A/N: I don't remember where this idea came from, but it was stuck in my head until I put it down. It's the first story in which I've made up my own character. But don't worry, it's still got the main Harry Potter characters in it. Obviously, since this takes place in Harry's sixth year and I've invented my own character, I'm going to have to slap an AU warning on this. I haven't changed any personalities, which is my biggest pet peeve of fan fiction (unless you're dealing with a challenge) and I've tried to keep everything as canon as possible with my tweaked circumstances. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing (Except perhaps Miranda Kent)… especially not Harry Potter
The Trouble with Being a Professor
It was raining so hard on September first that she could hardly see a foot in front of her. She had missed the train and had no other way of transportation, so she had been forced to apparate. She hated apparition and vastly preferred brooms, but if it was the only way of getting her where she needed to go, then so be it.
She reached the gates and found them unlocked. She opened them and began stomping up the hill. Why it had to start raining just the moment she got here, she wasn't sure, but it was no fun for her. She trucked through the mud and up the slope towards where the castle was perched on top of a hill like a precariously placed dollhouse, its many lights sparkling through the rain and dark. Years on top of years had passed since she last set foot in the school, and with good reason.
She shivered and pulled her cloak closer around her, pausing only to withdraw her wand.
"There's no use in letting them worry over me," She thought, and summoned her happiest thought. A silver fox came from the tip of her wand and darted off in the direction of the castle. She trekked on. A few minutes later, a dark silhouette came into view and they met.
"Hello Miss Kent," Drawled a charming, yet icy voice.
"Hello, I hope I'm not bothering anybody," she replied.
The man, who she now saw was tall, with long black hair, a hooked nose and sallow skin, laughed coldly.
"Oh, you are," The man replied. "You were, however, expected, and so it's forgiven. I expect you know that you will be on your best behavior here? We have a higher standard at Hogwarts than any other wizarding school."
Kent nodded once; she was not sure that she liked this man very much. He was so… unpleasant.
"I'm not a child, you know," Kent said, "I'm thirty-three. I know how to handle myself."
"Apparently not, considering that you're stuck here," The man replied with a slight smirk. "Ah, here we are."
They had reached the foot of the castle. The man reached forward and opened a great oak door, then held it for Kent. She stepped in, not thanking him, and stood in the entrance hall. The castle was exactly as she had remembered it from when she herself had gone to Hogwarts. She stood there, admiring the high ceilings and familiar surroundings until she heard the man's voice from behind her.
"You've missed the feast by half a minute. Albus wishes to speak to you, however, and he saw your patronus. He'll be here in just a moment." The man said silkily.
"Yes, alright," Kent replied in a hurried voice; she was fascinated by the castle.
"I am here, Severus, you may leave," Came a voice that Kent hadn't heard in a few days.
She turned around. Albus Dumbledore was standing in the doorway of the Great Hall, a smile on his face. Severus nodded to Dumbledore.
"Goodnight Albus," Severus said. He inclined his head to Kent. "Kent."
Kent nodded in the exact same way, as if she was almost mocking him, and he strode off with his long, black robes sweeping behind him. Albus had appeared at Kent's side. Dumbledore had paid her a visit a few days ago, accompanied by someone else, and told her that she would be safe at Hogwarts. She would teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, and she would wait it out until living on her own was safe once more.
"He's a strange chap, isn't he?" Kent said, "Sort of psycho."
He replied, "Not psycho, no. I expect that he's being slightly bitter towards you because you got the position he wanted."
Kent looked up at the Headmaster with a quizzical expression.
"Why would he want the Defense Against the Dark Arts position? How come you didn't give it to him?"
Albus's eyes flashed.
"I have my reasons," He replied softly, yet there was a firmness in his voice that relayed to Kent that she'd better not ask about it again. "Severus teaches Potions."
"I bet I'm better than him."
"You have a certain, ah, advantage in the magic area, yes, but he does well. He's quite gifted, actually. I remember it as if it were a mere day ago; Lily and Severus were the best Potions partners in the school – earned quite a few awards together, they did."
"I expect he fancied her, did he?" Kent said, her voice dropping an octave at the mention of Lily.
"I expect so, but her heart was, as history knows, devoted to another in the end," Dumbledore said, betraying a hint of sadness. "Now, if you will permit, my dear Miranda, I shall show you your quarters."
"That'd be nice, I'm going to pass out from exhaustion," Miranda said. "It's been a long day."
"Indeed," replied Albus, and they set off.
Miranda crawled into her beautiful mahogany four-poster. She thought that she had just closed her eyes when a knock on the door caused her to open them again. It was morning. Miranda rolled over and groaned softly.
"Come in," She said groggily.
The door opened and Severus stepped in. When he saw that Miranda was still in bed, he acted like he didn't notice.
"You missed breakfast," He said. "And class starts in five minutes."
"WHAT?" Miranda jumped out of bed and began racing around, throwing open her suitcases and rummaging for some clothes.
She pointed at her closet and it opened to reveal a large amount of long, black robes. Severus watched in amusement as Miranda grabbed her clothes and threw them on over her nightclothes, which were merely shorts and a camisole. She cursed when she stubbed her toe as she ran into the bathroom to grab a mouth-cleansing, tooth-brushing and flossing mint. She materialized a pair of socks out of nowhere and quickly put them o her feet, though they were inside-out, and pulled on her big combat boots. When she stood up, the only thing that wasn't done was her hair.
"How was that?" Miranda asked, panting and leaning against her four-poster.
"Three minutes exactly," Severus said. "You could do better."
Miranda brushed by him and out the door, summoning a hair elastic and her hat with a wave of her finger as she hurried. Severus followed, his robes making a swooshing noise. They strode into the corridor and into the mass of students that were running about to their classes.
"Where am I going?" She asked hurriedly, running her fingers through her hair.
"The sixth floor," Severus replied shortly, "That will be your classroom from now on. I suppose you know you will also be giving Potter Occlumency lessons this year?"
"Yeah, I know that, thanks," Miranda said in a false sweetness that gave away her hurry.
"I should also like to inform you that Potter is a complete failure at Occlumency as well as Legimency, so you really shouldn't try too hard." Severus said, pausing in his speech to give a first-year a detention for having a Fanged Frisbee.
Miranda watched the first-year cower under Severus's intense stare and clicked her tongue reprovingly.
"Screw me if I'm wrong, but the kids don't seem to like you much," Miranda pointed out.
"Yeah, well –" Severus stopped dead in the hallway and looked down at Miranda in disbelief. "What did you just say?"
"Um," Miranda said, "I was just kidding. It's just a saying."
"Right," Severus said in a confused sort of voice as they continued on. "Well, anyway, Potter is incompetent, as is his sidekick Weasley. There are two of the Weasleys in this school, both redheads and both obnoxious. Miss Granger, Potter's other sidekick, is a know-it-all who has memorized every schoolbook she has ever obtained. Longbottom is –"
Miranda stopped him in his speech.
"Aren't every one of these students Gryffindors?" She asked politely. "If so, you seem to really hate them all."
The bell rang, signaling the start of class.
"Dammit," She said. "So much for making a good first impression. Anyway, in my opinion, you've really got to connect with the kids if you want them to learn anything. You've gotta keep your mind open to new ideas and be as nice as possible."
"They'll stomp all over you," Severus said, "You've got to be harsh and mean."
"You're just saying that as an excuse."
"You're mean all the time!"
Severus glared down his hooked nose at her.
"How would you know? You've never even met me before?"
Miranda sneered back up at him, her caramel eyes wild.
"Some things you can just tell right off the bat," Miranda replied. "Besides, your teaching methods seem like a load of rubbish to me."
"How many years have you been teaching, Miss Kent?" Severus inquired, his eyes flashing dangerously.
"Well, never but –" Miranda started, but Severus cut her off.
"Then we'll be listening to what I say, do you understand?" Severus snapped bitterly, baring his teeth.
Severus struck a nerve, for Miranda hated being told what to do more than anything else. Miranda stopped and stood on tiptoe so that she was almost eye-level with Severus, stuffing her hat in her robe pocket. She poked him hard in the chest and shouted in his face.
"Now listen up, Professer Whatever-your-name-is! I don't have to listen to you or anybody else! I didn't come an inch to death so that I could be trampled on by the likes of you, you cold-hearted git!"
With that, Miranda stomped off towards her class, fuming.
Harry, Ron and Hermione filed into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom with the other students to find that there was no professor to be seen. The professor hadn't shown his or her face at the feast last night, and Harry was starting to wonder if something had gone wrong.
"Maybe we don't have a professor," Ron said hopefully.
"Don't sound so hopeful," Harry replied. "Dumbledore'd probably assign Snape for the job."
"Good point," Ron said.
Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation.
"I'm sure everything is fine; the professor probably just missed the train or something."
"So why aren't they here now?" Neville, who had been following behind, asked.
"Probably got lost," Ron replied. "This castle isn't exactly tiny, is it?"
The class took their seats, leaving only the desk in front of the teacher's desk empty, just in case they had a first lesson like the one with the imposter Moody. Harry, Ron and Hermione sat in front row seats, with other people filling in behind them. They talked for a while until Dean Thomas suddenly shouted.
Everyone grew quiet, their books and wands on the desk in hope of a hands-on lesson, unlike those of Umbridge. The footsteps grew nearer still, but were still far off. The whole class was dead silent, as if it was holding its breath. Harry was just wondering whether the professor was going to show when the door flew open as someone kicked it. A woman, about five feet and five inches tall and wearing big combat boots stomped into the room, pulling off her traveling cloak and throwing it onto the desk. She wore dark blue jeans under her robes, and her hair was dirty blonde with a few natural red streaks here and there. With incredible speed, she pulled it back up and snapped it into a tight bun with an elastic band. The class watched with uncertain interest as she had her silent tantrum. Harry and Ron shared a furtive look and smirked slightly; this teacher certainly had had some trouble with something, and was quite young; probably only in her thirties. She was, to say the least, incredibly flustered.
"I apologize for being late," The woman said stiffly. "I was held up on my way."
"Was it Peeves, Professor?" Chirped Seamus.
The woman looked slightly alarmed at being called 'professor' and Harry thought that she must not have taught before.
"No, no it wasn't Peeves," She said with a sigh, sitting down on the teacher's desk and propping her combat boots up on the empty desk in front of her.
"It was a certain Professor," the woman said bitterly. "I'm not going to name names, though, because he might get mad and throw one of his stupid potion kits at me, the controlling git."
Several people laughed. Ron and Harry exchanged joyful looks that seemed like Christmas had come early. Hermione looked slightly scandalized. The woman smirked at the students' expressions. She stood up and stretched her arms up.
"Sorry, that was rude," she said. "I never speak ill of my colleagues. Well, I've never had colleagues before, but if I did, I'd never speak ill of them. But judging by your expressions, he's not very popular."
"That's an understatement," Harry said.
The woman turned to Harry and her eyes widened. Harry thought this might be because of his past, but her eyes did not trace the familiar path across his forehead that most eyes took. Harry was pleased. She regained her composure quickly enough, and continued on with her talk, seeming much less agitated.
"Anyway, as I'm sure you've assumed, I am your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Not that you need it." She sent a wink in Harry's general direction as she paced up and down the front of the classroom. "Now, I know you've had some, er, interesting teachers in the past," She said. "Very interesting indeed."
Harry frowned now. Was this woman going to harp on about 'dangerous half-breeds' like Umbridge had? If so, Harry wasn't so sure he liked this woman after all.
"…and only one of them I've approved of, not that my opinion is all that important or anything…"
"Here it comes," Harry thought. "Another supporter of the Ministry."
The professor stopped in her tracks and appeared thoughtful for a moment.
"Yes, Remus did do a good job," She said aloud. "Actually, I recently had a chat with him and he was kind enough to share some information about you all."
Harry let out the breath he had been holding, relieved beyond relief.
"What kind of information?" Ron asked nervously.
The woman laughed.
"Nothing bad, don't worry," She assured.
Hermione's hand shot up in the air and the woman stared, a smile creeping up her face.
"Ah yes, you must be Hermione Granger," She said. "Yes, I've heard all about you. From more than one professor, actually."
Hermione looked slightly pleased, and then cleared her throat.
"Well, Professor, er…"
"Kent. Miranda Kent," The woman, now Professor Kent, said kindly.
"Yes. Professor Kent, I was wondering about your teaching approach. Are you a textual or a hands-on kind of teacher?"
Professor Kent smirked and put on a face of seriousness. The two expressions did not mix well.
"Well, I always go by the book. I assign a chapter a day and have you do the questions at the end. Occasionally, I'll assign an essay, but you don't have to worry, they're usually only about three scrolls long."
The class groaned. Ron let his head fall on the desk and Lavender let out an aggravated cry.
"I'm kidding, I'm kidding! No need to get your knickers in a twist," Professor Kent said, and everyone sat back up, some people laughing slightly and others looking exasperated. "No, I'm more of a hands-on teacher, definitely, because believe it or not, I once had Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, too, and I hated bookwork as much as you do now. Now, for our first lesson. I believe that back in your second year, you had a run in with a pack of Cornish Pixies?"
The class laughed uncertainly and shouted out many replies. Kent leaned over and picked up a cage from under her desk. A cage with a purple cloth draped over it. Several people groaned and Neville covered his ears with his hands. Professor Kent laughed.
"A very expressionful bunch, aren't you?" Professor Kent said. "I'm going to tell you the right way to deal with Pixies. How many of you can do a non-verbal spell?"
Hermione raised her hand, accompanied by several people who only raised their hands halfway in the air. Professor Kent nodded.
"Alright, so we have some work to do. Now, I have the situation under control should anything happen, but I want you all to try to get them under control without either harming them or yourselves."
Professor Kent waved her hand and closed her eyes for a moment.
"I just put a spell on the room so that nothing can be broken by these buggers. I just want to see if you can get rid of them on your own. Ready?"
The class, which had been marveling at Professor Kent's wandless magic, suddenly snapped into attention and raised their wands. Harry was on the edge of his seat, his eyes closed and his brow furrowed.
Professor Kent pulled the cloth off and opened the cage. The Pixies flew everywhere, but the class was ready. Pixes were hit by every non-harming hex that one could imagine. Finally, after about ten seconds, Harry, who had been sitting with his eyes closed, opened his eyes and raised his wand.
A silver stag erupted from the tip of his wand and corralled the rest of the Pixies back into the cage. Professor Kent, who looked very impressed, closed the cage and put the Pixies back under the desk. The silver stag dispersed into smoke.
"Wow," she said in wonder, gazing at Harry. "A corporeal patronus, eh? I'm impressed."
Harry grinned sheepishly.
After the lesson, Miranda was joined by McGonagall in the teacher's room. Both were drinking tea with their feet propped up on poufs. They were an odd pair, but they got along quite well.
"So, how was your first lesson?" McGonagall asked.
"Brilliant!" Miranda said. "That class really has some skill in the subject. Granger can do nonverbal spells perfectly, Harry's getting there, and they know every hex that I've ever seen. At least non-violent ones. And did you know Potter can produce a corporeal patronus?"
McGonagall nodded slowly, sipping her tea.
"Yes, Potter's been able to do that since third year."
Miranda choked on her tea.
"That's what I said," McGonagall said. "Potter's got potential, alright. He never had much of a thing for Occlumency, though. He's too emotional."
"We'll see about that," Miranda said, and took a long sip of tea.
There was a time of silence, broken only after a few minutes by McGonagall.
"Oh yes, I forgot to ask. Would you like to co-host the Dueling Club?"
Miranda appeared thoughtful. Dueling was one thing that Miranda was quite good at.
"Who's the other co-host?"
"Severus Snape, of course. He's quite the dueler."
Miranda grinned slightly.
"Sure, why not? I'll give it a try. Maybe I can teach Severus a thing or two," Miranda said with a smirk.
McGonagall's eyes glinted for a moment with something Miranda couldn't read.
"Oh, this should be good," McGonagall said with a slight chuckle. "Severus is not going to like this, not one bit."
"I will," Miranda replied, and finished her tea in a satisfied silence.
A/N: So, I hope to have chapter two up soon, if you all like this first one well enough! I've never done anything like this before, so I don't know what the general reaction will be. But hey, I like a well-rounded critique.