Chapter 15 : xv. the game-changer [or] between a rock and a hard place
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Oh yeah, I realise, rolling over and coming face-to-face with a still snoring Alfie. That happened.
Albus and Scorpius were not kidding about his snoring. I’ll have to tell them that, and briefly entertain myself by imagining the looks on their faces when they work out why I know.
I lie there for a while, because it’s still early and it’s holidays and I’m hoping to sleep in a bit more, but Alfie’s earth-shattering snores put a swift end to that hope. I wriggle carefully out of his embrace and grope around for a pair of pajamas and the eye-wateringly bright Chudley Cannons hoodie that I let Dad buy me in a moment of weakness. Then, perched cross-legged on the edge of my bed, I allow myself a good long time to stare at him with a kind of semi-detached fascination – this is the boy I lost my virginity to, fair of face and loud of snore. I didn’t see that coming.
The snores abruptly stop, and a few moments later he’s squinting sleepily up at me. “Hi.”
“That wasn’t a dream, then. Good to know. I’ve been disappointed before.”
“You – er.” I’ve gone bright red now. “You’ve dreamed about – ”
“Oh.” Not knowing what to do with this information, I promptly bury my face in my knees.
“Was that…too much information?” Alfie asks hesitantly.
I look up. “I think we’re past that stage. Given the – circumstances. You dreamt about me?”
“Is that so hard to believe? Rose, you’re stunning.”
“Oh,” I say again, and kiss him so I don’t have to actually respond.
After a thorough reprisal of last night’s activities, I fling the covers off.
“Ahhh,” Alfie protests.
“Get up. Breakfast runs for another half hour.”
“Breakfast,” he repeats eagerly, and reaches for his clothes. “I think I might become a morning person.”
I’m halfway across the room when he grabs me by the wrist, looking awkward and a little bit terrified. “Rose – we didn’t use – ”
“I’m on the contraceptive potion,” I say, cutting him off. “Sorry, I should have told you earlier.”
“You’re on the potion?” he looks confused. “I mean, I’m relieved – but how come you’re already on it?”
“It helps with...other things,” I say delicately. “I’ve been brewing it since fifth year.”
“You brew your own – of course you do.”
“It’s cheaper that way.” I shrug. “I don’t like paying other people to brew potions if I can do them myself. And it has the advantage of not having any telltale packaging, because otherwise my dad would lose his shit and think I’m using it to sleep with half of Hogwarts.”
“Has your dad met you?” he asks skeptically.
“My dad is of the old-fashioned keep-your-hands-off-my-daughter-or-so-help-me variety that should only exist in fiction. I won’t be telling him about you.”
“I appreciate that.”
Hardly anyone is at breakfast , which doesn’t surprise me in the least. Dinner last night showed that there’s barely fifty people left in the castle – and of those fifty, forty-five are still in bed, three had breakfast before us – and the rest are staff. Professors Vector and Babbling are even sitting at the Ravenclaw table.
“Morning Miss Weasley, Mr Harrison,” Vector says crisply.
“Morning, Professor. Why aren’t you at the staff table?”
“We staff like to sit at our old house tables when there aren’t many students around,” Vector replies. I glance around the Great Hall – sure enough, Professors Thomas and Longbottom are chatting animately over at the Gryffindor table, Sinistra’s having a quiet cup of tea at the Hufflepuff table, and Llodewick and May are sharing different sections of the Prophet under the Slytherin banner.
“It’s like a different world,” Alfie says in wonder.
“Thank you for that assessment, Alfie,” Vector says wryly, evidently deciding that sharing a breakfast table warrants a first name basis. “I trust you two are enjoying the holidays? I’m surprised to see students up so early.”
“We thought we’d get a head start on revision, Professor,” Alfie says, obviously deciding that we were at it like rabbits first thing this morning is an inappropriate response. “We agreed we’d bully each other into getting up at a reasonable hour, otherwise we’d just sleep all day.”
“That’s very conscientious of you,” she says approvingly. “I expect good things from both of you for NEWTs – Cuthbert has nothing but good things to say about you, Alfie. And Rose – Herbert assures me you’ve learned your lesson regarding Potions experiments.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“How are you finding the Tales of Beedle the Bard?” Babbling asks me. “You seem to be handling the Fountain of Fair Fortune quite well in class.”
“It’s an illusion, I’m afraid.” I tell her about my disastrous attempts at unseen.
“Well, you have the holidays to work on it, and our in-class readings will be wrapping up early next term, so that should give you a bit more time for revision. I’m pleased to hear Scorpius Malfoy has been helping you, he’s an exceptionally gifted student.”
“Scorpius helps us all,” I tell her. “Man’s a gift from God.”
“It’s a shame he’s not taking his Runes further,” Babbling says. “Though the career options are quite limited, I must say…anyway, if you find yourself struggling with translation at any point these holidays, feel free to come and knock on my door. I get bored easily.”
“I’ll probably take you up on that, thank you.”
After breakfast, Alfie and I decide to actually make good on what we told Vector. We start with Charms, both practical and theoretical – because I spend so little time on Charms I forget I even take it, and because it’s one of the few subjects we both take. We’re fine with wandwork, but I have to dig into the Standard Book of Spells to do a practice exam paper, and scrawl Charms – theory onto my list of topics I need to revise. By lunchtime, I’ve added Runes – unseens, grammar + vocab and Transfiguration – conjuring spells to that list, and feel like I’ve definitely deserved a break.
Midafternoon finds me knocking on Professor Babbling’s office door, and she spends an hour going through various passages from Beedle the Bard until I’m starting to get the hang of deciphering unseens and she’s keen for a cuppa in the staffroom. Taking my cue, I head for the door – but then she calls me back and tells me to accompany her. Feeling awed, I follow her into hallowed ground.
It’s amazing. There’s a fire blazing in the corner, and half a dozen armchairs turned towards it. A long table down one end is covered with kettle, various boxes and tins of tea, coffee and hot chocolate, a half dozen packets of biscuits, and a small collection of wine, mead and Firewhiskey in a crystal decanter. There are chandeliers on the ceiling, a bookcase, and a couple of ancient, stately tables littered with books, parchment and mugs. Professor May is muttering to himself at one, marking a pile of what seems to be third-year Charms essays, and Professor Longbottom is pootling around in the corner.
“Bathsheda,” Longbottom calls, not even turning around – does Babbling enter a room differently? – “Cuppa?”
“Thank you, Neville. And one for Rose here, too.”
“Rose Weasley?” Llodewick rises from one of the fire-facing armchairs. “Getting acquainted with your future refuge, si qua fata sinant?”
I silently thank God for Scorpius’s excited rants about the Aeneid. “I wasn’t aware you were the Fates, Professor.”
“Not at all. In fact, if it were entirely up to me, your future would be secure – I was very impressed with that report you gave me. Come, take a seat – I have a proposal for you.”
Intrigued, I glance at Babbling – it seems rude to ditch when she’s the one who brought me here – but she waves her hand in dismissal and I claim one of the armchairs beside the fire.
“Milk and sugar, Rose?” Longbottom calls.
“Both, thank you.”
“I’m going to offer you a job,” Llodewick says.
My jaw drops. “You what?”
“Provisionally, of course. You’ll need an Outstanding in your NEWT – or an Exceeds Expectations and a decent excuse – as well as excellent feedback from the Ministry and the Potioneers Guild throughout your course. And, once you’re qualified, you will start as my assistant.”
“Yes. I’ve spoken to Professor Vector and she has agreed that, given the increased demands on Potions professors, you will start out as an assistant teacher. We’re still in the middle of the post-war baby boom, and Hogwarts’ roll is ever expanding – and given that Potions is the most popular subject – ”
“Say that again, Llodewick!” Professor Corner, who teaches Transfiguration, challenges.
“Given that Potions is the most popular subject,” Llodewick repeats firmly, “It’s no longer realistic for one teacher to teach all classes. You will start out as an assistant, and after three to five years, I will retire and you will take on the role of Potions mistress. You will be expected to hire an assistant yourself – all the core subjects will be required to have two teachers in five years’ time.”
I open my mouth to thank him, to take the tea now hovering beside me, to sip it and ask questions about the job and whether he really thinks I’m up to it.
And then I panic, and every bald-faced lie I’ve told to him and to Professor Vector and every other member of staff who has unwaveringly believed the best of me comes bubbling up and I can’t, I can’t say anything I intended to and I can’t take the job and I can’t stop what I’m about to say –
“It was me,” I blurt. “All the pranks, all the stupid things – the Order of the Raven, it was me, I’m going for that stupid scholarship and that potion was part of it and I lied to you and I lied to Professor Vector and I lied to everyone and I can’t be a teacher, and I’ve broken so many rules and I’m sorry – ” I’m choking on my words and I’m crying, and the look on Llodewick’s face drives home what I’ve just done, I’ve thrown away my chance of being Potions mistress at Hogwarts, everything I’ve dreamed of for years and years, it’s over because I’m so stupid, why did I ever think this was a good idea –
I can hear Llodewick saying my name, calling for someone to get Septima, and an icy cold fear grips me – even worse than before – Professor Vector’s my head of house, she’s going to take my badge and expel me, and they’ll destroy my wand, I know they will, and I’ll never get my NEWTs and I’ll never get a job because nobody will hire me – I want to beg Llodewick not to tell Vector, maybe I do, but she’s here anyway and I’ve never seen her look so grave, and I try to explain – say something, anything, but I can’t breathe –
“Someone Floo Hermione Granger,” Vector says tersely.
“No,” I manage. “No, no, no, no, please, don’t, don’t tell Mum – ”
“Rose,” Vector says, more softly now. “Rose, I need you to…” She’s saying more but I can’t hear her, I can only hear my own gasping breaths, can’t think past the fact I’m going to be expelled and Vector’s trying to be nice about it even though I lied to her face, and I can’t look at her anymore, just curl up into a ball – I’m safer that way, as if the world somehow can’t touch me, and I’m so dizzy but I don’t care –
Strong hands are pulling at me, tugging me by the shoulders, making me look up. I can see Vector shuffling furiously through a file – it has my name on it, oh God –
“Holly Holyoake,” she says, and I feel sick – have I gotten her into trouble too? What if Vector doesn’t let her become a teacher? It’s all my fault, I’ve ruined her life too –
Vector disappears into the fire, and I want to disappear again but Llodewick and Longbottom are on either side of me, so all I can do is close my eyes tight –
“Rosie?” a familiar voice says softly, and I feel someone sit down beside me. “Rose, it’s Holly. Nod if you can hear me.”
“Good. Good girl.” She reaches for my hand, squeezes it, and I hear Llodewick say something. “Rosie, I need you to breathe for me. Can you do that?”
I shake my head blindly.
“That’s okay, we’ll get there. Rosie, Llodewick says you’re not in trouble. He says you need to know that.”
I take a deep, shuddering breath and cling to Holly even tighter.
“Good girl,” she says, and her small, warm hands are rubbing my back. “Can you do that again? Just take a deep breath, that’s it. You’re doing great.”
“That’s it. Rosie, do you want to open your eyes?”
I shake my head, force myself to take another breath.
“Okay. Rose, we’re in the Hogwarts staffroom. Would you feel better if the teachers left?”
I want to nod my head, but I can’t kick the teachers out, I’m in enough trouble as it is –
“It’s fine,” she says, as if she can read my mind. “They don’t mind leaving. They just want you to feel safe.”
I nod, and curl up tighter as I hear the scraping of chairs and the shuffling of footsteps.
“Okay, they’re gone. It’s just you and me. I want you to open your eyes, and keep breathing. Like you were before.”
I do. The bright light of the room hurts my eyes, and I blink furiously as Holly comes into focus. “Hi there,” she says softly. “Long time no see.”
“It’s been three days,” I manage.
“It has,” she agrees.
I want to smile, but it freezes when I remember. “Holly, I’m sorry, I told Llodewick about the scholarship and I said it was just me but Vector must have found something because your name was in my file and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry – ”
“Shhh,” she says softly. “You’re not in trouble and neither am I. I’m your emergency contact, silly goose. That’s why my name’s in your file. It’s just student records. See? I’ll show you.”
She takes the parchment from the table where Vector left it. “See? Under Medical History.”
I struggle to read the words on the page.
Ongoing medical conditions: Anxiety
In case of attack contact: Holly Holyoake
“That’s why Vector was there,” Holly says, closing the file and pulling me into her arms. “You’re not in trouble. Llodewick was just concerned.”
I take a while to process her words, clinging to them as I focus on my breathing – in, out, in, out – until I’m able to speak properly again. “So – so that’s why Vector wanted to call Mum – ”
“Yes, because you were having an attack. A real humdinger of one, too. No wonder you scared all the teachers. I’m glad Vector found your file though – can you imagine if your mum came? She’d be running around like a headless chook. She’s worse than Albus.”
I force a smile. “You said humdinger.”
“I did, and I’d say it again. It made you smile. What were you doing in the Holy of Holies anyway?”
“Babbling invited me in for a cuppa.”
“You’ve been getting cosy with the teachers, haven’t you?” she says. “Alfie not enough for you?”
I can feel my face growing flame-red. “No, he’s – uh, he’s definitely enough.”
“Rose Weasley! What would Lara say?”
“I didn’t even say anything!”
“You didn’t need to,” she says, ruffling my hair. “Well, congrats. He’s very – pretty.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Holly asks, straightening up. “Only you gave half a dozen professors quite a turn, and they probably want to know that you’re still conscious.”
“I’ll be okay. Just – don’t leave yet.”
“I won’t,” she assures me. “I could probably go for some Potions revision back in the common room, actually – if you want to help.”
“That would be good.”
She leads me out of the staffroom – I’m grateful for her hand in mine when we pass through the throng of teachers waiting outside.
“She’s fine, she’ll be fine,” Holly says, using her other arm to gently make a path between the assembled staff. “Thanks for that – we’re just heading back to Ravenclaw Tower – ”
“I’d like a word when you’re feeling up to it, Rose,” Llodewick says quietly once we’re out of earshot of the other teachers. I freeze.
“Perhaps another time, Professor,” Holly says firmly.
“You can come with her, Holly, but I promise you I’ll give her no cause to worry. I’ve offered Rose a job, and I’d like to discuss the specifics with her.”
“The offer still stands?” I ask, my voice barely above a whisper.
“Yes, Rose, it does. Come by my office when you’re feeling better, and I’ll fill you in.”
I must look a right mess, because when I return to the common room Alfie turns to me. “Where have you – oh,” he says abruptly, eyes flicking from me to Holly and back to me. “Everything okay?”
“It is now,” Holly says. “What are you working on? Transfiguration? We’re going to do a bit of Potions if you want to join us.”
“I’m never going to pass up the opportunity to mooch off Rose’s Potions knowledge.”
Holly stays for another hour or so – long enough for her to run through all the questions she’s come up with so far during her revision and to make sure that I’ll be all right without her.
“If you need me again, just Floo,” she says sternly. “Alfie, look after her for me.”
“Panic attack?” he asks once Holly’s gone.
He fiddles awkwardly with his quill, obviously not sure what else to say, and after his second concerned glance my way I give up. “Look – you don’t need to act all – weird about it.”
“I’m not acting weird – okay, maybe I am,” he concedes. “But it’s not that. It’s just – I’m not sure what I am to you at the moment, so I don’t really know…”
Oh boy. “Do you want to do this now?”
“No time like the present. Lay it on me.”
“I don’t want a relationship,” I say cautiously, watching his face. Despite the ill-disguised relief that flickers across his features, I plough on, strangely compelled to justify myself to him. “With anyone. I do like you – I mean, we have fun and everything, and you’re pretty – ”
He wrinkles his nose. “Why is that everyone’s go-to adjective for me? It’s emasculating.”
“Well, you are,” I reply matter-of-factly. “Would you prefer attractive?”
“Yeah, so. You’re attractive and we get along – ”
“The feeling’s mutual.”
“I got that impression, funnily enough. But – I mean, we have NEWTs coming up, and we’re going our separate ways at the end of school anyway, so whatever – ” I wave my arms around – “This is, it’s not going to last, and I think we both know that.”
"So you’re suggesting – what? Friends with benefits, seedy as it sounds?”
“On the proviso that we come up with a better term than friends with benefits.”
“Screwing the crew,” he deadpans.
“Good, then. Glad that’s sorted.” He grins, awkwardness gone. “Does that mean I can come up to your dorm tonight, then?”
“And you’re not?” he counters, raising an eyebrow. “Who would have thought, underneath that studious, law-abiding persona lies – ”
“Don’t say another word.” I point a stern finger at him.
“God forbid, an eighteen-year-old pansexual witch with a libido.”
“Libido is a gross word.”
“Linguistically offended. You can come up to my dorm tonight. But if your snoring keeps me awake, I will be forcing potions down your throat until it doesn’t.”
“Was that a death threat?”
“It wasn’t…intended as one.”
“How many deadly poisons are you capable of brewing?”
“Off the top of my head?” I pause. “About thirty. I’d need a recipe for any others.”
“You’re a terrifying woman.”
“I get that from my mother.”
The mention of my mother has the universal, deliberate effect of putting an end to this vaguely sexual back-and-forth. Satisfied, I turn my attentions back to Advanced Potion Making in front of me – I know all the potions like the back of my hand, of course, but I’m looking for ways I can improve upon them for the exam – but I can feel Alfie’s eyes on me, and a quick glance in his direction tells me he’s still staring at me like he wants nothing more than to rip my clothes off and take me right here in the common room, in full view of the second-years playing Gobstones in the corner.
It’s a bit distracting.
He liked watching me study. My mother’s voice pops, unbidden, into my mind – that time she decided the best form of mother-daughter bonding was swapping boy stories, and gracing me with her tales of Bulgarian Quidditch star Viktor Krum (I was, at the time, dealing with my monstrous fourth-year crush on Sophie Macmillan, so I didn’t have a lot to contribute) who, by all accounts, liked to sit in the library and watch Mum ignore him for hours at a time. Much like what Alfie’s doing now.
This is too much. “I’m going to the Owlery. Maybe you can actually get some revision done in my absence.” It’s one of the most egotistical things I’ve ever said – I’m just going to head off so you’re not too distracted by my apparently smokin’ bod – but Alfie just nods and I make good my escape.
I am far too much like Mum, I decide as I climb the endless steps up the Owlery – and it’s a disconcerting realisation to have in the context of staring boys. I remember the conversation I had with Lily over Christmas – whether we really have become our mothers (Sorting discrepancies and battle experience aside) and I feel like I’m one step closer to becoming Hermione Granger Jr.
Then I realise that’s a pretty weird conclusion to make, because we – all of us, the collective whole, Alfie included – are Ravenclaws. We blur that weird-ass line between sexual and academic attraction all the time (I can trace my attraction to Alfie back to that time in fifth-year when he recited Iago’s ‘I am not what I am’ speech from Othello; apparently he’s been into me since the infamous lunchtime lecture which I made all my friends cite me for in the Potions OWL; the examples of Albus and Scorpius are beyond counting) We Claws do things differently, and I really shouldn’t be surprised if Alfie likes watching me study complex theoretical Potioneering the same way other blokes his age might enjoy a striptease in one of the seedy bars off Knockturn Alley. Especially since he has, in fact, already seen me naked.
It reminds me of the conversation we had late in fourth year – we being the boys, Holly and me, not the other Claws – over a pile of books on gender and sexuality in the Restricted section of the library one Hogsmeade weekend. (I still have a problem with that kind of subject matter classed as ‘restricted,’ but that’s something Holly and I will take up with the school when we’re actually staff.) We never did any of the agonising one normally expects from queer teenagers (“Am I gay? Am I bi? What will I tell my parents?”) just sat down with books and started trying on labels. Holly alighted on asexual with something akin to a cry of delight – “Look, it’s me! It’s a thing!” Albus and Scorpius tossed their books aside with matching statements of “Mine’s not in here – I’m Scorpius-sexual/Albus-sexual,” and we spent the better part of the afternoon trying to find mine – “You’re not gay, are you, I’ve seen you staring at some of those sixth-year boys,” and “How would you describe your attraction to Sophie?” and finally, “Let’s just go with pansexual, it covers everything.” Lester, as the token straight, spent the whole afternoon looking a bit left out.
My watch beeps – six o’clock, time for dinner and time to put an end to my reminiscing in the Owlery – especially because it’s freezing and the longer I spend up here, the more likely I am to get shat on.
The staff are back at the house tables this evening, and I swear there are even less students around than before.
“Good evening, Rose,” Vector says, waving me into the seat beside her. “I trust you’re feeling better?”
“Much better.” Vector, as my Head of House, has had to deal with the lion’s share of my panic attacks – I’ve gotten away with a few smaller ones with just Holly, but it’s school policy that she’s at least notified every time I have a bad one – so I don’t feel awkward around her anymore. Professor Babbling is another matter, and she has a look of abject fear about her that suggests she’s expecting me to fall to pieces again at the slightest provocation. She takes her cues from Vector, though, and after a few moments seems satisfied that if Vector isn’t worried, she shouldn’t be either.
“Holly left, then?” Vector continues.
“Yeah, she left around five.”
“And how’s your revision going?” she asks, encompassing Alfie in her question. “I recall you both had intentions of starting that today.”
“We got a fair bit done,” Alfie says. “Mainly pinpointing our weak spots, what we need to be paying more attention to as we go into NEWTs.”
“Good. I’m pleased to hear it – you’ll find that getting started early will help with stress leading up to the exams. Speaking of exams, Rose – I need to have a word with you after dinner, if you could stop by my office.”
I have no idea what Vector could possibly want to talk to me about – unless Llodewick told her, a voice whispers tauntingly in the back of my mind. I ignore it. “I will, Professor. I’m supposed to meet with Llodewick too – I don’t suppose you know what hours he keeps?”
“Late ones,” Vector replies. “He’ll be in his office at least until midnight – not that I’ll be keeping you anywhere near that late.”
There are no sixth-year Ravenclaws left in the castle, nothing filling the gulf between us and the fifth-years, meaning Alfie and I have definitely been absorbed into the collection of Ravenclaw teachers – something which is proven when Professor Corner arrives, plunks down next to Alfie, and strikes up conversation.
“I heard about Llodewick’s offer,” he says to me. “I’m very pleased – very pleased indeed. Given our propensity for academia, there aren’t nearly enough Ravenclaw alumni on staff. The faculty is overwhelmingly red and gold, I’m afraid.”
I glance around the Great Hall. “Who? There’s Longbottom and Thomas – ”
“Demelza Robins,” Vector adds. “She teaches Muggle Studies – Sybil was a Gryffindor too, Sybil Trelawney. Rubeus Hagrid, of course…and Cuthbert, did you know that?”
“Professor Binns was a Gryffindor?” Alfie looks almost disappointed. “I could have sworn he’d have been Ravenclaw.”
“He lived quite the daring life before he came to teach,” Vector says. “You ought to ask him about it sometime, it’s fascinating.”
After dinner, I leave Alfie chatting to Professors Corner and Babbling and follow Vector back to her office. She closes the door behind me, looking serious, and I feel another lurch of fear.
“Your attack earlier. I won’t ask what triggered it – ”
“But I’m concerned. I haven’t seen you that bad for a long time.”
The closed door is beginning to make me fidgety, trapped; I’m about ninety percent sure I don’t want to have this conversation. “It was a one-off.”
“You have anxiety, Rose. This was not a one-off. And Llodewick told me you came close to one earlier in the year.”
“Close being the operative word. It didn’t happen.”
“I’m worried about you,” she says. “NEWTs are notoriously difficult, and I know that you place an extraordinary amount of pressure on yourself.”
“I’m fine. I did fine in OWLs.”
“You were brewing Calming Potion,” Vector says flatly. “You think I didn’t know? I know everything that goes on in Ravenclaw Tower, Rose. Especially when it concerns the well-being of my students. I didn’t say anything at the time, because you were in the middle of exams – but I’ll not have it happening again.”
I take a deep breath, knowing I’m on the edge, knowing that I can’t fall apart again but wanting nothing more than to run away. OWLs were two years ago; I’d almost forgotten about the Calming Potion thing, had almost managed to convince myself it was justified, responsible even, knowing my own stress limits and what I could and couldn’t cope with.
“I’ll be keeping a close eye on your mental and emotional well-being over the next few months. Scorpius and Lester’s, as well. And if you brew Calming Potion without permission from myself or Madame Pomfrey, I will intervene. I’m worried about – ”
“Don’t say it.” My words are forceful, far more than I intended, and Professor Vector looks momentarily taken aback by my vehemence. “Don’t.”
“Potion dependency,” she says firmly.
I rake my fingers through my hair, exhaling slowly. Focus on breathing. “I’m not – ” Breathe – “Jesus. Professor, I haven’t – “ Breathe – “I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine. Rose, I am not trying to scare you – ” she hovers, uncertain whether to come closer, and I hold up a hand to tell her I’ve got it under control.
“You need to find better methods of coping. I know the networks you and your friends have in place, and I understand that they have worked for you, but it’s a huge burden to place on yourselves and your friends.” She pulls files out of her desk. “You’re listed in Scorpius Malfoy’s file as his emergency contact. Scorpius is listed as Lester’s. You’re all of age, so you have the right to name each other, but I strongly advise against it.”
“We don’t – really have anyone else. Professor, I understand where you’re coming from – I do, but this system works for us. And we know each other’s limits – if it gets too much, we’ll tell you.”
“See that you do. And Rose – I will be monitoring your brewing from now on. You’re free to brew whatever you like in your spare time, but you must tell me first.”
I run my hand through my hair again. Fuck.
“Is there anything you’re currently brewing for personal use?”
“What is it?”
“Is there any way we can just leave it at personal use and I promise it’s not Calming Potion?”
Vector catches on pretty quickly. “As long as you’re being safe.”
Deciding this meeting is definitely at an end, I flee for the door. Vector doesn’t stop me.
I want nothing more than to go back to the common room – preferably a common room populated by Holly, Lester, Albus and Scorpius – but I’ve got another two weeks of just Alfie and staff for company, and I have another meeting with another member of the aforementioned staff. Using the walk to Llodewick’s office as a chance to combat the rising unsettled feeling in my gut, I knock on his door hoping that I’ve got my emotions under control.
“Come in,” Llodewick calls, and gestures for me to sit down. “Feeling better?”
“I hope you don’t mind that I decided to keep your – confession – between you and me. I figured out a while ago that you were going for that godforsaken scholarship, and I didn’t say anything for a reason. Hogwarts gains nothing from expelling its brightest students, you gain nothing from sitting in pointless detentions, and I gain nothing from throwing my prodigy under the bus.”
The tension that has gripped me for the past several hours slowly fades at his words. “Your prodigy?”
“That better not be false modesty.”
“No, I – well, I know I’m good, but – ”
“Good, but you could be better. I take teaching seriously, Rose. You’ve probably noticed that I told you to a much higher standard than the other students in your class. You’re not just aiming for a top NEWT in this subject. If you want to take my place – and I’m yet to find anyone with your potential as a Potions professor – you need to be much better.”
“I know. But that’s still three years away – ”
“Three years isn’t as long as you think it is. But I’m mainly wanting to talk to you about the nature of the assistant teaching role. It’s a new one, so there are a few details to sort out.”
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to sort out the details – well, closer to the time?”
“Ah. Not really. Because here’s the twist, Rose – if you accept the offer now, Hogwarts will fund your teaching course at the Ministry and your subject-specific work with the Potioneers Guild. Horace Slughorn bequeathed a large sum to the school to aid in the training and professional development of Potions professors at Hogwarts – more than enough to cover the costs of your tertiary education. It’s called – imaginatively I may add – the Horace Slughorn Potions Fellowship.”
“How much is the fellowship for?”
Professor Llodewick leans back in his chair, linking his hands behind his head, and delivers his trump card. “Six thousand Galleons.”
A/N: Othello belongs to William Shakespeare.
Si qua fata sinant - if the Fates allow - is from Virgil's Aeneid, 1.18.
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