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Chapter 4 : Eavesdropping
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“Double Potions this morning,” said Daegan. “Is that, like, actual real-life potions that work? Not just kids making stuff up, but proper stuff?”
“Yeah,” said Severus. “Potions is a huge part of the wizarding world. Most of the cures used at St. Mungo’s – that’s the hospital in London – are potions of one kind or another.”
“Wasn’t there someone called Blaise Zabini in dad’s year?” Rose asked Albus and Severus.
“I think there was,” said Albus. “He was a Slytherin. Great friends with Draco Malfoy, too.” Albus shot a glance at the Slytherin table, where Malfoy, Goyle and Robertson had their heads together, talking animatedly. “And – oh yes, we have Potions with the Slytherins. Great.”
Daegan shook his head and turned back to his cereal. “I don’t know. It all seems a bit silly to me.”
Severus was on the point of arguing when a bell rang somewhere. “It’s time to go to Potions, guys,” Rose said loudly. The five of them stood up, picked up their bags and traipsed out of the Great Hall. “Saved by the bell,” muttered Dillon to Albus.
“Definitely,” Albus agreed. “Sev was always argumentative, but I never realised how much so.”
It was very cold down in the dungeons. The Gryffindors stood outside the Potions classroom opposite the Slytherins, waiting for Zabini to open the door. At last he did, on the second ring of the bell, and Albus silently followed his house inside.
The dungeon was the same size as any other classroom, with the desks arranged in twos. Shelves lined the walls, and on one side of the classroom they were full of books, all about potions and brewing. On the other side of the classroom were jars full of animals suspended in some kind of liquid, and not always whole animals – Albus could see a pair of eyeballs, a clawed foot and a wing of some bird – as well as glass rectangles with opened-up animals inside. Albus shuddered as he passed an opened-up mouse. The skin of the belly had been removed, showing the guts, but the face was still there. The mouse seemed to be staring at Albus accusingly, as if he were the one who had put it there. Albus looked away quickly.
He sat down beside Daegan and took out his pewter standard-sized cauldron and potion book. Daegan did the same as Zabini strode to the front of the classroom.
“Wands away, please,” he said after registration. “This is not a class for you to talk and wave your wands around. This is a class of respect, respect not only for me but for the gentle, exact science of potions. Each potion is very delicate, even the more basic ones you will be studying this year. I don’t think that many of you will continue with this class past your O.W.L. exams, but in order to do so you must pay attention now, tomorrow and in every other lesson we have. It is vital that you remember everything. Everything about single ingredients, about combined ingredients, about the way you stir particular potions, about what each of those potions do, everything. Each component is vital, no matter how unnecessary you think it.” He turned to the Gryffindor side of the room. “Today you will be brewing simple Cures for Boils. I suggest you read the instructions carefully and brew well, because next lesson I will be giving you all boils. You will then have to drink your own potions to see if they work. There are extra ingredients in the store cupboard over there if you need them. Turn to page three in your books, please. You may begin.”
Albus glanced around at his friends. All of them, except Rose of course, were still staring stupidly at Zabini. Rose was bending over her cauldron, poking something around in its depths.
Albus turned to his own cauldron after nudging Daegan back to focus. He started on page three, read the first few instructions, and began.
Near the end of the lesson, none other than Keane strode into the room. He walked straight up to the top of the classroom, giving no indication that the first years were there except to wave smoke coming from Goyle’s cauldron out of his face, and stood angrily beside Zabini, who was sitting at his desk.
“Blaise,” said Keane in his low voice. “You didn’t reply to my owl.”
Zabini glanced around at the class. Albus quickly ducked his head back down and pretended to read a line of instructions.
“Not here, Andrew,” said Zabini angrily. “I am teaching a class. Come back at lunch time-”
“This cannot wait!” yelled Keane. This time the whole class looked up. Zabini glared at them and they focused back on their potions.
Albus reluctantly went back to his own potion after realising that it was boiling over. Quickly he turned the flames down with his wand and started to crush up some dried Billywig stings.
The bell rang again three minutes later, and Albus scooped a flask into his potion and named it before bringing the flask up to a centre desk. He lingered, fiddling with the lid, while he eavesdropped on Zabini and Keane, who were still arguing.
“I already told you, he’s gone!” Zabini was saying. “This isn’t acceptable anymore. I have a job that I wish to keep-”
“Yes, he’s gone, but there’s a new lord! Don’t you read any of your post? And as for a job, do you really mean this?” Keane asked, gesturing to the classroom, which was now almost empty, Albus saw, save for himself and the two teachers. He slowly walked back to his desk and picked up his bag, packing away very slowly.
“Yes! Teaching potions is something I enjoy, not what you are suggesting, taking advantage of – Potter, what are you doing here?”
Albus started. “Oh, I was, um, I knocked over a box of Billywig stings and I was just cleaning them up. I’m done now; I’ll just be off-”
Albus hurriedly finished packing and left the classroom, just in time to hear Keane saying, “Draco’s already in! He was part of the hold-up we did last night!”
Not wanting to make Zabini angrier with him than he was already, Albus ran up the stairs into the crowded Entrance Hall, where he could become anonymous in the crowd.
“Draco as in Draco Malfoy?” Severus asked Albus as they started lunch. Albus had looked for his friends all break, but he hadn’t managed to find them until class started, by which time it was too late to talk.
“How many other Draco’s do we know?” Albus asked him. “It sounds like they’re up to something to me.”
“It’s probably just some kind of club, Albus,” said Rose. “Maybe some kind of school reunion.”
“No, dad never mentioned a Slytherin called Andrew Keane. If it was a gathering it would be with friends, right? Draco Malfoy always had his friends-slash-cronies around him, so if there had been an Andrew Keane at school dad would know him. Besides, Keane looks way older than dad.”
“That’s true,” agreed Severus.
“What are you going to do about it, huh?” challenged Daegan. “Sorry, sorry, I’m just tired. Arguing makes me get a headache. Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine,” assured Rose. “Are you feeling all right? It’s only lunch time …”
Daegan smiled, although Albus noticed he was looking a bit pale. “It’s nothing, I just – didn’t sleep well last night.”
“Well, you’ll get plenty of sleep next period,” said Severus. “Apparently History of Magic is utterly boring, and we have it next. I’m planning to get a start on that essay Ibbotson set us.”
Ibbotson was the Transfiguration teacher. She was also the only teacher to set them homework so far.
Rose gave Severus a withering glance. “I so wish Molly was here to hear this,” she muttered. “Doing homework in class – aren’t you going to take notes?”
“Aren’t you?” Severus asked innocently. Albus could see where he was going and grinned into his food. He suspected that Rose’s answer would also affect him.
“Of course,” said Rose, confused.
“Problem solved then!” Severus said enthusiastically, helping himself to more potatoes. “It wull bif ine, Wose,” he added through a mouthful of food. “Don’t worry. I’ll, borrow, your notes.” He beamed.
Rose rolled her eyes but didn’t go any further on the subject, for which Albus was glad. “Come on,” she said, standing. “We’d better get a start on Ibbotson’s essay. To the library!”
“Anyone who can say ‘to the library’ as happily as Rose just did needs to get out more,” Severus muttered. Albus privately agreed.
After half an hour in the library with Madame Pince breathing down their necks and hovering near them, staring suspiciously, they trooped to History of Magic.
After taking their seats and looking around for some kind of adult, Albus and his friends started talking to each other when nobody came. Suddenly there were screams and gasps from the people at the front of the classroom. Coming through the blackboard was the pearly white figure of a man. Albus knew he was a ghost, having seen Nearly Headless Nick the other day, and he guessed it was Professor Binns. The door opened and in came Macmillan, carrying a notepad and a quill.
“Hello, my name is Professor Binns. Today I will be lecturing you about the first goblin rebellion. It was all started by a goblin named Gudrun who …”
Albus noted down the name ‘Gudrun’ and then slipped into the standard Binns boredom. It was only his first History of Magic lesson and already he was bored. Albus could only hear two quills scratching – Rose’s and Macmillan’s. Daegan was already asleep.
Forty minutes later, Albus was brought out of his stupor by the bell. Everybody lazily left the classroom and yawned on their way to Herbology.
Neville’s lesson was a lot more hands-on than History of Magic as they were re-potting the Backwards Stnalp that Neville had planted over the summer. They had their roots waving around in the air and there were tiny leaves poking up through the soil. Albus felt much more awake as he tried to force his Stnalp into the pot the wrong way round, only to have Dillon correct him. It took a further fifteen minutes to get the Stnalp out and back in again, and by that time class was over. Albus barely heard Neville say the word ‘homework’ before there was a mad rush to get out of class.
“What was the homework?” Albus asked Daegan.
“Hm? Oh, I, uh, wasn’t listening. Sev, what was the homework?”
“We have to write a four-foot essay on Backwards Stnalp and its properties in healing potions,” said Severus.
Albus nodded but looked at Daegan. The boy was deathly pale, and despite his extra sleep in History of Magic, he still had large dark circles under his eyes. “Are you feeling all right?” Albus asked him worriedly.
“Oh, I guess. I’ll manage through the rest of the day,” Daegan said, attempting a smile, but it didn’t work. Daegan turned away from Albus but Albus still watched him worriedly. It was almost like Daegan was hiding something from them; like he wasn’t being entirely truthful.
The day passed quickly, and after dinner the five went upstairs to the common room. Rose insisted they all started Neville’s essay, so they did. Albus kept glancing up at Severus, feeling like there was something he wanted to ask him, or tell him, but he couldn’t remember what it was.
At eight o’clock, the first to fourth years poured in as it was their curfew. They brought with them loud noise, which Albus could tell seriously annoyed Rose, who looked like she was about to yell at a couple of rowdy third years. He was about to point this out to Daegan when he noticed that Daegan was sitting with his head in his hands, wincing at every sound.
“Are you all right?” Albus asked him.
Daegan just shook his head and rose to his feet slowly. Albus got up and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’ll take you to the hospital wing,” Albus said. Daegan nodded and the two of them slipped out of the common room. The corridor outside was cool, dark and quiet.
“Are you first years?” the Fat Lady asked them suspiciously as they walked off. “You’re breaking curfew! You’ll get in trouble!”
Albus ignored her and continued walking. Daegan still had his hands cupped around his ears, though he wasn’t wincing anymore. In the light from the torches in brackets on the walls, he looked white as a sheet.
“Do you feel all right?” Albus asked again, more worriedly.
Daegan shrugged. “I – think so,” he said, and then let out a sound that was almost bestial. It was like a cross between a growl, a bark and a cough. Albus shuddered and again got the feeling that Daegan wasn’t telling him something.
They got to the hospital wing and found it gladly open. Madame Pomfrey was sitting at her desk, glancing from out the window to her watch and back out the window again. When she heard the door open she jumped up and rushed over.
“Daegan! I’ve been waiting for you! Come on, come on – you can go back to your dormitory, Albus – come on, Daegan, this way …” Madame Pomfrey led Daegan to a bed in the corner. Albus watched but turned away when Madame Pomfrey glanced at him and mouthed ‘bed’.
‘How’s Daegan?’ It was Severus, accompanied by the usual buzzing.
‘He didn’t look too good. It was weird, almost like Madame Pomfrey was waiting for him. She kept looking out the window,’ thought Albus.
‘Weird. Al, how are we doing this?’
‘To be honest, Sev, I have no idea. It’s telepathy, that’s what the Muggles call it. Let’s ask Aunt Hermione about it over Christmas. She should know.’
‘Good idea, Al. Got to go.’
The buzzing disappeared and Albus returned to his own thoughts. Why had Madame Pomfrey been waiting for Daegan? He hadn’t gone to the hospital wing at all today, and in any case how had she known his name? The fact that she knew Albus’s was obvious – he was Harry Potter’s son – but Daegan didn’t even have any magic relatives. It was odd, that was for sure.
Well that's chapter five! Please review because feedback is pretty important!
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