After all the fuss Albus and Minerva have been making over the last few months over the Boy-Who-Lived finally starting school this year, my first impression is of an anxious undersized child with his father’s messy black hair almost covering that famous scar. He looks a lot like his father altogether, a fact that gives me no pleasure. To spend the next seven years staring into the face of one of the schoolyard bullies who confined me to the path that twisted my life is just one more punishment in a life that seems to hold nothing else.
The Sorting Hat takes rather a long time over him. I see his fists clench and his back straighten and wonder what they could be saying to each other to produce that reaction. Arguing over whether he belongs in Gryffindor like all the Potters before him or in Ravenclaw, perhaps, where I always thought his Muggle-born mother should have been sorted?
My mind wanders back twenty years to my own Sorting.
“Hmmm,” the Hat had muttered. “Courage, wit, loyalty and ambition. Now where shall I put you? Not Gryffindor, I think. You’re brave but not reckless. Ravenclaw? Perhaps not. Your thirst for knowledge is not for its own sake but for how you can use it. You might find happiness in Hufflepuff but would that satisfy you? You’d rather be important and Slytherin is the only house to give you that. Slytherin it is.”
As I reached my table I was beckoned by a tall blond lordling with straight shoulders and a prefect’s badge, Lucius Malfoy, wanting to know why the Hat had taken so long.
“What did it tell you?”
I looked up into confident ice-grey eyes and was awed into answering almost truthfully, “It said I was too cunning for a Gryffindor, too ambitious for a Ravenclaw and too dark for a Hufflepuff.”
The eyes narrowed. I damned myself for having mentioned Hufflepuff at all but he only smirked, “Dark, yes. A little black imp.”
I glowered at him for that truth. I’d already hexed seven students on the train for similar comments till I’d been left alone. I wasn’t in the mood to let rank or seniority, or even the certainty of being caught, stop me from adding him to the list but his smile was friendly and he made a space next to himself for me to sit down. He encouraged me to describe the hexes I’d used and to talk about my Dark Arts studies and I was the proudest first year in the hall. He was my liege and I his thrall from then on. The three years we were both at Hogwarts he made school life almost bearable for me.
Now at last I have the chance to return the favour. His son started Hogwarts this year, in my house of course. If he’s anything like his father, Draco will be leading it before too long.
“Gryffindor!” the Hat cries at last and I snap back to the present. No surprises there. Presumably this Potter takes after his unlamented father in more than looks.
I’m sitting next to Quirrell, the Defense Against Dark Arts teacher, as usual. He’s changed over the summer. Seems to have acquired a nervous stammer and a strong smell of garlic that deadens my nose. His conversation is as insipid as ever though. The third time he mentions having met our young celebrity in Diagon Alley I turn to expound my complete and utter disinterest, only to catch the boy himself screwing up his face as if it hurts him to look at me.
Strange to see his father’s enmity shining out from his mother’s eyes; Lily Evans was never a hater.
I wonder momentarily whether enough years have passed for me to forgive her frequent humiliating attempts at rescuing me from her future husband and his gang of murdering Marauders. No. She married him in the end, didn’t she? Straight out of school, in fact, when I had reason to know he hadn’t changed at all. Her compassion could never have been sincere. Likely I was just a pawn in their weird flirting rituals.
Besides Albus handed the orphaned toddler over to her family when they died. What could she have told them to have the brat watching me with such loathing when he’s never even met me? To loathe me once I’m teaching him, that would be expected and normal – my standards are too high and my tolerance too low to ever make me a popular teacher – but to hate me on sight? He definitely resembles his father in more than just looks.
I don’t give him another thought till his first class with me. There’s too much else to occupy me, not only the usual school-starting grind but my part in protecting the Stone. I have poisons and potions to brew and a rhyming riddle to write. I suppose the rhyme isn’t strictly necessary but it is the traditional approach and couplets always impress more than prose. Anyhow, he sparks memories I’ve done my best to lose for a decade.
Slytherins and Gryffindors are always an uncomfortable mix, too busy sparring for dominance to settle down to study. I start with my usual speech extolling the beauty and usefulness of Potions then move into my standard routine to remind them who’s master of my classroom. Something of a carrot and stick approach, not very subtle but generally quite effective.
No need to look around for the most cocky big-headed brat today, not with the over-praised “Saviour of the Wizarding World” in the room, though sitting next to him is the other obvious candidate. Yet another of those fire-topped Weasleys and not even the last; Albus tells me there’s a sister still to come next year. I make a note to find out if her oldest brothers have started breeding or whether eight years from now I can look forward to a respite of at least three years.
I haven’t yet had a year’s teaching without at least one Weasley. I hope this one isn’t a prankster like the twins. I don’t like the look in his eye but he’ll keep.
I ask Potter a few questions from the first year textbook, what asphodel and wormwood make, where to find a bezoar and the difference between aconite and monkshood. Most years my chosen victim gets at least one right but not Potter!
Doesn’t he even know enough to protect himself from common poisons? The Dark Lord may be gone but enough Death Eaters lied their way out of Azkaban that he’ll always be a target. Is he a complete blockhead? Hardly likely with his parents; I can only suppose he’s just too lazy to bother.
“I think Hermione knows, why don’t you ask her?” he cheeks me, winking at another Gryffindor.
Does he think I’m blind and deaf? Insolent brat! Just like his father, no respect for authority. No doubt the other teachers would let him get away with it, just as they used to let his father’s gang back in my schooldays. Time for him to learn that I’ll cut him no slack – well maybe a little as it’s only the first day. One point should do, I need to leave disciplinary room for escalation in case of worsening behaviour.
That Granger girl bears watching. Did she really know all those answers and her a Muggle-born? Not a very prepossessing child, all hair and teeth, but apparently all brain as well. Admirable! Too eager to show off though, jiggling up and down like a cauldron about to boil over. Better discourage her right from the start else I’ll never see a lick of work from anyone else.
“Sit down,” I say coldly and give the answers she’s burning to announce. Her face crumples in disappointment then firms with fresh resolve to impress me. I decide then and there never to call on her till she learns to wait to be asked. It shouldn’t take many weeks for her to get the hint, surely.
I start them brewing a simple potion, not too many steps and fairly forgiving, then wander round the classroom inspecting their efforts. Most of them have little idea of precision and accuracy though the Granger girl is at least careful. If I hadn’t decided to teach her manners I might have commented.
Draco’s work is exemplary, I’m pleased to say. Just as I start a demonstration emphasizing the proper methods he’s used, another Gryffindor manages to melt a cauldron.
Longbottom! He’s the image of his mother but she wasn’t such a duffer. Of course, she never had a chance to teach him anything. Both his parents have been in Cruciatus-inspired dementia at St Mungo’s for a decade.
He was there that night Bella tortured his parents. I told her he was too young for Crucio to really be effective – it was the most I could do without giving myself away – but she didn’t listen. She never listened. In the event it triggered his wild magic to weave a shield around him, knocking her off her feet. Not that anyone dared laugh. The only thing certain about Bella’s temper was its viciousness.
Merlin’s teeth, a three year-old should be able to add the ingredients in correct sequence! Did the Crucio cause permanent damage then or did the shield drain his wits somehow? I send him to the hospital wing, making a mental note to consult Poppy whether anything can be done. If I have to contend with this level of stupidity throughout his schooling I’m liable to finish what Bella started and murder him.
And right next to him is the Potter brat, completely oblivious. You’d think he’d know to keep an eye on his surroundings or doesn’t he care? Idiot child! He’ll need eyes in the back of his head to live to adulthood. Better drive the message home with another point deduction.
The class continues. Crabbe and Goyle are rather slow-witted but patient and steady. They’ll never be master-brewers but they’re capable of following instructions. I’ve spent enough time with their fathers to know the best way of keeping them focused. The Gryffindors are another story. Scatter-brained and inattentive most of them, though little Granger should go far. Not that I’ll ever tell her so!
The bell is music to my ears. Third year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs next, a quiet hard-working group that I’ve found quite tolerable for the last two years. The Boy-Who-Larked-Around races out and I breathe a sigh of relief that his father didn’t live long enough to have more than one child. If not for the fact that this boy ended the Dark Lord’s first reign I’d say it was one too many.
Nonetheless, I’ll do whatever’s necessary to keep the brat alive. Not for the life-debt Albus claims I owe his father – the death he saved me from was a trap he’d set himself – but because the Dark Lord will rise again. And when he does, this boy will give everyone hope that what rises must also fall. Dark times are coming and we’ll need all the hope we can get.
A/N In canon all we know of the attack on the Longbottoms is that the Lestranges and Barty Crouch were present and that Bellatrix cast the Crucios. The presence of Snape and Neville is my addition, as is the identity of Snape’s next class.