Chapter 4 : Potions Partners and Pesky Problems
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“Oh, hey Daphs,” she replied innocently, shooting me a devilish grin and I shot her a withering glare back but she just chuckled. That was the problem with my friends. They were never intimidated by me. They all claimed I was too nice. But when I really thought about it, I guess I was. Still, it would have been nice to sometimes make them afraid of me. “What’s going on?”
I forced myself to keep looking at Rose, even though I could feel Al’s confused gaze on me. “Uh, not much,” I stuttered, trying to come up with a good reason for why I had catapulted across the Common Room and nearly killed myself to talk to her. “I mean something very, very important.”
“Okay,” she said, still playing that innocently confused card. “So what is it?”
“Have you seen my cat?”
I felt like smacking myself in the face. I didn’t even have a cat. I was allergic to them.
“Since when do you have a cat?” she asked, honest bewilderment on her face this time. Although at the same time I could tell she was trying her absolute hardest not to burst out laughing.
“Since uh, yesterday,” I replied, hoping to sound confident but really sounding more squeaky and scared. I think Rose noticed because she made this weird noise that sounded like a suppressed snort of a laugh.
“Oh, yeah, right,” she nodded.
“Well since you haven’t seen him, I need your help looking for him. Come on,” I said, grabbing her arm and tugging her away from Al.
“Wait, Daph, didn’t you say that there was something you wanted to talk to Al about?” Rose asked, planting her heels firmly in the carpet and making it impossible for me to pull her away. I sighed and my heart began beating rapidly in my chest.
I shot her another “withering” glare and then turned around and smiled timidly at Al, who was looking back and forth between the two of us as if we had each sprouted legs growing from our chests.
Great, now he thought I was nutters.
“Oh, uh, yeah,” I agreed, although my voice was so high pitched now that it sounded like I had swallowed a mouthful of helium. “Hey Al.”
He smiled back at me a bit warily, and I noticed that he had really nice, straight, shiny white teeth. It made my stomach feel all warm and fuzzy.
“Hey Daphne,” he said, and my heart went into overhaul. I was surprised he couldn’t hear it. “What do you need?”
“I, uh, I,” I stuttered, not sure of what to say. I couldn’t just come out and say ‘I like you!’ That would be tactless. I felt my palms beginning to sweat and I inconspicuously wiped them on the butt of my jeans under the pretense of putting my hands in my back pockets. “I was wondering if you wanted to be my potions partner tomorrow.”
“Oh,” he said, looking surprised, running his hand through his wild black hair. It looked really, really soft. I was tempted to touch it to see if I was right, but I resisted, keeping my hands resolutely in my back pockets. “Well, sure. I don’t see why not.”
He said yes.
He said yes!
HE SAID YES!
I felt like singing and dancing and skipping all at once.
He said yes!
My heart was soaring and the butterflies in my stomach were doing a conga-line dance of victory. It took all the willpower I had left in my body not to jump up and down in excitement.
“Great,” was all I managed to say, although I was beaming so widely I was surprised that my face didn’t break. “Thanks.”
“Not a problem,” he smiled again. Merlin, he really had wonderful teeth. And his smile reached all the way up to his eyes, which were a deep shade of green and seemed to twinkle with covered up mischief. “Well, I’ve got to go to Quidditch practice, so I’ll see you two later.”
“Okay,” I breathed while Rose called a quick “Bye Al!”
He stood up and loped off towards the portrait hole and Rose and I watched him depart. As soon as he was out the door we burst out giggling and ran for the girl’s dorms.
“Well,” she said somewhat smugly as we made our way up to our dorm to report the good news, “he must really like you if he agreed to be your Potions partner. You’re rubbish at potions.”
I felt my eyes go wide and a shiver of fear suddenly ran down my back.
Oh frick. I’d forgotten that one little detail.
“Relax,” Rose coached me the next morning in the bathroom down the hallway from the Potions classroom. “Take a deep breath. Relax.”
“What if I blow him up?” I asked, feeling my made up face crumple in despair at the idea. “It wouldn’t be the first time you know and –“
“Daphne,” Olivia commanded, hopping down from the sink where she had been filing her nails and striding over to me, “chill out. Everything is going to be fine. It’s one class. Not that much can happen. Besides, Al is amazing at Potions. I’m sure he’d correct any mistakes that you could make before you managed to blow him to bits.”
“Yeah,” Lucy agreed, nodding her head of shiny strawberry-blonde hair. “Al won’t let you hurt him.”
“Very reassuring,” I said somewhat sarcastically, dropping my head down onto my knees in despair and wondering what the heck had gotten into me to make me think that this was ever a good idea.
“Daphs, if we don’t get to class now we’re going to be late,” Rose said, glancing down at her watch for effect. “You don’t want Al to think you stood him up, do you?”
“No!” I answered at once and she smirked down at me triumphantly. That girl had been spending way too much time with Scorpius for her own good. “Okay, you got me.”
“That I did,” she agreed, extending a hand to me and pulling me up rather roughly. “Now come on. Let’s go get you to my cousin.”
They hauled me out of the bathroom and down the hall and I stumbled along, doing my best not to start hyperventilating. I had no time to really worry about it though because all too soon we were at the door to the dungeon classroom and Olivia was pulling it open and I was being herded through.
The room was a little bit too warm, like always, but today there was a rather sweet smell in the air. I made out a few faces of the Slytherins in our year and I vaguely noticed that Nancy was sitting on a stool to my right. I gave her a little wave as we walked by and she winked at me. Oh Merlin. Did everyone know?
“There he is,” Rose whispered to me a few seconds later. I followed her train of thought to see Al sitting at his usual spot at the second table from the front. He turned around, talking to the two boys at the table behind him, who I recognized to be Will Jordan and Jason Jones, his two best mates.
“Go get him, girl,” Olivia said, giving me a gentle shove forward and Rose hit me on the bum again. I turned around and tried to roll my eyes and stick my tongue out at her but I think I might have just looked sick. I felt sick.
I couldn’t just go over there and sit down next to him. He was talking to his friends for Merlin’s sake. It would be rude to interrupt their conversation. Plus, there was safety in numbers. For Al at least. For me, I was the little, stupid, baby gazelle who had wandered away from her herd and into a den of lions. I didn’t want to get eaten!
I stopped a few steps away from the table and glanced back to see if they were blocking my path of escape, but surprisingly they had all scattered away to their various tables. Rose was sitting over with Scorpius Malfoy and talking with some of his Slytherin friends, while Lucy and Olivia had taken refuge at their own table. They obviously had some sort of faith in me. I guess I just needed to have faith in myself.
I took a deep breath and strode the rest of the way forward, stopping when I was a about a foot from him.
“Uh, hey Al,” I said, pleasantly surprised that I was able to form real words this time.
“Hey Daphne,” he said, smiling his perfect smile at me again. I felt my cheeks grow bright red and then even redder when I remembered how embarrassing it was to be blushing just at him smiling. “You know Will and Jason, right?”
“Yeah,” I stuttered, turning and smiling at the two boys, who wore identical, smug expressions. “Hey.”
“Hi,” Will replied while Jason offered up a quick, “Good morning.”
Just then the classroom doors banged open again, and our monstrous walrus of a teacher, Professor Slughorn levitated into the room on his hovering chair, considering that he was so rotund he couldn’t walk anymore.
“Take your seats class, take your seats. We’ve got a busy lesson and no time to waste!”
I hurried around to take the seat next to Al, tripping slightly over my own two feet and catching myself on the side of the table in the process. My cheeks flushed again and I tried not to think about what Al would think of me.
“Today we will be brewing the Invigoration Draught. The ingredients are on page 417 of your book. You have two hours until I will collect a sample of each potion. Get to work!”
The class broke out into a flurry of chatter as pairs started to discuss the ingredients and get started.
“So,” Al said, drawing out the ‘o’ sound so that it lasted for about three seconds, “I guess we should get started.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, nodding furiously and flipping open my book to the appropriate page.
“What do we need?” he asked, leaning over to check the book before I could answer. He leaned right in front of me so that all I could see was the back of his head. I noticed though, that he smelled really, really good. It was a light smell though, and rather earthy, mixed with what smelled like fresh rain.
I inhaled deeply, letting myself revel in his scent for a moment when he stood up suddenly and cleared his throat rather uncomfortably. My stupid cheeks flushed again and I looked down at the book and pretended to read the ingredients so that I did not have to look at him.
He cleared his throat again and I looked up this time to see him staring down at me.
“Do you want to get the ingredients we don’t have while I get the cauldron set up and start cutting up some ginger?” he asked, his voice warm and kind, which surprised me.
“Sure,” I said, feeling slightly less foolish and glad that I would be able to be useful.
I walked quickly over to the storage cabinet across the room and waited my turn in line to get ingredients, shooting quick looks back at Al all the while. He had already cleared the table and set up a large black cauldron in the middle and was in the process of carefully cutting up a ginger root into even sections.
He was standing up while he cut but he was slightly too tall to comfortably cut them, so his shoulders were hunched and he was leaning over. His dark black robes, which had always looked a little bit too large for his lanky form, were discarded on the stool next to him and he had rolled up the sleeves of his white, button up shirt.
He was too cute.
“Hey, move it. We all need to get ingredients,” someone barked from behind me and I nearly jumped out of my skin, not having noticed that the line had moved.
“Sorry, sorry,” I apologized profusely, stepping forward and grabbing a flask of armadillo bile off of the shelf along with some lacewing flies and stepping back so that the others could get to the front.
I shook my head to clear my head and so that I could focus and not make a fool of myself when I went back over to the table.
“Here we go,” I announced, setting down the two parcels and stepping back so that he could make sure they were right.
“Great, thanks,” he replied, not stopping in his chopping of the ginger. “Can you add six of the lacewings to the cauldron and then stir it six times clockwise?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, happy to be useful. I did as I was told, counting out the flies and then recounting them to make sure. I really did not want to screw this up.
“Good job,” he grinned when I was done, peering over the edge of the cauldron and nodding in approval when I was done. He picked up a handful of the ginger he had cut and dumped that into the cauldron as well, taking the wooden spoon from me and stirring it again.
“Now we’ve just got to let that simmer for a while,” he told me when he was done.
“Okay,” I replied. What were we supposed to do now?
Neither of us said anything more and a thick, awkward silence hung in the air. I wanted to scream, it was so frustrating. I fiddled with a stray thread that hung off of my sweater and tried to think of something, anything to say, but kept coming up blank.
“So why did you want me to be your partner today?” he asked finally, one of his black eyebrows arched inquisitively.
“Well, uh, you know, you’re the best person at potions in our year,” I stuttered, trying to form a coherent sentence. “And I’m downright dreadful at Potions. I figured if I worked with someone as great as you I might be able to manage a D instead of a T this year.”
Al chuckled and grinned. “I didn’t know old Sluggy gave out T’s.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised,” I laughed with him, my nerves suddenly settling down. This wasn’t so bad.
“I bet I would,” he agreed.
The conversation flowed from there. We talked about all of our other classes, and I discovered that Al was brilliant in almost all of his classes, not only Potions. I discovered that we both loathed Divination and that Herbology was both of our favorite classes. We talked about our fathers, and how odd it was to have such famous parents. I thoroughly enjoyed myself through all of it. It was so easy talking to Al. It made me wonder how I ever could have been nervous about talking to him.
But then it happened.
“Oh, it’s time to get back to our Potion,” he said about a half hour later as he glanced at the clock, and I thought I noticed a tad of sadness in his voice.
“We probably should. Like I said before, no more T’s,” I reminded him and a soft chuckle escaped his lips.
He bent over the cauldron and gave it a little stir, which caused a little puff of purple smoke to erupt.
“Yeah, it’s almost done. All we need now is the bile. But I have to start stirring this now and keep it up while you pour it in,” he told me and I nodded in reply.
“Okay, I can do that,” I agreed. “Where’s the bile?”
“Over here, on the other side of me,” he said, tilting his head to the left to indicate exactly where it was.
I started walking around behind Al instead of going the long way around the front of the table to get the flask of green liquid when my foot snagged on the foot of one of the stools. I stumbled, bumping into Al, who was stirring the potion furiously.
He tripped forwards in surprised, the spoon flying out of his hands and the cauldron tipping forwards. He put his hands out quickly to stop the cauldron from spilling, but it was too late.
Our boiling hot, unfinished potion spilled over Al’s hands and upper arms and onto the floor and his cry of pain silenced the room.
A/N: It's finally finished! I am so, so, so sorry that this update took so long. I got major writer's block for this story but it's finally going away. I promise, promise, promise that the next chapter will be out much, much, much sooner.
So, what did you think? Did you like it? Dislike it? I really hope you liked it. One more chapter left!
Thanks for reading everyone (that is if I have any readers left). I hope you enjoyed it. Please, please review!
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