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At Great Personal Risk by academica
Chapter 4: Natural Talents
Well, here goes nothing.
Lily stood before the mirror in her dormitory, running her fingers through her thin red hair. She had never liked it much, what with the brownish tint and tendency for frizz in poor weather. She straightened her uniform, checking her makeup one last time. Although she felt that her hair was beyond help, she had worked diligently on her face, painting thick lines about her eyes in a hue called “smoky kohl” and dusting her nose and cheeks with a powdered foundation that was only a shade or two paler than her natural skin. She stared at herself in the mirror, chewing on a nail nervously. Another tug down on her skirt, and she seemed satisfied with her appearance.
Truthfully, she looked as dismal as she felt.
She filed down the stairs with the rest of her housemates, taking her time in getting to breakfast. She was too nervous to eat, too worried that she would find a Howler waiting for her from her parents. She hadn’t yet broken the news of her sorting to them, but what if another student had carelessly slipped the details into their own letter home? Beyond that was the matter of classes, which would surely be a painful exercise in social graces. The other girls in her room had gotten along quite well, staying up late into the night and speaking of their likes and dislikes to one another. They became friends so quickly, in fact, that they had chosen to ignore Lily entirely.
She was picking at a piece of toast and considering this when the parchment fell upon her plate.
It wasn’t a Howler. It hadn’t even come from an owl. Lily glanced up, and Professor Sprout, her new head of house, smiled at her as she dropped another piece of paper onto the table in front of a boy sitting a few feet from her. “Schedules.” She said, explaining herself to the Hufflepuffs.
Lily returned the smile briefly. At least she could count on one teacher liking her, or so it seemed. She finished the piece of toast, wiping the raspberry jam from her fingers before she opened the piece of parchment delicately. She had Charms first, and then Potions, followed by History of Magic and lunch. After the meal, she would go to flying class, Transfiguration and Herbology. She suddenly noticed a small asterisk next to Potions, causing her to glance down at the bottom of the page for some clue as to its meaning.
*Denotes a double period for Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
Lily’s smile broadened a bit. Perhaps she would get to see her new friend again after all. She looked at her schedule again, noticing now that Charms was a double period with Slytherin, and History of Magic was shared with the Gryffindors. It was an interesting, positive turn of events.
Thirty minutes later, the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins filed into the small Charms classroom, taking their seats on the long benches that stood up against either of the side walls. Lily saw a rather short wizard who appeared to be part Goblin come in behind the crowd, taking his place on top of a box at the front of the room. From his pocket he withdrew a wand that appeared to have been well-used. It occurred to her that this man might be the ‘Filius’ the hat mentioned.
He set them to task working on levitation spells, something Lily had seen performed countless times at home, mostly when her father didn’t feel like manually fulfilling his wife’s request to set the table for dinner. She pulled her wand from her bag, focusing her mind on the innocent white feather in front of her. “Wingardium Leviosa.” She said softly, flicking her wand.
The feather rose several inches into the air, hovering in front of her nose.
“There, look, Miss Evans has done it! Ten points to Hufflepuff, well done!”
The other members of her house looked at her encouragingly. Lily blushed slightly.
After a few more attempts, the other students in the class appeared to get the hang of the spell, except for a couple of the Slytherins, who looked quite hopeless. One of them managed to set the feather aflame, and the other got it up in the air but then lost control of it, allowing it to drift unhindered into the rafters above.
Lily returned her feather to Flitwick with the others and began to make her way toward Potions, eager to see the attractive boy from the train once more. She only got a few steps into the corridor, however, before she felt a hand gently gripping her arm.
“Nice work.” The boy stepped out of the shadows, and the Slytherin badge on his robes caught her eye. “You’re awfully good at Charms, for a first year, anyway.”
“My wand is probably the one to blame.” Lily said dismissively, pulling away slightly. She looked up at the boy, unable to help admiring his dark curls and mischievous eyes.
“Your heritage, more likely.” He smirked at her. “I was hoping to find others of my kind.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Lily said quite honestly.
“Purebloods, of course. Are you daft?” Another smirk. “It’s a shame, you’re quite pretty.”
Lily successfully pulled away, heading down the hall and trying to cover the blush in her cheeks.
“See you in Charms!” The boy called, barking out a laugh.
As she got closer to the Potions dungeon, Lily forgot momentarily about the rude Slytherin boy. She caught sight of Severus, pleased to find him alone, and she approached him, hoping for a chance at a conversation. The red-haired twins from the sorting were close on his heels, however, and the brown-haired boy wasn’t far behind. They blocked her attempt to get closer to him, and she resigned herself to entering the dungeon ahead of the other students, hoping she could secure a place next to an empty seat and encourage him to take the unclaimed chair at her side.
Unfortunately for her, Professor Slughorn segregated the seating by house.
The Slytherin boy was wrong about her natural talent, she was sure of it. Her performance in Potions paled in comparison to her charms work. She was too eager to finish the concoction, always stirring a few moments too soon or adding in a new ingredient before its time. She missed the instant gratification of her levitation spell, or perhaps the adoring glances of her classmates.
She glanced over at Severus, who had his own crowd of devoted Ravenclaws to cheer him on. He was working with his ingredients like he had known them for years, almost as if he had already memorized the potion in his mind and was now simply going through the motions to transform it into tangible being. He made it look so beautiful, whereas hers was a sloppy, sludgy disgrace. She cleared it away with her wand, starting anew, determined not to give up.
She was still brewing when Slughorn called for samples, and she was the only student not to hand one in. She hid behind the bodies of the other students as they left, ignoring Severus’s sympathetic glance, hoping she could finish up the last couple of steps before Slughorn noticed her. When she bottled her finished solution, she found him watching her from his desk.
He took it from her, swirling the liquid in the vial slightly. “Yes, see? It’s supposed to turn a lighter green than this.” He remarked pitifully. “It’s not a bad first effort, Miss Evans, but it took you the entire period to brew, and we can’t have that.” He filed her failed attempt with the other students’ vials anyway. “I’ll give you credit, of course, but I suggest you speak with some of the other students. I’m sure someone would be willing to help guide you.”
Lily nodded, trying not to cry. “Of course, sir.” She scampered quickly out of the classroom.
It was the first of many bad days to come.
What do you think of my House selections for Severus, Lily, and Sirius? I look forward to reading your comments on that and other features in the review thread :)