“Thank you Professor, I’ll be sure to do that,” Eric said evenly as he made his way out of Headmaster Dumbledore’s office. As soon as the gargoyle returned to its place behind him, the Gryffindor let his polite smile drop. “Stupid! Bloody! Idiotic! Black!” he hissed out.
He had just finished an Alchemy lesson with the foremost magical expert of their time, and the man had left him with words that continued to ring in his ears. “You may want to consult with the young Mr. Black about this issue, he’s shown a firm understanding of the central array,” Dumbledore advised.
Eric was unable to understand how Dumbledore could be the noble leader of the Light and still fall prey to Black’s “perfect student” act. Why, the first time Eric had ever spoken to the boy, he had been incredibly rude. First, Eric had caught him messing about in the Alchemy section, as if Black could even comprehend half the books he had been foolishly grabbing. Then, he shot down Eric’s assertion that he was a Dark wizard and arrogantly tried to disprove the genetic theory of magical affinity inheritance that countless renowned academics had researched.
Then again, perhaps Dumbledore was trying to discreetly warn him about Black’s cruel and abnormal nature. Dumbledore did receive a large number of donations from the Potter family, who were infamously - and unfortunately - close with the Blacks. He likely had to be kind to Black to appease his Light donors! Dumbledore had placed an odd emphasis on the word “understanding”. Perhaps he was trying to get Eric to understand the complexity of his falsely genial relationship with Arcturus Black!
Eric let out a sigh. No matter Dumbledore’s reasons, Eric’s morning was undeniably tainted by the mere mention of Black. The day had started disappointingly, but he supposed that it could only get better from here.
Eric had been sorely mistaken. As soon as he arrived at the Fat Lady’s portrait, it had swung open to reveal two vaguely familiar first years carrying a comically large cauldron. Before he could say a word, one of the miscreants tripped out of the portrait hole and ended up dumping the whole mess onto Eric.
Eric shook with fury as he realized these children ruined a pair of robes that cost more than their miserable families likely made in a year. First years were some of the few people that the slight boy could comfortably look down on, and he made full use of that fact to glare down at the pair of boys, who were standing stock-still - faces pale and mouths hanging open vapidly.
“Blimey,” one of them burst out, “I’m so sorry mate!”
The other one addressed him more suitably. “I’m really, really sorry sir. I didn’t mean for this to happen. Is there anything that -”
“Jonah,” the other one groaned out, interrupting. “The twins are going to kill us.”
“The twins?” Eric asked, suddenly suspicious. Surely not -
“The Weasley twins. They paid us a galleon to take this cauldron down to an empty classroom they’re working out of. It’ll be a nightmare to explain this mess to them. Say, could you come down with us and tell them -”
Eric strode past the babbling boy and made for his dorm room, mind racing with ideas. Of course it was the Weasley twins! They had likely planned this to get back at him for reporting them to a prefect last week for coughing loudly in the Library and disrupting the studious environment! Even more damningly - the twins were known to be close friends with Black!
“Perhaps he’s in on this,” mused Eric out loud. One of his dormmates gave him an odd look, but Eric ignored it. He was onto something, he knew it! As Eric stripped away his soiled robes, he fumed. Black continued to ruin his day, and he was sick of him getting away with it.
Eric carefully sat down at his regular seat at the Gryffindor table for lunch. He pondered the events of the day. It was unusual that so many things had gone wrong for him in such a short period of time. And the events were both related to Black! He wondered if it could be some form of dark magic that Black was using to corrupt his day. But no, that was a ridiculous notion. Or was it?
Eric heard the flapping of wings that always signalled the incoming flight of dozens of owls carrying letters. He smiled as he noticed the distinctive brownish-red coloring of his family owl. A letter from home would certainly lift his spirits.
Then the owl crashed into his meal and splashed soup all across his face. Eric spluttered and flushed red as his peers burst into laughter at the sight of his dripping face. At times like these, Eric wished that he could have been sorted into Slytherin. Despite being composed of Dark-aligned cretins, they maintained their decorum in situations like this.
Eric snatched the letter from the owl and shooed it away. He pried it open eagerly, needing some good news after the day he had been having.
His face grew darker and darker as he scanned through the letter from his father (supreme Aldermaster of the Alchemist Guild, Ulrich Albright). Arcturus Black was invited to Dumbledore’s spring soiree.
His hands shook as he digested the news. The boy had invaded his morning lessons with Dumbledore, ruined his robes, and now he was forcing his way into what should have been a righteous gathering of Light families.
Enough was enough.
Eric slowly got to his feet and walked to the Slytherin table with measured steps. He would not lower himself to the level of that boy and use underhanded methods of revenge. He came to a stop directly in front of Arcturus Black.
“Black! You have insulted my honor for the last time, I challenge you to a duel,” Eric declared.
The Slytherins in front of him gaped.
“He hasn’t even spoken to you!”
“Look, Albright -” Black began.
Theodore Nott cut him off. “Rigel’s preparing for the next task. You might recall, he’s the Pureblood Champion in the Triwizard Tournament. He doesn’t have time for your delusions.”
Black looked apologetic. “I would not have put it like that, but Albright, you and I haven’t spoken in a year. I am uncertain what I may have done to offend you, but I sincerely apologize for anything that may have inadvertently hurt you.”
Eric bristled as Black blatantly denied his actions throughout the day. “Fine,” he bit out, “Then we can do it here and now.” Eric raised his wand and pointed it at Black as his eyes grew wide and alarmed.
Despite Black’s late warning, the two boys ended up casting at the same time (further proof that Black had enhanced his reflexes through some dirty ritual). Their spells hit each other and scattered across the Great Hall.
“Albright, please, let’s resolve this peacefully,” Black pleaded, clearly wanting to paint himself as the morally superior wizard.
Eric simply raised his wand again, getting ready to cast another spell.
“He’s tenacious, I’ll give him that,” he heard the Malfoy heir mutter to the Parkinson girl.
“Rigel, I don’t think he’ll give up until you knock him unconscious!” came a cry from the Gryffindor table, where much of Eric’s house had begun paying attention to the confrontation.
Black grimaced and raised his wand.
Eric had a moment to feel victorious, and then a red beam of light was coming straight at him before he could even think of a spell. Eric only had time to widen his eyes before being knocked unconscious by the stunning spell and crashing into the hard floor of the Great Hall.
It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Eric Albright.