Harry studied his Head of House with an appreciative gaze. Why hadn't the Gryffindors or Ravenclaws been given their schedule the night before, as Sprout had done for them? Then they could've had notice of which textbooks they'd need for the day, instead of hauling all of them to breakfast. Or were they supposed to go back to their dormitory for their correct texts before the first class of the day? Or maybe their Heads of House had just forgotten? People did forget things (though the Aeslin didn't) and Harry wanted to give everyone the benefit of the doubt before making judgements.
Of course, one of the Aeslin Teachings was that Actions Speak Louder Than Words. Meaning that what people said didn't mean as much as what they did.
Harry made sure that the selected mice (one hidden in his hair and one in his chest pocket) were given a few cheese crumbs, though to anyone who noticed they would've just thought he had a couple itchy spots. Until he knew how the wizarding world would react to his mice, he would Err on the Side of Caution. After all, there were a LOT of people here and he didn't know yet which would be like the Dursleys.
Harry considered it part of his job, as God of the Colony, to keep his mice safe.
Such thoughts were on his mind when he followed a fifth-year prefect with the other first-years to the Transfiguration classroom and the first thing he saw was a cat. On the desk. Watching them. A Cat. Harry swallowed hard. Unconsciously, his hand came up to cup his chest pocket protectively.
It was true that the Aeslin were smarter than most. Smarter than the Dursleys! They were omnivorous (mostly meat, cheese, and cake) and that they had no qualms with hunting for their dinner. However, that was when they had the benefit of large numbers. An Aeslin hunting party would need all seven of his colony. When they were on their own, as the two currently hiding on his person, their best defense was to hide. Best Defense: No Be There
Not to mention, while Harry knew that the Aeslin were smarter than a lot of humans, and definitely all the pets in the Surrey neighborhood, none of them had ever met wizarding pets yet. (Though, of course, their ancestors had, it wasn't the same as first-hand experience. Not to Harry at least. Just because one knew theoretically how to do something, actually doing that something could be very different.) So it was no surprise to Harry when he felt the tiny paw on his neck, seeking reassurance from their God.
When the cat turned into Professor McGonagall, Harry wasn't the only one to squeak in surprise. He immediately raised his hand.
McGonagall stared at him. She hadn't even started her lecture yet! "Yes, Mr. Potter?"
"Do you eat mice, professor?" he asked seriously.
Some of the other children gave a shocked gasp at his audacity, while a couple giggled.
McGonagall's stare intensified with laser-like precision. "Are you being disrespectful, Mr. Potter?" she asked in a low, dangerous tone. As it was the first day, she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but she also remembered quite clearly how much of a troublemaker James Potter had been, even before the Marauders had been created.
Harry Potter shook his head vigorously and tried his best to clarify the question, "Humans don't eat mice, but cats do. You are both a cat and a human. Do you eat mice when you're a cat?"
Minerva suddenly remembered how an eleven-year-old James had approached her after the first class in first year, terrified that she ate mice.
She crossed her arms and gazed at little Harry seriously. "While in my animagus form – which is what a wizard that can change into an animal is called – there are certain instincts that do carry over. If I stayed in my other form for a sufficient amount of time, those instincts would become much harder to ignore. However, as I am only a cat in shape, I still have the ability to think and reason as any human." She paused, but could see that she would have to make it plainer for him. "No, Mr. Potter, I do not eat mice. Sometimes I chase them for the fun of it, but the Hogwarts House Elves keep me quite satisfied culinarily speaking."
Immediately, he looked relieved, again reminding Minerva of that other black-haired boy asking about mice. How odd. "May I begin the lesson now?"
The boy blushed, and nodded. It was the last incident for that class period. Interestingly, Harry had been one of the few to have changed his matchstick into a needle. Minerva made a mental note to keep a closer eye on the boy, just as she did for all those that made the feat on the first day. James Potter had also been exceptional at Transfiguration, perhaps his son was more like his father than mere appearance.
Silently, Minerva lamented that all she saw of Lily were the boy's eyes.
Potions lessons took place down in one of the dungeons, only a couple corridors away from the entrance to their common room. The classroom was a bit colder than the hallway, Harry assumed that it was to keep the ingredients stored optimally. Many of said ingredients lined the top of all four walls, pickled in glass jars or framed, all with clear, neat labels. Examples of certain common or dangerous ingredients perhaps?
The classroom was arranged in two rows of thick, solid tables, effectively dividing the room in half. Two stools were placed behind each table. Two walls held waist-high bookshelves, all of which were full to bursting. Atop those shelves a few cauldrons were sitting, three of which already held simmering potions. The front of the class was more crowded. Two different doors than the one by which they'd entered, along with an even larger, more solid, desk than the students' was sitting perpendicular to the two rows. Lastly, sitting at almost 45 degrees to the corner in which it was positioned, was a large blackboard stating: POTIONS – YEAR ONE.
Though the Hufflepuffs all came in together, it was interesting to Harry that the few Ravenclaws already seated had only done so on the left side of the room. It wasn't as odd to him that his housemates claimed the other side, but he did wonder why were they segregating themselves? Or was he reading too much into this?
Harry ended up seated beside Susan Bones.
At the stroke of the last bell signaling the start of classes, one of the opposite doors opened briefly so that Professor Snape could sweep into the classroom dramatically. He was dressed in an all-black over-robe that had no sleeves. Considering the temperature of the room, the robe was to keep him as warm as possible while a lack of sleeves meant less to get in his way as he worked. (Harry quickly made a sketch at the top of his page to contemplate later.)
Severus began by taking roll, marking each student as they answered. Once that was finished, he looked up. His eyes were almost black, and were far colder than Harry was used to seeing (especially from a teacher) practically glaring at them. "You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potion-making," he began. He spoke barely over a whisper, but they caught every word easily. It helped that students didn't seem to dare to even shift in their seat, intimidated by his penetrating eyes. "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, even stopper death — if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
Nothing broke the silence following his speech. Students exchanged looks varying from fear to incredulity to anticipation. Only a couple looked bored.
"Mr. Corner!" Snape suddenly barked. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
The brunette, one of those who had looked bored, jolted to attention. "Uhhh…I dunno."
Snape's glare intensified a bit more at the rudeness. "Let's try that again. Mr. Corner, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
Michael's face darkened with anger as he understood that he was being called out on purpose. "Dunno."
Snape's eyes narrowed even further, almost slits. "Mister Corner," he grit out, "in this class I expect all students to be courteous and respectful, or I will give you detention until you learn how to be polite. Now — try that again."
The boy's angry glare wasn't as intense as the teacher's, but it was obvious he was trying. "I don't know, sir." The last word was said as if it were an expletive.
"Thank you." Those black eyes kept with Corner for several moments longer until the boy looked away. Then Professor Snape focused back to the other students. "What is the difference, Mr. Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
Harry bit his lip, thinking back. He'd read ahead several chapters in all his textbooks – his mice had insisted – but there were a good many of them, and all new information. He'd only wanted a general idea of what to expect, he hadn't tried to memorize. "I know both are essentially the same plant. One is gathered at midnight on a full moon and the other is not. But I can't remember which is which, sir."
"Wolfsbane is gathered at midnight on the full moon. It is the main active ingredient in the Wolfsbane Potion, which helps werewolves keep their human mind during transformation." The professor nodded. "Mr. Macmillan, where might I look for a bezoar?"
The Hufflepuff's wide eyes could be called comical if there weren't so much fear in them. "Sir, I don't know, sir."
"One 'sir' is plenty, Mr. Macmillan." Snape's eyes moved to the Ravenclaw side of the room again. "Miss Lantan, perhaps you'd like to tell me where to find a bezoar?"
"In the stomach of a goat, Professor. It's one of the few known cures for almost any poison."
He nodded again in praise at her prompt reply. Then focused on the Hufflepuffs again. "Miss Roper, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
The girl sitting in the last desk at the back of the room had been the only Hufflepuff to see the pattern of his questions and hurried to get out the two potions' texts from her bag. She'd been quietly and quickly flipping through pages, trying to find the answer to the question she knew was coming. She'd been planning on whispering the answer to whomever was called upon, and was surprised when it was herself. "They make a sleeping potion known as the Draught of Living Death, Professor."
"Miss Roper, I would like to call attention to your performance so far, if I may without embarrassing you overly." He actually waited for her hesitant nod of agreement before continuing. He looked at the entire class critically. "Miss Roper was the only one of you to recognize that while she may not currently know the answer to my questions, she did know where she might find them and proceeded to actively search. She has demonstrated critical thinking and the ability to problem solve effectively.
"These are skills that you will hopefully develop, for you will need them. Not just as students of this class, but as you grow into adults." He crossed his arms and eyed them. "I am aware that my class is your second and you may not know of how to effectively prepare." He flicked his wand at the blackboard and writing began to appear, echoing his words. "Before any class, you should ensure to read a chapter ahead and review any notes that you took the previous session. Do a final look-over of any homework assignments to be turned in, checking for spelling and grammar.
"During a class session, you will be expected to be in your seat, ready to take notes as soon as the bell finishes ringing. Anything your professors say repeatedly, I guarantee you, is highly likely to appear on a quiz or exam. Anything your professors write, you should copy, adding details as needed throughout the lecture.
"Directly after a class, you should go over the notes you took, adding any details you may have missed the first time. Then, begin any homework assignments the same night as they were given, for the relevant information to complete them will never be fresher in your memory.
"If you have a question or become frustrated, you should ask for assistance. Either from your fellow classmates, House mates, or your professors. Each of your instructors has a list of hours posted in their classroom, detailing when they can be located in their office for just such an occasion. Your Head of House also has a separate set of hours for further assistance on any topic, not just their own subject material. We are here to help you."
His glare was back, directed at Michael Corner. "Be aware that magic—all magic—is extremely dangerous. If you behave irresponsibly in any manner, you will be quickly disabused of the notion. You show respect to your professors because we will be doing our best to make sure that you survive your time here. Am I understood?"
They all nodded in unison.
"Excellent. I have never had a student die in my class and I would like to keep that record. The previous potions professor here lost nine students. It is normal for between five and twenty students to die in potions class alone, worldwide." He held their gazes for a long minute in which no one even twitched. Finally, he gave a last nod and turned. "We will begin by learning the different ways in which to cut ingredients. There are many different ways in which to do so. You may see examples of each on page 15 of your text." He gestured with his wand and bowls appeared between pairs of students. "For the rest of class, you are to practice each type of cut with the apples I've given you. This is an essential skill you require for Potions and will be used immediately. I will be moving around the room, helping you as I see is required." He paused, eyeing the motionless children. He raised an eyebrow. "Well?"
About three-fourths of the class began by copying down the blackboard, making notations on what they remembered from Severus' speech, just as he had instructed, then began practicing their cuts. As promised, he made rounds through the classroom, pausing to make comments here and there. In contrast to his foreboding demeanor during his introductory speech, the way he spoke individually to students was decidedly lighter. Though the man would never be called kind, he was not unkind either. Rather, speaking with a low, encouraging firmness as he offered corrections.
Harry thought he might like this class. Idly, he wondered how similar it was to cooking.
"Mr. Potter," Snape gestured for him to stay a few more minutes as the others filed out.
"I'll wait for you," Susan Bones promised, then quietly closed the door behind her. Harry knew that she would ensure he wouldn't be left behind.
"There are two charms you should know," Snape said. "The first is the Notice Me Not. Watch closely." He slowly went through the wand movements, pronouncing the incantation precisely. Then did the charm at speed, demonstrating on a bowl of cut apples. "The second is the Sticking Charm." Again, he went through the movements and incantation with precision, then again at normal pace. "Your mice can help you," he smirked as the boy's eyes widened, "Yes, Mr. Potter, I know about them. In fact, I was named one of your godfathers. However, circumstances prevented me from raising you as my right," he practically growled the words before continuing, "I'm more than familiar with the Aeslin. Your mother, Lily, was my best friend. Please come to me with any questions or concerns. Now run along, or you'll be late for your next class."