Chapter 3 : Chapter Three
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“Gus... Gus!” I awoke to find myself dangerously close to falling out my chair. Albus was glaring at me. I righted myself and rubbed at my eyes, trying to look a bit less like I'd spent the lecture half of Potions asleep on my desk.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. Albus shook his head and turned back to what looked like an engorged raisin.
“Peel those,” he said, nodding towards a bowl of small green seeds. I dragged the bowl over to me and picked one up, wondering how on earth I was supposed to peel these when... it stung me.
“Ow!” I dropped the seed. Albus snorted.
“Stinging String Bean seeds. Once the skin is off they'll be fine, but you'll be needing these.” He handed me his dragon skin gloves and I slipped them on before gingerly picking up another seed.
We were silent while Albus crushed and collected the juice from his super raisin, and fiddled pathetically, trying to get the skin off the seeds.
It only took a few moments for me to lose interest in the nasty buggers. I stared at the ceiling for a bit, then my gaze fell on Albus. He was bent over the table, sorting out seeds from the juice. He looked so... engaged. A bit like a mad scientist really, with his black hair all over and his bespectacled brown eyes wide. There he was, sorting out the minute details, and I still had no idea what potion we were trying to make. I tilted my head to the side, and realized suddenly that despite having known Albus since we were in nappies, I knew next to nothing about him. I felt bad, then, just for a second, but it was enough to make me open my stupid mouth.
“So... did you have a nice holiday?” Original, I know.
Albus looked up, clearly surprised. Usually, we were pretty quiet partners, him being so focused and me being so clueless. The only time we ever talked really was when he laughed or scoffed at how abysmal I was at this sort of thing. “It was... good,” he replied, giving me an odd look and beginning to slice some purple root lengthwise.
“Oh.” Well, that was that. “Did you, erm... did you do anything fun?” But I had to keep going.
“I went around with James on all his try-outs, actually,” he said, pausing. “It was wicked... I got to meet all the big Quidditch teams in England!” It was my turn to be surprised.
“Oh? Didn't know you were such a fan,” I commented, because I couldn't think of anything else to say. He stopped what he was doing again, setting down his knife and narrowing his eyes at me.
“What's that mean?” he asked. I dropped the seeds I'd been faffing about with.
“What? I can't be a Quidditch fan?”
“That's not what I meant... it's just.... you don't play so I didn't assume...”
“So, I'm not some big Quidditch champion like James, I can't be a fan?” he snapped.
I had a sneaking suspicion this had very little to do with anything I 'd said, but I wasn't about to start psychoanalyzing my Potions partner. “Sorry,” I said sheepishly, turning back to the seeds. He continued to glare at me for a moment, then went back to his purples roots, now dicing them finely. Leave it to me to touch on a sore subject the only time we talk about anything other than Potions or History of Magic.
I would have preferred the tense silence that followed to what popped up behind us a moment later.
“Miss Longbottom! How nice to see you!” The familiar melodic voice drifted over my shoulder, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.. I dropped the seeds again and pivoted to face Professor Blackwood. “I'm surprised to see you back, actually, considering... last year.” She was smiling – she was always bloody smiling – but even that sweet little grin couldn't mask her disappointment at seeing me. “Hopefully, I'll be seeing you more often in class than out of class,” she continued, her smile beginning to look like a grimace.
“Hopefully,” I said with a smile (alright, a grimace), turning back the seeds. What she meant by 'last year', was my sixth year, the year I had spent more weeks in detention with her than not. Most of it was my fault (I did accidentally turn her hair blue with a bad potion), but I still thought she was unbearable. Most people (ahem, Albus), thought she was brilliant. She was young, and pretty, and pleasant. But I'd scrubbed enough cauldrons until my knuckles bled while she prattled on about the lack of respect I had for her noble science to be fooled by her cutesy facade. She was pure, unadulterated evil.
By then, Blackwood had moved on to her favorite activity; lauding Albus.
“Mr. Potter, what a pleasure to see you!”
“Good to see you too, Professor Blackwood,” said Albus, turning back to beam at her. His sincerity made me want to gag.
“Ready to take on the N.E.W.T. Level?”
“Of course, Professor!”
“Naturally. Let's just hope you can rub off a bit on your partner this year.” She shot me another strained, disapproving smile, before flitting to the next table, where Lenoard and Sam were sporting red sting marks all over their hands and arms. Guess nobody told them they needed gloves.
“Why're you here, anyways?” Albus asked me after I'd spent several minutes snickering quietly at them flailing about and messing about absently with the seeds.
“Huh?” I asked, slowly turning back to him. He set down his silver knife in exasperation.
“Why. Are. You. Here.”
“Because... this is the class I have today?” I thought that was fairly obvious.
Albus shook his head. “You're rubbish at Potions, Gus. Why are you taking it at the N.E.W.T. Level?”
“I...erm...” I had absolutely no idea.
Albus gestured for me to continue.“D'you want to be an auror or something?” he offered.
I shook my head.“No, nothing like that. I just, erm... want to keep my options open?” Why was that a question? I don't know. Albus stared at me oddly for a moment. I felt very silly, but that was the closest thing to the truth I could think of. He shrugged, seemingly to himself, after a moment.
“Here... try using the peeler,” he said, handing me an odd looking metal contraption. I stared between him and the peeler for a moment, before picking up a seed, placing it in the peeler and finding that it (surprisingly) made short work of removing the skin.
“Why didn't you show me this earlier?” I demanded. Albus looked up and grinned lopsidedly.
“It's fun to watch you sod about sometimes. Hurry up, we haven't got all day.”
I glowered around the room for a moment, then set about peeling the seeds, wondering why I had bothered getting out of bed today.
“Finally,” I murmured when I reached History of Magic that afternoon. Charms had been hellish, as it tended to be for people who weren't very good with a wand (and I was rubbish). But History of Magic was always a breeze. Taking notes was easy, and I found some of it marginally interesting.
But today was different. As I followed Lucy and Leonard toward our usual seats, something truly unprecedented happened at the front of the classroom. Rather than Binns drifting through the wall, already droning on about Uric the Oddball or something like that, a woman appeared out of a door in the corner. A living, breathing woman.
She smiled at us and went to the desk at the front of the room while we all gaped at her, like fish asphyxiating on a dock. She glance between us and the clock, watching as the last of the late comers straggled in, all of which stopped dead in the doorway to stare unabashedly at her. Finally, when we were all seated and slack-jawed, she addressed the class.
“Good afternoon,” she said quietly, tugging the hem of crisp white button down over her gray skirt. Her voice shook, and I noticed a sheen of sweat on her forehead. She was nervous. “As you have most likely noticed, Professor Binns is not here today. I'm sad to announce he's left his post here, but glad to tell you it is a result of his finally moving onto the next world. He now rests in peace,” she explained, wringing her pale fingers together. I tried not to, but I couldn't help squinting at her. She looked so familiar.
“Which brings me to my next point. My name is Professor Bones, I went to Hogwarts myself, and now I'm back to be your new History of Magic teacher.” She paused again, beaming a bit too brightly at the class. Circe, she was so familiar, from the dark red hair to the large front teeth. Bones... Bones...
“Mum's friend!” I didn't mean to say it aloud, and had the class not been completely silent, it probably would have gone unnoticed. But as my luck would have it, everyone turned and stared at me. Professor Bones cleared her throat uncomfortably and continued to wring her hands.
“Yes, Miss Longbottom. I was your mum's friend. A long time ago,” she squeaked at me. I felt my face flush.
“Right,” I murmured, busying myself with my notebooks while laughter rippled quietly through the classroom. Professor Bones nodded as if to say 'well, that's that', drew her wand and flourished it at the chalk board. A piece of chalk rose into the air and began drawing an outline of France in minute detail.
“Today, we'll begin our discussion of French Magical history. I am sure few of you have had much experience with the subject before, so we'll begin by learning France's geography and a cursory glance at the nation's political history...”
Lucy poked me from across the aisle, and I glanced sidelong at her, making sure Bones still had her back turned to us.
'What was that about?' she mouthed, waggling her eyebrows. I shrugged.
'I dunno' I mouthed back. She made a face and I shrugged again. Lucy rolled her eyes, shot me another look that said I would have to tell her later, and set about taking notes.
I knew I should have done the same, but I found myself gazing out the window instead, lost in thought. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I did know Bones. Really well, as a matter of fact. Most of the memories were vague, but there were plenty of them; going to her house when mum and dad needed a night off, or her coming over for dinner with Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry, or her taking me shopping for dress robes so I could be in someone's wedding...
I snapped back to reality. “What?” I asked artlessly.
Professor Bones frowned and placed crossed her arms. “The seat of Louis XIV's government in France. Where was it?”
Damnit all, I should have known this. In the corner of my eye I spotted Leonard, shaking head at me, the bloody know-it-all. “Erm... Paris?” I offered. Professor Bones sighed. Of course that was wrong.
“None of you know anything about this, do you?” she asked the class. Her disappointment at our silence was practically tangible. “Well, we'll start small. Chapter one of your textbook for Thursday. You need to know the names of every country and muggle as well as magical capital in Europe. Dismissed.”
Silence filled the room for a split second, then, a deafening scraping of desks and chairs as all of us scrambled out of the classroom. Lucy came up beside me as I reached the door, knocking Leonard out of her way to do so. She was about to ask me something (probably about Bones), when I was called back into the room.
I paused, stepped back, and let Lucy and Leonard by me. He smirked at me, and I resisted the urge to make a rude gesture. I turned back around slowly to find Bones, arms crossed, leaning against her desk.
“Yeah?” Please let this be short.
“Sorry about embarrassing you in class,” She said as the last student disappeared through the door. “I just figured you would know, seeing as you were always so interesting in history when you were little... but, never mind. I'm not keeping you after to scold you. I...” she trailed off, cocking her head to the side. “How have you been?” she asked, her tone indicating she fully understood how broad and uncomfortable that question was.
“Um... I've been... well,” I managed. Bones nodded.
“I heard about the divorce. Haven't spoken to your mum in years but that was a bit of a.... bit of a shock,” she said, glancing at the window for a moment. I nodded, biting my lip. What was I supposed to say?
“Yeah... s'pose it was.”
“Well... I know you've probably heard this about a trillion times already,” she said, turning to shuffle papers forcefully around on her desk, “but, if you ever need to talk... or just want to talk,” she added, turning back to me for a second, “I'm here.”
I stopped staring at the ceiling for a moment, mildly surprised. Yeah, I had heard that line more than I cared to remember, but she actually sounded like she meant it.
“Oh... thanks,” I replied. I still didn't know how to feel about all this.
“No need. I loved your mum, and your dad, and you... I still... love you? Merlin, this is not an appropriate conversation to have with a student.” Bones covered her face with her hands. I felt genuinely bad, seeing as it probably didn't feel too great that I had forgotten her until today, but I didn't say anything. As usual, I was at a loss for words.
“Well... anyways,” she continued finally, apparently addressing her desk, “I'm here, if you need me. If you don't need me, as well. If you just want to talk. Yes. If you want... or need... to talk or... or anything else, just... come by my office.”
“Yeah... erm... I will.”
She grimaced at the desk one more time before nodding to me, signaling it was time for me to leave. I did, happily, turning on my heel and bolting from the room. I sped down several staircases, huffing and puffing from the exertion. I felt absolutely rotten about all of it, and on top of that, our after-class encounter had been all the more awkward on account of my bloody social ineptitude. And bloody hell, I was sweating like mad.
To make matters worse, I promptly turned a corner too quickly and ran into some... one.
“Hi... James,” I said, righting myself and backing up about ten paces. He followed me, arms out like he was afraid I was going to topple over or something.
“Hello,” he said and finally dropped his arms. We stood, facing each other for a moment, while I chewed my lip furiously and he scrubbed his fingers through his red hair.
“How was your first day back?” he asked, sounding as uncomfortable as I felt.
“Ah... it was good. Erm... congrats on the new position,” I managed.
We fell into silence. Niether of us had anything to say, and I think we both felt bad about that. What we needed was an excuse to leave.
“Well -” he began.
“- I've got -” I said at the same time.
“- be somewhere in -”
“- my owl -”
“- very soon -”
“Owl?” James cocked a ginger eyebrow.
“Um... yeah, I've got to... wash my owl.” Did people have to wash their owls? I wouldn't know. I didn't have an owl.
“You don't have an owl.”
“...Lucy's owl!” Rubbish.
“Lucy has a cat.”
“Oh... yeah,” I shook my head. “Yeah, sorry, I meant... cat... I have to wash Lucy's cat, because... she can't.” I stammered.
“You have to wash Lucy's cat?” I cringed.
“Yes. Erm, well, I'm late,” I managed finally, and pushed by the very pained-looking James. I made it all the way down the corridor before I realized I was going in the exact opposite direction of the Hufflepuff common room. I thought briefly about going back, but the possibility of running into James again . I didn't know where I was going, but it was (hopefully) far away from him, Bones, his crotchety little brother and everyone else. As a matter of fact, if I didn't run into anyone else that day, it'd be magnificent. Really.
A/N: Wow, a third chapter? This is a first in... years, actually. Well, it may be a bit before I have another update, since I'll be back to school by the time this is posted, but fear not. I am determined to get this off the ground!
Anyways, let me know what you think. It's kind of a filler chapter. I like having 'a-day-in-the-life' parts, even if they are a bit boring. But, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, and Gus, and that horribly awkward James moment :) Thanks for reading guys!