An Inspector Calls
All characters belong to J. K. Rowling.
It was something that the Ministry had been deliberating over for some time, but, nevertheless, the visit from officials at the Department for Magical Education still came as a bit of a surprise. Educational reform, they called it; bringing standards up to scratch—establishing Hogwarts as one of the foremost schools for Witchcraft and Wizardry.
It was the only school for Witchcraft and Wizardry for miles and miles, as I pointed out; it was already bloody foremost!
It didn't matter what I said. Hogwarts, though ultimately a part of the Wizarding Establishment, had always been unique for its autonomy. Autonomy made manifest not only by its physical location in the back of beyond, but also by its decentralised governance. As long as things were running smoothly, there was no need of interference from other quarters, that is, the Ministry. Why now? I wondered. Why, when things had finally quietened down—when things had finally straightened themselves out following the War—did they want to start fiddling with the educational system?
Maybe that was it; they were bored.
I persisted in my assurances that the status quo was fine as it was, and it was then that they finally became frank with me.
'It's the Muggle parents,' they said. 'Increasingly, they want to know what type of place they are sending their kids off to. "We're not even allowed to visit!" they argue. "You expect me to send my child to a school I don't even know the first thing about?"'
'Everything is explained to them by a member of staff,' I reminded. 'What more do they need? Hell, send them a bloody copy of Hogwarts: a History!'
Or maybe not—there are a few periods in Hogwarts' lengthy history that have the ability to potentially make one's hair curl.
'They want some proof—something official. They want to know everything. Who runs the school? What subjects are there on offer? Will my child get a rounded education? What are the facilities like? What are the dormitories like? What are the teaching standards like? What kinds of meals are provided? What kind of support can my child expect to receive? The list is endless!'
I shook my head incredulously. 'It's a school—they come here to learn, what else is there? Our O.W.L and N.E.W.T qualification records speak for themselves. This has never been an issue before.'
'It's the effect of the War,' they pressed. 'Muggles are becoming particularly wary of our world. There is an alarming trend developing where parents are opting to send their child into the Muggle educational system. They feel it is safer—no War would ever take place in a Muggle school. You can't imagine the problems we will face with untrained witches and wizards functioning exclusively in Muggle society.'
I supposed that they did have a point. 'We cannot force them to attend Hogwarts,' I observed redundantly.
'We are reliant on the influx of Muggleborns.'
'Rich Muggles often pay well, do they not?'
'Let us not get into the thorny issue of funding, Headmaster. This problem is not even confined to Muggleborns. We were contacted by the parents of a half-blood child who requested the name of their child to be removed from the register. When we enquired as to how the child would learn magic while attending Muggle schooling, the wizard replied he would be homeschooled with regard to his magical development.'
I sighed, unable to deny that this was a serious issue. 'What exactly to you propose this reform to entail, then?'
The dimwits before me shifted uncomfortably.
'We have, ah, borrowed an idea from the Muggles, in the hope that it will appeal to those currently with doubts. We will produce an annual school report, including everything from a detailed breakdown of expenditure; educational performance of each year group in terms of the internal and external end-of-year exams, as well as which subjects are performing the best; extra-curricular activities; any staffing changes will be included, and so on and so forth.'
I stared at them. 'And who is to draw up this report?'
'We will need your input, as well as that of your staff, in providing certain details; but ultimately, it will be the Ministry's responsibility.'
'And this report will be made publicly available, I take it?'
The pair of ministry-workers nodded their assent. 'We only want to show the school at its best. This document, with pictures and so forth, will really play to the school's advantages, showcase its facilities—'
I frowned deeply. 'You want to market this school as you would some two-bit piece of meat?'
'Hogwarts' reputation is not enough on its own anymore, Professor.'
'There's something else...'
'Oh?' Why was there always something else?
'Muggle authorities thoroughly inspect their schools every five years or so; we are considering adopting this approach too.'
A swell of anger rose up inside of me. 'You want to send a bunch of interfering busybodies into my school to tell my teachers their job?'
They both shook their heads vehemently. 'Headmaster, we assure you, appointed inspectors will merely ensure that the school is running efficiently, and performing to a standard that is acceptable.'
'Are you questioning my ability to run the school, then?'
They shrank back in their seats. 'This is not personal, Professor Snape—'
'I forbid it,' I announced imperiously.
'I am afraid the decree will be passed.'
'It is not necessary!'
'Headmaster, the findings of the inspection will be made public to parents. We hope that it will restore confidence in the school.'
I glared at them, bunch of jumped up bureaucrats that they were. I took pleasure in their squirming. 'And what if the Ministry does not like what the report finds?'
'Well, then... changes will have to be made.'
Changes; I'd give them both bloody changes! If only I'd known there and then the amount of trouble and upheaval this charade would cause me, I would have... Would have what? I was powerless; they knew it, and so did I.
I was determined to show them, though.
Minerva was just as indignant when I informed her of the developments. The feather in her hat quivered with irritation as she unleashed a rant at me.
'This is outrageous, Severus! For Merlin's sake, couldn't you have stopped them? To think that I will have to put up with someone looking over my shoulder while I'm teaching! Me, who has taught for over fifty years! It was bad enough when that bloody Umbridge woman went on her power trip that time, but this takes the cake! I mean—'
I could only listen to her woes for so long.
'Minerva!' I interrupted, rubbing my temples. 'Do you honestly think I laid myself prostrate at their feet so they could simply walk all over me?'
She paused in her pacing and looked at me sternly through her spectacles. 'Sorry—I know you wouldn't have had any choice.'
'There is nothing to be done, Minerva. We have a few months to prepare for this... abomination. It will probably be held during May. The Chief Inspector of the team will visit us in a couple of weeks' time for a preliminary meeting with the staff.'
She raised her arms in defeat. 'Well, it'll be all right, won't it Severus? We run a tight ship, don't we?'
I looked at her grimly. 'Even a tight ship has holes somewhere, Minerva, and we are no exception.'
She nodded wistfully. 'True...'
'We will have to deal with those holes, Minerva. They expect us to slip up. Can't you imagine the smug satisfaction on their faces as they tell us we should be doing this, or we should be doing that? What we want to do is pre-empt them. This whole endeavour is pointless, and I want them to leave here thinking the same. We'll bloody well show them that they can't just swan in here throwing their weight around!'
'How will we go about that?' asked Minerva with a small smile.
'That is where some research comes in, Professor. Listen, I have some tasks for the both of us...'
While Minerva and I were working on developing our strategy, I also had to inform the staff at large. Minerva called an emergency staff meeting and I stood at the head of the table, glancing around at each and every one of them.
Merlin, but they were a motley looking bunch!
I relayed to them the situation we were in, and as I expected, there was shock.
'Assessing our teaching standards—the effrontery!' exclaimed Filius.
'Not just our teaching standards—everything!' added Minerva, as if the fire needed any more stoking.
'Everything? Merlin's arse what are we going to do?' shouted Pomona.
'It's all under control,' I assured them. 'I will be meeting with you all in due course to discuss how best to proceed with your specific duties. Any concerns you have will be raised then. If you think there are issues that need addressing, bring them to me then.'
Merlin only knew what problems I'd unearth during my meetings with my staff. If there were holes in the ship, I'd be bloody well sniffing them out and plugging them in very soon, so we'd be watertight once more.
'If you have problem students, I want to know about them. If you haven't been planning your lessons properly, I want to know about it. If you are behind in your marking, get your arses in gear and sort it out! If your classrooms have seen better days, tidy them up! If your textbooks are falling apart, order some new ones! If you've been cutting corners anywhere, now will be the time to tell me.'
From the shifty looks some of them were exchanging, things didn't look promising.
'Minerva will present you with a time and a date for your arranged discussion with me. Heads of Houses are to bring all records of any issues in their Houses for the past year, and those in charge of budgets, I want to see your accounts from the last three years—not just your total expenditure, I want details. Is that clear?'
Rumblings of, 'Of course, Severus,' and 'Yes, Severus,' arose from the table and I nodded.
I expected only one thing to occur in the next few weeks—chaos; complete and utter chaos.
It was two weeks later and Minerva and I were still perfecting our plan of action. We had been waiting for the meeting with the head of the inspection team before putting the finishing touches on it. Then we would begin our preparations in earnest. This school was going to come out with nothing less than an outstanding report. That would wipe the pedantry off the Ministry's interfering faces, and the misplaced distrust off the parents'.
'Remember to be nice to them Severus...' urged Minerva as we walked to the Entrance Hall to meet the inspector. 'Is it a man or a woman?'
I shrugged. 'No idea, Minerva. The Ministry is being deliberately vague about everything. They haven't given me a name. And nice? I'm always bloody nice!'
Minerva pursed her lips in disagreement. 'You would do well to remember, Severus that greater things are at stake here, so it would behove you to show a little more agreeableness in your manner.'
I ignored her. 'Now, I imagine our chief inspector will be some crusty, old doddering fool with aeons of time on his hands - hence his decision to be part of this ridiculous charade. You know what will have to be done if he is not impressed with our school, don't you?' I asked lightly.
She looked at me curiously as we descended the marble staircase into the Entrance Hall.
'You'll have to seduce him into believing otherwise.'
Her look was one of such priceless outrage that it was all I could do to maintain my stoic countenance. She was even blushing slightly. 'I'll have you know I prefer a younger man, Severus.'
I almost lost my footing on the stairs, and there was an answering look of triumph on her face.
'There—that's got you worried, hasn't it?' Her smirk was smug.
We paused by the doors, and I moved to open one for our imminent... guest. Pulling open the door let in a huge swathe of light, and I peered down the sloping grounds for sign of our crusty old man. There was none, but there was a sight I had no wish to see. No bloody wish at all. I kicked the doorframe angrily.
'Fucking hell, Minerva! I don't believe this!'
'Severus!' she blustered. 'I have told you before not to use such uncouth language in my presence!'
I moved from the doorway towards Minerva. 'Hermione flaming Granger is trotting up the lawns as we speak! Don't tell me her visit is a coincidence!'
How I hated her subsequent look of joy. 'Miss Granger is the inspector?' she asked hurriedly. 'Oh, Severus, this is great! She would never give us a bad report!'
'Minerva,' I hissed. 'She is such a stickler for the rules she would shop her own grandmother for lifting a boiled sweet from Honeydukes'!'
'Surely, you exaggerate, Severus!'
This was not happening; no, by Merlin, it could not be happening. Hogwarts was done for. I would not be able to restrain myself in the presence of that infuriating know-it-all. It was an irrepressible fact.
'Mark me, Minerva. This will not end well.'
She only frowned and moved past me to greet the figure that had appeared in the doorway.
'Professor McGonagall,' Granger cried. 'It's lovely to see you, again!'
'Miss Granger! Welcome back to Hogwarts!'
Ugh, would they even notice if I excused myself from this tedious love-in? Minerva finally left the hall to see that the rest of the staff was ready and waiting in the staff room. It was too late to wish for a role-reversal. I was stuck with escorting my worst nightmare. Granger started clip-clopping across the flagstones towards me, her hand outstretched. Her voluminous hair was scraped back into a bun, and she was wearing rather prim looking attire; the whole look aged her by about five years or more.
'Professor Snape,' she greeted evenly.
'Miss Granger,' I murmured silkily, ignoring her hand. 'Forgive me, but I must have fallen asleep while you were gaining vaunted experience in the educational profession, because no one would be stupid enough to entrust such a responsibility to a mere pretender, would they? Come, let us walk.'
She seemed frozen for a moment, but then her step caught up with mine. I moved with my customary silence, she with the absurd sound of her shoes echoing off the walls—bloody chit.
'I don't think it's any of your business as to why I was chosen for this position. If the Ministry feels I'm up to it then it is all immaterial, is it not?'
Ah, so she felt her inexperience too. Her reply had smacked of one thing—rehearsal.
'I think we both have very different views on what is immaterial and what is not.'
'Then, we shall simply have to disagree on the matter, Headmaster.'
I wanted to say more on the subject, but there was no time for that while a roomful of teachers awaited us. No doubt they would all fawn over her as Minerva had, believing her to be their reprieve. They were misguided fools if they did.
As soon as I opened the door it was as I expected. "Oh, Miss Granger!" "It's so nice to see you, Miss Granger!" The worst of it was that I knew most of them were genuine in their delight at seeing her—it was not brown-nosing.
I noted with appreciation Horace's narrowed gaze as Miss Granger and I stepped to the front of the room. We Slytherins never miss a trick. He knew as well as I that she was not a reprieve. She was in the pockets of the Ministry as much as any other upstart they might have sent.
'As is no doubt painfully obvious, Miss Granger is here because it is she who will oversee our inspection.'
Filius actually wriggled with anticipation, and I resisted the urge to hex him—hard.
'Miss Granger will now avail us of the minutiae of this... farce, and any questions you may have, now is the time to ask them.'
I sat down abruptly and stared at Granger expectantly. She didn't look particularly nervous—no doubt her Gryffindor sense of entitlement overrode any disquiet.
'My name is Hermione Granger, for those who don't know me, and I will be heading the inspection team from the recently set up Office for Standards in Education. There will be four of us in total, and we will all be responsible for certain sections of the curriculum. Mr Ignatius Appleby will be my deputy, and he will be in charge of most of the core subjects—Transfiguration, Charms, Potions and Herbology.'
'Oh, good Merlin, he taught me Charms when I was in school!' exclaimed Minerva.
'Did they have to resurrect him for this, then?' I muttered to myself.
Granger nodded. 'Yes, he has a good deal of experience when it comes to Hogwarts, in fact all of my colleagues have experience in teaching.'
I snorted, and she turned her eyes to me briefly, but didn't say anything. At least someone would know what they were talking about, at least. She, on the other hand, could claim no such thing, though, undoubtedly, she would try.
'Mr Jeremiah Jones will be responsible for Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, History of Magic and Astronomy, as well as sports and leisure within the school.'
I caught Minerva's eye, and she nodded almost imperceptibly. We'd researched our Muggle counterparts well, and found several areas in which we could make improvements. Sports was one of them. In fact, it would seem Mr Jeremiah Jones was in charge of a lot of our weak spots.
'Mrs Ivy Lewis is the inspector for Defence Against the Dark Arts, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Muggle Studies, as well as student welfare, to include dormitories, meals, and so on. I will be focusing on the management and leadership side of things—accounts, budgets, records, resources, but also, I will be spending time in all areas of the castle, talking to students et cetera.'
Oh goody, I thought. Granger would be checking up on me.
'I'm afraid the only stone to remain unturned will be the Infirmary as that is already subject to certain standards set and managed by the Department of Health. Now, before we go any further, I would just like to point that we, the inspectors, are acting entirely independently from the Ministry—'
I couldn't help it—I interrupted. 'Yet, are you not currently employed by the Ministry, in the Department for the Control of Magical Creatures? I say Miss Granger, does the phrase 'conflict of interest' mean nothing to you?'
Her jaw clenched, and I almost smirked.
'Of the team, I am the only one to have been under the employ of the Ministry in recent years. For my own part, I have taken a sabbatical from my position there to undertake this task. If you are implying that I am party to any governmental double motive, then you are sorely mistaken.'
'Oh, I would never imply such a thing, Miss Granger. In fact, the thought hadn't crossed my mind.'
She saw that I didn't mean a word of what I'd just said, and she was right. It was ridiculous to think she hadn't been appointed for anything other than an ulterior motive. Forget all the guff about independence, the Ministry's influence was everywhere. She would be responsible for assessing my leadership and managements skills—what a surprise! I had the distinct impression that I was staring a comprehensive whitewash in the face.
She didn't address me further—she turned back to the room as a whole. 'We are not looking to catch any of you out. All we want to do is come in quietly, sit in on a few lessons, and just generally get a feel for the place. This is not something to worry about—'
'So, we won't get sacked if we are found to be below par?' asked George Blackwell, the Muggle Studies teacher.
I inwardly nodded with approval—he'd just gone up in my estimation.
'I cannot answer that, I'm afraid,' said Granger, a patronising look of concern on her face. 'We will only report what we find; the Department for Education will decide how to act on the findings.'
I turned in my seat to the gathering behind me. 'What Miss Granger is being so vague about is that if the findings are unfavourable, there will be an intervention from the Ministry. That's what happens in Muggle schools, isn't it? And that is what this has been based upon, has it not?'
She glared at me uncomfortably as a hubbub of whispering broke out. I shrugged minutely; by Merlin I wasn't going to make this easy for her.
'Please,' she spoke entreatingly, 'such measures are only ever taken in extreme circumstances. Please don't worry about it. You may see the document published as to our remit, and that of the Department for Education if you are concerned—everything is explained in there, including the points scale and criteria we use to assess each area.'
'Rest assured we will be looking at it Miss Granger—very closely, indeed.'
Minerva looked at me sternly, as if to say, 'Stop antagonising her!' I ignored her. Her precious concern for her former Gryffindor was vomit-inducing.
Granger raised a hand as if to tuck her hair behind her ear, but faltered when she seemed to remember her hair was locked in a tight prison. Good, she was uncomfortable. Maybe she would now have some idea of what my teachers would face when they had some nosy git watching their every move all day.
'My team and I will arrive in two months time. All I would ask is that by then you have selected a sample of work from the top tier pupils, middle tier pupils, and bottom tier pupils, for each of your year groups, so that we may look at them. Apart from that, I really feel that you have nothing to worry about. Just pretend that we are not here...'
She offered an encouraging smile, and I just knew that if I turned around I'd see answering smiles on the faces of some. Well, I only hoped they'd still be smiling when Miss Granger had wreaked havoc upon us.
I decided there and then that I would be keeping a close eye on her. She would be watching my every move, and well, it was only polite for me to do the same. If she wanted to discredit me, or my staff, or my school, then I would discredit her, too.
It was only fair.
After the meeting was concluded, I escorted Granger from the room before anyone was idiotic enough to invite her to stay for dinner. Minerva had been looking precariously close to suggesting it, but I quickly cast a temporary Silencio on her. I'd probably pay for it later, but there was no way Granger was staying here any longer than necessary. I didn't know why I was bothering to escort her all the way to the Entrance Hall. It wasn't as if she didn't know the way. I suppose I wanted to make sure she didn't wander off anywhere and start her spying already. No doubt, she was probably starting to catalogue certain things already, like, 'Oh, there's a bit of wall crumbled away! Isn't that rather dangerous for the kiddies?'
I flung open the doors. 'Fare thee well, then, Miss Granger. I shall await your next visit with unbearable anticipation.'
She frowned up at me, and I wondered if she would retaliate like some indignant fifth-year. She didn't. There was something almost resigned in her expression.
'See you in two months, Professor.'
I watched her totter down the steps, and I deliberately followed her progress over the grounds, hoping she could sense my appraisal and that it made her uneasy. It was only when that ridiculous bun had disappeared through the gates that I slammed the doors shut.
Two months? A bloody lifetime wouldn't be long enough.
AN: Have finished my exams, finally, so thought I'd post this. It won't be a very long story. The title is, of course, a blatant rip from J. B. Priestley's play 'An Inspector Calls,' but it is there the similarities end. Would be interested to hear what you think. Thanks for reading.