Leonor considered the large mirror in the hall. She was satisfied with herself. Her dark hair was tightly in a bun. Together with the dark gown it showed seriousness.
Her thoughts were wandering. Leonor had applied for many jobs in the past years. Yet working at the most famous wizarding school of Britain was different. Her hopes to become a teacher were small. It wasn’t her regular profession even though she had given private lessons. The invitation to the interview came late; some weeks after Pauline had delivered the application letter.
Leonor was smoothing out the creases in her dress with light excitement. While stepping into the back yard of the small terrace house she was looking forward to apparate into Hogsmeade. Her plan was to visit the well-known wizarding location, buy a few Christmas presents and have some good plain cooking before setting her foot into Hogwarts.
She arrived with an imperceptible plop in the main street. It was still deserted, but the lights in the shop windows showed seasonal activity. The village was cosy, but larger than Leonor had expected. There were many shops for all various wizarding needs. One of the shop windows showed Italian robes. Leonor couldn’t help herself, but had to visit straightaway.
“Good morning! How do you do?”, greeted the shop assistant with a friendly face.
Leonor smiled back: “You have Italian designers in display. Where do you get it from?”
“We buy in Milan. But usually we only order for our clients based on catalogue. Do you want to have a look?”
“Well, not today. I’ve an appointment, but maybe another time. Is it always that quiet here?”
The shop assistant grinned: “You should come if the students flood the street! Then you wouldn’t call the place quiet at all! Weekends and evening hours are busy too. Where are you from?”
“I live in London. I find Diagon Alley too busy most of the time. It’s my first visit here. So, I just look around. Where’s a place to have a good lunch?”
“I suggest ‘The Three Broomsticks’, but it will be busy too. You know Christmas is coming and there are more and more frantic last-minute shoppers … we also have nice little things if you like to see … look these are pretty fine scarfs.”
Leonor liked the place. It made a professional impression without pressing sales talk. A scarf would be a beautiful gift. Maria would like the soft quality and be fond of the warm colours. When Leonor left the clothing shop she was happy with the gift for Maria and already had the tip where to find something for Francesco and Matteo. Belgian chocolate would do for the father and some funny joke item for the son.
It wasn’t even 12 o’clock when Leonor was sitting in the tavern ordering a lemonade and steak pie. The weather in Scotland was much better than the gloomy dampness of London of the past weeks. The apothecary was the only neglected place, but Leonor didn’t need to buy potions supplies here. A pity, the apothecary and a weird pub in a side street seemed the only blot in the provincial life.
Her view travelled into the direction of the castle. She didn’t need the post; but had always wished to visit Hogwarts and meet Albus Dumbledore. Hogwarts and Dumbledore - both where an icon of Britain and Leonor had more than once noticed the restraint in the British wizarding world if she couldn’t proof to know the school.
Leonor asked after the way to the castle and Madam Rosmerta guessed that Leonor must be here because of the advertisement for the temporary teaching post. The teachers in defence against the dark arts had changed every year, but even Rosmerta considered it remarkable that the current teacher was through with it before the new year break. It was a popular teacher and the landlady wasn’t aware of problems at the school or any other applicants to the post. It confirmed the rumours Leonor had heard earlier and it made her nervous. She didn’t know what to expect, but felt self-confidence. Visiting Hogwarts was an opportunity she wouldn’t have in a long time without sending her own children to the school.
Walking the sloping path to the castle gates Leonor straightened herself and put on her usual professionalism. The invitation alone was useful to small talk and would bring her attention. She told herself that her studies where already financed, and this would just be a nice add on to it. It made her greet Rubeus Hagrid with a nonchalant smile.
He opened the gate and pointed the path to follow. Rubeus Hagrid introduced himself as the game keeper and professor for magical creatures. Leonor noticed his gushing pride about the importance of the job followed by a lecture on the brilliance of Dumbledore. Leonor was amused about it … would everybody here be similar admiring the headmaster and tell it at first chance?
The castle grounds and the big marble staircases made Leonor more curious. Everything was impressive. Hagrid led her purposefully to the headmaster’s office and after muttering the password Leonor was moving up the spiral staircase. There were voices, one cross at something. It was a woman saying: “Is it really necessary? The person is not what …”
Leonor decided not to listen in further. It would just distract her from the interview and create a negative mood without being confident it was about her and not something different. She knocked and heard the request to enter right afterwards, as if somebody had already seen her coming. The room was elegant, but functional. Leonor noticed the numerous artefacts, she knew some of them, others not. An old man blinked while offering his hand to Leonor.
“Well, well, my name is Albus Dumbledore. And this is Minerva McGonagall, professor and deputy headmistress."
“I’m Leonor Scott.”
Leonor was shaking the hand of Dumbledore and offered her hand to McGonagall too. Minerva looked her up and down and offered her hand with a reluctant thin-lipped expression.
“Please, take a seat. We should discuss your application, if you don’t mind?”
Dumbledore was pointing to a chair. Both professors sat opposite Leonor.
“Minerva, would you like to start questioning?”
“You know my questions, Albus. But Mrs. Scott, your profession is healer. Healers do not apply at Hogwarts usually. I can’t see your experience to the subject. Why don’t you apply at St. Mungo’s?”
“Professor, you are correct. My main profession is healer, but I’m continuing my study. Therefore, I worked at different locations in the past years, to gain experience. I’m specialized in healing injuries caused by dark hexes, curses, poisoning or non-friendly magical creature’s attacks.”
Leonor answered calm and determined. Positive that McGonagall didn’t approve her CV nor her appearance. Dumbledore still smiled, clearly entertained.
“The advanced students will be trained in defensive skills. Is it part of a healer’s curriculum too?”, said McGonagall sarcastically.
Leonor continued more seriously: “No, it’s not Professor McGonagall. But I can proof these required skills by employment at …”
Dumbledore raised a hand and motioned Leonor to stop talking. He gave a calming look to McGonagall and placed an intense glare into Leonor’s eyes.
“Minerva has the best of the students in her mind. I have no doubt into your skills Mrs. Scott. You shall be able to manage the part time assignment with Professor Lupin’s assistance well enough. You’ve also provided references ... you seem to have powerful friends, Mrs. Scott.”
Leonor met his gaze, forcing herself to look indifferent and untouched by the statement. Dumbledore surely knew more about her history. He was probing her. Would she need to fill the obvious gaps of her life right now?
“Mrs. Scott, would you be able to start at Hogwarts today?”
Leonor swallowed her surprise.
“Professor Dumbledore, the advertisement didn’t describe the work schedule, what …”
“Well, well, you would need to stand in for Professor Lupin once every month at the full moon. Three days will suffice. For this month, it would be appreciated if you could stay over the new year break. Professor Lupin will provide you details to teach. Can you do that till end of term?”
Dumbledore’s eyes still bored into Leonor’s. McGonagall was taken aback. Leonor was thinking quickly and the only reason for the work schedule was … moon cycle dependent potions or caring of a werewolf. Dumbledore didn’t press her decision, but offered no more information either. Leonor removed her look from the two professors to one of the magical devices before she spoke.
“I can do that. I can start right away if you allow to gather my personal belongings in London. But I should leave latest on the twenty ninth to help friends over the seasonal festivities. They count on me and won’t find a substitute. May I ask why such a sudden urgency?”
“Well, this should do Mrs. Scott. Welcome to Hogwarts! Minerva, please introduce our new staff member to Professor Lupin. In case Remus has no objections please arrange Mrs. Scott’s quarters too. Mrs. Scott, I trust you’ll help avoiding more accidents.”
The headmasters answer was vague, but his gesture unmistakeable. McGonagall and Leonor had been dismissed without further ado. Leonor followed a seething Professor McGonagall down the moving staircases and was more curious than ever. With a knock to Lupin’s office Minerva and Leonor entered the room.
“Remus, the headmaster interviewed Mrs. Scott and sends for your final consent. Have you …”, Minerva started emphasising her own disapproval with a look at Leonor, “… any questions? Albus suggested her to start tomorrow.”
Leonor looked at the other professor noticing the scars in his face, the worn robes and realized what Dumbledore had been withholding. He was startled by the unexpected visitors and took Leonor’s application letter from his desk fumbling on the paper. Leonor was sure he didn’t read it and was searching a way out of the situation.
“Oh, I see. Your letter is convincing … so you can start tomorrow then?”, he was shaking her hand absentmindedly.
“Do you like me to introduce myself, Professor?”, asked Leonor amused and astonished by the peculiar situation.
“If you like …”, agreed Lupin relieved. McGonagall shot him an angry look.
“My name is Leonor Scott. I’m healer and have worked in the last three years in different places in Europe to improve my knowledge. I specialized in the dark arts including defensive spells and combat as well as long term recovery. I’m working on temporary assignments to take a final examination at the Magical Medical Committee next summer. I …”
Leonor was interrupted by a further knock on the door. Lupin called: “Enter!” and a man with long black and straggly hair entered the room. His eyes analysed the scene with a flicker of suppressed surprise.
“Lupin, your drink ...”, the dark-haired man paused, “…you should take it before it cools off. I can …”
Lupin interrupted, feigning politeness: “Thank you very much, Severus. I’ll take the Strengthening Solution soon, please put it on the desk until I’m finished here”.
Leonor’s look was on the faintly smoking potion. It confirmed her perception. Nobody told her about the presence of the werewolf at the school. But a quick glance at the dark teacher was final proof. Lupin had just made clear to be little adept in potions … ignoring the fact that a healer would be able to distinguish Wolfsbane Potion from Strengthening Solution easily.
“How you like it Lupin, good afternoon.”
The dark professor gave Leonor a furtive glance and a brief nod to McGonagall while turning to leave the room. McGonagall stopped him.
“Severus, a moment! Remus, do you agree to Albus’ decision?”
“Oh, yes …”
McGonagall was not pleased with the answer, but continued to explain the next actions to her and Lupin. Likely none of them would have objected against Dumbledore anyway. Leonor had to sit in Lupin’s classes the next day to start teaching the other for the last two days before the Christmas break. She had to be back the next morning before lessons.
“Severus, please walk Mrs. Scott to the front door. I’ll arrange for some provisional quarters with Mr. Filch. Mrs. Scott, do you intend to come here tonight already?”
“I suppose a late arrival is fine?”
“Well ... Professor Lupin will expect you tomorrow morning in the classroom. Severus, …”
The dark-haired man smirked at Lupin and opened the door to let Leonor pass. His dislike of Lupin and to obey the deputy headmistress in the matter was obvious.
The professor walked quickly and little ahead of Leonor down the stairs. He didn’t talk nor look at her, but she couldn’t deny that the encounter was thrilling. The castle was quiet now. Likely lessons were in progress. He stopped next to the front door and said: “I suppose you find your way back.”
Leonor turned to look at the man searching for the right word and accepting the momentary silence. She looked at his pallid complexion framed by the lank strands of black hair. There was something noticeable about him. His eyes rested on her face, expressionless and examining at the same time. She was tempted to read his mind, but decided to better mark her respect.
“Thank you, Professor. I’m sorry for the improper introduction. I’m Leonor Scott. I’ll stand in while Professor Lupin’s … indisposition.”
Leonor stretched out her hand with a little smile unsure if the person opposite would take it. A subtle change of emotions crossed his face. Leonor was waiting for him to speak, to take her hand and doubting if she would make a fool of herself. After a long moment of hesitation, he answered with a quiet voice and a cool handshake, a grin on his face.
“Severus Snape, Professor Scott. Anything else I can do for you?”
“Where to find Mr. Filch tonight and how to enter the grounds of Hogwarts?”
“Down the corridor into the dungeons”, he said it with a small bow pointing to the landing leading downstairs into a passage way, “Dumbledore will take care of the entry.”
“Thanks again. I’d like to exchange some views with a potions master, maybe we find some time while your Wolfsbane Potion keeps us save?”, said Leonor and left quickly into the yard and towards the village without looking back.
Severus stood still in the front door looking after her. His annoyance about another extra for the werewolf was balanced by the woman. She had been bright enough to notice Lupin’s state and the Wolfsbane Potion too. He couldn’t tell what was different about her, maybe she just hadn’t understood that a Slytherin was better left alone.
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