Chapter 7 : Draught of Peace
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The Joker and Her
Draught of Peace
The end of October at Hogwarts marked the first of real changes for Brienne.
There were the superficial changes. The most obvious of these changes were in the interior of the castle; the ceiling in the Great Hall had changed from the bright and jolly colours of summer into the darker and gloomier tones of autumn.
The stones from which the castle was built felt colder as the chill from the fast-approaching winter swirled around the grounds. The trees had lost their leaves; the lake had turned a stormy grey, as it reflected the colour of the sky. The Forbidden Forest was derelict, a spiky decoration to the most beautiful of places.
It was Halloween morning, and Brienne was in Potions class.
Wednesday was Brienne's favourite day on her timetable, mainly because she had Double Potions and Charms -- her favourite lessons -- one after the other. She also favoured this day because the irritating, stretched-out hour of Divination was absent.
In Potions that morning, they were instructed to create a vial of the Draught of Peace. Professor Snape, who looked just as menacing and suspicious as always, glided swiftly around the classroom, inspecting cauldrons and ingredients whilst explaining the potion.
"The long sought-after Draught of Peace is used to calm the anxious mind and to soothe agitated thoughts," he drawled grimly. "You have the ingredients and the instructions. I want a perfect vial of the Draught by the end of the hour from all of you," he added, giving a pointed glare towards the Weasley twins, who were both still getting their equipment out of their bags. They both glared back before Snape turned away to sit at his desk.
"Begin," the Professor finished.
Brienne was sitting four tables away from the Twins, but she could practically taste the beam of hatred that flowed from their table to Snape's desk. Regardless of the consistent animosity between them and their teacher, there were reasons she loved this lesson. One of them was that she didn't have to hear Fred and George complain about their less-than-friendly teacher for the entire hour, because she sat away from them. As the classroom descended into a quiet hum, Brienne opened her textbook to the right page, lit the fire on her black cauldron, and waited as the clinking of jars and the quick but quiet tapping of knives slicing into ingredients became a peaceful orchestra that was the only sound in the room. This potion would be a problematic one for Brienne.
It started out easy enough: Mix two spoonfuls of powdered moonstone with the drops of hellebore syrup before adding to the cauldron.
Brienne did so, taking extra care not to add too much or not enough of the glittering moonstone or the stinky black syrup.
Stir for seven minutes, turning counter-clockwise. Leave to simmer for a further minute, and then add the thinly chopped Porcupine Quills. Stir again until the potion changes colour, and then add two more drops of hellebore syrup.
Again, Brienne completed the instructions, remembering to stir for the correct duration of time and to add the right amounts of ingredients. Half of the hour had passed, and Brienne was nearly done.
From the other side of the room, Brienne could hear the Twins bickering over whether they had stirred for eight minutes or seven, Fred fiercely arguing that he had stirred for the right amount of time. She looked over to their table, where bright yellow smoke was issuing from their cauldron. Fred was hissing at his brother, his eyes directed towards their teacher. George, pinching his nose at the acrid stench of their potion which was spreading through the classroom, seemed like he was trying to calm down his brother.
George ran his fingers through his hair, and met Brienne's eyes from across the room. Brienne felt the blood rush to her cheeks as the twin winked and returned to work. Brienne huffed and turned back to her potion, annoyed at how he still looked so attractive with his red hair sticking up.
- - -
The hour was up.
The twenty students stood stiffly behind their desks whilst the darkly cloaked Professor examined each vial of the Peace Draught that had been produced. Snape sighed exasperatedly at the student standing behind a few tables along.
"Cooper...may I remind you that hellebore syrup is indeed a poisonous substance, and not something with which you can add liberally to something that a person will drink. This concoction that you have made is clearly unacceptable. Poor." The boy, John Cooper, was bright red as Snape ridiculed his thick, black concoction. Snape then went on to disdainfully congratulate a Slytherin on a job well done and award them ten house points.
Both Fred and George's attempts had been unsuccessful. Fred had indeed stirred for eight minutes rather than seven, and now his draught was unusable as it was too thin. George's was much worse; he hadn't heated his cauldron properly, and so the ingredients were soggy and lumpy objects floating on the surface.
However, Brienne was quietly positive that she had created a perfect Draught of Peace. The light blue liquid swirled lightly at the touch of Snape's finger, seeming lighter than a liquid -- more of a gas-like substance. Snape lifted his finger from the vial, sniffing it before siphoning it off with his wand. He sighed again, looking down his long nose at Brienne.
"Christie, although you do seem to have miraculously stirred the potion correctly, and added the poison and the powder of moonstone...the instructions indicated the quills of a porcupine, not the spines of a puffer fish. Therefore, you have actually made a Swelling Solution, as is obvious by the colour, which is supposed to be navy blue, not pale blue." Snape's voice dripped with a tired distain, as it did practically every time Brienne had heard him speak. He lifted the finger with which he had tested the potion, which was now twice the size and bright red.
"Pathetic. Can none of you idiotic children follow instructions correctly?"
Snape turned away and swept to his desk, where he found a tiny bottle of a clear liquid and dabbed some of it on his now very large forefinger. Brienne stood furiously behind her desk, staring at her potion. The teacher returned, standing at the front of the room.
"Homework -- research and bring the ingredients for the Strengthening Solution, which you will be making next lesson. Two rolls of parchment for Monday. You are dismissed."
The hum returned as the students packed up their things and left the classroom, eager to leave and get to the Great Hall for lunch. When Brienne had finished clearing up, she turned to find the Twins standing behind her, looking just as annoyed as she felt.
"Bloody git," Fred complained. "He's just got a grudge because I've been getting better lately. Come on, let's go to lunch."
Fred left the room, whilst George shifted his weight from one foot to the other, clearing his throat. "Um, Brienne," he said as they began to follow Fred out of the classroom.
"Yeah?" Brienne replied curtly; she hated it when she was ridiculed in front of her friends, especially in something she enjoyed.
"Are you gonna sit by us at dinner? It's Halloween dinner, you can’t miss it - it's brilliant!"
"I was actually going to sit next to Angelina."
"Oh," George said, obviously trying to retain the jokey banter in his voice and failing miserably, "Well, I'll talk to her. You know she won't miss sitting next to Fred."
"I suppose." Brienne sighed, her thoughts elsewhere.
They were at the Entrance Hall now, and they could see Fred entering the Great Hall in front of them, rubbing his hands together at the smell of the food.
"What's the matter?" George asked, looking concerned at the frown on Brienne's face.
"Nothing. I'm just irritated at Snape, you know?"
"Yeah. Come on, I'm starving."
Brienne let George go on, staring at his retreating green jumper before shaking her head and following.
I could really use a Draught of Peace now, she thought.
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