I was so excited about my first day as a teacher at Hogwarts that I woke up an hour before the golden bird on my clock began to sing. Jumping from my bed, I quickly bathed and got dressed, choosing to wear one of my lighter blue gowns. After an hour of nervous primping, I went down to the Great Hall to get some breakfast before happily going to my classroom.
To start the term off we began studying the very first known works of magical visual arts...the prehistoric cave paintings that were scattered over northern Europe. While faded and no longer detailed, the images of those primal hunts still moved across the stones on which they had been painted. Later on in the term I would be teaching my students how to design and paint their own personal Tarot cards which is the reason most of them had elected to take my course. Tarot art was a passion of mine and I was looking forward to teaching that subject as much as my pupils were to learning it.
By the time students and staff were taking a break for lunch, I was in high spirits, thoroughly enjoying my day. Feeling more content than I had ever been in my life, I went to the staff room to get some tea and perhaps read one of the copies of the Daily Prophet that was lying around.
"Good afternoon, Gwen." said Professor Flitwick as I entered the room. "How is the day treating you so far?"
"Everything has been wonderful." I answered sincerely. "I don't think I have ever been happier."
"Ah I'm glad to hear it." smiled the tiny old man. "It's always a pleasure to see one of our former students doing so well."
"Thank you." I smiled warmly.
As I poured myself some tea, Professor Flitwick bid me a good afternoon and then left to the room to prepare for his afternoon classes. Sighing, I walked to the window and gazed out at the grounds. After so many years of grieving in isolation, I was at last feeling that heavy weight of sadness lift from my heart.
"Everything is absolutely perfect." I said aloud as I gazed out the window.
"Did Dumbledore's Darling really expect anything to be otherwise?" asked an icy voice.
Turning around abruptly I saw Professor Snape, whom I had not noticed, rising out of one of the arm chairs.
"What did you call me?" I whispered.
"Dumbledore's Darling. That is who you are aren't you? "Or do you prefer to be called his Perfect Princess?" asked Snape as he fixed his cold black eyes on me.
"Who do you think you are?" I demanded coldly.
"Just one of the many people here who now have the job of fawning over you and catering to your every whim. It's been interesting watching the Headmaster prepare for your arrival..from inventing a class for you to teach to turning two classrooms into one...all so his lovely darling can have the best."
"Inventing a class! How dare you say that to me! My grandfather didn't do anything of the sort! I'll have you know that the entire Ministry of Magic agreed that there needed to be more cultural studies added to the curriculum and it just so happens that I had the nessassary qualifications to fill this position!" I exclaimed indignantly as I took a few steps towards the black haired wizard.
"How convenient!" Snape replied snidely.
"There was nothing convenient about it! My class makes the students aware of the other options that are available to them once they have finished their schooling. Not all of them are cut out to be aurors!" I said angrily.
"No they are not." he whispered as he stepped closer and glared into my eyes. "And they, like many of us will have to actually work for a living."
We were now standing toe to toe as as I returned his glare with my own. "Exactly what are you implying, Professor Snape?" I said sharply.
Staring down his nose at me he answered quietly, "I am not implying anything, Professor Archer. I was stating a fact!"
"Is everything alright in here?" asked Minerva who had suddenly appeared in the staffroom doorway and now stood watching us warily.
Without moving his eyes from me, Snape replied, "Not to worry, everything is just fine."
After a few seconds of silence Minerva said, "Are you both sure?"
"Yes." I whispered, still staring angrily into Snape's black eyes. "Couldn't be better."
There is no telling how long the hateful glaring would have continued if we had not heard the bell signaling that it was time for the next class.
"If you will excuse me, Professor Archer, I need to go and teach my students something that will actually be useful to them." said Snape in his soft, snide voice.
Gasping in righteous indignation, I watched as he turned his back and walked out the door, his full black robes billowing behind him.
"How dare you!" I called after him angrily.
The moment my final class was over I stormed up the spiral staircase to my grandfather's office. He was seated at his desk and looked surprised to see me when I came charging through the door.
"Good afternoon, dear. Is something wrong?" he asked quietly.
"Yes something is wrong!" I exclaimed. "I am sorry to bring this to you on the first day of the term, but Professor Snape just insulted me! I demand that he be sacked at once!"
Dumbledore looked at me for a moment and then asked, "Wait a moment Gwen...exactly what did Severus say to you?"
"He....He called me Dumbledore's Darling!" I answered.
There was yet another moment of silence then to my dismay, my grandfather began to laugh.
"This isn't funny!" I shrieked.
"I'm sorry, dear....but what's wrong with Severus calling you that? You are after all my darling granddaughter." Dumbledore explained once he finished laughing.
"That isn't all of it!" I said angrily. "He also implied that I don't actually have to work."
Dumbledore shrugged, "Your parents provided for you well enough that technically you wouldn't have to work if you didn't want to."
"That isn't the point!" I said as I started pacing the room. "Alright it's not what he said...it's the way he said it. He...He took a tone with me!"
"Gwen, I can't dismiss Severus from his position simply because of a tone."
"Why not!" I demanded.
"Gwen, Professor Snape is too valuable to this school for me to let him go over something like this. Are you sure you understood him correctly?" asked Dumbledore gently.
Getting up out of his chair, Dumbledore came around to the front of his desk and put his hand on my shoulder. "I want you to give Severus another chance Gwen. He's not as bad as you think he is. Why don't you sit with him during supper, talk with him and get to know him a little better?"
"With all do respect, I would rather not." I replied coldly.
Outraged I stormed to the door but before leaving I looked back at my grandfather and said, "While Professor Trelawney may be the so called expert on Divination at this school, I am going to make my own prediction! I will never, ever ever share a conversation, or a meal or anything else for that matter with Severus Snape!"
When I awoke the following day I began to wonder why I had allowed Snape to upset me so. What difference did it make what he thought of me? I knew that I was a qualified professor and I was teaching a legitimate course. As I got dressed and prepared for the second day of the term I resolved that I wouldn't allow Snape's words to upset me further. My grandfather clearly thought I had overreacted and he had always been one to take my feelings and emotions seriously.
Determined to have a good day, I left the room and went down to the Great Hall for breakfast, making a point to smile cheerfully at the students and other staff members I passed along the way. Dumbledore's Darling indeed! I deserved to be there just as much as any of the other professors.
As I passed through the doorway into the Great Hall, I once again found myself face to face with the pale, black haired wizard. For several seconds we silently glared at each other.
Deciding that I had better things to do than stand there and wait for him to insult me, I greeted him coldly, "Professor Snape."
"Professor Archer." he replied with equal coldness.
For a few more moments we continued to stand there, neither wanting to give way to the other and I was beginning to become aware that some of the students were craning their heads and staring at us. Snape's black eyes narrowed slightly and I supposed he was trying to intimidate me as I stared back at him defiantly.
The glaring probably would have evolved into another argument had I not suddenly caught the eye of Professor Lockhart who had just finished his breakfast and was leaving the Great Hall.
"Ah there you are, Professor Archer! Just the lady I was looking for!" said Gilderoy in his usual loud voice. Noticing the wizard in the flowing black robes he added, "I hope you don't mind Professor Snape if I steal the young lady away for a moment?"
"Be my guest." Snape whispered as he walked past me and left the Great Hall.
Without realizing what I was doing, I turned and watched him as he stalked down the corridor, his robes making him look like something out of a bad dream. Why in the world would my grandfather have such a spooky person on his staff? His scowl alone would surely bring most students to tears.
Chuckling softly, Gilderoy snapped me out of my thoughts by saying, "Now now, Professor Archer. There is no need to be intimidated."
Turning towards him I replied, "I'm not."
With a wide grin he said, "You don't have to pretend. I understand completely."
"You do?" I asked.
"Of course I do." he winked. "After all every witch in the world daydreams about having the chance to have a private conversation with me...and here you are."
After a moment's pause I raised my eyebrows and said, "Excuse me?"
"I assure you dear lady that you are not dreaming." smiled Gilderoy. "And I am about to make your artistic dreams come true."
"Oh, that's not necessary." I quickly replied.
"Now don't go thinking that you're unworthy." he laughed. "I realize this must be an overwelming moment for you, Professor Archer. You're about to be given an opportunity that most witches and wizards in your field can only dream of!"
At that moment I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't simply gone to the staff room for a pastry and a quick cup of tea. Almost afraid to know what this vain man had in mind, I asked hesitantly, "And what opportunity are you speaking of Professor Lockhart?"
"I couldn't help but overhear your grandfather say that you have a number of sessions scheduled this term for your students to create paintings from live subjects," he answered. "and I knew that I was the model that you had in mind! Now I normally don't allow my image to be used in such a way. I am already in such a high demand you see, due to my numerous accomplishments that you can read about in my published works, but for you Professor Archer, I am willing to make an exception."
Trying not to sound rude I replied, "That......that is.....errr....very generous of you to offer, Professor Lockhart but I-"
"Not at all, not at all!" he beamed. "Although for students of this age group I must insist on not posing nude. I'm sorry to disappoint you but I'm sure you can understand!" Lowering his voice and stepping closer he added, "Who knows, perhaps at some point a private session would not be out of the question."
He ended that statement with yet another of his annoying winks.
Perplexed, all I could so was stare at him in amazement. First Snape insulting me and now I had this egotistical man's unwanted attention. As I turned my eyes longingly towards the staircase that led to my classroom I began to fear that I would be spending a lot of time that term hiding in my office.
Laughing he said "Professor Archer, I do believe you are speechless!"
"I was just wondering exactly what I have done to deserve this." I replied weakly.
With a wide smile Gilderoy replied, "Now what did I tell you a few minutes ago about feeling unworthy? A lovely witch such as yourself deserves the best....and lucky for you, here I am!"
"Professor Lockhart-" I began.
"Gilderoy my dear lady!"
"......I really should get going. My students will be waiting for me." I said as I backed towards the door.
"Ah, of course, Professor Archer." Gilderoy replied with a dramatic bow. "I have no doubt that after this conversation you'll have a wonderful day!"
Turning abruptly I hurried down the corridor wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into in taking this teaching position. All I had ever wanted was to return to Hogwarts but nothing had prepared me for any of this. Fortunately the rest of the day went well with attentive students that were eager to learn a subject that I enjoyed teaching. As I went over the proper charms to change the color of ink in a drawing quill I resolved that no matter what Snape or Lockhart might say or do, I would not allow them to ruin this experience for me.
My first week as a teacher was rapidly drawing to a close and my classes were more of an orientation than anything else. The real work would not begin until the following week when my students would begin learning an assortment of spells and charms that could be conjured through the Visual Magical Arts.
Going over the course outline, most of the students seemed excited over the various projects I had lined up, including walks through the school grounds to give them a chance to create images of magical creatures that Professor Kettleburn assured me he would be able to get for us. As the morning progressed I felt myself relax and was able to put the events of the previous days out of my mind.
Thursday was a short work day for me as I had only one class right after lunch which lasted a little over an hour. Just as I did that morning, I went over the course outline and for that week did not assign any homework. Once we began work on serious projects the students would all clearly realized that mine was not a class that could simply be coasted through with little effort.
When the bell rang I smiled as I dismissed the students then went to my office to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of the afternoon. Realizing that my work load was also going to increase as the weeks went by I thought I should probably take advantage of the free time and either go outside to visit Ashlar or do some work on one of the many half finished paintings that I had brought along from home. I chose the latter and began arranging my office in such a way that it doubled nicely as a personal studio.
I sat at my easel for another two hours and eventually began to feel drowsy. Rising from my stool, I walked to one of the tall windows and stretched realizing that I had been unable to get much sleep that week for various reasons. When the final dismissal bell rang I decided to retire to my room and rest a while before it was time for supper.
Crossing the room I noticed a small leather parcel on one of the desks that a student had left behind. Picking it up I wasn't sure whether to leave it or take it with me. It was then that I noticed the Gryffindor symbol on the closure and decided that I would drop it off at that House's common room since my personal quarters were nearby.
Just as I was locking the classroom door behind me, I was approached by a bashful looking round faced boy with light brown hair. In a soft uncertain voice, he pointed to the parcel in my hand and said, "That belongs to me....I forgot it."
Smiling I said, "Neville isn't it?"
Although it was only the first week, this particular student had impressed me with his attentiveness and thoughtful questions during the class.
"Yes, Professor." the boy answered politely.
"You have good timing. I was just about to take this to your common room." I said as I handed him the parcel. Still smiling I added, "Be more careful next time."
"You will find that Longbottom is prone to forgetfulness." said a soft icy voice that was quickly becoming familiar to me.
While I had been speaking with Neville, Professor Snape had come silently down the shadowy corridor. Turning a scornful eye towards the student, the black haired professor whispered, "Don't be surprised if you constantly have to remind him which end of the brush is used for painting."
Neville's face turned pink and he now looked scared out of his wits. Turning towards Snape I felt a rush of protective anger. Insulting me was bad enough but tormenting a student was unacceptable.
"For the past few days I thought that you simply held some sort of mysterious resentment against me, but now I see that you are nothing but a spineless, cowardly bully." I stated clearly as I glared at Snape.
The professor's black eyes widened as he stepped towards me. "What did you call me?" he asked in a very snake-like hiss.
Studying his drawn and sallow features I began to seriously wonder if my grandfather had unknowingly hired a vampire when he employed Professor Snape. Refusing to allow myself to be intimidated, I also stepped forward and met his gaze, as I replied, "I said you were a spineless, cowardly bully."
"You dare!" he exclaimed in a soft but deadly voice.
At my side, Neville whimpered softly and began taking frightened steps backward.
Once again standing toe to toe with him, I stared angrily into his eyes and whispered, "What have you done so far to make me think otherwise, Professor Snape? Tell me, just how weak and powerless do you feel? How insecure can a man be that he must ridicule students? Does such treatment towards others make you feel strong? Have you recovered some sort of lost power that was long ago stripped from you?"
Snape now looked absolutely furious and he clenched his fists at his sides as though to restrain himself from wrapping his long narrow fingers around my neck.
"Don't you dare try to analyze me, Professor Archer!" he growled, his face livid. "What can a spoiled, self-centered, over-privileged brat such as yourself understand?"
"Far more that you would think, Professor Snape." I whispered, my anger matching his own.
"This from the witch who has had Grandfather Dumbledore pave the way for her?" he said with a snide smile. "How has he managed to keep all of those strings that he has pulled for you from being tangled?"
"For the last time-"
"Gwen, Severus...is there a problem?" asked my grandfather who had suddenly appeared in the corridor. He had been away that afternoon at an appointment with Ministry of Magic and was still wearing his traveling cloak.
Taking a few steps backward I answered, "Professor Snape and I were just having a...professional disagreement."
"I see." said Dumbledore as he studied us warily. "Has this disagreement been resolved?"
"For now." Snape replied without taking his eyes off me.
Not looking convinced, my grandfather said, "In that case Severus, would you mind coming with me to the staff room. There are some Head of House matters that I need to go over with you and Minerva."
"Of course, Headmaster." Snape answered respectfully. With one final glare at me, he accompanied Dumbledore down the darkened corridor. I then became aware that poor Neville was still standing nearby watching with open-mouthed amazement.
"I'm sorry you had to see that." I said kindly. "Why don't you go on to your common room and get cleaned up. It's nearly supper time."
Saying nothing, Neville nodded and now looked at me with what appeared to be admiration. Once the student was out of sight I again looked down the corridor in the direction Snape and Dumbledore had gone. Sighing I realized that this conflict was far from over.
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