Strangers When We Meet

She is working at Hogwarts – teaching, naturally, what she always planned on doing – when she hears that he's been appointed Minister for Magic. She's not surprised, even though he's so young for such a position. The wizards who have held the post before have all been elderly, have had much more experience than he has. Perhaps it's a good sign that someone young has been appointed, a sign that things are changing for the better. They need to leave the old ways behind them now, in a world that is still recovering from He Who Must Not Be Named.

She hates not naming him. Voldemort is his name, she thinks, and she would gladly use it when speaking to her colleagues and her students if it wasn't for the horrified expressions on their faces. They fear his name, she realises, and notices how odd it is, how foolish, in some ways, to be so afraid of his name.

When she speaks to Dumbledore, she uses the name Voldemort if it should come up, and he is impressed that she is not like the rest. But he knew this, of course, and saw her potential when she was still a student here. She was a Prefect, naturally. Hogwarts' Prefects are the above-average students, the students with more potential than the rest. She could have had any job she wanted – maybe even Minister for Magic, if she'd worked for it – if she chose. She could be where Percy is now, but she chose to stay here. To teach, to educate. The next generation – they need to be educated. She has a purpose here.

He never understood, of course. The political side of their world was the one that always appealed to him, the only thing he considered important. He worked so hard. She lost him before he left, she thinks sometimes.

He visits the school to speak to Dumbledore shortly after his appointment, and she sees him in the corridor as he is leaving. Their eyes meet, and she wonders if he even remembers her. He's changed in ten years; she's sure she must have, too.

He looks so smug and pompous – did he always appear that arrogant? Or maybe she's just jealous of what he's achieved, of his status in the wizarding world now in comparison to her own.

But you never wanted that, she reminds herself. And yet she could have had it, and she wonders what he thinks of her. If he still thinks she's wasted her potential by going into teaching.

His eyes meet hers. "Hello, Professor Clearwater," he nods.

He can't even say her name, she notes. It's Penelope, she wants to shout. You called me Penny . . . can't you even acknowledge that?

She's willing to bet he still can't say Voldemort either.

"Minister," she says politely, returning the nod. And that's it, she realises as he walks on. That is their reunion after ten years of virtually no communication over and done with. Once he is out of sight, she leans against the wall and takes a moment to steady herself. She has a class to get to.