First time

Potions and other lessons

Chapter 3

Potions and other lessons

Their lessons started on the next day, right after breakfast (which Elizabeth and Jane had nearly missed because they got lost several times on their way to the Great Hall). They nearly came late to their first lesson (Charms), too, because they were unfortunate enough to run into Peeves. Peeves the poltergeist was a little man with beady dark eyes who was in the habit of playing the worst tricks he could think of on anyone unlucky enough to get in his way. Right now, he was blocking the staircase leading to the Charms classroom and laughing madly. Fortunately, Professor McGonagall came by and chased Peeves away.

Charms was taught by Professor Flitwick, a tiny wizard with a squeaky voice, who had to stand on a chair or a pile of books to be seen. He also turned out to be the Head of Ravenclaw, which made Elizabeth happy, as he left quite a good impression on her. On the other hand, she was disappointed to discover that they wouldn’t be doing any magic yet, at least not until they had learnt how to flick their wands properly.

Their next class was Transfiguration. They were with the Slytherins for this one, so Elizabeth made use of the opportunity and looked inquiringly at the Slytherin kids to see if they were really as bad as everyone had been saying. But they looked exactly like any other students ... with the exception of three boys. One had really light blond hair and was scowling constantly at every Ravenclaw who happened to look his way, the other two were tall, muscly boys, who just looked plain mean. Professor McGonagall started the class by taking the register, and so Elizabeth learned that the blond boy’s name was Draco Malfoy, while the two muscly boys were called Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.

Professor McGonagall turned out to be a strict, but fair teacher. As Elizabeth got most things right for the first time, she even got a rare smile from her once in a while. On the other hand, she didn’t seem to like Draco very much, as he was always showing off and hardly paying any attention at all.

After lunch, the Ravenclaws were to have a double lesson of Potions with the Hufflepuffs.

“What’s the teacher’s name?” asked Jane as she and Elizabeth made their way down to the dungeons to the Potions classroom.

Elizabeth inspected her timetable. “Snape,” she answered finally. “I wonder if it’s a he or a she. Brrr, it’s cold down here,” she added and shivered. “This place gives me the creeps.”

Absorbed in their conversation, the two girls didn’t notice they’d taken the wrong turn. When they’d finally realized their mistake, it was too late – despite doing everything they could, when they arrived at the classroom’s door, the lesson had already begun. So they quietly opened the door and peered inside. The students were all there ... but the teacher was nowhere in sight.

“If we just go and sit down quietly, maybe the teacher won’t notice. Wherever he or she is, anyway,” whispered Jane.

Elizabeth nodded and they started for two empty seats near the front of the classroom. After what seemed like hours, they finally reached their destination, and both sat down with a sigh of relief.

“Looks like we’ve made it,” whispered Jane and Elizabeth was just about to agree when...

“I believe you have both received timetables,” said an icy voice right behind them, making them both jump. When they slowly turned around, they saw the black-haired teacher Elizabeth had noticed in the Great Hall – so this was Professor Snape. He was now looming over them, like a huge bat, a twisted smile was playing at the corner of his lips and his eyes were flashing nastily.

“You are from Ravenclaw?” he asked, and although he’d made it sound more like a statement than a question, Elizabeth chose to answer anyway, just in case.

“Y ... yes, sir,” she choked out.

“You were ten minutes late, so I think we’ll make it ten points from Ravenclaw ... for each of you,” he added in a silky voice, his twisted smile growing even wider.

“B ... but we got lost, it’s only our first d...,” started Elizabeth but Snape interrupted her.

“Silence! I’m not interested in your excuses. Now,” he lowered his voice to almost a whisper, “as I was saying before our little interruption,” and he glanced menacingly at the two girls, who both shrank under his gaze, “today we’re going to make a very simple potion to cure boils. So get into pairs, all of you!”

The class started shuffling around, while Elizabeth and Jane both stayed in their seats, too scared to move. Finally, everybody was settled, and Snape started explaining the procedure to make the potion. Elizabeth noticed a plump, clumsy-looking boy was now sitting next to her, probably from Hufflepuff, as she didn’t recall seeing him in the Ravenclaw common room the night before. The boy saw Elizabeth looking at him and blushed slightly.

“Sorry for not introducing myself,” he said. “My name’s Joshua Howard. And that’s,” and he pointed to a little boy sitting next to him, “Jamie Tweedle.”

“Pleased to meet you,” whispered Elizabeth. “I’m Elizabeth Woodhouse. And that’s my friend Jane Wells.”

“It seems like you know everything about the potion already, Miss Woodhouse,” came a sudden voice from behind her, making her jump yet again. Elizabeth wheeled around and sure enough, there was Snape, his eyes glittering like stars in the midnight sky. “You certainly didn’t seem to pay much attention to my explanation. Five points from Ravenclaw.” And with that, he swept off to the front of the classroom again.

Elizabeth began to wonder how come he knew her name, when she wasn’t there at the beginning of the lesson when he took the register, and she had just decided it was nothing more than a lucky guess (it had to be either Woodhouse or Wells), when Snape told them to begin with their potions, so she didn’t have time to ponder over it anymore.

The potion really wasn’t a hard one, at least that’s what Elizabeth thought, but obviously there were people who didn’t find it as easy. All of a sudden, there was a loud BANG!, and Joshua and Jamie’s cauldron exploded.

Snape was there in a flash.

“Idiots!” he yelled. “I thought I’d made my explanation clear enough. That’s twenty points from Hufflepuff and now get yourselves to the hospital wing!”

The boys, both with little burns all over, quickly disappeared, and Snape turned his angry glare to Elizabeth.

“Miss Woodhouse,” he snarled. “Why didn’t you keep an eye on them? Is it because they’re from a different house than you? Well, now you’ve lost your house another five points. Was it worth it, I wonder?”

Somehow, Elizabeth had the feeling that Snape’d have taken those points off her in either case – if she had helped the boys, he’d probably have told her to mind her own cauldron, insisting that the boys were perfectly capable of finishing the potion even without her assistance. But she thought it best to keep quiet.

The lesson finished without any further incidents ... and without any more points being taken from either house.

“I really think I’m not going to like Professor Snape – and that’s putting it mildly,” Jane told Elizabeth as they were walking to their next class – Defence Against the Dark Arts.

“Well, I must admit he was rather unfair today, but I suppose that’s just because he wants everything – and everyone – to be perfect, and when it isn’t, he gets angry. You know what? I’ll take it as a challenge – I’ll try being perfect, so he won’t have any reason to take any more points from me.”

“I think that’s a waste of time. He’ll just take points from you for no reason at all.”

Elizabeth flashed Jane a wicked grin. “We shall see.”

Jane didn’t say anything and thus left Elizabeth to her own thoughts. She found herself thinking about Snape again. He actually reminded her of her math teacher at basic school, who was really mean and seemed to hate all the students – except Elizabeth. Because Elizabeth did so well in his class, he had actually begun to ‘like’ her – in his own way. Of course, he had never told her that, but Elizabeth was a sensitive child and as such could feel the slight difference in his behaviour towards her, compared to the way he treated the other students. Elizabeth knew that Snape would be a harder nut to crack, but she felt ready to face the challenge. In fact, she was looking forward to it.

Defence Against the Dark Arts turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for Elizabeth. Their teacher, Professor Quirrell, was a young man who stuttered all the time (which made it even harder for her to pay attention; the lessons were already boring and far too easy as it were), and who seemed to be afraid even of his own shadow.

‘They couldn’t have picked a better man to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts,’ thought Elizabeth with a snicker.

Professor Quirrell also wore a purple turban which he never took off, which, in the eyes of the students, made him even more of a comical figure than he already was.

They had Defence Against the Dark Arts with the Gryffindors. Elizabeth was thankful at least for this, maybe she’d get a chance to talk to Harry sometime. Suddenly, a rather amusing idea came to her mind – Harry’d be able to teach them more about the Dark Arts than that coward Quirrell ever could.

On the next day, the Ravenclaws were to have their first lesson of Flying. Elizabeth woke up a little ill-at-ease because she didn’t quite know what to expect from this. She’d never been as good in P.E. as she was in her other classes (which was partly due to her height, she had always been the smallest in her class), but then, this would be nothing like the Muggle P.E. lessons. So she just pushed all the ‘What if...’ thoughts out of her mind and walked confidently out of the castle and into the open.

When she reached the site where their Flying lessons were to take place, she immediately noticed about twenty broomsticks lying on the ground. She shuddered at the mere sight of them, but again told herself not to panic. There’d be plenty of time for that later.

Their teacher wasn’t there yet, but a familiar voice called out to her. She turned around to see Joshua approaching her, with Jamie close behind.

“Oh, hi,” she said reluctantly.

After the incident in Potions, she had decided that it would be for the best if she tried to avoid these two boys as much as possible, but obviously the task wasn’t going to be as easy as she had thought. So she gathered all her patience, put on a worried expression and asked if they were both O.K. already, considering the way they’d looked when leaving the Potions classroom the day before.

“Oh, don’t worry. We’re both just fine,” answered Joshua, beaming at her. “Madam Pomfrey had us both fixed up in no time.”

Just then, Jane, who’d enjoyed a little extra sleep, appeared at Elizabeth’s side, followed by their teacher, Madam Hooch, thereby sparing Elizabeth of any further conversation with the two annoying Hufflepuffs.

“All right, now, be quiet, all of you!” Elizabeth started as Madam Hooch’s sharp voice rang through the air. She had short grey hair, and eyes that somehow reminded Elizabeth of a bird’s. “I don’t want anyone mucking about in my lessons,” she went on. “If you all do exactly as you’re told, there should be no accidents. Now, everyone, find a broom, put your right hand over it and say UP!”

The students did as they were told, and soon the air was filled with everyone yelling “UP!” like maniacs.

Elizabeth only had to say it once because the broom immediately jumped into her outstretched hand. Jane took a bit longer, but eventually also managed to get the broom into her hand. When Elizabeth looked around, however, she saw that most brooms were still on the ground, some of them lying completely still, some of them rolling over, but making no attempt to rise into the outstretched hands above them. Some kids just gave up after a while and simply picked their brooms up.

Madam Hooch then told them to mount their brooms, and after checking that everybody was sitting correctly, asked them to try and rise a few feet above the ground, stay that way for a while, and then come back down.

Again, Elizabeth was surprised at how easily she’d fulfilled the teacher’s instructions. Most kids, though, couldn’t get their broomsticks up into the air for the world, with Joshua and Jamie’s broomsticks being particularly stubborn. When, after about twenty minutes of trying, they finally did manage to get their feet off the ground, their broomsticks decided to go crazy, and several seconds later, they were both lying on the ground, unconscious, after suffering a head-on collision with one another.

Elizabeth was now certain more than ever that her decision to avoid the boys had been a good one, because going to the hospital wing twice in two days was not normal, not even at Hogwarts. She found herself wondering whether Madam Pomfrey would have the pleasure of seeing them there again tomorrow.

The rest of the lesson passed uneventfully. Elizabeth had really started to enjoy flying by the end of it – finally, here was something where her height wasn’t a handicap.

After lunch, they had their first lesson of History of Magic – another one they shared with the Gryffindors. It was actually taught by a ghost, something that took quite a bit of time for the students to get used to. But apart from this, the lessons turned out to be the most boring of all. Professor Binns didn’t seem to notice there were any students present, and so he just went on and on in his monotonous voice, until half of the class had drifted off to sleep. But not Elizabeth. History’d always been her favourite subject at school, and not even Professor Binns could make her like it less. But she noticed she wasn’t the only one still taking down notes, the expression of the girl next to her being close to that of a maniac when she frantically tried to record every single word Professor Binns had said. Elizabeth decided to have a little chat with her at the end of the lesson, so when the bell finally went off, she told Jane to wait for her, and then addressed the girl, who was now packing her bag.

“Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I see you like history too.”

The girl looked up and gave Elizabeth a toothy smile. “Pleased to meet you. My name’s Hermione Granger. Yes, I find history ever so interesting. Of course, I’ve already learnt all the books off by heart, and I even got some extra ones out of the library yesterday, but still, Professor Binns did say a few things I haven’t read anywhere yet... Well, I’d really like to talk to you a bit more, but we’ll have to make it some other time, there are still about three more books on Charms I’d like to read this afternoon, so I’d better be off. See ya!” And with that, she disappeared.

Elizabeth stared after her in amazement. She suspected that Hermione had produced her little speech without even taking a breath. Until now, she had considered herself a square, but compared to Hermione Granger, she was just a normal kid who somehow managed to get better-than-average marks.

The week dragged on. As Elizabeth’d suspected, Joshua and Jamie really did manage to find themselves in the hospital wing at least once a day. She found it hard to believe that anybody could be so clumsy, although she’d heard rumours that a certain Neville Longbottom from Gryffindor wasn’t far behind.

Suddenly, it was Monday again, and with it came another double lesson of Potions. Elizabeth felt she was probably the only one actually looking forward to it, judging from the various remarks coming from students scattering down to the dungeons. Even Jane became visibly paler as they neared the classroom door. They were ten minutes early - something Elizabeth had seen to, as being late again surely wouldn’t have helped the realization of her plan.

When Snape had finally let them into the classroom, she immediately put part two of her plan into action – she carefully picked a seat for herself and Jane, making sure it was as far away from the two Hufflepuff boys as the size of the classroom would allow.

As far as the rest of the lesson went, she just tried her hardest not to attract any unnecessary attention to herself. She most definitely did not make the mistake of waving her hand in the air at every possible opportunity (and with the frightening example of Hermione Granger on her mind at all times, there was nothing to stop both of her hands from resting safely on the top of her desk), as she was certain that Professor Snape wouldn’t approve of this kind of behaviour. However, when asked a direct question, she immediately delivered the correct answer.

The lesson was over before she’d realized it – and to her immense delight, Snape hadn’t taken any points off her!

“See, Jane, I told you Snape really isn’t that bad – if you know how to handle him, that is,” she said as they were heading to their next class.

“I suppose you’re right,” admitted Jane. “But unfortunately, not everybody has the predespositions for Potions; some people are simply destined to lose points every lesson.”

“Yes, I really don’t think there’s anything that can help those two.” (Joshua and Jamie had managed to make their cauldron explode once more).

When they reached the classroom, Elizabeth deliberately took a seat next to Harry, hoping for an opportunity to finally talk to him. She didn’t have to wait long, Quirrell’s stuttering turned out to be as unimportant and boring as ever, and Harry soon stopped taking down any notes. So Elizabeth caught his attention by tapping him on the shoulder, and then whispered: “Hi, Harry, my name’s Elizabeth. Sorry to interrupt, but I was just wondering, ummm ... could I ask you something?”

“Yeah, sure,” answered Harry, although looking a little suspicious.

“It’s just ... do you remember anything from the night when ... when you got that scar?”

Harry shot his neighbour, a red-haired, freckled boy called Ron Weasley, a glance, as if to say ‘Not again’, so Elizabeth quickly added: “But if you don’t want to talk about it...”

“No, it’s O.K.,” Harry interrupted her. “It’s just that I’ve been asked this question so many times ... and I really don’t remember anything, except perhaps a green flash of light.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth couldn’t hide her disappointment. “So you don’t know what happened to Voldemort after ... after he’d tried to kill you?”

“No. Hagrid thinks he’s out there somewhere, too weak to strike again. And ... wait a minute ... you’ve said his name! That’s strange ... everybody I’ve met so far just call him You-Know-Who, or something like that, anyway. So how come you don’t?”

“Well, my parents are both Muggles, so they didn’t tell me not to say his name, as they have no idea who he is. And the only witch in our family is my grandmother – but I didn’t talk to her about Voldemort, I only asked her a few things about Hogwarts and how to get here. She’s a bit deaf, you know, so I try to speak to her as little as possible ... for I really hate repeating myself all the time, just because she didn’t hear me. Well, anyway, the point is, she didn’t tell me it was wrong to say the name, either.”

“It’s not wrong to say the name, it’s just that most people are afraid to say it,” said Harry, glancing in Ron’s direction.

“Well, I’m not,” said Elizabeth firmly. “Why should I be afraid of a name?”

“Exactly. Why should you? But say ‘Voldemort’ in front of Ron, or Hagrid, or anybody else, and they’ll just yell at you to shut up.”

At that point, Quirrell finally got to the practical part of the lesson, so they cut their conversation short, both deciding they might just as well pay attention.
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