With Professor Snape’s departure, Matthew and Draco wrapped up their breakfast.
After consulting their class schedules, they discovered that the day’s first lesson was Herbology, a joint class for Slytherin and Hufflepuff students.
Walking out of the castle, Matthew joined Draco, Theodore, Vincent, and Gregory, forming a group of five.
They strolled across the grounds toward the greenhouse.
They noticed a gathering of students waiting outside as they approached the entrance.
Just as they were about to join the crowd, a familiar figure emerged from the greenhouse.
It was Professor Slughorn, the Potions Professor and the Head of Slytherin.
In his arms, he cradled a bunch of leaves.
“Oh, Matthew, Draco,” Slughorn exclaimed enthusiastically as he caught sight of the students.
Oddly enough, he seemed to unintentionally disregard Theodore, Vincent, and Gregory.
“Good morning, Professor Slughorn!” Matthew and Malfoy chimed in unison.
“Ah, good morning,” Professor Slughorn replied, his mood relatively buoyant. “The morning air does wonders, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s a test for you lot. Care to venture a guess as to what this is?”
While speaking, he gestured with the handful of leaves in his grasp.
Leaning in for a closer look, Matthew examined them for a moment. “Is that Fluxweed?”
“Absolutely right!” Slughorn beamed with satisfaction. “Most experts believe harvesting this herb in the morning is best. And let me tell you, Pomona has really outdone herself nurturing these.”
“They’ll be used in the third-year curriculum. Each third-year student will receive a few leaves, with some to spare, just in case anyone overdoes it… You’ll be using these next year!”
“I’ll be looking forward to it, Professor,” Matthew replied.
“Excellent! I must tend to my duties in the office now… Oh, and Matthew, Draco,” Slughorn turned to leave but suddenly recollected something.
“Ah, yes, this Sunday evening marks the return of the Slug Club party. Be sure not to forget…”
“…And please make sure you’re on time!” His voice dwindled as he walked away.
The Slug Club, founded by Slughorn himself, was an exclusive group comprising students he admired.
Matthew and Malfoy were among its members.
The club held gatherings every week or two, usually on weekends.
However, the Slug Club’s activities were suspended last October following an incident in which two Slytherin Slug Club members were attacked late at night while returning to the Slytherin common room from Slughorn’s office.
The party hiatus persisted for the remainder of the semester, even as the culprit behind the attacks remained at large.
With the new semester underway, the impact of those attacks had subsided, and the club’s parties were once again set to resume.
Professor Slughorn’s figure slowly disappeared from view.
“Alright, kids, come on in!” Professor Sprout’s voice emanated from the greenhouse.
Students from Slytherin and Hufflepuff eagerly entered the greenhouse.
Professor Pomona Sprout, her gray hair concealed under a patched hat, greeted them.
Despite her somewhat disheveled appearance, her clothes and fingernails speckled with soil, everyone knew her to be a kind teacher.
“Today, we’re heading to the third greenhouse!” she enthusiastically announced.
The students were abuzz with excitement.
Until now, they had only explored the first two greenhouses.
The flora within the third greenhouse was intriguing and potentially hazardous.
Producing a large key from her waist, Professor Sprout unlocked the door.
Matthew stepped forward, instantly encountering the fragrant scent of damp soil and fertilizer mingled with a subtle floral aroma.
The fragrance proved intoxicating, almost dizzying. Matthew felt his head spin momentarily.
Swiftly stepping back, he exited the greenhouse.
He wasn’t alone in this reaction; other students who had ventured inside appeared equally off-balance.
Some even appeared intoxicated, their faces flushed.
“Step back, everyone! Step back!” Professor Sprout urgently shouted, waving her hands. “I never gave permission for you to enter!”
Heeding her warning, they hastily retreated from the third greenhouse.
After a few breaths of fresh air, Matthew regained his equilibrium.
Professor Sprout soon followed, carrying a bundle of masks in her arms.
“Alright, folks, I hadn’t intended to pollinate the Flor flowers today. Now, can anyone tell me about the characteristics of Aconite?”
Matthew had a fair idea about the greenhouse’s occupants, but someone else was already ahead before he could raise his hand.
“Very well, Miss Lestrange!”
Lestrange stood up, speaking naturally.
“Aconites, or tracking flowers, have petals closely connected to the rhizome when mature. Even if separated for a time, the rhizome maintains a connection to the direction of the petals…”
“This allows fresh Aconite petals to be placed near important items. If the petals are stolen, the rhizome can be employed to track them down.”
“Very well put, my dear,” Professor Sprout commended, motioning for her to sit. “Additionally, Flor flowers are highly hazardous. Can anyone tell me why?”
Agnes hesitated momentarily, but Matthew was already raising his hand.
“Mr. Wickfield, please share your thoughts.”
“The pollen is highly poisonous,” Matthew replied succinctly. “Inhaling it in significant amounts can be lethal.”
“Exactly!” Professor Sprout agreed, her tone matter-of-fact.
“Aconite pollen is highly toxic. Even inhaled in smaller quantities, it can lead to unconsciousness for several hours. I don’t think any of you would want to miss your first day of school, would you?”
With that, she distributed masks to all the students.
“Remember, you must wear at least four layers of masks. No shortcuts, no risks,” she instructed, her voice ringing clearly.
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