Chapter 1 : Chapter One
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Plum colored sparks flew up from Nellie Macdonald’s cauldron like a New Year’s Eve night. The sparks burst and popped, creating a strong sulfur smell and lime green smoke.
Nellie coughed, waving her hands around her face trying to clear the foul smelling smoke.
“Diced the lacewings; added the powdered fig after three counterclockwise turns,” she mumbled to herself. She couldn’t figure out what she did wrong. She had studied, reread, and followed each direction perfectly. What was she doing wrong?
Shoving her dark, curly hair out of her face, the smoke cleared and she was face-to-face with the walrus-sized Professor Slughorn.
“Now, Miss Macintyre,” he began gruffly, his mustache bent down in a deep frown. “I’m sorry, but your hazardous mistakes have to stop, I told everyone to follow the directions, and I see that once again you added an ingredient too soon. Ten points from Hufflepuff and you will see me after class.”
Groans and moans of protest came from the Hufflepuff side of the potions dungeon, but Slughorn had already turned and was waddling over to the Ravenclaw side and was adamant on ignoring us.
“Way to go, Macdonald.” Someone grumbled bitterly as the rest of her fellow housemates just glowered in her direction.
“Oi, you lot get back to your potions before you lose us more points!” Nellie’s best friend, Becca Belby said fiercely, glowering back at the group as her protective instincts kicked in.
“Yeah,” agreed Henry Thomas in his usual quiet, unthreatening demeanor. “No sense crying over a lost ten points when you praise Louis Weasley for doing it every day.”
Louis Wesley, being a part of the elite “Wotter clan” as the students and few professors, called the massive, army-sized Weasley-Potter family, got away with losing at least up to thirty points a day. But even if he wasn’t a “Wotter”, he was still quite handsome and a bit charming – that is if you like your charming men on the more arrogant side, so Nellie suspected he’d get away with losing points either way.
“Shut it, Thomas.” Rodney Harris sneered, but seeing Becca’s eyes narrow dangerously he immediately turned around in his seat, becoming very interested in his daisy roots than necessary.
“Just ignore them, Nell. Next time just follow the instructions.” Becca said, stirring her cauldron as it turned a nice powdered pink, the color the potion was supposed to be.
Nellie gave an irritable sigh. “I am following the instructions! I don’t know why it keeps on going wrong.” She whined, knowing that if she wasn’t sitting in a tall chair she’d stomp her foot in frustration.
Becca patted Nellie’s arm sympathetically. “It’s okay to make mistakes, Nell. Maybe you didn’t notice you missed something.”
“Yeah,” Nellie sighed, skimming through the instructions carefully, trying to see what she skipped over. “Maybe I did.”
“I wonder what ole Slug wants to talk to you about after class.” Henry said, suddenly, turning his flame off.
“Probably going to kick me out of the class,” Nellie said glumly, examining the split-ends on her dark locks.
“He can’t. If it weren’t an OWL required class he could, but to his dismay you’re his student till June.” Henry said with a cheeky grin.
Nellie gave a small smile because she knew Henry was trying to help calm her nerves, but was feeling sick.
She knew Slughorn didn’t like her, considering how she ruined her potion – and at times her cauldron – for the past five years, and the man still couldn’t remember that her last name was Macdonald, or that her first name was Aileen despite always having to talk to her about following the directions.
When the bell signaled it was time for lunch, Nellie thought she was going to vomit. She managed to scrape up a bit of her murky plum colored potion into a vial and followed Becca and Henry to the front to drop it off.
The classroom cleared as Nellie stood awkwardly off to the side watching everyone drop their potion off and leave to have a delicious lunch in the great hall.
“Want us to wait for you?” Becca asked quietly as she fidgeted with the strap of her bag.
Neither of her friends looked like they wanted to wait for their friend, and Nellie couldn’t blame them since the talk with Slughorn could take long and the food would be cold, or worse, gone.
“No, it’s fine. You two go on ahead and save me something.” She said, trying hard to smile, but feeling like she’d swallowed a handful of lemon grass Bertie Botts.
“Okay, if you’re sure.” Becca said uneasily, but her eyes looked relieved. She sure didn’t want to miss lunch with quidditch practice later that afternoon.
Henry looked like he wanted to sprint to the door, but gave Nellie a reassuring smile and wished her good luck.
Nellie waited for Slughorn to stop talking to Albus Potter and finally tell her what he needed to say so she could eat.
“Alright, me boy,” Slughorn said, slapping a hand on Albus’ shoulder and turned to Nellie.
“Miss Macintyre, with the OWLs this year, and your potions grade lacking, I have decided to give you a tutor. Al is the best in the year; I haven’t seen anyone this good at potions since Harry Potter himself!” Slughorn gushed.
Nellie’s eyes widened as she looked at Albus, who was looking back at her blankly.
Al looked at the girl before him, not knowing what to think of her. She was in the same standardize girl’s uniform, except her tie was very loose and thin. Her socks didn’t match, and it made his OCD tendencies kick in, glancing at her knee length socks. One was yellow and the other black, which he thought was pretty clever.
He felt a pang of guilt that he didn’t know the girls name. He knew of her, and had made the assumption that she wasn’t the sharpest claw on the sharpest claw on the bowtruckle.
Al knew she was friends with the obnoxious Becca Belby, who his cousin Molly hadn’t stopped talking about all summer, but never talked to her or thought about her outside of potions class when she was either making a sleeping potion yodel or having it explode into tiny fireworks.
He knew his fellow housemates thought she was an idiot. And how could anyone not think that? The girl couldn’t even make a simple pepper-up potion that a measly muggleborn first year could do.
She was a laughingstock with her potion disasters and now he had the bad luck of tutoring her.
“I will leave one of the dungeons open for your tutoring sessions, and will give you access to the supplies.” Slughorn said, laying down the rules.
Al nodded, not taking his eyes off her as her face flushed and she bowed her head.
He was trying to think of what her name was. He knew he had to of heard it before. Natalie? Nadine?
“Good luck, Mr. Potter. Any problems let me know immediately. We don’t want her setting the castle on fire.” Slughorn laughed loudly, making the girl’s cheeks brighten once again.
“Of course, sir,” Al said.
Once he dismissed them she sprinted for the door. Al sighed. He could be a good person and go after her and at least learn her name, or let her leave and talk to her before their next class.
Al knew he could never do the latter. He had inherited his father’s “always need to be the good guy and hero” complex and went after her.
“Wait,” he called after her as she made her way up the last flight of stairs. She looked over the railing down at him. Her dark, choppy curls hung over the railing as her dark eyes observed him. “Are you okay?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Of course, who doesn’t love being humiliated like that?”
“Well it’s not like it’s anything new to you.” Al blurted out.
The funny thing about Al was that even though he wanted to be the good guy, he had also inherited his Uncle Ron’s trait of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Al was always blurting out the truth, even if it was a mean one like he had with the girl whose name he didn’t know. He wouldn’t have blamed her if she punched him in the face. But all she did was lock her jaw, turn towards the remaining steps and marched up them.
Al sighed. “Okay that came out wrong.”
She didn’t say anything to him. She just kept her brisk pace to the great hall.
He grabbed her arm, which she jerked out of his grasp immediately and turned around with narrowed, dangerous eyes.
“I’m sorry. I say stupid things sometimes.” Al apologized awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed about that.”
She crossed her arms. “Look, I’m hungry and I’m mad, and trust me when I say that those two don’t make a pretty combination, so unless you want me to hex you from her to the Salem Witch Institute I suggest you leave me alone. We can talk about the tutoring thing later.”
Without leaving room for argument, she attempted to walk away.
“Wait, uh…” he said, feeling his face burn as he failed to come up with a name.
“Nellie,” she sighed, pausing in her stride. She didn’t turn back around to face him, and he was grateful that she didn’t see the embarrassment on his face. “My name is Nellie Macdonald. Though you’ll probably never hear ole Slug say it.”
Al blinked and then snorted.
“It isn’t funny. It’s very annoying to be called ‘Macintyre’ or whatever else he’s called me.” Nellie snapped.
Al, trying his best not to laugh, nodded. “It probably does.”
“But you wouldn’t know of that, being a great Potter and all.” She said bitterly. “Slughorn would remember your name, even if you sucked at potions, with your family privilege.”
Al felt his neck grow warm. He knew Nellie was right, and he and his family had favoritism among some professors – not all, but a few obviously treasured them, and it made him angry that this girl – this nobody was acting as if he enjoyed it.
“W-well,” Al stuttered, too angry to form words.
“Sorry, Albus Potter, but lunch waits for no one.” Nellie said, tossing a sheet of curly hair over her shoulder and began to skip to the great hall.
Al watched her with his jaw askew, wondering what in the name of Dumbledore’s woolen socks had just happened.
“So, Albus Potter is going to be tutoring you in potions?” Henry asked with a smirk as Nellie shoveled a spoonful of cold shepherds’ pie into her mouth.
“According to Slughorn,” Nellie said, her voice a bit muffled because of a full mouth, making both her friends cringe and look away in disgust. Swallowing her mouthful, she continued. “I may have hurt his ego a bit, though. He seemed quite upset when I left him after calling him out on his family privilege.”
“It’s not like that’s a lie.” Becca said, rolling her eyes.
“We Weasleys’ can’t help that we’re so privileged.” Annie Weasley said, sitting down beside Nellie with a cheeky smile.
“Hey, Annie,” the three greeted their friend, as the first year swiped a biscuit off of Nellie’s plate, causing Nellie to cry out indignantly.
Annie Weasley, a young Hufflepuff first year, had been taken under Becca and Nellie’s wing when they met her at the sweet trolley on the train. Little did either of them know Annie was the younger sister to Fred Weasley, or the daughter to George Weasley, owner of Weasley Wizard Wheezes, and was quite good at mischief and pranks. She was also a biscuit thief.
“I wouldn’t worry about bruising Al’s pride, Nell.” The first year Hufflepuff assured her, breaking off a piece of the biscuit and popping it into her mouth. “I doubt Al has any ego to bruise with siblings like James and Lily, or with a family like ours.”
“What do you mean by that?” Becca asked, looking over to the Ravenclaw table where Al sat in between Scorpius Malfoy and Cordelia McLaggen.
“Well,” Annie sighed, finishing off the biscuit and wiping the imaginary crumbs off her robe. “Al’s quiet, and isn’t really popular. Think about it, James is captain of the quidditch team and a total ladies’ man, Al doesn’t even like quidditch – which by the way, is like blasphemy in our family! Lily is sweet and everyone loves her, while people are intimidated by Al’s quietness. It’s like he was born from a totally different family and Auntie Ginny and Uncle Harry adopted him.”
Nellie pondered that for a moment, nibbling on the rest of her pie. “Are you sure you’re eleven?”
“Positive,” Annie said.
“Hmm, that’s pretty insightful for an eleven year old.” Nellie said.
“Pretty much what you’re saying is that Al is the loser of your family?” Henry stated.
“I prefer the term ‘black sheep’. It sounds nicer.” Annie drawled.
“Well at least he’s good at school.” Nellie pointed out. “He’s going to get a nice job somewhere.”
“Ah, Nellie,” Annie said wisely, shaking her head with a smile. “Being good at school isn’t everything.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Nellie shrugged, but turned to look at Al, feeling a bit of sympathy for the outcast Wotter boy.
Author’s Note: Hello again! Okay to clear up any possible confusion, Annie is Roxanne, and I know this was a short beginning chapter, but you’ll meet all the characters soon, and the plot has barely begun! So review this maybe?