Severus’ Fi(Wo)rst Day
By ten minutes to nine, Severus, now dubbed Professor Richard Cameron, had placed the last touches on his lesson plan for second-year Potions. The teachers’ lounge at the Salem Witches Institute proved to be an excellent place to work; no one was there. He wondered if it would last once the school term started officially.
To be fair, though, he was not completely alone. The school’s elves were rushing in and out, round and about, offering coffee, pastries, ink, foot rubs, and everything else under the sun. These elves had clothes of their own, but they were hardly outfits that Severus believed allowed them even a shred of dignity. As though it were Halloween or one of the other dress-up holidays, the elves were parading around in children’s costumes. Severus had seen elves dressed as cowboys, ballerinas, and a dozen other ridiculous things. The elf who had offered to rub his feet had been dressed as a bumblebee.
Even though the teacher’s lounge was deserted at present, he had seen house-elves running amuck ever since he had arrived here. Though once he left the teachers’ longue, the halls were completely devoid of the little creatures, and a check survey back in the lounge proved to be unsuccessful as well. It was something that Severus considered fairly odd, considering how difficult it would have been to miss a gaggle of two-foot trick-or-treating school servants.
Unlike the day before, when the witches of Salem appeared to be doing everything they could to keep from being seen, the students of the school were out running around in full view, no longer hiding behind doors and corners. Their arms were all loaded down with books, and they were all dressed alike in what had to be their school uniforms: black pinafore-style dresses, and a few in black and burgundy robes, despite the late-summer heat. But today, not one of them made an attempt to be sneaky or discreet about pointing out the new teacher. They would speak to one another in hushed whispers, but any giggle they did was right out in the open; why exactly, Severus had no idea. Of course, as soon as Severus tried to confront any of them, they would run away shrieking, although he found it impossible to tell whether or not they were shy or just playing some sort of game. He could clearly remember his early days of teaching and the time-honored tradition of tormenting the newest members of the staff.
After wandering back and forth through the maze-like hallways, Severus finally thought to ask directions from the figures in the paintings. The children purposefully pointed him in the wrong direction again and again, but eventually, a Mohawk hunting party sitting around a fire directed him towards the elevator he had taken the day before. Once his back was turned, though, he could hear them whispering to one another in their native language, and he also heard some very distinct snickers, though he wasn’t sure what a group of men in loincloths could possibly find so humorous about Severus.
Sitting in the elevator already was a girl wearing the school’s uniform, likely a fourth-year. At her side was house-elf wearing a miniature version of the black pinafore-style dress the girls wore beneath their school robes. The student’s head was bobbing gently from side to side, her ears covered by what appeared to be black earmuffs, but eventually, Severus recognized them as ‘headphones,’ a Muggle device for listening to music.
“What floor do you need to go to?” Severus asked as the black-iron doors slammed shut behind him.
The girl didn’t answer Severus or take off her headphones. She didn’t even seem to acknowledge his presence; just continued to stare off into space, twirling a strand of brown hair in her fingers. Severus could hear the music playing faintly in her Muggle device as he leaned in closer. He wondered to himself whether the girl was a Muggle-born who had refused to give up one of her favorite Muggle toys, or a witch from a wizarding family who had simply acquired a taste for Muggle entertainment.
Finally, Severus just gave up on trying to get the girl’s attention, though he silently vowed to make the girl sorry one he had her in class. It was at that point when it occurred to Severus that he did not even know how to select a floor for himself.
“Um, third floor?” he said aloud, not sure if he really did have to actually say it, or if the machine knew on its own somehow.
“Excuse me?” he called over to the girl. “Do you know how exactly you get this contraption to work?”
The girl was looking directly at Severus, but she just continued to bob her head from side to side as though she were still alone, offering no indication that she was going to offer the Potions professor any assistance whatsoever.
“Miss!” he said more loudly, standing right in front of here, so that she would have no excuse to ignore him. And yet, she still managed to.
In the end, it didn’t matter, though. The black-iron doors slammed shut suddenly behind them and started carrying them up through the school floors. And if Severus though he had been on display for his new students before, he was only more so now as the girls could have the benefit of staring at him from behind the doors of an iron cage. And through it all, his young travel companion remained quite content to pretend her new teacher was not even there.
The elevator reached the third floor with a sudden jerking stop. The girl and the house-elf stumbled slightly as the floor shook, but quickly steadied themselves, neither of them seeming to care whether or not Severus was alright. Before stepping out onto the floor, Severus readjusted his satchel and made his way to the house-elf standing at the girl’s side.
“You come with me,” he said, giving the creature a tiny push on its back. “There is going to be plenty to do getting ready for the day.”
The house-elf seemed resistant to the idea of leaving the elevator at first, so Severus pushed harder, knowing he was not going to resort to kicking the elf along as he had witness many other wizards do. Eventually, the elf obeyed, its eyes widening in an expression of rather horrified shock. Severus didn’t even know it was possible for a house-elf to look as though their eyes were widened. All the same, once they stepped out of the elevator and the iron doors slammed shut, the creature did nothing to resist being led away, so whatever Severus had done that was somehow an offence to house-elves, he really couldn’t have cared less.
Rounding the corner, Severus nearly crashed into the school’s elderly, puritanical headmistress, nearly making a monumental faux pas only one hour into his new career.
“Oh, Richard!” the old woman exclaimed, holding her hand to her throat. “You caught me by surprise there!”
“Dean Crackstone,” Severus greeted the woman, “good morning.”
For a short moment in time, Severus was afraid that the woman was going to have a heart attack right there, and he would forever be known as the teacher who killed the headmistress on his first day. But luckily for him, the old woman recovered from the shock, though her shaking hand still remained on her chest. There were witches and wizards who wore their advanced years as though they were lighter than air. Dean Temperance Crackstone was clearly not one of these people.
“Are you excited to start your first day of classes?” she asked him breathily. “I believe you have second-years and C.A.T.s today.”
Severus was a bit confused. “Cats?” He knew it couldn’t have been what he was imagining in his head. Then again, this was a school of all-witches.
“It stands for ‘Certified Advanced Training’. It’s more or less meant to prepare students to go directly into the job market, and they will be your most advanced class,” the headmistress explained. “It’s the sixth and seventh-years combined, though I don’t believe your class is especially large, so you won’t have to worry about that.”
Severus’ fought as hard as he could to suppress a grimace in front of his new employer. Normally, his N.E.W.T. students were the one class that he did not feel himself die inside whenever he had to walk through the classroom door, though he could not help but be a bit apprehensive about his new advanced C.A.T. students. At Hogwarts, he had supreme dictation over who would be worthy of studying Potions at the most advanced level, and if all went well, he might be able to have some say in who would be taking his C.A.T. class next year. But for the next nine months…who knew what sort of dunderheads he would be forced into a room with several hours out of the week.
It was at that point that Dean Crackstone noted that Severus was not alone that morning.
“Oh, I see you were able to find one of our school elves to help you with you work,” the old woman remarked in a sugary tone, waving down towards the tiny creature. “Which one do you have?”
But before Severus could offer any sort of answer, he found himself interrupted by a rather loud, shouting—and swearing—distraction. A man raced around the corner, holding the same girl from the elevator by the crook of her arm. Severus also couldn’t stop himself from noticing that the girl’s light-colored eyes weren’t really focused on anything in particular, and she did seem to be breathing quite harder than seemed warranted.
Upon setting her sights on the two of them, Dean Crackstone’s face took on a very panicked expression. “Professor Jecco, what happened to Anna?”
“I don’t know,” he said, gasping for breath and his free hand clutching at his side. “When I got in the elevator, Sheriri was just gone and Anna had no idea…”
The man’s voice trailed off when he finally noticed the house-elf standing beside Severus. And upon glancing back at the house-elf, the headmistress finally did seem to recognize it.
“Never mind, Professor,” she said as the man in front of her breathed a sigh of relief. “We have Sheriri right here.”
“Missie Anna Miss, here Sheriri is!” The elf threw herself towards the girl, Anna, and took her waiting hand. But just as with Severus in the elevator, Anna didn’t look down to make eye contact with elf, nor with any of the teachers in the hall.
“This is Professor Jecco. He is our Defensive Magic teacher here at Salem,” the headmistress introduced the man before shifting her attention to the girl beside him. “And this is Anna Morrison; she’s in her fourth-year.”
Dean Crackstone cleared her throat, as though she were having trouble forming her next words. “Anna is blind, and Sheriri, you see, is her Seeing-eye Elf.”
It was at that moment that Severus felt a very large lump shoot up from his stomach all the way up to the top of his throat, a small twinge of guilt combined with an overwhelming sense of embarrassment. Everything else he had nearly done before—nearly killing the headmistress, nearly being fooled into thinking he was expected to teach potion-making to cats—this was unbelievably worse on a completely different. Stealing from a blind child, and her Seeing-eye Elf, no less, Severus wasn’t sure is he could have committed a more damning act for his first day if he tried. He also couldn’t help but feel like he had been caught in a classic case of entrapment. How in Merlin’s name was he supposed to know that this Anna Morrison was blind when she had been standing there, ignoring him, and looking so…normal!
For the first time in years, Severus found himself wishing that some force coming from anywhere would strike him dead right on the spot.
“You stole a blind kid’s Seeing-eye Elf?” the professor who had been leading Anna Morrison remarked, an expression of disgust and general shock upon his face. “Where’d you dig up this one, Temperance?”
“That’s enough, Professor Jecco!” the headmistress lectured, shooting the teacher a deathly glare. She didn’t bother to soften her expression for Anna’s sake, because, well, what would have been the point? “Well, Anna, now that you have your elf back, I assume there is nothing else keeping you from your classes.”
“Yes, Dean Crackstone,” the girl replied, whatever fear Professor Jecco had said he had seen seeming to have dissolved.
“This way, Miss Anna,” Sheriri, the Seeing-eye Elf, squeaked as she led Anna Morrison down the corridor. “Practical Integration is Anna’s first class. Miss Anna’s summer homework finished? Professor Leigh said…”
Eventually, the Seeing-eye Elf’s voice faded away as the two figures disappeared into the further reaches of the school. Dean Crackstone then turned back to speak with Professor Jecco.
“And Professor Jecco, I believe you have class as well,” she said to the teacher. “I suggest you hurry to your classroom before all your students begin running wild.”
The younger man nodded curtly to the headmistress. “Goodbye, Dean Crackstone,” he said, shooting another disgusted glare at Severus before finally walking away.
“You’ll have to excuse Professor Jecco,” Dean Crackstone apologized as soon as the Defensive Magic teacher was out of earshot. “He’s the advisor for Anna’s class, and has been since their first year. So you can understand how he’s a bit protective of them.”
Dean Crackstone began to stroll down the corridor, but she continued to speak, so Severus assumed he was supposed to follow her. “At Salem, teachers are assigned a class to serve as advisor to, and they keep that role for the whole seven years the girls attend school here. You’ll be given a class of first-years next year. No excuses.”
Despite the fact that all the doors along the corridor appeared to be exactly alike, Dean Crackstone had no problem finding the Potions classroom. She walked right up to one of the doors and opened it to reveal the same freshly cleaned and slightly less cluttered classroom that Severus had spent the better part of yesterday preparing for his new students.
“You second-year class will probably be your most difficult,” the headmistress told him as she invited herself into the Potions lab. “We went through about twelve different substitutes last year, all with different teaching styles and class expectations. What will be important now is giving the girls a stable learning environment.”
Severus nodded as he examined the classroom. He didn’t quite trust it to be exactly the way he had left it. If these girls had any sense of tradition in terms of how to greet a new teacher, there would likely be one or two little surprises waiting for him. Hopefully he would have the chance to sniff most of them out before his first students arrived.
“Well then,” the headmistress finished, clapping her hands together, “I suppose then I should be leaving you to prepare for your students. They should begin arriving any minute now.”
The woman was nearly out the door when she suddenly stopped, holding her hand against the doorframe, and then looking back over her shoulder.
“And a bit of advice for the future,” Dean Crackstone offered to Severus. “Don’t steal from blind children anymore. It gives people a bad first impression of you.”
It took everything Severus had to keep from screaming, “I DIDN’T KNOW SHE WAS BLIND!”, but the thought of teaching Potions classes in Botswana kept his tongue in check. And so, he set about preparing for his day’s lessons without the aid of the school elves.
And just as Dean Crackstone had told him, Severus was only allowed a few moments alone before the first of his new students had arrived. A young girl, a second-year, with her hair tied in a thick braid, took a seat at one of the tables. She had a cauldron, a kit of ingredients, as well as the class textbook, but she set all of them on the floor. Instead, the object that became the center of her attention was a ratty, crinkled paperback whose front cover illustration detailed three winged horses racing in circles around the scenery. All the same, she certainly seemed harmless enough.
Slowly, Severus made his way over to the girl’s table and cleared his throat when she didn’t look up from her paperback. Startled, the book dropped sharp down towards the surface of the table, balanced partially on the corner.
Severus made his way silently to the side of her table. “Hello,” he said to her.
The girl looked up at him, almost appearing annoyed that she had been interrupted. “Hi.”
She went right back to reading her book, as though she believed the conversation was over, but Severus wasn’t about to play games. At Hogwarts, he had made it quite clear that the moment his students stepped into his classroom, they were expected to devote their entire attention to the study of Potions, and it was a rule he intended to make here at Salem as well. And this little girl’s recreation reading did not fall into this category.
Severus crossed his arms over his chest. “What’s your name?”
“Amanda,” she answered plainly.
“Amanda what?” Severus was not about to be on such familiar terms with his students.
“Amanda Green.” The girl said this last part as though she had the right to feel annoyed at being interrupted.
Severus peered down at the cover of her book. “This does not look like it has anything to do with the subject of Potions,” he said, pointing to the racing horses on the cover.
The girl shrugged her shoulders. “Class hasn’t started yet,” she explained.
“Then why are you here?”
“Where else would I go?”
Severus was soon interrupted by a loud crashing sound. He turned just in time to see another girl crotched down to scoop up her dropped satchel, clutching it tightly against her chest so it would not be dropped again. The anxiety over the dropped bag, however, was exactly where any nervous feelings she might have had ended.
The girl wandered through the door, but she herself was far too old to be a second-year. She wore black robes that were clearly too big for her small frame, the material nearly covered her shoes. Her black hair was long and wild, and it was a continual effort to keep it out of her copper-toned face. She wandered about the classroom for a bit, but as soon as her eyes fell on Severus, that was right where they stayed, almost in the way a child watches a strange animal from a safe distance.
“Can I help you?” he finally asked her when it appeared she was going to do nothing to initiate a conversation herself.
The girl looked around the room, thoughtfully tapping her index finger against the side of her chin. “Doubtful, but I’ll ask anyway,” she remarked in a snarky manner detailing no respect. “You’re the new Potions professor, aren’t you?”
Severus decided to leave Amanda Green for the time being. This had far greater potential to turn against him than a child leisure reading in class.
“How long are you planning on sticking around?” she asked.
“Excuse me?” he responded, extremely affronted.
“Well, we went through about twelve different substitutes for the class year,” the girl made her point clearer. “One only stayed for a day. Are you planning on being with us for the whole year, or should we start planning your farewell party now?”
Even he knew it would be a terrible idea to eviscerate a child in front of his students on the first day of class. A month from now, maybe, but not today.
“Can you tell me who you are?”
“Maria Bluebell,” she answered for him.
“Well, Maria,” he said, mocking the casual attitude students seemed to have about being called by their first names, “I would think an older student would be showing a good example to the younger students in terms of what is acceptable behavior.”
But Severus was not finished yet. “An excellent place to start, I think, would be going on to your first class.” Severus smirked down at her. “Unless you happen to be the oldest second-year who ever lived.”
Amanda Green watched the two of them, chewing on the tail of her braid. Her prized paperback had been pushed off to the side in favor of what would likely prove to be a much more entertaining show.
Finally, the girl ventured forward so that she and the Potions professor could have a proper conversation. “Fair enough,” she answered thoughtfully. “I suppose I could do that.”
“Wonderful,” Severus drawled, mostly just eager to get the girl out of the classroom. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Actually, there is something you could do for me.”
Severus looked up expectantly, waiting to see exactly how much audacity this girl had. “And what might that be?”
The girl, Miss Bluebell, did her best to make the most of her less-than-average height, in an effort to show some sort of dominance in the conversation.
“When we’re in front of our students, I would appreciate it if you address me as Professor Bluebell,” she told him, a confident smirk appearing on her face. “I’m the Shamanism teacher here at Salem, and I also happen to be the adviser for the second year class.”
With her arms crossed over her chest, the newly christened—in Severus’ mind, at least—Professor Bluebell leaned in and whispered her next words. “I’ll bet you feel like an ass now, don’t you?”
In the course of the conversation, five more girls had entered the classroom and were watching the exchange between the two teachers, a few of them snickering from behind their clasped hands.
“Alright…” Severus began carefully, “Professor Bluebell. What might you be doing here?”
“Just making sure my students have a good first day with their new Potions Master,” she said, moving casually along the wall of the classroom. “Surely a man committed to the education of the young would not object to a fellow teacher showing concern for her students.”
By the time Professor Bluebell had finished speaking, the classroom was more or less full. That must have been all of the school’s second-years, because the young teacher moved to the front of the room to address them.
“Girls, this is Professor Cameron. He will hopefully be your permanent Potions professor.”
The girls greeted him with a simultaneous mix of ‘hello’s, ‘good morning’s, and indistinguishable grunts. Severus, however, could not help but be monumentally offended by the presumptuous nature of the young woman who believed she superseded him in terms of authority. If all the teachers at this school behaved like this, it was no wonder that the Potions professors never lasted.
Severus intended to put a stop to that right now. “Well, as your Professor Bluebell has already told you, I am Professor Cameron, and I will be your permanent Potions instructor, so I suggest you behave accordingly instead of just assuming you are all biding your time.”
Even Professor Bluebell seemed slightly taken aback by the strong words. Severus could not help but smirk slightly. So far, so good.
“From what your headmistress has told me, referring the education you received for your first year of Potions as sub-par would be a stretch.” He spoke sharply, in a way that was certain to get all of their attention. “I intend to rectify that. I don’t care if you dislike the process; I don’t even care if you come to hate me more than you have hated any other teacher in your lives. You will all become competent potion-brewers, and you will not make me embarrassed to call you my students.”
Suddenly, however, there was a discrepancy in the mood of the room: a small giggle that stood out so greatly, it might as well have intensified by several different charms. It took mere seconds for him to zero in on the source: a small Spanish girl sitting beside Amanda Green. Miss Green, however, had noticed the Potions professor narrowing in on them, and did her best to appear stone-faced, as though she had had nothing to do with the sudden sound.
“What is your name, miss?”
The girl looked up at him, beginning to squirm slightly in her seat. “Kim,” she answered.
“Well, Kim,” Severus began snidely, “you appear to be the class’ best example of how poorly educated you have all been in the subject of Potions. You, however, especially stand out because it would seem you are quite content to remain so completely ignorant. And if that is indeed true, you might as well pack up your books and leave this class so neither of us will be wasting our time. In fact, you might as well go straight to your room and pack up your trunk, because students with such attitudes as yours are not fit to call yourselves witches. I’m sure you could find someone willing to snap your wand in half for you on your way home.”
The girl began to sniffle and whimper, her eyes filling with water. Severus, however, was not moved. He had seen this pitiful tactic used many times in his teaching career, although it was a rare few who were actually brave enough to trying it on the infamous Head of Slytherin House. It was clear that he was going to have to establish his reputation her quickly, so future episodes such as this would be prevented.
“And I am hardly the type to be manipulated by such cheap tactics,” Severus told her plainly, without showing a shred of the pity she might have been trying to get. “So if you want to cry, go right ahead. Just know it will get you nothing from me.”
So Kim took Severus up on his invitation and proceeded to burst into tears, but not in the manner Severus had expected. It wasn’t the ordinary sort of crying where a girl might sniffle and rest her head against the table so no one could see. This was very open, very loud, and more reminiscent of a cat being gutted by a fishing knife. And every single girl in the classroom was staring at her, including Professor Bluebell, who appeared to find the situation quite amusing, as though she were happy to see even the smallest failure on Severus’ part.
“Alright, that is enough,” Severus said, hoping the girl would realize how she was embarrassing herself.
But Severus might as well have said nothing for all the good it did. If anything, the sobs got even louder, and snot began to bubble out her nose. And she did absolutely nothing to conceal her condition. Amanda Green, who was sitting beside Kim, attempted to console her, but the moment her hand touched Kim’s shoulder, the sobbing girl shrieked as though she had been burned with a torch. Miss Green flinched away with both hands raised as though she had encountered a poisonous snake, and then looked up at Severus, waiting for him to do something about the situation he had created.
This was getting serious. “I mean it!” he snapped.
This did absolutely nothing to help the dilemma. The girl kicked away from the table, her chair sent flying as she stumbled to her feet, and out of the classroom, still blubbering like a baby.
“Nice, Professor Cameron,” Professor Bluebell commented as her student ran passed her and slammed the door. “Maybe if you go up front and strangle a kitten, you can make the rest of the girls cry.”
The Shamanism teacher strolled casually up to Kim’s now empty chair and looked down at Amanda Green. “Amanda, go after Kim, will you?” she asked of the still-bewildered student. “See if you can get her to calm down.”
The girl with the thick braid slowing pushed herself away from her table, moving steadily faster as she got closer to the door, as if she saw herself as escaping as well. Professor Bluebell then made her way over to Severus and all previous attitudes of amusement seeming to have gone straight out the window.
“I think an early end to class would be appropriate, considering,” she went on to say. “Girls, you’re free to leave.”
But Severus wasn’t about to give in so easily. “Professor Bluebell, I am the teacher of this class, and I hardly think it will be beneficial to our students if they do not even attend class!”
Professor Bluebell, however, did not appear intent on relenting her position. “Girls, I have seniority as a teacher, and I am also your class advisor. And I say Potions class is done for the day.”
The young woman didn’t once look back at her students while she said this, but the second-years all rushed to gather up their cauldrons, books, and bags, as though they were trying to get out of the room before Severus could tell them to remain in their seats. A small gaggle of girls lingered in the doorway, as though waiting to see the show, but as soon as Professor Bluebell spun back to face Severus’ direction, they all bolted as though running from a live fuse. Clearly, whatever show they were expecting to see was not worth it.
Even from her lower height, Professor Bluebell still manage to come off as immensely superior as she spoke. “Well, at the very least, you will most definitely be one of the more ‘interesting’ Potions professors we have had. Possible the most damaging to out girls’ psyches, but interesting.”
Then turning on her heels, the young teacher made her way for the door, effectively ending the conversation and not offering Severus a chance for rebuttal.
Severus took it anyway. “What? No final words?” he called out, hoping she might stop long enough to listen.
Professor Bluebell thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No. I’m not quite sure that there’s anything to be said that hasn’t already been made abundantly clear.”
And with that, the younger—but senior—professor slammed the door shut behind her, causing a few glass beakers to rattle as she did so.
Severus was allowed one free period of class before his next group of students would arrive, and he was most thankful to have it. He could not recall a class in his entire career that had ended so badly. Yes, students had begun crying in his classes before, there had been many unwise attempts at pranks on him as a new teacher, and even the rare occasion of a student walking out of class (only to be met with harsh punishment, of course). But never had another professor taken it upon themselves to make his job miserable, actually condoning students to behave in such unacceptable manners, even if it was just by doing nothing at all.
It would take nothing less than a miracle for the second-years to respect him now, especially if Professor Bluebell continued to accompany her students to class. He might, in fact, be better off just waiting out the remaining five years before these girls would graduate rather than try to work, what with them with the influence that Professor Maria Bluebell had over them. Dedicated teacher or not, she seemed like the type that was hardly above using her students as a means of revenge.
A sudden knock at the classroom door brought Severus out of his thoughts. He momentarily considered ignoring it. If it was so important, they would just come into the room and tell him directly. That soon proved to be quite faulty reasoning, as the knocking continued at a steady and annoying pace. It was at this moment that Severus wondered if he was being met with his first prank as a new teacher.
Well, whoever it was, they had chosen a very bad time to try and do so. Any other time, he would have just told the culprit, not very kindly, to go away. But this poor unfortunate soul was going to have the misfortune of having Severus’ bad temper taken out completely on them, Severus thought to himself as he made his way to the door, throwing it open and cause it to crash against the wall.
“What now?” he screeched out into the hallway.
Severus found himself met with a startled audience, but none that had ever seen him before and none of them ran away in the manner of someone who was playing a prank. The person who Severus came face to face with an older black gentleman whose hair and beard were sprinkled with patches of white.
“You must be Professor Cameron,” the old man greeted him. “I’m Professor Redding; I teach Wandwork.
“Professor Bluebell told me about you,” he explained. “She hates you.”
Oh, Severus could only imagine what sorts of little stories were being spread around the staff room courtesy of Professor Maria Bluebell.
“Well, I’m here to escort your C.A.T. students on their first day of having a new Potions instructor,” he said to Severus. “Unfortunately, I do not share Professor Bluebell’s luck of having no classes to teach this afternoon, and I will have to leave shortly.”
Yes, how unfortunate, Severus thought to himself as he glanced out into the hallway for himself.
Two girls in the school’s black robes and pinafore-style dresses stood in the hallway, an odd combination of apprehension and boredom on their faces. Both held book bags and Potion kits in their hands, but the second appeared far too young to be taking the equivalent of N.E.W.T. classes.
“This is the whole class?” Severus asked perplexed, searching the corridor for any other girls that might have been hiding. “Are all the C.A.T. classes this small?”
It wasn’t as though Severus had been expecting a full house, even with the combined two years of students. Because of his high terms of acceptance, his N.E.W.T. classes had always been small. But he had never had a year where his class was limited to two students.
“Nope. Just yours,” the Wandwork teacher confessed. “Potions has never been a terribly popular class here.”
Severus sighed inwardly as he look down at his only two advanced students. The class was not going to get any more popular with the display that had just occurred in his last class.
“Anyway, Kit Benedicte.” Professor Redding pointed to the taller girl before acknowledging the younger. “Salome Amsel.”
The two girls looked up to meet their teacher’s gaze for just a moment before simultaneously turning their eyes down towards the floor as though they were afraid they might be turned to stone if they dare look longer.
Before leaving, Professor Redding told Severus, “Try not to scar them for life.”
The Wandwork professor left the hall, his C.A.T. student looking after him, becoming more apprehensive at the notion of being left along with the new infamous teacher. When their advisor was finally gone, both their gazes drifted back to their Potions professor.
“Inside,” Severus instructed, “both of you.”
The girls both obeyed promptly, rushing inside, chasing at one another’s heels. So far, so good. No one was crying, at least.
Without needing to be told to do so, they went to the center seats at the very front of the classroom. Their eyes followed Severus as he joined them in the classroom, bringing his fingers down to drum on the surface of his desk while he considered his next move.
It was at that exact moment when Severus realized the unusual position he was currently in. He had never thought about it this up until this point, but his binding promise to Albus Dumbledore had really done a lot to protect him in previous years. With a new school and a new employer, however, there was no telling to what lengths certain aspects of his behavior would be allowed.
If two classes left his lesson in wild tears, who knew what repercussions there could be.
“Hello, ladies,” Severus kept his tone as even-sounding as was humanly possible. “My name is Professor Cameron, and I am going be the school’s Potions professor for the rest of the year, and hopefully for many years after you are both gone.”
The girls nodded softly, but had no spectacular reaction to the introduction. No snickering, no devious or pitying looks. No signs that the class needed to be brought to an end.
“Now, which of you can tell what is expected of a C.A.T. Potions student?”
The older girl, a large amount of heavy-looking black hair framing her face, glanced up thoughtfully and finally raised her hand.
“Yes… Kit Benedicte,” Severus said, pausing for a moment as he tried to recall the girl’s name.
“Isn’t that your job?” she asked in a very blunt manner.
Automatically, the younger girl, Salome Amsel, scooted her chair away, as though she feared whatever retribution her partner might be in for.
Exhibiting a self-control that he didn’t even know he possessed, Severus said absolutely nothing. Had it been a Hogwarts student who had chosen to mouth off in such a disrespectful manner, Severus was quite certain he would have verbally slapped them across the face before sentencing them to detentions of polishing the classroom tables with one-inch paintbrushes every night until the end of the school year. But he continued to remind himself that he was quite possibly already on very thin ice in terms of his behavior towards the students at this school. Besides, there were likely going to be many opportunities to pay her back in the remaining school year.
“Well, Miss Benedicte,” Severus said smoothly, trying his best to keep his temper in check, “I am not a native of this country, and I am afraid I am unfamiliar with you C.A.T. system. I am not sure if you will have an examination at the end of the year, or what is expected of you upon graduation. I was hoping you might be able to enlighten me.”
“Oh,” the girl breathed. But she did not offer any further explanations for him.
Severus was just about to take his first opportunity for establishing respect among his students the way he had at Hogwarts when he was interrupted by a new voice.
“There are no big tests except for our end-of-the-year final,” the younger girl, Salome Amsel, said at almost a whisper. “We graduate based on our grades.”
“Hmm?” Severus said, trying to get the girl to elaborate.
Salome kept her eyes cast downwards towards the surface of the table, intent on not making any sort of eye contact.
“Our fifth-years grades and our scores on our R.A.V.E.N. exams determine what C.A.T. classes we’ll be able to take, but the C.A.T. courses themselves are supposed to have us ready to work in their field the moment we graduate.”
Severus turned his gaze to Miss Benedicte, hoping she would take it as a clue for what was considered an acceptable manner in which to address a teacher, but she just exhaled deeply while twisting a strand of hair in her fingers.
“I have already been told by your headmistress that the purpose of this class is to prepare you to go straight into the working world as soon as you graduate,” Severus began the lesson’s lecture, even though he had nothing truly rehearsed.
“Since you are supposedly the school’s most advanced students in terms of Potions skills, I will be gracious enough to assume you are not in need of someone to hold your hand. That being said, we will simply be getting straight to work on brewing.”
Severus moved to the copy of Doubly Bubbling: An Advanced Approach to Potion-making and flipped to the marked page. “Turn your books to page seventy-three, where you will find the brewing instructions for the Fire Protection Potion,” he told the girls sitting in the front row. “This is the potion you we be completing for the day’s lesson.”
Even after Severus had finished speaking, the two girls stared ahead blankly as though they were waiting for further instructions.
“I trust you are not in need of some ceremonial beginning before you start on you schoolwork,” he said in much the manner of the old self that he was used to, feeling almost nostalgic as he did so. “You may begin now.”
On those instructions, the girls set straight to work wordlessly. Miss Benedicte began setting up her cauldron and her burner, along with her other potion-making tools, while Miss Amsel moved towards the storage cupboard to collect the necessary ingredients. At the very least, these girls appeared to have a somewhat competent knowledge of the art of potion-making.
At Hogwarts, he would have spent a great deal of necessary time standing over his students’ shoulders making sure what they were brewing could not become potentially volatile enough to destroy the entire school. However, with only one pair of students brewing, Severus found himself in the unusual position of being able to relax. He tried to sit in his chair at the desk, but the simple act felt so completely unnatural to him. He found himself beginning to stare at his minuscule class, looking for even the smallest error he could pounce on.
He did not have to wait long to be given such an opportunity. From his desk, he saw Kit Benedicte was chopping the root at a rapid pace, almost like a chef working through the middle of the dinner rush. Such careless, potentially maiming, actions, might have been acceptable from a professional food server, but certainly not from a child working under such dangerous circumstances.
Severus rose to his feet and made his way to the students’ work station. Technically, there was nothing in the recipe that gave explicit instructions for how fast the roots were to be chopped, but at the very least, what Miss Benedicte was doing was incredibly dangerous. Besides, proper safety while brewing was something that should have been covered in the first year, and the girl was embarrassing herself by ignoring these safety precautions. Not to mention the world of trouble Severus would be in if any bloodshed should occur in his class.
“Miss Benedicte,” he said, grabbing at her wrist to stop her, “despite the rumors, it is not, in fact, a badge of honor for a potion-maker to be missing any of their fingers.”
But Kit Benedicte did not appear to have any sort of reaction to being told the danger of her actions. She mostly appeared to be shocked, almost disturbed, at the fact a teacher was touching her.
“Do not handle your knife in such a reckless manner!” Severus made his point very clear for her. “It is a trip to the Hospital Wing waiting to happen!”
Instead of any verbal response, however, Kit Benedicte snatched her hand away as though she had been burned, the knife falling to the surface of the table. As she cradled her ‘injured’ wrist, she regaled Professor Snape with a scathing stare, chewing on the inside of her cheek as though the action were the only thing biting back any sort of comment.
“You look as though you have something to say, Miss Benedicte,” he remarked smoothly, almost challengingly. “And I certainly wouldn’t want to be the sort of teacher who hinders his students’ freedom of expression, so why don’t you come right out and say whatever it is you’re thinking.”
Kit Benedict’s eyes went wide, but she remained silent. It appeared that for all her deathly looks, she had no real words to match them, just as Severus has suspected. He had been hoping such a demonstration would be enough to significantly change the girl’s attitude in class.
However, the C.A.T. student must have taken the stance that actions could speak louder than words, for she gather up her books into her book bag and stood, moving in swift strides to walk out of the class.
“Miss Benedict!” Severus shouted before she could reach the door. “You may not leave the class until you turn in the day’s work!”
Slowly, with a venomous glare on her face, Kit Benedicte turned on her heels to meet eyes with her professor. It was clear that she was debating disobeying Severus and leaving the class anyway. Miss Benedicte stormed over to the work table, Miss Amsel bolting out of the way, giving her classmate plenty of room for whatever it was she was planning to do. In one sweeping motion, using that same knife, Miss Benedicte dumped the last of the remaining ingredients into the cauldron, giving it three sharp stirs before snatching it off the burner and storming off to Severus’ desk.
“Here,” she snapped, dropping the cauldron on the desktop, “one D+!”
Severus was not familiar with this term for grading, but he could tell from the disgusting mess still bubbling in the cauldron, that it could hardly have meant a satisfactory job.
Her assignment ‘complete,’ Miss Benedict turned once again to leave the classroom, throwing the door open violently for the second time that day, and in a way that was certain to leave a very notable dent in the plaster of the wall. Salome Amsel was left along at the Potions table, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
“Um, Professor…” Salome muttered, fiddling with the buttons on her dress. “There’s…sort of a rule that says if half the class is missing the teachers can’t give the day’s lesson—”
“Out!” Severus shouted at her.
With one sweeping gesture, Salome dumped her books and papers into her empty cauldron and took up her book bag with the other hand, racing out the door like an Olympic sprinter. And it was with that that Severus’ first day of classes at the Salem Witches Institute came to an end.
Severus made his way to his desk and sank down into his chair. Kit Benedicte’s cauldron was still left behind, bubbling its noxious contents on surface of the desk. Of course the potion was completely useless. The rushed and sloppy manner in which it was finished, it was a complete mess! Although, Miss Benedicte’s intent was clearing not to produce a fine work in potion-making, but only to spite her new teacher.
Severus sank down into desk chair and let his forehead drop to the surface. Two classes; he had only had to handle two measly classes, and for a first-day-of-class introduction…and he had managed to fail so monumentally that it wasn’t even funny. It was just a matter of whether it was Maria Bluebell or Kit Benedicte who went running to Dean Temperance Crackstone first, and how long it would take for him to be fired.
With his head in his hands, Severus did his very best to recall a day that had ended worse for him in terms of teaching. He couldn’t.
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