It was only once they were halfway to the Tower, that they finally gave into the laughter they had been trying to hold in since the twins had sat down. Ginny was leaning up against the wall, using it to support herself as she slid down to the floor, holding her sides. Harry was lying on the stairs fist stuffed in his mouth, and Neville and Kestrel were holding one another up as they laughed.
"Oh my god, I can't, can't believe that they reacted like that. You'd think that we insulted their children!" Neville dissolved into giggles again, gripping Kestrel's elbow to hold her up as her knees started to give out on her.
Ginny wiped some tears from her eyes. "I can! When I told you that they really look up to the Marauders, I wasn't kidding."
"Oh, Merlin…we need to see how far we can take this. When I write to Dad tonight telling him about everything, I'll mention this too; see if he has any ideas for us."
The others nodded and Ginny and Kestrel pulled themselves up from the floor. Ginny dusted some the dust off the back of her robes and said, "C'mon, we better hurry if we want to get to the Tower and still make it to Transfiguration on time. McGonagall does not look like a Professor that we want to cross."
Thanks to some moving staircases, and Harry's disorganized personality, the four friends only just managed to slip into the Transfiguration classroom as the bell was sounding. They grabbed the closest tables and hastily pulled out their books, parchment, quills and ink. Luckily it seemed that the Professor had yet to enter the room, the only other living thing in the room, besides the students, was a gray and black tabby cat. It had odd square marking's around its eyes, and was sitting on the desk, tail swishing back and forth. A few moments later, Ron and Seamus ran into the room, huffing in gulps of air.
"Bloody stairs moved on us at the last moment and we had to take the long way around." Ron complained as he and Seamus dropped into the only two available seats, right at the front of the classroom. Without warning the tabby leaped from the desk, and in mid-leap transformed from a cat and into Professor McGonagall herself.
Harry and Kestrel both pointed at her in astonishment, "You're an Animagus!"
"Yes I am, and Mr. Weasley, I'll appreciate if you would watch your language in my classroom from now on."
"Good, as it is your First Year and first day of classes, I shall give a pass on tardiness, in the future however, I will remove House Points. Now, to why you are here." She turned and faced a chalkboard that was situated next to her desk, waving her wand; the word 'Transfiguration' printed in white chalk appeared on the board.
"'Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts," she said. "Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned." With that she turned again and once more waved her end, ending with a tap on top of her desk, which promptly changed into a very large pig and then back again.
The mixed class of Ravenclaws and Gryffindors applauded politely and received one of McGonagall's rare small smiles.
'Before we begin practising any form of Transfiguration, you will copy down the 'Fundamentals of Transfiguration' that have been written on the board," Another quick wave of her wand and the board expanded and filled with words. "After that is complete, your first task will be to turn matches into needles. While you are copying the notes there will be no need for talking, unless you have a question. Understood?"
A chorus of "Yes, Professor," sounded back at her.
"Good. You may begin."
It took nearly 45 minutes to write all the notes down, but soon enough everyone had finished and McGonagall began handing out matches to everyone. "Now, do not become frustrated if you cannot perform the spell immediately. Transfiguration is one of the hardest forms of magic to master. As you become frustrated, your magic will fight you and you will have even more trouble with the spell, and it will continue on in a vicious cycle. Stay calm and keep trying, you will not be penalized if you cannot perform a spell."
Once everyone had a match she demonstrated how the spell should be preformed. "Picture what you want the match to do in your mind, visualize very clearly, and tap your match with your wand. If you have done it correctly your match will turn into a needle. You may begin when you are ready."
The class was mostly silent as they all tried the spell, most students met with failure, some managed to make their match waver before settling back into the form of a match, no one managed to change their match much at all. The only two who got close by the end of the class, were Hermione and Harry. Hermione's match was slightly gray and had a bit of a point. Harry's match was pointy, but still had the colours of a match.
As they were packing up Professor McGonagall set them to write a foot long essay on the spell, and why what they had tried had not worked, and what they could improve upon for next class.
It was a group of very tired First Years that made their way back to the Tower after Transfiguration. Kestrel dropped face first into the nearest couch, before tucking her bag under her head and curling into as small a ball as she possibly could. "Wake me when the express leaves for Christmas. This was the worst day ever."
"Stop being so over-dramatic Black. It was not that bad." Harry said, as he sat in one of the many squashy armchairs that dotted the common room.
"He has a point, it could be Friday." Stated Ginny, sitting down next to the other girl.
"Friday comes before Saturday. How could Friday be a bad day?" She asked.
"Because Friday, is Double Potions with Slytherin House."
Neville paled just a little bit, dropping into another chair. "I think I might be sick on Friday, mates."
"Already planning to skive off classes on your first day? I think I'm proud Fred." The four friends glanced over to where Fred and George had just walked through the portrait hole.
"Indeed George. I'm almost proud enough to forgive them of their most heinous crime."
"Almost, but not quite, dear brother."
"No, not quite."
"You don't understand. Snape was in the same year at School with our Dad's and they hated one another." Harry started, hands waving in his agitation. "I bet you 10 Galleons that he takes one look at me and Kes and immediately thinks that we are our Fathers reincarnated, and he'll give us the worst time out of any other student."
"Twice as bad, because you two are in Gryffindor." Ginny said despondently. "I guess I should say goodbye to all the house points we've managed to gain so far, so I won't be disappointed when the Gryffindor point's glass is empty by Friday's lunch."
Kestrel and Harry just groaned, Kes buried her face further into the couch and Harry tried to see if he could fit inside his book bag.
The elder Weasley twins looked at them in sympathy. "Well look on the bright side," began George.
"You only have the slimy git,"
"Once a week."
"True, but it's still probably going to be a disaster."
The rest of their week went by smoothly, by the end week they had to do an essay for Astronomy, explaining what they hoped to learn in the class, they had done tickling charms in Charms class, and had did more transplanting in Herbology. The closer it had gotten to Friday, the more upset Harry and Kestrel became. They were not looking forward to Potions.
They were down at breakfast picking at their food when the morning post arrived. Hedwig once again landed gently before Harry, holding out her leg and waiting patiently for her letter to be removed. Harry unfastened it from her leg and handed her a piece of bacon. "Hey, looks like Dad finally wrote back."
"Oh, what does Uncle James have to say?" Asked Kestrel asked she pushed her potatoes around her plate.
"I'll read it later, after potions. We should get going. We really do not want to be late for this."
As they trudged down towards the dungeons Ginny tried to cheer up her three gloomy friends. "Hey maybe it won't be that bad, maybe he'll see you as your own individual person and treat you like he would every other Gryffindor?"
"Are you asking us, or telling us?"
"Umm…I don't know. Both. Sorry Neville, I was trying to cheer you guys up."
Neville patted her shoulder in understanding. "It's okay Ginny, maybe you're right. Maybe it won't be that bad.
How wrong Neville was. They had hoped that with the way class began, and the fact that he hadn't even so much as looked at them as he stalked to the front of the room, robes billowing behind him, that they might be spared his ire. They were even suitably impressed by his opening speech.
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making," he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word - like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses...I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even stopper death..."
It was at this point that he turned his attention to Harry, though he still did not say anything directly to him. He went to stand behind his desk and pulled out a scroll that they assumed was the class list. He began calling out names, taking attendance. He sneered at Kestrel's name and glared at her; she just raised her chin and met his eye as well as she was able. Neville received slightly better treatment. After calling out Pansy Parkinson, he focused once again on Harry.
"Ah, Harry Potter, our new…celebrity." There was a spattering of laughter from the green and silver half of the room and glares from the scarlet and gold.
Kestrel and Neville saw an all too familiar look in his eye and prepared for the fall out. Harry raised his chin and looked Professor Snape dead in the eye. "Is that your round about way of asking me for an autograph, Professor, or are you congratulating me on loosing my mum to an evil wizard, who was scared of a little boy?"
Snape's lips thinned with the force of his anger and black eyes flashed dangerously. "20 points from Gryffindor for your cheek Potter!"
Harry was about to protest but Neville stepped sharply on his foot and Harry backed down.
After restoring the class to order, the irate Professor waved his wand and spidery script appeared on the board at the front of the room.
"On the board you will find the directions to brew a simple cure for boils. There will be no need for talking, you have 1 hour."
Harry made sure that he kept up a steady stream of encouragement to Neville, trying to keep quiet. Harry was average at Potions and Kestrel was fairly skilled, Neville on the other hand was dismal, and Snape's sneering and abrasive personality was not helping the boy's confidence. Ginny seemed to have a natural skill at potions and hardly ever had to glance at the board as she and Kestrel brewed at their table.
Just as class was about to end Harry could only stare down at his cauldron in confusion as instead of a stream of pink smoke rising from his potion, the smoke was purple. He looked up at the board and was reading through the instructions when Professor Snape stopped by his table.
"What, exactly, is that supposed to be, Potter?" His voice, while as soft as it had been at the beginning of the class, seemed to hold a certain level of glee at the thought of humiliating the young wizard in front of all his peers.
"A Cure for Boils, sir."
"If that is to be believed, why is the smoke not pink?"
His read through of the instructions had finally revealed his mistake. "Because, Professor, I accidently stirred the potion 6 times instead of only 5."
Snape sneered down at Harry, but said nothing and continued moving on up the rows of tables. Most of the Gryffindors hurriedly bottled their potions before Snape could find something too wrong with it. Both Ginny and Kestrel had managed perfect potions, along with Hermione, and every Slytherin but Crabbe and Goyle. Neville's potion had, thanks to Harry, remained presentable, even if the smoke was a bit more red than pink.
They all quickly handed in their potions and exited the oppressive atmosphere of the Potions room and made it back to the safety of the Tower.
"That was horrible!"
"Look at it this way Nev," Harry said as he wearily sunk into what was quickly becoming his favourite chair. "At least you didn't melt your cauldron this time."
"Hm, that's true. I guess it wasn't a total disaster."
"If his handwriting wasn't so sloppy, I would have done a bit better. I read stir 6 times, instead of five."
"Well, I say we forget about that greasy git, and get to that letter that Uncle James sent us. What d'ya say, Harry?"
"Good idea." He reached into his bag, digging around a bit to reach the letter that had sunk to the bottom of his bag. "Got it!
It's about time you wrote home! Jeez, we were hoping to hear from you way before now. You were leaving your poor parents and uncles in distress! But I digress, let's get to your questions. First off Harry, your scar. This is what is most worrying; I want you to keep a log for the next week of when it hurts, for how long, and the intensity of it. We'll try and track it, and if it all centres around the Professor Quirrel, Sirius and I will come down and talk to Dumbledore about it.
Now to your sorting, I had Remus do some digging, and so far he's turned up nothing on any similar events happening at Hogwarts. I assume that you three are going to be doing your own research, so let us know if you turn up anything on your end.
Lastly to the most important part of your letter, the pranking of the older Weasley twins. I'm going to get Sirius and Remus to help out a bit with this one; you'll likely see the result when the post is delivered tomorrow. Since we figure that Fred and George have the Map and will not be too keen on giving it up, and since you wanted to create your own map anyway, Remus will be sending along a list of the books we used to help us make the map. That will be the only help you will get from us with regards to this.
Well I think I've covered everything…oh right, one more thing in regards to Severus Snape. I know that by know you will probably have had a class with him already. Try not to let him get to you. Ignore him as much as you can and back each other up in class. Neville do not let him get to you, I know that that's a hard thing to do, cub, but you're decent at potions if you don't let anything bother you. If you need a distraction to make Snape less intimidating, try picturing him in your Gran's vulture hat!
Good luck with school and don't forget to keep track of your scar, Harry. Kes, get on his case about it if you have to.
Dad, and probably from Remus, Frank, and Sirius."
They all kind of stared down at the letter in Harry's hands in slight frustration. "So basically they have no idea what's going on either?" Kestrel asked pulling out her parchment and quill, planning on getting started on her Transfiguration essay that would be due next Monday. Ginny pulled out her own supplies and joined her at the table.
"Looks like it." Harry sighed glumly, sliding the letter back into his bag and pulled out his History of Magic notes for the week, so he could start recopying them.
Neville had finished his essay the other night and his writing was much neater than Harry's, so he was going to read ahead in their Defence text, since the idea of learning anything from Quirrel was a joke. He flipped to the next chapter that they would be working on and pulled the text into his lap.
Harry squinted at his notes, trying to decipher his own chicken scratch. "We should hit the library sometime this weekend and see what we can drum up on whether or not Hogwarts itself has ever interfered in a Sorting Ceremony before."
The others all nodded their agreement then turned their attention to their studies, wanting to get as much done tonight so that they could enjoy their first weekend at Hogwarts, as well as the last of the summer weather.
Most of their year mates were surprised to the see the four working so diligently. As even though they had only been at school for a week, they had already acquired a bit of a reputation as clowns.
Hermione was also surprised, but pleased as well, to find that she was not the only First Year taking her school work seriously. She walked over to the table they had commandeered for themselves and asked, "Would you mind terribly if I join you?"
Kestrel looked up and grinned at her bushy haired friend. Since their conversation that they had had in their first Herbology lesson, Hermione had become a bit less frantic about knowledge and was a bit more relaxed. Though not by much, she was still all about school work and getting everything finished well ahead of time, but she was calmer about it. "Sure Hermione, pull up a chair."
"Thanks, Kestrel." Hermione grinned and pulled out one of the free chairs, pulling out her own Transfiguration essay.
Ginny glanced at Hermione in confusion, asking, "Hermione, I thought you had finished your Transfiguration essay already?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Then, what are you doing?"
"Hm? Oh! I read a few things in the Library yesterday before supper and wanted to add them to my paper." Ginny and Kestrel could only stare at the three feet of parchment she unrolled, and looked down at their own essays, both just barely over a foot in length. A look of slight panic crossed their faces and they both jumped up from the table and raced to their dorm to grab their Transfiguration text books. They both knew that they had no hope of matching Hermione's brilliance for essays, since what she lacked in practical magical experience she more than made up for with sheer academic brilliance. But there was no way that they weren't going to put in their best efforts to try and match their friend.
By the time supper rolled around, Ginny and Kestrel had hit the two foot mark, but found they could add no more without running the risk of repeating themselves. Harry had caught up to Thursdays History class, and Neville had read through almost half of the defence book. They all started to pack up to bring their things back to their rooms, and then had down to dinner. Hermione however was still pouring over her essay.
Kestrel gave Ginny her bag to bring her things up for her, and then tapped the studious girl on the shoulder and Hermione startled, causing both of them to jump. "Kestrel! You startled me."
"I startled you? I think you scared me so bad my hair turned white!" Suiting words to action, she rapidly changed her dark black hair to a bright snow white. Hermione could only stare at her in astonishment.
"That's amazing! How did you do that?"
"Hmm? Oh. It's a magical trait that runs in the Black family. I'm known as a Metamorphmagus. Meaning I can change my appearance at will." Again her hair changed, shaping itself into Hermione's wild mane of bushy brown hair, and then turning Weasley red, Malfoy blonde, before finally settling back to black.
"So it's not something that just anyone can learn?"
"No, but there are other spells, and even potions you can brew that will help change your appearance, but no, Metamorphing is a blood trait, passed down through families. My cousin Tonks she's a Seventh Year 'Puff actually, is a Metamorphmagus too, and Harry is too, to some extent."
She looked back over to where Harry was just coming back down the stairs. Harry had caught the tail end of the conversation, and quickly grew his messy black hair down to his hips, before rapidly shortening it to very close cropped, before settling back on his usual length.
"I can only change the length of my hair, not the colour; neither can I change my appearance, not like Kes and Tonks can."
"I thought that you said it was a Black trait, Kestrel."
"But, Harry's a Potter, how is that…"
"Oh, Harry and I are related…his dad's mum was a Black. We're second cousins I think, right Harry?"
"Something like that, yes. Most of the pureblood families are inter-related. But enough talk about that, lets get down to dinner, I'm starving!"
"Come and join us Hermione."
The Muggle-born witch looked surprised for a moment, being invited along by people who were already such great friend's with one another. She hurriedly shook off her shock and nodded. "Okay! Just let me run my bag back up to my room." Once she returned they headed down to enjoy a quiet supper with the rest of the school.