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Chapter 16: The Slug dinner
It was Saturday evening and the three girls were getting ready for Slughorn’s dinner.
“Before we go, could you please check, if the coast is clear? James threatened to escort me to this thing,” Lily rolled her eyes.
“There’s nobody there,” Alex said when she opened the door and peered down to the common room.
“Do you know who else is attending?” Lily asked, wiggling her eyebrows at Alice.
“Who?” said the shy girl.
“A certain Quidditch keeper,” Alex laughed.
“Oh no! Frank is going to be there? How do you know?”
“We were talking at Quidditch practice. Apparently his parents are some famous aurours and he wants to become one himself.”
“Then I am definitely not going. I am too embarrassed.”
“You most certainly are! Look how pretty you look! This will not go to waste.”
Alice really did look stunning. She put on an olive green top that really made her eyes and face shine. She had a round face with pretty features and full lips.
“Frank is an idiot, if he doesn’t see how wonderful you are,” Alex complimented her.
“Yes, any guy would be lucky to have you,” Lily agreed.
They managed to drag her out of the dorm and avoid James on the way. They knocked o Slughorn’s study.
“Ah, finally the lovely ladies have joined us. Fashionably late, of course. Somehow that is always the case with women, no matter what age. Please sit, sit!” Slughorn welcomed them and pointed at a table that was set for about twenty people.
“Allow me to introduce everyone…” he started naming the people that were seated there. Alex saw that Matthew and Eric were also here and she gave them a small wave.
“Please sit down, there are nametags in your place,” Slughorn told them.
It was arranged so that you didn’t sit next to people you knew, so that you could talk and meet new students. Or it was supposed to be like that. Alex’s place was next to Matthew and a Slytherin from year seven with dirty blond hair. Lily took her place besides Eric (James looked very irked by this) and Alice sat down in between Frank and Remus. She looked like she was about to pass out when Frank smiled at her.
“So my friends, how is life treating you?” Slughorn began.
They all grunted something in response.
“Splendid! Splendid! Frank, how are your parents?”
Frank began telling a story about his father and Slughorn looked fascinated.
“Be sure to give my best to him. He is only a couple of years younger than me and I remember him from my Hogwarts days,” he said, reaching for the tin of caramelized pineapple.
“Thank you for the pineapple Evan, it is my favorite, I wonder how you knew that!” he winked at the boy on Alex’s right. His name was Evan Rosier, if she recalled correctly and he just gave a small nod at the professor’s thanks.
“What about the talented miss Evans? Do you know that I have never seen a third year that could turn an object into a perfect animal,” Lily blushed at this, “Oh, yes, Minerva told me all about your newest achievement, you are a little genius,” he waved his sugar coated finger at her.
Lily had just last week managed to turn a chair into a monkey and made it clean the classroom, which was something students two years her senior are still struggling with.
Slughorn continued with his interrogation. He was very pleased with what some told him and not so much with others.
“So Matthew, how is you’re dear uncle? You see this boy is the nephew of the great Andrew Jackson!”
Alex hadn’t the slightest idea who that was and judging by the looks on other people’s faces some of them hadn’t either.
“He is a great scientist! One of the best! He discovered and proved the first and second Merlin law.”
Lily seemed impressed at this. Alex on the other hand ad no idea what the Merlin laws stated and she had no wish of knowing.
“Now for the food! Robby!” Slughorn called out and a small house elf came in. He was pushing a silver trolley with all kinds of food.
“This is goose pâté,” he said pointing at a dish and Alex reminded herself to stay clear of it, “and this is filee mignon, and cordon blue.”
“I decided we should have a bit of a French themed party!” Slughorn chuckled.
The elf named some other fancy dishes like tomato quiche and lots of cheeses.
“For dessert we have ile flottante, crème brulee and apple tart with bourbon vanilla ice-cream. Bon appetite!” The elf bowed and left.
Alex had never been to France so she didn’t know what the various dishes consisted of, but Lily looked impressed at the feast that lay before them.
“So, what’s up with you and that Black boy?” Matthew asked Alex, while they dug into his supper.
“Nothing, why?” Alex eyed him suspiciously as to say he better not make an inappropriate comment.
“Well, you’re always together, I see you in the hallways and he seems very protective about you.”
“Sirius and I have a very complicated relationship,” Alex winced at how grown-up that sounded, “We fight and get on each others nerves, but at the end of the day he is probably my closest friend. He is really a terrific guy,” she paused for a second, “but please don’t tell him I said that, I wouldn’t hear the end of it.”
“But there’s nothing more going on between you two?” Matthew asked curiously.
“Oh, no. Trust me that would not work. We are not very compatible. It would take all of the energy I have.”
“But you just said he’s a terrific guy.”
“He is a terrific friend,” she emphasized the last word, “I think he would be a terrible boyfriend.”
It seemed to Alex that Matthew looked somewhat relieved at this news and she really hoped that he didn’t have any other than friendly feelings about her. He was very nice and all, but she didn’t want anything more. Further down the table Alice was stealing shy glances at Frank who smiled at her casually now and then. Whilst Lily looked like she was enjoying herself very much in Eric’s company, which irritated James greatly.
“Your friend seems to be having a good time,” Alex pointed at Eric and Lily.
“Oh yes, I’m sure he is,” Matthew smiled.
“What did you mean by that?”
“Please don’t tell hi I told you this, but Eric’s liked Lily for quite a while now.”
“Are you serious?” she was shocked.
The Slytherin nodded, since his mouth was full of some vegetable dish, which if Alex recalled correctly was called ratatouille.
“Do you think Lily might like him too?”
Alex faced a great dilemma. She thought about James and wondered, if she should say Lily was taken. On the other hand the girl seemed very happy in Eric’s company and she should have the right to make her own decisions. She decided to just tell the truth.
“Lily hasn’t said anything about him yet, but judging by the look on her face she is open to the possibility of there being something more between them. But I think you should warn Eric: if he might initiate something he will have to go through hell, coming from James’s side. Sirius would probably also participate, since it’s his best friend, plus he always likes annoying an pulling pranks on people.”
“I’ll make sure to tell him that,” Matthew smiled.
“I’ll ask Lily about Eric, but she’s quite shy when it comes to boys, I doubt she’ll want to tell me anything so soon.”
“She doesn’t seem shy when telling Potter to go to hell,” Matthew pointed out.
“Yes, well James is an exception,” Alex grinned.
“So, tell me about your family,” Matthew asked.
“Nothing to tell. I’m a muggle born and I have a little sister. My family is totally average. Yours?”
“I wish I could say the same. I am adopted, I don’t know my parents.”
“Are you serious? I have never met anyone who’s adopted.”
“It’s not such a big deal. It’s just not very common. I never even met my real parents and I’m closer to my foster parents. They’re my mum and dad,” he shrugged and then added: “They’re pureblood.”
Alex sensed a touch of pride at the blood status of his family. She didn’t know him well enough to tell whether he discriminated muggle-borns, but he didn’t seem bothered at the fact that she was one.
“Did your mum and dad tell you anything about your real parents?”
Alex wasn’t sure how to refer to Matthew’s adopted parents. ‘Fake’ parents seemed a bit cruel.
“I asked them a few times, but they said they didn’t know. I think they’re hiding some piece of information. I don’t even know, if I want to find out about them.”
Alex knew that, if she was in his place she would do anything to find out things about her parents. She couldn’t stand not knowing things that concerned her. That’s why it annoyed her greatly when Dumbledore refused to tell her stuff.
“I double dare you to eat that.”
It seemed that they were passed the family conversation and Matthew was now pointing at a weird pink jelly of some kind that closely resembled raw meat.
“I can’t turn down a dare, can I now?” she sighed all though, she really didn’t like the look of it.
“Professor Slughorn? May I ask what exactly is this?” Alex at least wanted to check out what she would be eating.
“This my dear is a mousse made out of raw salmon, egg whites and peppermint.”
“Thank you, that sounds am…yummy,” she said, but immediately scrunched up her face when she turned to face Matthew.
“I detest fish and peppermint makes my throat burn.”
“But a dare’s a dare.”
“Ok, I’ll eat it,” she agreed: “Watch out, though. It’s going to be your turn next.”
Alex scooped up some of the salmon mousse and shivered when she caught smell of it.
“You can do it,” Matthew encouraged her.
She slowly put a small spoon of it in her mouth, quickly swallowed it and then poured water down her throat.
“This fish thingy was nasty! Let me pick something for you,” Alex said, glancing around the table.
“I have got just the thing for you!” she then laughed.
“I don’t like the sound of this.”
She reached to bring over a bowl, that no one had touched so far.
“Ah, Alex you seem to be the brave one, going for the escargot,” Slughorn seemed impressed.
“What is that?” Matthew peered suspiciously into the bowl.
“It’s snails in egg sauce,” she exclaimed proudly.
“Ew! I am most definitely not eating snails!”
“Fine, but then you lose the challenge.”
He seemed to be fighting an inner battle.
“Argh! Give me the bloody snails.”
“You and me are much alike. We can’t turn down a dare,” Alex laughed.
“Yeah, maybe we’re related. I can’t believe my personality is making me it snails. No sane person would do that.”
“Actually you’re wrong. Snails are frequently eaten as an appetizer in France,” Lily commented from somewhere.
“Lily, you really have an exceptional talent of popping into the conversation when someone says something you know is wrong. Do you follow everyone’s discussion?” Alex laughed.
“I don’t know. I just hear when someone says something and then need to correct it.”
“She’s a smart one, she is!” Slughorn said.
“Matthew, eat this French appetizer, as Lily has informed us,” Alex turned back to him.
He looked scared when he delicately placed the snail in his mouth.
“How is it?”
“Chewy,” he said, taking quite a while to swallow the animal.
The French cuisine offered lots of unusual foods, that they dared each other to try out. They laughed and bonded quickly through this process.
“Now enjoy the dessert!” Slughorn clapped his hands together and Robby the house elf placed the sweet things on the table.
“I think there will be nothing so delicious as the snails here with the desserts. How disappointing,” Matthew pretended to look disappointed and then laughed.
“Oh yes, I really miss bouillabaisse as well,” Alex played along.
The bouillabaisse is a French fish soup, that Alex found to be quite disgusting, her not being a fan of fish and all.
“I think I have to try this chocolate cake,” Matthew commented, now being serious, his eyes gleaming at the rich chocolate dessert.
“This is no ordinary cake. It’s gateau au chocolate with a rich raspberry filling,” Lily taught them.
“That’s lovely Lily, why don’t you eat your floaty island, or whatever it’s called and we’ll eat this chocolate cake.”
“Alex, this is not a floaty island. It’s ile flottante, an egg based dish that floats in custard,” Lily explained.
“Thanks, but I think I’ll refer to it as ‘floaty island’.”
“Miss Evans, you seem to have a thorough knowledge of the French cuisine, how is that?” Slughorn asked.
“I spent the summer before Hogwarts in a French camp,” she told them.
“I don’t think that’s the reason Lily knows all this stuff. She’s probably very well informed about Venezuelan cuisine, but she wasn’t in a camp there. Lily just knows everything. She’s a walking encyclopedia,” Alex commented.
“Yes miss Evans, you are very lucky to have such a good memory, not all of us are so gifted,” professor Slughorn lectured them.
They stayed for a while more, chatting about various subjects and then Slughorn sent them home, right before curfew.
“That was fun,” Lily said as she and Alex walked back.
“I guess,” Alex shrugged, “It was better than I expected it to be and I like Matthew a lot.”
“You like him like him?” Lily asked.
“No! Most definitely not! But since we’re on the subject, how about you and Eric?”
Lily blushed to a bright red, which was all Alex needed to know.
A/N: I know nothing exciting has happened in a while, but stuff that you found out in this chapter are important for the development of the story. And I also apologize for the lack of Sirius in this chapter, but I’ll make it up in the next. Tell me your thoughts, favorite parts, everything….