Chapter 4 : Off to a Great Start
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“Professor Kent?” came a sharp, but warm voice from behind her. Scarlett shuddered internally. Professor. Minerva McGonagall was looking at her with a perplexed but kind expression on her face. “Is something wrong?”
“Oh, hello,” she said quickly. “Well I’m just a little overwhelmed, is all.”
“Don’t be,” said the older woman, smiling. “Come, we’ll find a compartment.”
Scarlett followed her old Transfiguration teacher into the narrow aisles of the train. “Your trunk will be searched once we are at Hogwarts. It’s the Ministry’s newest rule. Everyone, including the students, is to be searched thoroughly upon their arrival, and anyone in possession of anything suspicious will be questioned.” She finished with a sigh. She obviously didn’t agree with the Ministry’s methods.
“The teachers compartments are just a little further down,” she said. They reached one of the larger compartments and stepped inside. It was already occupied by five professors, each doing their own thing and completely ignoring the others. “Oh, it’s a bit full here. Anyway, let me introduce you to the staff. That’s Pomona Sprout, she takes Herbology. She joined only a few years after your lot graduated. That’s Professor Binns, you know him. And Madam Hooch. And of course, you know Sybill Trelawney as well.” Scarlett gave each of them a bright smile and a loud hello. Everyone but Madam Hooch responded. “Come on then, the next one should be relatively empty.”
It was. They were the only two seated there. “Are the other staff late?” Scarlett enquired.
“Oh no, most of them arrive on their own. But Horace did tell me to catch a seat for him. And Severus should be here soon,” she said, making Scarlett gulp. Just brilliant. “Are you excited, Professor?”
“Oh, please, just call me Scarlett, Professor McGonagall,” blushed Scarlett, finding it ridiculous to be addressed as a professor. “And I am. I’ve gone through the syllabus for the year, from the first to the seventh years’. It’s not too challenging till it gets to fifth year, but I did make a planner and have decided to split the entire syllabus into five parts, rather than going chapter-wise. I’m just afraid the children will loathe me!” she gave a nervous laugh and Minerva shook her head.
“Nonsense. It always helps to have a younger member of staff. The children, for one, will appreciate it,” she said kindly. “Though I must tell you not to be exceedingly lax with them. They are terrible creatures sometimes, and love to slack off. And watch out for the Quidditch players. They’re always practicing and no time to study. Just...just be a little more stern with the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. students, is all I’m saying.”
Scarlett nodded and giggled a little. The compartment door opened and Horace Slughorn stepped inside, wearing a loopy grin on his face. His eyes widened when he saw Scarlett.
“Miss Kent! What a pleasure it is to see you again!” he cried, dropping his trunk on the ground with a thump and shaking her hand vigorously.
“Hello, Professor,” she said, smiling at the old man. “How are you?”
“Never been better! Returning to Hogwarts is going to be a great adventure! Minerva,” he said, bowing his head to Professor McGonagall as if she was some sort of royalty. “Did I tell of you the visit Dumbledore made me? And who was with him? Harry Potter himself!”
By the look on McGonagall’s face, Scarlett knew she had gotten every detail of it. “Yes, Professor Dumbledore told me, Horace,” she said.
“He brought the boy as a bait, I know it!” said Slughorn, sitting down and sounding like he had been deceived, but laughing all the same. “What’s he like, Minerva?”
“He’s a perfectly ordinary boy who has been through tremendous amounts of hardship,” said the Transfiguration teacher. She looked as if she felt awfully sad for him. “But he’s never let anything that has happened over the last few years get to his head. That is one truly commendable thing about the boy.”
“You sound very fond of him, Professor,” said Slughorn, looking at her curioursly. McGonagall lifted her chin and spoke with pride.
“Potter is a member of my house, and he has done a great deal for the school and for the wizarding community. I have a reason to be fond of him. But by no means is he my favourite, and if he is unable to transfigure a teapot, I will not give him an O just because he has defeated the Dark Lord in infancy.”
Scarlett and Slughorn laughed. The compartment door opened once again, and Scarlett thought she would pass out with nervousness. Severus Snape did not look the least bit pleased to see her there.
“Ah, Severus, come in!” said Slughorn cheerily, moving to the window seat so Severus could sit down. Wordlessly, he pushed his trunk underneath his seat and sat down. “We were just talking about Harry Potter. You’ve taught him for the last five years, haven’t you? Minerva is full of praise for him.”
Scarlett thought she heard Severus curse, and from the look on Slughorn’s face, she didn’t have to think twice. “Of course nobody underestimates the capabilities of the Chosen One,” he sneered. “It’s just that Potter intends to do nothing with his life, or maybe that’s how it comes across, since his knowledge of Potion making is as rudimentary as that of a first year and he doesn’t make an attempt to better it.”
Scarlett swallowed slowly. So, Severus hated Lily and James’ child. That was perfectly normal wasn’t it? To hate the child of the woman you loved and the man she left you for? She felt a small ache in her chest, but forbade herself to think of it. There was a loud horn and the platform was enveloped by steam. The Hogwats Express was moving.
Scarlett was starved. She hadn’t eaten since dinner at Drew’s send off party and had missed breakfast because she had a last minute job at Gringotts. When the pantry car came around, it was like Christmas.
“Fancy anything, Professors?” asked the woman pushing the trolley full of treats. McGonagall and Slughorn politely said no, and Severus didn’t even look up. Scarlett, however, was at her feet, wild with hunger.
“Have you got chocolate frogs?” she asked in an almost childlike manner. McGonagall cleared her throat and Slughorn was looking at her strangely. Embarrassed, Scarlett walked out of the compartment and surveyed the trolley. “One chocolate frog – Merlin I hope it’s a good card. If I get Agrippa again, I will hex someone. Oh and a pumpkin pasty as well, please.”
Scarlett returned to her seat and was aware of Slughorn staring at her chocolate frog case. See if I’m even going to offer him, she thought. Old fart could have got one for himself, if he wanted. Scarlett did have a tendency to get very irate when she was hungry. Scarlett tore open the case and her chocolate frog flew out and onto her lap. She picked it up and threw it into her mouth, revelling in the warm, chocolaty fluid that had encased it. She pulled out the card and made a face – Dumbledore.
She then progressed to her pumpkin pasty. In her mad state of hunger, she completely ignored the funny smell coming from it, and took a big bite out of it. She chewed, her eyes screwing up in concentration, wondering what on earth the strange taste was.
Approximately two seconds later, she fell onto the compartment floor with a thud, unconscious.
“The entire food cart will have to be checked,” Scarlett heard Minerva McGonagall’s worried voice. “I better go check if there have been any incidents with the students.” She heard the compartment door open and slide shut.
“Most curious,” came Slughorn’s voice. “Smells like doxy poison.”
“I believe it is,” said a voice that made Scarlett’s heart lurch even in her doxy-poisoned state. She felt a pair of hands on her shoulder, and she was being lifted up to sitting position. One hand was removed from her shoulder and was placed on her back. Her head fell floppily against somebody’s chest, and a button poked her forehead. She mumbled incoherently in pain. Mint. That was all she was smelling. Before she knew it, she was in the air and propped on a seat. Her head rolled to a side and she made a noise. Then she felt something being put in her mouth.
With a start, she was wide awake, and staring at her were the darkest pair of eyes she had ever seen. It seemed like a couple of hours, the way they just looked at each other, when it was in fact just a few seconds. The specks of light in his eyes, the curve of his bottom lip as it parted in surprise, the lines on his face, made permanent by the nightmare of a life he was living. Scarlett wanted to throw herself into his arms and bury her face in his chest. She opened her mouth to say something, but he took two strides back.
“That’s settled then,” he said, his voice a little scratchy. He strode out of the room, banging the compartment door shut behind him.
Severus Snape flung the train door open, feeling thankful for the gush of wind that his face. There was strange feeling in his chest, a sort of buzzing. He swore and closed his eyes, shaking his head. Nothing was going according to plan. He was supposed to ignore her, to speak only when spoken to. Damn his chivalry, his gallantry. What was the need to pick her up? She looked perfectly lovely on the compartment floor. Swearing again, Severus slammed his hand against the wall, drawing strange looks from the group of students that walked past him.
He sighed. If this was what Dumbledore had planned, it was working. All those years of locked up emotion resurfacing, it almost made Severus feel vulnerable. He was losing his mind just being around her for a few hours. He thought of a possible encounter with her in the hallways, in the dead of night. It made him swallow hard. He reprimanded himself internally, for being so foolish. What was he afraid of? Nothing, he lied to himself.
How wrong he was. Severus Snape was really afraid to fall in love again.
Scarlett fell asleep on Professor Slughorn’s shoulder, and approximately half an hour later, the old professor woke her up.
“We’ll be there in ten minutes. Time to get ready, Miss Kent,” he said, blushing quite a bit.
“Oh I’m so sorry for falling asleep on you like that, Professor,” she mumbled, rubbing her eyes. “Just so – “ she let out a loud yawn. “Tired.”
The compartment door opened and McGonagall was standing there in her black robes and pointy hat. “You best get changed, Miss Kent. We will be arriving very shortly.”
So she did. Slughorn excused himself and let Scarlett change into her own black robes. No pointy hat for her. She didn’t intend on looking like a complete barmy fool. She straightened out her stockings and opened the compartment door once more.
“Oh,” she yelped, as Severus strode towards her. He too halted immediately. She moved to a side and let him step inside. She heard him mumble an ‘excuse me’. His expression was hard and unfathomable, making Scarlett abandon her plans of asking him something. He fumbled about for something in his trunk and Scarlett watched him. She wanted to talk to him, to ask him something. Anything!
“Thanks for um...earlier,” she said slowly, looking at him with earnest. He didn’t glance back. Look at me, she pleaded in her head. Please look at me.
He did. He turned around, his eyes boring into hers. “No problem,” his lips had moved so fast, Scarlett wondered if he had really said anything. What now? She thought, looking at her feet. Apparently she didn’t have to worry about it, because within seconds, he was out of the compartment, leaving only a trace of mint behind.
The feast had ended and Professor McGonagall lead Scarlett to her quarters. “The only ones left are on the first floor, so it will be a little trek to get to the Gryffindor Common Room. However, Professors Slughorn and Snape stay downstairs in the dungeons, so don’t hold back to approach them if you need anything.”
Scarlett was too tired to even bother reacting. Plus, she was stuffed to the gills, and her eyes were closing. She was lead to a small black door and handed a key. “Here you are. Lock up before you go to sleep, just in case,” Professor McGonagall instructed her. “Breakfast is at eight, and classes start at ten. I’ll bring you your timetable tomorrow morning. Good night.”
“Thanks very much, Professor. Good night,” said Scarlett sleepily. She opened the little black door and stepped inside. There was already a fire burning at one end, and the lamps got lit when she stepped inside. Her trunk had arrived already, and was lying on her rug. Feeling far too lazy to unpack just yet, she kicked off her shoes and collapsed onto the large bed, climbing under the covers. She yawned loudly and stretched. Images of Harry Potter’s bloody face tucking into shepherd’s pie filled her mind, followed by a nasty bunch of Slytherins who were trolling around. Lastly, she thought of the dungeons, the very innards of the school, where a certain man was probably sleeping.
Little did she know that he was wide awake, and that she was the very person on his mind.
Author’s Note: Told you I’d have another chapter up real soon! :) This is very much just a filler, like the previous one, but I promise the ones to come will be a great deal more exciting. I know Scarlett comes across as a bit of a child, which I won’t deny. She’s very much a child at heart. I think being complete opposites to Severus definitely helps, yes? XD
Also, the story is set in Harry’s sixth year, in case it hasn’t been obvious enough. I know Jo doesn’t mention a change of staff, but some parts just have to be made up I guess P:
Reviews are very much appreciated. Thanks to everyone who has so far :) The next chapter will be up very, very soon!
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