"Mr. Black!" Professor Sprout cried. "What are you doing?!"
I paused, looking up at her incredulously. What did it look like I was doing?! "Well," I said slowly, pointing to the murderous plant I was holding in my left hand, "I'm trying to not die here, and the plant was making it difficult, so…"
"So you saw it fitting to roll on the ground, pummeling my precious plant, screaming, 'Die! Die! Die!'?" she demanded. She was normally good-tempered, though a bit stern when it came to working, but I could tell I had crossed the line when I had started doing harm to her plant.
"Erm…" I didn't really know how I was expected to respond to that.
"Did you not pay attention to the lecture when I told you how vital it is that you do not anger this plant? That the tentacles will grow thorns and become unusable? Did you not hear me carefully instruct you to tickle the plant with a feather duster, then slice the tips of the tentacles and collect them in a jar? Do you even know the name of this plant?"
I thought back to the beginning of the lesson this period. Could I remember anything from that? No, I was busy working out the specifics of my plan for once class ended. "Plantus Tentacli?" I guessed hopefully.
Professor Sprout looked startled. "Romneseus Jactellant, Black! These are going to be on your NEWTs! Must I repeat the lecture we went over last period?" Everyone in the room groaned - the first period of our double period of Herbology had been spent listening to the lengthy, repetitive speech we had gotten from every teacher while sweating in the heat of the greenhouse.
"It seems the popular response to that question is 'no.'" I said with a mild grin. She glared down at me.
Ah, first detention of the year. I managed it in okay time, though the last class on the first day of school was rather late for me. I'd have to pick up the pace. Still, though, I had managed to make the first one be from the most unlikely teacher! Now that was an accomplishment.
I looked almost lazily at Professor Sprout. "What will it be? Lines? Pot scrubbing?"
"We'll be going over the lesson once more, and you will prove you can handle the Romneseus Jactellant on your own." She looked towards the castle, where students from other greenhouses were advancing. "Class dismissed!" she called, and everyone hurried to dinner. I quickened my pace as well, hoping to make it to Slughorn's Storage Rooms before Peter. He was hopeless at making excuses, and I figured I better be the one to do it if anything was to go to plan.
"Hey, Pad--" Remus frowned as I passed right by him. "Why are you in such a hurry?"
"Hello? It's food time!" I grinned quite convincingly and raced past him. Remus looked rather disgruntled today, and I could see why - James couldn't seem to stay away from Lily, who wasn't yelling at him nearly as much as usual (though still too much for my liking). She appeared very annoyed by the time it was Herbology, but James didn't seem to get the hint that he should leave her alone, and Remus was losing time in convincing her to go out with him.
I smiled to myself. She wouldn't need any convincing by dinner tonight.
As I pounded across the grand fields of Hogwarts, I tried to recall where Peter was. I hadn't paid much attention to his schedule this morning - well, I never really paid much attention to him. He was always just… there. Though he was good for a joke from time to time, and he had his uses in pranks, he didn't exactly stand out. Oh, yes, he was in Care of Magical Creatures, the only class farther from Slughorn's office than Herbology. Excellent - I'd be there far before him. In fact, if I ran, I could probably secure the location without him showing up halfway through! Pleased with myself, I hurried by, throwing a few occasional winks at some Sixth Year Ravenclaws I passed. Finally, I had entered the castle, descended to the Dungeons, and picked my way expertly through the twists and turns to reach the Potions room.
Just as I entered the room, taking a few deep breaths, I turned and saw a bemused Slughorn rising from his desk. "Mr. Black?" he asked curiously. "It's dinner, m'boy! What are you doing here of all places?"
I smiled innocently - deceiving teachers was one of my many special talents, and Slughorn was the easiest of them all to delude. "Sorry for interrupting you, sir," I said apologetically, keeping the grin off my face very effectively. "I think I left my Transfiguration textbook in here. I can't find it in my bag, and I've checked all my other classes today." I made sure to use an anxious tone at the last part, giving a more realistic effect.
Slughorn smiled slightly. "A lost textbook on the first day of school?" He shook his head rather patronizingly. "Oh, dear. Well, I'd be willing to help you find it if you'd like," he said kindly.
"No thank you, Professor," I said with a false smile planted on my face. "I appreciate the offer, but I'd hate to waste your valuable time--"
"No worries about that," he interjected cheerily. "It's the beginning of the school year, I'm not busy at all!"
Peter could be coming any moment now, even with my head start. However, not a trace of nervousness crossed my face, and I quickly became cool and confident on the inside again as well. "I heard a rumor that they're serving these delicious foods at dinner today… what are they called, crystallised pineapples? Have you ever heard of them? I don't think I've had them before."
I could practically see Slughorn's eyes widen at the mention of this particular dish. "Yes, I have had that before. And you probably haven't heard, but I happen to have a particular fondness for that treat." He had lowered his voice conspiratorially, as though sharing an important secret, and I acted as if this was news to me. "Well, if you're sure, I'll leave you to your searching. And, Mr. Black, you are feeling all right from that potion earlier today, aren't you?"
"Of course, sir," I told him quickly. I was sure I could hear Peter's faint footsteps in the distance. "We had hardly started it, I'm fine. I just hope there's still some of that pineapple left by the time I get back to the Great Hall."
"Ah, yes. Good day, Mr. Black." He smiled before waddling out of the room as fast as his legs could carry him. I smiled in relief inwardly as his humongous shadow finally disappeared and Peter's short, chubby one appeared close by.
"Am I late?" the small boy asked anxiously, his blue eyes darting around the room.
"Right on time," I grinned. "There's his office door. Now get in there and open it quickly, dinner's starting any moment now!"
Peter scanned the walls hastily for a crack big enough, finally spotting one close to the door. I glanced at the clock and cursed - dinner was starting right now. Now how was I going to slip the potion into Evans's pumpkin juice?
I watched as Peter transformed into a rat and scurried through the hole, having difficulty squeezing his lower half into the tight crack. Finally he managed, and seconds later, the door cracked open.
"Did I do it right?" Peter asked worriedly.
"Flawlessly." I rolled my eyes. "Now get going to dinner, Pete, and if anyone asks where I am, tell them I forgot something in Potions. Oh, and on your way, stop by the Kitchens and tell the house-elves to serve crystallised pineapple today."
"Crystallised pineapple?" Peter repeated, confusion crossing his face.
I nodded affirmation. "That was a good way to cut short Slughorn's long speech. I'd like him to believe me next time I use that excuse, too. Now hurry! Go, go, go!" Peter jumped at my sudden change of tone and scurried out the door. I quickly stole into the office, looking over my shoulder to be sure Slughorn wasn't on his way back.
The office was small, but comfortable enough. There was a huge, plush green armchair behind a small, expensive-looking maple desk, and the soft flooring was a silver rug. Slytherin colors. I grimaced, then turned my attention to the extensive shelves that covered three of the four walls in the square room. Stepping hastily over, I pored over the shelves for a white, shiny vial, racking my brains for a more identifying characteristic. Ah, yes, the spiraling steam! It only took about two minutes for me to locate it, and I quickly snatched the vial and slipped out the door, closing it softly behind me.
I rushed up the stairs from the Dungeons, clutching the vial in my right hand, and came to a sudden halt just outside the doors of the Great Hall. Taking a deep breath and flipping my hair back so that it hung in its usual simply dashing way, I strolled into the Great Hall as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I looked over at the far end of the long Gryffindor table and saw Lily seated between her two best friends, Alice and - what was her name? Marcie? No, no -- Mary. Well, I couldn't exactly take their seats in a casual way. I pondered briefly how to be natural about getting close to Lily's cup of pumpkin juice, but quickly saw my answer on the other side of the table. There sat Remus, James, and Peter. James was partially across from both Lily and Alice, stealing so many looks at her I was afraid he was going to hurt his neck. I strode towards them with my usual self-confident smile on my face.
"Evening, Prongs," I grinned, pretending to tip an imaginary top hat to him. Hey, we were brothers, we did "weird" stuff spontaneously around each other.
"Good evening, Mr. Padfoot," he returned seriously, mocking a bow. He scooted to his left, as though about to make room for me across from Alice, so I quickly took the small space between him and Peter instead, putting me across from Lily.
"Thanks," I said, cutting across the question I knew he was about to ask while reaching for some mashed potatoes. Maybe I knew that guy too well.
Lily picked up a pineapple and frowned. "Was Slughorn in charge of dinner tonight?" she asked suspiciously, regarding it curiously. "He loves these things."
"Yeah, haven't you heard?" I lied quickly, my eyes scanning the hall for a distraction as I uncorked the vial under the table. I used a quick severing charm on a single hair on the back of James's head, figuring he'd forgive me for 'completely ruining his look' later, and dropped it into the potion. Everyone was being perfectly uninteresting, which wouldn't do at all. My eyes flitted up to the Staff Table, and I grinned wickedly. Maybe I could make something happen. Fingering my wand lightly, I hid it mostly up my sleeve while shoveling food in my mouth with my other hand - hey, I was hungry.
I silently used Engorgio, pointing my wand at the Staff Table. I watched Slughorn's laughing face slowly become perplexed as the plate holding his crystallised pineapple grew uncontrollably in his hand. Great, now to be convincing of innocence - always hard with my skeptical friends and acquaintances who knew me too well. I laughed convincingly, pointing towards Slughorn. "Look!"
Everyone around us turned their eyes to the Staff Table, where Slughorn was backing up in his chair and struggling to keep hold of his precious pineapple despite its plate's huge (and still growing) size. I didn't take more than a quick peek (though I was sorely tempted to), for people could look back at my actions at any moment. I dumped the contents of the vial in the glass of pumpkin juice beside Lily and quickly retrieved my hand, taking a moment to enjoy the spectacle I had given the Great Hall.
Unfortunately, McGonagall saw it fit to end my fun by reducing the plate to its original size, and the Great Hall soon settled down again.
"Well… that was random," Frank commented to Alice, who smiled at him happily. The two had started dating about a week ago, from what I recalled, but I didn't pay much attention to it. Relationships were made and broken around here all the time. Sure, today the two were sitting next to each other, holding hands, and blushing furiously, but it was only the beginning of the year.
"Psst," I nudged James next to me, who was talking distractedly to Remus. "Hey, Prongs!"
James turned and looked at me curiously. "Yeah? What is it, Padfoot?"
"Lily's gonna be all over you tonight," I whispered quietly, making sure that Lily was absorbed in conversation with Mary as a precaution.
James looked surprised and a little confused. "She does hate me a little less than before. Do you really think she's in love with me?" he asked hopefully.
"Er… not yet, but soon. You'll never guess what I did." I grinned wickedly. Without letting him guess, I continued in a nearly silent voice, "I slipped love potion into her pumpkin juice."
"You what?!" James gasped, looking shocked as he processed this. He seemed torn between his morals and his desires as his eyes settled on the glass to Lily's left.
"No, no, the other cup, the one on her right," I corrected him. James suddenly whipped his head towards me, an alarmed look in his eyes that couldn't mean anything good.
"Lily and her friends drink from the cups on their left!" James hissed, looking distraught.
Oops. Maybe I should've told the Lily Master this grand plan beforehand.
"But then whose cup is that?" I asked slowly, pointing to where the cup was and finding my finger landing on an empty space on the table. Simultaneously, our gazes lifted to the pale hand holding the cup above that space, clutching it firmly.
"Mmm, did they do something different to this pumpkin juice?" Alice asked, sniffing it and adopting a dreamy expression on her face.
Lily frowned and picked up her own drink, giving it a gentle sniff. "Smells like always to me. Like pumpkins."
"No, this smells… oh, just wonderful, like everything that I find perfect in the world," Alice sighed happily.
Mary laughed. "I didn't know you liked pumpkin juice so much, Alice."
"Me neither." She smiled faintly, lifting the cup to her lips.
"NO!" James and I cried out together, but I could see it was too late. Alice had distinctly swallowed.
AN: Oh, Sirius. This chapter was fun to write, and I hope reading it was just as enjoyable. Whether it is or isn't, please let me know in a review so I can improve. Thank you so much for your commitment to this story! ~WaterLily :)
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