Chapter 6 : All work and no play
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The rest of the week passed by uneventfully (other than a particularly gruelling quidditch practice all of Saturday) and all too soon it was Monday again, which meant double Potions with the Slytherins. Louis and Electra had been nearly impossible to separate after breakfast, and so the three of us only just made it to the dungeons before the bell rang. Electra and Chelsea took their usual places at the very back, while I slid into my chair at the desk opposite. Flashing a quick smile to my usual partner, Aiden Pratchett, I grabbed some parchment and a quill from my bag. Our teacher, Professor Ragweed, looked up from his desk, and seeing that the entire class were finally present, he began to speak:
“OK gang,” he was always trying to buddy up to us – it was kind of cute once you got used to it, “today we’re going to be working on a Confusing & Befuddlement Draught. It’s normally reserved until fifth year, but it’s a common one to come up in the OWLs exam, so the earlier we start practicing, the better. You brilliant lot up to the challenge?” he looked around expectantly.
“Yes, Professor Ragweed,” we droned, having learnt earlier on that answering was the most painless way forward.
“Glad to hear it!” he enthused, “Right now, everyone pair up, and turn to page thirty five of your textbooks. Make sure you’ve read it all the way through, and then one of you collect the ingredients and the other set up a cauldron. And remember, with sneezewort the trick to keep in mind is ‘less is more’.”
“Aiden...?” I asked sweetly.
“I’ll get the ingredients, you can set the cauldron.” He answered, knowing me far too well.
“Thanks,” I smiled broadly, “sneezewort really gets to me.”
“It’s cool, but I sense it’d be better for everyone if you slice the scurvy grass; I think we proved last time that I can’t be trusted with it.” We both chuckled, remembering our disastrous previous attempt at spell containing it, where the truly mangled scurvy grass had caused fumes sufficient enough to empty the entire classroom. We were generally a pretty effective partnership, but when things went wrong they could truly be catastrophic.
Aiden and I had been Potions partners ever since first year, odd numbers of each gender meaning that we had both been stuck with the choice of either a Slytherin or each other. At the time, I had been horrified by the idea of working with a boy (my previous male interaction being limited to my brothers) but we had actually ended up as good friends. He always said he liked working with me because I was the one girl clever enough not to date him, which was worryingly true. I liked working with him because he was clever enough to hide my ever-present talents, everyone making the assumption that the perfect results were all his doing. Furthermore, his dedication and chivalry meant I could avoid all the really icky ingredients, which was a definite bonus.
I quickly arranged the cauldron ready for a mild simmer, and then started preparing the scurvy-root as directed. Chelsea and Electra were having their usual difficulties of not reading the instructions and then getting confused about what to do.
“Isn’t it supposed to be two ounces of lovage?” Chelsea asked as Electra returned from the store cupboard.
“Nope, look, it clearly says two ounces of ginger root, cut finely.” Electra replied, pointing to her textbook. Without looking up, I called over:
“Other page Electra, that’s a Wit-Sharpening Potion – kind of the opposite of what we’re aiming for.”
“Oh, well that explains why no-one else picked up any armadillo bile.” She shrugged, before gathering up the un-needed ingredients. “Back in a minute.” Unconcerned, she scanned the correct page and then returned to the store cupboard.
An hour later, and things were going quite well for us all. Aiden’s concoction and mine had begun to turn a pale orange, which according to the book meant it would only need ten minutes more at a gentle simmer to reach its full strength. Meanwhile, Electra and Chelsea were adding the last of their ingredients, and carefully stirring counter-clockwise, so that the mixture changed from opaque to translucent.
Leaving the potion alone, I began to clear away any equipment we had finished with. Aiden meanwhile took the opportunity to catch up with one of his many conquests-to-be, this time a voluptuous Slytherin named Morgana Wolfsbane. She had perched herself on our desk the moment she had finished, and was now in the process of fishing for a date for the coming weekend.
“So, Aiden, any plans this weekend?” She asked innocently.
“None so far. Why” he replied, feigning ignorance. As she tossed her long black tresses yet again, he quickly rolled his eyes at me and grinned, before refocusing on her.
“Oh, you know, it’s a Hogsmeade weekend ... thought you might be heading down there.”
“Probably. You going?”
“Not sure yet. Why do you want to know?” behind her mask of indifference, she was practically shaking with tension, and thankfully Aiden seemed to decide to put her out of her misery.
“Thought we could hang out, if you wanted to. Maybe check out Madam Puddifoot’s?” Now it was my turn to roll my eyes – Aiden was practically famous for having taken more girls there himself than the rest of the year combined. Nothing says sincerity like the same date he took two of your roommates on. Luckily for him, Morgana didn’t share my sentiment, as she gushed:
“Oh, wow, that’s really...” she hopped off the desk, upsetting its balance completely. Too late, I realised that our cauldron was going over, and worse, that our bubbling hot and practically perfect potion was headed straight for me.
Drenched from head to scalded toe, I let out a pained yelp.
“Lily, are you OK?” Aiden rushed round, forgetting his flirting completely.
“I’ll be fine,” I muttered, before being hit by a wave of, well, confusion. “Oh crap, I think I may have ... chewed, no ... sang, no ... swallowed some.”
Professor Ragweed, ever alert to the sounds of crashing cauldrons and yelping students, had rushed over to us.
“Right, what’s happened here folks?”
“Our potion got knocked over,” Aiden shot Morgana a dark look at this point, before continuing, “and Lily got soaked. Sounds like she might have swallowed some too.”
“Lily, how do you feel?” Ragweed asked as he turned to me. Is that man talking to me? Am I Lily?
“Um, sorry, but who are you?”
“Definitely sounds like she swallowed some. On the bright side, you’ll both get an O for the potion. On the other side, you’ll need to take Lily to the hospital wing; I’m fresh out of the relevant antidote and those burns will need sorting out too.”
Aiden nodded, before taking me firmly by the arm and leading me towards the door, only giving a brief wave in reply to Morgana’s call of ‘See you Saturday?’
Five minutes later and I was being led by a seemingly nice boy down an old fashioned corridor. The walls had lots of lovely moving pictures on them, but ‘Nice Boy’ seemed insistent that I should keep walking towards ... somewhere. My body still seemed to hurt all over, but Nice Boy had done some kind of trick with a stick and it had lessened the pain considerably. Unfortunately he hadn’t been able to get rid of the increasingly sticky orange concoction that had congealed in my robe and hair, but I was reasonably sure that it wasn’t doing me any harm.
“Not much further Lily – just one more flight of stairs and we’ll be on the third floor. Then it’s just a quick walk past the trophy room and we’re there.”
Nice Boy had been doing this for a while now, and I had eventually realised that stopping him to ask questions such as ‘where are we going?’ and ‘who are you?’ would simply lead to him muttering about ‘too much sneezewort’. I had thus decided that following him was the best plan for now, and so allowed him to lead me by the hand while I took in the sights.
Suddenly I found myself walking straight into his back. Looking up, I realised Nice Boy had stopped dead in his tracks, and was staring at a group of guys walking towards us. He quickly turned to me, and whispered:
“Lily, I need you to be very quiet now, OK? If we annoy these guys we’ll both end up in the hospital wing.”
I smiled back at him, before returning my gaze to the approaching threesome. For some weird reason, images of various crustaceans kept entering my head.
“Seriously guys, you need to hit the bludgers at other people, not each other. Madam Pomfrey’s going to run out of skele-gro at this rate.” The cute one in the middle said, causing the identical guys either side to chuckle. I giggled myself, and they looked up, suddenly noticing they had company. I felt Nice Boy’s grip tighten, and Cute One seemed to tense up too, but Left and Right broke into matching grins. Somehow I knew this wasn’t a good thing.
“Look who it is, Potty and her boyfriend.” said Left, smirking.
I’m a potty? What’s a potty? Weird. Nice boy was tugging on my arm again, so I kept walking.
“Too good to talk to us, Potty? Maybe I need to teach you another lesson.”
“Hey guys, please, I’m just taking her to the hospital wing. We’ll be out of your hair in no time.” Nice Boy seemed truly freaked out by the situation, and kept nervously glancing between Left, Right, and the floor.
“Hospital wing? What’s up?” Cute One asked.
“Um...she got a confusing and befuddlement draught spilt all over her. Think she swallowed some too. Seriously, I need to get her to the hospital wing.”
“I dunno, I think she looks better that way.” Left was quickly becoming one of my least favourite people.
“Yeah, and her not talking is definitely an improvement,” Right felt compelled to add, as he reached for his wand.
“Knock it off, guys,” Cute One said; much to the surprise of Nice Boy, “picking on fourth years is somewhat pathetic.”
“Scorpius, man, we can’t just let her walk away, she beat us at quidditch.”
“And in return you knocked her off her broom – very droll, I’m sure. However, at some point it stops being ‘friendly competition’ and becomes ‘you picking on a little girl’.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or grateful for this comment, but Nice Boy had decided to take the opportunity for us to scarper. Before I knew it we were past the now bickering group, and into the... where was it again?
Five hours later, and I was once again seated in the library, this time with Chelsea and Electra, who both seemed deeply saddened by our location. We’d been forced to come due to some truly horrendous History of Magic homework, which none of us knew the first thing about. Normally, Aiden would have been sweet-talked into note lending, saving us from the dreaded fate of research, but as he’d been in the hospital wing with me today, we would have to do it alone.
Once we’d got ourselves settled, Chelsea and Electra retrieved their own notes from their bags, and tried to piece together what had actually been said. Professor Binns was truly the dullest teacher ever, alive or dead, and so I wasn’t holding out much hope that they’d managed to listen long enough to learn anything useful. As such, I reluctantly headed over to the shelves, preparing myself for the mental torture that was ‘Goblin Rebellions through the Ages’. I rounded the stack, and bumped into something solid. Looking up, I realised with some surprise that it was Scorpius, leant against the edge of a shelf with one arm, while the other held an old fashioned looking text. He was dressed in his quidditch robes, as though he had come straight from practice, and even his long blond hair was still looking a little windswept. I looked at the title of his book, assuming it must be emergency essay material like mine, and was surprised to read ‘Magical Discoveries of the Seventeenth Century, Volume One’, with two similar tomes lying by his forearm.
I would have been surprised at the choice of reading material, had I not been too busy feeling generally mortified. I couldn’t recall everything from earlier that day, but I did remember that he had been present at some point, and that I had been covered in bright orange goo. I wasn’t sure why I was so embarrassed by this, but the cheeks never lie, and right now they were as red as my hair. I also recalled that he had got the Crabbe twins to leave me alone, and so ignoring the sense of déjà vu, I said:
“Scorpius, hi. I was hoping to run into you.” Well, that’s a lie, but not for the reason you’d expect. “I wanted to thank you for what you did earlier, outside the hospital wing.”
Wow, could I sound any lamer? And when did I become someone who’s so soppy around a guy? Luckily, Scorpius didn’t seem to notice my discomfort, as he put his book down, before replying:
“It does seem to be somewhat of a full time job around you,” He smirked at this, before soberly continuing, “or around Nate. I wish I could excuse his behaviour by saying that his parents are getting divorced or something, but sadly he’s always been a prat.”
“Why are you friends with him then?” I asked, curiosity getting the better of my nerves.
“I dunno – when I first got here they were some of the only ones to speak to me, and I guess we just bonded over our mutual notoriety. Plus, his brother, Abe, is mostly alright, and they kind of come as a pair. Still, I’d rather avoid them if I could, but what with being on the same quidditch team...”
“I guess I can see that. Makes me glad for my teammates suddenly, which is definitely a first! Anyway, thanks.”
“That all you came in here for?” he asked, as I went to turn away. Cheeks darkening, I spun back round.
“Crap! No, I was supposed to be finding a book on Goblin rebellions. My friends must be wandering where I’ve got to.”
“Fourth year ... would that be the Smelting’s Revolt? Try this.”
He slid a thin textbook out of the shelf and handed it to me. Looking down, I read ‘Rise and fall of the goblin republic’. I’d never even heard of it before, but it looked a darned-sight better than any of the other books on the subject.
“Wow, history buff much? How’d you know that?”
“I like history – it’s good to know where you came from. Nice to know your family weren’t all bad.” The last part he said more to himself, and so while I wondered what he meant, I decided not to pry.
“Well, I may have to pick your brains in future then – my friends and I are hopeless at it.”
“Anytime, Lily, I’m at your service.” Suddenly he gave a quick jerk of his head and then spun away. I turned myself, to find Chelsea looking at me quizzically.
“You get lost or something? Electra’s threatening to walk if we don’t hurry up – she’s convinced Louis will move on if she’s not constantly there to remind him of her fabulousness.”
“No worries, I’m coming, and I think I’ve got just the book to get this done quickly.”
We hurried back over to an impatient Electra, and got started on what ended up being our best essays of the term.
A.N. OK, so this is easily the longest chapter so far - is it dull, is it unbelievably rivetting, did you even get to the end? Review and make me a happy person!
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