A Night Time Stroll
Chapter 4 - Transfiguration Problems
James Potter was oddly silent during Transfiguration, but his friends incorrectly guessed that he was brooding about the death of his uncle. Professor McGonagall's voice dropped into a drone, much like that of Binns', until James could no longer distinguish each syllable. He was thinking about Lily Evans. She rarely spoke to anyone, her only friends those in the books she read.
She wouldn't understand the fear of having nearly everyone in the family in law enforcement. Her parents were Muggles, unaware Muggles. James stared unblinkingly at the object of his thoughts, only looking away when emerald eyes met his. What was she thinking? The Dark Mark was a real threat now, not a parlour game. But she was Muggle-born. What would she know?
Lily Evans stared defiantly at him, but he wasn't looking back. He'd gone straight from a kind stranger to the same old bastard in the space of five minutes. She scowled and tried, however absently, to take notes down. She hated anyone who had even one non-Muggle parent. Purebloods were particularly bad - they lorded it over Muggle borns.
Lily was unhappy, even in her untouched solitude. Her sister hated her, her old friends hated her. Just for being "different". And for six years, she'd been hated for the same reason. Where did she belong? Sudden movement from the students started her. The lesson was over - where had the time gone? Lily shouldered her bag and followed them, head bowed.
"Miss Evans?" Professor McGonagall asked politely. "Could you stay behind please?"
Lily sighed and spun around, wiping her exasperation from her face. Quietly, she perched on a seat nearer to the door than her teacher. She waited patiently while McGonagall packed up notes and odd things from the organised desk at the front of the classroom. It seemed ages before the professor had finished and gave her a concerned look. "Your grades across several other classes are outstanding, more than enough, if I may say so, to become Head Girl next year. However, it remains to be seen if you are able to keep up with a N.E.W.T. Transfiguration class."
Lily stiffened. She knew she wasn't any good at the subject and it miffed her to find Potter better at it than her. If it had been solely her choice, she would have skipped Transfiguration all together. But during Careers Counselling the previous year, she'd expressed an interest in teaching and had been advised to know almost everything. Lily said carefully, "I would like to give up Transfiguration, Professor McGonagall, and please don't persuade me otherwise."
"Don't be silly," McGonagall told her sternly. "You've topped the grade since you came here; it's just your marks in this class pulling you down. You'll be aware that you only scraped in an Acceptable for your Transfiguration O.W.L, but were allowed in this class. I believe you are capable or I would not have accepted your grade."
Lily had wondered at the beginning of her sixth year why she had managed it into the N.E.W.T. Transfiguration class if McGonagall only accepted Exceeds Expectations. But still, the professor thought she was "capable". Coming from the stern Head of Gryffindor, that was almost a compliment. Lily unstuck her throat. "Well, if you think so, I'll give it a go. I just don't understand where I'm going wrong - I've studied several - "
McGonagall raised a hand to silence her. "Sometimes, Miss Evans, it is the practical that counts. History of Magic may involve thought and essays of Giant Wars, but this class requires a wand."
Lily nodded briskly and scooted out the door before the old bat could keep her any longer.
That evening in the Common Room, she put a match on the table in front of her. A first year's exercise - turning it into a needle. Carefully, she lined it up with her parchment and raised her wand. Lily was about to cast the spell when a hand took hers and straightened it.
"It's not just the words, you know," said a voice behind her ear.
Lily scowled. "I would have to be a surly Pureblood not to know that."
She nudged her elbow hard into the ribs of the person behind her and James Potter backed up a bit. Lily smiled over her shoulder and raised her wand again at the match. Her observer almost immediately took hold of the wand again.
"You're doing it wrong," Potter remarked casually. "And you're treating it like a Charms subject, Prefect Evans. Transfiguration is the changing of one thing to another."
Lily glared at him and snapped back, "And Charms actually requires the usage of a wand and not throwing a cushion across the room just because you can't banish it."
James feigned surprise. "You noticed that, Prefect Evans?"
Lily ignored him and instead began her Potions essay. Her uninvited guest hovered just out of her peripheral vision for a moment then vanished. Relieved that he had finally gone, Lily hunched over her essay. She wrote methodically, while thinking about Transfiguration and Death Eaters at the same time. A flash flew past her ear and the match sitting on her parchment turned into a needle.
"Can't you just take a hint?" she exploded.
Several people near looked up at her, startled. They were usually accustomed to a very quiet prefect who couldn't string two sentences together unless it was answering a teacher in class. Lily jumped to her feet and pointed a finger at the accused. "Potter, if you so much as BREATHE on me I will cause enough mayhem in the next class to deduct FIFTY points from Gryffindor!"
"Ouch." James looked truly hurt by the mention of house points.
By now, the Common Room had gone deathly quiet. Lily's face was completely red, matching her hair seamlessly. The tension was electric as she gathered up her books and stormed angrily to the portrait hole. She paused and turned around. "I warn you, Potter. I would go to detention rather than be within ten feet of you."
Lily glared around the room and disappeared out of sight.