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Chapter 13 : xiii. the smoking gun [or] i flew too close to the sun
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“Rose Weasley,” Vector says stiffly. “A word.”
Fuck. I exchange mutual panicked glances with Holly and Scorpius, slowly picking up my bag and following the teachers into Professor Llodewick’s office.
“Do you have any idea what this is about?” Vector asks.
“I have the right to remain silent,” I say immediately.
“You do,” Professor Vector agrees. “Though I doubt that would be in your best interests. You are here, as I’m sure you already know, about the love potion incident earlier. Herbert, would you mind telling Rose what you told me?”
“Certainly, Septima.” The expression on Llodewick’s face is difficult to read, but if I didn’t know better I swear it would be bordering on impressed. “The potion these chocolates were spiked with was no ordinary love potion. Analysis of both the substance itself and the effects shows a potion that has never been on the market here or overseas. That level of brewing innovation and expertise is remarkably uncommon. As Potions master at this school, I can say beyond reasonable doubt that the only student capable of such a feat is you, Miss Weasley.”
“That was not a compliment,” Professor Vector says sharply. “Rose, would you mind explaining yourself?”
I would mind very much. “Uh…what do you want me to explain?”
“Everything would be preferable,” Vector says. “I’m sure you know Amortentia and its ilk is banned at Hogwarts – and for very good reason.”
“I know,” I say hurriedly. “And I took that into consideration when – well, when I made it. This – ” I pause, hurriedly trying to come up with a name for the potion that isn’t Hollyjuice – “Amor Stultorum is different – I deliberately brewed it without any element of physical attraction, eliminating the issues of coersion and consent. I’m sure you noticed, Professors, that the effects were strictly limited to verbal declarations of affection.”
“I did indeed,” Llodewick says, though Vector looks like she wanted to say something. “What on earth did you do?”
“Substituted the pomegranate juice for essence of narcissus.”
“Ah yes, and the reaction between narcissus and rose oil – not red, I assume?”
“Pink, yes, pink rose and narcissus – ingenious, quite ingenious – ”
“That’s enough,” Vector says sharply. “Herbert, do not encourage her. Rose, what were you doing brewing this? Some kind of elaborate prank?”
“No, no, nothing like that. I was experimenting – I thought if I managed to brew a non-physical alternative to Amortentia in my NEWT, and explain both the method and the ethical reasons behind it, I’d be a contender for the top scholar award…and I sort of…wanted to test it.”
“On Valentines Day?” Vector asks skeptically.
“I thought it would be ironic.”
“Be that as it may – trialling potions on students?”
“I tested it on myself first. It’s perfectly safe.”
“You didn’t know it would be for everyone else. Rose, this was a very foolish thing to do.”
“You will have detention with Professor Llodewick for the next three Friday evenings. I’m sure he has a lot to teach you about the safe and ethical testing and development of potions.” She turns on her heel and walks out, leaving me with Llodewick.
“That was an exponentially dumb thing to do,” Llodewick says conversationally.
“I know, Professor.”
“Don’t take that contrite tone with me, I know you’re proud. Of the potion, at least. Not so much getting caught.”
I give him a strange look, unsure how to respond.
“You didn’t think about the implications, did you? Septima’s strict. Doesn’t forgive transgressions easily, especially not from her star students. And you know who’s going to be Headmistress when you’re looking for a job here, don’t you? She is.”
I haven’t thought about that, and I feel my heart sink to the bottom of my stomach and keep going. “Oh my God.”
“But you know whose opinion counts for most when it comes to hiring a new Potions teacher? Mine. I’ve taught damn near everyone who’s going to be applying when I retire, and the choice comes down to me. Septima could veto it if she really wanted, but at the end of the day, I’m picking my successor. Just something to think about.”
I have the dubious honour of being the first in our group, four months from the end of seventh year, to have gotten a detention – which means the word carries no small amount of weight when I give everyone the run-down of what happened this morning.
“Detention?” Scorpius repeats, in that strange tone people use when they’re saying a word for the first time. “Detention. What happens in detention?”
“I’ve heard stories,” Albus offers. “Dad had to sort Flobberworms once, for old Snape.”
“Which again begs the age-old question of why the hell he named you after him,” I interject.
“I’ve asked him many a time,” Albus says, sighing and adopting the deep, comical voice he uses to mimic his father. “Albus Severus Potter, you were named after two Headmasters of Hogwarts…That’s not a reason. Who looks at their wrinkly, blotchy newborn son and thinks, ‘Hey, you know who he looks like? Some dead headmasters I once knew.’”
“Your dad, obviously.”
“Didn’t your mum have any better ideas?” Lester asks.
Albus and I snort.
“My mother,” Albus explains carefully, “Is the worst namer of things you could possibly imagine. She named an owl Pigwidgeon. She went through a phase of wanting a Hippogriff so she could call it Hippogryffindor. Albus Severus might be a shitty name, but it’s better than Purplyface Ittybittytoes or whatever she would have come up with at the moment of my birth.”
“Can I call you that in bed?”
“I’m concerned about you, Scorpius.” Albus returns to the topic at hand. “So, Rose. Detention.”
“Detention,” I repeat, in the vague hope that if I repeat it enough in a safe environment surrounded by my nearest and dearest it won’t be able to terrify me as much as it has been. “How bad can it be?” I ask bracingly. “It’s just – ”
“The worst punishment Hogwarts offers outside suspension and expulsion,” Scorpius finishes. “Sorry.”
“You’re the worst, Malfoy.”
“Don’t hate me coz you ain’t me,” Scorpius replies.
“Don’t ever say that again,” I advise, and go back to my brooding.
“Well,” Holly says, ever the optimist, “At least she didn’t take your Prefect badge.”
“You sort of have to royally fuck up to lose your badge,” Scorpius points out. “My dad never lost his, and he tried to assassinate the Headmaster.”
“Maybe you only lose it if you succeed in assassinating the Headmaster,” Albus muses.
“Well, if we’re using Severus Snape as our precedent, if you succeed in assassinating the Headmaster, you become Headmaster.”
“And then you die,” Albus concludes. “And your name lives on forever in the resentful son of a student you tormented, because my dad is a fucking nutter. How did we get back on this topic?”
“By ignoring me in my hour of need.”
“Rose, it’s Wednesday. Your hour of need isn’t till Friday.”
“Friday,” I repeat, and slump unceremoniously onto the carpet.
My friends, with typically exemplary compassion, leave me there and start nattering about the boys’ History of Magic essay, which seems to be on the gnarly topic of the war and its effects on wizarding society. After about ten minutes of listening to them I decide I want in on the conversation and raise myself to a sitting position.
“Ah, she lives,” Scorpius says. “Rose. Should I focus on economic effects or military tactics? I figure those are the ones most likely to not require me to speak objectively about the sins of my forefathers.”
“Well, there wasn’t a lot of military tactics going on, so probably economics?”
“I don’t know a damn thing about economics, though.” He frowns at his open textbook. “What the fuck’s a stock market anyway?”
“Write about Gringotts,” Albus says around a mouthful of treacle tart that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. “You can say a lot about how the confidence in Gringotts security dropped exponentially after Dad, Ron and Hermione broke in and escaped on a dragon.”
“Yes, but – ”
“Ahh-hh,” Albus interrupts. “You said you didn’t want to write about your family. So write about mine. Or Rose’s.”
“You’re part of the same family, genius,” Scorpius points out.
Albus cocks his head at me. “D’you ever forget that we’re related?”
“Evidently you do.”
“Nah,” he says. Then, “Yeah. Nah. Yeah. I prefer to think that you’re my best mate and our parents just happen to have saved the world together.”
That is, actually, a surprisingly good summary of my relationship with Albus. It’s not like he’s inherited the trademark Weasley hair – or indeed any feature that makes him look remotely related to me. He’s the spitting image of Uncle Harry, except for a slight dusting of freckles on his nose that may have been from Aunt Ginny’s genes (or maybe just a few too many days out in the sun) and 20/20 vision. That and the fact that he, Lily and James are the only cousins who aren’t actually Weasleys by name means it’s remarkably easy for me to think of him as more of a childhood best friend than a cousin. Cousin doesn’t do our friendship justice – cousins are people like Dominique or Roxanne or Molly, people vaguely my age who I see at family get-togethers and who would give me friendly little waves in the corridors back when they were still attending Hogwarts. Albus is my bro.
“What’s the time?” Scorpius asks.
“Time to ditch,” he says, glancing at Albus. “Got the Cloak and the map?”
“Where are you guys going?” Holly asks.
“London,” Albus replies matter-of-factly. “We know a guy with a Floo down in Hogsmeade, so we’re heading to Diagon Alley for dinner and drinks.”
“Aw yeah,” I realise. “It’s still Valentines Day. Happy anniversary, guys.”
“Four years, right?” Lester asks. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” Albus beams, taking Scorpius’s hand and shrugging into the Cloak.
“Don’t wait up,” Scorpius adds, and disappears under the Cloak as well.
“Have fun!” Holly calls after them. “Don’t drink and Apparate!”
Friday evening takes an excruciatingly long time to get to me, and when it finally does I realise very quickly that I don’t actually want it to get to me at all, and would have been perfectly happy in an eternal Thursday where I don’t have to spend several hours in detention with a teacher who knows I’m after his job.
Alas, Friday evening comes anyway, and at seven o’clock I steel my nerves, ignore the mocking well-wishes of my friends (who have, over the last two days, decided that me getting a detention is more grounds for ridicule than moral support) and head for Professor Llodewick’s office.
“Good evening,” he says, ushering me inside when I knock hesitantly on his open door. “Take a seat – I never thought I’d have to set detention for you, Rose, but we’ll see if we can’t work this to our advantage.”
I sit, awkwardly drumming my fingers against the desk as Llodewick rummages through his bookshelves and emerges with a huge stack of parchment. “Ah. Here we go.”
He dumps the stack beside me, which upon closer inspection proves to be a collection of old Potions journals, dating back to the 1980s.
“You’ll be writing a report for me over the next three Fridays,” Llodewick informs me. “The topic of your report will be the methods used in Potions research and experimentation, in particular those of testing. You will include in your report your own method in brewing and testing the – what did you call it – Amor Stultorum, and evaluate the effectiveness and ethics of your method in comparison with those of actual, qualified Potioneers. I think you’ll find it wanting.”
“I think that’s a safe assumption to make.”
“It’s about time you had an introduction to the world of scientific Potions research,” Llodewick continues. “It is, unfortunately, not a topic covered in NEWT exams, and no doubt you will only cover the fundamentals briefly in the subject-specific part of your teaching course. It will be sufficient for you to teach the curriculum of Potions to your students. However, a Potions master or mistress, at any given school, must be far more than a teacher.”
“What do you mean?”
“Consider the title, if you will. Why am I the Potions master, and yet my esteemed colleague Professor Vector is not Arithmancy mistress? Why is Professor Thomas not Defence Against the Dark Arts master? Potions is not just a teaching post, Rose. It encompasses teaching, research, brewing, filling all the Potions needs of a residential school of nearly fifteen hundred students and staff. Those can be academic, medicinal, psychological – the list, as I’m sure you will discover, is endless. That is the sole reason my predecessor Severus Snape ever held the post. Ah, yes, Albus Dumbledore wanted him close at hand – but more importantly, he was a brilliant Potioneer, an innovator – an asset to the school in times of war. Horace Slughorn lacked that innovation, the ability to think on his feet and solve complex problems. He had a vast knowledge, of course, and he was a thorough and engaging teacher – but he was only ever a teacher. Severus Snape, for all his shortcomings as an educator, was a master of Potions.”
I don’t know what to say to this – the sheer ambition of what I’m hoping to do has hit me like a fully-laden Hogwarts Express, but Llodewick doesn’t seem to expect an answer and plunges on, taking advantage of my silence.
“The Ministry training course will make you a teacher,” he continues. “I have no intention of naming a teacher as my successor. I will be naming someone who has a mastery of every aspect of Potions, an innovator, a problem-solver, with proven expertise in brewing and in scientific theory…and who happens to be qualified to teach. Do you understand the difference?”
“Thoroughly. How do I – well, how can I prove my expertise in brewing and theory and all the rest of it?”
“You can start with that report.” He taps the stack of journals and takes his coat from the hook on the door. “I’m sure you’re responsible enough to stay here until ten. If you need me – don’t. It’s Faculty Friday at the Three Broomsticks, and I want my half-price pint.”
A/N: The line "Albus Severus Potter, you were named after two Headmasters of Hogwarts" is taken from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, page 607.
"Don't hate me coz you ain't me" is not mine. I don't know who first came up with it, but it's on a fridge magnet in my flat. Go figure.
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