Warnings: Some coarse language. Slash.
Pairings: Eventual HP/DM.
Notes: The three fairytales and the poem that appear in this fic are original work written by myself.
It was his first day of school.
As a professor.
He had put up a long and energetic fight with McGonagall. Too young. Inexperienced. No qualifications. Didn't think he was the teaching type.
Nevertheless, McGonagall said. Nevertheless.
He couldn't argue with 'nevertheless'. It was ridiculous. Eventually Hermione took him aside.
"Look," she said. "You love Defence Against the Dark Arts. The students will think you're cool. You're a natural, remember Dumbledore's Army? And it's either this or you sit around reading fanmail all day."
Harry had seriously considered just returning to his old Auror job. After eleven years as the youngest on the team, he could say he'd enjoyed it. But he'd had enough of it all now. Enough of the fighting and duelling and scars and complicated strategies. After Harry had captured the last Death-Eater on the run he had decided to resign and have a calmer life, as such. He wanted a practical job, an interactive job, not some respectable, dull Ministry desk job. But not something quite as full-on as being an Auror. And Hermione, as if reading his mind, smiled widely.
"This is perfect, Harry. A perfect opportunity. You'll get to practice spells, teach others, and help children. You're patient, understanding and thorough."
"I'm twenty-nine. I'll be the youngest person there. I'll feel stupid."
"No you won't," Hermione said sharply. "And what about Nev, teaching Herbology? He's exactly the same age as you."
"I just –"
"You'll love it."
Harry groaned and sunk into the couch. "You've made up my mind for me, haven't you?"
"Yes," Hermione said unapologetically. "It will be fun. Anyway, you need more of a..."
"...change," Hermione finished. "Meet new people, that sort of thing. Who knows, you might even meet someone, at last."
"Let's not make this personal," Harry said hastily. Ever since he'd broken up with Ginny, Hermione kept trying to get them back together again. When Harry finally voiced his annoyance, Hermione changed tack by trying to set him up with other people. He'd like to know who Hermione thought he'd 'meet' at Hogwarts, anyway. McGonagall? Neville? He snorted.
"...alright, I'm just saying. So will you take the job or at least consider it?"
Harry sighed and fiddled with his sleeves. Finally he looked up at her, beaten. "If I take it, you must promise to stop trying to find someone for me."
"Okay," Hermione said, smiling and holding her hands up. "No more meddling."
"Okay," Harry said defeatedly. "I'll take it."
He portkeyed to Hogsmeade where he met Headmistress McGonagall.
"Professor," he said.
"You may call me Minerva, Potter," she said, tapping her cane lightly on the cobblestones and smiling.
"Yes, Professor," he replied, knowing he would never dare call her that. Old habits die hard.
"This way," McGonagall directed, although Harry needed no guidance. He knew the path to Hogwarts by heart. "You must forgive me my slow pace," McGonagall added. "Age adds to the mind but detracts from the body."
"You're not so old," Harry said loyally. McGonagall raised an eyebrow and kept walking.
They silently approached Hogwarts, and McGonagall stood for a moment on a grassy knell, regaining her breath and letting Harry gaze for a moment. He was glad of the opportunity to gather himself as he stared at the beautiful castle and grounds spread below. All the memories...he pushed them back fiercely. There was where he lazed by the lake and there was where he faced Voldemort. There was where he laughed with friends and there was where his fellow students died.
He realised McGonagall was looking shrewdly at him and he turned to smile faintly at her.
"Hasn't changed a bit," he murmured.
"Yes, patched up well after the Battle," McGonagall said and he realised she too would look upon Hogwarts and have memories both fond and devastating.
"Never thought I'd be coming back here," Harry added nervously. Even from here he could see the charred spot outside the Forest where he had hung limply in the air above a triumphant Voldemort. As if reading his thoughts, McGonagall gave him a sharp look.
"We didn't idolise the place," she said. "There are no statues or monuments there."
"Thank Merlin," Harry mumbled and to his surprise McGonagall laughed.
"We did have a Reflection Pool built in the rose gardens," she said. "We had a small plaque placed by it, with the date of the Battle and the names of those who died fighting." There was a pause, then she started forwards. "Shall we continue, Potter?"
They made their way down to the gates. They were solid, beautiful and looked as strong as ever. He couldn't imagine that eleven years ago, they had lain mangled and torn asunder from their hinges.
"Nervous, Potter?" McGonagall asked kindly as he paused, staring up at the gates.
"Yeah...I just don't...I don't want any students looking up to me," he finished lamely, unsure how to put it into words without sounding big-headed. The last thing he wanted was a room full of Colin Creeveys gazing up at him in awe.
"Oh, don't worry about that, Potter," McGonagall said assuredly. "You'll just be another Professor to them. If you behave correctly."
Behave correctly. Harry had the absurd feeling he was being admonished for something he had yet to do.
They had entered the grounds now and were already approaching the great sandstone steps. They were intact, slightly worn but otherwise perfect. Harry remembered them crumbling, the walls of the great castle pocked by lethal curses, the floors slippery with blood...
"We must remember to move on," McGonagall said gently. "Hogwarts has recovered. The students are very happy here. Our past students gave their lives so these students could have a future here. A worthy sacrifice."
Harry tried to smile, pushing down the lump in his throat. McGonagall was right. The fact that these hallowed halls were once again filled with laughter and learning was owed to the students.
They walked down the corridors. All was quiet. It was the thirtieth of August and the students were to arrive in just two days, bringing with them the bright-eyed bustle and chatty joy of youth, but for now the castle was silent and still, waiting.
"All the staff are here," McGonagall assured him. "Of course, Grimble and I remain here all year round to maintain the school."
"Herbert Grimble, the caretaker."
"Filch is gone?"
"Happily retired," McGonagall said dryly. "Now, here is your office."
She unlocked a heavy wooden door which Harry recognised straight away. His heart jumped painfully as he remembered that once upon a time, Remus Lupin had used this room. Here his treasured belongings had lain: scattered books, tattered cloaks...the grimy Grindylow tank...
It was empty and bare now, the stone walls unadorned and the window thick with dust. The only furniture was a battered desk in a corner. Harry ran a hand almost tenderly over it, remembering Lupin's books and papers stacked upon it.
"I'll get Grimble to reinstate the heating spells for the floor," McGonagall said, her voice echoing. "The stone gets rather cold in winter."
Harry walked to the window and gazed out. It looked directly onto the Quidditch pitch, bringing a faint smile to his face.
"Scourgify," he murmured, the dust disappearing, the window becoming gleaming and clean. Dusk was already settling in, the stars winking at him through the glass. His breath ghosted across the window and for a moment he saw his own face staring back at him, stars shining through his pupils.
"This door leads to your chambers," McGonagall called, opening the door. It creaked slightly and opened to reveal comfortable sleeping quarters. There was a large, four-poster bed; a low table and armchair and a wardrobe and a fireplace. A door in the corner led off to a small bathroom.
"Your classroom is on the third floor, seventh along from the portrait of Uric the Odd," McGonagall said as he pulled a tiny, shrunken trunk from his pocket and placed it on the bed. "You'd do well to acclimate yourself with the room before the students arrive."
"Very good. If you need anything at all, don't hesitate to ask. The password to my office is Whizzing Fizzbees."
Harry smiled faintly, then turned to face her. The room was dark now, silhouetting him against the dark blue dusk outside.
"I'll talk to you tomorrow," McGonagall said before departing. Harry listened to her footsteps fading down the hall, then gently closed the door to his office.
His office. What a strange phrase. It was impossible to think of himself as a professor. Professor. Such a strange title, that he surely had not earned!
He sighed and began the long task of unpacking.
He spent most of the next day organising his room and had nearly completed it when somebody politely rapped on the outer office door. He hurried out of his sleeping quarters and opened the door.
"Ah, Potter. You've been busy, I see." McGonagall stepped in and looked around. Harry had indeed been busy and his trunk had held a truly remarkable amount of stuff. There were bookshelves lining the room, filled with the many texts he had gained over the years. Posters and framed newspaper clippings lined the walls:
'Mad-Eye' Moody Honoured In Auror Memorial Service.
Albus Dumbledore Scholarship Announced.
Shacklebolt Sworn In As Minister!
McGonagall glanced away from a diagram of a Doxy and took a seat opposite Harry's desk.
"Thanks Professor," Harry said.
"Now as you know the students will be arriving tomorrow," McGonagall said, adjusting her spectacles. "And I'm sure you'll do an admirable job of educating them."
Harry smiled nervously, tapping his fingers on the mahogany desk.
"We all have our individual teaching methods," McGonagall went on. "But I feel obliged to give you some advice, Potter – and pay attention, because it is vital your first day goes smoothly."
"Yes, Professor," Harry said anxiously. Why had he agreed to this at all? Who was he kidding? He couldn't teach at all!
"The first thing is to never show any sign of stress or nerves," McGonagall said. "Always remain calm at all times."
"No nerves," Harry repeated, feeling queasy. "Right."
"Secondly," McGonagall went on, "do not try and win the children over. Never indulge them, spoil them, or try to be on their level. You are not here to be their friend, you are here to be their professor. Do not try to chat to them or allow them get away with mischief in the hopes of gaining their favour and cooperation. It would be easy for you, as a younger professor, to slip into the role of friend or fellow student but I beg you not to indulge either yourself or them."
"Of course," McGonagall went on, "this does not mean you must be completely strict or aloof. If a child seeks counsel or advice, you may offer it. However it is important that you recognise that if a student is experiencing difficulty in their personal life and wishes to be advised or assisted, you discuss it with Poppy or myself and we will take over. You are not in a position to deal with such cases."
"Of course, Professor," Harry said. Should he be writing this down? He was certain he would be an absolute failure his first day.
"Now," McGonagall said. "Onto the more practical things. If Hogwarts is to be evacuated – a spell has gone wrong, Fiendfyre, that sort of thing – a general announcement will be made. Your class is to proceed to the Quidditch pitch and you must take attendance to ensure everybody is present and safe."
"If a student is ever hurt in your class – again, through a spell, magical creature or fellow student – you must isolate the injured student at once. If the injury is minor and they are able to walk, have another trustworthy student escort them to the hospital wing. If the injury is more problematic or restricts the student's movements, you are to escort them to the hospital wing yourself in the safest manner possible and return to your class immediately. You must ensure the class remains calm and under control at all times."
Harry nodded, trying frantically to remember it all.
"When you receive the list of students' names," McGonagall added, "you will receive additional details. What house they are in. Any medical conditions. And, of late, if their parents or other immediate family was involved in the Battle. This is, of course, to practice sensitivity around the student. For example, if you are to be explaining Unforgivable Curses, you will know that one of the students had a mother whom was killed by one of the Curses. You may choose to take the child aside before the lesson, discreetly, and ask if they would like to be excused from the class."
"I'll try to remember that."
"And do not let such documents fall into student hands. You'll have a mischief-maker in every class. Cast a Scrambling Spell on the document so that only you may see it, for example."
"Alright. Thankyou, Professor."
McGonagall nodded once, briefly. "I think that covers all major points, Potter. Don't be afraid to deduct house points or hand out detentions. It's far better to have a reputation as a strict teacher than as an easy-going teacher. Over time, you will learn their tricks and ways. They will try to distract you, to worm out of lessons. Never accept homework excuses. Never listen to sob stories. Never, ever divulge personal details. They may ask if you have a family, where you live, have you travelled, do you have any pets, were you at the Battle, what was it like fighting, and more. Always avoid such questions and make it clear you will not answer them. Some will be harmless, some will just be efforts to procrastinate and distract you, some will be attempts to get a rise out of you or anger you. Never, ever answer them or allow yourself to be antagonised by them."
"Alright. I think you're ready."
Harry stared at her, terrified. She smiled calmly at him.
"I'll see you at the staff dinner tonight, Potter."
"Er...yes..." Harry scribbled a note, having forgotten about the dinner already. By the time he looked up, she was gone.
He sagged over his desk. He was going to be an absolutely terrible teacher.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione dropped her toast and scrambled over to her fireplace, kneeling in the hearth. "How are you? Settled in alright?"
"Hermione, I can't do it. I'm resigning!"
"What happened?" Hermione asked, aghast. Harry's face was positively white and she couldn't think of anything that may have happened. The students were not even there yet.
"McGonagall came into my office yesterday," Harry said desperately. "She went on about all these things, and I don't think I'll be able to remember any of them, the students are all going to hate me or think I'm boring –"
"They won't think you're boring," Hermione said soothingly, but Harry cut her off.
"You're just being nice, Hermione! I'll end up like Professor Binns, they'll all fall asleep in my class -"
"Harry, I think you're over-reacting."
"I can't do it! I can't! I'll end up accidentally killing someone -"
"At least you won't be boring then."
"This isn't funny!" Harry yelled. "I'm going to be the worst teacher ever, I'll -"
"Harry," Hermione said. "Harry."
"Yes?" he asked grudgingly, forcing his voice to be calm.
"You've fought Voldemort. On numerous occasions. Are you telling me you can take on the world's darkest overlord, and not a class of eleven-year-olds?"
"Yes, because -"
"Have you seen Neville yet?"
"Yes," Harry said. "At the staff dinner last night."
"Really? And how is he?"
"Good," Harry said suspiciously. "We had a really nice talk. He said it'll be great having an old friend around. We can swap notes on students."
"So, Neville enjoys his job?"
"So Neville can be a successful teacher, and you can't? Forgive me, but I thought you taught him. Didn't you? Didn't you teach him the Expelliarmus?"
"Well...maybe...sort of..." mumbled Harry, his fears beginning to dissipate. He began to feel slightly embarrassed. Perhaps Hermione was right and he was just overreacting.
"Looking forward to the Feast tonight?" Hermione said warmly.
"No. They'll all be gawking at me."
"Of course they will. Remember how we used to stare at the latest Defence teachers?"
"Yeah," Harry admitted, smiling.
"See, we were students too, once."
"I feel sorry for our professors now," Harry laughed. "I'd hate to have me in my class."
"Let alone Ron," Hermione said, and they laughed together. "He sends his greetings, by the way. Says he hopes you don't get hit by Dungbombs or anything on your first day."
"Will I? What should I do if that happens?" Harry asked, panic beginning to seep back in.
"Oh, come on Harry. Get a grip. You'll be fine."
"Yeah, alright," Harry said dubiously, but seeing Hermione's reassuring smile and hearing her welcoming voice had soothed a lot of his frayed nerves.
"Just sit up at the staff table and give them the Severus Snape look," Hermione teased. "They'll be terrified of you in no time."
"I wish," Harry said dryly. "Now there was a man who could command respect."
"And terror. Poor Neville's hands used to shake in Potions. Listen, Harry, I've got to dash off to work, but I'll talk to you again tonight, alright?"
"Alright. Go on, get out of here," Harry laughed and Hermione waved farewell as Harry popped his head back out of the fire and stood up. He surveyed his new office, calmer then he had been over the past few days.
"I'll be fine," he told himself. "Just fine."
"Have a seat, Harry! Grubbly-Plank's bringing the first years in now," Neville said cheerily, patting the seat beside him. Harry climbed into it awkwardly.
"This feels so odd," he mumbled. "Sitting up here."
"Oh, yes, but you get used to it. Look, you can see everything from up here! I never realised. To think of all the times as a student when we used to whisper away, and the whole time the professors saw everything."
Neville was right, Harry could see everything. He glanced around the empty seats and tables and gave a jolt as he saw a grumpy-looking man carrying in a little stool and a hat.
"The Sorting Hat?"
"Oh, yes. Like an old friend," Neville said comfortably. You could still see the old scar stretching right round his face, crossing the bridge of his nose and just under both eyes – a thin and painful white line. As if sensing his glance, Neville rubbed the bridge of his nose absently.
Neville had told him once that whilst the Sorting Hat flamed upon his head, it had whispered words of courage and bravery to him. You are too strong for his torture, it had told him. But he is not too strong for yours. Fulfill your promise and destroy that which is most precious to him. And that was when Neville had raised the sword in all his blinding white pain and brought it down upon Nagini.
Harry tried to shake away the memories, sitting back abruptly as chatter filled the corridor.
"It's the sixth and seventh years," Neville said. "You can tell. They're much more cool and confident."
Certainly the students who entered were clearly nearing their late teens. They barely spared a glance for the staff, smiling and murmuring amongst themselves. Eventually the earlier years filed in, waving excitedly to friends and sorting themselves out, arguing over seats and bragging about their holidays. A few of them gazed up at the staff table and, upon spotting Harry, nudged their friends discreetly.
"Just glare at them," Neville said and Harry was suddenly very glad he had Neville there with him. He grinned and couldn't help but wink at a grinning second-year Gryffindor who waved back proudly, nudging his impressed friends. Eventually they settled into their seats, the Gryffindor turning round often to glance at Harry.
There was a sudden silence as Professor Grubbly-Plank appeared, a thin line of whey-faced students behind her. She had a long list and cleared her throat.
A petrified first-year edged forwards. Harry raised his eyebrows. He certainly could not recall ever being so tiny.
The first year raced with relief towards the Ravenclaw table and was quickly re-directed towards the Hufflepuff table to shouts of laughter.
They went through the list, a few familiar names bringing a smile to Harry's face. Then Neville suddenly leant forwards.
"Hullo," he said. "This is interesting."
"What is?" Harry asked, leaning forwards too. He frowned, seeing a flash of white-blond hair.
"Malfoy?" he asked stupidly, then –
"That can't be Malfoy's child, can it?" Harry whispered to Neville.
"Impossible," murmured Neville. "He would have been born close after the Battle."
"A Malfoy child, born out of wedlock?" Harry shook his head. "I don't think so."
"Can you image Malfoy as a teenaged father?" Neville laughed quietly. "Perhaps this Scorpius is a cousin."
"I don't think so," Harry said confidently, having studied the Black family tree extensively.
McGonagall sent a quelling look towards them and they quickly quietened down. Harry silently searched for the supposed Malfoy student, glancing upon the Slytherin table. Then Neville nudged him and gestured discreetly.
There he was.
Sitting miserably at the Gryffindor table, next to Harry's cheerful godson.