A.N. A bit later than planned, but still, not as bad as it could have been!

Harry Potter and the Lords of Magic

Book I

Chapter 5

"Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak!"

With those quite mystifying words, the feast began. As soon as Dumbledore had sat, food materialised on the tables, more food than Harry had ever seen in his life. It seemed like it continued on forever. There were roast meats of every kind imaginable - Harry had his eye on some perfectly pink roast beef - surrounded by a multitude of potato: mounds of glistening roast potatoes, great tubs of creamy mashed potato, even a large platter of chips. There was hot stew with steam rising off of it, fresh bread, and a variety of soups. Studiously ignoring a tureen of vegetables, Harry reached over to cut himself some beef.

"Cut me some of that, will you?" asked the girl opposite him. She was a short girl with sleek brown hair and a smattering of freckles. Harry thought her rather pretty.

"Sure," Harry replied, and he cut her several generous slices, juices oozing from the meat as he sawed into it.

"Thanks," she said, "I'm Alexandra, by the way. Alexandra Woodbridge."

"Harry Potter," he replied as he spooned a large number of roast potatoes onto his plate, before covering the whole thing with thick brown gravy. All around him the hall was alive with the sound of chatter. Harry was very aware that this was the time to be making new friends, but he didn't really know how to go about it. He supposed you just asked questions about each other.

"Pass the gravy, Potter!" called a boy a few seats down. He had messy brown hair and was easily the tallest boy in their year. Harry pushed the jug down the table and turned back to Alexandra. She was eating her food rather daintily, taking the smallest bites yet chewing them forever. Harry was reminded of the time Petunia tried to make him chew his food 100 times before swallowing. He was suddenly rather conscious that he had been shovelling his food in. It really was very good.

"So where are you from?" he asked her between mouthfuls.

"The middle of nowhere, really," she replied, looking unhappy about it. "And I mean it. I live in Suffolk. I swear there's nothing but Muggles for miles and miles. The Potters are from Camelot, aren't they? I wish I could live in Camelot."

From what Harry could glean from Marissa, the Potters had lived in Camelot, before Thomas had argued with his father. The older Potters still lived there, close to Lord Peverell, but Thomas had left when he changed allegiance to Dumbledore. He didn't think Alexandra would be interested in that, though.

"Well, it's true that most of the Potters live in Camelot, but I live in Sanctum," he said, trying to keep it simple.

"Oh, yes, I forgot," she said. Harry wasn't quite sure what she meant, but supposed she knew his family history already. She definitely had the advantage on him there. The name 'Woodbridge' was familiar to him, but he couldn't remember anything else about them. "But Sanctum!" she continued, "that's even better! Suffolk is so boring. Of course, Sanctum is just a Floo away, but mother never lets me go on my own. I've only been there a few times, you know, to see the ballet. I don't suppose you dance?"

Harry, who was quite sure that dancing was for girls, shook his head. Alexandra sighed.

"No one seems to! Mother told me that Hogwarts has a dance club, but I'm sure it's quite small." She leaned in, as if she was telling a great secret. "I wanted to go to dance school, but Lady Asquith insisted on Hogwarts. She said I had to get a 'proper education'." She sniffed. "I don't see how alchemy is any better than ballet."

Harry decided that Alexandra was a bit silly. Who would pick ballet over alchemy? You got to blow stuff up! - or so he had heard. Still, she was pretty. And she was in Ravenclaw, so she couldn't be a complete idiot, even if she was a girl.

"So if you don't dance, what do you do?" Alexandra asked.

Harry thought. He didn't really think he did anything, not in the same way Alexandra did stuff. The magical world was still all so new, he hadn't had a chance to take up a hobby. He'd spent most of his summer playing around with magic, so he went with that.

"I like magic," he said, aware that he sounded stupid. Alexandra rolled her eyes, and Harry felt the need to boast. "I can light a candle by blowing on it."

She didn't look like she believed him, but they were interrupted before she could speak.

"Spoken like a true Ravenclaw!" said a familiar voice, and a hand came to rest on his shoulder. Harry looked up to see Arcturus Greengrass standing behind him. "All right, Harry? You managed to throw your wand at everyone, you know. Ravenclaw, of all places..."

Harry smiled, and noticed that Greengrass had managed to draw the attention of all the first years. Many were looking at Harry with something bordering awe - to have the favour of a seventh year, and the Head Boy at that, was apparently a feat worthy of respect. Arcturus turned his attention to the tall boy who had asked for gravy.

"You're a surprise too, Winters. I thought you were Gryffindor for sure. Our Lady will be pleased. Send my regards to your father, will you?"

Winters responded by holding up his goblet in a toast. Harry didn't think it very subtle, but it got the job done: every Ravenclaw was now aware that Winters had the Head Boy's favour.

"Now, time to reveal the true purpose of my visit," Greengrass lied, and he reached over for the platter holding the beef. "I hope you won't mind me taking this! So long, Firsties!"

Before anyone could raise an objection, Greengrass made a rapid escape with the beef. Across the room, a group of 7th year Slytherins cheered his successful raid. The boy to Alexandra's right scowled.

"I hadn't had any of that yet!" he said, "and it was from my father's farm, too."

"You can tell?" asked Harry, surprised.

"You mean you couldn't? I don't know whether to be insulted or amused."

Harry frowned. He was clearly missing something - it seemed like normal beef to him.

"Isn't beef just... beef?"

Alexandra tried to come to his rescue.

"It's Selwynn beef, Harry," she said, as if that explained everything. Harry was still in the dark.

"Oh, yeah, of course," he said, pretending to know what that was. The boy laughed, but seemed disappointed that Harry hadn't asked what it was. After the boy became distracted by a different conversation, Alexandra leaned over the table again.

"You don't know what Selwynn beef is, do you?" she said quietly. Harry considered denying it, but shook his head.

Alexandra giggled.

"Honestly, why didn't you just say? It's not important," she said.

Harry shrugged and watched as his plate disappeared to be replaced by a desert bowl. He helped himself to a large slice of treacle tart.

"Well then? Aren't you going to ask what it is?" Alexandra said, apparently unhappy that he was more interested in his treacle tart than he was her. Harry decided to indulge her.

"Fine. What's Selwynn beef?"

She smiled.

"How to explain... it's a type of beef that's always perfect."

"That's it? How can you tell it's not just really good beef, then?" Harry asked.

"Oh, I'm saying it all wrong," Alexandra moaned. "Okay, how about this: what did the beef look like to you?"

"It was pink?" Harry replied, not really sure where she was going.

"Exactly!" she said, "For you, it was pink. For me, it was red. I bet someone here likes it frazzled to a crisp. Selwynn beef is always perfect! Do you see?"

Harry nodded. Over the summer he had become quite used to strange things like doors that opened to different rooms at different times of day, or things being bigger on the inside than the outside. It had never occurred to him that food could be magical too. He wondered what other magical foods there were.

Soon enough, the feast began to wind down. The older students began to drift out, and some of the staff got up to leave. After Dumbledore left, two prefects made their way down the table to the first years.

"If everyone's finished, we'll take you up to the common room," said one of them, a girl with ginger hair.

The way to the Ravenclaw common room was long and winding, and all uphill. Whenever they came across one of the huge stairwells, filled with criss-crossing staircases, they would go upwards. Harry was quite lost, walking with Alexandra on one side of him, Winters on the other.

"Do you have any idea where we are?" Harry asked them, "I think I lost track about two staircases back."

"You were keeping track?" Alexandra said, as if doing such a thing had never occurred to her.

Winters laughed.

"I reckon I could make it back with only a couple wrong turns," he said. It sounded like his voice had already broken. "We should go to breakfast together tomorrow, just in case. Less chance of getting lost if we stick together."

"That's a good idea," said a prefect who was walking behind them. He had blond hair and a serious face. Though he looked unremarkable there was something familiar about him. "I remember my first day here: I got so lost that I missed breakfast."

"How much further to the common room?" asked a chubby boy at the back of their small group. Harry noticed he was a bit red in the face.

"Just around the corner," replied the prefect, and when they turned the corner he told them to stop. They were standing in a long corridor, not so different to many they had already passed. It was wide and tall, lit by torches attached to the walls. Portraits lined the walls at intervals, and every here and there a suit of armour stood in an alcove. They were standing next to one such alcove. Two stone ravens were carved into the wall on either side of the armour, level with its waistline. The prefect they had been talking to spoke.

"Entry into the dorms is easy enough: you just have to tap one of the ravens on the head with your wand. You used to have to answer a question, but too many students got stranded outside. Penny, a demonstration?"

The ginger prefect who had gathered them earlier came forward. She drew her wand and gave a raven a sharp tap. The raven squawked loudly, and the suit of armour stepped backwards into the wall.

"Follow me through," she said, before stepping through the wall. There was a brief pause – no one seemed to want to go first – before Harry felt a push from behind. It was the prefect, who winked at him. Feeling everyone's eyes on him, he walked into the wall, hoping that he wouldn't hit stone and look like an idiot.

He need not have worried. He stepped through the rock as if it were air and emerged into a large yet warmly inviting room. Moving away from the entrance to let the others through, Harry took a good look around. To the left of the entrance a staircase rose upwards; the common room lay to his right. It was a long, thin room, almost like an expanded corridor. To his left, the wall was made almost entirely of glass: a giant window looking out onto Hogwarts' front lawn. He expected it would be a great view over Hogsmeade during the day. Opposite the window were numerous fireplaces set into the wall. All of them were roaring, giving the room its warm glow. Arranged around the fireplaces were circles of armchairs and settees, many of which were occupied by the upper years. Between the fireplaces the walls were lined with bookcases. There was another staircase at the far end of the room. From the inside, the entrance looked like a doorless archway leading out into the hallway. Harry could see Alexandra and Winters on the other side, waiting to come through.

"Come on," said Penny once they were all inside, and she led them to an unoccupied fireplace. "Have a sit down, everyone. There's a few things we have to get through." They just about managed to all fit around the fireplace. Harry counted: there were thirteen first years, including himself. The prefects stood in front of the fire.

"Welcome to Ravenclaw!" the boy said. "I'm Decimus Ollivander, and this is Penny Balfour. We're your 7th year prefects. Basically, that means you have to do what we say."

He laughed, and the first years laughed too, but Harry got the feeling that it wasn't entirely a joke.

"Tonight is designed to help you get to know each other better," Penny said. "We've got games to play and some supper later on – yes, you are going to get hungry again before bed – but first we should all introduce ourselves. We'll go around in a circle, giving our names and an interesting fact about ourselves."

Harry tried desperately to think of an interesting fact. Nothing he could think of was interesting – or suitable. He certainly wasn't going to tell them he was raised like a Muggle. He was so busy thinking that he missed the first couple of names. Very soon it was his turn.

"I'm Harry Potter, and I live in Sanctum," he said rather lamely. No one seemed to mind. Alexandra was already introducing herself enthusiastically.

"I'm Alexandra Woodbridge and I want to be a dancer," she said. Apparently she wanted to make this clear to everyone she met.

"Dorian Winters. Fencer, duellist, Quidditch enthusiast."

Harry was pretty sure he heard a few of the girls giggle at Dorian's dramatics. He tried not to feel jealous.

"Sebastian Selwynn," said the boy from the feast. "I saw the Sirens of Greece over the summer."

"Clare Penrose," said the next girl. She had pale skin and black hair, and one of her eyes was blue, the other green. "My element is water."

That made everyone pause. Harry had never heard of people having elements before, and he was fairly sure it wasn't in any of their textbooks.

"You're one of LeFey's lot, then?" asked Penny.

The girl nodded, and there were various sounds of realisation from the other first years. He would have to ask someone about it later.

More introductions followed. There was Euphemia Gamp, who preferred to be called Effie, and Portia Savage, whose father was a tribune in the Saharan Legion. Then came Ethan MacDonald, the chubby one, and Stephanie Lawson, a strange girl who was met with horrified silence when she told them how she once saw a man eaten by a Quintaped.

By the time the introductions finished, Harry had already forgotten half their names.

"Excellent," said Ollivander, who was still sending Stephanie concerned looks. "You probably won't remember it all, but hopefully a few names stuck. You've got the rest of the evening to learn them – don't be afraid to ask for them again. Okay, a few things you should know before we play 'Mad Muggles': our Head of House is Professor Prewett, who is also Head of Alchemy. If you have any problems you should come to us first, but if they're really serious, or about us-" his tone betrayed his disbelief that this would ever occur "-then you can go to him. I think some of you actually have him for Alchemy, which is unusual for first years. Which brings us to our next point. Penny?"

"You should have looked at your timetable by now," she continued, "and if you haven't picked between French and German yet, you should do so. You've probably also realised that you won't all be in the same classes with each other. It's possible that you may find yourself in some classes without any Ravenclaws at all, since there's so few of us. It's down to you to support each other out of classes. We don't want anyone falling behind or feeling excluded. We expect you to sit together during your supervised homework period, and work together when appropriate. Understand?"

They all nodded. Ollivander took over.

"Finally, as you know, Hogwarts runs on a 30 hour day. It's going to take some getting used to. For the first week or so you're going to experience Chronosickness. The first day is going to be the worst. We're going to spend this evening with you, keeping you awake beyond what you're used to. Right now it's 21:00. At home, you might be going to bed around now. We've got to keep you awake until around 27:00: after that you can go to bed. But don't worry, we've got lots of games to play, and food to eat if you get hungry, and Endurance Elixir for when you feel like you can't keep your eyes open any longer."

The rest of the evening passed in a haze of laughter and tiredness. They played 'Mad Muggles' – a kind of quiz revolving around all the things Muggles do to make up for not having magic. Everyone found it hilarious. Harry hadn't ever thought about it that way before, but he supposed that there was something quite absurd about flying inside a metal tube with wings. Needless to say, he won by a large margin. Ollivander said he could probably pass O.W.L. Muggle Studies.

They played other games too, and not all of them sitting down. At one point, when everyone looked like they were about to drop, they were given the Endurance Elixir and led back into the castle for a game of Merlin and Rebels. That game came to a rather abrupt end when it turned out that Sebastian Selwynn knew a locating divination.

Harry learned more about his classmates, too. Alexandra turned out to be gifted at more than just dance: she showed them how to make drawings that came to life when you had finished. Harry drew a picture of a snake and managed to get it to wiggle a bit.

Stephanie drew a rude picture of Professor Bagshot losing her clothes, which Penny confiscated.

Harry tried to teach them how to light candles by blowing on them, but no one could get the hang of it – not even the 7th years. Ollivander seemed quite put out by it, but Dorian said that it was awesome. Harry just about resisted the urge to show off.

It was a good thing he did, because Dorian then showed them how to duel and beat everyone handily - except for the prefects, who batted his spells away casually. Ollivander told them about duelling club, and Harry considered joining. Unlike the other houses, where it was optional, Ravenclaws were expected to join several clubs. They had three hours set aside every day for extra-curricular activities, and seven on Saturdays.

Finally, it was time for bed. Penny took the girls to their dorms, up the staircase by the common room entrance, and Ollivander took the boys to theirs. They were all in one room together; it was large and circular with seven grand four-poster beds, at the feet of which sat their trunks. Between the beds they each had a chest of drawers. After using their rather lavish bathroom across the hall, they settled into bed.

They fell asleep almost instantly.

Harry woke early the next morning feeling surprisingly refreshed. He checked the clock: 06:00. Curfew wouldn't end for another half hour. Feeling too excited to go back to sleep, Harry rummaged around his discarded robes for his timetable, wanting to see what his day looked like.

It looked long. He had four lessons, each one two hours long: Physicks, History, Latin, and Charms. But that was just the start of the day. After dinner he had 6 hours for homework and clubs.

Harry hoped they didn't get too much homework on their first day.

Deciding that no one would mind if he broke curfew by half an hour, Harry quickly showered and dressed (taking a brief moment to admire the Ravenclaw crest that had appeared on his school robes overnight) before heading down into the common room to wait for the others. The fires had long since burnt out; the room was lit entirely by the bright light of the morning sun, blasting through the massive window. It was almost too bright, but Harry took a moment to bask in front of the glass, appreciating the view of Hogsmeade beneath them, sitting in its valley. He realised that the Ravenclaw dorms sat directly above the castle's main entrance.

Realising that the others could take a while to get up, Harry sat down and flicked through a magazine from the bookcase called Alchemist's Almanac. It was all about alchemical research and, while much of the theory was alien to him, Harry still found it interesting. Apparently, it had long been held that the numerological properties of the atomic number of gold explained its resistance to magic, but a famous alchemist (Lord Nicolas Flamel) had just published a new book all about why this was rubbish.

Harry was just finishing the article, more confused than enlightened, when Clare Penrose came and sat opposite him. They each muttered a "good morning" to the other before returning to a companionable silence - a silence broken by the distinctive laughter of Dorian Winters, who was coming down the boys' staircase.

"I'll be joining flying club for sure," he said to his companion, a redhead whose name Harry couldn't remember. "They don't let you try Quidditch until after at least a term of it, so I want to get - oh, there you are, Harry! We were worried you'd left for breakfast without us!"

"And get lost?" Harry replied, putting down his magazine. "No thanks." He checked his watch again - it was now almost seven, which meant breakfast had started. "I hope Alexandra gets here soon - I'm starving."

"I'm here, I'm here!" Alexandra cried. Her hair was still damp from the shower, and she was hopping towards them, managing to put a shoe on and walk at the same time. Harry stood up.

"Then let's go!"

Between Harry and Dorian, they managed to make it to Godric's Hall without a single wrong turn. As they walked, they compared timetables: Harry had Physicks with Dorian and the redhead boy (who turned out to be called Jaime Chambers) but Alexandra and Clare were in a different class. They all had History and Latin together, and then Harry was on his own for Charms. Breakfast itself was very informal: the tables were laid with a wide variety of hot and cold foods (though Harry noticed they had no cereal) and students seemed to be at ease wandering around the room, paying little attention to House boundries. Just as they were about to leave, Ollivander turned up with the remaining first years in tow.

"Hold on, you guys" he said, "you have to hang around for announcements."

They sat back down (Harry helping himself to another slice of toast) and waited as Ollivander handed out maps of where their classes were. Eventually, the hall was as full as it had been the previous night, and at eight o'clock the teachers filed in, their entrance quieting the hall to whispers. Dumbledore's chair sat empty, and Professor Bagshot led the assembly, calling on each teacher in turn to speak. Most declined - there wasn't much to say at the start of term - but a few teachers stood to advertise their various clubs. After the teachers were done, Bagshot invited announcements from the student population.

A boy stood, and Harry recognised him as one of the Quidditch players from Cedric's compartment. He must be Wood, Harry thought, spying his Gryffindor crest.

"We may be just starting back, but Quidditch season is already upon us!" he said loudly. His announcement was greeted with a cheer. "We have six Quidditch fixtures this term, and we're hoping to improve on our position of 2nd in the league this year," - another cheer - "for fixtures and training times, see your House noticeboards, or the Quidditch noticeboard in the Entrance Hall. I'd like to draw your attention to one in particular, our annual Samhain match against our rivals Scrivenwell's - I expect the whole school to turn up to watch us smash them!"

That was met with the biggest cheer of all.

"Thank you, Mr. Wood," said Professor Bagshot, her tone disapproving, and he sat back down.

There were no announcements after that, and the staff left, followed quickly by many of the students. There was more than enough time for Harry and the others to walk back to their dorm to pick up their books before they had Physicks, arriving at the classroom with ten minutes to spare. Harry waved to Hermione when she arrived on her own, carrying a ridiculous number of books. She was also wearing the correct robes. Apparently someone - student or teacher, Harry couldn't decide - had given her a summer robe to wear.

They were ushered into the room by their teacher, a tall, mild-mannered man with olive coloured skin, curly black hair, and an unfortunate moustache. The room was nothing unusual: rows of tall benches with stools behind them, a blackboard at the front and displays on the wall.

"Welcome to Physicks," he said after the class had sat down and got out their books. Harry was sitting in between Dorian and Jaime somewhere in the middle of the room. Hermione, he noticed, was right at the front, next to the teacher's desk. "I am Mr. Smethwyk." His name wrote itself on the board.

"Now," he continued, perching on the edge of his desk, "can anyone tell me - or like to take a guess at - what Physicks is?"

Hermione's hand shot into the air; the class snickered. Mr. Smethwyk looked surprised - his question had probably been intended rhetorically.

"Ah, yes, Miss...?"

"Granger, sir," she said earnestly. Smethwyk blinked. "Physicks is the study of the most basic nature of the universe, including laws of magic, energy, and force."

The class glared at the back of Hermione's head. Even Harry felt some annoyance - she didn't half make it difficult to like her. She sounded like a walking textbook. In fact, Harry was fairly sure that was straight from the introduction of their textbook.

"Thank you, Miss. Granger. A most... familiar definition." Mr. Smethwyk said. He motioned to the board, and several words appeared there, replacing his name. He read them out one by one. "Magic. Energy. Force." He paused, before more words appeared. "Motion. Magnetism. Thought. Will. Space. Time. Matter, and soul. Cause, and effect.

"These - and more - are the concepts that Physicks deals with, as Miss. Granger rightly notes. But!" he jumped from the desk, startling everyone. "What. Is. Physicks?"

His question was met with silence. Not even Hermione fancied her chances at a second attempt.

"No one?" he asked. "Physicks is experiment! Physicks is reason! Physicks is mathematics! Physicks is understanding - understanding the world around us, in particular, the many and complex ways the world and magic relate. Do you understand? Through looking at the world - experiment - we reason, using mathematics, towards understanding."

His passionate speech was backed by the sound of scribbling quills. Hermione looked like she was writing everything the man said. Harry just wrote four words: experiment, reason, mathematics, understanding. They seemed pretty important.

"It is easiest, I think, to give you an example," Mr. Smethwyk continued after he had let them catch up. "Consider Hogwarts. Through the spells cast here we experience a 30 hour day. This is our observation. Now, who can tell me what normally dictates the length of the day?"

Harry knew that one from primary school. He raised his hand, and, to his surprise, was called upon.

"The Earth going around, sir."

"Correct! Yes, a normal day - more or less 24 hours - is the result of the rotation of the Earth upon its own axis. As it rotates, sunlight falls on different parts of the globe. Now, we have two facts, two observations: that Hogwarts has a day of 30 hours, and that the rotation of the Earth should give us a day of 24. It is now time to use reason. Let us think of an explanation. Who here thinks that the spells on Hogwarts cause the Earth to slow down, lengthening the day?"

The class laughed. Mr. Smethwyk smiled, pleased.

"Good, good. If anyone had raised their hand then, I should have pointed them straight to the door." Harry wasn't quite sure if he was joking. "Let us skip a few steps - I shall tell you the answer. What happens is this: the spells do not move the celestial objects, nor do they create time - they squash it. Time passes quicker within Hogwarts grounds: for every hour that passes in the outside world, 1.25 hours passes here. This allows us to fit more time into one day. Really, we have not changed the length of time passing at all - we have rather translated that real time into a virtual time that occurs within it, according to the following equation:"

He wrote something on the board by hand. Harry didn't recognise half the symbols there.

"That is one of the three Russell Equations of Temporal Mechanics, which describe how time can be traversed, stretched, or folded."

He paused, and looked at the class. Harry didn't know about the others, but Smethwyk had lost him at the equation. He felt he had done well to understand that far.

"Confused?" asked Mr. Smethwyk. The class responded with many nods. "Good! You won't understand all of that until your seventh year! But hopefully, you now grasp something of the nature of Physicks. For today, we shall focus on something much more mundane. Write a heading: speed equals distance divided by time."

Thus began the class proper. Most of the lesson was spent rolling marbles down slopes of different inclines, timing them with stopwatches, and then calculating the average speed. Mr. Smethwyk then got them drawing graphs and showed them how the slope of the line was the speed. Finally, he showed them how to rearrange an equation (something they should have learned in mathematics, he moaned) and gave them a sheet of problems for homework.

By the end of the two hour lesson, Harry was pretty drained. He checked his timetable. He had a twenty minute break before he had to be at History - just enough time to rush back to the Ravenclaw dorms to switch his books. Forgetting about Hermione entirely, he walked off with Dorian and Jaime, talking about the possibility of a day that lasted a whole year.

Harry was exhausted by the time Charms came around. History had been rather dull, and involved very little history. Miss. Vance had spent most of the lesson handing out notebooks and outlining the year ahead. They'd be spending all of the first term on the Roman occupation of Britain. After that they would learn about the rise of Merlin and then, after the spring holiday, about the emergence of immortality. Everyone was eager to learn about Merlin's Conquest, but Harry was not alone in dreading "The Economic Impacts of the First Population Explosion". After lunch, Latin hadn't been much better: they had spent the entire lesson learning the difference between nominative and accusative cases.

All things considered, Harry was looking forward to his first lesson involving practical magic. After his summer of successful spell casting, he felt more than ready for wandwork. As far as Harry knew, he was the only Ravenclaw in his Charms class, so he made his way there on his own, agreeing to meet up with the others for dinner.

When he arrived, however, he realised that he wasn't completely alone. Unfortunately, he was to share Charms with the Malfoy boy, who was surrounded by a gang of Slytherins. Harry hung back from them, not wanting a confrontation on his first day of school. It wasn't long before Professor Flitwick turned up. He was a very short man – he probably wasn't fully human, Harry thought – and had a squeaky voice. He ushered them into the classroom and immediately decided to re-arrange them.

"No, this won't do, not at all," he said. "Everyone stand up and sit girl-boy alternating."

The class grumbled, but did as he said. It was a tactic Harry was familiar with from primary school, so he quickly grabbed a desk in the middle of the room between two blonde girls – a Slytherin and a Hufflepuff. Meanwhile, Malfoy and his gang were squabbling over who would have to sit at the front.

Soon enough the class was settled, Malfoy sitting smugly at the rear of the class, and Flitwick began to teach. Despite his small stature, he had no trouble gaining the attention of the class: he simply raised his wand and they hushed. It was, Harry supposed, an advantage of teaching at Hogwarts - all the children had been trained to obey. Fear of the silencing charm didn't hurt either. Having got their attention, Flitwick pointed his wand at his feet, and clearly announced:


At first, the spell had no visible effect, but then Flitwick floated upwards so that his eyes would have been level with a normal man's. The class grinned, and so did Flitwick. Harry noticed that his teeth were quite pointy.

"For every ten spells cast by the average adult wizard, nine are Charms," he said decisively. In a surreal parody of Miss. Vance, he began to pace in mid-air, as if his feet were upon solid ground. "They are the most useful, most flexible, and - if I do say so myself - most fun magic you'll learn here at Hogwarts. Now, for 5 points, who can tell me the difference between a Charm and a Transfiguration?"

Harry was pretty sure he knew that one, but - unlike Hermione - he didn't have an answer ready at a moment's notice. As he was thinking about the best way to word it, the Slytherin girl to his left raised her hand.

"Yes, Miss. London?"

"Transfiguration changes things physically, Charms change things magically." There was no hesitation to her voice.

"5 points for Slytherin! Yes, that's more or less it... though you do have to be careful! After all, something like the Unbreakable Charm changes a thing's physical properties - that is, the way it interacts with other physical things. But you're essentially right. Though an Unbreakable Charm changes a physical property, it doesn't change physical constitution - how the thing is physically made up. Rather, it overlays a magical effect, underneath which the object remains the same. A demonstration will help you appreciate the difference, I think."

He jabbed his wand, and said "Aguamenti!". A jet of water burst from his wand and hit the blackboard, drenching it and anything nearby. A few girls in the front row shrieked in surprise, which caused Flitwick to grin his toothy grin once more.

"That," he said, with some satisfaction, "is the water conjuring Charm. A Charm, mind you. How do you imagine this water differs from natural water?"

There was silence as the class thought about it. If a charm wasn't physical, Harry thought, did that mean the water wasn't physical?

"No one?" Flitwick said, "I'll tell you then. The water I just conjured isn't real water at all - it's a magical construct. Certainly it has physical effects - it will feel wet, it may even quench your thirst if the charm is cast well enough, but there's nothing real there. Just properties without substance. The exact "how" of that is advanced Physicks, so you'll have to take my word for it! Now, another demonstration."

He have his wand a sharp flick. "Conjuris Aquis!" he said, the tone of his voice resonating with command. Harry felt a kind of vibration echo out from Flitwick, though it wasn't like the vibration of loud music, or a hockey stick after you hit the ball hard. It was something almost imagined, a prickling behind the ears, but Harry knew it was real, even if his classmates showed no sign of feeling it. The spell created a large globe of water hanging in the air. Flitwick kept it there, hovering and undulating, so that they could get a good look at it. Then, with a cackle, he released it, and the water fell to the floor with an almighty splash. Even in the middle of the room Harry felt a few drops of water hit him. The girls at the front shrieked again.

"That, on the other hand, was a true conjuration, which belongs to the branch of Transfiguration. No points for it, but who can tell me how thiswater is different from natural water?"

Harry raised his hand.

"Mr. Potter!" Flitwick cried, as if he had just noticed him. Harry took it as permission to speak.

"It's the same," he said, fairly sure of himself.

"Correct!" Flitwick cried, and he flicked his wand again. The room instantly dried out. "The water from a true Transfiguration is indistinguishable from natural water. You could drink it for all your life and never want for a drink. You could leave it in a glass for a thousand years and it would never disappear - except through evaporation, of course."

Flitwick stepped out of the air onto the chair behind his desk, which had much longer legs than a normal chair, so that he came up to normal height.

"So, we have established that Transfiguration is not completely useless. Good. But we are here for Charms, which are much better, I think you will agree! So let's see if we can do some magic!"

"Doing some magic" apparently meant getting out their books and taking notes from the board. They learnt about the three key elements of Charms: the incantation, the wand, and the motion. The incantation was the most important, Professor Flitwick said: every Charm had an incantation, but some could be performed without a wand, and for many the motion could be dispensed with once a person was familiar enough with the spell. After that, they were ready to start casting spells.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" Harry said, swishing his wand awkwardly, just as Professor Flitwick had showed them. He was unsurprised when the spell failed to do so much as make the feather in front of him twitch. The spell just felt wrong. It was like trying to walk in a shoe that didn't fit properly. The words sounded silly and the wand movement was extravagant. He felt like someone pretending to be a wizard. The spell would be so much better if it used an upwards flick, Harry thought...

"Stop!" Flitwick cried, shocking Harry into freezing mid-incantation. He rushed over to Harry and forced Harry's wand down, then waved his own wand in a complex motion. Only then did he breathe a sigh of relief.

"I will say this only once," Flitwick said, addressing the class as a whole. "Never - never - deliberately change a spell. Believe me, more than one student has died trying it. Bad things happen to wizards who stumble into spell creation without proper preparation. You have been warned. Should I catch any of you attempting it, you shall be suspended for a year. Is that understood?"

The class nodded, but Flitwick had eyes for Harry alone. He gave Harry a piercing look, before nodding and walking away. "Now, remember, it's WinGARdium LeviOsa..."

Harry looked back at his feather, properly chastised. He had no idea that fiddling with magic was so dangerous. His mind went back to Thomas' warning at the beginning of the summer, and to all the magic he had played around with. How close had he come to death, without even realising it? And that spell he used against the werewolf - that was surely fiddling at its most extreme. Harry had been planning on asking a teacher about it, but he was suddenly wary. He didn't want to be suspended for a year, after all. What would Thomas and Marissa say?

Harry was subdued for the rest of the lesson. He answered no questions, and stuck rigidly to the correct form, bad shoes or no.

His feather did not move.

Harry's bad mood persisted all the way through dinner. He ate methodically, offering only a few words to the Ravenclaws' conversation. His mood did not go unnoticed. Dorian tried to cheer him up by snorting a line of pepper. Harry laughed when Dorian almost screamed from his stinging nose, but was otherwise unmoved. Selwynn told Harry in a faux-mystical voice that he foresaw Harry being cheerful once dessert came, but Harry wasn't hungry. Alexandra looked at him thoughtfully, but didn't snort pepper or make jokes. She waited until dinner was over and they were walking to the Study Halls before pulling him aside.

"You're acting like a little girl, you know," she said quietly as they walked through a rose garden. Though it was approaching 20:00, it was nowhere near dark.

"What?" he replied, surprised. Of all the things Harry thought she might say, that was not one of them.

"You're being all sulky," she said as casually as if she was discussing the weather. Harry didn't know what to say. Dorian and Selwynn playing around were easy enough to ignore, but someone straight-out accusing you of sulking was hard to avoid. Especially as avoiding it would just make you look more childish.

"Of course, we all like to have a sulk now and then," she continued, "I just can't figure out what's got you so upset."

"I, er..."Harry looked away. He suddenly felt rather foolish. "I couldn't get my feather to move in Charms."

Alexandra laughed.

"Oh, Harry, is that it? Mine barely moved either, you know, and Stephanie's actually caught fire! Don't worry about it - it's our first day! You're still the only one who can light a candle by blowing on it."

That was true enough, Harry thought. And magic was meant to be hard. If it was easy, they wouldn't have to go to school for it. Maybe the spell felt awkward for everyone. Harry felt his mood lifting. He tried not to think about Hermione, who had cast the levitation charm to get into Hogwarts. Hadn't he learnt a load of Charms over the summer?

He smiled at Alexandra, and she smiled back.

"Thanks," he said.

"Don't worry about it," she said. "My mother gives me that little routine all the time. Now come on, or we're going to be late!"

They made it to the Halls just in time for their supervised homework session. The Halls was a short but large circular building set against the North wall, separated from the main castle by a courtyard, a passageway, a garden and five greenhouses. It was in this building that all supervised homework sessions took place - three hours sitting in a hall with a teacher watching over you to make sure you did work. The building contained three such halls: one for NEWT students, one for OWL students, and one for the junior years. The latter hall was their destination - they were among the last to arrive, and they quickly found a double desk.

While loud talking was not encouraged, students were permitted to interact during these times, and the hall was filled with the buzz of hushed talking as work began. Harry and Alexandra talked about Physicks and how their lessons differed. Alexandra was stuck with a grumpy old man called Professor Seltzer, who displayed none of the passion typical of Mr. Smethwyk. Their homework, however, was the same, and they worked through it together, sharing answers and arguing about them when they differed.

Soon enough they were onto their Latin. Alexandra had left to go to toilet and Harry was stuck on the second problem when someone sat in Alexandra's seat.

"It's ablative - 'taberna', that is. The sailors are in the tavern, you see?"

It was Titus Black.

"But we haven't done anything about ablative yet," said Harry, addressing the problem at hand.

"Hmm. You have Mrs. Perkins, right?"

Harry nodded.

"That's about right then. She loves setting trick questions that you won't get until the next lesson."

"Oh," said Harry, annoyed that he had spent 10 minutes trying to figure out which noun was accusative when there wasn't one. He wrote down "ablative" with some satisfaction. Perhaps he would get extra marks for it.

"So what brings you over here?" Harry asked, not impolitely.

"Oh, you know, a bit of this, a bit of that," Titus replied with a smirk, "but really, I just saw you from across the hall and thought I'd check up on you. Blacks and Potters have got to stick together, right?"

Harry suddenly recalled the conversation he had overheard. Thomas had said something about keeping him away from Sirius Black - Titus' father. And now that he thought about it, Cedric had been surprised when he incorrectly assumed that the Potters had introduced him to Titus. And yet now Titus was acting as if their families were old friends.

"I'm not sure if Thomas and Marissa would agree with that," he replied carefully. He didn't want Titus to think he was snubbing him. Harry was pretty sure that snubbing a Black on your first day at Hogwarts was social suicide. Or perhaps regular suicide.

To his surprise, Titus laughed - and was promptly shushed by a dozen students.

"I dare say they don't," he said, back to a whisper. "For generations the Potters and Blacks have been enemies. But our fathers, they ended that. As close as brothers, they were - ask anyone. But the Potters, they didn't like that, did they? Potters and Blacks were meant to be enemies. But James was the rebellious sort, as I'm sure you know. Didn't listen to his parents, nor his grandparents. And then - you probably haven't been told this - my father introduced your father to your mother. When they got married, the Potters were furious. Threatened to disown him. And James may have been rebellious, but he wasn't that rebellious. Family is family, after all. After the wedding, your father and mine never saw each other again."

Harry was speechless. At first, he couldn't believe that Thomas and Marissa had threatened to disown his father over his mother. And yet he could believe it of the overly-stern Thomas, and even of Marissa, who clearly still disapproved of his mother. And now, clearly, they were trying to make sure he didn't walk in his father's footsteps.

Harry would never be ashamed to follow after his father.

"I don't know about you," Harry said, "but I'm feeling a bit rebellious."

He held out his wand, just as Alexandra returned. Titus looked at him searchingly, then nodded, and tapped Harry's wand with his own - in front of every first, second, and third year.

"Well, Harry, I suppose I should let you get back to your Latin. As you Potters say, In Fide Venaratio!"

He nodded to Alexandra and left. Half the hall seemed to watch him go. Mrs. McGonagall even seemed to be watching.

Alexandra took back her seat and stared at him.

"What just happened?"