The train was, by sheer dumb luck, quiet. Or rather, the people inhabiting it were. The train itself was not the quietest of beings, clanking and squeaking as it pushed itself further along the tracks. He had sat there for hours, finding a rhythm in the noises, hoping that none of the students would venture this far back. The last carriages of a train tended to be the emptiest, most desolate places.
The suit was old, one that he hadn't worn for so many years- in fact, not since that last dinner with the family. To sit here, on an old train in an old suit was certainly surreal. To sit here with all that he had was certainly lonesome, and not what he had been anticipating when accepting the position. Well, accept wasn't perhaps the correct word- taken, been handed on a silver platter, begged for until the old man had finally relented. Whichever, the long journey hadn't been at the front of his thoughts until the moment he had stepped onto the train.
There were books, of course. His many books, packed tightly into the case at his feet. It would occasionally lurch around, hitting the side of his leg, slamming into the old and worn door. If you looked closely, you could see where the glass had been mended before- with a dodgy spell and a panicked voice. He had never done that; never cast a spell so poorly. Never broken a window, in fact. He had broken a lot of things, but windows had never made the list.
He had sat here a total of fourteen times before. This would be the fifteenth, and the only one made in this suit. Seven had been in robes of black, seven in more usual attire. Robes had never been to his fancy- long and billowing, attracting attention and making you look sinister. The more conventional lot wore them, but the appeal had never quite sunk in for him. The others would wear them, as would the young ones- but he had a choice, and his position on the matter was going to remain clear.
Using a book for a desk- a copy of Defensive Magical Theory- a letter had been half penned. His hands had shaken, the quill almost falling away, ink staining the page. It was a terrible effort on his part. And yet, all he could do. He hurried through the last few sentences as the train began to slow, desperate to finish before he was forced to leave the relative comfort and solitude of the compartment and made to join the others. It would be a long and tedious affair, full of whispers and predictions. Odd, that as a boy he had always wanted to know what they spoke of up there on the raised platform. But now, finally about to find out, he wasn't so sure.
Being new was bound to attract something. Curiosity, pity, resentment. In a place like the one for which he was headed, you couldn't avoid it. To stay in the shadows was to be assumed that you had something to hide. And while he did, it was debatable as to whether he really wanted more whispers.
Rolling up the parchment, he stood- but unlike the children, made no effort to stand by the doors, to run for the platform as soon as they opened. The train would stay at the platform long enough for everybody to clear out, and therefore long enough for him to arrive alone. To take his seat amongst the others an engage in the petty conversation that was bound to follow.
He managed to avoid the half-giant, and everyone else. The threstral-drawn carriage ride seemed faster than the train, and as the woodland began to thin, he caught his first sight of the place.
Having not been anywhere near to it for a good decade and a half, he was struck by the magnificence of the castle. Tall and proud, albeit slightly crumbling. It really hadn't changed, aside from the occupants- and still, one or two remained.
He stepped from the carriage, striding up to the gate and following a familiar route to the hall. It was full of students, each louder than the one beside them- by the end of the night, he was sure to have a headache, and would hardly be able to work until that subsided. Nodding to a few of his fellows, he slipped into the seat that had always, by his memory, been the one of the post that he had taken. Leaning forward, he could see the headmaster, his beard as long as ever, robes as extravagant. When sited, he gave the elder a small nod, before allowing his eyes to sweep the hall.
Isolation, if by choice, had not done him well. Although he had caught up events or anything else of interest, much of the world was… hazy. To not know was foreign, an unkind and unwanted concept. And yet here he sat, able only to recall small facts. The sea of ginger would be the Weasley's, who had won money and gone on a holiday to Egypt. The pale blonde seated sat the table second to the left was the son of Malfoy, and really, that was all he could pick out. No doubt that the others could name the students by heart, likely to know their fathers and therefore the young ones.
The chatter slowly died away, as the headmaster stood up. Dumbledore, the greatest of them all, the one who chose to be a teacher instead of lead the Ministry. But the, who was he to judge? He had abandoned it all together, gone against it all in a pursuit of science and forensics. But it paid better, and the thrill was certainly worth it all.
The sorting began, a ceremony that even such a long stint away couldn't make any less tiresome. One by one, the smallest and meekest students tripped over to the stall and allowed the hat to rest upon his or her head. After a small deliberation, a house was called out, and the child would scurry over to the table. This was repeated several times, until finally the hat and stool were carried away by the elderly woman. Professor McGonagall, they called her. He knew her from his younger years, as the strict but fair transfiguration professor.
The hall was filled with the sounds of cutlery against plates, as the students all began to talk at once. He wasn't hungry, but it wouldn't go down well if he simply sat and ate nothing- so he went for the bare minimum.
Mrs Hudson's had always been better.
The others at the table were also talking, mainly of their summers- planning lessons, preparing for new students- the usual, everything expected. The short charms professor, Flitwick, was rambling, and for once he was perfectly content to listen and nod. The lack of anything interesting to say was for once a blessing. You could talk about science here, or of crime and blood-splatter patterns. Flitwick had wasted no time in remarking on his long absence, the lack of hearing from him. How he could have made it in the Ministry, as an auror or perhaps in law enforcement. All of these suggestions were dismissed by the shake of a head, and soon the topic was dropped.
"To our new students," Dumbledore began, as soon as the noise had dropped and the hall became silent. He hadn't seen the elder stand. "Welcome. To our old hats, welcome back. I have a few short notices to give out; firstly, a new list of banned items for the year has been pinned to the door of Mr Filch's office- anyone swishing to examine that may do so at his or her leisure. The forbidden forest is, as the name implies, strictly forbidden to all students," He paused for a moment, looking pointedly at the table on the far right. "And I am pleased to welcome a new teacher to our ranks- Professor Holmes, who has accepted our invitation to join ranks as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."
There was a smattering of applause, to which he only nodded. First to the students, then to the headmaster. Remaining inconspicuous would be difficult around this man, who attracted attention wherever he went.
The headmaster gave the word for bed, and as loud as they ever had been, the students dispersed. Some things would never change, even given time, and the chatter that accompanied such a feast was certainly one of them.
"You've been gone a while."
He spun around, unsure of who had spoken. Standing there was a man dressed all in back, bat-like in demeanour. He was smirking, but curious looking all the same.
"That would be obvious, I should think."
The men were all but staring each other down. There was no reason for conflict, but this was clearly the type of man to seek it out- mysterious and cold, they rivalled each other in all ways but one. Robes.
"Yes. Fulfilling and a lot less dangerous."
"I wasn't aware that muggle trades were very… interesting."
"Each to their own, but you gain a certain respect if you take it the right way." The rest of the staff were still talking, slowly leaving in pairs. "Not that you would."
The other nodded. "Professor Snape." He held out his hand.
They shook, turned away, and left. He didn't know what to think, as he made his way to his quarters. Snape had a bitter grin and was clearly dangerous if not kept an eye on.
It would be something to do whilst cooped up here, he supposed. Pulling the letter from his pocket, he turned to the owl resting on the perch. He tied the letter to its leg, and sent the poor thing on its way. London was far, but that was what the birds were for, and somehow he knew that it would be more than fine with the journey.
Me again. In hindsight, I should be updating more stuff rather than starting new stories. Anyway. Hope you like this :D