An: I have taken some liberty with the timetable and class schedules, as well as when certain topics were taught for the sake of the story line. Some of the potions knowledge I also made up, any glaring errors please let me know. This chapter includes Snape for the first time, he may be OOC but this is how the character is speaking to me in my head. Hope you like
Over the next few days Harry and his friends had settled into a routine that seemed to suit everyone. Due to the light schedule they had as first years, they were finished by 1600 everyday. Harry, Hermione and Neville all wanted to spend time in the library researching their homework early before many of the older students swamped the books. They could always access the books in the Ravenclaw library in the evening. Joined the first day by the other Ravenclaws it started a tradition, followed at first because it was something to do, it was soon discovered that many hands make light work. There was always someone who knew the subject best who could help the others if they were having problems. Neville for example, was discovered to be a genius at Herbology, even helping some of the older years on occasion. Since they all had the same assignments searching the books took very little time and doing this allowed for more time that could be devoted to writing the actual assignment.
By doing most of the research and writing before dinner, it left the hour afterwards for practical work. After three days this time was already becoming known as 'firsties practise' among the older years. Pleased that the new Ravenclaws were so enthusiastic and had chosen a time convenient for everyone, many started dropping by or helping some students one on one. What had started as helping the first years, quickly became a revision session for those helping. By reviewing the material in this way, they were reminding themselves of the material they had studied so long ago, thought they knew, and then realised how much they had actually forgotten.
On Thursday morning the first years were sleepy and slow to start. The night before they had had their first astronomy practical at midnight. Wrapped up warm they were instructed in the use of their telescope to find particular stars and were shown where the constellations they had memorised for homework lived in the nights sky. They shared the class with the Gryffindors, the only class they were together, apart from History which had all four houses.
An excitable bunch, though somewhat subdued due to the time, they seemed pretty friendly though rather scattered and didn't apply themselves as the Ravenclaws did. It was rather obvious that a few of them hadn't prepared or even attempted their homework, a capital offense in the Ravenclaws mind. As astronomy was rather an individual class it didn't bother Harry as much as it would have, though he could see Hermione's displeasure at being placed next to the red headed boy who Harry remembered from the train station and before the sorting ceremony. Ron Weasley if Harry remember correctly, and he was not very subtlety trying to copy her work. A calming hand on her arm from Harry, and the moving of her worksheets to the other side of her telescope prevented anything said, with only her pursed lips and small frown showing her thoughts on the matter.
Neville had never had much interaction with other children of his own age. From what Harry could tell his Grandmother was rather overprotective if not a little cloying. Harry and Hermione on the other hand had had many varied experiences with their peers, very few of them positive. Both had made a vow individually, and together, that Hogwarts were going to be different. As a start both were going out of their way to make friends and avoid disagreements, pointing out that the Gryffindor was unprepared for class and now cheating would probably not go down well with the others. Neither knew the longstanding effects of this decision.
Because of the late night and a luckily late first class on the following morning, most of the Ravenclaws slept in until Charms at midday. Harry however was still unused to regular meal times and late mornings sleeping in. He did however make a concession for Neville, and so the three of them went down for 0850 for the last part of breakfast followed by a leisurely morning reading ahead for their first potions lesson that afternoon, all other work done they didn't have much else to do.
Harry had been looking forward to all of his classes but most especially Potions. He had always been interested in the sciences and Potions seemed the closest he would get at Hogwarts. Another thing in its favour was that it closely resembled cooking, one of Harry's favourite chores at the Dursleys as they always left him alone, because god forbid Dudley had to wait for food.
Harry shook his head to get the images out of his head. He was away from there, for good, if he had any say in it at all, and he didn't need to dwell on bad thoughts when he needed to concentrate. Harry pulled One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi and Magical Drafts and Potions towards him. He wanted to check that he had at remembered the boil cure potion that the older Ravenclaws had said that Snape liked to start the new first years on. Perhaps they could quiz each other at lunch, test each other's knowledge. For some reason he really wanted to make a good impression.
Potions Master Professor Severus Snape was Head of Slytherin House, Potions Professor of Hogwarts School and Witchcraft and Wizardry, and bane to all Gryffindors. Especially those with the last name Potter, except ... Potter wasn't a Gryffindor. And now all his prejudices and all his preconceptions of the messy haired brat that had entered the Great Hall, were trying to settle on a Ravenclaw.
Even so, after inheriting his sire's looks to the point they could be clones, there was no way that this Potter would be anything but brash, loud and disrespectful to figures of authority. Bullying disguised in the form of high jinks and attention seeking behaviour. And yet, after a few days of determined observation on his part (he was determined to have proof this time), he found a quiet, hard working, respectful student. Friendly with everyone, no reports of fights, arguments or even slight disagreements Potter seemed determined to prove him wrong.
As a last ditch effort Severus tried to find fault in Potter by his house. The Sorting Hat obviously had no choice to put him in Ravenclaw. A disloyal coward with no cunning, subtlety or ambition. He would probably rest on his laurels and scrape through his classes, everyone making excuse for boy wonder. Much to his consternation, all reports so far had been of a diligent student, ahead in his studies, ready to answer questions (correctly), and thoroughly researched and thought out homework. It was only the first week, but with years of experience of teaching he knew that this wasn't a one off. The boy spent his free time in the library and even made sure to add lots of vegetables to his meals, and had fruit for dessert most days, if only his Slytherins were so well behaved.
Like his father, Harry Potter seemed destined to annoy the hell out of Snape. What was he to do when the boy failed to meet any expectation of the spoilt, misbehaving Boy-Who-Lived and instead seemed to embody the role of the perfect student. Perhaps some god would find it fit that he would be awful at potions, anything so that he wasn't as perfect as he seemed to be.
Potions classes were taken down in the dungeons. The first year Ravenclaws had been joined by those in Hufflepuff on exiting the Great Hall after lunch. The Puffs had soon deduced that they much more likely to get to class on time and without getting lost, by following the blue trimmed students. As they made their way down the stairs to the right floor the walls became sparse of paintings and more filled with heavy tapestries, probably to try and combat the cold, as ineffective as it was. Harry pulled his robes closer to him and was thankful for the charms that were keeping him somewhat warm, some of his peers didn't seem so lucky.
The door to the potions classroom was open and taking the lead, Harry, after poking his head in and determining that with no teacher and the door open they should enter, headed to one of the benches at the front of the class that was positioned for easy observation of the blackboard. Setting his cauldron, ingredients kit and books on the table he dug into his bag for his folder, pens and a fresh pad of lined paper. Professors Snape's temper was legendary and Harry was unsure if he should be pushing his luck. However none of the other Professors had said anything and Professor McGonagall had even complemented him on how organised and contained the process was, no more piles of rolled up parchment spilling everywhere.
A sharp bang and the door slammed shut. Harry looked up as the Professor stalked to the front of the classroom. He had shoulder length somewhat greasy black hair, a hooked nose and sharp intense looking black eyes that surveyed the class as if he found them lacking. Harry couldn't be sure but he thought those eyes skipped him rather more quickly.
After a moment of silence he began speaking in a strong but quiet voice. Like Professor McGonagall and Flitwick he seemed to just need to speak to hold the class' attention, no one dared to speak, or move.
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art that is potion making," he began. "As there is little wand use 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."
More silence followed this little speech. Harry quickly glanced at Neville who sat to one side of him and saw a determined look appear on his face. Hermione seated next to Su Li at the next table, seemed quivering with energy, almost bursting to get started.
"Longbottom," said Snape suddenly, "what is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?"
"They are two different parts of the same plant sir, also known as aconite." Seeing the pleased look on Snape's face he continued with more confidence. "Though generally all three names are used, in potions wolfsbane is the dried leaves of the plant where as monkshood are the roots."
"Correct." A nod, and after surveying the room he settled on the table next to Harry. "Granger, what can you tell me about bezoars?"
"Found in the stomach of magical breeds of goats, they are a stone roughly the size of walnuts they can cure a person from most poisons if ingested. When added in potions its magical properties allow it to neutralise some volatile ingredients."
Hermione said this in a breathless voice, the words spilling out. At least she had waited to be called upon. He knew her impatience when others took their time in answering what seemed to her simple questions. The Professor smirked but instead of a nasty comment that Harry had been expecting, he turned to one of the Hufflepuffs.
"Bones, what would result from an infusion of asphodel and wormwood?"
There was a tense pause and Harry hoped she knew. The lesson was going much better than Harry had expected from the rumours that he had heard. Apparently the Hufflepuffs had also heard the same stories and decided to come prepared.
"Asphodel and wormwood are most commonly used in sleeping draughts. So ... an infusion ... would make it more powerful. Draught of Living Death?"
It was more of a question than an answer but Snape seemed satisfied. Another nod and his gaze settled on a table at the back of the classroom which caused some shifting in seats. A quick glance at the roll call and "Finch-Fletchley, name three ingredients of the boil cure potion."
Another pause and then Justin's voice floated forward. "Nettles - pre-dried, snake fangs and ... horned slugs." Quite a few people let out a breath of relief.
"Potter." Suddenly tense, Harry locked eyes with the potions master. Praying that he was asked something he had studied. "At what point is the Boil Cure potion most volatile?" Green stared into bottomless black. Without knowing he did, Harry answered.
"At the cooling stage sir. The potion must be removed from the heat and allowed to cool after the second set of ten stirs counter clockwise. This is to ensure no reaction between the heated mixture and the acid nature of the porcupine quills." A period of silence ensued. Black eyes bored into green. The moment was broken when Snape looked away and addressed the rest of the class.
"I'm glad that you seem to have prepared well enough. Today as you probably already guessed, you will be brewing the Boil Cure potion in pairs. Your homework, if successful, will be a ten inch essay on said potion, its development, uses and limitations. If you are not successful it will include another ten inches on the proper procedure and where you went wrong." A glare was sent around the class telling them of how unimpressed he would be if they made him mark more work.
"The instructions are on the board," a wave of his wand and the instructions were replicated from the text book in a neat cursive script. "Ask," he almost growled, "if you are unsure on the proper method of preparing ingredients or stirring. Begin."
Rustling and murmured conversation followed. Harry set up his cauldron and opened his text book at the correct page while Neville organised the ingredients needed. They divided the ingredients between them and for five minutes they were busy with chopping, crushing and stewing. Once the water base was at the correct temperature Harry added the first ingredients and started the stirring while Neville continued the prep work.
At this point the professor started wandering amongst the tables, seemingly gliding through the billowing steam produced from the numerous cauldrons. A quiet comment here and a nod there was the extent of his involvement in the process, even so, Harry noted Neville's hands start to shake as he moved in their direction.
"Neville," he murmured, "remind me. What are the properties of dried nettles compared with fresh ones?" Neville looked at him strangely. Harry couldn't blame him, it was one of the questions that he had answered during the impromptu potions quiz they had at lunch. Harry continued to look enquiringly at Neville whilst still keeping an eye on the potion. Soon it would be time to add the snake fangs.
"Well... potency is the main difference...um" Harry nodded encouragingly. "If you grow the plant with the intention of drying them then there are a few things you can do to increase it as well..." Harry kept listening to Neville as he continued speaking, expanding on a subject he was most passionate and knowledgeable in. He added the snake fangs one by one and then took up stirring again. It was all information he knew, and that they had discussed before, but the most important point was, Neville's hands were now steady as he expertly prepared the porcupine quills.
Towards the end of the lesson when Harry's and Neville's potion was bubbling quietly away under a low heat waiting to be bottled, Snape finally made his way to their table. Peering over the cauldron edge he assessed the colour and consistency before giving a nod to the two anxious Ravenclaws and placing two sample bottles left without a word. Carefully bottling and labelling their potion Harry took the samples up to the teacher's desk while Neville finished clearing up.
Returning to his desk Harry mused on the behaviour of the most feared teacher in the school. Strict, harsh and demanding was rather expected when dealing with easily distracted teenagers and dangerous ingredients. But the lesson had been informative and passed smoothly, Professor Snape had even condescended to correct the technique of some of the students which otherwise would have made their potion useless. Maybe he didn't want to mark the extra essays? Maybe the other students had been overstating some of the stories?
Harry for some reason didn't think so. It was probably his imagination, but since the question at the start of the lesson, and aside from an eyebrow quirk at his stationary, Snape went out of his way to avoid any contact with him.
Severus Snape was sitting in his quarters getting drunk. Slowly and methodically getting wasted. It seemed as if he would have to completely make things up if he wanted to think bad things about the Potter brat. Well not brat...boy. First year classes could be fun, if a little repetitive. If he had a potions talent or two it was enjoyable to nurture a fellow potions prodigy. When the Headmaster insisted on Gryffindor/Slytherin classes this year he had resigned himself to the torture of the next five years.
The outright hostility of one class with sabotage and fights was only slightly more horrendous than to the overbearing know it all nature of the Ravenclaws climbing all over the quiet nature of the Hufflepuffs who then bandied together and made just enough effort to pass without standing out. There was no chance to really teach, it was more about damage limitation and crowd control than imparting knowledge. And even if he could, it was no environment for the students to take anything in.
And yet, Potter struck again. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws arrived together and settled down quickly. Snape watched covertly as the brat ... Potter entered first, the others following him in. And again, they followed his lead when he settled down and started arranging his things on the desk. He had always found such observations before class to be useful in predicting how a class would go. The temperament and state of preparation of the class varied and Snape was wondering how this class would proceed, while dreading tomorrows first years even more.
Shock after shock. That the Ravenclaws could answer his questions was not that surprising. That they could do so without falling over each other to show off was unusual. His formidable reputation made sure that the Hufflepuffs had at least read up on the basic knowledge. But it was Potter who surprised him. Such an in-depth answer was unexpected, he had obviously read ahead and in far more detail than necessary. Familiar green eyes were locked with his and he had to pull himself away before the pause became noticeable.
Snape knew the effect his presence alone could have on students. Observing the Longbottom boy shaking while trying to trim the porcupine quills he resigned himself to clearing up a spilt/exploded potion in a few minutes. Luckily by their position he would only have to shield the front row. Getting into position he froze when he heard Potter confess not knowing something. One thing Snape had really hated about Potter Senior was his inability to admit he was wrong, or that he didn't know something, especially when someone else did. But it didn't make sense. If this Potter knew about the relative acid reactions between different ingredients then surely he would know something as relatively simple as the different properties of dried ingredients.
But Potter didn't seem to be paying that much attention to what was a rather knowledgeable response from his partner. Potter instead seemed more focused on the potion he was stirring with side long glances at the quills Longbottom was preparing. No not the quills but the hands preparing them. Snape focused on the boys hands and realised that even with his position hovering behind them, Longbottom's hands were now steady and precise.
He was floored. Potter was obviously friends with the Longbottom boy. But to notice his nervousness, and do something about it in such an intelligent way by bringing out the boys plant knowledge, all without fanfare, was almost Slytherin in its execution. Even Longbottom didn't seem to notice.
And at the end of the class nothing had exploded, over boiled or even ruined. Some of the potions were off colour to the point that he wanted to add an acerbic comment on the student's ability to count, but the lesson had gone surprisingly well. He had to intervene when a few of the students started chopping instead of slicing, but he only had to demonstrate the proper method once before all of the class adopted it. It was one of the most pleasant classes he had taught for a while. Even better, he could afford the indulgence of a bottle of fire whiskey because none of them would be handing in the extra essay so he was caught up on his marking.
There was nothing for it. Potter was obviously determined to make his life easy. For some reason that didn't annoy him as much as he expected it to.
After potions the Ravenclaws headed to the library as was their tradition born from all of three days. Settling down at their table they quickly made room for the Hufflepuffs who had followed them in.
"Potions first?" Harry asked. There were nods of agreement from the others and text books were brought out, space arranged while Su Li and Hermione went to fetch a few helpful reference books. Harry could see that the Hufflepuffs were slightly bewildered at this almost regimented response.
"We've found that if we work together things get done quicker. You're welcome to join us. We'll do Potions first so that we can hand it in tomorrow and get it done and finished. The research for Charms will take a bit longer and is more individual so we can do that afterwards along with any other work still unfinished."
Once everyone had settled and was working steadily, Megan Jones shyly asked for help from Neville about their Herbology homework. Soon other questions were asked. It was found that Susan Bones was far ahead at Defence Against the Dark Arts, to which she shrugged her shoulders and blamed it on her Aunt's job. Hermione and Padma were the Transfiguration gurus whilst Harry was nominated as the Charms genius.
By the time dinner rolled around they had an informal homework and study session arranged for the two hours prior to dinner on the weekdays and another on Saturday afternoons. With the addition of Neville's expertise in Herbology, and History, Potions and Astronomy covered by all of them they were on their way to a comprehensive study scheme.
Dinner came and went and Harry was excited to get back to the common room. They had quickly demonstrated to Professor Flitwick that all of them had mastered the Levitation Charm, with help from the practical practise sessions after dinner. So the Professor had moved them on to the unlocking charm Alohomora, only a few of the students had been able to successfully unlock a locked box that the Professor had provided them with. Harry had been one of them.
He was excited because he wanted to see if he could cast the spell wordlessly. Over the past week Harry had practised every spell they were taught until he was able to do so without saying the incantation. Transfiguration was harder than charms which were in turn harder than the jinxs and hexes they had learnt about in Defence.
Many of his peers had also tried but the closest they had achieved was Hermione who was able to cast when sub vocalising the spell. Ravenclaws were not known to be quitters and even though quite a few of the older students were cynical they continued the practise. They agreed with Harry that it made no sense whatsoever to wait until they were sixth years to start, it would only make it harder as they would be so used to saying the words out loud that it would be hard to adjust.
The fire was already lit when Harry entered the practise room. Jeremy Stretton was already there reading from the daily paper when he and the rest of the first years entered. Jeremy quickly folded the paper and jumped up rubbing his hands and looked excited to begin.
"So what'll it be today?"
"The unlocking charm." Hermione answered.
"Would you be able to show us the tripping and dancing jinx?" Harry asked before the lesson got started.
"Why do you want to know?" Jeremy asked somewhat suspiciously.
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Quirrel mentioned them, he's mentioned quite a few of them, but never demonstrates them in class. In fact I don't think I've seen him cast a single spell." Jeremy nodded.
"It's the same with our lessons. And with the stutter the material is hard to listen to, let alone understand."
"Textbook," was the only answer given alongside a shrug.
"So Alohomora, then we can move onto some of the other spells. Now since nothing will be moving you can all find a space to sit down - grab a few of the cushions from that trunk to sit on. Right so here are some of the boxes to practise on, I'm guessing you all know the incantation and wand movements. The main problem with this spell is in the visualisation. Unlike the levitation spell where you can easily 'see' the object rising in front of you, the mechanism inside the lock cannot be seen, so unlocking it is hard to imagine. The way I learnt, is to take a lock apart and watch the mechanism work to understand how it works in the first place."
Jeremy went on to show the mechanism and then to coach those who were still having difficulty. Harry listened to the first part, it was always useful to know different techniques to approach a spell. When they moved onto the practical practise Harry took a box and sat to the side intent upon wordlessly unlocking the box, something that had eluded him during class. Focusing on what he knew and had observed about locking mechanisms, Harry formed a picture in his mind of unlocking the box.
Harry cast the spell and heard a slight click but the box remained locked. Trying once more, Harry did the same again, but this time wrote the incantation in his mindscape. Feeling the rush of magic Harry opened his eyes to see the lid of the box had popped open. Grinning he looked around to find Hermione looking at him with a frustrated but amused expression on her face, her locked box sitting in front of her. Settling back down he practised repeatedly until it became as easy as the spoken spell.
Learning with Jeremy was fun, and the introduction of the new defence spells was an unexpected bonus. He made the hard work easy and introduced the theory with the practical in a way that made it easy to remember. It was simple to see why he was chosen as the Quidditch captain.
After an hour and a half, other students started coming into the practise room so the first years left to continue their charms research. They never knew the conversation they left behind or the surprise they would find awaiting them tomorrow.
An: With regards to Harry's spell casting ability, I don't want to have him hide his ability. I think he would want to enjoy being good at something and not having to hide anymore. His wordless casting will be known as he tries it in class and the practise sessions, and it won't be so noteworthy when the other students start emulating him – it never made sense to me that they waited until sixth year after five years of triggering the spell by voice it would be immensely difficult to relearn spell casting without it. (Perhaps it is the same as depending on the use of a wand – a crutch to limit the power of the magical populace and allow them to be disarmed.) His wandless ability will be kept secret from most people but more of that in later chapters.