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Going to seventh year at all seemed a bit pointless to me. In the previous six years I had been Sorted into the ‘wrong’ house, befriended a group of lovable misfits, fallen in love with the son of my father’s enemy and been involved in all manner of frivolity and wanton rule-breaking due to my status as a Weasley. As I explained to Mum in August, I wasn’t sure Hogwarts had anything left to offer me after that.
Of course, as she duly reminded me, I still needed NEWTs to get anywhere in the world and to prove to said world that the Sorting Hat hadn’t made a grave mistake in putting me in Ravenclaw, like various friends and family members had been suggesting for the last six years. So, rather reluctantly, I found myself once again on the Hogwarts Express on September first, surrounded by the aforementioned group of lovable misfits.
“Rose, what are you taking this year?” Scorpius Malfoy asked.
I glared at him. I hadn’t changed any of my subjects from last year, and considering we’d taken almost all the same subjects (except I took Divination to piss my mother off and he took Muggle Studies to piss his father off) I would have thought he’d remember them. Especially when you consider our first kiss took place during Astronomy class. (What? It was midnight, it was starry, and he was way too shy to try and get me alone so you take what you can get with Scorpius.)
“Same as last year,” I replied pointedly. “You?”
“I’m dropping Charms. Decided I wanted a free period more than I wanted to learn Patronuses.”
“You’re a disgrace to the name Ravenclaw,” Dexter Brawstorn commented, only half joking.
Dexter was widely held to be the ultimate caricature of Ravenclaw. He had neatly trimmed brown hair, thick-rimmed square glasses and an overfull timetable that, due to his being Muggleborn and wanting to keep his options open, also included a first-year engineering paper from a local university. We also assumed his parents hated him because they’d called him Dexter.
Lorcan Scamander was the face of eccentricity for our group. He had white-blonde hair, huge blue eyes and a certain endearing absentmindedness. It never failed to amuse us how different he was from his twin Lysander, who was in Gryffindor and friends with the likes of my cousin Albus, the undisputed king of the school.
Completing our group was my cousin Lucy, the small, redheaded byproduct of an overly restrictive childhood and a four-year-long addiction to Honeydukes products. She was great in small doses and insufferable in large ones. I’d shared a dormitory with her for six years and wondered how I was still alive.
Scorpius and Dexter were now arguing about what constituted a disgrace to Ravenclaw – Scorpius cited Harriet MacIntyre in the year above who had gotten two Ts in her OWLs, which Dexter countered with the fact she had been Dux last year and therefore seventh year was the one that mattered and Scorpius was surely destined to be a disgrace to Ravenclaw because he would have two lots of free periods and was on a slippery slope to doing absolutely nothing.
“I’ll study in my spare time,” Scorpius protested.
“That’s what university students say,” Dexter replied ominously. “Then they spend that time sleeping, and then the sleep takes over and they start skipping lectures and tutorials, and before you know it they’ve completely failed and are living at home with their mums, tormenting their younger brothers because they’re just jealous that said younger brother has academic success and a wand.”
“I’m sensing some deeper issues here,” Scorpius commented mildly.
“Not at all,” Dexter replied. “On a completely unrelated note, the balance of power has been restored in the Brawstorn household now that I’m of age and can actually fight back when Simon assaults me.”
“Your level of maturity astounds me,” Scorpius said with a roll of his eyes.
“Sibling rivalry does not take age into account,” Dexter responded loftily. “Lucy, Rose, Lorcan, back me up on this.”
I shrugged. “Me and Hugo just don’t pay attention to each other, to be honest. He stays out of my way, I stay out of his.”
Lorcan nodded. “Same with me and ’Sander.”
“Molly’s left home, so…” Lucy shrugged. “We hang out occasionally. Go get coffee in Diagon Alley or something. It’s fun, pretending I’m a functioning adult.”
“You will never be a functioning adult, Lucy Weasley.”
“Pretending being the operative word. What did everyone get up to in the holidays? I spent a few days at St Mungo’s, thinking about becoming a Welcome Witch there when I finish school. I think it’d be fun. Like, I don’t like blood and I think I’d freak out, but I’m friendly and that’s what you need. Friendliness. The Welcome Witches when I went as a kid were always really scary and they never smiled. I’d be contributing to less childhood trauma.”
“Or more,” Scorpius muttered. “Hey Rose, have you heard about the new teachers this year?”
“We have new teachers?”
“Well, think about it. Sinistra’s taking over as Headmistress, so they need a new Astronomy teacher. And I think I heard something about History of Magic and Divination as well.”
“History of Magic and Divination?” I repeated. “But how could you replace Binns and Trelawney? They’re like parts of the furniture.”
“Because Sinistra has authority and no sense of sentiment,” Scorpius replied. “Binns has always been a crap teacher, I’m not surprised they’re getting rid of him.”
“Who’s our Head of House now?” Lorcan asked.
“Oh, okay,” Lorcan responded, and returned to staring out the window.
By the time the sun was beginning to set, we had progressed to our favourite Hogwarts Express activity: pretending we were prefects and making up rules to tell first years off for.
“First years aren’t allowed liquorice wands,” Dexter snapped at some random kid. “Sows the seeds for bad magical practice and lack of respect for wandlore. Ten points will be taken from your House as soon as you’re Sorted.”
“I didn’t know,” protested the poor boy.
“Well now you do,” Scorpius said severely. “Don’t let us catch you doing it again. I’m afraid I’ll have to confiscate that, thank you.”
“That was impressive,” I told Dexter as we wandered back to our carriage, Scorpius dividing the liquorice wand into five pieces. ‘Bad magical practice and lack of respect for wandlore?’ Good work.”
“I do try,” Dexter responded. He looked up, seeing Albus and his mates approaching, and ducked quickly into our carriage without another word.
“Sup cuz,” Albus greeted me. “Keen for our last year at Hogwarts?”
I eyed the Head Boy badge on his chest pointedly. “Not with you in any position of high authority, I’m afraid.”
“I don’t actually have much authority. Just the badge. Chicks love it.”
“I can tell by the massive throng of nonexistent lovesick girls behind you.”
“I’m popular with the wallflowers,” he responded with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Too shy to actually approach me, bless them.”
“Keep telling yourself that.” I returned to my carriage, where Dexter was complaining about how it was always those popular up-themselves douchebags from Gryffindor who got Head Prefect and how it would be really nice to see someone else in the position for once.
“The Head Girl’s from Slytherin,” Scorpius pointed out. “Eleanor Busby, the academic one with a small group of friends, a not-overwhelming drive to succeed and a great rack—”
He trailed off as he noticed my wand pointing in his face, but Lucy carried on the conversation enthusiastically.
“She does, right? Glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed it.”
“Could you be any more gay, Lucy?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I could actually have a girlfriend, but that’s pretty unlikely given the size of Hogwarts’ queer community. Hey, d’you think Eleanor’s in the closet?”
“I dunno, I have a pretty good gaydar—”
“You thought I was gay,” Scorpius said flatly. “For three years.”
“That’s fair enough,” Dexter said matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, I kinda thought you were too,” I agreed.
“Likewise,” Lorcan added. “Are we getting into our uniforms at all? Because we’ve just arrived at Hogsmeade.”
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.”