Chapter 16 : Polyjuice Potion
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“He seems a bit nervous,” John commented as he, Albus, and Matt sat at their usual table.
“You think?” Matt replied.
“I never realized he was that twitchy,” Albus said.
“Can you blame him? If he doesn’t actually teach today he’ll probably be sacked,” Matt commented.
The bell rang and Young stood up and walked to the chalkboard, which he tapped with his wand. “Household protection charms,” he said, as the words appeared on the chalkboard as well. He glanced at the class, none of whom had taken out any parchment. “You should be writing this down. It will be on your O.W.L.s.”
Albus glanced at Matt and John and then grabbed a roll of parchment from his bag. Maybe Young really was trying to change his teaching style.
“Household protective charms are very important,” Young continued. “Not only will they be on your O.W.L.s, they’re necessary for life in the wizarding world. They are the first defense against intruders in a dwelling and can stop not only theft and burglary, but more violent crimes as well. Who can name a few common charms?”
That sounded familiar, Albus thought. Hadn’t Young taught about household protective charms during his last lecture? Albus gazed around the classroom and noticed more than a few of his classmates had confused looks on their faces.
“No one?” Young prompted. “Well, then. Mr. Eckerton? Surely you know a few.”
Albus exchanged a glance with Matt. He distinctly remembered Matt answered that question the first time Young did this lecture.
“Er, the alert charm, anti-Apparition charm, Portkey disengagement charm, and the temporary stun charm are the most common,” Matt answered. “There are others, too.”
“Excellent,” Young said, smiling slightly. His left eye was still twitching, which looked rather odd with his half-smile.
“Professor?” Rose called as she raised her hand.
“Yes, Miss Weasley, do you have more to add?”
“Well, the Fidelius charm is one of the more complicated charms, but I had a question.”
“Didn’t we learn this last month?” Rose asked.
The rest of the class snickered. Albus hadn’t wanted to bring this up to Young, but he wasn’t surprised Rose did.
Young paled and his eye twitched more rapidly. “Er, no, Miss Weasley. You are mistaken.”
“Perhaps you’re thinking of charms class. The curriculum may overlap,” Young said. “As I was saying, the charms Mr. Eckerton named are the most commonly used to protect one’s property from intruders…”
Rose (and the rest of the class) kept quiet for the remainder of the period. Young proceeded to lecture, word for word, from the same lesson he gave them last month. But despite the fact that he’d given the lecture before, he fumbled over words even more than he had the previous time. The class probably would’ve learned more if they’d been given their usual worksheets.
The bell rang, cutting Young off mid-sentence. He didn’t bother to finish the sentence, or say anything to the class, and instead fled into his study.
Most of the class left as quickly as Young had, but Rose and Amanda met the boys at their table as they were packing up.
“That was the same lesson,” Rose said flatly.
“Of course it was!” Amanda agreed. “He probably wanted to practice it before MacDougal returned. Not that it helped.”
“Yeah, Rose threw him off,” Matt said, laughing.
Albus turned around to see MacDougal standing behind them, clipboard in hand. Her kind smile reminded him of his grandmother.
“I was wondering if the five of you could answer some questions for me, about Professor Young’s teaching. Do you have another class now?”
Rose nodded. “Herbology.”
“Lovely. Professor Longbottom won’t mind.”
Rose grimaced, and Albus knew she would mind missing part of Herbology, but they couldn’t exactly say no.
MacDougal gestured for them to take seats and they did so. MacDougal perched herself on the table behind them. “Now, then, Miss Weasley, you said Professor Young gave today’s lecture before?”
“Yes,” Rose said. “I know when I’ve heard a lecture before and whom I’ve heard it from. And he gave the same lecture a few weeks ago.”
MacDougal nodded as she jotted something down on her clipboard. “The rest of you, do you agree?”
Albus, Matt, John, and Amanda nodded.
“It wasn’t just a review?”
“No,” Rose said forcefully. “I’m sorry. But no, it wasn’t. It was, word for word, the same lecture.”
“It was like he practiced it a few weeks ago because he knew you were observing him again,” Amanda added.
“Interesting. And has he given you any other lectures?”
“Just worksheets,” Amanda said. “They’re not very helpful, either.”
“Does he go over these worksheets?”
“He marks them,” Rose said. “But then he hands them back and never talks about them again.”
MacDougal scrawled on her clipboard, muttering as she did so. “All right. I think that will do. Tell Professor Longbottom that I held you up and to send me an owl if he has any problems with it. I have tea with his grandmother every Wednesday.”
Albus had met Neville’s grandmother twice, and if MacDougal was friends with her, she probably could’ve kept Albus and the others all period and Neville wouldn’t have said a word about it. Augusta Longbottom was slightly scary at best and downright terrifying at worst.
When Albus and his friends entered greenhouse three ten minutes later and told Neville about MacDougal questioning them, he nodded and didn’t say a word about it. Instead, he quickly explained that they were pruning the mandrakes and to get started because they were already behind.
“At least they stay buried for this,” Matt said as he and Albus donned their gloves and prepared to prune their mandrakes.
“We’re not repotting them again until just before Christmas,” Janie said as John joined her. “Longbottom said they’ll have to be repotted then and once next term, before we harvest them.”
Matt shuddered. “Harvesting them is going to be awful.”
“Yeah, and you’re going to ditch me for it,” Albus said.
“Can’t say I’ll mind,” Matt muttered as he clipped a few leaves off the top of the mandrake. “Speaking of Christmas, are you going home?”
“I think so, yeah,” Albus said. “I always do.”
“We should stay next year,” Matt said. “Or seventh year.”
“Definitely,” Albus agreed. “A few of my cousins stayed before I got to Hogwarts. Nana Molly wasn’t happy. She likes everyone at the Burrow.”
“Think she’ll let you stay?”
“It isn’t really up to her, but she’ll get over it.”
“Still, you don’t want to incur the wrath of a grandmother,” Matt said. “If she’s anything like my grandmother.”
Albus laughed. “From what you’ve told me, she isn’t.”
“True. No one’s quite like my grandmother.”
“Are you going to visit her over Christmas?”
“Probably,” Matt said. He lowered his voice. “But the…you know…is December 30th, so we won’t stay through new year’s.”
Albus nodded. “I’m just glad I won’t have to go to any Ministry parties this year.”
“Me, too,” Matt agreed. “Being in Australia will get me out of that. Dad said Laurentis will probably have a Christmas party for all the top officials. I think he’ll be glad to skip it.”
“That’s one good thing about my dad not being Head Auror, I suppose.”
“Finish up, everyone!” Neville announced. “Bottle the leaves and put them on the shelf. You’ll use them in potions next term.”
Albus and Matt quickly finished their pruning and stuffed the leaves into a bottle, before returning both the bottle and the mandrakes to their usual shelf.
“Think those leaves could explode?” Matt asked, smirking.
“According to Burke, most likely,” Albus said, laughing. “They could probably burn down the whole castle and burn us alive.”
If anything came of Professor Young’s repeated lecture and the notes MacDougal made about it, there were no repercussions for him. MacDougal disappeared once more. Albus would’ve thought not teaching would be a sackable offense, but apparently not. Young, true to his form, made no mention of the lecture and continued giving out worksheets in class.
November progressed quickly, with Albus’s time disappearing in Quidditch practice, dueling practice, homework, and prefect patrolling. All of his teachers brought up O.W.L.s once again, and then piled on even more homework, resulting in most of the fifth years spending every night in the library.
On the third Saturday in November Albus had his first ever question during his tutoring session. A third year Hufflepuff came to his session needing help on her essay about hinkypunks. Albus was very relieved he remembered hinkypunks and was able to help her. Elsie continued to attend every single one of his sessions, but not say a word, something that still confused Albus to no end. He thought she would’ve at least said something after the Quidditch match, since chasing was something they both had in common, but she didn’t.
Kaden continued to spend most evenings with Professor Burke, brewing in his brewing room. Albus and Rose only helped one or two nights a week since their schedules were so much busier, but Albus was grateful for the excuse. Albus was still very wary about Professor Burke, perhaps even more so after seeing him in the hospital wing following Matt’s second October transformation, and he didn’t have much desire to spend extra time with the professor.
“He’s got a new potion,” Kaden said the following Tuesday, as he, Albus, and Rose headed to Burke’s brewing room after dinner. “Started it last week.”
“Is it some sort of experimental one that might blow up?” Rose asked.
“No. It’s polyjuice potion.”
Albus and Rose exchanged glances. Albus’s immediately thought of the polyjuice being sold at the shady apothecary in Knockturn Alley, and he was certain Rose’s was as well.
“Did he tell you why he’s brewing it?” Albus asked.
“No. I didn’t ask.”
They continued walking in silence, Albus pondering how he could go about asking the professor why he was brewing such a controversial potion. Rose seemed to be wondering the same thing.
Kaden knocked on the door once when they arrived, but didn’t bother waiting for Burke to answer. Even when Albus and Rose went with him, Kaden always took charge of their excursions to the dungeons. For whatever reason, Burke took a liking to Kaden from the very first day and was obvious about it as well. Albus and Rose had learned to hang back.
Burke was standing in front of his mystery potion, appearing to breathe in the smoke as if it held the answers to all his brewing problems. He looked up for a second when Kaden, Albus, and Rose entered, but quickly returned his gaze to the potion.
“I need the next set of ingredients prepared for the polyjuice,” Burke said, not looking up from his cauldron. He did not acknowledge Albus and Rose, which was not unusual. He never seemed surprised when they showed up, or didn’t (according to Kaden).
Kaden led the way to the work table that held one large pewter cauldron containing what looked like boiling sheep brains, not that Albus had ever seen boiled sheep brains. The rest of the table had been cleared of potions, but was covered in cutting boards and various ingredients. Kaden handed Rose what looked like a horn taken off some sort of animal. Albus received some sort of plant.
“Bicorn horn,” Kaden explained to Rose. “It needs to be powdered.”
Rose raised her eyebrows. “Does he realize you can buy it already powdered?”
Kaden nodded. “He prefers to prepare his own ingredients. Or at least supervise the preparation, in case something accidentally comes in contact with it, causing the potion it’s used in to explode and kill someone.”
“I should’ve realized that,” Rose said flatly. “How do I go about powdering it?”
Kaden held up a finger. “One moment.” He walked over to the nearby bookcase and grabbed a grater and a mortar and pestle. He handed them to Rose. “Grate it first. Then crush what you’ve grated until it’s a powder. You’ll want to do the whole horn.”
“How do you know all this?” Albus asked, realizing Kaden hadn’t consulted Burke’s list.
“Memorized the recipe last week,” Kaden said.
“You realize if you put that effort into your other classes, you’d get marks as good as Rose’s,” Albus said.
Kaden shrugged. “Anyway, Al, you need to cut the knotgrass up. Chop it into pieces that are about half an inch long.”
Albus nodded and grabbed the nearest knife.
“Sure, give him the easy task,” Rose muttered.
“It’s harder to screw up chopping knotgrass,” Kaden explained. “You’re better at potions than he is.”
“What are you going to do?” Albus asked.
Kaden reached into a bag sitting next to the cauldron and pulled out what looked like a gigantic snake skin. “Shred the boomslang skin.”
Albus shuddered, very happy he hadn’t received that task.
“Okay,” Rose said. “Not complaining anymore.”
They worked in silence for half an hour. Albus finished his knotgrass chopping before Rose and Kaden were even halfway done with their tasks, so Kaden instructed him to stir the potion. Professor Burke didn’t leave his mystery cauldron for the first forty-five minutes they worked. Kaden was nearly done with the boomslang skin and Rose was starting to crush the grated horn by the time Burke wandered over.
“Excellent, excellent,” he muttered as he walked around the table. “Potter, next time you’ll want to chop those slightly smaller. Weasley, you didn’t scrap any of your skin into that horn, did you?”
Burke smiled his creepy smile. “Good. I have another task for you to do for this potion.”
“Does it have to be done tonight?” Rose asked. “I have homework to do after I finish powdering the bicorn horn.”
Burke laughed. “It can’t be done tonight. It needs to be done on the full moon.”
“The full moon, sir?” Rose asked.
“Yes, the full moon,” Burke confirmed. “Fluxweed. It can only be harvested on the full moon.”
“You mean you want us to harvest it for you?” Rose replied. “That’s going to be hard to do with curfew.”
“You’ll have an exception,” Burke explained. “I have already run it past Professor Longbottom. You will accompany me into the forest to harvest enough fluxweed for this batch of polyjuice potion and for the school to have a supply of it.”
“Can’t you buy that at the apothecary?” Albus asked, unsure if he wanted to know the answer.
“You can. But how does one know for sure it was picked during the full moon? There is no way of knowing by looking at them. They don’t flower on the full moon, the way luptaline plants do.”
Of course, Albus thought.
“I assume you’re all free on the 30th?” Burke asked.
Rose nodded. “Yes.”
“Excellent. Meet me here at eight. Once you’ve finished preparing these you can return to your common room. Kaden knows where to store the ingredients.”
“Um, sir,” Albus began, his heart pounding fast. He wasn’t sure how good of an idea asking Burke about his intentions for the polyjuice was, but it wasn’t detention-worthy, so he figured it was worth whatever small risk it contained.
“Yes, Mr. Potter?”
“What are you brewing polyjuice for?” Albus asked quickly, before he changed his mind. He could hear Rose’s sharp intake of breath as he asked.
But instead of telling Albus it was none of his business, Burke smiled. “I know polyjuice isn’t the most moral of potions. But St. Mungo’s isn’t the only place in the business of purchasing potions. I harbor no guilt in what the people I sell my potions to do with them. I only brew them. And, to be frank, potions as difficult as this to brew are quite lucrative.”
“Oh,” Albus replied, turning the answer over in his mind. Why was Burke vague at the worst possible times?
Burke nodded. “If that is all, I have reading I must attend to in my study.” He gestured to the door leading off the room. “If you need me, I’ll be in there.”
Burke scurried toward his study, pausing only to collect his mystery potion, and disappeared, leaving the door open a crack. It wasn’t at all unusual for him to leave the three of them alone in the room, although he never closed the door to his study all the way. Albus assumed this was so he could hear any explosions if they arose.
“So he’s selling it?” Rose whispered.
“Must be,” Albus said. “And not to St. Mungo’s.”
“I think I need to go to the library,” Rose said as she pounded the bicorn horn with the pestle.
“For what?” Kaden asked, shredding the last bit of boomslang skin.
“To research the laws about the sale of potions,” Rose whispered. “It’s very regulated. He might not be doing this in a legal way-”
“He’s a genius,” Kaden interrupted. “He’s been given numerous awards. I doubt he’s selling illegal potions on the side.”
“Not every intelligent person uses their intelligence for good,” Rose said quietly. “Remember that.”
“History has taught us that lesson over and over,” Rose said. With that, she turned her head back to her mortar and pestle, disappearing behind a curtain of curly red hair, signaling that the conversation was over.
“Did you find anything?” Albus asked, as Rose set a large tomb on top of the small pile she’d already collected.
“Plenty,” Rose said, sitting down across from him. “Problem is translating it.”
“Translating it? It’s in another language?”
“Might as well be,” Rose muttered. “All the legalese.”
Albus, Rose, Matt, John, and Amanda had taken over two tables in the library on Friday afternoon, while all the other years were still in class. The place was deserted, the other fourth years taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by spending the afternoon outside. Miss Walsh was in her study, having already told them to knock if they needed anything.
“Legalese?” John asked.
“Legal terms,” Rose explained. “These are all law books. Some of them are quite out of date, though. I doubt this one will be useful. It was published 100 years before the war.”
“Then why bother taking it?”
“It’ll be interesting to compare.”
Albus grinned behind his Transfiguration book. Same old Rose.
“Let me see one of those,” Amanda said, gesturing to the books. “I’ll help.”
“Don’t tell me you’re turning into Rose,” John said, groaning.
“It might be useful to learn how to interpret these,” Amanda said as Rose handed her a book. “I’m thinking of going into the Ministry.”
“Really?” Rose asked.
“You mean you’re going to run for Minister?” John asked.
Amanda laughed. “God, no. After seeing what my uncle goes through? I don’t have the nerves for that. I’m still not sure what I want to do, but I want to help change the laws. Sure, things are better now than they were before the war, but there’s still plenty of unjust laws.”
Rose nodded. “That’s for sure.”
Albus glanced at Matt, who hadn’t said a word. His face was hidden behind his Herbology book, but considering how he’d fallen asleep in Ancient Runes earlier, Albus doubted he was getting much reading done. Nor had he seemed to have any sort of reaction to what Amanda just said, despite the fact that Albus was sure the unjust laws she was referencing were werewolf laws.
Rose and Amanda disappeared in their reading for the remainder of the afternoon, while Albus and John worked steadily on their Transfiguration essays. An hour into their study session Matt gave up the ruse of studying and put his head down on the table.
“Well,” Rose said as she closed her final book, “that was enlightening.”
“What?” Albus asked. “What did you find?”
“It’s all very convoluted,” she said. “Basically, St. Mungo’s can administer any potion as medicine, so long as it’s not an illegal substance. Similarly, accredited pharmaceutical apothecaries can stock any medical potions and sell them, so long as the purchaser has a prescription.”
“Just like the Muggle world,” Amanda added.
“Right. Medical potions are divided into mind-altering and non-mind-altering. Mind-altering ones must be kept under lock and key at all times. Then there are non-medical potions, which are potions that anyone can buy at any apothecary. But some of them are classified as non-tradeable substances. There are different classes of non-tradeable substances, just like non-tradeable objects.”
“Like dragon eggs,” Albus said.
“Exactly. There are classes A, B, C, and D. D being the most dangerous, like what that potion Burke is working on, that will change your memories would be. Veritaserum is class A. Not extremely dangerous, not very many long-term affects. But not just anybody can walk into the apothecary in Diagon Alley and buy it. You need a special permit from the MLEs to get it.”
“What’s polyjuice?” Albus asked.
“Class C,” Rose said. “Very, very difficult to get. Most apothecaries aren’t allowed to stock it. Only one in Britain is allowed to, and it’s an apothecary that directly serves the Ministry.”
“And I’m guessing that apothecary isn’t the one in Knockturn Alley,” John said.
“You guessed right.”
“So, that apothecary is dealing illegal potions,” Albus said. “Could we report them?”
“We could,” Rose said. “But you haven’t got proof, and I doubt polyjuice is something they have on a regular basis. Then you’d have to explain why you were hiding in the closet.”
Albus hadn’t thought of that. “Okay. Never mind that. I don’t really care about that apothecary, though. I want to know what Burke is doing with his polyjuice.”
“Unless he’s supplying it to the apothecary that serves the Ministry, I doubt it’s anything good,” Amanda said. “Sounds sketchy.”
“He did say he didn’t care what people did with the potion after he brewed it,” Rose said.
“Do you think he sells it to people directly? Or is there some sort of middleman?” John asked.
“No idea,” Albus said quietly, “but either way, Burke isn’t quite as perfect as Kaden seems to think he is.”
A/N: Thanks for all the reviews! If you haven't read Searching For Forever yet, check it out. It's one of this month's featured stories on the home page!
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