Chapter 2 : Power, Potions, and Professors
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Power, Potions, and Professors
James had never aspired to become Head Boy, and had therefore paid little attention to what previous ones had done in their roles. In fact, he had no idea what it meant to be Head Boy, other than the fact that he could hand out detentions and take away House points. He wanted to do the job properly, but there was something embarrassing about having to ask Lily, even though they were now something like friends. She seemed to only tell him what his duties were when they were immediate, such as handing out schedules on the first day.
“Here,” she said, handing him a stack of thick pieces of parchment, “they’re for years five and under. Hand them to the right people.”
With that business-like statement, she turned on her heel and started walking up the table, her own stack of schedules in hand. James looked down at the first name: Lyle Griffiths. It sounded strangely familiar, but James could not quite place it. In fact, the first ten names were unrecognizable to him as he rifled through the stack of papers he was holding. It seemed he was going to be forced into asking Lily for help, so he walked over to her.
“Erm, Lily?” he asked, as quietly as possible. “Who’s Lyle Griffiths?”
Lily’s eyes widened exasperatedly. “He’s that blonde-haired boy down there,” she said, looking some eight feet down the Gryffindor table. “I’m surprised you don’t remember him. You made him walk around with a Bubble-Head Charm for an hour once in fourth year.”
“Oh, right,” James said, somewhat too fondly, and Lily gave him an admonishing stare. “Sorry, I’ll just go...do this...then.”
He found that Lily had managed to jog his memory quite well: he could recognize nearly half of the students’ names from putting jinxes or hexes on them in previous years. A fair number of schedules still remained a mystery to him, however. He walked over to where his friends were sitting, thinking that they might have been more attentive to the names of Gryffindor students in the past.
“Who’s Hortensia Whitby?” he asked them. They all shrugged. “What about Rachel Cross? Oh, come on, you three are useless. Do you recognize any of these names?”
“Prongs,” Sirius said, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You’re making this much too difficult for yourself. Try this instead.”
He stood up on the bench.
“Oi! If you’re below sixth year and in Gryffindor, come look through this pile of schedules for yours!”
He hopped down from the bench, grinning.
“Thanks, Padfoot,” James said, glancing nervously at Lily. She did not look quite as displeased as James would have expected her to. At that particular moment, Professor McGonagall came upon them with her own armful of schedules.
“It’s a bit early to be making such a scene, don’t you think, Black?” She said briskly.
“Just trying to wake people up, Minerva,” Sirius replied. Professor McGonagall tapped the topmost schedule calmly.
“Your schedule,” she said, handing it to Sirius. “Make sure to add tomorrow night’s detention to it.”
“What did I do?” Sirius asked.
“I have asked you nearly two dozen times to never address me by my first name,” she said. “Now, onto the rest of you...”
She gave Remus and Peter their schedules as well, leaving James last. She fixed him with a calculating stare and said, “I was glad to hear you’d been chosen Head Boy, Potter.”
James felt instantly buoyed. He might be hopeless at handing out schedules, but that didn’t mean he didn’t deserve to be Head Boy. He could even ignore the fact that Lily had just come and snatched up his abandoned pile of schedules.
“The Head Boy hasn’t been from Gryffindor for almost five years now. I hope you won’t disappoint me,” she said, deflating James’ happiness slightly. As she handed him his schedule, though, he thought she might have a hint of a smile on her face. “I’ll see you four in Transfiguration tomorrow morning.”
She swept down the table without another word. Before James could even begin to work out whether Professor McGonagall had been complimenting him or not, Sirius let out a vehement outburst.
“Would you look at this?” he asked. “We’ve got two double periods of every class each week! Are they trying to kill us?”
“And Potions first; fantastic,” James muttered, sitting down at the table. Potions was perhaps his least favourite class (besides History of Magic, which he had stopped taking after his O.W.L.s). He disliked the precision and patience that was needed for potion-making, but it was only made worse by the fact that Snape and Lily were constantly being praised ad nauseum by Professor Slughorn.
“Free period after break and lunch, though,” Peter said, biting off a huge hunk of toast.
“Moony, do you know what the Head Boy’s supposed to do?” James asked. Remus shrugged and swallowed the eggs he had been chewing.
“How would I know?” he asked.
“I just feel like I’m supposed to be doing something,” James said. Sirius snorted from beside him.
“Unless you want to become the biggest prat in the school, I’d advise you to avoid anything the Head Boy is supposed to do,” Sirius said.
“Hey, maybe Prongs can break the stereotype!” Peter said. “You could make being Head Boy cool.”
“Impossible,” Sirius stated.
“I have to agree with Padfoot on this one,” James agreed.
“I think what he means,” Remus said, “is that you’re already very much—er—admired by people. You can’t say the same about any of the Head Boys since we’ve been here.”
“Remember Martin Crescent?” Peter asked, and he was answered by immediate expressions of disgust all around.
“Wanker,” Sirius muttered. Martin Crescent had been Head Boy in their fifth year, and he had taken it on as his personal mission to teach the four of them a lesson. For some reason, he thought he could succeed through sheer persistence where no teacher had before. Under his tyranny, they had spent two weeks with nightly detentions, in which he taunted them and assigned the most degrading tasks he could think of. To add insult to injury (at least for James), Lily had also gone on a couple dates with Martin during that year. Martin had only given up when Sirius had Vanished all his clothes in the middle of the Great Hall. Sirius had earned another two weeks’ detention for it, but Martin had gotten the message.
“I have equally fond memories of Gerald Li,” Remus said.
“But we do have to thank him for setting us on the path toward our true calling,” said Sirius. Gerald had been Head Boy in their first year at Hogwarts: impatient and highly irritable, he had been too amusing a target for them to not antagonize him at every turn.
“There have got to be some advantages to the job,” Peter said to James, shrugging. “You could use the power for some cool stuff.”
That was the last that was said on the subject, as they left the Great Hall to go to their first class. Nevertheless, Peter and Remus had given James something to ponder. The question was, how was he supposed to use his power when did not know what it was?
With Potions as her first class of the day, Lily could ignore her frustration with James over his incompetent schedule-distributing. She had to remember patience when it came to him being Head Boy, and give him credit for trying. Somehow it would end up less frustrating to pretend he was doing a good job; it had to.
Lily loved the smell of the Potions classroom, even though it would probably be considered disgusting by anyone else’s standards. It was the smell of wet stone mixed with a hint of burnt sulphur, and that strange mix brought nothing but comfort to her. She looked around at the others in their class—it appeared that a few people had dropped Potions since last year, but Snape, of course, remained, as did half-a-dozen others, including herself and Anna. The door opened and boisterous laughter filled the classroom, marking the entry of four more classmates: James, Remus, Peter, and Sirius. Lily sighed. She was trying to get along properly with James, but it would have been much easier if they didn’t have every class together.
The four boys took the table right behind Lily and Anna, which made it impossible for Lily to ignore James’ presence, and very difficult to avoid overhearing their conversation.
“Apparently he’s not coming back,” Remus was saying.
“Well, on the bright side, we’ve got the dormitory to ourselves,” said Sirius.
“I always felt a bit bad for him, being left out all the time,” Peter added.
“I bet my mum would have kept me from coming back if she could’ve,” James said. “She’s become completely paranoid. ‘Course, she never could have turned down the opportunity for her son to be Head Boy.”
It seemed Anna had been listening too, for she turned around to look at them. Lily continued to eavesdrop, but pretended to be very interested in the index of Advanced Potion-Making.
“Trevor’s not coming back?” she asked. Trevor Wright was the fifth Gryffindor boy in their year, and had shared a dormitory with James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter for the past six years at Hogwarts.
“His parents wouldn’t let him,” Sirius answered. “I suppose they thought it was too dangerous.”
Here it was again: the idea of Hogwarts being in danger. Lily had always thought that Dumbledore was more powerful than You-Know-Who, but the need for greater protection of the castle and, now, people taking their children out of school, struck at the heart of this belief. It was unnerving to contemplate the possibility that Hogwarts might not be safer than anywhere else.
“How could it be dangerous?” Lily asked, completely forgetting that she was supposed to be ignoring them. “We’ve got Dumbledore and all the special protections he talked about.”
“Maybe it’s not enough discouragement,” Sirius said darkly. “Hogwarts is a pretty major target.”
“I thought they were afraid of Dumbledore,” Lily said.
“So they say,” Remus said.
“Then what are the chances of them trying to pick a fight right underneath his nose?”
“If Dumbledore’s put more protection on the school, he must think there’s some chance of it,” James said. The last of Lily’s hope seemed to vanish at his words, because Dumbledore being worried was something she could not explain away. Only after a few moments did she realize that she had been staring at James since he had spoken, and she turned around in her stool as if she had received an electric shock.
“Good morning, all,” Professor Slughorn, who had entered the room during their conversation, said jovially. “Welcome back to class!”
There were a few murmurs of “good morning”, but otherwise the classroom stayed silent; the side that the Gryffindors were sitting on was also very tense. Slughorn reached the front of the room and glanced around at them all.
“Potion kits and books out already? My now, you’re all prepared, and first thing in the morning, too,” he said, chuckling. After a moment’s pause, he clapped his hands together, and said, “Well then! This year is N.E.W.T. year for you all, which I’m sure you’re very excited about.”
Several quiet groans punctuated the pause in Slughorn’s speech. He chortled again. “Now, now, don’t worry. If you’ve all made it this far, I’m confident you’ll do just fine on your exams. We’re going to be doing some very interesting potion-making this year, very interesting indeed. Now, does anyone remember what I said we’d be starting with when we ended class before the summer?”
Everyone looked around the room awkwardly for a moment, until Lily slowly raised her hand.
“I think you said we were going to start learning how to make antidotes to Veritaserum,” Lily answered.
“I knew you would remember, Lily. Take five points for Gryffindor,” Slughorn said happily, “and so we will. Now, as you may remember, Veritaserum takes quite a long time to mature—a full moon-cycle, in fact—and its antidote takes only slightly less time. We’ll be approaching this as a long-term project, and during its maturation, we’ll be working on learning how to make many of the less-complex Truth Serums and antidotes, as well as addressing the various ingredients that make up a Truth Serum. Now, can anyone tell me how we’ll be able to find out if the antidote you’ve concocted works?”
The silence after his question was longer this time. Lily thought she might know what he was getting at, but it seemed much too bizarre to be correct.
“Come now, I think you know the answer,” Slughorn said. This time it was Snape who raised his hand. “Severus?”
“The only way to tell would be to test it on someone, wouldn’t it?” he said.
“Not quite, Severus,” Slughorn said, grinning, “but ultimately true, so take five points for Slytherin. The use of Veritaserum is controlled very stringently by the Ministry of Magic, but administering it to a human being is not the only method of ascertaining its efficacy. Certain physical indicators of the serum can tell us whether it will work—some are obvious, while others take training of the senses. If you’ll open your books to page one-hundred-and-seventy-eight…”
Lily listened as Slughorn spent the lesson going over Veritaserum, though she had already read about the potion in detail over the summer. Even if she had wanted to listen properly, the whispered conversation going on at the table behind her would have been a distraction. She picked up her quill and began doodling a cauldron on the corner of a piece of parchment. Anna leaned over a few minutes later and deftly sketched a walrus in a wizard’s hat in robes, making a clear reference to Professor Slughorn. Lily grinned—if she had been in another class, she might have worried about getting caught and reprimanded, but being one of Slughorn’s favourites did have its advantages.
“This being the first day, I think we ought to end early,” Slughorn said after about forty minutes of class. A wave of excitement shot through the classroom, which was probably Slughorn’s intention—he would not have extended the same favour to his younger students, but these were his N.E.W.T. students, after all. They were the ones who he had known for the longest, and those who had the surest chance at the success he praised so highly. “For homework, please research the ingredients of Veritaserum, and provide detailed explanations of their origins and properties. I would like at least twelve inches, due by next class. You are dismissed.”
Lily was disappointed that they were not actually making any Potions in their first class; as it was, the class had been mostly review for her.
Lily turned towards James as she shoved her blank parchment back into her copy of Advanced Potion Making, marking page one-hundred-and-seventy-eight. He looked rather nervous, which was unusual for him.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Nice drawing,” he said, gesturing toward her book. Her cauldron doodle and Anna’s walrus were visible over the top edge of the book’s greenish-gray cover.
“Thanks,” she muttered, hastily stuffing her textbook into her bag.
“Can I ask you something?” James asked.
“I suppose,” Lily answered, her cheeks still feeling flushed.
“I was just wondering if you could tell me what I’m supposed to do,” James said. Lily could not understand what he was talking about, and he seemed to realize after a moment how vague his statement had been. “As Head Boy, I mean.”
“Oh,” Lily said, “well, you know. Administer discipline, keep order. Manage the prefects. We’re also responsible for overseeing all the clubs and societies in the school—making sure they’re operating according to rules and authorizing the formation of new ones. Other students can also come to us if they have complaints about their classmates or teachers. And if the school governors call a meeting, we’re supposed to attend as student representatives of the school.”
James nodded. “How do you know all this?”
“From last year’s Head Girl,” Lily said, her feet itching to get out the door.
“Ah, James, Lily!”
Professor Slughorn’s booming voice interrupted their conversation.
“I believe congratulations are in order,” he said. “I suppose I really should have been hoping for someone from my house to get top honours, but you two are so very deserving.”
Lily tried her best to smile enthusiastically. Being one of Slughorn’s favourite students did have its advantages, but there were also disadvantages. Although he could be very helpful to her whenever she figured out what it was she wanted to do after she left Hogwarts, there was the matter of—
“So, when are the two of you free to attend a little party?” Slughorn asked eagerly. “A celebration of both of your achievements?”
The “Slug Club”, as it had been called over the years, was usually excruciating enough, with Slughorn fawning over himself and everyone around him. The idea of a party exclusively for her and James seemed distinctly unappealing to Lily.
“Oh, that’s really not necessary,” Lily replied.
“Yeah, we wouldn’t want you to go to all that trouble,” James agreed. Lily knew that James detested the pompousness of Slug Club even more than she did, which she had always found slightly bizarre. She would have assumed that the prestige that came with Slughorn’s approval would have appealed to his arrogant side.
“Nonsense!” Slughorn said, waving his hand impatiently. “It’s no trouble at all.”
“I think we’ll be really busy these first few weeks,” Lily said. For some strange reason, she found herself looking to James to back her up.
“I’ve got to set up Quidditch tryouts,” James said.
“Surely you can spare one evening,” Slughorn persisted. Lily searched another excuse. “You can’t be that hard to get together!”
Lily heard someone snort with laughter. She looked around Slughorn’s large frame and saw that Snape was still putting away his things.
“Still here, Severus?” Slughorn asked, turning around. “Maybe you can help me force these two into it!”
“You’ll find that Evans and Potter are quite stubborn, Sir,” Snape said, finally shutting his book and getting up from his chair, “it’s one thing that makes them so alike one another.”
Lily felt like biting through her own tongue when Snape made these kinds of pointed comments. It was ludicrous that he acted like she had somehow betrayed him, when he had been the one who destroyed their friendship. Luckily, being his friend served her purposes now, for she knew exactly what to say and do to bother him most. She looked at James and fixed a pleasant smile on her face.
“I’m sure we can find a time, don’t you think?” she asked a bewildered-looking James. “I mean, you deserve the chance to have people congratulate you for your accomplishments.”
There was a satisfying sound of breaking glass. Snape had apparently dropped an empty flask onto the ground.
“Why, Severus, I’ve never seen you so clumsy!” Slughorn said, taking out his wand.
“He’s usually so good at hiding it,” James said, shaking his head sympathetically and taking out his wand. “Reparo.”
Snape swept out of the dungeon, red-faced and looking murderous. Slughorn was either oblivious to the tension in the room, or he was pointedly ignoring it.
“Now, how does two weeks from Friday sound?” Slughorn asked, returning to the original conversation. “That way I have time to invite some of my contacts, who will be so eager to meet the both of you.”
Lily did not want to be the first one to agree to the party, but there really was no other option. She knew from past experience that Slughorn would just continue to badger them until they acquiesced. She exchanged a furtive glance with James, who seemed to have a similar expression of resignation on his face.
“Sure,” Lily said, and Slughorn beamed.
“Yeah, that sounds fine,” James said.
“Excellent!” Slughorn said. “I look forward to it already. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must speak with Filch about his incessant re-organizing of my private stores...”
He waddled from the room, leaving James and Lily alone.
“Brilliant,” James said, rolling his eyes.
“It’s not as if we haven’t suffered through them before,” Lily said. James laughed hollowly.
“I have a feeling this will be much worse,” he said.
“You’re probably right,” Lily admitted. “Come with me.”
She turned to leave the dungeon classroom and felt James following her. She couldn’t imagine why he cared about what he had to do as Head Boy, but if he wanted to know, she would show him. That way, if he messed up, there was no way anyone could lay blame on her.
“Where are we going?” James asked.
“I’m showing you something,” Lily said simply.
“Listen, Evans, you know I like you, but I’m not really interested in any cheap thrills.”
“Don’t be disgusting,” Lily said, giving him a severe look. “I’m showing you where the prefects’ bathroom and private study room are.”
“Oh, I know where they are,” James said. Lily stopped short and turned around.
“You know,” James said, shrugging, “from Remus.”
Lily raised one of her eyebrows. “Something makes me feel like you’re not quite telling the truth.”
“You always think I’m not quite telling the truth,” James said. The grin on his face seemed to be acting like a magnet on the corners of her own mouth, because she would not have smiled on her own in a situation like this.
“So, what else comes with this Head Boy thing? Do I get my own office?” James asked. Lily was immensely relieved that he had changed the subject.
“Well, apparently there’s a Heads’ office, but it hasn’t been used in over a decade. Or, at least, not by the Heads. Filch uses it to store confiscated objects,” Lily replied. Where she had learned this tidbit of information, she could not remember.
“Not anymore,” James replied, grinning. “I’ve still got a score to settle with Filch for that detention he gave me at the end of last year.”
“Why that specific one, when there are hundreds of others to avenge?” Lily asked, her tone disdainful rather than curious.
“Let’s not exaggerate,” James said. “To answer your question, it’s because I actually didn’t do anything for once, and I still got detention.”
“Now that,” Lily said, as she started to walk out of the room, “is a lie, I’m sure.”
“Are you sure we’re not friends?” James asked her as they left the dungeons.
“Pretty sure,” Lily said. “Why?”
“Well, you know, the way you stared at me before class started—”
“I was not staring at you!” Lily snapped. “I was just thinking, and my gaze happened to land in your general direction.”
“That was a pretty intense gaze.”
“Well, I was thinking about something very serious!”
“Besides that, I think you actually complimented me back there, and I’m pretty sure when Slughorn was talking to us, we did that thing friends do when they look at one another and know what the other person is thinking,” James continued. Lily felt her face burning.
“What else would you have been thinking in that moment?” Lily huffed.
“Could have been anything, really.”
“You know,” Lily said, stopping as they reached the Entrance Hall, “I thought I asked you to try not to bother me.”
James held up his hands innocently, but his facial expression was downright devilish. “I promise I’m not trying to get under your skin.”
Lily’s face became considerably hotter.
“Try to not get under someone else’s skin for a change, will you?” she asked, walking away from his as quickly as possible and wondering whether what she had just said made sense at all.
James was always interested in the first Defence Against the Dark Arts class of the year, not just because he considered it one of his favourite subjects, but also because there had always been a new teacher each year. He thought it was strange that not a single one of them lasted longer than that, but he supposed that job security was not the highest priority for anyone who fought against the Dark Arts these days.
James thought he might have recognized Professor Dearborn from somewhere, but he could not quite place him. What became clear very quickly, however, was that Professor Dearborn had little experience at teaching.
“Well,” he began their first class on Tuesday morning, tapping on the desk at the front of the room anxiously, “welcome to Defence Against the Dark Arts. You lot are in your seventh year?”
A few people nodded.
“So you’ll be taking your N.E.W.Ts at the end of this year, then?”
More nods. Professor Dearborn seemed at a loss for words. James was wondering why he was asking them questions that he should have already known the answer to.
“Never liked exams, myself,” he finally said. “My examiner was a complete b—I mean, my examiner was—er—highly critical. He kept pointing out everything I’d done wrong, so halfway through...”
James stopped paying attention for a few moments: Lily had just thrown her hair behind her shoulders, sending a waft of some kind of vaguely floral scent in his direction. He stared at the back of her head and contemplated the good fortune of finding a seat directly behind her.
“He didn’t really take too well to being turned into a slug,” Professor Dearborn said. “Lucky it was my Transfiguration exam—at least I was using the right kind of magic, eh?”
He looked around the class, perhaps expecting laughter, but was met with stony silence. He picked up his copy of their textbook and nearly dropped it.
“So, can anyone tell me what you’ve covered at N.E.W.T-level so far?” he asked.
James was not paying attention again. Lily had just leaned forward to rest her elbow on her desk, and James found himself slightly transfixed by the lovely way her back arched when she did so. How long passed as he stared, James was not sure, but finally his trance was broken when Lily turned around to look at him. Had she felt him looking at her?
“Is Mr Potter here?” Professor Dearborn asked, clearly not for the first time, and James jolted slightly in his chair.
“Yes, right here,” James said, rather loudly. He heard his friends snickering from beside him and saw Lily suppressing laughter as she turned around. Well, at least she wasn’t mad at him.
“I was wondering whether you might volunteer to tell me some of the things the class went over last year with Professor Timor,” he said.
James’ concentration on Lily and the time that had elapsed over the summer seemed to have erased his entire memory of the previous year.
“You seem to have covered Obliviation Charms as well,” Professor Dearborn said, and this time he received several giggles in return. Lily raised her hand as James struggled to remember more of what they had learned.
“Evans, sir,” Lily said. “Apart from those two topics, we studied Auror history and several of the more prominent Dark Wizards in the last three centuries; concealment spells like Disillusionment Charms and Bedazzling Hexes; advanced Shield Charms; Petrification, Inferi, and the theoretical distinctions between offensive and defensive magic.”
Sirius stuck his tongue out in disgust at James’ right, and James privately agreed with him. There were many wonderful things about Lily, but it bothered him to no end when she purposely made him look like an idiot in classes.
“Well, I’ll be straight with you all,” Professor Dearborn said. “I’ve never taught a class in my life, so I’m just going to wing it. Going off of Miss Evans’ list, I figure we can continue with concealment and do some work on stealth and tracking as well. At some point we’ll want to cover Patronuses, of course, and I want to spend a fair bit of time dealing with curses, as it seems you’ve had limited exposure to them so far. Beyond that, I really don’t have anything planned out, so let’s just take it a day at a time, shall we?”
Professor Dearborn spent the rest of the time describing in detail his own Defence Against the Dark Arts N.E.W.T. and talking about some of his friends who were Aurors, many of whom he seemed to regard as “complete duffers”. James spent most of the class levitating Snape’s textbook, much to the aggravation of its owner. By the end of the class, James felt very ambivalent about the year of Defence Against the Dark Arts classes ahead of him.
“Merlin, why’s Dumbledore even bothering protecting the castle?” Sirius said as they left the classroom to go to dinner. “With Slughorn shoving Veritaserum down our throats and this Dearborn bloke pretending to teach us how to protect ourselves, we might as well take our chances with Voldemort.”
“I wonder why Dumbledore hired him, if he’s never taught before,” Remus said.
James did not answer, for he suddenly remembered why Dearborn seemed familiar. He remembered hearing his mother talking about him over the summer. He racked his brain, but he could not remember what it was that his mother had said. Had it been something about Dumbledore? Yes, it must have been, since Remus’ mention of Dumbledore had sparked his memory. Perhaps his parents had known that Dearborn was going to be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. If that was the case, why had they never mentioned it to him? James had always been prone to curiosity, and he knew this puzzle would bother him until he put all the pieces together.
Author's Note: Feedback? I'm trying to put a slightly different spin on their relationship and on their characters, and I hope it's not failing miserably. Is it super boring, or are you enticed to read more? Let me know!
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by maddi granger