“Next to the short girl with the black curly hair.”
“Wearing the glasses?”
“Did you see his face?”
“Did you see his scar?”
Whispers followed Harry from the moment he left his dormitory the next day. Harry was walking with a preppy Delilah Jackson, or DJ as some people called her, who was waiting for him in the common room. People lined up outside classrooms standing on tiptoe to get a look at him, or doubled back to pass him in the corridors again, staring.
Harry wished they wouldn’t, because he was trying to concentrate on finding his way to classes.
There were a hundred and forty-two staircases at Hogwarts: wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday; some with a vanishing step halfway up that you had to remember to jump. Then there were doors that wouldn’t open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren’t really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was also very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and Harry was sure the coats of armor could walk.
The ghosts didn’t help, either. It was always a nasty shock when one of them glided suddenly through a door you were trying to open. Nearly Headless Nick was always happy to point new Gryffindors in the right direction, but Peeves the Poltergeist was worth two locked doors and a trick staircase if you met him when you were late for class. He would drop wastepaper baskets on your head, pull rugs from under your feet, pelt you with bits of chalk, or sneak up behind you, invisible, grab your nose, and screech, “GOT YOUR CONK!”
Even worse than Peeves, if that was possible, was the caretaker, Argus Filch. Delilah had managed to get on the wrong side of him on her very first morning. Filch found her trying to force their way through a door that unluckily turned out to be the entrance to the out-of-bounds corridor on the third floor.
He wouldn’t believe she was lost, though he was a lot kinder to her than others. He was sure they were trying to break into it on purpose, and was threatening to lock her in the dungeons, when she was rescued by Professor Quirrell, who was passing by, pointing her in the right direction.
Filch owned a cat called Mrs. Norris, a scrawny, dust-colored creature with bulging, lamp-like eyes just like Filch’s. She patrolled the corridors alone. Break a rule in front of her, put just one toe out of line, and she’d whisk off for Filch, who’d appear, wheezing, two seconds later. Filch knew the secret passageways of the school better than anyone, except perhaps the Weasley twins, and could pop up as suddenly as any of the ghosts. The students all hated him, and it was the dearest ambition of many to give Mrs. Norris a good kick. Delilah thought that Filch married Mrs. Norris.
And then, once you had managed to find them, there were the classes themselves. There was a lot more to magic, as Delilah quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words, maybe doing some pulling rabbits out of hats.
Astronomy at Hogwarts, as Delilah learned, was the only class that has a direct equivalent in the world. Astronomy classes took place in the tallest tower in Hogwarts, The Astronomy tower, and were taught by Professor Sinistra, a kind lady who resembled Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus, a series of books Delilah adored.
Lessons involved observations of the night skies with telescopes. First years had lessons on Wednesday. In the syllabus handed out it said they were learning the names of stars, constellations and planets, and their location, movements, and environments.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Three times a week they went out to the greenhouses behind the castle to study Herbology, the study of magical plants and how to take care of, utilize and combat them. There were at least three greenhouses, holding a variety of magical plants of varying degrees of lethality. They had class with a kind, plump little witch called Professor Sprout. Though interesting and useful to some people, Delilah realized it was very draining.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Easily the most boring class was History of Magic, which was the only one taught by a ghost. It was rumored Professor Binns had been very old indeed when he had fallen asleep in front of the staff room fire and got up the next morning to teach, leaving his body behind him. Binns droned on and on with lectures, while they scribbled down names and dates, and got Emetic the Evil and Uric the Oddball mixed up.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Professor Flitwick, the Charms teacher, was a tiny little wizard who had to stand on a pile of books to see over his desk. At the start of their first class he took the roll call, and when he reached Harry’s name he gave an excited squeak and toppled out of sight.
Charms Class was the type of class where spells were only concerned with giving an object new and unexpected properties, and hence this class mainly consists on learning those sorts of spells. The class itself was notoriously noisy and chaotic, and lessons are largely practical.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Professor McGonagall was again different. Harry had been quite right to think she wasn’t a teacher to cross. Strict and clever, she gave them a talking-to the moment they sat down in her first class. “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.”
Then she changed her desk into a pig and back again. They were all very impressed and couldn’t wait to get started, but soon realized they weren’t going to be changing the furniture into animals for a long time.
After taking a lot of complicated notes, they were each given a match and started trying to turn it into a needle. By the end of the lesson, only Hermione Granger and Delilah Jackson, easily the smartest people in class, had made any difference to their matches. Professor McGonagall showed the class how it had gone all silver and pointy and gave the two girls a rare smile.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
The class everyone had really been looking forward to was Defense Against the Dark Arts, but Quirrell’s lessons turned out to be a bit of a joke. His classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone said was to ward off a vampire he’d met in Romania and was afraid would be coming back to get him one of these days.
His turban, he told them, had been given to him by an African prince as a thank-you for getting rid of a troublesome zombie, but they weren’t sure they believed this story.
For one thing, when Seamus Finnigan asked eagerly to hear how Quirrell had fought off the zombie, Quirrell went pink and started talking about the weather; for another, they had noticed that a funny smell hung around the turban, and the Weasley twins insisted that it was stuffed full of garlic as well, so that Quirrell was protected wherever he went.
⚜ ⚜ ⚜
Delilah was very relieved to find out that she wasn’t the only person to just hear of magic. Lots of people had come from Muggle families and, like her, hadn’t had any idea that they were witches and wizards, now fairytale creatures are a whole other story.
There was so much to learn that even people like Ron didn’t have much of a head start. Although, Hermione woke Delilah up very early to give her a crash course in every subject.
Friday was an important day for Delilah. She finally managed to find their way down to the Great Hall for breakfast using the Weasley Twins’ route. “What have we got today?” Harry asked Delilah as he poured sugar on his porridge.
“Double Potions with the Slytherins.”
“Snape’s Head of Slytherin House. They say he always favors them. We’ll be able to see if it’s true.” Ron said with his mouth full.
“Of course.” Delilah rolled her eyes.
“Wish McGonagall favored us, ” said Harry. Professor McGonagall was head of Gryffindor House, but it hadn’t stopped her from giving them a huge pile of homework the day before.
Just then, the mail arrived. Delilah had gotten used to this by now, but it had given her a bit of a shock on the first morning, when about a hundred owls had suddenly streamed into the Great Hall during breakfast, circling the tables until they saw their owners, and dropping letters and packages onto their laps.
With as many people Delilah has associated with, she still hasn’t spoken to the Weasley Twins. She would sometimes try to ask Ron more about them, but he was either playing Wizard Chess, talking to Harry, eating, or complaining about work.
This morning, however, Delilah was given a charmed airplane at breakfast. She tore it open at once. It said:
Hey there Delilah,
Just a heads up, stay away from the Ravenclaw table during breakfast tomorrow.
Delilah borrowed Hermione’s quill, scribbled Sounds good, can’t wait to see what happens on the back of the note, and sent the plane off again.
It was lucky that Delilah had a pranks to look forward to, because the Potions lesson turned out to be the worst class, but yet interesting, so far.