Chapter 5 : The Potions Genius
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The Potions Genius
Albus saw a man in ragged robes, presumably the new Head of Slytherin House, handing out schedules as he reached the Slytherin table for breakfast on Monday. He sat down and began to pool oatmeal into his bowl when the professor shoved his schedule at him. Albus took it glumly and saw that he had Charms with the Hufflepuffs first. After he was done perusing his schedule, he took out his Charms textbook and flipped through it. He had already done so this summer, but reading even more couldn't hurt, right?
Trying to memorize every incantation in the first half of the book, Albus was busy for the rest of breakfast. Knowing he had Transfiguration after Charms, he propped open his Transfiguration textbook next to the Charms one and looked back and forth at them, causing several Slytherins to stare at him in awe as he read both textbooks practically at the same time without getting confused. When he realized the Slytherins were watching him, he closed the textbooks quickly and surreptitiously shoved them back into his schoolbag. But not only were the Slytherins staring at him—they were talking about him, too.
"Can you believe it? The son of Harry Potter? In Slytherin?"
"Do you think he's a spy?"
"Poor kid. His pure Gryffindor family probably disowned him."
"What's someone with a name like his doing here?"
"The Sorting Hat must have been hit on the tip with a club. There's no way Potter's anything like us."
Albus tried to ignore them, but felt a lump rise in his throat anyways. Even his new Housemates were suspicious of him. And he really couldn't blame them. After all, they were constantly bullied by the popular Gryffindors—many of which were part of the Weasley-Potter family. Slytherin's bad reputation had extended from the time of the war until now, even though they definitely weren't as cruel as they used to be. The rest of Hogwarts didn't seem to care that Slytherin might be better than before. The students of other Houses were glaring at them and insulting them, coughing, "Losers" into their hands as they walked by their table. It seemed that the Hogwarts was taking revenge on the Slytherins now for their ancestors' mistakes nineteen years ago.
It wasn't fair, Albus realized. He clenched his fists underneath the table, trying to ignore a gaggle of Gryffindors that knocked several Slytherins' heads into their porridge bowls as they walked by. At last, the torture of breakfast was over, and the bell rang, signaling the start of classes.
Albus stood up and looked nervously towards Scorpius and Oswald, who were the only Slytherin first years. It wasn't surprising that there were only three new additions, as nearly everyone hated Slytherin and did not want to become the scum of the school like them. This also meant that Slytherins didn't have strength in numbers, which, of course, made it all the easier for other Houses to bully them.
And so, Albus wasn't the least bit shocked when he saw the crowd of fifteen-or-so Hufflepuffs, which made it five to one. Hopelessly outnumbered, Albus, Oswald, and Scorpius drew closer together automatically, even though neither of them particularly liked each other. They walked into the classroom and all took seats at the back, Albus taking out his textbook and opening it so that he'd be hidden from view. A few minutes later, the class began. Their Charms professor was Professor Moore, who was at least somewhat fair—even though his voice took a sour tone when he did role call and called Albus' name. After that, all he did was talk happily about Charms while bouncing around.
While he talked, the Hufflepuffs fixed glares of dislike on the Slytherins. Their expressions were hostile, and obviously conveyed one thing to the three Slytherins: Slytherins weren't wanted here. Bizarrely, Albus had grown used to the sideways insults by the end of the lesson. Oswald, however, burst into tears every few minutes. As sweet as the Hufflepuffs no doubt usually were, they were very nasty to the three Slytherins.
Transfiguration afterwards was much, much worse—it was with the Gryffindors. Five minutes into the lesson, Albus was trying not to strangle Eric Derlwin, the arrogant brat whose only purpose was to make Albus' life miserable. Albus had to deal with snide whispers of 'wimpy scum' every three seconds during Professor Patil's speech. Fortunately, things took a turn for the better when Patil handed out parchment and told them to turn it into wood. Albus and Scorpius both got it perfectly on their first try and earned ten points each for Slytherin.
The Gryffindors had looked absolutely murderous. Patil kept handing the two clever Slytherins a few simple objects to transfigure, but Albus and Scorpius managed them all on the first try as well. No one else had been able to transfigure anything, and at the end of the lesson, the Gryffindors slouched in their seats, disheartened. It would be a bit harder to tease Albus and Scorpius now. No one could ever dare to insult them about their intelligence. If one thing was clear, it was that Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter were possibly two of the most talented wizards in the school.
The rest of the week passed similarly. Even if Albus and Scorpius had constantly proved themselves geniuses in every class, they were still teased out of spite. During Herbology, Derlwin had made a plant squirt its insides all over Albus. He was glad to see that Derlwin was punished by Neville, who was at least trying to be nice to Albus. Albus, Scorpius, Oswald, and the rest of the Slytherins continued to be bullied, though Lacker did not approach Albus again. He suspected the news about his academic brilliance had been spread around the school, and perhaps Lacker was a bit afraid of confronting him.
But not only did Albus have to deal with the insults of random students in the hallways—he also had to endure his bullying brother, who was intent on reducing Albus to tears. The rest of his cousins continued to ignore him. Sometimes they would give him either nasty or sympathetic looks. Victoire, like Neville, was trying to be nice to him. Albus very much liked his oldest cousin. He did truly hope that Teddy would marry her. She was very pretty and extremely nice.
There was only one other girl at Hogwarts like that—Elina Lyon. In a particularly embarrassing moment for Albus that first week, a group of fifth years had ambushed him in the hallways and had knocked his schoolbag off, causing its contents to spill out. Without any words but with a kind smile, Elina Lyon had kneeled down next to him and had helped him pick all his quills, ink bottles, and books up. He had been so shocked that a Gryffindor (not to mention, an extremely pretty one) was being so friendly to him that he hadn't even thanked her; he had simply run off, his cheeks flaming. After that, he had found himself paying far more attention to her than was recommended.
He had learned, due to his lengthy observations of her (when he hoped that she wasn't looking), that Elina had quickly become best friends with Rose, and had easily climbed to the top of the Hogwarts social ladder. Unlike every other popular girl in the school, she did not grimace or sneer at him when he passed by. Instead, she sometimes gave him a bright smile that made his heart flutter. In several of his classes, Albus found himself staring fixedly at her and quickly looking away whenever she met his eyes.
But then, reality struck him, and he wondered what would she want with a socially challenged, supposedly traitorous, Slytherin nerd when she was best friends with James, Derlwin, and the rest of the popular Gryffindor boys in the school.
"Flying lessons after dinner," Scorpius grunted on Thursday afternoon at dinner.
Albus, who had been trying to ignore loud jeers directed towards him from the Ravenclaw table, froze in the act of bringing a spoon to his mouth. Scorpius hadn't said a single thing to him every since the train ride. "Y-Yeah," Albus stuttered, composing himself. There was no need to be rude. "Do you fly?"
"Um—not really," Scorpius said.
"Me n-neither," Albus lied, his voice shaking.
He did indeed fly, and he flew well. Perhaps even better than James, who was supposedly the best Seeker ever since their father. Albus, unlike his brother, rarely ever flew in public. He had refused flying lessons from every family member who offered them and had just learned by himself. He had been too shy, and he hadn't wanted to compete with his older brother. After all, James was the type of person who liked to be the best at everything and hated anyone who rivaled his skill.
And he's accomplished it, thought Albus dully, taking a swig of pumpkin juice. He's Mr. Perfect. Quidditch prodigy, top of his year without trying, proud prankster that never gets into trouble just because he's so likeable, popular with everbody, recklessly brave, annoyingly good-looking... The list went on and on. Albus stabbed at his tart angrily, trying to take out his jealousy on it.
After dinner, the three Slytherin first years walked out on to the Quidditch pitch, where all the first years from all the other three Houses were waiting for the lesson to begin. Albus saw Rose standing next to Derlwin, giggling about something with him. He noticed that she was twirling one of her orange curls around her finger and leaning closer to Derlwin than was advised. Standing behind them was Elina, who was engaged in conversation with several other first years, most of which looked so happy that someone of her self-earned social standing was talking to them. Albus stared at her for a few minutes straight, his mouth hanging open slightly. A second later, he gave himself a mental slap. What's wrong with me? he thought, shaking his head jerkily as if he were warding off a fly.
At that very moment, Madame Hooch hurried on to the pitch and surveyed them, as if wondering how bad the lot of them would be. "Well then, what are you waiting for? Stand over a broom, everyone! Quickly now!" she ordered.
Once they were all in position, she continued, "Now, hold your hand over your broom and say up!" Albus' broom was the first to come up into his hand.
Both Scorpius and Oswald were struggling, and they weren't the only ones. A few minutes later, mostly everyone had managed to get their broom. Some people, however, just grabbed it from the ground when Madame Hooch wasn't looking.
"Everyone got their broom in their hand? Good. This year, we're going to have a race on this obstacle course for advanced fliers." She waved her wand, and a complicated looking maze made out of wood appeared over the Quidditch pitch. "Whoever wins gets some chocolate," Madame Hooch continued, waving a generous package of Honeyduke's chocolate in the air. "Those of you who don't know how to fly, move over to the right. You will not be able to participate in the race today, as I will be teaching you the very basics. Those of you who think you know how to fly, move to left side and line up for the race."
As the class divided itself into two, Albus decided that he wasn't going to try to win. He didn't want to attract attention, after all, and he was also quite sure that everyone from the other the Houses would try to kill him if he won. They were already bitter that Scorpius Malfoy—the son of a Death Eater—and Albus Potter—the disgrace of his family—from the hated House of Slytherin were the most academically gifted students in the school. There was no point in making it worse for himself.
"Get on your broom, then!" Madame Hooch ordered. Everyone did so. She went around correcting everyone's grip. Albus was pleased to see that she told Eric Derlwin that he was doing it all wrong. "Okay! GO!"
Albus started slowly, only a few yards in front of the students who flew very badly. Scorpius and Oswald were among these people, even though they had both grown up in magical families. Albus was annoyed to see that Derlwin and Rose were neck and neck in the front. He sped up slightly, not wanting to finish last place. He knew he could have probably won while he was sleeping, but he didn't want to make even more enemies. Did it really matter, anyways? If he won, all that he'd accomplish would be some chocolate and all of the first years out for his blood. Sighing, he slowed down, not even bothering to fly through one of the mini-hoops that Madam Hooch had set up for the obstacle course. Ten minutes later, Derlwin had won with Rose as a close second. "Good work, Derlwin," Madame Hooch said heartily. "Here's your prize." She handed him the chocolate while an annoyed Rose eyed it.
"You can have some, Miss Weasley," Derlwin said, winking flirtatiously. He broke off a piece and handing it to Rose, who accepted.
"All right," Rose giggled.
Albus just raised an eyebrow, not amused, but Scorpius Malfoy stiffened slightly.
When Friday arrived, Albus was exhausted. Not physically, but mentally. His classes had been extremely easy and boring, and he longed for a challenge. He was also tired of all the bullying and insults, and was looking forward to teatime at Hagrid's hut. Hagrid, at least, seemed to be trying to be nice to him, which Albus appreciated. At breakfast on Friday, he glanced at his schedule and saw that the Slytherins had two classes with the Gryffindors: Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts, the two subjects he was most looking forward to learning.
Albus groaned, wondering why the Gryffindors had to exist. They were most certainly going to ruin his day. He fould himself wondering why they hated him so much. What had he and the rest of the Slytherins done to deserve treatment like this? Resignedly, he and the other two Slytherin boys trudged to the dungeons after breakfast. However, he felt more comfortable than he usually did. The Slytherins were in home territory, after all. Albus' relief did not last for long, though. Nearly thirty Gryffindor first years surrounded them, shouting insults at the three Slytherins. It was clear that the Slytherins were even more hopelessly outnumbered than they had been with the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws; Gryffindor was the biggest and most popular House.
"Looking good there, scrawny scum," Derlwin jeered. "Tell us how Voldy's bed feels like. Is it all nice and padded with the bones of the people he killed?"
The other Gryffindors laughed at Derlwin's 'clever' comment, though Albus could not see anything particularly funny about the joke. He noticed that Rose was snorting, and suddenly felt anger fill him to the top. Rose. She hadn't even looked at him the whole first week, unless it was to glare at him, and now she was laughing at his misery. What had happened to her? All the fight left Albus, and he slumped. He wished that the two of them were friends again. He was so alone now. Scorpius Malfoy was a likely ally, but Albus had promised Rose he wouldn't make friends with any Malfoy. Albus would stay loyal to her, even if she was no longer loyal to him.
Without warning, the door opened and the Head of Slytherin House, a man in ragged robes, welcomed them in. "Hello, I'm Professor Hoffman. Sit anywhere you like," Hoffman said, gesturing toward the haphazardly arranged desks.
"Weird place," Derlwin commented.
Hoffman gave the arrogant Gryffindor a cold smile. "Indeed," Hoffman said, waving his wand. Pillows suddenly appeared on the chairs. "I think students learn best in a comfortable environment, unless you'd prefer to sit on the ground?"
Albus grinned. He liked this professor already.
"Take out your cauldrons now," Hoffman ordered.
Rose raised her hand bossily. "I'm Rose Weasley, sir. May I ask why you're asking us to make a potion without giving us an introduction or anything?" she said. There was a nod of agreement from the class, though Albus felt annoyed at Rose's intervention. He was very eager to brew a potion, and was quite glad that Hoffman had chosen not to waste any time.
"Well, Miss Weasley, I'd prefer to get started right away. What is the point of Potions, Miss Weasley? Answer that," Hoffman said pleasantly.
"To make potions," Rose answered glumly.
"Of course. Turn to page five, then," Hoffman ordered. Albus seized his textbook and flipped to the said page eagerly. He had already memorized the procedure and the ingredients when he had read it this summer.
"This is called the Sweetening Potion. A drop of this should make any potion sweeter. There is a more advanced version of this potion, but it is extremely difficult to make. Start now!"
Albus had already sprung into action when everyone else was still reading the instructions. He grabbed aconite nectar, black beetle eyes, a sopophorous bean, and several more assorted ingredients. Albus carried all the ingredients back to his cauldron and dumped them on his desk, then glanced at the instructions. With lacarnum inflamarae, he started a small fire beneath his cauldron and poured water inside. Ten minutes into the lesson, mostly everyone seemed to be doing well—except for the dunderheads like Derlwin. It wasn't until people started to reach the sixth step that problems started occurring.
It seemed that not many students could cut their sopophorous bean. Albus tried it for himself and saw that it was indeed difficult to get the juice out. Then he wondered if he would achieve better results if he used the flat part of his knife to crush the juice out of the bean. Albus tried it and found that the trick worked perfectly. He added the juice—the first person to be able to do so. After triumphantly glancing at the seventh step, Albus poured the beetle eyes into the mixture. He followed the instructions and spun clockwise a few times. Then he realized that the potion wasn't mixing very well. He put in a few counterclockwise spins every now and then, and the potion finally reached the creamy yellow shade of completion.
Unsatisfied, Albus decided that he wanted to make the more advanced version of the potion. He hurried back to the store cupboard, realizing that there were still fifteen minutes remaining. Albus took a few more ingredients out, including butterscotch, powdered peppermint humbugs, and—bizarrely—peacock feathers. The instructions for the advanced version weren't in the textbook, but he knew the theory and the properties of the ingredients well enough for a good guess. He added in the other ingredients carefully, following the pattern of clockwise and counterclockwise turns that he had made. Just when Albus had finished mixing in the powdery peppermint humbugs, Hoffman yelled, "All right, time's up! Let me come around to see what you've all done.
Albus inspected his own potion critically. The potion was still creamy, but it was shimmering and sparkling. He thought it had turned out perfectly, even though he hadn't tasted it yet. Hoffman swooped around the room, shaking his head at various potions and simply sneering at Derlwin's. Nearly all the potions had gone bad when it had been time to add in the sopophorous bean. Most people had given up and just dumped the bean in their cauldron, therefore ruining the potion. The colors ranged from bright blue to a dangerous-looking orange.
Hoffman smiled at Rose, whose potion was at least yellow. "Nearly perfect, Miss Weasley. All you needed to do was to add more sopophorous bean juice and mix it more properly. Take five points to Gryffindor," Hoffman said. Rose flushed pink with pleasure.
Then he glanced at Scorpius' potion, which was white. "Good try, Mister Malfoy. You were very close. Five points to Slytherin," Hoffman said, smiling kindly at Scorpius.
Then, Hoffman looked at Albus' potion. His mouth dropped open in shock. "Amazing! It's the perfect creamy color, but it's shimmering... this means... impossible! You've managed to make the advanced version of the Sweetening Potion without any instructions whatsoever."
Albus turned very red and looked at his shoes. Everyone was staring jealously at him, especially Rose. "How did you do it? The advanced Sweetening Potion is OWL level. Simply brilliant..." Hoffman trailed off, staring disbelievingly at Albus.
"It wasn't m-much, sir. I just knew the theory, and I—um—knew the p-properties of the ingredients. Anyone could have d-done it, sir," Albus stuttered, very embarrassed. "I may have just g-gotten lucky."
"Nonsense. You don't just get lucky at these things," Hoffman said jovially.
Albus swelled at his praise. It hadn't been luck, after all—not really. He had used his own genius to make the potion, and he had outsmarted even the textbook.
"So," Hoffman continued, "do you know what the advanced potion does?"
Albus considered for a moment. Then he started to speak, and the stutter disappeared. He felt infinitely more confident when he spoke about Potions. "Well sir, I'd assume — considering that adding a drop of the original potion to any food is supposed to make it sweeter — that a drop of the advanced version would cause that food to taste like the sweetest thing you've ever tasted."
"Perfect. You are absolutely correct. Take fifty points to Slytherin. You deserve it. Mind you, the other teachers will be hearing about this. I doubt a student with this much talent has entered Hogwarts for many generations."
"Er," Albus said shyly, the stutter returning to his voice, "—I'd p-prefer if you didn't share."
Hoffman gave him a curious look. "All right then. Go back to your seat," Hoffman ordered. "This is what we'll be doing for the next few lessons. However, I would like it if Albus gives a little speech later about how he made such a flawless potion."
Albus paled and gulped. Unlike James, he dreaded public speaking.
"Class dismissed," Hoffman announced when the bell rang a moment later, still giving Albus searching looks, as if he just couldn't believe that Albus had managed to make an OWL-level Potion during the very first lesson of his first year. Most of the Gryffindors gave Albus dirty looks as they passed him out of the classroom, several of them muttering, "Nerd" under their breaths. Unlike the rest of them, though, Elina Lyon smiled at him, making his heart beat wildly out of control.
When Elina walked off, a less-than-joyous Rose took her place in front of Albus. She was practically steaming, and when she spoke, it was with a glare and in a snarl. "When did you get to be so smart? I'm supposed to be the smart one."
Albus winced horribly. Why were Rose and the rest of his family being so mean to him? Couldn't they just accept him as a Slytherin? "Rose, why?" he asked, looking at her sadly, hurt practically emanating from him. "Why can't we still be friends? Why do you hate me so much now?"
A flash of doubt crossed Rose's face as if she had regretted her outburst. Unable to come up with a satisfactory reply, she simply turned around and followed the rest of the Gryffindors out of the classroom.
Their next class was Defense Against the Dark Arts, which was also, unfortunately, with the Gryffindors. Albus remembered that this class was taught by Professor Irving—the professor that had caused him that brief moment of pain after his Sorting. It had seemed like Irving had really hated Albus—but why?The Gryffindors were already seated and fooling around when the three Slytherins reached the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, but Irving was not there yet. Albus sat down in the back as usual, fidding with his collar nervously. Hadn't Wyatt Hemley the Slytherin prefect said that Irving favored the Gryffindors and absolutely despised the Slytherins?
After several seconds of baited breath, a man in long blue robes swooped into the classroom. Irving looked rather frightening to Albus, an opinion that was not changed with a malicious smile curled his lips. "All right, people. And Slytherins, obviously."
The Gryffindors roared with laughter. Albus gritted his teeth at the lame—yet still hurtful—joke.
"Now, when I call your name, raise your hand," Irving ordered, indolently tapping the list of students in the class with his wand as he read each name aloud. Role call continued without issues, at least until Irving got to Albus' name. "Albus Potter. Ah... the disappointment of the century. Your father must be very proud." There were a few appreciative chuckles from the Gryffindors at Irving's comment.
Albus steamed silently in his seat, imagining feeding Irving deadly poison. Still, he was glad to see that Rose wasn't laughing, and neither was Elina Lyon.
When Irving rolled up his list, he said, "Today, we're going to be practicing Disarming. I know it's early in the year, but it's very important. I have high expectations for my class, and have decided to accelerate the Defense Against the Dark Arts education, in case there is another war. And even if there isn't, there's no hurt in knowing more advanced spells earlier. You'll find that my class is one of the most difficult, both mentally and physically. The Dark Arts are dangerous. In a perfect world, they wouldn't exist and we wouldn't have to worry about them. However, they do exist, and that's why we need to defend ourselves today. To Disarm, you must say expelliarmus loudly and clearly. No wand movement is required, and the spell will not work properly if you flourish your wand too much. Keep your hand stiff when you say the incantation. I will pair you all up. When I do, begin casting the Disarming Charm at each other. Only Disarming allowed—I don't want any accidents!"
The mood of the classroom dropped instantaneously when Irving said that he would choose the pairs. Albus sunk down in his seat, mumbling, "Not Derlwin. Please, not Derlwin..."
"Weasley and Malfoy," said Irving. Both Scorpius and Rose groaned and gave each other hateful glares. They hadn't gotten along well at all on the train ride. "Derlwin and Potter."
Albus deflated in horror.
Irving smiled sinisterly at Albus as Derlwin swaggered over to stand in front of him. "All right, Potter. I'm going to go easy on you now," Derlwin said smugly, taking out his wand.
"Expelliarmus," said Albus, very bored. He had already practiced this spell this weekend when learning how to defend himself. The bullies of Hogwarts were the Dark Arts that Albus needed to fight against at the moment, not Death Eaters. He was satisfied to see that Derlwin's wand spun from his grip, and Albus reached up to catch it, doing so without any trouble.
At once, Irving swooped over in an almost bat-like manner. "Ten points from Slytherin for trickery," he snapped.
Albus opened his mouth in anger, but quickly closed it again. There was no point arguing with someone like Irving.
The next few minutes passed torturously. Albus had Disarmed Derlwin about twenty times, and had nearly one hundred points taken away for it. Finally, Albus quit doing anything and let Derlwin Disarm him. But Derlwin was so thick that he couldn't even Disarm Albus once, since he kept flourishing his wand and causing the spell's aim to go awry. When Derlwin finally managed to cause a jet of light to shoot out of his wand, Albus automatically yelled, "Protego!" which blocked the spell perfectly.
Irving strutted toward Albus and Derlwin, pleased that he had caught Albus doing something wrong again. "Only Disarming allowed!" he said gleefully. "Twenty points from Slytherin for cheating. It's expected from a Slytherin."
Albus clenched his fists, but spent the rest of the class doing nothing whatsoever. Derlwin had still not managed to Disarm him, but had managed to hit several of the desks and caused them to disintegrate. Scorpius seemed to be going easy on Rose, who had Disarmed him once or twice. Oswald Nesbitt, on the other hand, was getting beaten quite badly. Like Derlwin, Oswald wasn't very bright. Unlike Derlwin, however, he wasn't very strong or handsome.
"It's time to pack up. Good job, Gryffindors. You have no homework. Slytherins: Write two rolls of parchment on why Slytherins should never learn Dark Magic," said Irving, flicking his wand to open the doors so that the students could get out.
Oswald's mouth dropped open. He was sporting several bruises, though Irving didn't seem to care. Oswald drew himself up to his full—but unimpressive—height and clenched his fists. "You, sir, are a pompous, unfair git!" he all but shouted.
"Thirty points from Slytherin!" said Irving, grinning sadistically, as if Oswald's injuries were a source of amusement for him. "And detention next Sunday, Nesbitt. Four o'clock, my office."
Albus and Scorpius sighed resignedly, grabbing their bags. They both very much agreed with Oswald, but they weren't stupid enough to voice their thoughts. Albus was in such a bad mood that he skipped dinner, not wanting to have to deal with even more insults from the rest of the school. Instead, he made for the Hogwarts grounds, remembering that he had tea with Hagrid.