Charms is no soft option

Neville struggles to choose his N.E.W.T. subjects while Professor McGonagall provides encouragement

Extract from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling

The distribution of timetables was more complicated than usual this year, for Professor McGonagall needed first to confirm that everybody had achieved the necessary O.W.L. grades to continue with their chosen N.E.W.T.s.

Hermione was immediately cleared to continue with Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Herbology, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes and Potions, and shot off to a first-period Ancient Runes class without further ado. Neville took a little longer to sort out; his round face was anxious as Professor McGonagall looked down his application and then consulted his O.W.L. results.

‘Herbology, fine,’ she said. ‘Professor Sprout will be delighted to see you back with an “Outstanding” O.W.L. And you qualify for Defence Against the Dark Arts with “Exceeds Expectations”. But the problem is Transfiguration. I’m sorry, Longbottom, but an “Acceptable” really isn’t good enough to continue to N.E.W.T. level, I just don’t think you’d be able to cope with the coursework.’

Neville hung his head. Professor McGonagall peered at him through her square spectacles.

‘Why do you want to continue with Transfiguration, anyway? I’ve never had the impression that you particularly enjoyed it.’

Neville looked miserable and muttered something about ‘my grandmother wants’.

‘Humph,’ snorted Professor McGonagall. ‘It’s high time your grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she’s got, rather than the one she thinks she ought to have – particularly after what happened at the Ministry.’

Neville turned very pink and blinked confusedly; Professor McGonagall had never paid him a compliment before.

‘I’m sorry, Longbottom, but I cannot let you into my N.E.W.T. class. I see that you have an “Exceeds Expectations” in Charms, however – why not try for a N.E.W.T. in Charms?’

‘My grandmother thinks Charms is a soft option,’ mumbled Neville.

‘Take Charms,’ said Professor McGonagall, ‘and I shall drop Augusta a line reminding her that just because she failed her Charms O.W.L., the subject is not necessarily worthless.’

Smiling slightly at the look of delighted incredulity on Neville’s face, Professor McGonagall tapped a blank timetable with the tip of her wand and handed it, now carrying details of his new classes, to Neville.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By J.K. Rowling