Chapter 17 : Lessons Learnt
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‘What?’ Greg looked up, surprised. ‘Yes, sir...’
‘Good, good,’ the professor smiled, ‘I take it you found my little present?’
The first-year blinked. ‘Your present?’
‘I think he means the butterbeer,’ Lucas interjected. ‘Who else would have left it there?’
‘Oh...’ Greg realised. ‘Yes, we did, thank you.’
‘Enough to go around?’
Theo snorted. ‘Yeah, just about,’ he grinned. ‘48 bottles and nine people...’
Slughorn chuckled. ‘There were more people to share it between the last time we managed a win.’
‘It’s okay,’ Isaac joined in the conversation, ‘we didn’t mind,’ he grinned.
‘I think we could have done with one of your revitalising potions the next morning, though,’ Greg suggested. ‘I didn’t know butterbeer was that strong...’
‘I’ll make sure we’ve got some ready for after the Hufflepuff match, then,’ Isaac laughed. ‘Sir, you will get us another crate when we beat Hufflepuff, won’t you?’
‘Beat them first, and I’ll think about it.’ The teacher glanced over Greg’s shoulder. ‘You might want to add some knotgrass to that, Mr. Bennett.’
‘Yes, sir,’ the first-year followed his instruction, watching the potion on his desk bubble from black to green.
‘Don’t you have anything to say about that, Mr Jones?’ Slughorn waddled over to the neighbouring table, where Glyn and Jai stared at their own Forgetfulness Draught.
‘Sir...?’ The Welsh boy looked up.
‘Won’t you defend your House’s honour?’ The professor challenged the two Hufflepuffs.
‘They probably will beat us,’ Glyn muttered. ‘It’s not as if we’re any good.’
‘If we lose to Gryffindor next week, no one will care about the last game anyway,’ Jai sighed. ‘It’ll be like the end of the season, when the teams who can’t qualify for the Champions League just play their reserves.’
‘Oh dear,’ Slughorn shook his head. ‘Where’s that famous Hufflepuff loyalty? Your mother would never have stood for that.’
‘Yeah, well I’m not my mother, am I?’ Glyn’s eyes flashed as he glared back up at the teacher. ‘I am loyal, but I’m not stupid.’
‘Now that’s more like it...’ The professor turned on his heel, leaving Glyn to gaze angrily at the back of the man’s robes.
‘Bloody hell,’ the Hufflepuff swore, ‘he’s nearly as bad as those Gryffindors,’ he shook his head. ‘Why do people keep judging us on the House we’re in?’
‘What, like those Gryffindors?’ Greg laughed. ‘Do you know what a hypocrite is?’
‘Oh, fuck off, Greg,’ the Welsh boy snapped, turning his back to the Slytherins and untidily decanting his potion into a thin vial as the bell rang out for the lesson’s end.
‘That went well,’ Isaac observed sarcastically, watching Jai hurry after his housemate towards the classroom doorway.
Greg gaped blankly after the two Hufflepuffs. ‘I’ve never heard him say that before...’
‘Maybe you’ve been a bad influence on him?’ Theo suggested, impishly.
‘Fuck off yourself,’ Greg rolled his eyes.
‘See?’ Theo nudged his best friend’s elbow, remembering the conversation they’d shared with Oscar the week before. ‘I bet he’s just having a bad day.’
Greg nodded, slowly. ‘I hope so,’ he mumbled, tidying his own potion-making kit away as Theo measured out their efforts for Slughorn to mark.
The sound of an explosion echoing down the stairway that led from the Potions classroom up towards the Great Hall quickly distracted the boys from their thoughts.
‘What the hell was that?’ Isaac exclaimed.
Lucas shook his head. ‘I don’t know...’ His uncertainty was drowned out as a sudden cacophony of sound spilled down the stairwell, before a bloodthirsty chant answered the question for him.
‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’
The first-years hurried up the staircase as the echoes of spells reverberated along the passageway.
‘STUPEFY! STUPEFY!’ The Slytherin boys recognised Oscar’s voice cutting across the exchange. ‘Finite Incantatem!’
The crowd’s interest ebbed away as easily as it had arrived, and as the massed students filtered away towards their own dormitories or House tables, the first-years recognised Oscar, wand still out, standing over the motionless bodies of Glyn Jones and Spencer Dawlish.
‘Mr Symons,’ Professor McGonagall was making her steady way from the Great Hall. ‘Please could you follow me to my office?’ She turned to the two paralysed first-years. ‘Mobilicorpus.’
‘Ossie,’ Greg hissed, hurrying across to the prefect and quickly relaying the events of their Potions lesson, from Slughorn’s remarks about the Welsh boy’s mother to Glyn’s own four-letter outburst.
‘Thanks, mate,’ the prefect nodded. ‘Wait for me at the table,’ he angled his head towards the Great Hall. ‘I’ll tell you all what happened.’ He turned quickly, falling in step behind the Headmistress and leaving the shocked first-years to traipse towards their lunch.
The first sign that Professor McGonagall had finished talking with the three students came when Dawlish trudged, his shoulders sunk, back into the Great Hall to make his lonely way to the Gryffindor table. Shortly afterwards, Oscar and Glyn followed, their voices hushed as they entered the room.
‘Come and sit with us, Glyn,’ Greg stood up as he watched the Hufflepuff look up, uncertainly, at his own deserted House table.
‘Yeah, come on mate,’ Theo echoed, loudly enough to persuade the other first-year to make up his mind, and joined his housemates in shifting along the end of their bench to make room for the new arrivals.
‘What happened...?’ Isaac blundered in, barely allowing Oscar and Glyn’s plates the time to fill themselves.
The prefect glanced over to the Welsh boy, who nodded back, almost imperceptibly, his eyes barely leaving his lunch. ‘How much did you see?’ Oscar asked.
‘Just the end,’ Greg answered quickly, wanting to make sure that Isaac’s lack of tact didn’t make things any worse. ‘We heard you shout, “STUPEFY”, and then saw Glyn and Spencer on the floor.’
‘Okay,’ Oscar nodded, ‘well, I’m sure you guessed that I just split them up,’ he began. ‘I came across them just as Dawlish cast the first spell.’
‘He started on you?’ Theo’s voice was sharp.
The little colour that remained on Glyn’s face drained away and his head dropped further still, sinking onto his forearm as he pushed his untouched meal away.
‘Glyn punched him first,’ Oscar explained. ‘Dawlish said something about the Quidditch match at the weekend, Gryffindor against Hufflepuff, and then about his Mum...’ the prefect tailed off, and Greg instinctively reacted, reaching out to rest his arm over the Welsh boy’s shoulders.
‘McGonagall took twenty points off each of them,’ Oscar finished, ‘and they’ve both got detentions tonight and tomorrow with her as well.’
‘Shit...’ Isaac shook his head. ‘That’s three this year, isn’t it?’
‘Zac!’ Under the table, Greg kicked out sharply at his friend’s ankle, before shaking his own head insistently as he made eye contact.
‘Oh,’ the other boy winced, ‘sorry.’
‘Come on, Zac,’ Lucas stood up, ‘let’s go and sort our stuff out for Charms,’ he picked up his own bag. ‘Greg, Theo, we’ll bring yours if you want?’
‘Thanks, mate,’ Greg smiled. ‘See you there.’
‘I’ll see you in CMC, Ossie,’ Matthew followed the redhead’s example.
‘He deserved it,’ Theo muttered. ‘He’s deserved it all year.’
Glyn sniffed, slowly lifting his head. ‘I should never have done it, though. I don’t know why I did.’ He blinked, half-clearing the moisture from his eyes.
‘McGonagall knew,’ Oscar offered, gently. ‘You weren’t thinking straight, after that Potions lesson...’
‘Oh, Merlin,’ the Welsh boy’s eyes filled with tears once more. ‘I’m sorry, Greg,’ he whispered, ‘sorry for telling you to, for telling you to...’
‘Forget it,’ Greg patted his friend’s shoulder. ‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘Everyone else is going to hate me, though,’ the Hufflepuff took a deep, fractured breath. ‘For losing all those points...’
‘They’ll understand,’ Greg offered, ‘if Dawlish has been half as much a tosser to you as he has been to us.’
‘He is,’ Glyn nodded. ‘He calls us “Dufflepuff”, or “Huff-and-puff”, and he thinks it’s funny,’ the Welsh boy shook his head, ‘and everyone else in Gryffindor thinks the sun shines out of his arse...’
‘Not quite everyone,’ Greg corrected his friend. ‘I bet you Ciaran Abercrombie doesn’t.’
Glyn shrugged. ‘They just tell him he’d be better off in the losers’ house with the rest of us.’
‘And he just sits there and takes it?’ Greg asked.
‘Yeah,’ the Hufflepuff answered.
‘I wonder why he’s in Gryffindor?’ Theo wondered aloud.
‘There you go again,’ Greg responded. ‘Why does it matter? What difference does it make?’ He thumped the table in front of him. ‘Remember what the Hat said – it’s your choices, and not your abilities, that really matter.’
‘Look around you,’ Oscar shrugged. ‘Is that really true? How many other people think like that?’
‘It’s getting better,’ Greg snapped, before taking a deep breath as he noticed his own temper. ‘Remember the start of the year; remember Slughorn. Just look here: there’s a Hufflepuff kid sat on our table. It’s getting better,’ he insisted, ‘and remember what Slughorn said after that first detention – that we had to choose between what was right or what was easy. I don’t care how hard it gets, I’m going to keep on doing what’s right.’
Oscar stared calmly back at the first-year. ‘I do sometimes wonder how come you ended up in Slytherin, though, Greg,’ he fought to keep his face straight, ‘but then I remember just how bloody stubborn you are, and it all makes sense.’
Greg rolled his eyes, gazing back at the prefect as he heard Theo slip into laughter alongside the older boy.
‘It’s true, Greg, and you know it!’ The other first-year grinned.
‘So what?’ Greg rolled his eyes. ‘It’s not like you ever listen to anyone when they say you need your hair cut...’
This time it was Glyn’s turn to try – and fail – to stifle his own laughter. ‘I remember when we first properly met... in the Hospital Wing, when you told me that you were going to make Slytherin into what you wanted it to be.’
Greg nodded. ‘Am I,’ he paused, correcting himself, ‘are we doing a good job?’
The Welsh boy nodded. ‘If someone had told me on the Hogwarts Express that some of my best friends would end up being Slytherins, there’s no way I would’ve believed them.’
‘Thanks, mate,’ Greg returned his friend’s smile.
‘I reckon it’s time you got some of this lunch down you now,’ Oscar pushed the Hufflepuff’s plate gently back across the table. ‘It’s not long until your next lesson. Have you got your books for it?’
Glyn shook his head.
‘It’s alright,’ the prefect reassured him as he finished his own lunch. ‘I’ll go and find another Hufflepuff and ask him to bring your things along.’
‘Thanks,’ Glyn managed, sticking his fork deep into a roast potato as the fourth-year stood up, ‘for everything.’ He swallowed. ‘See you later.’
‘Glyndwr Jones?’ The three children who had remained at the lunch table were greeted abruptly as they entered their Charms study classroom after the break.
‘Y... Yes, Jenny?’ The Welsh boy stuttered, gazing up at the seventh-year girl who addressed him. As well as being the most senior of the Hufflepuff prefects, Jennifer O’Callaghan was also the Head Girl.
‘Is this true?’ She was comfortably taller than any of the first-years, and her neat brown hair contrasted sharply with her pale skin as she glared over her thin spectacles towards Glyn.
‘Is w... what true?’
‘The story that Mr Davies here just told me, when I asked whether anybody knew why the Hufflepuff hourglass was so low?’
‘Oh, shit...’ Glyn’s whisper was so quiet that only Theo and Greg could hear him.
Jennifer continued, regardless. ‘I understand that you lost twenty points because you, and I quote, “punched Spencer Dawlish in the face”?’
‘Y... Yes.’ Glyn struggled to maintain eye contact with the prefect. ‘It’s true.’
‘Was that worth twenty points?’ Her gaze didn’t waver, and Glyn shuffled subconsciously backwards, only for Greg and Theo’s arms to hold him steady. The silent tension of the classroom was broken, however, as its back door crashed open thanks to another first-year boy.
‘Jenny! I just got twenty points from a prefect for going to get Glyn’s books from the common room because he was busy and didn’t have time to get them himself...’ The boy, who was shorter than any of the four Slytherins, panted his announcement breathlessly, before realising that all the other pupils’ eyes had turned to face him and starting to blush red beneath his short black hair.
‘Twenty points?’ Jennifer repeated, distracted from her interrogation. ‘Do you know which prefect it was?’
‘N... no,’ the small boy shook his head, ‘I didn’t even know prefects could give points.’
‘Only to other Houses,’ the Head Girl explained, briefly. ‘Not to their own House. So it would have to have been a Ravenclaw, or a Gryffindor...’
‘Or a Slytherin,’ Glyn interrupted.
‘Well, technically, yes, but...’
‘Cameron,’ Glyn projected his voice across the room. ‘Was the prefect about this tall,’ he motioned with his hand, a few inches above his own head, with short, sort of blondish hair?’
The other first-year nodded.
‘Oscar Symons,’ Glyn concluded, ‘Slytherin seeker.’ He turned back to the Head Girl. ‘He was the one who split up the fight,’ he paused, catching his breath as he noticed the room’s attention was now focused on him, ‘and yes. It was worth it.’ He strode defiantly across the room to fill an empty table, beckoning Cameron to join him as Greg and Theo followed.
A handful of minutes later, Jennifer had finished explaining the incantation for the colour-change charm that they would be practising during that particular study lesson, and the first-years had begun their attempts to turn a satsuma blue.
‘You do realise you just pretty much told the Head Girl where to go, and got away with it, don’t you?’ Greg ventured above the noise of casual conversation.
‘I was right, though,’ Glyn replied, quietly. ‘She was doing exactly what everyone else does, ignoring Slytherin for no reason.’
‘It was still awesome,’ Theo grinned. ‘I bet you’ll realise properly later.’
The Welsh boy smiled, reddening a fraction as he did so. ‘Thank you. Hey,’ he hurriedly changed the subject of their conversation, ‘have you met Cameron?’
‘Not properly,’ Theo answered for the two Slytherins. ‘Hi, Cameron,’ he introduced himself. ‘I’m Theo Forrest, this is Greg Bennett. We’re scary Slytherins.’
Cameron fidgeted, looking nervously towards Glyn before nodding slowly. ‘C... Cameron Ollerton.’
‘Hi, Cameron,’ Greg smiled. ‘Theo’s only scary cause of his crappy haircut. He won’t listen to anyone who tells him he needs it cutting.’
‘Piss off,’ Theo laughed, ‘I’ll cut it when it starts getting so long I can’t see bludgers properly.’
‘When you’re in the hospital wing, right?’ Greg teased. ‘I’ll tell Madam Pomfrey.’
Cameron glanced back towards Glyn. ‘My Mum says I’m not supposed to talk to Slytherins.’
The Welsh boy shrugged. ‘I guess it’s your choice, Cameron. Talk to Gryffindors who call you names or Slytherins who stick up for you. I know who I’m choosing.’
Cameron nodded again. ‘You’re in the Quidditch team, aren’t you?’ He asked, tamely. ‘You were good against Ravenclaw.’
‘Thanks, Cam,’ Theo laughed. ‘Did you see my bludger hit against their chaser? The one that broke her broom?’
‘Yeah,’ Cameron recalled, ‘that was great! I bet it wouldn’t have broken if it was a Cleansweep, though.’
‘Cameron’s granddad started the Cleansweep Broom Company,’ Glyn explained, noticing the looks of confusion on the Slytherins’ faces.
‘It was my great granddad,’ the smaller boy corrected his housemate.
‘Glyndwr,’ the children’s discussion was interrupted by Jennifer’s approach, and the Welsh boy looked up coldly as he heard her speak. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have talked to you like that,’ she apologised. ‘That was wrong.’
‘That... that’s okay,’ Glyn mumbled, taken aback by the Head Girl’s change in tone.
‘Well done,’ she smiled, ‘for making friends where so few have done before.’ She turned to Glyn and Theo. ‘And well done to you as well. Five points, each, in the spirit of House co-operation.’
‘Cool,’ Theo swallowed. ‘Thanks.’
‘Yeah, thank you.’ Greg echoed, as the Head Girl walked away. ‘I told you guys, it’s getting better.’
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