Chapter 5. Assyrian Alert Seeds
November brought more than just harsh wind and cold temperatures. Tension started to rise between the houses more so than before. It was quite common, and even expected, to see dueling in the hallways between some of the older students. Quidditch season had begun.
The first Quidditch match was planned for the third weekend of November, and as a result Albus got to talk to his brother even less than he usually would have. It was already difficult communicating with him when their houses were separate, but with the constant onslaught of practices scheduled, they were reduced to merely giving eachother encouraging smiles (or smirks, in James' case) in the hallway.
Albus was going to support Slytherin, of course, but he was all but guaranteed that they were going to lose. He had sat in the stands to watch Slytherin practice with Morrison three times in a row-his friend seemed to enjoy this very much-and had noticed one thing in particular; his house team was not very good. Compared to the way his brother flew, the Chasers were terrible, and Albus didn't expect the Keeper to do much better, considering he would frequently get scored on by them.
His classes, he was happy to note, were doing much better and were now much more interesting. Professor Handit had begun teaching them about improvising spells, and using Latin etymology to create the proper incantations. To demonstrate, he used mobilucandlus to fling the candles in the room against the walls, and taught the children to experiment with things like mobiluseatus to move their chairs, or mobilutextis to move their books.
Albus quickly learned to love his Potions lessons above all of his other ones though. Professor Darvy had the uncanny ability to take something as basic and boring as stirring a potion and make it entertaining and enjoyable. His last two lessons had comprised of brewing potions with a blindfold on (meant to make you more aware of the ingredients you were using, as you needed to feel them in your hands first) and brewing a potion with his partner-Morrison-without speaking. They had to communicate only with hand signs, which was extremely difficult considering Morrison had no idea how to identify the flailing of Albus' arms when he went to stir gurdyroot with dried turnips, resulting in a melted cauldron.
The Thursday before the Quidditch game was met with very little enthusiasm from the students. They had Herbology that morning, and if their next lesson was anything similar to their previous few, they would be doing nothing but digging holes and sprinkling water on the soil to ensure that any unexpected plant life would have a place to grow. They were met with much surprise however, when they saw Professor Longbottom waving to them from Greenhouse Number Two.
The students exchanged looks of glee at the sudden change in scenery. Greenhouse Number 2 was meant to house plants that needed the most sunlight, and as such were also the most interesting. They practically skipped into the sunlit room, muttering about what Professor Longbottom could have up his sleeve.
As soon as they had all entered, Professor Longbottom clapped his hands together and gave an excited squeal of delight.
"Okay okay, I know you all enjoy planting the foundations for new plants -"
Many students raised their eyes at this, while others simply smirked.
"- but I've decided to do something a tad bit different. A bit of a year long project actually."
At this, the students stopped rolling their eyes and turned to their neighbor to see if they had heard about this sudden change in their class lessons. Everyone appeared to be equally curious however, and they all turned their heads back to Professor Longbottom when he began speaking again.
"We will be growing Assyrian Alert Seeds, class. And as such, we will need to nurture their parents, Assyrian Alert Plants. Can anyone tell me what they know about them?"
Naturally, Rose's hand shot up first, quickly followed by Mirra. The students who had class with them were used to this by now. The order switched occasionally, but you could be guaranteed that either Rose or Mirra could answer whatever question had been asked.
"Yes, Rose?" Professor Longbottom called out in anticipation, no doubt preparing to hand out ten points to Gryffindor.
"Assyrian Alert Plants are not just located in Assyria, but are named so because that was where they were first discovered. They can, in fact, grow anywhere provided they are given the proper treatment. The Alert Plants are very ferocious, and will frequently snap at people with their strong jaws, as well as fling their vines at them, which can leave deep scarring. They have several important uses though -"
Albus and the other Slytherins groaned. Once Rose got started, she could recite an entire textbook.
"- their seeds are digestible, and can wake up anyone from even the deepest of sleeps, including the Drought of Living Death. Also, if consumed while awake, the seeds can keep you awake for up to three days depending on their potentcy."
"Excellent Rose! Take twenty points to Gryffindor!"
Rose gave a tiny giggle as two of her friends patted her on the back. Albus bit his tongue to stop himself from saying anything. His dad had been right, he simply had to be the bigger student and let her be.
"The Assyrian Alert Plants are extremely rare, and we are quite lucky to have the few that we do here at Hogwarts. I originally had not planned on even using them at all, but Miss Tunnels here-" he nodded his head towards Mirra "-was very interested in them. And as I seem to be running out of lesson plans very quickly, I decided that if my students enjoy these things, I might as well make a project out of it."
He smiled at them and went to the back of the greenhouse, coming back a minute later with a tray supporting what looked like seven or eight of the most unusual plants Albus had ever seen.
They were a bright red color, comprised entirely of a stem with vines sticking out from them and a large circular head that had massive yellow teeth in it. The vines and stems themselves were not moving, but the heads were bobbing around, making screeching noises at the air around them. On more than once occasion, one of them would accidently snap at another one, resulting in a very vicious fight that involved them attempting to bite the vines off of one another.
"Okay now, we don't have that many plants, so we need to divide into groups of three. Pick your partners carefully, you'll need to stay with them for most of the year. We will be plucking off the dead vines to allow new ones to grow, full of vitality and ready to defend themselves. They will need to be watered and fed-I have some dead ladybugs here-and we will also need to ensure that they are given enough attention. You will need to raise this plant during your next few lessons, and hopefully, by late May or early June, they should have provided us with plenty of Alert Seeds, so we can spend the entire summer awake and full of life!"
Despite Professor Longbottom's enthusiasm about the project, most of the class looked like they would rather sleep through their entire summer then nurture a plant that was sure to strangle them and bite at their fingers every time they went to feed it.
Albus partnered himself with Morrison and Denise, the girl who had told them about the bulletin board weeks ago. She was very pleasant, and was more than willing to do the majority of the work. Albus was quick to note that this may not have been out of genuine kindness though. She had only begun doing most of the work when she realized that Albus and Morrison were completely clueless about how to take care of a plant, especially one that was willing to battle them every step of the way.
It was tiring, aggravating, and painful. Though Denise had made it quite clear that she would do all of the feeding, she gave Albus and Morrison simple instructions-break off the dead vines. This proved to be much more challenging than they had originally believed, as the newer vines were full of energy, and did their best to wrap themselves around Albus' and Morrison's arms.
"Ahrrg! Get it off me!" he heard Morrison yell from behind him.
He turned just in time to see two vines latch onto Morrison's arms and try to pull him towards its slobbering mouth.
There was yelling from the students around him as he frantically tried to pry the vines off of him. Albus searched through his head for a spell that would help in this situation.
"Help me!" Morrison yelled.
Albus saw Neville pull out his wand from the corner of his eye, but he was quicker. "Diffindo" he shouted, aiming his wand at the vines.
The vines were cut clear in half, and Morrison managed to pull them off of his arms, breathing heavily as he did so.
"Thanks mate" he said with a relieved grin.
"Good job Albus, way to look out for each other. Take ten points to Slytherin" Neville said, smiling.
The rest of the class went by uneventfully, and by the time it was over the class was more than ready to depart to lunch, arms red from where they had been grabbed and mending the cuts from the Alert Plant's ferocious jaws.
"Remind me to thank that Mirra girl next time I see her" Morrison spat bitterly as they walked across the grounds. "It was her insane idea to have Neville teach us about those things. And now we have to deal with them every Herbology lesson!" he added scathingly.
"Yeah" Albus replied, but he wasn't really listening. For some inexplicable reason, he had just remembered that he had never checked the room that his dad had mentioned to him. "I'll catch up with you later" he told him.
"You're gonna skive off lunch?" Morrison asked him.
"Yeah. Not very hungry" he lied. He didn't want anyone to know about this supposed room before he did, even his friends.
He turned left after entering the Great Hall and practically ran up the staircases. He had just reached the seventh floor when there was a large thud and he was knocked back onto the stairs. He had bumped into someone. Why do I always do that, he thought to himself. He found himself being helped up, and ended up staring into the face of Scorpius Malfoy.
"Oh- erm, sorry" he said uncomfortably. He shared a dormitory with this boy, but had never even spoken to him. In fact, now that he thought about it, he didn't recall ever seeing Scorpius talk to anyone. For a split second, he contemplated asking him why that was, or at least inquiring about why he wasn't at lunch with the other students, but before he could speak Scorpius had turned on his heel and began walking down the hallway without making a comment.
Deciding it was best not to look like he was following him, Albus turned and went in the other direction, deciding to come back in a few minutes. He aimlessly walked around, staring at the portraits and marveling at the way they interacted with each other; he was sure that he would never get used to it.
After about ten minutes, he made his way back towards the hallway with the Barnabus the Barmy tapestry, walking down it until the tapestry was just inches away. The coast was clear. No one was there. He could only assume that the other students were still at lunch, and hoped that he would have enough time to experiment. Excitement flooding through him, he closed his eyes and began pacing back and forth in front of the opposite wall, thinking to himself, I need a place to think and be alone. A place were I can just relax and think to myself.
He opened his eyes after several minutes of pacing, and stared towards the wall. There it was...an empty stretch of wall. He wiped his eyes with his hands and kept staring. There was no door. He was sure he had read the letter correctly.
He tried again and again. For almost twenty minutes he paced back and forth in front of the wall, becoming more and more agitated each time. Then of course, the truth dawned on him. The room isn't there anymore. His dad had been at this school twenty years ago, and the Battle of Hogwarts had completely destroyed certain parts of the school. The room his dad told him about had either been destroyed completely or moved somewhere else. And in a castle this big, it would be impossible to find.
Disappointed, he turned and went down the stairs, meeting with the students who had just gotten out of lunch.
"Where'd you go?" Morrison asked him.
"Absolutely nowhere" Albus answered truthfully.
"You ready for Defense Against the Dark Arts?"
"No" he said with a small frown. "I'm hungry."
The weekend came with an air of anticipation far bigger than anything Albus had so far experienced at Hogwarts. The air was not only chilly on Saturday morning, but it was rainy as well. Albus walked down to breakfast with Morrison shorty before noon just in time to see the Slytherin table applaud as their team made its way towards the pitch. He could see Atticus, the Slytherin seeker, smiling as he led them away. Seconds after, the Gryffindor team arrived to thunderous applause roughly three times the size of the one given to the Slytherins. For a second, Albus wondered why, before realizing that both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had joined in. That's nice, Albus thought bitterly.
They went down to the stands at noon, tucking themselves into their cloaks snuggly to avoid the full force of the rain; it was now pouring. Albus took a seat in the middle of the stands with Bartleby and Morrison, the latter of whom had wanted to go to the top row. Albus' strongly rejected this however, his fear of heights told him that he wanted to be as close to the ground as possible. In the end, they had decided to compromise, sitting in what Albus was sure was exactly the middle row of the stands.
The Slytherin team flew out first, with their house clapping loudly as they did so.
"That's my sister! That's my sister!" Bartleby called out, pointing at a green and silver blur streaking across the field.
The Gryffindor team flew out next, the applause similar to how it had been in the Great Hall-overwhelming. The loud clapping and powerful rain even managed to drown out the booing from the Slytherins.
The team captains, Cooper and a Slytherin sixth year whom Albus was pretty sure was named Frederick, met in the center of the pitch to shake hands. Mr. Wood, the flying teacher and referee, demanded that they shake hands. Even through the rain, Albus could see them glaring at each other with contempt as they did so, squeezing their hands so tightly it looked as though they were trying to crush each other's fingers.
"He used to play for Puddlemore United" Morrison yelled to him over the rain as Mr. Wood released the snitch and blew his whistle.
Broomsticks flew into the air and the commentary began. Apparently, as it was a Hufflepuff commentating, the remarks made were supposed to be impartial. Albus doubted this would be the case though. He had the strange feeling that the Slytherins were going to be made out as the enemy, regardless of who was commentating.
"And the game begins!" said a magically magnified voice. "Gryffindor quickly takes possession of the Quaffle, now they're passing it to one another-the Slytherin Beater aims and connects quickly, that looked like it was D'Angelo-Bludger hits its target-quaffle gets dropped into Slytherin's possession-no wait, it was stolen first-who is- it's Potter, new Chaser and he is fast!"
Ten seconds later, cheers erupted from three of the four stands. James had scored with relative ease.
"Gryffindor takes the quick lead, it's ten to nil. That was James Potter scoring, son of the legendary Harry Potter, and-what's this? He has the Quaffle again! Speeding towards the Slytherin Keeper, Thompson, and-yes, he's scored again!"
More cheers from the Gryffindors. Albus groaned. He was happy for his brother of course, but Slytherin was down twenty to nothing barely a minute into the game.
Albus thought he would get used to the loud cheering from the surrounding stands, but he didn't. Gryffindor scored five more times within the next ten minutes, three of which had come from his brother. Slytherin had only managed to take a single shot, which had been blocked easily by Cooper.
"And Potter has the Quaffle again, drops it to Finnigan-who dodges a Bludger-and yes! They've managed to score again! Fantastic flying! From the better team anyways...Slytherin should quit now."
This remark was met with angry yelling and boos from the Slytherins, but it was drowned out by a sudden intake of breath from the remainder of the crowd. Atticus had went into a sharp dive in the corner of the pitch. He had seen the snitch.
"And Sanders has seen the snitch! He is gaining speed fast! Aim a Bludger at him-someone-anyone!"
The commentators wish came true-a well aimed Bludger from Roger Werth had smacked into Atticus' shoulder, knocking him off course. There was a large groan from the Slytherins, Albus especially. Not just at the fumbled chance, but he wanted the game to be over. His team was getting crushed and he was getting soaked.
Albus wasn't as lucky as the commentator though, as the game proceeded for twenty more minutes of Gryffindor cheering (with some minor applause from the Slytherins) before the Gryffindor Seeker caught the Snitch. They had been absolutely crushed, the end result being three hundred and twenty to thirty. James had left the pitch to much applause, having been responsible for eleven of the goals made. Albus felt his stomach churn as this happened-though he wasn't quite sure why.
The Slytherins made there way back to the common room both disheartened and disgruntled. Albus curled himself up in a large chair by the fire and watched Morrison and some of the other students play chess. After a few games, his eyelids became heavy. His wet clothes had been dried by the fire, and he found himself unusually warm as he tuned in and out of the chess games...
He was back at the Quidditch Pitch, only this time he was standing in the center of it, a broomstick slung over his shoulder as the crowd around him cheered.
He slid himself onto his broom and began levitating a few feet off the ground. The spectators went wild as he circled the pitch. He could see Morrison clapping from up above-next to him was Rose, and for some inexplicable reason, Scorpius Malfoy. They were clapping and whistling more so than anyone else. He heard his name called over the loudspeaker, not from the Hufflepuff voice, but from a voice he recognized.
"Albus Potter! Quidditch Captain and winner of the Quidditch Cup! Look at this kid fly!" James' voice rang out from the skies above. He began waving at the spectators, who were now cheering his name.
"Albus! Albus! Albus!" the crowd chorused.
"Albus! Albus wake up!"
"Wha'? Whassamatter?" he heard himself groan.
He opened his eyes and saw Morrison standing next to him, Bartleby and Denise in the background sniggering.
"You fell asleep while we were playing chess. You started waving your arms around, and you almost took out my eye you great prat!" he said.
"I - I what?"
"We're going back to the Great Hall for dinner, you coming?"
"How long was I out?" he asked, so groggy that he hadn't even comprehended Morrison's question.
"A few hours. But you didn't start flailing your arms around until a few minutes ago. You comin' down to dinner or what?"
"Erm...no. I think I'll skip it. I'm really tired. Im gonna' go lay down for a bit" he told him, wiping his eyes.
"Want me to bring you back something?" Morrison asked.
"No, I'm okay" he said as he started up the steps.
He entered the dormitory and stretched himself out on his bed. What was that about? He knew why he had dreamt of Rose and Scorpius. Though he ignored her, he still wanted to be friends with his cousin, and he had just had an uncomfortable moment with Scorpius days ago. But why was James calling out his name? Shouldn't it be the other way around? He wasn't jealous, he knew that much. Why would he want all that attention and popularity? He didn't care what other people thought of him. Well that's not true, he told himself. I obviously care what Rose thinks.
He tucked himself under his warm blanket and put the pillow over his head, thoughts racing, wishing now more than ever that he had a secret room he could go to and think to himself.