Author's note: As always, thanks for being amazing and reading&following&favouriting this story.
- CHAPTER 13 -
Harry stepped out of the fireplace with his heart running wild. This was it – the moment he has been waiting for, for as long as he could remember. He was disappointed to learn that he wouldn't see the castle from the outside, but then came the realisation that he was going to be taught Herbology as well. He quickly got over his disappointment as the greenhouses were most probably outside, so if not now then in the close future he would see the magnificent castle. Plus, if he has learned anything from all the stories Uncle Remus and Sirius ever told him about the escapades of the Marauders, it was that getting away from teachers was easier and more fun than one would ever think.
Also, his Uncle Al's office was just too interesting not to notice and to be preoccupied with anything else. It was a large circular room with many windows and countless portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses. The office had also played host to a number of spindly tables upon which delicate looking silver instruments were set that whirred and emitted small puffs of smoke, as well as an incredible collection of books. Harry has grown up in Dumbledore Cottage where the living room and the library itself were full of old tones and yet he was astonished by the private collection in the office.
Harry was not surprised to spot Fawkes, his uncle's pet phoenix in his cage. While usually the phoenix resided in the Headmaster's Office, his uncle was frequently visited by the bird in their cottage as well, so Harry had the pleasure of meeting the phoenix. The magical pet raised his intelligent black eyes on Harry who in turn slowly raised his hand to pet the phoenix's crimson feather. He wasn't surprised that the bird was hot to touch, as Fawkes always seemed to radiate heat in his opinion. "Hey, there, Fawkes," he muttered to the bird while petting it.
"How does one get a phoenix as a pet?" he asked without turning around, knowing that his guardians were already behind them. He heard a faint chuckle and his uncle stepped right next to him to face the phoenix.
"I am afraid my dear boy, that it is a bit more complicated than going to a pet shop," he stated and Harry sighed. He kind of got that already as he has certainly never seen any in a shop. Not that he was surprised that his uncle didn't answer. His grandma always said that the Great Albus Dumbledore only answered questions he wanted to. It was one of his grandma's favourite ranting topics as well. "They are immensely independent creatures. Very few wizards have ever succeeded in domesticating them." Harry was taken aback that his uncle actually shared this piece of information with him, but wasn't exactly surprised that Uncle Al was among those exceedingly few. It seemed kind of fitting.
When Harry looked up he noticed that his grandma has arrived through the Floo Network as well. As always she was spotless, her hair was in a tight bun and her expression was serious, though when their eyes met, it softened and she smiled at him.
She stepped closer to the pair of them, but no pleasantries were exchanged. It was not surprising though as today he was supposed to be Henry Taylor and not McGonagall, so she wasn't even his aunt let alone his grandma at the moment. Why this play was needed again, he most certainly did not know, but if he questioned, he would only get the whole 'you will understand when you are older' talk, something he has heard one too many times already.
Knocking. Harry turned towards the oaken double door and his heart started running wild once again. He has never met any of the other three Head of Houses before. Now to think of, he only spent time around Gryffindors since he has been born. His parents, his grandma, all of his uncles, the Weasleys and as far he knew even the Longbottoms were in the house of lions. It was actually a rather interesting thought – how different were the Head of House of Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff than his own grandma or his Uncle Al, the previous Head of Gryffindor? Not that it really mattered as Uncle Sirius and his grandma were hardly anything alike, though they were both in the same house during their schooling, so obviously houses didn't mean that much. It was actually a funny though – his grandma with his godfather's personality. That would be a sight he wished to see.
"Come in," Uncle Al happily supplied, something which did not surprise Harry at all, because his uncle had a tendency to react with happiness to everything. According to his grandma, it was actually a rather annoying habit, but Harry found it a way of positive thinking. He liked the idea of looking at the World with enthusiasm instead of boredom or anger. The door opened just as his uncle closed his mouth and three completely different people appeared in the office – two wizards and a witch. The witch had to be Pomona Sprout, the Head of Hufflepuff (simply because he knew that other than his own grandma, she was the only female Head of House). She was a squat little witch with short, grey, wavy hair and a smile on her face, which made her somewhat dirty and unkempt appearance friendly and natural instead of scary and repulsing. She was most certainly the type who did not care much about her appearance, especially when there was work to be done.
While only moments before he decided that the houses didn't mean much, Harry had to admit that he could distinguish the two wizards easily without ever meeting them before. One was a thin man with sallow skin, a large, hooked nose and yellow, uneven teeth. He was dressed in flowing black robes and he had shoulder-length, greasy black hair which framed his face in curtains, curling lips and dark eyes that resembled tunnels. Without a question he knew that this was Severus Snape, the Potions master and Head of Slytherin.
The other man was distinguishingly short. Harry had an inkling that somewhere in the wizard's ancestry there was some small creature, something along the line of a goblin. He had a shock of white hair and he wore green robes. He also had a smile on his face and seemed rather excited to be in the office contrary to the other wizard, who probably wanted to be anywhere else. On first impression, Harry liked Filius Flitwick a lot more than Severus Snape. The Charms professor in his opinion was rather – er, charming.
"Ah, everyone is here. It's nice to see you, Pomona, Filius and Severus," his uncle nodded towards the newcomers. His grandma shared his uncle's sentiments, while he was standing there rather awkwardly and feeling a bit out of place – after all, he has never met any of his guardians' colleagues before, so he wasn't sure how to behave around the three new faces. While he spent a lot of time around adults, most were in his life for us long as he could remember, so those interactions didn't give him much experience with this situation. He also went to school and had teachers, but those were Muggles, so different approach was expected, he guessed.
"And this is Henry Taylor, just as we have discussed it," his uncle added. Harry once again scowled lightly at the name. This time his appearance wasn't changed, but as he was to continue his education through the school year (on weekends), it was decided that he was to behave like a normal student if anyone spotted him or questioned his identity. He was to play a first year (who was of course a bit smaller than most).
"Just as you mentioned Minerva, very fine young man," Professor Sprout beamed and Harry flushed. This was something that has happened before, ladies telling his grandma how 'fine' he was when they first saw him, but it still made him a bit embarrassed. Though, he had to admit that the Herbology professor seemed nice enough. "Nice to meet you, Mr Taylor, I am Professor Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff."
"T-Thank you ma'am," he muttered. "It's nice to meet you too." To his greatest surprise Professor Flitwick rushed then forward and took his hand and shook it enthusiastically. The man was hardly taller than him, so it was a rather funny scene in Harry's opinion.
"Ah, Mr Taylor, what a pleasure. I do hope that you will find my subject, Charms, fascinating. Albus also said that you might be interested in duelling later. Finest sport in my opinion, a noble one at that with spectacular history," he stated while continuing beaming. Harry couldn't stop himself from smiling either. "The pleasure is mine," he added and he actually meant it. It was hard not to like the short professor in his opinion.
Harry turned towards the last teacher he has yet to be introduced to, but the smile on his face quickly disappeared. Professor Snape obviously watched the scene with disdain, he had a permanent scowl on his rather youthful face and instead of approaching Harry he seemed to have stepped back.
"Professor," Harry nodded towards the youngest teacher, who had to be around the same age as his Uncle Remus and Sirius. "Thank you for teaching me in the future." He guessed that if this introduction happened in three years, on his first week at Hogwarts he would have been simply following the footsteps of the professor and be rude and distant, but the man who obviously wanted to do something else during his summer and weekends was ready to teach him instead. The wizard most probably accepted the plus work, because he was asked by the headmaster, but still. Also, Harry was right in the vision of his grandma and he wasn't about to be impolite with her being around – he knew for sure that he would hear no end to that. There was a reason why his grandma was known as the strict teacher at Hogwarts (though at least the word 'fair' was usually added to the description).
"My pleasure, Mr Taylor," Professor Snape said with something along the line of sarcasm in his voice. Harry also had a feeling that his fake family name was emphasized for a reason. Did Professor Snape find this whole not-Potter-not-even-McGonagall-thing just as strange as Harry did? Because then that would explain the non-welcoming reaction of the Potions master. Or maybe the professor just found the exceptional situation unfair. After all, how many could say that they were to be taught by the Head of Houses and the Headmaster of Hogwarts three years before they were even accepted to the school? While Harry was of course very excited about it, in a way he did feel it unfair himself, especially as his friends couldn't come with him and they didn't even know what was going on.
He imagined how each of them would react. Hermione would be running around with some book and mutter all the spells she has ever heard of and their usage. She would be terrified that she was not enough, panicking about things she didn't know (not that there were much) but she would be all hyped up. Ron would look at Harry with big eyes and exclaim loudly: 'Bloody hell, mate!' Neville on the other hand would be terrified; he would be petrified as well and when asked he would only be able to stutter.
Harry was not like any of his friends. While he most certainly did not like the reason of why he was treated exceptionally and hated the whole 'Mr Henry Taylor' identity, he was of course excited about learning magic. While he has grown up in a magical household, he only caught a few spells here and there (the fact that most of his family members did magic silently did not help). Also, he was advised against reading about magical theory as long as he was not taught. Most probably, because his grandma feared that he once opened a textbook he wouldn't be as patient as Hermione and would do anything to try it in reality as well. (Like accidentally taking the wand of one of his uncle. Accidentally, of course only.)
"Now, now, as we discussed young Mr Taylor is to be taught five subjects. That is of course not all what is taught in our school, but I believe most of you would agree with me that these are the most important for someone like our youngest student. Obviously those would be the main expertise of those who are attending at the moment," Uncle Albus said with an excited smile once Harry's attention wondered back to the present. He hoped he actually didn't miss out on any piece of information.
"Isn't your main expertise the same as Minerva's, Albus? That makes it four, not five," the Herbology professor pointed out, though in Harry's opinion it was a quite stupid question. From all the mumbling and ranting of his grandma he knew for sure that his uncle was most certainly not only talented in one subject. According to his grandma actually his uncle was annoyingly good in all fields of magic and the only reason why he taught Transfiguration and not any of the other lessons was that back at the time they needed a teacher for that. Harry wasn't sure about that, because once he asked Uncle Al and he stated that the subject he taught was in fact his favourite, but there must have been a reason why she insisted on her own theory.
"Minerva is of course going to teach Mr Taylor Transfiguration, she is the current professor after all, it has been a while for me. However, as you see we are missing a Defence teacher, so that's going to be my new expertise. I admit I have never taught it myself, but I believe to be capable of teaching the basics." At that all the teachers attending shared a look that Harry most certainly caught. He guessed, they must have agreed, or found the part about 'basics' a bit funny. "With how we tend to change teachers every year, I'm hardly sure to ask our current professor. This is a rather delicate situation after all as we have already discussed. Not something I would like to repeat year after year to teachers I've just met. There are few whom I trust as much as the here presented after all."
"If you can't teach it yourself, I am always at you service, Albus," Professor Snape sneered and his uncle humoured the younger man.
"Very nice of you Severus, but I'm afraid your services as Potion master are still needed. Mr Taylor should not only be able to use his wand after all." The Potions professor merely nodded at that with a sneer. Shortly Uncle Al turned towards Harry and continued talking. "Now, now, Mr Taylor, you are to be taught constantly during the remaining summer holiday and then from September, during the weekends." Harry nodded in acknowledgement. It was a somewhat interesting and frightening idea – using up his entire holiday for learning and then during school time his weekends. He was hardly going to see his friends except maybe for Hermione with whom he attended primary school. While magic was obviously more fun than Maths, he wasn't sure that he liked his new lesson plan, it sounded a bit too full for his taste.
"As I told you all," this time Uncle Al was speaking to all four of the Heads and not to him, Harry concluded, "I want you to teach the basics of each of your subjects in details. Try to emphasize the parts which are not going to come up in enough details once Mr Taylor attends the school as a first year. I want him to have a wider field of vision when it comes to these subjects than is normal or acceptable according to the curriculum."
"Oh, yes, this way Mr Taylor might actually pass his first year exam," Professor Snape added. He crossed his arms and for a moment his eyes met Harry's and there was such an intensity of emotions in them that Harry was surprised. Was that hatred? Also, while Harry was actually grateful that the man in question would teach him when it wasn't exactly in his job description (Harry was yet to become a Hogwarts student after all), he didn't exactly like the way the man was talking about him.
He supposed he was hardly as enthusiastic when it came to schoolwork like some people (for example Hermione), but this was magic. He was most certainly interested in the subjects. Not to mention that he was in fact far from a bad student. He had a feeling that even without these plus lessons; he would be able to pass his exams. Uncle Sirius always told him that during the first years he has hardly studied and yet he always passed with flying scores. At that of course his grandma scoffed and told his godfather to stop saying such nonsense and that he wasn't suppose to encourage Harry of not studying, but Harry was pretty sure that his godfather wasn't lying.
"Ah, Severus, I merely meant that I want you all to show the depth of your field to young Mr Taylor. I know for fact that all the here represented professors are real experts of their subjects and have an undeniable passion for it, so show him." Harry studied the other three Heads including his grandma. Professor Sprout and Flitwick were rather excited by the speech his uncle has just given, obviously already thinking of ways to show him the beauty of Herbology and Charms while his grandma was in fact slightly rolling her eyes, though he noticed a small smile she was hiding. His grandma liked to deny, but Harry always knew that she was fond of his uncle's pep talks.
"Yes, Severus, don't be such a spoilsport," Professor Sprout stated with a wide grin. "What would your little snakes say to such behaviour?" Harry watched the conversation between the adults with curiosity.
"Little snakes, really Pomona?" he simply asked while Harry's grandma added matter-of-factly. "They would think that he is in character."
"Children, play nicely," Uncle Al said and now all four of the Head of Houses looked at the eldest with an intense look. Harry felt a bit strange, like he wasn't supposed to be there at all. It seemed that most of the adults presented even forgot about the fact that he was around. At the thought, he automatically stepped closer to his grandma, who put an arm around him, not even caring that he was supposed to be Henry Taylor and not McGonagall. Usually he would scoff that he was old for such treatment, but not at that moment. He caught the eyes of the Herbology professor who found his automatic shift obviously cute and he was sure that she was close to gushing over the fact how cute he was, (which was something most eight-year-old boys, such grown-ups already, didn't like very much.)
"Who do you call a child, Albus?" Professor Snape asked with an incredulous expression.
"I think we should go back to the original topic. Lessons. I've already made a lesson plan; I hope you will all agree to it." At that with a flick of his wand while he turned towards his desk, a few papers folded themselves into birds and they flew in the direction of the Head of Houses and Harry. All four of the Heads had their wands in their hands and easily guided the paper bird to themselves, while Harry caught it in his hands. He unfolded it curiously, though he had to admit that he found the bird kind of pretty and hated that he had to ruin it. He was most certainly going to ask his uncle to teach him that spell.
Monday: Charms - Prof. Flitwick
Tuesday: Transfiguration - Prof. McGonagall
Wednesday: Herbology - Prof. Sprout
Thursday: Potions - Prof. Snape
Friday: Defence Against the Dark Arts - Prof. Dumbledore
Friday: Defence Against the Dark Arts - Prof. Dumbledore
1, Charms - Prof. Flitwick
2, Transfiguration - Prof. McGonagall
1, Herbology - Prof. Sprout
2, Potions - Prof. Snape
Harry wasn't sure what to think, he had to admit that while all week he was so excited that he was probably making his grandma crazy, he felt frightened now that it was all coming true. His friends were talking about Hogwarts as a far away plan and yet it was happening right now for him.
"Ah, it's my turn then," Professor Flitwick said enthusiastically. Harry wondered if the short Charms teacher was able to be anything, but enthusiastic. He grabbed Harry's arm and started pulling him towards the door. "Come, come it's Charms-time." The new student looked at his grandma with surprise and he was sure that he looked at least a bit frightened, but his grandma just nodded with a smile.
"Just go, Mr Taylor." Merlin, what was even going on? That moment as strange as it seemed, he had a feeling that he would have preferred Professor Snape and his obvious distaste. Maybe there was such a thing as too much enthusiasm. He was rather curious how his lessons would turn out after such a first meeting.