Meet the Teacher
Deep breath, concentrate, step forwards, turn and squeeze through an agonizingly small tube, eyeballs popping, not breathing - safe. I breathe deeply to hasten my recovery from apparition. It’s a nasty process, one I will never get used to. But it is fast, and the unpleasant sensation is over quicker than, say, flooing. Remarkably, I passed my test first time. That was after a year of splinching myself into hoops in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Nasty. Makes you appreciate your limbs. I switch the hand carrying my suitcase, straighten my tie and walk away from the dingy side-street of Hogsmeade.
The high street is damp and I zig-zag eccentrically to avoid puddles. The door to The Three Broomsticks is wide and inviting, a bubble of warm banter and laughter escapes from the open doors. I feel a slight ache as I turn away, but I can’t be late.
I stride out. Get this ordeal over with quickly. Urgh. Why didn’t I bring an umbrella or something? Too windy. Why not a better jacket, a waterproof one? Wouldn’t be outside for that long. Didn’t know it would be raining. Wasn’t raining near the flat. Wasn’t raining in Inverness, for once. Urgh. I never knew rain could be quite this… wet. The rain isn’t quite through my suit jacket yet, but it is only time.
I stand outside the tall, iron gates. Nothing happens. After a short few seconds of inspection, the chains slither back and the gates creak open. They close with a clang. The nearby thestral starts at the sound, throwing it’s head back and turn it’s white eyes towards me. It's plain what I need to do. I climb into the carriage, and whoosh, we're away. Just like old times. Except in the old times there were a lot more carriages, a lot more thestrals and a lot more people. I like it better this way. The ride is more peaceful and enjoyable. I dry my jacket off with a jet of hot air from my wand. I think I look quite smart.
I stare numbly at the grounds whizzing past. I'm back. I really am. I think it's starting to sink in. I work here. I am a teacher. I am a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The carriage slows and then stops, in line with a second carriage. The skeletal black horses glance at each other, exchange greetings. I'm here. As a teacher. I’m not a student anymore. I have authority. I step out the carriage nervously, take a few hesitant steps before dashing back into the carriage before it pulls away after the first thestral. I forgot my suitcase. As I approach the front doors, they open silently. Professor Flitwick is standing there, shaking hands with a gruff woman who looks about double his height. He turns, hearing my footsteps on the cold stone floor.
His face lights up, "Ahh, yes!" he squeaks, "Wilhelmina, you remember Neville Longbottom, don't you?"
Her brow furrows. Obviously not, who would? But then her face lights up, "Ahh yes," She booms. I nod shyly and smile, glad.
"Well then," Flitwick says, clasping his tiny hands together. "Plenty of time to chat later, you need to meet the other teachers, Neville!" He says this like it's the best thing that could ever happen to me, before bustling off up the grand staircase to the castle. We follow.
I've never been in the staff room before. It's large and warm, with heavy fabrics hanging on the walls, thick carpet on the floor and squishy, mismatched armchairs and tables. A fire roars in the grate and a stern looking witch places another log on with the help of a blackened poker.
"This Neville Longbottom, our new Herbology teacher." Flitwick presents me, fingers splayed as he directs their gazes towards me. He then begins to point out everybody in turn, some I know from my own days, like Professors Binns, Vector and Grubbly-Plank. I know Michael Corner, Transfiguration, from school too, but as a pupil, not teacher. Some are completely new, like Emma Days of Muggle Studies, Jane Geirson - the stern witch by the fire - teaching Potions, Erin Campbell, DADA and Professor Skirmish, Astronomy. He also tells me that Parvatti Patil is downstairs and Professor Babbling will be here imminently. The majority of people here seem very young. A lot of teachers must have left after the Battle for Hogwarts. Left or… been killed.
Flitwick flops down into an armchair and engages Grubbly-Plank in conversation.
I perch nervously on an armchair, putting my suitcase in front of me. The young, pretty, brown-haired witch to the side of me smiles and offers her hand. "Erin Campbell,” She has a slight accent, hardly noticeable. I’m not sure what it is. “Defence Against the Dark Arts.” She pauses, looking my up and down, before saying pointedly, “But I don't think I need to teach you anything." Her smile broadens.
I shake her hand and smile painfully back. I don't like talking to other people about that…Event. The Battle for Hogwarts.
She opens her mouth to say something else, when Flitwick interrupts. "Neville, would you go downstairs and bring Professor Babbling up, please?"
I nod and hurry away. I catch a glimpse of Emma Days, a blonde witch rolling her eyes as she starts up conversation with Erin.
The rest of the day is fairly quiet; I have my first run in with Peeves after however many years, have a good look round the Herbology facilities and have to do some emergency work on a few of the plants, who don’t seem to have been taken very good care of over the holidays. I begin to reacquaint myself with the castle. Some of the portraits recognise me, and give congratulations on my new placement. I wonder past the Fat Lady on the off chance that I might have a conversation with her, find out who carried on with Hogwarts after the war – not me – but she is asleep. I haven’t had many conversations with anyone, preferring to stay alone organising the greenhouses to my standards. I find an old gramophone and a box of records and float them down to Greenhouse 4 to play music to the plants. The Hogwarts greenhouses are truly amazing, they are the host to almost every plant species there is, all living together under one of five large glass roofs. That is beauty.