that nothing was taken – of course nothing was taken, because you and Hagrid had already emptied the vault! I wonder what the package is? It has to something extremely important or powerful, otherwise they wouldn’t have tried to steal it.”
“Who says they were trying to steal it?” Ron said doubtfully. “They didn’t have to know what was in the vault. Maybe they just thought they’d break in and see if there was anything worth taking?”
Hermione stared at him. “Ron. Gringotts is the most safe and secure place in the entire world, save for Hogwarts. Most people say it’s security is ridiculously over-the-top. Whoever broke into that vault wouldn’t have risked it unless they were looking to steal something specific – that package. Otherwise they are the most skilled idiot I’ve ever heard of. And that the package is now in Dumbledore’s possession means it’s something really important.”
Harry leaned in before Ron could take offense. “But Hermione, if Gringotts has such high security, then how did they know what was in the vault before they even broke in?”
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that the security was compromised, Harry – the easiest flaw to take advantage of is always personnel.”
Calvin perked up, suddenly interested. “You’re saying it was an inside job. Someone infiltrated the alien- I mean, goblin ranks, gained their trust, then betrayed them!” He looked up anjd to the side thoughtfully. “Still, I don’t really see either Dumbledore or Hagrid going undercover.”
“Of course not! Dumbledore has absolutely no reason to try and steal something from his own vault after he’s withdrawn it – and Hagrid was the one to take it out, so he would also have know it was gone. But I’m not saying that someone infiltrated the goblin’s ranks. I’m saying almost the opposite – that information from our side could have been obtained by the potential thief.”
“Mugwump Man doesn’t seem the type to accidentally let something slip, or to let any information out that he doesn’t want out. He’s uber wise and magical.”
“Regardless of your completely nonsensical reasoning, I have to agree with you,” said Hermione, nodding.
“So it must’ve been Hagrid,” Ron mumbled around his fork.
“Hagrid wouldn’t do something like that!” argued Harry.
Hermione turned to him. “We’re not saying he did it on purpose, just that maybe-”
“He was friends with my parents. He didn’t maybe do anything like what you’re saying.” He stared steadily around at his friends.
“How well do we really know Hagrid, though?” questioned Calvin. “For all we know he could be the thief in disguise!”
“Then he would have stolen the package when he was at Diagon Alley with Harry,” Hermione pointed out.
“It wasn’t him, just drop it!”
“You guys are taking this way too seriously,” said Ron, finishing off his last piece of chicken. “Whatever it is, Dumbledore’s got it now, so it’s safer than safe.” The rest of them contemplated that in silence for the next few moments.
“Oh no!” yelped Hermione, looking at her watch. “We should have left for class five minutes ago – now we’ll have to run to make it on time!”
“I’m not running anywhere after just finishing lunch,” Ron said, stretching and standing up slowly. “I’d probably get points off for for ‘overly disruptive digestion’ or something, and I’d like to keep lost points to the one from this morning, otherwise I’ll be getting a talk from Percy, and Fred and George.”
“Wait, Gerd and Froge would give you a lecture about losing points? They care about the House Cup that much?” asked Calvin curiously, as they followed Hermione out of the Great Hall.
Ron snorted. “Nah, the only cup they care about is the Quidditch cup, and maybe a mug of butterbeer – Percy’s the one who would be lecturing me about that, and about ruining his image by association.”
“So why would the twins care?” asked Harry.
“Oh, they wouldn’t, really. They’d just give me a hard time about and then come after me to take part in all their shenanigans.”
“Uh, yeah, Calvin. That’s what I said.”
“Are you trying to say something?”
“That makes less than no sense, mate.”
“Shy, shivering, shell-shocked shrimp shared shallow shark shenanigans.”
“I’ll bet they did. Now hurry, I don’t want to lose Hermione.”
Near the end of the week was their first Herbology class – along with the first speed-bump in the four’s friendship – and the weather could not have been more beautiful.
The greenhouse was the first of four nearly identical glass structures standing behind the castle. The gathered outside under the warm sun – a welcome present in the cool morning air – with the rest of the first-years, and were greeted by a squat witch with a friendly demeanor called Professor Sprout. She was the head of House Marshmallow, the house they were having Herbology with, and despite her kindly manner she was no-nonsense when it came to her plants.
“Welcome, good morning everyone, it’s nice to see you all. This being our first time together, we will be working with something relatively harmless. It is called the fire seed bush – also know as the fire seed plant – and it is very valuable as it’s product, the fire seed, is used in many potions.”
Truly, Calvin thought, wizards must go to immense trouble to think up such creative and original names. Why, the part of my brain that appreciates such things has never been more tickled.
“We will be harvesting the fire seed from its bush, so I’m handing out the proper protective equipment,” Professor Sprout told them, passing a pair of thick gloves to every student.
“Finally,” sighed Neville from behind Calvin. “Something I can do without messing up.”
When they’d all donned the gloves, the head of House Marshmallow opened the door to the greenhouse and told them to find seats.
“Five students to each fire seed bush,” she said, walking through to the middle of the greenhouse. “You’ll be working together together and will be graded by table, so be encouraged to help your classmates.”
Calvin, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Neville found a table near the middle and sat down, examining the small, red-sparkling bush in a planter on the table.
“I’ve been waiting for this all week,” Neville said, gazing happily at the bush. “Herbology is something I’m pretty okay at.”
“How do you know?” asked Ron, scratching at his gloved hand. “Sheesh, these things are itchy.”
“My gran has a greenhouse in the back of the estate,” explained Neville. “I’ve been helping out there since I was little.”
“All right, listen up!” said Professor Sprout from the center of the greenhouse. “The process of extracting the fire seed from the fire plant is a delicate one, and I don’t want you losing any if it can be avoided.” She went through each step, and had everyone repeat it back to her before moving on to the next. When she finished, she clapped loudly, telling them to begin. Then she started walking around, checking up on tables one at a time.
“I can do this,” Neville said determinately. “If this is going to be the only class I’m good at, them I’m going to be the best.”
“The very best?” asked Calvin, leaning close and squinting at Neville.
“Like no one ever was?” said Harry quizzically.
“DUN DUN DUNNUN!” yelled Dean fromt the next table over.
As the class progressed, it became evident that Neville had not been entirely truthful with them when he’d said he was ‘pretty okay’ at Herbology. He was more knowledgeable factually than even Hermione, and in the practical aspects he excelled even more so. With his expertise, their table was the first to finish, and achieved the highest marks anyone from their year had gotten in her class.
When they exited the greenhouse, Neville had a large smile on his face. Ron was wearing a scowl, and it fit him rather well.
“I told you not to take off your gloves, Ron. Honestly, you’d think she hadn’t warned us at least five times about keeping them on while in the greenhouse.”
“Oh, come off it, Hermione,” Ron grumbled, wrapping his stinging fingers in his robe.
They headed back into the castle for their next class.
“Ron!” Hermione exclaimed when she saw that he was following them. “Professor Sprout told you to go straight to Madam Pomfrey!”
“I don’t need to, I’m perfectly fine,” he growled, staring at her defiantly.
“Seriously,” she continued, heedless of the roiling waters she was treading into. “It could get infected! I told you it was a stupid thing to do. And then you won’t even be able to hold a w-”
“I said, I’m fine!” he yelled loudly at her, face red in anger. “You can stop telling us how you know what to do, and that you were right all along, because no one wants to hear it!” Then he sped up, stalking off into the stream of students flowing through the halls.
“I’ll go after him,” Harry sighed, breaking into a reluctant jog.
Silence settled over the two remaining members of the group, punctuated by bouts of heavy breathing.
Well, this is awkward. He glanced at Hermione.
“Oh, um, Hermione,” he said. “You- your’e saltwater glands are leaking.”
She choked back a sob.
She’s crying, she’s crying, what do I do? We haven’t had classes on this yet, how do they expect me to be able to deal with a crying girl?! They should at least hand out pamphlets!
“W-why d-did he have to say it s-s-so, mean?” Hermione sobbed quietly. “I was, only t-trying to h-help, him.”
“Well, because he’s an idiot, obviously,” Calvin remarked.
She looked up at him, smearing the tears along the side of her face with a hand. “What do, you, m-mean?”
“He doesn’t think about what’s going on with anybody but himself – he probably couldn’t see into someone’s head if he attended their lobotomy.” Hermione hiccupped a sad sort of laugh. Wow, that worked! Great – all I have to do is keep insulting Ron, and I’ll be good.
“I mean, it’s not like he was deliberately trying to cause you pain – in his mind he was defending himself. As a young, stupid male, having a girl tell him something that he doesn’t listen to, then having him get hurt because of it, then having that same girl tell him something he knows is true but doesn’t want to hear because he’s a young, stupid male – that was just too much for him.”
Calvin shrugged, studying the wall on his other side. “So he screamed. You just happened to be the person who was right, the person who was watching out for him. He doesn’t want to be mothered by anyone but his mother, and probably not even her. Not that what you were doing was mothering,” he added quickly. “Just that anyone who thinks they know what’s best for him is lumped into that category, even if they’re right. Especially if they’re right.” He looked back at her. “Are you better now?” he said hopefully. THen he mentally kicked himself. As if she was sick? Nice going, Mr. Smooth.
Hermione sniffed and started walking again, smiling slightly. “I think so. Thank you, Calvin.”
“For what? Making fun of Ron?” Calvin asked, scratching his head.
Her voluminous brown hair bounced as she shook her head. “For helping me understand him.” She was looking at him sideways, with a crooked smile and curious eyes. “You know, there’s a lot more to you than you let people see.”
“That’s me,” he said happily, skipping up beside her. “The human iceberg. Maybe I’ll even get to sink a giant ship someday!”
Hermione laughed, and her smile reached her whole face, lighting it up like a Christmas tree. “Of that, Calvin, I have no doubt.”
The next day, Harry’s large, snowy owl visited them at breakfast. “It’s from Hagrid!” Harry told them. “He wants me to come down to his cabin after classes this afternoon.”
“Wow, I want to meet him!” exclaimed Calvin, setting a biscuit and two waffles against each other to complete the outside of his ‘breakfast house.’
“Oh right, I forgot we have Friday evening off,” said Ron, shoveling some hash browns into his mouth.
“I’ll ask if you guys can come too,” Harry said, inking his reply and tying it to Hedwig’s leg. He fed her a bit of toast, then watched as she flew off.
“We should use the free time to study and get ahead on our schoolwork, guys,” Hermione said.
“Oh come on, it’s not that hard!”
“No, Hermione, it’s worse.” Harry was staring at his faded schedule, which, after being crumpled and uncrumpled so many time, was beginning to look like an ancient treasure map buried in the hot sand. “We’ve got Potions today.”
“Ohhhh man,” groaned Ron.
“And that’s not all. It’s a double period, twice as long as normal classes.”
“You guys are overreacting,” Hermione told them, sipping her pumpkin juice.
Ron turned to her. “You don’t understand, Hermione, Snape is evil. He doesn’t like anyone but Slytherins, and everyone else he takes points off of whenever he can. He loves handing out detentions to non-Slytherin students, it’s like he takes joy from inflicting stress upon children. Actually, he probably does. Also, he’s just a git.”
“Ron!” shouted Hermione. “Professor Snape is our teacher!”
Ron nodded, subdued. “Yeah, of all the rotten luck.”
“It get’s even worse,” gulped Harry, still staring at the schedule.
“How can it get worse!” exclaimed Ron, throwing up his hands.
“Oo, I got this one!” Calvin cried down to them from where he stood on the table, putting the finishing touched onto the parapets of his purely breakfast-food constructed castle. Dean stood on the other side of the ridiculously large structure, painting murals onto the walls using the dozens of condiments.
“Go ahead, but I doubt you get it,” Harry said, grinning wryly.
“He’s going to have us go out into the Forbidden Forest to collect our own potion ingredients, then we’ll have to create the potion while blindfolded and suspended directly over a vat of pungent acid, held up by a slowly snapping robe and threatened with a painful and original method of torture if we don’t get everything right.”
“…Okay, that’s probably worse. Maybe.”
“Not that there’s any way you could know that, so it couldn’t be what you were going to tell us,” said Hermione.
“So?” asked Ron, taking large bite out of his sandwich of toast, biscuits, waffles, muffins, eggs, bacon, cheese, strawberry and blackberry preserves, butter, syrup, and the bubbly black sludge topping that had become a favorite of theirs. Calvin had dubbed the creation the ‘Ron Gone WIld’ Heartstopper sandwich. “What is it really?” He reach out to refill his cup yet again, cramming something else into his already-stuffed mouth.
“Ron, slow down!” Hermione shouted at him. “You’ll-” She stopped short, biting her bottom lip.
“Ghwah?” said Ron, his face-hole full of…currently unidentifiable foodstuffs.
The smartest witch in their year took a deep breath, and said, “Nothing. Just try not to kill yourself with breakfast, okay?”
“Hur hing, ‘ione,” he replied, giving her a thumbs up. He swallowed and turned to Harry. “Well? Mind telling us how today could possibly get any worse?”
“We’re having Potions with the Slytherins.”
The Potions classroom was in the dungeons, the deepest part of Hogwarts they’d yet to experience. The dark stone room had a damp and dreary sort of feeling, and the air was permeated by an unavoidable chill that bit through any amount of clothing. The walls were lined with shelves, the shelves covered in jars, beakers, vials, and cauldrons of all types, many containing indiscriminate animal parts floating in murky liquid.
Over by the back corner of the room sat a cylindrical cauldron that was hissing like a viper, smoky gray tendrils reaching over the lip and curling as they rose higher. A wire contraption held a number of vials, each filled halfway with a different color of substance. One of them was pure black, yet somehow see-through; every few seconds it released a large bubble that floated in a straight, consistent line up to the ceiling, where it popped, releasing a small cloud of greenish gas that lingered until the next bubble began to rise.
When the Slytherins took their seats they started whispering and shooting looks towards Harry and his friends, but any conversation ended not a moment later.
The Potions master entered the room like an assassin entering his own armory, looking confident and ready to kill someone. His dirty cloak was a pair of broken black wings hugging his frame, his greasy hair a mysterious hood. His beak of a nose gave the impression that he was ready to rend flesh from bone, and his endlessly black eyes sucked in any light that dared to get within five feet of them. He swept towards the front of the classroom, and all who gazed upon him were inspired to jump out of the nearest window.
Calvin’s heart beat frantically against the inside of his rib-cage, begging to be let out so it could run screaming from the room. He was frozen in his seat, muscles taut and rigid. Don’t look at me. Please don’t look at me, whatever you do. Look at the Slytherins, in their beautiful green-trimmed robes. Look outside. Look at the ceiling and count the stones, look at the floor and watch your own feet, just don’t look at me, if you look at me I shall surely wither and die, don’t look at me, don’t-ohmypteranadonhe’slookingatmewhatdoIdo!okayhe’snotlookingatmeanymoreitwasjustaglancehe’snotgoingtomurdermeyetbreathebreathehbreathebreathe.
The Harbinger of Doom began by calling out roll, not even bothering to take out the paper to read off of. He said their names like items on a particularly uninteresting shopping list, barely even waiting for the student to stammer out an answer before moving on the the next. When he got to Harry name, he lingered on the ‘r’ of his family name.
“Ah, I forgot to welcome our own local celebrity,” Snape drawled icily. “Do forgive me, Mr. Potter, if I do not beg for an autograph. Ink is just so expensive these days.” Harry wasn’t sure whether to answer that he was there or say that it was okay, but he was saved from answering at all when Snape chose to ignore him and continue with the next item on the student grocery list.
“I am aware that the other teachers have taken to calling you by your first name, as opposed to attempting to use your pathetic excuse for a last name, but I am not other teachers.” Snape was now staring at Calvin, and Calvin was having trouble breathing. The knot of fear in his throat had tightened so much that it threatened to drag his tongue down his esophagus, and his lungs felt like they were encased in blocks of ice.
“I will utilize this so-called last name of yours,” the Potions master continued. “If only the first part. Boy.” Calvin didn’t know if he nodded, or if he said yes, or if he belted out the star-spangled banner, but the next thing he was aware of was Snape staring out at the class, hands clasped behind his back, saying, “Why are you here.” If he hadn’t known what constituted a question he would have been certain that that was a command, an order. No one moved.
“Hmm?” The Nightmare of Nightmares blinked the lazy blink of a predator who at any moment could be chewing on its next meal, and was only not doing so because it did not currently feel like it. Even Hermione, who normally jumped at such an opportunity, was silent. “You are here,” he sneered, “because your schedules told you to be here. You are here because Hogwarts requires you to take Potions until your sixth year, and you have your Potions books because your supply list told you to buy them. None of you have any actual reason to be here, and as such I do not expect you to understand the intricacies and beauties of the craft, nor do I expect anyone here to be anything more than perhaps competent at it.”
“This is not a silly practice session where you will be waving your wand at a feather to make it dance!” He said sharply, making most of the class jump. Calvin would have commented, asking what they would be making dance, but he was too busy being scared for his life.
“There will be no turning of slippers into rabbits! No gazing at the planets and marking their pointless paths across the night sky! You will not be doing any of that in this class, and you may not feel as if you are doing anything at all.”
“You will, however,” his voice suddenly infused with steel, “do exactly what I tell you to do. You will do as I say, and anything I do not say you will simply not do. I tell you to stir twice; you stir twice. I tell you to add the ashfoot before the scarred belgour; you add the ashfoot before the scarred belgour, even if the book says otherwise. I tell you to stand up; you stand up. I tell you to shut up; you shut up. I tell you to drop to the floor and pretend as if you were on fire; you do so without hesitation.”
Half of the students were now nodding jerkily and hesitantly, while the other half were still not moving a muscle. After all, Snape hadn’t told them to.
“Potter!” he said, pointing his beak directly at the messy-haired boy. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Calvin, forgetting the situation, burst into laughter. “Infusion…of Mrs. Wormwood,” he wheezed, pounding the table.
“Five points from Gryffindor for a clear lack of intelligence and for interrupting a teacher.” Calvin’s heart fell into his stomach faster than his toboggan after reaching the edge of Dismemberment Gorge. He snapped his mouth shut and stared at the surface of his desk.
“Well, Potter? Don’t know?” Harry shook his head. “It would seem that one cannot simply glide through life on the merit of one’s fame, and not bother to do any actual work,” the Devil’s own servant said, as if offended.
“Let’s give you a another chance – Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”
Calvin was getting annoyed at how the Potions professor seemed to be picking on Harry. What had he ever done to Snape? His fear of instant death disappeared, and his old instincts resurfaced. “Gosh, professor, I didn’t know bumblebees went canoeing! That’s the most fascinating thing I’ve learned all week!”
“Ten points from Gryffindor for disrupting a lesson!” Snape snarled, eyes burning. “Do not test me, boy, or you will regret ever having received your Hogwarts letter.” Calvin’s defiance started to wither beneath the man’s gaze, but then Snape turned back to Harry.
“What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?” he asked angrily, forgetting that he had yet to berate Harry for not knowing the answer to the previous question.
Calvin had had enough of the man’s least-favoritism. What is this guy’s problem? Why does he keep hounding on Harry? Calvin stood up and ascended his desk, drawing gasps from students who noticed what he was doing.
“I don’t know about a wolf’s bane!” he shouted at Snape, who whirled around. “But I can tell you that I am going to be the bane of your existence if you don’t stop picking on Harry!”
“Sit down,” the Potions master hissed with thinly disguised rage. “Thirty points from Gryffindor and detention with me this weekend, boy, and if you make one more utterance before this class is over I will move to have you expelled.”
Calvin was sorely tempted to simply say the word ‘utterance,’ but he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do – redirecting Snape’s sadistic attentions – and didn’t particularly want to get expelled, besides. He actually like it here at Hogwarts. A lot. Also he was afraid that Snape would kill him in his sleep.
The Avatar of the Underworld turned swiftly and walked up the front of the room. “As your fellow student does not seem to find potion ingredients exciting enough,” he said, practically gnashing his teeth. “We will not be making use of any this lesson.” He waved his wand, and the board began to write out its own instructions for a complex potion called Raghwin Injection Solution. “Your assignment for today is to copy down the instructions on the board behind me. Potion-making is a delicate and often dangerous process, and even a single mistake could cost you your life. Therefore, any mistake made in the copying process – a misspelled word, an absent punctuation mark, a smudged letter – will fail you. If you cannot complete this with a passing grade, then I cannot let you move on to actual potion-making. You will be here until you finish your first attempt. Begin.” He seated himself behind his desk and watched boredly yet menacingly as they painstakingly copied the instructions from the board onto their parchment, slowly, letter by letter, so as not to make a single mistake.
Why didn’t I bring any pens? Calvin complained silently. Quills are so last century.
When he handed in the assignment at the end of the class, he kept his eyes glued to the floor and his mouth shut.
He didn’t want to risk cracking up before he was out of the room.
Snape looked down at the parchment with the words ‘Calvin: Boy…of DESTINY’ scrawled messily across the top. The equally messy potion instructions below it read:
The Hokey Potion
Step 1 – Put the crushed bean in.
Step 2 – Take the crushed bean out.
Step 3 – See Step 1.
Step 4 – Shake the cauldron all about.
Step 5 – Stir it counter-clockwise.
Step 6 – Turn yourself around.
Step 7 – That’s what it’s all about.
Step 8 – Hey.
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