My grandfather and I had been awake chatting long into the night, so it was late in the morning when I woke up the following day. Staring up at my canopy, I smiled as I realized that I really wasn't dreaming. I had in fact returned to Hogwarts.
Rising from the bed, I wrapped my bathrobe around myself and went to the window seat. Looking down over the grounds, I could see Ashlar trotting around inside his paddock. He looked content with his new surroundings, and he no doubt loved the attention he was receiving from Hagrid. As soon as I had gone over my lesson plan for the coming term I would be sure to go out to visit him.
After getting dressed, I climbed through my portrait hole and headed for my classroom. I hadn't gone far before I heard an offensive sound coming from the ceiling.
"Oh no, not you!" I exclaimed as I looked up.
Sure enough, it was Peeves the Poltergeist, the one resident of Hogwarts that I had not been looking forward to seeing. To my surprise, instead of hanging around to torment me, he simply stuck out his tongue and then disappeared into the wall. The entity had constantly tormented me when I was a student but apparently showed a little more respect for the teaching staff.
Laughing softly, I whispered to myself, "Yet another reason that I love my new job."
Relieved, I continued on my way until I reached my new office. As I sat down at my desk a small, gift wrapped box caught me eye. Next to it was a hand written note.
I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to have you as a part of my staff and how proud I am of you.
With Love, Grandfather
Opening the gift I was delighted to find a lovely swan feather quill. Very happily, I turned to my lesson plan and then went over the names of the students who would be studying the Visual Magical Arts. Mine was an elective course and could either be dropped or continued once students had reached their third year. As I went down the list of those enrolled I saw a number of sur-names that I recognized from my own school days.
Leaning back in my chair I gave a contented sigh. Tomorrow the students would be arriving and then, the following day was the start of the term. Gathering up my lesson plans, I saw that there was not much left to do. All I needed now were my pupils.
Just as I was about to get up from my chair, I was startled when a figure abruptly appeared in the doorway.
"Ah, good afternoon, Professor Archer!" beamed the blond haired man with the wide toothy grin.
"Good afternoon." I replied. "Professor Lockhart isn't it?"
"As if you could forget." he winked. "Do call me Gilderoy."
After a moment's pause I asked, "Can I help you with something?"
"Actually, Professor Archer, I am here for you. I'm here to offer to grace you with my company on the way to the Great Hall for lunch."
There was no way I was misunderstanding this man. He was obviously more vain than Ashlar, but with none of the horse's appeal. Nonetheless, I was beginning to feel hungry and I did not want to appear rude.
Reluctant to encourage him by using his first name I said, "Thank you, Professor Lockhart. As a matter of fact, I was on my way to lunch now."
"Excellent!" beamed Lockhart.
Before we had gone halfway down the corridor I found myself regretting my decision. Never in my life had I ever met anyone more self absorbed than Gilderoy Lockhart. With every step he bragged about his numerous adventures...for full details he advised me to read his published works.
To my great relief, we were joined by Hagrid on our way into the Great Hall.
"Hagrid," I greeted the giant warmly. "How is Ashlar?"
"Right as rain." Hagrid replied with a grin. "Hard to believe he's an Azkaban horse. I've never seen one with such a cheerful personality."
"Neither have I." I smiled.
Hagrid continued, "Well, I'm sure a lot of that has to do with who his mistress is. I seem to remember a little blond student who managed to charm a forest dragon into giving her his diamond collection."
"No, no." I laughed. "I never charmed him. He just offered them and refusing would have been rude."
As we reached the table where some of the staff had assembled for lunch, Lockhart made a point of pulling my chair out for me. As I sat down next to my grandfather, I once again observed the black haired Snape glaring down the table at me.
"Did you sleep well, Gwen?" asked my grandfather.
"Yes I did. In fact, I slept very well. It's as though I never left." I answered. Turning to him I added, "Thank you for the swan quill."
"You're very welcome, my dear." he smiled. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for you."
The rest of lunch was spent in pleasant conversation. Tomorrow would be spent getting ready for the arrival of the students. The evening would begin with the sorting, followed by the feast. Once again I would be here to witness these wonderful events, but this time, it was from the faculty table.
At that time, newly added to the Hogwarts staff, I had no idea how different my experience at the school would be the second time around.
After a sleepless night, the day for the students to return to Hogwarts finally arrived. The morning and afternoon proved to be very long as there was not much to do and the Hogwarts Express would not be arriving until later in the evening.
To kill some time, I took a walk out to the paddock to check on Ashlar. He had obviously been rolling on the ground and his long black mane was now full of snarls and tangles. Nickering pleasantly, he stood still while I began the complicated process of smoothing out his mane and tail.
While I was grooming Ashlar, Hagrid came along and leaned against the fence as he said, "I told you he would do okay out here."
"That you did." I smiled. "I can't thank you enough for getting him settled in, Hagrid."
"Aww, it was nothing." he replied with his dark eyes twinkling. "The more the merrier."
"By the way, is the Forbidden Forest still forbidden?" I asked.
"For students, yes." he answered. "Now that you're part of the staff, no one would stop you if you wanted take a walk through there but I wouldn't advise it. If you must go you'd do better to not climb down from Ashlar's back while you're out there."
"I'll take that under advisement." I said agreeably.
Once Ashlar was cleaned up, there were still a number of hours to go before the staff needed to assemble in the Great Hall, so I saddled the horse and managed to burn off some energy by cantering a number of times around the outskirts of the grounds. At any other time I would have been tempted to ride into the forest, but it wouldn't do for the Headmaster's granddaughter to be late for the sorting. When the sun began to set, I returned Ashlar to his paddock and then hurried back to the castle.
Wanting to make a good impression, I spent the next two hours primping in front of my mirror for the feast. I chose my dark red gown with the gold accents. Blue was usually my favorite color, but like many who had passed through these halls, I was still fiercely loyal to my old house.
At long last the clock chimed, alerting me that it was time. The students were very likely in the process of getting off the train and climbing into the Thestral-drawn carriages. With high spirits, I left my room and hurried downstairs to the Great Hall.
On my way there, I once again met with Nearly Headless Nick.
"Good evening Professor Archer." he smiled as he floated by. "You're looking lovely this evening."
Turning around I smiled and answered, "Thank you, Sir Nicholas. Have they started arriving yet?"
"The carriages are coming through the gate now." he replied. "You'll want to go in and take your seat."
"Oh yes. Thank you, Sir Nicholas."
As the ghost floated on his way down the corridor, I turned around to go through the doors of the Great Hall and almost walked into a thin, black-robed figure. Jumping a few inches off the floor, I gasped and then recognized the pale features of Snape. His eyes widened slightly as I stood before him.
"Oh, you startled me." I laughed. Trying to be friendly, I smiled, "Good evening, Professor Snape."
"Easy for you to say." he whispered and then walked by me without another word.
For a few seconds, I watched him walk quickly down the corridor and wondered if he was tense because of the arrival of the students, or if that was simply the way he was all the time. Deciding not to take his rudeness personally, I continued into the Great Hall and took my seat at the staff table next to my grandfather.
The next several hours were as magical as I had remembered them being when I was a child. Smiling, I watched as one by one, the first years nervously sat on the high stool and took their turns wearing the sorting hat.
Oh, how vividly I remembered my own sorting. Minerva had barely placed the tattered old hat on my head before it had shouted, “Gryffindor!” Now, here I was on the other side of the staff table. How quickly those years had flown by.
Once the sorting was completed, my grandfather stood up and gave his usual welcome to the students, which then led to the start of the feast. During the meal, I noticed a number of the students looking at me curiously. With the faculty being fairly small, it was easy for them to notice when a new face appeared at the staff table.
At the conclusion of the meal my grandfather once again stood up and commanded the attention of everyone present. Just as he did years ago, he gave a reminder that the forest was off limits and the Quidditch trials would be held the following week, then he introduced Professor Lockhart as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Finally, Dumbledore looked towards me with a warm smile and said, "It gives me great pleasure to welcome my granddaughter, Professor Gwendolyn Archer to the Hogwarts staff as our Visual Magical Arts teacher."
I couldn't help blushing at the warm applause that seemed to come the most enthusiastically from the Gryffindor table.
Now, at the end of the evening, my grandfather dismissed the students to their dormitories, advising them to get some sleep and be well rested for the start of the term first thing tomorrow morning.
As the Head of Houses left the room to assist the new students, I lingered for a little while at the table with Dumbledore. When the doorways were no longer as crowded, my grandfather smiled, "I would suggest you go and get some rest as well, Gwen. You have an exciting first day ahead of you."
"I am a little tired." I admitted. "I was too excited to sleep last night."
"I figured as much." he laughed as we rose from out chairs. "And if you need anything, do not hesitate to let me or any of the others on the staff know."
"Everything will be fine, Grandfather." I smiled. "You really don't have to worry so much."
"Alright then." he replied. "Sweet dreams, Gwendolyn."
"You too." I said warmly.
After bidding a goodnight to the other members of the staff that were still in the Great Hall, I went cheerfully to my room and got ready for bed. Although I expected to have another sleepless night ahead of me, I found myself feeling drowsy once I had curled up under the covers.
It's just as I remember, I smiled to myself as I drifted off to sleep. It’s so nice to know that some things can be depended on to not change.
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