Tom sat staring at the rat that sat in on the table looking back at him. The Gryffindor tapped his wand against his teeth. “Alright.” He sighed heavily. “How to do this? I mean there isn’t exactly a spell on this.” His wand snaked back and the tip scratched his scalp. Finally he made up his mind on how to start. He pointed his wand at the rat and took a deep breath. At the last moment, the scene from a few weeks before entered his mind staying his wand hand. He remembered himself as a partial chair, and the fear that had entered him.
He could see his wand hand start to shake slightly and immediately pulled it back to his body with his other hand. Since the incident he had stayed to Ordinary Wizarding Level transfiguration spells, and was actually for the first time in his life, afraid to experiment and stretch himself.
Back in December, Professor McGonagall had a paper of his based on his theories of animal to human transfiguration published in Transfiguration Today. His theory had caused quite a stir, mostly from the fact that it differed so greatly from the another theory that had been published in the same periodical almost a hundred years previous by his own headmaster. He had received several owls over the following weeks challenging his ideas including one from Dumbledore himself who was very intrigued by Tom’s logic on the issue and was curious to see if it could really work.
So that brought Tommy to this empty classroom on this icy Saturday morning, pushed to show his theory correct.
“Ohmygosh I’m sorry I thought the room was empty… Tommy?” Hip still at an awkward angle from bumping the door open, Rose hugged a stack of books against her chest and stared at her friend. “What are you doing?”
Tom jumped, and the rat in front of him squeaked and ran behind a large stack of books.
“Bloody hell.” Tommy said breathlessly. “You scared me half to death.”
“I’m sorry.” The little blonde’s eyebrows knit together. “I was just looking for an empty room to spread out in.” She sighed. “Sometimes we think a little too alike.”
Tom’s breath finally returned to normal. “I was just working on a wee bit of an experiment.”
The blonde looked at him then at the rat peeking out from behind the books. “Let me guess…”
Tom nodded, “Yep.” He scooped up the rat petting him on the head. “All those owls just keep coming. I want to prove myself right.”
Her sunny smile shifted to the gold of compassion. And understanding. After the chair thing, this was no surprise. “I still think the owls, even the ones who think you’re nuts, are a good thing.” Setting her books down on an empty table, Rose immediately brought a curl to her lips as she tried to explain. “Just imagine how many owls like that Professor Dumbledore has gotten over the course of his career.”
Tom nodded. “Oh I know. You haven’t seen the most recent one have you?” Tom gave a chuckle as he handed her a folded piece of yellow parchment.
Rose unfolded it and read it silently, green eyes growing wide as she poured over the text. “Tommy! He’s practically cheering you on. He wants you to try.”
“Yeah I know but…” He looked down at the rat and to his still slightly shaking wand hand.
“No buts, Tommy.” Rose put aside all thoughts of studying for the day. She was here to support her friend and, a slightly more practical voice in the back of her mind pointed out, be ready to go for help if anything happened. “There’s no way he’d send that if he didn’t think you could do it.”
“Yes well after the,” he thought about the word he wanted to use, “unpleasantness, as a chair I’m just sorta worried I guess about giving this rat a nice paisley design, you know?”
The blonde bit at her hair again then forced the momentary hesitation away. “I can’t believe I’m saying this… but think of all the things we’ve turned him and all his brothers and sisters into over the years. Remember the goblets? Mine still squeaked when you poured water into it.”
Tommy laughed, “It was a damn sight better than Beryl’s. Remember it drowned when she poured in the water?”
“That was sad,” she pouted. “Beryl didn’t even feel bad… except about her grade.”
Tom stared down at the rat, he could feel the creeping doubt in his head. He tried to put it aside, but he could feel it clawing at the back of his brain getting a strong foothold. He shut his eyes to fight it back.”Okay we’re gonna try it.”
The Ravenclaw nodded. “What do you want me to do? Should I stand out of the way?”
Tom looked at Rose for a second and then held out his hand, “For moral support.”
She took his hand, curling her tiny fingers around his and giving a squeeze. “You can do this. I know you can.”
“This won’t hurt him.” Tom’s eyes flashed down toward the rat. “I don’t think.” His voice trailed off as he looked down at the rat. “When you think about it,” Tom said with just the tiniest hint of a laugh, “you can transfigure a human into something else, it shouldn’t be too much to go the other way. Should it?”
The blonde gave a small shrug. “That’s what you said in your article. And you are the expert when it comes to transfiguring humans into furry things.” She paused and looked up at him, not at all surprised to find that she completely expected him to sucCéilidhd. “You just need to stop doubting yourself.”
“Alright then,” he rolled up his sleeves, “here goes everything.”
“Dazzle me,” she chuckled, hopping onto a seat and doing her best friend to look properly adoring as she watched him.
“Right.” His head nodded with a snap. His attention went back to the rat. His wand snapped at the rat and a bright green flash hit it right on the nose. Once the light cleared Tom squinted open one of his eyes. “Did it work?”
Since she was trying to be supportive, Rose did her best not to laugh. “Um…” Wordlessly, she pointed to the unchanged rat who was now watching Tommy with a look of undisguised curiosity. “I think it tickled.”
Tom’s eyes opened all the way, a look of defeat crossed his face. “Damn.” Tom tapped the wand grumpily on table. “Well if that didn’t work, how about this.” Tom flicked his wand after a quick swoosh. A jet of golden light launched from the tip and hit the rat. There was quite a bit of smoke that obscured their sight.
“Did it work?” Tom coughed.
Waving her hand in front of her face to clear the smoke away, Rose shook her head. “No. But you did set the table on fire,” she added supportively. “That’s impressive.”
“Shut it.” Tom tapped his wand on the table and fire stopped. “Well this is getting annoying.”
“Tommy, don’t get annoyed. You can do this. I know you can.” Putting away her own misgivings, the blonde threw herself into encouraging him. “You can’t let a few fires get you down.”
Tom ran his left hand through his hair. His mind clicked through spells and once more he waved his wand again. This time a smokey blueish light snaked its way around the rat, completely obscuring it. When the smoke cleared. The rat was no longer there. Laying curled on the table in front of them was a short, incredibly naked man.
“Ew! Tommy!!!” the blonde shrieked, covering her eyes and turning her back. “Give him some clothes!”
Tommy, shocked that it actually worked, waved his wand covering the new man in a long black robe. “Hello?” Tommy said to the former rat.
The man on the table turned toward the sounds. His nose still twitched like the rat he once was and his two front teeth protruded slightly. The man’s eyes darted back and forth across the room before landing on the two sixth years. The new man’s mouth opened and closed for a few moments before he finally vocalized. A high pitched excited squeak came from him as his right hand came up and rubbed against his cheek and nose.
“Did he just…” Tom said with a shocked look on his face, “squeak?”
Rose, still half afraid to look, gave a hesitant nod of affirmation. “Well he is… was… a rat.”
With a snap of his neck. The rat man’s head popped up as he sniffed the air. His beady eyes narrowed on a plate of cheese that sat on Tommy’s side. The new man lept with quite a bit of speed toward the plate.
“Oi!” Tommy flicked his wand and the plate levitated into the air and to the other side of the room.
The man landed on the ground on all fours. He sniffed the air again. With a bit of a jump, the rat set off after the cheese scampering on all fours down an open aisle of desks he stopped at the opposite end of the aisle and sniffed the air again before turning right and heading back down the next aisle.
“Is he running a maze?”
It was mean, horrible even, but Rose couldn’t stop giggling. “He’s doing ratty things.” It was funny, but in a sad sort of way. “Tommy… I think this is maybe why people don’t turn animals into humans.”
“I guess so.” Tom tapped his wand against his teeth again. He flicked his wand at the scurrying human. The same smoke wove around him again and a second later he was a rat again.
He then slumped back down onto the bench he was sitting on. “Well that was disappointing.”
“Are you crazy?” The little blonde was out of her seat in an instant and sitting beside her friend with an arm around his shoulder. “You just performed an amazingly complex spell in the face of all your doubts. You took a risk, kept trying, and did something that most people your age wouldn’t even dream of. How can that be a disappointment?”
“He didn’t sing three blind mice?” Tom smirked.
With a laugh, she punched him in the shoulder. “You’re horrible.”
“Now is that a way for a prefect to act?” The headmaster’s voice came from the door behind them.
Both Tommy and Rose jumped as they turned to the voice behind them. “S-sir,” Tommy fumbled over his words, “how long have you been there?”
The blue eyes behind half moon spectacles twinkled as a smile played on Dumbledore’s lips. “Long enough.” He nodded to Tommy, then took a seat behind the teacher’s desk and folded his long slender fingers in front of him. “I find myself in a position that, I must say, is unfamiliar to me.”
“Sir?” Tom said questioningly.
“Why being proven wrong of course.” Dumbledore’s smile widened. “I will say it was when I was young and not the, if I may be so bold, brilliant headmaster you see before you.” He inclined his head in bow.
“Sir, I didn’t mean to…” Tom fumbled over himself.
Dumbledore held up a hand. “You have nothing to apologize for Michael.” The hand went back to resting on the desk. “You have proven what seemed to be impossible. Now of course,” he smiled again at the rat who was now rubbing its paws against its cheeks, “I think we both can agree that while you can transfigure the physical properties of a creature, its mind and soul are another matter entirely.”
Tom nodded a little sadly. “I would have liked to have actually had a conversation with him.”
Dumbledore nodded, “But,” he said in a tone that showed that he was clearly enjoying this lesson, “would you truly wish to change a creature in such a fundamental way that nothing of its original self remained?”
Tom slid into a chair on the front row right across from Dumbledore. He took in a heavy sigh. “You have a point there sir.” There was several moments of further silence until Tom spoke again. “So I guess the question now Professor,” Tommy looked back up and Dumbledore, “should we tell the Wizarding World about this?”
The Headmaster nodded. “That is a good question Michael,” Dumbledore tapped the tips of his index fingers together, “on the one hand, it is truly a one of the best finds in transfiguration in one hundred years.” His lips pursed, and almost disappeared into his beard. “On the other hand, would it honestly be a good idea to let people know about this possibility? Would it be a good idea to let loose that Pandora’s Box?”
Tom studied his own hands for a moment or two before looking up at the wizened face of the Professor. “I don’t think it would be sir. If we do that there is a possibility that someone would abuse it.”
Dumbledore nodded again and his smile broadened. “That my dear boy is exactly right.”
“But sir,” Tom said in a nervously questioning tone, “if we can’t release our findings on this, then what was the point?”
Dumbledore laughed. “What was the point?” His blue eyes sparkled. “Stretching your mind beyond its boundaries. Gaining even more knowledge about the arts that we try to master.”
“That is true sir,” Tom nodded, “but all those people who think I’m wrong…”
“Will always think you are wrong Michael.” The headmaster said standing up. “We however know the truth and that makes us all the richer for it. Now,” he said crossing the room to the door, “I trust you will make sure our friend doesn’t leave any surprises for the first classes in this room Monday?” He turned the knob on the door and stepped through “Good bye.” And with that he was gone.
Letting out her breath in a long, relieved exhale, Rose sank down into a nearby chair. “Wow, Tommy. If you even think about saying this wasn’t a success after that I’ll… I’ll… do something to you.”
“I guess it was,” Tommy laughed. He flicked his wand and the what there was of the rat droppings disappeared in a poof of lavender scented smoke. “I did kinda want the recognition .”
The blonde smiled sadly. “I know, Tommy. But I got to see how amazing you are. And Professor Dumbledore did too. That might have to do… for now.”
Tom stood up from the desk and walked over to Rose. “You think he’ll tell Professor McGonagall.”
Rose thought it over as she looked up at him. “Is it important to you that she knows?”
“After the chair incident?” Tom laughed.
The chair scraped across the hard floor as she pushed it in and went to hug her friend. “I don’t think you need to worry too much. The Headmaster knows what he’s doing.”
Tom nodded. “It still would have been funny to hear him sing three blind mice.”
“The rat or Professor Dumbledore?” Rose giggled.
“Either actually.” Tom grinned.
“You really are horrible.”
“You can’t tell me you wouldn’t have loved that.” Tommy laughed a little harder as he flicked his wand again and the rat flew through the air and landed safely in its cage.
“I’m not saying a word.” Leaving Tommy’s side, Rose walked over to the cage and slipped one of the cheese slices inside the bars. “Here you go, Ratty. Thank you for being a good sport. And I’m sorry I saw you naked.”
“You know,” Tom laughed a little harder, “You still are.”
The blonde turned and stuck out her tongue. “I am not,” she told him primly. “He’s wearing fur now.”
“I love your little semantics.” Tom winked.
“You just love me,” Rose laughed.
“This is true.” Tommy threw his arms around Rose.