One to Keep an Eye On

128 4 2

The children filed into the classroom, quieter than they'd ever be again, Albus knew. The first-years were always a little awed by their first day at Hogwarts.

"You may take whatever seats you like," he said.

When they'd all settled, more or less, he said, "I am Albus Dumbledore, and I will be your Transfiguration teacher for at least the next five years. Assuming I don't manage to get myself the sack before then."

The children shifted uneasily, but he smiled at them to let them know it had been a joke.

He came out from behind the desk and leant against it—a casual posture meant to put the students at ease.

"The textbooks will tell you that Transfiguration is the art and science of changing one thing into another thing. They are half right."

The students perked up at the prospect of a teacher criticising their textbooks.

"It is indeed both art and science, but it has little to do with changing things. Rather, Transfiguration is a drawing out of that which is already there.

"At its most basic, it is simply a rearrangement of atoms to form molecules that represent new structures. Do you all know what atoms and molecules are?"

Only one hand rose, belonging to a pale girl with long black plaits.

"Yes, Miss . . . ?"

"McGonagall, sir."

"Miss McGonagall. Can you provide us with a definition of atoms and molecules?"

"I think so, sir. Atoms are the tiny bits of matter that make up . . . well, everything. They come together to form molecules, which have the chemical properties and can have chemical reactions, so they're part of everything that's alive, and a lot of things that aren't alive."

The other students looked at her as if she'd just turned into a hydra. She seemed unaware of their reaction.

Albus smiled at her reassuringly. "An excellent explanation, Miss McGonagall. Five points to Gryffindor."

This last made the Gryffindors in the classroom grin at each other, although the Hufflepuffs looked a bit put out.

"Transfiguration depends upon understanding how we can, and cannot, rearrange atoms and molecules according to our will. To begin our journey to that understanding, I'd like you all to open your textbooks to page twenty-three and read the section on the atomic structure of wood and how it differs from that of steel."

Thirteen copies of A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration were dutifully taken from bags and set on desks.

"Can I have a volunteer to read the first entry for us?" Albus asked.

No one stirred. Miss McGonagall looked around, then raised her hand.

"Thank you for your willingness, Miss McGonagall, but I think I'd like to hear from one of your classmates this time." He walked up the aisle and let his hand fall on the shoulder of a tawny-haired Hufflepuff.


"Brewster, sir."

"Mr Brewster, perhaps you'd be so kind as to oblige us."

The boy read, his halting soprano barely loud enough for Albus to hear, so he cast a surreptitious Sonorus to amplify Brewster's voice.

When he was finished, Albus awarded five points to Hufflepuff for his "fine rendition of chapter one."

He spent the next half hour lecturing on the elements that went into a successful Transfiguration, coaxing the students, one by one, to puzzle out the answers to simple questions. The McGonagall girl provided her answers without hesitation, and often with more thought and detail than he would have expected from a first-year.

The students sat up a little straighter when he went to his desk to retrieve a box of matches.

"Let's see if you can put what we've discussed into action. Miss Levi, would you be so kind as to help me distribute these matches? One to a customer."

Once each student had a matchstick, Albus instructed them on the wand movement required to change their matchsticks to needles. It was a simple one, as many of the students would be attempting to wield their new wands for the very first time, and he'd learned by unhappy experience that having a new class of first-years attempt anything more than a simple swish-and-flick could lead to chaos.

"Now, I want you to start by envisioning the atoms that make up the matchstick moving around until they form themselves into a needle. It doesn't matter if you can't picture the atomic structures exactly—that isn't necessary here. A general idea, plus the intent to effect the change, and a clear incantation with a crisp wand movement should be enough. Ready? One, two, three!"

Wands swished and flicked, and incantations were said at various volumes and degrees of accuracy. Nothing happened to any of the matchsticks beyond a bit of quivering.

"Ah. No matter," Albus said. "I didn't expect anyone to get it on the first try. Let's give it another go, and this time—"

"Sir?" Miss McGonagall's hand was in the air.


"I think I've done it."

He was surprised, but not unduly so. Most classes couldn't manage a successful Transfiguration until at least the third week, but every so often a student achieved it. He'd done it himself on the first go.

He approached her desk. Lying on it was what looked suspiciously like a perfect steel needle.

"Excellent work, Miss McGonagall. May I ask you to do it again so the rest of the class can see?"

"Yes, sir."

He set another matchstick on her desk.

She took a breath, pointed her wand at it, and spoke the incantation.

"Mutatio acum!  "Her wand swished and flicked with the precision of a conductor's baton, and the matchstick barely shivered before turning in to a gleaming specimen of a needle.

"Well done! May I?"

He held out his hand for the needle, and when she handed it to him, it pricked his thumb.

"I'm so sorry, sir," she said and pulled a tartan handkerchief from her robe pocket and took his thumb between her fingers to dab at the bead of blood that had formed. "I should have been more careful."

Her swift action surprised him, and it wasn't until he heard the other students sniggering that he said, "No harm done." She released his hand, and he looked at the thumb. Blood welled up from the wound, and he stuck it absently in his mouth, still wondering at the child's ability and her quiet dignity.

"Five more points to Gryffindor for a perfect Transfiguration," he said. "I'm sure the rest of you will get the hang of it soon. Mr Prewett, will you please collect everyone's matches? Can't have you all burning down your common rooms, can I?"

With the matches safely stowed away, he said, "Homework is to acquaint yourselves with the work of one Hieronymous Gamp and his Law of Elemental Transfiguration, which you'll find in chapter two of your textbook. I'd like you each to write a list of ten things that can be Transfigured and ten things that cannot, based on what you read. To be handed in first thing on Thursday. You are dismissed, and I wish you all a very pleasant day."

As the students gathered their things, he caught Miss McGonagall's eye and couldn't help winking at her. She gave him the briefest of smiles and hurried out.

That will be one to keep an eye on, he thought as he watched her disappear down the corridor.

One to Keep an Eye On | Epithalamium #0.72 | Minerva McGonagallWhere stories live. Discover now