12. Happily Ever After
It was widely rumoured that the Potions position at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry was cursed. Ever since the death of Potions master Maynard during Voldemort's attack on Hogwarts over a decade ago – the same attack in which Harry Potter, at the price of his own life, had managed to kill the dark wizard Voldemort for good – not one of the able wizards or witches who took up the position managed to last more than one year.
It was not because of incompetence. It had been a very long time since Potions had been taught so well, and the number of student casualties had returned to normal levels for the first time since Nicholas Flamel taught the course back in the first half of the twentieth century. None of the Potions masters fell victim to an exploding cauldron or wart-removing draught turned poison. At the end of each year, they simply packed their bags and left, swearing never to return. They would leave their research, and invariably the next appointee would take up teaching and researching as if they had already been doing so for years.
It was as if the Potions position was haunted.
Nevertheless, no matter what spells or exorcisms the staff and headmaster cast during the summer holidays, they invariably failed to reveal anything, and it was becoming nearly impossible to find willing applicants. It was, Remus Lupin – newly installed headmaster of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry – thought, extremely vexing.
Albus Dumbledore had passed away from old age a few months ago, nearly a decade after Voldemort's defeat to the day. The board of governors had not made any fuss about his choice of successor. The wolfsbane potion that Hogwarts' various Potions masters had developed and were still improving had done a lot for werewolf rights and their general acceptance into the population. The number of infections had decreased dramatically. There was even hope that, given enough time, lycanthropy might finally die out.
Lupin wondered if the board of governors would have been as accommodating if they had known that Dumbledore was his maternal grandfather. Lycanthropy was one thing, such favouritism was something else entirely. In the end, Lupin consoled himself that, whatever Dumbledore's motivations had been for giving him this position, he had the qualifications for the job, and he knew that he would do the very best he could for Hogwarts.
In the mental ward of St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies in London, Sirius Black was strapped to his bed.
Overcome by grief for the loss of his godson Harry Potter, Black had a nervous breakdown, and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore had committed him to St Mungo's only hours after Voldemort and Harry Potter's death. Whatever the doctors had reported to Dumbledore after those two short weeks of Legilimency therapy would never leave that room. Dumbledore had obliviated and amended the doctors' memories. His case file was sealed, and all therapy ended, after two weeks.
For most of the year Black was a model patient, showing promise of shaking off his horrible depression. Then summer would come, and invariably there would be a relapse. He would spend hours on end screaming Harry and James Potter's names, begging them both to forgive him. In his delusions, he would also rant about a 'Severus Snape', who, as far as the hospital staff had been able to determine, had been a student at Hogwarts when Black attended, but vanished in his fifth year without a trace.
Black claimed that he was being haunted, that the ghosts of Harry Potter and Severus Snape were tormenting him. These were obviously delusions, and the nurses and doctors tried in vain to reassure Black that St Mungo's had wards that repelled ghosts, and no amount of scrying or revelation spells ever showed any sign of ghostly visits.
With Dumbledore's death, Black's guardianship had fallen to Remus Lupin, but the new headmaster of Hogwarts was unlikely to change a thing about Black's situation. After Black had spent twelve years in Azkaban and another ten in a mental ward, Lupin suspected the man was right where he belonged.
In the Potions master's quarters in Hogwarts' dungeons, the ghosts of Harry Potter and Severus Snape were nearly ready to leave for their summer holiday. There was nothing like spending a few weeks haunting a certain patient at St Mungo's.
They had released this year's Potions master, a bumbling idiot by the name of Terence Card, after the end-of-term feast. Like all the others, he had left as quickly as he could. It had not taken long for them to get the knack of possessing the living, and they spent most of the school year taking turns or sharing the body of whichever hapless fool had decided to try his luck at being Hogwarts' Potions master.
Currently Severus and Harry were lying on the bed in their quarters: two transparent, silver boys in student robes curled around each other beneath the bed's canopy.
"Do you think perhaps we should tell Remus the truth?" Harry said thoughtfully, cuddling closer to Severus. "Dumbledore is finally dead now, and it is getting incredibly difficult to find us new bodies."
Severus chuckled and briefly pressed his lips to Harry's.
"I don't know..."
"Well, it's not as if there isn't a precedent. Binns is still teaching. And between the two of us we can cast enough spells to take care of the physical aspects of teaching."
"Perhaps," Severus murmured in reply, slipping his hands through Harry's robes and making the other ghost giggle. "I'll ask Nicholas what he thinks; have him sound Lupin out over the holiday."
"Hmmm," Harry sighed happily, and for a long while they spoke no more.
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