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Something Weird's Going On At Hogwarts by ad astra
Format: Short story
Chapter 2: Two
By the time one got to seventh year, there wasn’t a lot to get excited about on the first day of term. You saw the first years being Sorted, reminisced about how long it had been since your own Sorting and how little they looked, waited impatiently while the Headmistress made her welcome speech and then proceeded to stuff your face full of all the glorious things on offer at the feast.
This time, however, even we jaded seventh years had something to get mildly excited about.
There were new teachers to gawk at.
The staff table was always quite interesting on the first day of term. The Headmistress sat in the middle, flanked by the four Heads of House, two on each side. Beside them would be any new members of staff, and the others would shuffle around, each trying to exert their authority by being close to the centre. It was a hierarchy among the staff, and I doubted they were even aware we noticed it.
It was a pretty important feast for the staff table, as feasts go. Professors Longbottom and Clearwater, both newly promoted to Head of House, sat looking pleased as punch in their prime seats. The three new teachers were all on one side, sandwiched between Professor Talcott (Head of Hufflepuff, Charms) and old Hagrid, who had resigned his post as Head of Gryffindor with some relief at the end of last year.
At first glance, two of the three newbies seemed pretty normal, but I would pass judgement on that later. The third, sitting closest to Talcott, wore unusual robes - a black and green ensemble that made him look intimidating and badass and not particularly scholarly. He had long black hair swept back from his face and surveyed us quietly from what he seemed to think was his throne on high.
The man beside him was distinguishable only by how happy he looked to be here. His face was sort of alive with cheeriness, a striking contrast to whoever His Majesty was. He wore a tweed jacket and a red bow tie and gave off the perfect impression of absent-minded benevolent genius.
The woman beside him had an impressive mane of curly hair, and that was as far as I got before Professor Sinistra got up for her welcome speech.
“Welcome back to another year at Hogwarts,” she began crisply. “For those who don’t know, my name is Professor Sinistra, the Headmistress. I have every hope that each of you has come here prepared to further your magical education and fulfil your academic potential…”
I’d forgotten the best thing about Sinistra taking over the Headmistress post – the entire school now had to listen to her motivational speeches, which included a lot of vocabulary that most junior students and Gryffindors wouldn’t understand. After six years of them, my friends and I could amost recite them verbatim – she didn’t vary them much from year to year, and the principal difference with this one was the use of ‘Hogwarts’ rather than ‘the house of Ravenclaw.’
“The start of a new year is the ideal opportunity to overhaul your study habits,” Scorpius muttered under his breath in perfect time with Sinistra. “Ooh, we’re coming up to a good one…Rose, watch Gryffindor, see the confusion written across their faces…”
“The pursuit of academic excellence is one that requires great mental fortitude,” Sinistra continued. “It is a reflection not of one’s intellect but of the triumph over those negative aspects of one’s temperament that are not conducive to study…”
“And there it goes,” Scorpius said triumphantly as a group of Gryffindors furrowed their brows in confusion. “Seriously, you couldn’t follow that? Why are you even at school?”
“Shush,” Lucy whispered. “She’s looking at you.”
Sinistra concluded her motivational speech, introducing the Head Prefects (Dexter and Scorpius avoided looking at Albus but stared openly at Eleanor Busby) and the new teachers.
“It is my pleasure to welcome to Hogwarts our new teaching staff. Taking over my own post in Astronomy is Professor Loki Laufeyson– ” here she gestured to His Majesty – “And having interviewed him myself I can assure those students taking Astronomy that he will prove an effective and engaging teacher.”
“He seems kinda cool,” I whispered to Scorpius.
Scorpius grunted. “Don’t take this personally, but I’m not kissing you in class this year if he’s watching.”
“Bet you ten Galleons the next one’s our new history teacher,” Lucy whispered.
“Not on,” I replied swiftly. “I thought that the moment I saw him. He has that history look about him.”
“I assume many of you were surprised to discover, upon your return, that Professor Cuthbert Binns has resigned his post, having taught at Hogwarts for the last three hundred years. Professor Binns has moved on for personal reasons, and I have every confidence that Professor John Smith will prove an adequate replacement in the History of Magic field.”
“Doctor John Smith,” Sinistra corrected herself.
“Told you!” Lucy whispered triumphantly. “History!”
“And finally, taking over the Divination post is Professor River Song.”
I turned to the others once the applause had died down. “What are our thoughts?”
“Professor Laufeyson looks interesting,” Dexter said. “He must be good, he got pretty high praise from Sinistra.”
“I like the Doctor,” Lucy declared. “He just seems…nice.”
“You mean Smith?” I asked.
“Yeah, but we might as well call him the Doctor because he’s the only one. Wonder why he’s not a professor?”
“Maybe he just prefers Doctor,” Dexter suggested. “I mean, Professor might be prestigious in the Muggle world but since I came here it’s sort of lost a lot of its esteem. He’s probably spent a while in the Muggle world. Might even have a proper doctorate from a university.”
“I’m not sure about Professor Song,” Lorcan declared. “She doesn’t seem insane enough for Divination.”
“You’ll have to tell us about her after you’ve had classes,” Scorpius said, nodding at me and Lorcan. “Seeing as you’re the only ones dumb enough to take it to seventh year. What kind of useless subject is Divination anyway?”
“About as useless as Muggle Studies for a guy who’s never actually met one,” I shot back at him.
“That’s why I need it. And I said hi to Dexter’s mum in King’s Cross, does that count?”
“What do you learn in Muggle Studies anyway?” Dexter asked. “Anything useful?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Scorpius said defensively.
“All right, what’s physics?”
Scorpius floundered. “Um…it sounds like physical…is that, like…sport or something?”
“How long have you been friends with me?” Dexter asked, exasperated.
“Would I be studying sports?”
“Science!” Scorpius nearly shouted, punching a fist in the air. “It’s science!”
“It’s a branch of science.”
“So what classes has everyone got first tomorrow?” I asked hastily.
We had to wait until midnight for our first Astronomy lesson, but luckily we had History of Magic first and could therefore satisfy our new-teacher-related curiousity. We all took History of Magic, but there was a bit of a reshuffle in the usual seating arrangement. Despite massive differences in personality, Lucy and Lorcan were best friends – we assumed it was because of their status as two of the few queer students at Hogwarts, not that Lorcan had come out to anyone except us – but this time, in some sort of unspoken agreement, Lucy sat with Dexter and left Lorcan to find himself a seat next to a Slytherin named Art Conneroy.
“Hello,” the Doctor greeted us (We’d decided Lucy had a point and had been referring to him as the Doctor since the feast.) “I’m the Doctor. Not Doctor Smith or Doctor John or Doctor Teacher, just the Doctor.”
Lucy twisted in her seat to give us a triumphant grin.
“Now I suppose the first thing I should do is ask you what you want to learn about. Because your old teacher, the ghost, didn’t actually follow a curriculum at all so there’s nothing for me to work from.”
“Well, what can you teach us?” Dexter asked.
“That’s not going to narrow it down, I can teach you anything. Well, nearly anything. But I must say the eighteenth century is a personal favourite of mine, when the Statute of Secrecy was signed…no, that was the seventeenth, wasn’t it? Yes, 1692. I must be getting old.”
“You don’t look that old,” Sarah Neill called out.
“I’m eleven hundred and three.”
“You look pretty good for eleven hundred and three!” Albus yelled from the back of the classroom. “What’s your secret?”
“Fish fingers and custard. Don’t give me that look, can’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Now, history. History, history, history. Great word, history. Comes from the Greek historia, meaning inquiry – or at least that’s where it comes from in English. Has it ever bothered you that this subject is called History of Magic? All of time and space and you restrict yourself to a thousand odd years of British magical history?”
“We’ve never really thought about it like that,” Lucy said, sounding quite humbled.
“Well, you should. That’s what you need to do, to think. Not to just learn names and dates because that’s boring. Who here has ever thought history is boring?”
With a few sheepish glances around the room, we all raised our hands.
“And you’re still here. You don’t have to take it anymore and you’re still here. Why?”
We waited for someone to offer a profound reason, but it was Lysander who offered what we realised was a collective response.
“Because it’s an extra hour to sleep in, Doctor.”
“Right. Well, that ends today. Because I’ll tell you something: history is important. Time isn’t linear and the past isn’t behind us. It’s always there, constantly evolving, constantly changing. History is alive and it is the most important subject you can ever take.”
There was a long silence following his words, which the Doctor took to mean agreement. “Right. We’re going to begin with the history of history – for humans at least. Most people will tell you the father of history was Herodotus – lovely man, bit insane. Not the most accurate of sources—”
“Why, have you met him?” Lysander asked sardonically.
“Yes, briefly. Interrupted him in the middle of writing his Histories, not sure if he ever finished them…”
“But Herodotus was working in the fifth century BC,” Dexter said. “If you want to perpetuate this myth –and I can’t imagine why – that you’re eleven hundred years old, you don’t make reference to people who lived two thousand five hundred years ago.”
“What’s your name?”
“Dexter, nice name. Don’t think I’ve met a Dexter before, nice to meet you. Dexter, do you remember a few moments ago when I said time isn’t linear?”
“If time isn’t linear, would I have to be two thousand five hundred years old to have met Herodotus?”
“You would need some way of time travel, and all the Time Turners were destroyed in the Second Wizarding War. Even if you had one, the range of a Time Turner wouldn’t allow that extent of time travel, they’re designed to go back a few hours or days, though they could perhaps be pushed to go back a year or two. And regardless of whether time is linear or not, or the range on a Time Turner, it’s a scientific and magical impossibility for any human to live to eleven hundred.”
“I’m not human. I’m a Time Lord.”