“Hermione, don’t be daft!” Morgan exclaimed impatiently. “The beetle eyes will just slow things down - we can toss them in later or something…”
“But it says right here,” Hermione jabbed her finger into the open potions book as a strand of frizzy hair fell into her face, “that we should add them to the base!”
Morgan rolled her eyes and sprinkled a pinch of seaweed ash into the large cauldron standing between the two girls. The slowly bubbling liquid darkened briefly before blooming into a bright, clear lilac.
“You’ve ruined it!” she hissed, her fist closing around the useless cluster of beetle eyes in her palm. “Now we have to start all over again!” She glanced at the large sand hour-glass that was looming over the classroom of first-years from a top shelf behind Professor Snape’s desk. The last bit of sand in the top half caught the dim light of the stuffy dungeon and glinted at the girls from the shadows of thick books and murky glass containers.
“Time is almost up!” Hermione panicked, pushing more hair out of her face aggressively with the back of her hand, as if she were trying to wipe off a thick blanket of cobweb. “We will never make it!”
“Hermione, relax, I fixed it. See? Lilac.” Morgan leaned back with a self-satisfied smirk and glanced around at the rest of the class, where students in twos and threes were stills sweating over smoking cauldrons, squinting frantically at their notebooks or blindly shuffling the pages in Beginners Potions, no longer seeing the words but finding the movement itself quite soothing.
Hermione’s hand shot up. “Excuse me, sir?”
Slowly, Snape raised his head from the text he was reading at his desk and fixed the fidgeting girl with a tired gaze. “Yes?”
The class quieted down.
“Sir, I would like an extension on this assignment. Our potion is faulty…” Hermione announced into the stunned silence. “My partner has not been following the book and I do not wish to-“
“That will not be possible,” Snape broke her off.
“Sir, please, I-“
“It’s alright, professor,” Morgan inserted, straightening up, “Our Sleeping Potion is perfectly fine, have a look.”
Snape glanced at the cauldron on their first row table without getting up from his desk.
“I would like it to go on record that I do not find the potion all right,” Hermione insisted, her voice getting higher, “Morgan left out the beetle eyes although I specifically told her that-“
Snape remained seated with his elbows resting on the tick mahogany desk and the fingers of his left hand still on the page he had just turned. Without another word, he lifted his right hand lazily and flicked his wand in Morgan and Hermione’s direction.
The contents of their cauldron disappeared, leaving behind a virgin clean copper surface, as if it had just been purchased at Potage’s.
Morgan and Hermione stared in silence at the place where, only seconds ago, an hour’s worth of work had been on display.
“You were right, Miss Granger, your potion was indeed faulty. Thank you for saving us all the time by admitting it yourself,” Snape smirked and unfolded from his chair to make rounds to the other tables.
“But-“ Hermione squeaked.
“Professor Snape!” Morgan protested and jumped to her feet in anger. “It was a perfect potion! A clear, mildly bubbling lilac-“
“I have been doing this for years, Miss Koshka. Your potion was the wrong shade,” Snape informed her calmly, pausing his walk and granting the girls his full attention for the first time. “Do you… intend to question my authority on this matter?”
Morgan opened her mouth in protest but couldn’t quite bring herself to utter a word.
“Five points from Gryffindor, both of you,” The professor concluded as he resumed his walk. “Once for thick-headedness and once for being an insufferable tattle-tale. Know that such childish behavior will not be tolerated in my classroom.”
“This is all your fault!” Hermione hissed at Morgan as the two girls slowly lost their spot light and the rest of the class became immersed in the vague mumbling and clanking characteristic of the last few minutes of an afternoon potions class.
“Excuse me?” the Morgan snarled, twisting to face her partner and wishing she could glare the girl down into nothingness. “You were the idiot who ran to Snape of all people…”
Morgan’s dark brown eyes were almost black that day, shielded by two expressively frowning, dominant eyebrows and strands of badly-combed, wavy brown hair. Anger could always find a home on a face like hers.
“Well you were the one who was putting our grade on the line with experiments!” Hermione insisted, growing louder. “Just because your father is some renowned potions expert doesn’t mean that you can…“
“What?” Morgan snapped at her lab-partner and friend. “That I can what?”
“You don’t even take this seriously,” Hermione concluded, her face hard with disappointment and judgment as she ran her hand over the Beginner Potions book . Despite her anger, she was avoiding eye contact. “You mess around with ingredients all the time and you never follow the book! And then you expect to be venerated as some sort of genius!”
“Ha! Right, of course, I definitely - “
“You are just like the Weasley twins!” Hermione added with a final note of outrage. “You say you hate them for what they do to people but, basically, you are the same… You think magic is just a toy!”
Morgan’s eyes widened at the latest accusations.
“Hermione, I am not l-“
The class shuffled into motion, stuffing books into bags, scratching chairs against the floor, gathering momentum and stampeding out of the classroom. Before Morgan had a chance to defend herself, and to explain just how much she was nothing like the Weasley twins, Hermione had disappeared into the mass of students heading towards the door.
Morgan, lost deep in thought, took her time packing up her things and let the last of the students trickle out of the dungeons.
A mistake, she realized, as soon as a deep, flat voice shocked her back to reality.
“Miss Koshka, a word.”
“Of course, sir,” she replied grudgingly.
“I gathered that you do not find my teaching challenging enough,” Snape continued, casually moving a roll of parchment to the other side of his desk with a surprisingly elegant gesture. “I could never let a student waste her talents in my classroom.”
He briskly strode over to Morgan’s table and lowered a massive tome onto her desk. Upon landing, the book produced a cloud of dust, which then hovered ominously in the air between professor and student.
Snape crossed his arms and scrutinized the girl, looking down his nose at her with distaste.
Morgan coughed out an unsure “thank you” and politely glanced at the cover.
The Complete Guide to Outlawed,
Amoral and Dangerous Ingredients
by Geert van Guildenburg
“This rather extensive legal manual should be appropriate reading material for someone who writes essays on the newest uses of Unicorn Blood…An ingredient that has been undeniably illegal for about a century,” Snape clarified with a slight twitch of the lip. “I expect a two thousand word report on three of the most widely used illegal ingredients, as well as suggestions on how to prevent their further abuse. Oh, and a summary of the book, of course. By Monday.”
“But!” Morgan squeaked, “I-“
Snape raised an eyebrow.
“Feel free to write home to your father and let him know you still have something left to learn at this school,” he commanded. “I’m sure he will be happy to hear that. You may go.”
Morgan had little choice but to obey, so she grabbed the book and stormed out of the classroom. Severus Snape went back to grading essays, possibly feeling that another arrogant, spoiled brat had been put into place and not even suspecting that this short-term success was to have very different consequences in the long run.
Although he would not live long enough to see why, Severus Snape made a lethal mistake that day. In the years to come, Morgan would often seek him out for information, and sometimes, he would even give it willingly. But no little peek into the world of Dark Arts that Morgan was to receive in the future could ever amount to the influence of Dangerous Ingredients.
It’s a simple rule, really. Don’t forbid something the child does not know about yet…But it’s a counter-intuitive rule, and difficult to follow.
Just two sentences under an illustration in an old book, and the ball starts rolling. A few more coincidences, and Morgan might be the first in centuries to discover a dark, bloody wizarding secret that has been so well hidden, it’s everywhere.
Her strength at that point wouldn’t be brilliance or magical ability, but simply the open-minded state of being a child. With a mind still free from academic canon, she might see what no one else would even think to notice.
But, to be fair, Snape’s punishment was not the sole catalyst of Morgan’s first major disappointment with the world. For Morgan to put two and two together, a few more things had to happen. One of them was well on its way by the time she sat down for lunch at the Gryffindor table on that very same day.
* * *
Two ginger blurs invaded her peripheral vision on both sides.
“Greetings!” Fred exclaimed brightly.
“And salutations!” George added.
“Aww, come on, it can’t be that bad to see us!” Fred pouted.
“For Merlin’s sake, Morgan!” George exclaimed, clearly growing impatient. “When will you forgive us finally? It’s been over a month!”
“Besides,” Fred cut in before George could completely explode the situation. “All we need is some advice from the resident potions genius!”
“For what? Another instrument of terror?” Morgan scoffed, stabbing at an elusive tomato and pointedly avoiding eye-contact. She felt uncomfortably surrounded and it was disorienting, a feeling she was determined to keep to herself.
“Nothing like that at all!” Fred insisted cheerfully, wisely choosing to ignore Morgan’s accusations. “Here, just have a look!”
He pulled out a crumpled piece of parchment and spread it out on the table. Despite herself, Morgan had to sneak one curious glance. She found herself navigating a diagram of sorts, depicting a rough outline of a human face and a swarm of arrows.
“Uhm…” Morgan admitted.
“Right, so basically,” Fred continued excitedly, running his hand through his hair, “Since the epicenter of a human’s magical field is the amygdala, then the fastest way of tapping into it is through the nose…”
Morgan’s eyebrows shot up her forehead. For some reason, she had to picture Dumbledore picking his nose with the tip of his wand.
“In all honestly, I swear!” Fred insisted. “It works! So, imagine an aromatic paste that, if sniffed, lets you hover above the ground. Nothing fancy, just a few centimeters…” He spread his arms and lifted them to the real-time hologram of the sky on the ceiling of the Great Hall. “The Soaring Sniffler!”
“The AeroAroma!” George added from Morgan’s other side, mimicking his twin’s gesture.
“Right,” Morgan interjected before the twins could attract any more attention from the rest of the Gryffindor table. “I don’t know what you’ve been sniffing to come up with this idea, but may I remind you that I am a first-year, in my first month of school…My potions knowledge does not extend past basic five-step medicinal and culinary recipes.”
Morgan was openly playing dumb, and she knew that her statement would only cement the already widespread notion of Morgan the Russian Potions Princess. Rumors had already spread about how her house was full of rare ingredients and books about the darkest and oldest of potions. Some even believed that her father brewed medicine for military troops in Russia, which enabled the soldiers to withstand the lowest temperatures and slowed down their metabolism to the point where one piece of bread per week was sufficient sustenance. Others believed that he had discovered a cure for human mortality and that many members of her family were actually hundreds of years old.
Of course, none of this was anywhere near the truth. Morgan’s father was an awkward academic, who liked to sit in dusty archives and needed someone to warn him about obstacles in the road when he got too engrossed in a conversation while walking. But, of all available reputations for a first-year, Morgan was quite happy with what she had achieved, and she nourished it whenever she could.
Even when she couldn’t.
As soon as the Weasley twins had indicated that they needed her advice, Morgan’s mind had begun frantically racing through a maze of formulas and measurements, bumping into dead ends and coming up with an infuriating, senseless mess. Somewhere in the basement of her brain, a tiny Morgan replica was chopping up oversized ingredients, dumping them into a large cauldron, and fishing out question marks by the dozen. She couldn’t even imagine where to start concocting a potion that worked through smell, let alone one that defied gravity. In walked her big ego; it shook its fist, knocked over the cauldron, and tossed the question marks at the cowering replica Morgan. Giving up was not an option.
“We have most of it planned out already,” George was saying. “The anti-gravity potion, its pheromone form, the weight-concentration ratio… But we can’t seem to find a way to-”
“Preserve the smell,” Morgan finished for him, nodding. In her mind, replica Morgan was doing a little victory jig. The crisis had been averted: she was still good.
“Exactly!” The twins beamed. “We knew your outrageous cosmetics knowledge would involve some perfume tips!”
“Well…” Morgan began, buying time as she raked her brain for useful memories.
That was when she let her eyes wander over the Gryffindor table, and she instantly regretted it. Just like that, all potions-related thoughts toppled into an abyss.
Hermione was staring at her. And it was not a kind stare.
As soon as their eyes met, Morgan’s bushy-haired, nerdy study buddy went back to gesticulating wildly at Ron Weasley, who, in turn, proceeded to mouth something to Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived was proving to be rather useless in the situation, smugly observing the conversation from a safe distance across the table and making sure to have a full mouth at all times.
Morgan couldn‘t quite grasp why Hermione would be interested in keeping the company of two boys that not only showed little interest in her, but also had nothing of interest to offer...Except Harry Potter being famous, of course. Feeling particularly bitter, Morgan decided that this was probably Hermione’s motivation.
Before she could this particular train of thought any further, two identical voices retrieved Morgan’s attention from the goings on at the other end of the table and placed her smack in the middle of a conversation of which she was the main subject.
“…sent her brain into overdrive, maybe,” George was musing.
“Watch her ears for signs of smoke,” Fred cautioned.
“Don’t want her head exploding all over the mozzarella-”
“Shut it,” Morgan interrupted, blushing slightly as she realized that she must have zoned off for quite a while.
“Thank Fay, she is alright!” George hailed.
“I had to think, if that's alright with you?” Morgan grumbled, fighting her scattered thoughts and hating that she was with the Weasley twins again – and she was being judged for it, too.
“Right, we’ll let you sleep on it, then,” George offered. “Get back to us if you have any ideas. If you could ask your father for some advice, that would be magnificent!”
Morgan’s face hardened. With her current mood, the twins hardly stood a chance either way, but questioning her ability to come up with an answer and mentioning her father on top of that…It was a lethal combination by all standards.
“No need for that…” Morgan informed them through clenched teeth, trying to quickly arrange her facial muscles into a less murderous expression. “It’s a simple procedure. Dissolve some paint and mix it in after you’re done with the entire potion. Just scrape it off a portrait, something from before the 1800s…”
Fred and George asked some follow up questions and dashed off quicker than they had appeared, leaving Morgan free to finally release the laugh she had been holding in.
She impaled another tomato and idly hoped that the twins wouldn’t die.
Well, this chapter was fun to write (Weasleys and Snape :3) Hope it was at least half as fun to read!
Feedback in the form of reviews would be wonderful and would, in fact, rock my world :D
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