Chapter Three: The Potions Master and Favoratism
From the way Harry and Draco made their way quickly to the Great Hall, without the aid of the prefects, one would think that navigating the castle was easy.
That was not the case.
There were one hundred and forty-two staircases in the castle, all of which moved, sweeping and narrow, some rickety, soome that led somewhere different on a Friday, others with a vanishing step halfway down that you had to remember to jump. Then there were the doors. Some wouldn't open unless you asked politely, or tickled them in exactly the right place, and doors that weren't really doors at all, but solid walls just pretending. It was also very hard to remember where anything was, because it all seemed to move around a lot. The people in the portraits kept going to visit each other, and the majority of the coats of armor were sentient and could walk around wherever they pleased.
The ghosts didn't bother to help struggling students, either. It was always a nasty shock when one of them glided suddenly through a door you were trying to get open. The Bloody Baron looked out for the younger Slytherins, but Peeves the Poltergeist was worth two locked doors and a trick staircase if you met him when you were late for class. He would drop wastepaper baskets on your head, pull rugs from under your feet, pelt you with bits of chalk, or sneak up behind you, invisible, grab your nose, and screech, "GOT YOUR CONK!"
Even worse than Peeve, if possible, was the caretaker, a filthy squib by the name of Argus Filch. Though he left Draco and Harry alone most of the time, he was particularly nasty to all things magical except his cat, a magical kneazle named Mrs. Norris, who would always follow you around with wide yellow, lamp-like eyes much like those of her Master. Put one toe out of line when she was near, and she'd go bolting away, and would return moments later with Filch, who would be wheezing, and pointing fingers, eager to assign detention.
Then, once you managed to find them, there were the classes, which were all very easy in the opinions of Draco and Harry.
Every Wednesday nights, the first years gathered in the Astronomy Tower with their telescopes to observe the night skies, discussing lunar phases and spotting constellations. The knowledge provided in Astronomy was useful for Herbology and Potions, as ingredients for a potion could be affected based on what stage of the lunar phase they were harvested.
Three times a week ––– Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays ––– the Slytherins and Ravenclaws would gather in the Greenhouses with Professor Sprout (the Hufflepuff head) to study exotic plants in the class known as Herbology. It was one of Draco's least favorite classes, as he despised getting dirty, and it was inevitable when one had to tough dirt to plant things.
Really, couldn't they just use house elves and be done with it?
One of the most boring classes was History of Magic, which was taught by Professor Binns, who had been dead for Merlin knows how long. Draco and Harry used this time for independent study, reviewing over their logbook of familial history and pureblood lineage, as well as going over the necessary coursework for the end-of-the-year exams.
Charms was taught by Professor Flitwick, a rather small, excitable man who Draco and Harry were sure had goblin blood in his veins somewhere, but the Ravenclaw Head of House was a formidable duelist and deserved their respect, which they grudgingly gave to him. One of the highlights of his class had been when he'd been calling roll on the first day, and had stumbled upon Scarhead's name and had gone tumbling off of the stool he'd been standing on.
Professor McGonagall was not a teacher to be crossed. She was very strict, yet fair, and the Slytherins respected her for that, but she was Dumbledore's right-hand-woman, so they didn't trust her that much. She'd warned them all against misbehaving in her class on the first day, had transfigured her desk into a pig and then back again, quickly shocking the students into silence and beginning her lesson.
After a session of complicated notes that Harry and Draco took diligently, even though they'd all covered the material, McGonagall instructed them to try and turn a match into a needle. By the end of the period, both Harry and Draco had been successful, and McGonagall gave them each five points for Slytherin. None of the Hufflepuffs had made any progress.
At first, Harry and Draco were looking forward to Defense Against the Dark Arts to examine the spells that they'd be up against once the war picked up again, but were sorely disappointed. Quirrell was a joke.
His classroom smelled strongly of garlic, which everyone said was to ward off a vampire he'd met in Romania and was afraid would be coming back to get him one of these days. His turban, as he'd told them, had been given to him by an African prince as a thank-you for getting rid of a troublesome zombie, but they weren't sure they believed the story. For one, when the Irish twit, Finnigan, asked eagerly how Quirrell had fought off the zombie, Quirrell went pink and started talking about the weather; for another, they had noticed that a funny smell hung around the turban, and the twin terrors could be easily overheard insisting that it was stuffed full of garlic, as well, so that Quirrell was protected wherever he went.
Draco and Harry woke up the first Friday of the year with anticipation, grinning to themselves as they hurriedly got ready for the day. The previous day, they'd received a letter from their parents stating how proud they were of them, and Harry and Draco had sent a reply of an update of how they were doing so far.
That Friday was important, though, because it was their first potions lesson with their godfather, Severus Snape. Double potions with the Gryffindors, which was sure to be a fun time, as Draco and Harry could easily earn point for Slytherin while Scarhead and Weasel-bee would surely lose points, as well as Lardbottom.
Because they were so excited, Harry and Draco arrived at the potions classroom a few minutes early, and Snape greeted them warmly with a smile as they sat at the front of the classroom.
"I trust that you went over the coursework over the summer as per my instruction?" he asked, his black eyes shining with pride as the boys nodded confidently.
"Of course, Uncle Sev," said Harry. "We want to be able to show those pompous Gryffindors where the money really is." Severus smirked as Draco nodded enthusiastically, which was slightly unbecoming for a Malfoy, but both boys had a passion for potions, similar to what Severus had been like when he was younger.
"You will do well to remember that, Harrison," said Snape, and then exited so that he could make a dramatic entrance when all the students were gathered in the classroom.
Once everyone was situated, Snape stormed in, his cloak billowing behind him, and he looked slightly like a menacing bat, but Harry and Draco both found the display impressive.
As he called roll, he paused slightly when he came across Jamie Potter's name.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Potter, our new celebrity." He finished roll and began his speech.
"There will be no foolish wand waving or silly incantations in this class," drawled Professor Snape. "Many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through the human veins, bewitching the mind and ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even… put a stopper… in death ––– if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
More silence ensued after the speech, and Harry and Draco exchanged confident smirks, and laughed inwardly at the spectacle the mudblood was making of herself ––– leaning forward and grasping at the desk in front of her, as if desperate to prove that she wasn't, in anyway, a dunderhead. As per usual, Scarhead wasn't paying attention, and Snape easily picked up on that fact.
"Potter!" he barked. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?" The confident, cocky look slid off of Scarhead's face as a puzzled one replaced it.
"I don't know, sir." Snape's lips curled into a sneer.
"Tut, tut ––– fame clearly isn't everything." He ignored the mudblood's hand, which had shot into the air eagerly.
"Let's try again, Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?" The confused look seemed to have a permanent sticking charm attaching it to Potter's befuzzled face, and he once more looked down.
"I don't know, sir." Hermione's arm had once more shot up, and it seemed to be flying higher and higher, as if she was trying to fly out of her seat. The Slytherin boys started shaking with laughter at the very sight of her.
"Thought you wouldn't open a book before coming, eh, Potter?" sneered Snape, who was still ignoring Hermione's quivering hand.
"What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?" At this, Hermione stood up, her hand stretching toward the dungeon ceiling.
"I don't know," said Jamie quietly. "I think Hermione does, though, why don't you try her?" At this, a few students laughed, and Harry noticed Finnigan wink at Scarface.
"Sit down," Snape snapped at Hermione, who reluctantly returned to her seat. "Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Malfoy, would you please answer my questions?"
"The combination of asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful that it is known as the Draught of Living Death," recited Harry from memory.
"A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons," continued Draco, smirking at Potter victoriously.
"And there is no different between monkshood and wolfsbane," said Harry. "It was a trick question. It's the same plant, also-"
"-known by the name aconite," finished Draco, and the rest of the class sat in stunned silence.
"Well?" thundered Professor Snape menacingly. "Why aren't you all writing this down?" He turned to sneer at Scarhead. "Five points will be taken for your cheek, Potter, and ten points each for Slytherin for an excellent explanation of the questions Potter failed to answer and the forward preparation and the knowledge to actually open a book." He then told them to partner up and work on preparing the common cure for boils, a rather rudimentary potion for beginners.
He stalked around like a bat, breathing down everyone's necks except the Slytherins, watching with a keen eye as they weighed dried nettles and crushed snake fangs, criticizing all the Gryffindors, but praising Harry and Draco, who he favored openly.
He'd been in the process of telling everyone to look at the perfect way Draco had stewed his horned slugs, and how Harry had crushed up the nettles and heated them to ensure maximum dryness when clouds of acid green smoke filled the dungeons.
Lardbottom had somehow managed to melt Finnigan's cauldron into a twisted blob, and their potion was seeping across the stone floor, burning holes in people's shoes. Within seconds, the whole class was standing on their stools while Neville, who had been drenched in the potion when the cauldron collapsed, moaned in pain as angry red boils sprang up all over his arms and legs.
"Idiot boy !" snarled Snape, clearing the spilled potion away with one wave of his wand. "I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?" Lardbottom whimpered as boils began erupting all over his face.
"Take him up to the hospital wing," Snape spat at Finnigan. He then rounded on Scarhead and Weasel-bee, who had been working next to Lardbottom.
"You –– Potter –– why didn't you tell him not to add the quills? Thought he'd make you look good if he got it wrong, did you? That's another five points you've lost for Gryffindor." It was so ridiculously unfair that Harry and Draco nearly cracked their ribs trying to hold in suppress laughter, and Snape shot them a smirking look with his eyes before returning to tormenting Potter, before dismissing the class for the day.
Later in the evening, after finishing the analysis of the ingredients of the common cure for boils for Potions homework, and finishing the essay for Charms on the importance of wand movement and incantation, as well as they lunar chart for Astronomy –– Professor Sinistra had a strict no late work police –– the two brothers retired to the Great Hall for their evening meal.
The next morning, Regulus was returned to Harry's sleeve, as the snake that had been gradually getting larger had been off hunting in the Forbidden Forest, and the two brothers quickly made their way to the Great Hall for breakfast. The screeching of owls brought their attention to the sky as the owl post arrived.
Zeus, the giant eagle owl their family owned, dropped in front of them, a letter tied to his beak and packages of sweets attached to his talons.
"Thanks, Zeus," whispered Draco, using the gift he'd been given, allowing him to communicate with all animals.
"Anytime, Master Draco," the owl hooted back. "I'll be waiting in the owlery for your response letter." Draco nodded, and took the letter as Harry unwrapped the packages, and Zeus was off.
"Dear Harrison and Draco," read Harry. "If you noticed this mornings edition of The Daily Prophet from other students, you will be aware that there was an attempted break-in at Gringotts. You need not be alarmed, as it was simply the actions of our lost Lord in his search for a new, more powerful, body." Harry paused, getting excited of the prospect of Lord Voldemort rising to power once more. "We, of course, will be safe from any backlash, and keep Fudge in our pocket as always, leeching money off of unsuspecting peoples and increasing the Malfoy –– and Black –– family fortunes."
"I am pleased to hear of your progress in your studies, and am confident that you are doing the House of Malfoy proud. Your mother sends her love, and would like to repeat the notion that should you need anything, just call on your house elves to alert her. I think she's having a bit of the empty-nest syndrome, what with you boys now being here. Anyways, I must end this letter here, make sure to burn it. You never know who's watching. With love and warm regards, your father, Lucius Abraxas Malfoy."
Draco and Harry exchanged sly looked before quickly burning the parchment, which was easy enough seeing as the Great Hall was still mostly abandoned, as it was a Saturday evening.
The two of them quickly made their way to the library, where they would join their study group (themselves, Nott, Zabini, Greengrass, and three pureblood blood purists from Ravenclaw, MacMillan, Boot, and Turpin) in order to revise the homework from the week and exchange notes.
Following lunch, the Slytherins and Gryffindors would be meeting for flying lessons, and Draco and Harry were once more eager to see the Gryffindors make fools of themselves.
As one o'clock neared, as the group of students had taken a brief break for lunch, the Slytherins politely excused themselves from the library, making sure to put any books they'd used for reference away in the correct places, as it never hurt to have Madame Pince on your good side.
They neared the courtyard near the Quidditch pitch, where the first years went to learn how to fly brooms. Everything had been going swimmingly –– one of the highlights being when Madame Hooch (Slytherin alumni) informed Scarhead that he'd been mounting his broom wrong all through the years –– and then the amusement came in the form of Lardbottom.
Somehow, the idiot squib had managed to lose control of his broom, and was soon zooming all over the courtyard, before he finally fell off of the broomstick and landed on the ground with an ominous sounding thud!
"Out of my way!" screeched Madame Hooch, pushing through the crowd of curious children that swarmed like bees to honey, before carefully picking up Lardbottom and tutting to herself.
"That's a broken wrist," she said. She fixed all of the other first year's with a hard glare. "Not a foot off the ground until I return from bringing him to the hospital wing. Those I find in the air will be expelled before they can say 'Quidditch'." The grey haired, hawk-eyed lady then quickly made way to the castle, levitating Lardbottom after her.
"Did you see his face?" cackled Harry to the Slytherins, changing his facial features to mimic Lardbottom's terrified expression, causing his friends to howl along with him like hyenas. Draco, on the other hand, walked over to where Lardbottom had landed and picked up the glass sphere the squib had received in the mail earlier.
"Maybe if Lardbottom'd squeezed this," said Draco, sneered. "He'd have remembered to land on his fat ass." The Slytherins cackled again, and Scarhead stepped forward boldly.
"Give it here, Malfoy," he said snidely, and Draco smirked back at him.
"No, I think I'll leave it up somewhere for Lardbottom to find. Coming, Harry?" he said, mounting his broom and taking off, Harry quickly following him. The three began an odd sort of variation of monkey in the middle, Scarhead trying desperately to retrieve the rememberall.
"Give it here Malfoy, or I'll knock you off your broom!" said Scarhead in what he thought was a threatening voice, but it was nowhere near the standards set by an angry Narcissa Malfoy, so the two brothers weren't impressed.
"Alright, then. Go get it!" said Draco, and he hurled the small glass sphere for all he was worth, watching Scarhead chase after it before landing alongside Harry. Unluckily for the two brothers, Scarhead actually managed to catch the small thing, but their spirits lightened immediately when McGonagall came thundering out onto the courtyard.
"POTTER!" The Slytherins once more let out little bouts of laughter, high-fiving and wondering when Potter would be packing his bags. One less blood-traitor the better, after all.
After flying lessons ended, they made their way back through the halls of Hogwarts, going back over the highlights of the flying lesson, including Granger refusing to so much as touch her broom after she saw what Lardbottom's had done to him.
However, when they saw Potter, most definitely not expelled, and strutting around the castle arrogantly, they knew something was up. And then, Harry and Draco received the worst of news from the Bloody Baron. Potter was officially the youngest seeker on the Quidditch team in a century, and had gotten off scott-free.
"Uncle Sev!" they called, busting into his office, crying out protests at the injustice of it all, and once he finally managed to calm them down enough to get the full story out of them, he, too, was furious.
"Blatant favoritism for the brat just because he's famous," growled Snape, and Draco and Harry nodded, the three of them sharing a common anger.
"Father will be hearing about this," said Draco smartly, and he and Harry quickly left to write a very annoyed letter informing their father of the events that had transpired that day. After all, Dumbledore couldn't just break the rules for anyone because they were famous.