Warnings/Disclaimer: I own nothing pertaining to Harry Potter. Please read the AN at the end of the chapter.
Before the group had spent more than a few minutes walking through Hogwart's lower levels, Kaze was grateful for their guiding prefects. On his own he knew he would have been hopelessly lost, been late to class, and then (according to the prefects, anyway) earned the undying enmity of the dread Professor Snape. The door was unlocked, and the room on the other side was lit only by the light of torches and chillingly dank, with beads of moisture on its stone walls. Kaze knew the dimness of the light was intentional, as was the temperature – so many potions were heat and light sensitive – but he wrinkled his nose at the dampness of the room. He would bet quite a few potions didn't turn out as well as they could have due to picking up even the trace amounts of water in the air. Unless the potions had been designed with that water in mind…
Kaze considered what he knew of his world's technological levels of the past few centuries, and the seeming resistance to modernization that wizards had, and concluded that yes, most if not all of the potions they were likely to be brewing had been invented in laboratories much like this one. That was a relief, as another part of his mind had been debating where to sit: the side of the room, where the condensation was strongest and might get into his potions, or the dangerous middle, where his potions would be safe but his person in peril from potential explosions from all sides.
A pair of Ravenclaws had already taken the two-person desk in the middle and front of the class, leaving his targeted seat open. The mage settled into the desk closest to the door- all the better to evacuate from, should a potion go disastrously wrong. It carried its own risks, of course, such as the door opening and letting in a draft at the wrong moment while brewing, but in all he thought Master Taka would approve of his foresight.
The rest of the Ravenclaws soon trickled in, and the room was filled with a quiet chatter. Kaze's desk partner turned out to be a Ravenclaw girl with dusky skin and her long black hair in a braid, who had given him a nod and a tiny smile as she sat down. Kaze had expected another Hufflepuff to partner him, but to his dismay they still seemed too much in awe of him to approach that closely. Even those who, the night before, had seemed to have no idea about the whole 'Boy-Who-Lived' business were now staring at him, some less covertly than others.
The professor arrived last of all, some minutes later, and the room immediately fell silent. He swept into the room with billowing robes, sending the door crashing noisily into the wall, and all with a look of profound irritation on his vulpine face. As he passed by he spared Kaze a venomous glance, but whether that was for Kaze on his own merits, or simply because he was the closest to the door and therefore the first student that Professor Snape saw, the young mage was unsure. He kept his own face calmly expectant, as befitted a student, and the professor looked away as he stepped behind his large, rather plain desk.
"When I call your name, you will respond by saying 'present' and nothing else," he said coldly, unrolling a scroll he'd produced from inside the desk. "Is that understood?"
There was a ragged chorus of "yes, sir" from around the room. Neither Ravenclaws nor Hufflepuffs were the kind of people who felt the innate need to rebel against authority, and Professor Snape was just one of those persons that demanded you tack on a 'sir' to the end of your sentences.
Severus scanned through the scroll of names, looking for any of interest. One of the Ravenclaws was the son of a man he knew to have been a Death Eater killed in a raid, and the Hufflepuffs included the niece of the current Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Not to mention, of course, the famous Boy-Who-Lived.
If the class had been his first year Slytherins and Gryffindors with those ingredients, he would have expected explosions, melted cauldrons, and perhaps even outright fistfights within the first half hour. Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, however, never seemed to get past melted cauldrons. On particularly migraine-inducing days, he was often grateful for that.
For the most part roll-call went smoothly. When he came to Potter's name, though, Severus couldn't resisting commenting. "Harry Potter. Our new… celebrity," he said, not bothering to hide his irritation with the whole idea. The boy didn't seem angry, but instead grimaced in response, looking like he rather agreed with the sentiment.
Severus could see no reason to linger over the moment, and moved on down the list. None of the brats had managed to get themselves lost on the first day, and he rolled the scroll back up with a satisfied nod. "The instructions are on the board," he stated, waving his wand to remove the charm hiding the words. "Follow them precisely, or at best you will end up in the hospital wing. The basic ingredients come from your own kits. Any you do not have, you will retrieve from the ingredient cupboard before beginning your potion." The wizard glanced around. "Well? Why aren't you getting started?"
There was a general rush towards the cupboard for the two nonstandard ingredients in a Boil-Reducing potion, and Severus waited until all students had reseated themselves and kindled the flames beneath their cauldrons before he started around the classroom. "The flame needs to be hotter," he barked next to a Ravenclaw. "Don't just toss the ingredients in like a complete dunderhead, add them gently!" he ordered a Hufflepuff. Only after ten minutes into brewing did Severus allow himself to observe the only student he was truly interested in.
To his surprise, Potter was actually brewing an acceptable potion. Better than acceptable even, perhaps, though it was obvious that he was unused to working with a partner. He and the Ravenclaw girl were practically stumbling over each other as they moved about their tasks, and even as Severus watched, both tried to reach for the stewed horn slugs and nearly dumped the entire batch on the floor. Potter grabbed for the cutting board just in time to prevent a fairly disgusting mess.
"Watch it, Potter," Severus growled, stalking past him towards his desk. Well, now he at least knew something about the mysterious 'Master Taka'. Given the boy's rather apparent lack of socialization, the wizard doubted that he'd been taught by anyone other than his guardian. And since Potter had obviously brewed potions before, under at least decent tutelage, Taka was likely a potions master in his own right.
Nearly any wizard could make a potion, but few went so far as to obtain a mastery of the art. Severus could have sworn he knew ever potions master in the world worth knowing, which made it all the more strange that he'd never heard of the man. Frowning, he settled himself behind his desk to ponder the question, just as the door flew open.
Students yelped as the sudden draft from the open door sent their flames a-sputtering, several attempting to do damage control with their wands. A corner of Severus's mind noticed that Potter's flame stabilized after a moment even though the boy had only seemed to purse his lips and blow on it, or perhaps whistle; the greater part of the wizard was focusing on the two men just entering his lab.
"And this is our potions laboratory, run by our very own Professor Snape," the Headmaster was announcing cheerfully. "Youngest potions master in a good hundred years, we're quite lucky to have him teaching with us."
Severus could care less what Albus was saying, though he felt a rush of pride as always in what he felt to be his one true achievement. Rather, he was watching the blank-faced man beside him, studying him just as Taka was studying his lab with a sharp eye.
So… this was Potter's master…
Important A/N: There is a very important poll up on my profile that will influence the fate of Melody. Basically, I've been wanting for some time now to not just edit, but completely revise this story. It was my first real story, and I've learned a great deal about writing since starting it, and gone through even more phases. I am now a bit embarrassed about my early Japanese fangirl-ism, and I'd like to rewrite Melody to eliminate as much of that as I can, as well as flesh the story out and make it more realistic. Don't worry, though, I'd still keep as much of the tone as I could. There are three options: continue the story as it is (in which case updates will likely be as few and far between as you're, sadly, used to), delete this story and post the new version once it's written, or leave this story up while posting the new version, in which case this story might still get the occasional short update, such as this chapter (thank my sister for bringing up this option). So far, I'm leaning towards the last choice.
In other news, my first exhausting 17-credit semester is over (holy crap, I pulled a B in Organic Chemistry!), with another one planned in fall, and a few classes over the summer. If all goes well, my Bachelor's will be finished in spring. Tomorrow I take off for a couple of weeks in Virginia with my mother; hopefully I'll get some writing done on the many, myriad chapters I've got bits and pieces on. I was also digging through some of my older computer files and discovered a half-finished Microsoft Paint version of the Citadel I'd been working on years ago. It wasn't quite as bad as I'd remembered, so I put the last touches on it, and there's a link to it at the end of my profile.
My thanks to everyone who reviewed.
14 May 2009