Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape sat in the Headmistresses office sucking on lemon drops, which Minerva had kept as a fond memory of Albus Dumbledore's days in that very office.
Minerva had just finished putting forward her latest idea to Severus, and was waiting for his response.
"To be frank, I'm not sure if I'm up to it," he said at last. "You're right, there are so many bad memories here for me, I would welcome a break. But what you're suggesting sounds like harder work than teaching! It won't involve preventing dunderheads from blowing up the castle, that much is true. But while a good idea, I'm completely wrong for the job."
"Think of it as a paid holiday then. You won't be the only teacher there – Charlie Weasley and Hestia Jones will be joining you – that way we have all bases covered between the three of you. And I do believe you are missing the major point that this isn't teaching as you know it – all your pupils will be of age both in the wizarding world and in the muggle world. And you won't be responsible for them in the same way as the teachers at Hogwarts – there are some basic rules to follow, of course, but they are generally allowed a great deal of freedom."
Severus groaned, and looked up at the portrait of Albus, who was snoring conspicuously behind Minerva's desk, his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
"Albus!" Severus growled. "Stop pretending to be asleep, and tell me what you think of this whole matter!"
Sitting at the kitchen table in the Burrow, sipping her coffee, Hermione unrolled the Daily Prophet, read the headline, and called out in surprise to Ron and Harry to read the front page.
HOGWARTS GAP YEAR PROGRAMME
For the first – and only – time, Hogwarts will be offering a gap year programme for students aged eighteen and nineteen. Created by Hogwarts headmistress Minerva McGonagall, the programme was designed with last year's ungraduated students specifically in mind.
The war regime's anti-muggle laws were cause for many students to leave Hogwarts and go into hiding, along with other students from so-called muggle-loving families, whilst other students left school because of the changes to the curriculum, and the reintroduction of corporal punishment. The final battle meant that the remainder of students were unable to take their NEWT exams and he graduate Hogwarts.
The gap year programme, based on the muggle idea of taking a year out of studies before university, aims to cover all aspects of the curriculum needed to take the NEWT exams, albeit not in a school environment – with other aims of enriching students' years with foreign culture and new experiences.
Current plans involve periods spent in the European cities of Majorca and Barcelona in Spain, and Warsaw in Poland. Accompanying the students as guides and teachers will be former headmaster Severus Snape, Magical Creature and Defence expert Charles Weasley, and renowned transfiguration instructor Hestia Jones.
Incidentally, Severus Snape was the cause of so many students leaving Hogwarts last year, but was proved to be double spy for the light, as reported by the Prophet earlier this month.
When questioned, Minerva McGonagall said, "There is no question of Severus' loyalties, or his teaching abilities. He will be a useful asset to the team."
She went on to say about the programme, "it [the programme] will be spent entirely abroad. Spain has two vibrant magical communities, with whom the students will be able to learn much from. Warsaw has a growing magical community, and the students will be able to give much back to the community through volunteering programmes, as well as learning from the witches and wizard who live there.
"The programme will include the core subjects of herbology, transfiguration, defence against the dark arts, charms, potions, astronomy, and history of magic. There will be other options available for extra credit, including wizarding sports, care of magical creatures, arithmancy, and occlumency.
Lessons are the only elements of the course which are mandatory, although there are many other non-compulsory elements to the programme, including volunteering, hiking, and expeditions. The students are adults, and will be treated as such, with free time to travel and do as they please. Accommodation will be provided; the students will be living either in apartments or hostels, depending on location, and food is also provided.
The cost is part subsidised by the Ministry's department of education, and a provisional cost for the moment will be 7,500 galleons for the nine-month programme."
Critics of the programme ask whether the headmistress will be able to pull it all together in time, with the start date of September 21st just a month away. Information will be posted to all former students from the previous academic year.
For more on the double-loyalties of Severus Snape see page seven, for more on has Hogwarts Lost it? See page nine.
Hermione, Ron and Harry looked at each other questioningly.
"It sounds pretty amazing, although I want to know what rules there are before I sign up to anything." Ron said.
"Only what you would expect... nothing illegal, no drugs, must attend lessons and sit final exams, anything involving local police can results in being kicked off the programme. Nothing ridiculous. I've been involved in this from day one, and take it from me, it's an amazing opportunity."
The three turned to see the owner of the voice, Charlie Weasley, walk into the room grinning.
They leapt up, badgering him with questions – who were teaching what subjects, what the accommodation was like, what students were going on it, what were the trips like.
After he had answered their questions and promised to come back later with more information after a meeting a Hogwarts, Ron and Harry started talking excitedly, reading through the programme information packs.
Hermione sat quietly, mulling over all the facts. She had been planning to study independently for the next few months and then take her NEWTs. After that, she had no idea what she wanted to do. The programme sounded ideal, with the NEWT curriculum covered, and the teachers would be there for extra tutoring for other examinations, if wanted.
Charlie was to be teaching care of magical creatures, wizarding sport, astronomy, as well as the more practical elements of Defence against the Dark Arts. Hestia Jones was to teach transfiguration, charms and arithmancy. History of Magic was going to have teachers brought in from the local area, specialising on local European history, as well as an in depth look at Voldemort's rise and fall from power.
Snape was to teach, of course potions, as well as defence against the dark arts, herbology, and occumency. Hermione's mind lingered on Snape. He had been found in the Shrieking Shack, barely alive after Nagini's attack. Madam Pomfrey had worked night and day to save him, whilst Minerva had devoted herself to proving his innocence with Albus Dumbeldore's testimonies from his portrait, as well as his memories.
Hermione wondered what it would be like for him, and why on earth he wanted to come back to teaching! Maybe he really enjoyed, despite appearances, she mused thoughtfully. Most importantly, would his teaching style be the same in such a different environment and in such different circumstances?
With such good educational prospects, Hermione couldn't think of any reason not to go – it all sounded very exciting! The trips sounded amazing – overnight hikes and camping, sightseeing, education outings. And the accommodation sounded fairly decent – good quality youth hostels, or otherwise apartments which the students had to maintain for themselves on a stipend which would be provided. She smirked thinking of Harry and Ron and the other Gryffindor boys living together and cooking and cleaning for themselves.
No – not with the other Gryffindor boys, she corrected herself. There was to be no house segregation. Charlie has made this point strongly – it has been something they had all agreed on. The war had done enough to segregate people, it was time for unity.
Harry and Ron were still pouring over the information.
"No drugs Ron," Harry pointed out, smirking, and Ron snorted with laughter.
"Yes, because I really missed out on that this year when we were on the run!" The three of them were finally at a point where they could joke about the horrors of the past year, although they mainly kept it amongst themselves, as others were inclined to start asking questions and look upon them all as rather heroic. That idea made them crack up with laughter – although more disbelieving than humorous. There was nothing heroic about arguing and trying to survive for a year whilst looking for horcruxes.
The boys looked up at Hermione.
"Hermione, are you in? Are you going to sign up?"
She grinning. "Definitely!"
Ron patted her head affectionately. "Ah Hermione, we knew you wouldn't miss a chance for more studying!"
Two weeks later Minerva and Severus were back in her office, looking at the stack of forms that needed to be dealt with. Students that had signed up had had a book of declarations and health forms to sign and return within two weeks, and the programme was ready to run on schedule.
"How many students do we have, Minerva?"
"Almost all of them have signed up for it. There were a few casualties from the war – Lavender Brown, Vincent Crabbe. But the majority are with us.
Almost all your Slytherins will be there – Draco Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Blaise Zabini, Gregory Goyle, Milicent Bulstrode. Miss Parkinson was wed over the summer and will not be joining you. All the Hufflepuffs are enrolling, and so are all my Gryffindors. And I do believe a few Ravenclaws undertook intensive study courses over the summer and have already completed their NEWTs, but most will be attending. It should be a group of approximately thirty students – the three of you will be able to handle that!"
"Merlin help us – thirty hormonal and rebellious teenagers, allowed to go wherever and do what they want for the first time in their lives! What have we let ourselves in for?!" Severus laughed.
And with that he got up to start packing – he was to leave the next morning for Barcelona and start making preparations for the students to arrive in just two weeks time.
Please R&R – I haven't written anything in a very long time, and would love to know what you think of this! It will be HGSS, although not for a while, as I will building the relationship.