Well, I must say this is one fic I never expected to do. But as it has been pestering me for the last few weeks. . . It needed to be shared. I hope you enjoy it. Please read & review; I appreciate anything from roasting flames to fatuous praise and anything in between. Um, the lyrics in the second paragraph are from the Australian song "Waltzing Matilda" which I have heard sung by the Irish Tenors. And, as I'm sure you know, Harry Potter et al belong to J.K. Rowling and her Corporate Court. Everything that doesn't come from there is mine. Have fun!
Ladymage Samiko ;)
Listen for My Heart
Part 1 ~ A Breath of Wind
Severus Snape was walking down the corridor to his chambers when he heard something he never expected to hear and certainly didn't appreciate there. Frowning, he approached the door from which the sound was issuing and looked in.
"Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll come a waltzing Matilda with me," came a lilting soprano from a round-cheeked girl who looked to be not much older than the students.
"What are you doing here?" Snape asked sharply.
"Oh!" the girl exclaimed as she shot straight up from where she had been kneeling on the floor, stowing clothes in a large trunk. Her face turned a brilliant red. "I'm terribly sorry, Professor," she spoke quickly, her thick accent quickly identifying her as Welsh. "It is Professor, is it not? I'm afraid I haven't had a chance to meet very many people yet. But I'm sorry if my singing disturbed you; I tend to get carried away and I forgot I left the door open."
Snape was confused and he appreciated that even less. "Who are you?" he growled.
"Oh, beg your pardon," she said and curtseyed. "I'm Eiluneth Pierce. Headmaster Dumbledore hired me as the new Potions teacher."
"What?!" Snape exclaimed. "You are the new Potions Master?"
"Aye, I am," she replied turning back to continue putting her things away as she talked. "The headmaster said I was to replace Professor Snape." She turned back and saw that the pale man at her door had become even whiter. "You look as though you'd seen a ghost!" she exclaimed in alarm. "Come in an' sit down before you fall down!"
Shaken, he sunk into a chair near the door. "You. . . are the new. . . Potions Master. . . " he repeated. "I. . . I. . ."
"Sweet Jesus," she breathed, crossing the room. "You're Professor Snape, aren't you? You mean to say they didn't tell you? You didn't know?" Mutely, he shook his head. She sank to the floor beside him. "Oh, dear," she said. "I'll have to go to the headmaster and get this straightened out. I can't say I'm not grateful for the position, but I won't make my way by treading on anyone's toes. I'm not near good enough and if he's sacked you and put me in instead. . . Well, I'll just have to quit and that's all there is to it."
She looked up to find him staring at her in amazement. "What is it?" she asked.
"You would give up this position, one of the most coveted teaching posts in the wizard world, for me?" Snape asked incredulously.
"'Course," she replied quietly. "As I said, I'm not near the level of anyone here. I don't have the learning, though I have the teaching experience. You have the learning and the experience and'll do far better for the children than I can."
"Incredible," was all Snape had to say in reply.
"Ah, there you are, Severus." Dumbledore's voice said heartily. "And I see you've met Miss Pierce. How are you, my dear?"
"Headmaster, I'd like to know what's going on," she answered, rising from the floor. "Have you sacked Professor Snape? I told him I was the new Potions teacher and he had no idea that I was replacing him."
"Ah, well," replied Dumbledore, looking slightly abashed. "I was going to tell you, Severus, but I kept putting it off. . ."
"As it would seem my services are no longer necessary," Snape said stiffly, "I shall gather my belongings and leave as soon as possible."
"Now, don't you dare," Eiluneth put in quickly. "I told you I'll leave and leave I will. I won't take work away from anybody."
"And I will not stay where I am no longer wanted," he ground out.
Dumbledore quickly interceded. "Severus, Miss Pierce, please, you misunderstand. The reason I didn't tell you, Severus, is the same reason no one knows I hired Miss Pierce. I did not want the news to spread, as it often does, before the beginning of the school year. Severus, I have decided that I would like you to take over the Defense Against the Dark Arts professorship."
"Sir--" Snape breathed.
"And, as you couldn't possibly handle both Dark Arts and Potions, I asked Miss Pierce to join us. Her talents in the field are extraordinary--"
"Now, sir, don't you be using any of that blarney on me. I know my worth."
Dumbledore answered, his eyes twinkling, "Come, come, Miss Pierce, surely you know I don't use blarney on anyone, least of all someone who deserves praise. Now, I'd best be on my way; there is quite a bit to do still before the students arrive." With that, he swept out of the room, leaving a quiet girl and a very off-balance Snape.
"Well!" she said, smiling. "At least that's taken care of. Congratulations on your new post, Professor. I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
"Will I?" Snape said distractedly, before standing up and leaving the room without another word. Eiluneth watched him leave, then turned back to her boxes. The clothes, unfortunately, would not unpack themselves.
It was time for the annual Sorting and all the ceremonies accompanying it before Severus Snape and Eiluneth Pierce ran into each other again. As Snape had finally regained his composure (if not his normal state of mind), he took the opportunity to quietly study his seat-mate.
Eiluneth Pierce was a small, round-figured girl with long, curling black hair and deep blue eyes. It was difficult to think of her as a woman rather than a student, though Minerva had told him Eiluneth was thirty years old. She looked at least ten years younger and acted like a tongue-tied teenager. Dressed as she was in a flowing, lavender-grey gown instead of wizards' robes, she ought to have stood out among the dark-clad professors. Instead, she seemed almost to blend in with the surroundings. She had a hesitant smile, but said nothing unless someone addressed her. Snape wondered how on Earth, with her seemingly shy, apologetic nature, she was going to handle her classes. He gave a mental shrug and returned to the new concept of himself as the DADA professor as the students poured into the hall.
Eiluneth watched the students find their places with a slight sense of dismay. There were far more of them than she was accustomed to and she knew the first years hadn't even come in yet. What had she let herself in for? For a brief moment, she fervently wished herself back at her old school near Holyhead. Never more than fifty students there, year in, year out, but then. . .
Eiluneth gave herself a small shake, reminding herself why she was here. She prove herself here and maybe show these wizards what she could do!
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Dumbledore's voice as he made his beginning of the year speech. She heard him introduce her as the new Potions Master (hardly a master, she thought) and stood up, raising her hand in greeting. The student response was something along the lines of a muted roar, though she couldn't make out individual commentary. She resumed her seat and heard the headmaster announce Professor Snape as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. The reaction was utter silence. If there had been in crickets in the hall, you would have heard the smallest one chirping. Students gaped at Dumbledore and Snape in turn. The headmaster's eyes twinkled merrily while Professor Snape looked extremely smug. With a smile, Dumbledore invited everyone to dig in, an invitation that was only slowly taken up. Eiluneth applied herself to her own food and to a conversation with Professor Trelawney about Chinese horoscopes which lasted throughout dinner.
Eiluneth sat nervously in the front of the classroom, waiting for her second class to arrive. The first had gone alright; it was--appropriately--a class of first-years, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. She had introduced them to the basic ingredients and done a few demonstrations on how even slight differences in measurements could produce drastic changes. She didn't think they'd forget after seeing a spoonful more of powdered Eyeling Moss change a Laughter Potion into a liquid that ate though a foot-thick granite block in two seconds flat.
But now was the real test: trying to find a place with students who had had the same Potions Master for years. Though she had been pleasantly surprised (and not a little relieved) when Professor Snape had showed up at her door that morning with a handful of parchment. "These are lists of what I've attempted to teach the students, Miss Pierce. I would have included syllabi, but I have no doubt you have your own," he eyed her floor-length violet dress, "interesting methods," he finished pointedly.
"'Course, Professor," she had answered. "Thank you; I'll be needing them."
"Of course," he replied smoothly, then turned to leave.
"Oh, and my best to you at your new post," she called after him, though he didn't seem to hear. Ah, well, she shrugged. Wizards have been treating me like that for years and they're certainly entitled to it. The talents they have. . .
The students filed in, chattering amongst themselves. She checked her schedule: fifth-years, Slytherin and Gryffindor. Not an easy bunch to tackle. The Slytherins especially would be searching for anything they could to discredit her, since she had replaced their house head. And they were old enough to know something about what they were talking about.
"Well, that was certainly horrifying," she heard one boy comment. "Wonder why Dumbledore finally did decide to put old Snape in the DADA job."
"Probably no one else dumb enough to take it anymore," snickered one of his companions.
"Give over, Ron," the girl with them said. "You know Dumbledore always has a good reason for doing the things he does."
Ah, that would be Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. She knew something about each of them. All survivors, in their own ways, and she appreciated survivors.
Once the students were seated, she began. "Good morning, everyone. I trust it's been good so far. Today I'll be giving a short talk on--"
She was interrupted by one of the boys, a washed-out looking lad with nothing to recommend him except for the studied elegance of his sneer. "And why should we listen to you?" he called out. "You're not even a professor, Miss Pierce. Are you even a witch?"
Eiluneth moved around to the front of her desk. "And you are, young man?"
He smirked. "Neville Longbottom," he answered calmly.
"Ah. I see, Mr. Malfoy," she said slowly, relishing the start of surprise he gave and noting the same reaction in the rest of the class. "You believe that as I'm not a full Professorial wizard, my classes aren't worth anything. Well, I must admit, Mr. Malfoy, that Professor Dumbledore doesn't share your opinion and as he, not you, hired me, I'm afraid his opinion is much more important than yours. If you don't respect his judgment, I suggest you find another school.
"Oh, and I'll forgive you this time, but I'll have it known that any disruptions in my class are rewarded with extra homework and all homework must be completed by the end of the term. If it is not, you will fail the course and be forced to repeat it next term. And trust me, I have no qualms about failing any or all of you."
"You--You can't do that!" Malfoy spluttered. "You'll be sacked if all your students fail!"
"And why would that worry me?" Eiluneth asked sweetly. "If I'm asked to leave, I'll just return home. I don't have to teach to earn a living. And now I think you've delayed this class long enough, Mr. Malfoy. Anything more from you today and I'll start piling on the work. And don't think it will be something simple, either."
She turned to the rest of the class. "Don't expect me to go easy on any of you just because I'm not Professor Snape. I have a list of what he claims you're capable of and it's pretty impressive. I'll expect you all to maintain the same level of excellence, perhaps exceed it in the next year. And now, today we're starting in on Hasty Healing Potions. These are emergency potions. You will have to memorize them, as you'll be using them in circumstances when you have no books, no measuring tools, no help, and quite possibly no wands and no time. This first one is for blood loss. . ."
An hour later, the students were working diligently (if not silently) on producing the first potion within a five minute time limit. Two had passed when a small explosion was heard in the back of the room. Eiluneth looked to see a flustered Neville Longbottom attempt to mop up the mess on the table, his hair smoking and his face red. Seeing it was Neville, most of the class shrugged and turned back to their cauldrons.
"I'm sorry, Miss Pierce, I don't know how it happened. I'll clean it up, I promise, and I'll do better next time, and--" he babbled.
Eiluneth held up her hand, smiling. "Peace, Mr. Longbottom, peace! Everyone's entitled to an accident now and again."
"Are they entitled to them all the time?" muttered a voice behind her. Neville's face became an even brighter shade of red.
"I try," he said in a low voice. "I always try and it never comes right. I just get so frustrated!"
"Now, hold on there, lad!" Eiluneth said. "'Tis only natural to have trouble with things you haven't learned yet. There's not enough time to finish this potion, I'm afraid, but get this tidied up and I'll work with you on the next one. Between the two of us, we'll get this right." She smiled and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. He nodded. "Yes, ma'am," he said.
"All right, loves, you have one minute!" she sang out to the rest of the class.
By the time she had finished testing everyone's potions, Neville had managed to get his workspace relatively clean. Eiluneth wrote up the next set of instructions and returned to the back of the class to work with the boy. She walked him slowly through each step and they still finished well within time. The last half-hour of the class passed in the same way, and though there were a few snide remarks from the Slytherins, Neville wore a relieved smile on his face.
It disappeared after Eiluneth had made her final remarks and added, "Mr. Longbottom, I'd like to speak to you for a moment." His head drooped, though he got a few encouraging remarks from fellow Gryffindors as they left the classroom. As Ron Weasley left, Eiluneth heard him say, "You know, I think that's the first Potions class where Neville hasn't gotten yelled at."
Neville stood before her desk, looking at the tips of his shoes. "Yes, Miss Pierce?"
"You're having problems in all your classes, Neville?" she asked gently.
He nodded dismally. "I can't seem to get anything right. I think I know what to do and then they ask me to do it and--"
"And it all disappears and you have no idea what's going on," she finished.
"Well, I'll tell you a secret, lad," Eiluneth said. "I used to have the same problem when I was a girl. I was convinced I couldn't do anything more complicated than stand on my feet and not fall over. Sometimes I wasn't even sure of that."
He looked at her in awe. "How did you get over it?" he asked hopefully.
"One of my teachers figured it out and taught me what to do," she told him. "If you're really determined, I'll do the same for you. I'll teach you how to focus and concentrate, which should help you improve."
"Will you? Please? I'll do anything," he pleaded.
"It's going to take a lot of work on your part, Neville," she warned him. "I won't start unless you promise to work at it through to the end."
"Then, I'd like you to come see me after dinner. We'll find someplace to work in for about half an hour or so. Do you think you can do that?"
Neville nodded eagerly. "Sure!"
"All right, then," she smiled. "Of you go. You're next class is starting."
The boy smiled brilliantly and dashed through the doorway, brushing Snape as he passed. "Sorry, Professor!" he called without stopping.
Severus paid him no mind. "You're going to try to teach Longbottom something?" he commented drily. "I applaud your enthusiasm, if not your sense."
Eiluneth smiled brilliantly at him as she left the classroom. "Thank you, Professor!"
Snape blinked as the little figure skipped down the hallway. Unlike him, the woman had sounded sincere rather than sarcastic.
By dinner time, Eiluneth felt tired, but happy. The entire day had passed well, and the compliment from Professor Snape had been an added filip. True, it was a backhanded sort of compliment, but she was used to that.
After dinner, she greeted the Gryffindors briefly before leaving with Neville. Deciding that her own sitting room was the place where they were least likely to be disturbed, she took him there. Her office had been another option, but it still needed substantial improvement before it would be livable.
"Please, Neville, make yourself at home," she said cheerily. "Sit anywhere that you feel comfortable in."
"Thank you, miss," Neville replied, choosing a plump, round footstool. Eiluneth pulled another one next to him and settled herself.
"Now, Neville, I want you to close your eyes and try to relax," she said in a quiet voice. "That's the first step. Just relax." It was several minutes before she could feel the boy actually do so. "Now breathe deep. In. Out. In. Out.
"Neville?" She laid her hand lightly on his shoulder.
"Hmm?" The boy looked up at her with sleepy eyes.
"It's time. You need to go to your studies and I need to do some work."
"It's been a half-hour already?" Neville exclaimed, surprised.
"Aye," Eiluneth smiled, "it has. You did very well this evening, Neville. I think you'll do just fine. Same time tomorrow?"
"O-of course," Neville stammered. "Do I need to do anything else, Miss Pierce?"
"No, not really. Practice what we did if you like. We'll be building up slowly, so don't try to push anything. And it may seem a little idiotic at first, but it works."
"Yes, ma'am," Neville replied, heading towards the door. "Thank you!"
"Good night, Neville," she called as he ran down the corridor.
As Eiluneth closed the door, she sighed and smiled. Her first day was over.