Chapter 5 : Aconite
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John and Kaden were having a whispered conversation while Amanda chatted with the Jordan-Bell twins. Matt was staring at the staff table, a confused look on his face. Albus followed his gaze and saw there was a new professor, but all the usual professors were there as well. The new one looked about the same age as Albus’s grandparents. He wore generic black robes, which were stretched tightly across his ample middle. He had more hair on his face than on his head, although not nearly as much as Aberforth Dumbledore.
“Here come the first years,” Rose said.
Albus craned his neck and spotted his cousin Eddie, the youngest of the Weasley cousins, toward the front of the line. A few yards behind him was Amelia Brickston. Professor Patil stopped the line at the front of the hall, where the Sorting Hat sat on its usual three-legged stool.
There was a pause and the Hat burst into song. It was a slightly different variation from the previous year’s, but its sentiment was the same. After it finished Professor Patil called the first name and a tiny blonde haired boy stumbled forward. He tripped over his robes, recovered, then climbed onto the stool.
“He reminds me of you,” John said to Matt.
“A bit, yeah,” Matt agreed. “But I managed to not trip over my robes.”
The small boy was sorted into Ravenclaw and the next name was called. A girl almost a foot taller than the small boy was sorted into Slytherin.
John’s youngest sister hurried forward and jammed the hat onto her head, a large grin on her face. It barely rested upon her head before calling out, “Gryffindor!” Amelia quickly took the hat off and joined the Gryffindor table, sitting a few seats down from Albus and his friends.
Albus’s stomach growled progressively louder with each name. About halfway through John began to drum his fingers on the table.
“You realize this is our last sorting,” Rose pointed out to him.
“I do, but my last meal was hours ago,” John said. “I’m starving.”
“It won’t be much longer,” Rose said.
Albus’s gaze had returned to the new professor, whom Matt was still glancing at every so often.
“Do you know who he is?” Albus whispered to Matt while ‘Travers, Norah’ was being sorted.
“He looks really familiar,” Matt whispered back, “but I can’t place him. And I can’t figure out why he’s here. None of the professors are missing, are they?”
Albus took another scan of the staff table. “I don’t think so.”
“Weird,” Matt said. “I’ve got an uneasy feeling about him and I’ve no idea why.”
“Kendrick will explain,” Albus said. “Don’t worry yet.”
“I’m trying not to,” Matt said.
Eddie, the second to last first year remaining, ran forward and slammed the hat on its head. Rather than shout out ‘Gryffindor’ immediately as the hat had with all of Albus’s other cousins, the hat simply sat there. Albus turned to Rose, whose brows were furrowed.
After what felt like a full five minutes, the hat’s brim opened and shouted, “Ravenclaw!”
Albus let out an audible gasp. Whispers erupted from not only the Gryffindor table, but the other tables as well. Eddie slowly stood up, removed the hat from his head, and walked slowly to the Ravenclaw table. His eyes were wide.
“I suppose it was bound to happen,” Rose said. “And if it were anyone, it would be Eddie.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” Albus agreed. Eddie had always been the odd one out, being so much younger than his older brothers and sisters and most of the cousins. According to Uncle Charlie and Aunt Katherine, he hadn’t exactly been planned.
“He’ll be fine with it,” Rose added. “If anything he’ll be excited because of all the attention he’ll get.”
“Quiet!” Professor Patil shouted. “We’ve got one more. Zebbins, Monica.”
The last first year, a heavyset girl with pigtails rushed forward, put on the hat, and became a Hufflepuff. Professor Patil removed the stool and the Sorting Hat.
“Welcome!” Professor Kendrick said as he stood up. “As usual I have quite a few announcements, but I shall save them for after the feast.”
By magic, food appeared on all the gold platters and the golden carafes filled with pumpkin juice and water. John seized the nearest platter of roast chicken and served himself what looked to be six birds’ worth of drumsticks.
“Save some for the rest of us, won’t you?” Matt asked, taking the platter from John.
“So, first Ravenclaw Weasley, right?” Amanda asked.
“First Weasley who’s not a Gryffindor,” Rose added. “I think Eddie will do well in Ravenclaw. He’s always gotten on well with the Scamander twins and they were just sorted into Ravenclaw, too.”
“I forgot they started this year,” Albus said. He must’ve missed their sortings while he was talking to Matt.
“I saw them on the train,” Rose said. “I can’t believe they’re old enough for Hogwarts.”
“Me either,” Albus agreed. He still saw the Scamander twins as the little kids who spilled all the contents of the kitchen pantry onto the floor at Grimmauld Place once when Mum was babysitting them.
“So,” John said in between bites. “Anyone know anything about that new professor up there? The one who looks like he swallowed a beach ball?”
Rose raised her eyebrows at John, who had already polished off half his drum sticks. “And you’re one to talk?”
John shrugged. “Well? Do you think Binns finally left? Everyone else is up there. Well, except Trelawney, but she doesn’t go to meals much, does she.”
Albus exchanged a look with Matt. He hadn’t thought about Binns. Binns never went to meals, presumably because he couldn’t eat them.
“Even if he did stop teaching, I don’t think he could leave,” Rose said. “Ghosts tend to stick around somewhere that’s meaningful to them and don’t venture far.”
“Is that why Myrtle never leaves that loo?” Kaden asked.
“Myrtle can go other places in the castle. She just chooses not to,” Rose said. “And I really doubt Binns is going to stop teaching.”
“Then who is he?” Amanda asked, staring at the staff table.
The new professor was deep in conversation with Professor Kendrick, who seemed to be his usual jolly self. Whoever this new professor was, Albus doubted he’d been appointed by anyone other than Kendrick, which was a good sign. The two seemed to know each other already.
Since no one knew anything about the new professor, the conversation turned to other topics, such as the upcoming Quidditch season, N.E.W.T.s, and how to best take advantage of their privilege to go to Hogsmeade any weekend they liked. By the time they’d exhausted those topics, the food had dwindled and even John had slowed down. The remains of dinner disappeared and were instantly replaced by dessert.
“Excellent,” John said.
The desserts were as good as the dinner itself and Albus realized this was his last welcome back feast. There were still quite a few feasts left in the year and they usually had the same food, but it was still slightly jarring to realize.
Once the desserts were gone, Kendrick stood to begin his usual announcements. Albus turned to face him, eager to find out who the new professor was.
“Welcome, once more, to another year at Hogwarts,” Professor Kendrick began, smiling. “Let’s start with a round of applause for our house elves, who prepared another fantastic feast.”
Kendrick paused while staff and students alike clapped. Kendrick waited for it to die down completely before foraging on.
“I have a number of announcements that will sound familiar to those who have been here before and a number that will be new to us all,” Kendrick continued. “First, the Forbidden Forest and the area immediately surrounding the Whomping Willow are out of bounds to students. Hogsmeade may only be visited by those in third year and above, with parental permission. If your house’s Quidditch team has a vacancy, you may sign up for trials with your house captain.”
John sat up a bit taller at the mention of Quidditch captains. The Gryffindor team, however, did not have any vacancies.
“Our Head Boy this year is Justin Brink from Ravenclaw and Head Girl is Rose Weasley from Gryffindor.”
Rose beamed and sat up even taller than John.
“Mr. Filch would like me to remind everyone that anything purchased from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is not allowed in the castle and if anyone would like to see the full list of banned items, it can be located at the circulation desk in the library.
“We will be continuing the internship program this year, mandatory for sixth years, optional for seventh years. All sixth years and interested seventh years are required to attend the information session tomorrow at 4:15 here in the Great Hall.
“Lastly, I am very excited to announce a new course, International Magical Relations, which will be taught by a very good friend of mine, Professor Thaddeus Clements, who has decided to join us during his sabbatical from the Australian School of Sorcery.”
Albus turned away from Kendrick to look at Matt, whose eyes had nearly doubled in size. John, Rose, Amanda, and Kaden had all turned to look at Matt as well.
“That’s why he looks familiar,” Matt whispered.
“Anyone interested in signing up for this course should see their head of house. Once we have an idea of interest, we will schedule meeting times. The course is not mandatory and is open to all years. It is not, however, an O.W.L. or N.E.W.T. course so it will not count for mandatory classes. Any questions, please see your head of house.”
“I’m sneaking out,” Matt whispered. “See you in the Den? After you’re done with the first years?”
Albus nodded. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He was very interested to hear what Matt knew about this Professor Clements.
Rose insisted on waiting around the common room until all the first years had gone upstairs to their dormitories, so by the time she and Albus got to the Marauders’ Den everyone else had been there close to forty-five minutes. It had been a long day and Albus was more than ready to relax.
“Do you think I should’ve stayed?” Rose asked as she followed Albus into the Den.
Albus groaned. “For the fifth time, no, Rose. None of the past Head Girls or Boys have ever hung around the common room waiting on first years.”
“They just seem so young,” Rose said as she shut the door. “Younger than we were.”
“That’s because we’re six years older than them,” Albus pointed out.
“There you are!” John exclaimed. He and Kaden sat at the table building what looked like an elaborate card castle aided by magic. Matt and Amanda sat on opposite ends of the couch reading.
“That’s because Rose wanted to make sure all the first years were okay,” Albus explained as he sat down at the table. The cards didn’t move when he jostled it, confirming Albus’s magic theory.
“Tiny things this year, aren’t they?” John said as he added another card.
“No smaller than we were,” Amanda pointed out. “Weird, though, that we’re now the oldest people here.”
“Weirder that we can do magic legally,” Rose said as she sat in between Matt and Amanda.
“Speak for yourself,” Kaden muttered.
“And I’ve been of age for almost a year,” John reminded them. “Anyway, now that you two are here Matt can tell us about this new professor and whether we should take his class.”
Rose raised an eyebrow. “Would you actually take his class?”
John laughed. “Fair point. But I’m still curious.”
Albus looked at Matt, who was purposefully not looking up from his book. It didn’t much matter for Albus what this new professor was like since he’d be taking the class regardless. International Magical Relations would most definitely be useful for an Auror.
“Well?” John prompted.
Matt sighed and set down his book. “You lot do realize I moved here when I was eight, right? And that not every Australian knows every other Australian?”
Rose’s, who had been looking on with as much curiosity as John, cheeks turned pink. “Well, of course not-“ she stammered.
Matt smirked. “But my dad knows all the professors there so I’ll send him an owl.”
“You don’t think he’s one of the professors who didn’t want you going to school, do you?” Amanda asked quietly.
“I don’t think Kendrick would’ve taken him on if he was,” Matt said. “But I’m not taking his class so it doesn’t much matter.”
“Maybe you should,” Rose said slowly. “It might be useful…you know, to have something else to make you stand out-“
“It’s the standing out that’s the problem,” Matt interrupted.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Rose said. “I just meant…you know what I meant. And your course load is small.”
“It’s small for a reason,” Matt pointed out. “Remember last year?”
“It’ll probably only be once a week. Just think about it.”
“Okay. I’ll think about it.” Matt resumed reading.
Rose suddenly sat up very tall. “And the rest of us…we’ve got to be on top of things this year. Application deadlines, revising schedules, when to apply for jobs, that sort of thing. June is going to sneak up on us fast-“
“June?” John exclaimed. “Did you seriously mention June, Rose? Can’t we just enjoy seventh year?”
“Of course! But we’ve also got to be practical. None of us are going to want to be stuck with nothing come June but that’s exactly what will happen if all you think is that June is far away.”
Matt lowered his book, staring at Rose. “Can we please not talk about it? Please?”
“Fine,” Rose said, sighing. “But you can’t put it off forever.”
Albus looked at Matt, who looked like that was exactly what he wanted to do.
The following morning Albus found himself walking to the Herbology greenhouses with John, Rose, and Amanda, reveling in the fact that term started on a Friday this year, which gave the feeling that term hadn’t started at all and they were merely visiting with Professor Longbottom. They walked past the Quidditch pitch and got a good look at a group of first years having a flying lesson with Professor Oteski. Seeing them gave Albus another pang of nostalgia and he hoped that wouldn’t happen the entire year.
“Just think,” Rose said as they watched, “they could be the future Gryffindor Quidditch team.”
Albus snorted as one of the first years slid off the back of his broom. “I certainly hope not.”
“Yeah, that would be a fine legacy we’d leave,” John added.
“You two are ridiculous,” Rose said. “At one point, the two of you were just learning to fly.”
“But not at age eleven,” John muttered.
“They could be Muggleborn!” Rose pointed out.
“Classy, both of you,” Amanda added.
Albus hadn’t thought of that. They probably were Muggleborn. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“Still…” John said wistfully as he took one last look at the flying lesson.
Professor Longbottom was waiting for them in front of Greenhouse Four. Greenhouse Four was only ever used by sixth and seventh years and held the more violent plants Professor Longbottom owned. Even the previous year they’d only ever gone in a few times.
“Well,” Professor Longbottom said as he clapped his hands. He was grinning quite widely for someone about to deal with violent plant life. “This year we’ll be spending most of our time in here dealing with my more challenging plants.”
“That’s one way to put it,” John muttered. “Challenging.”
“Follow me,” Professor Longbottom said as he unlocked the door with his wand. “And mind your fingers.”
Albus obediently shoved his hands into his pockets as he walked in with the rest of the class. Missing fingers wouldn’t help him in his quest to become an auror.
Greenhouse Four was quite a bit smaller than the other greenhouses and once inside, Albus saw why. It didn’t have nearly as much work space at its center than the others. There was only one table, just large enough for ten or so students to crowd around. The rest of the room was taken up by plants of various sizes and colors, most of which were moving around as if their branches, stems, and trunks were arms and legs. A particularly spiky looking one jabbed Albus hard in the back and he had to jump away for it to leave him alone.
“Over here,” Professor Longbottom called from the table.
Albus slid past a fern that was slithering along like a snake and secured a spot at the table in between John and Rose. On the table sat the most innocent looking plant Albus had ever seen in his life. It was housed in four long planters and its purple flowers weren’t more than six inches tall. Albus frowned at it, wondering when it would suddenly gain sentience and attack everyone.
“It’s aconite,” Rose whispered.
Aconite? Why would aconite be housed in Greenhouse Four?
Professor Longbottom was still smiling. “I know, doesn’t look too harmful, does it? If you haven’t already figured it out, this plant is aconite, also known as monkshood or wolfsbane. The reason it’s in Greenhouse Four is because this greenhouse is about ten degrees cooler than the others. The cool temperature keeps the more…active plants from getting out of control, and I have a few plants that prefer a cooler temperature, aconite being one of them.”
John looked slightly disappointed.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get into more dangerous plants later. For today, my aconite needs repotting. It’s getting too big for these planters. But before we begin, I’d like to talk a bit about what we’re doing this year. Can I get a show of hands as to who is taking potions this year?”
Albus raised his hand, along with most everyone else. Very few Hogwarts students tended to continue with just herbology or just potions. The two went hand in hand.
“Excellent,” Longbottom said. “This year you are going to harvest ingredients in herbology that you will then use in potions. Professor Callahan and I agree that you will learn best if you can start from the beginning- growing your own ingredients and then using them to create potions.”
Albus eyed the aconite, wondering what they would possibly use it for. The only potion he knew of that required aconite was Wolfsbane and he knew they wouldn’t be brewing that.
Rose raised her hand.
“Professor, what will we be using aconite for?” Rose asked.
Professor Longbottom smiled again. “That is for Professor Callahan to explain when you have potions. For now, you are repotting this aconite and then planting new aconite seeds in the small pots.”
Rose nodded and Albus would bet every last Galleon in his trunk that after transfiguration that afternoon, Rose would be in the library, researching every last potion that required aconite as an ingredient.
A/N: Thanks for all the reviews!
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