Chapter 13 : Professor MacGowan (Year Two Begins)
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Eleven-year-old Benjamin Clover waited eagerly on the wooden platform in Hogsmead, warm wind brushing his face and tossing his curly black hair around. This was it, he thought, this was the day his friends returned. It had been a long summer without them.
Aside from the one time he had seen Bane in Diagonalley, and the day Darius was allowed to come and visit him while his father was conducting business in Helwin, Benjamin had spent most of the summer alone at their cabin, or alone in the castle while his father worked.
At every sound that might be a train coming around the bend in the waning light, Benjamin’s heart leapt. He had been waiting alone on the platform for hours, too excited to sit alone in the castle. Not for the first time that summer, he wished he had asked to be allowed to ride the train to school, just so he could spend a few more hours with his friends before the term started.
The wind rustled the early fall leaves, and Benjamin stood on his toes at the very edge of the platform, trying to see if he couldn’t spot the train somewhere in the distance. He was so engrossed in his own thoughts of all the mischief he and his friends would get into that year, that he didn’t hear the man walk up behind him.
“I’ve been watching you,” came a voice from behind him. Startled, Benjamin almost toppled forward off the platform and onto the tracks. Barely catching himself from falling, he spun around to see a tall, slender man in a black suit, with no tie. Even his under shirt was black. Benjamin looked up into his thin face. The man’s hair was short and dark, dark brown. He was only around thirty years old, maybe younger.
“Sorry?” Benjamin asked him.
“I’ve been in the coffee shop over there watching you for the last hour,” he told him, nodding with his head just once to the coffee shop across the narrow dirt lane called Madam Pudifoots café.
“Oh,” Benjamin said, just a little freaked out to know he was being watched by a stranger.
The man nodded. “You look familiar.”
“Hm…” Benjamin thought. “Did you go to Hogwarts?” The man nodded, and Benjamin said, “My mum went to Hogwarts… her name was Kaden. Did you know her?”
The man nodded again. “If your mothers last name is Clover, than yes. She was four years behind me. I didn’t know her personally because I was in Gryffindor house.”
“Oh,” Benjamin said again. He held out his hand and said, “My name’s Benjamin Clover.”
“Hm…” the man took hold of Benjamin’s hand and shook it once before letting go. His grip was not very strong.
“Why are you waiting here?” he asked.
Benjamin looked down the tracks again, and said, “I’m waiting for my friends to come back… on the train. We’ll be second years this year. Well… except Hunter. He’s in Gryffindor and he’s a third year.”
“What house are you in?” the man asked blandly.
“Ravenclaw,” Benjamin said. “Hunter said I should have been in Gryffindor, but Ravenclaw isn’t too bad.”
“Do you think you are smart enough to be in Ravenclaw?”
Benjamin shrugged, thinking the question was one Alexander, a fellow Ravenclaw second year would ask.
“I hope so,” he finally said.
Warm wind blew through the train station again, and the man finally said, “My name is Garrow MacGowan… that would be Professor MacGowan to you.”
Benjamin looked at the man with more interest than he had given him before. “Are you our new Defense Professor?” he asked.
The man nodded, and Benjamin continued, “We were kind of sad to see Professor Acker go… he got a job somewhere else though at the end of the year. Hunter said the Defense position is supposed to be cursed so that nobody stays for more than a year, but I don’t know if that’s true or not… who would have cursed the spot?”
“It is not cursed,” Professor MacGowan said. “If your friend had any kind of sense in him he would know that… he is obviously not a good addition to my old house.”
Benjamin frowned. For gathering reasons, he was liking this man less and less.
“Why are you not on the train?” he asked, cutting Ben’s thinking time short. Benjamin looked down the tracks again, thinking he had heard a whistle blow in the distance.
“I stayed the last half of the summer here,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. MacGowan frowned, and Benjamin clarified, “My mom died… I stayed last summer here too.”
MacGowan did not express distaste or sorrow over the mention of his mother’s death, and instead looked up toward the castle. “You look a bit young to be a second year.”
“I’m eleven,” he told him. “My birthday was four weeks ago. Headmaster Dumbledore allowed me in early.”
“Death does not make it ok to allow special exceptions for schooling,” MacGowan said blandly. “Do not expect that I will cut you slack in my class because you are a year younger than your peers.”
Benjamin shook his head. “I’m at the same level they are,” he told him.
MacGowan frowned, and there was a definite whistle of the train now, accompanied by a low rumble. Benjamin’s head snapped in the direction of the incoming train, and a moment later he heard Hagrid calling hello to him from the distance. As with the last year, the gamekeeper would be leading the first year students across the lake.
“I can see you will be supervised now… I will go and inform the Headmaster that I am here.” Benjamin frowned again as MacGowan walked away and Hagrid came nearer. Supervised? Benjamin knew he wasn’t that old, but he didn’t think he needed to be supervised in anything. It wasn’t like he was sitting there playing with explosives or acidic potions or something.
When the train pulled up, Benjamin stood on his toes, trying to find his three friends. From halfway down the train, he spotted Hunter, the tallest of the three, and weaved his way in and out of the crowd until he came to them.
Immediately all four of them were engaged in conversation, even through the noise of the other students, and their pets, and Hagrid calling for first years to join him.
On the ride up to the castle in the Thestrals drawn carriages, Benjamin told his friends all about their new Defense teacher, and how he seemed to have gotten off on the wrong foot with him.
“Don’t worry about it,” Hunter told him, punching him in the arm lightly, “he’s probably just nervous about his first week or something… he can’t be so bad can he? Not if he’s teaching the best subject here.”
The next morning Professor Flitwick, along with the other heads of house, delivered class schedules to all of their students at breakfast. Bane finished eating quickly, and went to Ravenclaw table to sit with Benjamin and Darius.
“Look,” he said excitedly, “we have Defense together first off three days a week! And then we’ll always end the day together with study hall or history!”
Darius made a face at the mention of history. It was generally considered the most boring class there by every student, not because of the subject matter, but because of their ghost teacher, Professor Binns, who droned on in a monotone voice that put everybody to sleep most days.
“You know, I used to like history,” Bane said thoughtfully, “then I came here and they gave me a nap time twice a week…”
The boys laughed, and as they finished eating, Benjamin looked down at his own schedule and said, “They’ve given us a lot more free time through the day… do you have any open time on your schedule that matches ours Bane?”
Bane looked, and said, “After my first class on Tuesday and before Study Hall on Friday… it looks like that’s it though for open time shared with you guys.”
“Well, at least it’s something,” Darius said, swallowing the last of his orange juice. The boys stood, and Hunter walked over to them from Gryffindor table.
“See you guys after dinner,” he said.
They waved at him, and made their way to Defense Against the Dark Arts, forgetting about having a new Professor.
As usual, Benjamin, Bane, and Darius took a seat right up at the front of the classroom at one of the long tables. After a few minutes, the rest of the first year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws filtered in behind them, filling in the rest of the seats.
Professor MacGowan walked in three minutes before the scheduled start of class, and looked around at the students. Benjamin already had his second year Defense book open in front of him, and had parchment and a quill ready to take notes.
At the front of the class the Professor wrote his name out on the blackboard, and turned to face them again. He spotted Benjamin and his friends at the table near the door, and said, “Ready to make a quick getaway at the end of class? Is this subject so boring?”
The three boys, along with the rest of the class were unsure of what MacGowan was talking about, and didn’t say anything.
“When I talk to you, you had better answer me,” he said, looking straight at Bane. “Five points from your house.
A deep look of injustice crossed Bane’s face, as well as the rest of the first year Hufflepuffs there, and MacGowan turned to Darius, waiting for an answer.
“Sorry sir?” he asked, “I, I’m not sure what you’re asking.”
“You and your friends are sitting by the table closest to the door… it would appear from my standpoint that you would wish to leave my class as soon as possible. Tell me, is Defense Against the Dark Arts a game to you? Is it a subject you don’t take seriously?”
Darius shook his head, “No sir, I mean yes sir, I mean… we do take it seriously. We just like sitting at the front of the class sir.”
“Hm…” MacGowan said, pacing slowly in front of the chalkboard. Every student’s eyes followed him as he went. “I witnessed you three leaving breakfast first… which means you got here first. Why did you not choose the other table at the front of the room, further away from the door if you wanted to sit up front?”
Darius shook his head. “I don’t know sir.”
“Five points from each of you then, for trying to leave my class earlier than the rest of your peers.”
Darius was about to say something, but Bane kicked him under the table to make him stay quiet.
After class, out in the hallway, every one of their classmates griped about the lost house points.
“We didn’t even do anything wrong!” Bane said.
Alexander shook his head as he walked behind them. “Thanks you guys… sit in the back next time, ok? It’s only the first day and we’re in the negative points already.” He pushed passed them, and Benjamin frowned.
“I think the Professor doesn’t like us,” he said.
“Wait til’ Hunter hears about this,” Darius said.
Bane shook his head. “He’s got Defense next… I think he’ll have stuff of his own to tell us.”
Bane was right. After dinner that evening, Hunter found them and complained long and hard about Professor MacGowan singling him out during class. Hunter had sat in the back row by himself because he had gotten there late and the seats in the back were the only ones left, and after MacGowan had called role, he took ten points from Hunter for “not being as eager to learn as his peers.”
“That’s stupid,” Bane said. “He took 20 total away from us for sitting up front.”
“He’s mental,” Hunter said. “He didn’t take points away from anybody else in the class.”
The next day went as classes normally would for them, none of them having class with MacGowan, but Wednesday morning proved just as horrible as Monday did. This time Ben, Bane, and Darius sat in the middle of the room, not wanting to be docked points for sitting in the back or the front, but MacGowan still found odd reasons to take points away from them. He took five points from Benjamin, because his hair looked uncombed, and MacGowan thought it was a sign of disrespect to show up to class looking so shabby. He also took five points from Bane for not wearing a tie that day, and five from Darius for not taking enough notes on the lecture. Hunter was also docked five points that day for sitting in the front of the room, because MacGowan thought he was mocking him about wanting to learn, when he knew he wanted to be sitting all the way in the back row.
“I just can’t win with this guy!” Hunter said angrily at lunch, taking a seat next to his other three friends at Ravenclaw table. “Can’t sit in the back, cant sit in the front… what am I supposed to do?”
“That’s nothing,” said Darius, “does Ben’s hair look uncombed to you?”
Hunter looked, and said, “No… it’s curly like it always is. I don’t think he could straighten it out with magic moose even.”
“Yeah,” said Bane. “MacGowan took five points from him for looking shabby.”
Friday morning Benjamin and his friends showed up with a plan. When MacGowan walked into the classroom, Benjamin was in the middle of the class, Bane was in the front of the room in front of the Professors desk, and Darius was in the middle of a group of Hufflepuffs near the back, but not exactly in the back row.
MacGowan seemed surprised to find the three boys separated, and changed his tactic a little, this time taking a total of fifteen points from Benjamin throughout the class for various reasons that didn’t make sense to anybody.
After he took the last five points from Ben for “giving me a funny look,” Ben said, “Sir, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give you a funny look. I was trying to listen to your lecture.”
Professor MacGowan turned on his heel and stalked over to Benjamin’s desk. He leaned in so that only Benjamin could hear him, and said, “I don’t like you. You lied to me. How do I know you’re not lying to me right now?”
“I, I never lied to you sir,” he said, wracking his brains for all interactions he had had with the man.
“Is that so?” MacGowan asked, a nasty smile on his face. He leaned in closer, and said, “You told me you were here because of your mother… when in reality, you are here because of your father.”
Benjamin frowned, and MacGowan said, “Yes, I know all about your father, Benjamin Snape. You know…” he paused, and then said, “liars are usually friends with other liars.” He backed off and strode to the front of the classroom again.
Ben turned to Bane across the room for help, but Bane only shrugged, not having heard any of the conversation between them.
After class, Benjamin walked with his hands in his pockets, and said, “I think we’re in trouble, and it’s because of me.”
“What happened?” Darius asked.
Benjamin told them of the conversation, and they wondered why their Professor was so bent out of shape over a misunderstanding.
“Maybe you should go to your dad and tell him about MacGowan taking so many points away from us,” Hunter told them when they informed him of MacGowan’s dislike of them.
Benjamin shook his head. “Not yet… maybe he’ll lighten up next week. In the mean time we’ll just have to earn extra points in other classes to stay ahead.”
Darius sighed, and Hunter said, “Ok, but you just watch… there’s something wrong with that guy… something seriously wrong. If he’s got it out for us, he can make things a lot harder than taking away house points.”
A/N: Ok, know that was kind of a shorter chapter. Let me know what you thought.
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