DISCLAIMER: This story borrows several characters, situations and settings from the Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling.
Charity Burbage first came to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Harry Potter's fourth year, the year of the Triwizard Tournament. Her own schooling had been at a small, private, all-witch school, Wiltshire Preppy. Professor Albus Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Headmaster, had summoned her by Owl-Post that summer, requesting her to interview for the position of Muggle Studies Professor, a post now open due to the retirement of the previous instructor. The owl was most welcomed by Charity. Until now she really had no idea how she was going to apply her great knowledge of Muggles - otherwise known as non-magical people. (Did I mention that Charity and all her family and most of her acquaintances were witches and wizards? Well, she was and they were.)
Her mother assumed that Charity had somewhere along the way fallen in love with a devastatingly handsome Muggle man and was doing all this research to try and speak the same language, so to say. Her father merely said that his little Charity was going to succeed at whatever she put her mind to, regardless of whether or not he had any idea where her mind was at the moment. Charity couldn't explain any better herself why she spent so much time and effort accumulating knowledge of Muggles. They just fascinated her; she didn't know why – until Albus Dumbledore made it all very clear to her.
Although she had been in the same very large room with him at a benefit for homeless hags about a year earlier, Charity had never actually met Albus Dumbledore until the day of her interview. There she sat in his regal office. It was a very well appointed room full of all sorts of mysterious objects. A giant bird, perhaps a phoenix, Charity thought, sat majestically on a perch behind Dumbledore's desk while faces of old men and women looked down on her with interest and skepticism from their portraits which lined the walls. She tried to focus all of her attention on the venerated headmaster before her, but she couldn't help but catch a few of the portraits' pompous rumblings:
"…interviewing to be a student or a teacher?…"
"…tired of looking at old McGonagall, heh, heh…"
"…Preppy never had the same high standards as Hogwarts…"
Dumbledore sat with his fingertips pressed together and appeared to contemplate Charity over the rim of his spectacles. His long silver hair and beard reflected the firelight from the torches that lit the circular room. Charity hoped he wasn't giving the portraits any mind. She just then remembered the box on her lap. She had heard of the headmaster's propensity for Muggle sweets and had brought him a box of Ju-Ju Bees.
"Oh, Professor," she suddenly blurted out to alleviate the pressure. "These are for you," she said and handed him the box. He appeared delighted and opened the box immediately and began chewing. He held the box out to her, but she declined, thinking that a gummy red Ju-Ju Bee stuck in her teeth might not make the best impression. It didn't look bad on him though.
"So, Miss Burbage, I've read some of your research papers in Magical Minds Weekly and Muggle Machines. Fine publications," Dumbledore began. Charity took extra pride in this comment, as her father worked for the publishing company that put out those two magazines. "I particularly enjoyed your pieces titled 'Muggles in Majorca' and 'Duct Tape – Who says Muggles Can't Work Magic!' It appears to me that you have quite a soft spot for non-magical folk," he said.
"Why, yes, I think they are fascinating, and we wizards and witches could learn quite a bit from them if we could just open our minds."
"What is it you have learned from Muggles?"
When he put it that way, it wasn't quite so easy to answer. Charity thought for a moment and said, "Well, I have learned that they aren't really so different from us."
Dumbledore spent a few moments deep in thought and then said, "So, you are saying that the low profile of Muggle Studies in our schools has been a great disservice to the magical community as a whole." She nodded, and he went on, "You think that, while wizards and Muggles have managed to do just fine living in our two parallel worlds, in the end, it will be by bringing these two communities together that humankind will truly thrive."
"Yes, yes," Charity was quick to put in.
"Well, I must say, Miss Burbage, I quite agree with you. That is precisely why Hogwarts will be the first school of wizardry and witchcraft to change the focus of the Muggle Studies curriculum. No longer will Muggles be studied simply as a curiosity that we are forced to deal with from time to time. We must find a way to bridge the gap between 'us' and 'them,' and bring greater unity to all humankind." He paused to snack on another Ju-Ju Bee - this time green.
"As you've pointed out, by bringing a greater knowledge of Muggles to our young magical minds, and focusing on the similarities rather than the differences, we will make great strides in achieving our long term goal. How can we expect Muggles to ever fully understand us if we don't first fully understand them? You are quite right to acknowledge that the change will be gradual, but any step forward is a good step. Yes, yes, you are quite right there."
Charity was getting quite puffed up. Arguably the greatest wizard of modern times liked her ideas! How he was able to infer them all from the only two complete sentences she had uttered so far, she wasn't quite sure, but he was obviously very intuitive.
"Well then, Miss Burbage, or shall I say 'Professor', welcome to Hogwarts!" he said, giving her a warm handshake and a gummy-green smile. With that handshake, Charity became Professor Burbage.
The rest of Charity's summer was spent preparing the new curriculum. Muggle Studies was to remain an elective course for third and fourth years. Professor Dumbledore had been rather vague about actual course requirements, telling her only to use her best judgment. He refused to give her materials from the previous years' classes; he said he didn't want her to be limited by what had been done in the past. When she'd explained to him that she had no formal teaching experience, his only response was an enthusiastic, "Excellent!"
Charity arrived at Hogwarts a week before classes started. As her carriage drove between the stone pillars topped with statues of winged boars, she still could not believe that she was to be a professor here. Her carriage curved around a large lake before reaching the front of the magnificent, multi-turreted castle. Once inside, Minerva McGonagall, Professor of Transfiguration and Deputy Headmistress, greeted her in the expansive entrance hall.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, Miss Burbage," the tall older witch said with a friendly, yet formal smile. "Mr. Filch, please have Professor Burbage's items taken to her room," Professor McGonagall said to a gaunt, rather mean-looking, older gentleman, who grunted and headed out the door to the carriage. McGonagall then led Charity to her apartment on the third floor at the back of the castle. Charity tried to set her mind around the logistics of the castle during her brisk walk behind Professor McGonagall. This was no easy task, as at least two of the staircases shifted as they climbed them, and the one staircase she remembered from when she'd interviewed with Dumbledore had completely vanished.
Charity felt very much as if she'd stepped back in time upon crossing the Hogwarts gates. Advancements that Muggles used to compensate for their lack of magic, such as electricity and telephones, were rendered useless at the school. The corridors were lit only by torches held in brackets so that the stone walls and floors were bathed in constant movement of shadow and light. Centuries old portraits and other paintings lined the walls. They were all originals, as evidenced by the fact that the subjects of the paintings not only moved, as with wizard photographs and prints, but also talked. The subjects of the paintings seemed to be a pleasant group (definitely more pleasant than the lot hanging in Dumbledore's office) and uttered friendly greetings as Charity passed.
All of the teaching staff at Hogwarts lived in spacious studio apartments within the castle, except the Care of Magical Creatures instructor, who was also the gamekeeper and lived in his own cabin on Hogwarts property. The teachers entered their apartments through various decoyrations in their offices. The decoyrations had the appearance of common, decorative items but were actually decoys that concealed the entrances to the teachers' private quarters. They were put in place to keep students out of the teacher's personal spaces. After a while, Charity realized that these precautions were hardly necessary, as the students never seemed to show even the slightest curiosity as to where the teachers slept, relaxed, and generally lived.
Charity accessed her apartment through a large grapevine wreath entwined with dried roses, lavender, and small bluebirds. There was also a camouflaged cockroach hidden among the flora. A simple command of, 'la cucaracha,' (something Charity had picked up on a trip to Mexico) would send the little cockroach running around the wreath, and the entrance would be unzipped.
The entrances to staff apartments were secret even to the other teachers, unless they had been invited in. Before the students arrived, Charity had already been to tea at Professor Sprout's, and had accepted an invitation to visit Professor McGonagall the following week. Professor Sprout, the Herbology instructor, entered her jungle-like apartment through a very large Vibrating Viburnum. Sprout's guests were always in a jovial mood upon entering, because the entrance itself was very ticklish. Charity had already heard rumors that the Potions professor's decoyration was a large jar of decayed wolves' tongues; she doubted very much that she'd ever be invited to tea by anyone who possessed a large jar of decayed wolves' tongues.
Charity was grateful to see that her apartment had a decent sized window to let in natural sunlight. She unpacked her trunks after a winded Filch dropped them off, and soon had her new home filled with flowers and pillows and soft perfumes. The soft perfumes helped cut down on the less pleasant scent of the most fragrant item in her room – her pet bunny, Bnickel. She set his hutch by the window, where he had an excellent view of the vast forest at the edge of the grounds. Bnickel was a beautiful black and white Dutch bunny that had been given to Charity as a gift from a Muggle family she had once stayed with while doing research. He was a Muggle bunny through-and-through with absolutely no magical powers whatsoever. Nevertheless, Charity insisted that there was something inherently magical about bunnies in the way they were able to so prolifically reproduce; not to mention there had to be some reason that Muggle "magicians" unwaveringly resorted to bunnies when it came time to pull something out of a hat.
The time had come, at last, for the students to arrive. Charity looked forward to the new life and energy that they would bring to the old castle. After walking past the corridor to the kitchens, where she heard a great scuffling going on, smashing dishes and shouts, she entered the Great Hall. It was a magnificent sight – five long tables adorned with golden plates and goblets and hundreds of candles flickering off of them. The ceiling of the great room was bewitched to match the skies outside, and tonight it was a dark purplish-gray, flecked with occasional bursts of lightning. It only added to the mystique of the room.
Charity took her place at the far side of the staff table which was perpendicular to the four long house tables that would soon be filled with students. Hogwarts students were divided into four houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. The houses were named after the four founders of the school. Students were sorted into their houses at the beginning of their first year at Hogwarts by some mysterious process. Charity had been told it had something to do with a hat. She didn't quite understand how it all worked, so she was curious to see the sorting which would take place that night.
After most of the professors were seated, students began filing into the Great Hall, many of them soaking wet from the heavy rains falling outside. The same shouts that had been coming from the kitchen seemed to have moved to the entrance hall, and Charity also detected McGonagall's angry voice in the mix. Surveying the now nearly full tables, Charity saw the students grouping into their own little cliques, which seemed to be primarily based on age and house. She noticed innocent, and some not-so-innocent, chiding going on between the tables. Each year the houses competed on a points system to win the House Cup, so it was only natural that rivalries would form between them.
Soon the huge doors of the Great Hall opened again, and Professor McGonagall lead a long line of small students in. The first years. They really did look much younger than the other students, and most definitely more nervous. These poor souls were positively drenched. One of the smallest students was so wet that he'd been wrapped in an enormous moleskin overcoat.
McGonagall set a stool in front of the line and placed a beat up wizard's hat upon it. 'Aha, the Sorting Hat,' thought Charity. The hat suddenly broke into song. Something about the four founders of the school and the values of each house. She caught that Gryffindors were the brave ones, Ravenclaws the cleverest, Hufflepuffs were hard workers, and Slytherins favored ambition. The rest of the song was lost on Charity, as she was too busy soaking up the atmosphere and wondering how this filthy old thing could make all of these character judgments, much less sing.
"When I call out your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool," McGonagall announced to the first years. "When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table.1"
"Ackerly, Stewart," she called out.
A very nervous looking boy walked to the stool, slipped on the hat, and sat down. Within seconds, the hat shouted, "RAVENCLAW!" and the boy took off the hat and rushed to his table.
During the sorting, an oversized man with a great bushy black beard slid into the Hall through a back door and came to the end of the table, taking the vacant chair next to Charity. This was Rubeus Hagrid, gamekeeper and relatively new teacher of Care of Magical Creatures. Charity had already invited him into her classroom to meet Bnickel, and although Hagrid had been polite, she could tell he was far short of impressed with her bunny, what with only the one head and no flames bursting out of any orifice.
The boy in the moleskin coat had just been sorted into Gryffindor, and Hagrid burst into applause. Charity looked from the enormous coat to Hagrid and asked, "Is that yours?"
"Yeah, ruddy little guy fell righ' into the lagoon. Ne'er had that happen before," he answered as he pounded his ham-sized fists together.
"Well, that was very nice of you to take such good care of him."
"I 'spect it was the giant squid what actually saved 'im."
The sorting process continued up to Whitby, Kevin, who went to Hufflepuff. Charity smiled and clapped along with the others, but still had no idea how the sorting had been accomplished.
Professor Dumbledore then rose to his feet and smiled with his arms open wide in welcome. "I have only two words to say to you – tuck in,2" he said to the hungry crowd.
The students erupted in cheers as the empty dishes around them filled magically with the most delicious looking food. Charity passed the potatoes immediately to Hagrid, who looked like he could use something nice and warm about now. It was only after taking a few bites of her own Yorkshire pudding that Charity noticed the pearly white, semi-transparent beings floating around the tables. Ghosts. When she asked Hagrid about them, he explained that each house had their own ghost, "Sorta like a mascot. Don' tell them tha' though."
When they had finished their meal, Dumbledore rose again and the room became silent except for the sounds of the wind and rain.
"Now that we are all fed and watered I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices,3" he said and went on to list the items that Mr. Filch, the caretaker, banned from the school, and reminded the students that the Forbidden Forest, which was at the edge of the grounds, was off-limits to them. Same for the nearby village of Hogsmeade for first and second years.
As Dumbledore was about to explain why there would be no Inter-House Quidditch (the wizard equivalent to soccer) Cup this year, there was an enormous clap of thunder and the doors of the Great Hall banged open to reveal a very alarming-looking man. He had a rough face with deep scars and an entire chunk missing from his nose. To make it worse, he walked on a wooden leg. The most alarming thing about his appearance; however, was one of his eyes. It was large and electric blue. It moved constantly, never stopping and never blinking, and appeared to be completely disconnected from his other beady eye.
This was Alastor (also known as Mad-Eye) Moody, an Auror from the Ministry of Magic. Aurors were among the bravest and most skilled of wizards and witches; their job was to protect the world from Dark Magic. Moody was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Charity had been pre-warned about his appearance and rough manner, but clearly the students had had no idea, because they were all sitting silently, staring at him, mouths slightly agape. Even with the pre-warning, Charity herself was caught off guard.
Dumbledore announced, "May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? Professor Moody.4" Only Dumbledore and Hagrid clapped their hands weakly, while the rest of the room continued to stare. Moody didn't seem to notice as he continued chewing on a sausage, a plate of which had suddenly appeared in front of him when he sat down at the staff table, and pulled a flask from his coat.
Dumbledore then cleared his throat and continued with his announcement, "As I was saying, we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year.5"
"You're JOKING!6" yelled a red-haired student at the Gryffindor table. This seemingly involuntary exclamation helped break the tension that had entered the room along with Moody.
"I am not joking, Mr. Weasley,7" said Dumbledore.
'Weasley,' thought Charity. 'Of course, flaming red hair - must be Charlie's brother.' She noticed a few other red-heads at the student's table, and remembered that Charlie had come from a very large family.
The tournament had, of course, also been explained to all of the teaching staff earlier. It was an ancient tradition to try and foster ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities. The tournament was a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry – Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school, and the three champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took turns hosting the tournaments once every five years.
The tournament's challenges were very dangerous, and many students had died as a result, so it had been discontinued. Now, for some reason, the departments of International Magical Cooperation and Magical Games and Sports had deemed the timing right to bring the tournament back. Many members of these two organizations and staff from each of the three schools had worked very hard over the summer to ensure the safety of these games. Having only arrived a week ago, Charity knew very little of the preparations, however, Dumbledore had just announced that one of the precautions would be to set an age limit of seventeen, to the dismay of many vocal students.
Dumbledore also announced that each of the other two schools would be sending a contingent in October which would stay at Hogwarts for most of the school year. Finally, with a "Bedtime! Chop chop!8" he dismissed the students. After they had cleared out, and Charity was making her way out along the staff table, Dumbledore pulled her aside.
"Professor Burbage, I must apologize. In the excitement over the Triwizard Tournament, and the rather dramatic entrance of Professor Moody, I neglected to introduce our new Muggle Studies teacher. I promise to take care of this oversight at breakfast tomorrow." After some thought, and Charity's insistence that no apologies were necessary, he said, "Perhaps it is for the best. I expect you will garner a few more applause than did Professor Moody, and it's probably kinder not to make the disparity quite so apparent."
He was right, as he so often was. Charity was greeted with warm applause at her introduction the next morning, and even caught a couple of cat calls coming from the direction of the Gryffindor table.
Twenty-five students were enrolled in Muggle Studies for that school year. Charity had decided to focus her lessons primarily on Muggle history, which she believed all students could benefit from, even those coming from Muggle homes, as it had a major impact on the world in which they all lived. Ever since Charity's interview with Dumbledore, one of her pet goals was to bring wizards and Muggles closer together so that one day, perhaps, the need to keep the magical world such a secret would disappear.
She was surprised when, a few lessons in, some of the students remarked that Muggle history was far more exciting than wizard history. She found this incredible, until she met with Professor Binns, who taught History of Magic. She had wanted to compare lesson plans to see if the two of them could coordinate time periods of study. Rather than engaging in a lively discussion paralleling the happenings in the two worlds, Binns, who was the only professor that was a ghost, merely floated up to the chalkboard and launched into a long droning lecture, apparently expecting her to take notes.
Charity made a deliberate decision to use only Muggle techniques in class. Her lectures were in front of a chalkboard, using actual chalk and not her wand to write. The students used wooden pencils, not quills, and wrote in spiral bound notebooks, not on parchment. The text books were the very same books that Muggle school children read. No moving photos, no disappearing ink, just words and the occasional inanimate picture. The students were very curious about these ordinary items on the first day of class. When several classes had passed, and not one student had yet asked her to use the pencil sharpener, Charity noticed that, somehow, their pencil tips were never dull. Upon further inspection she found that they were magically, and seemingly unconsciously, maintaining a sharpened lead with a very basic charm that even students could accomplish through their fingertips. She drew their attention to this infraction on Muggle Rules, and after first being quite impressed with themselves at their inadvertent magic, they were thrilled to be able to use the crank pencil sharpener. Charity spent most of the next couple lessons shooing students out of line for the sharpener and developed an acute headache from the relentless grinding coming from that corner of the room.
Headaches aside, Charity exuded a positive energy that everyone around her seemed to pick up on, and she quickly became very well liked by her students. It didn't hurt that she had bright shining eyes, loose golden curls, and was more than a decade younger than anyone else on the staff. Even Peeves was taken with her. The first time she met the resident poltergeist, her books and papers went flying when he suddenly swooped from behind a statue of a one-eyed humpbacked witch near her office. This statue always gave her the creeps, and when the poltergeist shot out of it straight at her, she completely lost her nerve. Lucky for Charity, she had learned a long time ago to fight fire with sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. So, she laughed as she picked up her scattered belongings and complemented Peeves on his cleverness.
"At last, Dumby's hired a teacher with a sense of humor!" Peeves sang with delight. The next time she saw him, she wondered aloud how Peeves would look in the puffed out bloomers that a duke was sporting in a nearby portrait. Peeves flew to the portrait and positioned himself to look as if he was wearing the bloomers. The two of them had a good chuckle, while the duke stormed out of the portrait.
Many weeks later, their friendship firmly established, Charity tossed a mango she'd smuggled from the kitchens to Peeves and said, "Catch!" To her great surprise, he did catch it. She had expected it to float right through him.
Seeing her surprise, Peeves told her, "I'm a poltergeist, baby!"
Charity had never really distinguished between your everyday ghost and a poltergeist, so Peeves decided to demonstrate on Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost who was floating past at the moment. In life, Nick's head had nearly been severed off except for one thin flap of iridescent skin that still attached it to his neck.
"Catch!" Peeves yelled, throwing the mango to Nearly Headless, who only let it float through his ghostly form, rolled his eyes, and kept moving along. The resident ghosts didn't have much time for Peeves and his shenanigans. Charity picked up the now ice-cold mango, and she and Peeves laughed as they strolled down the hall, having a nice game of catch. Peeves' smile suddenly disappeared as he looked down the hall at the approaching bat-like figure of Severus Snape, the Potions professor, whose sharp features seemed to be stuck in a permanent scowl. Peeves quickly tossed the mango back to Charity and disappeared.
Snape gave Charity barely a nod in greeting as he passed, and she thought to herself, 'Even the ghosts hate him?' At the same moment, Snape's scowl turned quizzical, as if to say, 'Even the ghosts like her?' They continued down the hall, moving away from each other with their opposing thoughts. It wasn't the last time such a thing would occur between them.
1 Text is exact quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling p.178
22 Ibid, p. 180
3 Ibid, p. 183
4 Ibid, p. 185
5 Ibid, p. 186
8 Ibid, p. 189