You find yourself in a darkly-lit dungeon, awaiting expectantly for your first Potions class. There is a certain aura of restlessness and excitement lingering in the air, and you can see that many of your classmates share your excitement.
Soon enough, a tall man makes his way into the room, abruptly closing the door behind him with a quick flick of the wand. He glances at the room, seemingly in an attempt to see what kind of students are attending the course this year. There is no outward demonstration of satisfaction or scorn from his face, but you know deep inside that you are being judged - and feel like you ought to be on your best behavior.
Welcome to your first year of Potions. I cannot promise that this course will be a walk in the park, but I will do my best to make the content easy to understand and enjoyable for all. If you want to thrive in my class, there are some steps that you should follow: pay attention to the lecture, think critically about the concepts explained and be a hard worker. I value effort much more than natural talent, and you can definitely get a more than satisfactory grade just by doing your very best.
Perhaps you are all curious about me, so I assume I could use a few minutes to introduce myself. I am Vaylen Draekon, born and raised in Japan. Yes, I know I do not look Japanese, as my father was American. I come from a mixed-blood household, both in nationality and in magical power, and spent most of my early life fiddling with machinery and tools before discovering my abilities and attending Mahoutokoro School of Magic. Upon graduation, I decided to move to the United States and pursue higher education in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the university in which I ultimately attained a PhD in applied Muggle chemistry. Later in life I decided to open my own company, which focuses on providing affordable solutions to common problems via an application of magical principles.
As I said before, I value hard work and diligent attempts to understand the material the most. This means I will always be pleased to receive a respectful owl with questions in case you did not understand a part of the content. Some people might find the prospect of reaching out to a Professor daunting, however - in that case, you may also reach out to one of my Professor’s Assistants (PAs), as they are very knowledgeable in the material as well. You can find a list detailing the current PAs here.
Before we get into a discussion of potions, I want to begin with an administrative overview of Potions. This will cover Lesson One through to the end of the course.
All of the information you need for this class will be available within the lessons. You do not need to read the book Magical Drafts and Potions in the library, but if you get the chance, it is highly recommended, as it provides a good overview of the history of potions around the world, as well as potions ingredients, techniques, and instruments. Please make sure you keep your notes from previous years on-hand as well, as this is a cumulative course, so you will be expected to recall important concepts throughout the years. It’s my strong recommendation that anyone who wishes to pursue a career in potion making also pay close attention in your Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures classes, as these are where we get our ingredients from.
There will occasionally be assignments that require you to do a bit of outside research to obtain all of the information, but these will either be extra credit assignments, or they will not be too rigorous in their requirements. Required assignments that call for outside research will not begin until the third year of the course. Additionally, there may be supplementary materials in the library that I will add over time that will provide additional information, particularly as you reach the upper years. You can find these publications in the library and will be listed in each year’s lessons and content.
For the first two years of the course, the only mandatory assignments you will have are quizzes. These assessments include a mix of multiple choice, true-false, and short answer questions that seek to test your knowledge of the material. Almost every lesson will also have an extra credit essay option that seeks to expand on students’ practical knowledge of potions. These essays will often be creative in nature, and they will ask you to apply the knowledge you received in class, often in a “real world” setting. Multiple submission options are always acceptable, and a short story, painting, video, song, or other creative assignment is always welcome in place of an essay. I invite all to use whichever method best suits his or her learning style best.
Beginning in the second year, there will be an optional “Potioneer’s Log” assignment that invites you to write at least 1,000 words each year on your overall experience and reflect on your learning. This is in no way mandatory, but is a very valuable experience and is highly recommended for anyone considering a career in potions. Beginning in the Third Year is another optional assignment, a thesis in which students can research any aspect of potions that interests them.
For all essay and non-quiz assignments, I will present a rubric as well as bullet points illustrating every point that should be included in the assignment, regardless of the submission style. Professor’s assistants (PAs) are instructed to weigh each bullet point in their grading, and they will also provide an account of exactly what credit may have been lost on an assignment. If you ever receive an assignment that does not have any feedback with lost points, please consult with the professor or a Head Student.
As a side note, automatic retakes will not be allowed in this course, with the exception of your Introduction quiz. You will have the option to retake any assignment in which you get less than 70% in, as per site-wide policy; however, do note that essays retaken in this way qualify for a maximum grade of 70%.
I would also like to make it clear that you will never lose credit for original content or disagreement with course material, as long as it is presented respectfully and with proper defense. I welcome intelligent considerations of fact to present new hypotheses. This may be more relevant in later years, but still holds true in these early classes.
Learning Disability, Non-Native English Speaker, Physical Disability:
If you have a learning disability, are a non-native English speaker, or have a physical disability that requires you to use speech-to-text programs or similar software, please feel welcome (though not required) to put the following designation on your assignments in order to be exempt from spelling and grammar requirements:
LD = Learning Disability
NES = Non-Native English Speaker
PD = Physical Disability
This is a relatively site-wide allowance, so as long as other courses state they comply by the same rules you will be using this designation for all of your Hogwarts assignments. If you do not include these designations, you will be graded and discounted for improper spelling and grammar. This is an honor code system that trusts that students will not misuse these abbreviations.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated at all in this class. The PAs and I both use plagiarism checkers, and the policy when it comes to plagiarized work, whether it is from the Internet, the lessons, or other students is an automatic 0% with no possibility of retake. If you include a quote in your essay, that is all right, but cited content should not be more than 5% of your submission, and should include a proper citation.
Plagiarized answers in quizzes will also be severely punished. All answers found to be copied from the lesson or from an external source will be marked as a fail. Additionally, your entire quiz will be given a 0% and 0 House Points in case any question is plagiarized, even if it's only one. You have been warned.
The following is what you can expect in terms of content for Year One of Potions:
Week 1 - Introduction; Administration; Classroom Safety
Week 2 - An Introduction to Vocabulary and Basic Theory
Week 3 - “Tools of the Trade”; Brewing Basics
Week 4 - Lab #1: Cure for Boils
Week 5 - Transitions Revisited; Midterm
Week 6 - A Look at Dragons
Week 7 - Ingredients: Magical, Mundane, and Transitional
Week 8 - Lab #2: Forgetfulness Potion
Week 9 - A Look at Year Two; Final
The following are the yearly topics assigned to Potions class, to give you an idea of where we are, and where we are going:
Year 1 - Foundations of Potions
Year 2 - Simple Theoretical Background
Year 3 - Healing Potions
Year 4 - Physical Modifier Potions
Year 5 - Psychological Potions
Year 6 - Offensive and Defensive Potions
Year 7 - Exploring Experimentation
With the Lights Out, It’s Less Dangerous
With this basic administrative detail completed, I would also like to cover some basic classroom and lab safety. While I am rather flexible when it comes to theory and expression of individuality, I do not afford any leniency when it comes to safety both in and out of class. Many of the ingredients we use in class are highly toxic or irritating when one comes in contact with them, and a simple accident can result in severe damage or even death. As such, misuse of classroom instruments or inability to heed basic safety will result in expulsion from the classroom or more serious repercussions.
In terms of dress code, please remember to wear sufficient covering and closed-toed shoes. Bare skin is particularly prone to exposure through spills and splashes. Also, please do not wear overly bulky garments, as they can snag on instruments and impede movement. They may also dip into the cauldron and contaminate the potion while you are brewing. Students should remove any long-hanging jewelry and pin hair back if it is long to ensure it does not catch or fall into the cauldron. Jewelry as a whole is discouraged for this reason, although I will certainly understand if a keepsake is kept during labs. Remember to wear dragon-hide gloves as necessary, and always wear your goggles while working with potions.
Patience is also your friend when it comes to new potion recipes. In any lesson where we are working with actual ingredients or potions, please wait until you have received all of your instructions before touching anything. While you may be eager to get started or may have read ahead in the textbook, it is important to wait until I give you permission to begin brewing, especially in your first few years in the classroom. While I know many may have read the textbook, which is rather thoroughly and eloquently written, there may be additional safety tips or guidelines I wish to impart that relate to the specific potion we are brewing.
In terms of behavior, while I realize that it’s natural to revert to pranks and humor in times of stress, the potions classroom and lab is not the place to do this. While I certainly appreciate a good joke or a prank, when dealing with chemicals and potions, such behavior can lead to severe physical pain and will not be tolerated.
In any event, the most important thing to remember in the event of an accident is not to panic. Take precautions to ensure your own safety first, and then come find me. I keep many simple medicinal potions in my potions cabinet, and I am happy to escort you to the Hospital Wing should you sustain any more serious injury.
Additionally, if you see a fellow student sustain an injury, do not immediately run to help them. I know you all have the best intentions in mind, but it is best if you stand away from any potential danger. Getting involved will only complicate matters and may cause you to get injured as well. If I have not seen the problem, please notify me immediately, providing any details you can about the incident. If the results of any accident upset you or make you queasy, please do feel free to excuse yourself from the classroom. Everyone has their triggers, and I am particularly sensitive to those who take care to respect them.
Finally, you will hear this a good deal from Professor Virneburg’s Charms class, but please be particularly careful with your wands. Wands are crucial tools when stirring potions, but giving students license to use their wands is not an open invitation to any horseplay or to practice new spells or jinxes on one another. Also, please never point your wand directly at yourself or at anyone else during Potions.
Here We Are Now
Moving into the bulk of the lesson, a potion is defined as a magical mixture that combines both magical and mundane ingredients. Today potions are brewed over a fire or another thermal energy (heat) source in a cauldron.The term “potion” is rather generic, as it represents any magical combination of ingredients that has been brewed to achieve a certain effect. These effects vary drastically, however, from aiding headaches to increasing energy, causing a part of the body to swell, changing eye color or appearance, and even providing strong psychological or poisoning effects. One can even achieve peaceful sleep or emulate true death with a potion. The difficulty in brewing a potion is equally varied, and while some potions can take only twenty minutes to brew, others can take more than twenty-four hours in total. (I say from experience those are, without exaggeration, the worst).
It is important to note that only a witch or wizard should ever ingest or apply a potion, regardless of the circumstances. Muggle exposure to potions causes unusual and often deadly reactions. Before the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy of 1689, certain magical and non-magical communities lived in close proximity and in some cases, magical people even held places of high esteem. Some civilizations even deemed magical beings to be descended from gods.
At that time, there is evidence that Muggles may have been slightly more tolerant of potions and elixirs. Ancient Muggle and wizard accounts recount cases of shamans and priests creating love potions and similar products for Muggles to use. These potions may have been real “love potions” in some form, or it is possible that they used mundane ingredients that replicated the psychological and chemical effects of magical love potions. Many scholars still debate today whether true magical potions were dispensed prior to the enactment of the Statute. Unfortunately, most ancient civilizations did not provide definite accountings of the ingredients and magic used in many potions, particularly those given to Muggles. This is perhaps unsurprising, as the Muggles would have been none too pleased if they knew that they were being treated any differently from others in the community.
Subsequent to the Statute of Secrecy, many Muggles continued to take advantage of the popularity of potions, and some sold fraudulent liquid remedies to other Muggles at high prices for their “magical powers”. Some of these potions included vitamin-rich minerals and elements that did boost memory and cognition, while others included ineffective and occasionally harmful ingredients that may have even exacerbated the symptoms they sought to cure. The term “snake oil salesman” still applies to those Muggles who sell goods with false information about their effectiveness, particularly “Cure-All” liquid remedies of no use. This term should, of course, not be confused with a salesman that sells truly useful portions of snakes to use in potions within the magical community.
The long separation from magic has caused what little tolerance Muggles had to potions to fade. The human body tends to work in this fashion: it adapts to things it experiences regularity, while growing intolerant to things it has not experienced ever in its lifetime or in quite a few generations. Some think that certain allergies in both magical and non-magical people may be related to this in some fashion.
To use another mundane example of how this process works, consider our consumption of lactose, or the predominant sugar in raw milk. This is an example of how the same process can work in reverse, allowing a species to become more tolerant of a substance with frequent exposure. In the time of the ancient Egyptians, humans did not have a tolerance for lactose. They almost never consumed it beyond the age of seven or eight, and therefore human digestive systems were unable to process it. However, today 35% of the world population is said to be able to properly digest lactose. The precise reason for this change is yet unknown, but some surmise it may have to do with increased regularity of consumption causing human digestion to evolve gradually.
In contrast, prolonged lack of exposure to magic has ultimately made Muggles less able to handle direct contact with it. Aside from the few instances with Muggles and potions that have gone horribly wrong, this is further evidenced by the exceptions where Muggles have continued to be exposed to magic secondarily. This most frequently occurs in towns, villages, or areas with a moderate magical population, such as the wizarding villages of Godric’s Hollow or Saint-Decatur, and is especially true if the exposure has not lapsed since the separation of our two worlds. Of course, no Muggles are going around guzzling potions or volunteering as target practice for stray spells, but they are subject to the general magical energy that pervades areas where frequent magic use occurs. To be clear, these are the exceptions to the rule of Muggle intolerance to potions, and only slight exceptions, at that!
And now that we have completed our first lesson, I invite you to take the first quiz of the year. There is also an optional introductory essay, should you decide to stretch your creative muscles.