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Chapter 11 : xi. the drawing board [or] my time to shine
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I spend the rest of the Christmas break in my pajamas, sleeping till noon and reading my new Potions book. Occasionally I come across a discovery so exciting I have to find people to flail my arms at – Mum’s the best for that, because she grasps the basic concepts of advanced Potioneering and is interested enough that she’ll just brew a cuppa and let me rant, asking the occasional question that means I can expand even more on what that particular innovation means for the Potions world. Then she’s back at the office straight after New Years, which means I’m bursting into Hugo’s room waving the book and going, “You’ll never guess what I just found out about the properties of asphodel!”
“I don’t care, Rose.”
“No, but – ”
“I’m a fifth-year, Rose.”
“Just listen for a moment, I’ll – ”
“I don’t even know what asphodel is, Rose.”
“How can you not – ”
“Go away, Rose.”
Bereft of family members who care about the most exciting discoveries in the field of potion-brewing, I scribble off the most salient points from each article in what Lester calls my ‘doctor’s handwriting’ along with a whole lot of interjections (“check this out oh my God” and “this explains literally everything about the reaction between salamander blood and lacewing flies”) and send it off to Lester.
He replies the next day, a single line in his elegant cursive script:
Must put theory into practice. Will be over presently with cauldron + ingredients.
Barely half an hour later Lester arrives, and we spend the afternoon brewing half the potions in the NEWT curriculum using the innovations I’ve found in the book (and discussing them at length, and experimenting to see whether the principles applicable to some potions can be applied to others which use similar combinations of ingredients. We get mixed results) and by the time Mum and Dad come home from work we’ve got a perfect Draught of Living Death, a batch of Amortentia and two tiny vials of Veritaserum.
Mum glares at the Draught of Living Death when she sees it. “It looks perfect. I suppose you crushed the Sopophorous Bean with a silver blade, rather than cutting it?”
“And added one counter-clockwise stir for every seven clockwise stirs?”
“Naturally,” she says, and continues to stare darkly at the cauldron.
I don’t have the opportunity to ask her what grievous wrong the Draught of Living Death ever did her, because she’s moved on to the Veritaserum.
“This is a restricted substance, you two.”
“I wasn’t going to use it. We were studying for the NEWT exams.”
“Really?” Mum raises an eyebrow, glancing at the book on the table beside me. “Because I think you were experimenting.”
“There may have been an element of that.”
“You know how I feel about experiments in the house. Especially NEWT level potions, these ingredients are volatile – ”
“Why, mother dearest. Do you have no faith in my ability?”
“The insurance on this house does not cover the brewing of restricted substances, Rose Weasley. It’s not your laboratory.” She glances over at Lester, who’s looking slightly uncomfortable. “It’s good to see you again, Lester. I trust you enjoyed Christmas?”
“Uh – yes, it was good, Mrs – uh, Hermione.”
Lester has always struggled with calling any of our parents by their first names, despite their constant entreaties for him to do so. It took him only four years with Holly’s mum – mainly because Holly’s parents are divorced and he really couldn’t fall back on “Mrs Holyoake.” It was five years before he was calling my parents Hermione and Ron (maybe because they’re both a little bit intimidating) and he’s never managed with Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry – which I’m beginning to suspect is largely down to the fact that he’s been attracted to their daughter for quite some time now. I have noticed that since he started dating Lily, though, Aunt Ginny has mysteriously stopped correcting him when he calls her Mrs Potter. (Albus has noticed too, and finds it endlessly funny.)
Mum’s now chatting quite happily with Lester about our brewing innovations, and I shake my head at the parental double standard. Sure, when I do it it’s all Rose what are you doing you’ll blow up the house but with Lester it becomes I’m very impressed with your initiative and That’s the sort of thing you want to be doing with NEWTs. Granted, if she told Lester off he would probably never set foot here again, having melted into a puddle of mortification, but that’s beside the point.
Mum concludes our conversation by confiscating the Veritaserum (“I’m Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Rose, I cannot let you keep this,”) and warning us against unethical use of the Amortentia before heading into the kitchen. “You staying for dinner, Lester?”
“No, I’m heading to the Potters’ soon. Thank you, though.”
“Things going well with Lily then?” I ask as we start packing up the cauldrons and ingredients.
“Very well. Too well, almost.”
“Too well?” I repeat.
“Well, it’s all a bit fairytale, isn’t it? She’s beautiful and I’ve been with her barely two months and I’m already getting Christmas jumpers from her nana, and I don’t understand what she could possibly see in me.”
“Lester. What wouldn’t she see in you?”
“Let’s see,” he says sarcastically. “Fun. Passion. Charisma. Humour. General ability to function, let alone impress, outside the classroom. Because I don’t have any of that.”
“First of all, most of that is bullshit. Secondly, I can name plenty of things that she would see in you – ”
“I had a panic attack in front of her the other day.” He says this abruptly, staring at his box of potion ingredients, and starts packing up faster.
“I was round at their place when it happened, and I’d never told Lily that I get them so she was panicking which made it worse, she kept asking me if I needed to go to St Mungo’s, she was almost in tears, and luckily Albus was around so he just told her to get Scorpius while he stayed with me – I know he’s not normally the best person to have around but at least he was calm, you know?”
“So Scorpius came over and helped me through it, and then he pulled Lily aside and I assume he told her everything, I don’t know, I didn’t ask, but the next time I saw her she didn’t even mention it, and I don’t know whether that’s a good sign or not.”
“So ask her. If there’s one thing I know about Lily, it’s that she needs people to be open with her. You shouldn’t just assume Scorpius has told her everything she needs to know – and even if he did, it would still mean a lot more to her if it came from you as well.”
“It’s just…not something I like having other people know about.”
I run a hand through my hair, trying not to think about the fact that our established support networks are probably going to fall apart next year – at a time when all of us are having to deal with new situations and a thousand unknowns. Maybe we should all just get a flat together – then again, making major decisions around anxiety (or rather, the fear of anxiety itself) is something I would rather avoid, and I get the feeling Scorpius and Lester would agree.
“She’s not other people,” I say at length. “She’s your girlfriend. And if you want her to be a big part of your life, you have to talk to her about this stuff.”
“I know,” he says heavily. “I’ve just forgotten how frightening it is, getting to know someone new. Especially in the context of romance. Fast-tracked emotional vulnerability.”
“Yeah, but – it’s Lily.”
“It’s Lily,” he echoes. “You’re right. Speaking of – I really ought to be heading over there. I’ll see you on the train. And thanks.”
Two days after our return to Hogwarts, Emily comes up to me. “I have things to discuss with you. With all of you, preferably.”
“Uh – yeah, sure. Come to our common room – ”
“I don’t have your password,” she says impatiently.
“We don’t have a password. We have a bronze knocker that asks obnoxious questions, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“It was genuine. See you at seven?”
“Yeah, all right.”
“Actually, that’s really good timing,” Holly says when I tell the others about my encounter with Emily. “We were going to have a planning meeting anyway. Back to the drawing board – I even got a drawing board. Well, it’s a blackboard, and I stole it from the old Charms classroom, but I don’t actually know what a drawing board is.”
“Do we really want Emily at our planning meeting though?” Albus objects. “I mean, it’s all well and good for her to pass intel to us, but we’d be sending her back to the Enemy with the details of every prank we’re going to be doing this term. And I don’t care how trustworthy she might be – that’s the kind of opportunity nobody would pass up.”
“We won’t plan anything while she’s here, then,” I say. “She doesn’t know anything about a planning meeting, she just has stuff to discuss with us. Hopefully whatever she tells us will add some direction to our plans. Where’s Raine, by the way?”
Scorpius shrugs. “Either Quidditch practice, or making out with Lily in the Slytherin common room. My money’s on the latter though – should have asked Emily to bring him with her when she comes.”
“Nah, he’s at practice,” Albus says. “I saw Tom heading down just before with his broomstick, grumbling about the new training regime.”
“What does he need a new training regime for?” Scorpius asks. “We won that last game by a huge margin.”
“Well, the next one is against Slytherin,” Albus points out. “I suspect there’s a bit of competition.”
“Oh, that explains it.”
Emily arrives at ten past seven. “I hate your fucking knocker,” she says by way of greeting.
“We do too,” Scorpius assures her. “What did it ask this time?”
“What is death? Tonight is not a philosophy sort of night.”
“What did you tell it?”
“That death is the cessation of all thought, consciousness or autonomous bodily function, without hope of restoration.”
“That’s the best answer I’ve heard in a while,” Scorpius muses. “Last time it asked me that, I said death was what it would be experiencing if it didn’t let me in.”
“Mine was ‘the opposite of life,’” Albus says. “I was tired. Anyway, Emily, Rose tells us you have things to discuss.”
“Yes. Update on the scholarship situation. Lucy’s out.”
“What?” I ask.
“Yeah, she’s out. Said she’s got a job at James’s – you know, the bar in Diagon – ”
“I know the name of my narcissistic brother’s business venture,” Albus interrupts.
“Yeah, well. Said she’s got a full-time job starting as soon as NEWTs are over, so she doesn’t want or need the scholarship. So now it’s just Louis going for the five grand himself. Which, as you can imagine, has caused a bit of dissent.”
“You were willing to help if Lucy and Louis split the money between themselves, but not now that it’s just Louis?” Albus asks dubiously.
“It sounds stupid when you put it that way, but it did make us realise that we’re not getting anything out of it – and really, anyone in the school deserves it more than Louis.”
“Aren’t you guys mates?” Scorpius asks, in a tone that suggests he’s torn between agreeing that Louis is a dick and being horrified that Emily would say such things about a friend.
“Yes, but he’s still a piece of shit,” Emily says matter-of-factly. “He’s a good friend to us, but I’d hardly call him an upstanding member of society otherwise. None of that is news to you. What is news to you is Louis is now on his own.”
“What about the Felix Felicis?” Holly asks at length.
“Of course you guys figured that out. Well, it’s got to brew for a while yet – ”
“Until March,” I interrupt. “Felix Felicis takes six months to brew.”
“Yeah,” Emily says. “But Louis only has his vial. The rest of us are keeping ours – NEWTs coming up and all.” She sees the look on our faces and adds hastily, “Not during the exams, of course! During the revision period. We’re going to take it on the day we’ve designated to study our best subjects, for maximum efficiency, you see. Availability of textbooks, lack of distractions, favourable study spaces, hopefully enhanced attention span.”
“That is brilliant,” Albus says.
“Pity you didn’t think of it,” she says unsympathetically. “I’ll try to give you a heads up when Louis uses his – but whatever he has planned for that day, you won’t be stopping it.”
“Better than having five of you to contend with,” Scorpius says bracingly. “Thanks for your help, Emily.”
“I’m not doing this for nothing. One of these days I’m going to need a favour, and having Hogwarts’ five resident geniuses indebted to me is a comfy position to be in.”
“What sort of favour?” Albus asks suspiciously.
“No idea. That’s the best part. I’ll see you lot in whatever class it is we have together.”
“Potions,” I supply.
“Potions, then. Night.”
“Right,” Holly says once she’s gone. “The drawing board.” As promised, she waves her wand and an old blackboard smeared with stubborn chalk dust comes trundling up to us.
“We should aim for thematic pranks,” I say. “We’ve got a few good ones coming up – Valentines Day, Easter, April Fools – ”
“April Fools,” Albus repeats. “Rose, there’s no way we can do April Fools. April Fools is huge. It’ll have to be our magnum opus, and it’s not close enough to the end of the school year – ”
“There’s a fine line between a series of pranks that the school can appreciate, and a series of pranks that seriously jeopardises students’ performance in OWL and NEWT exams,” Lester points out. “I would be hesitant to do anything much later than April first anyway.”
“Good point,” Holly says, and scrawls ‘Valentines Day, Easter, April Fools – Magnum Opus’ on the blackboard. “Right. Ideas.”
“Bunnies,” Lester says immediately. “Holly, we need to do something with bunnies.”
“I’ve never felt so connected to you,” Holly says. She writes BUNNIES next to Easter, circles it twice, and adds exclamation marks.
“Lester and I brewed up some Amortentia in the break,” I suggest. “I have no idea what we could do with it, but I’m sure there’s an ethical and funny way of using it on Valentines Day.”
“What were you two doing brewing Amortentia?” Scorpius asks.
“Experimenting,” I reply. “One of those papers talked about the properties of – ”
“We just ran through some standard NEWT level potions using some of the innovations the articles talked about,” Lester explains, cutting me off before I can get into a detailed discussion about powdered moonstone. “We’d be happy to explain it in more detail later.”
“We’ll see how we go with our other subjects,” Scorpius says. “If we have an advanced understanding of Potions, Albus, it’ll give us an edge during Healer training.”
“Please let me teach you,” I say eagerly.
“Yeah, good point,” Albus says. “I mean, I want to go more into neurological and psychological Healing rather than general practice, so things like Amortentia which affect the mind more than the body – Rose, how much do you know about that side of things?”
I pull a face. “A little, maybe? I’m more concerned with the brewing and the reactions of the ingredients with each other – but I can probably run you through the basic mental effects of powdered moonstone, rose oil and pomegranate juice.”
“That would be great. Hey – do you think there’s a way of brewing an alternate Love Potion? One that makes people all mopey and sappy and do stupid things, but without physical attraction? That way you still get the humour, but there are no issues of consent.”
“On it,” I say immediately, and grin at Albus. “You know, that’s an excellent idea.”
“Rose’s time to shine,” Holly says. “And while you’re working on it, you can break down the Amortentia for us too. We’re going to nail our NEWT.”
“I’d be tempted to brew an alternative for the NEWT anyway, if I manage to make one. Outstandings for a perfect potion is all good, but I’d be contender for Top Scholar if I actually addressed the ethical issues behind Amortentia and circumvented them.”
“Credit me for the idea,” Albus says.
“Only if you cite my potion.”
“Neither of you are respected scholars,” Lester points out. “Rose, stop telling people to cite you. We all got big red lines through those parts of our essays in OWLs.”
“It was a legitimate citation,” I say, annoyed. “Just because I’ve never been published in a Potions journal – ”
“You can’t cite a lunchtime conversation in the Great Hall.”
“Stupid rule,” I grumble.
“Back to the topic at hand,” Holly interrupts, “We have vague ideas for Easter and Valentines Day. Any ideas for April Fools?”
“Something big,” Albus says.
“Thank you for that contribution, Albus. Care to expand on big?”
“I think that’s enough creativity for the evening,” Lester decides.
“If anyone is struck with inspiration while studying tonight, let me know,” Holly says, staring critically at the blackboard before Vanishing our attempts at planning. “Now, Lester, I need to steal you for that Astronomy homework. I’m on the path to redemption.”
“Do we have anything to do for Herbology?” I ask the boys.
“Bleaurgh,” Albus responds. Both he and Scorpius hate Herbology, and only take it to complement Potions, a required subject for entering Healer training. I don’t despise it the way they do, but it’s always at the bottom of my academic priority list.
“We don’t,” Scorpius says. “I remember, because not even the dirt all over my face could ruin my happiness at the prospect of a plant-free Tuesday night. But we do have those forty lines of The Fountain of Fair Fortune to translate for Runes, and the grammar’s pretty tricky in places.”
“Have you already looked over it?”
“I read it in fifth year,” he replies matter-of-factly.
“Of course you did,” Albus sighs. “No, wait, I remember that. You translated it into Latin.”
“Not all of it,” Scorpius says. “Only the first hundred and fifty lines.”
“Only,” Albus repeats, sighing as he takes out his copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. “Well, let’s do this.”
Scorpius raises his wand, and there’s a series of loud thuds and one startled yell as his copy of Linton & Smart comes hurtling towards him from his dormitory.
Albus looks at him reproachfully. “You need to stop doing that. I think you hit Alfie.”
“This is Ravenclaw Tower,” Scorpius says loftily. “If Alfie’s not expecting to come across the odd flying tome, Alfie should have picked Slytherin.”
It’s a generally accepted fact that the only other house the Sorting Hat would consider for any of us is Slytherin, because love of knowledge and ambition tend to go hand in hand, and most of us are ridiculously pretentious. There are notable exceptions – Holly, of course, who is sweet and kind and lovely and not half as arrogant as the rest of us, who was a Hatstall for three uncomfortable minutes between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw; and burly Tom McLaggen, who plays Beater on the Quidditch team, wants to be an Auror, and was raised with the firm belief that he was more brawn than brains and would go straight into Gryffindor. When the Hat dithered briefly on Tom’s head, he seized upon the mention of ‘Ravenclaw’ and yelled it triumphantly a second before the Hat did. We were all pleased with our Sorting, but Tom was thrilled.
We settle into our studies for the next few hours, interrupted by the occasional retrieval of snacks from someone’s dormitory or the frequent “So what did you get for this line?” directed at Scorpius. He is, as always, in his element explaining Runic grammar and the implications inherent in different words, and Albus is hanging on his every word with an interest that is equal parts romantic and academic.
At quarter to twelve Lester and Holly reluctantly head off to Astronomy. We finish the translation shortly after twelve, and after the miraculous realisation that I’ve actually finished everything I need to have done for tomorrow, I pack up my stuff and make to leave.
“Have you finished?” Albus asks, staring at me. “It’s barely midnight!”
“I know.” I grin. “I’m off to get an early night.”
“Fuck that,” Scorpius mutters. “We’ve still got a History of Magic essay to write, Albus.”
“Hate you, Rose,” Albus says, and slumps onto the table in defeat.
Scorpius thwacks him over the head with his translation. “Oi. Get up.”
“Go on without me,” Albus mumbles into the table.
“It’s History of Magic,” Scorpius says. “It’s your best subject.”
“I helped you with Runes.” He pokes Albus in the ribs.
“I’ll sneak up some food from the kitchens,” I offer, and Albus perks up immediately.
“Oh sure, you get up for food and not me – ”
“You were beating me with moralistic folk tales. She was offering me food.” Albus gives me a winning smile. “Treacle tart if they’ve got any, Rosie.”
“Scorpius?” I prompt.
“No, I’m good. Grab something for Holly and Lester though, they’ve still got the translation to do after they come back from class.”
I’m always the one sent on late-night missions to the kitchens – partly because I’m a Prefect, which allows me to be wandering the castle at night, but mostly because I, being Hermione Granger’s daughter and all, am on excellent terms with the house elves. Not only do they respect her name because of all the reforms she’s forced through the Ministry on elven welfare, but they genuinely like me because I genuinely like them. I made friends with them back in first year, and as a result they’re always very happy to see me, and to supply me and my friends with all the late-night study munchies we could possibly need. They pepper me with questions when I arrive (“How is your classes, Miss?” “We is not seeing you much, Miss,” “We is hearing of Masters Potter and Malfoy, we is knowing they are being friends of yours,”) and I marvel at a) how Albus and Scorpius have managed to become the subjects of even house elf gossip and b) the romantic streak of the aforementioned house elves, who are eager to know every detail about the boys.
“And Miss Potter and Master Raine!” one of the house-elves, Blinky, says excitedly when I mention them. “We is not hearing about them, miss!”
“Arry is seeing them around the castle, Miss!” one of the younger house elves announces, full of importance. “Arry is thinking there is no sweeter couple in all of Hogwarts!”
“Is Miss having a sweetheart herself?” Blinky continues. “We is thinking Miss is very kind and smart, and any boy or girl is being lucky to have Miss!”
On impulse I lean down to hug the elf. “You’re very kind to think that,” I tell her. “And very good to say boy or girl.”
“We house elves is not believing boys should always love girls and girls should always love boys, Miss.”
“The world could learn something from you house elves.” I take the feast they offer and depart with a promise to be back sooner rather than later.
I use a Disillusionment Charm on the food so it’s not immediately obvious to passing staff that I’ve just raided the kitchens – a precaution that proves its worth when Filch comes shuffling past me in the second floor corridor.
“Up to no good, Weasley?”
“I’m a Prefect, Mr Filch.”
“Aye,” he says, nodding. “Aye, you keep an eye on the rest of ‘em won’t you?”
“Will do, Mr Filch.” I speed up, lest he catch a whiff of the food I’m hiding, and as his steady wheezing fades into silence behind me, I hit upon the exact nature of our Valentines Day Amortentia prank.
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