I idly surveyed the tables below us. Which would take to me, and which would be problematic? I even caught some speculative looks thrown my way: was I Muggle Studies or DADA? I could practically feel bets being placed on how long I'd last. I focussed my attention on the Slytherins, and sought out the tow-headed Malfoy -- from the back, one might almost mistake him for Ian. Hooch and Sprout had warned me of him in particular. Forewarned is forearmed.
Then the great doors at the end of the Hall swung open, and the First Years made a straggling, dripping procession to the front, where the Sorting Hat waited. Every single one of them was wet through -- even Ian; Hagrid had taken him along to Hogsmeade Station so he could cross the lake with the others. It was a kind of initiation, Hagrid had told me.
The Sorting Hat was an ancient, disreputable-looking thing, but I'd learned enough about Hogwarts to know not to judge by its appearance. And indeed, a slit at the brim opened wide, and it began to sing.
It wasn't going to win an Olivier for its singing ability, but the verse was inventive enough. When it had finished, McGonagall began the Sorting itself.'A thousand years ago or more When I was newly sewn, There lived four wizards of renown, Whose names are still well known...'
"When I call out your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool. When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table." She consulted the scroll in her hand.
The first victim approached, put on the hat, and perched on the stool.
"RAVENCLAW!" it shouted.
I tried to remain relaxed as the Sorting progressed; Hooch helped by commenting quietly (for her) as to what was known about each new student.
And then it was Ian's turn.
I caught his eye as he slowly advanced on the Hat, and gave him a wink. He turned, sat, and gingerly pulled the Hat over his fair head.
I held my breath and mentally chanted, Not Slytherin, please, anything but Slytherin --
The Hat seemed to hesitate briefly, and then bellowed,
The Hufflepuff table applauded wildly, and Hooch elbowed me in the ribs to get me breathing again. A movement at the other end of the table caught my eye: Sprout had leaned in, grinning widely at me, and I followed suit.
Ian took off the Hat and marched smartly to his table, looking relieved. He must have been thinking the same thing as I. Hufflepuff was the best place for him, Sprout and I had guessed. His fellows would be loyal and understanding, and Sprout was more than capable of dealing with Ian fairly and sensitively. I shuddered to think how the Slytherins might have treated him, not to mention their Head of House. Empathy was a definite advantage in managing Ian.
The Sorting was finally over, each new student at their House Table: and as McGonagall whisked the hat and stool away, Dumbledore rose to address the assembly.
"I have only two words to say to you: Tuck in."
Released from my worry about the Sorting, I could, and did, tuck in. The Elves had outdone themselves.
When we were stuffed to the gills, the plates, platters and basins were suddenly, magically cleaned -- a handy trick of the Elves', and one of which I was particularly fond -- and Dumbledore rose again to speak.
"Now that we are all fed and watered, I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices.
"As you know, both the Defense Against Dark Arts and Muggle Studies positions were vacated at the end of last term; both have now been filled. I am pleased to introduce to you your new teacher of Muggle Studies," and he gestured to me to rise, "Professor Miranda Hunter."
Most of the students and faculty applauded politely, though there was some gratifying pounding from, surprisingly, the Gryffindor table; the Slytherins were blasé, but I'd expected that. Out of the corner of my eye I noted that Snape managed a few grudging claps, and he seemed none too pleased by his House's lack of enthusiasm. I acknowledged the recognition and sat as Dumbledore resumed his announcements.
"Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle this year has been extended to include Screaming Yo-yos, Fanged Frisbees, and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs..."
I admit, I tuned him out. I was relieved with Ian's Sorting and anxious about my first classes tomorrow -- and I paid no more attention until a sudden hubbub from the students roused me.
"... This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy -- but I am sure you will enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts --"
And then the most bizarre individual I have ever encountered -- and that's saying much, for someone with nearly twenty years' experience in Theatre -- made the most dramatically effective entrance I have ever seen. There was a tremendous clap of thunder throughout the room, and a flash of light across the ceiling; the doors -- great, heavy things that they were -- were flung back against the walls, and a tall, stooped figure was briefly silhouetted by the torches in the entry before it moved into the Great Hall.
The new DADA teacher, I presumed, and he looked the part. I would bet that there was not an inch of him unscarred; one eye rolled wildly in its socket, and I caught a glimpse of a wooden leg as he stumped his way up to the High Table. The students nearest shrank away from him as he passed.
"Alastor," Dumbledore murmured as he took the man's hand. "I was getting worried; any problems?"
"Bit of trouble at the cottage this morning, Albus; had to sort it out with the Ministry this afternoon. Blasted bureaucratic idiots," he swore grimly.
"Well, no harm done: come have a seat," Headmaster replied, and Moody took the empty seat at Dumbledore's right.
"May I introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher?" Dumbledore said brightly, ignoring the obvious shock and dismay emanating from the students. "Professor Moody."
The response to this was so abysmal that Headmaster quickly resumed his previous announcement, and then dismissed the assembly.
Well. At least the students had something far more interesting -- and worrying -- to talk about than me.
Altogether an extraordinary experience, I mused as I made my way back to my rooms, and was immediately struck by the emptiness of them when I entered. Ian's things had already been moved to Hufflepuff, and I hadn't had a chance to wish him goodnight before he'd been whisked off with the other First Years to his dormitory.
Ah, well. I knew it had to happen. For the first time in two years I was on my own again; but, oddly, I wasn't very pleased about it. Pointless to dwell on it, though; I had my first class -- First through Thirds -- for Second Period tomorrow, and I knew I'd wake early with a bad case of nerves. So I took myself off to bed immediately to get as much sleep as I could.
Draco Malfoy was, predictably, the first troublemaker. I'd just finished taking the roll when his hand shot up, and when I acknowledged it he asked with malicious cheek,
I ignored his rudeness, and calmly said, "Why what, Mr. Malfoy?" (But I knew full well what was coming.)
"Why do we need to study Muggles? It's not like we have to deal with them if we don't want -- and why anyone would want to is another good question," he opined with relish, and two of his fellow Slytherins obligingly sniggered, confirming my suspicion that it was common knowledge that I was Muggle.
The Gryffindors were curious for my answer, too.
"There are two reasons in particular, Mr. Malfoy. The first," I said quietly, "is that there is a vast world of knowledge and experience beyond these walls which you will never know if you confine yourselves to the Wizarding World. As Knowledge and Understanding are laudable and valid educational pursuits, it's worth your while to study it; only the ignorant," I said pointedly, "are content to live isolated by their own prejudices."
Malfoy's pale skin flushed at the delicate insult. If the shoe fits, boyo...
"Secondly -- and perhaps more importantly to you -- Headmaster has said you must. So unless you get a special dispensation from him, I suggest you apply yourself as diligently to this as you would to, say, Potions."
I hated invoking Dumbledore -- it was the old "because I told you so" excuse to which desperate parents resort -- but I knew I didn't have sufficient influence with this particular student. Obliquely mentioning his Head of House couldn't hurt, either.
"But why Literature?" the prat persisted, and I had to hand it to him: he didn't give up easily. "I mean, it's not like we don't have our own."
I considered this a moment, and slowly replied, "Great literature -- whether Muggle or Wizard -- teaches us about life and what it means to be a human being. I assume you are willing to at least consider that both Muggles and Wizards fall under that heading, Mr. Malfoy?"
Jaysus, Dumbledore and McGonagall weren't joking about the prejudice, were they?
"Take this, for example," I continued. "I think it has interesting parallels with the Creative Process and, incidentally, Magic. Some of you may recognise it: I offer it as an example of Literature, not as a religious work.
'In the beginning... the earth was without form and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep... And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.'"
I rose and crossed to the board, picking up the chalk. "How does the act of Creation begin?" I asked the whole class.
A bushy-headed Gryffindor's hand shot up.
"Yes, Miss --?"
Good -- at least somebody knows their manners.
"Miss Granger -- proceed."
"Literally, yes; but can you make it a little more abstract? Before God acts, there's another step."
She hesitated a second, and then added, "He decides to act."
"Good. The entity chooses a course of action; it has a Will." I wrote the word down. "And, as Miss Granger indicated, Will is followed by Action, which results in an Effect," I said as I added the third word to the equation.
"It's much the same as casting a charm or spell, isn't it? You want to accomplish something -- you will a certain outcome; you perform the charm; and, if you're skillful, it works." I stopped and looked thoughtfully at the board.
"There's one thing we've forgotten, though." I returned to the board, and added the final, most important part of the syllogism.
"This is the formula for all human interactions," I said quietly. "Our actions have consequences; that is not confined to deities, nor," I said with a smile, "to Wizards or Muggles. All human experience revolves around this model. Which is why," I added, pleased with the segué, "we're going to begin with what is possibly the greatest play in Western Literature, and, incidentally, one of the oldest: Oedipus the King."
It was an very good first class, despite Malfoy's interference and my conviction that he still couldn't care less.
"Everything all right?" I smiled at him, and mentally prayed that it was.
"Yeah -- wizard," he said with a grin.
Oh, cripes. We'd gone through the whole Slanguage business the first time he'd transferred to a new school; now he had a whole new world of phrases to explore."James Churchill -- he's in my room -- he used to do the -- the thing, too --" he meant the shattering glass, presumably, "-- but it got better. And he's teaching me Exploding Snap."
"You know, like Snap, but the cards explode."
"Ah. Would it be beneath you to teach your old lady someday?"
He looked at me appraisingly. "I'll think about it."
Cheeky little devil...
"Don't you have homework to do yet?" I growled at him, and swiped at his hair; he ducked and grinned, and took off down the corridor without so much as a kiss or goodbye.
Thank God he seems happy so far. I was having enough separation anxiety for both of us: no need for him to as well.
I took another few steps toward my rooms, and then remembered that I'd left my things from last Period in the anteroom. I turned to go back to the Great Hall --
-- and nearly ran into Snape, who'd been not far behind us, and who couldn't have missed our conversation. He glowered at me as he swept past.
Someone doesn't approve of parent-child interactions in Hogwarts' hallowed halls.
Well, isn't that too bloody bad.
Back to BNW Index
'In the Beginning': The Bible, Genesis Chapter 1.
I may have picked up Miranda's 'Action... Consequences' lecture from one of many interesting teachers, but it doesn't seem familiar. I think it might actually be my own, though it's a fairly obvious reading. As my writing on this story has progressed, it's become something of a theme.