272 Slug Club

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After the Headboy and Headgirl addressal, Quinn assigned the Prefects with their patrolling time slots and adjourned the meeting after taking questions from the new prefects.

"Are you two coming?" Quinn asked Draco and Harry.

Harry and Draco stood up silently, which Quinn took as their agreement. He opened the door to the compartment and smiled at the lunch trolley lady who was just starting from the very front of the train where the Prefect's compartment was located.

"Would you like something off the cart, dear?" asked the trolly lady with her dimpled smile.

Quinn peered at the snack cart filled with all sorts of sweets — Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Drooble's Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, among many assortments of sweets. Quinn wondered if he should buy something with his pockets filled with an ample amount of chocolate. Then he saw something on the cart that put a smile on his face.

"One Weasley's Candy In a Can," he said, forking a sickle in return for the assortments of candies that caused different joke-like effects upon eating them.

He thanked the cart lady and stepped aside from the door so that she could reach all the other people inside the Prefect's compartment. He looked at Draco and Harry and asked as he pocketed the can, "Do you guys want to buy something? It's my treat."

Draco turned his nose up while Harry politely shook his head.

"Chocolate?" Quinn took out chocolate balls, which yet again were refused by both. "Suit yourselves, now let's go see what Slughorn has to eat; I'm starving."

And thus began the long walk to compartment C. The corridors, which were packed with people on the lookout for the lunch trolley, were impossible to negotiate, even for a Headboy and two Prefects — all of them well known personally. Every now and then, students would hurtle out of their compartments to get a better look at Harry and congratulate Quinn.

"Hi, Quinn," said Cho Chang as she stood at the threshold of her compartment. "Congratulations for getting the shiniest badge in Hogwarts."

"Hello to you as well, Chang. It indeed is shiny," said Quinn chuckling. "So, I saw Diggory at the station; I suppose he was here to see you away," he smirked, "it seems you two are going strong, eh. Tell me, did your parents come to send you off, or it was just Mr. Loving Boyfriend."

Cho blushed to her neck at Quinn's teasing words.

"Oh ho, so it was just Diggory, eh. I see, I see," said Quinn grinning. His eyes then went inside the compartment and saw Marietta Edgecombe sitting in her seat, stiff. She turned her face away the moment Quinn looked at her.

"Edgecombe," said Quinn, smiling, "I hope you're doing well."

Marietta cranked her head towards Quinn with a cramped smile and nodded. She didn't speak. Quinn's smile turned wider, and he could see Marietta twitch. Marietta had been low-key after Quinn had threatened her to keep quiet about DA, but she turned frightened after Umbgridge had been sacked and Quinn was in the center of the entire incident.

"Let's catch up later, Chang," said Quinn when he noticed that his two companions were getting restless waiting for him.

Quinn, along with Harry and Draco, pushed on. When they reached compartment C, they saw at once that they were not Slughorn's only invitees, although judging by the enthusiasm of Slughorn's welcome, Harry Potter was the most warmly anticipated.

"Harry Potter, m'boy!" said Slughorn, jumping up at the sight of Harry Potter entering his compartment. Slughorn seemed so excited that his great velvet-covered belly seemed to fill all the remaining space in the compartment. His shiny bald head and great silvery mustache gleamed as brightly in the sunlight as the golden buttons on his waistcoat. "Good to see you, good to see you! And you must be Draco Malfoy! I saw you a long time ago when you were a wee bit child. You remind me a lot of your father."

He turned his eyes around behind Draco and Harry and stretched his fat neck to peek outside. "My boys, I was told that Quinn West was along with you, but I do not see him. Did he not receive my invitation?"

Draco and Harry finally, after their brawl, looked at each other, wondering who should take the lead. It was Harry who decided to speak to the large professor.

"He's here, sir," Harry said and pointed behind into the compartment.

Slughorn turned, and he saw the crowd of invitees chatting among themselves. But then Slughorn's eyes caught a black-haired person decked in a maroon suit standing out from the rest of the group. He was standing over the appetizers table, looking at the options with his fingers tweaking before they went for the plate and picked up a sausage roll with a toothpick in it.

"Quinn West," Slughorn walked towards Quinn, who looked up from the appetizers with the sausage rolls on his lips.

Slughorn stared at Quinn, his mind going through the thoughts about Quinn. He knew of the Wests — he knew that they were significant, seclusive, and more importantly, ridiculously wealthy — though it puzzled him why they weren't well known. He had only come to know about the family when he saw Millicent Bagnold, the then Minister, and an impressive cohort of high-ranking Ministry employees walking with someone — and when Slughorn had asked about who the person was, he had received the name, George West. Slughorn decided to use his 'Slug Club' connections to find more about George West, and to his surprise, it took him contacting Lucius Malfoy to find more about George West. Even then, Lucius had been reluctant to talk about George West or the Wests in general, and all he had got was that they were extremely wealthy.

But Slughorn knew that there was much more to it. He tried to find out more on his own, looked for other West; however, except for the one time he had seen George West, Slughorn never met another West, or even heard of them. . . that was until last year when he saw the name Quinn West in the corner of a newspaper. So when Dumbledore came to him with Harry Potter in tow, Slughorn already had an additional incentive to return to Hogwarts as a professor.

"Ah, Professor Slughorn," Quinn said with a light smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you, and I thank you for the lunch invitation. Putting that aside, I, as the Headboy of the student body, would like to welcome you back to The Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

Slughorn laughed wholeheartedly as he wildly shook Quinn's hand. "I can see why they chose you as the Headboy. You do seem to suit the role. I have heard a lot about you, West — top of your year, with praises on the lips of every professor I have talked to. I look forward to teaching you this year."

"And I'm sure the students, especially the Slytherins, would be excited to learn from someone who was once their Head of House. For I, for one, can't wait to attend your lessons."

Slughorn once again laughed joyously and slapped Quinn on his shoulder repeatedly.

When Slughorn was done making small talk with Quinn, he turned to the other guest, and it was then the compartment's door opened, and three people entered. Quinn's breath was taken away when he saw the people at the door. Suddenly for Quinn, there was no one but them and himself. He vanished the toothpick in his hand and moved towards them with vivid emotion in his eyes.

They looked like they were going to speak something, but Quinn enveloped them in a warm, loving hug, wanting to convey the multitude of emotions through this one gesture. Quinn even felt himself tear a little as he hugged tighter.

"The fuck's wrong with you?" said Eddie, staring at Quinn with a weirded-out look. He tried to push Quinn away, but the Muay Thai and Boy magic practitioners didn't budge.

Marcus, the gentle one of the Ravenclaw Trio, accepted the hug and hugged back, subconsciously patting Quinn's back. "Not that we don't appreciate the hug, Quinn, but may we know why the sudden hug?"

Quinn took a deep breath before ending the hug and looked at his two best friends with joyous eyes. "For six long years, I have ridden this train on First of September, and today makes it the seventh, and my last. For the past five years, I have tried to find both of you on this train, but some cursed power, something vile, has stopped our union," he placed his hands on their shoulder, "but today, today it seems the curse has been broken, and our friendship has triumphed over the hardships and finally have brought us together."

"Mate," said Eddie, "that's nice and all, but look around, will ya?"

Quinn turned to come face to face with his gorgeous but also frowning girlfriend. "Daphne," said Quinn, walking close to her, "even though it has only been a few days, I have missed you."

Daphne continued to furrow her brows as she looked at her smiling boyfriend. She had wanted to meet Quinn as soon as she boarded the train but knew that he would be busy with the prefect business. She waited patiently with Tracey in a compartment they had occupied for their group. Then came Marcus, soon followed by Luna, and they all started to share their summer stories. But that was until Eddie arrived, and unlike her and Quinn, Tracey and Eddie weren't so reserved when it came to public display of affection.

Daphne(and Marcus) couldn't sit awkwardly as the couple, who had not met in close to a month, went at each other, trying to make up for the missed time. The unabashed couple didn't even notice that Luna was staring at them with her curious eyes.

The invitation from Horace Slughorn came just at the right time as Daphne wasn't sure she could take it anymore. Marcus, Eddie, and her had been invited. She had heard of Slughorn from her father, who had told her about the 'Slug Club.' Even though she wasn't interested in joining the 'Slug Club,' she knew Quinn would be there, so she thought accepting the invitation wouldn't be so bad.

When she finally arrived, as she expected, Quinn was there, but he walked past her and hugged Marcus and Eddie while speaking strange words about curses, friendship, and hardships.

Daphne sighed. She knew of his occasional penchant for theatrics. And she couldn't be mad at him for long. "I would appreciate if you wouldn't ignore me next time," she said, looking up at him.

"How could I ever ignore you," said Quinn. He leaned forward and whispered as he lightly kissed her cheek, "You're the most breathtaking one in every room."

Daphne's cheeks flushed and pushed Quinn away, though her hands held no power. "Not in front of everyone!"

Quinn grinned, enjoying seeing the blushing Daphne. It was a rare sight that he had only found after the two had started dating. He wanted to see more.

"Ahem."

Quinn and Daphne turned to see Ivy Potter standing waiting to pass by. They moved away, giving her space to pass by between them. But Ivy didn't move and said, "You left so abruptly the last time, didn't even say a proper goodbye."

Daphne's eyes narrowed. She looked sharply at Quinn for an answer.

"I met her during my visit at the Weasley's store," said Quinn, keeping his exterior normal, even though inside he was groaning, for he knew why Ivy was doing it. "There, I had to leave suddenly because of some business that had come up."

"I see," said Daphne, and her expression went back to her usual 'Daphne-esque' expression, even though she was bothered that Quinn had met with Ivy and she didn't know about it.

At a call from Slughorn, everyone sat down around the table. Quinn kept his eyes to his left, where Daphne sat beside him, trying to ignore his right where Ivy sat.

"Now, do you know everyone?" Slughorn asked Harry, whom the professor had made sit beside him. "Blaise Zabini is in your year, of course —"

Blaise and Harry exchanged a nod to each other. It was the most a Gryffindor and Slytherin would give each other, and those two had reached the level after working with each other in DA for months.

"This is Cormac McLaggen; perhaps you've come across each other —? No?"

McLaggen, a large, wiry-haired youth, raised a hand, and Harry and Neville nodded back at him.

"— and this is Marcus Belby, I don't know whether —? Oh, you do? Excellent!"

Even if a group of people in DA might not have talked to each other, there was not a single DA member who didn't have a talk with Marcus about secrecy and rules outside the Room Of Requirements.

"— and you must know Carmichael. You two have been playing against each other at the battlefield of Quidditch —!"

Eddie and Harry just bluntly stared at each other. All both were willing to do was acknowledge each other existence as human-shaped living organisms.

"— and here we have West. But I'm sure as a Prefect, you must know the Headboy!" Slughorn finished.

Quinn nodded politely to Harry, and there was yet again a wave of congratulations for Quinn becoming the Headboy.

"Well now, this is most pleasant," said Slughorn cozily. "A chance to get to know you all a little better. Here, take a napkin. I've packed my own lunch; the trolley, as I remember it, is heavy on licorice wands, and a poor old man's digestive system isn't quite up to such things. . . . Pheasant, Belby?

Marcus tarted and accepted what looked like half a cold pheasant.

"I was just telling young Marcus here that I had the pleasure of teaching his Uncle Damocles," Slughorn told everyone, now passing around a basket of rolls. "Outstanding wizard, outstanding, and his Order of Merlin most well-deserved. Do you see much of your uncle, Marcus?"

Marcus waited till he had transferred some of the pheasant onto his plate before answering. "Not . . . not much of him, no."

"Well, of course, I daresay he's busy," said Slughorn, looking questioningly at Belby. "I doubt he invented the Wolfsbane Potion without considerable hard work!"

"I'm sure he did his share of hard work," said Marcus placing a bread roll onto his plate. "I haven't seen my uncle in years. My dad and uncle don't get along that much."

". . . I see," said Slughorn with a smile drained of its previous warmth.

"Now, you, Cormac," said Slughorn, "I happen to know you see a lot of your Uncle Tiberius because he has a rather splendid picture of the two of you hunting nogtails in, I think, Norfolk?"

"Oh, yeah, that was fun, that was," said McLaggen. "We went with Bertie Higgs and Rufus Scrimgeour — this was before he became the Head of DMLE, obviously —"

"Ah, you know Bertie and Rufus too?" beamed Slughorn, now offering

around a small tray of pies. "Speaking of that," he turned to Susan Bones, "Dear, how's your aunt doing? I heard about the attack on her house. She must have been devastated — how the times have become, the Minster's house been attacked, this would've never happened before."

He meandered off into a long-winded reminiscence about the wide array of topics about things that made Slughorn seem important and well connected, which in truth, he was, but the bragging was getting a bit too much for everyone. The afternoon wore on with more anecdotes about illustrious wizards Slughorn had taught, all of whom had been delighted to join what the 'Slug Club.'

The Slug Club was an out-of-hours dining and social club made up of Horace Slughorn's most well-liked and sometimes famous students at Hogwarts. Along the course of the school year, Slughorn would hold various club get-togethers, often dinners with fine food. Slughorn would lead the conversation in order to get to know the members better and encourage them to associate with one another. For the grander parties, he would invite famous former members to impress. Slughorn's aim was to cultivate talent and give his favorites a nudge toward fame and fortune, hoping to reap the benefits of his connection to them once they became the "high fliers" he expected them to be.

Finally, the train emerged from yet another long misty stretch into a red sunset, and Slughorn looked around, blinking in the twilight.

"Good gracious, it's getting dark already! I didn't notice that they'd lit the lamps! You'd better go and change into your robes, all of you. McLaggen, you must drop by and borrow that book on nogtails. Harry, Blaise — any time you're passing. The same goes for you, Ivy," he said, flashing a smile, "I have many stories about your mother that I think you'd be interested in. Eddie, you as well, have to sit with me sometime; I'll tell you about Gwenog Jones, she was my student, and I think you might know her from the Holyhead Harpies." He turned to Quinn, "Quinn, let's have some tea when you drop by during Headboy duties. Daphne, dear, did you know I was sort of a matchmaker for your parents. . . ."

"I'm glad that's over," muttered Marcus after they exited compartment C. "Strange man, isn't he?"

"I'm not going back if he invites me the next time," said Quinn, bluntly.

"Why? I thought it was fun," said Eddie, stretching his arms above his head. "Though it was a bit long. . . hmm, I wonder how's Tracey faring with Luna."

"The Slug Club can be a good place, no doubt," said Quinn to Eddie, "but for everyone here, it doesn't do much good. . . maybe for Marcus, but he was rejected."

"What do you mean? Why was Marcus rejected?" Eddie said, frowning.

"The Slug Club is about creating connections," started Quinn. "Slughorn has constructed a long history of inviting influential students into his club and has created a network of now influential people in high places. What he does is allow students to use those connections — and gives those students a chance at having first-rate careers ahead of them.

Helping others become famous gained Slughorn his influence, such as being able to recommend the next junior member of the Goblin Liaison Office, and various benefits, such as free tickets to any Holyhead Harpies match or a box of his favorite exotic fruit."

"Daphne and I have connections that exceed Slughorn's. The same goes for Malfoy. Potters have their unique position, their father is an exalted Auror and a member of Wizengamot, so they also won't gain much from Slughorn. Zabini and McLaggen will definitely benefit from Slughorn, so it's good for them." He put his arm around Eddie's shoulder, "You are the most popular amateur prospect in all of British Isles, so as long as you don't screw up, you pretty much don't need Slughorn's help — he might have been able to provide you with a good agent, but with your popularity, good ones would flock around you, begging you to join them"

Eddie puffed his chest. He knew he was pure awesome, but hearing it did feel good.

Now, Marcus. . . if he knew his paradigm-changing uncle better, Slughorn would have flocked around him as much as did everyone else, but because Marcus didn't, he didn't talk to him after he revealed his family status," said Quinn. "Slughorn isn't interested in students who won't give him returns — he doesn't think Marcus has anything to offer, so he just cut him. . . that's how Slug Club works."

Marcus bowed his head. Did that mean he didn't have any personal value?

"Slughorn is a fool to not consider Marcus," said Quinn, making Marcus raise his head. "Ask anyone in DA, and they will tell you who's the real boss." He looked at Marcus, "And I take it back, you don't need Slughorn — you have connections much greater than his."

Marcus said, "What? Quinn, I don't know my uncle—"

"Who's talking about uncle," said Quinn and then pointed at himself. "You have me as your connection. You literally can't have a better connection than me. Whatever Slughorn can provide, I can do better."

Marcus looked at Quinn, who was now mimicking Eddie in his 'I am pure awesome' expression.

Marcus smiled. Quinn was right. He did have better connections than Slughorn, much, much better.

"Next time we go to Hogsmeade. It's my treat," said Marcus.

" "Seriously?! Nice!" " said Quinn and Eddie.

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Quinn West - MC - I'm better.

FictionOnlyReader - Author - Damn, that was long, now I'm sleepy. . .

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