“…and that, at least according to modern theories, is how Equestria was made,” Twilight finished.
While the various Gryffindors digested the short lecture Twilight had given (complete with the occasional illusory picture for clarity, and several interjections from Spike), she took the opportunity to polish off the remains of her dinner.
After a long day like this, buttered roast vegetables were just the thing.
“…blimey.” Someone finally said.
“You really fought a manticore?” Asked a boy Twilight identified from the sorting as Dean Thomas.
“Not fought, exactly…” Twilight said, trying to explain.
“And how did you…?”
“What did you say happened when…?”
“Why didn’t you know about…?”
As if the first question had opened a dam, several people started talking at once. Twilight tried to answer what questions she could, but she was grateful when Dumbledore called for attention.
He gave a short speech, more a list of reminders and updates than anything. Twilight was amused by part of what he said – the twins did indeed sound like they could give Dash and Pinkie a run for their money, and were there really that many banned items? – but some of it was more worrying.
The Forbidden Forest, for example, sounded just as dangerous as the Everfree and was closer to the castle than she was comfortable with (though, of course, weather operating on its own would hardly be a surprise here…), while it seemed that the elderly wizard had understated how dangerous this third-floor corridor was when he’d let her know about it.
Either that or he was trying to scare the children away from taking chances, of course.
After the ominous speech had sunk in, he perked up and conjured some words in the air. “Right, time for the school song. Pick a tune, and off we go!”
Spike blinked. “Did he say pick a-”
The singing started.
Twilight and Spike both clapped their appropriate forelimbs over their ears.
Perhaps it was spending so long around Pinkie and the others, whose impromptu singing was usually in tune and well-coordinated, but the sound of several hundred schoolchildren of varying ages singing with random pitch and tune skipped funny and went straight to giving the duo a major headache.
After a few seconds, Twilight managed to get off a Cone of Silence, and both she and Spike exhaled in relief.
When almost everyone seemed to have stopped, Spike stuck his head out of the spell’s area and then nodded to Twilight. Upon taking it down, all she could hear was the twin red-heads singing a funeral dirge.
“Phew…” she muttered to Spike. “Didn’t expect that.”
“Yeah.” Spike nodded. “Wonder if their hearing’s less good?”
“Could be…” Twilight wondered. Certainly their ears looked strange to her…
The twins finally finished. Dumbledore called what had just happened “music” (Twilight didn’t agree) and then sent them all off to bed.
Bed did sound good, actually. She and Spike had been up for going on seventeen hours now, after her perhaps overzealous plan to be certain to catch the train. At least tomorrow was still the weekend.
Gryffindor Tower, it transpired, was right up at the top of the castle. Apparently, all the dormitories were either in towers at the top or dungeons in the bottom.
Twilight supposed it made sense, if they wanted somewhere with a lot of space. The password-locked door, on the other hand, seemed just a little silly. She was keyed into the wards now; couldn’t they just restrict access to Gryffindor students only?
As Percy gave the password to open the portrait (a rather large female human, as it happened), one of the first years raised her hand. “Can I give the password to my sister? She’s in Ravenclaw.”
“Well…” Percy thought for a moment. “I don’t think it’s against the rules. I’ll ask about that next prefect’s meeting and tell you.”
Twilight felt like facehoofing. Of course people might like to visit! Besides, this was a school, not the Star Swirl wing…
After that thankfully private embarrassment, Twilight and Spike followed the other students through the hole in the wall. It was slightly awkward for Twilight to climb up, but nothing too inconvenient.
Inside was a large, round room with arm chairs, tables, a couple of desks, and a large and well-stirred fire. The flames and the red-gold livery gave it a very warm look, in Twilight’s opinion. Given how far north they were, it’d probably be all the more appreciated in winter.
“Well, here we are: Gryffindor common room.” Percy said. “The left stairway is the boys, right is the girls. This year, the first years are on the… second floor, I think?”
He directed this question at an older boy also wearing a prefect’s badge, who nodded.
“Right. Your room this year will be your room for the whole time at Hogwarts, and your luggage will already be in there. The bathrooms are on the stairs, at – wait a moment,” Percy frowned at a door roughly opposite the portrait hole. “I don’t think I’ve seen that door before…”
“Ah.” Twilight raised a hoof awkwardly. “That’s the room Spike and I have, I think.”
“How come you get your own room?” Ron asked.
“We’re different species to you.” Spike said, shrugging. “I’m used to being in Twilight’s room, and she’s used to having me around.”
“We got it sorted out.” Twilight added, apologetically. “We don’t really have anywhere else to stay, outside school…”
“Right, you said,” someone nodded. He looked like he was a few years older than the new students, and closer to the twins’ age.
“Yeah. Sorry if anyone’s upset, but… we’re kind of lost.” Twilight yawned. “Anyway, I’d really like to get to bed…”
“Right, right, sorry. Ahem. Off you go.” Percy said. “Tomorrow morning is when you get your timetables.”
It was, indeed, the very same room they’d been using for the last few days – just decked out in red and gold on some of the hangings.
Twilight forced herself to stay awake long enough to clean her teeth, and to make Spike do it as well, and had to remind herself to take the school robes off before she crawled into bed.
Getting dressed every morning was going to be something new, at any rate…
They were among the first into the dining room the next morning. Twilight hadn’t meant to wake Spike, but wake him she had, and he’d decided to come down with her for breakfast.
Most of the others were a scattering of older students, along with two or three teachers eating like the rest of them.
“Miss Sparkle, and Mister Spike. It is good to see some of my students up so soon on their first day.” Professor McGonagall said, walking over from the door. “I have your timetables here; I was just up to the Owlery with them. If you have any questions, do get them sorted out today.”
“Oh, thanks.” Twilight accepted the parchment. “Hmm, let’s see…”
Many of the lessons were doubles, which meant about two hours long here – the rest were single blocks, about an hour, with several free periods.
“What are we supposed to do in the free periods?” Twilight checked.
“Homework, or study, or leisure.” McGonagall said. “Anything you want, really, so long as the homework is done on time and you keep up with your lessons.”
“Right,” Twilight checked the back of the timetable. “Oh – is there a castle map?”
“Goodness me, I forgot. Thank you for asking, Miss Sparkle.” McGonagall took two parchment sheets from the bottom of the stack.
The map wasn’t as complete as it could be, with quite a lot of rooms unlabelled, but it did have the main class locations.
“Thank you. Er… what is this material? It doesn’t feel like paper…” Twilight said uneasily, feeling it with a hoof.
“It is called parchment. Originally, parchment was made from the skin of animals, I understand, though wizards have only made it out of wood pulp since the seventeenth century.” McGonagall gave a tiny smile. “I believe the wizard Uric the Oddball first invented the method. One of his most useful contributions to magical society.”
“Right.” Twilight exhaled. “I was worried for a moment there. Hmmm… we first have you tomorrow, right?”
“Indeed. If you have no other problems, I shall see you then.” McGonagall raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“I think we’re fine.” Twilight looked over. “Spike?”
“Yeah, should be.” Spike nodded, determinedly.
“Very well, then.” McGonagall inclined her head respectfully, and walked away.
Spike managed to strike up a tentative friendship with several other pupils in the common room that afternoon, usually based on stories of outlandish pranks he and Dash had tried on Pinkie, or that he and Pinkie had tried on Dash for that matter. Twilight noticed a few she’d not actually known about before, but declined to comment.
She was too busy reading through The Standard Book of Spells, and One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, and anything else that might help with their first day. Not knowing something when the answer was in the book would be so embarrassing.
And seeing the two of them just relaxing and acting normally, like there was nothing out of the ordinary about a unicorn and baby dragon hanging around, helped everyone else relax too. It was the same way they avoided mass-panic at Ponyville over a dragon living in town (well... except for a few notable exceptions, at least.)
Around five, there was a sudden stillness, followed by wild cheers. She looked up, and saw Peewee flying in circles in the centre of the common room.
Some of the Gryffindors were laughing at his antics (including what looked like a double inside-out loop – had Dash been showing off where the little phoenix could see?) and others sounded more happy that Gryffindor had the unquestioned “most awesome pet of the year”.
The dark-haired boy – Harry – caught her eye, sitting in the corner with Ron. The shorter boy seemed more relaxed than he’d been all yesterday.
Inspiration hit her. Maybe Harry was a bit like Dash, in one important respect? She’d been thinking of him more like Fluttershy, but Dash – for all her confidence – could do terribly badly if there was too much attention on her.
Maybe, with Peewee showing off like that, he was coping better.
Though, there was that similarity with Fluttershy as well. The modelling incident had shown that she didn’t cope well with the limelight either.
Twilight realized she was staring, and looked down before anyone noticed. Anyway. Magical theory… the basic levitation spell. How does this differ from unicorn levitation?
Well, there’s the form of the translations available… I wonder if Rarity has a more sophisticated version she uses for her dressmaking? Pity I can’t ask her…
The Charms class was fairly standard, as classrooms went. The desks were of a different design to the ones Twilight was used to, and the space for practical work smaller than it would have been if it had had to handle unicorns, but the blackboard and chalk – and reference books lining the walls – were entirely familiar.
Professor Flitwick seemed very excited to have the first lesson for the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw first years. Part of that was probably because he could introduce his own house to the subject he loved, but there was also the presence of all three of the year’s unusual individuals.
Strangely, perhaps, it was Harry who excited him the most. He actually fell off the books he was using to see over the desk when he reached the name “Potter” on the register (by contrast, Twilight and Spike only elicited unusual squeaky exclamations).
“Right, right,” he said, closing the register book with a snap. “Now that we’re all here… who here has done wandless magic?”
Twilight raised a hoof. Spike, next to her, frowned for a moment before lifting a claw. Everyone else looked flabbergasted at the question being put to some first years.
Flitwick pointed to her first. “Ah, Twilight Sparkle. Well, can you give us examples?”
Twilight took a deep breath. “Er… I only got a wand a week ago, but I’ve been using magic all my life. Unicorns – on my world, anyway – use magic to hold things, and we cast spells to do a lot of other things. Um…” she cast around for something illustrative. “If I need to move quickly, I sometimes teleport rather than walk. That’s a short range thing usually – the power cost goes up exponentially with distance, though there’s a lower limit below which the magic involved is constant…”
The professor smiled widely, his hands twitching with excitement. “A form of apparition! Excellent, but not quite what I was looking for. Spykoranuvellitar?”
Spike winced. “I prefer just ‘Spike’, really. And there’s a spell on me which means I can do a kind of post-delivering magic. I think it’s a kind of floo?” he finished, looking uncertainly at Twilight.
She gave him a quick nod.
“Remarkable. But again, not what I was thinking of.” Flitwick turned, and waved a hand at the board. Chalk leapt up and began writing.
The next words had the tone of something well rehearsed and often said. “Magic is divided into three main areas. The Will, the Wand and the Word. Or, that’s what we call them, though none of them are quite accurate. The Wand is any magical focus – I presume your horn works like that, Miss Sparkle?”
“Twilight, please,” Twilight requested. “And yes, unicorn horns are considered magical foci – like pegasus wings and earth pony hooves.”
“Hm. Interesting,” Flitwick said, and Twilight could see him itching to ask her about the other two races of pony. “But yes, when I say ‘wandless’ magic, I mean any magic performed with no focus. I’m sure all of you have done that… after all, how do you know you’re witches and wizards?”
“Oh!” Padma Patil exclaimed. “Accidental magic!”
“Precisely. Three points to Ravenclaw – though I will take one off for not putting your hand up. So, overall two points.” He winked. “Now, let me ask again. Have any of you done wandless magic?”
This time, almost every hand went up. Flitwick spent a few minutes going around the classroom – he was very impressed that Harry’s list of accidental magic included another case of apparition, found Lisa Turpin having set her parents’ flowerbed on fire hilarious and looked slightly put out that Neville had been dropped out of a window.
Finally, he came to the two Equestrians. This time, they were the only ones who didn’t volunteer anything.
“Neither of you?” The professor tapped his chin, pondering. “Hm. Ah, I think I see – you are hardly without your focus, Miss Sparkle. So, have you ever performed magic without conscious Will behind it?”
Twilight blushed. She had, but…
Spike grinned at her. “Go on, Twilight. I know the answer to this one.”
The unicorn swallowed, and looked up. “…alright. Right, when I first went to Celestia’s Academy, I was given a test of hatching a dragon egg. I couldn’t do anything at first, but then my magic went completely haywire. I think I turned everyone else in the room into potted plants, actually… it was terrifying, and I couldn’t stop until Princess Celestia managed to calm me down.”
“I see.” Flitwick nodded gravely. “Don’t feel so down, Miss Sparkle. It is a common factor in magic performed without will – or without a focus – that it is performed with an excess of emotion. I expect that your panic made things worse. That is a lesson you all could learn – focus in magic is vital. If you try to levitate a feather and your focus is elsewhere, you could end up sending the desk flying across the room!”
Several children gasped.
“Which would mean you’d have to put it back later, of course,” he added with a wink.
This time, there was a smattering of laughter.
“Anyway, where was I?” Flitwick stared at the ceiling for a moment, then spun back to the class “Right. Spike. Do you have a tale of accidental magic to share?”
“…I think this might count.” Spike said, frowning. “Well, there’s two things. The first time is when I got the hiccups. I couldn’t control my fire, and I think Celestia got about twenty scrolls inside a minute. The other one…” he got a bit quieter, and Twilight knew full well he was having to force himself to say it. “It’s kind of, well, I’m not proud of it. It was my last birthday… I got really greedy, and… it turns out that dragons – our dragons – kind of… grow, when they’re like that.”
Twilight shivered. “I was so scared for you. The doctor was useless.”
Everyone went quiet for a minute after that.
“Well, that seems to have lowered the mood slightly.” Flitwick put on a determined smile. “Still, I hope you won’t mind if we crack on with the lesson a bit? Now, where had we got to…”
“The Will, I think.” Terry Boot volunteered.
Flitwick pointed at him, snapping his fingers. “Thank you. The Will. It is the most important part of magic. Our magic doesn’t do anything if we just say the words and wave the wand. Observe.”
The diminutive professor brandished his wand, and said “Aguamenti.”
“You see, that was an example of a spell with no Will. More precisely,” Flitwick gestured with his wand, “I was restraining my Will. If the spell were cast normally, it would produce water – but I would need to be precise with what I wanted, or run the risk of either far too much water or far too little.”
“With accidental magic, there is usually nothing but the Will – well, perhaps a better term would be the wish. Your magic isn’t used to working properly, and when your emotions get behind some idea and push you end up doing something. Often spectacular, as well! But it’s tiring, because one of the things that the Wand does is avoid wasting magic. And what shapes the magic to avoid wasting more of it is the Word.” By now the chalk had finished writing about the Will on the board, and Flitwick glanced back to check on it. It started on the final section, the Word.
“Words are the least important bit – at least, they’re supposed to be. But they do end up being important, because they can replace some of the Will. Think of them like a stabilizer, if you’re Muggle raised,” he nodded to some of the students in Ravenclaw, “or a cushioning charm. They shape your magic a bit, so it flows more easily in the right direction.”
Flitwick put his wand down on the table, then pointed to it. “Now, just the Will and the Word. Accio.”
The wand went flying right back into his hand. He pointed it at the board eraser. “Just the Will and the Wand.” The eraser went floating into the air. “And, finally, just the Will.” He threw his wand into the air, and it stuck there, hovering above his head.
Several students applauded.
The diminutive professor sketched a bow. “Thank you. Now, we’ll start with a very simple spell. It doesn’t require you to shape your magic – just tell it what to do. Point your wand forwards, think of light, and say ‘lumos’.”
The class complied, and a series of lights of varying colours and intensities sparked into being. Flitwick walked down from the front of the room to inspect various lights, fixing a few problems people were having.
When he got to Twilight, he stopped and frowned. “Hm. Interesting, Miss Sparkle. Do I detect a second magical effect?”
“I’ve always had a large magical reservoir, so I’m buffering it through a smaller one,” she answered. “It took me… three or four years, I think? To get past basic telekinesis reliably and efficiently because of that, and I was wasting masses of power for a long while.”
Flitwick nodded. “Indeed. An important point, there, class. More power does not always make the better wizard! Without control, you are not able to use your power. And – Mister Weasley? Is that wand alright? Your light seems rather… dim.”
Ron looked defensive. “It’s the one my brother Charlie used, and it was fine for him!”
“Hm. A family wand, then… perhaps Gideon Prewett’s. I remember him,” Flitwick looked distant for a moment. Twilight recognized the same look that the princesses sometimes got when talking about ponies long dead, though much less so. “A very skilled man for Charms. You might want to see if Fabion’s is better for you, if your family has access to it. After all, the wand chooses the wizard, and while it is certainly preferable to have a wand than no wand, a focus that matches you is much better. Now, to extinguish the light again, it is ‘Nox’ and think of darkness. Notice how, although you are no longer thinking of light, the spell continues until you end it. This is similar to how enchantments work.”
Twilight wrote frantically with a quill, transcribing the lesson and speculating in the (large) margins she left herself. There was certainly a focus on permanence in this variety of magic, compared to the Equestrian version – perhaps that indicated that the Elements of Harmony had their origin in the past, when this style of magic was better understood in Equestria? It was well known that Star Swirl, for all his extensive notes, had never written down everything he had known… and he was hardly the only ancient mage who had taken secrets to the grave.
Spike, meanwhile, was trying to see if he could change the colour of the light on his wand, or make it brighter. He remembered Twilight doing an exercise similar to that when she was working on illusions, since it improved visualization and specificity.
“Professor?” someone asked. Twilight looked up and saw it was one of the boys who’d said he was “half and half” – Seamus Finnegan.
“Yes, Master Finnegan?” the Charms teacher asked.
“Well, me mam’s a witch, and me da’s a muggle,” Seamus outlined. “Why is it that I’m a wizard?”
Flitwick smiled apologetically, and shrugged. “I’m sorry to say, Master Finnegan, but that isn’t currently understood. We know that magical parents more often have magical children – though not always – and we know that sometimes several muggle-born wizards come from the same family. But we don’t know why.”
“It’s genetic.” Twilight found herself saying. Seeing every eye swivel to her, she continued. “Unicorns tend to have unicorn foals because their genetics are like that – but it’s possible for somepony to be a pegasus or earth pony and have latent unicorn genes, which shift in amount over the generations since the last unicorn ancestor by chance until they come out again. A couple of earth ponies in Ponyville – the town I live in – recently had a unicorn and a pegasus child as twins. It’s not a simple dominant-recessive allele issue for us, though it might well be multiple recessive traits combining which produce magic users amongst humans.” Most of the class looked a little lost.
“Genetics?” Flitwick asked, fascinated. “It sounds like a wonderfully explanatory topic. I’d be delighted to hear more about it. What do you mean allele?”
“Right. Er – may I use the board?” she asked, checking her route there would be clear.
“By all means.” Flitwick waved her over, and she trotted to the board before picking up two colours of chalk.
Twilight took a moment to gauge the age of her audience, and how much she’d need to simplify it. “Okay, what I’m going to show is a simplified version, and it won’t be right – it would take statistical analysis to show the real numbers, so this one won’t explain squibs or things like that. But let’s pretend that whether you’re magic or not is controlled by just two… instructions, you inherit from your parents. Big M for muggle, small w for wizard or witch. If you have two w, then you’re a wizard or a witch. If you have just one, you’re not, and if you have two M then you’re also a muggle.”
She chalked two squares on the board, and then divided each into four smaller ones. At the top of both she put a big M and a small w, and then she pointed her right foreleg at Seamus. “You said your mother was a witch?”
“Yeah,” Seamus nodded.
“Right, so she goes here.” Two w's went at the left side of the first box. “Now, when you were born, you got one letter from each parent. You could have had the M or the w from your father…” she chalked a blue M or w into each square, appropriately, “And you got a w from your mother, because that’s the only thing she has.” Four red w's went into the four squares.
“Now, there’s an equal chance of being in any of these four boxes,” she pointed to them in sequence, “so you could be either an MM or an Mw and a muggle, or a ww and a wizard.”
Several students nodded, while the rest frowned.
“If you have two wizarding parents, then under this model the only letter you can get is w. That’s not quite right, like I say,” she shrugged apologetically, “but we’ll leave that for now. And finally, if you are a muggle born…”
She put a second pair of M and w on the side of the lower box, then filled it in. “There’s three which are muggles, but one which is a wizard – or witch. So you can have a wizard born from muggle parents.”
“Wonderful!” Flitwick said. “Is that how it works for unicorns?”
“It’s how lots of basic genetics works,” Twilight hedged, “but the tribe mix among ponies is much more complicated – as it probably is for wizards and muggles in reality. Sadly, I didn’t bring a textbook from my world – I didn’t exactly have time to pack.”
“Well, that’s still a wonderful bit of information. I’ve learned something in my own class, how marvellous.” Flitwick beamed. “Now– yes?”
One of the Ravenclaws had his hand up. “My mum’s a biology teacher at a muggle school. I think I heard her talking about that once – it’s why I have blue eyes when neither of my parents do.”
“Oh! Well, if you’re able to speak to her about it over the Christmas break, I’d be very grateful if she has a textbook to spare. Thank you,” he turned to the unicorn, “and thank you Miss Sparkle.”
Twilight went back to her place, feeling embarrassment warring with euphoria. It did feel good to teach.
“Now, the other thing I wanted to address is pronunciation.” Flitwick resumed his lesson. “To cast a spell, you really do need to say it properly – it’s the syllables, the shape of them, which are very important…”
That more or less set the pattern for most of the lessons. Harry Potter’s presence was more interesting than Twilight and Spike, though only slightly, and the lessons tended to turn into discussions between Twilight and the teacher at least once. She got the sense she was going to be doing more independent research than actual lessons within a few years, which was understandable – after all, the school was set up to teach pupils of secondary school age, not students in full adult growth.
Herbology turned out to be Neville’s strong point – when he was around growing things, he was so much more confident that Twilight could barely believe he was the same boy. (Privately, she suspected that he’d have got a gardening cutie mark were he a pony – he was still new to magical plants, but the kind of skill he was showing reminded her of Applejack’s relentless focus on her own trees. He even managed to keep track of Trevor.)
However, where Herbology was his strength, Potions was his weakness. Twilight couldn’t help but compare the teacher’s relentless perfectionism with her project supervisor in her last years at the Academy… which was probably the problem – that kind of focus, while it brought out the best in students like herself, also put enormous pressure on the less confident students.
Fortunately, she managed to catch a couple of errors before he actually made them and help talk him through making the potion. In effect, he served as her “hands”, which meant that he’d more or less made the potion in his own right.
She planned on pointing that out at the end of the term.
Spike, meanwhile, had ended up partnered with a spare Slytherin. He seemed to be enjoying talking to the other boy, and the boy seemed to be glad he didn’t have to handle the nasty ingredients, so it was working out well for them.
History of Magic was… a disappointment. There was no other way to put it. Twilight had looked forward to learning about the way the wizarding world had developed, but all she got was endless droning talks about the minutiae of goblin rebellions.
The idea of a ghost teaching a class was a little strange.
Eventually, she’d resolved to spend the class making notes on a completely different topic – dismantling spells to their component concepts, and seeing how they compared to an Equestrian equivalent. In particular, the levitation spell she’d practised with Spike two days before term started and how it differed from unicorn levitation.
The unicorn method involved surrounding an object with an aura of power, then feeding in more power to replace energy bleed and using the aura itself to apply absolute physical translations or rotations. There were slightly more advanced variants which anchored the frame of reference to the pony themselves, but it was interesting actually thinking about this sort of thing again. Unicorn foals practised until it was so instinctive it came without thought, like walking – but walking in an instinctive way didn’t help you work out how a digitigrade leg compared to a plantigrade.
The levitation spell, wingardium leviosa, involved an aura at the very start but it was almost a secondary effect. The main feature of how the spell worked was a tether. Slightly springy, very strong and capable of lifting a great weight without transferring much force, it sprang directly from the casting wand (or hand) and almost “levered” the object around. The key was relative motion, not absolute.
The whole thing was utterly fascinating.
Then there was astronomy (a fun class if ever there was one for Twilight, who had started a new notebook simply full of things to suggest to Luna when she got home), Transfiguration (where Twilight had mainly buckled down and tried to work out how the spell operated, usually getting several pages of inconclusive notes and a silent transfiguration by the end of the lesson), and finally Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Quirrellhad explained (in his stuttering way) that a major part of defence was a non-lethal offence, and that it was important to be able to cast spells well. He’d begun teaching a number of minor jinxes to the class and how they worked – as a very basic prelude to later magical ways of fighting. He’d also hinted that the spells in question would be stopped by even the most basic shield, but that enough power behind a jinx relative to the shield would reverse that.
It was a different approach to Lodestone, who had emphasized movement and inventiveness over near-static offensive and defensive spellcasting, but Twilight was already thinking of ways to mix the two styles – along with a few tricks of her own – and beat practitioners of either school.
The flying lessons, on the other hand, were something entirely different. Quite apart from anything else, they were for one term only – and involved a non-wand focus.
Twilight had had to sit out of the lessons, because Professor Kettleburn hadn’t been able to confirm that it was safe for her to lie on a broom (without hands to grip it), and Professor Flitwick’s solution of a custom cushioning charm was taking longer than anticipated – but it made her heart soar to see Spike flying around with a wild grin on his face.
And she’d at least been able to catch Neville when he fell off his broom. Though Harry turned out to have the kind of talent which made her associate him with Dash all the more strongly – truly spectacular flying ability.
Before they knew it, a holiday was coming up. One that both Equestrians recognized in concept, if not in detail – and that had led to another discussion with Percy about cosmic coincidences – as being similar to Nightmare Night.
Twilight had worked for most of the preceding Sunday to make her costume, consisting of layered wing spells and glamours to make her nearly identical to Princess Luna, and Spike had also decided to put in as much effort as he could – resulting in a suit of miniature armour that made him look every inch the knight.
The expressions on everyone’s faces when they left their room that evening, though, told them they’d misunderstood.
“You don’t dress up?” Spike asked. “But it took hours to make this! I had to get extra coal to keep my fire going!”
“Well, we kind of do. But that’s for trick-or-treating. We don’t do it for the holiday as a whole, and it’s usually scary costumes. I think Americans do it more like you are.” Seamus answered. “Still, it’s very impressive, both of you.”
The Weasley twins got identical mischievous looks on their faces. “Why don’t we see who actually says something in the feast?”
Spike grinned. “I like the sound of that!”
Twilight suppressed a grin of her own, then gave in. It was the kind of thing the real Luna would love.
“Just remember.” She said, a few minutes later as they prepared to head down. “You’re all going to be ready for it, I know, but don’t react too soon or too late. It’ll be funnier if you just don’t treat it as unusual.”
The dozen or so kids – the twins, Neville, Ron, Lee Jordan, Seamus, Dean, two other boys, and three girls who Twilight understood to be on the Quidditch team – shared smiles. Twilight then switched her spell set to inactive, turning back into her normal self, and packed Spike’s armour into a small box with a shrinking spell.
With the right come-to-life on it, it could be put back on in seconds.
“Hey, Harry, you coming?” Ron asked, looking over at the boy in question. “Come on, mate, it’s Halloween! Don’t you want to see?”
Neville gasped suddenly, and tugged Ron’s arm. “Shut up!”
“What?” Ron asked crossly.
“Look, Ron…” the Longbottom boy seemed to shrink in on himself slightly. “It’s Halloween. The day You-Know-Who died.”
“Yeah! It’s a day of celebration!” Ron said, shrugging.
“It’s the day Harry’s parents died.” Neville pointed out.
Everyone else there winced suddenly, as they made the connection. “Ouch…”
“Poor thing.” Alicia said.
“Yeah, I wondered why he was so quiet.” Seamus weighed in.
“You could tell? I mean, compared to normal?” Dean tried to joke, though it fell a bit flat.
“Look, I think we should just… give him a little space.” Neville said, seemingly emboldened a little by how people were taking his point on board.
“Alright.” Several people nodded, and Spike hurried over towards Harry.
“Just so you know, we’ll be at the feast, okay?” the dragon said quietly.
Harry nodded slightly.