Closed Nothing to Lose

Harper Alston

off we go, into the wild blue yonder
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Straight 12.5'' Flexible Larch Wand with Dragon Heartstring Core
Harper was pretty sure she'd spent the last few months cycling through the five stages of grief. That felt a little ridiculous to think — she certainly didn't have anything worth grieving over — but it was honest. And these days, Harper was trying to be more honest with herself. There had been the denial as her brain refused to accept the fact that her animagus training was over. Then there was the anger — at her past self for botching a transformation, at Professor Abberline for cancelling her lessons, at her current self for being so afraid. That had quickly given way to bargaining as Harper begged her subconscious and body to listen to her, making absurd promises to never want anything again if only the universe could give her her old confidence back. For a few days, she had wondered if this was all a futile endeavor, if she had changed so irreparably that she was no longer capable of becoming an animagus.

The only stage Harper had missed was acceptance. She still refused to accept that this was the end of her animagus training. Maybe that meant she'd cycled back to denial; maybe it meant she'd skipped forward into a new, undefined stage that felt a lot like determination. Either way, Harper had spent much of the past few months methodically dissecting not just her fears, but herself, and after lots of meditation, canary cremes, transfiguration spells, and self-reflection, she finally felt ready to ask for another animagus lesson.

It was unfortunate that this moment had come during the last week of classes, just before Professor Abberline was about to leave, but there wasn't a lot Harper could do about that. As she waited for the rest of her classmates to leave the room, Harper studied the cage of hummingbirds and honeysuckle on her desk, trying to remind herself that she was good at this. She was good at Transfiguration, and she was worthy of animagus lessons. After the last person had left, she approached the professor's desk. "Professor Abberline? Do you have a few minutes? I wanted to talk about my training." Her gaze skipped back to the cages littered across the room. "I can help vanish those if you want," she offered.
Professor Abberline started to collect the cages with birds in them as well as the flowers as soon as the students were leaving the Transfiguration classroom. He was satisfied with how the last lesson of the semester had gone and thought that everyone had done a pretty good job at conjuring up birds or flowers. Some performed the charms with ease, while others got the same results after a couple of tries. He was sure, however, that everyone would get the job done when he'd ask them to perform these charms on the exam. He put the collected cages and flowers down on the table next to his desk - he would have a closer look at them later for grading - and was about to move on to the empty cages to vanish them when Harper approached his desk. He had already noticed that she was lagging behind while the other students were leaving so figured that she wanted to talk to him about one of two things. She was either curious to know why he decided to end her detention early or she wanted to discuss her animagus training one more time before he was gone. She confirmed his suspicion when she asked if they could talk about her animagus training. ''You have overcome your fear of transforming, then?'' Charlie asked with an inquisitive smile. There would be no other reason to talk about it so she must have finally done it. ''And you know I always appreciate the help,'' he added.

this is meh
Harper's first instinct was to nod and say yes, not because she wanted to lie to Professor Abberline, but because that's what she always did in these situations. She pretended she was fine until she actually felt fine. But she knew she owed Professor Abberline the truth, especially considering the favour she planned on asking him for later. "I haven't completely gotten rid of it, if that's what you're asking," she admitted. "But I don't think I need to." Harper took out her wand and made her way to the first empty cage, thinking it might be easier to explain what she was feeling if she didn't have to look at Professor Abberline. "I don't know if I'm ever not going to be at least a little worried about transforming. I can't just forget about the accident and act like it never happened." And the thing was, she didn't want to forget. Harper thought of Rosemarie and how flippant the Hufflepuff had been about the magic involved in animagus transfigurations. She didn't want to be like that. The botched transfiguration, while painful and mildly traumatic, had given Harper a healthy respect for the magic and a lot of much-needed perspective.

She tapped the cage with her wand, vanishing it with a small pop. "But I think I've gotten to the point where it doesn't bother me as much. I can..." Harper paused, trying to put feelings to words. "I can control it. Or at least, I can control my response to it, if that makes sense." It was a little like confronting a boggart, she supposed. You could be scared while facing one but still have the presence of mind needed to cast Riddikulus. Harper moved on to the next cage and vanished it with a silent tap of her wand before looking back at Professor Abberline. "I want to try transforming again. I don't think the fear's going to completely go away until I successfully transform." If she was being really, really honest, the fear probably wouldn't go away until she'd successfully completed the transformation a hundred times. But that was beside the larger point. "I promise I'm not going to freak out."
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Professor Abberline was surprised to hear that Harper hadn't completely gotten rid of her fear of transforming because her fear of transforming was the sole reason why he had decided against continuing her lessons in the first place. Was this going to be another attempt at trying to convince him to continue her animagus training again? If so then he would have to make it quite clear this time around that such a thing was not going to happen until she'd overcome her fears. He'd even have to go as far as to warn Professor Styx or whoever was going to teach in her place next year. Really, why were students always this persistent? But when she told him about her newfound perspective and her point of view going forward, he understood why she had come to him. He listened attentively and nodded along with every word, joining her in vanishing empty cages while he listened. He admired that Harper was going to accept that she would always be at least a little afraid of transforming. She'd display a fine example of courage and perseverance if she could indeed prevent the fear from taking over, which he could admire even more.

With the promise that she wasn't going to freak out again, Charlie studied the girl for a moment. He could tell that she was being serious about it, which heavily swayed things in favour of having her try and transform again. He'd give her one chance to do it, one chance to prove to him that she was ready. ''I will allow you to transform once,'' Professor Abberline said after another moment of weighing the pros and cons in his head. ''Show me that you can indeed control your fears and we will continue your training.'' He walked toward the door to close it, not wanting anyone or anything to disturb them. With a couple of wand movements the desks, chairs and remainder of the empty cages were pushed to both sides of the classroom so that she'd have more than enough space. ''Unless you want to talk some more, the floor is yours,'' he said, offering Harper the chance to physically and mentally prepare herself before actually transforming.
It had been a gamble coming to Professor Abberline now, but Harper figured she didn't have much to lose. He would be leaving in a few weeks. The worst he could do was say no and then disappear back to the Ministry. Still, she had to tense her muscles to keep from fidgeting while he studied her, his expression unreadable. Whether her training suffered another months-long delay was entirely up to Professor Abberline at this point. She'd tried to be as honest as she could, and now she just had to hope he trusted her.

When he finally spoke, Harper let out a slow exhale of relief. One chance. He was only giving her one chance, but that was all she needed. She nodded and pocketed her wand. "I'm ready." After their last lesson, Harper had taken Professor Abberline's advice and meditated every day. That's what she did now, easily slipping into that quiet state where nothing existed except her. After a few moments spent mentally preparing herself for what would come next, Harper opened up her mind.

A rush of adrenaline, a surge of blue, and Harper was in the sky again. While she had done plenty of visualizing over the past few months, she'd avoided having actual visions, and the sheer enormity of the scene before her made Harper's breath catch in her chest. She didn't have much time to admire the view as the bird soon appeared, making her heartbeat pick up. Harper could feel her body fighting her, urging her to end the vision, but she forced herself to remain still. She had always suspected that the bird was supposed to be a representation of herself, and as she watched the creature fly lonely circles across the sky, she became certain of it.

After an eternity, Harper's pulse started to slow. She turned her focus to her left arm and tried to picture a wing unfurling, sending a faint prickling across her skin. Harper waited for the sensation to pass before opening her eyes. She was a little startled to see her left arm extended out to the side, and she realised she must have lifted it while visualizing the wing. Heart in her throat, Harper pushed up the sleeve of her robe. "Oh." Laying flat against her forearm were just two blonde and brown feathers, and she had to brush her fingers against them to confirm that they were actually hers. "I thought I'd managed more," she said, disappointment clear in her voice.
Professor Abberline watched Harper's face closely as she slipped into that all too familiar state again, wondering if he was going to see a hint of fear on her face while she was trying to transform. If she was indeed going to accept that it would be a part of her going forward, then there was nothing to worry about and they could continue these lessons until the end of term. He could tell that she was doing the spell when he couldn't see anything but concentration on her face, which he thought was a good sign. She was about to perform an exhausting bit of magic so concentrating on the task at hand was advisable. He frowned slightly when she raised her arm and watched it for a moment until he was sure that nothing had happened. Was that supposed to be a cue, was she attempting to start the transformation beginning with her arm? He didn't have to wait long for an answer. He watched as she pushed up the sleeve of her robe and smiled weakly when he saw that she had only managed to transform two feathers. That was fine, it was an okay start after months of not having done anything.

''What made you think that?'' Professor Abberline asked curiously, noticing the disappointment in her voice. He thought that he already knew the answer she was going to give him but reckoned that it might actually mean something if she would tell him herself. She hadn't transformed for some time now so it was only logical that things weren't going to happen right away. She'd need to practice and start over again but at least this time she could do it, hopefully, without those frightful feelings kicking in. Once she would get the hang of it again surely it would all go a lot better and a lot smoother.
Harper sighed, running a finger along the edges of one of the feathers. "I was aiming for a full wing," she said. Even now, she could envision the transformation. "I used to be able to do a full wing," she added a little more quietly. There were a lot of things she used to be able to do. While Harper had done a lot of work over the last few months to try and regain her old self-confidence, she still wasn't completely happy with her current state. She missed her old self, the one who could transform effortlessly, and she thought back to a year and a half ago, when she had first attempted self-transfiguration with Professor Summers. She'd produced a lot more feathers than this. It was hard not to think of the past 18 months as a total loss.

For a brief moment, Harper was tempted to rip the feathers out. That was some small comfort, she supposed. She didn't have to worry about getting stuck since it would be easy enough to just pluck the feathers if she couldn't make them go away. Harper concentrated for a moment and watched the feathers recede, a little surprised by how easily they disappeared. Letting her arm drop to her side, she looked back at Professor Abberline. "So, can we have one more lesson?" Hopefully it wouldn't be the last lesson. But before she could think that far, she first needed to see if he had been convinced by her self-transfiguration attempt. She needed to see if he would be willing to continue her training, even if it was for just one more day.
Professor Abberline smiled when Harper explained that she had wanted to transform more than just a couple of feathers on her arm. Of course she had wanted to do more than just two feathers but it had been a couple of months since she had last tried to transform. She was going to have to start from the beginning again, especially after what she experienced. Perhaps it was up to him to make sure that she understood that, make sure that she wasn't going to push herself past her limits again. They really couldn't use another mishap if she wanted to continue her training with him. ''When I was your age, I could burp the entire alphabet whenever I drank soda. Unfortunately, I do not possess that skill anymore because I stopped practising it once I started my job at the Ministry.'' He thought that perhaps a funny and personal anecdote might get the point across. ''It's more than fine a couple of feathers is the best that you can do at the moment, Harper. It's been some time since you've last tried it so there's nothing to worry about. Some things take time and practice but we'll get you there again in no time, I'm sure of it.'' At least she could quite easily make the feathers disappear from her arm, something which should be praised. ''As long as you can control yourself and promise me that you will not rush into the transformation, we can do more lessons.''
For a moment, Harper just stared blankly at Professor Abberline, but then the meaning of his anecdote sunk in. She cracked a smile. "You mean that's not a required skill to work at the Ministry?" she asked in a weak attempt at a joke. Her expression turned wistful. "I know. It's just... frustrating to know that I have to basically start over and relearn everything. I thought I'd be further along by now," she admitted. She thought of all those stories of teenagers who had managed to learn the skill by 15. Some of them had even managed the feat without formal lessons. While Harper had never been arrogant enough to dream that she could do the same, she had still assumed she'd be able to complete the transformation by the time she graduated. But even that seemed unlikely.

Harper automatically started to nod when it registered that Professor Abberline had said lessons. As in plural. "Wait, lessons?" she repeated, eyes widening. "Does that mean you'll still be teaching next year?" Her gaze automatically flickered to his (or was it Professor Styx's?) office door. "Is Professor Styx not coming back?" While there were definitely advantages to learning from another animagus, her lessons with Professor Styx had felt ever so slightly uneasy, though maybe that was Harper's fault. She'd spent much of that semester straining to grow just a few feathers, and untransfiguration had been pretty much impossible.
Professor Abberline chuckled at Harper's attempt at a joke. ''Right, I forgot. You may actually want to consider teaching yourself how to burp the alphabet if you want to work at the Ministry,'' he said, adding to the joke. He was glad that jokes could be appreciated after all the serious talks they had had. He nodded at what she said next, totally understanding where she was coming from. ''I mean, you're not starting over entirely. You just need to get accustomed to the process again, I reckon. Did you not notice how easy it appeared to be to disappear those blonde and brown feathers on your arm? If you ask me, that's a pretty good start already.''

He realised early into the semester that he actually really liked teaching. He didn't think that he was particularly good at it and figured that he might want to follow some courses to become a better teacher if he was going to continue taking on temporarily jobs like this one, but seeing the results of weeks of teaching was something that excited him greatly. Most, if not all of his sixth years, were genuinely getting really good at conjuration charms, and he liked to think that his teaching was part of why they were getting so good at them. That feeling he had felt after watching his students perform Avis and Orchideos successfully today, he wanted to experience that feeling more often. ''I'm afraid that I won't be teaching Transfiguration again next year. But we still have a couple of weeks before the actual end of term. If you are up for it, I was thinking that we could squeeze in one or two more lessons before that. Now, I know that you'll be busy with exams, so feel free to say no, but it was a thought and I reckoned that I might as well put it out there.'' Unfortunately, Charlie wasn't sure yet if he was going to stay on as the upper-level Transfiguration Professor, though he would definitely say 'yes' if the new Headmaster or Headmistress would ask him to stay a while longer.
Harper forced a smile. Professor Abberline seemed to be in a better mood, which was somewhat reassuring. Gone was the serious air that had shrouded him earlier in their conversation, and he was now back to being encouraging. She hoped he was right that she just needed to get re-accustomed to transforming. It didn't do much to quell her frustration, but Harper knew she should be grateful that she was even getting a chance to move forward again.

"Yes." Harper didn't need to think about it; her answer was immediate. This was even better than what she'd been hoping for. "I'll have time. I'm not worried about exams." Her eyes widened slightly as she realised how she might have sounded, and she hastily added, "I mean, I've already begun revising. And after OWLs last year, exams this term don't seem so intimidating." Potions might be a bit tricky with all the memorization it required, but DADA and COMC shouldn't be too bad. And Transfiguration would be a breeze as it always was, unless Professor Abberline decided to make things extra challenging in retaliation for her comment.

Harper hesitated. She knew she should probably leave before Professor Abberline changed his mind, but she had one more request and he seemed to be in an agreeable enough mood now. "I was actually wondering if we could also continue these lessons over break. I can travel to wherever you are." That was perhaps a bit presumptuous to say considering she had not yet earned her apparition license or her full driver's license. But Harper figured in a worst case scenario, she could floo or buy portkeys. "I can't pay you," she admitted. Money was always tight in the Alston household, and while Harper knew her parents would be willing to try and scrape something together, she didn't want to ask them to pay for something as tenuous as animagus lessons. They'd already sunk more than enough into her old football dreams. In some ways, her goal of becoming an animagus was even more uncertain. "So if you say no, I completely understand." She would have offered to basically continue her detention and help him prepare lesson plans in exchange for tutoring, but he was returning to the Ministry and Harper doubted she could be of much help to a Hit Wizard.
''Really, you are not worried about exams? Just because you've passed your OWLs doesn't mean that things will be easier this year, you know that right?'' Professor Abberline said with a frown. He didn't want her to think that exams would be easier just because they weren't as important as the OWLs or the NEWTs. She'd need at least an Acceptable if she wanted to continue Transfiguration, and after watching her fail multiple times to cast a perfect Bouquet Spell, she would need to practice more if she wanted to achieve a passing grade. It wasn't going to be that difficult to continue the subject to NEWT level with the passing threshold being a mere Acceptable, unfortunately he hadn't been allowed to bump it up to an Exceeds Expectations, but he still hoped that his students would put in at least a little bit of work to achieve a proper passing grade. A grade they could actually be proud of. ''I'd practice some more if I were you, which is actually something I should have told the entire class before the bell rang earlier.'' They were good, but not that good. Perhaps his warning might keep her on her toes. ''We'll do these lessons after dinner, then. That should give you plenty of time to study during the day.''

Harper's request to continue the animagus lessons over the break surprised Professor Abberline. He knew that she wanted to finish her training sooner rather than later but to continue them over break was something he hadn't thought she might want to do. Breaks were meant to relax and not think about school for a while, even he knew that much. But then again, was it really so surprising that she wished to do more lessons over break? Not really. She had shown how persistent she could get many a time now. He chuckled when she told him that she couldn't pay him for lessons over the break. ''Well, you aren't paying me now either so I wouldn't worry about money that much if I were you.'' And neither was the school for that matter, but whether or not he was getting paid to train Harper didn't matter much to him. He was doing it because he wanted to help her as well as the fact that the training process was something he could learn from too. What did matter to him was whether it was appropriate or not to meet up with a student over the break, but he wouldn't be her teacher much longer. And he probably wouldn't be returning to Hogwarts to teach for another semester anyway. ''I do have a job to return to once this is over but I wouldn't be opposed to continuing our lessons over the break. Why don't I write to you so that we can plan these lessons? I would have to check my working days first.'' He would also have to talk to his girlfriend just in case she wanted to go somewhere with him but Harper didn't have to know about that.
Professor Abberline's reaction was a little surprising, and Harper raised her eyebrows. So much for being encouraging. "I know," she said simply, even if she didn't agree. She had already done well on last semester's exams, and preparing for them had been much easier than revising for OWLs. The material was more difficult, yes, but there wasn't as much of it. She didn't have any reason to think she wouldn't do similarly well on this semester's exams. Harper knew that she'd changed a lot, lost a lot over the past year, but she'd managed to hold onto her study skills. There was no shortage of things weighing on Harper — her fracturing sense of self, her increasingly strained relationships with her siblings, and her future after Hogwarts — but her grades weren't one of them. "I will," Harper assured him with a nod. She knew she still had some revision to do. "Lessons after dinner sounds good."

Harper knew she was asking a lot of Professor Abberline, especially since he wouldn't even be teaching next year. But she couldn't afford to go another several months without a lesson; she had a whole year of lost progress to make up for. Part of her was afraid that if she didn't learn to become an animagus by graduation, she'd never learn. She had essentially no connections in the magical world, and she had no idea how she'd find someone to train her outside Hogwarts. So when Professor Abberline chuckled, Harper nearly felt dizzy with relief. She nodded eagerly at his offer. "Yes, that would be perfect." It wasn't an unequivocal yes, but it was close enough. She assumed that he probably also wanted to see how the next few lessons went before planning more for the break. Harper still felt a little guilty that she wouldn't be able to pay for tutoring, but she wasn't about to let this opportunity go. She was done arguing for her limitations. "Thanks, Professor Abberline." For the first time during their conversation, she wore a genuine smile. "I really appreciate it."
Professor Abberline smiled when Harper assured him that she would revise before the exam. Whether or not she convinced him didn't matter much, as long as she would study and practice, she might actually do well on the exam. All he could hope for was that she would also practice the Colour-Changing Charm while going over everything again since she would have to cast it on him to change the colour of his hair. Changing the colour of his hair wasn't something that Charlie was particularly looking forward to but he wasn't allowed to change things (even though practising Transfiguration on others was not allowed at Hogwarts). But, he reckoned, if a Styx was fine with it, then surely nothing bad could ever happen to him.

He smiled again when she thanked him. Why the other Transfiguration Professors hadn't trained with her -- they were fully aware of her ambition to become an animagus after all - was beyond him, and the fact that she had lost precious time because of their lack of commitment was one of the reasons why he was so committed to continuing her training, even over the school break. He could tell that she genuinely meant it when she told him that she appreciated it, which made it even more annoying to know that the other Professors hadn't been as committed. Alas, there was no reason to fuss over any of that now. ''So, what now? Want to have another go at it?'' he asked.
Harper knew she still had a ways to go in putting her life back together, but it felt like some of the pieces were starting to fall into place. It felt good to finally move forward after spending the past few months at a complete standstill. She was a little surprised by Professor Abberline's question but quickly nodded. "Yeah, okay." There was the familiar flutter of nerves at the prospect of self-transfiguration, but she ignored them. The only way she could get rid of the feeling was to transform so often that she grew numb to her nerves. She couldn't pass up a single chance to practice.

Before starting, Harper tried to remind herself that she'd already proven today that she could safely transfigure and untransfigure herself. She could do it again. This time, Harper was prepared for the vision, and she immediately honed in on the bird's wings. But when she opened her eyes and shoved her sleeve up, only a couple feathers clung to her left forearm. Harper sighed. "I tried to visualize an entire wing again." She concentrated on her arm for a few moments, trying to see if she could grow some more feathers, but nothing happened. Harper glanced up at Professor Abberline. "How long will it take to regain my old skills?" she asked even though she knew there was no way he — or anyone else — could know for sure.

((sorry this took so long and was not great))
Professor Abberline shrugged at the question. He wouldn't be able to tell her how long it was going to be before she'd be on the same level as she was before the accident. The only thing she could do to regain her old skills was to practice and practice and practice until she could successfully transfigure and untransfigure herself. And because this kind of self-transfiguration was different from any other kind of transfiguration, there was really no telling when she was going to achieve that. Only time would tell. ''You'll have to find that out for yourself by practising as much as you can.'' A part of him wanted to let Harper practice on her own on the days that they couldn't practice together over the break, but he really wasn't sure if that was advisable given everything that had happened. Even with the promise of doing better and being more patient. Still, she could use all the hours she could get. Another part of him, therefore, hoped that one of the Transfiguration teacher positions might become available so that they could continue Harper's training together. ''But I'm sure that you'll get there, though,'' Charlie said, wanting to say at least something encouragingly so as to not have her lose hope.
Harper fought back a sigh, even if she knew there was no other answer Professor Abberline could give. She hated how much of this process was mired in uncertainty. It wasn't like a football skill or a spell that she could drill endlessly until she had perfected it. Half the time she didn't even understand why one self-transfiguration attempt worked while another failed. "What kind of practice should I be doing between our lessons?" It occurred to her that if she really wanted, she could practice self-transfigurations on her own over the break. She was finally of age in the magical world, and despite Professor Kingsley's threat, Harper didn't really think the school could punish her for something that took place outside of the castle. Becoming an animagus was more important to her than a prefect badge anyways.

At the same time, the stakes of practicing unsupervised outside of school were much higher. Here, the Hospital Wing was just a few steps away. If something went wrong at home, there would be no one to help her or even take her to a magical hospital. "I don't know if I have enough control over my transformations to practice those alone yet," she admitted. Maybe she'd get there after a few more lessons, but she definitely wasn't at that point now. "I mean, I don't necessarily think I'd get stuck or anything like that. I think I'd be able to stop that. But it still feels like I just barely have control over this," she said, gesturing to her left arm. She'd wanted a wing, but her body had given her two feathers. "Sorry, I don't know if that made any sense." Words had never been her strong suit, and she didn't know how to explain the uncertainty of it all.
Did Charlie want to give her more freedom to try and practice on her own? Yes, because how else would she regain previously obtained skills over the break? There also wasn't much he could do if she wanted to try more and more on her own over the break, she'd likely be of age soon if she wasn't already, which meant that she was free to do as she pleased within the boundaries of wizarding law. But then Harper told him that she felt like she barely had control over her transformation and his wish for her to try and do more besides meditating was squashed. He knew that this wasn't something she wanted to push and he also knew that a lesson or two probably wouldn't be enough for her, so he was actually kind of happy that she was showing restraint even though it probably came from a place of uncertainty.

He would have told her to work towards something and perfect it, but if she wasn't comfortable with how little she was in control of things, then it wouldn't do well to try and push her to do it anyway. It would have been good practice to focus on a handful of feathers on a specific spot on her arm and practice that until she could make them appear and disappear without difficulty. Exercises like that would come in handy when they were going to try and transform larger portions of her arms. ''Why don't you stick with meditation between our lessons? We can work on the difficult things during our lessons together. For now, just try and make a handful of feathers appear and disappear on your arm. If you want a focus point, pick a specific spot on your arm.''

this is a mess and all over the place
Harper felt an undeniable wave of relief when Professor Abberline told her to focus on meditation between their lessons. And then she felt guilty. Was she just taking the easy way out? What was the line between self-restraint and self-sabotage? Normally, Harper had a decent (if somewhat inflated) sense of her abilities. This whole year had thrown that into question. She'd thought she was good at transfiguration, and then she'd struggled with simple transformations. Limiting her solo practice to meditation simultaneously felt appropriate and inadequate.

She nodded at Professor Abberline's instructions and tried to focus on a spot on her bicep. After a few moments, she managed to make a single feather appear — in the crook of her elbow. Harper bit back a sigh and instead decided to concentrate on the two feathers on her forearm, eventually making them disappear. "For some reason, it's easier to make feathers disappear from specific spots than to make them appear," she observed. In some ways, this was the inverse of the issue she'd faced last semester, when she'd struggled with untransfiguration. Why couldn't this process just make sense?
''It's not that crazy when you think about it. You've only just now started practising again, so it'll take you a couple of tries to get it right. Luckily, we'll have plenty of time to work on making feathers appear and disappear during our evening lessons,'' Professor Abberline answered. Of course he knew that only being able to transform a handful of feathers was not the desired outcome she'd been hoping for after years of training, but if this was the pace at which she was going to regain her skills, then they should be respectful of that. ''You really shouldn't be so hard on yourself. We'll get you to where you were before in no time.'' He wasn't sure if his encouraging words were appreciated or not but he offered them nonetheless. ''Why don't you try it one more time before we'll end it for today?''
Harper knew it was unrealistic to expect that she'd suddenly regain all her old skills after taking a months-long break from her training. Still, it felt like she was being made to relearn how to walk when she used to be able to fly. She forced herself to smile at Professor Abberline's words of encouragement. She wanted to believe them. She had to believe them. "Okay." Harper made the sole remaining feather disappear before closing her eyes. This time, when the bird came to her, she focused on the tip of its wing. At the same time, she tried to envision feathers sprouting from the outer ridge of her hand and wrist.

Harper opened her eyes, sighing when she once again saw two feathers on her forearm. "Those were supposed to be on my wrist," she admitted. "And there were supposed to be more of them." Though she wanted to continue practicing, Harper could tell she wouldn't be getting any further today. She was already feeling tired despite the simplicity of the self-transfigurations. Harper took another few minutes to reverse the transfigurations before shoving her sleeve back down. "I'll meditate some more before the next lesson," she promised. Hopefully the next one would be more fruitful; she didn't want to waste Professor Abberline's time.
Charlie smiled weakly as he watched two brown and blonde feathers appear on Harper's forearm. He had wanted her to transfigure more than just two feathers but he could tell that the magic was exhausting her. And after not having practised for a couple of weeks, it was only natural that she couldn't do more than two feathers. So he wasn't mad or disappointed at all when she told him that they were supposed to appear on her wrist. He nodded approvingly of her plan but decided to give some advice as well before she'd leave. ''You may meditate if you want but that is about all I want you to do. Go relax at the student lounge for a bit and try to take your mind off of your training. I can tell this is exhausting you.''
"I'm not that tired," Harper protested, even as she had to suppress the urge to yawn. She didn't want Professor Abberline thinking she was too weak to do this. "But I'll try," she said, relenting. Privately, she wasn't sure if it was even possible for her to not think about her training. It was pretty much the only thing she thought about these days, outside of classes. Harper picked up her bag and started to make her way out, but she stopped at the door and glanced back. "Thanks for, um, the second chance." It felt like a precious and fragile thing, and there was no way she was going to waste it. With that, Harper stepped out. She would try to take Professor Abberline's advice to relax a bit, but she also knew she needed to start preparing for the next lesson.

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