In the second week of December, Hogwarts woke to find itself covered in knee-high snowdrifts. The school was abuzz with holiday delight as the Slytherin common room as the year before is filled with tasty snacks and rare holiday cheer. Due to last year's shenanigans, Professor Slughorn had a stern word with the present 5th and 7th years, and as a result, they were rather tame in their merrymaking.
That same week Professor Slughorn went around with his list collecting names of those who would be staying at school for Christmas. Most of the Slytherin would be returning home except for one or two students including S.R. Wilkes. It was a bit strange though as Wilkes had been invited by a friend or two for him to come and stay over the winter break, however, he'd politely declined all the invitations.
The only good thing this far in December was that winter break was just around the corner as the castle was bitterly freezing. Despite the halls being filled with roaring fires hot enough to singe one's eyebrows, it still wasn't enough. But unlike last year, there were at least enchanted stones to keep one warm. And why not a heating charm, one may ask? Because warmth charms negatively affected potions and as a result was banned from use in the most needed class of them all.
Despite the enchanted warm stones, the students still pressed themselves as close as possible to the hot cauldrons without getting burnt. Lips turning blue, Rowan carefully brought a hankie to her nose to dry her running nose. Sniffing, she said, "Well, at least we're half-way through the month."
"Yes, I suppose there is that," Severus's teeth chattered as he stirred his Swelling Solution. Lily didn't even attempt to speak as she shook from the bitter cold.
Professor Slughorn made his way through between the steaming cauldrons next to desks filled with brass scales and jars of ingredients. Every now and then he'd either smile in approval or make a tsk-tsk sound of disappointment, before moving forward. With a beaming smile, Professor Slughorn came to a stop before his favorite two students.
"As usual most excellent work, Mr. Prince and Miss Evans," Professor Slughorn beamed, before reluctantly turning to stare at Rowan's own cauldron. Though not terrible it was a tad runny to be called excellent.
"A viable potion," Professor Slughorn carefully phrased, before moving onto the next student.
Suddenly, an unattended cauldron exploded as it showered the entire class in the Swelling Solution. Students began to scream in panic and pain as their faces or other body parts began to swell. "Please children, don't panic!" Professor Slughorn called out as he tried to restore calm and order.
"Children, please line up at my desk, I've got a deflating draught, one at a time!"
Those at the receiving end quickly lumbered up to Slughorn's desk. Some were weighted down with arms like clubs, others unable to talk through gigantic puffed-up lips or honking beak-like noses. With all of the class finished being treated, Slughorn marched over to the cauldron responsible for the entire mess. Narrowing his eyes at finding nothing wrong with the cauldron itself, he coldly asks, "And whose cauldron is this?"
There is a heavy silence as a rather dark-eyed, young boy with light hair stepped forth from the Gryffindor side. "Mine, sir," the lightly tanned boy said.
"Mr. Vespucci, and why was your cauldron left unattended?" Professor Slughorn snapped. Vasco Vespucci doesn't answer as he merely ducks his head forward in response.
Unhappy at a lack of an answer, Professor Slughorn says, "30 points from Gryffindor and a weeks' worth of detention with me, young man!" The Gryffindor's flinched as Vespucci turned a ghastly pale looking color.
"Potions is not for playing, children! It is a SERIOUS class where one can be SEVERLY INJURED if one does not abide by the RULES!" The rest of the class is gratefully rather short as Professor Slughorn dismisses them soon after.
Quickly gathering their things, they filed out as Tiffany peeked at the downtrodden figure ahead of them. "So exactly what happened?" Rowan asked as she motioned to James, Sirius, and Pettigrew, who were nearest to the explosion.
"For once it wasn't us!" Sirius indignantly said noticing Rowan's skeptical gaze.
Merely arching her eyebrow in response, Sirius adds, "And neither was it any of us. We were actually minding our cauldrons; I'll have you know!"
Turning her gaze over to Lupin and Terry, who'd been working together, Rowan asked, "What about the both of you?"
"All I know is that he'd been there a minute before and then that happened," Terry said as Lupin nodded his head in agreement.
"Strange, it shouldn't have exploded if he'd only left his cauldron for a minute," Severus interrupted with a frown. "The swelling potion can be left alone for several minutes without any attendance as it was in the final stage of shimmering. I'd hazard to say, that an extra ingredient must have been added while his back was turned."
"Well, whoever it was, they surely aren't going to announce it was their idea of a prank after Slughorn's words," Rowan ironically muttered as they all nodded their heads and went their separate ways.
Freezing the Slytherins didn't care about their personal demeanors as the majority hiked up their robes and ran through the dungeons to the entrance of the Slytherin quarters. Someone shouted, "Gloria," as the wall swung open as the second years fled inside. Each of the second years rushed for a spot near the giant hearth, while others went to the dorms to wrap themselves up in fluffy fur robes and warm fleece blankets.
Severus and Terry warmed themselves by the fire, while the girls retreated with Rowan to their dorms. Diving under thick enchanted warm blankets, the girls let out sighs of pleasure at the toasty warmth. With only their faces peeking out they looked like polar bears. "Ah, this is bliss," Tiffany sighed as Bethanie merely dove in deeper into her blankets in response.
"Well, at least winter break is just around the corner," Silvia puffed in the cold air. "We won't freeze for a bit after that."
"Amen to that," Rowan muttered.
"The only consolation I have is that the Hufflepuffs share in our misery," Tiffany bluntly stated causing Bethanie to peek her face out to glare at her in admonishment, before quickly retreating back.
"But you know, we still have to leave for lunch in half an hour and then charms," Silvia sadly lamented. The girls all sigh and huddle as best as they can as they wait for the minutes to pass by before they are forced to emerge from their cocoons and out into the freezing bitter chill. But for now, they'd enjoy the little time they had left.