24 August, 1992 - A New Beginning
It was a dream come true. For the past several years since I had left Hogwarts, what I wanted most was to return there some day and be a part of the teaching staff; and now that was finally going to happen for me.
It was the week before the start of the term and I had been out on the balcony of the second floor of my house when the tawny little owl flew towards me. I noticed that it had a piece of rolled up parchment attached to its leg as it landed on the small table that I often used for my afternoon teas.
Inside the rolled parchment, along with the standard form letter, was a hand written note from my grandfather, Albus Dumbledore, who was the school's Headmaster. He told me how happy he was that I would be joining the faculty and that he looked forward to seeing me at the start of the term. Skimming over the form letter, I read that I was required to be at Hogwarts shortly before the arrival of the students. That was only a few days away. I didn't have much time to prepare.
Giving a squeal of excitement, I hurried downstairs and went outside to the paddock where my newly acquired horse, Ashlar, was grazing. He raised his handsome black head and trotted over as I approached. His red eyes glowing, he pushed his nose against me, eager to see if I was hiding an apple or some sugar cubes in the pockets of my robes.
Running my hands over his sleek neck I said happily, "We're going to Hogwarts, Ash. You and I."
Not as impressed as I was, Ashlar shook his head and returned to his grazing. Giving him a final pat, I turned around and went back into the house. Climbing the stairs I began to make a mental list of what items I wanted to pack. The list included most of my clothing plus my art and painting supplies. There was also a selection of books I wanted to take as well as some items that had belonged to my parents, such as Father's clock with the gold enchanted bird that sang in the morning.
Taking a seat at my desk, I unrolled some blank parchment and wrote a quick letter to my grandfather, saying how I was looking forward to coming home and seeing him.
I abruptly stopped and looked at what I had written. ‘Coming home’. But Hogwarts was not a home. It was a school.
No, to me it has always been home, I thought to myself.
For far too many years, I had lived entirely alone in the large house that I had inherited from my parents. It would be nice to hear the sounds of voices echoing through those school corridors again after having to listen to the silence night after night.
"Holda." I called to my white snow owl. She hopped off her perch and flew over to my desk. After I attached the message to her leg, she flew out the window. Like all post owls, she knew the way.
Not expecting to be back until the conclusion of the school year, I quickly went about making arrangements with my house-elves for maintaining my home while I was away. I also contacted my late father's studio to let them know that I would no longer be teaching art classes there, due to accepting another position.
"All set." I whispered to myself as I rose from my chair and went to my wardrobe. As I pulled out gowns and began folding them into a chest, I said, "It's going to be so nice to rejoin the living."
30 August, 1002 - Return to Hogwarts
At long last, the day finally came for my journey to Hogwarts. All that was left to do was send my luggage on its way. Placing everything into a pile on my bed, I waved my wand over the chests, causing them to shimmer a moment before fading out of sight. My owl had remained at the castle since I couldn't see having her come all the way back to Wales.
With some last minute instructions to my house elves, I went outside and then magically sealed the door behind me. This big, empty house would be safe and waiting for the day I returned, whenever that would be.
Ashlar was saddled and waiting for me next to the front gate. Pawing the ground, he tossed his head and neighed impatiently as he swished his heavy black tail. The horse never cared where we were going, he simply enjoyed the journey. Ordinarily I might have taken the train, but found that viewing the countryside from a horse's back was far more charming.
"Alright! We're going." I smiled as I climbed up into the saddle. For a moment I paused and looked at my house that, for so many years, had been nothing more than a shrine to memorialize my deceased parents. Knowing that they would approve of the choices I was making, I squeezed Ashlar's sides with my heels and headed out of the gate, never once looking back.
Even for a horse such as Ashlar, the road from Wales to Hogwarts was a long one. We used a carefully hidden Portkey to transport us to Hogsmeade. The horse shook his head with annoyance once the village appeared before us. Leaning forward, I pet his sleek black neck and said, "Nothing against you Ash...I just didn't want to be riding in the dark. You can take me the rest of the way."
With a snort, Ashlar proceeded to move through the village at a proud, high stepping trot. I couldn't help but notice the expressions on the faces of the pedestrians as we went by. While Ashlar has the personality of a puppy, he was intimidating in appearance with his glowing red eyes giving him a slightly demonic look. Very aware of the attention he was getting, the horse arched his neck and raised his tail. He rather looked like he thought he should have been marching in a parade.
Not long now, I thought to myself eagerly as the front gates came into view. Oh how well I remembered them. To my pleasant surprise they stood wide open, as though waiting for me. Unable to contain myself anymore, I nudged Ashlar's sides and we went through the gates at a brisk canter.
Now the castle was in view and slowly growing larger. While my heart felt lighter than it had in years, I felt a pang of guilt as I first glanced at my old home. As we neared the front doors, I saw a large framed person walking across the grounds, followed by an intimidating looking boar hound. Before I could call out, the tall man with the shaggy hair and beard looked towards me.
"Gwendolyn Archer! You haven't changed a bit!" He laughed.
"Hagrid!" I called as I brought Ashlar to a stop. Sliding down from the saddle, I bounded over to the school groundskeeper. "It's so good to see you!"
Hagrid caught me up in a hug that, for a few seconds, lifted me entirely off the ground. Being a rather tall woman, this wasn't something that happened to me very often.
After he released me I smiled up at Hagrid and said, "You're looking well."
"I was about to say the same thing to you lassie." Turning his cheerful eyes towards my horse he asked, "Who do we have here?"
Holding the reins I replied, "This is Ashlar. I was hoping that I would be able to keep him here."
"Well that won't be a problem at all." Beamed Hagrid, who had a deep love for all creatures. "I have an empty paddock next to my house that he would be more than welcome to." Studying Ashlar, he added, "He looks like one of those Azkaban horses."
"He is." I said nervously.
Shaking his head, Hagrid commented, "Most of those horses will kick you as soon as look at you."
"Usually they do," I agreed, "but Ashlar seems to think he's a puppy."
Hagrid broke into a laugh as he turned to me and said, "If you want to go on inside I can get this fellow settled in for you."
"Are you sure?" I asked anxiously.
"We'll be fine." Hagrid assured me. "Your grandfather has been pacing the halls all morning waiting for you. Go in and say hello."
Ashlar, who was used to towering over everyone, didn't know quite what to make of Hagrid. He nonetheless extended his head and nickered a friendly greeting. After giving the horse a final pat, I watched for a moment as Hagrid led him away before turning and going into the castle.
The entrance hall was exactly as I remembered. Taking a few steps inside I was immediately greeted by Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost.
"Welcome back Gwen." He smiled. "Professor Dumbledore will be so glad to know that you have arrived safely."
"Thank you, Sir Nicholas. Could you tell me where I could find him?" I asked.
"I'm right here, Gwen." Said a warm voice from down the corridor.
Overjoyed, I ran to the old wizard with the long flowing white hair and beard. Since the death of my parents Dumbledore and his brother Aberforth were my only living relatives. Like many grandparents, my grandfather had always doted on his "little Gwen Doll" and had a tendency to spoil me but that was not the only reason I loved this man so much. He was my conscience, my confidant, and my rock. There was never a problem that Grandfather Dumbledore could not solve.
Gazing at me through his spectacles, my grandfather smiled, "Now that you're going to be living here, there is no excuse for you not to show up for our Sunday afternoon teas."
Beaming at him I replied, "I have been so looking forward to that."
Putting his arm around my shoulders he directed me down the corridor saying, "Your belongings have arrived and are already in your room being unpacked by our house elves. Holda has made herself at home in our owlry, so you need not be concerned about her."
"I'm sure she's happy to have the company." I smiled. "For that matter, so am I."
As we headed up a staircase my grandfather said, "I want you to meet the rest of the staff, but first, I'll show you where your room is and then we can take a look at your classroom."
I was delighted to see that he had the portrait hole to my room covered with one of my own paintings. The ivory unicorn tossed its head and neighed in greeting to me as we approached.
"Morning Glory." said my grandfather quietly.
The unicorn painting immediately swung open and we climbed through the portrait hole. I couldn't help but gasp in surprise at my surroundings. The walls were covered in highly polished mahogany wood paneling and towards the back of the room was an ornate fireplace with impressions of horses carved into the stone. A little ways from the fireplace was a cozy window-seat that curved outward in a half circle. Layers of velvet draperies had been added to keep out the draft. Before the fireplace were a couple of wing back arm chairs and a small dining table.
My clothing had already been unpacked and were now hanging in the beautiful wardrobe which, like the paneling, had been polished to a high gloss. Towards the back of the room was the door leading into a charming well lit bathroom that had been covered in light pink tiles.
Without a doubt the most amazing, and somewhat intimidating object in the room, was the bed. It was a huge, canopied four poster that like the fireplace, had horses carved into the headboard. Dark red curtains...Gryffindor colors, hung from the canopy.
Turning to my grandfather I said, "This is amazing. I never expected anything like this...This room...It's fit for a princess."
Smiling, my grandfather replied, "Then in that case it is perfect for you. I hope you can feel at home here."
"I feel at home already." I said happily.
"I'm glad to hear that." he replied warmly. "Shall we go see your new classroom now?"
The classroom where I was to conduct my Visual Magical Arts classes was located one floor down from my living quarters. Newly renovated, the space had a high ceiling and plaster walls that were covered with paintings, some of which had been created by my father Galen Archer. The eastern wall was nothing but high windows that allowed plenty of sunlight to fill the room. There was also a pair of stained glass doors that led outside to a small but charming balcony that was complete with a short stone bench.
My grandfather then directed me to a smaller room that was towards the back of the classroom that had been turned into my office. The windows were covered with the same stained glass designs that had been put into the balcony doors.
"Well my dear, will this work for you?" asked Dumbledore.
Overwhelmed I turned to him and replied, "Everything is perfect. There is nothing more I could ask for."
Looking very pleased, my grandfather again touched my shoulder and said, "Let us now go to the staff room where your fellow professors are waiting to meet you.
I remembered very well where the staff room was located but having been a student the last time I was at Hogwarts I had never been inside it. As we walked in, I saw a small group of the teachers assembled. Some of the faces were familiar to me and some were not.
One by one, my grandfather took me down the line and I couldn't help but wonder if all new members of the staff were received in this way. The first teacher to welcome me back to my old school was Professor Binns, who was very easy to remember due to the fact that he was a ghost. Another that I remembered very well was the flying teacher Madam Hooch, as well as the Care of Magical Creatures teacher Professor Kettleburn. Although they were not professors, I was also introduced to the caretaker Argus Filch and the school nurse Poppy Pomfrey.
"Next Gwen, I would like you to meet Gilderoy Lockhart, our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." Said Dumbledore as he continued down the line of professors.
"How nice to meet you." I said as I extended my hand.
Flashing his huge white teeth, Lockhart smiled and said, "Please believe me when I say, Miss Archer, that meeting you is almost as pleasurable for me as it is for you."
"Thank you...What?" I asked, not sure I had heard him properly.
"And here," my grandfather broke in, "are the heads of the four houses. First we have-"
"There is no need to introduce us Albus. Gwen was after all sorted into my own House." Smiled an older woman in green that I would have known anywhere.
"Professor McGonagall," I exclaimed as I took her hands. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you again."
"Welcome home, Gwendolyn." smiled the head of Gryffindor. "Now that you have joined the staff feel free to call me Minerva."
"That could take some getting used to." I laughed.
Taking a few more steps, my grandfather directed my attention to another teacher that I remembered well from my school days.
"I'm sure you remember Professor Flitwick, head of Ravenclaw." said Dumbledore.
"Oh yes I do." I smiled at the tiny old man. "How are you Professor?"
"Very well, dear. Very well." he smiled as he looked up at me. "When you first entered the room I thought for a moment that I was looking at Aislyn. You look so much like your mother."
"Thank you." I smiled appreciatively.
Moving down the line, my grandfather introduced me to a short older woman that I remembered from my Herbology classes. "Pomona Sprout, head of Hufflepuff."
"Welcome back to Hogwarts, Gwen." She smiled.
"Thank you so much." I replied.
Finally we reached the black robed professor at the end of the line. He had been watching my grandfather and I approach with an expression of boredom.
"Gwen, I would like you to meet Professor Severus Snape, our Potions Master and Head of Slytherin."
Severus Snape. I remembered that name well and not simply because we had been students at Hogwarts at the same time. Snape has been one of Voldemort's Death Eaters, yet for some reason my grandfather had chosen to give him a teaching job and had fought hard to keep him from being sent to Azkaban. Many, including myself, had questioned Dumbledore's decision but knowing my grandfather as well as I did, I knew he never did anything without a good reason.
As Snape took my extended hand, he looked down his hooked nose and regarded me with his rather cold black eyes. His thin pale face was framed with curtains of shoulder length black hair.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor Snape." I smiled, trying not to wince away from his dark glare.
Snape did not reply as my grandfather continued, "We're all delighted that you have returned to Hogwarts...wouldn't you agree Severus?"
"Ecstatic." Snape answered in a quiet, icy voice that did not sound happy at all.
"Now that we have the introductions out of the way, I suggest we all move to the Great Hall for a late lunch. Are you hungry, dear?" Asked Dumbledore as he turned to me.
"Yes I am." I answered. "I was too excited to eat earlier today."
As my grandfather led me from the room I couldn't help but glance back at the Potions Master and wonder why he would glare at me in such a way. In the weeks to come I would find myself getting to know that glare very well.
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