Disclaimer: © 2006 Mundungus42. All rights reserved. This work may not be archived, reproduced, or distributed in any format without prior written permission from the author. This is an amateur non-profit work, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights held by J.K.Rowling or any other lawful holder. Permission may be obtained by e-mailing the author at mundungus42 at yahoo dot com
This story was written for the summer 2007 round of the sshgexchange on LiveJournal for Sylvanawood, who prompted thus: The war is over, Snape is redeemed, and all the seventh-years who dropped out because of the war are given the chance to sit their N.E.W.T.s. To prepare them for that, there will be a special school, where some teachers give speed-courses. Hermione is attending, of course. Snape is there, teaching DADA and Potions. You chose the other teachers. The setting shouldn't be Hogwarts but some other place, probably castle, in Britain. Romance would be nice but isn't necessary.
Many thanks to Mr. 42, my intrepid beta-reader!
Professor Ezekiel Tofty, newly installed head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, was carefully weighing his words when the door burst open to admit an irate teacher for the third time in asmany days.
"I have had enough!" the intruder announced, flinging a scroll of parchment on Tofty's desk. It knocked into the base of his delicate brass scales and scattered his carefully measured consonant clusters across his desk.
Tofty waved his wand and sent the scattered words back to their appropriate bins and gestured for the man to sit. "Professor Cyphre. What can I do for you?"
"In all my years teaching, I have never encountered the like! Look!" Cyphre tapped his hand impatiently on the scroll he had deposited on Tofty's desk.
Tofty unrolled the parchment gingerly, fearful of what might burst out at him. He breathed a sigh of relief when he encountered a standard student essay written in a neat hand. He looked quizzically at Cyphre. "It appears to be a Runes assignment."
"It is an insult, I tell you! An insult!" shouted Cyphre.
Tofty skimmed the first paragraphs. Ostensibly, the paper compared runes from different civilisations in terms of their structure and function. He was surprised to note that the student even referred to Cyphre's own research. It was advanced work, to be sure, but he was still in the dark as to why Cyphre was in high dudgeon.
"My dear man, please sit down. I'll have some tea brought up."
"I will NOT sit or have tea!" protested Cyphre. "As a decorated expert in the field of Ancient Runes, I do not need to put up with this kind of treatment. From a mere schoolgirl, no less!"
Tofty felt a headache coming on. He had a sinking feeling he knew exactly who the "mere schoolgirl" was. "Professor Cyphre, kindly explain to me what all this fuss is about. I must confess that I see nothing wrong."
Cyphre pressed an ink-stained fingertip to a symbol on the first page. "Look at the runes she's chosen, man! That should tell you all you need to know."
The angle sign, which indicated work or energy, was her first example; nothing terribly unusual about that, considering that it had existed in nearly every ancient civilization. He glanced at the others- some were certainly from unusual families, to be sure, but he didn't see anything insulting about it. Unless...
Each of the runes bore an unmistakable similarity to letters in the English alphabet, and they seemed to spell out "wanker."
"And the conclusion! Sheer insolence!"
Certainly, these examples indicate that
Runes and symbols, even those sep-
arated by millennia and vast oceans,
point to an underlying structural voc-
abulary that may be used to extrapolate fu-
nctions of newer symbols in the divinatory
arts. This conclusion is supported by ana-
lyses from experts ranging from Eg-
yptian scribes (Set, 1295 BC) to current
scholarsCyphre, 1998), and will undoubt-
edly prove true with additional experiments,
such as combining various fields of study.
However, in order for such a supposition to be
actualised, interdisciplinary scholars
have to learn to read between the lines,
as it were.
Tofty frowned at the narrow piece of parchment, unsure of what he was to be looking for. Then he noticed the first letter of every line. C, R, A, P...
"Oh dear," he said again, dabbing his forehead with a handkerchief.
"Precisely!" crowed Cyphre. "And this is why I am tendering my resignation, effective immediately!"
Tofty rose from his desk with alarm. "Professor Cyphre, please reconsider. These children were traumatised by the war, their childhoods stunted as early adulthood was forced upon them. It is only natural for them to be angry. It is up to the adults of the Wizarding World to set an example. You must not take the bait, dear sir. The children may seem ungrateful, but you must be patient. You must continue to teach."
"I must do no such thing," retorted Cyphre, "and that girl is no child. She is a human-shaped harpy with no respect for her betters, a canker that would eat any rosebush alive!"
"She is a heroine," said Tofty, a bit louder. "She made enormous personal sacrifices-"
"-And has done nothing with her newfound fame but sabotage her own education!"
"But her assignments, Professor! Has she turned them in on time?"
"She- well, yes," Cyphre grudgingly admitted.
"Has the content, other than the mischievous layout, been satisfactory?"
"I see what you are doing," said Cyphre with a mulish look on his face.
"But do you see what she's doing?" asked Tofty. "She's doing everything to the letter of the law so you cannot fairly give her low marks. She participates in class, but only in mocking or sullen tones. She reads all your scholarly output and points out weaknesses. In short, she is doing everything she can to drive you off, in hopes that she and her friends will be allowed to sit their N.E.W.T.s immediately without completing the Examination Authority's required preparation classes. For her own sake and the sake of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, she must not be allowed to succeed."
Cyphre narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "How do you know so much about it?"
"Because," said Tofty, massaging the bridge of his nose, "she's already managed to drive off the Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers using the same tactics. Even their temporary replacements are threatening to quit!"
"Then, Professor Tofty, it seems to me that if you want any of these children to succeed on their N.E.W.T.s, you will need to remove the girl from the school. On that day, you may call me and I will return to teach. Until then, I have a number of willing students lined up to benefit from my expertise. Good day, sir."
"Professor Cyphre! Wait!"
Professor Cyphre had already slammed the door behind him.
Tofty forced himself to wait five minutes before placing a Floo call to Minerva McGonagall.
Hogwarts Headmistress Minerva McGonagall was just sitting down to an end-of-week toddy when the head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority appeared, looking despondent, for the third time in as many days.
"Merciful heavens," she exclaimed. "Don't tell me she's got rid of another one!"
"Cyphre of Ancient Runes," Tofty admitted mournfully. "Taught for thirty years at Durmstrang."
"Alas, no match for Miss Granger," said McGonagall, pursing her lips.
"If you'd consent to teach them at Hogwarts, we wouldn't be in this mess."
The headmistress conjured him a drink with a flick of her wand. "If you'd let them sit the N.E.W.T.s without having to endure these absurd revision sessions, you wouldn't be in this mess. I am certain that Miss Granger could have earned at least four N.E.W.T.s at the beginning of her fifth year if she'd been allowed to sit them."
"I've told you before, Minerva, no one is allowed to sit the N.E.W.T.s without first completing a Ministry-approved curriculum. The Ministry cannot afford to pay examiners the extra time that would be necessary to examine any riff-raff off the street who want to take the tests. We would be overrun!"
"And I've told you before, Hogwarts is already overrun. We simply cannot accommodate them. The school suffered extensive structural damage during the war, and a number of our faculty and staff are gone. We're still housing dozens in the Hospital Wing because St. Mungo's is filled past capacity. It cannot have failed to escape your notice that the Ministry has denied all of our requests for additional funding to support the war convalescents."
Tofty sighed. "No, it hasn't."
"I know it wasn't your decision, but it should still come as no surprise that Hogwarts is less than quick to jump to the Ministry's aid, especially when the Ministry is caught in a snare of its own devising."
"I thought that Granger, Potter, and Ron were favourites of yours, Minerva. It does surprise me that you're doing nothing to help them."
"They are hardly helpless. In fact, I believe it is precisely their formidable skills that are giving you trouble. Ezekiel, you're a good man, and I know you've done your best since Madam Marchbanks passed on, but if you aren't able to convince the Ministry to make an exception for war heroes, then there's very little I am willing or able to do to aid you."
"I've done what I can, Minerva," said Tofty softly. "Nowadays, it seems as if all I can do is submit recommendations and hope for the best. If I were to pull any strings on Potter's behalf, it might attract the bureaucrats' attention, which would be the end of what little influence I have."
"I'm sorry, Ezekiel. I do appreciate your difficulty, but my hands are tied."
"Call it a fool's hope," said Tofty, draining his glass. "No matter. I don't suppose you can recommend any experts in Potions, Defence Against the Dark Arts, or Ancient Runes who are either masochistic or have a stubborn streak the size of an Ironbelly's foraging radius?"
She took a sip of her drink and gazed up at the wall of former headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts before answering. "What if I told you I knew just the men for the job?"
"I would fall to my knees and ask for your hand in marriage."
"That won't be necessary," said McGonagall, flushing becomingly. "And I'd hate for you to have to rescind the offer once you hear what I have in mind."
Tofty laughed mirthlessly. "My dear Minerva, I'd let You-Know-Who himself teach Defence if it meant that Miss Granger wouldn't be able to frighten him off!"
"Delighted to hear it," said McGonagall briskly. "However, as Tom is no longer with us, I thought I would suggest two of his former associates."
"I can have the contracts delivered by owl this evening if you think-" He cut off suddenly and blanched. "Death Eaters?"
"Former Death Eaters," McGonagall clarified. "Heavens, man, there's no need to look so panicked. Your vacancies couldn't be more fortuitous. Severus Snape is a Potions Master and taught Defence for a year at Hogwarts. Lucius Malfoy's personal library has a finer selection of runes resources than any other collection in Europe. In spite of his rather foppish appearance, the man is every bit as formidable as Severus and nearly as clever."
"But Death Eaters, Minerva! You can't possibly expect me to entrust the future career of the Chosen One-"
"Former Death Eaters who were exonerated by a full session of the Wizengamot, I'll remind you," said McGonagall, sharply.
Tofty's brow wrinkled impressively. "I work for the Ministry, Minerva. I am well aware of its shortcomings."
"Considering that your current problems are being caused by the terrible triumvirate, I should think you would be delighted by the prospect of having teachers who will not be intimidated by them," said McGonagall tartly.
Tofty shook his head resolutely. "I refuse to put children in the hands of those killers, Minerva, and frankly I'm shocked that you would suggest it. Their exoneration only proves how dangerously influential these men already are, and I don't think anyone who fought for our side believes for a moment that either of them were under the Imperius Curse."
"That much is true," said McGonagall with a sigh.
Tofty started at her concession. "I beg your pardon?"
"Let me be perfectly frank with you, Ezekiel. I couldn't give a tinker's damn about Lucius Malfoy. He can idle away the rest of his life surrounded by his mouldering library until the Cannons win the league, for all I care. However, I believe there's much more to Severus's story than meets the eye, and several other Order members believe so, too. We were so relieved at his release that we didn't think much more about what was left for him. He is not independently wealthy like Malfoy, so he must work. However, he cannot return to Hogwarts. Concerned parents would pull their children out of classes before you could say 'Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington'. No reputable business will hire him, and no disreputable business would trust him. It would be a gamble for you to hire him, Ezekiel, but I do believe that he would be a good fit for this particular job. With his experience-"
McGonagall's earnest speech was cut short by a burst of air from the open window as an owl flew into the room and back out so quickly that Tofty thought he'd imagined it. However, the trembling red envelope emblazoned with his name was very real.
It burst open at his touch in the unmistakable accents of his Charms teacher.
"NEVAIR IN MY LIFE 'AVE I BEEN SO INSULTED! I REFUSE TO REMAIN AT YOUR SCHOOL A MOMENT LONGER! LA PETITE BETE AND 'ER ACCOMPLICES 'AVE WON. I CAN ENDURE NO MORE! I QUIT! THE END! FIN! I RETURN TO BEAUXBATONS GRATEFUL THAT WE FRENCH TEACH OUR CHILDREN RESPECT AND OBEDIENCE, AND 'OPING THAT YOUR MINISTRY WILL TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE GIRL. SHE IS OBVIOUSLY VYYING TO BE ZEE NEXT DARK LORD. AU REVOIR AND GOOD RIDDANCE!"
The Howler burst into fleur-de-lis shaped flames.
Tofty blotted his bald pate with his handkerchief and accepted another drink with a shaking hand.
"I daresay, Minerva, wasn't Lucius Malfoy a dab hand at Charms when he was in school?"
"His wand work was considered to be the pinnacle of the art," she replied, not bothering to disguise a smile.