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Potions had never been Harry's favorite subject.

In fact, if it were up to him, he'd've dropped the class as soon as the word 'optional' came into play.  However, Potions was a required N.E.W.T. for anyone wishing to apply to the Auror Academy, and even if he changed his mind later on, it was still one of the most needed subjects for any career.  Actually, he wasn't too sure if he would dislike Potions even nearly as much if it weren't for the fact that Severus Snape taught the class.

Snape was absolutely, without a doubt, the worst possible teacher at Hogwarts, considering the fact that he had made more students cry than all of the other professors combined.  It also didn't help matters that Harry was quite possibly his very least favorite student.

Actually, quite possibly was putting it lightly.  Harry actually was his least favorite student- a notable fact that didn't make things easy for anyone with whom Harry associated.

"Take your seats quickly and stop dawdling."  Snape spoke sharply from his place at the front of his dungeon classroom as his sixth year class filed in. 

Harry took a seat beside Ron and noticed right away that this was, by far, the smallest class he'd been in so far this year.  It wasn't surprisingly, really, since Snape wouldn't take anyone who hadn't made an O in their Potions O.W.L., a feat which Harry still couldn't quite believe he'd accomplished.  The most represented House was Ravenclaw, which really wasn't surprising, as the majority of the 'smart kids' resided there.  There weren't that many Hufflepuffs, save Ernie Macmillan and Zacharias Smith, and even Slytherin, Snape's very own House, was largely underrepresented, the only attendees being Blaise Zabini, a girl who Harry knew had always been one of the most talented students at Potions, Carter Donaldson, a boy Harry had never actually spoken with, and, unfortunately, Draco Malfoy.  As far as Gryffindor went, besides Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the only other Housemate of theirs to be present was Lavender Brown, who, Harry observed, was sticking to Hermione's side like a lost puppy, no doubt miserable without Parvati. 

Snape was staring from one student to the next, observing the class through narrowed eyes.  When his eyes reached the Gryffindors, he sneered and appeared to be biting his tongue, no doubt to keep from asking how they'd managed to end up in the advanced class. 

"Get your cauldrons ready," he said briskly.  "We are wasting no time this year with trivial classroom instructions.  You are old enough and should," here, he looked directly at the Gryffindors, "be mature enough to know what is expected of you at this level.  If you feel that you are misinformed or do not know what is expected of you, then I assure you that a schedule change would be of great benefit."

Harry glanced at Ron and noticed that he seemed to be seriously considering the possibility.  Harry would be lying if he said he wasn't seriously considering the same thing.  Dropping Potions didn't sound like too horrible of an idea at all until Harry realized he would probably accomplish nothing but screwing himself over in the future.

"We are going to be working on the beginnings of Veritaserum today, a potion which makes it impossible the drinker to tell any falsities.  As this is a very difficult potion and requires strict and precise attention, you will be working on it with a partner.  Now pair up quickly."  Snape's instructions left no room for any questions or comments.

"Be my partner!  Please!"  Harry looked to his left and saw that Lavender had grabbed Hermione's arm and was literally begging her.  Hermione raised her eyebrows slightly but nodded slowly.


Harry looked over at Ron and saw his own feelings reflected there.  Having Hermione as a partner was a major advantage, and one of her roommates had beaten them both to her. 

"Definitely not fair," Ron muttered, looking over his shoulder to where Lavender and Hermione were now hunched over a single book, apparently looking to see what ingredients they would need. 

"If we mess this up, we're screwed," Harry observed ruefully as he reached beside his chair for his own Potions book.  "What page is it?"

Ron glanced over at the book the girls were sharing and answered, "Fourteen."

Harry flipped to page fourteen and found a list of ingredients under the title Veritaserum, Truth Potion.  "He's going to make us test this."  Harry frowned at the mere thought of having to take a Truth Potion, especially when Snape was the one testing it.  That same professor had once threatened him with Veritaserum, and the idea hadn't set any better with him then than it was now.

"I am sure that your lives are simply filled to the brim with excitement and conversation topics, what with all the big-headed things you insist on partaking in," Snape stopped in front of their desk and glared down at Harry and Ron, "but as this is my classroom, I require silence."

Harry, not trusting himself to actually meet Snape's eye, stared very hard at his book; from the corner of his eye, he could see Hermione glancing over her shoulder at them with a somewhat disapproving look and caught the quiet snicker from the other side of the room where Malfoy had paired himself up with Blaise, leaving their fellow Slytherin, Carter Donaldson, to seek out the Ravenclaws for a partner.  Snape moved on, and Harry took that opportunity to shoot Malfoy a narrowed-eyed glare, which the Slytherin returned at once.

So far, Harry had managed to not even speak to Malfoy.  Surprisingly, Malfoy hadn't sought him out to torment him, either; perhaps he knew he didn't have ammunition that would hold up against the fact that Harry had landed his father in jail not three months ago. 

Deciding that he wasn't even going to concern himself with something as pointless as Draco Malfoy right now, Harry turned his attention back to the Potions book.  Ron glanced at him and whispered that he would go and get the supplies from the cabinet where several other students had lined up.  Ron slipped out of his seat at the same time Hermione did, and they walked to the back of the room, careful not to speak to each other for fear of lost House points.  Harry glanced across the empty seats at Lavender, who honestly looked as though Potions was the last place she wanted to be.  She was twirling a strand of her long blonde hair between her fingers and staring at it as if she had never seen it before and certainly didn't spend hours upon hours brushing it.  She apparently sensed his stare and looked up to offer him a lazy half-smile. 

If Lavender Brown could get bored with her own hair, this day was definitely going to be a long one.

Ron and Hermione returned a couple of minutes later, their arms loaded with the needed ingredients.  The class worked in silence for what had to be the longest hour ever recorded in history until Snape once again spoke, his voice slicing through the quiet like a knife.

"Clean up your ingredients and store your cauldrons in this cabinet," he pointed to a large closet behind him, which Harry knew had been charmed to keep the Potions at exactly the right temperature.  "Homework is fifteen inches on the security measures taken by the Ministry to monitor the illegal uses of Veritaserum.  Dismissed."

Snape turned around and disappeared into his adjoining office amidst much protest from his pupils.  As they all finished putting away their things and storing their potions, Ron grumbled something about the amount of homework. 

"Fifteen inches?!  We won't have time to do anything else!"

"What else could you possibly have to do, Weasley?  Read the Help Wanted section of the Prophet to help your daddy find a job?"  Malfoy had followed them out the dungeon door and into the stair-lined corridors.

Harry saw Ron start to make what he was sure would be an extremely crude comment, but Hermione grabbed his elbow and shook her head, obviously relaying some silent message that Ron surprisingly seemed to interpret and obeyed.

"Don't tell me you let her tell you what to do!"  Malfoy laughed out loud as he continued to talk to the back of their heads.  "I hope you at least get something for letting her boss you, or else that's really pitiful."

"You know what, Malfoy?"  Hermione dropped Ron's elbow and stopped dead in her tracks, spinning around to look the Slytherin straight in the eye.  Harry, Ron, and Lavender, who was still sticking tightly to them, all stopped as well, turning around to see what Hermione was going to say.  "Before you start talking about other people, maybe you should reconsider what your own home life is like at the moment."

"What's that supposed to mean?"  Malfoy stared right back at her, neither of them even blinking.

"It means that unless you want other people talking about your family's problems, you shouldn't talk about theirs."

It was obvious exactly what she was referring to, but Malfoy seemed determined not to be intimidated.  He was always a lot braver in the dungeons, apparently thinking that he could get away with anything when the only teacher around was Snape.  Unfortunately, it was probably true.  "I'll talk about anything I want to talk about, and that includes you and your little boyfriends, Granger.  And if I were you, I'd keep my mouth shut because you never know what 'problems' might be in store for your family."

"You don't scare me, Malfoy," she said, not batting an eyelash, though Ron looked ready to commit murder and Harry felt ready to join him.  "I'm not afraid of you, just so you know."

"Oh, yeah?"  Malfoy raised an impossibly naturally groomed eyebrow and answered calmly.  "Maybe that's something you should reconsider."

It was at this moment that Blaise Zabini said, "Draco, let's go.  It's hot down here."  She sent a rather unflattering look at the Gryffindors, and Harry felt an inner-shudder at her glance.  Had she been a Muggle, she might have been one of the schoolyard outcasts with her tight curls of black and heavy eyelashes outlined with a thick layer of black eyeliner, her lipstick the color of blood standing out prominently against her pale, smooth skin.  As she was, though, she was strangely attractive and looked as if she hadn't even been born innocent.  She had dark eyes that obviously had the power of seduction down to an art. 

She apparently had some sort of hold over Malfoy because he followed her up the dungeon steps, turning only once to glare over his shoulder at the classmates he'd left below. 

"He's such a jerk," said Lavender, breaking the silence that the pair of Slytherins had left over them. 

Hermione shrugged one shoulder, though her eyes gave away the fact that she wasn't as okay with his comments as she liked to pretend.  "He'll get what's coming to him eventually."

Harry hoped she was right.


Mina Allycott had the longest wind of anyone in the entire world.

Ron came to this conclusion as he glanced at his watch and saw that the Head Girl had now been talking for ninety-eight minutes straight without so much as a break.  Not only was she talking and talking and talking, but she wasn't even saying anything interesting!  She was just babbling on about the upcoming patrol scheduling change, and Ron was ready to claw his eyeballs out.  He saw that he wasn't alone, either, as the rest of the sixth year Prefects seemed to be rather disinterested, too.  Even Hermione was glancing every few minutes at her watch, apparently with the hope that something more than three minutes would have passed.  Ron, while he was bored with her speech, was upset about the long meeting for other reasons as well.  For one, he hadn't even started any of his homework, but the main reason was that he was supposed to meet the rest of the Quidditch team for a meeting about the coming weekend's tryouts.  Not that it was going to be life or death if he was late because Harry was captain and he could get all the information from him, but it was still extremely annoying not to have the option to be prompt.

Finally, after another thirteen minutes of talking, Mina let them go.  Ron didn't waste any time staying around to chat and quickly told Hermione that he would see her after the Quidditch meeting before he dashed out the door and down the corridor.  As he passed the first set of stairs, though, he heard a loud commotion and knew that something major was happening in the next hall.  He thought about ignoring it since there were several other Prefects who would be passing by this very place in just a few moments.  But when he heard someone scream in what sounded like pain, he hurried in the direction of the commotion.

There was a large crowd piled into the narrow hall, and Ron shoved his way through it to the center where two first years were involved in what appeared to be a very violent fight.  His cousin, Willa, was lying flat on her back as Indira Patil straddled her and aimed what looked to be a very painful punch right into her stomach.  Another Gryffindor first year, Emily Macon, was standing a little aside from the fight and crying.  Without thinking, he rushed forward and tried to pull Indira away, but she was a lot stronger than she appeared for such a little girl, and she shrugged him off easily.  Things turned worse when Willa started fighting back and landed her fist squarely on Indira's left eye. 

"Indira!"  A female voice that Ron assumed was Padma's screeched over the noise of the crowd, and when Terry and Ernie rushed forward to help Ron break up the fight, he realized that the other Prefects had all apparently arrived.  Even with the three sixth year boys trying to pull the girls off of each other, the cause was useless, as they both seemed quite intent on still beating the shit out of each other.  In the end, it was Padma who broke up the fight.

"Indira Kaya Patil!"

Indira immediately looked up at the use of her full name and seemed to realize for the first time that they had an audience.  With the break in her concentration, Ron found it rather easy to actually lift her off of the other girl and put her in a standing position.  Padma grabbed her chin immediately and bent down to examine the bruise that was now beginning to pop up around her little sister's eye; when she found no serious damage, though, she switched her grasp to Indira's arm and lay into her, threatening her with everything from detention to expulsion to their parents' wrath.  Ron luckily looked up just in time to see Willa standing up and attempting to flee the scene.

"Don't even think about it," he warned seriously as he grabbed her collar and yanked her back.

"She hit me first!"  Willa launched into immediate defense when she realized she was going to get away.

Indira's mouth dropped open, and she turned her attention away from her older sister to launch into her own explanation.  "She called Emily a Mudblood!"

A murmur went through the crowd, and Ron glanced Emily who was now crying even harder.

Indira, though, went right on.  "And she said that she ought to go back to the trash she came from!"

Ron felt his fingers clench more tightly around Willa's collar, and he realized that he didn't quite trust himself not to murder his own cousin, so he shoved her forward at Malfoy, who was standing at the front of the crowd with a rather amused look on his face.  "She's yours."

"Are you sure?" Malfoy asked coolly.  "Because you can deal with her if you want to.  You know, since she is your family."

"She's not in my House."

"Easy to push family responsibilities off onto others, isn't it?"  Malfoy raised his eyebrows in question.

Ron was just about to tell the asshole exactly what he could do with himself when he remembered that there was a crowd of onlookers gathered around.  "Clear off," he barked at them angrily.  The crowd immediately dispersed in several directions, and Terry, Ernie, and Hannah followed them to make sure they got to where they were supposed to be going.  Soon, Ron was left alone in the corridor with only Malfoy- who still looked completely amused, Pansy- who had now taken to running her fingers soothingly through Willa's long hair, Padma- who was still holding Indira by the arm, though not as tightly, and Hermione- who had now dropped to a squatting position in front of Emily and was whispering to her quietly.

"Why would you say something idiotic like that?" Ron demanded, staring his cousin in the eye.

Willa stared back at him with her own pair of cool, green eyes and calmly answered.  "Because it's the truth."

"Who told you that?"

"Lots of people are saying it."

"Well, they're wrong," he said firmly.  "Saying that stuff- it's crap, and it's racist, and you should know better."

Willa blinked and still spoke in that same controlled way.  "We don't have the same parents."

"Lucky for you, sweetie," said Pansy primly, still stroking Willa's hair.

Ron ignored her and said, "Yeah, lucky for you because if you were my parents' kid, you'd be suffering from a lot more damages than what Indira gave you right about now."

She said nothing.

Malfoy, however, smirked and addressed Ron.  "Now, are you positive you don't want to deal with her?  Because I'm sure you know much more about her, seeing as how she is your own blood."

"She's your responsibility," Hermione said calmly, standing up and speaking for the first time.

Malfoy turned to her and said, "You sure you don't want to counsel her?  Well, you'll probably have your hands full enough with that one."  He nodded at Emily.  "After all, you Mudbloods have to stick together these days, you know."

Ron felt the anger boil up inside of him, and without thinking he reached for his wand and aimed it right at Malfoy's pointed little face, trying to decide as quickly as possible which hex would cause the most damage.  Hermione, though, shook her head sharply.

"Don't.  He's not worth it."  She nodded her head at Padma, "Let's go."

Hermione and Padma walked away with Indira and Emily, and after a moment more of glaring, Ron finally put his wand away and hurried after them, leaving Malfoy and Pansy to deal with Willa.  He caught up with the girls and saw that they were whispering in quiet voices.

"Willa's not going to get in trouble," he said knowingly.  "Malfoy'll probably give her a reward for saying what she did."

Hermione shrugged, a sullen expression covering her features.  "We still have to punish Indira."

"That's not fair, is it?"  He looked up a bit to where the younger girls were walking, Indira with her arm protectively around Emily's shoulder. 

"Yes, it is," Padma said with a nod.  "Indi knows not to fight, and she won't learn her lesson if she gets away with it."

"But we can let it slide just once, can't we?"  Ron looked at his fellow Prefects and saw that neither of them seemed to share his sentiment.  "I mean, I know she was fighting, but she had a good reason."

"Fighting's not acceptable no matter what the reason," Hermione said, looking at him with dark eyes.  "And you weren't setting a very good example by trying to hex Malfoy."

"He called you a Mudblood!"

"And he has a thousand times before and he's not going to stop any time soon."  Hermione rolled her eyes.  "You pulling out your wand every time he says something isn't going to solve anything."

"He shouldn't get away with saying things like that!"  Ron couldn't understand why Hermione didn't seem more bothered.

She stopped walking, though, and looked at him squarely.  "Ron, it's my problem.  Not yours."

He opened his mouth to protest that if someone was being rude to her that it most definitely was his problem.  "But-"

"But nothing."  She lowered her voice and looked at him rather pleadingly.  "Just please don't let him get to you.  I'm not afraid of Malfoy."

He nodded rather reluctantly, knowing that she wouldn't take any argument.  "I know you're not."

She halfway smiled at him and then glanced up the hallway to where the first years had gotten a rather good lead on them.  "What do you want to do about Indira?  We should go talk to her."

For some reason, the mention of what they should do caused him to look at his watch and he cursed under his breath.  "I'm supposed to be at Quidditch."  Hermione sighed.  Ron looked up at her apologetically.  "I'm really sorry, but it's important."

"Fine, Ron," she said with a dismissive shrug. 

He felt rotten for bailing out on her, and he leaned down to kiss her quickly on the cheek, not even caring that Padma Patil was standing just a few feet away.  "I'm sorry," he said even more quietly.  "I'll be back as soon as I can, and then we can take care of it.  I promise."

Hermione still looked a bit reluctant but nodded nonetheless.  "Okay."

"I'll see you soon then."

She nodded again.  "Yeah, okay."

He offered her a smile and was grateful when she returned it. 

Without anything more said, he turned away and hurried for the Quidditch pitch, thankful that Hermione didn't hate him for having someone as rotten as Willa related to him.  He was also thankful that Willa was in Slytherin because he couldn't quite see how he would be able to handle her without strangling her if she was his responsibility.

Indira Patil might have been a bit rough around the edges, but at least she knew right from wrong.


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