“For your final project, you will be required to research and create an assigned potion. I know it is only the first day of the second term, but you must begin this project soon. The potions I am going to assign are both obscure and very difficult to make, most of which will take several months to brew. You must write a detailed essay on the potion’s origin, ingredients, and purpose as well as turn in a bottle of the completed mixture before the end of the school year. I am giving you until the final day of classes to complete this assignment to allow for the errors that I am sure most of you will make.”
Professor Slughorn rose from his desk at the front of the classroom and began to place a piece of parchment at each table. As he passed by Preia and Sirius, he winked at the girl, but Preia did not notice; she was staring at the back of the dungeon where Severus sat. The boy had his head bowed, his eyes darkened by shadows and covered by his hair, and remained motionless. It was Preia’s first time seeing him since they returned to Hogwarts. She was certain that his father said something to him concerning her phone call, perhaps even punished him for it. He had not spoken to her and the girl assumed he was avoiding her. She wanted to talk with him, but it would have to wait until after class.
Preia turned back around and ripped open the sealed paper Slughorn had placed on her table. “Addleman’s Ambrosia,” Preia read as Sirius peered at the parchment. “I have never heard of this potion before.”
“I’m not looking forward to this already,” Sirius groaned. He turned to the table behind him. “Oi, James! What’s yours?”
“The Sands of Horus,” the boy replied with a shrug. “I’ve got no idea what it is.”
“Preia, have you heard of the Sapphire Elixir?” Remus asked from the other side of their table.
Preia shook her head. “Not that I recall. It sounds like a pseudonym though. It’s probably commonly known as something else.”
Remus nodded and smiled at her. “Thanks.”
Preia blushed and nodded back. She heard Sirius snicker, but turned away from him and glanced to the back of the room again. Severus held his parchment in one hand while he furiously scribbled in his potions manual. Clarissa Goodard was trying to get Lily’s attention, but Lily was waving in Preia’s direction. Preia smiled and returned the gesture.
“Settle down!” Slughorn barked as he returned to the front of the room. “I want you to consult any resource that you can concerning this project. Rabnes and Belon’s bookstore in Hogsmeade has a vast collection of potions books that you may not find in the library, so use your weekend trips to your advantage. Don’t forget about your essays due next week! Class dismissed!”
Sirius packed up his books and potion kit immediately; after waving briefly to Preia, he left with his trio of friends out of the room. Preia wanted to catch up with Severus after class, so she quickly began to put away her own belongings.
“Preia,” Slughorn called from his desk. “I would like to speak with you for a moment.”
The girl scowled behind his back, but approached her teacher’s desk. Slughorn busied himself with straightening a shelf on the wall as his students began to leave. When the last person exited the dungeon and closed the door, he turned to Preia and smiled. “So, Ms. Crescent,” he beamed as he took out a box of candy and opened it. “Are you excited about the final project?”
“Um, yes, I suppose so,” Preia replied. She didn’t understand why Slughorn had kept her after class just to ask her opinion of the assignment. “I don’t know anything about our assigned potion, so I imagine it will be very informative.”
The man beamed and removed a sugary piece of pineapple from the box. “I’m glad you feel that way.” The candy disappeared beneath his bushy mustache. “I was afraid that it would not be challenging enough for you.”
“Oh,” Preia said. The girl felt that the assignment was going to make her quite stressed during the term, especially since she had to worry about keeping Sirius on track. “I think it will keep me very occupied, sir.”
“Hmm,” Slughorn murmured as he chewed on his treat. “Well, you know, I just knew that you would probably finish the assignment with no problem at all. It’s a bit time consuming, yes, but otherwise I feel that it is a very simple task. While others in your class may struggle with the amount of work required, I know that you can complete your potion with no problems.” He gave her a sly grin. “You are a girl who is an excellent problem solver and does well under time constraints. You need something a bit more difficult, Preia.”
“Did…you have something in mind, professor?” Preia asked hesitantly.
Slughorn giggled impishly and put down his candy. “Have you ever heard of Wolfsbane, Preia?”
“Yes, sir. Wolfsbane is a potion that is used for those that have been bitten by a werewolf and transform under the full moon. The potion does not cure lycanthropy, but rather prevents the infected subject from losing their human awareness. They retain more of their conscience and are less bestial while transformed.”
“Splendid! Do you know how it is concocted?”
“Not exactly, but I do know that the potion requires some of its ingredients to age for several weeks while mixed together in a liquid state. It was just discovered in the last few years, so it’s not published in many books.”
“Correct! It is one of the hardest potions to create, as it requires much precision if it is to save an unfortunate soul from turning into a murderous beast.” Slughorn twiddled his fingers and sighed. “Wolfsbane would be the perfect assignment for you, Preia. I do not doubt that your peers would have a very difficult time brewing such a complicated elixir, but I am quite certain you would be able to complete it most marvelously!” He gave her a narrowed glance as he grinned wider. “If I were to offer it as extra credit, would you accept?”
Preia bit her lip. Another project added on top of the final potions assignment as well as all of her schoolwork? That would be suicide! Preia thought. I barely have time to finish all of my work as it is, and Slughorn wants me to brew Woflsbane just for the hell of it?!
However, if I were to take on this task and complete it in addition to getting everything else finished, Slughorn would certainly have something good to say to Dumbledore about me.
“It’s ok if you don’t think you will have time,” Slughorn sighed as he looked away with a pout. “I just thought that a witch of your caliber would benefit greatly from taking on such an advanced concoction.”
Preia sighed. I’m going to regret this, the girl thought as she said, “I’ll do it, sir. I would like to try.”
“Excellent!” Slughorn squealed as he clapped his hands. “Now don’t feel rushed. I would just like you to have a bottle or two of the final potion finished before the end of the school year. If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to ask me.” Slughorn gave her a wink. “Oh, and this is an assignment just for you, so you need not tell Sirius. In fact, try to keep this a secret between us. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.”
Who in their right mind would? Preia thought as she nodded to Slughorn and exited the potions dungeon. She sighed and rubbed her head. “What have I gotten myself into?”
Preia turned and found Lily standing next to the dungeon door. Preia smiled at her. “Hi, Lily!”
“I was just going to lunch. Want to join me?”
Preia blushed and gulped down the rising nervousness in her throat. “S-sure.”
The two girls began to stroll down the hallway toward the Great Hall. “So,” Lily said after a moment, “what potion did you get?”
“Addleman’s Ambrosia. I have no idea what it is.”
“I’m stumped on mine too. Angel Trumpet’s Draught. I’m not relying on Avery to know anything about it either. Not to be mean, but the boy is not very bright when it comes to potions.”
“I’ve heard he’s none too bright about anything!”
Both of the girls giggled as they rounded a corner and approached the large opened doors where several students were entering to prepare for lunch. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you tell a joke,” Lily said as she smiled at Preia. “You know, I don’t know too much about you Preia, but you’ve definitely changed.”
Preia laughed nervously. “Well, I really wanted to get to know more people. I’ve never really seen a reason for having many friends, but because of the W.W.A.N.D. program, I wanted to try to be more sociable.”
“That…isn’t the reason why you are talking to me is it?” Lily asked, slightly hurt.
“Oh no, no!” Preia exclaimed as she turned to the girl. “Well…it was like that at first, but really I’ve always admired you and thought we probably had loads in common and you’re so nice that…” Preia clamped her mouth shut and blushed. “I’m sorry, I just mean that…well…I thought you and I would make good friends.”
Lily’s frown turned into a grin and she laughed. “I’ve always thought so too, Preia.”
As the girls entered the Great Hall, Preia immediately looked toward her customary place at the Slytherin table. She assumed Severus had headed straight to lunch after class; sure enough, he was seated in his usual spot. Preia, excited about Lily’s invitation, had almost forgotten about her desire to speak with him. She considered leaving her new acquaintance and returning to the other side of the dining hall.
However, Severus was once again accompanied by other Slytherin boys. Some of them were the same ones that had been on the carriage in December, but there were some Preia had not seen before. Since when did Severus become so popular? She thought as she observed him chatting with the boys. They seemed to be talking in very low tones around Severus, similar to the way they were on the coach. One of the boys was sitting on the table in front of Severus, so it was difficult to see him.
“I’ve never seen Snape around so many people,” Lily commented as she looked in the same direction. “It’s odd to see him talking with someone beside you.”
“Yeah,” Preia sighed while the two girls walked down the aisle to the Gryffindor table. As Preia continued to stare at group of boys crowded around her friend, the boy sitting on the table shifted and Severus finally came into view. His head was down and there was a book lying on the table. He was reading from it while the other boys listened quietly, occasionally nodding or responding to whatever it was the book entailed. Preia furrowed her brows as she saw a small stack of books on the table, two of which were covered in red and blue suede.
“Preia, let’s sit here.”
Lily’s voice brought her from her thoughts and turned her toward the Gryffindor table. Some of the red and gold clad students eyed Preia with a mix of contempt and skepticism; Preia tried her best to ignore the glances and sat down next to Lily, Clarissa Goddard, and the black haired witch, who she now knew as Leah Redwood. Leah and Clarissa began to chat animatedly with Lily, but Preia could not take her eyes away from Severus. He wouldn’t, she thought as nagging anxiety filled her chest. Why would he…
Severus’ eyes suddenly met the girl’s and he made a silent gasp.
“—Preia, what’s wrong?”
The girl turned around. Lily and her two friends were staring at Preia curiously. “Worried about your boyfriend?” Clarissa teased.
Preia furrowed her brows. “He isn’t my boyfriend,” Preia muttered as Clarissa and Leah began to snicker. She grasped the necklace around her neck tightly. “He’s just…just a…”
“He’s just her friend, now cut it out!” Lily scolded. The girls immediately hushed after glancing at one another and turned their conversation to a new hair care spell. Preia tried to listen to Clarissa’s story about her famous grandmother who developed the first humidity proof curling charm, but her attention waned. How could he? She thought as she forced out a laugh at the appropriate time. Is that the reason why he had so many friends now?
While Preia pretended to agree with Leah’s thoughts on proper skin care, Lily stared at the girl with an unreadable expression.
The next few months passed at a rapid pace, yet were still filled with harrowingly demanding days. Between researching Wolfsbane, beginning to brew Addleman’s Ambrosia, and all of her other assignments, Preia didn’t have any spare time. The winter months had melted in to a pleasantly mild spring, yet the girl had barely seen anything outside of the Potions dungeon. It was proving to be very difficult to hide her secret project from Severus. They often worked on their assignments together, especially for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Yet now she limited her interactions with him and avoided the common places they frequented, such as the library and the dungeon. She encountered him only when necessary and her conversations with him were very brief. Severus dined among his new group now, so Preia ate her meals at the Gryffindor table with Lily. Preia had even resorted to going to Hogsmeade to work on the very painstakingly complex concoction.
Yet the Wolfsbane was not the only reason Preia had for avoiding him. Still troubled by what she saw in the Great Hall and Severus’ constant company of the Slytherin boys, the girl was not ready to confront him. Even though she still wanted to talk with him, her suspicions concerning his sudden rise in popularity were beginning to present too many disturbing questions about the boy she called her best friend. She was certain that reason the boys had taken an interest in Severus was because he was showing them the Dark Arts books she had given him last term.
At first, Preia thought she was overacting. She remembered, years ago, when she walked in on her brother Gideon and his friends crowded around an issue of Wicked Witch. Gideon had been very nervous when his little sister caught him ogling a very cheeky picture of the Elegant Elphaba and Busty Broomhilda. Yet there were no giggles or laughter among the group of boys that accompanied Severus. They always looked sullen and stern, speaking in quiet tones. There was no guilt in their eyes; only fear and suspicion.
Preia tried to be happy for Severus and the fact he was coming out of his own insecurities. She hoped with all of her heart that they boys, like her best friend, shared an academic curiosity concerning the Dark Arts. Yet when were the likes of Octavius Avery associated with anything academic? If not for educational knowledge, then why would so many boys that Severus barely knew be that interested in books about the Dark Arts?
The obvious answer was evident to the girl, but she pushed it from her mind, shaking her head. Not Severus, she told herself as she walked to the Potions classroom one morning in late April. Not Severus. Not Severus. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t do something so reckless. He could get into so much trouble if someone catches him with those books. And if my name comes up as the one who gave them to him, then I’m just as guilty!
Preia knew that Severus would be early to class. She couldn’t keep quiet any longer. She needed to talk to him. As she descended the stairs into the lowest level of Hogwarts, two loud voices echoed against the stone walls. Preia stood at the bottom of the stairs as she listened.
“You’re going to get into loads of trouble if you're seen carrying around this kind of rubbish and hanging around a lot like them!” Though he was uncharacteristically furious and loud, Preia could tell that the voice belonged to Sirius.
“What do you care? You can’t tell me what to do!” retorted a younger male.
“You stupid git, this is not some kind of play-pretend game! This is serious stuff that you don’t know anything about! You just want to think you’re all big and bad because that arrogant cow’s been filling your head will all of that pureblood crap! But if someone sees you with something like this, then you’ll be expelled or even—”
“I’m not afraid of you or anyone else, Sirius! I know exactly what I’m doing and there is nothing you can do to stop me!”
Hard footsteps echoed in the hallway. Preia darted behind a tall suit of armor just as a small dark haired boy, clutching a large bulky object in his arms, raced around the corner and up the stairs. His face was red and twisted with anger, but there was no mistaking him.
Preia waited a moment, but when Sirius did not move from the other side of the hall, she emerged from her hiding place and continued toward the dungeon. Sirius was standing with his back against the classroom door. His head was bowed, his black hair swept over his face. Through the strands of his hair, Preia could see his eyes; they were tired and dark, like many of the students of Hogwarts' were at this time of the term, but he was clearly troubled.
“Sirius?” Preia said softly as she approached him. “Are you ok?”
Sirius jumped, startled, and smoothed back his hair with a shaky hand. “Hey, Smarty Snake,” he chuckled, trying desperately to regain his usual haughty grin and stature. “What are you doing here so early?”
“Nothing, I just…” She paused and looked at his darkened gray eyes. “There was a boy just now…was that your brother?”
Sirius stared at her, his mouth still. His gaze lowered and he hung his head. “Yeah, that was him. Regulus.” He shook his head. “The little git is going to get himself into some big trouble, I just know it.”
“What has he done?” Preia asked cautiously. She didn’t want to be nosey, but too many thoughts were going through her head. If Sirius was angry with his brother about something he ought not to be delving in, then it had to concern the Dark Arts. Regulus was with Severus on the train and she had seen him around his usual lot of companions. Preia’s heart clenched inside of her chest. Her uncertainties were becoming much too clear.
Sirius shook his head. “It’s none of your concern. No matter how much of an idiot he is, he’s still my brother. I have to protect him.”
“Sirius,” Preia spoke as her heart hammered in her chest. She stepped forward and put her hand slowly on Sirius’ shoulder. The boy looked at her, his eyes wide in surprised as the girl came closer. Could she really confide in him? “I think there is something going on with Severus and—”
“Oi, Sirius! What’s going on?”
Sirius and Preia were both startled by James, Peter, and Remus’ sudden appearance in the dungeon hallway. James and Peter wore expressions of pure bewilderment while Remus was staring right at Preia. His eyes darted to her hand, which was still placed on Sirius shoulder, then quickly glanced away as he flushed and put his hands in his pockets.
“Hey now, Smarty Snake, you aren’t breaking up with our mate are you?” James snickered, eliciting a giggle from Peter.
“Oh, stuff it James,” Sirius growled as he removed his shoulder from Preia’s touch and walked toward his friends. “We were just talking.”
“You look at little bummed, Sirius,” Preia heard Peter say as she opened the classroom door. “Sure she didn’t break your heart?”
Preia entered the classroom. Her chest was very heavy and her mind was swimming with anxiety. “He’s my best friend, no matter what,” Preia murmured to herself as she began to hear other students coming into class. “I’ve got to protect Severus too.”
“Protect me from what?”
Preia yelped as she almost fell off her stool. Severus was standing behind her. His black eyes were peering down at her with a slight coldness. “S-S-S-Severus!” Preia stammered. “I, uh, was just, er, talking to my—”
“Why are you avoiding me?”
Preia was taken aback by the question and her mind went blank. “I wasn’t, I mean, I’m not…avoiding you. I’ve just been really busy.”
“Every time I go to the library, you always leave. Whenever I go out to the knoll, you’re never there. You won’t talk to me unless it’s about schoolwork and you hardly ever sit next to me in the Great Hall. You’re always with those Gryffindor girls.”
“Well, you are always around those Slytherin boys!” Preia exclaimed defensively as the corners of her mouth trembled and she began to sweat. “I can never get you alone!”
“That’s a lie, and you know it,” Severus scoffed as he stared at her. “I’ve been waiting for you to say more than just a few short sentences to me, but you act like you don’t want anything to do with me now that you’ve got new friends.” His eyes narrowed. “There is something you aren’t telling me.”
“Severus…” Preia whispered. Her mind, still empty, fumbled for something to say. Her heart was thudding in her chest so rapidly that she gulped for air. What could she say to him? She couldn’t confront him now in a classroom full of their peers. She wasn’t even sure what she could say to him. What if her suspicions were completely wrong and she destroyed their friendship? The girl’s hands shook as her eyes searched the classroom desperately for something to distract her. Slughorn had just entered and was jovially greeting some of the Gryffindor students.
Severus stared at her, blinking in confusion. “W-what?”
“Woflsbane,” Preia whispered as she pulled Severus down closer to her. “I’ve been brewing Wolfsbane!”
“Wolfsbane?” Severus looked even more bewildered. “What for? Why?”
“Look, I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, but Slughorn asked me to brew Wolfsbane as an extra credit assignment. He said he felt that the final project was too easy for me, so he asked me to research and brew Wolfsbane.”
Preia stared at Severus as the boy began to process her words. She wasn’t telling him a lie, but she thought it best not to tell him everything. I was jumping to conclusions, Preia thought as she gave him a slight smile. Severus isn’t like those awful Dark Wizards. I know he would never do anything like that. Ever.
“I’m really sorry, I wanted to tell you,” the girl said earnestly. “I knew that if anyone could help me, it would be you. But Slughorn wanted me to keep it a secret. I’ve been so busy with the final project and all of our other assignments; I’ve had to devote every extra minute to brewing that potion. Everything’s been stressing me out so much.” She smiled at him. “I’m sorry, Sev.”
Severus was quiet for a moment. He tried to look into Preia’s face, but when his eyes met her bright jade gaze, he quickly turned away and blushed. Preia inwardly sighed with relief. “It’s alright,” Severus muttered. “I just…well, I thought it was something that I did.”
“Of course not. I was kind of nervous about talking to you after Christmas because of…well, the phone call. It seemed like something had happened and you were avoiding me. I guess I wasn’t a very good friend. I should have comforted you.”
The boy’s eyes darkened, but he gave her a small smile. “My father was angry, but don’t worry about that. It’s in the past. I wish you would have talked to me about Wolfsbane earlier. I did a bit of research on it last year.” He flushed again. “I could help you, if you still need it.”
Preia smiled. “I would like that, Severus. I’ve had to start over quite a few times, and I could use the assistance.”
Severus nodded and then, realizing that Sirius was coming to claim his seat, scampered away to his table. Preia breathed deeply as Sirius sat next to her and began rummaging through his things. At least most of that problem is solved, Preia thought as she removed her textbook from her bag. Her concerns about Severus and the Dark Arts were not completely calmed, but Preia wanted to give Severus and the boys like Regulus the benefit of a doubt. There was much that she didn’t understand, but she wasn’t going to assume what she could not see.
Slughorn began class before she could say anything else to Sirius. He was quiet for most of the period, working silently with her on their Befuddlement Draught. His eyes still remained shadowed, filled with an emotion between anger and disappointment. Even though Sirius said nothing else to her for the rest of that day, Preia knew that her thoughts were not that different from his.
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