Chapter 10: Return of the Potions Professor
Tuesday, September 8th, 1943
Scratch that, it was going to be a long week Her new timetable had arrived by owl post this morning at breakfast, and she had barely stifled a grimace at her first class, Advanced History of Magic. The most exciting thing by far had been when a fully alive Binns walked through the door. She could tell he was still alive (barely) by the fact that she wasn't able to see the wall through him as usual.
While back (or was it forwards?) in her time, Lupin had mandated that the Sixth and Seventh years should continue taking a full schedule of classes, to help equip them with as much knowledge as possible for the war. Here, Hermione was continuing her full schedule out of a long career based on overachievement. Although the talkative Marlene had informed her only DADA was mandatory for sixth-years, taking as many classes was strongly encouraged back in 1943 Hogwarts as well. After all, she had jumped from one war zone to another.
Hermione's sense of apprehension began to build as she walked with the chatty Gryffindor girls through the corridor. Double Potions next, and with the Slytherins, as Marlene had told her. "Bunch of evil prats," as she had put it, before Evelyn had softly cut in, and stated that Tom wasn't so bad. At which point the other girls had begun teasing her mercilessly.
Hermione's stomach rolled at the very thought of the bastard. She cursed Dippet for what felt like the thousandth time. Blast that senile old hack! It was just her luck that he was some sort of Divination groupie. It made her job so much harder to get close to Riddle if she was in Gryffindor.
Marlene opened the door to the classroom, (a different dungeon room than Snape used,) and the girls walked through, followed by a few Gryffindor boys. The class was already about half full with chattering Slytherins and Gryffindors, who were, strangely enough, mixed together rather evenly.
In the future, Hermione's potion's class was always strictly segregated by choice, by house. Yet another new occurrence for her to get used to. Marlene and Marion sat down together at a table, joined by the quiet Brigitte. Evelyn and Hermione sat down behind them, just as the door swung open, emitting the Professor. The class immediately fell silent as the Potion's instructor strode in. Hermione eyed her new teacher with interest.
A witch of about sixty, a little on the tall side, striding in with tall, spiky heels that ominously clacked loudly on the stone floor greeted her gaze. She had midnight black hair, styled in a small, faux beehive, and a shockingly white complexion. Here eyes were smudged with black eyeliner, her rosy pink lips matching her immaculate fingernails perfectly.
Her very presence commanded silence among the large class of forty or so. The Professor stopped behind her desk, rested her fingernail tips upon it, tilted her head, and smiled sweetly.
"Good morning, class," she trilled. Hermione was reminded horribly of Umbridge.
"Good morning, Professor Bowers," the class chanted back to her, surprisingly enthusiastically.
"Today, we will be working on an adrenalin-enhancing drought, known as the Elixir of Energy."
The class looked at each other, excited. Hermione was shocked; this was above N.E.W.T. level, certainly. Unknowingly, she eagerly leaned forward in her seat.
Professor Bowers gestured to the blackboard with her wand, which filled with tiny, cursive writing that was virtually incomprehensible. Hermione squinted. Surely, she wasn't expected to actually be able to read this chicken scratch?
Apparently she was. The rest of the class had already started pulling out parchment and quills, jotting down the minute gibberish with seemingly no trouble.
"Now," the Professor continued, in her pleasant voice, "the Ministry, and your Headmaster, are not pleased with you learning such a complicated potion at your age." Hermione did a double-take, the rest of her classmates, with the possible exception of Brigitte, seemed entirely unfazed by this news. "The senile, good-for-nothing dung brains," Professor Bowers continued sweetly. "Fortunately your Headmaster remains far too afraid of me to interfere in the slightest."
The class laughed. Hermione dropped her quill in shock.
"Therefore, all I ask is for you to be careful, which I know you, my beautiful gifted ones, will be."
Marlene turned around, grinning, at Hermione's flabbergasted expression. "Isn't she amazing?" she gushed in a whisper.
"Miss Smith," the Professor said, sounding much less pleased, "do not speak while I am speaking." She cast a stern look at Marlene, before her gaze wandered to Hermione.
"Oh, a new student!" she trilled. The class turned in tandem to stare at Hermione, who felt herself go red. "You must be Miss Granger!"
"Excellent! I suppose you would need a little help to catch up, I run a very advanced class compared to other professors."
Hermione resisted the urge to show offense to this slight on her abilities. She hadn't proven herself yet, she reprimanded internally. It wasn't the Professor's fault for misjudging her; any other average student would be horrified by the Elixir of Energy, had they not known it was coming, like the rest of the class obviously did. Plus, it did help her, in a way. Hermione had been considering many tactics for gaining Riddle's attention. For one, she was seriously debating whether or not to appear to need tutoring help, thereby guaranteeing her one-on-one access to the boy in question. Harry had vetoed this idea, saying she would obviously be able to keep this up for about a day, at best, before exploding from the urge to prove herself. They had eventually agreed to Harry being the one to ask Riddle for tutoring help, although Hermione had done so with a sinking heart at her lie. Disturbingly, lying convincingly was becoming easier for her all the time.
"Mr. Riddle," Professor Bowers said, turning to the pale, dark- haired boy in the front row, "Would you be so good to join Miss Granger and Miss Sanders at their table?"
Oh no, Hermione thought in horror. She knew she was supposed to be grateful for her Professor's meddling in setting her up with Riddle, but she wasn't ready yet! Not yet settled enough, not comfortable enough in her false persona to fool someone as adept at reading others as he was.
"Of course, Professor," Riddle said smoothly, standing up, gathering his materials, and moving over to the two Gryffindor girls.
Hermione unconsciously slunk lower in her chair as Riddle took a seat next to her on her left. Evelyn, on her right, did her best not to turn the color of a ripe watermelon. Marlene unsuccessfully stifled a snicker.
"Mr. Riddle is the best potions student in the school," the Professor said happily to Hermione. "Anything you need to ask, don't hesitate. He is quite the young gentlemen."
She resisted the urge to gag. Riddle had his eyes cast modestly downward, a very faint pink tinge of embarrassment coloring his cheeks. Oh, he was good.
The rest of the class rolled their eyes, but the vast majority of them were also grinning at Riddle, clearly a favorite among his peers. Even Marlene, and the other Gryffindor girls who had been teasing Evelyn, looked fondly at Riddle. Hermione's urge to retch intensified when she saw how many girls had looks of longing in their eyes as they gazed at the handsome prefect, which they hid with varying degrees of success.
"The instructions and the theory behind the elixir are on the board. Work in groups of two or three. Ingredients are where they always are; begin," said Professor Bowers.
Half the class got to their feet, making their way to the storage cupboard. Riddle turned to her.
"I'll take the notes down, and you can copy from me," he said to Hermione, "I know Professor Bowers' notes take some getting used to," he said with a small smile. Hermione clenched her hands together in her lap, fighting the urge to claw his eyeballs out, and returned a small smile of her own. Her jaw literally ached with the effort of making it believable.
"Evelyn, if you don't mind, perhaps you could show Miss Granger where the supplies are kept?" he asked pleasantly.
Evelyn nodded, her face a burning red, and stood up, gesturing to Hermione. The two stood in the back of the queue for supplies.
"So," Hermione said, making conversation, "do you fancy him?"
Evelyn made a small choking noise, shaking her head furiously.
The boy in front of them turned around, grinning.
"Of course she does," he said amiably. "Every girl here under sixty fancies him. And maybe even the over sixty crowd does as well. And I've heard quite a few of the boys, as well."
"I won't be having that problem," Hermione said smoothly, crossing her arms in front of her.
"That's what you say now," the boy said teasingly, raising his eyebrows, "you'll be singing a different tune in no time. I really don't know how he does it."
"I don't either," said Hermione, "I certainly can't see why the girls would fall all over him," she finished, a bit untruthfully. Oh sure, it was clear why she wouldn't fancy Riddle, but she honestly couldn't blame the rest of the female population of Hogwarts. After all, he was darkly handsome, smart, polite, and, apparently, humble and helpful. It was enough to make her sick.
"I certainly don't," a haughty voice cut in. An auburn haired, grey eyed girl who was rather pretty sneered from ahead of them. "I think the half-blood is quite the stain on our house's honor."
"Oh, shove it, Black," the boy rolled his eyes. "Nobody asked you."
"Well, if you speak with all the volume of a dying goat, one cannot help but hear your bleating," she sniffed, turning back around.
The boy rolled his eyes in commiseration at Hermione.
"Wyatt Corsington," the boy said to her, holding out his hand. He sported the familiar gold and red.
"Hermione Granger," she said, with a smile, shaking the proffered hand.
"That's Estelle Black," he said, lowering his voice, jerking his head in the direction of the auburn-haired girl. "She's a right pus-filled boil, that one."
Hermione snickered, while Evelyn looked scandalized.
"Couldn't agree more," a male voice boomed behind them. Alastor Moody stood there, fully whole and un-scarred. He had a long, thin nose, dark blonde hair, and dark eyes. He also had a look of deep, paranoid dislike on his face. "Wouldn't want to get on that one's bad side," he added.
Evelyn looked horrified at the mere thought of getting on Estelle Black's bad side.
Hermione was less than impressed. Somehow, a snotty, uptight Slytherin was just not the threat it used to be. Not when she was capable of the Unforgivables. And, it wasn't like the girl didn't have a point about Riddle. He was undoubtedly a stain on Slytherin's honor.
The group of Gryffindors reached the front of the line, and she and Evelyn carried their supplies back to their table. Riddle was already done with his notes, and was neatly arranging his caldron and tools. Evelyn dumped her burden onto the table, leaving no room for Hermione, who hesitated, her arms overflowing with eye of squid and hefflehumper's toenails. Riddle looked at her and briefly smiled.
"You can put your things here, Miss Granger," he indicated, clearing a space with his wand.
"Hermione," she automatically corrected. 'Miss Granger' made her sound like someone's maiden aunt.
"Hermione," Riddle repeated. "Very unusual. I take it your parents were fans of Shakespeare?"
Against her will, she smiled. Few people ever picked up on the connection.
"Yes," she said. "I just thank my lucky stars I wasn't called Hippolyta or Goneril."
Riddle laughed, showing his white teeth. "Or Mopsa," he replied, wrinkling his nose. Hermione screwed up her face in horror. Mopsa Granger. Malfoy would've had a field day with that one.
Seeing Evelyn's bewildered look, Riddle explained, "It's a Muggle thing," before winking at Hermione.
She smiled again, forgetting for a moment that Riddle was anything other than someone who finally knew as much as she did, who could appreciate the value of studying and the lure of a good book. Then good sense returned to her, and her smile dropped off her face abruptly. She turned to their cauldron.
"So, what is the first step?" she asked, her voice coming out harsher than she intended. Riddle's eyes flashed a hint of confusion before he answered her question.
It was REALLY going to be a long week.
Hermione squirmed in her chair for what felt like the millionth time in an hour. Transfiguration was quickly, horribly, becoming her least favorite class, and that was including History of Magic. It was a shame; she was used to loving the challenging course. She loved hands on magic, and the actual transformation of things was absolutely riveting to her.
But Professor Dumbledore seemed to hate her. Well, to be fair, maybe he didn't hate her, but he certainly didn't trust her as far as he could throw Hagrid. His piercing, blue eyes seemed to be attempting to legilimens every dirty secret she could possibly admit to; from stealing extra cookies from the kitchen (after failing to eat her vegetables at supper) behind her parent's backs, to sleeping with Zabini, to sneaking back to the past, to killing Rabastan Lestrange. She avoided his eye contact while studiously copying down every little thing he said.
It was unnerving, to say the least, to have Dumbledore dislike her. She had known intellectually that Dumbledore wouldn't recognize her, that he was NOT as all knowing as he had always seemed, and her joy at seeing him alive again would surely not be reciprocated. It was another thing entirely to see one of her favorite Professor's look at her with such well hidden suspicion. She had foolishly assumed that she would enjoy the same type of relationship with Dumbledore, maybe not quite as close as before, after he got to know her a bit. That fantasy was rapidly slipping through her grasp, like smoke through a sieve.
Suddenly, sickeningly, she understood a bit what it felt like to be Tom Riddle.
Slytherin Dungeons: 7:03 A.M.
Sunday, November 8th, 1996
Professor Severus Snape, infamous Potions Master, towering, sneering head of Slytherin house, stormed into the Sixth Year Boys' room in a flaming inferno of rage. (So, in other words, slightly angrier than one would usually find him to be.)
"Where is she?" He demanded, without so much as a 'How d'you do?' or 'Good morning.'
Blaise moaned in pain. His head was throbbing from last night's binge of Ogden's Old Fashioned Fire whiskey. In the canopied green bed next to him, Chris Jones raised his head from a pile of twisted sheets with a "Whuh?"
Crabbe continued snoring peacefully as Snape strode over briskly to the windows and maliciously snapped the curtains open. Charmed sunlight blinded the boys and their respective throbbing hangovers.
Kyle Stebbins gave a groan of agony from across the room. Funny, Blaise thought, he didn't recall them letting Stebbins drink. He was only a third year, for Merlin's sake. A fuzzy recollection of the seventh round of last night's Wizard's truth or dare floated to the surface of his pounding brain. Oh, no. Byron had dared Kyle to drink two shots in a row!
"Well?" Snape bit out, impatiently.
"Gnugh," Byron said from the other side of Blaise.
"Zabini!" Snape barked, causing shooting, stabbing pains to ricochet around Blaise's skull. "I know that little tart is in here!" He marched over to Blaise's bed, yanking off his bedspread and sheets, and exposing him in all his boxer-ed glory.
"Gah!" Blaise squeaked, vainly trying to snatch his covers back. Waking up to find his greasy Professor hanging over him, while he was barely dressed, was high on his list of traumatizing life experiences.
"Professor Snape?" Chris yawned, sitting up, his hands clutching his head. "What are you doing in here?"
Snape's attention slowly swung round to the other boys in the room, the mound of food remains on the floor, and the almost empty bottle of firewhiskey next to their beds. "I see," he said, in his quietest, most deadly voice. "I see. You boys have exactly thirty seconds to produce Miss Granger before I give all of you detention for the rest of the year! Detention with Filch. Scrubbing the floors with toothbrushes."
"What?" Byron squawked from his bed. "Professor, you can't be serious! "
"Silence, Mr. Smith!" Snape roared. "Be thankful I am not threatening you with detention with Hagrid and his blast-ended skrewts!"
The Slytherin boys collectively shuddered.
"Professor," Blaise ventured, "Hermione isn't in here. I don't know why you'd think—"
"Don't play dumb with me, Mr. Zabini! I know perfectly well she has been in here previously! Doing all sorts of things against school rules! Not that that has ever stopped her befo—"
Snape was interrupted by the arrival of Harry Potter, who burst breathless into the room, hair sticking up more wildly than usual, glasses askew, shirt on backwards.
"Blaise!" he said, panicked. "Hermione's missing!"
Blaise had only a moment to register the fact that Potter had just used his first name for the first time, before what he had said sunk in.
What had she done?
Dark Lord's Hideout
Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.
"Oh, for Salazar's sake, Rodolphus, would you give it a rest with the darts? You're driving me mad," snapped Bellatrix.
Rodolphus paused, his hand aiming the dart in mid-air at the winking, smiling poster of Harry Potter. Driving her mad? No, darling, I think you're already there, he thought sarcastically. He wisely kept this thought to himself, and lowered the dart.
"Do you have any better ideas, Bella?" he drawled. "I would be happy for something to do."
Bellatrix licked her thin lips, her eyes gleaming. Her pale hand trailed down her velvet robes invitingly. Rodolphus's eyes took on a predatory sheen, his feet taking him closer to his wife.
"If you two even think about shagging in the middle of this room I will hex both of your faces off," Narcissa Malfoy snapped.
Oh, bugger, Rodolphus thought. Forgot about her.
"Too bad Lucius isn't around, dear sister," smirked Bellatrix, "I know we could have taught him a thing or two."
Narcissa gave a snarl of fury, her hand plunging in her robes for her wand, and leapt to her feet. Bella's wand was already out and trained on the blonde, willowy woman.
Rodolphus prudently stayed silent.
A high, amused chuckle rang through the room. Narcissa and Bellatrix, both glaring and breathing heavily, looked around, lowering their wands reluctantly.
Lord Voldemort strolled into the room, clapping slowly, mockingly.
"Bella. Narcissa," he said, with a hint of a smile. "Now is not the time for petty squabbling. I have excellent news."
Bellatrix straightened in excitement, throwing back her hair.
"Really, my Lord?" she said eagerly. "Do tell."
Narcissa mimicked her behind her back, screwing up her face in a faux- fawning look of adoration.
"Yes," Voldemort said, quirking his hairless brow at Narcissa. "I have found our spy amidst our ranks, and have placed a magical bug on him."
"A what, my Lord?" Bella asked excitedly.
"A twist on a Muggle invention, Bella, my dear. It allows me to see what he sees, to hear what he hears. I have learned much."
Bellatrix was practically quivering in suppressed joy. Rodolphus held his breath.
"We attack Hogwarts at daybreak," Lord Voldemort said simply.