Chapter 2 : Blue Goo
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She was pinching her nose shut tightly in an attempt stop any of the fumes of the sleeping draught from infiltrating up to where she could smell them. For the past half hour, the stench had been growing steadily worse, and it was currently the same as the scent that rotten peaches give off once they’ve gone green and white with mold. Rose’s gag reflex had been tried and tried again.
She turned to Sarah self-consciously.
“No one else’s seems to smell this bad,” she whispered, her blue eyes darting around the room.
Sarah’s hair was pulled back, but several shorter, dark brown wisps stuck to her forehead and the back of her neck. Her eyes had taken on the fixed gaze of someone exceedingly focused as they skimmed over a page in The Advanced Potioneer’s Encyclopedic Starting Point, lovingly referred to as APES P.
“It’s supposed to smell like fresh peaches,” Sarah muttered back, giving the potion a dainty sniff.
Quickly, she whipped her head away from rising fumes, raising her hand to her nose and making a retching noise.
“We didn’t use anything that expired, did we?” She asked, her face still contorted in disgust.
Rose mutely shook her head, her red ponytail bobbing in dismay, and light droplets of sweat beading on her forehead as the heat from everyone’s fires filled the dungeon classroom.
“Well,” Sarah began, as if she might say something more. She didn’t though, and silence stretched out as the two regarded the slow-bubbling, thick purple mixture hopelessly.
“Well,” Sarah said again. “Rose Weasley, I do believe we are quite awful at potions.”
Rose couldn’t help a slightly hysterical giggle, and she looked around the small classroom again at the four other pairs of partners hunched over their individual cauldrons.
“Scorp… erm, Scorpius used to be pretty good,” Rose mused. “I can’t believe he didn’t get the grade, but I guess test-taking and actually doing are different or whatever…” she paused, an idea formulating in her mind. “Anyway, he would always sort of take the reins. I think he said once that, well, that lemon juice helps thin a potion if it’s too thick. We seemed to do that a lot, anyway.”
“You want me to add lemon to our potion,” she began slowly, her tone incredulous, “because you think that’s what you and Scorpius used to do? Are you insane? What if it explodes again? Not to mention, that could seriously imbalance what we’ve got!”
Rose looked chastised for a second, before shrugging.
“Honestly, Sarah,” she said bluntly, “we don’t really have a whole lot right now anyway. I think we should try it.”
Sarah looked dubiously at the thick, goopy purple stuff, before sighing.
“Fine,” she mumbled, before pressing her hand to her forehead.
Rose walked over to the supply cabinet, rummaging among the peculiarities of the magical world to find a common lemon. Sarah, back at the table, moaned a bit in dismay, and wondered just how poor her semester grade would be, and if she should perhaps be going in for extra help after class.
When Rose returned, she cut the lemon cleanly in half, pulled out the seeds, and squeezed a large, unmeasured amount into the cauldron.
Before Sarah’s horrified eyes, the potion turned from thick, goopy purple to a runny green.
“It was supposed to stay purple!” Sarah whispered aghast. “We needed it to be purple!”
“Oh, just hold on,” Rose muttered back in exasperation.
Sarah sat, forward in her seat, her eyes never straying from the black pot in front of them. Slowly, the potion began to turn from green to a darker and darker blue, and then it settled into a purple, slowly returning to its former color, but keeping its new, lighter consistency.
Rose started to bounce excitedly in her chair.
“Scorpius was right!” She said in a whisper-exclamation.
Sarah still looked dubious.
“Will the potion still work, though?”
Rose tossed that aside.
“Of course it will, look.” She ran her fingers under a couple lines in APES P, reading aloud. “After a half hour, the potion should have a smooth, light consistency. Check. Deep, eggplant purple in color. Check. I bet it doesn’t even smell anymore!”
She took a cautious whiff, then backpedalled.
“Well,” she muttered. “It doesn’t smell as bad.”
Sarah snickered, and Rose grinned sheepishly.
“Scorpius was right, though!” She insisted. “This is actually working. He was right!”
Suddenly Sarah narrowed her eyes a bit, surveying her friend with interest.
“Scorpius is a great bloke, isn’t he?” She said, her tone suddenly a dangerous neutral.
Rose colored and hesitated as her eyes rounded.
“Erm… yes,” she said, licking her lips nervously.
Sarah cocked an eyebrow.
“Rose Weasley,” she began in a low, formal voice, fixing her eyes on her prey. “Do you fancy Scorpius Malfoy?”
“We should uh, focus on the potion, again,” Rose managed. “Wouldn’t want another detention!”
“Right,” Sarah said slowly, her voice goading.
Rose flushed bright red all over again.
Sarah snickered a bit to herself, and might have said more, but, at that moment, Professor Drundles decided to pop in and investigate, and spent the next ten minutes congratulating them in jest for not, at the very least, causing an explosion, and expressing his satisfaction in their overall improvement. And, as hard as it was for one to pay attention when Droning Drundles decided to drone, it was equally hard to focus on anything else one hundred percent, and so Sarah cast Scorpius and Rose from her thoughts until another time, fixing her eyes on her professor’s bald spot and strumming her fingers on her lap lightly, a happy tune dancing about in her mind.
When he finally left, Rose kept her head down for the rest of the lesson, barely daring to catch her partner’s eye once. This didn’t really bother Sarah, who just sort of grinned a bit until the bell rang.
When the bell did ring, Rose bolted up, flashed her partner a hasty grin, and ran. Sarah was more than mildly amused. Shoving her belongings away at a much more leisurely pace, she was the last out of the classroom, and, as such, she was the one that Albus Potter ran headlong into, with Martin Macmillan crashing in behind.
Flushing a bright red that Sarah decided wasn’t nearly as impressive as Rose’s, Albus stammered an apology and reached to help her up.
“Oh, I’m really sorry,” he said in rush, his funny black hair falling down across his forehead.
Reaching with a hand that was perhaps a bit softer than a boy’s ought to be, he pulled her up and let her brush herself off. Then his nose sort of twitched.
“Uck,” he muttered, raising his hand to his nose. “Something smells like rotten fruit.”
“Yeah, that’d be me,” Sarah said, a frank, embarrassed smile on her lips. “Your cousin and I are horrible potioneers.”
“Oh yeah,” Albus replied, grinning. “I heard about the detention. You’re Sarah, right? Sarah Nott? I’m Albus Potter. And I’m really, really sorry about knocking you over like that.”
Sarah, standing an inch or so taller than Albus now that she was standing at all, shrugged it off.
“No biggie,” she said easily.
“Right well, um, Sarah, Professor Drundles wouldn’t happen to still be here, would he?”
“I think he went back into the storeroom,” she said, gesturing behind her and to the left.
“Okay, great. Thanks, Sarah.”
She couldn’t help a bit of a laugh.
“Not at all,” she said, and, shaking her head bemusedly, she left.
Sarah jerked her head around, a puzzled line between her eyes.
“Shhhh! This is a library!” Someone hissed.
Sarah turned to the left to find a chastened Rose grinning guiltily at her from a table with Albus.
Dumping her bag next to the table, Sarah surveyed the two of them.
“Er… yes?” She asked.
“Have you met my cousin Al?” Rose asked, gesturing at the raven-haired boy.
“Yeah,” Sarah said, and Albus flashed a goofy smile, his face flushing.
“Oh.” Rose looked deflated. “Well, sit,” she demanded next. “You’ll never guess what.”
“Then should I bother guessing?”
“Of course you should!”
“Okay, well, do I get a hint?”
“Erm… Professor Selendo is retiring?” Sarah guessed, wrinkling her nose and scrunching up her eyebrows.
“No, er, is he?”
“I don’t know… I mean, he’s old but-”
“Give her a hint, Al,” Rose cut in impatiently.
“There’s something weird going on behind the greenhouses,” he said, a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Zambini’s snogging that Ravenclaw Emmeline girl?”
“Er… no again,” Rose said blankly. “Wait. He is? How do you know?”
“I saw it, yesterday, when I went to water my Hyperno Hydrangea.”
“Really?” Rose asked, mystified.
“Not the point,” Al interjected quickly, shooting Rose a keep-your-ADD-in-check glance.
“Right, well then what is?”
“Well, that’s kind of the problem…”
“So,” Sarah began, “There’s now a point and a problem to all this?”
“Yeah, well the point is there’s something weird back there, behind the greenhouses, making weird noises. And the problem is we don’t know what it is.”
“And this involves me how?”
“Well, don’t you want to find out what it is?”
“It’s probably just Emmeline and Zambini; she makes weird noises when she snogs.”
Rose gave a loud laughing cough and then cleared her throat awkwardly, glancing around at nearby tables surreptitiously.
“This was not Emmeline snogging,” Al protested.
“You can’t know that,” Sarah shot right back.
“Actually, I can,” he said smugly. “Y’know, when Martin and I were running into Professor Drundles room? And well, into you?”
“Well, we went to show him this.”
Albus held up a clear, plastic bag containing a few bits of what seemed to be some sort of plant, and maybe some sort of blue residue.
“It’s weed,” Rose said quickly.
Sarah looked disbelievingly.
“Are you sure? Good luck smoking that, it looks like grass.”
“It is grass,” Albus said impatiently. “Rosie was just making a joke.” He glared at her. “A bad joke. Anyway, guess what’s on it?”
“Um, I have no idea.”
“Yeah, well neither did Professor Drundles, and I reckon he’s seen a lot.”
“So there’s a ton of blue goo on the grass and something behind Greenhouse Six that’s making weird noises. Aren’t you at least curious?”
“Greenhouse Six?” Sarah repeated dubiously. “That’s where they keep all the wack plants anyway. Something probably exploded.”
“Come on, Sarah. Just look with us?” Rose wheedled.
“You want me to go down to Greenhouse Six with you and take a peek behind it?”
Rose nodded, her face eager and her blue eyes shining.
“Well, sure,” Sarah said easily. “But I sincerely doubt we will find anything.”
“Oh, excellent!” Rose said, pulling herself up.
“Are we going now?” Sarah asked, surprised.
And the cheery response she received was “No time like the present.”
Albus sidled up behind her and grinned.
“Oh, Rosie,” he said, fondness playing at his lips, and then he followed her out of the library. Sarah found herself tailing behind the two of them, very nearly having to skip to catch up with their excitement-driven pace.
“Where’s your spirit of adventure?” Rose asked, grabbing her hand to pull her along faster.
“Perhaps it would be present if this was actually an adventure,” Sarah replied cheekily, allowing herself to be pulled along on the grass, a small smile creeping up onto her lips.
As they tumbled their way down the slope to the Greenhouses, the three eventually slowed their steps, and Rose began to shush anyone who would speak. Sarah’s eyes rolled, but her mouth clamped shut. Finally, they were at Greenhouse Six. Perhaps if they’d been quieter they’d have seen something. But as it was, Rose banged her way over a pile of bronze watering cans, Sarah couldn’t help giggling as the redhead toppled, and Albus’s shushing was just as loud as anything else.
As they edged around the glass building, they might’ve also thought about merely looking through the glass, instead of working their way around it, because if they had, they might’ve seen a quick boy leap up and run, his long legs allowing him to slip easily deeper into the trees of the forest, and while Albus, Rose, and Sarah tried to recover themselves and scout about for anything unusual, they found nothing, but were only pricked by the uncomfortable feeling that they were the ones being watched.
“Shit, this is actually scary,” Rose said, eying the shadowy tree line with uncertainty. “Does anyone else’s skin itch?”
But neither Sarah nor Albus replied.
“You were right,” Sarah muttered, her gaze fixed at an odd point in the grass. “There is something weird going on down here.”
Albus’s stare was riveted on the cracked-open egg in the grass. He nudged with his foot, his shoe skidding over the blue goop coating the outside.
“And probably illegal,” he added, and when he glanced up, he was grinning, a distinct mischievous glitter in his green eyes. He turned towards her then, and, with a foolish grin, supplemented that with, “Oh, and just for the record, you smell a lot better than you did earlier.”
Sarah raised her eyebrows bemusedly.
Well, she thought. It’s good that’s on the record.
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