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East Bay Boys

Somnio Salvus
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Chapter 3

Draco turned the page and began to read.

'Somnio Salvus enables the drinker's spirit to visit the sleeping subconscious of another, making it possible to observe the sleeping person's dreams. Events in the dream can even be changed and controlled by the visiting mind.' Draco smiled to himself. This must be it. He read on...

'This powerful solution is especially useful to a parent who wishes to put a stop to a child's nightmares - however, caution is necessary. If a person's dreams are invaded repeatedly, the mind's ability to process new information will be impaired. The effects of this include short-term memory loss, insomnia, and eventually, psychosis.'

Wow! thought Draco. Mother really took some risks with my mental health!

A footnote on the page caught his eye.

'The potion can only be used when the target is asleep. If they are awake, the conscious mind will fight off the intrusion'.

Draco's eyes scanned down the list of ingredients. Most of them were pretty common. If they weren't in the student store cupboard he was pretty sure he could get them in Hogsmeade. Except the viper blood of course. A quick glance through a Potions Encyclopaedia had confirmed that it was indeed a restricted substance, due to its powerful narcotic effect. Even without the restrictions, it would be rare and expensive. Apparently Blue Tongued Vipers didn't take kindly to being exsanguinated in their sleep. Very few wizards had the necessary skill to extract the blood without waking the snake. Those who failed didn't generally live to tell the tale.

The last ingredient sounded tricky too: 'One drop of nectar from an orchid grown on the dead stump of a Weeping Willow.' Draco knew that Greenhouse Five had orchids in it, he'd seen them through the window. He'd have to find an excuse to quiz Professor Sprout about them. He went to sleep feeling confident that he would be invading Harry Potter's sleeping subconscious within the week.

Harry didn't sleep that night. Too tired to stay up, but too scared to fall asleep, he dozed fitfully in between long periods of staring at the ceiling. Little problems like the library book he'd forgotten to take back suddenly became huge, nagging worries to his overtired mind. He began to seriously consider going to Madam Pomfrey for a dreamless sleep potion. He knew it wouldn't solve the problem of nightmares but at least he'd get one night's sleep. He was still reluctant to go to anyone for help though. He was embarrassed about being scared of a dream, and didn't want it to go any further than his closest friends.

He tried to occupy his mind with more pleasant thoughts, like Quidditch. Professor McGonagall had hinted that she might be able to arrange some extra practice sessions for the Gryffindor team...but it was no good. The thought of Professor McGonagall merely started him worrying about his Transfiguration essay. Hermione had been giving him personal tuition in Arithmancy because she said it was very helpful in understanding the finer points of Transfiguration. She was right, but he still had to write the damn thing.

He sighed, turned over and recited Arithmancy formulas in his head until it was time to get up.

The next day Draco visited the student store cupboard and helped himself to cactus pollen, nettle juice and angelfish scales. He visited the house elves in the kitchen at lunchtime to request sunflower oil and apple pips. He'd have to go to Hogsmeade to buy the baby's tears. But today he might have an opportunity to acquire the orchid nectar. The last lesson of the day was double Herbology in Greenhouse Three. He normally hated Herbology - it was boring and repetitive, and involved getting his hands dirty, but today he was almost keen.

When class started he glanced through the window while collecting seeds from a Fuming Pythus, and saw that the orchids in Greenhouse Five were in full flower. Now was the time to ask Professor Sprout about them. Maybe if he feigned enough interest she might volunteer some information about what type of tree stumps they were growing on. But at that moment, Goyle lifted his gas mask to scratch his nose, was overcome by fumes and passed out on the floor. Professor Sprout became rather preoccupied in getting him out into the fresh air, and when she returned it was time to pack up.

Draco took his time, ensuring he was the last to leave. He dawdled while Professor Sprout chastised a Ravenclaw for leaving a pruning knife where the Venomous Tentacula could reach it. Then he ambled slowly towards the exit while the last stragglers washed their hands in the sink by the door. He had a moment of panic when the Professor gathered up her tools and left herself, and he had to run to catch her up. He couldn't believe his luck when he saw where she was going. He approached her as she was unlocking the door to Greenhouse Five and cleared his throat.

'Erm, Professor Sprout?'

She looked surprised. 'Yes, Mr Malfoy?'

'I was wondering if I could talk to you about the flesh-eating plants essay. I can't seem to find any information on...um...Venus flytraps'.

'Ah. That's because the Venus flytrap has absolutely no magical properties whatsoever. You won't find anything about it in the school library. Why don't you pick another example, a Venomous Gulpwort perhaps.' She opened the door and stepped inside. There was a big sign on the door saying 'Staff Only. Strictly no Students Allowed'. Under that was a smaller sign saying 'Trespassers Will Be Eaten'.

'Um, actually Professor, I thought it would be interesting to write about both, and compare the characteristics of magical and non-magical carnivorous plants...'

Professor Sprout looked impressed. 'Well, I must say, Mr Malfoy, I am surprised at you taking such an interest in the subject. I never knew that you were this keen. You're right, of course, it would be interesting...let's see...come in for a moment, we can discuss it while I water the orchids. Oh don't worry about that,' she added as she saw Draco eyeing the sign warily, 'nothing in here is dangerous at this time of year. These plants are rare and valuable though so please don't touch anything.'

Draco stepped inside and was immediately struck by the dizzying scents of a thousand exotic flowers. He felt quite light-headed as he followed Professor Sprout along the path.

'Let's see, you could write to my friend Dr. Dunn of the Royal Horticultural Society, he'd be able to tell you what you need. Ask the Post Office to send your letter by Muggle post though. Or, if you're very keen I could give you an extension until Christmas, so you can visit a Muggle library over the holidays. Perhaps I should speak to Madam Pince about setting up an inter-library loan service with Muggle libraries. It would be good for Muggle Studies too...'

Draco's head was starting to spin. He wanted to find what he needed and get out into the air as soon as possible.

'What are these plants for?' he asked, gesturing at the orchids.

'Ah, these are very special. Orchids have quite potent magical powers but only if grown in a certain way. Quite a challenge, these can be. This one for example.' She pointed to a bright orange bloom shaped like a large insect. 'About as magical as a bootlace, unless you water it with an infusion of aconite, then it produces pollen with the most extraordinary cleansing properties. It's the only thing that can get Dewberry juice off your skin before it sinks in and dyes you purple from the inside out.'

Draco wasn't really listening - he had spotted a large but plain-looking white flower growing on a tree stump.

'What about that one?' he asked innocently.

'Ah, interesting!' replied Professor Sprout enthusiastically. 'It's just a basic Odontonia. But you'll notice it's growing on a dead tree stump. That makes the flower produce nectar with mind-altering effects. I find weeping willow gives the best results.'

'M...mind altering?' mumbled Draco, getting dizzier by the second.

'Yes. Used responsibly it can open the mind to some quite extraordinary psychic effects but...' Professor Sprout's face clouded for a moment. 'Of course it's sometimes abused. About twenty years ago a group of students got hold of some, how they got in here I'll never know. They were in the hospital wing staring at each other and giggling for a week, all four of them...'

Professor Sprout moved on up the path, pointing out interesting plants and occasionally stopping to spray one with a little brass pump-bottle. She was preoccupied enough not to notice Draco reach out and pluck a white Odontonia flower from its stalk and pocket it swiftly.

The thick, scented air was becoming unbearable. Draco took a deep breath and slurred 'Thanks, Professor...umm. I'll just be going now...'

'Hmm, yes, spicy aren't they? Best get some air, Mr Malfoy, your eyes look quite dilated...'

Draco staggered out. He gulped the fresh air and felt his head clear. He headed back to the castle, wondering how the Professor managed to spend more than a few minutes at a time in Greenhouse Five. No wonder she's batty... he mused.

Oddly enough, the viper blood turned out to be easy compared to the orchid nectar. That evening Malfoy visited Goyle in the hospital wing where he was recovering from inhaling Pythus fumes. Madam Pomfrey was at dinner, and her store cupboard, though locked, was unsupervised. Draco deposited a few Chocolate Frogs on Goyle's bed to keep him occupied, and investigated the cupboard door. Alohomora didn't work, of course. Madam Pomfrey wasn't stupid. However he doubted that she would have guarded against any of the advanced unlocking spells he had learned from 'The Looter's Manual' (a birthday present last year from Crabbe and Goyle).

He checked the side wards to make sure nobody was listening, then tapped the lock, whispering 'Surripero'. The lock sprang open and he opened the door, stepping inside the cavernous store-cupboard. Shelves lined the walls up to the ceiling, and they were all crammed with bottles, jars and flasks. How on earth was he going to find the one he wanted, even if it was here?

As he began to rummage among the magical medicines on the shelves his eyes came to rest on a small wooden chest in a dark corner. It was padlocked and had a skull and crossbones scorched into the wood. If I were to keep any restricted ingredients handy for emergencies, that's where I'd put them, he thought. He suspected that the key to this padlock was one of the many that Madam Pomfrey wore on a chain at her belt. No matter, Surripero worked once again. Inside the chest Draco found rows and rows of small phials containing the more dangerous components of medicinal potions. Belladonna extract, dried Destroying Angel mushrooms, Runespoor venom, Dittany seeds... and dried blood of a Blue Tongued Viper.

Draco's heart hammered as he tipped some of the reddish brown powder into an envelope and tucked it into his robes. He closed the chest and snapped the padlock shut, then closed the cupboard door. He couldn't lock it again without the key, but he hoped Madam Pomfrey would just assume she forgot to lock it.

He padded quietly back to the main ward where Goyle was guzzling Chocolate Frogs, threatened him with the Haemorrhoidus Colossus curse if he breathed a word to anybody, and left.

Draco skipped lunch the next day, taking his broomstick and telling everyone loudly that he was going to practice his Bludger-dodging for an hour instead. It was a damp, misty day so he was fairly sure nobody else would be hanging around the Quidditch pitch, noticing his absence. Instead he flew straight to Hogsmeade, landing neatly outside the Apothecary's shop. He handed over twenty Sickles in exchange for a small bottle of baby's tears, then as an afterthought he called in at the Post Office. He dashed off a short note to Dr Dunn requesting information about the Venus flytrap, and watched with amusement as the postmistress stuck a funny little gold label on it. There was a picture on it of a woman who looked a bit like Madam Malkin.

He was back at Hogwarts in time for Charms, looking suitably flushed, as though he had spent an hour racing around the Quidditch pitch.

He was distracted during lessons that afternoon. His attention drifted between Potter, who was ghoulishly pale and looked like he was about to fall asleep over his parchment, and the small bottle tucked into his robes. It would shortly join the other ingredients he had packed into his portable cauldron and stashed under his bed.

Professor Flitwick was trying to teach the class Singing Charms. Granger had already managed to make a jewellery box sing 'That Old Black Magic'. Draco wasn't concentrating properly, and all he managed to get out of his jewellery box was a slightly off-key chorus from 'Baby You Can Ride My Broomstick'.

History of Magic wasn't much better. Professor Binns droned on about the Kneazle-hunting protests and Draco didn't hear a word. When the bell rang at the end of the day Draco nearly ran back to his dorm. While his housemates sat in the common room doing homework and chatting before dinner, he retrieved his cauldron and 'Moste Potente Potions', and slipped away to a broom cupboard off the potions corridor. Nobody would think anything of a strange smell in the potions department, and besides, he knew Filch never used this cupboard. All that was in it was a bucket with a hole in the bottom, an empty wooden crate and lots of cobwebs. A dusty oil-lamp hung from the ceiling, which he lit with an Incendio spell. He sat on the crate and set up his cauldron on the upturned bucket, conjuring a cheery fire underneath it.

The instructions were complicated but that didn't concern him; he had never had difficulty with potions. All that was needed was patience, accuracy and an eye for detail. Soon all the ingredients had been measured out, carefully added to the mixture and stirred the correct number of times. The potion frothed slightly, just like the book said it should. Draco ladled it into a flask and stoppered it, whispering cleaning and cooling charms over his cauldron. A quick glance up the corridor to check that the coast was clear, and then he was on his way, only ten minutes late for dinner.

Harry stared into his lamb stew. He was hungry, but so tired he didn't know if he had the energy to eat. He fumbled with his spoon, and managed to get some of the broth into his mouth. That helped, actually. He felt a little better and managed to get a rhythm going: Open, close, swallow. Open, close, swallow...He'd never had to concentrate on eating before.

He managed to focus his attention on the conversation going on around him. Hermione was enthusing loudly about the International Convention of Academic Magic, which was due to take place during the Christmas Holidays. Ron was groaning that he could think of better ways to spend Christmas.

'But ICAM is the most important event in the wizarding calendar! Some of the most influential witches and wizards in the country will be speaking. There'll be new ideas presented and seminars and poster presentations. Think of what we could learn...'

She thrust a flier at Seamus, who raised both hands in horror and cried 'Don't look at me, I'm going to Switzerland skiing at Christmas, with the Muggle side of the family'.

Dean and Neville didn't think of an excuse in time and were presented with a flier each. Harry had a spoonful of stew halfway to his mouth when he heard the words 'You'll come, won't you Harry?' and a flier was thrust in his face.

Way too tired to argue, he took it and stuffed it into a pocket of his robe. 'Yeah, sure' he smiled half-heartedly.

Hermione smiled, encouraged, then turned to have another go at Ron. Harry downed a glass of pumpkin juice and glanced across the hall. He caught Malfoy's gaze, and was startled to notice the glint in the Slytherin's eye as he smirked, raising his glass in a mocking salute.

So he was plotting some fouler-than-usual scheme to get him into trouble. Normally that would have Harry worried. But he was too tired to care. Nightmare or no nightmare, he would have to sleep tonight or he would collapse from exhaustion. Making his excuses, Harry skipped dessert and made his way up to bed. He was asleep almost before his head touched the pillow.

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