This Means War
A/N: At one point, for another story, I tried to figure out class schedules. I discovered it can’t be done to be completely consistent with the books. Primarily the problem is with Snape’s class; since he does a lot of doubles he doesn’t have time to teach more than one session per week for any given student group (such as Gryffindor/Slytherin firsties). First year seems to confirm this, since their first class with him is on a Friday. Yet second year has potions classes for Harry on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, with Thursday, at least, being a double session. In third, fourth and fifth years, he has potions at least twice a week. It is not possible for Snape to be running this kind of schedule. He would have to be using a Time Turner. (Which would explain his mood most of the time.) I could be realistic, and work out which classes are when and ignore canon when it conflicts. Or I could go with canon and sprinkle other classes higglety pigglety where I feel like having them and completely ignore realism. Can’t have both. Hmmmm….
Chapter 11: This Means War
The Slytherin Common Room proved to be located down in the very bowels of the castle. It was a long, low room with rough stone walls and round green glass lamps hanging from chains on the ceiling so that the tallest of the Slytherins had to walk around them lest they bash themselves in the forehead. There was a large fireplace with an elaborately carved mantel and a cheerful blaze going within it, and green leather wing-back chairs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Uncle Gomez’s study grouped around it. One wall seemed to be made of smooth glass, and Harry wondered what would be beyond it, since they were quite a distance underground, by his calculation. Whatever it was out there was completely black.
It had been a long day and Harry just wanted to go to bed since he still had a lingering headache from dinner, but the Prefect, a fifth year named Titus Artibee, kept them gathered in the Common Room. The firsties were beginning to get a little antsy when dark shadows in one corner resolved themselves into an even darker blot, and the blot stepped out into the room to reveal itself as a tall man wearing robes of unrelieved black. His hair was black and hung down to his shoulders, and his eyes were cold and hard, like chunks of coal. His skin was sallow, his nose was hooked, and his lips were pressed together in a thin line. He was altogether unattractive.
"Welcome to Slytherin House," he said. As unattractive as he was, his voice was compelling, drawing the students’ attention like a magnet. "I am Severus Snape, your head of house. Each of you is in this house for one reason, and one reason only. Deep down, you think you’re the best, and you want a chance to prove it. And prove it you will. Slytherin has held the House cup for the last seven years, and the Quidditch cup for the last three. If you do your best, we’ll continue to hold them until you leave school. I know that you will have rivalries. After all, you can’t all be the best of the best. You’ll be working out your own pecking order in the coming weeks. I want it made perfectly clear, though, that whatever happens in our house, stays in our house. Once you’re beyond those doors, you’re Slytherin first and foremost, and Slytherins stick together and back each other up, because no one else will. Prefects, take your charges off to bed."
Harry turned to follow Artibee, when Professor Snape snapped, "Potter! One moment."
Harry obediently returned to the middle of the Common Room, where Snape stood glaring down at him. He immediately schooled his face and mind to total blankness.
"I don’t know what you’re doing in this house, Potter. But I warn you, you put even one toe out of line and I’ll have you on the Express back to your family so fast it will make your head swim! You will keep your arrogance and pride to yourself and there will be absolutely no pranks! Is that clear?"
Harry nodded. He had no idea what the man was going on about, but it was safer to agree at this point and find out later.
"Good. I have no idea why the Hat put you here, but here you are, and if you keep your head down and your nose clean, you just might survive this little nest of vipers."
"You said yourself why the Hat put me here. I don’t know if I’m the best now, but I know I have to be in the future. And this is the best place for me to achieve that."
There was silence for a moment, broken only by the sound of the logs hissing in the fireplace.
"Go to bed, Potter."
"Good night, sir."
Snape stalked through the halls after getting his little serpents settled. The talk with Potter had disturbed him deeply, and he would have given him detention for his cheek except that he didn’t want the dubious distinction of being the first head to give detention to a member of his own house. He’d wait until the Weasley twins blew something up and got a detention from Minerva (which he knew was likely to happen within the next week) and then he would be free to descend on Potter like an avenging Fury. He found himself at the gargoyle that guarded the stairs to the Headmaster’s sanctum almost without willing his feet to carry him there. Light shone out of the crack around the Headmaster’s door, which meant that he was not the only one disturbed at this hour of the night. "Sherbet lemon," he snapped. The gargoyle stepped aside, and Snape rode the spiral staircase upward. The door opened before he could knock, and he wondered sourly why the griffin shaped knocker was even there. It never got any use.
"Ah, Severus, I thought you’d be up before long." The Headmaster sat behind his wide desk, with the Sorting Hat on its stool in front of it, almost as if the Hat were being called on the carpet.
"Headmaster, that Hat has finally gone insane. Potter can’t belong in my house. He can’t!"
"I thought you might be concerned. I was, as well. Therefore I thought we might ask the Hat for an explanation, together."
"What’s there to explain?" asked the Hat. "The boy had to be Sorted, I Sorted him. That’s my job."
"But into Slytherin? The boy’s parents were Gryffindor through and through," said Dumbledore.
"But he is not. You should know, you’re responsible for making him what he is," said the Hat. "If you wanted him to be a Gryffindor, you should have left him with Sirius Black. Or those Weasleys, they’re an excellent lot!"
"Black was a traitor and a murderer," snapped Snape.
"Impossible. I know what was in that boy’s head when he was Sorted. He wasn’t capable of it. You, on the other hand …"
"If I may," interrupted Dumbledore. "We’re here to discuss Mr. Potter."
"Yes, yes. A delightful boy. We had a wonderful chat. You really must invite him up here some time, Headmaster. I’d love to talk with him again."
"Hat, you will re-Sort that boy or … or I’ll turn you into a propeller beanie!" said Snape.
"Don’t make threats you can’t keep," said the Hat. "I think I know my job better than you, I’ve been doing it for over a millennium! There will be no re-Sorting. The boy is a Slytherin to the core, no other place would serve him as well. Don’t you remember what I sang?" The Hat broke into song again.
"Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
"Perhaps it’s not great poetry, but it’s clear enough. The Potter boy knows he has a Destiny."
Dumbledore gave a start, and actually paled slightly.
"Don’t worry, Headmaster, he knows nothing of the details, but he knows it exists. Over and above that, he has a dream, and he is determined to do whatever it takes to meet his Destiny and achieve his dream. Whatever it takes. Little things like conventional morality and social standards are not going to stand in his way. You tell me where I should put him. Bravery he has in plenty, intelligence and loyalty as well, but it is his drive to succeed that is his strongest trait." The Hat sighed. "Professor, your house has become a haven for those unwilling or unable to face change. It was never intended to be a retreat for pure-bloods, and it must not continue to be so. There’s more to ambition than being power-hungry, and there’s more to cunning than cheating on your exams! You yourself are proof of that."
"But it’s you that’s been Sorting them that way."
"It’s their parents who’ve been teaching them that ambition without bravery, loyalty, or talent is enough to get by. What am I to do when I am presented with such paltry material? The Malfoy boy, for example, is lazy, craven, and woefully ignorant, and he is unwilling to change. Yet he is filled with a blinding ambition to rule over all others, convinced that his heritage and his pure blood — as if any of them are pure! — entitle him to such a lofty status without effort on his part, and blissfully unaware of the responsibilities that go with such an exalted state. Where else am I to put him? I would say that less than half of your house embodies the ideals of the Founder, Professor. And the more it strays from those ideals, the further it will sink into the mire. If Slytherin wishes to regain its greatness, it needs what the Potter boy has to offer. And if he wants to survive, he needs what Slytherin can teach. So be it. The Great and Powerful Hat has spoken!"
"You can’t possibly expect me to have Potter in my house!" Snape ranted. "What of the danger? He has enemies there already!"
"Severus," Dumbledore said, "there have always been student rivalries and feuds. Perhaps in this case it is extreme, but you must remember these are only students. It is the job of the head of house to keep house squabbles at a safe level. If you don’t wish to take this responsibility, perhaps it is time that you ceased being its head. Professor Sinistra was in Slytherin in her day, perhaps she’d be willing to serve. Or Quirrell. He’s young, but no younger than you were when you became head."
That hit Snape like a dash of cold water in the face. Lose his house? Unthinkable! "Sinistra would never come down out of her tower to watch over them, Headmaster. And my snakes would eat Quirrell alive! He’s afraid of his shadow as it is."
"Then you must come to terms with having Harry Potter in your house, Severus. I know you have an old grudge against his father, but it really is quite childish, and it is time to put away childish things. Time and long past time."
"Very well, Headmaster. Potter may stay. But what of his cousins? Perhaps they could be re-Sorted elsewhere? I dislike having the little knot of the three of them together where they can make mischief."
"Perhaps. It would at the least encourage him to have a relationship with someone in another house. Hat, what have you to say about that?"
"Absolutely not. The boy is brave enough for Gryffindor, true, but the only thing he really has in common with any of them is a deep and abiding love for explosions. I shudder to think what would happen if you put him in a tower with the Weasley twins. The girl is brilliant, but far too ruthless for Ravenclaw."
"Headmaster, if you want the Hufflepuffs to take over the world, just say so. I’ll re-Sort everyone into Hufflepuff and save them the trouble."
Dumbledore blinked, and even Snape was taken aback. "Who are these people? What are they? Headmaster, if the Potter boy and these two are amoral, then—"
"I did not say â€˜amoral’," snapped the Hat. "I said he will not let conventional morality stand in his way. He has his own standards, as do the Addams children, and they will live and die by those standards, no matter how odd they may appear to others."
"Hat, I must demand a clear answer," said the Headmaster, firmly. "Are we looking at another Dark Lord in the making?"
The Hat made a tsk-ing sound. "Headmaster, you must know by now there are no clear answers, especially when you do not ask clear questions. The boy is Dark, yes, it is his birthright. He was marked by Darkness and brought up in it. He may well become a true Lord; he has the innate nobility that so many who claim that title lack, and is aware, as Malfoy is not, of the responsibilities that go with power. I will say this: having a Dark Lord might not be a bad thing, if it is Harry Potter."
That was not at all reassuring to Snape. "But …"
"No buts! I’m tired and will say no more! If you want to learn more of the boy, talk to Lupin." The Hat slumped down and began to snore.
"Lupin? Why should we ask Lupin?" Snape asked in frustration.
"Because Remus Lupin has been my agent inside the Addams family for the past five years," said the Headmaster, tiredly. "He has been tutoring all three children in our history, the ways of our culture, some basic theory, and sending me regular reports."
"That’s why you gave him the History position," said Snape. He had been wondering for weeks, ever since the unexpected announcement that Lupin would be taking over the teaching of History of Magic, why the Headmaster would bring that … that beast into a school full of helpless children.
"Yes, and that is why I have asked you to learn how to make the Wolfsbane Potion," said Dumbledore. "They trust him, and he can give us insights into the way they think. If they feel the need to confide in anyone, they will approach him. If there is anyone who can influence them, bring them to the Light, it will be him. I know you don’t like him, Severus, but trust me … we need Remus Lupin."
For Harry, Pugsley and Wednesday, the first week of classes was an exciting adventure. Maybe not the classes themselves; they were mostly old hat, though there were a few nuggets of new information here and there. But the castle was amazing, and they were having a marvellous time exploring it.
Pugsley said he doubted that there was enough time even in seven years to see all of it, but he was going to try.
Wednesday had decided she was going to find all the secret passages, since there just had to be secret passages in a place like this, and was trying to figure out where she would be if she was a secret passage, which was her usual method of finding things.
Harry was wondering where exactly that third floor passage Dumbledore had been going on about during the opening feast was; he was pretty sure he’d located that corridor, but didn’t see anything particularly scary.
Hermione, once they’d connected up with her during a shared Transfiguration class with the Ravenclaws, told them she had acquired a deep and abiding desire to read every book in the school library, and had started a check list to make sure she didn’t miss any.
Astronomy was the most fun class, because it was the only one that was completely new to all of them. At Salem, it had been an elective. Unfortunately, they shared the early session with the Hufflepuffs, and only saw Hermione in passing on the stairs as she headed up to the late session when they were leaving.
History of Magic was interesting, but Remus’s classes had always been interesting. He had a way of lecturing that was more like telling a story, and then he would ask questions to make sure you had been listening. Harry gathered, from hearing gossip from the older students in the Common Room, that the old History teacher was much less interesting, and the change in teachers was very highly approved of. Remus winked at them when they all sat down together in the front row, and asked them to stop by his office some time during the week after classes.
Transfiguration and Charms were their least favourite classes, mainly because they’d already covered most of the material at Salem. During the first Transfiguration class, Professor McGonagall called on Harry to explain why he wasn’t even trying to turn his matchstick into a needle, but was passing Rune puzzles back and forth with Pugsley instead. Harry explained that he was giving someone else a chance first, and promptly turned all five of the matchsticks on his desk into needles. Then for good measure, he turned a quill into a crochet hook. Hermione shot him a look that was part outrage, part envy, and part "I am so going to study with you!" The look on Professor McGonagall’s face was worth the detention he and Pugsley received for passing the puzzles in class.
On Thursday evening they reported to Mr. Filch, the castle caretaker, for their detention. Finding his office was, as always, the hardest part; it was down in an unfamiliar section of the dungeons and they made three wrong turns before they got there, fifteen minutes late.
"Yer late!" the man growled when he opened the door.
"We got lost, sir. It won’t happen again," said Pugsley.
"See that it doesn’t," said Filch. "I’ll hold you half an hour extra this time; next time it gets some serious time." He ushered the boys into his office, which was grimy, crowded with file cabinets, and stank of cleaning supplies and cat. He gave them each a pail containing steel wool, rags, and metal polish, then fished a ring of huge, old-fashioned keys out of his desk drawer. "Follow me." He led them through ever more twisted passages and finally used the keys to unlock an oak door with a small barred window. Inside was a room that looked like a torture chamber, with chains, manacles, masks, whips and similar devices hanging on hooks around the walls. Light came from torches mounted on the walls, and a sturdy rack stood in the centre of the room. "Get inside there," he said, giving Pugsley a light shove.
"This is where we used to do detentions, back in the old days," he said with a tone of fondness in his voice. "Headmaster said we can’t do it nowadays. But just in case the old ways come back, I like to keep my old equipment in good shape." He pointed to the wall nearest the door. "That wall. I want every piece of metal shining. No magic."
He stepped outside the room and slammed the door. "I’ll come let you out when your time’s up," he said through the barred window.
"Whoa," said Pugsley, looking around with wide eyes. "This is so cool!" The boys placed their cleaning supplies on the rack, which was just the right height to be a workbench, and helped themselves to an armful of chains from the wall.
When Filch came back, he found Harry diligently re-hanging the chains, which he had organized by length and thickness of the links, while Pugsley sat on the rack, scrubbing a mask to get a bit of rust off the inside.
"Oh, hi, Mr. Filch! I’ll be done with this in a second," said Pugsley.
"This stuff is great!" said Harry, with a smile. "Reminds me of home! You forgot to give us any oil, though, so it’s all just going to rust again. This thumbscrew is already rusted solid. You want us to come down some time and take care of that?"
Filch blinked. "You … you want to come down here?"
"Well, yeah, it would be a shame to put all this work to waste. And things like this deserve to be kept in good shape, right, Pugs?"
"Oh, yeah, these are classic," said Pugsley, holding the mask up to the light to make sure he’d gotten the last bit of rust off it. "What do you think?" he asked, putting it over his face. "Is it me?"
"It’s you, it’s definitely you," said Harry. "But you’ve got fingerprints all over it now. Polish it up before you hang it."
"I know how to take care of things," said Pugsley, annoyed. He gave the mask a quick polish and replaced it on the wall. He and Harry then cleaned up their supplies and wiped down the rack to make sure it hadn’t got any polish spilled on it accidentally.
"This is really nice too," said Harry, patting the rack. "But the ropes are getting rotten. I doubt it would take more than one good turn to break them. You really should replace them."
"I suppose you’re volunteering to do that, too?" asked Filch.
"We could, yeah. Pugsley’s Dad helped us build our own at home — he said it was a lot more fun when you make things yourself, and it is!"
"Did you try it out to see if it worked, then?"
"It did," said Pugsley. "We tried it ourselves, and then we watched Grandmama use it on Remus — Professor Lupin, I mean."
"Your grandmother had Professor Lupin on a rack?" Filch asked. He was more astounded with the answer to each question.
"Mm-hm. He said it helped his back a lot. Are we done now?"
"Yes," Filch said faintly, then with more confidence, "I suppose you are. The rest will wait for some other little miscreant. Give me the buckets, then, and back to your Common Room with you. Make it fast, it’s almost curfew, and you don’t want to be visiting me again too soon!"
"We wouldn’t mind, really, Mr. Filch! Bye!" said Harry, and they ran off.
"The other way!" barked Filch.
"Oh. Sorry! Got turned around again!" Pugsley said, and they trotted off in the other direction.
Wednesday sat doing her homework in a wing back chair which she had claimed as her own, over near the great window. During the day, the window let a suffused bluish light fill the Common Room, as it opened onto the lake just below the water line. In just a few days, she had seen grindylows and merfolk swim by, and once had caught a glimpse of something large, with tentacles, moving off in the distance. At night the window was pitch black, and she could sometimes see something phosphorescent darting about in the darkness.
From the right angle, the black glass became a mirror, and she could see not only the lights in the water, but also what was going on in back of her in the Common Room, which was one reason she liked to sit here. She hadn’t had problems with any of the other Slytherins so far — they were mostly just ignoring her — but there was no point to letting anyone sneak up and catch her unaware.
Some of the older students had been having a discussion by the fire just a few minutes ago. Now, when she looked up again, she saw that Professor Snape and Malfoy had joined them, and Malfoy was pouting about something. The Professor was speaking in a determined manner. She should have been able to hear what he was saying, but couldn’t make it out over the crackling of the fire. Some spell to prevent eavesdropping, obviously. Note to self: learn how to read lips! she thought. Well, there was no time like the present, and fortunately Professor Snape was facing the window.
Some words were easy enough to make out. He seemed to be saying "Potter" a lot. Every time he said it, he got angrier. She thought she could make out "murder" and also "revenge". There was "no" in there a lot, too. Malfoy was angry now, too, and Professor Snape jabbed his finger in Malfoy’s chest and then gestured at himself. Malfoy finally acquiesced to whatever it was Professor Snape wanted, and the other students, who ranged through all the different years, agreed as well. Professor Snape nodded, then cancelled the spell and stalked off.
Malfoy, in a total snit, stormed off toward the dorms. The other students talked quietly among themselves, and finally drifted off to do homework or chat with friends.
Wednesday considered the ramifications of what she had just seen.
Just before curfew, Harry and Pugsley, reeking of metal polish, returned from detention.
"Wednesday, you wouldn’t believe all the neat stuff Mr. Filch asked us to polish! He had chains, and manacles, and thumbscrews, and a rack, and…"
"That’s it, next time I get detention too," she said. "Why shouldn’t I get to play with all the fun stuff?"
"We’re going to go down again this weekend," said Harry. "You could come with us."
"I’ll do that," she said. "But listen, you need to hear about what I saw tonight." She recounted what she had seen in just a few minutes.
"So what do you think it was all about?" Harry asked when she was through.
"It was obvious, I think. He was telling them not to take revenge on you. Maybe because he was going to take revenge himself."
"Wonderful. Not only do I have to worry about passing classes, I have to worry about the professors trying to kill me. Why did I even decide to come to this school, anyway?" complained Harry. "Why would Professor Snape want revenge on me? I haven’t even had a single class with him yet!"
"Maybe he was on the wrong side in the war with Voldemort," said Pugsley. "I’d be kind of pissed off if I was going to rule the world and had to settle for being a school teacher instead."
"You have a point, there. You guys got my back?"
"Always," said Wednesday.
Friday morning brought the first Potions class for the Slytherins, and everyone was wildly excited about it. The older students raved about what a great teacher Professor Snape was, and how it was the one class where pure-bloods got the attention they deserved, since they were held back by the Muggle-born (who they sometimes called "mudbloods") and half-bloods in other classes. Harry took this with a grain of salt, since he hadn’t noticed that the self-proclaimed pure-bloods, such as Malfoy and Thug One and Thug Two, whose real names, he had found out, were Crabbe and Goyle, were any better than anyone else.
The Slytherins all made sure they left the breakfast table early, so as to be at the classroom in plenty of time to get settled. The door to the classroom was locked, and Professor Snape swept down the corridor to open it precisely five minutes before class was scheduled to begin. The Slytherins rushed in to get the best seats, and most of the Gryffindors, straggling in at the last minute, had to settle for seats to the side or to the rear of the room.
Wednesday and Harry set out their pens, notebooks (since they saw no need to take notes on sloppy loose parchment; it was bad enough they’d have to turn in homework on the stuff) and textbooks and sat calmly and expectantly at the worktable they had claimed in the front of the centre row. Pugsley claimed the seat directly in back of Harry, sliding in just seconds ahead of Malfoy, who settled for the seat in back of Wednesday. In keeping with his â€˜goofball’ persona, he spent several minutes getting his things set out and then openly ogled the jars of misshapen, preserved creatures on shelves along the walls. Malfoy was trying to get his attention, probably to ask to switch seats, and didn’t take kindly to being ignored.
Professor Snape closed the door at exactly the correct moment, and then called the roll, pausing suggestively at Harry’s name, but not saying anything untoward. Then he looked up at the class, looking for all the world like he’d rather be facing a firing squad than all those pre-adolescent faces.
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of Potionmaking," he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper, but they caught every word -- like Professor McGonagall, Snape had the gift of keeping a class silent without effort. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, 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 human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses ... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
Harry and Wednesday scribbled madly, trying to get as much as possible in their notes. They didn’t manage to get it all, but thought they had most of it, thanks to Muggle pens, which made writing much faster than with a quill.
"Mr. Potter!" Professor Snape snapped.
"Yes, sir?" Harry replied calmly.
"What would you get if you added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"
"That's the basis for Draught of the Living Death, sir, a sleeping potion so powerful it mimics death," Harry answered. He’d powdered bog asphodel at home, and made the wormwood infusion, although Grandmama wouldn’t let him stay in the work room when she combined them.
"Where would where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"
"Bezoars form in the stomachs of ruminants such as goats, sheep, and ibexes — and teenage girls who chew on the ends of their hair," Harry said with a sideways look at a blonde Gryffindor girl who was, indeed, chewing on her hair. Caught, the girl spit it out hastily. "They're counters to most poisons — although why you'd want to ruin a perfectly good poison is beyond me."
Snape narrowed his eyes at the answer. "What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
"Oh, there's no difference at all, sir. They're the same plant. The proper name is aconite. There's a planting of them in our garden back home."
"I don't care what you have in your garden back home," Snape sneered. He became aware that the students were staring at him oddly, and snapped, "Well? Why aren't you writing this down?" A flurry of mad scribbling ensued.
"What is that you’re writing with, Mr. Potter?" Snape asked abruptly.
"It’s a ballpoint pen," said Harry, looking up.
"And just why are you using that and that … that book, instead of a proper quill on parchment?"
"It’s faster to write with, sir. I can get more of what you’re saying since I don’t have to keep dipping it or worrying about it splattering. And the notebook keeps my note pages better organized."
"Next class, Mr. Potter, I want you — and Mr. and Miss Addams, also — to be properly equipped with quill, ink and parchment. I also want two feet of parchment from each of you as to why exactly it’s a bad idea to bring substances with unknown properties into the Potions work room."
"But these are perfectly safe, they’ve been tested —"
"Make that three feet, Mr. Potter."
Harry quit while he was ahead.
Snape then set them to make a simple potion to cure boils, or at least Harry and Wednesday found it simple. While they hadn’t done this exact potion before, the directions were clear enough, and they set to work with confidence. Snape swept around the room in his long black cloak, watching the students weigh dried nettles and crush snake fangs, criticizing almost everyone except Malfoy, whom he seemed to like. He was just telling everyone to look at the perfect way Malfoy had stewed his horned slugs when clouds of acid green smoke and a loud hissing filled the dungeon. One of the Gryffindor boys, Neville Longbottom, had somehow managed to melt his cauldron into a twisted blob, and the potion he and his partner had been working on was seeping across the stone floor, burning holes in people's shoes. Within seconds, the whole class was standing on their stools while Longbottom, 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 from the table and floor with one wave of his wand. "I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?"
The boy whimpered as boils started to pop up all over his nose.
"Take him up to the hospital wing," Snape spat at Longbottom’s partner. "And make sure he doesn’t drip on the way there." Then he rounded on Harry and Wednesday, who had been working nearby.
"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 a point from …" and then he suddenly
stopped, his attention caught by the Slytherin badge on Harry’s robe as if he were seeing it for the first time. Apparently he drew the line at taking points from his own house.
Harry looked over at the destroyed workstation, which was covered with dripping goo. Really, it wasn’t fair to blame him for somebody else’s stupid mistake, but perhaps he could turn this to his own advantage. "Professor, I'd be glad to act as class monitor. Thank you. By the way, Malfoy's got his flame too high, and Crabbe and Goyle's cauldron is going to catch fire in three seconds … two … one … now!"
There was a muffled "fwoomp!" noise from behind Snape, followed by a round of "ooohs" and "aahs" from random students, and applause from Pugsley.
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose. "Malfoy, turn down that flame, do you want your cauldron to go up, too? Crabbe, Goyle, put the lid on your cauldron; it will smother the fire. For the love of Merlin, DON'T put water in … oh, no." Crabbe had poured some water in to extinguish the flames and now the cauldron was shooting globs of greyish sludge at the ceiling. "NOW put the lid on."
There were no further explosions, and soon a row of bottled potions of varying degrees of correctness was lined up on Snape's desk. He assigned reading and an essay topic, then dismissed the class. Harry lingered a bit, taking his self-appointed duties as class monitor seriously and making sure everything was cleaned up satisfactorily, while Wednesday waited for him.
Malfoy, not to be outdone, cleared away the mess of the melted cauldron, for which he received a point for Slytherin from the Professor. Harry received nothing, but by this point, he wasn’t expecting anything.
Pugsley approached Snape's desk. "Professor Snape, this was the best class I have ever attended!" he said with relish. "Next class, may I sit next to Longbottom? He's going
to make the best explosions!"
Snape gaped at the boy for a moment, then snapped "Get out! All of you! Out!"
Without waiting to see if they obeyed, he hurried through the door to the connecting storeroom, slamming it behind him.
Pugsley woke up Saturday morning to the sound of laughter. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle were in high spirits about something. He pulled his bed curtains open on the side facing Harry’s bed, only to find Harry’s curtains open and the bed clothes stained with greenish goo and dragged half off the bed. "Harry? Harry!"
"Aw, does Addams miss his little cousin?" asked Malfoy.
"I heard him crying last night, maybe he got homesick," said Goyle. "Maybe he’s gone home like the cry-baby he is."
"The day Harry is a cry-baby is the day you ace your NEWTS," said Pugsley. In less than a week, it had become obvious to everyone that brains was not Goyle’s strong suit. Nor Crabbe’s, for that matter. Wednesday was of the opinion that they were sharing a single brain cell between them. Today must be Goyle’s day to have custody. It being a weekend, it wasn’t necessary to wear the uniform robes, so Pugsley dressed quickly in Muggle casuals and hurried out of the dorm to look for Harry.
He didn’t have to look far.
Harry was sprawled on one of the sofas, wearing only his pyjama bottoms. His back was broken out in horrid, huge boils, and he was moaning softly. Several of the older students were standing around looking at him, but nobody was trying to do anything.
Pugsley dropped to his knees beside Harry. "Harry! Talk to me, Harry!"
"C’mon, Harry. Say something."
"Ow." It was a clearly pronounced syllable, not a sound of pain, and it said everything Harry needed to say about how he was feeling.
Pugsley sat back on his heels. It was fairly obvious what had happened. Somebody had put some of Longbottom’s boil-creating goo in Harry’s bed and covered it up so he’d lie down in it. And Harry had then come out here and collapsed on the sofa. But how long had he been out here? Pugsley looked up. Millicent Bulstrode was part of the increasing crowd. She hadn’t been overly friendly, but she hadn’t exactly been unfriendly either. Her eyes were huge with shock, and there was no trace of a smirk on her face.
"Millicent … can you run into your room and get Wednesday out here? Tell her to bring her first aid kit. Will you? Please?"
The tall girl pushed her way through the onlookers and ran to the hallway that led to the girls’ rooms. A moment later, Wednesday ran out, carrying a black case with her. She knelt next to Harry. "What happened?"
"That green stuff of Longbottom’s, I think. Someone put some in his bed. He must have come out here once he realised what was happening."
"And he didn’t wake you because he’s a stubborn idiot," said Wednesday. "This stuff has been on his skin too long. He’s got burns all in between the boils. Help me swab it off," she said, handing Pugsley a handful of gauze cotton pads and a bottle of a pale blue potion, "Then we can put some of the potion we were really making yesterday on the boils, and then get him down to the infirmary."
"Miss Addams, may I ask what you’re doing to your cousin in the middle of the Common Room?" Professor Snape’s voice was cold.
"First aid, sir. Then we’re going to take him down to the Hospital Wing," said Pugsley.
"I was asking your sister, Mr. Addams."
"What he said," snapped Wednesday as she swabbed Harry’s back.
Snape snatched the gauze out of her hand. "What makes you think you’re qualified to do first aid, Miss Addams? You have no idea what kind of interactions—"
"Actually I do, sir. That’s a neutral swab, it’ll dilute that goo Longbottom made without interacting harmfully with any of the ingredients in it, and it’ll cool the burned skin in between the boils. And the stuff you taught us yesterday will take down the boils."
Snape sniffed the swab suspiciously, then handed it back to her. "And what, pray tell, is your cousin doing out here in this condition in the first place?"
"Someone booby-trapped his bed," said Pugsley, swabbing gently between Harry’s shoulders.
Snape stalked into the boys’ dorms and was back a moment later, carrying Harry’s dressing gown. "I see no sign of any â€˜booby-trapping’. When you’ve finished with your first aid, take your cousin off to the Hospital Wing. Presumably the next time he tries to seek attention, he’ll find a way that’s a little less painful." He turned and clapped his hands sharply. "The rest of you, off to breakfast. There’s nothing to see here, we don’t want to encourage him by gawking at him." He shooed the other Slytherins away.
"Somebody probably cleaned it up already," said Pugsley. "Malfoy and his cronies were still in there when I came out."
"Great. So there’s no way to prove anything. This was probably Malfoy, but we can’t prove anything."
"And if we retaliate without proof …"
"We’re in detention until Christmas."
They worked in silence until they were ready to put the boil curing potion on. Harry hadn’t made a sound through the entire ordeal, despite the fact that several boils had broken open and the whole thing must have been agonising.
"Some job of watching his back I did," said Pugsley, morosely.
"S’ok," mumbled Harry. "I didn’ check las’ nigh’ either."
"It’s not ok," said Pugsley. "Uncle Fester wouldn’t let anybody get at Dad’s back."
"Don’ worry. We’ll geddem."
"Right," said Wednesday, with a determined expression on her face. "We’ll find out who did this. And when we do …"
Pugsley nodded grimly. "This means war."